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Baroness Michie of Gallanach: I thank the Minister for his response to the various amendments. I warmly congratulate him on his correct pronunciation of the word "Gaelic". He pronounced it in the Scots not the Irish way. On a personal note I congratulate the Minister on pronouncing my name correctly. I am grateful for that. Incidentally, I wonder whether the Minister has noticed, or whether those who drafted the Bill are aware, that the Gaelic Media Service will be shortened to GMS and that the Gaelic title, Seirbheis nam Meadhanan Gaidhlig, will be shortened to SMG. There will be confusion throughout Scotland as those are the initials of the Scottish Media Group. I thought that I should draw that to the Minister's attention.

I hope that Ofcom will listen to what the Minister had to say on the question of conflict of interest. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, for her support for the amendments. I am glad to hear that there are appropriate procedures in place. Ofcom will no doubt read what has been said today.

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I also very much welcome the Minister's assurance that there is scope for a dedicated channel in Scotland. That will make a difference to our fostering and developing the Gaelic language. I was glad to hear that the words "broadcast to others" mean broadcast elsewhere. That is very welcome.

However, I still remain greatly concerned about the funding. In the great scheme of things what is required is only a paltry amount—peanuts, in fact. But Gaelic broadcasting, given a secure basis, could make all the difference to the language beginning to flourish again. I remain unconvinced about the financial aspect in particular and hope to return to the matter at a later stage. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 158 not moved.]

[Amendments Nos. 158A and 158B had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Clause 205 agreed to.

Clause 206 [Membership of the Service]:

[Amendments Nos. 159 to 166 not moved.]

Clause 206 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 167 not moved.]

Clause 207 [Supplementary provisions about the Service]:

[Amendment No. 168 not moved.]

[Amendments Nos. 168A and 168B had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Clause 207 agreed to.

Clauses 208 to 210 agreed to.

Clause 211 [Digital Channel 3 and Channel 5 licences]:

Baroness Wilcox moved Amendment No. 168C:

    Page 186, line 45, at end insert—

"( ) For the purposes of this section, "ancillary service" does not include any service which is not a broadcast service."

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 168C, I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 169ZA, 195CA and 195CE. The purpose of these amendments is to seek some clarification from the Government on the services for which public service broadcasters are allowed to make a charge. Some key clauses of the Bill could be interpreted as preventing public service broadcasters from charging for some ancillary services which, up to now, they have been permitted to charge for.

Public service broadcasters have in the past been permitted to charge viewers for certain "opt-in" two-way ancillary services on digital television such as voting, for example, for their favourite contestant in Channel 4's "Big Brother", or entering a quiz to win a prize or entering a draw. This has always been permitted when, for example, viewers use their traditional landline or mobile telephone to call premium rate telephone numbers to enter a broadcaster's competition or to enter their vote, and

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has also been permitted when these services are made available to viewers through a telephone line connection to set-top boxes.

At the moment, however, Clause 211(8) (relating to digital C3 and C5 licences) and Clause 228(9) (relating to the replacement of the C4 licence) would appear to prevent ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 from charging for the reception of any ancillary service. Clearly, this would be wrong and would impose far greater restrictions on the public service broadcasters than exist at present.

The same problem arises in relation to Clauses 268 and 269, which set out the must-offer obligations for public service broadcasters. As presently drafted, the clauses allow Ofcom to determine which ancillary services also fall within the definition of a must-offer service, which are then subject to the provision that no charge be made for an entitlement to receive those services. Thus, Ofcom could decide that some previously charged for ancillary services should form part of the must-offer service, which would then mean that these could not be charged for.

My amendments seek to address those concerns. The solution is a simple one. They provide a distinction between ancillary services which are broadcast by a public service broadcaster, and therefore may not be charged for—for example, a choice of different camera angles on a sports programme broadcast, or additional statistical information which may form part of the core public service offering—and ancillary services which are not broadcast (that is, are made available along a telephone line) which may be charged for.

I very much hope that the Minister will be able to accept these amendments today. If he is not, it would still be extremely helpful if he could at least confirm that it is not the Government's intention to prevent public service broadcasters from charging for certain interactive services offered along telephone lines. Can the Minister reassure us that the Bill, as drafted, will not prevent that? I beg to move.

3 p.m.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: The noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, seeks clarification with the amendment, and I hope that I will be able to give it to her. One essential feature of public service television is that it has to be free to view. Once someone has acquired the right equipment and paid the television licence fee, they should be able to receive the public service channels free of any further charge, and we want to ensure that that continues to be the case in future, after the switchover to digital television. Therefore, the Bill provides for a specific prohibition against charging viewers for reception of those services. That is not a new policy as similar provisions are already contained in, for instance, the licences for Channels 3 and 5.

For clarification, that is not to preclude any applicable commercial charges between broadcasters and those who buy the right to carry or otherwise retail their services—for example, on satellite. Nor is it to

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preclude any public service broadcaster from selling programmes to other broadcasters in the UK or abroad. Similarly, we do not wish to prevent a public service broadcaster from charging, even at a premium rate, for the phone call made by a viewer to vote—the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, gave the example—a character in or out of a programme or to enter a competition. The Bill does not prevent broadcasters from charging for such specific requests, so long as everyone can receive for free the programme on which the vote is made.

It is not prohibited to charge those who want to vote or gamble on some features of the service using their phone line as a return path. If the purpose of the amendments is to make that clear, we believe that they are superfluous. However, if they propose to create a distinction between ancillary services that are broadcasts and those that are not, that would not only fail to add clarity but might be flawed. I am not sure that that is what the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, is proposing.

The prohibition to charge the viewer for the reception of a public service channel applies not only to the main services, but to any ancillary services within the meaning of Section 24(2) of the 1996 Act, as amended by Schedule 15, such as subtitling and other forms of assistance to the disabled. I am sure that we all agree that such services must be free. However, some other services might be included in the public service channels that we want viewers to receive free of charge, such as some interactive services.

The distinction that the amendments would introduce between ancillary broadcast services, which have to be free, and ancillary services that are not broadcast services, which would be charged, fails to add clarity and might well be flawed. Today's technology means that some services are not technically broadcast, but delivered in response to requests made by the individual users, although they are and have to be regulated as broadcast services. All cable providers may well soon stop providing the signals carrying normal broadcast television directly to homes, and instead receive and store all programming on local servers that serve perhaps 500 homes. It would not be fair that a cable viewer could be charged for the reception of those programmes, while a viewer receiving the same programmes via a true broadcast was not.

I hope that, in the light of those explanations, the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Wilcox: I thank the Minister very much for his explanation of what the Government propose. I shall read what he said in Hansard carefully to see whether it suffices. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 211 agreed to.

Clauses 212 to 214 agreed to.

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Clause 215 [Duty to secure the provision of a public teletext service]:

Lord Addington moved Amendment No. 169:

    Page 191, line 18, after "form" insert "or for so long as the digital teletext service remains inaccessible to visually impaired and deafblind people"

The noble Lord said: The aim of the amendment is incredibly straightforward. It is basically to ensure that the visually impaired and, more importantly at this level, the deafblind still have access to teletext. The reason why that is felt to be necessary is simply technical, as the techies would say, to use the original description given by my noble friend Lord McNally. Apparently on analogue only at the moment do we have the technical ability to transform teletext into other forms that are more readable, such as Braille.

Normally when we have talked about the issues in terms of disability, I have structured my points in relation to technology having enabled us to answer most of the problems. Here is an example where technology has not caught up. The current types of technology do not allow the reading of the digital signal. In a society rich—indeed saturated—with news and information, if we want two groups who are in danger of being cut off from the outside world to become a full part of that society we must allow them to continue to have the service.

I will break my usual practice by reading a letter from one Michael Gerwat, who is deafblind. He writes:

    "I am deafblind and the only way I can access the news from the outside world is by Teletext connected to a Braille computer. Now, when things go digital there is no provision for that teletext service to remain. It will just be axed and as yet there is nothing to take its place. Now I feel that OFCOM should have the power to say you must create something to replace that and make that accessible before we take the old one away. I know it is to do with manufacturers, I know it is to do with commercial demand and all that, but have you ever been deafblind yourself? Have you lived in a world where there is not a single sound at all and I mean silence, and the only access you've got to every day news is through the Teletext system. Please don't take it from us until you've found something to replace it".

The closest I can come to imagining what it is like to be deafblind is being placed in a padded cell with your eyes and ears permanently covered. You cannot access what is going on around you. You are trapped in there. I should have thought that this, or a similar provision, was essential for this group of people. I beg to move.

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