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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 29 October, 2002, 16:38 GMT
BBC faces watchdog fines
Tessa Jowell
Responsibility for Ofcom will fall partly to Tessa Jowell
The BBC will be forced to pay fines by a new watchdog if it breaks taste and decency rules, the government has announced.

The move would bring the corporation into line with commercial broadcasters and could see fines of up to 250,000 for serious breaches of programme guidelines.

The powers, announced by Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell, for the new regulator, Ofcom, were recommended by a parliamentary committee but have been strongly opposed by the BBC.

Carlton Television has previously been fined 2m for faking scenes in a documentary, and Channel 4 was forced to pay 150,000 for a similar breach.

Greg Dyke
Greg Dyke was confident self-regulation would be sufficient
Ms Jowell has responded to recommendations by a committee chaired by prominent film producer Lord David Puttnam that the BBC should face similar sanctions to commercial stations when the Communications Bill is passed.

The BBC had argued against the threat of fines, saying it already has "stringent and effective" internal procedures regulated by the governors.

It also said any fines imposed would hit licence fee-payers.

But Lord Puttnam and the government both found this argument "unconvincing".

Quotas

The watchdog will look at issues in the BBC such as programme standards on taste and decency and subtitling requirements.

The sanctions will also apply to areas such as providing quality news and current affairs in peak-time slots, as well as quotas on the amount of independent production.

"We acknowledge that the secretary of state's decision to allow Ofcom to fine the BBC is based on a need to demonstrate a clear level playing field between the BBC and other broadcasters," the BBC said in a statement.

It said it was fully prepared to work together with Ofcom in a way which ensured the Board of Governors was still able to carry out its responsibilities.

Ofcom, which will be set up under the Communications Bill, will act as a one-stop regulator, pulling together the current cluster of media of watchdogs in the UK.

The responsibility for Ofcom will be shared between the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

The government is set to press ahead with plans contained in the original draft bill on allowing foreign ownership of ITV companies and allowing newspaper firms to buy Channel 5.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Torin Douglas
"This will be for the really serious offences"
Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell
says the BBC "should face the same sanctions as other broadcasters"


Setting up Ofcom

Background
See also:

25 Jul 02 | Entertainment
26 Feb 02 | Entertainment
31 Dec 01 | Entertainment
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