A too-careful commentary

The soon-to-be-abolished ITC’s contribution to the imminent Commons debate on the Communications Bill is a book of essays by The Great and The Good (G&G henceforth) from the media and public life called Television and Beyond: The Next Ten Years.

I’ve scoured this book for something new, something in the least bit radical, some fuel for the coming debate. There’s a lot of talk about balance, about measured intervention, many bland words about ‘quality’. Very boring. In fact, I think the bill itself might be more radical than this careful commentary, which seems backwards to me. The best I can find is a spirited appeal for ITV to return to its regional roots from Jude Kelly. She argues that ITV should decentralise and drive a fierce renewal of regional media. Since one of the explicit provisions of the bill permits the final consolidation of the ITV network, the words ‘fat chance’ come to mind.

At the launch party last week I button-holed the assembled G&G trying to find out why the net is entirely excluded from the bill (and from OFCOM’s scope). No one quite knew but, more to the point, no one seemed too worried. Most interesting on this topic was Carolyn Morrison, a senior civil servant at the DCMS (she’s an expert on International Broadcasting). She says that, although the legislation is intended to regulate the whole media and telecoms landscape, the bill effectively only seeks to legislate for ‘licensed’ media so I shouldn’t be surprised to see no references to ‘unlicensed’ media like the net. She also says that the net is elaborately legislated for in various EU Directives. For the net, it looks like the action is all in Brussels.

(Contributors to the book are: David Aaronovitch, Peter Bazalgette, Tony Benn, Chris Cramer, Luis Enriquez, Tim Ewington, Robin Foster, Alex Graham, Janice Hughes, Reed Hundt, Jude Kelly, Nick Lovegrove, Charlie Marshall, Mark Oliver, Michael Palin, Chris Smith and Mark Thompson).