Charities call on government to protect world news coverage

 CAFOD and other leading development and environment charities are calling on the government to ensure that broadcasters cover international issues. In the UK, since the 1990s, there has been a 50 per cent drop in programmes on the developing world. On the day the government unveiled its draft Communications Bill, the Third World and Environment Broadcasting Project, (3WE) coalition, which includes CAFOD, Oxfam, Christian Aid, VSO, Unicef-UK, Save the Children and the RSPB, released a five-point plan to stop the further erosion of overseas news and current affairs programmes. "After the events of September 11 - not to mention global warming, transmigration, the interdependence of trade and economics, the end of arms control and the spread of epidemic disease - it is now common sense that globalisation is affecting all aspects of our lives," said 3WE co-ordinator Don Redding. "It should therefore be part of the public service required from broadcasters to make information and knowledge about the wider world available to UK citizens. News snippets alone are not enough for us to make sense of the world - we need a broader range of facts and knowledge which other genres of factual programming can provide." The charities say the Bill should make good the government's promise that communications reform will be in the interests of citizens, not just those of the media industry. They call for the following measures: The inclusion of 'international issues' within the menu of factual programming in the public service remit. Specific channel remits to be given to each BBC TV channel - to ensure each channel has a clear purpose, and that the BBC cannot dump its key public commitments onto minority services. A range of graded powers available to the regulators (OFCOM and the government) to enforce the public service obligations. OFCOM to have the 'protection of citizens' interests' as part of its function and therefore to prioritise (among its broad range of duties) the active regulation of positive content requirements in broadcasting. OFCOM to be advised by a statutory 'Citizenship Panel' able to comment on public service broadcasting issues and to assist OFCOM in creating innovation in new communications services. In the UK, 85 per cent of people cite television as their primary source of information on developing countries (DFID, 2000), a figure unchanged since the mid-80s.

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