Memorandum submitted by National Union
of Journalists (NUJ)
IntroductionThe National Union of Journalists
1.1 The NUJ is the UK's largest journalists'
trade union. Its members work in new media, broadcasting, publishing,
government and private industry press and public relations as
well as the newspaper press.
1.2 The NUJ is committed to furthering the
interests of its members, and in so doing has a long standing
commitment to promoting media freedom, high standards and diversity
of sources and viewpoints. Its members have been crucial to the
creation of a system of public service broadcasting in the UK
which has, at its centre, a culture of high journalistic standards
in both news and current affairs across all sectors of the industry
1.3 The Union's response to this inquiry
is based on our track record as representatives of the people
who produce an important component of media content in the UK
and reflects the knowledge and experience of our membership.
1.4 We would like it to be noted that the
NUJ is ready and willing to give oral evidence to the Inquiry.
Q1. The prospect for maintaining plurality
in public service broadcasting in the digital age
The NUJ believes that we must have a variety
of sources of programming with a variety of opinions and perspectives
in the future. The existence of public service television as we
know it must form the bedrock of future provision as we enter
the digital age. The prospects for maintaining plurality in public
service broadcasting are good but it will depend on the political
will to support public service obligations on commercial broadcasters
and continued support for the BBC via the licence fee. On top
of this, properly run and funded community services, backed by
good training facilities should be encouraged. In the nations
and regions however there is concern that the digital age is leading
to control of radio, television and newspapers being transferred
back to head offices in London or further afield. There is a risk
that the BBC, instead of filling the gap, will demote the place
of the nations and regions as its broadcasting strategy becomes
Q2. The practicality of continuing to impose
public service obligations on commercial broadcasters
The NUJ believes that there is no reason why
the existence of the public service system we have today cannot
be maintained as we enter the digital age.
In recent years ITV has reduced its regional
programming with NUJ members experiencing programme budget cuts
and staff reductions in almost every area. The arguments against
this trend are strong with nations like Wales facing a reduction
in plurality as the BBC is now the dominant provider of non news
and news based local programming. This is explored in detail in
our attached submission "The Welsh Dimension".
Q3. The viability of existing funding models
for ITV, Channel Four and Five
The NUJ recognises that it may well be necessary
for the Government to use its powers to assist in ensuring the
inclusion of a broad public service component in the programming
of broadcasters, parallel and in addition to the public service
programming that is provided by the BBC.
However, funding for such purposes should not
be drawn from the licence fee in our opinion. Such a move could
potentially threaten the role of the BBC as central to the provision
of public service broadcasting free from commercial interference.
However, this is not to suggest that the already
existing public service obligations of other broadcasters should
be weakened. On the contrary, it is the NUJ's view that the Government
needs to look creatively at possible mechanisms to supplement
and extend the existing public service obligations. Government
must also look at the potential for providing encouragement and
incentives for other commercial broadcasters and service providers
to include a public service component in their output.
We make such a case for the extension of public
service broadcasting output based upon the need for social development
and cohesion and in recognising the central role that broadcasting
and the media plays in this.
In light of this consideration it is of fundamental
importance that Channel 4, Channel 5, ITV and S4C remain as important
components in the provision of public service programming, but
it also means that financial incentives are needed to enhance
their position and obligations as public service broadcasters.
Such measures might include:
1. The introduction of a tariff being charged
on commercial revenues, including advertising and sponsorship,
but covering a broader spectrum of revenues, such as income generated
from "phone-in" quiz programmes for example. Such a
tariff would be ring-fenced in order that income generated would
be used to pay for public service programming in the commercial
2. Tax breaks and allowances based on the
commitment of commercial broadcasters to provide public service
3. A reduction in the cost of spectrum access,
based upon the level of a commercial broadcaster's public service
4. The introduction of statutory obligations
on digital commercial broadcasters to spend a specified percentage
of turnover on public service broadcasting if their market share
exceeds a specified monetary amount or market percentage.
5. The claiming by the Government of a public
stake in the archives of commercial broadcasters whose materials
were produced as a result of public service obligations. Financial
resources generated from those archives could then be used to
finance public service programming in the commercial sector in
The NUJ believes it is unfair to make the BBC
alone responsible for providing high quality public service broadcasting
while their competitors provide whatever makes commercial sense.
The union is against suggestions to freeze the amount of money
spent on public service programming over the next ten year period
and to see the end of ITV as public service provider of programming
in the nations and in the regions. The NUJ believes that ITV should
be offered the option of continuing to be a provider of mainstream
public service programming in the digital age with support in
the form of tax incentives, grants, EPG prominence and multiplex
capacity. As mentioned above over the past few years ITV has already
reduced its regional programme budget which has led to a reduction
in regional plurality as the BBC becomes dominant in local programming
Q5. The future of key areas of public service
media content such as news provision and children's programming
The NUJ believes that to ensure that the level
of news and non-news programming in the nations and regions should
be maintained, and if possible extended in the run up to digital
switchover. News and current affairs, as an integral part of the
system of public service broadcasting throughout the UK, has been
the cornerstone in the culture of high journalistic standards.
It has set the benchmark, across all sectors of the media, in
informing and educating the public.
It is imperative that this situation is maintained
and built upon if we are not to witness a market-driven search
for audience numbers with the effect of dumbing down content.
Children's programming is key to any public
service broadcasting requirement, as it is preparing the citizens
of the future. This is seen in the role of such programmes as
Blue Peter and Jackanory. These programmes have played a pedagogical
role in the development of educational and creative standards,
and contributed to cultural cohesion. At the same time, these
programmes simultaneously entertained, educated and informed the
Such a role is irreplaceable. That is not to
say that we should look back at these programmes and simply wish
to repeat their success. Instead, dynamic and innovative children's
programming is needed. The central role of public service broadcasting
in ensuring the presence of high-quality children's programmes
is irreplaceable. The alternative is often programming that appeals
to the lowest common denominator as the easiest and cheapest way
of maximising audiences and, as a consequence, advertising revenue.
This is not to say that this trend is inevitable, but it can,
surely, only be offset by strong, creative and dynamically energised
public service broadcasting, operating inside the BBC and right
across the commercial sector.
Q6. The value of the Public Service Provider
concept as advanced by Ofcom
The NUJ would welcome any government intervention
which promotes plurality of public service provision in the digital
age. The principles underlying this idea of a Public Service Provider
should be used to ensure that a fully developed commercial public
service sector is continued in the UK into the digital age. Establishing
a Public Service Publisher at this stage is simply a diversion
from this very urgent issue. The £300m proposed for the PSP
is about 3.1% of the total market (compared to the current PSB
proportion of the total market of 54.5%). This simply does not
replace the amount of money that will be lost to public service
programming if ITV is allowed to retreat from being a public service
broadcaster. The NUJ therefore has concerns that the proposal
is designed to foster public support for the removal of ITV from
the system of public service broadcasting in the UK and with it
the removal of revenues worth eight or nine times more to the
system than will be provided by the PSP.
Q7. The case for provision of public service
material on new media
One of the successes of the BBC in recent times
has been its ability to innovate and move successfully into new
media: from weather forecasts to email- alert news flashes, to
a first class news and online radio and on to the online screening
of news programming and interactive current affairs debates. In
all these areas and many many more the BBC has played an exemplary
role in bringing quality programming into cyber space, serving
not only the UK but an ever-expanding global audience. Once again,
the BBC is at the forefront of development in what will increasingly
be seen as the main source of news and information for young people.
The standard-setting role of the main public
service broadcasting in the area of the new media is not a visionit
is a reality. Once again the role has to be maintained and expanded
upon, just as it needs to be in the genre of TV programming, a
genre which the new media will be increasingly merged.
As outlined earlier, we have to find new ways
of expanding public service output on the internet, in order that
narrow commercial concerns are prevented from dominating the content
produced by major web-based providers. While the BBC is central
to promoting quality in this sector, it cannot remain the sole
UK-based public service voice on the net. Public service obligations
and requirements need to encouraged through regulation, and driven
by creative instinctsand by incentives.
Submitted by the National Union Of Journalists
council for Wales as part of the National Union of Journalists
In addressing our remarks to the committee,
the NUJ in Wales wishes to draw attention to the specific challenges
facing Welsh broadcasting and society. However, many of the threats
facing Wales are also repeated in the crises in this sector in
other nations and regions of the United Kingdom.
A healthy societypolitically and culturallyrequires
a robust and representative media. Devolution to Wales has presented
the country with a series of new challenges in the field of self-government.
The subject of broadcasting and devolution was extensively investigated
in the Welsh Affairs Select Committee's Report published in 1999
as well as subsequently by the Assembly's Committee on Culture,
Welsh Language and Sport. However, constant reassessment is required
as processes are at work which are changing the 'media landscape'
ever more radically and rapidly.
Ironically, as political devolution in Wales
has increased, there has been a reverse process at work in the
print and broadcasting sectors. Globalisation of the economy is
increasingly leading to control of radio, television and newspapers
being transferred back to head offices located in Londonif
not further a field. The centralisation of ITV in its bid to maximise
revenues and minimise audience losses is meaning an abandonment
of non-news broadcasting to the nations and regions.
Sadly, the old ITV had been a world leader in
the concept of such "devolved broadcasting".
Tragically, the BBC, instead of seeking to fill
the gap being created by this shift of resources by ITV, is itself
demoting the place of the nations and regions in its own broadcasting
strategy. As the BBC's global remits expand, Wales loses out in
the scramble for limited resources. The concept of plurality of
quality services, which has so long existed in Wales, is fast
In addition, Wales has a range of long running
weaknesses in its media. Eighty-five per cent of morning newspapers
circulating in Wales are published in London. They contain little
or no Welsh content. The London titles employ virtually no Welsh
based correspondents. Furthermore, television viewers across large
parts of southern and northern Wales, as well as along the English
border, often watch programming from English-based transmitters
and are therefore deprived of Welsh programming content.
These systemic issues are central in any consideration
of the need for better public service content in a Welsh context.
They are the reason why the National Union of Journalists is campaigning
for a Media Policy for Wales. We would invite the committee to
set a lead in suggesting measures that address the need for the
citizens and consumers of Wales who are being increasingly disenfranchised
by the centralisation of media content at an all-UK level.
A new mantra currently on offer from London
to address alienation amongst viewers is the development of localised
television services. However, it will not be realistically possible
for such services to cater for all Welsh communities. And the
growth of such ultra-local services must not be allowed to take
resources from an all-Wales service, as this would further disenfranchise
the Welsh people as a whole.
Meanwhile, the print sector in Wales is facing
asset stripping on a major scale as budgets are cutback in a bid
to further increase profits. This is in an area that has been
historically weak for some considerable time.
The unfortunate conclusion being reached by
journalists, politicians and much of civic society is that a considerable
'democratic deficit' is developing in informing and educating
Welsh citizens about Welsh public affairs. If Welsh citizens choose
to turn to the London-based press and media to inform them of
political events in Wales or represent their culture they will
be cruelly disappointed.
To refer specifically to Welsh language broadcasting
services these have been less eroded by the factors undermining
English language provision in Wales. S4C's autonomy from London
based media bosses has protected its position to some degree.
However, long-term budget cutting at the BBC has hit Welsh language
programming supplied by BBC Wales to S4C as well as the material
broadcast on its own Radio Cymru. In this context, cuts to "Ffeil"the
Welsh language equivalent of "Newsround"is of
particular concern. We are firmly of the opinion that Welsh language
children's programmes must be vigorously defended.
Hopefully, a new agreement between S4C and the
BBC will help to address these historical issues. But constant
vigilance is required.
A key element in allowing a reduction in the
amount of public service broadcasting has been the espousal by
OFCOM of a market-led approach to the license commitments of commercial
broadcasters. This has effectively facilitated an ever-shrinking
commitment to programming in the nations and regions. This trend
stands in stark contrast to Ofcom's legal duty to "maintain
and strengthen" such programming. It is a matter that the
committee may wish to consider as part of its inquiry. The public
interest must be firmly placed ahead of private gain in the field
of public service broadcasting.
Public service obligations must continue to
be firmly enforced by OFCOM. At the same time new funding models
should be investigated for future provision. Support by direct
or indirect grant can be considered. Indirect grant options may
include the ring fencing or hypothecation of additional advertising
minutes to help finance public service output in the nations and
The NUJ welcomes the general principle behind
Ofcom's idea of a Public Service Publisher. We look forward to
hearing how the regulator proposes to finance the project. We
have three main areas of concern.
Firstly, we believe it would be better to support
and develop existing PSB models, such as ITV regional broadcasting
rather than allowing the destruction of what has been built up
over many decades before trying to create something new from scratch.
This would allow the knowledgeand programming librariesof
existing institutions to act as "signposts" for the
audience as they head towards new digital delivery platforms.
Secondly, we have so far seen nothing that indicates
that PSP would address the democratic deficit at an all-Wales
level, rather than competing with local newspapers via an 'ultra
local' service that is limited to those areas with the highest
concentrations of population.
Thirdly, on current trends, and based on Ofcom's
own plans, regional non-news commercial broadcasting may have
all but disappeared before the launch of any PSP. This indicates
a considerable lack of joined up thinking by regulators.
We would urge members of the committee to support
the limited remaining amount of regional public service broadcasting
at its current levels until new funding models are agreed. This
would fit in with the aspirations of Welsh audiences in particular.
Ofcom's own research has found that such programming is especially
highly regarded in Wales. It also frequently has higher audience
rates than network programming in the same slots.
New media provision has for some time been embraced
by BBC Wales in both languages. Sadly, these services have been
hit badly by recent BBC cutbacksparticularly in the small
Welsh language service. ITV Wales has also shown an interest in
this field. But, the new online services are heavily dependant
on existing broadcasting facilities ie newsroomswhich must
therefore be properly funded.
To conclude, Wales cannot afford in this globalised
world to see further erosion of its public service broadcasting.
The welfare of this small nation with its lively minority culture
is closely tied to the healthy state of its media. London-based
media organisations fail to adequately serve the democratic needs
of citizens in Wales. But as broadcasting, in particular, remains
non-devolved, action is required at a Westminster level.
The committee must, therefore consider what
special measures are needed to ensure that Welsh audiences have
the information they need to participate in the decision making
processes of their devolved nation.