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Monday, 11 June, 2001, 12:26 GMT 13:26 UK
Tessa tackles in-tray
Tessa Jowell
Tessa Jowell takes over from Chris Smith
By BBC News Online's Darren Waters

The new culture minister Tessa Jowell, who was named in last week's post-election cabinet reshuffle, will find her in-tray overflowing.

Her predecessor, the highly regarded Chris Smith, achieved much during his tenure at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport but there was plenty of work left to do when he found himself re-shuffled.

Arts funding, broadcast ownership, media regulation and the appointment of a new chairman at the BBC are just a few of the politically-sensitive issues that will require careful handling by the new minister.

At the top of the pile is a decision on the future of the BBC's planned digital services.

Digital future

The corporation is waiting to hear if it has the green light for two new digital TV channels, BBC Three and BBC Four, two children's networks and five new radio stations.

Chris Smith
Chris Smith was axed by Tony Blair
The plans are at the heart of the BBC's plans for its digital future and director general Greg Dyke is pressing for an early decision.

Digital television is one issue central to the broader Communications White Paper, which needs to be steered through parliament.

Ms Jowell will have to balance the needs of commercial broadcasters as well as the needs of viewers and regulators, if the white paper is to become a bill.

Tony Stoller, chief executive of the Radio Authority, told BBC News Online there was a lot of work needed to be done before the bill could be passed.

'Urgent work'

"The first thing to be settled by the government as a whole is whether the proposed white paper will be dealt with in the first session of parliament.

"If so, there is some urgent work to be done because there are central points yet to be decided."

Mr Stoller said the minister had to address the "issues of ownership of radio stations and cross ownership of radio stations and newspapers because the white paper does not adequately address them".

He added: "They are also going to have to look again at the relationship between the BBC and Ofcom."

'Broader role'

Under the current proposals the BBC would continue to be regulated by its board of governors rather than by a proposed new regulatory body - Ofcom - which would incorporate the Independent Television Commission, Office of Telecommunications, the Broadcasting Standards Commission and Radio Authority.

Gre Dyke
Greg Dyke: Pressing for an early decision on digital channels
"The vast majority of responses on the issue say they would like Ofcom to have a broader role with regard the BBC," said Mr Stoller.

Members of the Commons Culture Committee, chaired by veteran Labour MP Gerald Kaufman in the last parliament, have said they want the BBC to be fully regulated by the proposed new communications watchdog.

Media ownership will remain a thorny issue for the government and the minister as the ITV companies, lead by Granada and Carlton, look ever nearer to establishing a single commercial broadcasting network.

Further afield

The two companies are also set to renew their fight for the right to control ITN, who provide news coverage to the ITV network.

Tessa Jowell will also have a hand in deciding who will take over from Sir Christopher Bland as the next chairman of the BBC.

The current deputy Gavyn Davies is the favourite for the post although critics have pointed to his Labour connections as a reason for looking further afield.

In the arts world, Chris Smith was successful in securing an extra 100m a year for the arts in England but Gerry Robinson, chair at the arts council, has already made it clear he will be pressing for more.

Charting its past, present and digital future
See also:

14 Mar 01 | Entertainment
ITV and Sky digital deal closer
05 Mar 01 | Entertainment
'No plans' to scrap culture ministry
24 Jan 01 | Entertainment
'Free entry' to museums
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