THE BBC’s media coverage of the Isle of Man will come under the spotlight in the final sitting of Tynwald today in Douglas, including a suggestion that control of editorial content should not be handled from outside the Island.
A series of recommendations will be placed before the court following a lengthy period of consultation by a Select Committee under the chairmanship of Graham Cregeen MHK. The committee was originally created to look into the value for money the Isle of Man is receiving from the television licence fee.
Other ideas amongst the recommendations includes the suggestion that the BBC provides a daily audio-visual news service dedicated to Manx affairs which should be broadcast across the BBC’s British network and not just the north west of England.
The report also recommends to Tynwald that the Isle of Man should not consider withdrawing from the historic licence fee arrangement with the UK at this time. However, it suggests that Tynwald should instead concentrate its efforts on obtaining “value for money” from the BBC.
The report warns, however, that the issue of the BBC and its role in the Isle of Man should be kept under review, whilst not forgetting that there is “an overall shortfall of around £1 million per year in the BBC’s investment in the Isle of Man”.
The Select Committee has itemised the following priorities in future negotiations with the BBC:
• That the BBC should treat the Island as an independent nation in practice as well as in theory.
• That the BBC should provide ever more comprehensive coverage of Manx affairs across all its media and channels, and that this should include coverage of Manx affairs in BBC television news broadcast to our neighbours not only in the North West of England but also in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
• That the BBC should support the introduction of a daily audio-visual news service dedicated to Manx affairs which, whether it is delivered via the Internet or by some other means, viewers in the Isle of Man can access just as easily as they can access the regional television news from the North West of England.
• That, in order to get the most out of its television journalists based in the Isle of Man, the BBC should relax its policy on bespoke web video while at the same time taking steps to minimise any adverse impact on existing providers.
• That the BBC should continue to give practical support and assistance to Manx Radio and other broadcasters licensed in the Isle of Man.
• That the BBC should allow a greater degree of Manx-based editorial control over the Isle of Man pages of its website.
• That the BBC should follow through in practice its stated commitment to support the Manx language.
• That, subject to the continuing progression of DAB as a widely used platform, the BBC should support the introduction of a DAB multiplex to carry Manx Radio and other Manx stations.
• That the BBC should support any proposals made by or on behalf of Tynwald as to coverage of Manx parliamentary proceedings.
Tomorrow’s debate will also recommend that the Council of Ministers should consider and report to Tynwald with recommendations by January 2012 on:
(a) the level of resources devoted to broadcasting and media policy, which includes the specific responsibility of implementing the recommendations of this report and the general responsibility for “furthering the interests of the Island in the whole field of programme services”, which is currently a statutory responsibility of the Communications Commission.
(b) the question of whether these resources and responsibilities should continue to lie with the Communications Commission or be transferred to a Department of Government.
(c) the question of whether a Tynwald Member should continue to sit on the Communications Commission.