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TV and ports `hurt by deregulation'

The television and port industries have both been "irreversibly damaged" by Margaret Thatcher's deregulation policies, according to a report to be published next week by the Institute for Public Policy Research.

The report, "Choppy Waves on Air and Sea", says the Conservative Government's deregulation in the late 1980s undermined the future of both television and port transport, both of which are now suffering from acute skill shortages.

The proportion of staff employed on a temporary, contract or freelance basis increased between 1989 and 1994 from 7 to 15 per cent, the report says. Training for these employees was inadequate, with the result that "half of the ITV companies surveyed and the BBC were currently experiencing skill shortages, while 75 per cent anticipated that skill shortages would emerge in their operations."

The report adds: "The pattern which emerges is one of a generation of highly skilled workers that is not being replaced due to the fragmented nature of the labour market."

The Peacock Committee, which was established in 1985, called for a restructuring of the television industry to promote competition, and set in train many of the changes which culminated in the 1990 Broadcasting Act. The Act instigated a competitive auction of the ITV franchises and forced broadcasters to purchase at least 25 per cent of programming from independent producers.

The port transport industry faced a similar upheaval. The nationalised British Transport Docks Board was transferred to the private sector in 1982, and reinvented as Associated British Ports. The National Dock Labour Scheme was abolished in 1989 in order to open up competition between different ports.

In both industries, the report claims, the changes led to a surge in temporary contract labour, which has "not lifted productivity or the quality of work performed".

The IPPR based its research on a detailed postal questionnaire and interviews with 100 industry participants.