Joint Committee on Draft Communications Bill Report


Press Notice 2

16 May 2002



The Joint Committee on the draft Communications Bill invites interested organisations and individuals to submit written evidence as part of its inquiry into the draft Communications Bill. Submissions, reflecting the guidance on written evidence given in this press notice, should reach the Committee as soon as possible and must be submitted at the latest by Monday 10 June.

Scope of the Committee's inquiry

The Joint Committee expects to concentrate its inquiry on the following themes:

1. The proposed structure, functions, duties and powers of OFCOM, including:

  • OFCOM's accountability to Parliament;
  • OFCOM's proposed relationship with the BBC;
  • the relationship between OFCOM and the Secretaries of State;
  • proposed statutory provisions relating to OFCOM's dealings with its stakeholders;
  • the regulatory impact of OFCOM's work and its charging structures;
  • the proposals relating to the Consumer Panel; and
  • arrangements for transparency in the work of OFCOM.

2. The proposed framework for the promotion of a dynamic and competitive communications and media market in the United Kingdom, including:

  • proposals relating to media ownership;
  • proposals relating to electronic communications networks and services, including access provisions, must carry/must offer provisions and the development of the broadband infrastructure;
  • investment in the communications and media market;
  • proposals relating to the use and management of the radio spectrum;
  • the proposed competition powers of OFCOM and their relationship to the powers of the Office of Fair Trading, the Competition Commission and the European Commission; and
  • striking the correct balance between the wider interests of the consumer and the provider.

3. The proposed statutory framework for content regulation, including the definitions of licensable content, broadcasting and public service broadcasting.

4. The place of nations, regions, localities, communities and interest groups in the proposed framework.

5. The balance in the proposals between clear statutory provision and future-proofing in the light of technological, market and social change.

The Committee will not consider policy issues relating to analogue switch-off, current regulatory issues for decision by existing regulators and issues relating to electronic privacy and electronic security, in so far as they go beyond the content of the draft Bill.


The Joint Committee has arranged the following public hearings:

Thursday 23 May
10.15 amIndependent Television Commission
11.00 amBroadcasting Standards Commission
11.30 amRadio Authority

Monday 27 May
6.15 pmOftel
7.00 pmRadiocommunications Agency
7.30 pmOffice of Fair Trading and Competition Commission

Both meetings will be open to the public and will be held in the Thatcher Room, Portcullis House. Portcullis House is the new Parliamentary Building on Victoria Embankment, above Westminster Underground Station, across Bridge Street from Big Ben. The public entrance is on Victoria Embankment; there is no public access via the Houses of Parliament. Visitors should allow time to pass through security checks

Public hearings will be webcast live on and broadcast regularly on BBC Parliament from 6pm on each following Saturday evening.

The Committee expect to hold further public hearings as follows:
Monday 10 June6.15 pm
Thursday 13 June10.15 am
Monday 17 June6.15 pm
Thursday 20 June10.15 am
Monday 24 June6.15 pm
Thursday 27 June10.15 am
Thursday 4 July10.15 am
Monday 8 July6.15 pm

The Committee will shortly issue some invitations relating to hearings in the first part of June, but will finalise its decisions on remaining hearings in the light of written submissions received by the deadline of Monday 10 June.

Written evidence

All written evidence should be submitted to the Joint Committee no later than Monday 10 June. Given the limited time available for the submission of evidence and for the completion of the Committee's work, written evidence should be short and should concentrate on the major issues arising from the draft Bill.

Written evidence should contain, if appropriate, a brief introduction to the persons or organisations submitting it. Submissions should take the form of a memorandum and should have numbered paragraphs.

We wish to receive written evidence, if possible in MS Word or rich text format, by e-mail to [email protected] A single hard copy (single-sided, unbound) should also be sent to Andrew Makower, Committee Office, House of Lords, London SW1A 0PW. Fax 020 7219 0277.

Once written evidence has been submitted it becomes the property of the Committee. Those who have submitted written evidence to the Joint Committee are welcome to publish their evidence themselves (for example, by placing it on their own web-site), provided that it is not published until after the Joint Committee has acknowledged receipt of the evidence and that it is made clear that the document was prepared as evidence to the Joint Committee. Written submissions from those giving oral evidence will be available at the relevant hearing. Written evidence from others will either be published by the Committee with its final Report or placed in the public domain when that Report is published. Individuals and organisations considering submitting information to the Committee that they would wish the Committee to treat as confidential should consult the Clerks in advance, initially by sending an e-mail to the address given above.

The Government's own separate consultation

The draft Communications Bill, together with a document on the Policy in the draft Bill and Explanatory Notes, were published by the Government on Tuesday 7 May. Copies of these documents and other relevant papers are available at the Government's web-site at the following address: The Government is undertaking its own consultation exercise and has asked for comments by 2 August. Details are contained in section 1 of the Policy document.

How the Joint Committee works

The Joint Committee was established by orders of both Houses agreed on 1 and 2 May to consider and report on any draft Communications Bill published by the Government. The Committee is required by the orders of the two Houses to agree its final Report by 7 August. It is for this reason that the Committee needs evidence for its inquiry to be submitted considerably in advance of the completion of the Government's consultation exercise.

The Joint Committee is constituted as follows:
Baroness Cohen of Pimlico (Lab) Andrew Lansley MP (Con)
Lord Crickhowell (Con)Lord McNally (Lib Dem)
Paul Farrelly MP (Lab)Anne Picking MP (Lab)
John Grogan MP (Lab)Lord Pilkington of Oxenford (Con)
Nick Harvey MP (Lib Dem)Lord Puttnam (Chairman - Lab)
Lord Hussey of North Bradley (Cross Bench) Brian White MP (Lab)

The Joint Committee will proceed in the same way as a Select Committee. In other words, the Committee will hear oral evidence from invited witnesses, consider written evidence and make a Report to both Houses containing recommendations for Government. The Committee does not have power to make amendments to the draft Bill and there is no need for evidence to the Committee to take the form of suggested textual amendments to the draft Bill.

Unless the two Houses order otherwise, the Joint Committee will cease to exist when it has reported by 7 August. The Government response to the Report is likely to be published by the Government itself in the autumn. If a Bill based on the draft Bill is published by the Government in the next Session of Parliament, that Bill will be considered by the one House and then by the other House according to the usual separate procedures of each House for considering bills.

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Prepared 31 July 2002