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Lord Donoughue: I agree with the views that have just been expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Thomson. I too hope that we have not shot the foxes of the noble Viscount. As he knows, I hold unfashionable views on this side of the Committee on what we should do about foxes, so we want to be very careful in that area.

I particularly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Thomson, that the Minister was uncharacteristically complacent. We normally view him as radically open-minded but I feel that he is being conservatively complacent on this matter. I cannot accept why the system that has been put up by the Government as being so appropriate for digital--we agree--is somehow not appropriate for analogue when analogue is what we live with. I wrote down exactly the same point as that to which the noble Lord drew attention--and added exclamation marks when the Minister said that analogue is temporary and transitional. Analogue may be the system for at least 50 per cent. of our nation for the next 15 years. Many people who look at what we are doing will think that it is a good thing that we are dealing with the future. Although it is indeed a distant future, what we are trying to do now is to deal with the system for our lifetimes. I refer to the system that will be watched by most Members of this House--even our Peter Pans for most of their lifetimes.

We want to eliminate monopoly abuse now in terms of the television that we all watch. Although I understand what the Minister says about general competition law being enough, I do not think that it is enough, but I accept

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that the Director-General of Fair Trading is being encouragingly active at the moment. We look forward to his proposals. I have a great deal of confidence in him. However, the problem has existed for some time and is with us now. I cannot see why we cannot have such provisions on the face of the Bill. If they coincide with the general drift of the director-general's views and judgments, fine; there is nothing wrong with that. I am sure--indeed, I am confident--that he would welcome such a belt-and-braces provision in the legislation.

Perhaps I should point out to the Minister that this matter relates directly to an amendment that I tabled on Tuesday about which he expressed some puzzlement. That amendment sought to build into the Bill a provision to ensure that the Director-General of Fair Trading should be compelled specifically to take into account the public interest, which is not sufficiently specifically provided for in the Bill. I intend to return to that point. I was trying to link my provisions to the fact that the Director-General of Fair Trading is the main instrument in this. If the Minister had been or, on reconsideration were to be, more sympathetic on that point, although I would regret that we did not have such a provision in the Bill, I would feel more confident that the director-general had all the powers necessary. However, without either the public interest or a provision such as this being included in the Bill, I think that we shall be exposed in this area to potential abuse for many years to come. I am sorry that the Government are not proposing to deal with that.

Lord Thomson of Monifieth: I am sure that we shall return to the issue of conditional access for analogue broadcasting when we reach Amendment No. 187. While waiting for that useful amendment, with the permission of the Committee, I beg leave to withdraw this amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 67 to 69 not moved.]

4.30 p.m.

Baroness O'Cathain moved Amendment No. 70:

Before Clause 26, insert the following new clause--

Electronic programme guides

(".--(1) Any person or body who operates or provides directly or indirectly an electronic programme guide must have a licence to do so from the Commission.
(2) In discharging their functions as respects the licensing of the service referred to in subsection (1), the Commission shall ensure that--
(a) there is fair and effective competition in the provision of such services, and
(b) publicly funded channels and services are guaranteed a prominent position on the first page of any menu-driven navigational or other aid used in connection with the electronic programme guide.").

The noble Baroness said: Those of us who are relatively computer-literate should have little difficulty in coping with the selection of programmes in the inevitable huge increase in the diversity of programmes and services offered by the new digital delivery services, but many people will need help. Basically, there will be a graphic display on the screen which can be accessed and scrolled through by a hand-held zapper. I am aware

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that the words "accessed", "scrolled through" and "zapper" are not yet familiar terms, but they will become so.

An electronic programme guide gives details on screen of what will be on the TV in the future, be it today, any other day during the week or even longer. It also selects and tunes. That is particularly important with the "virtual channels" on a multiplex. In addition it gives reminder messages; for example, there can be a message on screen saying that "Panorama is starting now". The electronic programme guide can be linked to a video recorder, and can include programme trailers and features. In the longer term, probably after another Broadcasting Bill, there could be a large additional menu to cover items such as home shopping, home banking, video on demand selection, and even parental censorship setting.

From that brief description, the Committee will appreciate that those electronic programme guides will have a huge influence on consumer choice. It is imperative that they are not used to distort competition. The amendment would remove that concern, in effect guaranteeing that the choice is made by the viewer, and that any receiver or set top box can access any broadcast or programme.

Although a deregulator by instinct, I believe that there should now be statutory protection for publicly funded channels. They should not be pushed to the back of the electronic programme guide. A prominent position is necessary to ensure their ready availability. Without that obligation, the principle of universality upon which the licence fee obligation is based, may be compromised. Uncontrolled use of electronic programme guides to offer viewers their favourite programme type could be, first, abused to favour the network's own channels; and, secondly, undermine the unifying experience offered by public service channels, offering balanced schedules, thereby weakening shared political and cultural reference points.

The issue has been addressed effectively abroad, especially in the USA where mass use of cable systems is now the norm. The current and proposed regulatory framework in the USA recognises the need for effective access. Current US regulations on must-carry recognise that by insisting that all channels must be positioned at the same channel number as they are with terrestrial reception; for example, BBC1 would be at one and Channel 4 would be at four.

The US Congress is currently considering proposed legislation on these topics from the House of Representatives and the Senate. The proposals include the following requirements: first, established TV networks to be available on first tier of electronic programme guides; secondly, viewers to have instant access to their local TV stations--that is, they should not have to navigate through complicated devices, or scroll through multiple programme menus to find their local broadcasters; thirdly, viewers should be able to access any TV station signal without first having to view advertising or promotional material, or any guide or menu that omits broadcast stations on its list; fourthly, no discrimination among content providers in the

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presentation of their programmes; fifthly, no alteration to programme services by distributor or electronic programme guide provider; and, sixthly, suitable and unique identification of programme services to viewers.

That may all seem highly complicated and exceedingly technical, but I can assure the Committee that after just a little time spent studying the issue, and being briefed by the BBC, I understand the function of the electronic programme guides and the necessity for the amendment. Independently, I received a short comment from Carlton TV stating that it is in agreement with the legislation currently being considered by the US Congress to ensure that TV networks are available on the first tier of electronic programme guides and that viewers should have instant access to their local TV stations, without having to scroll through multiple programme reviews or complicated devices to find their local broadcasters. Carlton states that they agree wholeheartedly with what the BBC has said.

On Tuesday, I spoke to Amendments Nos. 17 and 18 on the must-carry/must-offer requirement. I referred then to the actions of Videotron in respect of its cable customers in South East London. There, despite being just a few miles away from the Crystal Palace transmitter, viewers are choosing to buy into the cable system because local hills mean that they have appalling reception. Until December, Videotron offered the four main channels (BBC1, BBC2, ITV1 and Channel 4) on the standard buttons one, two, three and four. Now however, for reasons unknown to Videotron's subscribers, Channel 4 can no longer be obtained on button four. It is now number 40 within the cable system. That means that viewers must first go to button five, and then use a separate hand control to scroll through to number 40. Then they can see Channel 4.

That is a peculiar situation which illustrates the potential problem. I took heart from the comments of my noble friend the Minister that he would look at what I said on Amendments Nos. 17 and 18. If he does, as I hope, agree with those amendments, their effectiveness will be greatly reduced without this amendment on electronic programme guides.

Mainstream public service channels should be offered prominently on electronic programme guides, and should therefore be on the same hand set button; that is, one, two, three and four, as they are now on standard TV sets, so that viewers are not confused and so that services which are paid for by the licence fee (BBC1 and BBC 2) are given prominence and priority on the new electronic programme guides.

This is a common sense case. I hope that the Government will accept the amendment to secure a healthy position for our public service channels in the new digital future and incorporate it within the Bill. I beg to move.

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