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BBC to be excluded from Equality Bill

Ministers plan to exclude most of the BBC from the new Equality Bill, despite press reports throughout 2009 suggesting that major broadcasters would be covered.

Baroness Janet Royall, Labour’s leader in the House of Lords, has revealed that the government plan to “explicitly exclude their broadcasting and output functions” from the new equalities legislation.

That means that the vast majority of the BBC and Channel 4 – which are dedicated to producing TV and radio content – will not be subject to a new “public duty” setting down standards for race and other forms of equalities.

Speaking to the Lords before the Christmas recess, Baroness Royall said: “We have no intention of encroaching on public service broadcasters’ editorial independence. It is our view that broadcasting output and editorial functions are not public functions for the purposes of the Bill.”

The Conservatives have led the charge against the Equality Bill covering the broadcast industry, with shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt claiming that individual TV programmes would be forced to change their output to meet “PC quotas.”

However some experts believe that the Bill would make a difference ensuring equality in the workforce. Campaigners believed that the BBC and ITV would be covered so that staff are protected from discrimination.

It is highly unlikely that the BBC would, for example, find itself in court over not having any Black or disabled presenters on Top Gear. And it would be inconceivable that the Bill would be used to moderate the laddish behaviour of Jeremy Clarkson et al.

The Bill would, however, make programme makers more conscious of the diversity of their audience which is no bad thing considering how undiverse the world of TV production current is.

By Lester Holloway

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