Churches say government must support public service broadcasting

 News, religion, science, children's television, programmes reflecting community and culture as well as other 'public service' content should be freely available on television, radio, internet and mobile phones. So says a joint response from the Church of England and the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales to a government inquiry. The submission also criticises Ofcom's decision to release ITV from some of its public service broadcasting obligations. It says: "The future of key areas of public service provision has been damaged by Ofcom's decision in 2005 to release ITV from obligations for local broadcasting and religious broadcasting. The future of ITV's children's programmes is also in question. ITV has not performed significantly better as a result of being released from these obligations as it had argued it would." The submission to the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee inquiry on public service media content, says that as television and radio programmes are increasingly found on the internet and on mobile phones, public service content should be as widely available as possible. The Government should give this their full support as part of a policy commitment to promoting and sustaining public service broadcasting. The bishops state: "It is vital in the interests of society as a whole that citizens and consumers have access to strong and vibrant public service content on all media platforms. The delivery of education and information in ways that are independent of particular commercial interests is of particular importance. "Restricting public service content from any platform also limits younger peoples' access to public service content as they increasingly use the internet as a source of news." The submission affirms the role of public service broadcasting whether through publicly-funded or commercial channels in providing a wide variety of programme types aimed at providing information, education and entertainment. Arguing that "The benefits of public service content derive from its comprehensive character," the submission calls for public service media content to retain the widest range of programme types, including religion. The bishops cite numerous benefits: "Public service content contributes to social cohesion, producing better informed citizens and promoting understanding between people, while also providing entertainment. In an increasingly diverse population, these benefits are vital to civil society." The Rt Revd Nigel McCulloch is the Church of England's senior spokesman on Communications and a member of the House of Lord's Select Committee on the BBC Charter which reported in 2005 and 2006. The Rt Revd John Arnold is the Chair of the Strategic Communications Board of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales. The Joint submission was signed by Bishop John Arnold, Chair of the Strategic Communications Board, Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales and The Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Revd Nigel McCulloch, Senior Church of England spokesman on communications. Source: CoE Comms

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