Gerald Kaufman – member of the UK Parliament, minister in an earlier Labour administration and current chairman of the influential Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport – is not pleased.
Kaufman is famously pleased about very little. But on Tuesday he was not pleased with the government’s draft Communications Bill. And in particular, his magisterial displeasure was focussed on the way the bill exempts his particular bête noir, the British Broadcasting Corporation, from falling under the control of new ‘super-regulator’ Ofcom.
“We've got a dog's breakfast about the liability of BBC and Ofcom. Gavyn Davis [the BBC chairman] has tried to warn off Ofcom by announcing new rules for his governors. I don't think much of an organisation that makes its own rules about accountability,” he railed, urging that the state-owned broadcaster should be within the remit of Ofcom.
“There is a very strong argument that by 2006 the corporation could be amended into a new broadcasting act and that the licence fee should go. If there was a privatised BBC today Greg Dyke could find a solution to the collapse of ITV Digital that he so obviously wants.”
Kaufman then switched his Gorgon stare to the ITV Network, predicting that its future as a mass-market TV service was “doomed” even if the mooted merger between its two controlling shareholders, Carlton Communications and Granada Media takes place.
But then it came to pass that the Palace of Westminster beheld a miraculous phenomenon. From some Parliamentary Valhalla, a ray of sweetness and light shone down on Kaufman’s gleaming pate as he turned his attention to Rupert Murdoch – who apparently is not, Kaufman opined to his amazed listeners, the “ogre” that has haunted so many previous governments.
“It hasn't happened. On the air Sky News is an absolute paragon of respectability and Adam Boulton is perhaps the most respected news presenter on any channel.”
At which a shocked House adjourned to recuperate in the members’ tearoom or (more probably) Annie’s Bar.
Data sourced from: MediaGuardian.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff