«57th MEETING OF THE OFCOM ADVISORY COMMITTEE FOR WALES Wednesday, 3 February 2016 MINUTES Present: John Davies (Chairman) Aled Eirug (Content Board ...»
57th MEETING OF THE
OFCOM ADVISORY COMMITTEE FOR WALES
Wednesday, 3 February 2016
John Davies (Chairman)
Aled Eirug (Content Board Member for Wales)
Glyn Mathias (Member)
Nerys Evans (Member)
Hywel Wiliam (Member)
Huw Roberts (Member)
Karen Lewis (Member)
Jason Bryant - Executive Chairman, Nation Broadcasting Ltd Martin Mumford – Managing Director, Nation Broadcasting Ltd
Rhys Evans (Communications Consumer Panel Member for Wales)
Cardiff Rhodri Williams, Director, Wales Elinor Williams, Regulatory Affairs Manager, Wales Nia Thomas, Regulatory Affairs Advisor, Wales London Mark Sweeney, Director of Government and Parliamentary Business – via videoconference Liz Bates – Principal, Policy Development; Neil Pratt – Economic Director; Olivia Thompson – Legal Advisor; Sophie Richings – Associate, Policy Development Huw Saunders – Director Network Infrastructure Neil Stock – Head of Radio Policy; Matthew Bourne – Programme Executive, Content Policy Ed Leighton – Associate, Strategy; Alastair Goff – Graduate, Strategy Rebecca Taylor – Strategy Analyst; Ian Macrae – Principal, Strategy; Puja Kalaria – Associate, Strategy; David Michels – Graduate, Strategy; Andrew Scoones – Senior Associate, Government and Parliamentary Business
Dilip Roy – Legal Advisor Item 1: Chairman’s Introduction & Apologies for Absence
1. The Chairman, John Davies, welcomed Members and Ofcom staff to the 57th meeting of the Ofcom Advisory Committee for Wales (ACW). Apologies were received from Rhys Evans (Communications Consumer Panel Member for Wales). It was noted that Mark Sweeney (Director of Government and Parliamentary Business) would be present via videoconference.
2. The Chairman welcomed Aled Eirug, Content Board Member for Wales, to his first meeting.
His appointment was made effective from 1 December 2015.
3. The Chairman noted some last-minute changes to the agenda.
Item 2: Minutes of the 56th Meeting & Matters Arising
4. The Minutes of the 56th meeting of the Ofcom Advisory Committee for Wales were reviewed and approved as a true and correct record of proceedings.
5. The actions from the previous meeting were reviewed. Matters arising/outstanding were as follows:ACW 56 (15) Minute 38 – Nerys Evans thanked NT for providing the information on male to female ratio within Ofcom. She requested further information on the senior management target. ACTION: NT to send information to NE.
7. ACW 55 (15) Minute 56 – Huw Roberts informed Members that he is yet to meet with the Channel 4 news team and asked to carry forward the action. ACTION: Carry forward actio
Item 3: Chairman’s Report
8. The Chairman provided an oral update since the last Advisory Committee for Wales meeting in November.
9. He reported that the meeting between Ofcom, the four mobile network operators and Assembly Member for Montgomeryshire, Russell George, which took place in Newtown on 13 November, was extremely beneficial for all involved. He added that Elinor Williams would discuss the outcome of the meeting in more detail during item 7.
10. The Chairman highlighted the success of Ofcom’s Proposed Annual Plan stakeholder event in Cardiff on 26 January which he said was well attended. He noted some of the matters raised during the discussion which included the take-up of broadband being as important as its availability and concerns regarding the transmission of BBC Radio Wales and BBC Radio Cymru in Mid Wales.
11. Members were given details of the Nations Committee which took place in December. The Chairman said that the Committee discussed the function of the meeting and it was agreed that Members would appreciate more clarity on the advice given to and for the nations. He noted that Channel 4 delivered the same presentation to the Nations Committee as was provided at the last ACW meeting and that the definition of the Government broadband USO was discussed.
12. The Chairman made reference to the item on spectrum which he said was both interesting and useful. He suggested that ACW members may be interested in seeing the slides.
ACTION: NT to circulate slides on spectrum to ACW Members.
13. He informed Members that he had written to Chair of the Nations Committee, Dame Lynne Brindley, outlining his views regarding the BT/Openreach split which is being considered as part of Ofcom’s Strategic Review of Digital Communications. He said he was advised by the Chair to attend a meeting with Clive Carter and Steve Unger, which he said had now taken place.
14. The Chairman extended his thanks and appreciation on behalf of the Committee to Graham Howell, Secretary to the Corporation, who would be leaving Ofcom in March. He noted that Graham has been with Ofcom since its formation twelve years ago.
Item 4: Report – Communications Consumer Panel Member for Wales
15. In Rhys Evans’ absence, the Chairman said that the Communications Consumer Panel has started the process of creating a new work plan and that ACW Members are welcome to provide their input to the plan. ACTION: Circulate work plan to ACW Members.
Item 5: Discussion – Policy and Management Board meeting
16. Elinor Williams informed Members that Ofcom’s Policy and Management Board would be holding its meeting at the Cardiff office on 11 February and that the ACW has been invited to discuss three of the main issues for Wales for the forthcoming year.
17. The Chairman, John Davies, highlighted his three main priorities; plurality of media coverage, mobile coverage and the implementation of the new Welsh Language Standards. He asked the Committee for their views on his proposals. Members agreed with the three priorities.
18. Karen Lewis asked for more details on the Welsh Language Commissioner’s proposals and John Davies briefly explained what the new Standards could mean for Ofcom.
19. Elinor Williams noted that the Welsh Language Standards in Round 2 would be debated at the National Assembly for Wales on 9 February. She said that the Welsh Language Commissioner would then proceed with formulating the compliance notices for the 32 named organisations, including Ofcom, stipulating which standards they are required to provide in Welsh. She said that each organisation would then have an opportunity to provide detailed evidence in support of, or challenging the standards (on the grounds that they are disproportionate and/or unreasonable) outlined in the compliance notice.
20. Aled Eirug asked whether Ofcom has discussed the Standards with other organisations in Round 2 whose headquarters are in London but have offices in Wales. He suggested that discussions with organisations in a similar position could be useful for Ofcom.
21. The Chairman raised the Committee’s awareness to how the Standards could mean an increase in work load for the team in Wales and would have cost implications for Ofcom.
22. The Committee agreed to discuss media plurality first at the PMB meeting followed by media coverage and then Welsh language matters. Elinor Williams added that she would be addressing PMB on the Welsh Language Standards in an individual item.
Item 6: Feedback – Huw Roberts on the Postal Review
23. Huw Roberts informed the Committee that he had met with Chris Rowsell, Competition Policy Director, and project director of the Review of the Regulation of the Royal Mail, to provide some input and advice. He noted that the meeting was extremely useful for both parties.
24. Huw noted that one part of the review focuses on the concerns regarding end-to-end letter delivery following the departure of Royal Mail’s only rival competitor, Whistl.
25. He explained that Ofcom is concerned that Royal Mail has ramped up prices for the delivery of post in rural parts of the UK instead of considering bringing down the prices where Whistl was providing its service. He said it is concerning that Royal Mail is using pricing powers to affect the price of competition.
26. He told the Committee that he had made Chris aware of Wales’ tradition of distant selling in view of the overall sparsity of population which exists in Wales. He suggested that while there is an increase in sales through the effective deployment of superfast broadband across Wales, he is concerned about a reduction in the capacity to deliver the goods.
27. He noted that Chris considers distant selling as a characteristic which is common in rural England and Scotland and is not an issue that’s exclusive to Wales, but added that Wales could provide an exemplar of what could go wrong and what could happen.
28. Huw noted that the discussion also focussed on parcel regulation and said that both he and Chris agreed that more could be done to ensure efficient competition in the parcel sector.
He said that Ofcom recognises that, under the current policy, Royal Mail could start charging differentially to where they deliver which could have a significant impact on small businesses in Wales.
29. Finally, he told the Committee that he had drawn Chris’ attention to the deployment of superfast broadband in Cornwall and explained that he and John Davies are on the Welsh Government Superfast Broadband Business Exploitation Programme. He said he had suggested to Chris that Ofcom could benefit from finding out more about how the roll-out is working in Cornwall.
30. The Chairman asked whether the project team conducting the review considers Royal Mail as a natural monopoly following its privatisation. Huw noted that the team is considering all the issues carefully and would be ready to inform Government if the evidence grew to suggest that competition was being distorted.
Item 7: Report – Director, Wales
31. Rhodri Williams, Director of Wales, had circulated his report ahead of the meeting which was taken as read.
32. In addition to the paper, Rhodri Williams discussed some of the recommendations made as part of the BBC Trust’s consultation on BBC Nations’ radio and news. He said the proposals include suggestions on ways to improve coverage of BBC Radio Cymru and BBC Radio Wales in parts of Mid Wales.
33. Hywel Wiliam asked whether there are any maps to show coverage of the services in Mid Wales. Rhodri said that he could share maps with Members to show how coverage might be improved. ACTION: RW to share maps with Members.
34. Karen Lewis suggested that Ofcom could carry out audience research in Mid Wales to find out whether BBC Radio Wales and BBC Radio Cymru are being prioritised by listeners over other BBC radio services in the area.
35. Rhodri discussed the content of the latest Welsh Government Next Generation Broadband in Wales meeting. He noted that more money has been made available with the extension of the two schemes; Access Broadband Cymru and the Ultrafast Connectivity Voucher Scheme.
36. He added that while there is a general feeling among members of the Board that broadband is being rolled out at a good rate, there are concerns regarding mobile coverage.
37. Members were informed of the agreement between the Government and the MNOs to review the Electronic Communications Code. He added that Carl Sargeant had recently written to Russell George AM asking for evidence from the MNOs regarding the current planning regime.
38. Elinor Williams proceeded to give a short update on the problems with mobile signals which made headlines in Newtown before Christmas. She emphasised that the problems are linked to capacity issues and not coverage and that EE are in the process of rolling out 4G in the area. She added that EE had agreed at the meeting in Newtown in November, to provide their customers with femtocells while they made their improvements. However, she informed Members that she has received evidence from customers who are still waiting for the femtocells.
39. The Committee was interested in hearing the latest position with regard to local TV following the departure of Made in Cardiff’s station manager, Bryn Roberts. Rhodri Williams noted that the operations in Mold and Swansea are due to launch shortly.
40. Hywel Wiliam asked whether the local TV operation in Mold is being extended to Wrexham.
Rhodri Williams confirmed that Comux is awaiting further information from the DCMS regarding the funding of the extension before making a decision.
41. The Committee asked for an update on the process to appoint a Welsh member to the Ofcom Board. Rhodri Williams said that the appointment is dependent on the Wales Bill. He added that the Board is happy to appoint members from all nations, however the timing of when this happens is out of Ofcom’s control.
42. Karen Lewis made reference to the Digital Communities Wales project and suggested that the Committee may enjoy learning more about the development of the project from a Welsh Government representative. She added that she would be interested in providing input to the Ofcom Media Literacy e-bulletin.
Item 8: Government Broadband USO
43. The Chairman welcomed the project team via videoconference. A paper providing information on the Government Broadband USO had been circulated ahead of the meeting.
The team welcomed any questions from Members.
44. Liz Bates informed Members that the team has been consulting and generating thoughts to inform Government. She added that they did not know at this stage how the USO will look.
45. Glyn Mathias asked about the speed requirement of the USO. Liz Bates said it will almost certainly be implemented with a download speed obligation of 10Mbit/s (the speed which Ofcom believes a typical household now requires) but added that the team is building an evidence base on other issues such as upload speed and latency.
46. There was a question on whether consumers without superfast broadband would be entitled to the 10Mbit/s speed or whether they would be obliged to pay extra for superfast broadband. Liz Bates said that the current focus is on those who cannot access 10Mbit/s.