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28 April 2009 tbs.pm/1048

Ofcom head Ed Richards sounds death knell for ITV regional news

Yes we know that the media industry is going through hell at the moment – and this is particularly true of local media – but there is still something deeply chilling about the notion that a regulator can effectively turn its back on a core public service regulation responsibility based on the pretext that it can’t force the issue either way.

On the subject of regulation, we’ve had plenty of suggestions from Ofcom as to how the BBC’s piggy bank can be raided to support the private sector, but none whatsoever in relation to taxing profitable parts (yes there are still some) of the media industry such as pay-TV subscriptions.

But we don’t want to upset that nice Mr. Murdoch, do we?

And Mr. Richards, please note that the BBC licence fee ‘surplus’ (ahem) was assigned for a specific purpose and isn’t there to subsequently dig yourself/Ofcom/the Government/unprofitable concerns out of a black hole which in some cases is partly of their own making.

(Unfortuately Ofcom is responsible to nobody except Parliament, and Parliament appointed Ofcom along with its ‘powers’ in the first place.)

As for ITV’s privileged position, removing regional news from the equation means that ITV in England (and perhaps Wales as well, given time) will effectively be little better that Channel Five in terms of its obligations, with the STV, UTV and Channel franchises being the only regional differentiation remaining.

If truth be told, this scenario was no surprise at all to anyone who has been following the progress (or lack of it) in relation to regional broadcasting in the UK, but it’s the basic attitude being exhibited by the quango that’s meant to be regulating the industry as opposed to waving a white flag of defeat.

So based on this dereliction of duty that’s now being clearly demonstrated, what exactly is the point of Ofcom again?