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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, without wishing to pre-empt debateclearly, there will be a debate after I have spokenwe could be in some procedural difficulty as a number of amendments in the group are government amendments to which other noble Lords will wish to respond. I hope that the House will agree that I should intervene now to debate the government amendments and then, with the leave of the House, respond to that debate before the mover of the prime amendment decides what to do.
Amendment No. 127 imposes a requirement on broadcasters to include programmes of an educational nature and other programmes of educative value. After we debated the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, in Committee, we concluded that the requirement for broadcasters to provide programmes on educational matters did not accurately reflect our intentions. Amendment No. 127 clarifies that programming covered in Clause 260(6)(e) should not apply only to issues relating to education such as school class sizes, for example, but should extend to programmes whose purpose is to educate and which have educational value.
Amendments Nos. 128, 129 and 133 relate to programmes dealing with religion. Amendments were proposed in Committee both to modify the focus of the current reference to religion in Clause 260(6)(f) and to make reference to other forms of belief.
Having reflected on that, we have identified two separate concerns that we can meet. The first is to make it clear that the reference to religion within the remit encompasses both factual programmes about religion and programmes of a religious nature. We interpret that as meaning the portrayal of religious activity, including acts of worship. The second is to add a reference to other beliefs, which would include ethical systems or philosophies such as humanism or secularism.
Amendment No. 128 expands the reference to religion in the matters listed in subsection (6) of Clause 260 to "religion and other beliefs". Amendment No. 129 sets out the range of issues to be encompassed by programmes dealing with religion and other beliefs. The effect is that public service broadcasters as a whole will have to provide programmes which, first, convey factual information relating to religion and other beliefs, including news, tenets of faith or belief, and history. Secondly, they must portray activity relating to religion and other beliefs, in particular, by showing acts of worship and other ceremonies and practices, such as church services and the equivalent for other faiths. That includes some services or ceremonies in their entirety.
I shall not respond to Amendment No. 129A at this time if the House agrees. Amendment No. 133 defines "belief" to mean a collective belief in, or other adherence to, a systemised set of ethical or philosophical principles or mystical or transcendental doctrines.
On Amendment No. 130, the noble Lord, Lord Lea, argued in Committee for a strengthening of the reference to programming for children and young people in the public service television remit. The provision for children's television in the public service remit is already unique among the list of requirements in that it specifies that programming should be both high quality and original. Nevertheless, we accept the case for an additional safeguard. Amendment No. 130 therefore expands the existing wording to refer to a suitable quantity and range of programmes for children and young people. That is similar to the formulation used in respect of the requirements for education programming and programming on topics such as science, religion and international issues.
Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, in speaking to my Amendment No. 131, may I say that I am in favour of all the other amendments, including the government amendments? I am most grateful to the Minister for the amendment on educational nature and value.
I resubmitted my amendment because there appeared to be some misunderstanding about its intention when it was debated in Committee. The misunderstanding came particularly from the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe. My noble friend Lady O'Neill had kindly taken over the task in Committee of moving the various amendments in my name to Clause 260, as I could not be present the day on which they were called; or it may have been a question of divorce.
I had intended to stress the importance of ensuring on the face of the Bill that programmes for children included a significant quantity about the UK's history, culture and traditionsand specifically geared to audiences in this country. That is particularly important for the child audience who will shortly become the UK's adult citizens.
There are two reasons behind that thinking. First, with an increasingly multi-ethnic and multi-cultural population, the commissioning of this kind of programme would be an important public service duty for broadcasters. The intention is perhaps not dissimilar from that of Amendment No. 125, which will be moved later by the noble Lord, Lord Holme. I am glad to have the opportunity again of correcting any misunderstandings that there may have been about what I said on another occasion. I am very enthusiastic about the noble Lord's amendment. My amendment is intended better to equip today's young people to play a full and active part in the UK, particularly in their citizenship role.
Secondly, the amendment is intended to act as a further hedge against the possible consequences of foreign ownership. Should a global player take over a major part of our broadcasting industry, it would need a regulation requirement of this kind to avoid the temptation to produce nothing but homogenised programmes that were saleable world wide.
I thank the Minister for tabling so many amendments. We are all most grateful to him for having listened to the many concerns about the wording of the clause and its subsections. I am therefore sure that he will be able to reassure me that his Amendments Nos. 127 and 130, I think, will meet the concerns on this point that many people have voiced to me.
The Lord Bishop of Manchester: My Lords, in speaking to my Amendment No. 129A I welcome most warmly government Amendment No. 129. I am very grateful to the Government for listening carefully to the views that have been expressed from these Benches and across the House about the importance of reflecting in broadcasting the significant place that religion and other beliefs have in our national life. Amendment No. 129 does in my view meet the aspirations of many people both within the Churches and in the population at large of whatever faith and none. Certainly there are many elderly or disabled and others who for various reasons are confined to their homes who will be especially grateful for the emphasis on the broadcasting of worship.
Amendment No. 133 is an interesting definition of "belief", not least because it repeats as part of its definition the very word it seeks to definean echo perhaps of what I think was Sydney Smith's much quoted answer to the question about the functions of an archdeacon:
I take Amendment No. 133 to be an entirely appropriate attempt at an umbrella definition. In that sense it meets the need adequately. What Christians mean by belief is quite different, for example, from what Jews mean by belief. Each faith, or non-faith, sees things differently and poses different sets of questions. So as far as these Benches are concerned we are willing to back this definition of belief. As a distinguished theologian with whom I shared my views and sought his put it:
Amendment No. 129A in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, makes what I hope will be seen as a benign drafting point in relation to government Amendment No. 129. I think that it is the Government's intention that news and other information about different religions and other beliefs should include discussion programmes. I am sure your Lordships would agree that intelligent engagement and dialogue is particularly important in areas of religion and belief, not least because it is often the most effective way of building up tolerance and respect between people of differing viewpoints, and thereby encouraging greater harmony and understanding on these fundamental issues within local communities. It is a point which in a different way the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, has recently made in relation to an earlier amendment.
So I hope that, at least by specific mention in the record of this debate, the desirability of such positive exchange in discussionbeing as it were a genre within the programmes dealing with religion and other beliefswill be affirmed by the Government.
Baroness Whitaker: My Lords, I rise very briefly to support all these amendments. They seem to me to be an extremely worthy group. I should particularly like to welcome my noble friend's amendments and Amendment No. 129A in the name of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester and the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury. They all seem to me to strike exactly the right balance for a modern, tolerant and civilised democracy.
Lord Holme of Cheltenham: My Lords, I rise briefly to comment on Amendment No. 124A and on the government amendments to do with the definition of belief, including Amendment No. 133. I very warmly support the aspirations of Amendment No. 124A. I think that dramaand I choose my words carefullyis the jewel in the crown of broadcast television. We need it, and it is one of the things that we do best in this country.
If I can be marginally pedantic, perhaps I may say that I was not sure in the amendment as drafted about the notion that drama covers a range of issues. I recognise the place that "Cathy Come Home" has in that tradition of issue-based drama, but does all drama have to have an issue? Can it not be the product of imagination and not simply of issues? Does every drama have to have a helpline attached at the end of it? Is Brideshead Revisited about student homosexuality or interfaith marriages? Is "King Lear" about care in the community for ageing monarchs? I am not at all sure that the movers of the amendment have not slightly constricted themselves. Perhaps if the word "imagination" found its way in there as well as "issues" it would improve the amendment. But that is not to say that it detracts in any way from my support for it.
In the same mood of pedantry I shall move on, if I may, to Amendment No. 133 in particular. I was impressed by how easily pleased the right reverend Prelate was with this definition, which seems to me extremely tricky. I am not saying that I for one could do any better. I think that it is a matter that has vexed philosophers down the ages. However, there are certain problems with this definition in terms of Ofcom, which has to make it work. First, are all "beliefs" equal? I imagine that at one time the Government considered using the word "faith" rather than "belief", but they have come up with belief in the end. I think that "a not uncertain wicket" probably is not what our Lord had in mind when he talked about St Peter as a rock. I think that a "not uncertain wicket" is probably slightly different from the rock of faith which sustains most religions.
More practically, rather than picking at this very difficult piece of drafting, how far does this extend? Would the so-called Church of Scientology now be able to apply for judicial review if it did not receive proper coverage from public service broadcasters? My observation is that the smaller the number of people who adhere to the so-called systemised system of beliefs, the more intense is their fervency. It seems to me that if the Government are not very careful they are going to make it extremely difficult for Ofcom to distinguish between the major faiths which we would all like to see receive adequate coverage in the way that the right reverend Prelate described and the more
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