ITC backing for independents
- ITC report calls for sweeping revision of current practices by UK broadcasters to beef up independent sector
In a report on ‘The Health of the Programme Supply Market’ published today by the Independent Television Commission (ITC), the regulatory body came to the defence of independent producers against today’s unfair commercial practices by UK broadcasters (in particular the BBC, especially in the wake of future liberalisation of UK TV ownership.
Two concrete measures to strengthen the independent sector were outlined by a panel of media experts who made their recommendations to the ITC: the need for all public service broadcasters to develop Codes of Practice, and the need to introduce new terms of trade between broadcasters and producers.
Those new terms of trade include the unbundling of rights, and the creation of a separate pricing policy for those rights; broadcasters will also be required to publish an indicative tariff for primary rights; and distributors connected with broadcasters (for e.g. BBC Worldwide with the BBC) one that will enable them to bid on an arm’s length basis for any secondary or tertiary rights from independent producers.
At present, UK legislation requires British broadcasters (both public and private) to ensure that at least 25 per cent of programmes they air were produced by independent UK producers. Although no change was proposed to the current 25 per cent quota, the report stated that the successor to the ITC, the future regulatory body called OFCOM will be able to levy fines if those quotas are not met.
Also, in the wake of the new Communications Bill which will relax the rules on non-EU ownership of UK broadcasters, the risks of a deterioration in the quantity of local productions and quality of programmes were seen as ‘low’ although it could be balanced by the “gains” resulting from an inflow of foreign capital and know-how into the UK’.
Patricia Hodgson, the ITC chief executive said, “television is a vital part of our economy, society and culture. It needs to offer viewers the best possible programmes at the lowest cost. The report recommends changes for consideration by government designed to ensure that British production flourishes in a fast changing sector”.