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The Earl of Longford: My Lords, with enormous respect, I venture to suggest to the noble Viscount that he is talking total nonsense about the BBC. Now that I have become partially sighted, I depend upon the "Nine O'Clock News" to keep up with the world. It is quite wonderful and I depend upon it totally.

Viscount Cross: My Lords, I thank the noble Earl, Lord Longford, for his intervention.

As your Lordships will know, the dictionary says that nihilism is, among other things, finding nothing to approve of in the established order. How did that come about?

Some years ago there was a director-general, now no longer with us, who announced his intention, soon after taking up his office, of disparaging, denigrating, deriding and undermining all the so-called pillars of the establishment. That is exactly what he proceeded to do. In time of war, such a person would have been likened to the Fifth Column. Later on, we had another director-general who said, "I tried this; I tried that; and then I joined the BBC".

As with any other organisation, if the right lead is given at the top, all is likely to be well throughout the whole organisation. I have no doubt that the present governors are all very worthy, highly respected people. But as has been mentioned by other speakers how much governing in respect of the BBC do they really do? Their role is extremely important for, as the Charter tells us, they appoint the director-general and the board of management.

The director-general, in his turn, has great responsibilities. He can be a power for great good; he can be a power pulling in the opposite direction; or he can do nothing. In that case, all those below him will do exactly as they like.

With great respect, I come back to the governors. I can only hope that they will take note of the views which have been expressed in your Lordships' House today and, for the good of the country, do their best to improve the current situation.

In conclusion, perhaps I may say that if my noble friend Lord Caldecote decides to divide the House on his amendment, I shall certainly support him.

9.12 p.m.

Baroness Wharton: My Lords, I believe that this is a good Charter and a good Agreement which are basically acceptable to all parties, although we all know that more could be done to strengthen them.

As a member of the informal group of Peers interested in broadcasting, I support the views expressed by noble Lords who have been considering the draft

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Agreement and Charter for some time now. On more than one occasion we have met the Minister and he has assured us that full account will be taken of the views expressed. He has already repeated those assurances today.

There has always been an argument that quality and popularity are fundamentally opposed. That is simply not true. The BBC has always produced good quality programmes. The most recent example of that is "Pride and Prejudice", which has already been mentioned. That will soon be sold all over the world. Another programme "Persuasion" is already in profit in the USA. The BBC frequently tops the ratings at home. But, unfortunately, every now and then quality takes a dive in a particular battle with another channel, often unsuccessfully.

I hope that the BBC as a public sector broadcaster will not allow its desire for competitiveness to deflect it from its responsibilities to all of us. Looking into the future, I hope also that it will not move popular programmes from free-to-air to subscriber channels. I should be unhappy to see the BBC following that route. To me that is not what public broadcasting means, and I suspect that it is not what it means to most of its licence fee payers. The BBC should continue to set standards rather than follow them. Even if quality on all channels has declined generally, the BBC's drama and documentary series programmes, often co-produced with international networks, are the envy of many, as are its current affairs programmes. After all, it is important for Britain that the BBC not only maintains but strengthens its position globally.

Picking up a point made earlier about the cuts in the education budget, I should like to add that I thought that there had actually been an increase of £1.5 million. I should like clarification in that respect. Clearly it is an outstanding service from which we all benefit.

Living in South Africa, my introduction to the BBC was through the World Service. I can still hear, "This is London calling", followed by the chimes of Big Ben. My favourite programme then was "Much Binding in the Marsh" and no Sunday was complete without it. For English speakers abroad, the World Service is a life-line as it keeps them in touch with what is going on both at home and internationally. It is our flagship. It has always been impartial and accurate in its reporting.

The World Service made its first Empire broadcast on 19th December 1932 using its new Daventry transmitter. Through government funding the service has come a long way in 63 years, now reaching over 133 million people and broadcasting in 40 languages to 111 countries. World Service television came on stream in 1991 funded by advertising rather than public funds, but those public funds for World Service Radio are now being cut at a time when the service is expanding and new transmitters are badly needed to improve audibility. The government agreed sale of transmitters here and abroad will benefit only the domestic service but not the World Service as its original transmitters were paid for by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and its receipts will now return to the Treasury.

One solution put forward is private finance. What would happen if the World Service were then pushed in a commercial direction? Would services to some of its

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more vulnerable areas suffer? After all, much of its broadcasting to the third world is educational and specifically tailored to each region. I presume that private finance would rightfully expect a return on its investment. The World Service, already faced with a £6 million shortfall, will then have to lease those privately-owned transmitters overseas. Will that cost be controlled, and can the quality still be maintained, particularly in sensitive areas? Could some of the profits be channelled back to the World Service, thereby easing the cuts which have come at a crucial stage in its history?

The Government appear to have withdrawn their support for the final year of the triennium agreement and set the figures for the next one without consultation. The shift from analogue to digital broadcasting will take up to 20 years and will be very expensive for both BBC and viewing public alike. Clearly the BBC cannot afford to upgrade and build new transmitters itself and continue to put money into developing the new digital technology required. In a debate last year I ended my speech by saying that the privatisation of any of the BBC's assets was wrong, but I now accept that it makes sense for it to rent or lease as opposed to owning and maintaining the transmitters.

I had intended to ask the Minister for clarification on paragraph 5.3 of the Agreement, but he has already gone into the matter in some detail so I look forward to reading the Official Report of the debate tomorrow. However, I should like to refer to the last few lines of paragraph 5.3 which suggest that the corporation may be allowed to make changes to the code for different cases or circumstances. Does that mean that any stated rule need not necessarily be binding? Can the Minister reassure me that that is not just an escape clause?

My final query concerns paragraph 5.4(b) which appears to me to be a question regarding what constitutes a series of programmes for the purpose of paragraph 5.2, which in turn applies to paragraph 5.1(c) being parliamentary business. What does that mean? Can the Minister also give me clarification on that point?

9.17 p.m.

The Earl of Stockton: My Lords, towards the end of an interesting but, I believe, lengthy debate, I shall not detain your Lordships over long. It seems to me that the crux of the debate stems around the definition of the corporate governance of the BBC. I fear that words ranging from "pledge" and "guidance" to "reflect" and "follow" call to mind--to me at any rate--the words of Sam Goldwyn: "such verbal assurances are not worth the paper that they are written on".

I can see no reason why the same rules--and I mean rules--should not apply to the BBC as they apply to all independent broadcasters. Rules are enforceable as are contracts. Breaches of the rules should be regarded as a breach of employment contract by the BBC's employees and of a commercial contract by independent producers.

Tonight's debate must have made clear to my noble friend the Minister that, unless he can give the House those specific assurances asked for by my noble friend

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Lord Caldecote and incorporate the textual amendments submitted to him by--dare I say it--the Mafia, in the words of the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, I among others reserve the right to introduce new clauses into the Broadcasting Bill to ensure that the BBC is no more and no less accountable to Parliament and the public as other broadcasters.

I concur with the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, that accountability should not stop with the governors but should apply to all involved in the production of radio and television programmes. The BBC has been in the forefront of research and engineering, I refer to the move to 625 lines, colour television and digital broadcasting. Therefore it was with some disquiet that I learnt recently that for the first time in its history engineering and research are not represented on the top line of the management team. I trust that Sir Christopher Bland, whose appointment I welcome, will rectify this.

As a book publisher it would be invidious of me to do more than endorse the remarks of my noble friend Lord Astor--who I trust is by now at least at the main course stage of his celebrations--on the issue of cross-media promotion of BBC products. Like many other noble Lords, I believe passionately in the rights of editorial independence and the role of broadcasters, and indeed all art, to push at the frontiers of creativity, as championed so eloquently by the noble Baroness, Lady James. However, I urge my noble friend to accept the amendment in the spirit in which it is put forward; a spirit, as my noble friend Lady Park has so succinctly shown, of constructive criticism.

9.21 p.m.

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe: My Lords, having the honour to be the vice-chairman of the BBC I did not put my name down to speak in this debate because of our Addison Rules. However, in view of the announcement this afternoon that the BBC chairman, Marmaduke Hussey, is soon to stand down, I hope that your Lordships will grant me a moment's indulgence.

Any BBC chairman has a difficult task. He must win the respect and the allegiance of governors, management and staff, and yet command the confidence of the public, the politicians and every group and organisation in the United Kingdom. The task for Marmaduke Hussey has been particularly difficult for he has had to achieve these things at a time of necessary and sometimes painful change. The BBC today is a better organisation, demonstrably equipped to challenge the coming century. Although the credit is due to many people, much of it is due above all to Duke Hussey, and to the response which he has drawn from staff and colleagues. He not only set the direction; he never lost sight of it. He has led the BBC with bravery and determination to Charter renewal. If the BBC is today more efficient, it is because he insisted that the standards of efficiency in the private sector could and should be achieved by a public corporation whilst retaining the integrity of a public corporation.

If the BBC is now more accountable, it is because he saw that the licence payer should be at the heart of its affairs. Above all he has stood for broadcasting

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excellence in radio and television for every section of the audience. He is farsighted. He plays a long game--not always the same thing--and for sheer will power and guts he can scarcely be matched. These are qualities we value very highly. It is because Marmaduke Hussey possesses them in such measure that we are today debating how the BBC can flourish into the next century. He has been a great public servant in this post and I am sure that the whole House will wish him well for the future and will thank him for his efforts in the past.

9.23 p.m.

The Viscount of Falkland: My Lords, I had intended to make a normal wind-up speech this evening but the length of the debate and the variety of the contributions have made it difficult for me to do that in the way that I should have liked. Therefore I crave the indulgence of your Lordships, and particularly of my colleagues, if I make a bad job of it.

Like a number of others who have spoken, I feel that the BBC is part of my life in the way that a relative or an old friend is. As a boy I was sent off to school during the war. On one of the rare occasions that I came home I listened to "ITMA" as hundreds of American daylight bombers flew overhead. The impression of those two phenomena has never left me. In the post-war years when I was anything but a perfect student and had an uneven scholastic record I spent many happy evenings illegally listening to "Saturday Night Theatre" and supplementing my rather poor education--which was entirely my fault--in that way. Therefore, like other noble Lords, I have a deep affection for the institution. Over the years I have been aware of the changes in the BBC's constitution and the changes that have been wrought by changes in society, which have not been mentioned much in the debate today.

The main theme is that introduced in the amendment tabled by the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote. I found his speech interesting, and I agreed with almost everything that he said. Like my noble friend Lord Thomson of Monifieth, I share his anxieties concerning the difficulties facing broadcasters in deciding the limits to which they can go in terms of decency and good taste, and particularly in relation to violence, which is especially worrying.

I have a problem with the amendment. Imperfect though the two papers are, and despite the difficulty of relating one to the other so cogently expressed by the noble Viscount, I do not believe that it is possible to say that they do not adequately clarify the responsibilities of the governors. The responsibilities and authority of the governors are clearly stated. The question is in what measure they can apply that authority. It is the absence of an objective guideline in terms of morality which governs not only the BBC but many other aspects of our life. It governs parenthood and all kinds of activities. It is a very difficult issue. Therefore, I would not, like my noble friend Lord Thomson, follow the noble Viscount through the Lobbies if he decided to divide the House on that subject at this late hour. However, I have enormous sympathy with his concerns.

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There have been some very interesting speeches in the debate, some of which were delivered while there were very few people in the Chamber. Some noble Lords went out for refreshment at half time, as I did. It would be invidious to choose any speech, but the noble Earl, Lord Northesk, made a most interesting and serious speech in which he drew attention to an important development in broadcasting. It is one which particularly concerns the BBC in respect of its news and public affairs programmes. The noble Earl highlighted the tendency for interviewers, pundits and commentators to adopt an approach which puts the content into the shade and places all the attention on their style, which has become more aggressive and trivialising.

That is one area where the French do better than we do. French television is infinitely inferior to our own except in certain regards. They have one of the best political programmes in the world. In my view they have the best political interviewer, Madame St. Clair, who appears every week on TF1, which I watch on the satellite channel TV5. She conducts an interview of about three-quarters of an hour relating to events of the week. Interviewees are prominent persons, from the President of France downwards. The interviews are conducted with a seriousness, elegance and respect which are totally lacking in our country. I would advise anybody who visits France to watch French television on satellite, on which the best Francophone programmes are put together and beamed out to the rest of the world. It is extremely good. I would say that the French television world service is better than ours.

To turn to other concerns which have been raised by noble Lords, in terms of sound broadcasting our World Service is second to none. I have fond memories of it from when I spent time in darkest Africa and various other corners of the globe. My feelings about the value of the World Service are reflected by friends. Over Christmas, I was told that listeners in Turkey were extremely impressed by the World Service of the BBC and anxious about possible cut-backs which they hoped would not affect them.

Several noble Lords expressed concern about various programmes. In what was one of the most delightfully incorrect political speeches that I have ever heard in 12 years in your Lordships' House, the noble Lord, Lord Quinton, brought out most elegantly some interesting points. I could not get away with being so politically incorrect. I shall not list what may be highlighted tomorrow as being very close to the wind; I wish that I could get away with it. However, he made one very important point which was reinforced by other contributions. We seem to have become somewhat over-concerned with impartiality and the problems of indecency. I do not refer to violence, about which I feel very sensitive. But what is most dangerous is a slip towards a second-rate and third-rate broadcasting output by the BBC. I do not believe that we have yet reached that point, but there is always that danger.

I do not know whether any noble Lords have spent time in Italy. I spent Christmas in Italy. It rained for seven days. Having read the John Betjeman letters twice, I felt that I could turn on the television set. I came across some of the most incredibly bad television that I

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have ever seen. I am sorry if I offend anyone in this House who has Italian ancestry. I shall put that right tomorrow when we discuss restaurants. I do not understand why the Italians have such bad television. "EastEnders" is the equivalent of "Panorama" in comparison with their most serious programme. On Christmas Day a show was broadcast which was so awful that it held a certain fascination. Actors paraded as the entire Royal Family. The imitations were grotesque but extremely good. After initial outrage, I thought that perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, was right. If we were not setting the example of ridiculing our Royal Family, some of our neighbouring countries might be less inclined to do so. Perhaps that is just fanciful thinking.

The noble Lord, Lord Birkett, is absolutely right as regards the role which the BBC plays in terms of artistic output--orchestras and so forth. I am surprised that he did not mention film. If we still have a film industry--I hope that we shall again have a film industry--we must thank the BBC and Channel 4 for that. Through Mr. Mark Shivas of the BBC we have seen some extraordinary and dedicated work which has produced a product suitable for television and theatre. He has done that under extreme difficulties of budgetary constraints. We have to be grateful for the high quality that he has been able to maintain over a very difficult period.

Being British, we appreciate comedy. I mentioned "ITMA". Over a number of years I have seen the progress of comedy on sound broadcasting subsequently on television. It is a remarkable record. As I believe the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said, few noble Lords mentioned what goes out on screens or what we hear. One thinks of the extraordinary effect of programmes such as the "Goon Show", followed by "Monty Python's Flying Circus", which perhaps slightly strained the bounds of decency but was done with such skill and innovation that anyone who tried to imitate it probably went over the bounds of good taste; and that is a problem. We went on to more innocuous but nonetheless wonderful programmes such as "Dad's Army" and "Fawlty Towers".

I believe that the noble Viscount, Lord Cross, was unnecessarily severe on the BBC. With the pressures of changes in society generally, and pressures to go down-market, the BBC has kept up a remarkable standard. It is true that it has gone down-market in many respects, but I have faith and am optimistic that the Government will support its continuation and its funding. I am encouraged by much of what the Minister said.

The BBC is still a serious institution. Publications have been mentioned in the two documents but no one has mentioned The Listener, so I wonder whether noble Lords remember it. Back numbers of that magazine are almost a record over scores of years of the intellectual and cultural life of our country. I do not know why The Listener folded or why no one was able to continue such a publication. It was a great loss as a serious element of the BBC's function and it was sad to see it disappear.

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This has been an interesting and varied debate. We come here again next week to discuss the Broadcasting Bill when I dare say a number of today's points will be raised again. I see that the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, has sat through the debate with the utmost patience. I hope that she is not on duty next week--but I see her indicating that she is and I shall try to make my speech then shorter. It has been a fascinating debate and I shall read it in the Official Report with the utmost attention.

I cannot say that I have much hope for sport on the BBC in competition with Sky because that organisation covers it so well. However, perhaps I could ask the Minister to comment on that and say whether the BBC could be encouraged to develop the highlighting of sport rather than seeking to compete with the satellite channels and their enormous commercial power. It might be able to work with them to supplement the in-depth coverage which we receive so well from the satellite channels. This has been an excellent debate and I hope that we shall return to these matters in happier times.

9.37 p.m.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, perhaps I may first declare an interest as I am the Deputy Chairman of the Broadcasting Standards Council. However, I shall leave specific comments about the work of that body to the debate on the Broadcasting Bill next week rather than becoming too involved in the details today. That applies particularly because by my calculations I am the 35th speaker in the debate and there is not much new left to say.

I believe that in the BBC we still have the world's best public service broadcasting. As a result, standards in our broadcasting, particularly in our television, have been maintained at a high level. But I am not so complacent as to suggest that that will necessarily continue. Having listened to many of the contributions to the debate, I wonder whether we expect a great deal--perhaps too much--of the BBC, after all the suggestions, points and criticisms that have come forward. Perhaps I may deal with some of the specific points that were made and try to pull the strands together. I shall not be able to refer to most of the speeches made by noble Lords simply because it would take too long. I am sure that will be understood.

The first point is that the BBC is facing a period of enormously rapid technological change. It is so rapid that within a few years, with the development of digital television, there may well be 40 or 50 channels instead of the small number now, the four main channels for the BBC, ITV and Channel 4. That itself will change the face of television in this country. It may not develop in quite the way that some people have suggested and it may well be that the BBC will lose out to satellite. I hope that it will not do so in the development of digital television, but there is the fear that it and other terrestrial channels might lose out to satellite digital technology. If that is not the case, then it is likely that the BBC will have a large number of channels at its disposal. Therefore, it will have the luxury of a wider range of

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programming, with all the difficulties that that involves, than is possible at present. That is the technological background.

However, there is one other point. I support the BBC's view that in the rapid development of digital technology--and I understand Britain is the world leader in the movement towards this technology--it is important that the measures for which it has argued must be carried and put in place. Such measures would ensure that channels funded by the licence fee are available via all distribution systems. Otherwise, we may well find some other operators in a virtual monopoly position in relation to digital television, to the serious detriment of the BBC and the other terrestrial channels. The BBC explained that threat to us at a series of presentations which I am sure other Members of this House attended in late November or early December.

I regret that the licence fee is now guaranteed only for the next five years although the Charter is guaranteed for 10 years. In terms of digital development, I understand that in the Bill that we shall discuss next week, multiplexes will be granted for 12 years, with the fairly easy possibility of renewal for a further 12. That seems to put the BBC at a disadvantage in terms of some assurance as to its future operations. I also understand that a previous Secretary of State said on more than one occasion that the future of the licence fee depends on the BBC's ability to maintain the size of its audiences. That is surely the nub of many of the concerns expressed today. If the BBC licence fee is to be jeopardised by a possible fall in audiences in such a competitive environment, the danger is that in attracting audiences the BBC will be obliged to drop its standards. If the BBC maintains its high standards, it will be penalised on the licence fee side. Anything the Minister can say by way of assurance on that matter, will be much appreciated.

In general terms, the Charter and the Agreement are welcome developments. It is the longer term threat to public service broadcasting in this country that gives rise to concern, not what will happen over the envisaged five-year period of the Charter.

The difficulty with the public service concept, which many Members of this House have applauded, is that there is not, or may not be, a level playing field in the longer term. That is a difficulty, and it is why the BBC is probably nervous about its future and may feel under pressure to move towards other sources of income such as advertising revenue, which in itself would have an effect on the public service broadcasting standards of the BBC. Certainly the justification of the right to a licence fee is being called into question by the possible emphasis on the use of advertising.

I turn very briefly to sport, something which my noble friend Lord Howell developed very clearly when he made his speech. The difficulty is this. I heard a person from the satellite channel say on terrestrial television that it is not much money to pay, and if people want sport it does not cost that much. The problem is that everybody is obliged to pay the licence fee. I support that. Everybody is obliged to pay the licence fee as a tax to watch any television at all. To have then to pay

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more for some key national sporting events bothers many people in this country. It is surely wrong in principle that this should have happened. I understand why we have got into this difficulty and I welcome the fact that the Prime Minister is looking into the matter to see what can be done. There is a basic tradition that we watch our Test Matches, and the Cup Final, on BBC or ITV. If that is no longer possible without the payment of what is for some people quite a large sum of money, it will be a retrograde step.

I turn very briefly to the role of the BBC governors. They are in a difficulty. They have to represent both the management, in terms of the way the BBC operates, and the interests of the licence payer. That is an inevitable conflict. They have dealt with it in the past, and I am sure they will deal with it in the future; but it is a difficulty that we impose upon them of which we should be aware.

As the BBC develops its commercial activities, there is a difficulty that if the commercial and non-commercial activities are not kept fairly separate, it will call into question the public service concept underlying the non-commercial side of the BBC's activities.

Perhaps I may say just a brief word about regulation, to which many noble Lords have referred, some wanting an overall regulator and others taking the view that there is perhaps too much regulation. The Broadcasting Standards Council is involved in issues of sex and violence, taste and decency, and so I have had some experience in that area over the years. I should like to take issue with my noble friend Lord Barnett, who referred to violence on television and said that it was not important or significant because only 0.61 per cent. of the time of television is devoted to scenes of violence.

I think that that statistic, which I am sure is accurate, misrepresents the real position. When there is an item on television, particularly a film which has in it a very violent scene, it is the threat of violence throughout the programme which gives a sense of violence for perhaps 60 minutes or whatever the duration of the programme is. Therefore, one cannot simply say that it is 0.61 per cent. of all television time. If one referred to the amount of television time that is devoted to programmes which have violent incidents in them, the percentage would indeed be very much larger. I believe that the way in which I have described the situation is how most viewers see it. I believe that we must be concerned about violence on our television screens and the possible effect that it may have on young people. I do not want to develop that argument any more because it is well understood by all Members of this House.

I turn to one issue which has barely been covered, except by one noble Lord, and it is dear to my heart; namely, the coverage of third world issues. I shall mention it very briefly. The majority of the British public--I believe it is 70 per cent.--cite television as the main source of their information on international issues. Our television channels have had a good record on that in the past. News coverage on the third world and international issues has remained good. But research carried out by the third world and environment

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broadcasting project revealed that in recent years there has been a decline in international coverage, especially of developing countries, and that between 1989 and 1994 there was a 30 per cent. overall reduction by the BBC in its documentary coverage of third world issues; if one took peak time coverage, that decline was 40 per cent. That is important because our understanding of what happens in the third world is critical for our whole position in the world. An educated public opinion ought to understand what is going on in those countries. It would be a matter of regret if there were to be a further decline in the coverage of third world issues.

Before Christmas, I attended a meeting of the All-Party Group on Overseas Development. It was suggested that the BBC's board of governors should be asked to monitor the BBC's coverage of international topics, especially third world issues, in documentary programmes--not in the News of course; that the annual review of the BBC should report on it; and that it might be helpful if the Government were to make explicit in the draft Agreement that the specific programme items covered in paragraph 4.4(e) could include third world programming. I think that would be helpful.

I turn to the last main issue that I want to cover; namely, the World Service. One does not like to boast that things in this country are the best in the world. We used to do that, but, alas, it is not true in many instances. However, I believe that we can hold our heads high and say that the quality of our World Service is the best of all the international programmes in the world. I once spent a holiday in a part of the world where all I could get was the World Service, Radio Moscow (in Soviet days) or Voice of America. I am bound to say that, after listening to Voice of America and Radio Moscow, which were remarkably similar in the propaganda that they churned out, it was a relief to be able to get the World Service.

But of course the importance of the World Service does not lie in what we "Brits" listen to on holiday. That is not what it is for, although it is a nice bonus. What it is for is to inform people in other countries who do not have access to free, honest, objective news reporting. It is no wonder, given the quality, that there are 130 million listeners a week to the World Service all over the world, and that may well be an under-estimate. The World Service has been fully approved. The National Audit office has praised it for its flexibility and for the efficiency and effectiveness of the operation.

The key beneficiaries are people who are suffering under oppressive regimes. About two years ago I visited a very repressive regime. It was illuminating to find that the people there hung on to the one hour a week that they heard in their own language. It was the only news that they had of the outside world. It was the only way in which they kept going against a regime that was oppressing them and, if they were captured, torturing them.

We should remember that there are people in the world who are grateful to the World Service because it is the voice of freedom and democracy. It is an

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enormous aid to those of us in this country who believe that democracy is a cause we want to spread around the world.

There are to be cuts in the World Service and I deeply regret that. By the time we look a couple of years ahead to 1997 and 1998, the total effects of the cuts may be as much as £10 million. That is an extremely serious blow; not to the BBC World Service; not to those of us who want to listen while we are on holiday; but to those people who are suffering under dictatorships.

It is a matter of regret that, having had an agreement on a three-year basis, last December's announcement undermined that agreement and put in doubt the basis of longer term funding for the World Service. The World Service has been approved and applauded by people as diverse as Chris Patten, the Governor of Hong Kong, Nelson Mandela and Mikhail Gorbachev when he saw the World Service as the one bit of news he had when he was taken prisoner in the Crimea.

I conclude by saying, first, in relation to the World Service, that dictatorships the world over hate the free flow of information. It is the World Service more than any other which provides that free flow of information which helps to undermine dictatorships. But, within this country, an educated democracy also requires an informed electorate. Our public service broadcasting, led by the BBC but copied effectively by ITV and Channel 4, has helped and is helping our electorate to be an informed one. Anything that weakens the public service concept of the BBC undermines us and our democracy.

9.52 p.m.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I am sure that all those who have listened to and participated in our debate today will agree that it has been a constructive and worthwhile one. I thank noble Lords for that. We shall think extremely carefully about everything that has been said. There has been a lot of it; it has been very diverse and it will take a little digesting. As I have already said, if the House finds either of the two documents we are discussing unacceptable, the Government will consider whether or not changes are necessary.

We have covered a lot of ground and heard a number of sometimes conflicting views about the BBC, which is an institution--albeit a relatively new one in our country's history--which is now deeply embedded in the fabric of contemporary life. In considering the BBC it is important that we are clear both about the radio and television broadcasting that it does. There is a tendency sometimes to overlook radio and I should not like anyone to do that.

It is one of the most widely recognised characteristics of the British way of arranging our national affairs-- I am tempted to say our constitution, but I think it goes further than such a narrow definition--to explain that the key to understanding our way of doing things is to focus on the manner in which institutions work rather than to seek a clearly defined theoretical model of how institutions function in a purely abstract way.

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Probably that is nowhere more true than in the case of the BBC. Historically, the links between broadcasters and Parliament have required a careful balance, between maintaining the broadcasters' own independence and placing that freedom within limits set by public acceptability.

In order to ensure its independence, the BBC has, since its inception, been deliberately kept at a distance from close regulation by government or Parliament. The constitution of the BBC by Charter rather than by statute establishes and reiterates that the BBC is not a creature of Parliament or an instrument of party or partisan political activity. As the present chairman put it, the Charter gives the BBC flexibility and supports its independence. It has served us well for almost 70 years. The Government agree that the BBC should continue to be regulated within a Charter framework, an opinion which is widely shared, though we heard a number of different opinions expressed this afternoon.

But with that independence the BBC has a responsibility to take account of and reflect public attitudes; to function in a manner which is consistent with due impartiality and with proper standards of taste and decency; and to carry on its work in an ethical fashion, using those words in their widest sense. And it must be answerable to the public for the results.

We believe that we have achieved a structure for the corporation which will enable the chairman with the governors, and beneath them the board of management, to achieve such a result, in line with what Parliament and the public want. Parliament cannot direct that an independent BBC behaves in a particular manner. It can merely arrange matters so that the chairman and the governors, with the assistance of the board of management, can, and we believe will, attain what is sought.

Your Lordships have made a large number of helpful contributions. Were I to respond to each and every one of them we would shatter irrevocably on the first day of the new session the new year resolution of my noble friend the Leader of the House, which would hardly be a good start for the House or for me. Indeed, were I even to list all the points I would probably spend all the time I should spend on this winding-up speech. Instead, what I shall do is confine my remarks to a few topics, which I hasten to add in no way demeans all the other points made. I shall be writing to your Lordships with responses to the points and questions that have been raised. If any noble Lord feels that I have missed a point, please feel free to write and chide me. In addition, a great deal of what has been said today goes beyond me to the BBC itself. Equally, much of what we have been talking about will be the subject matter of the debates we shall have over the next weeks and months on the Broadcasting Bill. Bearing in mind the constraints under which we are operating and the time of the evening, I hope noble Lords will forgive me if I leave some of the points aside and deal with them later.

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