by Ray Fleming

W hile the question of independent regulation of the British press remains in limbo, because of the inability of newspapers to agree, the responsible minister, Maria Miller, is making new proposals to limit the review of public broadcasting which the regulator Ofcom undertakes every five years. This review covers the principal UK TV channels -- BBC One, BBC Two, ITV1, Channel 4 and Channel 5 -- to check whether they are providing “the quality programming that fulfils the needs and interests of consumers and citizens throughout the UK”. The minister's proposal is for a review only once in ten years and confined to “parts of the TV landscape” that she believes need to be looked at. It is odd that while the minister is grappling with the worries of some newspapers that implementation of the Leveson recommendations will interfere with their editorial freedom she should propose interventions of her choice in TV programming. In such matters the press and TV cannot be compared directly for a number of reasons but there is a good argument to be made that the responsible minister for both should not be in the position of choosing editorial operational areas for investigation in either. More generally, however, there is almost certainly a role for Ofcom's five-yearly surveys and to do without or to diminish these would encourage cheaper programming, increased repeats and an inevitable lowering of standards.