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Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde: My Lords, that was a very detailed reply to an amendment tabled only a short while ago, so I am particularly appreciative of its content and look forward to the result of the considerations that the Minister kindly indicated the Government will apply.

Perhaps I may make one or two points. Although the IBA transmission services were privatised, the fact is that on the sites one finds former IBA staff as part of a company, which I believe is called NTL, and BBC staff working side by side. The IBA services were privatised and, I believe, purchased at something like £70 million; today, they are worth about £300 million. Given that background, their pension scheme, which is still a defined benefits scheme, has obviously been very successful. It has been honoured by the new company and works very well.

The understandable concern of BBC staff is that if the company is privatised to an unknown company, it may not end up as a defined benefits pension scheme but as a money purchase scheme, which would be inferior to the one that exists for the employees. I have heard figures of £100 million rising to £200 million as the possible value of the BBC transmission services. As regards TUPE I received the answer I expected, but it is nice to have it on the record. All that said, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 38 not moved.]

Clause 106 [General Interpretation]:

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 39:

Page 82, line 27, after ("III") insert (", IVA").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have spoken to this amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 2 [Amendments of Broadcasting Act 1990 relating to restrictions on holding of licences]:

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 40:

Page 88, leave out line 31.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 41 to 45. Those of your Lordships who were present at the time will recall that in Committee we discussed Amendments Nos. 153 and 154, tabled by my noble friend Lord Chelmsford, as a result of concerns expressed by the cable industry about the attribution of audience time against the 15 per cent. television audience share limit proposed in the Bill. It has not been our intention that programme services provided for local delivery service by another channel which holds a UK licence should count towards the cable services' share. We originally felt that the proposed amendments were unnecessary and this intention was reflected in the Bill as drafted. It is on that basis that the Government resisted my noble friend's amendments in Committee. However, once we had had the opportunity to consider with our legal advisers further representations from my noble friend, we concluded that the Bill was after all

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defective in that respect. I am sorry that we got it wrong, and must apologise for any confusion caused by my earlier response.

The amendments, taken together, will ensure that those services which are simply relayed by the cable operator are attributed not to the local delivery service provider but to the holder of the licence to provide the programme service in question. Audience share will be attributed, as intended, to the person having editorial control over the programme, regardless of the means of delivery.

I hope that the amendments will address satisfactorily the concerns raised by my noble friend. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Inglewood moved Amendments Nos. 41 to 45:

Page 89, line 7, leave out (", (f)").
Page 89, line 16, leave out from ("provides") to ("may") in line 20 and insert ("one or more satellite television services to which this sub-paragraph applies").
Page 89, line 23, leave out ("service") and insert ("services").
Page 89, line 26, at end insert--
("(3A) Sub-paragraph (3) applies to any satellite television service (other than a non-domestic satellite service) which is provided on a non-allocated frequency and either--
(a) appears to the Commission to be intended for general reception in the United Kingdom (whether or not it appears to them to be also intended for general reception elsewhere), or
(b) is (to any extent) relayed by a local delivery service.").
Page 89, line 27, leave out ("sub-paragraph (3)") and insert ("sub-paragraphs (3) and (3A)").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Donoughue moved Amendment No. 46:

Page 99, line 16, leave out ("20") and insert ("25").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we have visited this before. We are considering the question of the arbitrary decision to exclude the Mirror Group, basically, from the benefits of the new broadcasting world. The Minister has replied on this point previously, but perhaps I may raise one particular point now. I mentioned at an earlier stage that there was a legal question about the position with regard to the Government's policy before possible European Court action. Has the Minister had the time and opportunity to consider that? Can he give us a view on it? I beg to move.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, in responding, the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, raised one point so I shall confine my remarks to that particular point. The noble Lord has once again suggested that the Mirror Group may have a case under the European Convention on Human Rights that our policy is in breach of the convention. I can confirm that, having taken legal advice on the application of Articles 10 and 14 of the convention, we are confident that our policy is within the terms and spirit of the convention, and for that reason we do not feel that this part of the noble Lord's arguments takes our debate any further forward.

Lord Donoughue: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. It is now on the record and will presumably need to be tested and considered in another place. Given that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 47 not moved.]

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 48:

Page 102, line 54, at end insert--
("( ) For the purposes of this paragraph, a person shall be treated as holding a licence if the licence is held by a person connected with him and shall be treated as providing a service if the service is provided by a person who is connected with him in relation to the licence under which the service is provided.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a minor technical amendment which will prevent possible avoidance of the provisions in Paragraph 8 of Part IV to Schedule 2. That paragraph provides that a person who runs a local newspaper with 20 per cent. or more of the local market may not control local radio or digital sound programme service licensees whose services account for more than 50 per cent. of the radio points attributable to the relevant area. It also sets a corresponding restriction preventing local radio or digital sound programme service licensees whose services account for more than 50 per cent. of the radio points from controlling a corporate body which runs a local newspaper with 20 per cent. or more of the market in the relevant area.

The amendment will ensure that, in calculating the percentage of radio points attributable to a particular local radio licence holder, proper account is taken of the points attributable to services provided by others with whom the licence holder has a close business or personal relationship. Such "connected persons" are defined in Paragraph 3 of Part I of Schedule 2 to the 1990 Act. With your Lordships' permission, unless pressed to do so, I shall not weary the House by repeating the definition here. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 8 [Repeals]:

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 49:

Page 124, line 7, column 3, at end insert--
("Section 182.")

On Question, amendment agreed to.

In the Title:

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 50:

Line 4, after ("1990,") insert ("to make provision about rights to televise sporting or other events of national interest,").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

An amendment (privilege) made.

8.55 p.m.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.--(Lord Inglewood.)

Lord Crickhowell: My Lords, I rise to make three points. First, I express my appreciation for the way in which my noble friend the Minister has handled the Bill. He has deservedly won widespread praise for the way in which he has listened and responded to points made in the House. We are extremely grateful to him for that.

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I understand that because of the pressures on officials and parliamentary draftsmen of producing the 2,500 words of the first set of amendments moved today, my noble friend has not been able to bring forward in this House amendments which he had hoped to table on the regional issues which have been extensively debated. I assume that he will tell the House that they will be tabled in another place. Again, I should like to thank my noble friend for the attention that he has given to that important issue. The clause as originally drafted was certainly helpful and it has been improved during the Bill's passage through this House. I believe that one of the great strengths of ITV has been its regional broadcasting. It is extremely important that so much has been done to safeguard that for the future.

I should like to refer to just one other subject. Again, it arises from an amendment which was promised and which will no doubt appear in another place. I was not able to be present on 7th March for our second day of Report stage when there was a curious love-in between all parts of the House in favour of monopoly, and particularly in favour of that monopoly represented by ITN. ITN has provided an admirable news service of which we can be proud. It has also provided good competition for the BBC. However, I am bound to say that the experience of some who have to pay the bills is that it has been quite extraordinarily expensive. It has not had any competitive pressures to bring down its prices, particularly because it is well understood that whatever warehousing arrangements there may be, Carlton and Granada control the company and it is desirable that they should be customers and not just suppliers.

We were told by my noble friend the Minister who responded to the debate that the Government had considered carefully the issue of having a monopoly and had concluded that they could respond to the particular situation by allowing ITN to bring forward other alternative suppliers which the industry could then select. However, that process will happen only once every 10 years. That is a pretty odd form of competition. It was suggested that at least all of the ITN companies are needed to sustain a successful news service. I do not find that a convincing argument.

During the debate there was great praise from a number of noble Lords about the quality of the news service provided by Sky Television. It is a myth to suggest that one must have all 15 of the present ITV customers in order to sustain the service. One of the things we should see is the costs fairly spread, in particular to Channel 4 which will be in a strong financial position after the changes that we debated extensively. At present it pays only prices which reflect marginal costs.

It is an odd arrangement under which the companies which pay the bills have no control over prices. I must say that some of those prices have been excessive and I am surprised that suddenly there appears to be such universal support in this House, in particular from the Government, for monopoly. I hope that the issue will be looked at again in another place and that it will be properly debated, because I fear that it was not in this

19 Mar 1996 : Column 1252

House. Having made that one set of critical remarks, I am pleased to support the Bill and I thank my noble friend the Minister for the way in which he has presented it to the House.

9 p.m.

Lord Chalfont: My Lords, tomorrow is the day of the vernal equinox but the real sign that night has fallen is the fact that the Broadcasting Bill is before your Lordships' House. There is something intriguing about the fact that every stage of the Bill has ended late at night before a dwindling band of what I can only call "broadcasting groupies".

With the support of numerous colleagues, I had intended to table on Third Reading certain amendments seeking to achieve the purpose of those which were withdrawn after government objection during the Committee and Report stages. The purpose of those amendments was to bring the BBC under the complaints procedures of the new Broadcasting Complaints Commission, specifically in relation to issues concerning impartiality and objectivity. In the event, I and my colleagues decided not to do so.

During the progress of the Bill it became increasingly clear that the Government, supported and not to say actively lobbied by the BBC and in consultation with the BSC and BCC, were determined not to accept the amendment nor to make any concessions on the issue. Their principle argument of substance was that the BBC Governors should be given the chance to implement effectively the new agreement that accompanied the Charter which passed through this House on a take-note Motion on 9th January. In support of that proposition they point to certain measures already embarked upon by the BBC.

It is said that the corporation has established a programme complaints unit to investigate and rule on serious complaints. There is a strong case to be made on the idea that any complaints unit of that kind should be an independent body not staffed by BBC officials. However, the Charter and Agreement make no provision for that. We are told that the BBC is also drawing up a new impartiality and accuracy code under the new Agreement, which incidentally incorporates the section in the Broadcasting Act 1990 on impartiality.

Like other Members of your Lordships' House, I received a letter in my morning mail today from Mr. Marmaduke Hussey, Chairman of the BBC, for whom I have the greatest affection, admiration and respect. He set out how the system is intended to work. It is clear, and one must accept, that the Governors of the BBC have acted and intend to act in good faith and in the public interest. However, as I have said on numerous occasions in this House and elsewhere, that is not the point. The problem is not the drafting of codes and guidelines, which is not a difficult matter because anyone can do it. I did it for the Radio Authority, and it has been done for the Independent Television Commission and even for the BBC. The point is the enforcement of those codes and guidelines. Unlike the commercial sector, the BBC has no independent regulator. The complaints process is entirely under BBC control.

19 Mar 1996 : Column 1253

The complaints process runs as follows. The corporation establishes its own codes and guidelines. If they are ignored, as they frequently are, someone may complain. BBC officials are then asked to advise on the complaint. On that advice the Governors of the BBC make their judgment. There is of course a right of appeal open to the complainant, but your Lordships will not be surprised to know that that right of appeal is to the Governors of the BBC. We understand that there is ultimately the possibility of judicial review. It may well be that in future some person or organisation will have recourse to that in law. It is an unsatisfactory situation and we are stuck with it for the next 10 years. To use the more formal and resonant language of the BBC Charter:

    "It shall continue in force until the 31st day of December 2006".

The amendments in my name and those of my colleagues were withdrawn at earlier stages of the Bill in the hope that the Government would at least accept the force of the argument and offer some solution or compromise to deal with the problem. That has not happened. Their resistance to any substantial change in this context has been absolute and it does not appear to me to be based on any convincing argument of principle or of practice. Indeed, it seems to be based on the well-known rubric, "My mind is made up. Kindly do not confuse me with the facts".

The Minister was rightly congratulated on the flexibility which he displayed in listening to the arguments on the subject of televised sporting events, coming back to your Lordships' House with a government amendment designed to resolve the problem. I only wish that I were in a position to congratulate him on showing a similar flexibility with regard to independent regulation on matters of political objectivity and impartiality. I hope that I do not offend the House by saying that some of us regard that issue as marginally more important than sporting events.

This Bill will now go to another place where I hope that the issue reflected in my amendments will be subject to further debate and perhaps even to a change of approach by the Government. In the meantime, I hope that the Government will monitor carefully the implementation of the BBC's new Charter and Agreement.

Finally, I must state my view that the case for bringing the BBC out of the archaic concept of the Royal Charter into the real world of statutory regulation is as strong now as it has even been. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, said on more than one occasion, we must understand that that is a closed chapter. I find that difficult to accept.

My colleagues and I--and there are many of us who have not yet spoken--would be reassured, as I said before, if the Government would only agree that there is a real problem. I realise that the Government and their advisers, the officials in the department, may have thought that our amendments would have some unfortunate side effects of a commercial, financial and administrative nature in seeking to achieve their purpose. They may even have thought that our amendments were not the best way in which to achieve that purpose. But if they would only concede the validity

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of the purpose and the principle that it is right and proper to bring the BBC, like every other British broadcasting organisation, under independent regulation, it should not be impossible to devise a solution which would be acceptable to all concerned. I hope that we shall not have to wait until--in the words of the Charter--the 31st day of December, 2006.

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