Memorandum submitted by
Telewest, General Cable and Cable & Wireless Communications
The Parliamentary Channel Ltd was created in
1992 by the UK Cable Industry to supply cable exclusive coverage
to its customers of the proceedings of the House of Commons.
The founding principle of the service was to
provide uninterrupted, live coverage of Parliament. The service
was not created by the cable operators as a money making venture;
hence its "not for profit" status. The Parliamentary
Channel has a public service role of making Parliament and its
workings accessible to the general public. By relying on its cable
shareholders for distribution and financial support, the channel
has in part achieved its mandate, given the existing level of
coverage of cable networks in the UK.
Further background is provided in the management
briefing paper attached.
In the Autumn of 1997 the Parliamentary Channel
members realised that continued commercial pressure, the advent
of digital, and possible competition from other sources meant
a strategic review of the aims and goals of the channel was needed.
In the debates that followed, a majority of
the members agreed that certain principles were desirable:
A commitment to the continuing provision
of Parliamentary coverage to cable customers.
Provision of a service that was valuable
Use of the channel to extend initiatives
in the area of education.
Preparation of the channel for digital
and widening of the scope of the service to include enhanced and
The shareholders in the Channel recognised that
to accomplish these goals higher levels of investment would be
needed. Partners and possible channel providers were approached
to test the interest in working with the cable industry to ensure
the future and development of the Parliamentary Channel. At the
time of continuing uncertainty during these debates, Flextech
resigned from their contract to manage the Channel and subsequently
extended their notice to be effective from the Parliamentary summer
recess. Consequently, alternatives to operating the channel needed
to be reviewed. Out of the three programmers approached by The
Parliamentary Channel, a final decision was made to work with
the BBC on the development of Parliamentary coverage.
Any proposal was tested against the following
History of programming and distribution
Maintenance of the core programming
obligations and development of the service.
Ability to work with the cable industry
to develop educational and other ancillary opportunities.
Willingness to make a long term commitment
in which commercial advantage was not prime.
Stability in provision of service.
The BBC proposal was accepted on the basis that
are best placed to continue and further
the programming obligations of the Parliamentary Channel;
has the experience and ability to
develop the service with a public service focus;
can expand the coverage of the channel
to wider audience; and
are a pre-eminent publishers of educational
content in the UK.
The majority of the cable industry is committed
to contracting and carrying a BBC Parliamentary Service this Autumn.
The cable industry's decision fulfils its commitment to providing
its customers with a Parliamentary television service and ensures
the channel's continued growth and development. Additionally,
the cable industry has guaranteed cable's continued involvement
in the future of the service through educational and other initiatives
with the BBC.