HC Deb 15 November 1990 vol 180 c694
3. Mr. Clelland

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the implications for the provisions of the Broadcasting Act of the merger of BSB and Sky Television.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Waddington)

Under the Broadcasting Act 1990, the ownership provisions of the Broadcasting Act 1981 apply to the existing DBS contractor until 1993, and the IBA is accordingly considering whether the merged company is in conformity with the 1981 Act. I understand that the Office of Fair Trading is currently considering whether the merger falls within the scope of the merger provisions of the Fair Trading Act 1973.

Mr. Clelland

Is the Secretary of State aware that while the Broadcasting Act 1990, which placed great emphasis on choice, gathers dust on the shelf, thousands of families like mine around the country who chose not to have Sky but to wait for the better quality and technologically superior BSB have had choice effectively removed from them without being consulted or having their wishes considered? What consultation will the right hon. and learned Gentleman undertake to ensure that the rights of such people are protected and that manufacturers, retailers and customers who do not wish to avail themselves of the offer that they cannot refuse from Sky are properly and fully compensated?

Mr. Waddington

The Act is designed to open up new opportunities. It is for entrepreneurs to take up those opportunities and for viewers to decide whether they deserve to succeed. It is no part of the Government's duty to prop up and subsidise the entrepreneurs.

Mr. Maclennan

What action would the Secretary of State propose to encourage diversification by Sky or BSkyB when it reaches a dominant position in the marketplace?

Mr. Waddington

It is not a matter for the Government, but I mentioned earlier that one of the consequences of what happened a week or so ago is that important decisions must be taken by the IBA and the Office of Fair Trading.

Mr. Hattersley

Bearing in mind the BSB-Sky merger and this week's announcement that Mr. Rupert Murdoch seems likely to acquire an interest in yet another newspaper, what are the Government's objections to and arguments against a general reference to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission asking it to inquire into the concentration of newspaper and media ownership?

Mr. Waddington

That goes far wide of the question and of my responsibilities. We are dealing today with the consequences of what happened a week or so ago.