UK Media Regulator Set to Review Cross-Promotion Rules

06 July 2005

Stephen Carter, chief executive of Ofcom, the government-created media regulator, was in Scotland's capital Edinburgh on Monday night.

Not, like millions of other to protest and exert pressure on the G8 Summit leaders at nearby Gleneagles, but to deliver a message of empathy to Britain's struggling commercial radio broadcasters.

Addressing the Guardian Media Group lecture at the Radio Festival, Carter suggested he would lend a sympathetic ear to requests to permit cross-promotion between TV and radio stations with common ownership.

Under the present rules, the state-owned BBC is allowed to cross-promote to its heart's content. Not so the commercial sector - a curious decision, the reasons for which are lost in the fog of time and legislative obfuscation.

It was likely of scant consolation to his audience that Carter considers the BBC a "great content aggregator" that should be allowed to continue cross-promoting "if it is of genuine value to licence fee payers".

Cross-promotion of BBC programmes and products is one of the commercial radio sector's biggest beefs against the corporation - whose national and local stations currently hold a 54% share of the UK radio audience

However, chins jerked upward from chests as festival attendees' heard the regulator's magic words: "If commercial TV wants to cross-promote commercial radio that is part of the same group, then that too can be building public value and we will review the rules we inherited to see whether there are unnecessary obstacles to reasonable cross-promotion."

In post-speech comments to the press, Carter opined that BBC cross-promotion is "not ipso facto a bad thing" - then added the significant rider that restrictions on commercial players "do not seem fair".

During his formal address, the Ofcom ceo again exposed his empire-building ambitions. The regulator, he said, should be allowed to carry out market impact assessments of the BBC's services if substantial changes were made to its station's formats.

Ofcom - as an independent regulator - and not the BBC's proposed new trust should analyse the corporation's impact on the radio industry at large, Carter proselytised. "The BBC trust is by definition not an independent regulator," he said.

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff