HC Deb 20 November 1995 vol 267 cc320-1
3. Mr. Dafis

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what proposals she has to safeguard the position of S4C on digital terrestrial broadcasting. [482]

Mr. Sproat

Like the other terrestrial television channels, S4C will be offered a guaranteed place on one of the new digital multiplexes.

Mr. Dafis

Will the Minister recognise that there will be fierce opposition in Wales to any failure to give S4C equality of treatment with all the other providers and channels on the digital system? Will he also recognise that to give parity to S4C would enable Channel 4 to be available in Wales in its entirety, which is what many people want, and enable the development of S4C services in many important, beneficial and positive directions? Would it not be ironic if an increase from four to 14 in the number of channels available led to a diminution, rather than an enhancement, of the service in Welsh? Will the Minister give an undertaking that S4C will be given equality of treatment with all the other services in the digital system?

Mr. Sproat

The hon. Gentleman raises some important issues for Wales. I can assure him that it is our policy to ensure that there is an even better service in Wales from Channel 4 and from S4C. Those, and other detailed, matters will be happily debated during the passage of the forthcoming broadcasting Bill.

Mr. Jessel

Will my hon. Friend insist that Channel 4 in Wales, whether digital, terrestrial, or any other form of broadcasting, always upholds the highest standards and is never allowed to behave like the BBC, which has begun to act like a tabloid newspaper?

Mr. Sproat

I am sure that both Channel 4 and the BBC will take note of my hon. Friend's wise words.

Mr. Hain

May I press the Minister more strongly on a widely shared demand throughout Wales that people should be entitled to see both S4C and Channel 4, there being a growing interest in Channel 4? As the hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Dafis) said, digitalisation allows for many more channels. There will be plenty of scope to offer both S4C and Channel 4 to the people of Wales. I ask the Minister to be much more generous in his response, so as to reassure people in Wales that they will have that advantage.

Mr. Sproat

At this stage, it would be appropriate only to say that I hope that both Channel 4 and S4C will, as a consequence of digitalisation and for other reasons, offer an even better service. The details will have to wait until the broadcasting Bill.