Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport First Report

2  The objectives

Liaison Committee objectives

3. The objectives set by the Liaison Committee for departmentally-related select committees are rooted in the House's Standing Orders, which require those committees to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Government department concerned and its associated public bodies. The objectives are:

Objective A: to examine and comment on the policy of the Department

—  proposals from the UK Government and European Commission in green papers, white papers, draft guidance etc.;

—  areas of emerging policy, or where existing policy is deficient;

—  any relevant published draft Bill;

—  specific output from the Department expressed in documents or other decisions;

Objective B: to examine the expenditure of the Department

—  the expenditure plans and out-turn of the Department, its agencies and principal non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs);

Objective C : to examine the administration of the Department

—  the Department's Public Service Agreements, the associated targets and the statistical measurements employed;

—  the work of the Department's executive agencies, NDPBs, regulators and other associated public bodies;

—  major appointments made by the Department;

—  the implementation of legislation and major policy initiatives;

Objective D: to assist the House in debate and decision, producing reports which are suitable for debate in the House and its committees, including Westminster Hall.

4. Table 1 in the Annex to this Report illustrates the various ways in which the Committee's work since July 2005 has carried forward these objectives. The following paragraphs provide some detail.


5. The four most substantial inquiries during the period covered by this report have each addressed areas where policy is being formulated. Our inquiry into analogue switch-off assessed a major policy initiative which will affect almost every household in the UK but which had, until recently, undergone surprisingly little evaluation. We commended the Government for its bold decision in setting a date for switchover rather than waiting for it to occur naturally, and we highlighted a number of concerns.[2] This is a long-term project, and detailed policy is still being developed.

6. Our investigation into the protection of the nation's built heritage tracked the evolution of policy proposals for reform of the heritage protection system and will inform a White Paper to be published in 2007. Our ongoing inquiry into the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games monitors another long-term project in which major developments are announced almost monthly; and our inquiry into new media and the creative industries has included an examination of copyright issues for creative works, a subject considered in depth by Andrew Gowers in a review of the intellectual property regime commissioned by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.[3]

7. The Committee has conducted three brisk inquiries (consisting of a single morning of oral evidence) into matters of significant interest to large sections of the public but for which primary responsibility for policy lies with bodies independent of Government or statutory regulators. In each case, the Committee judged that there was a public interest in undertaking a Parliamentary inquiry and that scope for a more active approach by Government or by regulators should be explored. Our First Report examined broadcasting rights for cricket and was prompted by the decision of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to award broadcasting rights for live coverage of Test matches involving the England team exclusively to BSkyB. This act was heavily criticised as being in breach of a "gentleman's agreement" reached in 1998 between the then Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and the then Chairman of the ECB. While we recognised that this was primarily a matter for the ECB, the Committee criticised the Department for not announcing publicly its decision that the so-called "gentleman's agreement" was not binding and need not constrain the ECB from awarding exclusive rights for live broadcasts to a pay-TV broadcaster.[4]

8. Our Fourth Report, into women's football, concluded that the policy of the Football Association (as the sport's governing body) in setting a maximum age limit for children to take part in mixed-gender competitive football made it difficult for girls to continue participating in competitive football beyond primary school.[5] We noted that there may be a direct negative consequence for adult participation in sporting activity, one of the Department's PSA targets. We also identified ways of making the distribution of public funds for football facilities and programmes - both through national schemes and through local government - more equitable between the sexes.[6]

9. In the remaining "short and sharp" inquiry, not yet concluded, we are considering whether the regime for regulation of the Call TV quiz sector - in which Ofcom, the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services (ICSTIS) and the Gambling Commission form a trio of regulators - is sufficient to protect the public interest.

10. Our work in carrying out scrutiny of policy extends to the many public bodies which come under the Department's wing. Not all such bodies are directly accountable to Ministers: in the case of the BBC and Ofcom, it is almost entirely through select committees that internal policy can be tested in Parliament and a Parliamentary view can be expressed. We held one-off sessions with both bodies. We maintained our predecessor Committee's practice of holding an oral evidence session with the BBC to coincide with publication of its Annual Report; and in May 2006 we took oral evidence jointly with the Trade and Industry Select Committee on Ofcom's draft Annual Plan. Our intention is that such sessions should become an annual "fixture". Ofcom has welcomed the initiative.[7]

11. The Department has not published any Green Papers or White Papers during this Committee's lifetime. Nor has it produced a draft bill, although it is expected that one will be published after Easter 2007: the Cultural Property (Armed Conflict) Bill.[8] The Committee has yet to decide whether or how to build any assessment of the bill into its work schedule.

Expenditure and administration

12. The Committee took oral evidence from the Secretary of State and from DCMS officials on the Department's Annual Reports for both 2005 and 2006. In common with other Committees, our practice is to submit questions based upon the Report to the Department and then to treat the Department's response as a memorandum to inform questioning. We are grateful to the Committee Office Scrutiny Unit for providing much of the financial expertise and analysis to support this exercise. The evidence sessions themselves offer the main opportunity each year to examine the Department's performance against PSA targets, its relationship with the many NDPBs under its wing, and staffing and general administrative matters. As one of the smallest Government departments to be represented by a Secretary of State in Cabinet,[9] it is with some trepidation that we watch the Department take on two projects with a very high public profile - the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, and digital switchover. Although much of the programme management in each case is being carried out by arm's length bodies - the Olympic Delivery Authority and Digital UK respectively - the Department provides the strategic direction. The Committee will have a role throughout this Parliament in assessing whether the Department is succeeding in assigning enough staff of the necessary calibre to two such high-risk projects.

13. The Committee pursues an active exchange of correspondence with the Department on the content and presentation of Main and Supplementary Estimates and of Resource Accounts. As with examination of Departmental Annual Reports, we are assisted in this exercise by the Committee Office Scrutiny Unit. We welcomed an improvement in the format of memoranda accompanying Supplementary Estimates, although too much of the information is still presented without explanation.

14. Our monitoring of the Department's expenditure and administration takes place alongside detailed studies by the National Audit Office of Departmental administration, including use of office accommodation and procurement practices within DCMS and its sponsored bodies.[10] We note with approval the introduction of an enhanced role for the National Audit Office in scrutiny of the value for money achieved by the BBC[11] as well as the intention that it should work closely with the Department on reviewing value for money in relation to the London 2012 Games.[12]

Informing debate in the House

15. Table 2 in the Annex gives an indication of the various ways in which the Committee's work has informed the work of the House.

2   Analogue Switch-off, Second Report of the Committee, Session 2005-06, HC 650-I Back

3   Gowers Review of Intellectual Property, published on 6 December 2006 Back

4   Broadcasting Rights for Cricket, First Report of the Committee, Session 2005-06, HC 720 Back

5   Women's Football, Fourth Report of the Committee, Session 2005-06, HC 1357, paragraph 13 Back

6   Women's Football, Fourth Report of the Committee, Session 2005-06, HC 1357 Back

7   Ofcom Annual Report 2005/6, HC 1280, Session 2005-06, page 3 Back

8   See Back

9   In terms of both staffing and expenditure. See Civil Service Statistics 2005, available on the Cabinet Office website; also Budget 2006: Economic and Fiscal Strategy Report and Financial Statement and Budget Report, HC 968 (Session 2005-06), Table C13, page 274 Back

10   Procurement in the Culture, Media and Sport sector, HC 596, Session 2005-06; The office accommodation of the Department for Culture Media and Sport and its sponsored bodies, HC 942, Session 2005-06. Back

11   Clause 79 of the Agreement between Her Majesty's Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and the British Broadcasting Corporation, Cm 6872 Back

12   QQ 138 and 173, evidence taken before the Committee on 21 November 2006, to be published as HC 69-II, Session 2006-07 Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2007
Prepared 23 January 2007