HC Deb 09 May 1990 vol 172 cc331-3

Amendments made: No. 424, in page 68, line 41, leave out 'and'.

No. 425, in line 43, at end insert—

  1. '(iii) if the service is to be one falling within section 79(2)(a)(i) or (ii), that the service is to be such a service, and
  2. (iv) if there is any existing licensed national service, that the service is to be one which caters for tastes and interests different from those already catered for by any such service (as described in the notice);'.

No. 426, in line 44, after 'licence', insert `and specifying the closing date for such applications'.

No. 427, in page 70, leave out lines 3 and 4.—[Mr. Mellor.]

Mr. Fisher

I beg to move amendment No. 91, in page 70, line 9, leave out 'in pursuance of section 96(1)(b)'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to take the following amendments: No. 95, in line 27, leave out `(c) the applicant's cash bid in respect of the licence;'

No. 97, in page 71, line 16, leave out from `part' to end of line 19 and insert '''qualifying revenue" means all payments received or to be received by the licence holder for any accounting period—

  1. (a) in consideration of the inclusion in the licensed service in that period of advertisements or other programmes, or
  2. (b) in respect of charges made by him in that period for the reception of programmes included in that service.'.

No. 101, in clause 96, page 74, leave out from line 14 to line 33, and insert— 'an amount representing the percentage of qualifying revenue determined by the Secretary of State for each accounting period to be paid in equal annual instalments throughout the period for which the licence is in force.'.

11.45 pm
Mr. Fisher

We covered this ground thoroughly in Committee, so I shall not detain the House and the Minister long, but we wish to put down a marker yet again to say that the Government have got it wrong in their determination to make money a substantial factor in the allocation of radio franchises. We had a long debate in Committee about the importance of a quality threshold for the national commercial radio stations, and the Minister said then that he believed that radio was different from television and there was not the same need for setting quality thresholds. We believed then that he was wrong, and we hoped that, when the Bill went to another place, that debate would be taken up.

I suspect that it would be over-optimistic to think that, since we concluded the Committee stage, the Minister has seen the error of his ways. In the many strong arguments that he made in defence of his position at various stages in Committee, that was not one of his finest moments. It is difficult for him to look squarely in the face those many hundreds of thousands—millions—of people in this country who care deeply about the quality of radio, and say that, when allocating franchises in radio, he does not believe that it is necessary to have a quality threshold, whereas he does accept that television is so important that it should have quality thresholds.

I think that, being a fair man, the Minister knows in his heart of hearts that that is wrong, and that there are millions of people for whom radio is a central part of their lives. It is important that the exciting potential of the three national stations that could add something to our radio culture should be given to the best broadcasters, and there should be a quality threshold that people applying for those franchises should have to overcome.

The Minister made a good case about the threshold in relation to television. It is every bit as true in relation to radio, and I urge him to give himself the space and time to find the words to come back to this matter, either now or later. In his heart of hearts, I think that he knows that it is important, and many people who believe in radio would appreciate it if he put down the marker that quality in radio was as important as quality in television.

Mr. Mellor

I certainly agree that quality is important. I think that the only issue is how best we attain it. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) for the understanding way in which he put his point. I appreciate that, although we have moved closer on some issues, there are others on which our positions remain apart. I cannot improve on, and certainly would not seek to repeat, the explanation that I gave in Committee, but I am sure that the hon. Gentleman's prediction that the other place will take an interest in the matter will undoubtedly prove true. I shall be following those discussions closely and will continue to evaluate the matter and other parts of the Bill as we progress.

Amendment negatived.

Amendments made: No. 428, in page 70, line 21, at end insert— `(aa) the applicant's proposals for providing a service that would both—

  1. (i) comply with any requirement specified in the notice under subsection (1)(b)(iii) or (iv), and
  2. (ii) consist of a diversity of programmes calculated to appeal to a variety of tastes and interests;'.

No. 429, in page 70, line 22, leave out 'and the deposit'.

No. 430, in page 70, line 23, leave out `and(ii)'.

No. 431, in page 70, leave out lines 24 to 26.

No. 432, in page 70, line 26, at end insert— `(ba) the applicant's proposals for training or retraining persons employed or to be employed by him in order to help fit them for employment in, or in connection with, the making of programmes to be included in his proposed service;'.

No. 433, in page 70, line 27, leave out 'and'.

No. 434, in page 70, line 28, after 'require', insert— '(i)'.

No. 435, in page 70, line 31, at end insert ', and (ii) as to the arrangements which the applicant proposes to make for, and in connection with, the transmission of his proposed service; and (e) such other information as the Authority may reasonably require for the purpose of considering the application.'.

No. 436, in page 70, line 34, leave out 'subsection (3)(b) or (d)' and insert 'any of paragraphs (aa), (ba), (d) and (e) of subsection (3)'.

No. 437, in page 70, line 38, leave out subsections (6) to (8).

No. 438, in page 71, line 15, at end insert— '(8A) The Authority shall, as soon as reasonably practicable after the date specified in a notice under this section as the closing date for applications, publish in such manner as they consider appropriate—

  1. (a) the name of every person who has made an application to them in pursuance of the notice;
  2. (b) the proposals submitted by him under subsection (3)(aa); and
  3. (c) such other information connected with his application as the Authority consider appropriate.'.

No. 541, in page 71, line 15, at end insert— '(8B) In this section "programme" does not include an advertisement.'.

No. 439, in page 71, line 18, after 'amount', insert 'of money'.—[Mr. Mellor.]

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