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Lord Donoughue: I thank the Minister for that reply which was a helpful response to my probing amendment. In the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde moved Amendment No. 192:


After Clause 66, insert the following new clause--

Restricted television broadcasting services

(" .--(1) After section 2(1)(b) of the 1990 Act there is inserted--
"(c) restricted television broadcasting services within the United Kingdom."
(2) After section 2(4)(c) of the 1990 Act there is inserted--
"(d) a restricted television broadcasting service as defined by subsection (7)"
(3) After section 2(6) of the 1990 Act there is inserted--
"(7) In this and other Parts "restricted television broadcasting service" means (subject to subsection (6)) a service consisting in the broadcasting of television programmes for general reception in a "restricted area" of the United Kingdom (as defined by section 46(6)) by any person holding a licence issued under the terms of the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949 for use of "unused broadcast spectrum" (as defined by subsection (8)).
(8) In this Part "unused broadcast spectrum" is any analogue or digital radio spectrum assigned to the Commission by the Secretary of State for television broadcasting services which is not in use to provide television broadcasting services for general reception."
(4) For section 46(1) of the 1990 Act there is substituted--
"(1) In this part "licensable programme service" means (subject to subsection (2)) a service consisting in the provision by any person of relevant programmes with a view to their being conveyed by means of a telecommunication system or as a restricted television broadcasting service where restricted television broadcasting service is defined by section 2(7)."
(5) After section 46(5) of the 1990 Act there is inserted--
"(6) A "restricted area" is--
(a) an area of the United Kingdom in which the population is not greater than 800,000 adult residents which includes only one centre of population with more than 350,000 adult residents, or
(b) an area of the United Kingdom in which the population is not greater than 500,000 adult residents which includes no individual centres of population with greater than 150,000 adult residents.".").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 192, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 193 and 194. This is a probing amendment, though perhaps a long one.

We have had a theme running through our discussions on the Bill in relation to the opportunities that the changes will provide in regard to local and regional

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services. At Second Reading (at col. 471 of Hansard) the Minister referred to regional and local television programming and the increased demand for that. Not dissimilar words were used by the Minister in another place when the 1990 Broadcasting Act was being debated, particularly in regard to cable. That was to be a whole new vision; it was to provide many and varied local services. As we are all aware, that did not happen.

Our concern is that, although the Bill may lay the ground for local services to take off, that will not happen. We are talking not only about local television services for entertainment. Local services will be useful in the field of education--university and local education courses--and local community activities. Those kinds of services should be developed.

It is possible to make local TV work. Work done by the Institute of Local Television suggests that small-scale television services can take off. They are popular in North America, Europe and Australia. A recent independent study carried out by Scottish Enterprise of Edinburgh City's plans for a local city TV service suggested that there would be an increase in advertising revenue and in the overall media and advertising employment within the city.

The amendments seek to lay down the groundwork which will enable the ITC to make life easier for small TV services to obtain licences. They are probing amendments. We want to hear what the Minister has to say because we cannot find much in the Bill that will encourage local services to get off the ground. I beg to move.

Lord Thomson of Monifieth: I am happy to support the noble Baroness, Lady Dean. It has always seemed rather a paradox that whereas one of the most popular aspects of television is the regional aspect, particularly with the special structure associated with ITV, there has never been the encouragement to move on from regional television to genuinely local television--city television and local voluntary channels of one kind or another, as the noble Baroness has just said. It was generally felt that the advent of cable was a great opportunity for that to develop. The Cable and Broadcasting Act 1984 did not make any of this mandatory, partly in the belief that those who took on cable would want in their own interests to explore this development. Section 7 of the Act deals with community obligation but not in a mandatory way.

What has happened in practice? By 1990 there were 135 cable proposals. All of them made fine promises about local services, especially the kind of community services to which the noble Baroness referred. What is the reality now? We are going backwards. In 1989 there were five distinct local channels on 11 franchises--very nearly half. By 1995 there were 11 out of 88--a fall from a half to one-eighth. It has been very disappointing.

When Channel 5 was originally conceived some imaginary proposals were put forward for city television. Perhaps digital multiplexes will offer new opportunities. In the meantime, as the noble Baroness has said, this is a probing amendment to try to introduce fair and equal access for small-scale broadcasters and

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community and educational providers to local cable where currently access is determined by the cable companies entirely on their own terms. I hope that we shall have a sympathetic response from the Minister to these ideas.

Lord Inglewood: I, too, shall take these amendments together. The Government agree with the intention of Amendment No. 192. In my opening remarks during the Second Reading debate, I explained that we would be bringing forward government amendments on a number of technical issues relating to the 1990 Act following representations we have received from the regulators. This is one such issue. I apologise to the Committee that the amendment is not yet in a fit state to lay before your Lordships in time for this debate. It is our intention to table a government amendment on this before Report. In the absence of our amendment, the Committee may find it helpful if I briefly outline our thinking on this topic.

The ITC has convincingly made to us, and we have therefore accepted, the case for a licensing system for television similar to the restricted service licences which the Radio Authority issues to great effect for both local community services and special event broadcasts. The amendment which is being prepared achieves the result at which the noble Baroness aims but in what we believe is a more straightforward manner. It is our intention to empower the ITC in almost exactly the same terms as apply to the Radio Authority for its restricted service licences set out in the 1990 Act. Unlike this amendment, we do not propose to set any strict definitions as to the size of the area to be served by a restricted licence but to leave that to the discretion of the ITC.

Your Lordships will be aware, as has often been mentioned during the Committee's consideration of the Bill, how quickly technology develops in the broadcasting sector. The Government do not, therefore, want to be too prescriptive in statute, when an effective regulator such as the ITC will be better placed to judge whether a particular applicant is best suited to be granted a television restricted service licence. The Government are keen to see the development of local television services both on free-to-air and cable and television services at special events. The amendment we shall bring forward will enable such services to develop. I hope, in the light of my assurances that the Government agree with the principles behind the noble Baroness's amendment and that we will bring forward a considered amendment, that she will agree to withdraw the amendment before us today.

I shall now move on to Amendments Nos. 193 and 194. I too shall begin with reference to the Broadcasting Act 1990 when the Government envisaged that the provision of local television services would develop on cable. While I appreciate that some may feel that the opportunities have been slow to materialise, this is a sector which is now growing more rapidly and there are signs that many of the cable operators are interested in providing local television services over their systems. Further opportunities for local programming suppliers

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will be offered by the advent of digital services and the proposed new class of licence for restricted services which we have just been debating.

Amendments Nos. 193 and 194 would impose financial burdens which are both unnecessary and damaging on the still developing cable companies at a time of expansion. We have already debated the "must carry, must offer" concept which is repeated in these amendments, and I have indicated to the Committee that I shall consider the matter further.

The Government do not believe in subsidising the independent broadcasting sector, which is thriving without our support. Both these amendments offer substantial interference to the broadcasters, who are best placed to judge the wants of the community and promote a subsidy financed in such a manner as to jeopardise the growth of the cable sector. My department is already aware of a number of expressions of interest in establishing local television services under the proposed television restricted service licence which are not seeking subsidy. The ITC may also be aware of some more. I am sure that many more will come forward once the Bill is enacted. The creation of the separate category of local and short-term licence will ensure that local television will blossom without, we believe, the need for either intervention by the ITC or subsidy from the cable sector. It is for those reasons that we oppose the amendments.


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