HC Deb 05 February 1996 vol 271 cc10-2
10. Mr. Ainger

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what plans she has to extend the listed events under section 182 of the Broadcasting Act 1990. [11767]

Mr. Sproat

The list of events drawn up under section 182 of the Broadcasting Act 1990 is kept under regular review.

Mr. Ainger

Does the Minister agree with the right hon. and learned Member for Putney (Mr. Mellor) that the Government made a mistake in the Broadcasting Act 1990 in not preventing the satellite companies from getting exclusive rights to those eight major sporting events? Does he agree with hon. Members on both sides of the House, including a majority of Conservative Members who were polled by MORI, that the Department should be defending the rights and interests of the tens of thousands of viewers, rather than the narrow, vested interests of a few broadcasters and sporting associations? If he agrees, can he tell the House why the Secretary of State for Wales is trying to scupper in the other place an amendment that would achieve the very aim that the majority of the House wants?

Mr. Sproat

I do not believe that the House made a mistake. I was not in the House at the time, but I understand that it deliberately put a bar on pay per view and not on satellite. Sporting rights are extremely important and complex. I said so from the Dispatch Box on 20 November, in answer to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton). I also said that it is something that we should discuss during debates on the Broadcasting Bill—and that is precisely what we are doing.

Mr. Gale

Does my hon. Friend accept that the list has never worked properly and that, with the advent of digital subscription terrestrial television, the importance of satellite television will wane anyway? Should not the House be seeking to achieve a solution whereby sport benefits from the finance from live transmission rights and the audience benefits as far as possible from secondary rights given to free-to-air terrestrial broadcasting? Is not that the way forward?

Mr. Sproat

My hon. Friend is extremely well informed on this matter, and I have no doubt that arguments such as those will be put forward strongly when we debate the matter. I hope that both sides of the argument will be given a proper airing and that the House will reach a just and fair conclusion.

Mr. Morgan

Will the Minister consider adding the five nations championship to the list of eight national sporting events, in spite of what happened on Saturday, when the Welsh rapier was defeated by the English bludgeon? Does he agree that that championship is the most significant sporting event to be left off the list? If the list had been drawn up after consultation with people in Wales, it would have been first and not ninth. Does he also agree that it is time to review the Government's policy, which seems to be based on the principle of reach for the sky?

Mr. Sproat

I do not know what the hon. Gentleman means by "in spite of Saturday". I thought that the Scottish XV displayed some of the finest rugby that we have seen in any match for years. The Rugby Football Union in England deliberately decided last time round that it would give the rights not to the highest bidder, but to the BBC, because it thought that audience reach was more important than cash. That is an important factor that all bodies should weigh up. Indeed, that is no doubt something that we shall discuss when we debate the Broadcasting Bill.

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