HC Deb 06 November 2000 vol 356 cc10-1
7. Dr. George Turner (North-West Norfolk)

What plans he has to address regional anomalies in television reception where viewers cannot receive appropriate regional variations of free-to-air broadcasts. [135342]

The Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting (Janet Anderson)

I understand the reason for the question—my hon. Friend has a particular problem in his constituency. It is difficult to know how to resolve it, because the spectrum available for the improvement of terrestrial television services is currently limited. It is difficult to prevent regional anomalies from occurring through analogue and other terrestrial means. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I understand the problem, which is also experienced by my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral, South (Mr. Chapman). If there is any way we can resolve it, we shall try to do so.

Dr. Turner

I thank my hon. Friend for the interest that she has shown in the matter, and especially for coming to my constituency, where she heard how irritating it is to be interested in the news of Norfolk but to have to watch news that is targeted at Yorkshire.

Under the previous Government, when digital services, which provide new possibilities for dealing with the problems, were introduced, my constituents were ignored. Will my hon. Friend give me a promise that I can take back to them—that they will not be ignored in the White Paper or subsequent legislation, and that every attempt will be made to ensure that seizing the opportunities of the digital era means that we can put the problem behind us?

Janet Anderson

My hon. Friend is quite right. I congratulate him on the tireless campaign that he has conducted in his constituency and in the House on behalf of his constituents. He is right to say that digital television uses the spectrum more efficiently and enables the number and range of services to be increased significantly.

The Government's priority is to deploy the scarce spectrum to enable the BBC and the Independent Television Commission to provide digital television services throughout the United Kingdom and to ensure, as far as possible, reception of the appropriate regional variations. I assure my hon. Friend that we will address the matter in the White Paper when it is published later this year.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York)

Will the White Paper consider the fact that Yorkshire Television cannot be received everywhere in North Yorkshire?

Janet Anderson

The hon. Lady cites yet another example. I am not sure of the number of such examples, but there are several around the country. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I appreciate that people in particular areas would like to receive their own ITV regional service, especially regional news. We understand the concern that that causes. If we can do something about it, we shall.