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Page 24, line 20, leave out ("or digital programme") and insert (", digital programme licence or digital additional services").

The noble Baroness said: The Committee will be pleased to hear that this is not a complex issue. It is a technical issue, but not technical in the sense of equipment. We believe there has been an omission in the Bill in this respect, although we do not believe it was deliberate. In moving Amendment No. 71 I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 138 and 139. Amendment No. 71 seeks to amend clause--

Baroness Trumpington: On the groupings list this amendment is grouped with Amendments Nos. 137A, 138, 138A and 139. I am not sure whether the noble Baroness mentioned Amendment No. 137A and one of the other amendments. I do not know whether the grouping is correct.

Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde: I shall speak to the amendments as they are grouped. We are happy to consider Amendments Nos. 137A and 138A, but I am speaking particularly to Amendments Nos. 138 and 139. Amendment No. 71 seeks to amend Clause 26 of the

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Bill. That clause corresponds almost exactly to Section 38 of the 1990 Broadcasting Act which concerns equal opportunities in television. Amendments Nos. 138 and 139 concern radio and are based on the wording of Section 108 of the 1990 Act.

Amendments Nos. 71, 138 and 139 seek to extend the provisions on equal opportunities to digital additional service licences. The clause, as it is presently drafted, imposes a requirement to promote equal opportunities only on multiplex licensees and digital programme licensees. However, it does not apply to the third new type of broadcasts, the digital additional services. The amendments will extend the requirement as regards equal opportunities to digital additional licences for radio; to local digital sound programmes; and to local radio multiplex licences. Through these amendments we seek to plug what we believe is a hole in the Bill as the requirements on equal opportunities are not extended across the whole range of broadcasting. We cannot believe that was the intention of the drafters of the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Inglewood: I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for drawing attention to the fact that the clauses do not cover local radio, or additional service providers. She will be aware that the equivalent sections of the 1990 Act, on which these clauses are based, do not do so either. I am prepared to consider the extension of these clauses to accommodate the amendments of the noble Baroness. However, I am sure she will appreciate that there are complex issues here which prevent me from giving any commitments at this point. Further discussion will be necessary between my department and the Department for Education and Employment before I can give the noble Baroness a detailed response. We may, in the case of local radio stations and additional service providers, be talking about small companies, to which some legislation in the field of equal opportunities does not generally apply, or applies differently from the way it applies to larger organisations.

Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde: That response was most helpful. We on these Benches would be pleased to engage in discussions on this issue which is clearly not as straightforward as one might think. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Ashley of Stoke moved Amendment No. 72:

Page 24, line 23, leave out second ("and").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 72 I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 73 and 74. I shall speak briefly to these amendments as their intention is so obvious. They create equality of opportunity not only as regards gender and race--that is, quite properly, included in the Bill--but also as between disabled and non-disabled people. The need for that is so obvious that it is hardly worth stating. It is a curious omission and an obvious oversight by the Government not to have included it. The extent to which discrimination exists towards disabled people in the world of employment is now extensively documented.

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I should be most grateful if the Minister would confirm that the Government have committed an oversight and that he will accept the amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Inglewood: I am most grateful to the noble Lord for his introduction to the amendments. According to my groupings list Amendment No. 76 is also grouped with the amendments that we are discussing. Therefore, I propose to address Amendment No. 76 too. I am not hostile in principle to the extension of the relevant clauses to cover disabled people but, as with the previous amendment, I cannot give any commitments to the Committee at this stage. I must point out that other legislation is in place with regard to the employment of disabled people by all companies above a certain size. In addition, legislation generally applies rather differently to equal opportunities for the disabled from the way it does to equal opportunities for different races and sexes. In short, some complex issues are involved in this matter and further discussion will be necessary between my department and the Department for Education and Employment before I can give the noble Lord a detailed response. However, I hope that what I have said has provided some reassurance.

Lord Ashley of Stoke: I am most grateful for the Minister's response. I do not believe that the matter is half as complicated as he says it is. However, I accept what he has said in good faith. I hope that after discussion we shall be able to resolve something. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 73 to 76 not moved.]

Clause 26 agreed to.

Clauses 27 and 28 agreed to.

Schedule 1 agreed to.

Clause 29 agreed to.

Clause 30 [Interpretation of Part I]:

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 77:

Page 26, line 8, leave out ("has") and insert ("and "on S4C" have").

The noble Lord said: I have already spoken to this amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 78:

Page 26, line 8, at end insert--
(" "S4C Digital" means the service referred to in section 57(1A) of the 1990 Act, and "on S4C Digital" means in that service.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 79 not moved.]

Clause 30, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 31 [Radio multiplex services]:

Baroness Smith of Gilmorehill moved Amendment No. 79A:

Page 26, line 18, leave out subsections (1) to (4).

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The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 79A standing in my name, I shall speak also to the other amendments in the grouping. At the same time, I shall speak to those clauses in respect of which I wish to oppose the Motion that they stand part of the Bill. I begin by apologising for presenting such an enormous set of amendments at my first participation in a Committee stage.

The amendments which begin with Amendment No. 79A and progress in stately fashion through many clauses, including nine clauses on which I wish to oppose the Motion that they stand part of the Bill--namely, Clauses 43, 45, 48, 52 to 57 and 59--are all related to the two principal issues which we believe are extremely important. The grouping is as shown on the list before the Committee.

The issues themselves are not complex, but if our view is accepted, the changes required to the Bill extend throughout Part II.

Clause 31 introduces the concept of the radio multiplex service and the digital sound programme service. We do not think that either is necessary. The first carries the danger of creating a new broadcasting monopoly, and the second applies today's analogue regulatory requirements to tomorrow's digital technology. All our amendments seek to eradicate the radio multiplex service and establish the radio digital service as the style of licence which the Radio Authority will be responsible for issuing and regulating in place of the multiplex service.

The concept of the radio multiplex service assumes, wrongly, that digital technology requires different legislative transmission arrangements from those which currently apply under analogue technology. The proposed Radio Authority multiplex licence effectively takes editorial responsibility and programme control away from the broadcasters and hands it to the transmission providers, introducing a cumbersome extra layer to be regulated. To give the Radio Authority the responsibility of licensing seems to assume, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that commercial radio operators are incapable of getting together to provide services that listeners want without some special government-approved arrangement. I believe that it is in their own interests to club together if the technology dictates that.

A radio multiplex is a means of transmission. At the moment analogue transmitters are licensed under the Wireless Telegraphy Act by the DTI. Programme services are licensed by the Radio Authority. It is not considered necessary that the person who provides an analogue transmission service should have any programme control. Why should digital technology change that?

The Bill seeks to pass responsibility for the maintenance and development of the characteristics of services from the individual programme service providers to the radio multiplex licensees. That would mean that multiplex owners would reduce some of the regulatory content control exercised by the Radio Authority and erode the business and creative control enjoyed by current commercial radio broadcasters. That

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transfer of control from a number of licensed services to a single multiplex owner runs counter to the Government's intention to protect plurality of ownership. An example of a probable effect which demonstrates that point is that the four different commercial radio companies currently responsible for the six commercial services heard in Birmingham would come under the effective control of a single new broadcaster, interposed for no good reason.

Digital audio broadcasting technology does not only offer better audio quality. The data and text possibilities are even more exciting. We believe that existing commercial radio stations will want to develop all those opportunities, and we do not see why the Bill needs to hand them on a plate to a few Radio Authority multiplex licensees. When independent radio stations go digital, they will not want their digital licence to restrict them to a single channel for a single purpose, as current legislation treats today's analogue licensees. That would be yesterday's regulation applied to tomorrow's technology. We see no reason why independent radio stations should not have the duty and flexibility to provide audio, text and data within each of their digital service licences thereby protecting the diversity and plurality of both ownership and listener choice.

We therefore seek to remove the distinctions in the Bill between programme service licences and digital additional service licences. Let broadcasters be given sufficient capacity to develop and provide both and make the most of the new technology. Our amendments to Clause 31 and those which are consequent on them simplify the regulatory structure for commercial DAB. I beg to move.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Colwyn: I should like to support this long and complex list of amendments. It is an enormous job to try to take the radio multiplex out of the Bill, but I speak as one of the few present who has directly experienced the joys and sorrows of creating and marketing a new radio service. Although I am no longer involved, I understand how commercial radio folk think.

I believe that one of the strengths of radio in this country is the way that it has evolved. Each development is built on a previous one. I can understand why my noble friend the Minister may have grasped an opportunity to start with a blank sheet of paper. The creation of a single entity in each local area making the most of the new technology is beguiling. At one stroke it gets rid of those quarrelsome local broadcasters and meets the need for integration which the new technology seems to require. However, the appeal of local stations has little to do with corporate planning. It is to do with lively competition, which a multiplex licensed to organise the output of programme providers into the most effective structure, whether in terms of revenue production or programme output, is likely to dampen.

Perhaps more important is the need to get as many as possible in commercial radio to participate and feel part of the DAB system of things as soon as possible. If one reduces the local autonomies which exist in local

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commercial radio at present or artificially places one element in a position of power over another, as one will surely do if one advertises multiplex licences, commercial radio operators will not participate as keenly in DAB as they will in the scenario envisaged by the noble Baroness. I support the amendment.

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