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Thursday, 27th January 2011

Tim Suter

On December 8th, Tim Suter, Partner (Content & Standards), Ofcom, gave our annual Keynote Lecture in the North of England Mining Institute. His subject was 'Ofcom and Television Production in the Regions'.

Introduction from Tony Edwards (Hon Sec, NE&TB Committee)

The Royal Television Society (as an organisation) has amongst its mission statements the opportunity to create a forum for discussion and debate on issues that directly affect the industry and craft of television. I'm sure colleagues will agree that no time is more appropriate for that part of the RTS' mission statement to be fulfilled. I think it would be fair to say (and not wishing to pre-empt any comments from our guest) that television is unlikely to be the same — it is going to change. And those changes will affect certainly all of us in this room; people associated with the industry and other aspects of it, and particularly the viewers. So this is an important element and an important item.

And I'm delighted that Tim Suter from Ofcom has agreed to come, and to make a presentation, and to answer and listen to our responses, and issues that we raise. Just a bit of background about Tim — Tim is the Partner is Ofcom responsible for Content and Standards, and this includes basic regulatory obligations for all licensed TV and radio broadcasters, and the BBC; the additional obligations placed on Public Service Broadcasters, and consumer policy issues in relation to telecoms and broadcasting. A busy man! He is also a member of the Ofcom Content Board.

In the year before joining Ofcom, Tim was Head of Broadcasting Policy at the Department of Culture, Media & Sport, and between 1984 and 1999 he worked in the BBC as a radio drama producer, and finally as Managing Editor and Deputy Head of all Current Affairs programmes on television and radio.

So without further ado, I give you the opportunity to hear a presentation from our guest speaker, Tim Suter...

Tim Suter

Tony, thank you very much indeed, and thank you for the warm welcome that you've given me, and the opportunity to 'lay out our stall'.

I'm struck, when I come into this magnificent room, by how much it always seems to me that buildings matter — what they tell you about the mentality of the people who built them, and the state of confidence in which they built them, and I'm particularly reminded... you're right, I worked in the BBC for 15 years, and there's a couple of points about BBC buildings — in the old bit of Broadcasting House (and if you've worked in it, you'll know) the windows are very high, because it was always said that John Reith said that if you were working in the BBC at your desk, you should only be able to look upwards rather than down at the world happening at your feet. And in Television Centre, when I worked there, it's a big round building and most senior people in television work on the inside of the ring. From the Managing Director's office you could look into the office of the Controller BBC1, Controller BBC2, Head of Entertainment, Head of Sport — the whole industry looking in on itself rather than out at the world.

Well, I hope that what we're doing at Ofcom (and we're doing here today) is not looking upwards, but looking at the world as it happens, and not looking only in on ourselves, but looking out at the world and the changes that it brings.

So I'd like to do several things this evening...

First, I'd like to cut through some of the misrepresentation of what Ofcom as has been saying, and set out what Ofcom is trying to achieve.

Second, I want to restate the analysis that underpins our work and our proposals.

Third, I want to reflect on some of the key policy areas involved around...

  • Regional news programmes
  • Regional non-news programmes
  • Network production around the UK

I'd like to look at the opportunities that the future holds.

And finally (and perhaps most important) I'd like to hear your views and contributions to that debate, so I can carry those back to Ofcom as we reflect on the consultation responses that we've had.

So let me start by making clear what Ofcom is about and contrast what it is not about.

We are concerned with...

  • Protecting the interests of citizens and consumers across the UK.
  • We are about securing, in the words of the Communications Act, "the availability throughout the UK of a wide range of television and radio services which (taken as a whole) are both of high quality and calculated to appeal to a wide variety of tastes".
  • And (as the Act requires) we are in the business of making recommendations that will maintain and strengthen PSB in the UK.

We are certainly not about...

  • Promoting a metropolitan agenda to undermine national and regional broadcasting outside London.
  • Or conniving with ITV plc or anyone else to serve a particular company's shareholders or any others.


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