Call to scrap watchdog and make TV police itself

THE broadcasting regulator Ofcom should be abolished and replaced with a system of self-regulation paid for by the TV industry, the new president of the Society of Editors has said.

Daily Mail executive managing editor Robin Esser said that the "multiplicity of channels now available" meant that the "case for official regulation of TV in this country has long since gone".

He also told the society's annual conference in Glasgow yesterday that "democracy itself is in danger on a local, regional and national level in Britain" because new legislation, as well as "increasingly draconian and expensive laws of libel and privacy (were] eroding freedom of the press to an alarming extent".

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On Ofcom, he said: "The case for official regulation of TV in this country has long since gone with the multiplicity of channels now available.

"The UK government could save a lot of taxpayers' money by abolishing the broadcast regulator Ofcom altogether and encouraging a system of self-regulation which the industry itself should pay for."

He said: "Matters of cross ownership, plurality and media domination - such as the Murdoch bid to take total control of Sky - can and should be dealt with by the Competition Commission, which was created to investigate just this sort of problem.

"There is even a European competition commission. How many more bodies do we need at our expense to sort this important matter out?

"Statutory regulation of TV was based on the limited availability of bandwidth which created the need for licences. Today licences for journalism should have no place in a modern democratic society."

Mr Esser compared Ofcom's annual budget, which he said was 143 million, "much of it" coming from taxpayers, with the Press Complaints Commission's annual budget, which is under 2m, with no taxpayers' contribution.