BSAC urges reform of media competition laws

Claims media regulator Ofcom is "no longer fit for purpose"

LONDON -- The U.K. needs a fresh approach to its competition laws if the audiovisual sector is to flourish over the coming years, according to a report Monday.

The findings, published by the influential British Screen Advisory Council (BSAC), calls on the British government to redefine "public interest" with a more flexible approach and claims media regulator Ofcom is "no longer fit for purpose."

BSAC says the current competition laws "automatically discourage the emergence of larger U.K. content companies as potential drivers of wider consumer choice, innovation and plurality in the new broadband democracy."

The paper claims the audiovisual sector here --spanning film, TV, Internet videos, games and social media -- needs a "fast-track, unified approach to decisions regarding mergers and cases of abuse of dominant position."

Ofcom "under its current structure and remit is no longer fit for purpose," and needs to be reconstituted in order to become capable of delivering a rapid response to evolving markets as an economic regulator.

Going forward, Ofcom intervention must be based on an in-depth understanding of the whole audiovisual economy, not just on broadcasting.

The report comes amid changes emerging in the new behaviour patterns enabled by "an unprecedented choice of communication services" using a variety of established and fresh digital technologies. "The global democratisation in content creation and dissemination has only just begun and the U.K. must be part of it," BSAC claims.

Audiovisual content is the single most important driver of growth in the U.K.'s communication sector, which generated total revenues of £51.8 billion ($84 billion) in 2008, BSAC said.

Key BSAC industry figures providing input into the report included Fiona Clarke-Hackston, Mark Cranwell, Carolyn Fairbairn, Stephen Garrett, Rupert Gavin, Fred Hasson, Roly Keating, Tom Loosemore, Bertrand Moullier, Jon Pettigrew, Adam Singer and Tim Suter.