for a diverse, democratic and accountable media

CPBF Response to Draft Communications Bill

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The CPBF response to the government ’s draft Communications Bill demonstrated the way the various interests and ideas of CPBF members can be drawn on to produce a document of great clarity and consistency. It represents a fundamental critique of the principles and proposals contained in the government ’s draft bill.

The 31-page document, given a final edit by Kathy Lowe and CPBF National Secretary, Jonathan Hardy, includes two appendices by Julian Petley (CPBF Chair) and US media academic Bob McChesney. A full version of the text is available from the home page of this site. We print below an edited summary of the main recommendations The role of OFCOM should be radically redefined so that instead of being an instrument to promote the interests of the media industry it has a clear public interest remit. Recommendations 1) OFCOM should have the obligation to promote high quality communications that inform, educate, entertain and fully reflect the range of opinions and cultures in the UK, across all the major services. 2) OFCOM should have a duty to secure protection for viewers and listeners as citizens, with the right and need for access to a wide range of information and communication services so that they can be informed, educated and enabled to play a full part in society. OFCOM has to be democratically accountable Recommendations 8) The OFCOM board should be constituted by democratic nomination from the devolved institutions and by UK-wide associations with a major interest in the media, including, educational bodies, cultural organisations, NGOs, civil liberties organisations, media unions and the TUC. 9) In particular the devolved assemblies should have the right to nominate members of OFCOM, to both the main board and any sub-boards. The BBC Recommendation 14) The BBC should not be subject to regulatory overview by OFCOM, but should remain autonomous. Regulation of broadcasting Recommendations 15) The Draft Bill should ensure a continued commitment to a public service system in British broadcasting, rather than a commercial system with a few protected public service ‘remits ’. This should be done by spelling out in detail the individual public service remits and obligations for each of the commercial broadcasters. 16) Positive regulation should be strengthened across the whole system with OFCOM requiring a minimum investment in original production in documentary, drama, children ’s programmes, education, arts, news, current affairs and in the coverage of international issues. Media Ownership Recommendations 28) The prohibition on non-EEA ownership of broadcasting licences should remain. 29) Instead of the Draft Bill discussing broadcasting almost exclusively as an economic activity it needs to give a much clearer statement about the nature of broadcasting in terms of its social, cultural and political role. 30) The regional ITV franchises with their obligations to local news, current affairs and general programming must be retained. 31) There must be no further consolidation of ITV ownership. The companies must also engage separate advertising sales operations, to prevent market fixing. 32) The public service broadcasting requirements on ITV broadcasters should not be lowered but remain at the same level as the BBC. 38) The so-called 20:20 rule preventing any newspaper owner with 20 per cent share of national market from having more than 20 per cent stake in any terrestrial commercial TV service should be reinstated.

DATELINE: 25 January, 2010