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01 December 2004

Union tells Ofcom to stand firm on public service broadcasting

Bectu has called on Ofcom to defend public service broadcasting in a policy submission to the industry regulator.
In its response to Ofcom's phase two consultation on the future of UK broadcasting the union argues that regional ITV companies should have their licence payments to the Treasury reduced, instead of being allowed to drop local programmes, as they have requested.
Rules on provision of public service broadcasting (PSB) programming should continue to apply to current terrestrial operators, ITV, C4, and Channel 5, who could be assisted by a levy on other non-PSB broadcasters, said Bectu.
In the union's submission, the BBC is praised for its range of in-house programmes, and plans for so-called "top-slicing" of its licence fee are criticised.
Key points made by the union on the future of broadcasting are: any abandonment of public service broadcasting principles would fatally undermine the UK industry; ITV, C4, and Channel 5, should continue to be treated as public broadcasters with a clear commitment to regionally produced programming, and their licence payments should be reduced to take account of their PSB obligations; the BBC's commitment to the regions should be welcomed, but must not come at the cost of job security in London; Ofcom should support the continuance of the BBC licence fee, and oppose "top-slicing" or any sell-off of the Corporation's assets; Channel 4 should not be privatised; and there should be no increase in the 25% quota for independently-produced programmes on TV.
The union has serious reservations about the creation of a Public Service Publisher to fund quality programming, but points out that the "least bad" option for its design would be a levy on non-PSB broadcasters, which could then be awarded to ITV, C4, and Channel 5.
Ofcom is now due to analyse hundreds of responses, including Bectu's, before publishing a further position paper for comment.
(GB)



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