FW: October 2010 e-Newsletter from Voice of the Listener and Viewer
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From: Linda Forbes <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Thu, 28 Oct 2010 14:50:15 +0100
To: Info <[log in to unmask]>
Conversation: October 2010 e-Newsletter from Voice of the Listener and Viewer
Subject: October 2010 e-Newsletter from Voice of the Listener and Viewer


Welcome to the October 2010 issue of the VLV e-newsletter.

The last two weeks has seen a whirlwind of news about organisational and funding changes in broadcasting.
VLV has deep concerns about the abrupt and arbitrary manner in which these changes were announced and about the way in which they were decided behind closed doors without any public debate or consultation.
We are still researching the full impact of the changes but they are so far-reaching that we are planning a major campaign to alert and inform the public of the threat they pose to the quality and independence of the BBC and other broadcasters.  For BBC statement   click here <>  

Starting now and over the coming months, VLV will be holding
a series of activities and events to create debate and provide an opportunity for the public to question key decision makers about the announced changes and the future of our broadcast services.  The campaign will be launched at VLV’s autumn conference in London on Wednesday, 24th November see press release with full details below.
Our concerns about the changes to the remit and funding of the BBC and of Ofcom, the media regulator, are compounded by the merging of the two statutory bodies Consumer Focus and the Ofcom Communications Consumer Panel into Citizens’ Advice Bureaux.  A news release from the Panel says:“The Communications Consumer Panel will be working through the implications of the Government's announcement that it intends to merge the Panel with Citizens Advice as part of its plans to reduce the number of quangos and improve accountability. The Panel represents consumers by providing independent advice to Ofcom, Government and industry. We want to see that the interests of consumers in the communications sector continue to be protected and promoted effectively. To this end we will seek to ensure that the benefits of the Panel model are enshrined in the new system….”
VLV will now be the only dedicated body representing the interests of viewers, listeners and licence fee payers across the full spectrum of broadcasting issues, making its role as an independent advocate, especially on citizenship issues,   even more important than before.
Some changes you may have missed
We hope you have seen news of the key changes on BBC and ITV news bulletins or in the press.  They include:
·         Changes to the remit and structure of the media regulator Ofcom, with many of its former duties, including to conduct a review of public service broadcasting every five years and to require annual statements of programme policy from ITV, Channel 4 and Five, being transferred to the Secretary of State and at his discretion.  The duty for Ofcom to review media ownership regularly is also transferred to the Secretary of State at his discretion, along with a raft of other measures designed to safeguard the public interest which were built into the 2003 Communications Act. 
·         The BBC licence fee has been frozen until 2017 and under the new settlement the BBC (and hence licence fee payers) will now be responsible for funding the World Service; the majority of S4C, the Welsh language TV service, and BBC monitoring; Digital TV and Radio switch-over; Broad Band roll-out in rural areas; and the Government’s plans to introduce local TV services.  It is said to amount to 19% of licence fee income over the next six years but the sums seem larger to us, even without allowing for inflation.
·         How the changes will affect S4C, the Welsh language TV service, which has threatened to take the Government to judicial review over the manner of the decision, will feature in our conference in Edinburgh on November 5th, together with the future of Broadcasting in Scotland. See speakers below:

For S4C statement click here  <>  

Here is some other news that was not so well covered in the press. Some of it will have a serious impact on media regulation and the public service programme obligations placed on commercial broadcasters.
The House of Lords Debates Digital Switch-over

On October 12th the House of Lords debated the Report from the Communications Select Committee about the digital switchover of television and radio. This was the last major inquiry of this Committee in the last Parliament and it noted many consumer concerns about the early date set for radio switchover which the Government should address before ending the broadcasting of most radio programmes on VHF. The two and half hour debate highlighted these continuing concerns. The Debates can be read or watched in full at the Parliamentary website.   Click here <> .   The Ministerial Consumer Expert Group, of which VLV is as leading and long-standing member, has also reported many concerns about the impact of a switch to digital radio transmission to the Secretary of State and other ministers at the DCMS.  The report Digital Radio Switchover: what is in it for consumers? can be read on the VLV website Click here <>
BBC Trust Chairman to retire in 2011
Sir Michael
Lyons, Chairman of the BBC Trust has announced that he will not be seeking a second term of office when his contract ends in May 2011.  An advertisement for his successor was published in the Guardian this week. The favoured candidate to be appointed by the Queen in Council, will be subject to interview by the Parliamentary Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport.    

BBC Trust launches a consultation into the BBC radio stations in the Nations
On October 11th the BBC Trust announced a consultation into its Radio services in the nations Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. It includes the Welsh and Gaelic services and closes on 12th January 2011. The review will assess the performance of the services against their remits using criteria set out in their Service Licences and consider future strategy. We hope our readers in the Nations and those with an interest in communications in these parts of the UK will respond. Full details can be found on the BBC Trust Website.    Click here <>

The 10th Annual General Meeting of Voice of the Listener & Viewer Ltd
will be held at 4pm on 24th November 2010 at The Geological Society, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1.
Nominations and resolutions should be sent to the Company Secretary at
PO Box 401, Gravesend, DA12 9FY, no fewer than three and not more than 21 days before the AGM.
The AGM will follow the Autumn Conference and we hope members will join us for tea at 3.30pm. A members’ forum will follow the AGM.  
Stop Press!
The Secretary of State, RT Hon Jeremy Hunt MP has offered to re-schedule in the near future the meeting he had to cancel on 21 October. We will send news of the new date as soon as it’s confirmed.


VLV Diary of events for autumn 2010

You can read more and book tickets online at the VLV website here <>
Monday, 1st November, 6 – 8pm - London
‘Children at the Heart of the BBC’s Mission’  with Joe Godwin, Director of BBC Children’s, chaired by Professor Jeanette Steemers of Westminster University. The questions will be led by Professor Maire Messenger Davies, Ulster University and Anna Home, Chair of Save Kids’ TV.
Venue: One Whitehall Place, London SW1

Friday, 5th November, 2- 6pm- Edinburgh
‘Broadcasting in Scotland and Wales: the Future’
Speakers include:
John Walter Jones, Chair, S4C
Bobby Hain, Managing Director, Broadcasting & Regulatory Affairs, STV
Donald Campbell, Chief Executive, MG Alba, The Gaelic Channel
Ian Small, Head of Public Policy, BBC Scotland
Blair Jenkins, Chair, Scottish Digital Network Panel
Julie Craik, Fife Screen & Tay Screen Scotland
Venue: Netherbow Theatre, Scottish Story-telling Centre, 43 High Street, Edinburgh
Wednesday, 24th November, 10.30 – 3.30pm - London
VLV’s 27th Annual Autumn Conference: ‘Broadcasting: where are we going? More questions than answers’ 
Venue: The Geological Society, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1

Speakers include:
Professor Patrick Barwise, on Confusions and Delusions about Non-linear TV and why it Matters
Lord Burns, Chair of Channel 4 Television, on his vision for the future of the Channel as it approaches its third decade.  .
Richard Klein, Controller of BBC 4 Television, on his vision for the Channel.
The day will also include the
Presentation of Prizes for VLV’s 2010 Student Essay Competition by Jon Snow, Channel 4 News.
VLV Ltd’s AGM will follow
at 4pm.

Please remember when doing your Christmas or regular household shopping online, you can help VLV at no cost to yourself by channelling your purchases via    VLV receives a small commission on all online purchases from many leading retailers.  You can also make a donation to our fighting fund via the VLV website  Click here <>  


News Release                                                      
              28th October 2010
Immediate                                                                                          15/10

The past week
has been one of the most momentous in the eighty four year history of the BBC – the licence-payer funded BBC. The momentous nature of events has been equalled only by the manner of their suddenness and secrecy: licence payers excluded from choices about how their money is spent: decisions behind closed doors, despite the promises of ‘the big society’.

Starting now and over the coming months
Voice of the Listener & Viewer (VLV) will be holding a series of events to inform licence-payers and the public at large about the proposed changes and their implications.  A chance to explain will be afforded to key players – broadcasting chiefs in the BBC and beyond, government ministers, politicians of all parties, and the regulators. VLV members will have a chance to question the decision-makers, face-to-face.  Our aim will be explanation and understanding, dialogue and inclusiveness – avoiding partisanship and defensiveness, dogma and over-simplification.
VLV is especially conscious of its heavy responsibility in representing the citizen interest – following the merger of the Ofcom Communications Consumer Panel and Consumer Focus  into the Citizens’ Advice Bureaux. We are determined not to fail licence-payers and the public at large.
So watch this space for events in our series
Your chance to ask”.........................

Voice of the Listener & Viewer’s   Areas  of Concern
(i)              The BBC’s New Burdens and Responsibilities
Last week the BBC was informed about, or agreed to, decisions involving
·        A freezing of the licence fee till 2017 –a 16% reduction over the 6-year period – with no allowance for inflation
·        Taking over(from 2014) funding the BBC World Service – that’s £260m a year currently paid by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
·        Taking over(from 2013) funding BBC Monitoring – exact cost unknown
·        Taking over (from 2015) the funding of S4C (Wales’ only non-BBC supplier of Welsh language television programming) – £100m + annually
·        Funding (from 2013) superfast broadband in rural areas - £150m annually in addition  to its existing commitment to facilitate the switch-over to digital TV transmission 
·        Helping to fund government plans for local TV - £25m capital in 2013/4 and then £5m annually

       Taking into account those new spending commitments and the effect of a six year freeze on the licence fee, it seems the BBC could be faced with an eventual £600 million annual additional burden.


So VLV members ask:

·        What will be cut – over and above the limited proposals in the spring 2010 BBC Strategy Review?  Will the approach be ‘salami slicing’, eliminating some areas of programming or the loss of whole channels?
·        How will licence-payers be consulted? How will we hear and feel the decisions about the spending of our money?
·        Will World Service and Monitoring Service funds be ring-fenced? Will there precautions against ‘seepage’ between these funds and the BBC’s domestic radio and television services?  What role will the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Ministry of  Defence or any other government department play in determining BBC spending priorities?
·        What’s actually involved in rolling out super broadband, (in addition to facilitating digital TV and Radio switch-over) and in the support government wants from the BBC for new local TV services?

(ii)    The Regulatory Framework:   How are things with Ofcom?

The extra burdens on the BBC coincide with a significant lightening of regulation and  loosening of controls on commercial broadcasters.


Statements  emanating from Ofcom suggest the media regulator is taking its foot off the regulatory pedal – in response to government actions and attitudes, actual or anticipated.  Several key safeguards built into the remit of the independent regulator are now to be assumed by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport. They include the monitoring of changes in media ownership and control.   

BSkyB on current profit trends could  by 2015 be earning more than £6 billion annually  - twice the BBC’s projected licence fee income.  So BSkyB – already so strongly entrenched, with its press parent News International - could become the UK media superpower.

VLV, in the interests of pluralism and empowered citizenship, is against monopolies of any kind.  We believe in a diverse and innovative media economy, resourced through a mix of commercial and public funds. But a balanced mix  – in a framework reflecting social responsibility as well as market forces – is crucial.  Media content is more than a commodity, it is one of the most powerful influences on our culture and democracy.


So VLV members ask:

·        How and when will changes be made to the 2003 Communications Act to validate some of these decisions? Will they be debated in Parliament?
·    Will the content quality guarantees of the 2003 Communications Act be
·        To what extent will existing Ofcom principles and processes be subject to Ministerial interventions, and with what arguments?
·        Will Ofcom’s supervisory and enforcement powers be diluted in areas which affect the public as citizens rather than as consumers? Which exact powers now exercised by Ofcom will the Secretary of State reserve to him or herself? How will this affect the democratic process?
·        Will Ofcom still have the resources and political backing to persist with initiatives in key fields like media literacy and support for groups with special needs?

These and other issues will be addressed by VLV over the coming months, including at its 27th annual Autumn conference in London on Wednesday, 24 November :  ‘Broadcasting: where are we going?  More questions than answers’ at the Geological Society, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1.

Commenting, VLV Honorary President and Founder, Jocelyn Hay said


“VLV has been working for the past 27 years to provide an open forum and collective voice for listeners, viewers and licence fee payers so as to ensure transparency in decisions about the future of British broadcasting – one of the most powerful influences on our culture and democracy. Because of VLV far greater respect has been given to the views of licence fee payers, and public consultation before major change has become the norm.  The sudden announcement and manner of the latest BBC settlement, coupled with the changes to the remit and powers of Ofcom, have destroyed these gains at a stroke.


The BBC is not just another Government department and safeguards were built in to the 2003 Communications Act to ensure its independence.   We must not allow these latest changes to affect the editorial integrity of news and programme makers or the quality of the content they produce.  VLV will therefore launch a series of activities and events over the coming months to inform the public and provide a collective voice through which licence payers can channel their views and lobby those responsible.”   

Voice of the Listener & Viewer (VLV) is an independent, non-profit-making association, free from political, commercial and sectarian affiliations, working for quality and diversity in British broadcasting. VLV represents the interests of listeners and viewers as citizens and consumers across the full range of broadcasting issues. VLV is concerned with the structures, regulation, funding and institutions that underpin the British Broadcasting system. VLV does not handle complaints but is in touch with Members of Parliament, Government, media regulators and broadcasters;  publishes briefings, responses to public consultations and a quarterly newsletter; holds conferences and other  events in different parts of the UK, open to the public  at affordable prices; organises visits for its members to broadcasting centres and holds annual Student Essay Competitions and  Awards for Excellence in Broadcasting.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION and conference tickets please contact:  Jocelyn Hay, Honorary President, Voice of the Listener & Viewer (VLV) or

Linda Forbes, Conference Administrator on 01474 338711, [log in to unmask] , [log in to unmask]  or visit <file:///C:\Documents%20and%20Settings\lindaforbes\Local%20Settings\Temporary%20Internet%20Files\Content.Outlook\95UIJY27\>

If you do not want to receive further e-mail information from VLV about forthcoming events linked to the future of public service broadcasting in the UK, Europe and worldwide, please return this e-mail, entering UNSUBSCRIBE into the subject box.

Linda Forbes
Conference Administrator

Voice of the Listener & Viewer
PO Box 401, Gravesend, Kent DA12 9FY
Tel: 01474 338711 or 01474 338716
Email: [log in to unmask]
Website: <>
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This communication from VLV Ltd (and any attachments) is confidential.  It is for the exclusive use of the intended recipient(s).  If you are not the intended recipient(s) any distribution, copying or use of the information in this communication is prohibited.  If you have received this communication in error, please notify the sender immediately and then destroy any copies of it.  This communication may contain personal views which are not the views of VLV Ltd, unless specifically stated.
Voice of the Listener & Viewer (VLV) has no relationship with Mediawatch (formerly the National Viewers' & Listeners' Association founded by Mary Whitehouse).

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