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Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde: My Lords, I am reluctant to intervene at this stage because I fear that I may confuse matters more than is already the case. However, the position is not clear. And there is a consensus across the Chamber that we should get the matter right in order to protect the viewer and complainant.
The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, says that the wording of the Broadcasting Act 1990 would, I paraphrase, "do" him. That Act refers to a code under the Broadcasting Standards Council. I refer to Section 152. We are dealing now with Clause 72 of the Bill. The provisions of the 1990 Act which relate to a code deal with practices to be followed in the portrayal of violence, sexual conduct and matters of taste and decency. The BSC was required by duty to draw up a code of practice. The broadcasting complaints section of the 1990 Act shows that there is no requirement to draw up a code of practice.
The amendment relates to Clause 72. I believe--I may have one or two words wrong--that the clause is a direct lift from the 1990 Act, which deals with broadcasting complaints. There was no code of practice
I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, or the Minister will respond to that point, because it seems to me that the Bill is great step forward from the 1990 Act, if I am reading it correctly. Certainly the BSC did not draw up a code of practice, and it was not required to do so under the 1990 Act. The Bill will require it to draw up guidelines. The Minister might be the person to answer that point. Am I correct in my understanding? If I am, it may be something upon which we should reflect because the Bill is a step forward for the complainant.
Lord Chalfont: My Lords, I realise that I may be looked at fiercely by the Prussian marshals on the Front Bench, but with the leave of the House I should like to enlighten the noble Baroness and the House. The sections to which I was referring are on page 8 of the Broadcasting Act 1990. It states:
The difference between the 1990 Act and the Bill is precisely that--one required the two authorities to draw up a code of rules which were to be obeyed on risk of punishment if they were broken. The Bill does not do that. It is that that I am seeking to correct.
Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde: My Lords, I apologise to the House, but I do not understand the rules as to whether I can come back. That answer did not address the point that I was raising. The commission is the ITC. In the Bill we are talking about the Broadcasting Standards Commission.
Lord Chalfont: My Lords, I think we are at cross purposes. Perhaps I may beg the leave of the House; the noble Baroness was right in what she said. She was referring to the Broadcasting Standards Council and the Broadcasting Complaints Commission. I was referring to the regulatory bodies--the ITC and the Radio Authority. I am trying to find a way of making the ITC and Radio Authority rules applicable to the BBC.
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, indeed, that is what I thought was happening. In the end of the debate on my amendment I wanted to address some remarks to the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, in respect of his Amendments Nos. 182 and 184, because they tie together. I must begin by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, for having shared with me some of thinking behind what he has proposed. That has been helpful.
As your Lordships will be aware, we have taken on board the point about making mandatory the drawing up and review of the BSC's guidance on fairness. I have just moved an amendment to that effect. The issue that we have been debating is whether the guidance in question should be renamed "codes". That is what is contained in Amendments Nos. 182 and 184, as I understand it. That is the nub of the issue.
Your Lordships will recall that we had a discussion about this in Committee. I explained that I had doubts about whether such a change would make a substantial difference. I said that it might cause difficulties. However, I agreed, as my noble friend Lord Renton correctly pointed out, to consider the point further. I may be ducking it, but I am not going to treat the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, in a Prussian manner, because I request your Lordships' leave to bring back a response to that point on Third Reading.
I should like to make a couple of general points. First, we are anxious to ensure that the work of the BSC does not become a substitute for Parliament in creating the law of the land. Our starting point in analysing the matters must be the words of statute and the BBC Charter and Agreement. Further explanatory material, whoever draws it up, can explain the basic legal requirements which apply, but should not purport to define them. That is true even where there is a separate collateral and binding obligation on broadcasters, their employees and programme makers to abide by the provisions in question.
In that context, it is interesting to look at the BBC because in the case of the BBC the governors must ensure that the corporation treats controversial subjects accurately and impartially and does not include anything which offends against good taste and decency. At the same time, the governors are separately obliged to ensure that employees and programme makers comply with provisions relating to proper conduct, which are designed to stop those forms of mischief occurring.
It is important that we are clear here. In a number of cases where we look at regulatory systems for broadcasters, there are two parallel systems at work. First, there is a basic obligation to ensure that certain ways of broadcasting are carried out. To that effect, various "codes"--as I loosely describe them--are drawn up. Those codes are drawn up to assist the broadcasters to achieve the fundamentals, such as ensuring accuracy and impartiality and that there is no tastelessness or indecency.
At the same time, in parallel, there is, in a number of instances, an obligation on those involved in making the programmes to adhere to the codes. That obligation is entirely separate from the first obligation to which I referred. It is because of that inter-relationship between those two separate obligations that we sometimes get into a muddle with the nomenclature used.
The second point is that whatever form of words is used in that context it is important that there should be consistency and a sensible and coherent read across between the relevant legal provisions that pertain.
Lord Renton: My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, will he be so good as to answer the point I made, by reminding me of what he said in Committee, that there must be proper rules relating to appropriate standards of broadcasting. He says, in effect, that guidance and rules are synonymous. He used the word "codes" in the same way. Of course a statutory code has the force of law, but mere guidance does not. Then he went on to say that there must be proper enforcement of those rules, supported if necessary by appropriate disciplinary action. How is that achieved by his amendment?
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, my noble friend makes a good point. But, if he will forgive me for saying so, he has run ahead of the debate. Without wishing to expand on a point upon which I shall expand later, there are regulators for the broadcasters. It is for the regulators to regulate and impose sanctions where appropriate. The core of this system is the principle that we have regulators. In parallel with those regulators is the new BSC, which is a combination of the old BSC and the BCC. The first organisation benchmarks standards and the second is a "user friendly" means for a private individual to see whether he is being traduced by broadcasters. The old BSC, the old BCC and the new Broadcasting Standards Commission are not regulators.