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Lord Thomson of Monifieth moved Amendment No. 172:

After Clause 70, insert the following new clause--

ITC: annual report

(".--(1) The 1990 Act is amended as follows.
(2) In section 197, in subsection (3)(a), at the end there is inserted "in a review included pursuant to paragraph 15(2A) in any report by the Commission under paragraph 15 of Schedule 1 to this Act; or ".
(3) In Schedule 1, there is inserted after paragraph 15(2)--
"(2A) The report shall include a review by the Commission of developments in and the financial performance of the services regulated by the Commission; and in conducting the review the Commission shall have regard to the need to exclude from the review, so far as is practicable, any matter which relates

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specifically to the affairs of a particular person whose interests would, in the opinion of the Commission, be seriously and prejudicially affected by the publication of that matter.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I hope that your Lordships are not becoming as weary of the sound of my voice as I am. As the Minister will be aware, this is an amendment inspired by the ITC, which I believe has been in discussion with the Government about the possibility of statutory backing to enable the ITC to publish more information about the financial structure and performance of the television industry. I am sure that in seeking that the ITC does not wish to place any additional burdens on any class of ITC licence in terms of supplying data to the commission. What is required is a explicit power to publish data it already has, with the necessary safeguards about commercial confidentiality.

In recent months there has been a qualitative change in the nature of the work that the ITC does from the days when it was under the old IBA. Independent television is much more a business than a purely broadcasting service. One has only to look at the financial press to see that it is the financial changes which dominate discussion about the industry's future shape. It would allow much more informed debate about the UK television industry if there were a specific obligation on the ITC to perform this regulatory task, which is carried out in other regulated industries through their own statutory provisions. I hope that the Minister will give a sympathetic response to the request from the ITC. I beg to move.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Thomson, has explained clearly the merits of the Independent Television Commission publishing an annual overview of the broadcasting sector and the reasons why he believes that in order to do so as part of its annual report, it needs statutory provision. As ever, the noble Lord has made his case most persuasively. The Government have taken the view that since the ITC has produced such a review in its 1994 annual report without any legislative provision, we need to be convinced to create such a statutory provision now in order for it to continue to do so. After all, it has explained that it is not seeking additional information beyond that which it currently obtains without statutory support.

Nevertheless, I recognise the force of the arguments. Without any commitment, we should like to consult the ITC's licensees on this matter. The department will also seek the views on the amendment of the ITV Association, the Cable Communications Association and other interested parties. I shall inform your Lordships of the result of our inquiries on Third Reading. I hope that that will reassure the noble Lord.

Lord Thomson of Monifieth: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for the positive way in which he has reacted to the suggestion. What he proposes seems to be a sensible approach to the matter. In the light of his assurance that he will go on in the way that he has suggested, I am happy to beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde moved Amendment No. 173:

After Clause 70, insert the following new clause--

Licensing of additional services

(" . After Section 49(2) of the 1990 Act insert--
("(2A) The Commission shall do all that they can to secure, in relation to the spare capacity for the provision of additional services on frequencies on which Channel 5 is provided, that a single teletext service is provided on that spare capacity; but any such service shall be provided on only so much of that spare capacity as the Secretary of State may approve.".").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I shall speak at the same time to Amendments Nos. 174, 175 and 176, all of which are related. This is a new amendment. We did not consider it in Committee. It concerns teletext on the new Channel 5 service, which is not on air at the moment, as noble Lords will be aware.

The 1990 Act provided for the ITC to advertise and then award a licence for a public teletext service on Channels 3 and 4 and on S4C. Under the 1990 Act, the ITC set its quality threshold before applicants' cash bids could be considered. That threshold included the allocation of minimum numbers and main teletext pages to high quality national and international news, regional information, and the diversity of other types of information, including, for instance, travel, sports, arts and leisure, and education.

They were the minimum requirements of that threshold. Additional requirements were included in the winner's application, which was Teletext Limited. The ITC also monitors the service to check on compliance with the contract. For teletext capacity on Channel 5, there are no such provisions as those provided for in the 1990 Act.

The Channel 5 licence was awarded last October. Noble Lords may be aware that there was a legal challenge to the ITC decision on the award of that licence. One of the unsuccessful applicants applied to the courts. That legal challenge was disallowed by the courts in January this year.

The spare capacity on Channel 5 can, and I gather will be, licensed separately by the ITC. However, even though the Channel 5 service itself is part of public service broadcasting, teletext on Channel 5 is not subject to any public service requirement.

We ask whether that was intended when the Bill was drawn up. We have the position where those who provide teletext on Channel 5, under the present provisions--no provisions as I would interpret it--will be able to cherry-pick the most commercially attractive elements of Teletext Limited's service as provided on the other channels, without any kind of quality threshold being applied.

We suggest that the results could well be that public service teletext on Channels 3 and 4 and S4C will be undermined seriously by a competitor who does not have that quality threshold. We believe that the 1990 Act should be amended to provide such a provision. The amendments do provide that. They would introduce for a second public teletext service using the capacity on

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Channel 5 a licensing and regulatory regime similar to the provisions currently applying to the public teletext service on Channels 3 and 4 and S4C.

Channel 5 itself is to be a national service. It probably will not need an appropriate requirement on regional information, but there should be requirements equivalent to those contained in Schedule 5 to the Broadcasting Act 1990 for high quality national and international news and for a range of other information calculated to appeal to a wide variety of tastes and interests.

I hope that the Minister will feel able to accept the amendments, which will provide that dreadful term--a level playing field. I beg to move.

Lord Thomson of Monifieth: My Lords, my name is to the amendment, but the noble Baroness has said it all, and I am content to rest on the case that she has put to the Minister.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Thomson, said, the noble Baroness, Lady Dean, has set out clearly the case for an additional public service teletext broadcaster on Channel 5. She pointed out that that is what the Independent Television Commission wants. It may help your Lordships in the consideration of these amendments if I explain where the difference of opinion on this matter lies between the Government and the ITC.

The ITC put its views on Channel 5 teletext to my department last year and we gave them serious and careful consideration, during the preparation of the Bill. The Government fully accept that there is a need to regulate the services on our principal broadcast channels, including the teletext services. That is why paragraph 9 of Schedule 7 to the Bill extends the consumer protection aspects of Section 6 of the Broadcasting Act 1990 to include teletext services on Channel 5. It is not the case that the teletext service would be entirely unregulated.

The amendment in the noble Baroness's name goes further than the Bill's provision and lays specific public service requirements on Channel 5 teletext which the Government believe are unnecessary. Quality public service teletext broadcasts are already provided by the BBC and by the single Channel 3/4 licensee, Teletext Limited. We remain to be convinced of the need or the benefit to the public of imposing public service broadcasting obligations upon the Channel 5 teletext licensee. We had rather seen this teletext service, with its lesser UK coverage, flourishing with only the lightest of regulatory touches.

We have taken careful note of the ITC's concern that the Channel 5 teletext licensee might cherry-pick the most profitable services from the public service licensee. Our view is that the market is large enough to support both services and the inherent advantages that the Channel 3/4 licensee has will ensure that the Channel 5 licensee will not seriously affect its performance, which in turn means it will have different characteristics. The current licensee, Teletext Limited, has a much larger service to offer across its two channels against Channel 5's single channel. Teletext Limited has national coverage against Channel 5's forecast 70 per cent.

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coverage. Finally, Teletext Limited provides a valuable regional service whereas Channel 5 teletext will probably remain a national service. For those reasons, we see no need to impose public service functions on Channel 5 teletext.

Finally, Amendment No. 175 seeks to add restrictions on the ownership of Channel 5 teletext. As I have said, the Government foresee that Channel 5 teletext could be a very different service from that provided currently by Teletext Limited and it follows, therefore, that we do not see any difficulty with co-ownership of the teletext services on all three commercial channels. For those reasons, we do not accept the need for ownership controls on the Channel 5 teletext licence.

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