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COMMONS AMENDMENTS

2

Clause 1, page 2, line 8, leave out from 'service' to end of line 12 and insert--


'(b) a teletext service, or
(c) any service in the case of which the visual images to be broadcast do not consist wholly or mainly of images capable of being seen as moving pictures,
except, in the case of a service falling within paragraph (b) or (c), to the extent that it is an ancillary service.'.
3

Page 2, line 12, at end insert--


'(4A) The Secretary of State may, if having regard to developments in broadcasting technology he considers it appropriate to do so, by order amend the definition of "digital programme service" in subsection (4).
(4B) No order under subsection (4A) shall be made unless a draft of the order has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.'.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 en bloc. I spoke to these amendments when moving Amendment No. 1.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 2 and 3.--(Lord Inglewood.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

COMMONS AMENDMENT

4

Clause 1, page 2, line 14, leave out 'by satellite' and insert--


'(a) by satellite, or
(b) in the provision of a local delivery service (as defined by section 72(1) of the 1990 Act)'.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 4. In speaking to this amendment, I should like to speak also to Commons Amendments Nos. 5 to 10, 24, 48, 49, 54, 55 and 61.

Amendments Nos. 4 and 61 are technical. They are intended to ensure that the Bill does not inadvertently require local delivery service licencees to obtain a multiplex licence. The other amendments fulfil the commitment made to the public service teletext licence holder, Teletext Ltd, that there should be no requirement to simulcast its existing analogue service on the capacity on the Channel 3/Channel 4 multiplex reserved for it. That would deny Teletext the opportunity to use the new technology to its fullest potential.

Instead, Teletext will be able to propose to the ITC a new service to be broadcast on the reserved capacity. It must meet the same general quality threshold required of the existing analogue service and be approved by the ITC.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 4.--(Lord Inglewood.)

Lord Donoghue: My Lords, I thought long and hard about whether to speak on each of the amendments on the Marshalled List. However, after long consideration, I decided that that would not necessarily be the best and most optimum use of the time of the House. Therefore, perhaps I may just say a few words in general, as I believe that there are several blocs of amendments that will be taken very quickly.

18 Jul 1996 : Column 1006

We on this side feel that whilst the Bill came first to this House and was very thoroughly considered, it has been thoroughly thrashed in the other place; indeed, it has been much changed and improved. The Government have been most helpful in a number of areas in promising changes which they have delivered. Broadly speaking, although we are not satisfied with everything--indeed, we are unhappy that there is not enough provision on quality; and we shall raise a number of points later in that respect--we would like to see the Bill go through expeditiously. We are happy to accept the will of the other place on the matter. I shall not, therefore, be speaking critically of every amendment placed before the House.

Lord Thomson of Monifieth: My Lords, I should like to associate myself with the words of the noble Lord, Lord Donoghue, on the first group of amendments and, indeed, as regards the approach to subsequent groups. However, I should like to raise one point with the Minister. Perhaps the noble Lord can clarify what will happen once the Bill has become enacted in terms of pursuing the aim of trying to ensure that, when digital terrestrial television is being developed, we as consumers will be able to enjoy the benefits of it with a single set top box.

In the autumn, after the Bill has become law, the DTI will produce, after consultation and much work, a statutory instrument in regard to such matters. That will be a vital statutory instrument. However, if it is not effective, there is a very real danger that digital terrestrial television will simply be dead before it gets off the ground and that its future will be handed over to the satellite operators.

Lord Renton: My Lords, I must apologise to my noble friend the Minister because I have a point to raise that I have not as yet mentioned to him. It is something that has just occurred to me. Some of us were given a most interesting and illuminating demonstration recently at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre of the BBC's technical achievements by which the corporation is able to forecast a tremendous increase in the use of digital television and indeed radio.

Nevertheless, it seems to me that it will be a very long time before we are able to enjoy such services in our homes, simply because the receiving instruments are not being manufactured in this country. I understand that Germany has started to manufacture them. There is, perhaps, a lack of liaison between those adventurous scientists who advise the BBC and those equally adventurous people in our own industry about the timing of this wonderful new development. Although we are now enacting the introduction of such technology, we must bear in mind the fact that such developments may not come into operation for quite a long time so far as concerns the viewers and listeners of this country.

If there is anything that the Government can do to expedite the production of receivers--I do not say subsidies, or anything like that--perhaps by simply telling those who might be able to help in our great manufacturing industry that here is a great opportunity for them, they will then be performing a public service.

18 Jul 1996 : Column 1007

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, two most important points were raised by the noble Lord, Lord Thomson, and my noble friend Lord Renton. Perhaps I may deal with them in turn. The noble Lord, Lord Thomson, is slightly ahead of the game in that I shall be dealing in the next group of amendments with conditional access systems. I should like to assure the noble Lord that I shall be slightly less brief than I have been hitherto. The crucial point is that the statutory instrument from the Department of Trade and Industry is due to be finalised in the autumn.

As regards the point raised by my noble friend Lord Renton, I should say at once that it is a good one. As of last week, I understand that BBC television has been broadcasting digitally both in London and Newcastle. Two transmitters were broadcasting and I believe that there are two receivers which are able to pick up the information being distributed--you have to start somewhere. However, frivolity aside, when looking at the criteria under the Bill by which multiplex licences will be awarded, it is important to note that the ITC takes into consideration the steps that are being taken by potential licensees to promote the take-up of digital. That is within the structure of what is being legislated for and that is where my noble friend's point comes in.

Of course it is important that the receiver manufacturers, and the other suppliers of hardware, produce the necessary equipment to enable people to take advantage of this technology. Indeed, I have been encouraging manufacturers to embark upon that course of action. Some of the issues that we will be discussing in the next group of amendments dealing with single set top boxes will obviously have an important bearing on that matter.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

COMMONS AMENDMENTS

5

Clause 2, page 2, line 21, leave out lines 21 to 23 and insert--


'(d) the public teletext provider,'.
6

Page 2, line 24, leave out 'subsection (4)' and insert 'subsections (4) and (4A)'.


7

Page 2, line 27, leave out '(c) or (d)' and insert 'or (c)'.


8

Page 2, line 36, at end insert 'and'.


9

Page 2, line 37, leave out from '5' to end of line 38.


10

Page 2, line 42, at end insert--


'(4A) If--
(a) the public teletext provider notifies the Commission, within the period of one month beginning with the commencement of this section, of his intention to provide a teletext service for broadcasting in digital form, and
(b) the Commission consent under section (The qualifying teletext service) to his provision of that service,
that service (in this Part referred to as "the qualifying teletext service") shall be a qualifying service for the purposes of this Part.
(4B) In this Part "public teletext provider" means the person who holds the additional services licence (within the meaning of Part I of the 1990 Act) which relates to the teletext service referred to in section 49(2) of that Act.'.

4 p.m.

18 Jul 1996 : Column 1008

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 5 to 10 en bloc. I have already spoken to these amendments with Amendment No. 4.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 5 to 10.--(Lord Inglewood.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.


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