Examination of Witnesses (Questions 2040
TUESDAY 24 JANUARY 2006
Ms Jocelyn Hay CBE and Mr Robert Clark
Q2040 Lord Maxton:
There is another one. BT are launching television services this
Ms Hay: Yes.
Q2041 Lord Maxton:
The telephone line has two advantages?
Ms Hay: It does.
Q2042 Lord Maxton:
One, it can provide television, but also does not use up any spectrum?
Ms Hay: That is true.
Q2043 Lord Maxton:
Would you consider maybe a free telephone line into every house
and a box as I way of doing this?
Ms Hay: Certainly with wireless communications
for telephones as well as for broadcasting services, that is another
way which is coming and which is being developed and might be
a very feasible way of doing it, but certainly we believe that
there should be an alternative to cable, which will not reach
everybodydigital terrestrial will not reach everyone and
satellite will not reach everyoneand so we believe very
strongly there should be a combination of them all, and if that
can be now assisted through broadband or the telephone, then that
Q2044 Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury:
You have said that you do not think the BBC should be responsible
for paying for the vulnerable. What is your attitude? There are
going to be some people who just do not want to convert?
Ms Hay: That is right.
Q2045 Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury:
Whose responsibility should they be and how does one deal with
Ms Hay: It is going to be very difficult, because
probably this is going to be a more rapid change than previous
technologies and there will be some resistance. I think the resistance
is growing less, but perhaps more determined, amongst those that
remain, and it will be a difficult one to manage. It is government
policy, so in the end it should come down to government, I believe.
Q2046 Lord Peston:
We certainly took the view, and this Government told us, that
it was in the national interest. As you know, our earlier report
arguing it is for the national interest not for the general tax
payer who should take it is your view?
Ms Hay: It is in the national interest, we believe,
yes, and it is a new technology that will bring benefits. It cannot
be uninvented, so let us make the most of it.
Q2047 Lord Peston:
You have really answered, I think, what I was going to ask you
about who should bear the cost of the social side of all this.
You are saying it should not fall to the licence fee-payer?
Ms Hay: That is true. We have just come this
morning from a meeting with Digital UK, whom you have already
interviewed. They are responsible for managing the project. The
BBC is contributing enormously to the costs of Digital UK and
to the communications programme that it is preparing. I cannot
quite remember now the actual costs, but I thought it was 95 per
cent of the costs, which is a considerable amount that is already
coming out of the licence fee. So, together with the development
of the technology, the build out of the transmitter network, the
work that the BBC has put into developing digital radio, for instance,
that is a considerable amount which is already coming out of a
limited pool of people, the licence fee-payers.
We keep on talking about vulnerable groups. Have you any thoughts
on who these vulnerable groups are? The government appear to have
decided the over 75s is by definition a vulnerable group. The
Ms Hay: Yes.
How does one draw it? Have you given any thought that at all?
Ms Hay: Certainly not all over 75s are vulnerable;
some of them are far less vulnerable than some younger people.
I think we can probably talk with experience in this House on
Ms Hay: I do not like to be patronised myself.
Nevertheless, there are, and I am not saying that there are not,
some people who do need help and particularly with the technology
and learning how to understand it, and a number of people with
disabilities, whether they are physical or mental; but I think
some of the groups who may not be exactly vulnerable but who will
disproportionately have difficulty in making the move, include
those who are living in very isolated areas, those who are living
in particular areas where it is not so easy to get switched from
satellite or they cannot get Freeview, for whatever reason, or
digital terrestrial. Then there are people who live in mobile
homes, or in flats or in the lea of another big building, or whatever;
so I think there is quite a range of people and also a lot of
young people who are on very low incomes. One tends to think of
the over 75s, but there are a lot of young people with young families
who may be on benefits who could find it much more difficult,
and, of course, anyone on a low income is much more dependent
on television for every service from entertainment to information.
It is going to be a pretty complicated business bringing aid to
all these people?
Ms Hay: I think it is going to be, and perhaps
in some ways it should be tied more, much more with greater difficulty,
to means-testing rather simply than age.
Chairman: Yes, that takes us right into
social security policy, does it not?
Q2052 Lord Maxton:
Except that there is a bit of a myth that somehow those who are
not taking up the new technologies are somehow the poor than the
better off, but that is not the case.
Ms Hay: That is not the case, no.
Q2053 Lord Maxton:
Let me come to a point where the last resisters are those who
simply do not want to do it. Surely we are not going to start
subsidising them if they can well afford to take it up. What do
you do with them? Do you just say the television gets switched
off and that is the end of it?
Ms Hay: It is very difficult. I would not like
In your experience, has a great deal of thought been given. One
could paint a picture which gets in a quite substantial body of
the population actually.
Ms Hay: Yes.
Has any serious thought been given to who we are talking about:
how many people we are talking about?
Ms Hay: I do not think it has. I do not think
anybody knows. Ofcom has estimated ten per cent. I have seen some
other estimates, but ten per cent of the population is actually
quite a lot of people.
Chairman: Six million.
Q2056 Baroness Howe of Idlicote:
Following that one up, we had evidence from the BBC not very long
ago that there was going to be a very small percentage that they
think would not have access of a suitable quality. There are other
people, of course, who have responsibilityOfcom with media
literacy, and all of that is part of it.
Ms Hay: Exactly.
Q2057 Baroness Howe of Idlicote:
You have obviously given some ideas to some of the problems, but
to what extent should the local communities themselves get involved
with this? I am just going back to the days when electricity and
gas suddenly appeared and, surprise, surprise, surprise, there
was a Women's Gas Federation, a Young Homemakers' Organisation
set up and an Electricity Council that were specifically to deal
with making certain those who were mainly in the home, if you
like the disadvantaged, actually to cope with the new technology.
Ms Hay: I think that is part of the responsibility
that has been given to Digital UK, and they are beginning to get
to grips with it. I do not yet know that anyone has realised the
full magnitude of the job. I think it is probably the biggest
infrastructure project since the end of the Second World War.
It is far bigger than North Sea Gas, because every home in the
land will be involved this time no matter how remote or whatever
level of affluence they are. It is a colossal project.
I had a letter the other day and a discussion yesterday in which
the person who wrote to me, who is in the university field, was
saying that under-graduates, people studying at universities,
could be brought into this for an advantage to both sides, I suppose,
in terms of costs but also one generation speaking to another.
Do you think there is anything in that?
Ms Hay: Yes, I would think it would be a very
good thing. We have recommended, and I am glad that Digital UK
are doing this, that they will need to involve voluntary organisations
on the spot, because what will be required is an enormous amount
of one-to-one passage of information from trusted people, particularly
amongst the elderlythey are not very keen to welcome a
total stranger into their homes to help them adaptand also,
with new technology, you can be shown how to use it one weekand
I know this with the computerand three weeks later, you
have not used that particular facility and the buttons seem not
quite the same! So it is going to happen in the same way. One
might need to show some people two or three times how to use it
and to get the best out of it. There is also the question of is
it just the first set in each house. I think the average is 2.5
television sets per household; so the cost is going to be quite
considerable. It is not simply one set that has to be adapted.
No. I think we can point out the scale of the problem.
Ms Hay: I think involving voluntary organisations,
voluntary labour and effort on the ground will be absolutely essential.