HC Deb 15 November 1990 vol 180 cc692-4
2. Mr. Robert Hicks

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he intends next to meet the chairman of the BBC to discuss the allocation of radio frequencies; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Peter Lloyd

My right hon. and learned Friend meets the chairman of the BBC from time to time to discuss a wide variety of broadcasting matters.

Mr. Hicks

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the adverse effect that the introduction of the new frequency arrangements could have on sports coverage, especially the ball-by-ball cricket test match commentary? Does he agree that those continuous commentaries, which have an international as well as a national audience, are an essential part of our lives and should be maintained even when there are competing sporting events on the same day? It is important that all of us should have the opportunity to know who is batting, how many runs have been scored or who has taken most wickets.

Mr. Lloyd

My hon. Friend raises a matter of great national importance. The changes in the airwaves are to give many more people a much wider range of choice. I understand that most sporting events will be uninterrupted on the new Radio 5. The only likely clashes will be in June when Wimbledon and the test match come at the same time. It is entirely for the BBC to decide how to manage, bearing in mind what it considers audience demand to be. I understand that it intends to broadcast a ball-by-ball commentary of the test match and to intersperse within it occasional reports on other sporting events.

Mr. Wigley

In any such discussions, will the Minister take up the issue of wavelengths and reception for both radio and television in parts of Wales, as people in Wales are having considerable difficulty receiving programmes which originate from Wales? Will the hon. Gentleman consider the odd situation in which Kenny Dalglish can watch soccer matches from Wales in Liverpool while large sections of the population in Clwyd cannot receive those programmes?

Mr. Lloyd

I am aware that there are difficulties, especially in Wales, as are the BBC and the broadcasting authorities. There is a programme to improve FM transmission with the move to the new wavelengths for the BBC. The television authorities are aware of the difficulties in certain places, but I believe that broadcasting standards and reception are improving and are designed to improve markedly in the coming years until the old wavelengths are phased out.

Mr. Hague

When my hon. Friend next meets the chairman of the BBC to discuss radio frequencies, will he remind him of the continuing frustration of people in areas such as Swaledale and North Yorkshire that they cannot receive FM broadcasts and thus cannot listen to Radio 2? Will he urge the chairman to complete the construction of more repeater stations so that the whole nation can listen to FM broadcasts?

Mr. Lloyd

I note what my hon. Friend says. No doubt those responsible in the BBC and other broadcasting authorities will read our exchanges. As I said to the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley), the BBC is mindful of the speed with which it needs to improve FM transmission in particular.