Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by BECTU

  1.  BECTU is the trade union for workers (other than performers and journalists) in broadcasting, film, independent production and live entertainment. Our evidence focuses on two of the issues highlighted by the Committee:

  The extent to which a regulatory environment should be applied to creative content accessed using non-traditional media platforms.

  2.  We believe a focus on this issue is timely, in the light of the current discussions arising from the revision of the Television Without Frontiers Directive (TWF).

  3.  We note Commissioner Reding's proposals for an extension of TWF to cover non-traditional media such as television over the internet, television via mobile phones and video on demand, and the new distinction between linear (ie traditional broadcasting) and non-linear services. We further note the strong but in our view premature opposition to this from Government and relevant corporate interests.

  4.  We support, in principle, the proposals for regulation of non-traditional media through TWF.

    —  We believe the proposal is already sufficiently measured and graduated ie it does not seek to apply the full traditional broadcast regulations to the new media platforms.

    —  We regard the opposition from telecom/mobile phone/internet companies as blatant self interest from a sector that would prefer the more market-orientated environment of the E-Commerce Directive or complete self-regulation.

    —  We take the view that viewer/consumer interests are best served in a TWF regulatory environment which is attuned to issues of creative content as well as commerce.

  5.  We believe decisions taken now will have far-reaching consequences for the future of the media and that we should seek to retain the highest possible regulatory standards consistent with a commercially viable sector. So far, TWF—despite similar initial opposition to "excessive regulation"—has worked well for the broadcast media in Europe. We believe it can do so equally well for the non-traditional media.

  Where the balance should lie between the rights of creators and the expectations of consumers in the context of the BBC's Creative Archive and other developments.

  Many of our members operate as freelances and are creative professionals owning copyright in the work they create for the sector. Their skills are wide ranging from directors, designers and art directors, script and screenwriters, to costume designers, scenic artists, photographers and animators. All produce content whether in the form of films/programmes or contributions to films and programmes. They look to residuals or re-use payments to supplement their incomes.

  They also value the moral rights in their work, that is, the right to be identified as the author and to protect the integrity of their work, though due to pressure from broadcasters and producers, many are pressurised into waiving those rights for audio visual uses.

  While we understand and appreciate the BBC's willingness to experiment with new forms of public accessibility to broadcast material, the rights needed by the BBC for this public access may in some cases have been acquired as part of a so called "buy out" ie for no extra payment from the BBC. We hope, but cannot be certain, that all such rights have been cleared or paid for in the first instance.

  It is from this starting point that creators must watch the BBC inviting the public to "Find it Rip it Mix it Share it Come and Get it" but without any suggestion of "Respect it"! Such an approach, in our view unfairly raises consumer expectations about what they can do with materials available from the Archive. We also have doubts about whether consumers signing up to the BBC's "Provisional Creative Archive Licence" will take the trouble to read it and thus be aware that it is for non-commercial or educational use only.

  As a public service broadcaster the BBC also has a responsibility to educate and we are disappointed that, as an experienced communicator, it has not used this opportunity to explain the importance of copyright to the public, or to explain how copyright benefits creativity and culture. Positive information on copyright should, in our view, be presented to the public at the very start of the website but disappointingly it can only be found in the FAQs and even there information is expressed in a way which suggests copyright as an inhibitor of use rather than as a facilitator. This is despite the fact that the Creative Archive Licence is in itself a licence based on existing UK copyright law. We hope this issue can be addressed by the BBC.

24 February 2006

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