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Tuesday, 20 August, 2002, 16:51 GMT 17:51 UK
TV production under scrutiny
The Kumars at Number 42
Kumars at No 42: Made for BBC by outside firm
Rules which decide who makes programmes for TV are to be scrutinised by the government, after fears that growth in the independent sector is being stifled.

A review will look at whether current production quotas - which force broadcasters to buy a certain amount of shows from independent production companies - are too restrictive.

Tessa Jowell
Tessa Jowell said she would consider changes
Some producers have called for the quotas to be abolished and all programmes to be thrown open to the independent sector.

The review will also study whether the production sector would fare badly if foreign media companies bought UK broadcasters and made less home-grown shows.

The government's Communications Bill - expected in autumn 2002 - has sparked concerns that US media giants could buy UK commercial stations and fill them with American shows.

As well as looking at production quotas, the review will also examine whether the current framework is sufficient for a digital, multi-channel world.

It is being carried out by the Independent Television Commission for Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell.

Code of conduct

Programmes currently made by independent companies for the BBC include Ready Steady Cook, The Kumars at Number 42, Have I Got News For You and Changing Rooms.

At the moment, 25% of BBC output must be made by independent companies. Other UK broadcasters have similar levels.

But those companies say that figure has acted as a ceiling, not a floor, and that a code of conduct should be established to make sure independent companies have equal access to all programme-making opportunities.

Ms Jowell has indicated that she is willing to look at whether independent producers are disadvantaged or discriminated against, and to consider the case for such a code.


I want the debate on the future of broadcasting to be informative and comprehensive

Tessa Jowell
Culture Secretary
She has described the BBC licence fee as "venture capital for the nation's creativity" and said that one important use of that money was "to drive a healthy independent sector".

But BBC director general Greg Dyke has said that the corporation does not exist to "make independents rich".

The review will give an "economic overview" of the market and an idea of which changes may need to be made to the bill.

A recent report into the draft Communications Bill by film producer Lord Puttnam criticised public service broadcasters for not going above the quotas, and said independent producers needed more help.

Informative debate

Ms Jowell said: "Lord Puttnam's report identified the programme supply market as an area which required more analysis. I agree with him.

"I want the debate on the future of broadcasting to be informative and comprehensive. This review will help ensure that."

The ITC's Chairman, Sir Robin Biggam, added: "We will aim to produce an informed overview of the market, and to identify the main issues and concerns requiring further attention."

The draft Communications Bill was published in May, and the Puttnam report recommended a raft of changes at the end of July.

See also:

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