The coalition agreement: culture, Olympics, media and sport

Welcome to the fifth in a series of posts going through the full coalition agreement section by section. You can read the full coalition document here.

It’s rather a mouthful of a title for this section of the coalition agreement, but it reflects the diverse remit of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Almost inevitably it is made up of a disparate shopping list of policies without any clear thread running through them.

The list includes the not exactly controversial (Make a success of the Olympics! Make a success of other sports events! Try to get more sports events!) through supporting the status quo (including maintaining free entry to national museums and galleries – one of the best acts of the Labour government) to the worthy (make use of cash in dormant betting accounts to improve local sports facilities).

The BBC’s future gets a careful cross-party compromise: “We will maintain the independence of the BBC, and give the National Audit Office full access to the BBC’s accounts to ensure transparency”. On the controversial issue of cross-media ownership, the agreement says, “we will enable partnerships between local newspapers, radio and television stations to promote a strong and diverse local media industry”. In other words, we’ll allow lots of takeovers.

There is a touch of traditional Conservatism in the encouragement of more competition in schools sports, but married to a traditional cross-party concern to protect playing fields. Mind you, if promises to protect playing fields were enough, our playing fields would be now be the Fort Knox of the world’s green spaces.

The National Lottery comes in for some changes, with limits on administration costs, a ban on lobbying (no more National Lottery stands at party conferences) and greater concentration of Lottery funds on sports, arts and heritage.

Possibly the most radical proposal is that for football clubs with the encouragement of “reform of football governance rules to support the co-operative ownership of football clubs by supporters”. It’s not an issue that rates high on most people’s lists of political priorities, but we could be about to see a burst of mutualism in a sector that deeply affects many people’s lives.

Notable by its absence in this section (and more generally from the document) is any reference to the Digital Economy Act, though there is a promise to cut the red tape that restricts live music performances and also a plan to speed up the roll-out of superfast broadband  with money taken from the digital switchover fund if necessary.

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