Examination of Witnesses (Questions 540-542)|
13 MAY 2008
Q540 Mr Evans: How do you know they
are aware of this case?
Mr Richards: It is difficult to
see how anyone could not be aware of these cases. They have an
established interest in the topic because they came to us. They
cannot be unaware of the situation; it is plastered over every
Q541 Mr Evans: Are you surprised
they have not got in contact with you?
Mr Richards: Last time they did
not get in contact with us over night, it took a little while.
Mr Purvis: Sometimes we do get
an individual phone call from an individual police station as
well because they have read something and they want to follow
it up. If we were hiding away our findings I think you might ask
why we have not handed them over, but we have not exactly hidden
our findings. If I could just pick up on the other point in a
non-police sense which is: does the regulatory system work? I
think this issue of a system based on individual licences for
channels which is where we are, life has moved on now and these
channels are sometimes consolidated, there are media organisations
which have a number of channels and the sanction system is based
per channel but, as Ed said, actually sometimes responsibility
lies at the corporate centre. We have other cases in which this
is an issue. I suspect one of the lessons learned will be crudely:
where does the buck stop? Should it be down to the managing director
of an individual licence holder or does it lie at a corporate
Mr Richards: I think this is a
very important issue. If Parliament were considering new legislation
in this area now one of the things we would, without doubt, say
to you is that the sanction system should be linked to where the
real responsibility lies rather than attached to single individual
licences which has been an anomaly and a constraint in relation
to our meeting the seriousness of the concern in this area. No-one
spotted it; it is a product of the history of ITV being a regional
system. In reality these are network programmes that are running
across the whole of ITV, but actually the sanction only relates
to an individual licence.
Mr Purvis: The issue applies not
just to ITV but to other major media organisations.
Q542 Adam Price: When this first
came to the public domain I wrote to the Metropolitan Police asking
them to investigate. They wrote back to me and said in terms that
it was a matter for you, as a regulator, to refer the matter to
the police. You are saying it is a matter for them. Both cannot
Mr Richards: What we are not expert
in is deciding whether something is a criminal offence or not.
That is not what we are expert in. We are expert in deciding whether
this was a breach of the broadcasting code and, if it was, setting
a sanction. What the police are expert in is deciding whether
something may or may not be a criminal offence. We do not want
to get ourselves in the position of recommending or suggesting
that something is or is not a criminal offence; it is dangerous
territory for a regulator to get into. In the case of the SFO
what we found in the previous case was that "who is going
to tell who" as it were resolved itself perfectly happily
with them making a single call to us, we gave them the files and
they investigated it. That may well be what happens again on this
occasion. It has found a way of resolving itself.
Adam Price: Certainly there seems to
be some degree of confusion on the part of some police officers
and police stations.
Chairman: Thank you; we need to move
onto our next session.