Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by The Third World and Environment Broadcasting Project 3WE


  The Third World and Environment Broadcasting Project (3WE) hereby submits this evidence to the select committee and requests the opportunity to present evidence orally during the committee's Inquiry into communications reform.

  3WE is a leading voluntary sector organisation which analyses communications reform from the perspective of citizenship in the global information society.

  The Government has emphasised that it seeks reform which "promotes the interests of citizens and consumers". Yet the communications reform process has been overwhelmingly dominated by the voices and interests of the industries concerned. It is vital that citizens' groupings including those drawn, like 3WE, from the voluntary sector, are enabled to influence the shape of future legislation and regulation.

  In the Government's plans for convergence, and in the approach of regulators, there remain serious errors and omissions which in practice will undermine the availability and accessibility of services 'essential to citizenship'.

  As a coalition of the UK's leading international development and environment charities, 3WE specifically seeks to ensure that high quality information and knowledge about the wider world are available to UK citizens of the global information society—through the media they most use.

  Some 85 per cent of people cite television as their primary source of information on developing countries, according to the Government's own poll. Yet we will present evidence that over a decade the amount of factual coverage of these countries on mainstream television declined by 50 per cent. We will present an analysis of why current plans will reinforce this trend during the next decade. And we will present positive proposals, both to improve the communications reform proposals, and to ensure innovation in new services.


  High quality information, knowledge and understanding of the world are vital to citizenship of the global information society, but:

    —  Promises on citizenship in the White Paper are not backed by any explicit legislative or regulatory proposals.

    —  The Government has not entered dialogue with interested citizens' groups.

    —  The OFCOM Bill legislates for a consumer panel to advise OFCOM, but no such proposal on citizenship.

  3WE therefore requests the Select Committee, in its inquiry into communications, to take particular care to consider citizenship aspects of the reform process.

  The Government has talked about "services essential to citizenship" but these have not been defined, and should be. Above all, citizenship is concerned with content—the knowledge and understanding to enable social participation.

    —  The new regulator should be empowered and structured to stimulate innovation in services essential to citizenship.

    —  Overwhelming importance should be attached to the services which are most widely available to, accessible to, and consistently used by the majority of UK citizens—mainstream TV, channels one to five, which retain 80 per cent of all viewing compared to niche digital channels which each have a one per cent share or less.

    —  85 per cent of people cite TV as their primary source of information on international subjects. Only three per cent cite the internet. The 85 per cent figure has remained constant since at least 1989.

    —  Outside news, only mainstream channels provide factual international content to significant audiences—of the few niche channels which might provide it, the Discovery Channel has a 0.3 per cent audience share, National Geographic 0.1 per cent.

  Since the 1990 Broadcasting Act weakened ITV's public service requirements, affecting the whole "ecology" of broadcasting, non-news-and-current-affairs factual programming on international subjects has declined. 3WE's monitoring shows that in the decade from 1989 to 1999:

    —  International programming fell by 42 per cent across channels one to four.

    —  Programming on developing countries fell by 50 per cent.

    —  All main channels were showing fewer peak-time programmes on developing countries.

    —  The type of content provided in this category had changed from examination of how life is lived for the world's majority (through programmes on religion, human rights, development and the environment, for example) to focus more on travel and wildlife (60 per cent of programmes on developing countries).

  The Tier 3 proposals in the White Paper will further weaken this ecology and are a potential disaster for citizenship. They will undermine the government's own public interest objectives as stated in the White Paper.

  Plans for OFCOM are inadequate for the convergence era:

    —  No proposal has been made as to how the regulator will promote citizens' interests, or how citizens can expect involvement through this regulator.

    —  There are no plans to tackle challenges of the convergence era such as:

    —  what best serves citizens with regard to public service broadcasters' use of the world-wide web and multi-platform approaches;

    —  what "services essential to citizenship" cannot be found on the internet (ie where are the market failures) and what role could public service broadcasters and others play in correcting these failures.

  We urge the Select Committee to question Government and regulators on plans for OFCOM to promote citizens' interests in the convergence era.

  3WE makes a range of positive recommendations for legislative and regulatory measures to tackle these deficits in the communications reform process, which are collated in Section 7.


  The Third World and Environment Broadcasting Project (3WE) is a coalition of the UK's leading voluntary organisations concerned with international development and the environment. It works for sustained, high quality and imaginative coverage of international issues on mainstream UK television. Members include Oxfam, Save the Children, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the Worldwide Fund for Nature, Christian and, Cafod and ActionAid. These charities have around three million members and supporters in the UK.

  Since 1989 3WE has regularly monitored the quantity and type of factual coverage of international issues on the main free-to-air TV channels in the UK (channels one to five). This research is currently being updated for the last year. Figures in this submission are taken from the last published report, "Losing Perspective", 2000.

  3WE has responded to all major government consultations and publications on communications reform since 1997. It is a member of the steering committee of the voluntary sector campaign, Public Voice, which seeks "communications reform for all".


  The Government has promised a citizens' agenda within communications reform, but neither Government nor regulators have even begun to develop this agenda.

  The Government stated in its White Paper that it sought communications reform which protects "the interests of citizens and consumers" (our emphasis). It confirmed in House of Lords debates on the OFCOM Bill that this remains its intention, and that the interests of the two groups are not the same. Government documents have referred to "services essential for citizenship". The White Paper also promised greater involvement of citizens' groups in shaping communications services.

  3WE welcomes the convergence era, which has the potential to develop and enhance citizenship of the global information society (GIS), but is now seriously concerned at the lack of concrete proposals to make use of these opportunities. As evidence of its concern it points to the following factors:

    —  The promises on citizenship in the White Paper were not backed by any explicit legislative or regulatory proposals.

    —  All public consultations since 1997 have been dominated by the voices and interests of the industries involved.

    —  The government has not entered significant dialogue with interested citizens' groups.

    —  The OFCOM Bill legislates specifically for the setting up of an influential panel to advise OFCOM on consumer issues, but no such proposal on citizenship.

    —  The Towers Perrin report published by the Regulators' Steering Group contains specific structural arrangements for consumer interests but not for those of citizens, beyond minimum standards of taste and decency and complaints relating to these.

    —  In its response to Towers Perrin, submitted to all the regulators and to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 3WE urged immediate development of a citizenship agenda within communications reform, and made specific proposals, but to date no response has been forthcoming.

  3WE therefore requests the Select Committee, in its inquiry into communications, to take particular care to consider citizenship aspects of the reform process.

Definitions of citizenship with regard to communications services

  It is necessary to offer some definitions of citizenship in this context and what it implies for communications services.

  3WE argues that UK citizens are now becoming citizens of the "global information society" and need to be equipped to realise their full potential in an interdependent world.

  In both our submission for, and response to, the White Paper we maintained that:

    "We need to be considered as citizens of a newly globalising society... We are all-round citizens with a greater need for information, knowledge, education, skills and understanding than at any time in history. Our ability to access and use information is becoming a matter of the strongest and most overriding self-interest—and national interest."

  These concerns appeared to have been understood by Government which stated, in its Green Paper "Regulating communications: approaching convergence in the information age" (1998), that there is an increasing, not diminishing need for citizens to have "access to high quality material for education, entertainment and information if they are to realise their potential as individuals" [par 2.5]

  "Citizenship" in this context means principally "citizenship of the global information society" (GIS). (It does not refer to citizenship of Great Britain.) It should be taken to imply matters to do with the "information, education, knowledge and understanding" which are the foundation of full and meaningful participation in the GIS.

  Citizenship is therefore to do primarily with content, including the availability and accessibility of that content.

  Further, citizenship in the GIS is an active, participatory and devolved relationship to information provision. Convergence implies the emergence of active, self-selecting users of information services, able to follow their own preferences, select tailor-made or niche services, combine different services through the same electronic device, and to interact personally with those services.


  3WE requests the Select Committee to urge Government and regulators to develop a definition of the communications services "essential to citizenship", and legislative and regulatory proposals to ensure their delivery.

  Any such definition must include:

    —  Universal internet access.

    —  Universal digital television access.

  However, the fact that there are now hundreds of broadcast channels and hundreds of millions of Web pages does not necessarily mean either that all of the services essential to citizenship are being provided, or that they are available, accessible and well used by the majority of the public.

  Therefore citizenship may require the innovation, from within the public and/or commercial sectors, of new broadcasting, internet and multi-platform services. The need for this kind of innovation is not recognised in Towers Perrin; however, 3WE's conclusion is that, under the new arrangements:

    —  The new regulator must be empowered, equipped and structured to stimulate positive innovation in converged communications services

  Further, we submit that overwhelming importance should continue to be attached to the delivery of the requisite information, knowledge and understanding essential to citizenship of the GIS through the services which are most widely available to, accessible to, and consistently used by the majority of UK citizens.

  In short, this means the mainstream free-to-air TV channels which carry public service obligations (BBC1 and 2, ITV1, Channel 4 and Channel 5). It is only through these services that the content required for informed citizenship for the GIS can be delivered to mass audiences.

  Below, we submit evidence to support this analysis, followed by evidence that the performance of these channels in providing the type of factual content required has been diminishing for the last twelve years, and argue that current government proposals will lead to further falls in both the quantity and quality of such content.

Importance of mainstream TV services

  Despite the much-predicted fragmentation of audiences and decline of mainstream TV channels, after five years of digital convergence the following remain facts:

    —  The amount of television watched has only declined very slightly.

    —  Channels one to five retain 80 per cent of all TV watching.

    —  Most other TV channels gain one per cent or less of the national audience.

    —  All the most-watched programming in any week is on the mainstream channels.

    —  Only one or two programmes on non-mainstream channels manage an audience of one million people.

    —  Mainstream channels remain the most-used channels even in multi-channel households.

  The importance of these public service channels is not just in the audience figures, but in the type of content available to those audiences, and its vital role in informing citizens about the world around them.

  In a DFID public opinion poll in 2000, 85 per cent of people cited TV as their primary source of information on international subjects. Only three per cent cited the internet. The figure of 85 per cent is consistent with development charities' own polling since the late 1980s, showing that citizens' reliance on TV for this type of content has been little affected by multi-channel TV or by the rise of the internet.

  Although there has been increased competition in news provision from multi-channel TV, there is little provision outside the public service channels for longer-form, in-depth factual programming on international subjects. Of the few channels which might provide this kind of content, the Discovery Channel has a 0.3 per cent audience share, the History Channel 0.2 per cent; and National Geographic 0.1 per cent.

  The Government's White Paper treats international coverage—along with the arts, science, history, religion and other key categories of information and knowledge—as minority interests. Despite all the rhetoric about retaining public service broadcasting, there is an acceptance by government, regulators and broadcasters that these "minority interests" will in future be increasingly served by niche or minority channels. Therefore the regulatory requirements on the ps broadcasters are to be weakened, allowing them to self-regulate against their own annual statements of programming policy.

  There is no evidence that the market can or will support such channels as mass channels. If broadcasters feel enabled by the new framework to abandon or marginalise these categories of content, it will lead to precisely the kind of market failure which public service broadcasting is supposed to correct, removing part of its raison d'etre. The purpose of public service broadcasting should be precisely to lead people into content which they may not previously have known they wanted, but where they may gain new insights and understanding.

Evidence of broadcasters failing in their commitments

  Why do we have reason to expect that the new regulatory framework will lead to broadcasters abandoning or marginalizing important categories of factual programming?

  The answer lies in 3WE's monitoring research, consistently carried out using the same methodology since 1989-90. This research measures the quantity of non-news-and-current-affairs factual programming on international subjects on the public service TV channels.

  Over the course of a decade, between 1989-90 and 1998-99, the quantity of programme hours fell from 1037 to 728.6—despite the introduction of Channel 5, and the extension of Channel 4's hours of broadcasting.

  Leaving aside Channel 5 and analysing the other four channels over the whole decade, international programming fell by 42 per cent over the decade. Even more worrying was the decline in such programming which specifically covered developing countries—a fall of 50 per cent. All channels were showing fewer peak-time programmes about the developing world than at the start of the decade.

  In addition, the nature of coverage of the developing world changed fundamentally. In 1989-90 50 per cent of these programmes were concerned with human rights, development, the environment, religion, culture and the arts. By 1998-99 these had become minority subjects, with 60 per cent of programmes on the developing world now devoted to travel and wildlife. In other words, the examination of how life is lived by the majority of the world's population had given way to a more distanced interest in the exotic, and in natural phenomena filmed with little reference to the wider environmental or developmental context.

  As we noted in the report of these findings, the Broadcasting Act 1990 had changed the regulatory framework, and these figures show the Act's impact on broadcasters' behaviour:

    "The fear then was that, with ITV freed from many of its public service obligations, the other channels? would also be obliged to dilute key programming responsibilities in order to compete for market share." In fact, ITV's factual programming on developing countries fell by 74 per cent over the decade.

  These figures illustrate how the loosening of regulatory requirements rapidly and directly affects broadcasters' commitment to their public service remits, across the whole "ecology" of public service broadcasting.

  If the Communications Bill further weakens the obligations on these broadcasters, we can only conclude the trend of decreasing commitment to international programming will continue—despite the media's mea culpas since September 11 2001.

The Tier 3 proposal—a potential disaster for citizenship

  3WE welcomed many aspects of the White Paper—that it was led by public interest objectives, that public service broadcasting would be retained, and that there would be increased emphasis in broadcasters' remits on international subject matter.

  However, we warned that these objectives would be undermined by the practical proposals for future regulation.

  The Government has accepted broadcasters' arguments that quantitative measurement of their performance in particular categories should be removed. We would argue counter to this—only quantitative measurement can really reveal whether rhetorical promises are being matched by operational reality. The existence of 3WE's own widely quoted quantitative figures has enabled pressure to be kept on broadcasters to do better (following the publication two years ago of "Losing Perspective" it is likely that Channel 4 and the BBC may have, at least temporarily, halted their decline in international programming). Similarly the ITC's monitoring of the quantity (and quality) of commercial channels' output has probably helped to save what little international programming remains on ITV, for example.

  The White Paper states that only news and independent and regional production will in future be subject to quantitative requirements—these form Tier two of the proposed content regulation. A new category, Tier three, will be created, in which there will not be quantitative regulation—indeed there will be little regulation of any type. Into this category go all of the non-news factual genres which are crucial to creating an informed and knowledgeable citizenry: as well as international programming, it will include religion, science, history, the arts, and education, for example.

  With these Tier 3 genres, the mainstream broadcasters will largely regulate themselves. They will make an annual statement of promise, and at the end of each year report how they have fulfilled it. Some of these statements, from the BBC and others, are already being piloted, and are vague, general and pitched to be easily fulfilled.

  For example, Channel 4's current statement, under "documentaries", promises that "Channel 4 is committed to running, in peak time, a range of demanding social documentary, on both British and international subjects? We will produce major documentary series across 2001-02, from Britain and abroad. These will include series from India, France, Italy and rural Eastern Europe? Major series and clusters of programming in "Seasons", throughout 2001-02, will give a spine to the year's schedule, identifying significant social themes."

  This is a collection of generalised statements, with specific mention of a few known commissions. How would the regulator, the government and the public measure, at the end of the year, whether Channel 4 had delivered such a menu, and moreover whether it was an adequate enough menu in the first place?

  And this is one of the better statements. ITV's statement has one paragraph on documentaries which makes no mention of any international subjects.

  Even if it is possible to identify that a broadcaster has failed significantly against its own promises, what can be done?

  The Government states that regulators—OFCOM for ITV, C4 and C5, the governors and Government for the BBC—will retain only "backstop powers" to enforce sanctions. In other words, there will be no proactive regulation, only a retrospective sanction in the event of gross failure (criticised even within the industry as a "nuclear option only" approach). The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport recently hinted that there could be fines for the BBC, but it remains unclear pending the Communications Bill whether the government is prepared to legislate for a graded range of regulatory sanctions short of the "nuclear option".

  The future for factual programming is not difficult to discern from such a framework. It will be populist and light where it still exists in peak-time; it will eschew so-called "minority interests" in both peak and off-peak. Indeed, by some measures such a dispensation is already appearing. While BBC1 is using innovative new populist formats such as Walking with Beasts and The Blue Planet to retain mass interest in certain winning categories of factual programming, BBC2 no longer has a single non-news-and-current-affairs strand which lends itself to international programming.

  3WE has suggested, in its response to the White Paper, a number of ways in which this framework can be improved, at various levels of regulation. These are included in later sections of this submission.

Other TV services and public service obligations

  In arguing for the retention of a strong, proactive regulatory regime to govern the positive content requirements of public service broadcasters, we recognise that these broadcasters feel threatened in their command of audiences by the rise of non-ps TV broadcasters. This threat can fundamentally damage the ecology of public service broadcasting.

  In order to keep a fair and level playing field, and to provide regulatory certainty, the government should define a scale (of audience reach or share), identifying the points at which hitherto lightly regulated services become liable for public service obligations.


  The regulator overseeing this new framework, directly for the commercial ps channels and indirectly for the BBC, will be OFCOM, which will cover telecommunications, the internet and broadcasting as the "convergence" regulator.

  In its White Paper, the Government promised that citizens' interests would be promoted, and that citizens would have greater involvement in the communications services as is appropriate to the era of the more active user.

  Preparations for OFCOM are well advanced, yet no single proposal has yet been forthcoming, either as to how the regulator will promote citizens' interest, or as to how citizens can expect greater involvement through this regulator.

  The five regulators preparing the way for OFCOM, together with civil servants (in the Regulators' Steering Group) have published a consultancy report proposing a structure for OFCOM—the Towers Perrin report. In a detailed response to the regulators, 3WE has noted the many inadequacies in this proposal, which we summarised as follows:

  1.  "there is no clarity of definition for the various categories into which members of the UK public might fall—consumers, citizens, customers, or stakeholders—and no discussion of issues of citizenship";

  2.  "the proposed (and misnamed) division for 'audience interests' is not equipped to tackle the challenges for regulation in the convergence era (supposedly the justification for OFCOM), but merely brackets the existing functions of broadcasting regulation"; and

  3.  "there is no provision for high-level advice and input from external stakeholder groups, with regard to "services essential for citizenship", as distinct from "consumer' issues."

  3WE and its colleagues in the wider voluntary sector campaign, Public Voice, have made various specific proposals as to how the proposals for OFCOM can be improved. No response to these recommendations has been given by the RSG. They are included in later sections of this submission.

  Lords Corbett and Sandwich on our behalf tabled amendments to the OFCOM Bill in the Lords which would have had the following effects:

    —  the function of OFCOM to be not just "regulating communications" but in doing so, "to promote the interests of citizens and consumers".

    —  OFCOM to have a "Citizenship Panel" advising it, somewhat similar to the "Consumer Panel" which is already provided for in the legislation.

  3WE has proposed that the Citizenship Panel could work directly with the "Content Board" of OFCOM to:

    —  Monitor broadcasters' performance against their public service obligations.

    —  Assess new service proposals.

    —  Lead discussion of how convergence and public service broadcasting should be tackled, eg through broadcasters' use of the world wide web.

    —  Examine areas of market failure in "services essential to citizenship".

  These amendments were withdrawn following assurances from Lord MacIntosh on behalf of the government that these issues would be dealt with in the Communications Bill.

  We urge the select committee to take up these issues in its Inquiry and to question government and regulators on plans for OFCOM that might promote citizens' interests.


  We argued earlier that under convergence there is a range of services, as yet undefined, which are "essential to citizenship". Although we argue strongly for the central importance of the positive content requirements on the mainstream broadcasters, 3WE is not attempting to look backwards to some earlier "golden age". We welcome communications convergence for its potential dramatically to expand the range of information, knowledge and understanding available to UK citizens of the global information society, and for the opportunities it brings to interact with others in non-geographical communities.

  It is a curious paradox that despite spending five years researching and consulting on its proposals for this convergence era, the government's and regulators' proposals for regulation have omitted to tackle a range of opportunities and implications arising. Both the White Paper and the Towers Perrin report assume that the internet will be largely unregulated, while broadcasting will still have close regulation—neither document grasps that "convergence" means use of television and the Web will increasingly become seamless. Neither makes any attempt to analyse or make provision for an era in which public service broadcasters use multi-platform communications to harness and expand the potential of their content.

  In both its submission and its response to the White Paper 3WE urged the Government to define expectations of the public service which should be provided by broadcasters' use of the world wide web, and converged broadcast/internet services. This omission has not been rectified.

  However, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, has for the first time made multi-platform services an explicit part of the offerings expected from the BBC. In her decision to approve the BBC's new digital television services, she made it a condition of approval that they "must be supported with online and interactive activities".

  Until that point, public service broadcasters' use of their advantages (licence fee, public ownership, access to spectrum etc) to diversify into online and multi-platform approaches to communication had not been subject to any kind of legislation or regulatory scrutiny.

  For the convergence era this will, perforce, have to change. Convergence means the interconnectedness and interoperability of different forms of media. While "true" convergence services such as Web TV are still in their infancy, there is no doubt that public service broadcasters have set their strategies to take account of convergence conditions, and that this is affecting, both positively and negatively, the range, quality and accessibility of content on the services "essential to citizenship".

  Channel 4, for example, increasingly selects ideas for commissioning according to whether they meet multi-platform criteria. This has provided some positive examples of how online and interactive services can run behind broadcasting to extend the depth of factual information made available and accessible to citizens. It has also threatened at times to divert the resources and scheduling time of the main channel into services of dubious public value.

  Similarly the BBC's online presence is continually both the best-used and one of the most highly-praised offerings in the UK; though its lack of formal mandates and guidance as to how it should be used remains of concern to people who are rightly concerned to get the best value for the licence fee.

  Of some concern to 3WE's members, on the other hand, is the increasing use of niche digital channels (still not accessible to a majority of the public) and online services to "dump" valuable content which might previously have been available through mainstream television. Educational broadcasting, for example, is being substantially affected.

  The point of a converged regulator, as the Government stated in the White Paper, is that it can "see across? converging industries". One might also add, "see across converging services"—where those are provided by a single industry such as a public service broadcaster.

  3WE is proposing two new areas of investigation—leading to the development of regulatory approaches—by government, regulators and citizens' groups. These are:

    —  what best serves citizens with regard to public service broadcasters' use of the world-wide web and multi-platform approaches, and how to set the regulatory framework to ensure these are provided in the requisite quality and quantity;

    —  what "services essential to citizenship" cannot be found on the internet (ie where are the market failures) and what role could public service broadcasters, in conjunction with others, play in correcting these failures.

  As noted above, these are issues on which we suggest that a Citizenship panel could take a leading role in advising OFCOM and the government.

  We also believe that a strong, proactive regulatory regime will be required to monitor whether new digital channels undermine what is offered on mainstream channels under the broadcasters' public service obligations. We do not want to see a "digital drift" whereby programme content which was previously available to all migrates to minority digital channels which are not universally accessible, and for which there is still a payment factor involved (eg a subscription to ITV Digital or BskyB).

  The Towers Perrin report, like the White Paper, completely misses these areas of new regulatory challenge. Its proposed "audience interests" division merely brackets together the existing work of the relevant regulators for broadcasting. The very title, "audience interests", betrays a failure to understand the convergence principle that passive "audiences" will be replaced by active, self-selecting and interacting citizens.

  See next section for 3WE recommendations


  Preceding sections refer to a range of positive recommendations which 3WE has previously made to Government and regulators. These are collated here for ease of reference.

Primary legislation

  The Communications Bill should include:

    —  A definition of "public service broadcasting".

    —  A definition of the services which are "essential for citizenship", how they will be funded and supported, and how the Government will ensure universal access to them.

    —  A definition of the Government's expectations of public service via broadcasters' use of the world wide web and converged broadcast/internet services.

    —  A definition of a scale (of audience reach or share) with the points at which hitherto lightly regulated services become liable for public service obligations.

    —  Specific and binding working on the positive content requirements of the public service broadcasters (defining Tier 3).

    —  active powers in graduated steps (short of the withdrawal of licenses and/or the use of "back-stop" powers) for the regulators to intervene with public service broadcasters who are measurably failing on Tier 3 requirements.

  The OFCOM Bill—or otherwise, the Communications Bill—should include:

    —  OFCOM's function being to "promote the interests of citizens and consumers with regard to communications services".

    —  A requirement for a Citizenship Panel as an advisory group to OFCOM.

Regulation of Tier 3

    —  methods and systems, short of "box-ticking" or quotas, for the objective external measurement of public service broadcasters' performance with regard to Tier 3 requirements must be developed;

    —  OFCOM must have an internal unit or department dedicated to, and with expertise in, the monitoring and enforcement of positive content obligations in Tiers 2 and 3;

    —  the OFCOM Board should ensure that this internal unit or department has a high priority and status within its structure, including a strong influence over the policy and research agenda;

    —  in the event that OFCOM's reach does not extend to the BBC for Tier 3 requirements, the Secretary of State should ensure that his own department contains expertise in monitoring and enforcing positive content requirements for the BBC;

    —  OFCOM must be empowered, equipped and structured to stimulate positive innovation in converged communications services.

The Citizenship Panel

  This panel would have a diverse and, so far as possible, representative membership. It would have a research budget and the ability both to advise OFCOM and to recommend regulatory approaches on issues of citizenship with relation to communications services.

  We propose that such a panel could have four functions:

    —  positive content requirements—monitoring the performance of the public service broadcasters against their Tier 3 requirements and statements of promise, and researching the perceptions of the public and civic groups with regard to this performance; reporting to and advising OFCOM on these; making recommendations for new regulatory approaches; and acting as a consultative body to OFCOM in its reporting on public service broadcasting issues to the Secretary of State;

    —  new service proposals—assessing new proposals which impact on the delivery of public interest objectives in broadcasting and advising OFCOM on their implications for citizenship;

    —  convergence and public service broadcasting—commissioning research and leading discussion of how citizens can most benefit from the convergence of other information services around public service broadcast content; and making formal recommendations on this periodically to OFCOM and the Government;

    —  market failure in internet services "essential to citizenship"—further defining the services essential to citizenship and in periodically surveying the supply of such services via the web, with a view to identifying:

    —  areas of essential information which are not covered or inadequately covered;

    —  unserved or inadequately served interest groups;

    —  and questions for public policy arising from these.

The Existing Regulators

  The current regulators should initiate a national level dialogue with citizens' groups and others, examining:

    —  Services essential to citizenship—what are they and how can they be promoted and safeguarded in the convergence era?

    —  The regulation of convergence services provided by the public service broadcasters—that is, broadcasters' use of the world wide web and of multi-platform approaches to communications—how should they meet the needs of citizens?

    —  Potential for a Citizenship Panel—what could it do and how would it work?

  With regard to the Towers Perrin recommendations, the regulators should:

    —  Drop the misleading title "audience interests" from the proposed division covering broadcasting.

    —  Equip this division for the new challenges of the convergence era, rather than merely continuing current regulatory functions.

14 January 2002

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