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Tuesday, 6 March, 2001, 18:20 GMT
Media regulation
Greg Dyke
Greg Dyke: Appointment as BBC head attacked by William Hague
Labour has sought to reform the regulation of the media in the UK - how will the industry change?


WHITE PAPER

Labour in government began the process of overhauling the rules and regulations that govern Britain's media and communications sector.

The publication of the Communications White Paper in December 2000 showed that the government is keen to frame legislation that puts Britain at the forefront of European media regulation.

The white paper proposes to remove the 15% limit on how much of commercial television a single company can own.

It will also remove the rule preventing one company owning both of the ITV London weekday and weekend licences.

This paves the way for an ITV dominated by one large company and could one day see Granada merge with Carlton.



OFCOM

The white paper also proposed the creation of a super-regulatory body, Ofcom.

The Independent Television Commission, the Radio Authority, Office of Telecommunications, the Broadcasting Standards Commission and Radio Communications Authority will all be merged to create the new body.

The Communications White Paper received a generally favourable reception from the Conservatives.

Ofcom was especially welcomed but the party said "failure properly to define the role of public service broadcasting is the largest hole in what is a timid paper".

Tories were angry that the BBC board of governors was allowed to remain independent of the new regulator.


BBC REGULATION

But the BBC has been the focus of much political interest since 1997, particularly the question of BBC funding.

On 5 August 1999 the Davies Report recommended a small and temporary charge of 24 a year on top of the normal licence fee for the BBC's new digital services. This would only be paid by digital subscribers, the report recommended.

However, in February 2000 Chris Smith rejected the recommendation and announced instead that the cost of a licence would increase by 3 to 104, increasing each year at 1.5% over the rate of inflation between now and 2006.

This will generate an extra 200m a year, much less than the extra 700m a year that the BBC had asked for.

As with all people appointed to the post, there was a flurry of controversy in June 1999, when Greg Dyke was appointed the new BBC director general.

Conservative leader William Hague demanded that the appointment be blocked on the basis that Mr Dyke had previously given money to Labour.

The party's culture spokesman, Peter Ainsworth promised that Conservatives would "be watching him like hawks."

"It's not an issue that can simply be brushed aside," he said.

"I wouldn't want to give the impression that I think everything is rosy in the garden."


OPPOSTION PARTIES

In January, the Conservatives announced that they would sell-off Channel 4 should they win the general election.

The party said the sell-off would raise at least 2bn which a Conservative government would then channel into galleries and museums.

The money would be supplemented by an extra 1bn from Lottery funds currently reserved.

The Liberal Democrats have unveiled a raft of measures which they believe "safeguard and enhance the future of public service broadcasting".

In addition to endorsing Ofcom, the Liberal Democrats plan to expand the Listed Events system, so that at least one Premiership football match per week, all England's home test cricket matches and Six Nations Rugby are all shown free to air.

They would also establish a second watershed at 11pm, after which broadcasters could show their most explicit programmes.

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