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Release time: 4 February 2009

The Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIOJ) cautiously welcomed Ofcom’s review of Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) for recognising that effective local and regional news needs to have an alternative supplier to the BBC.

But the oldest professional journalist organisation was less than convinced by the Government’s response in its Digital Britain report which can be seen at http://www.culture.gov.uk/what_we_do/broadcasting/5631.aspx

CIoJ General Secretary, Dominic Cooper said: “Ofcom’s report was refreshingly honest and took onboard the major contentions that the CIoJ had put in its submission, including not top slicing the BBC funding which would risk the quality of its PSB material.

“Frankly the Government’s response and its “way forward” seemed less convincing and glossed over the real issues of how we are going to get there, other than setting up a myriad of groups to look at specific issues.”

It was in the CIoJ submission that has a regulator, Ofcom could make suggestions, but it now needed the Government to take more direct control as the digital spectrum takes away the advertising funding which allowed commercial broadcasters to offer PSB.

“Interestingly Ofcom also questioned the long-term viability of the BBC and ITV sharing resources so that the commercial broadcaster can continue to provide regional news. It suggested that Channel 4 perhaps in conjunction with Channel 5 or the BBC World Service could offer an alternative news and current affairs source for regional and national news in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“Thankfully Ofcom accepted the CIoJ view that given the uncertain future of regional news provision, there needs to be a parallel plan based on ‘independently funded consortia’ which gives a future for regional media delivering local news.”

In such a system Ofcom said that TV slots should be set aside to deliver regional news on the ITV network or, if it hands back its PSB licences, through Channel 4 or by using a new dedicated service within each region or nation.

Mr Cooper added:“For the first time Ofcom has a clear plan which offers real hope for the future and acknowledges the real concerns that the CIoJ has for maintaining PSB for people who are not going to be able to embrace the digital revolution.

“Our welcome is cautious because the subsequent report by Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Department for Business,Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR)set up many different groups, which are unlikely to offer a clear path to take forward Ofcom’s carefully researched issues.

“CIoJ will continue to fight for the need for Britain to retain an effective PSB service and will continue to press MPs and Ministers to focus on the citizen and the need for professional journalism in this challenging environment.”

Ofcom’s report can be seen at http://www.ofcom.org.uk/media/features/janpsb1

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Press contact: Liz Justice, CIoJ Press Office, 07780 661926.

The CIoJ’s submission to the Ofcom review may be viewed at: http://cioj.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/cioj-2nd-ofcom-psb-review-20081.pdf

Notes for Editors:
Formed in 1884, the Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ) is the world’s oldest established professional body for journalists, and a representative voice of media and communications professionals throughout the UK, Ireland and the Commonwealth.

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