HC Deb 25 January 1993 vol 217 cc695-6
3. Mr. Mullin

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what assessment he has made of the working of the Broadcasting Act 1991.

Mr. Brooke

The aim was to increase diversity and choice in broadcasting and that is being achieved.

Mr. Mullin

Is not it true that the Broadcasting Act has been a catastrophe? Has not it unleashed a tidal wave of junk television? Have not many of the new franchise holders already reneged on the commitments to quality that they gave when they obtained the franchises? Are not some of them already in serious financial trouble because they overbid? Will not they shortly be going cap in hand to the Secretary of State's Department asking for new financial arrangements? What steps is the right hon. Gentleman taking to enforce the commitments to quality that were given when the franchises were awarded?

Mr. Brooke

I disagree with the hon. Gentleman on all three of his assertions at the beginning of his question. He offered me the role of censor; he implied that various institutions had already reneged on their commitments —of which I have seen no evidence; and he made further references to their financial state, which does not fall directly within my responsibility. The need to enforce quality is an obligation under the Act which has been discharged to the Independent Television Commission.

Mr. Simon Coombs

Will my right hon. Friend take this opportunity to congratulate new franchises such as Carlton, Meridian and Westcountry on their arrival in the field only this month? Can he tell the House whether it is his intention to review the progress being made in the cable industry in bringing new franchises into operation across the country?

Mr. Brooke

I am delighted to join my hon. Friend in welcoming the new stations that began broadcasting this year. I shall certainly be in touch with him on his point about the cable industry.

Mr. Maclennan

What representations has the Secretary of State received about the future of Independent Television News? Is he prepared to reconsider the arrangements in the Act that require the franchise holders to become minority shareholders in ITN?

Mr. Brooke

As with everything else in the Act, those matters were widely debated at the time that it passed through the House. In the light of that widespread debate, it would be inappropriate to go back over the conclusions of the Act and I have no plans to do so.

Mr. John Greenway

Will my right hon. Friend share with us his thoughts on the decision of the Office of Fair Trading about the networking arrangement? I understand that the matter is currently before the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, but does he share my concern that if the independent television companies are denied the opportunity to sign secondary rights when signing up new programme contracts, that should apply to all other television broadcasters? If that were to be the case, what future would there be for the BBC, Channel 4 and BSkyB, not to mention the independent television companies?

Mr. Brooke

As my hon. Friend made clear, the networking proposals are now being examined by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. It would be wrong of me to anticipate its conclusions.

Mr. Corbett

When will the Secretary of State respond to public concern and quickly use his powers under that Act or other legislation to prevent hard-core pornography from other European countries being beamed into British homes via satellite? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that neither domestic nor foreign hard porn and depravity have any place on our screens? Does he accept that those paid-for programmes, which are especially demeaning to women, are contrary to the standards set out in the Act and should be prohibited?

Mr. Brooke

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Government are consulting urgently on the legal position in the context of such broadcasts. It might be unduly premature to pass judgments on censorship upon them until there is wider knowledge of their content.

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