'Digital Britain Report Victory for Regional Broadcasting' - Rowen

June 17, 2009 12:00 AM

Paul Rowen MP - Standing Up for Regional Broadcasting!Rochdale MP Paul Rowen has urged the Government to act on recommendations published this week by the 'Digital Britain Report' which suggest that part of the television licence fee should be used to fund regional television broadcasting. The report, which was announced this week in the Parliament, was launched last October to set out a number of recommendations to the Government as Britain switches over to digital.

In the mean time, the Government has announced that consultations will take place to decide whether an element of the licence fee may be shared with other television channels to ensure public service broadcasting.

Mr Rowen has long been campaigning for funding to be given to regional broadcasting by the Government. Last week he questioned the Minister in the House of Commons on what the government's plans were to take forward the recommendations in the Digital Britain report. Late last year he also gained a debate entitled, 'The Death of Regional Broadcasting' to discuss the issues faced by the industry in the digital age.

Paul Rowen, said: 'Since raising this issue in the House of Commons last year I have received a huge amount of correspondence from constituent's who see regional news and broadcasting as central to life in the regions.

"Although question marks remain as to the source of the funding given the vital importance of BBC independence, this is a step in the right direction. The digital age is an undoubted challenge to regional and public service broadcasting but not an insurmountable hurdle, this funding is the first major step to ensuring public sector broadcasting in the future.'

ENDS

NOTES

1. Stephen Carter announced the launch of the Digital Britain Review on 17 October 2008. It is a converged project representing the Minister's responsibilities across both DCMS and BERR.

2. The cost of producing multiple different editions for a single time slot makes regional news the highest public service costs of the ITV 1 licences.

3. A majority of people want ITV to continue providing regional and national news

4. Gordon Brown in an interview with the Times this morning conceded that these were "difficult times" for local newspapers, TV and radio and that a regionalised TV news network was "no longer financially viable".

5. 50% of consumers sat they are personally interested in events in 'my region/nation' or 'events where I live'

6. The combined audience of the 15 regional news programmes broadcast at 18.30 on BBC1 is the biggest television news audience in the UK - 16m weekly viewers

Paul asked the Minister last week,

"What plans his Department has to take forward the recommendations contained in the interim "Digital Britain" report published in January 2009."

The Minister responded by saying,

"Mr. Speaker, since the publication of the "Digital Britain Interim Report" in January there has been extensive consultation and we will publish the final outcome."

Paul then said,

"I welcome the Secretary of State to his new position, I'm sure he will do a very good job. I'm sure the Minister is also aware of the recommendations and concerns raised in the Digital Britain report was the future of regional news and regional content.

Does he not agree that a use of the digital, the money that's currently used for implementing digital TV would be one way of ensuring that the regions continue to get regional news and programme content on independent television?"

The Minister continued by saying,

"Mr. Speaker, I think probably everybody in this House values the role played by regional news and also the importance of there being some competition and plurality of provision. He is absolutely right to say it is one of the very important issues that will be addressed when we publish the final report."