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Viscount Caldecote moved Amendment No. 219:

Page 67, line 19, leave out ("at such intervals") and insert ("monthly").

The noble Viscount said: At present the Broadcasting Standards Council publishes monthly bulletins setting out complaints received and whether they were upheld. As drafted, Clause 80(7) gives the BSC discretion as to how often it publishes such reports. No doubt the

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intention is to continue to publish monthly reports, but in future that policy might be discontinued. Reports issued at half-yearly intervals would be of little value. The amendment seeks to place a duty on the BSC to continue to issue monthly reports.

The reason for my anxiety about the way the Bill is presently drafted is that from time to time pressure is put on departments to reduce expenditure. It would be simple for the BSC to save a few tens of thousands of pounds or more by issuing the report only once a year. Therefore, it is important that this simple and logical amendment should be approved so as to ensure that we continue to have the excellent monthly reports. I beg to move.

Lord Inglewood: My noble friend's amendment requires the Broadcasting Standards Commission to publish reports, giving details of its findings, on a strictly monthly basis. This would allow no flexibility or discretion for the new organisation in the management of its resources according to demands. It may be that there are so many findings in any one month that the Broadcasting Standards Commission decides that it should publish two reports within that month. On the other hand, it might be that the BSC wishes to miss a month due to there being an insufficient number of findings to justify publishing or to difficulties caused by staff absence or a holiday period. The amendment does not give the BSC the flexibility to do either.

The Government are willing to consider introducing at Report stage an amendment of their own requiring the BSC to publish its reports monthly or at such intervals as it sees fit. I hope that that will reassure my noble friend and that he will agree to withdraw his amendment.

Viscount Caldecote: I am most grateful to my noble friend for that very sympathetic and encouraging reply. On that basis I am happy to beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 220 not moved.]

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 220A:

Page 67, line 33, leave out ("or 74(1)") and insert (" 74(1) or 75(2)").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 220B:

Page 67, line 38, leave out ("complainant") and insert ("complaint in question").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 220C to 221 not moved.]

Clause 80, as amended, agreed to.

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 221A:

After Clause 80, insert the following new clause--

Reports on action taken voluntarily in response to findings on complaints

(".--(1) This section applies where the BSC have given a direction under section 80(1) in relation to a fairness complaint or a standards complaint.

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(2) Where the relevant programme was included in a licensed service, the appropriate regulatory body shall send to the BSC a report of any supplementary action taken by--
(a) the regulatory body,
(b) the licence holder, or
(c) any other person appearing to the regulatory body to be responsible for the making or provision of the relevant programme.
(3) Where the relevant programme was broadcast by a broadcasting body, that body shall send to the BSC a report of any supplementary action taken by--
(a) the broadcasting body, or
(b) any other person appearing to that body to be responsible for the making or provision of the relevant programme.
(4) The BSC may include, in any report under section 80(7), a summary of any report received by them under subsection (2) or (3) in relation to the complaint.
(5) In this section "supplementary action", in relation to a complaint, means action which, although not taken in pursuance of a direction under section 80(1), is taken in consequence of the findings of the BSC on the complaint.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Northesk moved Amendment No. 222:

Before Clause 81, insert the following new clause--

Register of broadcasters' interests

(".--(1) It shall be the duty of the BSC to draw up and maintain a register of broadcasters' interests.
(2) The register shall contain details of--
(a) consultancies, or any similar arrangements, whereby broadcasters accept payment or other incentive or reward for providing broadcast services;
(b) any financial interests of broadcasters in businesses involved in providing broadcast services on behalf of clients;
(c) broadcasters' membership of or affiliation to any political party or organisation; and
(d) any other particulars which the BSC considers may affect the public perception of the way in which broadcasters provide broadcast services.
(3) Any person who is engaged in the production of current affairs or news programmes or who is the holder of a licence under the 1990 Act or Part I or II shall register any details under subsection (2) above.
(4) The BSC may make arrangements to enable any other person employed by a broadcasting body or by any holder of a licence under the 1990 Act or Part I or II to register any details under subsection (2) above.
(5) The BSC shall make arrangements for the public inspection of the register.").

The noble Earl said: The amendment requires the BSC to draw up and maintain a register of the interests, as elaborated in subsection (2), of certain categories of broadcaster as defined in subsection (3).

It is important to recognise that what has motivated me in this has little to do with impartiality per se. I am entirely comfortable to maintain that UK broadcasting continues to be the best in the world so far as concerns quality, integrity and impartiality. As a nation, we should count ourselves extremely fortunate that we continue to enjoy that considerable privilege.

Therefore, I could at a pinch be persuaded to accept that principles of impartiality are adequately buttressed by existing systems--the more so had the Minister been more receptive to the amendments of the noble Lord,

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Lord Chalfont, and my noble friend Lord Caldecote. However, what should concern us is our responsibility, with the onset of digital, to sustain this reputation for pre-eminence combined with a recognition that the people need to be able to recognise in a tangible and concrete way that their interests are being properly protected and looked after.

In effect, my primary purpose with the amendment is to enhance the principle of accountability within the broadcast media. No one disputes the immense power of the broadcast media. I am spoilt for choice in finding quotations to support this supposition. For example, the paper of the Department of National Heritage, Media Ownership: the Government's Proposals, published in May of last year states that the Government recognise,

    "that broadcasters in particular use a powerful and instant form of mass communication, delivered through a limited number of outlets, which are in a strong position to inform and influence public opinion and to help set the agenda for public debate, and may also have an effect (for good or ill) on the outlook and behaviour of individuals".

This is serious stuff--"influence public opinion"; "set the agenda for public debate"! To my mind, it is arguable that we, as a nation, should be comfortable with the concept that an intellectual medium, with access to an essentially malleable constituency of quite literally millions, should be free to operate outside the remit of transparency and public scrutiny. Of course, I concede that the various regulatory bodies and practices within the industry exist as a check and balance in this regard. However, they do not address the core problem here of democratic accountability: that of the public being afforded the opportunity to see for themselves that the regulatory framework is operating effectively and adequately. It is my belief that this amendment would achieve that objective.

The other point I wish to make is that the primary purpose of the Bill before us is to establish a framework for digital for the future. Inevitably, this involves a degree of crystal ball gazing, but the one thing that can definitely be said is that digital will create considerably more capacity than currently exists in UK broadcasting. It does not stretch the bounds of possibility to suggest that there will be a proliferation of new channels and new broadcasters as and when digital comes on stream. A potential and undesirable by-product of such a proliferation could be a diminution in the high standards under which the UK broadcasting industry currently operates.

Thus, in holding to my belief that we in the UK still enjoy the best broadcasting in the world, I am keen to ensure that the situation can be maintained into the digital age and that new players in the field are left in no doubt as to the standards to be achieved, particularly with respect to accountability. Again, it is my view that my amendment would achieve that. I beg to move.

11.30 p.m.

Lord Chalfont: I support the noble Earl's amendment. There is a delicious irony about the proposal. As I was reading the first draft of the amendment, I was checking my own entry in the House of Lords register of interests. It seemed to me that as

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soon as the amendment made its appearance we would hear a loud uproar about infringement of freedom. There is an irony about considering the proposal this evening.

One area in which I am led to agree fully with what the noble Earl said and with the content of his amendment is this. I often wish to know when watching a television programme or listening to a radio broadcast--to use a trendy modern idiom--where the broadcaster is coming from. In other words, what emotional, political or ideological baggage has he carried with him into the studio. It is an important point. If one speaks to presenters, interviewers and programme-makers among the broadcasters, they will say in the idiom of their profession that they leave their political opinions at the studio door. However, I do not believe that that is always the case. It was the case in the old days when legendary figures in the BBC such as Grace Wyndham-Goldie and Huw Wheldon were running affairs. It would have been a brave BBC person who would take his own opinions into the studio, whether radio or television. However, it sometimes now happens. The concept of transparency and knowing where people are coming from deserves attention.

Like the noble Earl, I have no great confidence that the proposal will be met with universal approbation. I doubt whether the Government will be prepared to do much about it. However, the amendment is worth considering because it does something to cut across the feeling that we all have sometimes that we are listening to someone peddling a political line on radio or television under the guise of an objective comment.

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