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Lord Inglewood: Perhaps I may intervene. I confirm that we are already considering this matter in general terms and that we shall continue to do so. It is part of what I have described as the general terms of our discussion paper and is inherent in our considerations.

Lord Thomson of Monifieth: I agree very much with what was said by the noble Lord who spoke a moment or two ago. I deliberately strayed into this amendment earlier. In some ways it raises issues of equal importance in terms of the public interest. Nevertheless, I recognise that we are in an unusual position because of the failure of the Government--to put it as politely as possible--to deal with the sporting

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issues when drafting the original Bill. It is left to this Chamber to raise issues, well argued in the long preparation for this Bill and the new BBC Charter. As a result we have a series of new clauses which are very much Second Reading matters.

I wait to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Howell, has to say. I should not like the matter to pass from the Chamber without some acknowledgement of how much the issues are in the public interest. Certainly we must overcome any technical difficulties in order to ensure that unbundling--that dreadful word--is very much in the interest of the ordinary viewer of terrestrial channels.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Howell: I apologise to the Committee if it thought I was peremptory in moving the amendment. I was trying to help the Committee. It was being urged upon me from all sides. "Get on with the vote." I rise now in a spirit of conciliation. As a football referee, I have never seen the need to play extra time when the match is won. That is the position at the moment.

I must ask the Minister to be more specific. Has no thought been given to the issues? We were told by the Minister and the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, that there was need for these matters to be thought through. Of course. That is what we have been doing. But it is not what the Government have been doing. We have been thinking the issues through. We have done that because of the Ryder Cup and the cricket World Cup. The knowledge that Mr. Murdoch wanted to prevent the highlights of those events appearing on BBC and put it in the contract should have stimulated the Government, as it stimulated the Opposition, to think the matter through.

I agree the issues are complicated. I was impressed by what the Minister said about the rights being sold overseas and then beamed back to this country. We seek to provide that the rights to live TV coverage, recorded coverage, and live radio broadcasting--it is important to include that--are sold separately and to prevent hoarding of material a broadcaster cannot use himself. That is what happened with the Ryder Cup. It is what was going to happen in the cricket World Cup until we tabled the amendment. As I said earlier, we have managed, in the case of World Cup cricket, to get Mr. Murdoch to sell to the BBC at a price he turned down two or three months ago. That is a significant advance. I do not in any way want to suggest that we should not take note of it.

I am advised that the proper place to decide the price, if there is a difficulty, is the copyright tribunal. I do not feel that the Minister or anyone else could object to the word "reasonable" appearing in an Act. In the 40 years I have been in Parliament I must have passed hundreds of Acts referring to reasonable people or reasonable men. If reasonable people do not agree, they go to the copyright tribunal.

The Minister wants to know the price in the market place. Mr. Murdoch and the BBC decided that this weekend in the case of World Cup cricket. They said that the price in the market place was £1 million. That was agreed. So it is possible for reasonable people to reach a sensible conclusion about the price.

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I accept what the Minister said. There are difficulties. If he will give an undertaking, in a word or a nod, that at Report stage or on Third Reading he will take on board all the points we intend in this amendment and all the things which came out of the last amendment--in short, that the Government will seek to secure for this Chamber what it wants to achieve--I shall be happy to beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Inglewood: I am sure the Committee will understand that I am not in a position to give the kind of commitment described by the noble Lord. However, I can assure him that I shall come back, as I described in my speech on the previous amendment, and make the Government's position absolutely clear before Report stage.

Lord Howell: That is not very good. However, in the knowledge that we can come back and move the amendment again if the Government are in default on a matter where I judge the whole Chamber is with us, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Howell moved Amendment No. 3:

Before Clause 1, insert the following new clause--

Holding of licences: restrictions on involvement in administration of sport

(".--(1) Sections 5 and 88 of the Broadcasting Act 1990 are each amended as follows.
(2) In subsection (1)(a), after "who" insert--
("(i) is involved, or any of whose employees, agents or representatives is involved, in the government or administration of any sport in respect of which he is the holder of any exclusive broadcasting right, or
(3) At the end there is inserted--
"(8) In this section "exclusive broadcasting right" means any contract or agreement providing for the exclusive right to include in a broadcasting service any programme which consists of or includes the whole or any part of a sporting event, or of a recording of that event.".").

The noble Lord said: I shall not trouble the Committee too long. The amendment raises an important principle. I do not intend to press it to a vote, but I want to raise the issue. More and more the question of the executive duties of television companies dealing with subscription channels and the duties of executives dealing with sport are becoming interlocked. I find it increasingly difficult to know whether some sporting executives speak on behalf of their sport or on behalf of Mr. Murdoch. It happens the other way round, too, as we have all experienced in the past week or two.

The amendment seeks to declare what I believe to be a very sensible principle; namely, that the management and representation of television companies when negotiating with sports bodies about television rights should be separated from the management and governance of the sports concerned. That is what the amendment seeks to do. It seeks to assert that principle. Sport should be divorced from television when negotiations are under way; otherwise there is conflict of interest.

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Having stated the principle we seek to uphold and in the hope that the Minister will have some sympathy for the principle, if not with the wording, of the amendment, I beg to move.

Viscount Astor: I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Howell, has really thought this amendment through. I know that one of the main interests of the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, is racing rather than sport. The amendment would particularly affect SIS. That is a broadcasting service in which the Racecourse Association is a shareholder. The amendment would prevent that kind of thing in the future and that may be damaging. I do not see why a sporting organisation cannot at the same time have some form of right or share in broadcasting. The amendment seems to me to be utterly unnecessary and ties up the open market with a whole lot of unnecessary regulation.

Lord Inglewood: I am sure that the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Howell, seeks to deal with what can be a real problem in certain circumstances. No one can object to the sentiment underlying his remarks. Clearly everybody opposes those conflicts of interest. However, if impropriety occurs, that becomes a matter for the criminal law. It is for the sports rights holders themselves to take adequate measures to ensure that no such conflicts arise for their negotiators, and that is probably not a suitable matter for legislation.

To touch on the points raised by my noble friend Lord Astor, he is right that the amendment may prevent the development of new television services by sports bodies which would profit from the new digital opportunities to provide a wider range and higher quality of coverage for viewers. That is not a fanciful suggestion. I read in the newspaper only a few days ago that that was being proposed. We must therefore be careful, when thinking about such a proposal, that we do not end up throwing the baby out with the bath water; that is, damaging the potential of the digital world into which we are moving while trying to eliminate and excise what is obviously an abuse and indeed a crime where it occurs.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Howell, for bringing the matter before the Committee.

Lord Howell: I can assure the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, that the amendment is necessary. There have been cases, though not in horseracing, when one wonders whether the people making speeches on behalf of sport are in fact making them on behalf of subscription television. That is unfortunate.

I was seeking to find a clear dividing line. The Minister kindly says that he understands what I am trying to do and will presumably ask his advisers, and others, to look at the matter in detail. I trust that he will be in communication with us in that process so that when we reach Report stage we have an agreed approach to the problem. In that spirit, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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