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


Memorandum submitted by Chrysalis Television

  Dear Lord Puttnam

  Please forgive the direct approach but I gather time is not on our side.

  In recent months we have become increasingly concerned about the role of the independent in the wake of the Broadcast Bill. We have discussed its ramifications informally with the ITC and would like to put our views to you.

  We have certain reservations as to PACT's ability to best present our case at Government level. This concern may well be shared by many of my colleagues in the leading independent companies.

  It is my intention to assemble a small alliance of leading Indie MDs to put forward our views on how best to promote a healthy future for British broadcasting and independent production both creatively and economically.

  Our position is simple. We largely support the Bill and its efforts to create a more competitive, creative, innovative and diverse broadcasting landscape. We feel the independent production sector has had and will have a very important part to play in the success of British broadcasting and production.

  Small is often beautiful where creative businesses are concerned and the independent production sector has already shown a flair for innovation, quality, identifying and nurturing talent from which the British viewer and broadcaster and overseas buyer benefit. One possible effect of the Bill is that the broadcasters will become more homogeneous and less flexible not least as some become part of global organisations.

  The independent production sector provides a seed of response, a more direct and intimate connection with its market place and frankly a formidable creative and technical skillset both to complement and balance some of the likely effects of some of its proposed changes.

  But the independent sector is under pressure and is likely to come under more of it under the Bill. It would be supported and bolstered very simply if the true intention and underlying philosophy of the independent quota was enforced by the Bill. We feel the independent quota is currently open to abuse and is effectively un-policeable. Because the 25 per cent quota is reconciled by hours, it is being used by many broadcasters for down time, hours of volume sport and seldom in peak. We do not think this is in the best interest of British television, the viewer and certainly not the independent industry.

  The quota should surely be determined by reference to the programme to each applicable broadcaster's programme budget—in that way its value would be properly spread across genre and schedule.

  We would hope that the Government would wish to safeguard the independent sector which has such a key role in creating and maintaining the sort of creative television production environment for Britain that will enable British Television best to prosper after enactment of the Bill.

June 2002

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