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Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for having explained to me her thinking behind the proposed amendments, and for letting me see an early version in draft form. I understand that she takes as her starting point in the issue the case of the "Panorama" programme "Babies on Benefit" where, noble Lords will recall, the court found that the Broadcasting Complaints Commission was acting beyond its remit in entertaining a complaint from the National Council for One Parent Families. I shall take the amendment in the sense described so helpfully by the noble Baroness.

The issue in that case was that the complaint in question was brought to the BCC by the organisation, not on behalf of a named participant in the programme but on behalf of the interests of single mothers. In establishing the BCC, the Government's intention was

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that it should defend the personal rights of those appearing in television programmes. The same role is intended for the new commission. It was not the Government's intention that either commission should be used as a forum for interest groups to air their grievances about the treatment or representation of groups of individuals who might be indirectly affected by a programme.

The Government are particularly concerned that the commission's role, in providing an opportunity for those who feel that they have been treated unfairly by a broadcaster, or had their privacy infringed in some way, should not be diluted. There is no reason why an interest group, or a representative of one, may not be authorised by an individual to make a complaint on his or her behalf. Both the 1990 Act and the Bill allow for that to happen. If, in the case that I mentioned earlier, the interest group had been authorised by an individual featured in the programme to make a complaint of unfair treatment, then the BCC could quite legitimately have entertained the complaint.

I think that in that context it is important to be clear that there is nothing to prevent a complaint of the kind that the noble Baroness is concerned about being made to the regulator; that is to say, the Governors of the BBC, the ITC, the Radio Authority in the case of a radio programme, or the Welsh Authority. That seems to us to be the right way to deal with the type of matter under discussion. It is for those reasons that the Government feel that it is both unnecessary and unhelpful to extend the commission's remit in the way proposed. Therefore, we resist the amendments.

Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response. I do not welcome it, but at least it makes the Government's position clear. After considering both the meeting that I had with the Minister and the exchange of correspondence that has taken place between us, I regret to say that there still seems to be a block between us on the matter. It may be that a programme is unfair, but it may not be unfair directly to one individual featured in it. That is where the kernel of the matter lies. I expect that the devil is in the detail in the sense that the Minister is obviously concerned about having a remit which is open-ended. That is not the intention of the amendment.

Normally when we are told that complaints can be made to the BBC or, indeed, to the regulator, one would welcome such information. However, I have not yet built up the confidence in either of those two areas that I believe the public have as regards the old Broadcasting Complaints Commission and the Broadcasting Standards Council, both of which will be replaced by the new body. The Minister's response does not meet the points that we have made. I hope that the issue will not be dropped; indeed, I believe that it will be raised time and time again. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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7.15 p.m.

Clause 87 [Consideration of fairness complaints]:

Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde moved Amendment No. 33:


Page 72, line 42, at end insert--
("(f) to provide the BSC in respect of unfairness complaints with full unedited visual or sound recordings and transcripts of the making of the programme which is the subject of the complaint so far as the relevant person has in his possession a visual or sound recording of it,").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the above amendment deals with an issue that was tabled on the Marshalled List in Committee to which the Minister gave a most helpful response and to which we now return. I have to say that the Minister has also written to me on the matter and indicated that the broadcasting companies have been approached by his department. However, as of last Friday, I believe they had not all responded. I am not in a position to say whether that indicates their interest in the matter, in that they think that if they do not answer the matter will, perhaps, go by the wayside.

However, I am in a position to judge the fact that time and time again one would have complaints about a programme from an individual--and there is no division between us in that area. The complaint would be accepted as legitimate and, in the process of dealing with it, questions would be put at the oral hearing to the complainant, who would say, "Yes, I know it says that in the programme but, if you look at the whole interview, you will find that just before that part that was edited and shown I said this or that and omitting it completely put out of context what I said".

On many occasions the broadcasters would hand over the unedited tapes--the rushes, as I believe they are called--and that would help considerably. Sometimes it would help the commission find in favour of a broadcaster and sometimes in favour of a complainant. But by no means are they available by right. For example, if one had a broadcast from an independent producer, as sometimes would be the case, he might say, "Sorry, we've destroyed those tapes". One would then be left with the programme and, therefore, unable in some instances to reach a really fair adjudication either as regards the broadcaster or, indeed, the individual complainant.

I shall be most interested to hear the Minister's response to the amendment and to know whether he has heard from the broadcasters. Their views would certainly be most welcome. I should point out in conclusion that the amendment was not intended to develop a situation where we would have a warehouse south of the river housing hundreds and hundreds of tapes indefinitely simply to meet that provision in the Bill. That was not the intention. Indeed, it would not be necessary. If one looks at the position as regards radio, the stations are required to keep all tapes for three months after transmission of the programme.

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A provision along those lines would be most welcome, especially as there is a time limit on the ability of individuals or organisations to make complaints under the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, the noble Baroness has again been most helpful in her introduction of the amendment. As she said, and as noble Lords will recall, the noble Baroness previously tabled the amendment, which would require broadcasters to provide the BSC with transcripts and all available unedited material used in the making of a programme against which a fairness complaint had been made. At that time I said that the Government would resist the amendment. However, I subsequently met the noble Baroness and, having heard her arguments, agreed that we would consider the matter further.

The noble Baroness will know that the Government are not unsympathetic to her desire to ensure that broadcasters co-operate with the BSC in providing sufficient information to enable the commission to reach a properly informed adjudication. However, after careful consideration of her proposals, in consultation with broadcasting and regulatory bodies, a number of practical difficulties have presented themselves.

One problem lies with the lack of a corresponding requirement upon broadcasters to retain the additional material in question. Clearly--and the noble Baroness has, I believe, acknowledged this point--it would be quite impractical and unreasonable to require broadcasters to find the additional resources and space to store such material for all programmes. As the noble Baroness pointed out, the unedited material used in making a programme may be several times the quantity of that used in the final transmission. However, in the absence of such a requirement, there is nothing to prevent an unscrupulous broadcaster from simply deliberately destroying, before a request has been received, any material which he does not wish to hand over were such a request to be made.

Additionally, there could also be quite legitimate reasons why a broadcaster might be unwilling to hand over such material; for example, it might infringe the privacy of other participants in the programme or reveal a confidential journalistic source. We wish to avoid giving the BSC powers which would go beyond those available to the courts to demand material without hearing argument and without a public interest exemption in situations where the courts would need to make an order under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act.

These are important points which we shall have to take into account. However, we remain sympathetic to the thinking behind the amendment of the noble Baroness. With your Lordships' leave, I should like the opportunity to consult more widely before the Government's more detailed response is made to another place.


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