HC Deb 16 December 2002 vol 396 cc529-30W
Michael Fabricant

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what steps she is taking to promote independent radio production; and if she will make a statement. [85582]

Tessa Jowell

The BBC has voluntarily committed itself to a 10 per cent. quota for independent production on its network sources. I welcome the following statement in which the BBC re-affirms its commitment to independent producers, and demonstrates that the BBC is giving further consideration to the scope of the services included in the quota, and the arrangements for reporting against it. The Government shall keep the position under review as the radio market develops.

BBC Radio and Independent Production The BBC acknowledges the significant contribution independent producers have made to network radio output over the past 11 years. We remain fully committed to our voluntary pledge that 10 per cent. of eligible hours on our nation al analogue networks will be made by independents. We also wish publicly to emphasise that we will continue to view this 10 per cent. commitment as a floor not a ceiling. We believe that our behaviour over the past five years highlights this attitude and we will work to open up commissions, where appropriate to independent producers in order to develop the UK production sector. In the past our 10 per cent. voluntary commitment has not applied to our national English language analogue radio services for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. We are looking at how we could develop a similar voluntary commitment to that which already exists for our analogue network services. We believe that we would be able to commit publicly to an appropriate level of commissioning from the independent sector across the English language services in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In doing so we must take account of the existing market conditions in order to determine a realistic and sustainable level at which to set such a commitment. We also need to consider how we balance most effectively our ambition to support the development of the independent production sector in the nations in the context of our wider commitment to production in the Nations. Given current levels of take-up of digital radio across the country we do not yet feel able to extend a commitment for a particular level of independent commissioning for our new digital services. However, it is our hope that as take-up of digital radio grows and these services mature, we will be able to invite independent producers to provide content for these services where appropriate. We intend to report fully on both the hours we commission from independent producers and our spend on independent production across our analogue radio networks in our annual review. We hope that these commitments will act to strengthen the positive and constructive relationship with independent producers which we already enjoy.

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