HC Deb 16 February 1998 vol 306 cc747-8
4. Mr. Gareth Thomas

If he will make a statement on the introduction of digital television in Wales. [27587]

The Minister for Film and Tourism (Mr. Tom Clarke)

Digital television services, via satellite, cable and terrestrial delivery, are due to start this year throughout the UK. Current terrestrial plans will deliver digital services to 74 per cent. of the population of Wales within 16 months of the start of digital transmissions.

Mr. Thomas

In view of the challenges facing broadcasters in Wales as a result of the implementation of digitalisation, can my hon. Friend confirm who will be the next chairman of S4C?

Mr. Clarke

The Government have invited Ms Elan Closs Stephens to succeed Mr. Ifan Prys Edwards as chairperson of S4C from 1 April this year. Ms Stephens is a senior lecturer in the department of theatre, film and television studies at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, and deputy chairman of the Welsh Language Board. We wish her well.

Mr. Gale

The Minister will be aware that as a result of the hurried deal done between BSkyB and the Rugby Football Union during the passage of the Broadcasting Act 1996, there are millions of people in Wales who—with or without digital television—will be unable to watch the England v. Wales international at Twickenham, which is being broadcast only on Sky Television. While recognising the legitimate rights of sporting interests to raise money for their sports, is it not time that we recognised that there are certain national events, such as the five nations tournament and test match cricket, which ought to be included on a limited list?

Mr. Clarke

That is a matter for the advisory group on listed events.