the media and entertainment union
a sector of Prospect

26 April 2010

The Trades Union Congress has been mandated to intervene in BECTU’s long running Freedom of Information action against Ofcom.

A unanimous vote of delegates at the TUC Black Workers’ Conference in Liverpool last weekend instructed the TUC to write to ministers demanding that the broadcasting regulator reverses its policy of taking no enforcement action against licence holders in breach of their licence conditions on diversity, and that it must disclose ethnic monitoring data requested by BECTU.

Ofcom revealed its non-enforcement policy during a long-running Freedom of Information request from the union which ended up in court. Ofcom collects broadcasters’ ethnic monitoring data but, unlike its predecessor, the Independent Television Commission, refuses to publish the information licence by licence.

The public has a right to know

Faisal Qureshi, chair of BECTU’s Black Members Committee,  told conference that as the broadcasters are given their licences on behalf of the public, the public has the right to know how well their staffing reflects the diversity of the audience they serve.

“Recently Ofcom congratulated itself for saving the broadcasters more money over the year with its restraint on its spending,” he told conference.

“This is such an insult. It means Ofcom considers it is more important to save the broadcasting companies money by letting them get away with breaching their licence conditions on diversity. Ofcom has a legal duty to have regard for the needs and interests of the black and minority ethnic population. How can Ofcom’s actions be remotely in our interests?”

BECTU diversity officer Janice Turner commented: “Ofcom stated that fining the broadcasters or removing their licences was 'too draconian', and given the widespread breaches, was too 'resource intensive'. This is disgraceful. The union is currently awaiting a decision from the Equality and Human Rights Commission on our complaint about this.”

She added: “The TUC is now throwing its weight behind the union’s campaign. Black trades unionists from across the trade union movement unanimously support us. When is Ofcom going to accept that it’s wrong?”