HC Deb 07 February 1994 vol 237 cc4-5
3. Mr. Patchett

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what recent discussions he has had with the ITV Association over proposals to move the timing of "News at Ten".

The Secretary of State for National Heritage (Mr. Peter Brooke

None. The scheduling of news programmes is a matter for the ITV companies and the Independent Television Commission.

Mr. Patchett

Does the Minister recall the Government's stated commitment in the Broadcasting Act 1990 to the importance of national and world news? Will he now make it clear that he backs the Prime Minister in objecting to plans to move "News at Ten" to a much earlier time slot?

Mr. Brooke

The matter that the hon. Gentleman raises has latterly gone on the back burner. Following the exchanges between the ITC and Channel 3 licensees, the ITC has made it clear that "News at Ten" will continue to be broadcast at 10 o'clock.

Mr. Fabricant

I welcome my right hon. Friend's comments and am glad that he accepts that it is primarily a matter for the independent television contractors. Does he agree that, were it not for a Conservative Government, we would have neither ITV nor "Sky News", because the Labour party voted against the formation of independent television and the implementation of satellite television?

Mr. Brooke

As a Conservative, I pay close attention to history, and I share my hon. Friend's view that the Opposition occasionally suffer from amnesia about what has gone before.

Mr. Corbett

Is not it clear that ITV beat only a tactical withdrawal from its plans to move "News at Ten" to an earlier slot last year, the better to counter the livelier scheduling of Channel 4—which runs its news between 7 and 8 pm and which can therefore get its evening film on earlier—and the better to attract the audience that it needs? Is the Secretary of State simply going to let the provisions of the Broadcasting Act be tinkered with in a piecemeal way, as he did with ownership? Would not it make more sense to announce a review of the Act, to sort out the sorry mess that it is creating?

Mr. Brooke

The hon. Gentleman speaks of a "tactical withdrawal". The fact remains that the rescheduling of "News at Ten" would require the ITC's approval if all the regional licensees are to remain in compliance with their general licence conditions. Given that that is how the Act stands, it sounds to me as though we are better off with the Act than with what the hon. Gentleman suggests.

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