An Ofcom of the nations and regions

This week I attended an Ofcom briefing on their conclusions concerning the future of the media. It made my blood boil.
The other MPs attending did not seem short of views on the future of TV and the web, they were not lost for words and several seemed to be well informed. Yet here we were again, a group of legislators answerable to our constituents, having to listen to the lowest common denominator, contradictory and often incoherent jottings of a quango that had spent far too much of our money on trying to craft a consensus for the future. We seemed to be there to take dictation and to accept that these “experts” had come up with the perfect balance of subsidised television, regulated markets and support for the BBC monopoly.
What most angered me was the insistence that we needed to strengthen broadcasting for “the nations and regions of the UK”. By this Ofcom meant we need to slavishly follow the EU agenda to encourage separation in Wales and Scotland, and to balkanise England into a series of meaningless regions.
It is true that if you have subsidised broadcasting, and if you concentrate a lot of broadcasting power in the hands of one primary broadcaster, you will need the government to express a view on what bias that broadcaster should adopt towards the sensitive issues of identity and nationality. The government could say to the BBC it is the British Broadcasting Corporation, so it should concentrate on broadcasting to the nation of the UK as a whole, in ways which all parts of our nation find acceptable. As a supporter of the Union I would be happy with that.
If, on the other hand, the government wishes the BBC to encourage or foster separate national identities, it should do so by having English TV as well as Welsh and Scottish TV. If we have reached the point thanks to divisive devolution where Scotland wants her own news and her own TV programmes, then Englishmen will want English news and English TV programmes. Why do we have to be told what the Scottish weather is going to be if they have separate programmes? Why does it matter to the English whether Rangers or Celtic are ahead in their local league if they don’t want to join the English league and face stronger competition? In Labour’s devolved world those results should be on Scottish TV, not English.
What I cannot accept, as a Brit and as an Englishman, is the ridiculous and unsuccessful attempt to break my country up into unloved and ill defined regions. My constituency is in the South East, the Rest of the South East, the Thames Valley, the South, Berks Bucks and Beds, the Home Counties and sometimes in Wessex. So which is it? Why do so many quangos and public services come up with so many different versions of the artificial region they want us in? We are usually divorced from London by the administrative map makers, yet many of us go to London for work and pleasure on a regular basis. We can see London TV. We have no wish to have artificial regions forced on us by governments or the media.
If Ofcom is going to replace the government as the source of policy on how to run subsidised TV will they please grasp this simple point. English people are being forced into wanting their country to be represented in all these matters by the way the government and media are fostering devolved identities in Wales and Scotland. The asymmetry of treatment is grotesque and unfair. When I asked about this, there was of course no answer.
The current model of “shared sovereignty” in the EU/NU Lab British state is damaging the Union and annoying the English. The UK government resorts to increasingly frantic and crude Britishness language, the very opposite of what most of us understand by Britishness which should be understated and self deprecating, not strident and in your face. Meanwhile the EU is really winning, by working with the smaller nations within the Union to undermine the whole. England is fed up with the EU pursuing its vendetta against us, seeking to deny our existence and stifle our cultural identity. We do not belong to regions, as the people of the North East magnificently demonstrated when they rejected regional government by 4 to 1. The ruling Euro-Brit elite of course ignored them, and refused the rest of us the therapy of a vote to say the same.
I also enjoyed the contribution at the meeting from one participant who thought it was most unfair of web services to take advertising revenue away from ITV! It’s called free enterprise, and offering the public what they want. He should try it sometime. Ofcom seemed frightened by the power of the new technology, because it has the power to be the solvent of the monopolies and cosy arrangements that have sustained the current media elite and their views, which are so often different from the views of the rest of us.

REGULATORY NOTICES

THE BBC WILL ASSUME YOU HAVE A TV AND DEMAND YOU PAY A LICENCE FEE WHETHER YOU HAVE ONE OR NOT. THEY DO KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE.
YOU MUST PAY THE LICENCE FEE EVEN IF YOU DO NOT WATCH BBC PROGRAMMES.
THE WEB IS DANGEROUS AS IT CAN UNDERMINE CONVENTIONAL VIEWS VALUES AND ADVERTISING ON MAINTSTREAM MEDIA. IT IS NOT RECOMMENDED FOR UNTRAINED PEOPLE.

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31 Comments

  1. TomTom
    Posted January 25, 2009 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    Why is it a criminal offence not to have a TV licence ? It should be de-criminalised.

    The BBC is too big and remote and should have its wings clipped. TV is a dead medium in the hands of those whose output is trivia, tripe and trash.

    I resent paying £11.29/month to support Jonathan Ross especially when those selling TVs are going bust. It is an absurdity that BBC celebrities and employees are living on a tribute exacted under threat of criminal prosecution from people whose homes, livelihoods, and security are under dire threat

  2. Lola
    Posted January 25, 2009 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    Hear! Hear! Now, I ask again, where do I sign up for the John Redwood party?

  3. Julian Boulter
    Posted January 25, 2009 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    I think we should let Scotland go…send Brown and Darling back north. Cut RBS and HBOS adrift. I would imagine England would be a lot more prosperous and happy without them…

  4. Bazman
    Posted January 25, 2009 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    The speed of advancement of the internet and computers could make this whole discussion obsolete very soon. We are on the verge of a technical revolution that none can foresee how it will all turn out. Computers that are ‘dead’ like a TV is now with all the computing power in remote servers I believe will happen, opening up a whole new world of ethical, national and legal arguments. Not to mention ownership and content. The propaganda uses are limitless, so Fox news for everyone at the moment and you will need that product and lifestyle.
    Interesting point by the ITV supporter. The same arguments could be used on illegal downloading. ‘Illegal’ Huh? Basically the utter failure of the music and film industry to come up with a strategy to utilise the web. Hiding behind dubious laws and holding back the future by wanting no progress in technology whilst trying to produce magic bullets to prevent copying. The same problems and arguments that existed when people taped from the radio. Any arguments about piracy funding terrorism and the like are false propaganda put forward by the entertainment industry. Terrorism is mainly funded by legal business and the drug industry. The multi millionaire singer from the band Metallica telling me that illegal downloading is stealing bread from his childrens mouths is not credible. A classic example of the anti establishment hiding behind the establishment. One word summery for this guy and Fergal Sharkey, who can have another word with the same meaning.

  5. Alan Wheatley
    Posted January 25, 2009 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    Ken Livingstone campaigned to be Mayor of London using the slogan “London for Londoners”. While understandable that he should seek to appeal to his electorate, it does illustrate one reason why the strength of Britain as a coherent nation is being undermined. London is not just for Londoners, as the capital city it is for the whole of Britain.

    London is uniquely placed to prosper, as being the capital it is inevitably the centre for business, culture and politics. Government from London tends to favour decisions from what can be seen to be going on within the M25. The extent to which this is true does not matter so much as the perception of the truth as seen from outside the M25.

    The natural conclusion of those living at a distance from London is that they would be better off if they were governed by someone much closer to home. For those living in Wales and Scotland there is a natural alternative, and knowing that the grass is always greener on the other side the logical conclusion is a call for home rule in one form or another. This is not good for the health of the nation. English regional government is another form of the same thing, but much less easy to sell, thank goodness.

    National government really does have to make a big effort to be seen to be governing for the benefit for the nation as a whole, and not with a London centred bias. Government policy for the BBC should be to be broadcasting to the nation as a whole. So while regional broadcasting has its part to play, the BBC should primarily be broadcasting the same programmes to the whole nation, AND the content of those programmes should reflect what is going on in the whole of the nation.

  6. Ian Jones
    Posted January 25, 2009 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    The BBC is simply there to parrot lies that Labour provide to them, its just nobody believes it any more. Everyone can see the flames!! Even the Scots and Welsh have turned against Labour!

    The current Govt is not living in reality, they still try to push out the lies but nobody is listening. Only the BBC and OFCOM will support because they live in that same sheltered life!

    The time is almost up!

  7. Paul
    Posted January 25, 2009 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    We did actually have broadcasting from the regions ; not only the various BBC units, but the ITV regional companies (Anglia, LWT, Border, HTV etc.). This worked quite well, but Carlton and Granada bought up all the small franchises and turned it into a homogenous mess.

    The TV model is going to have to change, because it is far too easy to avoid advertising. If you have a HD-DVR like Sky+ or some Freeview boxes – and they are now becoming cheap and commonplace, you can just skip it over.

    The classic ‘ITV advert’ (or indeed any other) is simply ignored.

    • alan jutson
      Posted January 25, 2009 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

      I agree about Sky, Freeview and now Freesat, I watch some of it myself, but the fact of the matter is that advertising revenue alone will not pay for enough good quality programmes, HAVE YOU EVER SEEN AMERICAN TV !!!!!!!

      What a disaster, what crap !!!!!!

      Advertising revenue is now spread too thinly over too many programmes for it to fund anything sensible.

      Time will come when you have either only a minimum amount of programme per hour, or fewer programmes.

      The problem is that the BBC has become to a degree a Political animal, funded by Government who are funded by us the taxpayer.

      The solution is to get the BBC out of Politics or at least make it truely impartial.

      We now have the Licence Authority threatening house owners who do not have a licence with all sorts of nasties including baliffs if a licence is not bought.

      I know because my mother was unfortunate to have to go into a Nursing Home, had her licence transferred to that Nursing Home, leaving her original house without a licence.

      No amount of telephone calls or letters will convince them that an offence has not been committed, and I am inundated with legal threats.

    • Cliff.
      Posted January 25, 2009 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

      I agree; I avoid the adverts because so many of them are from “Dot Gov” and her friends. Don’t eat this, don’t drink that, be green, turn your electric down, eat less move about more, pay your car tax or we’ll have you, pay your TV poll tax or we’ll have you, join the army, join the navy, do your tax return or we’ll have you, give up smoking…………………………etc etc.

      On many channels on TV and on some radio station, hardly an ad break goes by without a message from Nanny and Dot Gov……I wonder what the annual cost of these adverts are, bearing in mind all the different arms of Nanny that uses TV and radio advertising, from the NHS to HMRC, through the MOD and the DVLA, they all invade us through the media in our homes and threaten us.
      Does anyone have any figures? I bet the amount of money involved is staggering.

  8. Freddy
    Posted January 25, 2009 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    Delighted to hear there is an MP gettng angry with this.
    Assuming the Tories return to power soon, what do you plan to do about it ?

  9. John of Enfield
    Posted January 25, 2009 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Hear! Hear!

    Careful John, you will become a grumpy old man like the rest of us.

    How do we get rid of this 5th estate – the Quangocracy? Stuffed with Labour fellow travellers, spending vast sums of our money as if it is theirs and treating us all with complete contempt. It will take a concerted effort by the next Conservative Government to dismantle this impost on the people.

  10. chris southern
    Posted January 25, 2009 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    I agree with you John, the BBC/EU manopoly backed by it’s paid up quangos is ridiculous.
    The fact that the BBC has broken it’s agreement for it’s tv licence fee shows how far over the line they have gone and the manopoly must be ended, they should find funding through advertising like the other broadcasters.
    The BBC worldwide gets enough revenue from the EU as it is, i wonder why it’s pro EU!

  11. StevenL
    Posted January 25, 2009 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    You missed one:

    OFCOM WOULD LIKE TO REMIND THE VIEWING PUBLIC THAT YOU ENTER PREMIUM RATE COMPETITIONS AT YOUR OWN RISK. YOU DO NOT NECESSARILY HAVE ANY CHANCE IF WINNING THE PRIZES ADVERTISED AND THE RULES MAY BE MADE UP AS THE BROADCASTER GOES ALONG. OFCOM WILL NOT PROSECUTE MEMBERS OF THE MEDIA CLASSES FOR DEFRAUDING THE GENERAL PUBLIC.

  12. bill
    Posted January 25, 2009 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Excellent especially the last :

    THE WEB IS DANGEROUS AS IT CAN UNDERMINE CONVENTIONAL VIEWS VALUES AND ADVERTISING ON MAINTSTREAM MEDIA. IT IS NOT RECOMMENDED FOR UNTRAINED PEOPLE.

  13. Posted January 25, 2009 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    Mr Redwood, would you kindly reassure us that this will be looked at again when the Conservatives get back in? Ofcom are so obviously the puppet of the EU and the Labour Party.

    My main bugbear with the News at the moment, is the lack of it!

    We are all aware of various riots in Europe recently and the emergency EU meeting to discuss them but we don’t get told anything.

    We have to hunt the information down on foreign newspaper sites just to find out what is really happening in the world.

    It’s just not good enough! We are being stifled of news in an attempt at control and we know it.

  14. Michael
    Posted January 25, 2009 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    I am sick of talk of the “nations and regions of the UK”.But is there any sign that the leadership of the Conservative party is riled by this insult to England?

    • JJWS
      Posted January 26, 2009 at 12:45 am | Permalink

      Oh please come on – please catch up. The tories will do no more to change the situation than Labour. Unless we are prepared to vote into Parliament independant MPs – of whatever colour – rather than party dogs – nothing will change. Why do you think John is not on the front bench when he would have been a much better choice than Kenny? If you love GB or even England GIVE UP on the tories until the party has torn itself apart and reconstructed itself as a party for the British people and one quietly serving our European masters.

  15. Matt
    Posted January 25, 2009 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t realise that there was such a debate within Occam

    I suppose it depends upon what is meant by regional programmes. I had assumed that they were just made by the regional BBC and ITV broadcasting regional centres.
    Much of regional TV here consists of “Cat up tree” stuff such as an old granny in with a historic Northumberland recipe for something or other, or old battles, or churches…or the local football team news.

    You seem to imply some political aspect that I didn’t know existed. I thought that all this had “Gone away” with the regional assembly ideas that John Prescott mischievously promoted in the region, attempting in my view to set the region against London with utterances in the local media at that time on the lines of (Not exact quotes here)

    “You in this region want to have your own say, not leave things to people in London”

    “You have your own unique tight bonds”

    (Try telling that to Newcastle and Sunderland supporters – I could overhear Newcastle supporters chanting away at Southampton “We hate Sunderland”) so there’s not much internal harmony here then.

    I just assumed that regionalisation of England was a dead duck

    I think of myself of British then English, a third category just doesn’t come into it.

    Yours

    Matt

    Corbridge
    Ancient Kingdom of Northumbria

  16. backofanenvelope
    Posted January 25, 2009 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    “How do we get rid of this 5th estate – the Quangocracy?”

    Simple really – cut off the money.

    Imagine; an incoming Redwood government immediately reduces all Quango budgets by 10% per year. The TV Licence joins the council tax in a 2-year freeze, while we think about what to do.

    • JJWS
      Posted January 26, 2009 at 12:53 am | Permalink

      Furthermore, reinstate the BBC Governor General and have each TV licence payer vote for him/her.

  17. Mike Spilligan
    Posted January 25, 2009 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    As usual, very well put across and all logical, but there are so many stumbling blocks on the path. However there must be a way to finance a small, genuinely impartial national broadcaster.
    I laugh whenever I see the “Regional Authorities” mentioned. I live in the “East Midlands” – that homogeneous area which stretches from around Milton Keynes to the outskirts of Manchester!

  18. James Strachan
    Posted January 25, 2009 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    To quote your own words back to you, we have more government than we need and more government than we can afford.

  19. mikestallard
    Posted January 25, 2009 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    This is so encouraging: the fact that an actual sitting MP is as furious as we are about the break up of our historic and well loved country.
    Regionalisation makes a lot of sense in Spain where the country has always been a federation, with different languages in each region. Germany and Italy have only just become countries at all, and for many years they were in the naughty corner. So regionalism works very well there too. Yugoslavia is already regionalised, so is the borderland between Russia and Germany. Even the Nordic States are regionalised, along with the other Batlic Countries. Little countries like regionalisation because suddenly they have equality with the very big ones.
    The only countries that are not regionalised are, of course, the UK and France.
    Same old Europe: one size fits all.
    Same old government: Immediatement, Monsieur!
    Same old BBC: Full of long winded words and bureaucrats who not only dumb down, but do what they are told and then collect their fat cat fees and pensions.
    Shame about their lamentable broadcasting service.

  20. Adam Collyer
    Posted January 25, 2009 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    The licence fee is going to become completely untenable soon in any case. TV is already yesterday’s medium, and in the future even TV will undoubtedly be watched over the internet as opposed to via a broadcast transmission. And in a technical sense, programs are not “broadcast” over the internet. Your computer actually makes an individual connection to the server that sends the content.

    Therefore expect the next bright idea to be an Internet Licence to replace the TV licence. The BBC already has a massive and bloated internet site, with a budget to match. So it is positioning itself to pretend it continues to be indispensible to the nation in the internet age.

    By the way, can somebody tell me what “public service broadcasting” means? If I’ve got it right, I think it means making “worthy” programs even though nobody is watching them. But maybe I’m mistaken.

  21. Posted January 25, 2009 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    Alan Jutson said “We now have the Licence Authority threatening house owners who do not have a licence with all sorts of nasties including bailiffs if a licence is not bought.

    I know because my mother was unfortunate to have to go into a Nursing Home, had her licence transferred to that Nursing Home, leaving her original house without a licence.

    No amount of telephone calls or letters will convince them that an offence has not been committed, and I am inundated with legal threats.”

    Mr Jutson, the TV licensing authority is the BBC itself. TVL is essentially a trading arm of Capita, a private company. The old TVLA is no more.

    You are under no legal obligation to reply to any of TVL’s letters — this was the gist of a parliamentary answer by Shaun Woodward. Indeed, contacting them is a waste of time. Ignore them. If there is no equipment in the house capable of receiving live TV broadcasts, you are bombproof.

    Mr Redwood, light might be shed on the subject of your post by the fact that the BBC are in receipt of direct funding (loans and grants) from the EU.

    More light might be shed by the realization that the BBC is deeply infiltrated by Common Purpose, a “charity” whose creepy website left me feeling that the conspiracy theorists might, for once, be on to something. You surely know about CP; if not, just Google the name.

    • alan jutson
      Posted January 26, 2009 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

      Thank you for the information.

      I have in fact already taken the stance you have suggested for the past 6 months, and I have simply ignored all requests for information, as I have given them all of the information they need for the present.

      I have no idea if anyone has called to try and inspect and really do not care. There is no TV in the house as it is being refurbished, so as you say, I am bomb proof.

      If anyone calls round when I am present working on it, then I will be delighted to show them an empty house.

      But what a complete waste of Money the cost of administration, posting, etc every few weeks.

      Once again it is assumed you are guilty until you prove your innocence, but then they do not belive you when you communicate.

  22. John Moss
    Posted January 25, 2009 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    I give “broad” casting five years.

    As soon as the web can actually deliver paid for content at reasonable speed, or there is a sensible link between buy online and satellite or cable delivery, every programme will go pay-per-view or subscritpion, with only the dross relying on advertising.

    Channels are unlikely to exist in any meaningful way and the idea that you watch a programme at a set time – well, I don’t do that now because I have a V box, which records what I want to watch and I watch it when I want to.

    OFCom – don’t know what their budget is, but a 90% cut seems in order with the savings routed back to Joe Public in tax cuts.

  23. Posted January 26, 2009 at 3:31 am | Permalink

    Very impressed with your regulatory compliance. Keep up the regulatory notices!

  24. some bloke
    Posted January 26, 2009 at 3:44 am | Permalink

    mikestallard 5:52 pm, while agreeing with what you say it is untrue that France is not regionalised.
    It was only dragged into being as a single nation state by Napoleon, just 200 years ago; they have regional loyalties far stronger than any we in England may be supposed to have.

    Incidentally, I recall Europe Pays Bas ( Europe Of The Regions ) being promoted to me while at school in the 1970’s by a series of EEC glossy pamphlets in stout folders showing the same boundaries that we see today. I did not think about it much because I recognised ‘my region’ as the good old GLC and was not concerned that the rest of England was carved up in a random way since I did not live there.

  25. Posted January 26, 2009 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    One thing that strikes me as interesting in the debate about advertising funding is that there is a real structural problem for our industry here. Online ad revenue now accounts for a market of about £3bn – but estimates suggest that £2bn of that goes straight out of the British economy and into the pockets of American Internet corporations like Google. They have got an effective monopoly on search engines and search engine advertising in the UK, but seem beyond the reproach and reach of our regulatory framework, which would never have allowed a similar situation to develop on television, radio or on mobile phone networks.

  26. GHS
    Posted January 26, 2009 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Scotland already has it’s own news services and has had them for 40 plus years. Ironically a lot of the talking heads who appear on the news are English who live and work in Scotland. It perhaps made more sense for Scotland and Wales as they already had strong national identities (separate rugby and football temas for instance). The English regions, however, appear to be totally artificial.
    Celtic and Ranngers did try to join the English league but were rejected.

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  1. By John Redwood MP has a go at Ofcom’s PSB review… on January 25, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    […] to Redwood’s blog here.  There are a few strands of dissent here:  (i) the ‘nations and regions’ approach; […]

  • About John Redwood


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