§ 11. Mr. Greg Knight
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what he is doing in advance of any future broadcasting Bill to increase the choice available to radio listeners.
§ Mr. Renton
We have endorsed IBA proposals to award 20 incremental contracts for community radio and a further contract for a station covering Heathrow and Gatwick. In addition, we have authorised BBC and independent local radio stations to provide separate programmes if they wish on each of their current frequencies.
§ Mr. Knight
My hon. Friend mentioned the setting up of 20 community radio stations. Will he confirm that that is not the final figure, and that there is ultimately a good case for allowing a few hundred such stations to be set up? Will he tell us whether independent local radio stations will be allowed to apply for franchises, and will he confirm that in no circumstances will pirate radio stations still broadcasting be eligible?
§ Mr. Renton
I can confirm that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary announced in January that anyone convicted of an illegal broadcasting offence committed after 1 January 1989 would be debarred from applying for a Radio Authority licence for five years.
392 In answer to my hon. Friend's first question, he is quite right: in due course, as more frequencies become available—particularly on VHF—the new Radio Authority will be able to license up to several hundred community radio stations if the demand exists.