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Lord Davies of Oldham: I have some sympathy with the comments of the noble Lord. I served for a time on the Select Committee in another place that considered such abuses of the media, particularly in journalism. I am aware that cases arise which cause the greatest concern to us all. Restitution is not always made in full, although I think it is recognised that the requirements placed on broadcasting in the framework proposed in

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the Bill and in that which has obtained in the past are much more stringent than anything to do with the written media.

However, I emphasise that I can imagine the distress caused in the case identified by the noble Lord. The question of whether rights were sold to a company in a foreign country and whether the programme was broadcast there would be very much a matter for the law of that country, not our own in those terms. I recognise and share the concern raised. I seek to reassure the noble Lord that Ofcom inherits the powers and obligations in the Broadcasting Act; they are in the Bill. I hope that on that basis the amendment will be withdrawn.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: Of course, the Bill could introduce sanctions. Fines could be imposed. The Government have fought shy because the old legislation does not give that power. I do not believe the Government have given thought to this matter. A fine could be imposed if the programme was broadcast in Australia. English law is powerful.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to the debate on what I certainly regard as a very important issue—both those who have supported me and those who have their doubts. I am particularly glad to have had reassurance from the Minister that Clause 2 does exactly what he says it does; it carries through the same powers to Ofcom and, it is hoped that that will be able to be passed on to the content board or possibly, as he suggested, sub-committees. That would again make the case very strongly, not just about fairness and privacy where grave wrongs have been done in the past, with much greater damage than being taken through a court of law. It is so important that it is spelt out in Clause 3(2)(f)(i) and (ii). I do not think that fairness and privacy was there in the original draft but it is there now. It is good to know that that will be dealt with.

I hope I can assume from what the Minister said that indeed the Government will expect Ofcom, the content board or a subsidiary to deal with complaints from the public. It will be impossible to have no one ultimately responsible. I regard that as important also for taste and decency. It is all very well the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, referring to a change of culture. Why have we not seen that over the past 20 years with broadcasters being more responsive to the attitudes of the public? Of course attitudes to taste and decency change over time. That is what was so important about a body such as the Broadcasting Standards Commission, because its approach and its membership changed over time, too. Quite deliberately today I did not refer to that which I mentioned on Second Reading and previously. I still do not regard Ofcom or the content board as sufficiently independent to make such judgments, because they issue licences. On that side, I am particularly glad to know that there will be other methods by which these matters can be dealt with.

Lord Alli: Perhaps the noble Baroness would recognise two matters as regards the broadcasters'

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position on taste and decency. Long gone are the days when one could test a programme before it was broadcast. Therefore, one of the problems is that condemnation comes only post-broadcast. It is difficult because one is always adjudicating. One does not deliberately put something out that one believes will offend people, but the nature of the system is that it comes through.

As a general point, it is difficult for broadcasters to consider the issue seriously and take on board the regulations imposed on them when the print media has virtually no regulation. There are dual standards. As regards privacy, it is difficult when we are putting into the Bill hoops for broadcasters to go through, yet no such hoops exist for the printed media. That dilemma is at the heart of the attitude referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey. It is an attitude of unfairness to one broadcast medium as against another.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: I shall reply briefly to the noble Lord. I accept the point he makes, other than that I believe it is more damaging for something to be shown on television and listened to on radio than to appear in the print media. We all know why there is this longstanding element of difference between the print and the broadcast media.

Lord Bragg: It is slightly naive of my noble friend Lord Alli to say that broadcasters do not put out things that they intend to offend against taste and decency. If he trots along the networks and the "this, that and the others" late on any night he will see things that cannot but be there to offend against taste and decency—certainly mine, thank you very much.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: I beg leave to withdraw the amendment but I may return to it at a later stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Northesk moved Amendment No. 12:


    Page 3, line 29, at end insert—


"( ) the application, in the case of electronic communications network services, of standards that provide adequate protection to members of the public and all other persons from unwarranted infringements of privacy resulting from activities carried on for the purposes of such services"

The noble Earl said: Following in the footsteps of the noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth, and those of my noble friends Lord Peyton and Lord Brooke, I, too, express my apologies for the fact that I was unable to participate in the Second Reading debate. However, I note that, as the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, put it, it was an occasion when the "fluffies" crowded out the "techies". I do not consider myself to be a particular expert in the field—if you will, a "techie"—but it is important that some of the technological aspects that underlie the Bill are given a wider airing than they have had so far. Therefore, I hope that Members of the Committee will forgive me if I take a little longer than would normally be appropriate to explain the context of the few amendments tabled in my name.

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Outwardly, the Bill addresses issues of convergence in the media and broadcasting sector and, as I think we all agree, in an economic sense it makes a good fist of this. There may be more or less tidying up to be dealt with around some of the headline issues—indeed, earlier debates today made that point—but, in essence, both the Government and the Bill team are to be congratulated on having produced a pretty solid piece of drafting.

The Joint Committee, under the astute and invigorating chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, also deserves our plaudits. So I find it disappointing that, to my perception, the Bill is so tentative on some aspects of technological convergence.

However, I recognise the problems involved. I am only too willing to endorse wholeheartedly the Government's oft-repeated mantra that—here I quote directly the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport:


    "We do not intend to regulate the internet".—[Official Report, Commons, 3/12/02; col. 784.]

That is very welcome. While I am acutely aware—noble Lords may be tiring of me beating this particular drum—that there are problems in need of redress as far as concerns IT, I willingly accept that this Bill is not the right mechanism to deal with most of them.

The Minister will no doubt also argue that the Bill has been drafted with "future-proofing" very much in mind. Quite rightly, there is no wish to pre-empt future technological advance by inadvertently favouring a current development over any other on the face of the Bill. But I have a huge problem with the way in which Ministers—possibly the same approach will be adopted in respect of all my amendments today—seek to hide behind the supposed panacea of Clause 3(3)(e) which deals with the,


    "desirability of encouraging investment and innovation in relevant markets".

That is not good enough. Nor can I help feeling that, desirable as the Government's aspirations are in their own right, the quest for technological neutrality has resulted in too much timidity, a few blind spots, about the way in which so many of the technological boundaries that once existed within the broadcasting sector are becoming ever more blurred.

Against that background, I turn to the substance of the amendment. As I understand it, the Government are transferring the existing privacy regime—for want of a better way of putting it—from the previous regulators to Ofcom. To that extent, the current drafting of the Bill is, as it were, a direct inheritance. Indeed, the Minister has already said as much when responding to previous amendments. To my mind, the intended purpose is specific; that is, to provide adequate protection from what we could euphemistically call journalistic or media enthusiasm. I have no complaint about that: it is welcome. But there is a big problem here.

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Technological convergence has meant that the activities of the media are increasingly not confined to the traditional mechanisms of delivery, be they newsprint, television screens or radio. Media interests have been quick to realise and grasp the commercial potential of the new technology, especially the web. The BBC, all the major television companies and major newspapers now have extensive, even lucrative, presences on the Internet. We are all learning new ways of both receiving and imparting information. But I am uncertain that the web and/or Internet-based activities of media enterprises are bound by any constraint on the face of the Bill. In the words of my noble friend Lord Pilkington, the right to privacy does not seem to be properly "sanctified".

In so far as that interpretation is correct, there is potentially a huge lacuna on the face of the Bill. It is odd that one arm of the media enterprise—that involved in broadcasting by television or radio—should be regulated by the terms of Clause 3(2)(b), while another—its web and/or Internet-based activity—should not. I would go further. There is a legitimate case for arguing that web-based intrusion of privacy represents a more acute risk than that posed by traditional broadcast methods. I acknowledge that this may not be strictly relevant to the amendment as drafted, but we need consider only the modern curse of "spam". Then there is the growing menace of identity theft.

I should emphasise that it is not my intention with the amendment to impose regulation on the Internet. As I have already said, I stand four square behind the Government's position on this issue. Rather it is a case of what is sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander. Surely it has to be the Government's intention that in circumstances where media enterprises "broadcast" material via a new technology, those activities should be subject to the terms of the Bill, as well as those already covered. If not, there is next to nothing gained in having the protection afforded by Clause 3(2)(b), because it can be ridden roughshod over by a savvy enterprise limiting its exposure to those forms of delivery where the regulation does not bite.

There is one other side-bar to the amendment that I should mention. Noble Lords will have noted that it is drafted to be consistent with the existing wording on the face of the Bill. I am sure that noble Lords will also have deduced that this is partly a, no doubt vain, hope that, by so doing, more sympathy for it will be inspired in the minds of those on the Government Benches than might otherwise have been the case. But it also serves another purpose: 3G—third-generation—mobile phones are not yet with us, but 2½G mobile phones are here. Without getting too bogged down in the technicalities, this provides users, among other things, with the facility of transferring images to each other. I believe I am right in saying that a range of establishments have felt it necessary to ban 2½G phones from their premises. These vary from, for example, fitness clubs, because embarrassing and compromising pictures were being taken of individuals and then distributed via the network, to cinemas because of the potential for breach of copyright.

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It is fair to say that it is simple common sense for such establishments to impose bans; in other words, there is no absolute necessity for the narrow issue, of itself, to be subject to statutory regulation. But it explains why the amendment uses the wording preferred by the Government, especially the phrase "electronic communications network services". It also demonstrates the points that I have already sought to make—namely, that the potential risks to individual privacy and its capacity to be infringed is that much more acute in respect of the new technology.

The Minister may seek to argue that the purposes of the amendment are already substantially dealt with elsewhere under the umbrella of other legislation. This could well be so, but if there is a single theme that runs through all the amendments tabled in my name, it is that the economic and commercial health of the new technology is dependent upon the degree of trust and confidence that consumers have in it. It has been my experience that among noble Lords, to a greater or lesser extent, there is a wholly natural antipathy towards, even fear of, ICT. It would be inappropriate to define it as "Luddite", but it is a diffidence that has an echo among the wider public. That being so, there are strong arguments in favour of doing what we can to buttress confidence in the technology. Ensuring that consumers have adequate protection against unwarranted infringements of privacy is one of the ways in which this can be done. In this sense, it is my view that it is wholly appropriate that Ofcom's remit should extend in the way suggested by the amendment. I beg to move.

7.15 p.m.

Lord Gordon of Strathblane: I rise briefly on the issue of broadband simply to suggest that, again, we are making a god of competition. I give way to the noble Lord. I apologise.


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