Fears over Regional Isolation; MEDIA WALES - BROADCASTING: Bill 'Abolishes Welsh Representation on UK Industry Regulators'
Byline: Leighton Andrews
WHO will speak up for Wales on broadcasting issues now that the House of Lords has approved a Bill that could bring Whitehall directly into conflict with the National Assembly and the Scottish Parliament?
Leighton Andrews, a consultant specialising in broadcasting policy issues and a former head of public affairs at the BBC, looks at the issue.
THE Office of Communications Bill paves the way for the new regulator for the broadcasting and telecommunications industries to be set up, called Ofcom.
The Bill also more or less abolishes Welsh and Scottish representation on UK communications industry regulators.
Currently there are representatives of Scotland and Wales serving on the Independent Television Commission, the Broadcasting Standards Commission and the Radio Authority These bodies will be abolished when Ofcom is finally operational.
It will have between three and six members but no provision has been made for any of these to be representative of the regions.
The policy is already under fire in Wales. The National Assembly has done so publicly, in its response to the White Paper, with the full backing of the Assembly's Culture Committee.
There's concern that a small Ofcom board could be too narrowly metropolitan, and too open to the latest fashions that drive the media industry.
Broadcasting was excluded from the devolution settlement.
But absence of responsibility has not prevented discussion of broadcasting issues in the devolved institutions.
In Wales broadcasting has always been a highly-charged political debate with the Welsh language at its heart.
Abolishing the representation of the national regions at the UK regulatory level is likely to have a number of consequences.
First, it would leave the BBC as the only broadcasting institution with effective national regional representation, since the national governors of the BBC would still remain, and would still be appointed in consultation with the National Assembly and the Scottish Parliament. …