Chairman defends TV watchdog role

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The Independent Online
Scrapping the Broadcasting Standards Council and the Broadcasting Complaints Commission would deprive the public of an independent voice in television and radio, the council's chairman warned yesterday.

In a robust defence of both watchdogs, Lady Howe told the Broadcasting Press Guild: 'An independent source of judgement is one of two things which are uniquely offered by the BCC and the BSC. The second is a responsibilty across the whole industry. In their absence, both would be lost. In an age when much is made of accountability to the consumer, the listeners and viewers should not be excluded.'

Both bodies have come in for criticism recently. The Government has proposed a merger, but others in the industry would like to see them abolished and their remit transferred to the Independent Television Commission, the commercial sector's regulator.

Lady Howe argued that council and commission members operated free of editorial responsibilities or regulatory duties which meant 'they have no wider concerns than the interests of the audience'.

She said that as 'lay people', members could 'sometimes see concerns which professionals overlook or lack the time to take account of. They are distanced from some prevailing orthodoxies'.

'Let the broadcasters get on with the business of broadcasting. Let their regulators regulate them. And let the voice of the audience, the consumer, be heard by both of them. That is where we come in.'

She was in favour, however, of a merger with the BCC, saying it would be 'simpler for complainants and strengthen the consumer's voice'.