Tessa Jowell Responds to ITC Programme Supply Review
Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell today underlined the importance of independent production companies to the broadcasting industry by accepting the vast majority of recommendations from a key review into their role.
Tessa Jowell revealed that the Government had accepted all but two of the recommendations of a review by the Independent Television Commission into the programme supply market.
She commissioned the ITC to undertake the review in August 2002 after concerns were raised by the industry that independent production companies were being disadvantaged.
Some of the recommendations will be taken forward as amendments to the Communications Bill currently going through Parliament. They include:
- introducing binding codes of practice governing the dealings of broadcasters with independent production companies. This will apply to Channel 3, Channel 4, Channel 5 and S4C, and to the BBC through its Agreement with the Secretary of State. The codes will be drawn up by the broadcasters in the light of guidance issued by OFCOM, and will be subject to approval by OFCOM. They will aim to ensure that the terms of trade between broadcasters and independent producers are fair and foster an economically sound independent production industry. OFCOM will be able to use the usual range of sanctions, including fines, if broadcasters fail to comply with the codes.
- giving OFCOM the power to measure the quota of independent productions used by broadcasters by value as well as volume if necessary;
- applying the quota separately to BBC One and BBC Two;
- giving OFCOM the power to require broadcasters to make up any shortfall in meeting the independent quota in subsequent years;
- requiring OFCOM to take into account whether the quota has been met as part of the annual factual and statistical survey it will be required to publish;
- requiring OFCOM to consider the effect on regional productions, original productions and news and current affairs programmes if the holder of a Channel 3 licence changes. Under the current draft of the Bill it would only have to consider the effect on regional programming;
- introducing a similar duty for OFCOM to review the effect on regional productions, original productions and news and current affairs programmes if the holder of a Channel 5 licence changes;
- introducing new targets for regional production and investment for Channel 5 and a new regional investment target for Channel 4, to add to its existing regional production target.
Tessa Jowell announced that she was not accepting two of the report's recommendations:
- that OFCOM should be able to vary licence conditions for Channel 3 and Channel 5 relating to the level of original production - this power already exists under the current draft of the Bill;
- that OFCOM should be able to set investment targets for original production – under the current draft, a range of quotas are already in place covering original and regional production and the split of programmes between peak and non-peak. This provides the protection that the ITC wanted bolstered.
Tessa Jowell said:
"The ITC's report was authoritative, incisive and practical. I am accepting almost all its recommendations. In doing so I am recognising the essential role that the independent sector will have to play in the future of broadcasting in this country.
"I want to provide the help that the independent sector needs to grow and flourish. I want to protect it, but not mollycoddle it. As far as the BBC is concerned I want to make sure that the licence fee really does become venture capital for this important sector of broadcasting.
"The measures I am accepting today will help achieve these goals."
In addition, Tessa Jowell will be asking the ITC to continue its work in relation to the programme supply market, with a view to OFCOM undertaking a formal market investigation once it is up and running. She will also be inviting Skillset, the sector skills council, to establish a formal task force and report back to OFCOM on how the training remit set out in the Communications Bill might be achieved.
Speaking at the Oxford Media Convention in Oxford today, Tessa Jowell is expected to underline the importance of giving OFCOM the remit for promoting media literacy – the ability to understand and decode the media.
She is expected to say:
"The media has enormous power in contemporary life. Almost everything we do not experience directly reaches us through the prism of the media. I think that power bestows a responsibility on the industry – to explain how they wield their influence. How new technology and new media work. How they can be used. How content is commissioned and put together, and by whom.
"If we can help people acquire this knowledge, we can help them to be discriminating and sceptical in the way they approach the media. As technology develops this will be of ever-greater importance."
Tessa Jowell is expected to go on to spell out how media literacy might work in practice. She will say:
"We already have citizenship classes in schools. Some newspapers have readers' editors. And the Mediasmart initiative is a promising first start for the advertising industry, helping children understand how the tricks of marketing are used to influence their choices.
"Future steps might relate to broadcasting – perhaps there could be information on the web about how editorial decisions get taken, or how the nightly news is put together? These points of detail are for OFCOM to look at. But I hope they get all the support they need from the industry."
Notes to Editors
1 Tessa Jowell asked the ITC to carry out the review with the aim of establishing the facts about the overall economic health of the programme supply market, its likely future growth, and to make an initial assessment of any structural or competition issues that might adversely affect the sector's long-term development.
2. The original DCMS press release announcing the review was published on August 20 2002. It includes the terms of reference of the review.
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