Notes on broadcasting acts

11 06 2008

Media exam tomorrow.  It’s time I wrote up some notes on broadcasting acts.  This is a revision exercise for me, and may also prove helpful to readers who are answering the broadcasting question and want to jog their memories.  Apologies for the lengthier first section; I have better notes on that one than the others.  However, it is probably the most significant of the three anyway.

The Broadcasting Act (1990)

In order to understand this Broadcasting Act, a little background knowledge may be necessary.  It was an indirect result of the Government being unhappy with the BBC.  Its non-commercial nature, particularly its reliance on the licence fee and its lack of advertisements and product placement, went against the political principles of the time, prompting Margaret Thatcher to term television “the last bastion of restrictive practices”.  Furthermore, the BBC had been portraying the Northern Ireland conflict in a way that the Government was not satisfied with.  It was decided that something had to be done.

In response, the Government commissioned a report from one Professor Sir Alan Peacock in 1986.  It was speculated that this report would recommend the abolition of the licence fee.  However, the report turned out to have a much wider focus, recommending changes to broadcasting as a whole, and did not recommend that the licence fee be abolished.  Its recommendations were influential on the Broadcasting Act that followed.

The point of the Broadcasting Act of 1990 was to deregulate British broadcasting and commercialise television.  Whether or not it actually achieved this aim – and whether this was actually a good aim in the first place – has been a matter of considerable debate.

The Act ruled that:

  • The Independent Broadcasting Authority would be replaced by the Radio Authority and the Independent Television Commission.  The RA would regulate radio stations, while the ITC would regulate television channels, terrestrial or otherwise.
  • The ITC and RA could only act against a programme that had already been broadcast.
  • Commercial broadcasters would be held responsible for their own broadcast output.
  • The newly-formed Broadcasting Standards Council should investigate viewer complaints against broadcast material.
  • Commercial radio stations would not have to meet public service requirements.
  • The ITV regional licences and breakfast time licences should be auctioned off to the highest bidder.  Under exceptional circumstances, they could be sold to a lower bidder if that bidder was deemed to be of a higher quality.
  • The ITC should be allowed to auction for a fifth channel.
  • The RA would create three more national commercial radio licences and multiple local radio stations.
  • The BBC and ITV would have to obtain at least 25% of their programmes from independent producers.
  • Channel 4 would have to run commercials.
  • Independent Television News would have to become a commercial business.
  • Programmes could be sponsored.

Some people have questioned whether these rules were really deregulation, with many considering them to be merely reregulation.  After all, neither the BBC nor Channel 4 was privatised, and the highest bidder for Channel 5 was rejected on grounds of quality.

Broadcasting Act (1996)

This Broadcasting Act was concerned with some of the new issues that had arisen with the advent of digital television.  It passed various laws regarding licencing and media ownership.  Most notably, however, it merged the Broadcasting Standards Council and Broadcasting Complaints Commission into the Broadcasting Standards Commission.

Communications Act (2003)

As the name suggests, this one did not focus solely on broadcasting.  It had to deal with new media as well (e.g. the Internet).  This is the act which empowered Ofcom, the UK’s current regulatory body for communications industries, to be responsible for pretty much everything the RA, BSC, etc. had been responsible for.  This act also relaxed the laws on cross-media ownership.

Current listening: Roger Waters, “Marie Antoinette – The Last Night on Earth”


I’m still alive, in case you were wondering

7 06 2008

Hey, Bobby G here.  I haven’t posted in a little while, because there’s been so much going on.  I had my English exam on Friday.  I think it went OK.  I’m so tired.

In media studies related news, the BBC have written an article on how BT is now charging BT Vision users £3 a month for BBC on-demand content.

A BT spokesman said, “The BBC programmes, including hit shows like The Apprentice, are delivered in top quality over the BT Vision on-demand platform…  Customers are, of course, able to watch BBC shows for free on their laptop or PC in lesser quality on the BBC player in the usual way.”

As a side note, apparently the BBC intend to eventually have all their channels streamed live online.  Which sounds cool.

I intend to post more media posts over the next few days, but I’m not the most reliable of people.  I’m really hoping I can post more stuff, though, because the exam is next week.

BBC iPlayer (Summary 3)

29 02 2008

This is a summary of this article, written 26/2/2008.

ITV’s online video service was launched in August 2007.  It reached its peak popularity in November.  Since then, it has experienced a decline of about 200,000 views.  Naturally, ITV chiefs are worried, especially since only 40% of views (about 1m) are full-length programmes.

Compare that to the BBC iPlayer, which had 11m programmes streamed or downloaded this January.

However, Internet research firm comScore assessed all ITV websites, including, and and found that a much more promising total of 8.1m videos had been streamed from those sites.  That’s still less than in November, and still less than the BBC iPlayer, but it’s more than 4oD.  In addition, the number of users streaming videos from ITV websites has actually increased since November.

The BBC’s success with the iPlayer may in part be down to the marketing campaign they launched, featuring big names like Jeremy Clarkson and David Attenborough.  The fact that the BBC’s website was already popular before the iPlayer got launched is probably also a factor.  The BBC iPlayer also has a significantly bigger budget than ITV’s video player.

Ian Maude, of the research firm Enders, said that the BBC iPlayer is “off to a good start”, but that other broadcasters are “struggling to get traction”.  He also pointed out that the ITV video player is very good – yet very few people seem to be using it, for some reason.

Maude also said that YouTube is still the most popular video site, suggesting that Internet users prefer short clips to full-length television shows.

TV switchover (Summary 1)

28 02 2008

This is the first of three summaries set as homework by Adam.  I’m going to do my best.

First up is this article, dated 27/02/2008.

MPs warn that there could be £250 million left over from the digital switchover.  The money (£603 million) is funded by the BBC using the licence fee to help over 75 year olds and people on disability allowance with the switchover.  However, they have to play a £40 fee unless they recieve pension credit or income support, which may explain why so many people are declining the offers of help.

According to a report by the National Audit Office, almost a third of the population don’t realise that they will need digital equipment to watch TV in 2012.  Nearly half the population are still buying analogue TVs, and nearly 60% don’t realise that they won’t be able to record one channel on a video or DVD recorder whilst watching another.  Ethnic minorities and non-English speakers have particularly low awareness of the switchover.  Despite all this the report’s tone was mainly positive.

Of course, it was unlikely to have been positive enough to be any comfort to the hundreds of BBC employees that got sacked following the government’s reduction of the licence fee.

A spokesperson for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said that the decision of what to do with the remaining money will be made towards the end of the switchover, but Lib Dem Culture, Media and Sport spokesman Don Foster wants them to “either invest the leftover money back into public sector broadcasting or return it to the licence fee payer”.  Shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt worried about all that still needed doing, and basically demanded that the government get their act together.

 Apart from that, everything’s going as planned.  The digital switchover will be ready in 2012.

Half term holidays

15 02 2008

It’s half term, and tomorrow morning we’re heading off to the Costa Del Sol for a week, during which I’m unlikely to be able to access a computer, so there won’t be any more updates for a while.

Well OK, technically it’s not half term but the end of a term, since they recently changed the way the year is organised, but it comes to the same thing: a week off school.

I’m hoping to see some Spanish culture, and enjoy the sunshine (please let it be sunny!).  Of course, it won’t all be fun and games; I’ve got an English essay to write, to be handed in first day back.  I’ll also probably go into CD player, webcomic and piano withdrawal, and I don’t know what I’m going to do about the two episodes of Primeval I’ll be missing.  Yes, I know, this is a really exciting holiday, so I shouldn’t worry about trivial things!  *Shakes head in dismay at own nerdiness.*

In the meantime, I feel I should leave you with some media-studies relevant material.  Here are the Wikipedia articles on Public Service Broadcasting and PSB in the UK.  The latter provides an answer to Adam’s homework question of whether digital channels are required to provide some PSB – apparently not, since Wikipedia specifically says that it’s terrestrial channels.  Of course, that’s only in the UK, so other countries might require digital channels to provide PSB.

In the news, the BBC report that net firms are rejecting the government’s suggestions that they monitor Internet use to reduce piracy, both on legal and technical grounds.  All stations monitor how much is downloaded, but the 2002 E-Commerce Regulations define ISPs as “mere conduits”, which means they aren’t responsible for what is downloaded; on the contrary, there may be laws preventing them from being so.  The confusion continues, and the war on piracy rages on.

 Current listening: Iron Maiden, “Aces High”.