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Lord Ashley of Stoke: My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. We have not received all we asked for, but, being realistic, in politics one never does. It is my conviction that millions of disabled people will look back on tonight as a landmark. I shall certainly associate it with the name of my noble friend Lord McIntosh. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 150 not moved.]

The Chairman of Committees: I should point out that if Amendment No. 150A is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 150B.

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Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 150A:

    Page 265, line 8, leave out subsection (2) and insert—

"(1A) The code must include provision for securing that every provider of a service to which this section applies ensures that adequate information about the assistance for disabled people that is provided in relation to that service is made available to those who are likely to want to make use of it.
(2) The code must also require that, from the fifth and tenth anniversaries of the relevant date, the obligations in subsections (2A) and (3), respectively, must be fulfilled by reference to averages computed over each of the following—
(a) the twelve month period beginning with the anniversary in question; and
(b) every twelve month period ending one week after the end of the previous period for which an average fell to be computed.
(2A) The obligation to be fulfilled from the fifth anniversary of the relevant date is that at least 60 per cent. of so much of every service which—
(a) is a service to which this section applies, and
(b) has a relevant date after the passing of this Act,
as consists of programmes that are not excluded programmes must be accompanied by subtitling."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 150B not moved.]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendments Nos. 150C to 150E:

    Page 265, line 14, leave out "Those obligations" and insert "The obligations to be fulfilled from the tenth anniversary of the relevant date"

    Page 265, line 15, leave out "in every week" .

    Page 265, line 18, leave out "in every week" .

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Addington moved Amendment No. 151:

    Page 265, line 20, at end insert—

"( ) that at least 50 per cent in every week of so much of—
(i) a Channel 3 service,
(ii) Channel 4,
(iii) Channel 5, or
(iv) S4C Digital
as consists of programmes that are not excluded programmes must be accompanied by audio-description for the blind."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment will make much more sense if Amendment No. 152 is taken at the same time—it was a long list and there were bound to be one or two mistakes, but nothing fatal.

Those amendments concern targets for audio description. Taken together, they are designed to ensure that we get 50 per cent targets for audio description. That is now certainly achievable—we referred to this earlier. We have a network that may speed us on our way—it is called the Sky broadcasting system—if we are prepared to pump in enough money to allow us access, which is not that great. I refer the House to comments made earlier today.

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If we have that attitude, we will probably be able to achieve something similar to that which has just been achieved with subtitling. It has been said that the technology is not quite advanced as that in subtitling; but it is not far off; it is not much more expensive. It is about 200 an hour more expensive, on the figures that have been cited to me for about two years. In other words, we could accept that and do something, if we had the will. There are technical problems with getting the box and having it transferred to terrestrial digital, but that is achievable, if we have sufficient political will. However, it is best that we leave that matter there.

However, I hope that the Government will closely consider Amendment No. 152A. That would mean that repeats would not be considered twice. There would thus be a commitment to ensure that under the very modest target of 10 per cent of programmes to be audio described, they would be new programmes. That will have the huge advantage of a bank of audio described programmes. As we use viewer peaks, if a programme is a success, it is understandable—indeed, commendable—that it is repeated; but let us ensure that only new programmes are counted.

I believe that the noble Lord mentioned that Amendment No. 156H pre-empts Amendment No. 157. The aim was that targets could only be raised. I am slightly annoyed that the Government spotted that first and did not give me a chance to say so, but, hey, you cannot have everything.

Turning to Amendments Nos. 158 and 159, we have already discussed the principle of having a regular review written into legislation. I ask the Government to think again about that, because they should consider the concept. It is important to know that one can review things regularly and not wait for something to occur, especially when things change so quickly.

I turn to government Amendment No. 160. That is very interesting and I await to hear what the Minister has to say about it. I beg to move.

Lord Carter: My Lords, I shall speak briefly to Amendment No. 152A. It repeats a point that we raised in Committee under an amendment in my name, to which we have not received a satisfactory answer. It concerns the calculation of the percentage for audio description—the 10 per cent. From briefing that we received from the BBC and others, we discovered that repeats are included in that calculation. For example if "EastEnders" is audio described, if the omnibus edition on Sunday is also audio described, that is included in the percentage. On other channels, the same programme may be frequently repeated.

If it was required that all qualifying audio description was on new programming, even though the target remained at 10 per cent, that would quickly increase the amount of audio described material. It is as simple as that. I cannot quite see why either the broadcasters or the Government want to resist that, because that is an easy way to increase the amount of audio description without altering the percentage in the Bill. I hope that the Minister will be able to give a logical reason why repeats should be included.

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Turning to sub-paragraph (ii), I had thought that Ofcom would have the power to vary rather than to increase the percentage because, while I know that the Minister will be briefed to tell me that under Clause 301 the Government will have the power to alter the percentages by affirmative order, the sub-paragraph marks an attempt to probe whether a way could be found for Ofcom to deal with this problem. For certain major broadcasters the figure of 10 per cent will be too low, but for some of the smaller broadcasters, it is actually too high. Does Ofcom have the power to vary the percentage in order to meet the particular circumstances of each broadcaster?

However, the main point I wish to put is that contained in sub-paragraph (i). If we are to have a target of 10 per cent, then it is important to ensure that it is met on programmes that have not previously been audio described and that repeats should not be included.

10.30 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, we have had a full debate on the needs of people with sensory impairments so I shall try not to go over old ground. Let me start by introducing government Amendment No. 160 to Clause 304. It addresses the concerns expressed in Committee that the electronic programme guides should be as accessible as possible to people with disabilities, who might need them even more than ordinary viewers.

The amendment should help to ensure that electronic programme guides are easy to use and that solutions are developed to ensure, for instance, that blind people can have an audio electronic programme guide. It should deal with the need for the availability of aids to viewing such as subtitles, signing and audio description to be clearly indicated in and accessed through the guide. I hope that the House will agree that in this we have listened to the concerns expressed and have acted accordingly.

I shall respond to the other amendments in this group. Amendment No. 151 proposes setting a 50 per cent audio description target for the licensed public service broadcasters and S4C Digital. As we have made clear, the 10 per cent target for audio description represents the result of a thorough review and consultation by the Government in 2001. After due consideration we concluded that the 10 per cent target should be maintained in the light of the costs of providing the service and, in particular, the unresolved production and distribution difficulties with the audio description modules needed to receive the service.

I do not disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Addington, that in the future things could improve, perhaps even in the near future, but at present we are disappointed that the current problems with the module have not been solved. We shall continue to work with interested parties to identify possible solutions. In any case, the Secretary of State has the power to increase the 10 per cent target for audio

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description. So if there were significant advances in the current technology, the target could be increased. We shall keep this under review.

Amendment No. 152A, retabled from Amendment No. 148, proposes that the target for programmes that must be audio described should apply only to programmes which have not previously been audio described, the point made by my noble friend Lord Carter. This would mean that repeats of the same programme could not count towards the target percentage.

We do not think that it is necessary to do this. Programmes which have already been audio described could be discounted from the calculations if Ofcom were to conclude that such repeats should be excluded programmes. That is provided for in Clause 298(5). I suggest that representatives and organisations of those with visual impairments ought to discuss that with Ofcom.

Amendment No. 152A also seeks to give Ofcom the power to vary the 10 per cent audio description target for some broadcasters. Ofcom already has the flexibility to set different interim targets for different broadcasters, but we believe that it is right for the Secretary of State to set the 10-year target itself. This is a political rather than a broadcasting matter.

Clause 301, as my noble friend Lord Carter anticipated, allows the Secretary of State, following consultation with Ofcom, to increase by order the target percentage for audio description. So even though the target is currently 10 per cent, if significant technological advances were made leading to a more widespread take-up of the modules, the targets could be increased. I hope that that will happen. In any case, once the 10-year anniversary has passed, Ofcom can set further targets through the provision in government Amendment No. 156A, which we have just discussed. On my noble friend's question of whether there could be a lower percentage, I shall have to write to him.

As the noble Lord, Lord Addington, recognised, Amendment No. 157 is already covered by government Amendment No. 156H. Amendments Nos. 158 and 159 would require the Secretary of State to conduct a review before making an order to modify the 10-year targets for subtitling, signing and audio description.

I presume the review is intended to be on the same lines as that proposed in Amendment No. 159. This sets out a detailed procedure for the Secretary of State to review the targets after one and three years. Of course the targets should be kept under review, but the process set out in Amendment No. 158 is unnecessary and overly burdensome, particularly when the review is intended to take place so soon after these issues have been thoroughly consulted upon and debated in the context of the Bill.

I commend Amendment No. 160. I hope that the other amendments will not be pressed.

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