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Baroness Jay of Paddington: I support the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Puttnam, Amendment No. 179. I realise that in doing so I am not following on from the noble Lord, Lord Phillips. I must say that the grouping owes more to the dexterity of the business managers than to the intellectual or policy coherence of its subject matter, but that is the sort of issue that one raises outside the Chamber.
Turning to the amendment tabled by my noble friend, I had hoped that the compromise, if one can call it that, at which his Joint Committee arrived, in proposing a three-year period for the reviews of public service broadcasting, would be attractive to the Government. Like many others, I felt that those periodic reviews were probably a good bulwark against the possible encroachment of programming inconsistent with public service values if ownership of particular channels changed hands. I am specifically thinking of our later debates about the ownership of Channel 5.
There was comfort for those of us who understood from various speeches and publications by members of the Government that the possibility of revising the public service commitment of any channel was one of the shots that remained in the locker for those concerned about any change of ownership. Realistically, that can happen only if the review takes place regularly and influence is maintained consistently, so that people can regularly dip into the public service commitment and remit of individual channels.
Three years seems almost too long, but having listened to the noble Baroness, Lady O'Neill, I understand that she proposed two years but my noble friend Lord Puttnam felt that some kind of agreement had been reached following the Joint Committee's report. I support Amendment No. 179 in that spirit. I also understand that the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport said in evidence to the Joint Committee that there needed to be a clear distinction between the overall periodic reviews by Ofcom of public service in general and the reviews of specific programming in the public service remit of individual channels in the commercial television sector. If the Government understand that there will be that disparity and that individual programme reviews for individual channels will occur much more regularly than every five years, many of my concerns will be assuaged.
Lord Bragg: I support the notion of a three-year review proposed by my noble friend Lord Puttnam. It is exactly the right period. I know from reviews that we have had in the television industry that a two-year review gives you enough time only to get the system going before you must start to fuss about whether it will stay in place, whether you should reclaim ground or keep claiming it. Three years allows you to set up a system, to see how it works and to spend the next year having it properly examined. It is precisely the right number of years; we have that right.
There is an immense amount to say following the speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester, but I will not try to express it all at present. I wholly support what the right reverend Prelate said. It is of immense importance that the Bill is strengthened in this way. I take into account the remarks of my noble friend Lady Whitaker also. Good public service broadcasting should be something to aspire to. It is extremely difficult to make such programmes. In my experience in ITV, with the best backing that one could imagine in a current terrestrial system in this country, we still find it extremely difficult to make programmes that encompass the values mentioned, to demonstrate them on screen and to bring in the audiences that we know are out there to receive them, as noble Lords have proved. But, unless the Bill reinforces that aspiration, people trying to make those types of programmes will have less of a
Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 182B and 183A, which were tabled by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester, and to which I have added my name. I shall give an example that Members of the Committee may think extreme, but it is one with which I am particularly familiar. I refer in the first instance to Northern Ireland, which, I acknowledge, is not typical of the Kingdom as a whole. The distinctions between the two sides of the community in Northern Ireland were not religious; they were tribal, cultural and political. Religion was simply a mantle draped over those tribal, cultural and political differences. That mantle was sufficiently important that church-going in Northern Ireland is on a scale much closer to America than to Great Britain.
The next example that I shall give is, I acknowledge, also extreme. When institutions and communities break down, as some did in Northern Ireland during the troubles over the past 30 years, the Government look not to cultural or sporting bodies but to the Churches as the one set of institutions with whom they can interact. I can conceive of exactly the same example occurring in cities in the northern part of Great Britain where there are large Muslim communities in similar circumstances.
The medieval tradition of church towers and steeples was intended to emphasise profile. Churchill wrote a pessimistic passage in the years after the First World War, when the Troubles in Ireland, to which the Black and Tans were the response, and then the civil war were tearing the island apart. He referred to,
I wish to make a personal observation. One of the passages that made the deepest impression on me when I was an adolescent was from the novel The Tiger in the Smoke by Margery Allingham. The villain finds his way into a darkened church where a defenceless vicar is standing in the pulpit. There is a dialogue of seminal importance between them similar to that between Warwick the Kingmaker and the Bishop of Beauvais in St Joan. That sense of drama conferred by the churchand indeed by the priest in the pulpitmade a deep impression on me as a young man.
Lord McNally: I shall speak briefly on the two amendments in this group to which I have attached my name. Amendment No. 182 is simply an attempt to take out of the Bill what we consider to be slightly weasel words; namely,
Amendment No. 188 takes us back to radio. We have discussed radio, but the intention behind the amendment is to ensure that the public service broadcasterthe Plus 1 at the local levelactually provides a safeguard in the provision of musical diversity.
Baroness Buscombe: I shall speak briefly to some of the amendments in this group. I support Amendment No. 179 standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam. I do not understand Amendment No. 185, which is tabled in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Howe. Looking at the Bill and the wording of the amendment, I simply do not understand the intention behind the words,
I have to say that my young teenage children now watch very few programmes that are made in this country for children and young people. That echoes the experiences of all their friends and of the young people to whom I speak frequently. They are not watching many English-made programmes; they enjoy programmes with a global outlook that happen to be made in other countries
Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve: The amendment is not about where programmes are made; it is about the audience for whom they are intended. I believe that my noble friend Lady Howe is concerned about the cultural specificity of programmes. She seeks simply to ensure that at least some programming for children is intended for them, not for a lowest common denominator indeterminate audience.
Baroness Buscombe: I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady O'Neill, for her explanation of the amendment. However, given the kind of content of many programmes made for children and young people at present, I question whether that would be an enormous hill to climb. That is why so many children are not watching programmes originally intended for young UK audiences. In the view of young people, such programmes are not up to scratch.
I support Amendments Nos. 182B and 183A tabled in the name of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester. However, I am concerned about the wording of Amendment No. 187. I believe that the word "contribution" is confusing. The word usually refers to a financial contribution. If the intention is the use the word in the sense proposed, I should point out that Ofcom is already under a duty to consider any financial contribution made by broadcasters other than public service broadcasters. Subsection (7)(b) directs Ofcom to consider,
Therefore, I suspect that the word "contribution" refers to a contribution other than a financial one. If that is correct, the amendment could be re-worded so as to refer to the television services provided by broadcasters other than public service broadcasters that fulfil the purposes of public service television broadcasting. That would make it clear that Ofcom had to have regard to other television services, rather than the contribution made by broadcasters other than public service broadcasters.
The amendment is, to a certain extent, otiose. Under Clause 262, the provider of the channel, in preparing a statement of programme policy must have regard to guidance given by Ofcom, take account of reports published by Ofcom and must take special account of the most recent such reports. It is difficult to see what the amendment adds to that requirement.
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