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Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, I rise briefly to make sure that, in his response, the Minister does not say that the clause concerned, Clause 260(6)(c), already deals with the matter. I suspect that he may.
My other point, which I make briefly but I hope relevantly, is that the Government themselves introduced citizenship education into the curriculum last autumn. I very much hope that they accept this amendment, because it directly underpins that very important initiative.
We would clearly regard it as wholly inappropriate to lay down any guidelines for what the printed press say about proceedings in Parliament. That would seem to infringe upon censorship and would be deeply unpalatable to all our traditions. Why is it, therefore, that we are prepared to lay down quite clear guidelines for the television world?
There needs to be some clarity of thought here. The only conclusion I would draw is that what we say to the world of television must be in the form of exhortation and general principles but not of statutory enforcement.
Lord McNally: My Lords, I take the point which has just been made by the noble Lord, Lord Bridges. However, I think that it is worth Parliament drawing the media's attention to the correlation between the apathy, cynicism and other maladies which affect our political system, and the fact that media coverage has moved away from factual reporting towards entertainment. One has only to look, as the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, has said, at the growth in the number of sketch writers and the almost total absence of any actual parliamentary reporting, even in the broadsheets.
There is the paradox that we have the technology to have 200 television channels, but not one that can or wants to carry Parliament regularly. There is the parliamentary channel. However, that in itself has its dangers. I do not want to see politics driven into a safe ghetto of a parliamentary channel, which can be reached only by the few.
I return to an old theme and it is one of exhortation. Most of the BBC's political programmes are over 20 years old in concept. It recently had a major rethink in its political coverage, which resulted in some presenters appearing not wearing ties and one programme for young people, which it is about to abandon.
I believe that much more effort could be made to cover politics seriously, particularly the working of this Parliamentif only for the benefit of journalists themselves. I receive a number of telephone calls from political journalists, who clearly do not know how this place works. It could certainly benefit them.
There is an obsession with viewing figures. One cannot run a programme that has only 800,000 viewers, although that is probably more than Gladstone addressed in his whole political life. I believe that much is still worth saying to the media about their responsibilities in making democracy work. There is more need for civic educationan idea pioneered by both my noble friends Lord Holme and Lord Phillips. There has been a tendency within the United Kingdom to think that somehow belief in democracy and democratic institutions come with one's mother's milk. That is a complacent attitude. Democracy needs democrats in order to work, and we need a great deal of help in creating those democrats.
Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, I rather disagree with my noble friend Lord Bridges but very much agree with what the noble Lord, Lord McNally, said. First, we must not forget that we are regulating a systemthe broadcasting systemto which approximately 70 per cent of those who receive information go for that information. Secondly, one knows that a certain slant comes with the information in newspapers. Impartiality, which is important, certainly does not preclude new concepts relating to the things that we regard as so importantthe broadcasting of Parliament and the fact that we need to get over to the rising generation the importance of such institutions in upholding democracy and so on. Therefore, I very much agree with the noble Lord's amendment. I hope very much, too, that the Minister will take it to heart.
Lord Norton of Louth: My Lords, I add my support for Amendment No. 126. I believe that a very special case is to be made for it. We must remember that Parliament, as an institution, is unique. It is the core institution at the heart of our political system. It is the means through which people speak authoritatively to government and the means through which government seek to regulate the activities of citizens. Therefore, it is distinguishable from all other institutions. For that reason it deserves particular treatment in terms of
Therefore, I regard the amendment as extremely important. But, although I regard it as necessary, it is not sufficient. It is necessary in the context of this clause. I do not consider it to be sufficient, but I believe that sufficient conditions must then be provided by Parliament itself in demonstrating its relevance, making it appropriate and attracting those outside to show that it is able to deliver. The mass media are a means through which we are able to show that. Therefore, I believe that Parliament deserves special treatment. I strongly support the amendment.
Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, I support Amendments Nos. 125 and 126, to which my name is added. While I am reluctant to be too prescriptive as to what precisely is required in order to fulfil the public service remit, ensuring that there is sufficient coverage of the proceedings of Parliament and of the other elected legislatures in the United Kingdom is a very important aspect of public service broadcasting. The broadcasts provide a primary means by which the electorate educate themselves in the process of government and the legislature, and it is vital for the successful functioning of a democracy that the electorate are well informed.
I am particularly keen on the words "civic understanding", and here I think especially of young people. I agree entirely with all that the noble Lord, Lord McNally, said about the BBC's programming in relation to Parliament and politics. Much of the format is so old-fashioned that it is a turn-off for most young people. I hope that the Government will accept the amendments so that this matter can be treated as something of a priority.
One of the upsides today is that young people are not prepared to mark their cross or tick the box unless they feel that they understand the issues. That must be a good thing. They are far more questioning; they do not take anything for granted; and they do not vote just as their parents did. However, they are not prepared to vote or to take part in the democratic process unless they are comfortable that they understand the issues. We must all encourage broadcasters to respond. They have a very powerful platform from which they can assist in encouraging young people to become involved in the democratic process and in showing in a good light the many ways in which Parliament and, indeed, all other forms of parliamentlocal government, toocontribute to a civic society. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will be able to accept the amendments and, in particular, the one relating to civic understanding because it is all-encompassing.
Amendment No. 125 would make the facilitating of "civic understanding" a further objective of the news and current affairs requirement. Taking civic understanding to mean an awareness of the processes of government and politics at all levels seems an entirely proper consideration for public service broadcasters to have in mind. We are therefore very happy to accept the amendment.
Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, that is the good news. We have more difficulty with Amendment No. 126. This would require that, in addition to the news and current affairs obligations, broadcasters must provide comprehensive and authoritative coverage of Parliament and other UK legislatures.
The BBC agreement does, indeed, include an obligation on the corporation to broadcast an impartial daily account of proceedings in both Houses of Parliament. BBC Parliament offers daily, very full coverage of Westminster and the regional parliaments and assemblies. The noble Lord, Lord McNally, may not like what he sees, but that is the reality. Parliament is shown every day on BBC Parliament. The BBC also provides extensive television coverage of major parliamentary debates on BBC News 24, daily news bulletins and programmes such as "Newsnight". It also offers coverage of parliamentary debates on radio and online on BBCi.
That said, we do not believe that it would be right to include coverage of Parliament or other UK legislatures within the public service television remit and thereby impose it as a specific obligation across the whole public service broadcasting sector. All the public service broadcasters have obligations in respect of news and current affairs in both the tier 2 and tier 3 contexts.
At tier 2 the broadcasters will be subject to specific quotas for news and current affairs programming while, at tier 3, news and current affairs coverage is, as I said, an aspect of the overall public service remit. Fulfilment of those obligations must, in the nature of things, involve attention to the work of Parliament and other legislative bodies. That will be reinforced, at the tier 3 level, by the inclusion of the reference to civic understanding, to which we have agreed.
However, we cannot see our way to accepting that coverage of Parliament should become a direct obligation on broadcasters other than the BBC. Our overall approach to the regulation of public service broadcasting involves a spectrum of obligations, with the BBC at one end and Channel 5 at the other. Within that framework, a specific requirement to provide parliamentary coverage would seem to us an unduly heavyweight obligation to apply to the public service sector as a whole.
To summarise, we are very willing to accept Amendment No. 125, and hope that this will be taken as clear evidence that the Government understand and have sympathy for the concerns raised in this very interesting debate. But we are not persuaded that the proposal embodied in Amendment No. 126 would be a sensible way forward. I hope that the amendment will not be pressed.
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