Letter: Public service TV

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The Independent Culture
Sir: David Lister's "Smarten up your act, Smith warns TV channels" (4 September) claims that the Secretary of State "is eager to remind broadcasters that there is also a public service remit, albeit a lesser one for commercial stations".

There is in fact no need for reminders. The public service remit of terrestrial commercial broadcasters is clearly set out in legislation and enforced by an independent regulatory body, the Independent Television Commission. This is in marked contrast to the BBC whose remit, in the words of the Davies Panel on Future Funding of the BBC, "is much looser than that of ITV".

The next Communications Bill must address this anomaly, address the difficult question of what regulation will be possible, and then apply it evenly across all broadcasters, including the BBC.

The main point I was making in the MacTaggert Lecture is that the days of television broadcasters giving viewers what they believe to be "good for them" are over. Both because the death of deference makes this unsustainable in principle and because the explosion in the number of broadcast outlets will make the meticulous and detailed content of regulation of today impossible.

In these circumstances we need to redefine the traditional philosophy of public service broadcasting and fashion a new broadcasting ecology based on what is in the wider public interest if the UK is to continue to be the home of some of the finest television in the world. Crucially, this new definition must be sustained by public consensus rather than regulatory fiat.


Chief Executive

ITV Network, London WC1