Field Marshal Sir Richard Frederick Vincent, GBE, KCB, DSO, having been created Baron Vincent of Coleshill, of Shrivenham in the County of Oxfordshire, for life--Was, in his robes, introduced between the Lord Bramall and the Lord Gillmore of Thamesfield.
John David Beckett Taylor, Esquire, having been created Baron Taylor of Warwick, of Warwick in the County of Warwickshire, for life--Was, in his robes, introduced between the Lord McColl of Dulwich and the Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of National Heritage (Lord Inglewood): My Lords, Her Majesty's Government believe that everyone has a role in helping to ensure civilised behaviour in Britain and they encourage each and every one to play their part. Parliament decided that the broadcasting Acts and the BBC Charter and Agreement provide the legal and regulatory framework within which UK broadcasters can exercise their editorial independence free from government direction.
Lord Renton: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that remarkably cautious reply. Does he accept the view of Edmund Burke that example is the school of mankind? Does he believe that the millions of children and young people who watch television are given a good example when they see so much violence and other bad behaviour on those programmes?
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, Edmund Burke provided plenty of wisdom for us which is still relevant today. Example is one of the best ways of instruction. Of course, there are things on television which do not provide a good example to young people and citizens in general. Equally, we must not overlook instances where a good example is to be found in the broadcast.
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I am afraid that I am unable to respond in any detail to my noble friend's question, having seen neither the television programme concerned nor the editorial to which he referred.
Lord Merlyn-Rees: My Lords, I declare an interest as president of the Video Standards Council which puts me on rather a different tack from the last questioner. Our products are classified on the basis of sex, violence and so on by the British Board of Film Classification which monitors videos and films. How does the classification for television work? Who is responsible for it?
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, as I described to your Lordships, material on television is regulated under the BBC Charter and Agreement and the broadcasting Acts. There is a clear duty on both the governors of the BBC and the Independent Television Commission to ensure programmes do not include anything,
Lord Gisborough: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the anxiety felt in relation to television is nothing compared to the anxiety felt in relation to videos? Videos contain far more violence; there are fewer controls over them and they can be watched at any time of the day or night by children.
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, many of my noble friend's points are correct. However, it is important that we do not rank the potential dangers of one against the dangers of the other and thereby debase the one which comes second in the ranking.
Lord Elton: My Lords, does not my noble friend accept that violence has become the common currency on television as an alternative to the boredom which would otherwise be offered by the medium? It is difficult to turn on a programme and watch for more than half-an-hour without seeing several instances of people being beaten up or killed during hours when children may be able to see it and when parents may be shocked by it. Is it not the case that that indulgence in violence must escalate if it is to continue to excite the viewer? It is extremely damaging to the way in which we live in this country and should be halted.
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, my noble friend's points are well taken. Clearly there are instances when programmes containing violence should not be shown. In all those instances it is difficult to know exactly where the line one may wish to draw is to be placed. It occurred to me in preparation for this Question that Shakespeare's "Macbeth" may well fall foul of a number of tests that certain noble Lords may initially wish to apply.
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, it is essential that there is proper treatment of news stories in a manner that is appropriate. However, it is important when defining "appropriateness" that any violence that could be shown is not shown gratuitously.
Baroness Strange: My Lords, does not my noble friend agree that a good example of courtesy and politeness is shown daily in your Lordships' Chamber? Would it not be a good idea therefore to have more broadcasting of your Lordships at work?
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, it is important that the Government do not impinge on the editorial independence of the broadcasters. However, I am sure that they will have heard my noble friend's point and I hope that they will bear it in mind.
Lord Donoughue: My Lords, I am sure the whole House regrets the decline in broadcasting standards and the growth, for instance, of tabloid television. Does not the Minister agree that the prospect in the future is more frightening with hundreds of digital channels about to be brought before us? In that context can the Minister recall that on this side of the House, during the Broadcasting Bill, we proposed amendments to introduce a quality test for digital channels and their multiplex operators? In the context of the Question, does not the Minister regret that the Government secured the
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, the noble Lord is gamely trying to revive the dead hare that he ran before the summer. The way in which broadcasting is regulated in this country in respect of violence and pornography does not need the introduction of the quality test he describes in order to make it effective. In the Broadcasting Act we extended the scope of the regulatory regime seamlessly to include digital.
Lord Renton: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that it would be perfectly constitutional for the Government to draw the attention of the Broadcasting Standards Council to the need to insist upon higher standards? They can also draw the attention of producers to the anxiety among responsible members of the public regarding not only violence, but also bad language, shocking behaviour and unpleasant people being horrid to each that is shown on television. Can my noble friend seriously bear that in mind?
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