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Lord Ackner: Will the noble Lord agree that the warning sign, "Beware of the watch-dog", does not mean, "Beware of a dog that only barks"?

Lord Inglewood: The sign "Beware of the watchdog" is an indication that the dog barks. "Beware of the guard dog" indicates that there are two dogs looking after the best interests of the person concerned. That seems to me to be the appropriate way of looking after the public's best interests in that context.

Lord Chalfont: The sign usually says, "Beware of the dog". That indicates an animal that barks but might also bite and that is what we want.

Lord Inglewood: I understand that what the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, seeks is a dog with a huge bark and vicious teeth.

We feel that the amendment takes away an important part of the regulator's function and transfers it to the BSC. As I explained, that is not a substitute regulator or a kind of court of appeal or an alternative regulator. It is for those reasons that we cannot support the amendments, although they contain a number of aspects on which we intend to reflect further.

The Earl of Stockton: Before my noble friend sits down, he said that the guidelines were intended to produce compliance. I ask him: whither leads the road of good intentions?

Lord Inglewood: My noble friend's point is a good one. The problem which I and a number of people have faced in examining the provisions of the Bill and the relevant sections of the Broadcasting Act 1990, to which they relate, is that the words are not set in the wider context of what we are discussing.

In my opening remarks I explained that in regard to the distinction in the first amendment between a code or guidance, the important words are neither one nor the other. The important words to which that part of the amendment applies are,


in order to avoid unfair treatment and unwarranted invasion of privacy. The practical steps are the crucial part in ensuring that wrong does not occur, rather than the epithet attached to the provision.

Viscount Caldecote: I thank all noble Lords who have supported the amendment. There was strong support, with the only dissenting voice being that of the noble Lord, Lord McNally, in defence of freedom. However, he forgot that freedom must be used responsibly. Recent experience has indicated that too often freedom has been abused, as the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, said. I wish in no way to denigrate the BBC, it is a fine organisation and probably one of the best in

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the world. The intention of the amendments is to help the BSC to prevent the BBC making mistakes which lower its standards.

The Minister mentioned dogs barking and biting. It is an interesting analogy, but he did not draw the right conclusion. If a burglar hears a dog barking, but knows that it will not bite, it will not stop him doing wrong. My noble friend made the point that my friends and I have been trying to make. We need teeth as well as barking in regulating for higher standards. I am not happy about that point.

I am sorry that my noble friend feels that there is no, or hardly, any difference between guidelines and codes. Experience has shown that programme makers see a difference. When on occasions complaints have been made they have replied, "But those are only guidelines which we use at our discretion". There is not complete agreement between myself, my noble friends and the Minister. Nevertheless, he has given a very sympathetic response in many ways and has promised to consider further the points that we made.

In view of the Committee's almost total agreement to support these amendments, I urge my noble friend to give very careful consideration again to what we have said, even though he argued this evening against them. On the understanding that he will do so and has promised to bring back some further ideas at Report stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Ashley of Stoke moved Amendment No. 197A:


Page 59, line 33, at end insert--
("( ) the unfair or negative portrayal of women, different racial groups and disabled people amongst the listeners and viewers").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment I believe that it will save the time of the Committee if, with the Committee's permission, I speak also to Amendments Nos. 197B, 200A, 207A, 214A, 214B and 214C. These amendments have a common theme related to disability and disadvantaged people and it would take a long time to cover them all separately.

I have been very disappointed with the Minister's response during the course of these debates and discussions to issues of disability. I hope that he will be more forthcoming in dealing with these amendments. They are matters of very great importance to people who are disabled and those who are disadvantaged in different ways.

With regard to Amendments Nos. 197A and 197B, it is absolutely necessary for the Broadcasting Standards Commission to consider the representation or the portrayal of women, racial groups, disabled people and those of differing sexual orientation. That is the purpose of the amendments. Those people, differing widely as they do, hold varying views about broadcasting. But the broadcasters tend to veer away from those people and certainly do not often portray them accurately. There are honourable exceptions but in the main those groups tend to be pushed aside.

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A good example of the kind of false portrayal of those groups is the presentation of disabled people as rather pathetic, incapable creatures, and certainly they are extremely patronised. Broadcasters nearly always show disabled people who have obvious disabilities, such as those in a wheelchair. They never deal with the complexities of those particular groups. It is surprising to me that that should be the case. People can see through the failures of the broadcasters. As the broadcasting channels proliferate, it is inevitable that those groups will be covered more and more. But they need to be properly portrayed. That is the purpose of the amendments.

Amendment No. 200A provides for the satellite television and licensable programme services that are already provided in this Bill for digital programme services. Although that provision has weaknesses, nevertheless it is very important. It calls upon the ITC to give guidance on the extent to which those with a sensory disability understand and enjoy the programmes. It calls on the ITC to do all that it can to ensure that the code is observed and for the publication of the code. So far as I am concerned, that is the starting point for strengthening access to television for deaf and visually impaired people. It is a matter of vital importance to those people.

There are two very strong reasons why the provision for a code should be extended to satellite and other services. First, it should be done because those forms of broadcasting are bound to grow in importance over time. Disabled people will want and deserve access to them as much as to other television programmes. Secondly, it is extremely unfair to expect some companies to provide subtitling and signing and not others. If some people are allowed to be excluded from those services, then they do not have to pay the cost and the people who are fulfilling the moral and in some cases legal responsibility carry a heavier financial burden. That is why it is important that all companies have the same responsibility. It is of real importance to deaf and blind viewers. Unless all television providers observe the same code there will be reluctance and resentment on the part of those who are bound by the rules.

Amendment No. 207A relates to the provisions in the Bill which require complaints about fairness and standards to be in writing. It is unreasonable to require people to communicate in different ways from those that are usual to them, such as signing or Braille. If they cannot write in the normal way because of their disability, then they are barred from making a complaint. I cannot believe that the Minister intends that. The Government should accept the methods of communication of those who are sensorily impaired.

I want now to deal with Amendments Nos. 214A to 214C. As the Bill intends to give power to the Broadcasting Standards Commission to pay allowances to those attending meetings, it is only fair that allowances should also be paid to any auxiliary helper; for example, a signing interpreter. After all, they have to eat. It is a crucial point. There are some circumstances in which there may be no communication without such a helper. If no expenses are paid it may be impossible

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for the helper to attend. Sign language interpreting is a finely honed skill. It cannot be done by just any Tom, Dick or Harry--or Harriet, to be politically correct. This is a clear case of ensuring genuine fairness by ensuring that the means for it are made available. I hope that the Minister will be able to give not only sympathetic consideration, but also a positive response to the amendments. I beg to move.

9.30 p.m.

The Earl of Stockton: I support this group of amendments. They cover an important area of broadcasting especially aimed at those who are least able to fight their own battles. I would be happy to extend that support to other groups such as the elderly, the single, the married and those of ethnic, cultural, religious or social traditions which are in any way different. In other words, the code should be extended in the same way as the group of amendments moved recently by my noble friend Lord Caldecote.

I am surprised to find myself rising in support of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Ashley, when no one on his Benches supported the amendment moved by my noble friend which would have embraced all the groups of which he speaks without particularising them. However, I am happy to continue my support not only for these amendments, but also for the subsequent ones that I know the noble Lord will be moving.


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