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Lord Fowler: I am not so cynical about that; I am, however, rather cynical about a Bill which appears in this House when over 100 clauses have not been considered. Does the Minister regard that as satisfactory? Is that what he is aiming to achieve?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I have made no reference to that at all; I am not responsible for procedures in the House of Commons. That is the responsibility of the House of Commons. It would be utterly improper for me to make that kind of comment. The Bill comes to us having received such consideration as the House of Commons sees fit.

Lord Puttnam: Before the noble Lord moves on, I should like to make two points. First, I did not claim or suggest that the Government Front Bench were resentful of the number of amendments we brought forward. I did, however, make the point, which was put to me by the Government, that we—the gang of four—were in danger of discrediting the process of joint scrutiny because of the volume of amendments brought forward. I want to make it very clear—and I think I probably have an agreement from the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh—that that is not the case. It is important for the Committee to understand that the Minister agrees with me that it is very proper for a joint scrutiny committee to bring forward these amendments if it does not feel that the Government's response has answered it adequately.

Of course the evidence the Minister referred to was taken into account by the joint scrutiny committee, but that was before we published our report. Is the

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Minister really saying that we should not have published our report because of the evidence received or that it would not have been a good idea—I think he used the word "perfunctory"—to answer a lot of detailed suggestions in page 31, paragraphs 104, 105 and 106, with something rather less than this pathetic response in paragraph 42 of page 13 of the Government's response? That is my point. If we are making powerful points, they should be answered powerfully, irrespective of whether the Minister feels that the evidence might have clarified the situation in the first place.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I do not know what has been indicated to the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam. For myself and my colleagues on the Front Bench, I repeat that as far as I am concerned, it is entirely proper and, indeed, desirable for the joint committee, having made recommendations which were not accepted by the Government, to pursue the matter in Parliament by putting forward as many amendments as it thinks fit. I have never had the faintest doubt about that. If anybody else has indicated anything else, at the risk of charges of splits, I do not agree with them.

Secondly, I did not use the word "perfunctory" and I did not use the word "pathetic". After all, the report has 140 or so recommendations, and each one is fairly short. I said that our response was summary—in other words, it did not cover all the detailed arguments we put to the committee in our evidence in any form. There really is no disagreement between us on this. We are delighted to be able to debate these matters with the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, and his colleagues. We think it right that we should, and I hope that nobody will think that, given the time I have taken in responding to this amendment, we on the Front Bench have treated it with anything less than the respect it deserves. We do not agree with it; we think that there are separate functions for the Secretary of State, who has wider, continuing, changing responsibilities to Parliament and must ensure that we conform with our international obligations.

We understand the motivation behind the amendment and the skill with which it was framed, because it very properly excludes matters of national security and other matters in which the Secretary of State ought never to be constrained. However, we do not believe that it is a proper way in which to set up an office of communications or to define its responsibilities in a workable way, or that the Secretary of State, who has wider responsibilities, should be constrained by a particular part of the general duties of Ofcom.

Lord Crickhowell: I am grateful to all Members of the Committee who took part in this short debate, especially to my noble friends Lord Fowler and Lord Astor and to the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, who supported the amendment from the Front Bench. However, I must make special reference to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, who so ably chaired the joint committee.

I am sure that the noble Lord will be, as I am, extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, for the statement that he has just made from the Front

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Bench about these amendments and our right to table them. I regard it as profoundly shocking that anyone should have suggested otherwise, so it is good that we now have an authoritative statement in the House from the Government. I put a little emphasis on the words "in the House", because this is one of the issues that was never debated in another place. The only reference to the duties of the Secretary of State was in the moving of a clause at the tail-end of the proceedings in another place, when it was proposed that a report should be published on the exercise of those duties. That itself says something about the issue.

I am bound to say that I found slightly bizarre the answer to the criticisms that the response to the Secretary of State was perfunctory and inadequate. That answer drew attention to the evidence on page 405 that was given to the joint committee, but we had that evidence in front of us and we took account of every point in it when we drafted our report and made the comments and criticisms contained in it. It is precisely because we received that evidence that we drafted our report. To say that it is a response to our report seems a most extraordinary supposition.

I do not question that the Secretary of State must have broad categories of powers. Indeed, I referred to most if not all of them. However, I come back to the fact that general duties have been applied to the Secretary of State in similar circumstances in other legislation, such as the Telecommunications Act 1984. Yes, Parliament will have the opportunity to deal with matters brought forward by regulation. Yes, there will be amendments later in these proceedings to some of the powers that may be taken by the Secretary of State, and we will debate them in more detail. However, the fact of the matter is that by referring to the evidence on page 405, the Minister has failed to answer the criticisms that we made. He could not provide an answer by referring to it because that was the basis of the criticisms that we made.

I acknowledge that at this hour of the night, with an important Statement to follow, this is not the time to pursue the issue. However, in the light of the inadequacy of that response, we shall have to consider carefully what to do at a later stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Thomson of Monifieth moved Amendment No. 30:

    After Clause 3, insert the following new clause—

(1) It shall be the duty of OFCOM to take all such steps as they consider appropriate for promoting the growth and development of community media.
(2) In this section—
"community media" means communications services provided primarily for the benefit of members of the public in a defined geographical locality or of a particular community and not operated by the BBC or for commercial purposes.
(3) In subsection (2)—
"communication services" includes—

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(a) radio and television broadcasting;
(b) electronic communications networks and services; and
(c) content services carried by services falling within paragraph (a) or (b)."

The noble Lord said: This group of amendments seeks to establish in the Bill the place of community media operations in the new landscape of broadcasting and telecommunications for the 21st century as set out in this massive Bill. Community broadcasting already has a long and honourable history. I can remember a local charity in my old constituency running an excellent local hospital radio service, for example. In the past, however, community broadcasting has always been limited by spectrum scarcity and has always met with—I am bound to say, and I say it with a guilty sense of self responsibility—a certain disdain from the engineering mandarins of the BBC and the IBA.

We are now in a new situation. Road maps are very much in the news these days. This group of amendments seeks to set out a road map for the expansion of community media across the new broadcasting landscape. That landscape should include community-based radio, television and Internet projects, and they should be on the face of the Bill. The Government's proposals recognise the potential benefits of community media, but they are disappointingly tentative in delivery. The Bill provides enabling powers but no firm commitment to a tier of not-for-profit access radio services, an access radio fund or the development of local digital television services.

The organisation Community Media is the co-ordinating organisation in this sphere. It is eager to exploit new opportunities for interaction between audiences and producers and to involve people directly in media production for community benefit and public service. Despite the difficulties, community broadcast groups are already quite widespread in the United Kingdom, located in both urban and rural areas. Radio Ryedale, for example, is a rural Internet-based webcast radio station and website. Tenantspin is a broadcast television service run by tenants in a Liverpool tower block. Desi Radio has a pilot 12-month licence for a radio service for West London's Punjabi community. Solent TV is a new not-for-profit community television service for the Isle of Wight.

In the future, community broadcasting will expand to go on broadband and be receivable through the next generation of mobile telephony. However, it has been held back by a lack of regulatory support, difficulty in securing access to frequencies and channels and the absence of a structural financial base. Amendment No. 30 therefore proposes to make the promotion of community broadcasting one of the duties of Ofcom, linked to a clear definition of this important and growing sector.

The next amendment in the group is Amendment No. 175. This new clause has the purpose of placing community television on the face of the Bill rather than leaving it to secondary legislation. The new clause has

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been drafted to provide a clear definition of community television and licensing criteria which would ensure the distinctive nature of community television as different from other local television services. As the cost of television facilities reduces and the techniques become easier to learn, there will be considerable interest in the development of new community television services.

Amendment No. 176 deals with the funding of access radio—or community radio, as it is more widely known. The amendment proposes that access to radio should be able to draw on a variety of funding sources. The principle of a mixed funding base is important both to the viability of this sector and to its independence. That funding base should be allowed to include public funds and private funds raised from commercial sources such as advertising and sponsorship.

I fully recognise that some in commercial radio, mainly existing smaller-scale local radio services, have expressed understandable fears that community radio carrying advertising sponsorship might have an adverse economic impact on their business. We consider that unlikely and not supported by researched economic evidence. The best evidence that that is the correct assessment is to be found in the proposed new clause in Amendment No. 177. That seeks to replace the existing Clause 258. It has been drafted by the Community Media Association in consultation and agreement with the Commercial Radio Companies Association. It has the purpose of placing community radio on the face of the Bill rather than leaving it to secondary legislation.

The new clause provides a clear definition of community radio and licensing criteria which would assure the distinctive nature of community radio as different from other local radio services. It does so by amending the Broadcasting Act 1990 to give community radio a status in legislation alongside other independent radio services.

Community radio is already a substantial and growing sector in the United Kingdom but it has been held back by an inappropriate regulatory framework. The Government have acknowledged the potential benefits of community radio. Over the past 12 months, with the Government's agreement, the Radio Authority has introduced, and recently extended, 15 experimental services—the access radio pilot scheme. The independent evaluation of that scheme completed in February of this year by Professor Anthony Everitt lends strong support to the case for a distinct licensing framework for community radio. In the foreword to his report Professor Everitt, a former secretary general of the Arts Council, states that this new tier of radio,

    "promises to be the most important cultural development to take place in this country for many years".

The question now is not whether to proceed but how and under what rules. While the detail of licensing can well be left to Ofcom, there is no remaining reason why there should not be provision for community radio on the face of the Bill. That would give clarity both to aspirant community radio broadcasters and to the

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existing radio industry and would ensure that the new community radio sector builds on a clear parliamentary mandate for development.

Finally, I turn to Amendment No. 302 which sets out a new clause to put the community media fund into the Communications Bill as a primary legislative provision. That would give the fund a similar status to the Gaelic Media Service. An important principle of any public funding mechanism for community media, and indeed other forms of public service media, is that the arrangements should be at arm's length from both government and the regulator. That is an important guarantor of editorial independence and it is necessary to avoid the funding mechanism becoming an additional tool of regulatory intervention. I tell the Committee as a Scot that the arrangements in this amendment are similar to those provided for the Gaelic Media Service and consist of the appointment by Ofcom of the members of the community media foundation who then take decisions within the framework set down in the legislation.

The community media fund would be only one source of the financing of these new projects but it is thought that it might contribute between 20 and 40 per cent of costs depending on the need and the size of the operation. A potentially controversial issue is the source of income to the community media fund. In our view that should be taken directly from the receipts of Ofcom as part of the funding of the broadcasting side of the whole Ofcom operation. Alternatively, however, the receipts could be paid from the Consolidated Fund or, as some have suggested, from part of the BBC licence fee. For my part I would not rule out a part of the BBC licence fee but I think that in practical terms that would need to be examined in the context of the review of the BBC services and the charter renewal process. If our professed mechanism of funding from Ofcom receipts is not adopted, we on these Benches would recommend that the community media fund be set up initially through a contribution from the Consolidated Fund. I beg to move.

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