Letter from the Music Business Forum (MBF)
The Music Business Forum
welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Committee's extended
inquiry into the BBC Charter Review.
Given we have already responded to the broader
terms of reference for this inquiry, our comments focus specifically
on broadcasting in the Nations and Regions and the BBC's role
as a commissioner and broadcaster.
1.1 Generally, we support the general objective
to substantially increase the BBC's presence outside of London
in terms of production, commissioning, and staff location. The
BBC's Out of London strategy rightly aims to spend the licence
fee money more equitably across the UK to reflect the diversity
of its audiences. The BBC's response to the Green Paper recognition
that "a balance must be achieved between maintaining the
quality of output for licence fee payers and meeting the BBC's
ambitions for greater regional diversity in production",
is welcomed. However, the BBC needs to develop its strategy in
terms of its effectiveness in other regional centres beyond Manchester.
1.2 It is crucial that wherever the BBC
is based, it must be fully accessible to the creative community
and local talent. Given that the DCMS has also indicated that
there is an emerging body of evidence to suggest that culture
is a key driver in the regeneration process which can help create
this places more importance on the BBC to be able to develop relationships
with local and regional providers. The BBC should fulfil its duty
to stimulate local creative economies and engage local partners
and businesses to ensure that such relationships continue to develop
in terms of creative clusters.
1.3 In terms of music provision specifically,
from our perspective we want to see the BBC promoting local musical
talentcomposers, songwriters, performers across all music
genres. With this in mind, we would like to see greater opportunities
for people to access what could be classed as diverse or minority
areas of creativity. This would make a major contribution to the
need for new talent to gain exposure to be seen and heard, understood,
appreciated, and shared. In the past there has been a tendency
for the more popular areas of creativity to squeeze out the minority
1.4 We therefore point to the BBC local
radio schemes under the recently developed initiative "Raw
Talent" banner that are currently running at BBC Humber,
BBC Leeds, BBC North Yorkshire, BBC South Yorkshire, and BBC West
Yorkshire, as excellent examples of best practice at a local level
which can be further encouraged. We would like to see more examples
of local radio stations working together in this way as well as
exchanging and sharing material from station to station and providing
more material for the national radio networks, and for the BBC
to explore its relationship with the newly developing community
radio stations across the country. The BBC should work in partnership
with non-profit making organisations and play its role as venture
capital for the creative economy throughout the UK.
1.5 This is especially relevant as regards
the multi-cultural scene with there being large concentrations
of different communities in specific geographical pockets. Therefore,
we would like to see the BBC pursue opportunities to promote new
and interesting (local) music in order for it to be shared with
a wider audience. In these respects, we also would like to see
the BBC actively promoting more "joined up thinking"
between radio and TV in order to present further opportunities
for local talent. To this end we would particularly welcome the
strategic positioning of small and highly mobile TV film crews
within the local radio environment.
1.6 In terms of the BBC developing its ultra
local services, we acknowledge the potential role the BBC might
have to play here, as a conduit and platform for local talent,
but the BBC must ensure that it recognises the potential impact
on existing local service provision.
2. THE BBC AS
2.1 The MBF recognises that the BBC must
continue to play important roles as both a producer/ commissioner,
as well as a broadcaster.
2.2 The role of the BBC as a "broadcaster"
should be in the widest possible context of the word. Hitherto,
the BBC has been at the vanguard of the digital revolution and
will continue to adjust to the new paradigm in which content and
the services attached to it connect and interact with audiences
in new ways. Creative services should be continually employed
by the BBC to ensure reach and access and thus guarantee the long
term viability of the corporation. Against the background of more
and more niche programming or "narrowcasting", the BBC
has a vital role to play in ensuring that viewers and listeners
are skilfully encouraged to broaden their interests. This will
require sophisticated signposting in all areas of the BBC's output.
2.3 In this new era and the increased use
of content produced by third parties, the BBC's role as a commissioner
and broadcaster will become as important as its role as a creative
producer. It is therefore vital that the BBC acts upon its obligation
as a beacon of good practice in terms of promoting the respect
for the rights of creators and contributors. This means clearing
the rights of creators, paying market rates and accounting properlythese
principles should apply both to in-house productions and to those
commissioned from independent producers.
2.4 As the MBF noted in its initial response
to the Committee in May this year, the BBC's role as a commissioner
of music is extremely important to the UK's communal, economic
and cultural life given the key responsibility in the public service
broadcasting ecology to foster and promote new talent. As an example,
the role of the BBC as a commissioner of music is vital, particularly
with respect to Radio 3/the world's biggest commissioner of new
2.5 Making programmes is a key element of
the BBC's role and a strong in-house production base must be retained
for the sake of creative risk and experimentation, particularly
given that the licence fee has been correctly perceived as "the
venture capital for creativity".
2.6 We agree with the BBC that the success
of the organisation in terms of range of programming is very much
based on the achievement of "critical mass" in terms
of the BBC's infrastructure. We therefore believe it to be vital
that this "critical mass" should not be overly challenged
by allowing any in-house facility to dwindle to cover only those
programmes that no independent company finds itself commercially
viable to produce. In this respect we do not welcome the BBC's
new Window of Creative Competition (WOCC). We believe that there
is a serious risk that the BBC's in-house percentage share of
production may well fall to as little as 60 per cent or even less
of overall production which we consider to be exceptionally dangerous
in terms of preserving the "critical mass" referred
to above. We share also the concerns expressed in a Work Foundation
report earlier this year that: "once the independent production
sector is larger than the BBC in-house production, with a capacity
to produce every genre and out producing it in some, the BBC will
reach a tipping point at which it will find it very difficult
to justify in-house production capacity even on its reduced relative
scale". With a reduced scale, the capacity of the BBC to
sustain high infrastructure costs of maintaining many diverse
genres may well be threatened in the long term.
2.7 The potential long term dangers to the
wider broadcasting ecology by reforming a BBC commissioning structure
should also be recognised so far as this "risks a serious
hollowing-out as a creative organisation by a rapidly growing
and newly empowered independent sector who will be obliged to
poach its talent because of the paucity of its own training, while
driving a hard bargain over both programme provision and re-use
of content in service provisionand the more the independent
sector grows, the greater this impact will be."
2.8 Again, we recognise the value of the
BBC's commitment to training, diversity and the broad development
of opportunities in comparison to some of the independent producers.
We very much hope that the comments we have
raised in our submission will also be useful considerations for
the Committee members.
For further information, please do not hesitate
to get in contact with the MBF.
Tipping Point: How much is broadcast creativity at
risk? The Work Foundation, July 2005.
20 The MBF is an informal group of music business
organisations that, since its inception in the spring of 2002,
has gained a reputation as an effective representation of the
interests of the music business in its widest sense to Government. Back
DCMS consultation document: Culture at the Heart of Regeneration. Back
The Tipping Point: How much is broadcast creativity at risk?
The Work Foundation, July 2005. Back