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By contrast, all the other broadcasting organisations are runefficiently or inefficientlyby experts in their field. It could very well be said that, given the current travails of ITV, the people in charge are not running it all that well, but at least they are subject to the sanction of the market. Indeed, the breakdown of negotiations between Granada and Carlton was due to the fact that a leak led to a leap in Granada shares and there was not time to get the agreement as speedily as was necessary to satisfy stock exchange regulations. No one in this world, whatever they think of what is broadcast by Sky Digitalalthough I consider that a great deal of it is high quality, and its news has just won two awards when the BBC's news is faltering and ITN is in a sad statecould say that Sky Digital is not aware of market requirements. The constant technological advances on Sky, such as the advance of Sky interactive, and many other forms of convergence, are being made because those broadcasters know that they must cater to a market.
The BBC is not immune to such pressures, but it is utterly immune to the necessity for awareness of such pressures. That is why the view that I have held for a considerable time, and from which I do not regard
I cannot support the amendments because I believe that the present structure of the BBC is utterly out of date in the world in which we are living, let alone the world in which we are about to live. The BBC should have an executive chairman instead of the type of chairman that it hasI am not commenting on Mr. Davies as an individual. It should have a chief executivenot a
The BBC should have a board of directors consisting of people who know about broadcasting, technology and convergence. When, as the hon. Member for South Suffolk said, we have further discussions approaching the charter, the Government must address themselves to such matters, because we cannot go on as we are.
Mr. Alasdair Milne, the former director general of the BBC, who was, as I understand it, sacked by the governors of the BBC, would be surprised to hear of their supine nature. Would my right hon. Friend like to suggest ways forward to enable broadcasters to prevent people from saying on live programmes things that they might not want to have said? Is it not difficult to regulate after the event?
Mr. Kaufman: I am astonished at my hon. Friend because he is an expert on these matters. I knew Mr. Alasdair Milne very well because I worked with him on "That Was The Week That Was". He was not sacked because the board of governors suddenly decided to be a board of governors but because, as so often in the BBC, his face did not fit. That is what happens in the BBC. If someone's face fits, that is okay; if not, they are out.
I cannot begin to tell the House what respect I have for my hon. Friend, and it amazes me that he seems to be unaware that on a considerable number of programmes "live" does not mean live. The former editor of The Sun, Mr. Kelvin MacKenzie, wrote to me last week about his station, where they run live programmes but create a seven-second delay, to ensure that any unacceptable material can be stopped. If my hon. Friend, who is an intellectual and may not devote himself to these matters, watched the live transmissions of "Big Brother" on E4 last summer, he will know that that programme had a similar delay, so that the casual obscenities used by some of the inhabitants of the house were not broadcast during the pre-watershed period. There is a thing called technology, and that technology
Of course there are ways of dealing with these matters. One way, if one is running a breakfast-time programme, is not to ask Mr. Ali G on to the programme because everyone knows what he gets up to. Another way, when the BBC broadcasts the BAFTA awards live, is to read Mr. Stephen Fry's script in advance and tell him that certain things that he is planning to say are not acceptable before the watershed.
I regard my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Mr. Bryant) as someone whose expertise far surpasses my amateuristic views on all these matters and I am sad that he should intervene in a way that does not allow me to agree with him.
Miss McIntosh: Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me. He will know that BAFTA also had slight delay with the problems that came to light with Russell Crowe's poem not being broadcast, so why the expletives were not removed is a question for the BBC.
Mr. Gavyn Davies has proposed, with some desperation, that the BBC should find a new way to regulate itself, but that is an example of "quis custodiet ipsos Custodes?". That is not acceptable to me, so I very much hope that, between now and when the main Bill is introduced, the Government will consider the anomaly into which the BBC might be placed. I ask them to reread the report, issued by the Select Committee on towards the end of the previous Parliament, in which we clearly advocated the subsumption of accountability for the BBC in what is now to be called Ofcom, which we proposed four years ago, and consider a way to remedy the situation, which is not acceptable.
Nick Harvey: Until the draft communications Bill is published, until a Joint Select Committee has had a chance to grill witnesses on the Bill's proposals and until Parliament begins to debate the Bill next Session, the White Paper that was published about 15 months ago remains the most definitive statement of Government policy on the issue. It is worth remembering that the White Paper's proposals did not put the BBC outwith Ofcom's remit. What the White Paper referred to as tier 1 and tier 2 regulation involved putting significant aspects of the BBC's operations under Ofcom; what it referred to as tier 3 predominantly involved self-regulation.
The backstop powers on self-regulation remain an issue, and a separate issue is who will approve future proposals that the BBC may have to develop new services. I am absolutely clear in my mind that Parliamentor, in a practical sense, the Secretary of Stateshould retain the authority to allow the BBC to develop new services. The BBC will continue to be funded by the licence for the foreseeable future, so it is an absolutely unique institution in that sense. I do not believe that Ofcom should make decisions on the creation of new servicesits responsibilities are predominantly competition and protecting consumer interests, which I shall distinguish from the public interest.
I am absolutely clear in my mind that the authority to allow new services should remain with Parliament and the Secretary of State, so the remaining issue is who should overseethe backstop powersthe tier 3 self-regulation of the BBC. It could be argued that Parliament and the Secretary of State, the BBC governors or Ofcom should have those powers.
I share many of the reservations expressed by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), the Chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, about leaving the powers with the BBC governors. I am not prepared to take a view on whether those powers should be given to Ofcom until we have resolved what its nature, characteristics and purposes will be, and under what broad remit and instructions it will act.
For that reason, we would prejudge this issue if we were to put the cart before the horse with this relatively minor paving Bill and assume that the powers will be given to Ofcom. The official Opposition spokesman was wrong to suggest that we were in the last-chance saloonnothing could be further from the truth. It is perfectly obvious that the sensible time to deliberate on that issue will be when we debate the communications Bill in the next Session.
Mr. Bryant: I broadly agree with the hon. Gentleman, but I have a niggling concern about the process of confirming any new service that the BBC governors may like to propose. I am still uncertain whether the Secretary of State should decide and Ofcom provide advice, or whether it should be the other way round, but the more substantive issue that we need to consider for the future is what constitutes a new service. It is easy to say that BBC3 or BBC4 is a new service; it is a new channel in a traditional system that we understand. However, I have been troubled for a long time about one of the gaps in the market: the fact that religion is one of the drivers for internet use. Religion is relatively low in the list, but it is a driver none the less. The BBC has a reputation for independence, yet is has no religious