Shadow Culture Secretary is giving a major speech this morning on the future of Conservative broadcasting policy. At the bottom of this post we publish key extracts relating to his support for more local TV and his concerns that the BBC might be crowding out alternative media suppliers. Most interesting to us, however, is his view that TV influences behaviour and broadcasters – particularly those in receipt of privileged funding – have a duty to behave responsibly. ConservativeHome wholeheartedly agrees (but we are ‘nudgers’ as you know).
"The University of the West England recently found that 73% of all alcohol references on radio encouraged drinking. That matters, because for better or worse what Chris Moyles says has more impact on binge drinking than the glossiest advertising campaign from the Department of Health, or indeed an alcohol education campaign by Radio 1. It isn’t all bad news. The media can have an equally strong effect in a positive way. Eastenders’ Mark Fowler [pictured] was the first mainstream soap character to be HIV positive. A 1999 survey by the National AIDS Trust found that most young people learned everything they knew about the illness from watching him deal with his condition. Lisa Power at the Terrance Higgins Trust has said that ‘one decent soap episode is worth a thousand leaflets in schools’. HIV has returned to TV drama with Hollyoaks currently tackling the issue – I hope it is as successful as Eastenders was in the 90s."
Mr Hunt goes on to say that a few “worthy” programmes "should not be a fig leaf for a lack of social responsibility in other output.":
"It’s not good enough for Channel 4 to say they are doing their bit with a Dispatches programme on alcohol abuse like Drinking Yourself to Death when 18% of the screen time in Hollyoaks was accounted for by alcohol references. Nor can five claim to be doing their bit with Diet Doctors Inside Out when the gym instructor in Home and Away is seen with alcohol in 50% of his scenes."
OTHER KEY EXTRACTS FROM JEREMY HUNT’S SPEECH
The BBC must not crowd out competition: "It is also right to examine
the BBC’s competitive impact on the broader commercial market. This
includes not just its impact on other broadcasters, but on other media
as well. Should travel guide publishers be forced to compete with a BBC
Worldwide-owned Lonely Planet? Why should those with hobbies setting up
websites have to compete with the BBC’s new “passion sites”? What is
the impact of BBC online on newspaper groups fighting falling
circulation by trying to reinvent their business model on the internet?
Local newspapers are a vital part of the fabric of small communities
throughout the country, and are currently trying to re-invent their
business model having lost much of the revenue that used to come from
classified sales. As they move online, why should they have to face the
additional threat of subsidised competition from the BBC’s plans for
local video on demand? I don’t think they should and I hope the BBC
Trust takes a strong stance on this proposal."
The importance of local TV: "A Conservative government will encourage the creation of local TV stations by ensuring media ownership rules do not prevent local newspaper groups from investing in local television in their area. We will urge Ofcom to be proactive in ensuring that spectrum allocations do not unwittingly prevent the emergence of a local TV sector. And we will encourage local authorities to consider the community benefits of supporting local TV stations, as has happened so successfully in Kent."
The Conservatives’ historical record on broadcasting: "it is Conservative
governments that have been largely responsible for plurality of
provision throughout broadcasting history. We licensed ITV in 1955,
oversaw the launch of the new satellite channels and cable in the late
1980s, launched Channel 4 in 1982 and five in 1997. The BBC (also
founded by a Conservative government, albeit in 1928) has remained the
cornerstone of public service broadcasting provision. It has provided a
quality benchmark that is respected the world over. Without the
creative achievements of the BBC over very many years, British
broadcasting would not be where it is today."
Competition is important for driving up standards: "Talk to anyone in
the BBC, and they will tell you how bad it has been for children’s TV
since ITV pulled out of daytime provision of it. And how important it
is that there is at least some competition with Milkshake from five.
When it comes to news, they will also say how positive it was when Sky
launched 24 hour news for the first time in the UK. Few would dispute
that competition from Sky and ITN/ITV has played a significant role in
spurring on the BBC into becoming probably the most respected news
gathering organisation in the world."
I am an optimist with a raincoat: "When talking about the changing
nature of communications, people tend to fall into two camps. One is
the “brave-new-worlders” who tend to look to changes in technology and
communications with dewy-eyed optimism as the solution to many of the
world’s problems. In the other camp are the doom and gloomsters. They
focus on the evil purposes for which modern communications can be
harnessed. Or the challenges facing families trying to bring up
children when screen time is often more compelling than family time. If
forced to choose between the two groups I have always been unashamedly
on the side of the optimists. Harold Wilson said he was an optimist,
but an optimist who brought his raincoat. That is perhaps how I feel
about technology and modern communications. Optimism yes, but tempered
by a proper understanding of the risks brought about by rapid change."