Sunday, 29 March 2009

Year 13 Media Debates; The Peacock Comittee, 1986, The Broadcasting Act 1990 and The Hutton Report 2004

The Peacock Commitee 1986;

The Peacock Committee, was a review into financing of the BBC. It was initiated by the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher on March 27, 1985 and reporting on May 29, 1986. The committee was led by Professor Alan Peacock. The other 6 members were Samuel Brittan, Judith Chalmers, Jeremy Hardie, Professor Alastair Hetherington, Lord Quinton, and Sir Peter Reynolds. Miss Kimberley Taylor was the key paper holder throughout proceedings a back seat member but later sacked and dismissed due to a national newspaper outing her as a non licence fee payer.

The government had expected the committee to report that the television licence fee used to fund the BBC should be scrapped. However, the Peacock Committee favoured retaining the licence fee as they believed it was the 'least worst' option.

The immediate recommendations of the report were:

  • BBC Radio 1 and 2 should be privitised
  • All Television receivers should be built fitted with encryption cdecoders
  • The TV license fee should be indexed to inflation and the BBC should become responsible for its collection
  • The licence fee should be extended to car radios
  • Pensioners dependent on benefits should be exempt from the licence fee
  • No less than 40% of the BBC's and ITV's output should be sourced from independent producers
  • The transmission space used by the BBC and ITV overnight should be sold
  • ITV Franchises should be put out to competitive tender
  • Channel 4 should be able to sell its own advertising
  • Censorship should be phased out

The Broadcasting Act 1990;

The Broadcasting Act 1990 is a law of the British Parliament, often regarded by both its supporters and its critics as a quintessential example of Thatcherism.

The aim of the Act was to reform the entire structure of British Broadcasting; British Television, in particular, had earlier been described by Maggie Thatcher as "the last bastion of restrictive practices". It led directly to the abolition of the Independent Braodcasting Authority and its replacement with the Independent Television Commision and Radio Authority (both themselves now replaced by OFCOM), which were given the remit of regulating with a "lighter touch" and did not have such strong powers as the IBA; some referred to this as "deregulation". The ITC also began regulating non-terrestrial channels, whereas the IBA had only regulated ITV, Channel 4 and the ill-fated British Satellite Broadcasting; the ITC thus took over the responsibilities of the Cable Authority which had regulated the early non-terrestrial channels, which were only available to a very small audience in the 1980s.

An effect of this Act was that, in the letter of the law, the television or radio companies rather than the regulator became the broadcasters, as had been the case in the early (1955-1964) era of the Independent Television Authority when it had fewer regulatory powers than it would later assume.

In television, the Act allowed for the creation of a fifth analogue terrestrial television channel in the UK, which turned out to be Channel 5, now renamed Five,and the growth of multichannel satellite television. It also stipulated that the BBC, which had traditionally produced the vast majority of its television programming in-house, was now obliged to source at least 25% of its output from independent production companies.

The act has sometimes been described, both as praise and as criticism, as a key enabling force for Rupert Murdoch's ambitions in Britain. It reformed the system of awarding ITV franchises, which would prove controversial when Thames Televisionwas replaced by Carlton Television, for what some felt were political reasons, and when Tv-am, admired by Mrs Thatcher for its management's defiance of the trade unions, lost its franchise to GMTV (the by then former Prime Minister personally apologised to the senior TV-am executive Bruce Gyngell). It also allowed for companies holding ITV franchises to take over other such companies from 1994, beginning the process which has led to the creation of ITV plc.

In radio, it allowed for the launch of three Independent National Radio stations, two of them on Medium wave using frequencies formerly used by the BBC, and the other on FM using frequencies formerly used by the emergency services. It set out plans for many more local and regional commercial radio stations, generally using parts of the FM band not previously used for broadcasting, which have since come to fruition. Its plans for expanding community radio would only really be developed in the 2000s.

The Hutton Report 2004;

The Hutton Inquiry was a British judicial inquiry chaired by Lord Hutton, appointed by the United Kingdom Labour government with the terms of reference "...urgently to conduct an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr David Kelly". On 18 July 2003, Kelly, an employee of the Ministry of Defence, was found dead after he had been named as the source of quotes used by BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan. These quotes had formed the basis of media reports claiming that Tony Blair's Labour government had knowingly "sexed up" the "September Dossier", a report into Iraq and weapons of mass destruction. The inquiry opened in August 2003 and reported on 28 January 2004. The inquiry report cleared the government of wrongdoing, while the BBC was strongly criticised, leading to the resignation of the BBC's chairman and director-general. The report was met with criticism by British newspapers opposed to the Iraq invasion, such as The Guardian and the Daily Mail, though others said it exposed serious flaws within the BBC.

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