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Tuesday, 12 December, 2000, 18:14 GMT
Broadcasters welcome Ofcom
Broadcast regulators have welcomed the government's plans to create a single watchdog to oversee the industry.


The BBC's independence remains intact

BBC chairman Sir Christopher Bland
The Office of Communications (Ofcom) is to take over the work of organisations such as Oftel and the Broadcasting Standards Commission.

BBC chairman Sir Christopher Bland welcomed the move, saying it struck the right balance.

"The secretaries of state have managed the difficult task of steering a course between the interests and rights of audiences and the commercial needs of a modern and expanding industry.

"The BBC's independence remains intact. The white paper recognises the role of the BBC board of governors as trustees of the public interest.

BBC Chairman, Sir Christopher Bland: Independence vital

"The governors will maintain their existing responsibilities for content on all BBC services and retain sole responsibility for delivering the BBC's public service remit in the modern media age."

And BBC director general Greg Dyke said the white paper has to "prepare the industry for the 21st Century".


The new technologies are text-based and difficult to operate if you have impaired vision

RNIB
He stressed that the licence fee settlement at the beginning of this year gave the BBC the "financial security to prepare for the future".

"This provides the other important element - independent regulation for the BBC, clarity for audiences and a continued emphasis on the importance of public service broadcasting," he added.

The Independent Television Commission backed the main thrusts of the plans.

Its chairman Sir Robin Biggam said: "Public service broadcasting and standards are quite rightly high on the white paper agenda.

Greg Dyke
Greg Dyke: "Continued emphasis on public service broadcasting"
"We will continue to advocate simpler, but not softer regulation, the involvement of the viewer and the maintenance of public service broadcasting as a leading contributor to the democracy and culture of the nation."

The ITC and Oftel are already in "detailed conversation" and plan to start work immediately on the move towards the creation of Ofcom.

They said in a joint statement: "We have already had constructive discussions on how to regulate in a digital environment.

"This process can now be developed and extended."

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The BBC moved its evening programme
And the ITC, Broadcasting Standards Commission and the Radio Authority have already discussed working more closely together.

The Radio Authority gave the white paper a warm response.

Its chairman, Richard Hooper, said the plans were "a radical vision", offering flexible regulation while protecting consumer interests.

The Broadcasting Standards Commission also welcomed the paper.

'No commitment'

It said it was delighted its arguments for a regulatory regime reflecting citizen and consumer interests had been taken on board.

A BSkyB spokesman echoed the support, saying: "We welcome the government's stated aim to simplify, rationalise and take a lighter touch approach to regulation."

But the Royal National Institute for the Blind was not happy with the plans.

It said it was "very disappointed" that they did not include measures to protect the interests of the disabled.

The RNIB acknowledged that the white paper said the government will continue to make efforts to raise awareness of the needs of disabled people in relation to the media.

But it "makes no commitment to legislation", said RNIB spokesman Joe Korner.

"We feel this is totally inadequate," he said.

"The new technologies are text-based and difficult to operate if you have impaired vision."

See also:

31 Oct 00 | Business
UK leads world in interactive TV
24 Oct 00 | Business
ITV shake-up continues
19 Nov 00 | UK Politics
BBC warned over 10pm news slot
01 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Broadcasters urged to protect children
25 Aug 00 | UK
The Board of governors
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