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Thursday 09 June, 2005

OFCOM

Ofcom: TV in Nations&Regions

Office of Communications
09 June 2005


                             FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

                   Ofcom publishes statements on programming
          for the Nations and Regions and ITV Networking Arrangements


9 June 2005


Ofcom today publishes the conclusions of its consultation on the provision of
dedicated programming for the Nations and Regions of the UK. The consultation
was part of Ofcom's final Phase 3 report of its statutory Review of Public
Service Television Broadcasting (PSB) published on 8 February.

Separately, Ofcom also publishes today its final statement on the ITV Networking
Arrangements setting out changes to the networking arrangements between the 15
regional Channel 3 licensees and independent television producers.


Statement on programming for the Nations and Regions

Section 264 of the Communications Act 2003 requires Ofcom to report on the
effectiveness of the existing television public service broadcasters - BBC, ITV,
Channel 4, S4C, five and Teletext - in the delivery of their PSB obligations;
and to make recommendations for maintaining and strengthening the quality of PSB
for the future.

Regional programming is one of the core PSB requirements set out in the Act.

The statement on programming for the Nations and Regions is the final part of
Ofcom's Review of Public Service Television Broadcasting which proposed a new
approach to ensure the sustainability of PSB in the the digital age.

Today's proposals are made in the context of: further growth of digital
television, now received by 60% of UK households and growing by 50,000
households a week across digital terrestrial, cable and satellite; clarity on
the timetable for digital switchover in television as set out  in the Government
manifesto; the forthcoming announcement on Channel 3 licences valuation process:
and Ofcom's response yesterday to the Government Green Paper on the BBC Charter
which emphasised the need for plurality of PSB providers.

Ofcom's decisions and recommendations for ITV 1 in the Nations and Regions
include:

  • Minimum requirements for regional news and non-news programmes will be
    standardised at 5.5 hours per week and 4 hours per week respectively, across
    Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

  • Ofcom will introduce a range of measures to support the sustainability of
    these requirements in the short term, including:

      • exemption of national licensees from paying for network programmes
        they do not broadcast in order to meet regional licence obligations

      • relaxing guidelines on co-productions and in Scotland, allowing the
        two licensees, Scottish and Grampian TV, to share all their non-news
        programmes.

  • To enable greater flexibility in scheduling, Ofcom will allow the National
    licensees to broadcast regional current affairs in place of some network
    current affairs.

  • Ofcom will allow a further reduction to minimum non-news requirements,
    when the first UK region achieves digital switchover:

      • 0.5 hours per week in the English regions

      • 3 hours per week in the Nations.

      • However, Ofcom will review the sustainability of this requirement in the
        Nations at the next PSB Review, in light of the available evidence about 
        the economic viability of non-news programming at that time.


Key recommendations and conclusions on indigenous language broadcasting in the
Nations include:

  • Dedicated digital services are the most effective way of meeting the needs 
    of Welsh, Gaelic and Irish language speakers, including exploiting the
    interactive and on-demand capabilities of digital technology.

  • In WALES, the BBC and S4C should develop a new relationship driven by three 
    core principles: transparency, financial commitment and editorial control.  
    Ofcom welcomes the constructive steps already taken by both broadcasters to 
    develop such a relationship, and supports the BBC's proposals to establish a 
    new Strategic Partnership between itself and the S4C Authority.

      • Longer term, consideration should be given to alternative funding models 
        for Welsh broadcasting based on contestability.

      • This could include a review of a Welsh Public Service Publisher (PSP) 
        funded partly by a transfer of the portion of licence fee revenues spent 
        by the BBC on Welsh broadcasting.

  • In SCOTLAND, sufficient funding and in-kind support for a Gaelic digital 
    channel could be secured from a number of sources.

      • Ofcom recognises the BBC's vital role in supporting the Gaelic language
        over many years and concurs with other stakeholders that it would be the
        preferred broadcast partner for any new channel.

      • Given the potential for a new digital channel, SMG's role should begin
        to switch from that of a main broadcast provider of Gaelic programming 
        to providing support for the new service and establishing an analogue 
        'shop window' for it, alongside the BBC's continuing analogue 
        contribution.

  • In NORTHERN IRELAND, the goal for Irish language broadcasting should be a 
    dedicated digital service broadcasting to all viewers, building on the main
    Irish language public service channel in the Republic of Ireland, TG4.

      • Consideration needs to be given as to whether - and how - it might be
        possible for TG4 to continue to be broadcast in Northern Ireland after
        switchover.

      • Other options should be examined, including an enhanced relationship
        between the BBC in Northern Ireland and TG4, for example involving 
        greater use of co-productions.

Ofcom Chief Executive Stephen Carter said: 'Viewers across the UK told us they
value national and regional programming.  These changes protect the interests of
viewers and set out a sustainable path towards digital switchover.'


ITV Networking Arrangements

The ITV Networking Arrangements are a set of arrangements between ITV Network
Ltd and the 15 regional Channel 3 licensees. They are designed to co-ordinate
the provision of a national television service capable of competing effectively
with other broadcasters in the UK.

Under section 293 of the Communications Act 2003, Ofcom has a statutory duty
from to carry out a general review of the Networking Arrangements currently in
force.

As part of the review process, Ofcom published a consultation on 28 February,
2005 which set out proposals for the future of the ITV Networking Arrangements.

Ofcom has taken account of all submissions provided in response to the
consultation. The main conclusions are:

  • The independence of the ITV Network Centre and its equal treatment of 
    independent producers and licensees will be underpinned by applying the 2004
    Code of Practice for commissioning to all producers, both in-house and
    independent.

  • The introduction of a 'no play, no pay' clause for national licensees, which 
    will enable them to show their own regional output without paying for the 
    displaced network programme.

The redrafting will be finalised over the course of the next two months and
reviewed by Ofcom and the OFT during the summer



To read the Statement on Programing for the Nations and Regions, click on the
following URL:

http://www.ofcom.org.uk/consult/condocs/psb3/statement/


To read the Statement of the Review of the ITV Networking Arrangements, click on
the following URL:

http://www.ofcom.org.uk/consult/condocs/itv/statement/


Ends


NOTES FOR EDITORS AND CSEs


Ofcom is the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK
communications industries, with responsibilities across television, radio,
telecommunications and wireless communications services.


For further details please visit www.ofcom.org.uk.


CONTACT

Ofcom Media Office
mediaoffice@ofcom.org.uk
(+44) (0)20 7981 3033


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