HC Deb 20 May 1996 vol 278 cc4-5
3. Mr. Dafis

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what plans she has to protect the needs of remoter areas after the privatisation of the broadcasting transmission network. [28759]

Mr. Sproat

Under the terms of the Broadcasting Act 1990, and the agreement between my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the BBC, the Independent Television Commission and the BBC respectively are responsible for establishing and maintaining the standards of coverage, quality and reliability of the four main terrestrial channels. This will not change with the privatisation of the BBC's transmission network.

Mr. Dafis

Nevertheless, is not there concern that the availability of digitised services to remote rural regions is very much in question? Will the Department co-operate with the Department of Trade and Industry to develop an integrated transmissions policy, including matters such as education and multi-media as well as television and radio?

Mr. Sproat

With regard to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question, he knows that analogue television covers 98.3 per cent. of Wales at the moment, and analogue will not be switched off until a roughly equivalent level of service is provided. The second part of his question was interesting. Although we clearly want an integrated policy, we would also need to involve other Departments, such as the Welsh Office.

Mr. Fabricant

Is my hon. Friend aware that the BBC operates more transmitters in Wales than in the rest of the United Kingdom put together because of the topology of the Principality? The only way to get the further 1.7 per cent. coverage that the hon. Gentleman so much wants is through digital transmission by satellite. Would my hon. Friend be surprised to learn that Plaid Cymru and the Labour party have opposed the introduction of satellite television as they opposed the introduction of cable television, ITV and Channel 4?

Mr. Sproat

The hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Dafis) has not raised those matters in the Committee that is considering the Broadcasting Bill of which he is a distinguished member, but no doubt he will have an opportunity to do so in the coming weeks.