§ Estelle Morris
The Communications Bill (Clause 275), as amended on Report in the House of Lords), requires OFCOM to include conditions in the licences of all licensed public service channels (Channels 3, 4 and 5) in order to secure that at least 25 per cent. of the time allocated to the broadcasting of qualifying programmes on that channel is allocated to the broadcasting of a range and diversity of independent productions. Conditions will also permit OFCOM to direct that a public service channel that falls short of the quota must make up the shortfall in the subsequent year or years. The Bill also gives OFCOM a range of powers to enforce compliance with these conditions.
Paragraphs 1 and 7 of Schedule 12 to the Bill, in conjunction with clause 337 and intended amendments to the BBC's Agreement with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, will produce similar effects in relation to the BBC and the Welsh Authority.
Under Clause 355 of the Bill OFCOM are required to carry out an annual factual and statistical review. As part of that review, OFCOM must consider what it is appropriate to achieve by conditions and duties under section 275 and paragraphs 1 and 7 of Schedule 12 and the effectiveness for that purpose of the conditions and 714W duties for the time being in force. OFCOM must also consider whether it would be appropriate to recommend to the Secretary of State that he exercises any of his powers under that section or those paragraphs, including the power to provide that the quota be met by "value" instead of, or as well as, by "broadcasting time".