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Should the BBC be in charge of Community Media?

Should the BBC be in charge of Community Media? The BBC has announced that it is planning a "radical new offer to licence-payers". They say : "By the middle of the next decade, we want to create a chain of BBC Open Centres in high streets across the country. The Centres would be the bases from which we will make and broadcast local radio and a new local online service and local digital text".

"At an even more local level, we have a vision of community media for the digital age, building on the expertise the BBC has gained from projects like Video Diaries and Video Nation to work with local communities and empower them to take advantage of the new media."

The quotes above are from "The Future Funding of the BBC - the BBC responds" ( the BBC reply to the recent Davis report, an investigation into future funding possibilities for the BBC) The report is available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/info/bbc/pdf/dcms2.pdf

The CMA welcomes BBC support in promoting community media and can see a number of ways in which the BBC could play a role but this should not be at the expense of community media's independence and local accountability. Unfortunately the BBC proposals make no reference to existing community media and they display an absence of serious research into community media in practice. Instead the BBC appears to propose a top-down approach to community media development which could cut across and be in competition with genuine community media services operated by, as well as for, local communities.

The BBC proposals ignore the fact that there is already a vibrant and growing UK community media sector serving diverse communities and including community radio and television services, community-based on-line networks and information services, and other independent community-based media organisations with public service objectives and not run for profit. The

CMA has written to the Secretary of State, Chris Smith concerning the BBC proposals to get involved in community media. (for a copy of this letter, please go to http://www.commedia.org.uk/campaigns.html)

If you are concerned about this issue please write to Chris Smith making similar points to those contained here. We also recommend you raise this issue with your local MP. Please keep the CMA informed of any responses you receive.

This issue is also being discussed on the BBC Online Communities discussion forum @ http://www.bbc.co.uk/cgi-bin/forums/cgi?fid=271&pg=forum and on the CMA discussion list.

BECTU's response is @ http://www.bectu.org.uk/policy/pol023.html