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Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, I should like to repeat what I said in Committee. We are, in principle, supportive of community media, particularly community radio. But I continue to question how Ofcom can carry out a duty to promote community media with regard to cost. Where will the money come from? That is a difficult question which may put Ofcom in an impossible position.

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9.15 p.m.

Lord Bragg: My Lords, I support the comments of the noble Lord, Lord McNally. Community media seems at first sight to be merely an extension of newspapers, particularly the free sheets, but I think that it could be more significant than that. Certain early experiments gained some ridicule from the chattering classes, but I think that community media has enormous potential.

I am very glad that young people are with us in the Gallery today because part of the potential of community media involves young people. It is very exciting for people to work in radio and television in local areas. We know how much information people take from radio and television—it is where they can get the news on their views of the world. But they can also get that information from local radio and television stations. It is undoubtedly silly to say so, but I would guess that community radio and television could be an enormously important factor in the attempt to reverse the disinclination to be interested in politics. It could not only inform people about politics but actually get them involved.

The set-up costs for community media can be very low indeed. Although I acknowledge the difficulties outlined by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, the difficulties are not overwhelming. Consider how many stations are set up as non-profit-making operations and how many are very localised. The noble Lord, Lord McNally, referred to a tower block station. The enterprises can be very localised and extraordinarily effective. Community media would be a great opportunity for young people to get their hands on the technology to help make their community work, to talk to each other and to talk inside the community.

There is also a democracy about radio and television that is not always present in material appearing in print, which can seem rather formidable. Much print media seems to require massive training and to be in the grip of those who are remote from the more general community.

So for all those reasons, and the reasons underlined by the noble Lord, Lord McNally, people feel that they are losing the sense of community which matters massively in these islands, as it has for a great many centuries—because of fragmentation and globalisation, because of the idea of a takeover culture everywhere, and because of a sense of rootlessness. Community radio and community television, the community talking to itself and to each other, could massively reinforce the roots of our society. That would be a great outcome for this Bill.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord McNally, talked about my noble friend Lord McIntosh putting baubles on the Christmas tree of the noble Lord, Lord Currie. I think that a much better image is the one that the noble Lord, Lord McNally, used in Committee—of Gulliver being tied down by 5,000 ropes. He was talking about the BBC. Putting Ofcom in the place of Gulliver,

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however, there is a danger that at the outset we will stop it developing the very roles that the noble Lord wishes it to perform.

Lord McNally: My Lords, I am shocked. The noble Lord entered this House as one of the new breed of Peers unsullied and untainted by politics. To turn my argument back on me is the type of thing that I would expect from a gnarled bruiser such as the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, not from a political virgin such as the noble Lord, Lord Evans.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, that is very kind of the noble Lord. The only difference between my noble friend Lord McIntosh and me is that I am a gnarled old bruiser from the publishing world and he is a gnarled old bruiser from the world of politics.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: No, I am not, my Lords; I am from the world of market research.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: I am upsetting everyone tonight, my Lords.

My noble friend Lord Bragg spoke movingly about the importance of local radio and television. The noble Lord, Lord McNally, used a very good phrase—communications in the community. In the next minute or so, I hope to convince your Lordships that that is part of Ofcom's remit and is precisely what Ofcom will do.

Community media has had a long and distinguished history. The Radio Authority has, since its inception, granted more than 4,000 short-term restricted services licences. Those can be used for a whole range of activities from rock festivals to religious festivals. This month alone, there will be about 50 services on the air under such licences. It has also granted about 100 long-term restricted services licences to schools, hospitals, forces bases, colleges and universities. Though less developed than its radio equivalent, or indeed, than it is in other countries such as Canada, the United States and Australia, local and community television has already proven its ability to attract significant audiences, to contribute to the social and cultural development of the community and to develop truly innovative programmes. Existing analogue services in Oxford, Lanarkshire, Derry, Manchester, Leicester, Southampton, the Isle of Wight and Portsmouth all do a very good job. But in the analogue world there is not much scope for the development of local services. It is only once more spectrum is made available through switchover that we might be able to offer local television entrepreneurs the opportunity to deliver more services and local audiences the benefits of services which encourage the very things the noble Lords, Lord McNally and Lord Bragg, were talking about—social inclusion and diversity, contributing to local democracy and neighbourhood renewal.

The Government are fully committed to community television and access radio having an equally distinguished future. That is why the Bill makes provision for both.

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Amendment No. 16 would place a new duty on Ofcom to promote community media. Community media would cover not just radio but television and the Internet. As we said in Committee, we do not believe this amendment is necessary. Powers already exist to develop a licensing regime for both local TV, under Clause 241, and access radio services, under Clause 258. Moreover, we expect Ofcom to support and encourage the development of community TV and radio as part of fulfilling its duty in Clause 3(1),

    "to further the interests of consumers and the community as a whole",

and, under Clause (3)(2)(c) to secure,

    "a wide range of television and radio services which . . . are both of high quality and calculated to appeal to a variety of tastes and interests".

We should all agree that if we want Ofcom to be able to fulfil its remit fully and to comply with all its duties we should not try to overload it with redundant functions. I therefore ask the noble Lord to withdraw Amendment No. 16.

Lord McNally: My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Evans of Temple Guiting, that the Radio Authority has had a good record in promoting access radio and I hope that some of the spirit and tradition of the Radio Authority in those promotions carries through to the work of Ofcom. In the spirit of that skilful reply, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 7 [Duty to carry out impact assessments]:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 17:

    Page 8, line 41, at end insert—

"(3A) An assessment under subsection (3)(a) must set out how, in OFCOM's opinion, the performance of their general duties (within the meaning of section 3) is secured or furthered by or in relation to what they propose."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is in response to an amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, in Committee. There are certain principles that the Bill upholds and we have every expectation that Ofcom will be a good regulator. Indeed, the quality of the board that has been appointed suggests nothing else. The amendment requires Ofcom to include in an impact assessment how a proposal will further or secure its general duties, or how the performance of its duties would be secured or furthered in relation to the proposal. We believe that will ensure greater openness and transparency at the beginning of the policy-making process. I beg to move.

Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, we on these Benches very much welcome the inclusion of Amendment No. 17 in the Bill as a measure that will serve to enhance transparency. The amendment requires any impact assessment under Clause 17 to link the proposal in question to Ofcom's general duties. Thus Ofcom will explicitly state in what way its proposal will manifest its Clause 3 commitment. This will allow further scrutiny of Ofcom's proposal.

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Government amendments such as these are rewarding and refreshing for these Benches, proof that our suggestions are listened to and from time to time accepted. We tabled a similar amendment to this in Committee, arguing that if Ofcom were to be a model of good regulation the Bill must go further to boost transparency. That is what the Government have done with this amendment and I congratulate and thank the Minister for it.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 8 [Duty to publish and meet promptness standards]:

[Amendments Nos. 18 to 20 not moved.]

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