OFCOM PSB Review 8: “Core Purposes?”

August 29, 2008

I was interested to read this article from Tim Gardham of OFCOM in the Telegraph.

In particular this sentence;

“Ofcom has outlined a range of options, from the evolution of the status quo to alternative funding models. One option would be a fund available to commercial public service broadcasters to ensure future competitiveness in PSB without calling on the Treasury or taking from the BBC one single penny of the licence fee needed for its core purposes.”

It’s nice to read something that appears so supportive of the BBC.

But what does the qualification “needed for its core purposes” mean?

The BBC doesn’t have “core purposes”. According to the BBC’s Charter and agreement it has “public purposes”: I quote:

“The BBC’s main activities should be the promotion of its Public Purposes through the provision of output which consists of information, education and entertainment…”

The BBC’s public purposes are defined as: 

sustaining citizenship and civil society;
promoting education and learning;
stimulating creativity and cultural excellence;
representing the UK, its nations, regions and communities;
bringing the UK to the world and the world to the UK;

I hope OFCOM are not trying to start a debate about the BBC’s purposes as a way of taking away licence fee money from things which OFCOM thinks are not “core” e.g. entertainment. High quality entertainment programmes clearly stimulate “creativity and cultural excellence”.

What are these “core purposes” Tim mentions?

Postscript (1st September). And if Tim is thinking (as has already been suggested by OFCOM) that the money in the current licence fee settlement which has been earmarked to help digital switchover isn’t part of the BBC’s “core purposes”, then he should look at the very next clause in the Charter;

(f ) in promoting its other purposes, helping to deliver to the public the
benefit of emerging communications technologies and services and, in
addition, taking a leading role in the switchover to digital television.

Surely this money is supporting the public purpose outlined in f)? And surely that public purpose is just as important as the others?


One Response to “OFCOM PSB Review 8: “Core Purposes?””

  1. […] I’ve said before interpreting legal documents may seem boring – but asking people precisely what they mean and to […]

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