HC Deb 15 September 2003 vol 410 cc578-9
7. David Cairns (Greenock and Inverclyde)

What responsibilities the Government have regarding the availability of (a) analogue and (b) digital television services in Greenock and Inverclyde. [129557]

The Minister for the Arts(Estelle Morris)

The Independent Television Commission and the BBC are jointly responsible for television broadcasting in the UK. As my hon. Friend knows, analogue coverage is provided in Greenock and Inverclyde by the Rosneath and Rothesay transmitters. However, reception in parts of Greenock and Inverclyde is affected by local topography.

David Cairns

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that answer. As she knows, many of my constituents in Inverkip cannot get an analogue signal, so they have subscribed to BSkyB Digital. Now, on a Saturday afternoon when they want to watch on the BBC a live football match, they get a blank screen with a sign saying, "Switch to analogue to watch this match because of other contractual arrangements." That is not an option for them. Should there not be one simple principle written into the new BBC charter that, if one pays one's licence fee, one should be able to watch the BBC, irrespective of any other commercial or technological impediments?

Estelle Morris

Obviously, comments about the future of the BBC charter will be for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in future months and years, but I have some sympathy with my hon. Friend's constituents. Less than 1 per cent. of people in the United Kingdom cannot receive analogue television, but for his constituents it is 100 per cent. I can imagine their dismay at not being able to watch Scottish football on a Saturday afternoon. He makes a powerful point. All I would say is that the rights and ability to watch analogue television are as important to his constituents as they are to anyone else's throughout the UK. We will do as much as we can to put pressure on the relevant authorities. We will take up his point with them.

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