Select Committee on BBC Charter Review Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1500 - 1519)


Lord Currie of Marylebone and Mr Tim Suter

  Q1500  Lord Peston: Formally, regularly?

  Lord Currie of Marylebone: Yes. I am meeting with the CBI this lunchtime. We take a view that it is appropriate for us to expose ourselves to the views of ordinary people and organisations out there that have views and interests in what we are doing.

  Q1501  Lord Peston: You do not feel, for example, that what we really need is not a body of this sort but a body that would be called the Central Morality and Ethical Advisory Committee? Is that not the body you ought to be looking for somewhere? Is that not the issue?

  Mr Suter: There are specific issues when it comes to offence in relation to religious programming where we do not necessarily have the sensibilities within Ofcom, or the range of faiths or knowledge, to be able to respond to issues of offence that are brought to us by, for instance, the Tamil community in relation to a piece of broadcasting. It is important for us to have access to people who can authoritatively tell us where a line has or has not been crossed. It is important to have that resource.

  Lord Currie of Marylebone: I have no doubt that if the body you have mentioned existed we would be meeting with them.

  Chairman: You think that is up to somebody else to set up?

  Lord Holme of Cheltenham: Lord Peston!

  Q1502  Chairman: Just one point of fact. You answered Lord Peston and said basically it is a BBC committee, but I understood its members are appointed jointly by the BBC and Ofcom Content Board?

  Mr Suter: They are appointed by the BBC; the Content Board has been consulted on recent appointments.

  Q1503  Chairman: So are they jointly appointed?

  Mr Suter: No.

  Q1504  Chairman: They are appointed by the BBC?

  Mr Suter: They are appointed by the BBC.

  Q1505  Chairman: But the BBC goes to the Content Board and says, "Have you got any suggestions or proposals"?

  Mr Suter: And advises us of who they are intending to appoint.

  Q1506  Chairman: If the Humanists or others were an inside body you would consult with them as well?

  Mr Suter: Of course.

  Q1507  Chairman: Do you at the moment?

  Mr Suter: With the—

  Q1508  Chairman: With non-religious bodies. Do you talk to the Humanists or someone like that?

  Mr Suter: We will talk to any organisation that can help us in forming the judgments we have to form.

  Q1509  Baroness Howe of Idlicote: I just want to come back to your document and the programme code review where I think you printed some very interesting comments by people which give the right balance of where people might have concerns if broadcasters were not taking the right view of things that are being put over. Perhaps being a little bit specific, getting a bit too like some of the stuff that goes on in American broadcasting of religion. Given the different areas in which broadcasts are now being heard and accessed and so on, are you at all concerned that some of the areas that are quite clearly the responsibility that your code is concerned about will just drift in and people perhaps will be persuaded in areas that certainly religion in this country would not want them to be persuaded: giving money, watching certain forms of religious activity that might influence children, you know what I am talking about, that are in the code?

  Mr Suter: Beyond question, the environment we live in now makes those sorts of channels available to people who have access to satellite and cable technology, for instance. They can get those channels. They are not licensed in the UK, they are licensed elsewhere, but they are freely available here. It is not that this broadcasting is not available. The question for us is what broadcasting we wish to license, and that is an important distinction. Just because something is available elsewhere does not mean to say that it should be licensed by us. It might mean we should license similar programmes but it does not necessarily mean that we should, we may take a stricter rule in regard to some kinds of broadcasting that prey on particular sensibilities. Until now we have taken that line with some kinds of religious broadcasting on television, limiting the ability to appeal directly for funds, for instance, because of the concern we have about sensibilities.

  Q1510  Baroness Howe of Idlicote: Is that available via the Internet?

  Mr Suter: Of course it is available via the Internet and it is available from—

  Q1511  Baroness Howe of Idlicote: But you have not much control over the Internet.

  Mr Suter: No, nor indeed over channels that are licensed outside the UK.

  Q1512  Lord King of Bridgwater: On this business about the European Commission's Premier League rights, Talk Radio complained to you about the radio rights being exclusive to the BBC and you waited to see what the European Commission were going to do about television. Did anybody complain to you about the television situation or did the European Commission do it off their own bat? You had a complaint only on the radio rights that came to you, you do not seem to have had a complaint on the television, is that right?

  Lord Currie of Marylebone: Are you talking about the Premier League?

  Q1513  Lord King of Bridgwater: Yes.

  Lord Currie of Marylebone: That is a matter for the European Commission.

  Q1514  Lord King of Bridgwater: Somebody complained to you about the radio rights, Talk Radio, but did anyone complain to you about the television?

  Mr Suter: We have had no complaints on the television. We knew this was a subject that was for the Commission anyway and which the Commission would be picking up.

  Q1515  Lord King of Bridgwater: Was radio not something for the Commission?

  Mr Suter: It is a separate issue. The issue that Talk Radio brought to us was in relation to the BBC purchase of those rights which we stood off until we knew where the FAPL and the Commission would come out.

  Q1516  Lord King of Bridgwater: Television appears to be a matter for the Commission, radio does not, but they have both got exclusive coverage, one in radio and one in television.

  Mr Suter: They would both be a matter for the Commission, but the Commission is deciding on the appropriate allocation of FAPL rights going forward.

  Q1517  Lord King of Bridgwater: You waited until you saw what the Commission had to say. Are you now going to say any more on the radio issue?

  Mr Suter: I think it is not yet clear where the Commission is going to end up. We have indications of where it will end up but I do not think it is yet clear.

  Q1518  Lord King of Bridgwater: Is Talk Radio waiting to hear from you? Have you said to them, "Hang on; we will wait to see what the Commission says"?

  Mr Suter: We said to Talk Radio we will wait to see the outcome of the European deliberations, and that is still the position.

  Q1519  Lord King of Bridgwater: Would it be in your power to say, "The Commission says six packages; nobody can have more than five"? Are you likely to do that with radio and say the BBC can only have that and somebody else can have some of the gains?

  Lord Currie of Marylebone: That is a matter for consideration when we know the outcome of the FAPL.

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