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30/10/2002

Puttnam Committee recommendations attract favourable response

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The Government have issued a broadly favourable response to Lord Puttnam's recommendations on the draft Communications Bill, which will pave the way for a radical "overhaul and simplification" of the legal framework for the media and communications industry.
Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell (pictured) and Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt accepted over 120 of the 148 recommendations made by the Lord Puttnam's Parliamentary Joint Committee.
One of the accepted recommendations clears the way for fines to be imposed on the BBC if they breach broadcasting rules. This is despite arguments from the BBC that this would effectively amount to a tax on licence payers for mistakes made by BBC bosses.
Other major recommendations accepted by the Government cover reviews of the television supply market, already begun by the ITC, various changes to the structure of proposed regulator OFCOM and clarification on how self-regulation fits within the new framework.
In addition many smaller changes will affect the workings and administration of the proposed system.
Explaining the Government's position, Tessa Jowell said: “Lord Puttnam and his Committee have been a critical friend. They aimed to make a good Bill better. Their input has achieved this - we have taken the vast majority of their recommendations on board.
“The results of the Committee’s work will be evident throughout the Bill, both in major changes to policy, as well as in refining many more detailed points.
“But while the Committee’s contributions have led to significant changes to the original draft, we have also been able to remain true to the key principles of reform that underpin the Bill - liberalising the market to cut out unnecessary bureaucracy, while retaining safeguards that will protect the plurality and diversity of our media.
“We have not taken on board every recommendation. The reasons for this vary, for example in some cases we agree with the Committee’s aims but intend to take a slightly different route to achieve them.
“In the very few areas where we do not agree with the Committee’s recommendations, we have always carefully considered their case before reaching our conclusion.
Jowell said that in all instances the Committee’s input had helped the Government focus on delivering a Bill which would lay the foundations for Britain to maintain the "most dynamic communications industry in the world".
(GB/SP)
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