Memorandum by the Department for Culture,
Media and Sport
The following memorandum provides written evidence
from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on news
provision in the UK, both broadcast and non-broadcast, and, in
particular, the future of news provision in the digital age.
It provides an overview of broadcast and non-broadcast
provision in the UK and sets out the regulatory framework for
broadcast news provision and the current system of newspaper industry
self-regulation. It also explains the Government's role and its
relationship with Ofcom, with regard to broadcast news provision.
1. All five terrestrial Public Service Broadcasters
(PSBs) are currently obliged to carry news as part of their services.
There are also two dedicated UK news channels (Sky News and BBC
News 24); specialist news channels (such as those covering business
news); and a range of overseas channels, either dedicated to news
or carrying news as part of a more general service.
2. The UK television news industry is dominated
by three big "players", the BBC, ITN and Sky News.
3. All three operate in a market where considerations
other than the merely commercial play a big part. The BBC is funded
through the licence fee, and transmitted under the public service
ethos set out in its Charter and Agreement.
4. ITN supplies news to two other PSB channelsITV1
and Channel 4. Although it sells its services on a commercial
basis, these main customers are obliged to carry news under their
PSB licence terms. ITV also has public service obligations to
produce news for the UK nations and regions. This is provided
by ITN in London and by the individual ITV licensees elsewhere.
ITV is the majority shareholder in ITN, owning around 40%.
5. The final player is Sky News which also
sells its services commercially to a PSB licensee, having captured
the contract to supply news to Five from the beginning of 2005.
6. The only other UK company transmitting
significant amounts of mass audience general television news is
the breakfast channel, GMTV. Although partly owned by ITV plc,
it maintains its own news-gathering operation. However, it does
use ITN facilities.
7. Whilst radio companies generally have
their own news gathering facilities, and indeed analogue licensees
are required to produce a certain amount of locally produced news,
a number of commercial stations receive national and international
news from IRN (Independent Radio News), although Sky News also
offer a radio specific service.
8. BBC News is the largest broadcast news-gathering
operation in the world. Its scale extends across all platforms
by providing services to BBC domestic radio as well as its television
networks such as BBC News 24, BBC Parliament and BBC World, and
also BBCi, Ceefax and BBC News Online.
9. The BBC broadcast its first radio bulletin
on 14 November 1922. Televised bulletins came later on 5 July
1954. However cinema newsreels, adapted for television, had been
run on the BBC since 1948.
10. In the 1950s, television news, although
separate from its radio counterpart, remained firmly under radio's
controlwith correspondents providing reports for both outlets.
11. However, the knowledge that commercial
TV was on its way (it arrived on 22 September 1955 in the form
of Independent Television News) was central to BBC news policy
that year and a separate TV news department was established, as
part of a re-organised News Division that now reported directly
to the director general. In 1958, after a BBC study group was
critical of what the television news operation had become, it
was decided formally to separate television and radio and provide
the television service with its own proper newsroom, with an editor-of-the-day.
12. BBC 2 started transmission on 20 April
1964, and with it came a new news programmeNewsroom.
Newsroom launched in 1964 and in 1968 it became the UK's
first colour television news programme.
13. The Nine O'clock News launched
on 14 September 1970; it was moved from the earlier time of 8:50
pm as a response to the ratings achieved by News at Ten,
which had been introduced three years earlier. The early evening
news on BBC 1 remained at its regular time of 5:50pm (it would
be fourteen years before it would become the Six O'clock News).
BBC News 24 was launched in 1997.
BBC News Online
14. BBC News Online was launched in November
1997 and it remains one of the most popular news websites in the
UK. It contains international news coverage as well as entertainment,
sport, science, business and political news. Television and radio
bulletins are also available to view on the site, together with
current affairs programmes including Newsnight and Question
Time, which are available to view after they have been broadcast.
BBC Nations/Regions/Local news
15. The BBC provides news programming for
15 English Regions and sub-regions, and for the three other UK
16. The BBC also regards itself as the national
broadcaster for each of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
17. BBC One Scotland broadcasts the nightly
Scottish news programme, Reporting Scotland, and other
bulletins throughout the day. BBC Two Scotland operates as an
opt-out from the UK national BBC Two, and includes some news bulletins;
some Gaelic progammes; and coverage of the Scottish Parliament.
There is a Scottish "opt out" from the network BBC Two
18. In Northern Ireland, the BBC output
centres on the daily Newsline programme broadcast at 18.30
on weekdays. There are additional programmes at lunchtimes and
bulletins throughout the day.
19. The flagship BBC news for Wales is Wales
Today. As with the other nations, there are other bulletins
throughout the day.
20. The BBC also provides a news service
for S4C, the Welsh language television broadcaster. It is provided
through BBC Wales as part of the Corporation's statutory supply
of S4C programmes, funded by the licence fee. Schedule 12(9) of
the 2003 Communications Act requires the Welsh Authority (the
statutory body responsible for the S4C analogue and digital services)
to ensure that the news service is of high quality and deals with
national and international matters.
21. In England, the BBC has recently increased
the number of its regions, creating new services for the South
East and East Yorkshire/Lincolnshire. It has also created a new
sub-region for Oxfordshire.
22. The total cost of BBC News in all its
formsaccording to 2005/2006 figuresis £112.6
million, of which £89.5 million is designated as Newsgathering
and £23.1 million is assigned to BBC News 24.
23. ITN first broadcast at the start of
ITV in 1955. ITN was a consortium of the initial franchise holders.
ITV news programming remained branded under the ITN name until
1999, when it became ITV News on programme titles. In 2001,
the ITN name was removed from the voiceovers at the start of bulletins
and reporter name-checks. The name is now seen only on the end
24. ITV News has one of the largest
television audiences for news in the UK; BBC News is the only
other news provider that has similar audience figures. ITV abandoned
its 24-hour news channel towards the end of 2005, saying it was
not commercially viable.
25. ITN remains the BBC's chief rival in
UK television newsbut its position has come under more
and more pressure as the television market has evolved. The original
BBC/ITV duopolybased on fierce competitionis credited
with setting historically high standards in UK television news.
The ITV News at Ten was once a nightly "appointment
to view" for viewers to the channel who did not watch or
listen to news anywhere else.
26. A key turning point for ITV was the
1990 Broadcasting Act, when ITN was established as an independent
entity. The value of ITN's core contract to supply ITV has declined
ever since then. In order to maintain its independent voice, no
owner could hold more than 20% of the business.
27. The Communications Act 2003 subsequently
removed the restrictions which had previously prevented ITV from
owning its nominated news provider and today ITV owns around 40%
28. The Communications Act 2003 requires
the Channel 3 licence holder (ITV) to provide regional news services
in each of its 15 regions, and further licence commitments extend
the total of regional/sub-regional programmes to 27. ITN has no
direct role in regional ITV news coverage, except in London. Instead,
the individual ITV regions maintain their own news operations
and produce self-contained bulletins that are transmitted within
the ITV national news.
29. The majority of the Channel 3 licence
areas are required to provide an average of 5.5 hours of regional
news per week (4,116 hours per year), of which 2.5 hours per week
are required to be broadcast at peak viewing times. ITV Border
and Channel Television are required to provide 4.5 hours per week
(2.5 hours in peak) and 3 hours 9 minutes (1 hour 8 minutes in
peak) respectively, reflecting their smaller size.
30. ITV fulfils its licence conditions to
schedule regional news in peak by broadcasting half hour main
bulletins at 6pm, five days a week. There are also regional news
bulletins on GMTV and national bulletins at lunchtime and on the
main evening news programmes.
Channel Four News
31. Channel 4 News is the news division
of Channel 4. It is produced by ITN, under contract, and has been
in operation since the broadcaster's launch in 1982.
32. Currently, Channel 4 News has three
News at Noon goes out
weekdays on Channel 4 12:00-12:30;
Channel 4 News is the
name given to the flagship programme which is on the air 19:00-19:55
weeknights on Channel 4. (19:00-19:30 on Fridays). It also goes
out on Saturday and Sunday evenings, with varying timing;
More4 News broadcasts
weeknights on sister channel More4 from 20:00-20:30.
33. One of the reasons why ITN's reputation
in the market has remained consistently high is its continuing
contract to supply Channel 4 News. A new contract was signed in
2006 running to the end of 2010. The agreement, worth around £20
million a year, provides for a full news service for the corporation,
including the main Channel 4 News, News at Noon and More4
34. Of particular value in terms of prestige
is Channel 4's commitment to international news coverage. The
new contract includes provision for a newly opened bureau in Beijing
(with ITV News); and the recruitment of extra journalists for
Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Another key aspect of Channel
4 News is the use of independent news producers, which distinguishes
the output from that of its competitors. Independent producers
used include Guardian Films, IFA Films and Out There News.
35. When it was launched on 30 March 1997
5 News, as it was then branded, was one of the new station's flagship
programmes. Originally, like ITV and Channel Four, it was produced
by ITN. However, on 9 March 2004 it was confirmed that Sky had
won the new contract to provide Five with its news bulletins.
36. Currently, Five News has three weekday
a morning edition broadcast
at 11:30 am;
an early evening edition broadcast
at 5:30 pm; and
a mid-evening edition broadcast
at 7:00 pm.
37. Sky News is a 24-hour domestic and international
television news channel first broadcast on 16 February 1989. Sky
News was the only UK 24 hour news channel (BBC World Service Television
started in 1991 but has never been broadcast in the UK) until
November 1997 when BBC News 24 launched.
38. In March 2000 Sky News Active was launched,
a 24-hour interactive service providing headlines (and other services
including weather bulletins, the top story of the day and showbiz)
39. The BBC has five national analogue channels
(Radio 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 Live) and all of them carry news bulletins.
These services, as well as the BBC World Service are available
digitally via DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting), alongside a further
five national digital-only channels (1Extra; Five Live Sports
Extra; 6 Music; BBC 7; and Asian Net). They are also available
via digital television and the internet. These digital-only services
are genre specific and in general do not broadcast specific news
40. There are also 40 local BBC radio stations
in England, and six dedicated national stations for Ulster, Scotland
and Wales/Cymru (Radio Scotland, Radio Nan Gaidheal, Radio Ulster,
Radio Foyle, Radio Wales and Radio Cymru).
41. Generally, BBC local radio is far more
news and speech-oriented during its main programming than its
music-based commercial competitors. In addition BBC World Service
radio transmits to most of the world and in 33 languages.
42. News bulletins are carried on all three
national commercial radio stations: TalkSport, Classic FM and
Virgin. In addition, there are approximately 300 local analogue
radio stations across the UK, and in the main they have licence
obligations to broadcast news.
43. The UK continues to have one of the
highest levels of newspaper readership in Europe. However, daily
consumption has decreased since 2002 from 43% to 36%. Unlike television
and radio, newspapers operate in an entirely commercial environment.
44. Approximately 11 million national newspapers
are sold each day but over the last 10 years there has been a
steady decline in the sales as more people rely on television,
free newspapers and the internet for their news consumption.
45. The top five national newspaper publishers
control 90% of sales. The biggest, News International, makes up
32.1% of all national newspaper sales and owns The Sun, The
Times, The News of the World and The Sunday Times.
46. The internet is the fastest-growing
platform for news and other informationalthough the number
of consumers who get their news via the internet is still small
compared to those who get their news from television. The majority
of the national and virtually all the regional newspapers now
have an on-line presence.
47. The Daily Telegraph launched
the first UK on-line national news operationElectronic
Telegraphin 1994, followed three years later by the BBC's
news website. The last major UK national newspaper to launch its
website was The Daily Mail, in 2004.
48. The outlets for commercial news distribution
on-line can be divided into three main areas: news organisation
sites (newspapers, broadcasters), news agencies (wire services)
and news aggregators. The entry points for original news are the
news organisations and the wire servicesthe companies which
maintain traditional newsgathering functions.
Impartiality, accuracy and undue prominence
49. It is one of the fundamentals of the
regulation of broadcasting in the UK that due accuracy and impartiality
in broadcast services are maintained. The Government has continued
strongly to support the independence and impartiality of the broadcast
50. Under the Communications Act, the requirements
of "due impartiality" and "due accuracy" in
news are imposed on all television channels licensed in the UK
whether terrestrial, satellite, cable or otherwise. Furthermore,
the same requirement applies to national radio. Similar requirements
have been placed on the BBC, through its Charter and Agreement.
51. The requirement of "due impartiality"
means that broadcasters must always strive to achieve a balanced
presentation of a range of points of view on matters of political
or industrial controversy and relating to current public policy.
52. These obligations have played an important
part in ensuring wide public access to impartial and accurate
information about our society and the opportunity to encounter
a diverse array of voices and perspectives.
53. It is impartiality that distinguishes
broadcasters from other media. In particular, ensuring that the
broadcast media provide a counter-weight to other, less impartial,
sources of news, notably the print media. Research for Ofcom's
report New News, Future News indicated that the people
both recognises and values this characteristic of the broadcast
History of impartiality
54. Historically, the requirement for impartiality
derives from the earliest days of nationally broadcast radio in
Britain under the BBC, which began in November 1922.
55. The need to provide impartial services
has been central to the BBC's development since this time and
remains at the heart of the BBC's activity.
56. The tradition and reputation of British
broadcasting for objectivity and impartiality was also clearly
recognised in drawing up the 1954 Television Act, to ensure that
commercial television provided programme services that were balanced
and impartial, with obligations placed on the new Independent
Television Authority to achieve this.
Fairness and Privacy in the broadcast media
57. Under the Communications Act 2003, Ofcom
also has a statutory duty to include the application, in the case
of all television and radio services, of standards which provide
adequate protection to members of the public and all other persons
from unfair treatment and unwarranted infringements of privacy
in programmes included in such services.
58. In addition, the rules on fairness in
the Communications Act reflect the requirements set out in Article
23 of the Television Without Frontiers Directive regarding the
need to establish a right of reply or equivalent remedy.
59. The current system of newspaper industry
self-regulation came into being on 1 January 1991. Its establishment
followed a period in the 1980s when its predecessor, the Press
Council, lost the confidence of some sections of the press, and
there was growing concern over reporting standards, with corresponding
calls for statutory regulation and a privacy law. The Government
responded by appointing David Calcutt QC to head a Departmental
Committee to look at the issue of privacy and press intrusion.
The Committee published its Report in June 1990, which concluded
that the former Press Council was "ineffective as an adjudicating
body", and gave the newspaper industry 18 months to demonstrate
that non-statutory self-regulation could be made to work effectively,
before the then Government considered statutory controls for newspaper
60. Following publication of the Calcutt
Report, a committee of national and regional newspaper editors,
led by Patsy Chapman, the then editor of The News of the World,
drew up a Code of Practice to be upheld by a Press Complaints
Commission. The Commission was established along the lines suggested
in the Calcutt Report, consisting of national, regional and periodical
editors alongside a group of lay members. After an 18 month "probationary
period" the then Government asked Sir David Calcutt to undertake
a review of the effectiveness of press self regulation. In January
1993, Sir David Calcutt produced his report, recommending that
a statutory Press Complaints Tribunal be set up in place of the
PCC, with extensive powers.
61. Later that year, Clive Soley MP introduced
a Private Members Bill seeking to establish a statutory Press
Complaints Authority. In response, the newspaper industry sought
to head off the threat of statutory regulation by strengthening
the system of self-regulation, establishing a new position of
Privacy Commissioner with special responsibility for handling
complaints about alleged intrusions into privacy. A sanction of
disciplinary action by publishers against editors involved in
breaches of the Code was also introduced.
62. In July 1995, the then Government formally
responded to the second Calcutt Report, by signalling that it
was not minded to implement the Report's recommendations, and
that it preferred an effective system of self-regulation.
63. Also in 1995, the PCC set up a new Appointments
Commission with a lay majority, to ensure that lay members of
the Commission were themselves appointed by a body independent
of the press. By the end of 1996, a commitment to observe the
Code of Practice had been written into the contracts of most senior
64. The Code was significantly strengthened
following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, specifically
in the areas of privacy and harassment. In 1998, following pressure
from the newspaper lobby, the Human Rights and Data Protection
Bills were amended to include a clause designed to protect freedom
of expression. In February of that year Lord Wakeham stood down
as PCC Chairman, to be replaced by Professor Pinker, previously
Privacy Commissioner, as Acting Chairman.
65. The Commission's current Chairman is
Sir Christopher Meyer, and there have been other changes to its
organisational structure, such as an increase in the number of
lay members not previously involved with the press. Amendments
have also been made to the Code to reflect concerns of the day.
Self regulatory structure
66. In essence, the industry's system of
self-regulation consists of a voluntary Code of Practice drawn
up by the industry, overseen by an independent Press Complaints
Commission, which is financed by the Press Standards Board of
Finance (Pressbof). More details on the self-regulatory structure
are given below.
Press Complaints Commission
67. The PCC's purpose is to oversee the
working of the industry's Code of Practice and deal with complaints
from members of the public about editorial content. As well as
adjudicating on complaints made under the Code, the Commission
occasionally issues guidelines on specific reporting issues (eg:
the privacy of prominent people, media packs reporting on major
stories). The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) has also recently
extended its activities to cover all the material on newspapers'
websites as well as their printed versions, thus showing the ability
of self-regulation to meet the challenges of new technology.
68. There are 17 members of the Commission10
lay members and seven editors. Appointments to the Commission
are made by an Appointments Committee. The Appointments Committee
comprises of five people, including the Chairman of the PCC, the
Chairman of Pressbof and three independent others. These arrangements
ensure that the independent majority of the PCC is then appointed
by an independent body unconnected with the press.
69. The lay members are appointed through
open competition, and vacancies and conditions are advertised
in the press. These posts are paid. None of the lay members may
be engaged in or, other than by their membership of the Commission,
connected with or interested in the business of publishing newspapers,
periodicals or magazines. Current members represent a wide range
of backgrounds and experience, including business, politics, religion,
academia and law. Press Members are also appointed by the Commission
although these positions are not openly advertised as they are
only for those already in the press. Each of the Press Members
must be a person experienced at senior editorial level in the
press. Press members are not paid by the Commission.
70. Pressbof is the industry body charged
with raising a levy from within the industry to finance the PCC.
It plays a key role in the appointment of the PCC Chairman. Its
Chairman is also a member of the PCC's Appointments Commission.
Other members represent trade bodies and press businesses.
Code of Practice
71. The Code of Practice is central to the
industry's system of self-regulation, setting standards for gathering
and reporting stories.
72. The Code is reviewed periodically by
a committee of editors (the Code of Practice Committee), which
includes editors from across the newspaper and magazine industries.
Committee meetings are also attended by the PCC's Chairman and
Director, in an ex officio capacity. Members of the Committee
are appointed by the PCC's Appointments Commission on the basis
of nominations from the industry's trade associations. Any changes
to the Code proposed by the Committee must be ratified by the
PCC before they can take effect.
73. The current rules governing media ownership
are set out in the Communications Act 2003 and the Media Ownership
(Local Radio and Appointed News Provider) Order 2003. These rules
operate through a series of disqualifications on the holding of
licences based on levels of market share, measured by audience
size, as well as disqualifications based on the number of interests
held in discrete media markets.
74. Prior to the Communications Act 2003
the rules were set out in the Broadcasting Acts 1990 and 1996,
while the Fair Trading Act 1973 imposed a special regime on newspaper
75. The purpose of the media ownership rules
has been, as far as possible, to create a competitive market whilst
ensuring plurality of voice and diversity of content. The principles
behind the ownership rules set out in the Communications Act 2003
were to remove unnecessary restrictions with the intention of
promoting greater investment, competition, ideas and skills; while
at the same time ensuring a diversity of content from a plurality
of sources. A summary of the changes made by the Communications
Act and the associated Order are as follows.
TVHistoric rules on media ownership
76. The Broadcasting Acts 1990 and 1996
prevented anyone from holding more than two licences to provide
TV services which attracted 15% or more of the total TV audience
share. The Acts also prohibited owning more than one ITV regional
service in the same area, this restriction prevented any one person
or company from owning both the London licences. The Broadcasting
Acts also prohibited holding both a Channel 3 and the Channel
77. There were disqualifications on the
BBC, S4C and Channel 4, or their companies, from holding Channel
3 or 5 licences or for local delivery (cable) systems.
TVCommunications Act changes
78. The Communications Act repealed all
the rules which had prevented the single ownership of Channel
3, as detailed below. This paved the way for the merging of Carlton
and Granada in 2004.
79. The Act also removed all specific ownership
restrictions on Channel 5.
80. The Broadcasting Acts controlled the
ownership of radio services through a points system. Each licence
is awarded points according to the size of the population covered
by the service. Nobody was permitted to control licences which
accounted for more than 15% of the total number of points in any
81. There were also disqualifications from
owning more than one national analogue radio service, more than
one national radio multiplex service, or more than one national
digital sound programme service, and there were restrictions on
RadioCommunications Act changes
82. The Media Ownership (Local Radio and
Appointed News Provider) Order 2003 introduced a new limit of
55% ownership of any one radio market, again based on a points
system; the new limit ensured a minimum "2+1" result
in all but the smallest local radio markets. "2+1" referring
to the requirement for at least two separate owners of local commercial
radio in addition to the one local BBC service. The 55% limit
in theory allows for a reduction in the number of local commercial
radio owners from 70 to 2, subject to competition law.
83. A 55% rule was also imposed on digital
radio licences, although points are calculated by the total market
rather than on a multiplex-by-multiplex basis; this means that
points are calculated by the total number of services available
in the market, rather than on a single multiplex. The purpose
of this is to avoid multiplex owners having to put their services
on others' multiplexes.
84. In addition, the Order introduced a
new rule which prevents a person from owning two or more overlapping
Cross MediaHistoric rules
85. The Broadcasting Acts set out cross-media
ownership rules which sought to prevent any one company acquiring
excessive influence across the media at a national or local level.
These rules included preventing owners of newspapers with a 20%
or greater market share from controlling, or holding more than
20% of, a licence to provide a national or regional ITV service,
Channel 5, or a national or local radio service. Rules also limited
the control that a local newspaper owner could have of TV and
radio services in the same area.
Cross MediaCommunications Act changes
86. The Communications Act extended the
application of the 20% rule setting an ultimate limit on the percentage
ownership of a Channel 3 licence by owners, or partial owners,
of other influential media. These rules are:
no one controlling more than
20% of a national newspaper may hold an Channel 3 licence;
no one controlling more than
20% of a national newspaper may hold more than a 20% stake in
a Channel 3 service;
a company may not own more than
a 20% share in such a service if more than 20% of its stock is
in turn owned by a national newspaper proprietor with more than
20% of the market.
87. There are also restrictions on the holding
of a local commercial radio licence if an organisation or person
runs a local newspaper, or newspapers,
which has a 50% or greater market share in the coverage area of
the licence in question; and
holds the licence to provide
any regional Channel 3 service where at least 50% of the potential
audience reside within the local radio licence in question.
88. These rules apply only if the local
commercial radio licence overlaps with two other local radio licences
which in themselves overlap.
89. The Communications Act removed the rules
prohibiting the ownership of a Broadcasting Act licence by a non-EEA
(European Economic Area) individual or company.
90. In addition to the specific media ownership
rules, the Communications Act extended the public interest mergers
provisions, detailed in the Enterprise Act 2002, to include newspapers
and other media mergers. These powers allow the Secretary of State
for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform to launch an investigation
into a merger which raises public interest concerns. Any merger
would need to meet the Enterprise Act thresholds, which are that
the company/companies being acquired or merged has a £70
million or above turnover and/or the merger would create or enhance
a 25% or greater share of supply in the UK or a substantial part
of the UK.
91. Where the SoS deems that a merger may
act against the public interest he may instruct Ofcom to advise
him on the public interest considerations. In addition, the Office
of Fair Trading (OFT) will be asked to consider the competition
effects. The OFT's findings are binding and the Secretary of State
must accept their recommendations. On receipt of the advice from
Ofcom, he must decide whether there are sufficient grounds for
referring the case to the Competition Commission (CC) for further
investigation. If a referral is made, the CC will then advise
on whether the merger should be cleared, blocked or cleared subject
to conditions, although again all recommendations on competition
issues are binding.
92. These powers were used for the first
time this year when the then Secretary of State for Trade and
Industry launched a public interest inquiry into the purchase
of 17.9% of ITV's share by BSkyB. The Competition Commission are
expected to conclude their investigation by the end of this year.
93. Local Commercial Radio licences which
use terrestrial spectrum do not have specific public service obligations,
but are chosen by "beauty parade", which has led to
public service content, such as general and travel news and weather
forecasts, being offered; local analogue stations also have a
"localness" obligation. The three national analogue
licensees have format obligations, but the highest bidders are
94. All public service broadcasters, excluding
the public corporations, have, as well as their responsibilities
to invest in public service content, obligations to pay licence
fees to the Consolidated Fund in recognition of the income they
can earn from the use of the public resource of wireless telegraphy
95. The Government believes that the UK
has benefited from an independent and impartial broadcast media.
However, we recognise there are challenges to be faced as we move
into a new environment and on to digital switchover and beyond.
96. As the Committee Chairman has stated,
there has been little investigation into the impact of ownership
on editorial priorities, such as fairness, accuracy and impartiality.
DCMS has run two consultations on ownership rules, in 1994 and
2001, the second of which led to the Media Ownership (Local Radio
and Appointed News Provider) Order 2003.
THE UK MEDIA?
97. There is a varied amount of news available
to UK consumers, in addition to the five main PSB channels. There
are two home-based 24 hour news channels (Sky News and BBC News
24) and a range of international and niche channels which carry
98. The major south Asian organisations
(STAR, Zee TV, ARY, PTV, ATN Bangla and Asianet) all have a presence
in the UK, along with channels such as Al Jazeera, France 24 and
99. All of these overseas channels licensed
in the UK have to conform to the rules on due impartiality, as
set out in the Communications Act 2003.
100. Whilst television remains the first
choice for most consumers of news, there has been a gradual decline
in audience figures for bulletins on the main channels over the
last ten years.
101. Clearly, people are moving away from
the main PSB news providers. Newly available TV channels, such
as Fox News and Al Jazeera, are providing people
with greater diversity and choice. In addition, there has also
been a decline in newspaper circulations, especially for tabloids,
over the last five years.
102. The development of the internet, cheaper
newsgathering, and the expansion of video news agencies also provides
potential for new news providers to offer services at lower cost
than current major broadcasters.
103. The internet is the fastest-growing
platform for accessing and distributing news. Consumers are employing
more and varied internet resources in order to obtain information
they require. The internet is also allowing people to access news
from other news sources, and this is allowing people to gain different
views and insights into news stories and also to get a greater
view of news, as seen from other countries.
104. In addition, people are often presented
with news headlines for example via "tickertape" on
the internet, whether or not they are actually seeking them out.
This is particularly the case with young people aged between 16
and 24, who are currently the biggest users of the internet. This
can actually be seen as a positive step in news access, as this
is the group that is least likely to access news via the traditional
methods, such as television news bulletins and newspapers.
105. The expansion of the internet has gone
hand-in-hand with the development of new forms of news gathering,
including the aggregating functions built into sites like Google
and Yahoo; and the self-standing news aggregation sites of others.
106. The sophistication of online news delivery
tools has developed rapidly, enabled by the growing penetration
of broadband internet access. Audio and video is now increasingly
common on the broadcasters' and larger newspapers' sites, although
text is by far the most used form of internet news.
107. Podcasts dedicated to news (audio downloads
that can be heard on a PC or portable device) are increasingly
popular and there is also distribution of news to mobile devices
through wifi and text alerts. There has also been an explosion
in blogs, which has harnessed the internet's ability to distribute
news and comment from users themselves.
108. Mainstream providers are not standing
still, however. "Uploaded" is an ITV News feature which
launched on Tuesday 31 July 2007. The service, available on itv.com,
features viewers' contributions to daily debates. Candid pieces
of comment and opinion from "citizen correspondents"
are then used across ITV News programmes in short clips edited
to entice people to visit the website and to complement its TV
109. There are also ITV News bulletins which
can be sent to mobile phones twice a day, once in the morning
and once in the afternoon (there are two bulletins at the weekend).
For this service there is a charge of £2 a week.
110. FIVE also has the "Your News"
segment on most of its bulletins. This is a segment given over
to viewers' videos and has now been adopted by many other news
programmes under the banner "user-generated content".
111. Camera phones are also being used as
a way of getting news on location, on the spot and many broadcasters
are now actively requesting consumer-generated material to prompt
or to supplement news stories. A good example is the London 7/7
112. At present, there is a legal requirement
that all UK licensed television and radio news is duly impartial
and there is little pressure for change.
113. However, Ofcom has questioned in its
recent report "New News, Future News" whether this should
continue to apply to non-PSB broadcasters in the longer term.
114. They note, in particular, that in the
future regulated and unregulated news is likely to be accessed
through the same device and it could be harder to apply traditional
impartiality rules in such an environment.
115. The most obvious outcome of the changes
to the media ownership rules in the Communications Act was the
merger of Carlton and Granada in 2004 to form ITV plc, which owns
11 of the 15 regional ITV licences. Later the same year ITV became
the majority share holder of GMTV and, taken, together they now
have an 18% market share of viewing.
116. As noted above, in November of last
year BSkyB bought a 17.9% share of ITV, this merger is currently
under consideration by the Competition Commission. However, besides
that, the overall picture in television ownership has remained
largely static over recent years; all the main television owners
have been present in the UK for the last five years.
117. The radio market has seen considerably
more consolidation with a number of high profile mergers since
2003. These mergers have increased concentration in both station
and multiplex ownership at the local and national level. The most
significant of these was the merger of Capital and GWR to form
GCap which is now the largest commercial radio company in the
UK, although only representing a 12% share of total listening.
In addition there were acquisitions of Scottish Radio Holdings
by Emap, TWB by UTV and Radio investments by The Local Radio Company.
However, the industry as a whole remains relatively fragmented.
In 2003, 58% of the local commercial radio market was owned by
small groups compared to 44% in 2006.
118. We are not aware of any further significant
consolidation in the newspaper market.
119. The Communications Act 2003 sought
to deregulate and encourage consolidation which in turn would
promote competition and attract new investment, ideas and skills.
Consolidation on the scale which has already occurred was, in
principle, envisaged during the passage of the Communications
Bill and we believe has contributed to a market which offers increasing
choice to audiences.
120. The Communications Act was designed
to maintain a balance of different media viewpoints in society
by putting in place a series of ownership rules that would effectively
safeguard democratic debate at a national, regional and local
level. These rules are in addition to the general competition
law which should protect against the creation of uncompetitive
markets. We believe that, when taken together, the competition
and media ownership rules, including the public interest test,
will ensure a plurality of ownership in all but the smallest of
121. These rules apply to broadcasting and
newspaper enterprises and, while these remain the principal suppliers
of information, including in their on-line forms, the Communications
Act provisions should remain not only effective in securing plurality,
but necessary. However, the development of new media has brought
an enormous proliferation in the volume and range of news suppliers,
making new voices and perspectives available as never before both
nationally and internationally. The increase in both the availability
and influence of these new media suggests that placing restrictions
on ownership for radio and television, based upon their power
to influence democratic debate, may well become less relevant
in the future.
122. Section 351 of the Communications Act
2003 requires Ofcom to review the media ownership rules at least
every three years and where appropriate make recommendations to
the Secretary of State if, in their view, the rules need changing.
The first of these reviews was published in November 2006 and
concluded that the current rules were broadly right and recommended
no changes. We believe that the requirement to keep the current
media ownership rules under review will help ensure that they
remain relevant and proportionate in the future.