Joint Committee on The Draft Communications Bill Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


APPENDIX 20

Memorandum submitted by the Creators' Rights Alliance (CRA)

  The Creators' Rights Alliance (CRA) is an alliance of 15 organisations established in October 2000, representing more than 100,000 copyright creators and content providers throughout the media, particularly in television, radio and the press.

1.  THE PROPOSED STRUCTURE, FUNCTIONS, DUTIES AND POWERS OF OFCOM

  1.1  We feel that OFCOM should be fully accountable to Parliament through the select committee process.

  1.2  Whilst OFCOM is the regulator for the BBC the independence and governance of the BBC is best carried out by its own board of governors under the Charter.

  1.3  As in 1.1 above, we believe that OFCOM should in the first instance be accountable to a Select Committee.

  1.4  We find this an obscure reference, as there is no definition as to the interpretation of the word "stakeholder" in this instance.

  1.5  The regulatory impact of OFCOM's work should extend to the relationship between broadcasters and content providers.

  1.6  We support the establishment of a Consumer Panel, but believe there should be clear delineation between it and the Content Board. All issues relating to content, including complaints, disputes and grievances should be the sole responsibility of the Content board.

  1.7  We believe it is essential that as far as is practically possible there needs to be total transparency.

2.  THE PROPOSED FRAMEWORK FOR THE PROMOTION OF A DYNAMIC AND COMPETITIVE COMMUNICATIONS AND MEDIA MARKET IN THE UNITED KINGDOM

  2.1  To the extent that there are rules on the relaxation of ownership we suggest these should be strictly reciprocal, particularly regarding overseas ownership.

  2.2  We welcome the "competition" approach for regulation of new services and networks and the impetus this should give to accelerate the development of demand and supply of creators' services. OFCOM should also have a role in spreading awareness of the importance of copyright. It should inform new service licensees and service providers of the need to obtain copyright licences for any use of content in their services.

  2.3  In a global media economy it is desirable that the diversity of national, regional and ethnic cultures should be protected. There needs to be an informed and inclusive debate as to what role OFCOM should play in this arena. There needs to be distinct lines of communication between OFCOM, the Secretaries of State and the Select Committee.

  2.4  As well as protecting the consumer in the radio market OFCOM should take responsibility for promoting as wide a diversity of programming as possible.

  2.5  OFCOM should assume responsibility for all competition issues within the broadcast and telecommunications industries, subject to the regulations of the European Commission and the Competition Commission. This should include issues of fair trading practice between broadcasters, service providers and content providers. It is a fallacy that a genuine free market exists within the UK broadcast industry, because the economic strength and commercial influence of the parties is so staggeringly unequal. Relying on free market forces to produce fair and effective regulation is like letting a free fox loose in a free chicken run.

  2.6  The consumers' interests are best served by having a wide range of programming and also a high quality of product. This can only be achieved where the environment in which programmes are made is conducive to a high level of creativity.

3.  THE PROPOSED STATUTORY FRAMEWORK FOR CONTENT REGULATION

  The CRA believes OFCOM should exercise its powers in ways that will preserve and promote the value of creative content delivered by broadcast and online services. The omission of a discussion of intellectual property and rights issues in general within the Policy Narrative is serious, but the CRA suggests that the best place to address this omission is in the remit and composition of OFCOM's Content Board.

4.  THE PLACE OF NATIONS, REGIONS, LOCALITIES, COMMUNITIES AND INTEREST GROUPS IN THE PROPOSED FRAMEWORK

  While the CRA accepts that local and regional interests are important and should be represented, the interests of the content providers/creators are universal and therefore cross all regional and indeed national boundaries. Without creators there would be no content and therefore nothing to communicate. The Communications Bill provides an opportunity to protect not just the consumer, but also those individuals without whose ideas and talent there would be no creative industry.

5.  THE BALANCE IN THE PROPOSALS BETWEEN CLEAR STATUTORY PROVISION AND FUTURE-PROOFING IN THE LIGHT OF TECHNOLOGICAL, MARKET AND SOCIAL CHANGE

  Of all sectors, the broadcasting and communications industry is perhaps the most liable to rapid and dramatic change. OFCOM should be flexible, adaptable and designed in such a way as to respond quickly and effectively to the inevitable changes in the years ahead. This should be reflected in all relationships constructed between the Secretary of State, the Select Committee and the relevant civil servants.

May 2002


 
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