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Lord Thomson of Monifieth: I am sorry that my noble friend Lord Geraint is not able to take part in this part of our discussions. The winter weather has probably prevented him from reaching us. I am an extremely inadequate substitute. However, I was fortunate enough to be chairman of the Independent Broadcasting Authority at the time S4C was launched. I join with the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, in his tribute to the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw. His active statesmanship in very difficult circumstances was responsible for helping to create S4C. Tribute is also due to the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, who played a notable role in its creation.

I can say from my own general experience how much S4C has added to the richness and diversity of the United Kingdom broadcasting scene. A good programming tradition has been built up which has earned an international reputation for S4C and, through S4C, for United Kingdom broadcasting. Therefore, I am very happy to associate myself with what has been said generally about S4C.

From these Benches we support the amendment. S4C is in a very special position within the British broadcasting scene. In the face of very exciting but

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slightly intimidating technological developments, S4C should be enabled to enjoy on equal terms the possibilities which arise from those developments. As the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, said, it may not wish to take them up but it is very important in terms of its sense of self esteem that it should feel that it is on equal terms with other broadcasters and that it has available to it those possibilities. We support the amendment and other amendments on the same theme.

Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde: From these Benches we support Amendment No. 11. I am pleased that Amendments Nos. 173 and 174 are being discussed with it because that makes sense. I must confess a previous lack of knowledge about S4C. I have been busily reading therefore the interesting debates which took place on the 1990 Act. I can well understand the need for the heavy lobbying from a small station like S4C. It says that it is doing a good job and, indeed, it is, according to the information I have. Why should it be subject to constraints? It would be sad to hold back S4C. The Bill is about opportunities, broadening choice and taking advantage of the new and exciting facilities which are available.

I wish to speak in particular to Amendments Nos. 173 and 174. Subsection (1A) makes clear that S4C will have to obtain the appropriate licences. It is not asking for a blank cheque to do what it wants. It will rightly have to comply with the provisions of the new broadcasting legislation. But S4C does not wish to be held back or discriminated against. It seeks to avail itself of all the opportunities. It is a small company but it has made a name for itself outside Wales. There is a big question mark as to whether the digital provision made for it is sufficient to allow it to produce the quality of broadcasting needed. If it feels that there is a market for satellite television, it should be able to take advantage of it.

I was pleasantly surprised to be told that although S4C is a Welsh language broadcaster it broadcasts beyond the border. It has been very successful commercially and critically. It has been successful in exporting such programmes as Shakespeare's animated tales and "Hedd Wyn", which was nominated for the best foreign film Oscar. Therefore, it is a small company which has attracted positive critical acclaim and produces good quality television programmes. I hope that the Minister will respond positively to the three amendments.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Inglewood: I am most grateful to those Members of the Committee who have spoken so helpfully about the amendment, which, as has been described, would allow S4C to hold licences from the ITC to broadcast extra digital programme services or to broadcast via satellite. I can assure the Committee that I am sympathetic to the need properly to investigate whether anything further should be done to free S4C to exploit the opportunities of digital broadcasting, but that must be done carefully and with due regard to the nature of the remit which S4C has and to the funding relationship between its public service channel and any new service it might introduce.

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My amendments seek to clarify the nature of S4C's qualifying service, and, as such, meet many of the objectives of these amendments. I am happy to assure the Committee that we shall pursue sympathetically with S4C itself any further issues surrounding S4C's use of digital frequencies. We shall bring forward further amendments if we are convinced of the case. In the light of that assurance, I hope that the noble Lord will not press the amendments.

Lord Elis-Thomas: I am grateful to the Minister for the tone and content of his response and to other Members of the Committee who have taken part in the debate. I well remember the days of the noble Lord, Lord Thomson, as chair of the Independent Broadcasting Authority, as it then was, and of the discussions that took place before the establishment of S4C.

As the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, emphasised, the issue is a non-party political one, and I am pleased that it is. I am grateful also for the detailed way the noble Baroness, Lady Dean, has pursued the issues of Welsh broadcasting since she has been leading for the Labour opposition on the Bill. I know that that is greatly appreciated. It is matched by the championship of sport by her noble colleague. In the spirit of the Minister's response and willingness to discuss the matter, I shall not press the amendment. We are grateful to him within the authority and the other media organisations in Wales for the way in which his department has continued a long dialogue with the authority and broadcasters. I hope that that will continue, and that it bears further fruit as we progress on the Bill. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 12:

Page 2, line 31, at end insert--
("(4) If the Welsh Authority notify the Commission, within the period of one month beginning with the commencement of this section, of their intention to provide S4C Digital, S4C Digital shall be a qualifying service for the purposes of this Part.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 13:

Page 2, line 31, at end insert--
("(5) In subsection (2) "programme" does not include an advertisement.").

The noble Lord said: It may be for the convenience of the Committee if I speak also to Amendments Nos. 65 and 224. My fourth amendment to Clause 2 inserts at the end a new subsection (5). My second amendment after Clause 25 and my amendment to Clause 89 are also part of this story, and I hope that we can take them together.

The amendments are designed to allow the existing terrestrial broadcasters to include different advertisements in their simulcast digital services. We know that getting digital terrestrial television off the ground will be an expensive business. There therefore seems no good reason to stop broadcasters from raising income from the sale of advertising space on their

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digital services separately from their analogue services, if they should wish to do so. In the early stages of rollout, they may well judge that the digital air time may provide different advertising opportunities for commercials targeted at different groups of consumers. The Bill as drafted would prevent that, and we have taken steps to correct that anomaly.

The amendment to Clause 2 therefore excludes advertisements from the simulcast requirement for all qualifying services. The insertion after Clause 25 provides for Sections 8 and 9 of the 1990 Act (which cover general provisions as to advertisements and the control of advertisements) to apply to any new advertisements included in qualifying services other than S4C Digital, which is covered by the application to it of Section 60 of the 1990 Act by dint of my first amendment after Clause 25. The amendment to Clause 89 simply adds qualifying services, other than S4C Digital, to the definition of a "licensed service". S4C Digital will, of course, be provided without a licence from the ITC by the Welsh Fourth Channel Authority under its powers derived from the 1990 Act. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.

[Amendment No. 14 not moved.]

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 [General licence conditions]:

Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde moved Amendment No. 15:

Page 3, line 32, after first ("Act") insert ("or under section 21 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995").

The noble Baroness said: I am moving the amendment in the absence of my noble friend Lord Ashley. It inserts into the Bill a reference to the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, which went through this place recently. We believe that it is in keeping with the Bill's philosophy of dealing with equal treatment for people. It makes sense to include it, because there is a specific reference to people with disabilities. I beg to move.

Lord Inglewood: I see that the noble Lord, Lord Ashley, has arrived, and he may wish to support his noble friend.

Lord Ashley of Stoke: I wish to support the amendment moved by my noble friend. I have no doubt that she spoke eloquently. She will have explained that the amendment's purpose is to enable the ITC to include conditions which it feels are appropriate in the licences it grants. The amendment draws attention to the duties imposed on providers of services by the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. It will emphasise to all future ITC executives the need to observe that important Act.

Disabled people have campaigned forcefully for anti-discrimination legislation. They have won some rewards, largely because of the justice of their cause. The Act did not give them all that they sought and all that they desired. We made that clear in this place and another place. It is essential to have something on the statute book to ensure that what is given is acted upon.

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I hope that the Minister will take that point. That is the main purpose of the amendment to the provisions of that Act. I know that it is an Act of Parliament, but the point of the amendment is to highlight those provisions, especially as they relate to broadcasting.

The key part of the Act is Section 21, which provides:

    "Where a provider of services has a practice, policy or procedure which makes it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled persons to make use of a service which he provides, or is prepared to provide, to other members of the public, it is his duty to take such steps as it is reasonable, in all the circumstances of the case, for him to have to take in order to change that practice, policy or procedure so that it no longer has that effect".

It is important to place that on record in this debate, because we all recognise the importance of broadcasting in our society. I suspect that, if the great majority of people in this country were isolated upon a desert island with their discs, they would choose to take as their luxury item a television set that gave them British television.

Deaf, hard of hearing, and visually impaired people are no different from others. They want to share in the good and bad of television, the serious and the trivial, the sport, the quizzes, the news and the soaps. They want to be part of a world in which what people talk about in the office, pub or shop the following day is what was on television the previous night. Technology now enables them to do that on terrestrial television, thanks to sub-titling, signing and audio description for sight-impaired people.

It is essential that, as technology advances and we move into the digital age, those with a sensory disability advance as well. I wish to conclude by suggesting to the Minister that whether they recognise that the level of provision is deemed "reasonable" is a matter for debate. Later amendments are relevant to that. For now, the principle of equal access for all those for whom it is technically possible should be firmly established. The amendment seeks to achieve that.

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