HC Deb 10 July 2000 vol 353 c611
7. Jane Griffiths (Reading, East)

What is his latest assessment of the date for the switchover of the analogue TV signal. [128201]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Chris Smith)

We have estimated that switchover could take place between 2006 and 2010. The date, however, will depend on the two key tests of availability and affordability that we have put in place.

Jane Griffiths

On the question of affordability, does my right hon. Friend share my concern about the high cost of digital radio sets, which cost several hundred pounds and are thus beyond the reach of most people? Does he anticipate that radio sets, in particular, will have become affordable by that date?

Mr. Smith

The switchover date applies to television, not to radio. No date has yet been set for switchover from analogue to digital radio. I would certainly hope that, as both the technology and manufacturers' capacity develop, the cost of digital radio sets will fall.

Mr. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield)

Does the Secretary of State agree that, until the board of governors and the board of management of the BBC learn what public sector broadcasting really means, he should consider switching off BBC 1?

Mr. Smith

No. It is my strong view that the BBC, as our premier public sector broadcaster and our most important cultural institution, must retain its public service remit into the digital age. It must be the benchmark of quality.

There has been speculation recently about our approach to the governance of the BBC. Let me put the position clearly. As part of our overall review of regulation in broadcasting and communications, we are indeed looking at the role of the board of governors, which currently acts as both judge and jury—managers and regulators. No decisions have been taken on this subject. We are listening to the wide range of views that we have received. Whatever happens, two principles must be paramount: first, the special protection of the BBC's remit; and secondly, the robust independence from Government of any regulatory mechanism that might emerge.