Professional Studies for Screen-Based Media
Foundation Degree South West
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Media Law

Broadcasting Acts

There are two Broadcasting Acts in existence at the current time; the Broadcasting Acts of 1990 and 1996. It is important to be aware of what is contained within these and below is a brief summary of what implementation of the Acts has meant for the media industry.

The Broadcasting Act 1990

This broadcasting act has to some extent been superseded by the Government's White Paper on Communications, because anything taken from that paper will be turned into a new Act of Parliament. However, this Act began the first steps to deregulation in British Broadcasting and reversed restrictions imposed on ownership of ITV franchises. The main points of the 1990 Act were:

  • This act required all ITV franchises to be put up for sale and to be awarded partly on financial grounds.
  • New ITV regional franchises mandated to give 25% of their production to independent producers.
  • ITV network centre established to commission programmes from the franchise holders on to the national ITV network.
  • Independent Television Commission set up to regulate all TV services in the UK, with the exception of the BBC.
  • For first time Channel4 to sell own advertising and ITV monopoly on advertising sales was lost.
  • Channel 5 was last conventional terrestrial TV channel to set up in 1997 before digital explosion, to provide same strand of programming at the same time every day, each week.
  • TV licence is a tax on all owners of a TV set. Fee set by government and to be renewed by an Act of Parliament.
  • Corporation's right to be funded by licence fee renewed, but situation insecure.
  • BBC set up internal market as Producer Choice, where producers must also be managers and shop around for cheapest facilities rather than accept those providing by corporation itself.
  • Discusses different ways of paying for TV viewing as things are changing, ie. pay per view and subscription.
  • The establishment of the BCC and the BSC
  • The Obscene Publications Act 1959 applied to broadcast services
  • The Criminal Justic and Public Order Act 1986 (racial hatred) is modified to ensure it applies to programme services and the Public Order (Northern Ireland) 1987

The Broadcasting Act 1996

This Act establishes regimes for the Introduction of digital terrestrial broadcasting, and media ownership guidelines established in 1990. The first two parts of this Act establish a regulatory framework for broadcasting development; the first part is applicable to television and the second to radio. The third part of the 1996 Act makes changes to the 1990 Act.

Part four sets out a clause ensuring that the licence fee paying public have the right to see certain `listed' sporting events at no extra cost. This clause was added following an uproar following BSkyB's strategy to buy Manchester United.

Part five sets out the merger of the Broadcasting Standards Council and the Broadcasting Complaints Commission form the Broadcasting Standards Commission.

Part six covers the transfer of property, rights and liabilities relating to the BBC networks and states that the BBC has three main tasks:

  • to produce codes of practice relating to standards and fairness
  • consider and adjudicate on complaints
  • monitor, research and report on standards and fairness in broadcasting

Part seven deals with copyright and related matters and part eight lists miscellaneous provisions.