Britain's commercial television regulator, the Independent Television Commission, is probing the TV production industry after claims that independent producers are treated unfairly.

The urgent inquiry, ordered by culture, media and sport secretary Tessa Jowell, is a response to concerns raised by the Parliamentary Joint Scrutiny Committee studying the government’s draft Communications Bill.

The committee, chaired by former film producer Lord Puttnam, is worried that broadcasters do not deal with independent producers enough. If the ITC finds that the market is unfair, it will pass evidence onto competition authorities and relevant changes may be made to the Communications Bill.

The BBC, which does not fall within the jurisdiction of the ITC, gave the enquiry a cautious welcome, saying that it raised “many important issues on which it is right that there should be the widest possible debate”.

This response is seen by observers as mealy-mouthed, given that in its 2001–2002 business year the publicly owned BBC failed to hit its quota of commissioning 25% of programmes from independent producers. It is not, recently opined director general Greg Dyke, the corporation’s job to “make a large number of independent producers extremely rich”.

Meanwhile, Jowell remains unmoved by the committee’s concerns over the opening up of commercial broadcasting to non-EU firms. This, she said, in true democratic mode, was “a decision, not a proposal”.

Data sourced from: The Times (London); additional content by WARC staff