Select committee report recommends that Ofcom should regulate BBC and take over power from media secretary to veto or allow new channels
The government is to come under further pressure to curtail the powers of the BBC governors this week, following the publication of the Commons' media select committee report into the white paper, which recommends that the BBC should be regulated by Ofcom.

The select committee, which publishes its report today (15 March), will recommend that Ofcom should be the backstop regulator for the BBC, as well as for commercial channels.

The report is also understood to say powers to approve new BBC channels, at present exercised by the media secretary, should be handed over to Ofcom.

The recommendations echo the widely held view of commercial broadcasters, including ITV, BSkyB, Channel 4, Channel 5 and the radio industry.

In their separate submissions to the white paper last month, they all railed against its suggestions that the BBC governors' remit should remain virtually intact.

Under the white paper's current proposals Ofcom will lay down the basic rules on minimum content standards, impartiality in news and act as a final backstop for complaints for all broadcasters, including the BBC.

In addition, it will regulate independent and original production quotas, regional production requirements and the provision of news and current affairs in peak times for public service broadcasters.

Media secretary Chris Smith has argued that the public service provision of high quality, varied schedules should be self-regulated, with backstop approval powers for commercial broadcasters resting with Ofcom and, in the case of the BBC, with the media secretary.

Other recommendations in the select committee report include a number of changes to the existing cross-media ownership laws - something left almost untouched by the white paper - including the scrapping of restraints on radio ownership and a relaxation of the rules of ITV ownership.

However, the select committee is expected to report that while controls on television should be relaxed, the original conditions of a licence - regional content and other provisions - should stay even in the event of a single ITV.

The committee is understood to have rejected the case for as much as 15 per cent of the BBC's licence fee being sliced off and allocated to other public service broadcasters.

However, the report is strongly in favour of a fund to encourage community broadcasting. The committee is understood to believe that community broadcasting has been neglected and should be encouraged.

The report is believed to be unclear on where the money should come from, although

taking some from the licence fee has not been ruled out.

The report calls for more to be done to speed up the switch from analogue to digital television. It urges ministers and the industry to do more to make the public aware of the advantages of digital and of precisely what it is through a joint government and industry leaflet campaign. It will ask the government to do more to promote the introduction of broadband television.

The committee also recommends a single government communications department to oversee Ofcom and across-the-board broadcasting and telecommunications policy.

No changes are expected to be proposed for the structure of C4.