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THE SCOTTISH Media Group (SMG), have released a synopsis of their recent response to the Government’s Communications White Paper.
Regarding ownership regulation, SMG state that cross media ownership regulations should be replaced by competition rules alone, if the vision of making the UK "home to the most dynamic and competitive communications market in the world" is to be realised in the foreseeable future. Existing regulations hamper the growth and development of UK media owners, create instability within the media sector and ultimately threaten choice for viewers, listeners and readers in the UK.
SMG also say that should this move to competition rules be perceived as premature, they propose a transitionary system, based on financial turnover, that would allow for the development of UK media owners across separate media sectors, while ensuring continued plurality of ownership within each regulated sector (television, radio and newspapers).
SMG maintain that this system would also allow for the smooth transition to competition rules based regulation in the future.
Remarking on the proposed formation of a single regulator, OFCOM, SMG express the hope that this will serve to provide consistency in approach to content regulation. However, they also believe that OFCOM should report to only one Government department and that a regional presence should be included in its architecture. SMG recommend that due prominence is given to all media that fall within OFCOM’s remit and that this remit should be extended to include the BBC.
As one of the major television providers for Scotland, SMG also commented extensively on the television proposals contained within the White Paper. On Universality of Access, the company insist that it is imperative that all areas of the country currently receiving an analogue signal are able to receive digital terrestrial television prior to analogue switch-off, as it will be impossible for any commercial organisation to fund the cost of the necessary transmitter conversion. They therefore urge the Government to devise a funding mechanism to ensure this takes place.
SMG support the retention and protection of regional programmes, emphasising the importance of viewers of Scottish Television and Grampian Television having access to programmes that reflect regional and national identities. As regional programmes are an integral part of a diverse, high quality schedule, it is equally important that programmes from the regions form part of Network schedules.
Finally, SMG are in favour of the Gaelic Taskforce's recommendations that Gaelic programmes should be transmitted on a separate digital channel but question the level of funding required, arguing that any levy from ITV must come from the existing levies paid to the Treasury.
While SMG will continue to transmit Gaelic programmes until analogue switch-over, they hold that thereafter any such obligations on commercial organisations should be removed. (GB)
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