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After Clause 78, insert the following new clause--

BSC to provide guidance for educational broadcasts

(" . It shall be the duty of the BSC to draw up, and from time to time review, guidance as to standards and practices to be followed in connection with programmes which fulfil the obligation of the BBC to provide--
(a) education; and
(b) educational content.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this amendment places on the new Broadcasting Standards Commission a duty to draw up and review guidance on the content and nature of broadcasting defined as "education" and that which has some educational content. We want to see some such provision appear on the face of the Bill.

This amendment was moved at Committee stage by my noble friend Lady Farrington. Replying to the debate at that stage the Minister said that,

    "The amendment ... seeks to treat the BBC on a different footing from ... other public service broadcasters".--[Official Report, 15/2/96; col. 822.]

In fact, this amendment seeks to bring the BBC in line with other public service broadcasters, as the independent terrestrial television companies and Channel 4 are regulated by the ITC. The BBC is unique in that its education programmes are not monitored and evaluated by any independent body. Channel 4 has a minimum number of hours for schools programmes but there is still no such requirement for the BBC. The Agreement between the Secretary of State and the BBC requires the BBC,

    "to have programmes of an educational well as formal education".
This loosely worded double requirement allows the BBC to blur the distinction between education programmes and programmes with some educational content. This amendment separates the two elements, thereby requiring the nature of each to be understood and addressed.

At present, the Bill provides that the Broadcasting Standards Commission will have responsibilities in two areas: first, the treatment of individuals in respect of fairness and privacy; and secondly, standards of taste and decency. Both of those involve it reacting to actual or potential broadcasts. Placing a third responsibility on the Commission to ensure high standards in education

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broadcasting and broadcasting with some educational content will allow it to adopt a positive role which will set an example to the other public service broadcasters.

The need for an amendment of this kind arises from concern about the changes which seem to have occurred in the BBC's education broadcasting provision over the last year. The BBC is seeking higher ratings by diluting its education mission. Evidence of this dilution is provided by the fact that the chat show "Esther", presented by Esther Rantzen, the antiques quiz show "Going for a song" and the entertainment programme "Ruby's Health Quest", as well as "My Brilliant Career", the documentaries about failed businessmen, are all examples of programmes which have been funded by the education budget. I know the arguments which the BBC puts forward to justify such programmes.

The BBC's ring-fenced budget for adult education, Education for Adults, is now being transferred into general programming and the controllers of BBC 1, Alan Yentob, and of BBC 2, Michael Jackson, have effectively been given the power to decide what programmes are educational and who should make them.

At this point I want to remind your Lordships that this is the International Year of Life-Long Learning. This very morning I received a document from the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education, its response to the Government's consultation document on lifetime learning. I should like to read from its page on broadcasting. It states:

    "The 1990 Broadcasting Act ended the obligation on terrestrial independent television companies to provide educational programming for adults. Yet all the evidence points to the importance television can play in reaching under-participating groups free at the point of use in their own homes, and motivating people to participate in education and training activities ...

    The adult literacy campaign of the 1970s was kick started by prime time television, through BBC's On the Move.

    Adult Learners' Week each year includes programming on all channels backed by a freephone helpline, attracting some 50,000 people, more than half of whom are unemployed to phone seeking opportunities for adult learning. An impressive number turn the enquiry into active enrolment. The BBC/ALBSU"--
that is the learning programme for those with learning difficulties--

    "Family Literacy adverts in 1995 stimulated 350,000 people to phone for family literacy packs. Terrestrial television is still a major influence on the lives of Britain's adults, and is likely to remain so".
It is important that programmes are available at prime time. It is because people just happen on these programmes that they have such an effect. They are not going to video programmes--they may well not have a video--and if they are broadcast at midnight they are not going to get them and the whole effect will go.

We want to encourage regulators to approve programming designed to motivate, like short promotional sketches. At the same time, the Government should welcome the development of dedicated programming, like that on the Learning Zone, which reaches already committed learners, while--and this is important--maintaining an obligation on the BBC and Channel 4 to provide accessible programming for

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adult learners during prime time evening slots, as well as after midnight and in the afternoon. I hope that that plea from the national institute will have some effect.

Seventy per cent. of programmes will be made by independents or other BBC departments. The BBC justifies this change by contending that any factual programme-maker can make education programmes. The BBC is reducing the number of new television programmes it is making for schools. It will be making only 90 hours a year, fewer programmes than Channel 4 is required to make for schools. The BBC is also asking producers who have no experience of making schools programmes to start making them.

Schools programmes require very different skills from those needed to make mainstream television programmes. One important reason for that is that schools programmes need to follow the national curriculum and need to be a suitable resource which teachers can pursue effectively in the classroom. With favourite and memorable programmes such as "You and Me", "Storytime" and, more recently, "Come Outside" and "Hotch Potch House", the BBC has built a distinguished reputation in programmes for the under-fives. The programmes carefully lay firm foundations for children before they enter school. These programmes will all disappear, replaced by a daily programme made by children's entertainment producers. There has been no involvement from the BBC's education policy unit in supervising a proper education framework for the programmes. This has resulted in the distinction between education programmes and programmes with some education content being blurred.

While this amendment seeks guidance for both categories, its purpose is to ensure that the content and methodology of education programmes meet, and continue to meet, the highest standards of production practice. This includes ensuring that any curriculum requirements are met; that proper account is taken of changes in teaching practice; that the programme is appropriate to the age and other characteristics of the intended audience; and that effectiveness of the programme (or series) in fulfilling its educational function is evaluated.

Only if those and similar criteria are met will it be possible for the BBC to fulfil its obligation to disseminate education, which is expressed in the draft Charter and the draft Agreement. I wish to make it clear that I have great belief in the BBC and I very much respect what it does. I believe that, because of the need to keep up its ratings and because of the money involved, it has perhaps been forced into doing what I have been complaining about in the amendment. I strongly believe that provision for education should be written on the face of the Bill and I hope that the Minister will appreciate my keenness in wanting to provide that in the amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Donoughue: My Lords, perhaps I may add briefly to what my noble friend said and make a couple of general points which go wider than the BBC, though including it. There is no provision in the Bill to enable education to benefit from the greater scope and opportunity for choice and for specialist broadcasting,

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such as education, which is provided by the digital revolution. That is the positive side and the positive opportunity that is missed.

The negative side relates to a time in the future when the BBC and Channel 4 analogue services cease; when they are switched off. We shall then be left with the digital multiplex providers sitting on 12-year licences with renewal who will have no educational obligations whatever. All that we have helping education are the commitments in the BBC Charter for 10 years ahead. However, as I and other noble Lords pointed out when we debated the matter, those commitments have already been weakened.

Britain last had an opportunity to establish a specific education channel when BSB left the Marco Polo satellite vacant. That opportunity was not taken. We now have a new opportunity with digital television and this Bill and it would be wrong and sad to miss it again. I hope that the Government, in anything that the Minister can say today or in proceedings in another place, will find a way to improve the guarantees for educational broadcasting and in particular to write that into the Bill.

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