Supplementary memorandum submitted by
The Gaelic Society of London
I have been asked by Ian MacLeod of the Gaelic
Society of London to forward to you for the attention of Lord
Puttnam draft amendments to the Communications Bill which would
provide a facilitative framework for the development of Gaelic
Broadcasting in the digital era. These were drafted after discussion
with Waheed Alli about Government policy and the provisions of
This Bill is crucial to the future of Gaelic
as a living language and culture in the UK because broadcasting
is central to the Gaelic community's identity and communication
We do not wish in any way to prejudice Lord
Puttman's position as Chairman of the Scrutiny Committee, but
would welcome any comment which he is able to make on these amendments.
Proposed Amendments to the Draft Communications
Bill ("The Bill") Published by DTI/DCMs on 7 May 2002
The following points summarise the intentions
behind the proposed amendments to the Bill drafted by the Gaelic
the Committee is to be given new
functions in addition to its current role of funding the production
of Gaelic programming to permit it to commission the making of
programmes and to arrange for the distribution of the programmes
it has financed by whatever means in digital or analogue formats;
the Committee is given more secure
RPI indexed funding, which it receives directly from Government;
the Committee is able to apply for
and hold certain types of licence to enable it, where feasible,
to provide a Gaelic programme service; and
where it is able to provide a Gaelic
programme service, such a service is to be provided as a public
service subject to a public service remit and appropriate conditions
Under section 17 of the Bill, OFCOM is given
the duty to establish and maintain a Content Board. Certain persons
are disqualified from being members of the Content Board, being
members or employees of broadcasters with a public service remit
(BBC, Welsh Authority and C4 Corporation). The proposed amendment
ensures that the Gaelic Broadcasting Committee members and employees
are also disqualified.
3 CHAPTER 1
3.1 Section 144 of the Bill sets out OFCOM's
functions in relation to the regulation of the "BBC's Services".
The "BBC's Services" are defined in a way which excludes
all publicly funded services. As Gaelic Broadcasting Committee
services are publicly funded, it should also be excluded from
the relevant scope.
3.2 The main insertions that are proposed
to Part 3 Chapter 1 are new sections 146A to 146C. Section 146A
redefines the function of the Gaelic Broadcasting Committee from
that set out in section 183 of the Broadcasting Act 1990. The
proposed function is that, in addition to its existing role of
funding the production of Gaelic programmes, the Gaelic Broadcasting
Committee should be permitted to commission the making of programmes
and to make whatever arrangements it deems appropriate in furtherance
of its general remit to distribute the programmes it has financed
and, if feasible, to provide a Gaelic programme service. The Committee
is given a general remit to apply the Gaelic Broadcasting Fund
in a manner which will secure the provision of high quality television
and sound programmes in Gaelic with a view to their being made
available for reception by Gaelic-speaking members of the public
in the United Kingdom. Gaelic language provision is highlighted
rather than the provision of services to a particular geographical
area, to give the Committee flexibility to provide services outside
3.3 To enable the Committee to provide a
Gaelic programme service, it requires the ability to hold relevant
licences. This is provided for in section 146A(5).
3.4 As the BBC has a wider public service
remit, which arguably should include the provision of Gaelic language
programming for Gaelic licence-fee payers, section 146B proposes
similar provisions to those contained in section 58 of the Broadcasting
Act 1990 requiring the BBC to provide Welsh programmes to the
Welsh Authority. The figure of seven hours is based on the reasonable
figure of one hour of programming a day.
3.5 Section 146C ensures that OFCOM is given
power to regulate the provision of services by the Committee,
similar to the powers OFCOM has over the Welsh Authority and the
3 CHAPTER 2
The amendments to Part 3 Chapter 2 of the Bill
are to ensure that the Committee is not treated as an independent
service provider under the relevant provisions of the Bill, but
as a public service provider. The Committee is then regulated
as a public service provider in the same way as the BBC and the
Welsh Authoritysee amendments to Part 3 Chapter 4. A number
of amendments have therefore been drafted to ensure that the Committee
is excluded from the relevant sections (section 147 (Regulation
of independent television services) and section 168 (Regulation
of independent radio services)).
3 CHAPTER 4
5.1 Amendments are proposed to ensure that,
where the Committee provides a Gaelic programme service, it does
so under a public service remit, given that it is publicly funded.
The Committee is therefore included in the relevant sections (section
181OFCOM reports on the fulfilment of the public service remit),
section 189 ((Programming quotas for independent productions),
section 194 (Regional programming), section 199 (Categorisation
of listed events), section 203 (Code relating to provision for
deaf and visually impaired), section 205 (Meaning of "relevant
date" in section 203), section 209 (Code of practice for
electronic visual programme guides) and section 217 (Setting and
publication of standards)).
5.2 Section 225 (Corresponding rules for
the BBC and the Welsh Authority) is also amended to include the
Committee, which results in new insertions into Schedule 8 to
govern the provision of programming services by the Committee.
These provisions largely mirror the provisions in the Bill drafted
for the Welsh Authority.
5.3 Sections 229A to 229D are new sections
in the same terms as addressed to the Welsh Authority in Part
3 Chapter 4, giving OFCOM the ability to regulate the Committee's
public service remit. Only section 229D(2)(b) is new for the Committee's
version of the relevant sections, being a Committee equivalent
to the Welsh Authority provision at section 62 of the Broadcasting
3 CHAPTER 6
These amendments ensure that the relevant definitions
used in Part 3 are included or amended.
This amendment is simply to add a general definition
for the Committee in the Bill.
As the proposed amendments provide that the
Gaelic Broadcasting Committee's funding be paid directly to it,
only certain functions of the Independent Television Commission
survive to be transferred to OFCOM.
9.1 Schedule 8 imposes obligations on the
BBC and the Welsh Authority in respect of their public broadcasting
services and defines the public service remit of the Welsh Authority.
Provisions similar to those for the Welsh Authority are included
for the Committee.
9.2 The exceptions are the new clauses at
paragraphs 27 and 28. Paragraph 27 is included to give a Committee
equivalent to the provision governing the Welsh Authority at section
63 of the Broadcasting Act 1990 (Government Control over S4C).
Paragraph 28 is included to give a Committee equivalent to section
64 of the Broadcasting Act 1990 (Audience Research by the Welsh
10.1 These provisions set out how the Broadcasting
Act 1990 is to be amended by the Communications Act, once enacted.
The Gaelic Broadcasting Committee, to the extent that it provides
a Gaelic programme service, should be expected to give those that
request it advance information about its programmes, and it is
therefore included in the relevant provision at section 176 of
the Broadcasting Act 1990.
10.2 Section 183 of the Broadcasting Act
1990 established the Gaelic Broadcasting Committee. As the functions
of the Committee are to be expanded by the proposed amendments,
section 183 is amended to give the Committee more secure funding,
using identical terms for the indexed funding afforded the Welsh
Authority (see proposed amendment to paragraph 99 (Gaelic Broadcasting)).
As there is no regulatory reason for the Committee's funding to
be channelled through OFCOM, amendments are also made to section
183 to provide that the Committee's funding is paid directly to
10.3 Amendments are also made to the Broadcasting
Act 1990 to ensure that any public funding received by the Committee
is not used to subsidise any commercial activities it undertakes,
in similar terms to the restrictions placed upon the Welsh Authority.
The Committee is permitted to engage in commercial activities
to exploit the programmes it produces and the intellectual property
rights contained in them, but any income it generates as a result
must be fed back into the Gaelic Broadcasting Fund for use in
the performance of the Committee's functions.
10.4 Amendments are made to Schedule 19
of the Broadcasting Act (see proposed amendments to paragraph
104 (The Gaelic Television Committee)) to ensure that the Committee
can apply the Gaelic Broadcasting Fund for the payment of members'
and employees' salaries and for office accommodation and other
facilities. Certain Independent Television Commission powers and
functions over the Committee are therefore removed.
This is a minor technical amendment.