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Lord Ashley of Stoke: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I genuinely thank the Minister for the few concessions that he has been able to make. He referred

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to the whale and the minnow not being treated alike. That is a colourful phrase but I hope that he will be careful about encouraging companies into the market and absolving them from the costs of providing services for deaf and blind people, because if those companies cannot afford to pay those legitimate costs they should not enter the market. They have a clear duty to provide those services. The Minister has been helpful and I am grateful for his comments. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 20 [Code relating to provision for deaf and visually impaired]:

5.15 p.m.

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 6:


Page 20, line 20, at end insert--
("( ) Before drawing up the code or reviewing it in pursuance of subsection (1) the Commission shall consult such bodies or persons appearing to them to represent the interests of the persons referred to in subsection (1)(a) as the Commission think fit.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 6 I wish to speak also to Amendment No. 7. I have tabled these amendments in response to an amendment put down by the noble Lord, Lord Ashley, during the Committee stage. As your Lordships will recall, the Bill as drafted provides that the ITC should draw up, and from time to time review, a code giving guidance on the extent to which digital programme services should promote the understanding and enjoyment of programmes by persons who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind or partially sighted and on the means to be used for that purpose.

The first of these two amendments provides that the ITC should consult bodies representing the deaf, hard of hearing, blind and partially sighted before drawing up this code: the second provides that the ITC should publish the code in forms that are accessible to the blind or partially sighted and deaf or hard of hearing. I beg to move.

Lord Ashley of Stoke: My Lords, those provisions will be warmly welcomed by the people concerned. I am grateful for them.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 7:


Page 20, line 24, at end insert ("and in determining the manner of publication, the Commission shall have regard to the need to make the code or revision accessible to persons who are blind or partially sighted and persons who are deaf or hard of hearing").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 29 [Promotion of equal opportunities]:

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 8:


Page 26, line 3, after ("groups,") insert--
("( ) to make arrangements for promoting, in relation to employment by him, the fair treatment of disabled persons,").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 8 I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 9, 10 and 11. These amendments take on board an issue raised during the Committee stage by the noble

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Baroness, Lady Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, and the noble Lord, Lord Ashley of Stoke. The amendments extend the existing clauses on promotion of equal opportunities in relation to employment to require that holders of television multiplex and digital programme licences, national radio multiplex and national sound programme licences should make arrangements for promoting, in relation to employment by them, the fair treatment of disabled persons. These amendments also bring our provisions in line with the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, giving "disabled person" the same meaning as in that legislation. I beg to move.

Lord Ashley of Stoke: My Lords, these provisions again will be warmly welcomed. I am grateful to the Minister.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 9:


Page 26, line 6, at end insert ("and "disabled person" has the same meaning as in the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 62 [Promotion of equal opportunities]:

Lord Inglewood moved Amendments Nos. 10 and 11:


Page 56, line 3, after ("groups,") insert--
("( ) to make arrangements for promoting, in relation to employment by him, the fair treatment of disabled persons,").
Page 56, line 6, at end insert ("and "disabled person" has the same meaning as in the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 12:


Before Clause 67, insert the following new clause--

Amendment of the Broadcasting (Restrictions on the Holding of Licences) Order 1991

(".--(1) The Broadcasting (Restrictions on the Holding of Licences) Order 1991 is amended as follows--
(2) In article 12(3) for "two" there is substituted "three".
(3) In article 13(1)--
(a) for "hold a licence" there is substituted" hold more than one other licence"; and
(b) for "holder of a licence" there is substituted "holder of more than one other licence".
(4) In article 13(2)(a) for "for which the service" there is substituted "for which a service".
(5) In article 13(2)(b) there is inserted "and
(c) provided as a local radio service falling into category A or B".
(6) After article 13 there is inserted--
"Radio services licences.
13A--(1) Subject to paragraph (5), a person who holds a licence to provide a local radio service shall not at any time hold a licence to provide a local radio service to which this article applies; and, subject to paragraphs (3) and (4), such a person shall not be a participant with more than 20 per cent. interest in a body corporate which is the holder of a licence to provide a local radio service to which this article applies.
(2) This article applies to a local radio service which is--
(a) provided for an area which is substantially the same as that for which the service provided by the person mentioned in paragraph (1) is provided; and

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(b) provided on the same frequency band as that service; and
(c) provided as a local radio service falling into category C or D.
(3) A person who holds a licence to provide a local radio service may be a participant with more than a 20 per cent. interest in a body corporate which is the holder of a licence to provide such a local radio service as is described in paragraph (2) if the number of persons over the age of 15 resident in the smaller area does not exceed 10 per cent. of the number of such persons resident in the larger area.
(4) Where such a person as is described in paragraph (3) is a participant with more than a 20 per cent. interest in a body corporate which is the holder of a licence to provide such a local radio service as is described in that paragraph he may not be a participant with more than a 20 per cent. interest in any other such body corporate.
(5) Nothing in this article shall prevent a person from holding licences to provide local radio services if--
(a) that person was, immediately before the grant of the licences, a local radio contractor for an area which was substantially the same as the area in respect of which those licensed services are provided; and
(b) he provided two or more different programme services on different frequencies pursuant to his contract.
(6) For the purposes of this article two areas are to be regarded as substantially the same if at least 50 per cent. of the persons over the age of 15 resident in the smaller area are also resident in the larger area.".").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I hope it will not be necessary to occupy the time of the House for too long on this rather wordy amendment which deals with the small matter of making it possible for an independent local radio station to operate a second FM channel in areas where there is likely to be a strongly competitive market. There seems to be no problem about the BBC operating four FM channels in the same location. If I understand its new Charter correctly, it may even have the possibility of operating a commercial transmission channel, which may well give it a fifth FM frequency, again in the same area. However, the regulations as at present constructed prevent an independent local radio station from operating a second channel. I hope that we might be able to move a little further forward on this matter. At Report stage my noble friend the Minister was what I would call damply encouraging--if I may use such a euphemism--on this matter. I hope that the additional time that has passed since then will enable him to be rather more encouraging today. I beg to move.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, as my noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith said, at the end of the debate in Committee I indicated that the Government have not a firmly closed mind on this issue. That remains the case. However, rather than rehearsing all the arguments again tonight, it may be helpful if I highlight the paradox which lies at the heart of our discussions.

The aim of our Bill is to allow greater concentrations within the media while at the same time seeking to preserve plurality and diversity. All of the restrictions in Schedule 2 should be viewed in that light. When considering radio ownership, we are essentially dealing with two quite different states of affairs. First there are urban areas offering a wide

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choice to the listener, and, secondly, there are rural areas where a single local radio station may be dominant. The amendment tabled by my noble friend seeks to relax the two licence limit in urban areas while retaining it elsewhere.

It has been argued that where there is already choice we should not constrain successful companies from further growth. Yet it is in just these areas that fears of excessive concentration of power are greatest because, conversely, it has been argued that allowing a dominant, established broadcaster to have a second licence in a shire area would be more likely to lead to a lasting new service, because of the economies of scale which would be unavailable to, and thus discourage, any other potential bidders. Any detrimental effect on plurality of the same ownership would be more than offset by the wider range of services provided.

My noble friend's amendment allows greater concentration of ownership where there is already a multiplicity of choice, while ignoring the possibly greater benefits from a wider variety of services to listeners in shire areas that a relaxation in ownership might bring. The Government's view is that any relaxation should apply generally, but should incorporate safeguards both for plurality of ownership and for diversity of output.

Let us be under no illusions. This is a difficult area. I undertook at Report to consult the Radio Authority to see whether the current arrangements can be improved. I met Sir Peter Gibbings last week for a preliminary discussion. I believe that there may be some scope for movement, but we have not yet defined possible improvements. I assure the House that in our further considerations the interests of the listener will be to the fore. But the Government will also bear in mind that the continued development of strong and successful companies within the radio market can be of great benefit to the industry and the public alike.

I hope that the further assurances I have given this evening will convince my noble friend that the Government have taken on board the concerns that he expressed. We are looking carefully at the problem and hope to arrive at a satisfactory solution for implementation in the Bill. I know my noble friend shares my view that if the current restriction to one FM and one AM licence is to be relaxed the specific approach in this amendment may well not be the right one. In view of what I have said I hope that he will not seek to press the amendment this evening.


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