Joint Committee on The Draft Communications Bill Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 677-679)



Anne Picking

  677. It may be flippant, but true, that I can only receive Channel 5 through satellite. The question that I would like to ask you is about the role of the Content Board. You appear to want the Content Board to be a reincarnation of ITC. Would not confining the main Board to economic issues in the broadcasting field undermine the entire value of a single regulator?

  (Ms Airey) We do not want to see the current regulation simply reproduced. We believe it is very important for OFCOM to be lean and mean; and, equally, it is important for the Content Board to have a degree of autonomy so that it does not have to bog down OFCOM with every single content issue that comes its way. Clearly, where there are points of principle, they should be referred up, and it will all come down to the detail of the relationship between the Content Board and OFCOM, and there will always be matters of import that need to be referred up. One of the things that gave us comfort in the Bill was the fact that the Chairman of the content Board would come from OFCOM, so there would be a continuum between the two boards.

Lord Hussey of North Bradley

  678. You "strongly disagree" with the suggestion that the Consumer Panel should have a role in relation to public service broadcasting. Would you wish to see the Bill drafted so as to exclude the consumer Panel from considering content issues?
  (Ms Airey) To be frank, yes, we would. We think the Consumer Panel has a very useful role to play in terms of platform access and content, but not content-related issues. The reason why we think it should be restricted to economic and platform issues is that it becomes double jeopardy for the broadcaster, and also, probably more importantly, is confusing to the viewer. Where do they send their complaint to? The BSC and the ITC currently have relatively clear delineations in terms of responsibilities, but even that causes confusion with the viewer, so we would like to see the two very discrete powers.

  679. I follow the argument, and it is a very intelligent one, but it seems to me to be rather odd. Why write a report on a restaurant without eating a meal in it?
  (Ms Airey) It comes back to the point I tried to make earlier, which is that everybody can have a say on everything. We are trying to maintain a lean, efficient OFCOM, so that is something that Channel 5 would hope that this Committee supports. We do have anxieties that the size of OFCOM might become rather unwieldy.

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