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


Memorandum submitted by The Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ)

  The Chartered Institute of Journalists wishes the Committee looking into the future of Communications to take into account the following brief statement, relating to broadcasting:

  The merging of the broadcast and telecommunications industries under a single regulator—OFCOM—is a profound mistake. It is part of the current centralising trend that has brought ruin to so many of the UK's public services. OFCOM is bound to become the RailTrack of the airwaves.

  At a time when there is a need for the release of more spectrum and the diversification of the UK media. OFCOM and the likely form of the Communications Bill will slow and stunt healthy developments in the media sector.

  As the broadcasters disappear in the tentacular bureaucracy of the inefficient telecommunications industry, global groups will pick-off the juicier elements of commercial broadcasting with all the attendant risks to creativity and excellence.

  The CIoJ considers that ownership issues are already well covered by competition law and sees no reason to interpose OFCOM, which will undoubtedly be peopled by members with little commercial credibility.

  An example of this is the already stated view of OFCOM supporters that companies holding interests in the regional press should be restricted from expanding into broadcasting. The CIoJ cannot see why provincial companies that have been in existence sometimes for centuries, should not play a greater role, when a company based in say Delaware or Frankfurt will have free range.

  The proposal to strengthen oversight of broadcast news organisations is welcome. The lamentable dumbing down of television news, in particular, has already gone on for too long.

  In general, the White Paper will not lead to a "lighter touch"—promised by successive governments—in the broadcasting and telecommunications industries. It will result in a continuing situation where existing companies are vulnerable to external predators and a general atmosphere in which genuine enterprise is stifled yet again.

June 2002.

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