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Noble Lord: No!

Viscount Whitelaw: I know exactly what some noble Lords want to do. It is very nice and splendid to get a

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measure through. But that is not always what is right for your Lordships' House. I have been here long enough to know that very well. We must think carefully so we get the various measures right.

There have been some arguments about what the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, said. I do not agree entirely but I accept quite a lot of what he said. If that is the case, should not this House look again at the measure and try to see whether we can find a sensible arrangement? That would do this Chamber a great deal of good: not to do that would be a great pity.

Lord Callaghan of Cardiff: We always know when the Government are in trouble. They are lucky to have the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, to present a reasonable case on their behalf when they do not always seem totally capable of it themselves. I differ from the noble Viscount. I believe that he was once chairman of the legislation committee in the Cabinet. Like him, I have sat on many legislation committees. If there is one thing the legislation committee will want this afternoon it is that Members of the Committee should declare their view. The committee will then know that if there is something precise in the Bill, whether or not it is right, it must be handled delicately and completely and a provision brought before the other place which commands support there and also in this House because the Bill will return here in due course.

In those circumstances, there is no doubt about what this Chamber should do. We have been presented with Second Reading. The Government have given us the Bill to consider before it goes to another place. We are right to declare our opinion. It may be that we do not get it entirely right. However, when I consider the number of Bills where we are asked to put matters right that the other place has got wrong, it seems to be absurd that we should not be allowed to declare our preliminary view.

As the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, said, this is a nudge to the Government to indicate that we intend the matter to be taken seriously. I do not believe that on reflection the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, will feel that he made the most persuasive speech of his career. It really is not a case of the amendment being about Mr. Murdoch whom I have had the pleasure of meeting only twice. But people are genuinely concerned. I am talking about ordinary people. They have no vendettas against Mr. Murdoch. However, they are concerned that they should be allowed to watch great national events. That is the nub of the question--nothing else. They want to make sure that Parliament decides in its wisdom that they shall not be excluded from watching great national events because the Government forgot about the matter, because some ideology prevailed, or because the power of money was so great.

I agree that the matter will need to be carefully thought out. But we should show the people of this country that we take note of their anxieties and that we have a view. We should send our view to another place and let it be considered there. We should ask another place to bring forward a proposal on which we may reflect. The shape of television is changing rapidly; what

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we decide today may not be apposite in five years' time. But we wish to see certain safeguards built into the Bill. The only way to do that is by voting for the amendment and sending the Bill, as amended, to another place. The Government can then issue a White Paper, consult on the matter and bring forward a better scheme. For heaven's sake, let us not show ourselves to be toothless on an issue about which the ordinary men and women of this country are concerned.

4.15 p.m.

Lord Barnett: The noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, made the only serious case for not deciding the matter today and allowing the other place to do so. I hope that the noble Viscount will agree on reflection that that is not really a case at all. The noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, declared two interests. He works for Murdoch--I assure him that I shall not blacken Murdoch's name--and he is employed by the Tote. As the noble Lord will know from my brief conversations with him from time to time, I have never agreed with his articles in The Times and I did not agree with his speech today. I am sure that he will not be too surprised to hear that. The noble Lord said that the elderly and the infirm may go and watch Sky Television in clubs and pubs. I do not know how many. We have a few elderly and infirm in this Chamber; perhaps we should carry out a poll. I should like to have a bet with the noble Lord that there would not be a majority of people who go to pubs and clubs, or anywhere else for that matter, to see Sky Television.

I quote something said by an important person:


    "Sport is a binding force between generations and across borders. But, by a miraculous paradox, it is at the same time one of the defining characteristics of our national pride. We should cherish it for both reasons".
There is a game going on in another place at the moment at Prime Minister's Question Time. The quote is from the Prime Minister in his introduction to Sport--Raising the Game. How can that be a defining characteristic if 85 per cent. of the population cannot watch sport on television? That is the situation at present.

I declare an interest. I have cable television. I have it because I want to watch sport. I prefer to go to see Manchester United, the best club in the country. They may not win the league this year but that is another matter. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, that the important point is that neither Sky nor sport generally need suffer if the amendment is carried. Sky would still be able to have sports programmes but it would not have a monopoly and would share them with terrestrial television. That is the point of the amendment. At present Sky may secure rights to all key events and so terrestrial television loses out. Surely it cannot be right that only 15 per cent. of the country's population can watch those programmes. That is what the amendment is about. It is not about blackening the name of Mr. Murdoch. I am not interested in Mr. Murdoch. I feel that the whole of the country should be able to watch sport on television if they wish to do so. Plenty of people do not wish to watch sport, but if they do let them see it. What is wrong with that?

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The noble Lord, Lord Peyton, referred to market forces. Of course, as he said, market forces get it wrong from time to time. Let them get it wrong. We should not prevent that. That is the main point, is it not? We are talking about achieving a better balance. We are trying to achieve a balance which ensures that sporting programmes are available across the board on terrestrial and Sky satellite channels. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, that the BBC should not have a monopoly. Nobody should have a monopoly. That is what this amendment is about; that is why I shall support it.

Baroness Hylton-Foster: I should like all to feel that everyone, young and old--in particular, the young--should be able to watch sporting events. Like many Members of the Committee I went to the conference centre last week to see Sky's presentation. After listening for quite a while to Sky explaining how clever and wonderful it was and what a good job it had done, at last it said that there were many people who would not be able to afford Sky at the moment--I believe the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said at least 30 million people.

That means that masses of young people will be deprived of the opportunity of viewing games and sport, becoming excited about them, and then perhaps themselves becoming players of the sports upon which they are particularly keen. The Government are now urging schools to take more interest in sport and games. In my day they were all called games. It would be disastrous were young people again to be deprived of enjoying backing their favourite teams and stars. I ask the Government to see what they can do in the Bill to make that possible.

The Marquess of Reading: The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that the eight listed events are shown on terrestrial television channels such as BBC1, BBC2, ITV and Channel 4. The amendment states that the listed events would have to be shown on channels available for general reception in the UK. They could not be reserved exclusively for subscription or pay-per-view channels. The eight listed events are, of course, the Grand National, the Derby, the FA Cup Final, the Scottish Cup Final, the Wimbledon finals, England's home Test matches, the Olympics and the World Cup finals.

The Broadcasting Act 1990 ensures that those events cannot be shown on pay-per-view channels. However, contrary to the understanding of many Members of this place and of the other place, most could be bought by subscription satellite channels even now. That would mean that the bulk of the population would be unable to see them; 85 per cent. is the figure, I understand, agreed by Sky and the BBC.

The purpose of today's amendment is to ensure that those events would have to be shown on mainstream TV channels which the bulk of the population can receive, but the amendment would not deny the satellite channels the right to show the events. They could show them at the same time as the mainstream channels if they wished, and bring all their ingenuity to bear in branding their own and in giving their viewers unique coverage of the event, with their added distribution capacity.

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The amendment would ensure coverage by placing a duty on the ITC to ensure the availability of the events on free-to-air channels. We would expect the ITC to ensure that a satellite subscription channel would not be allowed to be the only broadcaster. That builds upon the ITC's responsibility under the 1990 Act, and its duty to prevent their showing on pay-per-view channels.

The live rights to those specific events should be determined by the highest bid from universally available terrestrial channels. Recent evidence of competition for the Cup Final and the Grands Prix between the BBC and ITV shows that there is healthy competition for the rights between the terrestrial channels. Satellite channels would also have the right to buy the rights if they also wanted to show them at the same time as the terrestrials.

The eight events have rightly been called the crown jewels of sport. No doubt some Members of the Committee have been surprised to find that they do not include the Five Nations rugby which we were able to see on Saturday. I am sure that we all have our preferences for different events. We are leaving the Secretary of State's responsibility intact in determining which sports should be included. Today we vote on the principle, not on detail. There is plenty of evidence about what viewers think are the important events, as the survey published over the weekend has shown.

I want to lay to rest one ghost today. We are not trying to extend the list in the amendments. I am sorry that BSkyB has been scaremongering about that in its briefing document which it gave to Members of this place last week. Contrary to BSkyB's briefing, The Broadcasting Bill and listed sporting events, neither we nor the mainstream broadcasters are seeking to add other events to the list. Nor--this is important--are we attacking the sports' incomes, as some sports bodies have claimed in The Times today.

These events form an infinitesimal proportion of the events which sporting bodies are able to sell. They are able to sell live TV rights, live radio rights, and TV highlights. There is a good market here. Some sports have a commitment to ensuring that the widest possible audience watches their events. That is true of the Olympics. I am delighted that the BBC has secured the rights through to 2008. But the International Olympic Committee has a charter that says that it must ensure the widest possible audience for the Olympics. That is true to the Olympic spirit, but that is unique. No one else has such a charter, ethos, and culture, except perhaps the All-England club.

Today the Committee has the opportunity to correct a deficiency of the 1990 Act. In 1990 things were different. In 1990, Sky had no sports channel of its own--subscription or otherwise. It was its competitor BSB which had the Sports Channel. Sky merely offered Eurosport on behalf of the European Broadcasting Union and showed any big sports it bought itself on its general channel, Sky One. A month after the Broadcasting Act 1990 received Royal Assent, Sky and BSB merged. Some would call it a takeover. After that, Sky had its sports channel, and in 1992 it went onto subscription.

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No one in 1990 could have forecast that today we would have one broadcaster dominating our sports in the way that BSkyB does. So it is understandable that in 1990 different decisions were taken by this place and by another place. But it is interesting to note that the then Minister in the other place has now changed his mind and believes that there should be regulation.

But today's debate is not about BSkyB or any other broadcaster. BSkyB has done well in expanding coverage of sport. The debate is about the ordinary viewer. About one-in-six households subscribes to Sky Sports, but 26 million viewers watched the 1966 World Cup. As things stand, it would be nice to believe that the market will protect the sports, the viewers and the listeners. But, sadly, we already have cases where satellite channels refuse to sell the rights on to more mainstream broadcasters; for instance, the Ryder Cup has been mentioned. I hope that Members of the Committee will have seen from the weekend's press that the contract for that event stated specifically that the BBC would not be able to show any coverage of that on television. Thankfully, the rights were sold to Radio Five Live. There is the cricket World Cup, and I hope that BBC's bid for rights to BSkyB is successful, but BSkyB was grudging in selling the radio rights, and we are still waiting on the TV highlights.

I urge the Committee not to be taken in by any BSkyB propaganda which states that the BBC did not bid for these events. In the case of the Ryder Cup, it was presented with a fait accompli. The contract stated that the BBC would not have rights. In the case of the cricket World Cup, the BBC's original offer was turned down in the autumn. Its new offer, the same as in the autumn, has been under consideration only because this debate is taking place today and the cricket World Cup begins this weekend.

4.30 p.m.

Viscount Astor: My Lords, we must be clear about what the amendment states. It purely extends pay-to-view to subscription as regards events on the list. It is nothing to do with restrictions on Mr. Murdoch; it is nothing to do with highlights; it is nothing to do with consultation about what should be on the list; and it is nothing to do with many other issues that have been raised in the debate. It specifically extends pay-to-view to subscription.

It must be an anomaly that under the current law all eight events could be denied from terrestrial television; they could all be on subscription television. The Government have produced an extremely thorough and comprehensive consultation paper which allows the Committee to consider the issues while the Bill is before it. It has extended the debate and has given us the statistics and information which allow us to discuss the matter in a much wider context. I do not believe that we can debate the amendment without considering the complex matters of the right-holders. After all, we are talking about the rights to broadcast, which is the same as copyright and book-right.

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We should think most carefully before pressing the amendment today because the Government have said that they will come forward with their views. Can my noble friend assure the Committee today that before the end of our debates on the Bill the Government will come forward with their proposals so that we can discuss them?


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