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Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I agree that public taste in sport changes. It may well be that in future there must be negotiations about what have been defined as the crown jewels of sport. However, that is not the purpose of this amendment. It deals with the issue of highlights appearing on the screen if there is an exclusive contractor for pay television on the terrestrial channels or vice versa.
Such matters are one's of taste and judgment. It is my opinion, because I am an impatient man and I do not mind admitting it, that the highlights are considerably more worth while seeing than the original event. I should have thought that any contractor such as Sky, which has exclusive rights to a match or series of matches, would have a valuable market in which to sell the highlights. However, the value of that market is difficult to determine.
The amendment provides for "reasonable terms". The difficulty with that phrase is that it will be a part of the law which will depend on the agreement of third parties who are not party to the law. They may be susceptible to it but they are not party to it. What will happen if they do not agree? That being the case I ask: why bother with an amendment? I believe that we should allow a reasonable market for what I regard to be a most valuable commodity. In that case the BBC or ITV will, if they wish, readily purchase for a reasonable sum the highlights of an event to which they do not have exclusive rights. I believe that the matter would be best left in that form and therefore the amendment is unnecessary.
Lord Ashley of Stoke: My Lords, the issue of the crown jewels has already been settled and my noble friend rightly seeks to go further. I believe that that is the proper thing to do. I never regarded the crown jewels as being the major issue. It is an important issue but we wish to go wider because people are interested in more sport than is included in the crown jewels. When noble Lords opposite say that we should leave it to competition they appear to assume that the academic concept of perfect competition can be operated. However, it does not operate like that in any industry and certainly not with broadcasting and sport because the so-called competition leads to monopoly. A monopoly means that the vast majority of people cannot watch sport because the monopoly rests with those who can afford to pay the most. That is the nub of this debate.
The noble Lord mentioned Rugby League. That is now of national interest. It is of national interest because it was not confined to Sky Television. The BBC televised it. That is why we must preserve the freedom for the majority of people to watch sport, and that is why my noble friend's amendment is the right way forward. I hope that the Minister will accept it.
Lord Donoughue: My Lords, I thank the Minister for accepting the will of this House and the country on Clause 1. I was intrigued to read that the Secretary of State was in favour of our clause all along. You could have kidded me in view of the tussles which took place beforehand. However, we graciously welcome the conversion.
We are still not happy with the Government's statement, especially in regard to highlights. In that respect we support everything which my noble friends Lord Howell and Lord Ashley and the noble Lord, Lord Thomson, said. I did not add my name to the amendment but that reflects what I might call the clamour for signatories. On these Benches we give the amendment total support.
I shall not repeat all the arguments because we have a great deal more work to do today. However, I emphasise that the amendment is basically an implementation of the basic principles of Clause 1 which the Government have accepted. Those are the principles of national public access and non-exclusivity. I believe that the 85 per cent. of the British sporting public who do not pay hundreds of pounds a year for satellite television should not be
The Government's main argument against the amendment will be the familiar one of market forces. I do not accept that. The purchase and sale of monopoly rights for a minority audience is not the ideal example of the free market in operation. In fact the amendment seeks to safeguard competition by ensuring broadcasting competition and consumer choice. Above all, it prevents minority monopoly control. Nor do we believe that the sporting bodies which control golf, rugby and so on will benefit if they create a monopoly view for 15 per cent. of supporters. They have an obligation to their wider constituency of supporters, including the young, the old and the poor who cannot afford satellite fees. I believe also that it is not in their interests to create a monopoly purchaser. I agree with everything the noble Earl, Lord Harrowby, said about that.
I make a particular point which I ask the Minister and the Government to take into account. The logic of eliminating highlights from protection will increase the pressure to extend the protected list. It is possible to have a short protected list when people have highlights of other sports such as, for example, golf. But if 85 per cent. of the nation is not able to view any golf--for example, the British Open or the Ryder Cup--then there will be great pressure to put it on the protected list. That will apply also when the rights to the Rugby Five Nations competition are renegotiated. I believe that Sky will purchase the rights to live coverage. If the highlights are not protected most people will not be able to watch any rugby. Therefore, if the highlights are not protected we shall have to consider adding to the protected list.
The amendment is not anti-pay TV and not anti-subscription satellite. It gives to Sky the same rights to highlights when the BBC or ITV are showing live coverage as happens vice versa. Clause 1 gives Sky the same non-exclusive live coverage rights as it gives the BBC. In our view it is a fair amendment. It is fair between broadcasters and it is fair to television and radio customers. I hope sincerely that before Third Reading the Government will think again.
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I hope that I may turn now to the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Howell. I begin by confirming that in that area the fair dealing provisions contained in the Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988 apply. That permits the use of news clips of sporting events in news programmes. That would have enabled the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, to have seen at
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, my understanding is that one could not only see the knock-out but the whole fight. The Government have considered unbundling with great care. We have discussed it with all the relevant interests as part of our consultation process. I am very grateful for the comments made by my noble friends Lord Whitelaw and Lord Orr-Ewing. But we remain unpersuaded that any advantages of an unbundling provision would exceed the disadvantages of a major and complex interference in the market. We are therefore not able to support it.
This amendment is different in kind from the amendment on listed events. It introduces an entirely new concept unparalleled in any other aspect of broadcasting here or, to our knowledge, elsewhere in the world. Its scope is far wider than the listed events amendment. All events of national and local interest, actual and potential, are covered. The financial effect on sporting bodies could, we believe, be considerable, with corresponding damage to investment in facilities and training. Moreover, it imposes rigidities at a time when broadcasters need flexibility to respond to technical and market developments.
Nor are such controls justified by public policy considerations. As I explained, we are taking action to protect the sporting events which are of acknowledged special importance to the nation as a whole, and we retain the power to extend that protection by adding to the list of listed events. There is no substantive public demand for wide-ranging new powers to make more sport available on television and radio. Viewers can already enjoy over 2,500 hours of sport a year on terrestrial free to air TV. There is no question of an insufficiency of sport in general. Coverage includes items on the list and live coverage of many other events, highlights of major events, and a plethora of lesser interest sports. At an average of seven hours a day on terrestrial free to air television, I do not think that viewers can seriously consider themselves deprived of sport. Indeed, some respondents in our consultation exercise thought that broadcast sports coverage was already excessive. And we must not overlook that large proportion of the public, of whom my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham spoke, who do not like sport and want to look at other things on television.
The Government understand, as my noble friend Lord Astor pointed out, that the ITV Association thinks it preferable that the market should take its course within existing competition rules and sees advantages in this approach. Furthermore the Government also understand that the Sports Council advocates a voluntary code of conduct including an agreement by governing bodies of major spectator sports that viewers and listeners should have the widest possible access to
The amendment implies, as my noble friend Lord Aberdare pointed out, an intrusion into the legitimate rights of sports rights holders which we consider unwarranted as drafted. It fails to recognise the reality that in general there is widespread availability of highlight coverage, duly negotiated between the sports bodies and broadcasters. It is clearly in the interests of sports bodies to secure wide coverage for their sports. Despite a number of specific causes celebres, some of which may not be quite as generally supposed, we do not believe that the case has been made for the kind of changes proposed. Indeed, the publicity generated by your Lordships' House in debating this subject is, we believe, likely to focus sports rights holders and broadcasters on the central issues involved and we hope that this will lead to sensibly thought-out policies recognising the implications for all those affected. In short, the amendment would impose controls where we believe they are not justified on grounds of public policy, as my noble friend Lord Newall pointed out. I must conclude by saying to the noble Lord, Lord Howell--I am sure that it will be a disappointment to him but not a surprise--that the Government cannot support his amendment.
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