Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by David Etherington QC

  I caught an extract from a television interview which you gave yesterday in which you announced, as Chairman of the House of Commons Select Committee for Culture Media & Sport, an investigation into the gaming programmes on television. I agree that this is a worthwhile exercise and, from the little I have seen of them, the very gullible (and the drunk) get drawn into competitions with long (if not hopeless) odds.

  However, this is not the aspect to which I wish to draw your attention. You referred in the extract I saw to the gambling channels which do, of course, exist. It may be said that those who specifically point themselves there must be guilty of a degree of contributory culpability if they get stung once inside.

  What seems to me far more disturbing is the use to which mainstream television channels are being used to relay these programmes for large parts of their late-night viewing slots. Between one and two am until around four am (more or less depending on the day of the week), ITV 1 (the main independent terrestrial channel), shows one or other of these gambling programmes. Channel 5 does so at weekends. ITV 2 does on occasion and has an equally pointless dating show alternative in remarkably similar format and ITV 3 and 4 have hours of teleshopping commercials. Historically, three or four channels have shown gambling programmes simultaneously.

  There seems recently to have been a slight reduction but an examination of the schedules over the past three months will show often simultaneous broadcasting of gambling shows on the independent mainstream channels' part.

  Unless you are taking part these programmes have little if anything to commend them. It seems to me that this is an abuse of the franchise by providers who are using the late night viewing simply for money-making purposes. Could not someone else provide programmes of some worth if mainstream providers have no interest in so doing?

  I have no particular objection to gambling as such although these programmes have unattractive features and I have little interest at all if the programmes are confined to specialised channels. I do find it objectionable however that a broadcaster should not use a franchise to provide programmes of general interest at a particular time but rather see it as a licence to print money for itself.

  I wrote to the regulator who informed me that this issue was outside his remit. It may be outside yours as well or, indeed, it may not be a particular concern to your committee. However, I draw it to your attention for consideration at least.Please do not trouble to acknowledge or reply. I know you are a busy man.

26 October 2006

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