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Baroness O'Cathain: My Lords, I said that the world had moved on since 1996, and, of course, that is true. It has moved on in a big way: at that stage, I was battling with my party's government over the prominence of public service broadcasters on the EPG.

What I really wanted to say—perhaps I did not express it well—was that, although the world is moving on, it is important that we always maintain public service broadcasts in the prominent position. Of course, that also involves regional channels, as the noble Baroness, Lady Gibson of Market Rasen, said. The Minister threw back at me my remark that the world had moved on, but I have not changed my focus. The public service broadcasters must be in the prominent position.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I apologise to the noble Baroness if I gave that impression. It never crossed my mind that, when she was thinking about how the world had moved on, she was talking about the arrival of a different administration. Such a thought would never cross my mind, as the noble Baroness will readily understand.

I sought to emphasise that we all recognise that, with any Act that aims to establish a framework for broadcasting at a time of rapid technological change and development, we must move with great care. We must put in statute and try to maintain a degree of flexibility that enables Ofcom to do its work without being cabined and confined too much. I was merely making that point.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, I wanted to follow up one point. My memory may be at fault. Certainly, the concept of public service broadcasting—

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, this is Report stage. Interventions are supposed to be made before the Minister sits down and are supposed to be related to what he has said. They are not to be used to expand on previous points.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, my intervention relates exactly to what he said. I thought that I had got up before he sat down. I shall, of course, do what is required. I was going to say that the Bill is meant to be sufficiently future-proofed to take account of the speed of change, so that, if and when it becomes necessary to deregulate in this area, it will be possible to do so. That was my only point.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I agree entirely. The noble Baroness puts it more succinctly than I did.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

1 Jul 2003 : Column 777

Lord Davies of Oldham moved Amendment No. 122:


    Page 218, line 40, at end insert "; or


( ) it is comprised in a television licensable content service."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 123 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

6 p.m.

Lord Davies of Oldham moved Amendment No. 123A:


    After Clause 257, insert the following new clause—


"RENEWAL OF RADIO MULTIPLEX LICENCES
In section 58(2) of the 1996 Act (renewal for twelve years of radio multiplex licences granted within six years of commencement)—
(a) for "which is granted within six years" there shall be substituted "granted within ten years"; and
(b) for the words from "for a period" onwards there shall be substituted—
"(a) in the case of a licence granted within six years of that commencement, for a period of twelve years beginning with the date on which it would otherwise expire; and
(b) in any other case, for a period of eight years beginning with that date."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the UK leads the world in digital audio broadcasting. One of the reasons, I am informed by the industry, is the early supporting legislation, to which reference has already been made. One of the attractive features of the Broadcasting Act 1996 was that radio multiplex licences could be automatically renewed on one occasion. That automatic renewal applied to all radio multiplex licences issued before October 2002. The amendment proposes to extend such renewals to those issued before October 2006. That would include those issued between October 2002 and the commencement of the new provision. We consider the four-year extension necessary to help keep going the momentum of digital radio. Although the UK leads the way in the field, it is only now that sufficient numbers of affordable receivers are available in our shops. Digital radio is still in its infancy. It is still not economically viable.

The aim of the amendment is to continue to encourage investment in digital radio multiplexes. Licences issued between 2002 and 2006 can be extended for eight rather than 12 years, so that all the licences will expire no later than 2026. We believe that, in view of the development of the digital radio industry, eight years is the right figure. It strikes a balance between offering an incentive to those considering taking up a licence while not committing Ofcom to using the spectrum in question for radio multiplexes too far into the future. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

1 Jul 2003 : Column 778

Clause 258 [Access radio]:

Viscount Falkland moved Amendment No. 124:


    Leave out Clause 258 and insert the following new Clause—


"COMMUNITY RADIO
(1) In subsection (2) of section 84 of the 1990 Act (regulations by authority of independent radio services) after paragraph (a)(iii) there shall be inserted—
"or—
(iv) 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 (a "community service")".
(2) In subsection (6) of section 104 of the 1990 Act (application for other licences) in paragraph (b) after "satellite" there shall be inserted ", community".
(3) After that subsection there shall be inserted—
"(6A) In determining whether or to whom to grant a licence to provide a community service and the duration of such licence OFCOM shall have regard to the extent to which the proposed service—
(a) would confer significant benefits on the public or on the particular community for which it is proposed to be provided;
(b) demonstrates evidence of support by the public or the particular community for which it is proposed to be provided;
(c) includes provision for public access to training, production and broadcast facilities;
(d) includes measures to ensure accountability to and participation by the public or the particular community for which it is proposed to be provided; and
(e) would be distinctive from existing local sound broadcasting services licensed to cover over 50 per cent of the proposed service's coverage area."

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, the amendment introduces a new clause to replace Clause 258. It has been drafted by the Community Media Association in consultation with the Commercial Radio Companies Association. It has the purpose of placing community radio in the Bill rather than leaving it to secondary legislation.

Community radio has stimulated a good deal of interest, not only among members of the public but also in government circles. The amendment seeks to provide a clear definition of community radio, among other things. I do not think anyone could disagree with the definition—it may not be perfect, but definitions seldom are. It states that community radio is,


    "for the benefit of members of the public in a defined geographical locality or of a particular community and not operated [either] by the BBC or for commercial purposes".

It is a growing sector, and it is surprising that the Government have not sought thus far to recognise that fact by hastening the right support and structure for community radio. Most noble Lords will agree that the unfortunate term "access radio" seems to have been dropped: it was not a happy choice of description of community radio, which is generally the term used in other countries. The Government have acknowledged the benefits of community radio. There has been strong parliamentary support for it. Over the past 12 months, with the Government's agreement, the Radio

1 Jul 2003 : Column 779

Authority has introduced some experimental services, including what was known as the access radio pilot scheme.

The independent evaluation of the scheme was completed in February this year by Professor Everitt, former secretary-general of the Arts Council. It lends strong support to the case for a distinct licensing framework for community radio, which the amendment introduces. Professor Everitt remarked that the new tier of radio provision,


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

The question that the amendment addresses is not whether to proceed but how and under what rules. While the detail of licensing can obviously be left to Ofcom, there does not seem to us any remaining reason why there should not be provision for community radio in the Bill. That would give clarity to those who aspire to become community radio broadcasters and to the radio industry generally. It will ensure increased confidence in the growth of community radio, building on a clear parliamentary mandate for development.

There has been considerable discussion and consultation on community radio, starting with the White Paper and involving a Select Committee, the Joint Scrutiny Committee, a draft Bill, and debates in both Houses of Parliament, as well as the pilot scheme that I mentioned. The amendment has three major components. I have dealt with the definition, which is the first, but the second component—namely, the selection criteria—is also important. Such criteria should confer significant benefits to the public or a particular community, and demonstrate clear public support.

Further, provision for public access to training, production and broadcast facilities should be included, as well as,


    "measures to ensure accountability to and participation by the public or the particular community",

for which the service is to be provided. It is also important that the community radio service should be clearly,


    "distinctive from existing local sound broadcasting services licensed to cover over 50 per cent of the proposed service's coverage area".

The third component relates to the regulatory framework. The amendment would ensure that community radio would fall into the regulatory framework of the Broadcasting Act 1990 as a "sound broadcasting service" alongside "national services", "local services" and "restricted services". The same rules would apply to community services as currently apply to restricted services, including requirements to conform with the relevant programme content, advertising and sponsorship and technical regulations. Similarly, the regulatory powers to impose financial penalties or shorten a licence period and to revoke licences would also cover community services.

Various questions arise from the amendment regarding the financial viability of those who seek licences, but such issues are clearly understood by your

1 Jul 2003 : Column 780

Lordships and I shall not, therefore, elaborate further on them. I hope that we have now reached the point where the Government might give further support—which is already gathering momentum—to community radio, as the amendment suggests. I beg to move.


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