BECTU briefing Communications Bill: clause 273 - independent production quota

12 March 2003

BECTU briefing on the UK Communications Bill: Clause 273 - independent production quota.

  1. BECTU supports the retention of the minimum 25% independent production quota in the form in which it currently operates. This has served both the viewers and the independent production sector well.
  2. We are aware of the current campaign - as expressed in evidence to the Puttnam Committee and to the ITC Review of Programme Supply - to amend the quota eg: - by switching to a quota based on value rather than hours; - by introducing a Code of Practice incorporating enforced equal access for independents to all broadcasters' in-house commissions.
  3. We oppose any such alterations which would have the affect of rolling-back broadcasters' in-house production capacity.
  4. We believe the corporate lobbying of the independent sector should not be accepted on its own terms:
    • The independent sector has undergone significant concentration of ownership and now includes some companies larger than the small ITV licence-holders, and benefiting from 'preferred bidder' status.
    • For independents to have equal access to all in-house commissions would, in the BBC, lead to the resurgence of the damaging internal market experiment, with wasteful transaction costs, chaotic employment practices and damage to programme-making capacity.
    • The independent sector has not produced an adequate proportion of regional production; has not in our view, offered sufficient opportunities to ethnic minority producers; and has operated with poor employment practices and a 'long hours' culture.
  5. Retaining a critical mass of in-house production capacity in broadcasting companies is in our view essential:
    • Public service broadcasters can only properly fulfil their regulatory obligations by retaining in-house capacity - allowing independents to focus on more commercially attractive genres.
    • Broadcasters can take a longer-term view on programme investment, with greater creative risks.
    • Despite cutbacks, broadcasters retain a larger base of genuinely regional production than the independents.
    • The BBC in particular makes a decisive contribution to training the industry.
    • A serious address to equal opportunities can only be made in the context of a stable rather than a casualised labour force.
  6. In the light of this, the one amendment that can usefully be made to the independent quota is, in our view:
    • to redefine the terms of the quota so that it includes out-of-house productions commissioned from (other) ITV licence holders.
    • so that the BBC, for example, could commission work from Tyne Tees and count this as part of its independent quota.
  7. On rights, we note that the independents have a number of grievances against broadcasters. However, this is solely a corporate dispute with no reference to the rights of individual creators. Sadly, the unfair treatment complained of by independents is exactly replicated in their own treatment of individual creators - with the routine extraction of assignments of all rights. We believe that in seeking better treatment on rights for themselves, the independent should also be obliged to extend fair treatment to individual creators.
Last updated 17 March 2003