Culture Secretary: BBC Must Consider Market Impacts

The Draft BBC Charter and Framework set out requirements for the BBC to consider its market impact and to enter into partnerships.

In a statement Culture Secretary Karen Bradley said: “Obligations for the BBC to consider both the negative and the positive market impacts of their activities are set out in the Charter. Ofcom must always keep these in mind when reviewing new and changed services. The BBC is obliged to work closely with others and share its knowledge, research, and expertise for wider public benefit.”

The Draft Charter sets out the BBC’s Public Purposes. Under these the BBC should provide “impartial news and information”, which is duly accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming “so that all audiences can engage fully with major local, regional, national, United Kingdom and global issues”. It should provide “high quality output in many different genres and across a range of services and platforms which sets the standard in the United Kingdom and internationally.” Its services should be distinctive from those provided elsewhere. It should provide high quality news coverage to international audiences, with output and services that will be enjoyed by people in the United Kingdom and globally.

The BBC may determine how its activities fall into the permitted categories of UK Public Services, World Services, non-service activities, commercial activities through a commercial subsidiary, trading activities and specified activities.

The Draft Charter also sets out the BBC’s General Duties. These include market impact, requiring the BBC to have particular regard to the effects of its activities on competition in the United Kingdom. It must seek to avoid adverse market impact on competition when not necessary for the effective fulfilment of its Mission and Public Purposes. The BBC must also have regard to promoting positive impacts upon the wider market. Under its General Duties, in relation to commercial activities, the BBC must comply with duties on acting in the public interest, engagement with the public, openness and transparency. It must also ensure that its commercial activities do not as a result of their relationship with UK Public Services, non service activities or trading activities, distort the market or gain an unfair competitive advantage.

Partnership is also included in the General Duties. The BBC must work collaboratively and seek to enter into partnerships with other organisations, particularly in the creative economy where to do so would be in the public interest. It must enter into partnerships which overall are with a wide range of organisations including commercial and non- commercial organisations, of all sizes, throughout the nations and regions of the UK, covering television, radio and online services. It must ensure that its partnerships are fair and beneficial to those organisations and in particular that partners are given due attribution and recognition, including in the branding and promotion of the out put and services created or distributed.

Under the Draft Charter, Ofcom will, after consultation of the BBC and any person it considers appropriate, set the Operating Framework. This must set requirements to protect fair and effective competition in the UK in relation to material changes proposed by the BBC to the carrying out of UK Public services and in non services, their trading activities and agreements with and conduct affecting third parties. It must also set requirements in relation to the interaction between the BBC and its commercial activities to ensure that they do not distort the market or gain an unfair competitive advantage, as a result of their relationship with the UK Public services, trading activities or non–service activities.

Ofcom would also impose on the BBC the requirements they consider appropriate for ensuring adequate links to material provided by third parties from BBC Online.

Under the Framework Agreement and its operation, the BBC will be obliged to carry out periodic reviews of commercial activities through its commercial subsidiaries to assess commercial efficiency. This would include BBC World Wide and BBC Global News. The first review must be completed by the end of 2018.

The NMA has previously called for the “new regulatory framework to put cooperation at the heart of the BBC’s guiding principles, ensuring that the BBC supports the wider creative sector and that its public services and commercial subsidiaries do not have an unfair advantage over news media companies and their developing range of content and initiatives.”

An agreement between the NMA and the BBC on a series of initiatives to enhance local journalism was announced in May in a joint letter to then Culture Secretary John Whittingdale. 

The next stage in the BBC Charter Review process will be parliamentary debates of the Draft Charter and Agreement including in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales during the autumn. Following these debates, the Government will present the Charter and Agreement to Privy Council, to come into force on 1 January 2017. The Governement has allowed for a short period of transitation with the new BBC Board and Ofcom fully taking on their new governance and regulatory roles on 3 April 2017. The BBC will continue to operate under the current arrangements during this transiational period.