Unions condemn top-slicing

A BECTU and NUJ motion condemning BBC Licence fee top-slicing has received the support of TUC delegates.

The motion, on public service broadcasting and copyright piracy, was agreed at the TUC annual conference in Liverpool today:

Congress notes the publication of the Digital Britain report sets out the Government’s vision for the future of the broadcasting industry.

Congress believes the report is a woefully inadequate response to the crisis facing public service broadcasting, which has seen thousands of jobs axed at the BBC and ITV, and the halving of local and regional news at ITV. Congress condemns the proposal to top-slice the licence fee. Congress believes the licence fee should be used exclusively to fund public service broadcasting at the BBC.

Congress believes that the crisis can only be addressed by raising new funds to support public service broadcasting and local media. Congress welcomes the publication of the joint NUJ/BECTU report Mind The Funding Gap, which demonstrates that industry levies, as used in 27 other European countries, alongside the use of regulatory assets, can meet the funding shortfall.

Congress instructs the General Council to:

  • campaign actively against the top-slicing of the licence fee
  • lobby for alternative funding mechanisms for public service broadcasting, in particular for the use of industry levies to ensure a quality local and regional news service can be maintained and developed on ITV

Congress notes the growing problem of internet piracy and illegal online file sharing and believes this also represents a significant threat to jobs in the creative industries, including the audiovisual, music and publishing sectors.

Congress recognises:

  1. the creative industries contribute an estimated 8 per cent to UK GDP and provide an estimated 1.8 million jobs
  2. the illegal downloading of digital material is widespread and growing, with an estimated 98 million illegal downloads of films and more than one billion illegal downloads of music in 2007
  3. up to 800,000 jobs have been estimated to be at risk in the creative industries, including the jobs of many unionised workers in this area

Congress believes:

  1. internet service providers should now be required to take stronger action against the illegal distribution of content over their networks
  2. internet service providers should therefore be required to send warning notices to offenders and to take additional graduated technical measures to prevent illegal downloading by individuals who ignore multiple warnings
  3. that, in contrast to Digital Britain’s emphasis on legal measures as the first resort (requiring rights holders to sue individual offenders), such technical measures should be given priority

Congress believes this is an issue of preserving workers’ jobs and that internet service providers should not be allowed to pursue their ruthless commercial interests under the cover of false and misleading justifications based on freedom of information.

Congress therefore calls on the General Council to campaign for the Government to take early and effective action to introduce and implement such measures.

The motion was moved by the NUJ and seconded by BECTU.

15 September 2009