Joint Committee on The Draft Communications Bill Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Association of Local Government Communications (LGcommunications)


  1.1  The Association of Local Government Communications (LGcommunications) is the national voice for UK local authority public relations and communications functions. Membership is local authorit-based and involves local authorities in Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland and all English regions.

  1.2  The association provides a forum for discussion and exchange of information, views and opinion on local government communications to encourage the highest standards of practice.


  2.1  The Communications White Paper forecast a new broadcasting role for local authorities in the development of digital radio and television. This recognition of the potential role of local authorities and the importance of locality as a driver for digital take up was welcomed by the association.

  2.2  "We will allow local authorities to provide information services via television and radio, subject to regulatory safeguards to prevent this new freedom being exploited for political purposes." (Para 4.9.3, Communications White Paper).

  2.3  This envisaged role for local authorities in broadcasting is consistent with the powers of promoting well-being in a locality and the community leadership role in the Local Government Act 2000, the subsequent DTLR guidance and the proposals in the Local Government White Paper (DTLR, December 2001) implementation plan. The advantages of a greater role for local authorities was also rehearsed in the first Office of the eEnvoy's Digital Television Policy Framework published in 2000 and in the two subsequent updated versions circulated for consultation last year.

  2.4  The association strongly supports the inclusion in the final legislation of the Draft Communications Bill proposal (Clause 231—DTI commentary Chapter 5, paragraphs 126 and 127) to relax the disqualification in the 1990 Broadcasting Act to allow local authorities to directly hold a broadcasting licence.

  2.5  The provision by a local authority of information concerning the services available within the area of that authority is central to the modernisation of local government and local public services. Digital television and radio are acknowledged by government to become important channels of communications between providers of public services, communities and citizens.

  2.6  Integrated media content on interactive digital television and radio is seen as having the potential to be an amalgam for a multi-channel approach to citizens—providing a popular, compelling and interesting way of ordering, coordinating and organising access to televisual material, online content and transactions, print and personal face-to-face contacts with public bodies.


  3.1  The inclusion of Draft Clause 231 in the final legislation would recognise the local authority power to promote the well-being of their locality, the role as a community leader and the duty to develop a local community vision contained in the Local Government Act 2000. The government believes that councils should as well as increasing public awareness of the council and its role generally; a primary purpose of local authority publicity should be to seek the views of local stakeholders about issues which will have an impact on local communities.

  3.2  Local authorities have been subject to a Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity since 1988. The code was altered in April 2001 to reflect the importance of councils consulting with their communities. Local authority publicity is required to be balanced, informative and accurate; not be politically partisan and not be designed to persuade people to hold a certain view. Local authorities have a record of acting responsibly in terms of publicity and complying with the terms and spirit of the code.

  3.3  Inclusion of Draft Clause 231 in the final legislation would also support the central proposition in the Local Government White Paper (DTLR, December 2001) that government will remove unnecessary controls, which stifle local innovation. The government argues that "to realise our common aim of improving people's quality of life councils need greater freedom and wider powers to deliver".

May 2002

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