Examination of Witnesses (Questions 2060
TUESDAY 24 JANUARY 2006
Ms Jocelyn Hay CBE and Mr Robert Clark
Q2060 Lord Holme of Cheltenham:
May I ask you a couple of questions about spectrum?
Ms Hay: Yes.
Q2061 Lord Holme of Cheltenham:
As you know, it is contemplated, possible, may be likely, that
broadcasters will be charged by Ofcom for the use of spectrum
and it is possible that public service broadcasters, the BBC,
will be charged for the use of spectrum. It is argued that this
will be a discipline on them and make sure they do not waste itthis
is the argument for itbut I wondered what your attitude
both to the principle of public service broadcasters being charged
for the use of spectrum was and the appropriateness of Ofcom for
Ms Hay: As to the second part, Ofcom has been
given this task. I think a lot will depend on the transparency
and the manner in which they handle that responsibility, but as
to whether the public service broadcasters should pay spectrum
tax, it is going to be another charge on them. Whether it will
create a stricter discipline, I do not know. If it does create
an extra charge on the broadcasters, in the case of the BBC that
is going to fall on the licence fee payer again, and I notice
that I think it was the National Statistics Office last week have
redesignated the licence fee as a tax, so this could then be construed
as a form of stealth tax, could it not? It is taking with one
hand and giving away with the other. I do not see the justification
for the public service broadcasters being charged spectrum tax,
either Channel Four or the BBC. Those are the two that will feel
it most. ITV has already been relieved of a lot of its licence
coststhose fees have been reducedand, so far as
I can tell, we do not think it is a good idea, but we have not
seen the full justification or the cost and benefits of the policy.
Q2062 Lord Holme of Cheltenham:
Could I further ask, not on digital spectrum but on analogue spectrum
where it is quite apparent, as we have just been discussing, that
there are a lot of costs associated with ditigal switch-over but
there is also a potential revenue bonus, which is the sale of
the analogue spectrum which will be liberated by the switch-over.
I wondered whether, as some have suggested, you feel that in any
way this revenue which results from the digital switch-over should
be used to offsetand we do not know yet what it will be
worth and how valuable it is, but to the it is of value, it should
be used to offset some of the costs or all of the costs of digital
Ms Hay: Yes, we do quite definitely believe
that that should be used within that direction. Having had a meeting
with Ofcom, just before Christmas when, they said they had three,
at least, commercial operators queuing up to buy that spectrum.
I think it could be worth quite a lot, particularly in another
five years' time. Two or three years ago it was being pooh-poohed
as worthless, but now it is pretty obvious that a number of commercial
companies would very much like to get their hands on it, as I
say. It will have a value, and it is an obvious source of funding
to be used to implement government policy of furthering switch-over.
Q2063 Lord Holme of Cheltenham:
Your organisation does not by any chance have any estimate of
the potential value of the sales of analogue spectrum?
Ms Hay: I am sorry, no, we do not.
Q2064 Lord Holme of Cheltenham:
I think we are all in the same boat.
Ms Hay: Yes. It would be nice, but I am afraid
You mentioned the Communications Act, which we all remember.
Ms Hay: Yes.
But I, for the life of me, cannot remember how much attention
was given to this issue of Ofcom being allowed to make the charge
to decide which broadcasters to charge for spectrum. Was it something
which was well debated?
Ms Hay: I do not think it was. There was a report,
and I suspect that the present policy is largely based on that,
by Professor Martin Cave three or four years ago.
We have seen that.
Ms Hay: In which he advocated spectrum charging.
I personally have not seen much else on the subject. To my knowledge
that is the principal report, although I may have missed other
Lord Kalms: Can we cover a little bit
about religious broadcasting?
Chairman: We have now got the Bishop
of Manchester with us, who has come back from the floor of the
House where he has been doing service, we notice.
Q2068 Lord Kalms:
We are not doing Manchester today! I was reading in your letter
the recommendation of the Council of Europe on religious broadcasting,
and this somehow combines I think the most noble of thoughts that
man has ever had in this declaration. You recommended the BBC
should follow it, which suggests that the BBC is not following
it. I am just trying to find out how you feel that the BBC is
erring from the Council of Europe's recommendations? How could
the BBC improve?
Ms Hay: We did not actually mean to infer that
the BBC was erring from that. The BBC is not doing too bad a job
really. It does provide religious broadcasts. The Council of Europe
recommends the public service broadcasters, provide a service
that builds understanding within and between communities and tolerance
and understanding of different faiths, and the BBC and indeed
Channel Four, are pretty good at doing this. There have been two
excellent programmes this year, one on the BBC with Rageh Omar
and one on Channel Four with Waldemak Janusek on Islam, for instance,
and the BBC recently did a series with Jonathan Miller on non-believers,
non-belief and atheism. I think they are doing a reasonably good
job, but from the point of view of going further than that, I
am not quite sure what the Committee is looking for here on the
question of religious broadcasting.
Q2069 Lord Kalms:
We have had several interviews on religious broadcasting and the
BBC puts forward a very strong case. I was trying to seek the
differences between their case, which is quite a powerful and
well-presented argument, and the rather broader nobler concepts
of Europe. If you cannot define it, then it is not definable.
In other words, they probably blend together, but unless you have
a particular view, let me ask you a particular question, for instance.
What is your view of Thought of the Day?
Ms Hay: I personally enjoy Thought of the Day
although it varies greatly from day-to-day. It is sometimes better
quality than others. It does now cover other faiths than the Christian
faith, but quality depends very much on the competence of the
individual speakers. Personally, I listen to it almost every day
and I enjoy it and find it uplifting in most cases, I like it
to be there but I know there is some pressure from some quarters
to remove it. I think it is a good thing, and I do not think it
is too intrusive. I can put up with some programmes that I do
not like, and I think other people should also be able to do the
same thing for the general good. I think the same about the Morning
Service. I do not personally listen to it, but I know quite a
lot of people who do, and find it of enormous comfort. I think
it is one of those things that the BBC should be broadcasting.
(In the list of questions that you sent to me in advance you mentioned
that Mark Thompson, the Director General of the BBC, said there
had been more complaints received. I think some of those were
inspired by the Jerry Springer incident, which was a special phenomenon,
did bring the whole issue into the public eye, and in which the
use of modern communications orchestrated the response to a hitherto
Thought for the Day, I do not think anyone was thinking, or certainly
on this Committeeat least I was not thinkingI had
better not try and talk for the whole committee on anything to
do with Thought for the Daybut it is not my view that we
should get rid of it, but there is an argument for extending it
so that other people apart from the recognised faiths, humanists,
for example, who might believe very strongly in a set of principles
which could also be expressed. Would you be against that?
Ms Hay: Not necessarily, no. Again, I think
it would depend on the question of balance and context. We in
VLV do not normally get involved in criticism of individual programmes,
so I am speaking personally now, not on behalf of the organisation.
But in my experience Thought for the Day is not a programme that
proselytizes on behalf of any particular religion, it is a thought
for the day which is generally geared to be uplifting for people
of any faith, I would have thought.
Any faith or no faith.
Ms Hay: Or no faith, yes, in most cases. Not
entirelysometimes it errs one way or the other, that is
down to individual speakersbut I think it is fairly uplifting.
We are entering dangerous waters here.
Ms Hay: I am not speaking for Voice of the Listener
and Veiwer here. That is my personal view.
Q2073 Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury:
Picking up on the question of breadth of coverage, one of our
witnesses from Channel Four did suggest that the BBC tended to
confine religious coverage to the Judai/Christian area?
Ms Hay: Rageh Omar did a brilliant series on
Islam this year on BBC Four, and it was repeated on BBC Two but
fairly late at night.
Q2074 Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury:
I think he was talking about Hinduism, Buddhism, but getting slightly
Ms Hay: Channel Four did a brilliant series
on the Kum Mila, a Hindu festival a couple of years ago.
Q2075 Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury:
There was a suggestion that the BBC's is a little bit stuck on
Islam and Judaism. I wondered what your view was on that, but
your companion seems to be shaking his head vigorously.
Mr Clark: The In belief programme on Radio Three,
Joan Bakewell, covered all spectrums. She interviewed Hindus,
Sikhs. It is a programme that goes out at Easter and Christmas
or two programmesI am not surebut, yes, the full
spectrum is covered and the good ones are repeated. If you take
broadcasting as radio and television, I think it is very wide.
I cannot comment on religious television.
Ms Hay: I think after all Indarjit Singh's Thought
for the Day is one of the best of those, and it gives a Sikh point
Q2076 Bishop of Manchester:
Let me ask the one question which arises, again, from what Mark
Thompson has said and not simply on the controversy side but more
in terms of what he has described as something of a cultural shift
and that during his tenure of office he sees himself as being
in a situation where any broadcasting organisation faces the importance
of religion on a worldwide scale in a manner that has not quite
been so intense for many a generation. I do not know whether from
your organisation you pick up any kind of increase in interest
in that sort of way or not?
Ms Hay: It is very difficult, I think. In some
ways the evidence is conflicting. In some ways we are into a much
more secular world and there is an apparent turning away from
the established churches; in other ways people appear to be seeking
a spiritual life that they do not have at the moment. I do not
think I am qualified to comment on that, quite frankly. I see
a place for creating greater understanding. I see a place for
religious broadcasting because it brings a comfort and fulfils
a need that a lot of people who are confined to the home have,
and they cannot find the means of meeting that need in any other
way. There is also a needand there is also perhaps a growing
number of peoplewho have no belief and would like to see
a wider range of philosophical and ethical debate. And I think
it is up to the BBC to reflect that as well, but also to try to
create a better knowledge, understanding and tolerance between
Q2077 Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve:
Let me turn to the move to Manchester, which is expected to be
rather expensive the BBC was suggesting, £400 million. On
the other hand Pat Loughrey, the Director of Nations and Regions,
stated that value for money is not the prime objective of the
project. Do you think value for money should be a prime objective
or that it is appropriate that value for money is set aside in
evaluating the move to Manchester?
Ms Hay: I do not think it is necessarily the
only objective. Did he say what the objective was if it was not
value for money?
Q2078 Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve:
That would require me to draw on memory more than anything I have
in front of me, but I think that what he had in mind when we discussed
this with him was breaking an over metropolitan culture within
the BBC in favour of something that was more reflective of the
diversity of the country.
Ms Hay: There is certainly, I think in many
areas of life, a London centric view which, as an organisation
that has members in almost every county in the Kingdom and certainly
representation in almost all of them, it does not support a totally
London centric view. On the other hand, we have not seen evidence
yet of the benefits of moving to one single place like Manchester.
Why was Manchester chosen over other centres like Birmingham,
Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle, for instance? Why is the move being
centered on one particular metropolitan area like Manchester?
I think what we would like to see is some evaluation of the moves
that have already being made; the religious department, for instance
was moved to Manchester a few years ago. I have not seen any recent
evaluation of how efficient that was, whether it was effective,
and again some of the arguments for moving departments, like children's,
up to Manchester. What the actual benefits will be, and again,
on a service like Radio Five Live, which, being a news service,
wants very often to interview people who may not be available
in Manchester. We have not seen all the arguments, the costs or
the alternative objectives. So I think at the moment it is open
to question and it is up to the BBC to prove the value, because
it will be an expensive move.
Q2079 Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve:
Would you not expect it to be a cost-cutting move to no longer
be paying London costs for certain things?
Ms Hay: One would hope so. If it is simply going
to mean more people travelling up and down to Manchester it might
increase the costs.