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Viscount Falkland: I speak to the amendments to which my noble friend Lord McNally has put his name. I freely confess, as this is clearly a probing amendment, that we on these Benches recognise the complexity behind the amendments in terms of predicting the future. After all, music is one of this country's major cultural exports. It accounts for about 5 billion worth of business, and the local commercial radio industry accounts for half a billion pounds a year.

I agree with the Commercial Radio Companies Association. To use the rather colourful phrasing in its brief:

That is probably right. In this country, popular music in particular has a certain amount of sophistication in the way that it is marketed and exploited. However, one notices and takes seriously that, where deregulation has occurred, particularly in Australia, Scandinavia and New Zealand, there is evidence that the supposed diversity has in fact resulted in what one could interpret as just the opposite happening.

It is not a straightforward situation. Obviously, our main concern—and there is no difference between any of us on this—is to support the British industry and its diversity. Whether the Bill will prejudice that worries us all. We hope that whichever Minister replies to the amendment will put the weight of her, or his, opinion into the debate, but it is a difficult one.

We support the concerns expressed in the amendments. Whatever the Minister intends to do about them, we will look at this subject very carefully, because it is vital to get it right.

Lord Gordon of Strathblane: While I have sympathy with the idea of preserving musical diversity, the sight of the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, in his place reminds me of the difficulty of defining it. I was not in this House, but was clearly interested in its deliberations, when the

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provisions were going through about the creation of independent national radio. There was a very convoluted attempt to define what was not popular music. I recall the noble Earl's immortal words that as far as he was concerned, it was thump, thump, thump. That was much more graphic than the 14 or so lines used at the time to describe it.

Popular music is difficult to define. The danger of creep does not arise at the extremes. There is no danger of a station which has won its licence on a promise to provide classical music switching to pop, or jazz switching to classical. However, I concede that there is a danger of creep at the woolly centre—what, in America, they called, when they had format regulation, "adult contemporary". In America, the packaging is everything. They have soft adult contemporary, rock adult contemporary, almost mint-flavoured adult contemporary. The danger is that nobody can really define what it is. It covers a huge soft centre.

I want to cheat slightly in this amendment. The true way to preserve diversity of musical output is to allow greater freedom of ownership. The same owner will deliberately choose much more diverse music across a range of services. It is only when too many separate owners are permitted to compete in the one market that they all zero in, subconsciously or not, on the fluffy centre, which we are trying to prevent them from doing.

Lord Puttnam: I shall briefly speak in support of the amendment. Here again, we have deregulation threatening to lead to consolidation and consolidation inevitably to conformity. Like other Members of the Committee, I have been approached by an enormous range of people from the music industry, who are very concerned at the spectre of change in this sector and believe that it will be negative. It is an important industrial or economic sector, and they are not silly or irrelevant people. They do not believe that they have been listened to or that the Government have thus far fully taken account of their concerns. It would do them and the Government a great deal of good to listen to those concerns between now and Report stage.

This is a real issue, which will not go away—indeed, I suspect that it will rumble on. The Government have been generous in taking account of what is seen as the Clear Channel threat, and they are right to do so. However, there is a concern in the music industry, and I am delighted that the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, has raised the matter.

Lord Colwyn: I also support the theory of this amendment. Speaking as a musician, I believe that it is important that there are safeguards for music creativity. Radio operators should not be able to walk away from their licence obligations relating to music programming.

The noble Lord, Lord Gordon, mentioned jazz and Jazz FM, of which I was a director. I parted company with that station on this very issue. However, speaking as a chairman of a company that is applying for a licence, I believe that all radio stations should and

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must abide by the format setting out the type of music that they must broadcast—a format that, in theory, cannot be changed without the regulator's consent.

This amendment would duplicate the powers that Ofcom already has in Clause 349, which, as I read it, covers the aims of the amendment but perhaps in more detail. I look forward to what the Minister has to say on that.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: The noble Baroness, Lady Warnock, referred to Clear Channel. I shall read one quotation from the chief executive of that company. In line with the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Gordon, I give him the benefit of the doubt.

The chief executive said on 2nd March in Sunday Business,

    "If anyone said we were in the radio business, it wouldn't be someone from our company . . . We're not in the business of providing news and information. We're not in the business of providing well researched music. We're simply in the business of selling our customers' products".

I would give the chief executive the benefit of doubt on that remark, having not seen the total context of the article in which he wrote it. I would assume that, if he was seeking to sell their customers' products, he would be as sensitive and sensible as the noble Lord, Lord Gordon, suggested. However, the fact remains that one cannot be certain that that is so, and that it might not be so, as the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, said a moment ago when he spoke of people's continuing anxiety.

For myself, I find a most agreeable interaction between the personality of the advertisers and the particular music with which they seek to sell their products—although I acknowledge that they do not choose the music themselves. When I was a post-graduate student at the Harvard Business School, my roommate and I built an entire world around the Boston classical music station, which advertised such things as hi-fis, oriental carpets and fine wines. We created a private world of our own from those particular advertisers.

There is the risk, as the number of providers decreases, that the choice and diversity will diminish. I would err at this juncture on the side of caution and, in that respect, I support my noble friend's amendment.

4.15 p.m.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: As has been explained, Amendment No. 174 would require Ofcom to review the possible impact on,

    "musical diversity and local character",

of changes in control of local radio licences.

We entirely understand and sympathise with the thinking behind the amendment. However, under Clause 348, Ofcom already has a duty to conduct a review when local licences change hands, and can make licence changes where it believes that there will

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be a deleterious effect in respect of the character of the station, the quality and range of programmes, or the localness of the station.

I entirely agree that it is important that Ofcom takes into account the effect of any changes on the range of music output of a station. I am not persuaded, however, that we need to add the words "musical diversity" to the Bill to achieve that. The vast majority of local radio stations' output is music. It is therefore very difficult to see how Ofcom could consider the effect of a change in the character of the station or the quality and range of programmes without considering the effect on diversity of music.

I would also suggest that the amendment does not fully take into account the central role of formats in protecting musical diversity. Formats are the first and most important defence of diversity of all kinds, particularly in music. The noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, raises the spectre of format creep. We recognise that that is a problem and that formats are deliberately light touch. The purpose of the new "localness" duty in Clause 307 is designed to address that by allowing Ofcom to flesh-out the formats.

All local and regional radio stations have a format which is part of their licence and sets out clearly and concisely the sort of music that the station will play. The formats—such as that for Classic FM—are available for inspection on the Radio Authority's website. To take another example, the format for Plymouth Sound states in part that,

    "music programming will be current chart hits, new releases or hits up to 10 years old. Up to 25 per cent may be hits over 10 years old".

The conditions are very specific. To take another example, Kiss FM—

Lord McNally: Hear, hear.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: I am sure that, as regular listeners, all noble Lords will be familiar with Kiss FM's format which,

    "comprises, and fully reflects, the musical styles known as House, Garage, Soul, Soul/Jazz, Rap, Reggae, Ragga and Swing together with any developments of these and other related forms of dance music".

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