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Lord Howell: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, for his comments, and to the Minister for his explanation. The short answer to the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, is that we should not allow people to negotiate with themselves. I agree with what was said about the possibilities of digital techniques and about some sports' bodies wishing to promote their own programmes, or to engage producers to put a programme together. I do not object to that concept, but I object to people who negotiate with themselves. I believe there is some evidence that that is happening, or there is a danger that it could happen. However, this amendment has served its purpose for the moment by enabling us to have a brief discussion on this matter. I hope that my friends involved in sport and in television will take note of the discussion and of the fact that we do not want any conflicts of interest in negotiations on the televising of sport. The advent of digital television may be some years away, but I hope that when that matter is discussed these principles will be borne in mind. As I have said, the amendment has served its purpose in allowing me to express these anxieties. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Howell moved Amendment No. 3:


After Clause 1, insert the following new clause--

Advisory Committee for Broadcasting and Sport

(".--(1) The Secretary of State shall establish a committee to be known as the Advisory Committee for Broadcasting and Sport.
(2) The Committee shall consist of--
(a) a Chairman appointed by the Secretary of State, and
(b) fourteen members appointed by the Secretary of State representative of the interests of--
(i) broadcasters,
(ii) sporting bodies, and
(iii) viewers of and listeners to broadcast services.
(3) The Committee shall--
(a) review such matters relating to the broadcasting of sport as it considers appropriate, and
(b) consider any matter referred to it by the Secretary of State,
and shall from time to time report and make recommendations to the Secretary of State.
(4) Any report or recommendations made under subsection (3) shall be laid before Parliament.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I regard this amendment as one of considerable importance. It seeks to establish an advisory committee of people representing the interests of broadcasters, sporting bodies, and viewers of and listeners to broadcast services, to advise the Secretary of State on matters concerning listed events. It is incredible that the matter of whether or not an event should be labelled a listed event depends entirely on the whim of the Secretary of State.

When Mr. Kenneth Baker, when he was Home Secretary, drew up the previous list in 1990, he consulted no one. Out of the blue he declared that the

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eight listed events that we are discussing today--and have discussed on previous occasions--were the jewels in the crown. He was more or less correct in that assertion but it is monstrous that one Minister should be able to take such a decision without being required to consult anyone and without any known criteria having been established. We have applied our minds to this matter to establish what we can do to prevent that position persisting in the future. We have sought to suggest who should be represented on the committee. We propose that the Secretary of State should be allowed to appoint the members of the committee. We are not trying to impose any members on the Secretary of State whom he would find unacceptable.

We believe there are three main areas of interest where the relevant people should be consulted when listed events are determined. Those people are the broadcasters, the sporting bodies and the viewers of and listeners to broadcast services. That seems to me to be perfectly reasonable. I hope that the Minister can embrace the principle, if not the wording of this amendment. If he cannot do so, I hope he will tell us how in future the Government will determine listed events. We shall return to these matters from time to time but I should prefer to have a simple, tidy and permanent solution as to how these matters will be determined, and what criteria should be applied. This amendment seeks to achieve that solution. I beg to move.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Howell, has most helpfully put forward the case for a committee to assist the Secretary of State by advising her on matters relating to the broadcasting of sport. I can see the arguments for a committee of this sort although I remain to be convinced of its precise remit and added value. The Government are prepared to consider this proposal further although, obviously, can give no commitment. I hope on the basis of that assurance the noble Lord, Lord Howell, will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Howell: My Lords, I am delighted to receive that assurance. I believe that as this day has progressed we have moved closer together in what we intend to achieve. That is a good sign. Sport should not be a matter of party political argument. We should seek to reach agreement, as I have endeavoured to do, on the principles of these matters, even if some of the wording is not quite right. I welcome what the Minister said. In the circumstances I am content to leave the matter with him. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde moved Amendment No. 4:


After Clause 3, insert the following new clause--

Meaning of "subscriber management" and "subscriber authorisation" services

(".--(1) In this Part a "subscriber management service" means a service provided to any holder of a licence under the 1990 Act to provide a television programme service, or to any holder of a licence under this Act to provide a digital programme service or a multiplex

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service, for billing or payment handling in respect of charges for and payments received from viewers within the United Kingdom of encrypted television programmes.
(2) In this Part a "subscriber authorisation service" means a service provided to any holder of a licence under the 1990 Act to provide a television programme service, or to any holder of a licence under this Act to provide a digital programme service or a multiplex service, for the remote actuation, processing or control of equipment for receiving encrypted television programmes within the United Kingdom.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 4 I wish to speak also to the whole list of amendments grouped with it. The purpose of the amendments is to create a legislative framework for the ITC to license and regulate for the provision of conditional access and subscriber management for digital terrestrial, digital satellite and analogue satellite. At the moment the ITC cannot apply a code to News Datacom--that is the company which supplies the Videocrypt conditional access system used by BSkyB--or to any other provider which is not an ITC licensee. The matter was debated in some detail on the second day in Committee. That debate makes very interesting reading. The noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth--I hope that he will not object to my calling him my noble friend--with his support not only for these amendments but also for the amendment in the name of the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, spoke of the Clydeside MP, Jimmy Maxton, and his reference to riding two horses at one time. Perhaps I should refer to what might appear to be another "riding of two horses" at one time. My noble friend Lord Donoughue has his name in support of the amendment of the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, Amendment No. 164. As my noble friend Lord Donoughue supported the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Thomson, and the noble Viscount, Lord Astor--and I hope that he will support my amendment today--my mind turned back to the old proverb attributed to G. Herbert dating back to 1640. Noble Lords will understand that one carries this sort of saying in one's head day in and day out. The proverb came into my thoughts:


    "For the want of a nail the shoe is lost;


    for the want of a shoe the horse is lost;


    for the want of a horse the rider is lost".


    We do not want to lose our horse. If we lose our rider, the viewer--in modern-day parlance--will be lost. That is why we have put down the amendments.

The amendment before the House today is not the same as the amendment in Committee in the name of the noble Viscount, Lord Astor. This group of amendments has a wider application. The key difference is that we refer to the role and the involvement of the ITC whereas the noble Viscount's amendment leaves the matter to the DTI and Oftel.

To use the horse analogy, we should not allow this important matter to become a battle for turf, although I rather suspect that that might have been a factor behind the scenes in the discussions on the European directive between the DNH and the DTI when considering the issues. How much easier it would be if we had not had such a proliferation of regulatory bodies in the communications field.

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Conditional access has become one of the key issues in our consideration of the Bill. It is not surprising that that is so. The availability of wider choice, of diversity of programming, will themselves be dependent on the gateway access availability--a gateway which must not be so restrictive as to squeeze out competition and the start up of small service providers.

The issue of open competition and access was of concern to the noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth, at Committee stage. Indeed, the area of competition and access was referred to by the Minister at Second Reading.

On these Benches, we readily accept investment. The courage and money available to take a gamble in the market place have to be recognised and not penalised. However, the viewing public interest has a place in this debate. In dealing with broadcasting, one cannot simply treat the issue with a class licence as one does in telecommunications. In the nature of broadcasting, content will be a crucial factor, not just for diversity but in leading to commercial success too. We readily accept that the new digital era will provide not just broadcasting and television services but a range of services, many of which we have not even thought about as we discuss the Bill today.

I believe that it is in that area of broadcasting--diversity for the viewer--that the ITC has the prime experience: that of balancing the requirements of fair, effective competition with content. Indeed, it has such a responsibility under the 1990 Broadcasting Act.

The Minister confirmed, as does the DTI consultative document on conditional access, that the ITC will be consulted. But what does that mean? One can consult a range of people when making changes. It could end up a useless consultation with the views of the ITC not required to be taken on board by the regulator or the Secretary of State for the DTI. If there is open competition at present, as we are told by so many, why is there no rival to Sky Sport or some of the other services which one would think would be attractive to the public, having a range of similar services available?

At Committee stage, at col. 351, the Minister referred to the review of BSkyB's position by the Director General of Fair Trading. It was referred to earlier today. That review relates to the cable industry. The problem is that the review is due to be completed by May of this year. That is too late for consideration before this Bill leaves this House. Depending on the consultation procedure, it is probably too late for the other place to consider it when dealing with the Bill.

When dealing with the amendments at Committee stage, the Minister referred to an extension of powers necessary for the ITC which would place operators under the risk of regulatory double jeopardy. Of course, no one wants that. Under the 1990 Act, the ITC's duty in relation to fair and effective competition extends to services such as conditional access and subscriber management where they are connected with the licensed programme services. These amendments do not take the ITC into new or totally unoccupied territory. They allow the regulator to perform his duties across the sector rather than in selected and therefore defective areas of it.

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I believe that the cable companies are concerned-- I believe that the anxiety was raised in Committee--that regulating conditional access could lead to unequal treatment of their sectors. Let me assure noble Lords that that is not the intention of the amendments. We recognise that there are issues so far as concerns the cable sector.

The amendments--they are the same as those discussed in Committee--are before us today because although it has been the Government's intention to keep conditional access outside the Bill, it has been very much at centre play in our considerations. I hope that the amendments find approval with your Lordships today. I beg to move.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Thomson of Monifieth: My Lords, I am happy to support my noble friend Lady Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde on the amendment that she has so ably moved. I congratulate her on the work that she has done in producing this series of amendments. My name is on the Marshalled List in support of the amendment in the name of the noble Viscount, Lord Astor. As I said in Committee, whether the body is the ITC or Oftel is not the fundamental issue. Perhaps understandably my balance of attraction goes to the ITC because, generally speaking, in the new developments between telecommunications and broadcasting I am always anxious to safeguard the broadcasting considerations. Those seem to be more considerations of creative value than of the technical issues as regards the DTI. However, that is not the most fundamental issue here. The fundamental issues are those which the noble Baroness stated.

Amendment No. 4 seeks to define rather usefully the encryption system on the one hand and the subscription system on the other. It is important to bear in mind that those are two different operations, sometimes with different although linked considerations. At present, with analogue transmission BSkyB is the gatekeeper for rival programme providers with which it competes. I do not wish to repeat my arguments at Committee stage. However, that seems to me to be fundamentally wrong in principle. It demands an open and transparent licensing system. For the life of me I still cannot see why what is regarded by Government as essential for the digital future (albeit for European Union reasons)is not regarded as necessary for the analogue present, which may be with us for a long time.

I leave that side of it and move on to the digital aspects of conditional access. I am becoming disturbed by what I hear about the Government's attitude to the European Union's directive and proposals for digital encryption. As the Minister will know, the directive provides for a standard encryption system but leaves conditional access to a code of conduct. There is a risk in that. The code of conduct is intended to make it possible for any conditional access system to work both with the standard European encryption system and with any subscriber management system to link them.

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The two systems now becoming available on the continent, I am told--Multicrypt and Simulcrypt--satisfy that condition. But there is no assurance that Videocrypt, which is developed by BSkyB, does. I understand that the Government are reluctant to face up to the situation. If they do not it will leave BSkyB able to impose its own proprietary system in the new digital age. There will be created a new de facto monopoly.

In common with other noble Lords, I have received a letter from EUTELSAT, the inter-governmental organisation for European telecommunications. It emphasises the same point--the need in the Bill for a single common conditional access interface. The letter goes on:


    "A mandatory common Conditional Access interface will mean that the same receiver/decoder can be used to access all channels even though the Conditional Access systems may differ...Key to achieving choice and accessibility will be the development of a Common Conditional Access Interface".
That is linked with the need to have a receiver/decoder which,


    "should be able to receive from all types of distribution be it terrestrial, satellite or cable".
During the progress of the Bill I have tried to make a test of the views I have expressed from these Benches--the viewer and listener interest. I well recognise that there are many conflicting and valid interests to be balanced, as the Minister said. But the viewer and listener interest is extremely important. Together with the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, I am a patron of the Voice of the Listener & Viewer. That society puts the issue in simpler language than I have been using from authoritative sources. It says:


    "The universal adoption of a common interface would enable manufacturers to simplify their products and bring prices down most rapidly".
I conclude by asking the Government to seek to define what is essentially the public interest in this complex matter. I believe that the public interest is that the consumer has a single black box with a common technology that enables him to move freely between the various on-line services. Linked to that is the ability of the providers of programmes and other interactive services to use a common interface to bid for customers. If the Government were ready to look at the case for a mandatory interface, it would enable both manufacturers and retailers to compete in the high street stores with the new device alongside any other electrical appliance. That would speed up the digital revolution by bringing prices down.

I hope that I am wrong in hearing that the Government appear in discussions to be setting their face against a mandatory common interface. I hope that they will reconsider the matter. If they do not, once again we will need to look at the European dimension to see whether, through the European Union, we can bring about a mandatory arrangement that the Government in this country are not ready to recognise as being in the public interest of viewers and listeners

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here. That is a new development since we discussed matters in Committee. I thought it right to bring it to your Lordships' attention at Report stage.


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