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Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for the comprehensive explanation of the provisions specified in this order. As the noble Lord has said, the purpose of the order is to establish the definition of an "original production" for the purpose of Section 278 of and paragraph 8 of Schedule 12 to the Communications Act 2003.

As the Minister has said, Section 278 will come into force on 1 July 2004 and requires that programming quotas are imposed on licensed public service channels—that is, Channels 3, 4 or 5 and the Welsh Authority—for original productions. At present, all licensed public service broadcasters are subject to licence conditions requiring that a percentage of their programming output in each calendar year is original. Comparable licence conditions are to be imposed on licensed public service broadcasters by virtue of this order. However, the new requirements are to be based
 
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on the statutory obligations established by the Communications Act 2003. Furthermore, Ofcom is required to consult each licence holder prior to the imposition of an original production quota.

The new statutory regime is intended to ensure that the programming output of the commercial public service broadcasters remains vibrant and diverse. Indeed, the Government have conferred powers on Ofcom, through the statutory provisions implemented by the Communications Act, to ensure that the programming quota is set and adhered to. Acting in conjunction with the programming quotas for independent and regional production, the order will sustain growth and innovation within our broadcasting industry.

A programme will be classed as original if it satisfies a number of necessary criteria. First, the programme must be commissioned with a view to its first broadcast being on television in the UK on a licensed public service channel. These arrangements apply equally to the Welsh Authority, which must commission the original production for broadcast on one of its designated services. Secondly, the programme must qualify as a European work, as defined by the Television Without Frontiers Directive. If a work fails to satisfy the requisite criteria, it may be classified as a part-qualifying work under Article 6, paragraph 5 of the directive.

While we welcome the general thrust of this order— the need to secure originality and diversity in our broadcasting industry—I have one concern, to which the Minister has already referred and which was debated in another place. The Minister has made the point that the order does not apply to the BBC. The BBC is subject to similar requirements under the amended agreement between the Secretary of State and the BBC. The agreement denotes that the term "original production" has the same meaning as the term specified in this order and that comparable programme quota requirements are applicable.

However, I find this regulatory anomaly both complicated and unnecessary. The obligations placed on all public service broadcasters are remarkably similar and the dual regulatory regime through which these quota obligations are assessed must be reconsidered during the forthcoming charter renewal period. Although the issue of BBC compliance is not strictly within the scope of this debate, it is inextricably linked. I think the Minister will agree that it is imperative that all broadcasters comply with their quota obligations.

Viscount Falkland: My Lords, we on these Benches thank the Minister for explaining complex material in, I believe, just inside 10 minutes. I do not think that any of us would benefit from probing into that any further other than to ask one or two brief questions.

In common with, I believe, the BBC and others involved in broadcasting, we welcome the order. It makes appropriate provision for the definition of original production which will help ensure the strong United Kingdom domestic flavour of public service channels in the future.
 
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As the Minister intimated, repeats have an important role in bringing forward the transfer from analogue to digital, encouraging people to take up digital television facilities as quickly as possible. As regards repeats, I have a question that concerns the BBC in particular. Why are repeats of original programming not allowed on BBC3 or BBC4? During the passage of the Communications Bill we understood that it was intended that the digital channels would provide new material to attract new audiences, although we would not like to see those channels dedicated solely to that kind of programming.

Will the Minister assure the House that the calculations which refer to part-qualifying original programming as set out in Article 5 of the order will be done with the collaboration of the broadcasters themselves? The criteria are clear; namely, the cost of production, the degree of editorial control and the origins of authorship. However, my honourable friend the Member for Bath drew my attention to two instances that give rise to questions. Five's children's TV schedule includes a number of programmes that were made on location in New Zealand—for example, "Don't Tell the Koalas"—in collaboration with overseas broadcasters but were originally commissioned and financed by Five 5. If these programmes are not adequately represented in the original productions quota, that could undermine children's programming in the future. I hope that the Minister will respond to that point.

My honourable friend in another place also referred to Formula 1 racing that is produced by all three media. Where Grand Prix events that take place outside Britain are broadcast, the event coverage is provided by a domestic producer and supplied to all three media which then add on the all-British commentary, the links, the graphics and so on. Such programmes will need to be produced with sensitivity and with a recognition of the unique problems that arise regarding the coverage of sports and events. My honourable friend has raised an important point to which I hope the Minister will respond.

Will the Minister guarantee that the timescale for the 2005 original production quotas will be agreed with the public service broadcasters to enable them to meet that timescale? I believe that the BBC and Five 5 have complained of the dangers of a poorly planned timetable. Having said that, I welcome the order and thank the Government for it.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness and to the noble Viscount for responding to the order. I believe I can give all the assurances that are sought.

The noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, asked why there was a rather different regime for the BBC than for the other public service broadcasters. That is what is set out and required in the Communications Act 2003. Clearly, that is one of the issues that can legitimately be considered in the BBC charter review, and it will be. I make no judgment on the outcome of that; we have not yet published the results of our consultation. However, I can
 
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certainly say that if the outcome is that the BBC's regime for original productions should be more closely aligned with that of other broadcasters, that will be provided for in the charter and the agreement.

The noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, asked me why repeats on BBC3 and BBC4 were not included. A review of the BBC's digital output is being conducted by Professor Patrick Barwise of the London Business School. He will consider exactly that kind of issue. If we were to allow original productions by stations other than public service broadcasting stations, that would drive a coach and horses through the original production quota. If we were to allow material to be reused indefinitely between BBC channels or between Channel 4, Five 5 and Channel 3, that would also drive a coach and horses through the quota. We have to be cautious about that. It is better to leave that matter for Professor Barwise's review and subsequently for the charter review process.

The noble Viscount asked how the calculation for part-qualifying productions is arrived at and whether it is done with the collaboration of broadcasters. It could not be done any other way. The broadcasters who have an interest in their programmes being included in the quota of original productions, and those who produce them, whether internally or independently, will have to tell Ofcom the details. They will have to tell Ofcom about the budgets and the degree of participation. In my opening remarks I used the phrase, "make a significant contribution to the production". That can apply whether the actual shooting takes place in New Zealand or at a Formula 1 race track outside Europe. A calculation will have to be made regarding the contribution of European producers. Similarly, the timescale for the introduction of the detailed orders by Ofcom will have to be included in the consultation, to which I have already referred, which it has to undertake before it implements the quotas under this order.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Regulatory Reform (Museum of London) (Location of Premises) Order 2004

Lord McIntosh of Haringey rose to move, That the draft regulatory reform order laid before the House on 6 May be approved [18th and 22nd Reports from the Regulatory Reform Committee].


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