Examination of Witnesses (Questions 718-719)|
MONDAY 24 JUNE 2002
Chairman: Sorry for the delay. Thank you very
much for coming to see us. We shall start with a question from
718. We have had conflicting evidence about
what radio actually wants from OFCOM. GWR states that it does
not want radio pigeonholed. We have heard complaints that in the
past within an overall regulator radio has been the "Friday
afternoon" issue. On the other hand, we have heard the Radio
Authority say that there are specialist functions, particularly
as they apply to licensing, which are going to need specialist
attention within OFCOM. What is the message from the industry?
Where do you want to sit within OFCOMas part of its general
responsibilities, or do you want some niche operation within it?
(Lord Eatwell) I think the key thing
about this Bill which we do not want is that we do not want a
Bill which discriminates against the radio industry as this Bill
does, as, with respect to other media, we feel very strongly that
it is inconsistent in its regulatory approach to other media and
its approach to radio. It discriminates against the radio industry
with respect to the ownership provisions, with respect to the
potential role of the Content Board and, as you yourself have
identified, with respect to the potential structure of OFCOM.
(Mr Bernard) I think we feel very much that radio
should not be part of a radio-only silo within OFCOM. We think
that whilst we recognise that there will be a need for radio experts
for licensing provisions, that is not necessarily a reason to
have a separate radio division. We think that it would, in a sense,
underline the fact that radio becomes a Friday afternoon job again,
because everything else would be in a converged OFCOM. I think
that we ought to recognise, I would like you to recognise, that
radio is probably the medium which is subject to more potential
change over the next few years than almost any other medium that
I can think of. The traditional patterns of listening are going
to change. The way we receive radio is going to change, through
the internet, through satellite television and now through digital
radio, through mobile phones particularly as well. Radio is itself
waking up to the fact that there is a potential for datacasting
through digital spectrum which could be linked to mobile telephony.
So all of this suggests very much that this is a medium which
should be involved in a converged regulator.
719. It is interesting. "Discriminate against"
is a pretty strong charge. Most of the other sectors that we have
received evidence from have, as it were, welcomed the amount of
deregulation in the Bill for their sector, welcomed the promise
of a lean and mean, light-touch regulator. You are saying that
radio has been left behind the other sectors, are you?
(Lord Eatwell) I think we do indeed welcome the general
light-touch tone of the Bill, but we have actually had officials
who use the phrase that whilst radio needs "belt and braces"
regulation, do not have one regulation where two will do.