Letter: Quality TV in the balance

Sir: Hamish McRae advances a possible, rather than probable future for the TV industry ("Tune in to the last of the dinosaurs", 19 February). In advancing the "magazine rack" model of the relationship between viewers and programme-makers, he is missing the point.

There is no doubt that technological advances will reduce production costs in some areas, but quality TV programming will still cost vastly more than the production costs of a magazine. There will, therefore, continue to be significant barriers to entry into this market that far outstrip those in the magazine trade.

For decades, the public has been used to getting very-high-quality programmes very cheaply. The "progress" that McRae envisages will result in this diet being replaced by cheaply made, low-quality content.

The real issue however, is the proven public demand for quality programming - for the diversity and pluralism only provided by public service broadcasting. Do we want existing public service broadcasters to be eliminated by the multi-channel process? Or are we to insist that the states of Europe continue to provide the framework that protects broadcasters who invest in quality programming?

We need continuing investment in original content. Should we allow new channels to simply suck in imports? Or should we address the huge and growing deficit between the European Union and the United States that is killing our jobs and threatening the very basis of our future prosperity?

Finally, let us not forget our culture and social cohesion. Should the public have the right to see major national sporting events on free-to- air TV? Should they have the right to know that the emergency phone number is 999, and not 911 as some London schoolchildren now believe?

In adopting my report on Public Service Broadcasting in September 1996, the European Parliament not only demanded continuing support for public service broadcasting, it called upon the EU to enshrine such an obligation in the European treaties.


Socialist Group Co-ordinator on Media

Ilford, Essex