HC Deb 20 November 1995 vol 267 c322
5. Mr. Whittingdale

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what representations she has received concerning the proposals to amend the television without frontiers directive. [485]

Mr. Sproat

The Government consulted extensively with audiovisual and advertising interests and are taking careful note of the views expressed.

Mr. Whittingdale

Does my hon. Friend agree that any tightening of the directive would be damaging to the broadcasting industry and would be likely to deter investment and further restrict the choice of the viewers? Can he therefore give me an assurance that the Government will vigorously oppose it at the Council of Ministers?

Mr. Sproat

The answer to my hon. Friend's first question is yes. Even as we have this Question Time, the Culture Council is meeting in Brussels, and the Government are opposing strongly any decrease in the flexibility that the current directive allows.

Mr. Maxton

When the Minister meets his colleagues in Europe to discuss the directive, will he raise the question of sports broadcasting, and in particular the increasing anger and dismay among a vast number of people in this country at the number of major British sporting events that are now shown only on satellite and cable television? As a result, those events are not available to the majority of people who do not have those broadcasting outlets, and they cannot watch the major sporting events that they were able to watch in the past.

Mr. Sproat

The hon. Gentleman raises a difficult and important question. I am not sure that it would be particularly appropriate to talk to other Ministers in Europe about it, but, as he will know, the Select Committee looked at it and the Government responded to it. Basically, the problem is to find a way in which those who previously watched sporting events on BBC or ITV for nothing, as it were—apart from the licence—are able to continue to do so, while also ensuring that sport greatly benefits from the money that the broadcasters pay, which is then ploughed back into youth sport. That is a difficult balance to keep. However, we shall look at it. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not forgo the opportunity of the broadcasting Bill to raise the matter powerfully in the House and in Committee.