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Lord Peyton of Yeovil: Perhaps I may speak for the first time during the passage of the Bill. Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Thomson, I feel no need to apologise for not having taken part in the Second Reading debate. Indeed, I have probably placed myself in the debt of your Lordships' House for having kept silent on that occasion.

I agree with those who have acknowledged the debt owed to the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, for explaining an extremely complicated subject and producing a report of the scrutiny committee which clarified issues. That is an almost unprecedented exercise during the litigation process. The noble Lord is to be warmly congratulated on having achieved what verges on a miracle. I am grateful to him.

My point is simple. The Minister did not refer to Amendment No. 3, to which the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, referred. I wonder why the noble Baroness has not said that Amendment No. 3 makes the position much clearer. The Bill as drafted states,

Hardly a Bill that passes through your Lordships' House is not sprinkled with unarguable pieties. I rather believe that this is one of them. If the Minister has in her brief a fairly extended explanation of what those words really mean, it would be much appreciated. I, for one, would welcome the opportunity of learning. What

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would the noble Baroness say to a member of the board of Ofcom if he or she were to ask what the Government meant by those words?

Baroness Blackstone: First, I welcome the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Peyton. Coming afresh to any issue can often give rise to a greater understanding than by those who have become over-immersed in the detail.

I endorse everything the noble Lord said about the huge contribution made by my noble friend Lord Puttnam to our understanding of these issues. I was also grateful—I do not think that I said so—for his recognition of the extent to which the Government have listened to his words of wisdom and those of the members of his joint scrutiny committee.

In response to the debate, I spoke about Amendment No. 3 for quite some time. Rather than repeating my remarks, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, will be able to note what I said when he reads Hansard tomorrow. I agree with him. I have made clear why I do not think that the amendment helps very much.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: The substance of my question is this. What is meant by the words,

    "to further the interests of the community as a whole in relation to communications matters"?

There seems a potential conflict in those words. I should like to know whether the Government have any view. If the Government are unable to explain what those words mean, I shall drift in the direction of assuming that it is just one of those mild pieties which do not mean very much.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: As joint author of Amendment No. 3, I support what the noble Lord says. I find it difficult to understand why our phrases were rejected. They were far more explicit than the words,

    "to further the interests of the community as a whole".

The wording of the amendment may not be perfect. It may not include everything that should be included. I had hoped for a fuller explanation of why the words in the Bill as drafted are preferable to those we suggest.

Baroness Blackstone: I think that I have given as full an explanation as I can of why the words on the face of the Bill are preferable to those of Amendment No. 3. The words,

    "to further the interests of the community as a whole in relation to communications matters",

are used to restrain Ofcom from attempting to further the interests of the community in matters which have nothing to do with communications. I think that everyone can see the common sense of that. Confident as I am in the ability of the chairman of Ofcom, the noble Lord, Lord Currie, and his colleagues to do their

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job in a sensible way, it is important that we restrict in legislation the extent of their operation. That is what those words are meant to do.

Lord Puttnam: To say that I am disappointed would be an understatement. With the agreement of my colleagues on the joint scrutiny committee, we shall not press any amendments to a vote today. However, it begs enormous questions. First, the issue is relatively simple. I hope that the situation is not indicative of an overall government obduracy when dealing with the many amendments that will emerge over the next dozen days in Committee. That worries me.

Secondly, where do the Government obtain their advice? I have talked to every industry professional I could. I have talked to every regulator who I believed had experience of this area. The advice is consistent. It is all of a piece with the amendment. I have also talked to a number of lawyers. The Government's record in taking on legally the commercial sector is not strong. Perhaps it could be said that the Minister is praying in aid the noble Lord, Lord Currie. I should be impressed if the Minister can assure us that the wording of the Bill is that which the noble Lord, Lord Currie, would most like to enable him to deal with vexatious, difficult and conflicting issues as they arise. I doubt it. So from where are the Government getting their advice? I am happy to withdraw the amendment and look forward to returning to the issue on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 2 not moved.]

Baroness Howe of Idlicote had given notice of her intention to move Amendment No. 3:

    Page 3, line 6, leave out paragraph (b) and insert—

"(b) to support and further the communication industry's capacity to contribute to public, civil and cultural life"

The noble Baroness said: I thank the Minister for her remarks. I should like to read them more carefully and perhaps return to the matter at a later stage.

[Amendment No. 3 not moved.]

[Amendment No. 4 not moved.]

4.30 p.m.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury moved Amendment No. 5:

    Page 3, line 7, at end insert "and to uphold the principles of public service broadcasting"

The noble Lord said: I fear that the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, will describe Amendment No. 5 as another "unarguable piety". I accept that. But some pieties are more pious than others; and some are more useful. I like to think that this is a particularly useful piety. I was struck by the fact that the noble Lords, Lord Puttnam, Lord Bragg, Lord Thomson of Monifieth and Lord Crickhowell, stated explicitly that they wanted the principles of public service broadcasting to be upheld. I confess that those of us who bat on this side of the argument need to get our act together before Report.

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Clause 3(1) seems to me to be the foundation clause of the Bill. To insert in the Bill the words in Amendment No. 5 would have great merit. Clause 3(1)(b) would then read as follows:

    "to further the interests of the community as a whole in relation to communications matters and to uphold the principles of public service broadcasting".

I should like to think that in the long dark nights during which he or she, the director-general of Ofcom, will have to construe this mammoth work—500 pages of dense parliamentary drafting—it will be of great help to have more specific general guidance in so doing. I agree with those who said that the phrase,

    "to further the interests of the community as a whole",

in relation to communication matters is not nearly as helpful as it could and should be. The sense I have so far is that people would like to see the time-honoured phrase, "public service broadcasting", find a place at this particular juncture in the Bill bearing in mind that the preamble refers to the Bill making provision,

    "about the regulation of broadcasting".

There is very little in the Bill which goes further than that. Even Clause 3, over 100 lines of print, has virtually no further light to cast upon the tender subsection 3(1)(b). I could not see any reference to it at any point in the remainder of this long clause. The whole bias and balance of the clause, and, indeed of the Bill as a whole, concerns technicalities of broadcasting, the mechanics of broadcasting, market force considerations and competition considerations. I do not think anyone will say that those are not vitally important, but those of us who support the previous set of amendments and, I hope, this set of amendments will say with a loud voice that there has to be a hierarchy of values, at the head of which should be issues concerning public service broadcasting.

What about public service broadcasting? It is interesting that on 5th May 1999 in this House we had a debate entitled "Public Service Broadcasting", advanced, I believe, by my noble friend Lord Falkland.

Lord McNally: A House of Lords moment!

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: It is interesting that in the course of that debate the good Lord McIntosh, who I am delighted to see in his place, speaking for the Government, said:

    "The obligations on public service broadcasters to entertain, inform, educate and challenge the audience into new thinking . . . are fundamental to the public service broadcasting concept and,

this is important,

    "apply not only to the BBC but to all broadcasters, commercial, free-to-air and, in so far as it can be achieved, to satellite, cable and other converging technologies".—[Official Report, 5/5/99; col.754.]

That is crucial to the sense of the amendment. This is not a set of value issues to be confined to the BBC and those other parts of the broadcasting empire which have express statutory public service duties cast upon them. This is for the whole of broadcasting.

I share the fear expressed in the first group of amendments about the way the world is going and the inexorable commercial pressures that bear down on

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the commercial producers, whether of sound or vision. One has only to consider the decline in advertising revenue to appreciate what further pressures they are under. In a sense, not only would it help the director-general to have something more crisp and understandable at the heart of the Bill, such as is proposed by the amendment; it would help those within the commercial radio and television world who care about standards, the product and original material to stand up to some of those who would simply have them follow the short and brutal course.

I am also confused as to why the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, whose own cultural credentials are impeccable, was so unsympathetic to the first set of amendments. On 26th November the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport issued a landmark press notice which summarised the provisions of the Bill and stated four "key principles", the fourth of which is,

    "ensuring that public service principles remain at the heart of British broadcasting".

The noble Baroness, in responding to the amendment may say, "Of course, that is exactly what we want". Why not say that? Why not put it there flat on the face of the Bill with no ifs and buts and no wishy-washy language such as one can describe the language in Clause 3(1)(b)? Let us have it plain and simple.

Clause 12 deals with the content board. There may be some little solace in that. Clause 312 deals with the standards code, which is an important provision in the Bill. However, without Clause 3 being absolutely firm in both what it says about values and in terms of the hierarchy of values as expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, those clauses are not adequate. As it stands, Clause 12 is a broken reed. I believe that the flag of public service broadcasting should fly from the masthead of the Bill very clearly.

I draw attention to the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Birt, at Second Reading. He is someone who understands the realities of modern broadcasting and he put in rather chilling terms the extent to which the commercial pressures on the commercial sector are driving content, quality, originality and so forth—the breadth of cultural output—down and down. He said, in effect, "Do not rely upon the commercial sector to go on providing even the level of broadness and quality output it does currently". That is why, again, surely we must have at the heart of the Bill something unequivocal and legally enforceable so that the director-general does not have to scrape around to find justification for what could be a very unpopular measure with commercial broadcasters but has something quite clear.

The noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, referred and I believe will again refer to the Professor in Colorado who has done a great deal of work on the whole issue of what happens in America. I notice that the noble Baroness said, "Well, America is America and we are different". What is said by Professor Michael Tracey in his book on public service broadcasting in the States in 1998 and in his recent essay commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust—if noble Lords do

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not have a copy I suggest they obtain one—is of the greatest purport to what we are trying to achieve in the Bill. He quotes Ted Turner, scarcely a wimp, who refers to the loss of "so much diversity of thought" as a result of the way American broadcasting has gone. Walter Cronkite, one of the great names, refers to America,

    "producing a population of political, economic and scientific ignoramuses at a point in time when a lot more knowledge, rather than less, is needed for the survival of democracy".

Dan Rather of CBS states that "we are less" because of the way that modern television is going. That is one of the great broadcasting statesmen of America stating that we are less because of what has happened and we want to ensure that there is more.

The amendment would go some way towards shoring up the values I believe everyone in the House and the Government want to see shored up. We are dealing with cultural goods, not goods at large. To try to apply to the cultural goods of television and radio the same sort of competitive framework that might apply to beans or hamburgers is not good enough. The noble Baroness will berate me roundly for that somewhat over the top description of what the Bill does, but presently it does not do enough. It does not signal clearly and with acclamation the importance of public service standards.

I should like to mention just one more quote before I conclude. It comes from one of the real elder statesmen of the industry, Sir Denis Forman, who gave the McTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh Festival nearly 20 years ago. He ended his speech by saying:

    "If the top people in broadcasting become organisation men, if they become professional managers, if they are solely interested in profit or in efficiency"—

that is a word that one finds endlessly in this Bill—

    "they will fail. For the laws governing the production of good programmes are mysterious and demand from time to time that efficiency should take second place . . . There is an unbridgeable gap between the logic of business management and the laws of the creative world . . . For efficiency is the enemy of originality and it can smother talent, which is of its nature non-conformist".

As Members of the Committee will know, he was the most distinguished head of Granada Television for a long time, during which he worked in close partnership with the noble Lord, Lord Bernstein, who I hope will contribute later to the debate. For all the reasons that I have outlined, I hope that the Government will allow my amendment to find its place on the face of the Bill. I beg to move.

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