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Lord Peyton of Yeovil: Before the noble Lord sits down, I wish to say that I entirely agree with every word he said. So far as I am concerned, the 1990 Act is nothing to be proud of. My noble friend has been broadminded, and I hope that he will undertake at least to look carefully again at the amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Thomson, does not say what he has just said without the backing of a great deal of experience and much thought.

Lord Thomson of Monifieth: I am grateful for the noble Lord's support. We shall certainly wish to return to the matter on Report when we shall be able to take all the interrelated issues as a whole depending on the outcome of matters later this evening. In withdrawing the amendment, I give notice that we shall return to it on Report.

Lord Inglewood: In the light of those remarks, I wish to assure the Committee that we shall pay considerable attention to what Members of the Committee said. They bring with them a considerable corpus of experience and expertise. We shall think carefully and reflect on what has been said.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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4.45 p.m.

Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde moved Amendment No. 146A:


After Clause 62, insert the following new clause--

Non-domestic satellite services: licensing procedure

(". After section 45 of the 1990 Act there is inserted--
"Non-domestic satellite services: licensing procedure.
45A. Section 44(4)(b) shall apply to a licence to provide a non-domestic satellite service as it applies to a licence to provide a domestic satellite service.").

The noble Baroness said: This amendment deals with the shortcomings of the Broadcasting Act 1990 and seeks to rectify them. The amendment would add a new paragraph under Section 45 of the 1990 Act bringing non-domestic satellite services into line with the provisions of the 1990 Act covering the BBC and Channel 3 licensees. It creates a fairer competitive playing field by setting similar standards for the commissioning of programmes from independent producers. Under Section 16 of the 1990 Act Channel 3 licensees are required to broadcast a range and diversity of independent productions for not less than 25 per cent. of the total allocated time. Section 186 extended that requirement to the BBC. Section 44(4)(b), to which the amendment specifically refers, extends that provision also to domestic satellite services. In a nutshell, what is missing from the 1990 Act is non-domestic satellite service providers. As such, BSkyB is exempt from the requirements of the 1990 Act.

BSkyB is covered by the 1989 European directive Television without Frontiers, which is currently being renegotiated, I gather. That directive requires 50 per cent. of the material to be of European origin and just 10 per cent. from independent producers. However, the directive does not cover sport. Amendment No. 146A is not specifically related to sports.

The definition of what is an independent production is covered by another order, the Broadcasting (Independent Productions) Order 1991. I apologise for referring to specific pieces of legislation which are complex, but the issue is simple. It takes into account and changes the 1990 Act to cover non-domestic satellite services.

Under the 1991 order, independent producers must use their own facilities, not those of the broadcaster to whom they are selling their programmes. The broadcaster is not allowed to own more than 15 per cent. of shares of the independent producer. I suggest that this amendment would bring about a fairness that does not exist under the 1990 Act, nor under this Bill. There was an oversight in the 1990 Act. Domestic licensees--the BBC, Channel 3 and domestic satellite services--were covered quite specifically by the Act. The requirement was that 25 per cent. of their productions must come from independent producers.

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The amendment must be acceptable, on grounds not only of competition but of equity. It must be in line with the declared policy of the Government on independent productions and the interests of diversity and high standards as introduced under the Bill.

Viscount Astor: This amendment concerns me slightly. As the noble Baroness quite rightly said, it amends the 1990 Act as regards non-domestic satellite services.

It should be remembered that the 1990 Act passed through this place before we had those satellite services. The noble Lord, Lord Thomson, regards the 1990 Act as at the very least disappointing. However, the Act tried to look forward. In many ways it did so rather well, but it did not foresee what would happen in some areas.

There is a difference between non-domestic and domestic satellite services. The amendment would mean a non-domestic satellite service having to contain various European programmes and being subject to the independent productions order. That might be absolutely fine for BBC, ITV or Channel 4. But satellite broadcasters relay specialist programmes. They relay films, for example, and programmes in minority languages. They are highly specialist in the material they broadcast and are different from domestic services. We ought to think carefully before imposing restrictions on the material that could be broadcast. I believe that we all want the maximum opportunity to receive the programmes we want, or to turn them off, and not to have them restricted in this way. I understand the noble Baroness's concerns about the independent productions order and other matters. However, I am not sure that they should apply in these cases.

Lord McNally: It is interesting to hear a debate such as this. It reminds us just how quickly circumstances in broadcasting change. During the passing of the 1990 Act and thereafter, I was an adviser to the ITV Association. I therefore remember some of the current thinking about satellite broadcasting. It was a leap into the unknown on the part of those investing; namely, Mr. Murdoch and BSB. At that stage Members on all sides of this Chamber thought that in order to invite the courage needed to invest in satellite broadcasting, it was necessary to give the broadcasters a pretty free hand. For Mr. Murdoch to take on BSB to give us Sky broadcasting was in the circumstances, as has been acknowledged in this debate, a piece of commercial courage.

There comes a time, however, when commercial courage has been rewarded enough. There is no doubt that the strength and power of satellite broadcasting today and as we see it in the future demands of that service some of the responsibility and contribution to the overall benefit of broadcasting that terrestrial suppliers undertake. Ministers could well indicate that the period of grace for satellite broadcasting remaining outside some of the broader responsibilities is coming to an end. They could give fair warning to satellite

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broadcasters that we intend, either by this amendment or by other means, to bring them into the family of responsible broadcasters.

Viscount Chelmsford: Perhaps I did not do sufficient homework, but I had assumed that BSkyB, as a UK company, was a domestic satellite service. Perhaps someone will correct me.

I do not see how a UK Act can possibly control services that may come to us from France, Germany, Holland, or other countries not within our jurisdiction. I therefore do not see how the amendment could be made to work.

Lord Donoughue: In particular reference to the remarks of the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, we need to focus on the basic principles. We are dealing with the need to encourage independent production and the need to support European production. The decision to exclude these particular satellites was not made on the principle that they are exempt from those imperatives; it was simply a matter of historical chance that they were not taken into account.

I support the point made by the noble Lord, Lord McNally. Now is the time to correct an anomaly. We do not mind that it was an anomaly; we do not mind that a particular non-domestic satellite producer has benefited greatly. That was an award for enterprise. However, that is over now, and we need consistency.

This amendment produces that consistency and the Act ought to contain it. It ought not to prolong a quite illogical exemption that runs contrary to the main imperatives that have to be taken into account. I hope that the Minister will take the amendment seriously. This is in no way a party issue; there is concern and support on many sides. It is not personally against any particular broadcaster. I should certainly be prepared to divide the House on this matter at another time.

The Earl of Stockton: I agree with Members on the other side of the Committee. As the noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth, among others, will remember, during the Committee stage of the 1990 Act we were very close to introducing a threshold of penetration, at which time non-domestic satellite companies would come under the aegis of that legislation. It was agreed by those involved that a limit should be set by statute to reward enterprise, courage and ingenuity in setting up the system. For reasons beyond the control of this place, and certainly beyond my control, that was not to be.

As a consequence, instead of having a non-domestic satellite company outside the control of the Act and a domestic satellite company within the control of the Act, within a matter of days the two had merged. Indeed, discussions on that merger were continuing even as the Committee stage was held in this place.

Therefore the amendment is entirely reasonable. The penetration threshold of 14 per cent.--the number of households--discussed at that time and agreed by

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executives of some of the principal companies has now been well surpassed. Now is the moment to bring the companies within the terms of the legislation.


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