1.1 The current BBC Royal Charter and Agreement, which came into effect on 1 January 2007, included the setting up of a Public Value Test (PVT) regime to assess whether the BBC’s proposals to launch new services in future – or to amend existing services – would be in the wider public interest.
1.2 The decision as to whether to authorise the proposed services sits with the BBC Trust (the Trust). In reaching its conclusions, the Trust must take into account the findings of two separate reviews. The first – the Public Value Assessment (PVA) – is commissioned by the Trust directly and seeks to assess the broader public value of the proposed service to UK citizens and consumers. The second – conducted by Ofcom – is a Market Impact Assessment (MIA). The purpose of an Ofcom MIA is to assess the likely impact of the proposed services on products and services which are substitutes or complements to the proposed BBC service.
1.3 This document sets out the findings of Ofcom’s third MIA to be carried out in the context of the new PVT regime. It considers the market impact of the BBC’s proposed Gaelic Digital Service (GDS), based on a partnership with the Gaelic Media Service (GMS). Where we refer in this document to the BBC-proposed GDS this is in the full knowledge that the proposal is based on this partnership. The MIA has been conducted in accordance with the GDS MIA Terms of Reference, and with the MIA methodology agreed between Ofcom and the BBC Trust.
1.4 In July 2007, the BBC Executive applied to the BBC Trust for permission to introduce a new GDS. This application built upon a co-funding agreement between t he BBC Executive and GMS to provide the Gaelic Digital Service – drawing on content from the BBC and a variety of other providers.
1.5 The proposal is to launch a dedicated digital TV channel in Gaelic – on-air for up to seven hours per day (concentrated in, but not confined to, late afternoons and evenings). This would comprise 1.5 hours per day of originated programming (including existing output from the BBC ), narrative repeats and archive content. The service would also draw on BBC Radio nan Gàidheal as a sustaining service when the TV channel is off-air. There would also be significantly enhanced Gaelic content for users of bbc.co.uk. The service would be mixed-genre – including the daily news and weather in Gaelic.
1.6 The stated intention is for at least half of the programme fund contributed by GMS to be spent in the independent sector. It is further intended that, in due course, up to 50 per cent of non-news and current affairs programmes on the TV channel would come from independent producers, subject to a sufficiently developed independent Gaelic production base. The content supply strategy would be formulated after further negotiation with key stakeholders.
1.7 It was expected that the service would launch before the end of March 2008. It would be available, in the first instance, on satellite and broadband and on digital cable later in 2008. Distribution on digital terrestrial television would be in Scotland only and would come with digital switchover.
1.8 Following completion of digital switchover, the existing regular Gaelic zones on BBC Two would be withdrawn. The BBC and GMS would continue to provide programming to the Gaelic digital channel TeleG for the duration of TeleG’s licence unless a decision were to be taken by Government to vary the terms of that licence. The licence, as currently defined, expires in 2010.
1.9 The proposed Gaelic Digital Service would be licensed and regulated by the BBC Trust, and would be subject also to Ofcom regulation to the same extent as any other BBC service. The BBC proposes to manage the service jointly with GMS, although ultimate responsibility for editorial standards would rest with the Director-General of the BBC .
1.10 The MIA was carried out in accordance with the methodology agreed between the BBC Trust and Ofcom. In accordance with paragraphs 2.14-2.15 of that document [ (-1-)], Ofcom considered that a simplified approach was appropriate in this case since:
1.11 However we advised that if consultation responses or further Ofcom analysis highlighted significant issues or concerns, then Ofcom would consider whether the simplified approach was still appropriate or whether a full MIA was required with an extension to the timetable.
1.12 Although no stakeholder disagreed with the simplified MIA proposal (see Section 4) and there was strong support in principle for the GDS, some stakeholders raised issues. Some were outwith the remit of the MIA, but others required further analysis and clarification. This resulted in a three-week extension to the timetable for the MIA, to ensure that questions raised by stakeholders were given due consideration.
1.13 Our assessment of the likely market impact of this service has been based on:
1.14 Our analysis has also drawn on the work of the BBC Executive. Throughout our analysis, we have maintained regular communication with the BBC Trust Unit, with the aim of ensuring that the PVA and the Ofcom MIA are based on a broadly consistent set of assumptions, and that the PVA and MIA both provide evidence on all relevant issues.
1.15 The aim of Ofcom’s MIA is to identify any significant market impacts arising from the BBC proposal. We seek to identify ways in which other services are likely to be affected by the BBC proposal, both positively and negatively. An important aspect of this assessment is the impact on content producers for the proposed new service.
1.16 Gaelic TV programming is currently transmitted by BBC Scotland, stv and the TeleG service. GMS funds programmes for transmission by all three providers while the BBC and stv also fund their own Gaelic programming. GMS was established under the Communications Act 2003 to ensure that a wide and diverse range of high quality programmes in Gaelic is broadcast or otherwise transmitted so as to be available to people in Scotland. GMS’s budget is set and administered by the Scottish Government. It has long been an ambition of GMS to have a dedicated Gaelic digital channel and considerable work has been undertaken in the past on the proposal. [ (-2-)] A more detailed background to Gaelic broadcasting is described in Section 3.
1.17 Ofcom’s Terms of Reference document noted that the following products and services could be affected by the launch of the BBC GDS:
1.18 Ofcom concludes that there are very significant positive market impacts arising from the proposal, most notably in the net increase in scale it will bring to the Gaelic media sector, which should involve an increase in market opportunities for a number of players, as well as wider benefits. However, Ofcom also notes the significant concerns of potential suppliers to the GDS about commissioning processes and protocols. We make a number of recommendations to the Trust to ensure that there is transparency in these processes and that the GDS is encouraged to play its part in further developing a diverse and creative production base for the Gaelic media sector.
The full document is available below
1.- Ofcom, Methodology for Market Impact Assessments of BBC services; published 22 May 2007.
2.- The Milne Report (2000) recommended a Gaelic television channel on digital television.