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Lord Addington: My Lords, I shall welcome Amendment No. 160 when we come to it but first let

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me get the usual suspects out of the way first. The system for broadcasting audio description to those who wish to use it is in a mess. It is a cloud hanging over this part of the Bill. That is why we need to have proper provision for it on the face of the Bill. We should think twice about allowing broadcasters to go on for years producing audio described programmes that no one can receive.

As to Amendment No. 152A, we need firmer assurances in regard to specially produced programmes. We are trying to build up a bank of new programmes and we need something more solid. At the moment programmes are repeated over and over again. One wonders what percentage of an audio-described "Fawlty Towers" or "Porridge" the BBC would use. Forget about "EastEnders", which is repeated once a week. How many times have we seen these programmes? I suspect that most of us could reproduce the dialogue word for word. Indeed, the generation that discovered "Monty Python" five years after it was originally shown could do so in regard to certain episodes. We have to look at the matter of specialist services again.

Having said that, I thank the Government for meeting us at least part of the way. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 151A:

    Page 265, line 21, leave out "in every week" .

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 152 and 152A not moved.]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 152B:

    Page 265, line 25, leave out "in every week" .

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 153 not moved.]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendments Nos. 153A to 153C:

    Page 265, line 29, after "in" insert "subsection (2A) or in"

    Page 265, line 31, after "that" insert "subsection or"

    Page 265, line 33, after "to" insert "subsection (2A) and"

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 154 not moved.]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 154A:

    Page 265, line 35, after "that" insert "subsection or"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 155 and 156 not moved.]

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Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendments Nos. 156A to 156C:

    Page 266, line 8, leave out from "(9)," to "and" in line 9 and insert "from dates falling before an anniversary mentioned in subsection (2);

( ) requirements on persons providing such services to meet further targets from dates falling after the anniversary mentioned in subsection (3);"
Page 266, line 16, leave out from "(2)" to end of line 17 .

    Page 266, line 28, leave out paragraph (f).

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 300 [Meaning of "relevant date" in s.298]:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendments Nos. 156D and 156E:

    Page 267, line 18, at end insert "or"

    Page 267, line 19, leave out from "service" to end of line 21.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 301 [Power to modify targets in s.298]:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendments Nos. 156F to 156J:

    Page 267, line 34, at end insert—

"( ) Where it appears to the Secretary of State, in the case of services of a particular description, that the obligation specified in section 298(2A) has been or is likely to be fulfilled in their case before the anniversary so specified, he may by order modify section 298 so as to do one or both of the following—
(a) increase the percentage so specified in relation to services of that description;
(b) substitute a different anniversary for the anniversary by which that obligation must be fulfilled in the case of such services."
Page 267, line 37, leave out "specified in subsection (2) of that section" and insert "by which the obligations specified in subsection (3) of that section must be fulfilled"

    Page 267, line 39, leave out "different" and insert "higher"

    Page 267, line 40, leave out "subsection (3) of that section" and insert "that subsection"

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 157 not moved.]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 157A:

    Page 267, line 41, leave out "virtue of subsection (1)" and insert "an order under this section"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 158 and 159 not moved.]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 159A:

    Page 268, line 4, leave out "subsection (1)" and insert "this section"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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Clause 304 [Code of practice for electronic programme guides]:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 160:

    Page 269, line 11, at end insert—

"( ) The practices required by the code must also include the incorporation of such features in electronic programme guides as OFCOM consider appropriate for securing that persons with disabilities affecting their sight or hearing or both—
(a) are able, so far as practicable, to make use of such guides for all the same purposes as persons without such disabilities; and
(b) are informed about, and are able to make use of, whatever assistance for disabled people is provided in relation to the programmes listed or promoted."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 161 to 163 not moved.]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 164:

    Page 269, line 28, leave out paragraph (a).

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 306 [Character and coverage of sound broadcasting services]:

Baroness Buscombe had given notice of her intention to move Amendment No. 165:

    Page 270, leave out lines 13 to 16 and insert—

"(b) that the departure would not narrow the range of programmes (including in particular the diversity of music) available by way of relevant independent radio services to persons living in the area or locality for which the service is to be provided;"

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in rising to speak to the next group of amendments, I shall not move our Amendments Nos. 165, 166, 167, 205, 206 and 207.

Instead, we commend the Government on responding to the amendments tabled by the Opposition in Committee. We welcome the Government's move to address our concerns regarding the inclusion of music in Clauses 306 and 348, rather than in Clause 307. Furthermore, we support the Government's shift towards making the burden on commercial radio, under Clause 307, less onerous and prescriptive. We are also pleased that the amendments to Clause 307, tabled by the Minister, reflect the policy advocated from these Benches, in both your Lordships' House and the other place, throughout the passage of the Bill.

[Amendment No. 165 not moved.]

Lord Davies of Oldham moved Amendment No. 165A:

    Page 270, line 23, at end insert—

"(1B) The matters to which OFCOM must have regard in determining for the purposes of this section the character of a service provided under a local licence include, in particular, the selection of spoken material and music in programmes included in the service.""

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I shall also speak to the remaining government amendments in this group. I am enormously grateful to the noble Baroness,

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Lady Buscombe, for the position that she has adopted, and her recognition of the way we have responded to debates in Committee and tabled our amendments. However, I am not sure whether the whole House agrees with the noble Baroness that we have carried out the task that we embarked upon, in responding to the Committee debate, to create a new situation with our amendments, which we hope will be commended to the whole industry. I am aware that concerns have been expressed about aspects of the proposals prior to the tabling of our amendments. However, at this stage I shall curtail my contribution and listen to the debate from those who wish to express anxieties about our amendments, and then reply. I beg to move.

Lord Eatwell: My Lords, it is difficult not to take up the Minister's invitation. I declare an interest as chairman of the Commercial Radio Companies Association, and I shall speak to this bloc of government amendments.

On Second Reading I was highly critical of Clause 307, which was introduced without any consultation. That would have imposed a one-size-fits-all localness code on local radio stations from Capital Radio, London to Oban Radio on the west coast of Scotland. I argued that this was not only excessively onerous regulation, but also unnecessary, because all the requisite powers to enforce localness are available in flexible, licence-specific form in Clause 306. I thank the Minister for the consultation that has since taken place on these matters, and congratulate him on the amendments to Clause 307.

Instead of the extreme micro-management that characterised the old Clause 307, the new Clause 307 passes to Ofcom the responsibility of drawing up guidance on how localness should be achieved. Given that the Government have abandoned the previous definition of "localness", based on inputs—where employees live, what might be the proportion of local advertising, and so on—is it the Government's understanding that these input controls would not and could not be introduced by Ofcom in the form of guidance? To put the matter another way, can we now consider Clause 306 as embodying the rules on localness, and Clause 307 as containing the guidance?

Will the Minister confirm that it is not the Government's intention that the guidance referred to in Clause 307 should be the means of introducing new regulatory controls by the back door? I should like that confirmation.

I turn to Amendments Nos. 165 and 165A. I am glad that the noble Baroness did not press Amendment No. 165. I ask those who put forward these amendments regarding the music industry to consider two facts as regards Amendment No. 165A, which was moved: first, the UK music industry is 10 times larger than the commercial radio industry; secondly, the music industry is predominantly American owned, whereas the commercial radio industry is predominantly British. The Government must consider whether they have got their priorities right in that amendment.

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I wish that I could be as complimentary about the new clause set out in government Amendment No. 166A as I have been about the amendments to Clause 307. Amendment No. 166A inserts yet another new clause introduced under cover of darkness, without consultation. Like many such clauses, the new clause, introduced with excessive haste, is totally at variance with the spirit of the rest of the Bill. When they published the Bill in draft form, my right honourable friends the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry jointly declared:

    "Unnecessary regulations need to be removed wherever possible . . . Red tape and the frictional cost of regulation will be reduced, allowing companies to grow and invest more freely".

Yet, this evening, the Minister wishes to impose new, extra regulation through Amendment No. 166A, governing consultation about change of local service formats. Why?

Ofcom already has the power to consult, if it sees fit. What is to be gained by removing its discretion and forcing it to consult in every case in which a format is to be changed? Have the Government no faith in the noble Lord, Lord Currie, and his team, that all discretion must be removed from him?

There are over 250 commercial radio stations in the UK. During 2002, the Radio Authority agreed to 35 changes in formats. Holding month-long consultations on those 35 changes such as the Government seek to impose would significantly increase the regulatory burden. Will the Minister tell us what was the outcome of the Government's regulatory impact assessment of the new clause? What is the regulatory cost that the regulatory impact assessment tells us will be associated with the clause? Can the Minister say which decisions made in the past year by the Radio Authority to permit change of format he now believes to have been made in error? Exactly which of the Radio Authority's decisions would have benefited from the elaborate procedures set out in Amendment No. 166A? The Government say that they believe in evidence-based policy. Will the Minister gave us the evidence of the errors that the Radio Authority has made?

Amendment No. 166A is about increased consultation. Yet the Government have failed to consult. Will the Minister at least do the decent thing and withdraw Amendment No. 166A, so that there can be a period of consultation prior to Third Reading?

10.45 p.m.

Lord McNally: My Lords, that was a robust defence of the interests of the Commercial Radio Companies Association by its chairman. I have no objection to that. I welcome the government amendments that recognise the importance of music in radio, and I am grateful for them.

It is interesting that the government amendments to Clause 307 represent a weakening of powers. The Commercial Radio Companies Association should take credit for some good lobbying in that direction. However, the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell, has to

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understand that commercial radio is operating against a background of some deep public concern. The truth is that when we look abroad and see the future, it does not work in terms of diversity in local radio. We on these Benches do not want to see any further weakening and we certainly would not support the deletion of Clause 307. There are even concerns about Amendment No. 166. Amendment No. 166A seeks to introduce new Section 106ZA. Subsection (4) of the new section states:


    (a) are not required to publish a notice under this section, and

    (b) may specify a period of less than 28 days in such a notice as the period for representations,

    if they consider that the publication of the notice, or allowing a longer period for representations, would result in a delay that would be likely prejudicially to affect the interests of the licence holder".

That could be quite a get-out.

All I am saying is that matching the indignant tone of the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell, is a counterbalancing concern that our local radio could go—and in some cases is already going—the way that deregulation has gone in other countries; namely, station after station being hoovered up by large conglomerates, which homogenise the product to the detriment of local voice, music and identity. In a way the Minister is caught between a rock and a hard place. There is more than one side to the argument, and I look forward to his response.

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