APPENDICES TO THE MINUTES OF EVIDENCE
Memorandum submitted by the Educational
Publishers Council of The Publishers Association
THE BBC AND
1. The Educational Publishers Council is
a Division of The Publishers Association which represents the
collective interests of mainstream school publishers. Its members
publish a very high proportion of the printed learning materials
used in UK schools and are increasingly also making such materials
available in electronic form.
2. The Council has been anxious to give
every support to the Government's plans for development of the
use of new technologies to assist the delivery of the curriculum
in schools, in particular through the National Grid for Learning,
and has worked on research, reports and proposals as to mechanisms
through which this may be achieved.
3. The Council also thoroughly endorses
the Government's view that the UK should seek to build a viable,
commercially based educational software industry. Such a development
is dependent on a proper pricing structure and return on investment.
4. If electronic learning materials for
schools in the UK are generally subsidised by Government and made
available free at the point of delivery, this will militate against
commercial involvement. Particularly strong concern has been voiced
within the industry about the BBC's plans to produce a digital
curriculum, funded by licence monies, which schools receive free
5. The Council has already made these concerns
clear to several Ministers, senior civil servants, Members of
Parliament and to relevant Select Committees. In the case of the
Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport, we were advised
to make representations in the context of its inquiry into the
Communications White Paper which we now do.
6. Since the first announcement was made
by the BBC, there have been indications that previously planned
investment in electronic learning materials will not be forthcoming
for commercial companies if the BBC's plans proceed in their present
form. The companies cannot see a return on investment from materials
for which they will have to charge, if, elsewhere, free materials
are being provided, subsidised by public funds.
7. The proposals as they stand from the
BBC would appear to contravene instructions that access to public
funds should not be used to compete unfairly against commercial
8. It is also likely that the BBC's free
digital curriculum will have an unhealthy effect on education
and the learning environment generally and result in less choice
and plurality for teachers and schools in the range of resources
that they can use in the classroom. A rich variety has been provided
in the past and this has both enhanced the situation in the UK
and fuelled international business.
9. Progress in the development of learning
materials for schools can best be maintained by direct Government
funding to schools for this purpose rather than the subsidisation
of free materials.
10. The views of the Educational Publishers
Council/Publishers Association on this issue are supported by
a range of parallel trade organisations, including the British
Internet Publishers Alliance which will give oral evidence to
the Select Committee.