§ 4.10 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Elton)
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
§ Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Elton.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The Lord ABERDARE in the Chair.]
§ Clause 9 [General provisions as to programmes]:
§ Lady Saltoun had given notice of her intention to move Amendment No. 39:
§ Page 8, line 37, leave out from ("shall") to end of line and insert ("insist").351
§ The noble Lady said: I am not moving this amendment, and it may be for the convenience of the Committee to know that I shall not move Amendments Nos. 46, 46A, 50, 51, 54, 61, 72 and 78.
§ [Amendment No. 39 not moved.]
§ The Chairman of Committees (Lord Aberdare)
I have to point out to the Committee that, if Amendment No. 40 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendments Nos. 41 and 42.
§ Lord Hill of Luton moved Amendment No. 40:
Page 9, line 10, leave out paragraph (d) and insert—
("(d) that the maximum proportion of foreign material in programmes shall be that imposed by the Independent Broadcasting Authority on the programme companies in contract with it.").
The noble Lord said: The background to this amendment is the existing arrangement in the two broadcasting services—the BBC and Independent Television—under which, by deliberate policy, they maintain a minimum of 80 per cent. of British material on their screens. I seek to replace paragraph (d) of Clause 9(1) of the Bill with a new paragraph (d) which requires:
that the maximum proportion of foreign material in programmes shall be that imposed by the Independent Broadcasting Authority on the programme companies in contract with it.".
In this amendment I seek to apply to cable the same kind of percentage of British material requirement, whereas the existing paragraph in Clause 9(1) does nothing of the sort. It says:
that there are included in the programmes proper proportions of recorded and other matter which originates in the European Economic Community and is performed by nationals of member States.".
That is in no way related to the requirement that imported foreign overseas material should not exceed 14 per cent. and that British material shall constitute 86 per cent. of the broadcast time. In fact, there is no provision in this clause, or elsewhere in the Bill, for securing the application to the new service of the requirements of British material that apply to the two existing services.
§ In my amendment I seek to put right that situation, so that this new service will, in fact, conform to the same standards in this respect as the existing services. I take Independent Television as my example for purposes of comparison, because that is a service which is governed precisely by Act of Parliament. The Independent Television Authority, required by its Act to apply due proportions, has, in fact, in the light of experience, amplified and modified that requirement in certain detail.
§ For example, last year it made regulations that there shall be certain exemptions; for instance, material produced in EEC countries is an exemption not covered by this percentage requirement. It exempts 1½ per cent. of Commonwealth material; it exempts all information, news and sport, and education material subject "to consideration by the IBA". There are other exemptions. In other words, by regulation, Independent Television has modified the requirements; it has modified and excluded material and the required material within the general ambit of the existing formula of, on the one hand, 86 per cent. and, on the other hand, 16 per cent. I am seeking to ensure that 352 what is done by Independent Television under the Act and under the regulations it has made is applied to this newcomer to the field, cable television.
§ The cogent question is: what would be the result in the new service of refraining from any such limitations on imported foreign overseas material? There are no prizes for guessing that one result would be a flood of cheap American material which has earned its keep in the States and so can be sold here at prices far below the cost of domestic production. I have no doubt that that will be the result. While its competitors are required to limit overseas material to 14 per cent., the new service will have no such limitation.
§ I suppose it might be said that, if that is what the public want, let them have it. One can understand that argument; why apply these limitations? Let it be faced, it is true that cheap American material often appeals to viewers. I believe that we have enough American material at the moment, but that is by the way. However, this cheap American material might well—at least for a time—attract viewers at the expense of British material on our screens. After all, services like Independent Television—which began with a very substantial proportion of this kind of material—very soon learnt that their role was to achieve a first-class standard of British material rather than to dwell on the temporary enthusiasm for imported American material, some of which is good, but much of which is shocking.
§ However, in any case, the requirement which is applied by the other services for a limitation of imported material should be applied to the newcomer, cable television. That is the essence of the point which I want to make. Why? I want to preserve the existing standards of British television. I know that we are accustomed to looking favourably on "British made", but in this case it is true that the two existing services are regarded throughout the world as first-class services. Forgetting the proximity to me on these Benches of the former chairman of the BBC, Independent Television has achieved some really first-class standards in its competition with the BBC. Are we to endanger that position by permitting the flood of material which will surely come?
§ A second consideration is that with this protection—and it is protection which is involved, but protection of standards—there has grown up a good number of British programme-producing bodies. Some first-class growth has taken place in that area; and that will be endangered even further". I say "even further" because the fact of establishing cable based on advertisements is going to lead to a diminution of independent television income from advertisements, which is its sole income. That is going to happen. I know that prophecy is dangerous, but to add this is possibly going to lead to unemployment in those programme-making bodies external to the two programme companies which have grown up and done such successful work in recent years.
§ I ask for support of this amendment to achieve three things. First, that this new service should be on equal terms in this matter of British material with the two existing services; secondly, that the growing industry of programme-making should not be damaged by this; and, thirdly, and most of all, because bearing in mind the excellence of British television I do not want it 353 endangered by a flood of cheap American material coming in, conceivably forcing the existing independent television service, with the reduced income which will follow, to fall back into an excess of American material itself.
§ I would ask the Committee to support this amendment. I do not suggest that its wording is perfect. I have no organisation or drafting assistance available to me; I have just done my best. If I was re-writing it I think I would not say "foreign material" but "overseas material", to put the position beyond doubt; and I have no doubt that other suggestions of a drafting character will be made. But I hope that we depart from the position in which there is no protection for British material, British production facilities and British men and women engaged in this form of creative work, and in which we do no more than apply to the newcomer the same proportions in relation to imported material and home material as have obtained, and still obtain, with the other services.
§ Do not let us sacrifice broadcasting standards or employment merely to persuade people to put in for cable companies in the knowledge that they can flood the screen with cheap American and other foreign material. I ask the Committee to insert the new words in place of words in the existing clause that do not mean anything. They merely refer to the requirement to admit EEC material. What I want, and what I seek through my amendment, are the exact arrangements, in general and in detail, which have been adopted and which have been so successful for the existing services. This is an important point of principle as well as practice, and I hope that the Committee will support me in the passing of this amendment.
§ 4.25 p.m.
§ Lord Mishcon
May I make it clear at the outset that we on these Benches support completely the principles that have just been enunciated by the noble Lord, Lord Hill. I wonder whether the Committee would think it sensible that, instead of having speeches on three separate amendments, we deal in this debate with the principles behind the three amendments. I believe I have the consent of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, to say this in regard to his own amendment, which appears as Amendment No. 41. We can then see where we are going on this principle, and possibly in the light of the reply of the noble Lord the Minister find our way through to a successful and good amendment.
The principles enunciated by the noble Lord, Lord Hill, are sound, your Lordships may think. There is of course the background here that we have an authority which we are setting up under the Bill which the Committee, so far in its wisdom, has decided shall be an authority to be nominated by the Secretary of State without anything to bind the Secretary of State on any special interest to be represented. There is no requirement that educational interests are to be represented—and that may be quite right—and no requirement that the entertainment industry is to be represented, or the producers of British programmes. That may be quite right, too. The Committee listened to a debate and decided that the discretion of the Secretary of State ought to be at large. It was a matter 354 on which my noble friends and I had views. Our views were overruled, and that is exactly why democracy exists in your Lordships' House, in the Committee, and in Parliament generally. However, the existing position is that at the moment the authority is nameless. It may consist of brilliant commercial and industrial representatives; it may consist of academics. At this moment your Lordships are uncertain of its personnel.
If that be so—and I am taking it for granted at the moment that that is right—a great responsibility rests on this Committee in regard to the content of programmes in order to see that the Bill which will become an Act clearly lays down what Parliament feels are right and proper contents in regard to programmes. This is to be a commercial enterprise. Your Lordships will not hear any cheap words from me as to the possible ethics of commercial enterprise when uncontrolled. I do not propose to enter into any such discussion from these Benches at this time; but there will be no considerations of national interest unless, of course, we impose them. If we do not impose them—and I am putting the case as lightly as I can—we are at risk. Therefore, one turns to the points that the noble Lord, Lord Hill, raised.
The first point he raised, if I may be allowed to repeat him, was the one of principle that there should obviously be equality of treatment as between the BBC and the Independent Broadcasting Authority. That must be right. The only thing that I thought of, together with my noble friends, in my amendment—and we were possibly a little more understanding than the noble Lord, Lord Hill, when it may be we should not have been—was that we said, "Let us take it for granted that for the first few years of the enterprise it could be that it would be difficult, because of the expense involved after the substantial capital investment, to pay for a percentage as high as 80 per cent. of British materials". When I say "British", I ought to make it clear that I include the EC in exactly the same way as I know the noble Lord, Lord Hill, wants to, and that nobody is going to argue about the word "foreign" in the Treaty of Rome. It is obvious that we are including the EC in this. I say that, looking at the Minister, so that we do not have part of the argument diversified into a completely incorrect direction.
Having said that, we decided that to capture as much support as possible from your Lordships' Committee we would lean over in reasonableness and agree that as long as the percentage was obtained after a few years, and that there was a minimum percentage to start with, it would be reasonable to say 50 per cent. for a certain number of years—we hit upon three years—and thereafter 80 per cent. to achieve that equality.
My noble friends and I will be interested to hear views from all parts of your Lordships' Committee upon whether that is the better way of doing it. The one thing I beg of your Lordships is that we do not lose the principle of an amendment—which is so vital—by considerations of whether we have the right percentage or whether one should link this immediately with the position of the Independent Broadcasting Authority as it is at present. What should emerge from the debate is a united view of the Committee, I hope with the help 355 of the Minister, to put in positive words instead of the completely vague ones at present in the Bill which could lead to no proportion at all, or certainly a minimal proportion.
My second point is that the noble Lord, Lord Hill, said that there is no doubt that without such a provision there would be a flood of cheap material, whether it comes from the United States or elsewhere. Many of us would wish that, when we visit the United States and admire so much of what they produce, we could include among those items of admiration their television programmes—certainly their cable programmes. I am sure that it is not offensive to that great country to say that every American we meet who comes to these shores talks about our television and our broadcasting as being the envy of the world. How right and fair they are! In decrying what could happen to cable television (and we have the warning of the United States) we are in no way denigrating many of the great artistic features and other things about the United States of America.
Knowing that we may be facing that flood, the noble Lord, Lord Hill, said that it could be argued that it is for people to decide for themselves what they want to see. If that is what they want to see, it could be argued—although the noble Lord did not agree with the argument—that we should not interfere with it.
There is something about entertainment where that entertainment has different applications to public duty. If a definite choice has to be made of entertainment which involves making a journey, paying a price by way of a ticket and walking into a place of entertainment then one has chosen, by a definite act of selection, what one wishes to be entertained by. Our children will get the sort of tastes and background that most of us, without being too parental in our judgment of what ought to happen to our children, nevertheless are concerned about. Their tastes, their background, their ability to be educated in certain ways are grossly interfered with or helped by something which they do not in any way make an effort to see. It is on television, especially on cable television, rushed into their homes. There it will be, even if non-discriminating parents wish to have it on or if the discriminating or non-discriminating parents are out. It will be there on the screen for them to see and from which to make their tastes and their selection of enjoyment. There is a definite civic duty upon us to see that the contents of programmes do not drop below certain standards.
I take the last point of the noble Lord, Lord Hill, and I cannot improve on the way in which he dealt with this. Therefore I do not intend to elaborate on it. It was the very point that here we have the opportunity to save the standards—of which we are proud—of independent television and the BBC, or to make them drop those standards in order to try to capture audiences back. We all know that independent television lives on its advertising. If we make cable television, because of the cheap way in which its programmes can be produced, capture audiences who like that sort of material, then standards will drop in independent television as well because they will be forced to compete.
I do not pretend, any more than the noble Lord, Lord Hill, did, that the precise wording of his 356 amendment (if I may say so on his behalf) or of our amendments—and I call the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, one of ours—is necessarily wholly correct. I repeat that I hope of this series of amendments we shall be able to incorporate into the Bill something which reaches equality with the independent television quota, if not immediately, certainly within a period laid down by the Bill.
§ 4.38 p.m.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
It might be for the convenience of the Committee if I were to follow my noble friend and speak to my amendment, No. 41. If that is not for the convenience of the Commitee I shall immediately sit down. I gather from the signs of assent that it would be convenient and I follow my noble friend in speaking to the amendment in my name and referring to the other two amendments whose purposes are identical.Amendment No. 41: Page 9, line 10, leave out from ("that") to ("of") in line 11 and insert ("not less than 86 per cent. of the programmes shall consist").We approach the problem in three different ways. Needless to say I prefer the amendment which I have drawn up myself. But if when the Minister replies he were to say—as my noble friend has suggested he will say and I hope he is right—that in principle the Government accept what is behind these amendments, and if they were to choose one of the amendments other than the one in my name, I would feel compelled to withdraw my amendment. If the Government were to say that they do not like any of the three amendments, but that they accept the principle, once again I would consider that a good invitation not to press my amendment to a Division. There can be no doubt that the principle is vital. We must ensure this afternoon, if at all possible, that the principle is accepted by the Government.
The reason for my saying that is that as long ago as 1954—I had some small hand in the matter so it is fairly clear in my mind—the Safeguards Committee was set up. It was a body consisting of—I will spell these out to your Lordships—the Association of Broadcasting Staff, the Association of Cinematograph, Television and Allied Technicians, the British Actors' Equity Association, the Composers' Guild of Great Britain, the Cricketers' Association, the Guildmasters' Association, the Musicians' Union, the National Organisation of Theatrical, Television and Kine Employees, the National Union of Journalists, the Professional Footballers' Association, the Society of Authors, the League of Dramatists, the Radio Writers' Association, the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors and the Writers' Guild of Great Britain.
This body got together even before commercial television broke upon us to press the idea of there being a necessity for a British quota. In 1955 a detailed agreement (subsequently known as the "Gentlemen's Agreement") was reached between the ITA and the constituent bodies of the Safeguards Committee. That laid down specific arrangements, which have operated ever since. The BBC subsequently agreed to a voluntary restriction on foreign material, and this was reinforced by a prescribing memorandum of the Postmaster General in September 1964, making the 357 BBC subject to precisely the same maximum proportion of foreign material as ITA. Within one or two percentages, that has remained to this day.
So we have a long experience of a 14 per cent. foreign quota and an 86 per cent. of what is in effect British material because there is not very much material that comes in from the EC. That has operated satisfactorily and it was operated not by spelling it out in legislation but by the method I have described. The question might reasonably be asked therefore: why should not what operated satisfactorily then operate satisfactorily in the present situation? The reason is that we are in a different position altogether. The Cable Authority is very different from the authorities which now govern our television. The BBC covers the whole range of television. It initiates, it runs, it has its engineering, and it does its programmes right through. The IBA's authority, though much more tenuous than that of the BBC, is nonetheless an extremely effective authority; but as the Government have made clear, the proposed new authority will have relatively little control over its constituent members.
So we have this new organisation coming into an existing situation and the danger is that, since the American material will have covered its cost in the country of origin before arriving here, it can be bought for about £2,000 an hour. You cannot manufacture a reasonable television programme ab initio for showing in this country for less than something between £25,000 and £45,000 an hour. That is a modest figure, as I think most of your Lordships would agree, and it is a figure at least 10 times greater than the cost of the imported material which has already covered its costs in the country of origin.
Therefore, the temptation upon authorities which are not under rigid control to interpret "a proper proportion" as being a proportion which will enable them to operate and make a reasonable profit—there is nothing wrong with that—would be very great indeed. But the consequence would be that the cable television programmes would be filled very' largely with cheap imported material and, in addition, it would be absolutely impossible to maintain the 86 per cent. figure upon the BBC and the IBA. They, faced with that kind of cheap competition, would be forced to lower their standards.
If we fail to spell this out very clearly in one way or another in this Bill, the whole level of British television is bound to decline and I would say that within five years the standards would be those which my American friends have spelled out to me in despair as being an aspect of their country which they do not admire and which, as my noble friend has said, when they come to this country they find themselves in much greater disagreement with. So the simple words "a proper proportion" will not do, as I hope your Lordships will agree this afternoon. What a relatively powerless authority will determine as "a proper proportion" in the circumstances we are in today and those in which the Cable Authority would be in today would be very different.
It is noteworthy that, although this figure of 86 per cent. was originally negotiated by a group of producers of television and was argued about a lot—a certain amount of muscle was used—it has become gradually 358 accepted not only by the people who actually make up the television industry (the writers, the producers and so on) but also by the people who are responsible for television. Those people who somewhat reluctantly some 20 years ago assented to such a large quota now recognise that it is that figure upon which the excellence of their own product depends. Also, the British public as a whole, although it might be true to say they would accept what some people would be disposed to call an undiluted diet of something not all that far removed from rubbish, nonetheless are proud of British television. So we have a public which recognises the excellence of British television, likes it, enjoys it and looks at it. It is indeed so popular that it has done the cinema in this country much more harm than the cinema has ever been done in the United States, because in this country it is worth while staying at home and watching television, whereas in the United States my friends tell me it is not.
My view is that it would be best to spell out the simple 86 per cent. as my amendment does, and say that what operates for both the BBC and the IBA shall operate here, too. I recognise that by doing this we shall place the cable operators in difficulty in the first instance, but I believe that the British production industry could rise to that challenge and could produce the 86 per cent. for the cable operators at a reasonable level. It would not all be first-class material. There is a lot of stuff which can be used as filling and gapping, and it is not all bad stuff, but we could meet an 86 per cent. quota, if it were permitted.
As my noble friend has suggested, one might take the view that we should allow the cable operator in the first instance the right to import a substantial amount of cheap foreign material in order to get on his feet. My fear about that is that we would never get back to the 86 per cent. and the IBA and the BBC would come down to the 50 per cent. That is really why I do not like the 50 per cent.; it would become the norm. Even so, of course, it would be better than nothing at all because, take it from me, if we did not have a 50 per cent. restriction we would not have anything like a 50 per cent. implementation and everybody else would be down to something less than 50 per cent. before very long. So ideally I submit that we ought to accept the amendment in my name or, failing that, the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, which seeks the same objective in a different way.
I am not sure whether I should move the amendment or not at this stage—my noble friend Lord Mishcon advises me that I do not. However, I do so in theory if not in practice.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ Lord Hunt of Tanworth
Leaving aside, possibly, some of the commercial interests involved, I think everyone who has looked seriously at this question is agreed about three things: first, that the maximum available British material should be shown on cable television: secondly, that the introduction of cable television should be used to encourage the British programme industry and thus to make more British programme material available; and, thirdly, that the Cable Authority will have a vital role in seeing that this is done. The question is simply: how?
359 What worries me is that none of the amendments which have been moved—and, of course, there has not been the assistance of professional drafting and none of the movers has tied himself to the precise wording—one central dilemma. Where you have a quota on the BBC and the IBA, you are looking at two organisations which, because they are public service broadcasting, provide a balanced programme schedule, and where you are talking about a single channel or two channels for each organisation it is quite possible in that context to achieve that sort of quota. Even so, I have made some inquiries about how this quota is achieved, and there is a very shaded area as to what is counted as foreign and what is counted as not foreign.
But if you look at the cable system of the future, where there are multi-channels—we do not know how many there will be initially, but let us take 20 channels—are the movers of these amendments suggesting that the quota should be applied across the board? If so, many of those channels will be local access, local community, local arts or national arts and there will be no difficulty in achieving the quota. Or are they suggesting that the quota should be applied to each channel?
The one thing that is certain to be on cable is a film channel. The Government have recently had to abolish the film quota because there are not enough British films made, and even if you set a quota of 90 per cent. foreign you may still have difficulty in finding 10 per cent. British. So I, also, am worried about the word "proper". I do not know whether "maximum" is better than "proper", and I do not know what "maximum" means. But I think that people who want to see a quota have to say whether it is a quota across the board, in which case it is relatively meaningless, or whether the quota is to apply to each channel, in which case I do not think it is possible.
The Earl of Bessborough
When I entered the Chamber, I had no intention of taking part in this debate in Committee stage, although your Lordships may know my views on this subject from the general debates which we have had on cable broadcasting. I have already said in general debates on the Hunt proposals that I am 100 per cent. with the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, in what he proposed, and therefore I support the text as given in Clause 9(1)(d) of the Bill.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, I personally would not wish to specify precise percentages of British material or even EC material. I am a great supporter of the European Community and I very much endorse the present text for that reason. I am a good European, but I am also a good Brit and, with the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, I am sure that every effort will be made by the authority to include as much British material in the programming as possible. It seems to me that it will be the job of the authority, and not of your Lordships' Chamber, to propose these precise percentages.
I like to read books in French or German and, indeed, possibly in translation from other languages, and I do not think that in the publishing world you could possibly tell any Member of your Lordships' House what particular books he or she should read. I think that there is a relationship between broadcasting, 360 television and publishing. I believe in freedom of thought. I also believe in freedom to read or to view what I wish.
I see that the noble Lord who sits next to Lord Hunt does not exactly appreciate the views which I have been putting forward, but I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, would altogether oppose them, even if he might not go quite so far as I do. But I think that the words "proper proportions" should be judged by the authority itself and I trust that its members will have liberal views in this matter, be not too rigid and, certainly, not impose precise percentages, such as 86 per cent., 50 per cent., or whatever.
I am so glad to see my noble friend Lord Eccles here. He has been chairman of the greatest library in the country, and perhaps the greatest library in the world, and I cannot help feeling that he, too, would say that if I go to the British Library I should not be told that 86 per cent. of the books I read will have to be published in English. Much as I appreciate the views of the noble Lord, Lord Hill, who has complete sincerity and tremendous experience in these matters, having been chairman of both the BBC and the Independent Broadcasting Authority—I understand his feelings very well indeed—for the reasons I have given. I should like strongly to support my noble friend on the Front Bench in the text of paragraph (d) as it stands at the moment.
§ Lord Somers
If I have heard the words "I believe in freedom of opinion" once. I have heard them at least 100,000 times. It is no use. One must face up to the fact that television has an immense influence on the opinions, the moral status and every aspect of the country——
§ Lord Somers
Yes, possibly so. But television has particular influence, because of the fact that young children so often sit absolutely glued to the screen and form their opinions by what they see on it. It may be true to say that people should have what they want, but, unfortunately, only too often they want the wrong thing. For instance, we would not apply that argument to drugs. People may want them but, so far as we are able, we see to it that they do not get them. So I sincerely hope that the Committee will see sense and support the amendment as moved by my noble friend.
§ Lord Aylestone
I think that the problem before us is the actual wording of the Bill. The words "proper proportions" mean very little indeed. I have been trying to think of something more acceptable, such as "maximum attainable", but those words may have legal problems. There is not very much between any of us in the Committee. What we are anxious about is that we should get as much British or EC material as possible into the programmes. On that we all agree. but I think that the Committee needs reminding that the IBA have never been instructed to put 86 per cent. British into their programmes or even 80 or 18 per cent. It has been entirely left to them, as the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, said, after many years of discussion with the distinguished Safeguards Committee about the maximum that they could attain.
361 When I say "maximum attainable", I am not of the opinion that we could, even if we wished and we accepted the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, get 86 per cent. at once. Nevertheless, I believe that we could work to it fairly quickly, because there is in this country a wealth of information, knowledge, writers and producers. If a field of action is available, money will be available, and they can move to it quickly.
As a result of my own experience at the IBA, I feel that to write into the Bill an actual percentage of any kind—whether it be 86 per cent. or even 60 per cent.—would be a mistake. A minimum of 60 per cent. could, over a period of time, become a maximum of 60 per cent., and none of us wants that to happen. If we can get Lord Hill's 86 per cent., then let us do so—but I do not think it is possible to do that all at once. As far as putting in any firm figure of 60 per cent. or 86 per cent. is concerned, we on these Benches would oppose that.
§ Lord Hill of Luton
If I may speak on a point of elaboration, was it not during the noble Lord's chairmanship of the ITA that regulations were issued which laid down the precise figures I quoted to the Committee?
§ Lord Aylestone
Yes, and I believe it was reached at that point, but it had been going on for a very long time; probably even during the noble Lord's own period, when the earlier discussions of the Safeguards Committee were working to that figure.
Earl De La Warr
Before I start, it is absolutely proper—particularly in this debate—that I do what I have to do every day, and declare an interest as a member of a cable consortium. I was extremely glad that my noble friend Lord Bessborough laid such emphasis on the need to leave this matter to the authority. If we are to go through this Bill telling the authority what they must do, then we shall have an awful lot of legislation and a great deal too little in the way of judgment from the authority.
When we were debating the last Telecommunications Bill, we discussed the report by Professor Littlechild in which he wrote about the "capture" of the authority—that was not, of course, the Cable Authority. I have a feeling that noble Lords on the other side of the Committee are worried that this authority will be too sympathetic to the operators or that it will, as Professor Littlechild said, be captured by them. That is something I reject absolutely, and I invite your Lordships to do the same.
If cable was going to be an exact mirror image of the IBA contractors, it might just as well have been put under the IBA. But, of course, cable is a completely different creature. In my opinion, these amendments are simplistic in the way they deal with percentages. You simply cannot do it that way, as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Tanworth, said, when there is a multiplicity of channels. One of the things many cable operators will seek to do is to produce ethnic channels. Where does Hindi come in that calculation? I ask your Lordships to please realise that this is something that should come under the authority; please lose the idea put up by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, that 362 this will be a powerless authority. I can see nothing in the Bill to indicate that this authority will not have as much power as the equivalent authorities.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
If the noble Earl will permit me, may I point out that this authority, as distinct from the two other authorities, is asked to do all that it can to ensure that the requirements are complied with. Therefore, it is recognised that the Cable Authority has not the same degree of power over its constituents as have the other two authorities. That is made clear in the Notes on Clauses.
§ Lord Elton
If my noble friend will forgive an interruption to an interruption, the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, has reverted to ground we covered at the last Committee stage, when debating amendments in the name of the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun. I believe it was accepted by the Committee that the words used are the strongest applicable and have at least as much force as those applying to the other authorities.
§ Lord Mishcon
If I may interrupt the interruption of the interruption, I will merely say that the noble Lord the Minister may recall that in, I believe, a Second Reading speech he stated that it was the intention of the Government that the authority should have a very loose rein.
Earl De La Warr
If I may now get back in, the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, said that it was the intention of the Government that they should have a loose rein. If one looks at the White Paper very carefully—although I did not know this matter was going to be raised and so I have not found the place—the whole implication is that they will lose their powers so that, in effect, it is the operators who will run on a loose rein. Perhaps I am wrong. I see the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, thumbing very fast through the White Paper. If I am right, will he agree with me that to have a loose rein, and that to choose to run the operators on a loose rein, is something quite different?
§ Lord Mishcon
The noble Earl, with his usual courtesy, has paused to enable me to reply to his observation, and I am obliged to him. I was referring the Committee to the speech made by the Minister at Second Reading, and I believe that the noble Lord the Minister did assent to the way in which I paraphrased his remarks. I was not referring to the White Paper.
Earl De La Warr
I have not found the reference, but I believe we have dealt with that particular point. I have said all that I choose to say on this subject. I personally regard this clause as being perfectly adequate and I hope that your Lordships will have nothing to do with any of the amendments.
§ 5.8 p.m.
§ Lord Howard of Henderskelfe
As the Committee may have noticed, I have not, rather unusually for me, put down an amendment on this clause. The reason is that I cannot for the life of me think of one that is workable. What I would ask is that the Government think again very seriously about the possible consequences of a flood of cheap American material 363 for the production capacity of this country, whether it be films or TV, and the disastrous effect that that could have.
The fact is that almost any quota you can think of is unworkable because it would have to apply across the board, in which case it would be extremely easy to achieve by broadcasting a lot of twopenny-halfpenny access programmes which cost practically nothing to produce. Or it would have to apply per channel, in which case it would be quite unworkable in the case of films and the like. You have to decide how you are going to impose any quota and whether any such quota is practical.
As your Lordships have already been told, no such quota was laid upon the IBA by Act of Parliament. It was a voluntary act in so far as a response to the pressures of the "talent unions" can only be called a voluntary act, and we see the results now. I beseech the Government to look again at this clause, to examine whether the instructions to the authority can be strengthened in a way which will safeguard the position of our light entertainment and drama.
It is light entertainment and drama which are chiefly threatened in this field. Sport, current affairs and the rest I do not see as being greatly threatened; but I do see those particular fields being threatened. If there is any way of strengthening it—telling the authority that they have to pay special regard, or whatever the words may be—I for one would warmly support any Government amendment to that end.
§ Lord Mottistone
Before my noble friend replies, may I make a few brief remarks in support of him? I would have thought that what the Government say on pages 50, 51 and 52 of the White Paper (Cmd. 8866) expresses an extremely balanced view. I should like to quote from paragraph 119, where they say:When independent television began the Government of the day resisted pressure for a specific statutory quota to be prescribed, but instead the Television Act 1954 required the ITBA to ensure that proper proportions of British material were included.The Government then go on to say that this ended up as the 86 per cent. which appears in these amendments. So it was by discussion that the 86 per cent. came about.
The important point is that the phrase "proper proportions" obviously came from the 1954 Act, and it worked very well; and that is what people have been objecting to in this particular subsection. I would have thought that it is as well worded as it can be, that powers of the right sort are going to be given to the authority, and that it is most likely that the authority will act with the proper sense of responsibility and that the situation will resolve itself in the balanced and sensible way that the Government are planning it should. I hope very much that all these amendments will be struck down, if it comes to that.
§ Lord Elton
The noble Lords who have put their names to these amendments combine a formidable weight of experience and authority, and they advance a principle which I personally espouse myself: getting as much British material over the cable, and as good a quality, as we can. I am somewhat in awe of present company. The noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, in particular, stands out in my memory as a familiar 364 Figure, heard rather than seen, during the most testing days of the second world war. His was the sensible voice of the prudent and healthy lifestyle upon which the success of our titanic struggles ultimately depended; the vox sana, as my schoolboy Latin had it, largely responsible for the nation's corpore sano. There will for me, therefore, always be somethng quintessentially English and patriotic about him, and when he advances something that looks so sensible and patriotic as an amendment to a Government Bill, and does so at the head of such a distinguished body of co-adjutors, I approach the task of persuading your Lordships to a marginally different line with a good deal of circumspection.
Implicit or explicit somewhere in each of these amendments lurks something pretty close to the figure of 86 per cent. The noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, wants what I shall henceforth in this debate call domestic programmes, by which I mean—and, of course, I accept noble Lords opposite also mean—programmes that originate within the EC and mostly in the United Kingdom, to be the same as that required by the Independent Broadcasting Authority. The IBA requirement is that no more than 14 per cent. of their programmes shall be non-domestic. I abridge the requirement somewhat because the noble Lord has mentioned the adjustments that have been made to it, but in general terms it is not less than 86 per cent. which should be domestic. The noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, knows this well, for he speaks with the great authority of an ex-chairman of both the IBA and the BBC. He knows also that the BBC also have a maximum of 14 per cent. non-domestic material and that they do so voluntarily.
The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, who speaks with the authority of an ex-Minister for the arts comes straight out with the 86 per cent. as the minimum. Neither he nor the noble Lord, Lord Hill, make any allowance for any sort of teething period during which home producers could work up to this challenging level. I am grateful indeed to the noble Lords, Lord Ardwick and Lord Mishcon, for what Lord Mishcon called his greater understanding in picking up the recognition that this might be necessary while the industry gets itself off the ground.
In the White Paper published in April the Government made clear their belief that cable could and should encourage the making of new British programmes. Indeed, both the White Paper and the Bill before us go some way further in this respect than the exceedingly valuable report produced by the inquiry chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Tanworth, whose intervention was extremely helpful. That proposed that at least initially cable should be subject to no obligations in this respect.
Clause 9(1)(d) of the Bill requires the Cable Authority to do all that they can to secure that proper proportions of material of British and other EC origin and performance are included in programmes in licensed services. That is exactly the same wording as the analogous statutory obligations placed on the IBA by Section 4(1)(c) of the Broadcasting Act 1981 and indeed that of 1954. So the ancestry of what the noble Lords' amendments seek to remove—it is not even its ancestor, it is the same animal—produced the same situation which they now praise in the broadcasting 365 authorities; the situation was produced by the words in the Bill. We are not therefore proposing something new, we are proposing something which is known to work.
What it is proposed to require of the Cable Authority is what is already required of the IBA. So why is something different asked for? I think the answer is in the amendments. The noble Lords, Lord Ardwick and Lord Mishcon, do not want the minimum proportion chosen as appropriate by the Cable Authority to be no different from that chosen by the IBA for three years. The noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, does not want it to be different ever. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, wants it to be the same now, but to remain at the present level even if the IBA level subsequently changes. The differences between them are narrow and I think they are not of importance.
If the Cable Authority was facing exactly the same problems as the IBA, if its licensees were using the same technology and offering the same level of choice as those of the IBA, I would have a good deal of sympathy with what noble Lords propose. But as the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, has himself powerfully argued, and as my noble friends behind me have reminded your Lordships, they are not, and in my view they never will be.
What we are legislating for is a medium in which every system will have a multiplicity of channels. Primitive systems may offer only eight or a dozen or so, but they are rapidly becoming things of the past. The systems the cable authority is going to preside over are going to be able to offer dozens or even scores of channels and maybe even more. As the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, asked, what will be the meaning of the magic figure of 86 per cent. or any other percentage. Will it be an aggregate figure? Will it be a figure per cable? We know not. I doubt if this is a situation in which we can sensibly apply a set figure.
I could go on, and had planned to go on at length. I do not doubt that others of your Lordships may wish to return to their feet after I have sat down. It may be that if I sat down sooner we would come to a decision sooner. So I will merely conclude by saying that the Government believe that the Bill strikes the right balance; they are committed to getting the best for Britain that they can; they think this is the way of doing it.
I have not quibbled over the drafting of the amendments. I think I can bow gratefully to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, not only for his amendment but for his nudging of the Government about the choice of adjective, and I think I could make the same sort of gesture to the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Henderskelfe. But basically I am certain that on the principle we are right and the amendments are wrong. We are seeking by what we propose to produce something which all of us want, which is a thriving programme industry of quality, providing material suitable not only for the entertainment of adults but, as the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, and the noble Lord, Lord Somers, have wisely added, for forming the tastes of children. I am glad, therefore, to acknowledge the support of my noble friends in saying that that is what the Bill provides for, and I hope that perhaps we can 366 come to a decision rather sooner by virtue of the three pages which I discarded from my speech.
Before the noble Lord comes to the end of this first instalment of this particlar episode and before other noble Lords come back again, does not the noble Lord intend to respond at all to the admirable suggestion put by the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Henderskelfe, that the Government should have further thoughts on whether they could find wording which would be more acceptable to Members of your Lordships' House, who I believe are all anxious about precisely the same thing?
§ Lord Elton
I am grateful to the noble Lord. I sometimes wrap my meaning in something of a cloak, I fear. I was saying that I thought we could look at words but not at principles. It seems to me that the Government have got the principle right. Whether we should be saying "proper" or "maximum"—although I doubt very much whether it should be "maximum"—is another matter. There might be some other phrases which I do not have at my fingertips. There might be an adjustment in that, but I do not think that we can place an absolute duty to arrive at a precise figure, for reasons which have been so ably expounded that I do not intend to repeat them.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
May I be one of those who want a small second bite at the cherry? I think that the answer to the eloquent reply which the Minister has given is contained in the Notes on Clauses. The Notes on Clauses say that under Clause 9 the cable authority are to ensure "so far as they can" that all licensed services comply with certain requirements. The notes go on to point out that the reason for the proviso, "so far as they can" is that the authority does not have the same degree of control over the situation as do the two existing authorities. That is precisely why we want it in the legislation. The cable authority will not have the powers that the two existing authorities have. Therefore, if the authority wanted to do this, it could not because, as the Government points out in the Notes on Clauses, the duty of the authority is to "do all it can".
Other comparable duties of the authority elsewhere in the Bill are expressed in the same terms. That, I believe, is the point. There cannot be an absolute duty on the authority to secure that the requirements are complied with because, unlike the BBC and the IBA, the authority does not have direct physical control over the means of transmission. The authority, therefore, is a very much weaker authority than the two existing authorities. That is precisely why it is necessary to spell out the requirement in legislation here, in this House.
§ Lord Somers
Before we divide on this amendment, may I ask whether there is not something in the fact that this will be a commercial enterprise, and naturally in the course of buying its programmes will purchase those which cost the least? Those which cost the least are invariably the cheap American ones.
§ Lord Elton
I do not think the hypothesis is right or that the consequences suggested by the noble Lord will flow from it, and I am glad to see the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, shaking his head in time with my remarks.
§ Baroness Gardner of Parkes
I should like to take up that last point about buying the cheapest type of programmes. The good programmes in this country stand so well on their own merits that there is an automatic public demand for them. On the other point made, that there may be a necessary period of growth while money is not coming in as one would hope and the cable industry is not growing so quickly, it may be that at the outset there will be a time during which we shall see too much of the cheaper programmes. That is inevitable. However, as the enterprise grows and becomes successful there will be good programmes. Of that I am sure. I hope that among them, particularly as it is Australia Day today, we shall see some of those brilliant Australian films.
§ Lord Hill of Luton
It is difficult to resist the charm and eloquence of the noble Lord who replied to the debate—but I am going to. He has not yielded a point. It was beautifully done but he has not yielded one inch from the position set out in the Bill and previous statements on the subject. I have no doubt in my mind that there should be a specific reference to the proportions of imported and home material from the outset. That is the one hope of achieving the maintenance and strengthening of the British industry involved and the maintenance of the quality of programmes in this country, including those from the competitors of cable—Independent Television and the BBC. For those reasons, although finding it difficult to resist the noble Lord's blandishments, I feel I must formally put this to the vote and I formally move.
§ Lord Mishcon
Before the Question is put, perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, only so that all of us who are behind him in principle can show proper support for him but in a wise way, will support me in asking whether the noble Lord the Minister can go this far. He said he finds it difficult, if not impossible, to put an exact proportion in the Bill. Is he prepared to give this assurance to the Committee which I think would help us all? First, will he take back the words, as he indicated, to see whether or not words which are more mandatory and clearer in their requirement than now appear in the Bill could be incorporated without a given percentage? Secondly, is he prepared to give an assurance that the Government will indicate to the authority, in very clear terms, that the aim of the Government will be to see that the same proportions as with the IBA are reached as soon as possible, bearing in mind the difficulties of across-the-board or individual programmes, as were mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Tanworth? If the noble Lord the Minister can give those two simple assurances I believe it might help all of us to decide whether a Division in Committee is necessary.
§ Lord Elton
When it comes to blandishments there is no one who quite equals the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, and I readily cede the crown to him. None the less, with even greater reluctance than the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, I am not going to give him 368 words of comfort. I have already said what the Government are pepared to look at and I think I can say to the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, that it is very nearly an inch, if it is not quite an inch. We are I think wise to divide—and as the Question has been put we cannot stop ourselves from dividing—because we are discussing a point of principle which we should get out of the way by following the normal procedures and going through the Lobby.
§ 5.28 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 40) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 82; Not-Contents, 101.369
|DIVISION NO. 1|
|Amherst, E.||Kennet, L.|
|Ardwick, L.||Kilmarnock, L.|
|Attlee, E.||King of Wartnaby, L.|
|Aylestone, L.||Kirkhill, L.|
|Banks, L.||Leatherland, L.|
|Beswick, L.||Listowel, E.|
|Birk, B.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.|
|Bishopston, L.||Lockwood, B.|
|Briginshaw, L.||Longford, E.|
|Broadbridge, L.||Lovell-Davis, L.|
|Brockway, L.||Mishcon, L.|
|Brookes, L.||Molloy, L.|
|Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.||Nicol, B.|
|Collison, L.||Oram, L.|
|Cooper of Stockton Heath, L.||Phillips, B.|
|Crowther-Hunt, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.|
|David, B.||Roberthall, L.|
|Dean of Beswick, L.||Rochester, L.|
|Denington, B.||Ross of Marnock, L.|
|Diamond, L.||Seear, B.|
|Elwyn-Jones, L.||Serota, B.|
|Ennals, L.||Shinwell, L.|
|Ewart-Biggs, B.||Somers, L.|
|Ezra, L.||Stallard, L.|
|Fisher of Rednal, B.||Stewart of Alvechurch, B.|
|Foot, L.||Stewart of Fulham, L.|
|Gaitskell, B.||Stoddart of Swindon, L.|
|Gallacher, L.||Stone, L.|
|Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.]||Strabolgi, L.|
|Taylor of Blackburn, L.|
|Hall, V.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Harris of Greenwich, L.||Tordoff, L.|
|Hill of Luton, L. [Teller.]||Underhill, L.|
|Houghton of Sowerby, L.||Wakefield, Bp.|
|Howard of Henderskelfe, L.||Wallace of Coslany, L.|
|Hughes, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Irving of Dartford, L.||White, B.|
|Jacobson, L.||Wilson of Rievaulx, L.|
|Jacques, L.||Winstanley, L.|
|Jeger, B.||Winterbottom, L.|
|Jenkins of Putney, L.||Wootton of Abinger, B.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Constantine of Stanmore, L.|
|Ampthill, L.||Cottesloe, L.|
|Avon, E.||Cullen of Ashbourne, L.|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Daventry, V.|
|Belstead, L.||Davidson, V.|
|Bessborough, E.||De La Warr, E.|
|Blake, L.||Denham, L. [Teller.]|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Digby, L.|
|Campbell of Alloway, L.||Dilhorne, V.|
|Carnegy of Lour, B.||Eccles, V.|
|Cathcart, E.||Ellenborough, L.|
|Charteris of Amisfield, L.||Elton, L.|
|Cockfield, L.||Erne, E.|
|Faithfull, B.||Mottistone, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Fraser of Kilmorack, L.||Murton of Lindisfarne, L.|
|Gainford, L.||Northchurch, B.|
|Gardner of Parkes, B.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Glanusk, L.||O'Brien of Lothbury, L.|
|Glenarthur, L.||Onslow, E.|
|Gridley, L.||Orkney, E.|
|Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.||Orr-Ewing, L.|
|Hampden, V.||Portland, D.|
|Harvington, L.||Renton, L.|
|Hawke, L.||Rodney, L.|
|Henley, L.||St. Aldwyn, E.|
|Hives, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Hornsby-Smith, B.||Saltoun, Ly.|
|Hunt of Tanworth, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Hylton-Foster, B.||Selkirk, E.|
|Inglewood, L.||Sempill, Ly.|
|Kilmany, L.||Sherfield, L.|
|Kitchener, E.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Lloyd, L.||Soames, L.|
|Long, V.||Spens, L.|
|Lothian, M.||Strathcarron, L.|
|Lucas of Chilworth, L.||Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.|
|McAlpine of Moffat, L.||Strathspey, L.|
|Macleod of Borve, B.||Sudeley, L.|
|Mancroft, L.||Swansea, L.|
|Margadale, L.||Swinton, E. [Teller.]|
|Marley, L.||Terrington, L.|
|Marsh, L.||Teynham, L.|
|Massereene and Ferrard, V.||Thorneycroft, L.|
|Maude of Stratford-upon-Avon, L.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Merrivale, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Mersey, V.||Whitelaw, V.|
|Molson, L.||Wynford, L.|
|Morris, L.||Young, B.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ [Amendments Nos. 41 and 42 not moved.]
§ 5.37 p.m.
§ Lord Winstanley moved Amendment No. 43:
§ Page 9, line 12, leave out from ("Community") to end of line 13.
The noble Lord said: This is a limited amendment on the same matter. It deals with the same part of Clause 9—subsection (1)(d). It merely seeks to truncate the paragraph by removing the words at the end:
and is performed by nationals of member States".
The earlier part of the paragraph relates to the matters that we have just been discussing. Irrespective of whether we have improved the paragraph, I make it entirely clear that I am fully in agreement with it as a whole. Indeed, I have always believed that the whole question of the stimulation of the private production sector in the United Kingdom is at the heart of the purposes of cable television.
§ I have expressed certain doubts as to whether in the end cable will prove to be commercially, or indeed economically, viable. I was largely persuaded to support its development on the back of television channels because I felt that it would provide new opportunities for the immense amount of creative talent in Britain which at present has inadequate outlets. I thought that in this way cable would provide new outlets.370
The paragraph states:
that there are included in the programmes proper proportions of recorded and other matter which originates in the European Economic Community".
We might have preferred to say, "which originates here", but noble Lords understand the reasons which make it necessary for us to use the words:
which originates in the European Economic Community".
The paragraph continues:
and is performed by nationals of member States".
It is those few words which I seek to delete. There are a number of reasons for that which I shall put briefly.
§ My concern—and I believe the concern in the paragraph—is with the need to promote the creative industries and production companies in the private sector in Britain. The nationality of the performers in certain companies is a much narrower issue. If I may quote an example, I am an enthusiastic and earnest supporter of the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester. At the moment there are, I think, at least four members of the Hallé Orchestra who are not nationals of any of the member states. They are Israeli, Korean, or other nationalities, but I should not like to see the Hallé Orchestra dismissed as some kind of foreign outfit because all its members are not nationals of member states. I believe that what I have said about the Hallé Orchestra possibly applies also to the orchestras in London, Liverpool and Birmingham.
§ We should also consider the theatre. Cable companies may wish to present performances of their local repertory company. That would provide a stimulus to creative talent in the area in which the cable company is operating. But would the local theatre company be banned because two members of its cast happened to be what we might call foreigners, who were not nationals of member states?
§ I turn to another and perhaps rather narrower point. At the moment there are in Britain many people who are properly and legally entitled to reside here, who possess work permits, but who, as a result of the British Nationality Act, are not now nationals of this country. If such people, resident here, perhaps regarding themselves as British, are performing in an orchestra, a dance company, or a theatre company, is the orchestra or company and its concert or production suddenly to be regarded as foreign? I hope not.
§ Personally, I see no particular reason for the words to which I refer, and if they remain in the Bill they could prove unnecessarily restrictive. There could be all kinds of arguments about the interpretation of the words, and I should very much like to hear the Government's response to what I have said. I beg to move.
§ Baroness Trumpington
It seems to me that we have already covered some of the ground pertinent to this amendment in debate on the last three amendments. I have listened very carefully to what the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, has said, and I think in the context of the amendment it is worth repeating that the duty which Clause 9(1)(d) places on the Cable Authority is similar to that which is imposed on the IBA under Section 4 of the Broadcasting Act 1981. The IBA has indeed managed to implement its duty, very effectively for the past 30 years without falling into the kind of 371 difficulties to which the noble Lord alludes. This, no doubt, is because the duty is couched in general terms: the IBA is not required to impose a rigid quota based on the nationality of every individual performer. It is left with the flexibility to determine what is sensible in all the circumstances. I am sure that the Cable Authority will be similarly sensible.
Secondly, in the form in which it has been tabled the amendment could open up a significant loophoole. An American company, for example, might set up a subsidiary in the EC to make films using American actors. Such films would in fact be wholly performed by American actors. Yet because they were admittedly of EEC origin, the Cable Authority might, if this amendment were made, be forced to treat them as falling within the scope of Clause 9(1)(d). I am not suggesting that the Cable Authority would wish to come to that conclusion, but that seems to me a possible consequence of what the noble Lord was suggesting. The Government believe that it is right to assert on the face of the Bill that the Cable Authority should concern itself not only with where a programme originates, in the sense of where it was made, or who it was financed by, but also where the performers come from.
With regard to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, concerning the fact that some of our ethnic minorities are not necessarily nationals of this country, I would submit that in practice it would be a very pedantic authority indeed which troubled itself over the nationality of people who are settled here. In any case most members of our ethnic minorities do have our citizenship.
The present drafting of Clause 9(1)(d) states a general proposition and then leaves the authority the job of interpreting and applying it. To make the change which the noble Lord suggests could open up a loophole, whereas leaving the clause as it is enables us to make it clear that we want the authority to concern itself with both the origin of programmes and who takes part in them. The authority may wish to give guidance to licensees from time to time on just how it intends to interpret its duty. I am sure that it will be sensible and avoid taking provision in the rather restrictive way which the noble Lord has drawn to our attention. I feel that his beloved Hallé Orchestra will remain safe; indeed, I am delighted that it will do so. In the light of what I have said, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.
§ Lord Somers
I quite understand the difficulties which the noble Baroness has drawn to our attention. But I should like to ask her whether this will mean that we shall be unable to see such eminent soloists as, for instance, Brendel, who is an Israeli, or Yo-Yo Ma, who is Chinese?
§ Baroness Trumpington
I can reassure the noble Lord that he will have every opportunity, I hope, of seeing his favourite artistes, no matter where they come from.
§ Lord Ardwick
Is the noble Baroness saying that the clause is not to be read as meaningperformed exclusively by nationals of member States"?Is she saying that that is not the way to read the clause?
§ Lord Mishcon
Is the noble Baroness saying that the provision is capable of more than one interpretation, and that therefore in order to ensure that it shall be clear she may take another look at it before the Report stage?
§ Baroness Trumpington
In this particular case I am quite confident that what I have said is perfectly clear, and that the clause itself is perfectly clear. I have no intention of changing my mind over anything that I have said, or on anything that the Government wish to say.
I note the noble Baroness's determination—a quality which she exhibits not infrequently in your Lordships' Chamber. I listened most carefully to her answer, and I accept that there may well be difficulties in the light of the matter she mentioned; for example, some kind of overseas outfit establishing a subsidiary company in Britain. There may be loopholes if the words were removed altogether, but I cannot say that I was wholly satisfied with the words of reassurance that the noble Baroness gave to me. I may have been wrong, but I understood her to suggest that the wording of the regulations which were drafted and then adopted by the IBA, under the procedures which were earlier outlined to us by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, contained the specific wordsand is performed by nationals of member States".It also appeared that she implied that the same words were in the rules which the BBC had quite voluntarily adopted so that its arrangements are in parallel with the independent sector.
I should wish to look further into those matters before I finally decide what action to take. I would also wish to consult further in regard to the precise interpretation of the words, which I believe are perhaps ambiguous, and which perhaps have become even more ambiguous as a result of the noble Baroness's attempt to explain them. On the understanding that I shall seek to return to the matter at a later stage in our proceedings, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 5.49 p.m.
§ Lord Winstanley moved Amendment No. 44:
Page 9, line 13, at end insert—
("( ) that the needs of the deaf are borne in mind and that proper and appropriate use is made of subtitling, signing and other techniques designed to assist people with impaired hearing to benefit from cable programme services.").
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 44. I hope that there is no ambiguity about the 373 drafting of this particular amendment. It concerns a very minor matter which I think has been brought to the attention of many noble Lords and noble Baronesses. It is the whole question of the needs of the deaf in relation to television. In our society there is an increasing number of people with impairment of hearing. The number is estimated at various levels, but whatever the estimate, the actual figure is higher because there are many people whose hearing is impaired but who do not actually admit it. A great many people in our society suffer from hearing impairment and require various forms of assistance.
§ Television has pioneered new ground in assisting people with impaired hearing to enjoy and to understand programmes. There are many devices, subtitling, controls on television sets to enable one person to have a higher volume through the hearing piece than that to which others are exposed and, more recently, language signing of programmes. A programme that I have presented for 15 years for Granada Television in the North, an information programme, was the first programme to be regularly signed. A lady appears in a little box in the corner signing the programme which gives advice to citizens. The same lady signed the party political conferences this year and recently came along to assist with signing before a judicial hearing in your Lordships' House. It does not interfere with the enjoyment or understanding of programmes for people whose hearing is not impaired. But it greatly assists those who are deaf to understand what is going on and what is being said. I accept that this can be done in some programmes by subtitling. I am merely saying that many means are available.
§ All of us, I am sure, would like to feel that the Cable Authority and the cable companies bear in mind the needs of the deaf. This amendment merely spells out that the needs of the deaf should be borne in mind and that proper and appropriate use should be made of subtitling, signing and other techniques designed to help those with impaired hearing to benefit from cable programmes.
§ Lord Mishcon
I should like to associate my noble friends with the amendment that has been moved by the noble Lord. I was surprised to learn in the literature from the organisation at the BBC looking after the deaf that as many as 8 per cent. of the viewing population suffer from deafness. That is a moving percentage. I do not know whether members of the Government Front Bench will feel that they are particularly sympathetic to the needs of the deaf in view of the fact they have been so deaf to all the entreaties, amendments and pleas made by my noble friends and myself.
§ Lord Mottistone
As one who is constantly told by his wife that he is deaf, I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, whether this is the only form of impairment that needs to be picked out in the amendment. I support thoroughly the concept of making special allowance for those disabled in any way, but I do not understand why the deaf are picked out.
They ae picked out for the simple fact that they cannot hear. They can see. I do not think that one can do anything in relation to television in order to assist those who are blind to see. But to replace the ability to hear by methods of signing is something that can be done. I cannot think of other disabilities that would need special treatment. My amendment is limited. It asks merely that cable companies, in certain kinds of programme, shall bear in mind that there are techniques which can assist deaf people to understand fully the content of a television programme. We wish this to be borne in mind and those techniques to be used where appropriate.
There is no requirement that one channel should specifically be made available for the deaf so that all its programmes are subtitled. This amendment is designed merely to bring to the notice of the Cable Authority and the cable operators, when they come into business, the fact that there is a large section of the public who, without special help, cannot fully enjoy or appreciate television but who, with the techniques available, can get a great deal of enjoyment, and indeed full benefit, from the programmes. I seek no more than that. I cannot, in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, think of any other category. There may be other kinds of disability but I cannot think of any that would need special assistance in order to enable the person to understand or follow the television programme.
Earl De La Warr
I believe that there could be something of value in an amendment such as this were it not for the fact that the noble Lord includes it in the clause which requires that the authorityshall do all that they can to secure",whereas he states that the authority should draw attention to the usefulness of these things. That would make it easier.
§ Lord Harvington
I had the good fortune to be lucky in the draw for a short debate about a year ago in which the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, spoke. During my research for that debate, it became clear to me that 40 per cent. of the population have some deafness disability. If one looks around the Chamber now and considers that 40 per cent. of us have a hearing disability of some kind, that would be my answer to the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone. Although there are, no doubt, other disabilities, the overwhelming necessity to aid the partially deaf cannot be disregarded.
§ Baroness Trumpington
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, and other speakers for providing us with this opportunity of discussing the needs of the deaf. The Deaf Broadcasting Campaign has achieved a great deal in recent times in drawing attention to the particular concerns of the deaf. A delegation came to see my right honourable friend the Minister of State in the autumn to put across its views on the implications of cable for the deaf. I well remember my own concern for the needs of the deaf when I was involved in the great breakfast TV franchise fight some time ago. Indeed, it is so obvious. All one has to do is to turn off the sound on the television set to be in the position of the deaf. Having 375 stated those words of enormous sympathy, I still must resist this amendment on behalf of the Government.
The broadcasters are making increasing provision in their services for the special needs of the hard of hearing. While there is always more that can be done, I believe that what has already been achieved reflects great credit on the broadcasters and on the Deaf Broadcasting Campaign. There is, of course, the use of teletext on the existing services to provide subtitles for the deaf and the hard of hearing. Both the BBC and the IBA have been building up the amount of subtitling provided by teletext, and I understand that over the next five years they plan to subtitle all the major prerecorded programmes broadcast at peak hours. This will be of great benefit to the deaf. I can assure the noble Lord that viewers who have access to the broadcast services by cable will be able to receive teletext signals provided that they have the necessary recording apparatus in the same way as viewers dependent on off-air reception.
The BBC and the IBA accept their responsibility to provide subtitling and other services for the hard of hearing, which all, it must be remembered, involve significant expense, as part of their duties as public service broadcasters. Cable will not be public service broacasting and it would not be consistent with that approach if cable were to be required to provide this or that type of service for particular groups with special needs, important though we all recognise them to be. In answer to those who have queried the remark of my noble friend Lord Mottistone about other groups, there are indeed other groups. There are, for instance, the partially sighted who very much came into our discussions at the same time when I was involved with breakfast television. I mention that only because I have personal experience of the matter.
This does not mean that the Cable Authority itself will not be able to encourage services for the deaf. There is nothing in the Bill to preclude this, and Clause 6(2)(a) requires them during the licensing process to take into account the range and diversity of the services proposed. I am sure that the authority will wish to take into account applicants' proposals for specialised services such as those from which the deaf will benefit. I remember well, if I may say so, the consultation meetings when the public were present and the representations which were made both from the deaf and the blind, and I am quite sure they had a very strong effect on the IBA, who were interviewing the various applicants.
In addition, it is a mistake to overlook the consideration that up to a point it will be in the interests of cable companies themselves to cater for the needs of all interests and all their potential customers. Cable is going to have to be sold to people. The public are going to need persuading to part with their money, and if cable operators are going to succeed in persuading the hard of hearing to part with theirs—and we have been told how very many deaf people there are, so the programmes will have to be attractive to them from a listening point of view—they will have to provide them with services which they will value.
The Government do not think that a statutory requirement would be appropriate. We believe that the interests of the deaf will be taken care of both by 376 the continuing provision of the broadcasting services which cable operators will have to relay, and by the ordinary pressures of consumer demand which will make it in the cable companies' interests to meet the needs of all their potential subscribers.
I hope that I have not shown any lack of sympathy. I hope it is clear that I am full of sympathy for anybody who is deaf; I am deeply sympathetic with their difficulties, but I do hope that the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.
I really would be misleading your Lordships' Committee if I were to say I was wholly satisfied by the reply I have received from the noble Baroness, and I am bound to say that there are none so deaf as those who do not wish to hear.
I am not suggesting for a moment that the noble Baroness is not sympathetic to the needs of the deaf; she has made that utterly clear, and I assure her that I accept that wholly. But what I do say is that it seems utterly clear that she is determined there are going to be no changes whatsoever in this particular Bill. I think that is rather regrettable because the amendment is really very much more advisory than anything else. It would lay no great burdens on anybody.
The noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, said this was too onerous in that it required a duty to do all they could to secure that the needs of the deaf were borne in mind, and that proper and appropriate use was made of subtitling, signing and other techiques designed to assist people with impaired hearing to benefit from cable programme services. That does not mean they have to be used all the time. It does not mean there has to be a massive investment. It is a minimal thing to do occasionally but there are certain programmes, particularly ones offering information, where the information is vital. In those cases, I accept what the noble Baroness says: it is likely that an enlightened cable company may seek to do this as a sensible operation and as good business.
I really do not see why the Government should be so resistant to the idea of putting any words of this kind in the Bill but merely make the assumption that the authority w ill do it. If the Government agree with the principle, why cannot they accept the principle and say if they do not like my drafting or the place in which it appears in the Bill? If that is so, can they not devise some other drafting or perhaps find some other place in which to put it? I think it is not enough merely to leave it and say: "No, it will all be catered for, we are all very sympathetic to the deaf: the Cable Authority is going to be very sympathetic and the cable companies will wish to do everything they can".
I do not think it will be very helpful to push the Committee to a vote on this particular issue at this stage, but I think it is right that I should make it clear to the noble Baroness that I am not wholly satisfied with the assurances I have had. I will, therefore, consult with others in all parties and in all parts of your Lordhips' Committee who take a great interest, and then I will decide whether to return to the matter at a later stage. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 9 agreed to.377
Lord Aylestone moved Amendment No. 45:
After Clause 9, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Local advisory committees.
§ . Following the award of a licence the Authority shall appoint local advisory committees in respect of all localities for which cable television services are provided, and such local advisory committees shall be appointed for one such locality or two or more such localities.").
§ The noble Lord said: Under the broadcasting Acts which set up independent local radio stations, the IBA were required to do very many things, and among them were required to set up advisory committees for the independent radio stations. Having given a franchise to a company in an area, they immediately got together within the area a group of people knowledgeable about the area who were likely to listen to radio when it was on the air, but who were certainly conversant with television.
§ These small groups of local people, called advisory committees, began to function almost immediately the franchise was granted, and were of immense help to the newly appointed franchise-holders. They were able to tell them the sort of things which were happening in the area, what the local needs were, what the local sports activities were and how best to cover that area. This was in the case of independent local radio. There is no mention in the Bill that is now before us about a similar situation applying to cable. The Cable Authority are not required under the Bill as it is now before us to do anything of that sort. My view is that the position is not dissimilar.
§ Immediately on the grant of a licence to a company within an area they would find a great deal of help—even 12 or 18 months before they began to send programmes down the line—if they could hear the views of local people as to the sort of things the area would like cable to cover in addition to entertainment programmes. In addition to that, of course, once cable was being used within the area and they had a number of customers, the information from local people would be more valuable still.
§ I cannot conceive that what was required of television with national committees, and of radio with local committees, could not be equally as helpful to cable under the Cable Authority. I beg to move.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Lord Ardwick
When I read the noble Lord's amendment. I immediately endeavoured to find out whether the same thing had been done before local radio. I am very glad to learn that it was. It seems to me an immensely practical and useful suggestion, and I should have thought that a cabling company would eagerly seize this idea and find that it would get great help in the district in which it was operating.
The Lord Bishop of Wakefield
I support the amendment which the noble Lord, Lord Aylestone, has moved. I am sure that anything that can be done to increase the sense of involvement and accountability between those who are granted the franchise and the community which they are going to serve can obviously only be beneficial to the character of the service. In another context I have had the honour of serving on one of the BBC's regional advisory committees. It is quite clear from the content of the 378 meetings and the sense of involvement between the broadcasters and the local community how much those who serve on these committees are consulted by members of the community to which we belong.
I slightly regret that in Clause 5, which already stands part of the Bill, there was nothing to provide for holding public meetings before a franchise was granted or any demand that the authority should give reasons why it should award a franchise. I think the advantage of having a local advisory committee would go a very long way to repair those deficiencies and increase the sense of commitment which the local community would have to a cable franchise holder.
Earl De La Warr
I should like to draw attention to a very basic difference between broadcasting and cable. First, one does not buy broadcasting; one buys one's set and listens to or looks at what they give you. In the case of cable, the market place is there to let the cable operator know whether people like the product or whether they do not. That is a fundamental difference. Secondly, I suppose it is open to cable companies to appoint advisory committees to advise them if' they want to do so. But that is not what the amendment says. It says that they shall have these things thrust upon them. For that reason I dislike the amendment.
While I am on this subject, I must tell your Lordships that the bright sparks in the consortia to which I belong said in their application—greatly against my advice—that they were going to appoint an advisory committee. To me that is absolute anathema, because I am rather old-fashioned, and I shall tell your Lordships why I am old-fashioned. I rather like to let the market place tell me whether the public like the goods or services that I provide.
Will the noble Earl tell the Committee if the same people have advised him on how to vote should this amendment be pushed to a Division?
I wondered whether the same people as have told the noble Earl that they are going to set up a local advisory committee have also advised the noble Earl on how to vote if the amendment is pushed to a Division.
§ Baroness Trumpington
I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Aylestone, for giving us the opportunity to discuss how the Cable Authority might keep in touch with local opinion. I listened with interest to the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Wakefield. The advisory committee has been used as a means of giving public service broadcasting roots into the community it serves, and the committees set up under the Broadcasting Act have done much useful work in advising the IBA in the exercise of its duties, particularly, as has already been said, in local radio.
What we have to decide, however, is whether the rather different circumstances of cable require us to impose on the Cable Authority the obligation to set up 379 advisory committees. We need to consider what, in the authority's functions, needs general arrangements of this kind or, more especially, the advice of representatives of various interests, such as consumers, which we have already debated to some extent in the context of the membership of the authority itself.
I was grateful for the points made by my noble friend Lord De La Warr. It seems to me that there is no reason why in every case legislation concerning cable television should be a carbon copy of the legislation agreed for the IBA. Cable is not public service broadcasting, and we need to consider carefully before we decide to place obligations on the Cable Authority similar to those which apply to the broadcasters.
Nothing in the Bill will prevent the Cable Authority from setting up committees to advise it on particular aspects of the exercise of its powers. If it considers advisory committees will be useful, it will be free to appoint them. I do not wish anything I say to be interpreted as suggesting that the authority should not have advisory committees. But I do suggest that we should leave the authority to decide for itself whether advisory committees will help it carry out its tasks.
What will those tasks be? Essentially, they are of three different kinds. First, the authority will be responsible for granting licences for the provision of cable programme services and, in the case of prescribed diffusion services, for deciding which applicant should be chosen to serve a particular area. This is clearly a case where the authority needs to take account of local needs and opinions: but Clause 5(3) already requires it, before issuing a licence, to ascertain the opinions of the public in that area and to encourage comments and suggestions by members of the public there. Moreover, it must consult the local authority as well, as required by Clause 5(4). This does not seem to be a case where it needs in addition a local advisory committee, and indeed the amendment in the Marshalled List requires committees to be set up only after a licence has been issued.
The second task is to draw up general rules which are to apply to cable programmes, including for example the code on violence under Clause 10 and the advertising code under Clause 11. But this is essentially a national function, and it is not self-evident that local committees would have any part to play.
Thirdly, the authority will be responsible for exercising some oversight of the programme services provided by cable operators. It is right to emphasise, however, that the Bill is framed on the basis explained in the White Paper, that cable should be substantially free to respond to market forces and that the authority's role should be reactive rather than proactive. It is in this area that the Cable Authority's functions will differ most from the IBA's, and the fact that the IBA obtains valuable help from its local advisory committees for independent local radio is, I suggest, a poor guide to the future of cable.
It will not be part of the authority's function to guide and influence cable operators in the kind of programmes they provide, and to press them to offer material which the authority judges is what the 380 consumer wants or ought to have. Before it issues a licence, the authority will judge which operator can best serve that area; thereafter, the authority will want to assure itself that the operator is not going back on his promises and that he is not contravening the conditions of his licence. Beyond that, the authority has no positive role at all. In those circumstances, it is far from clear what the function of local advisory committees would be. Indeed, to insist that the authority should set up local committees of this kind seems to imply a relationship between the Cable Authority and its licensees which is scarcely consistent with the light regulatory touch which was recommended by the Hunt Report and which the Government accept as right.
The fact that the Cable Authority will need to satisfy itself that the operator is providing the services he promised when he applied for his licence does not in itself seem to necessitate a local committee to advise it. Certainly the role of such a committee would be much more limited than that which exists in local radio. But the Cable Authority might decide that some form of local committee would be the best means of monitoring local services, or it might equally decide that this function could be exercised efficiently without formal local structures of the kind proposed by the amendment.
I think that I have gone on quite a long time about this subject—certainly long enough to make perfectly clear the Government's intentions. I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.
§ Lord Aylestone
The noble Baroness explained a great deal, but she did not really answer many of my questions. The fact is that, in addition to providing an income (and eventually, we hope, some profit) for the cable licensees, there is another duty, and that is to provide a service to the consumer, and it is in the consumer that I am interested at the moment. I made the point that the word "following" appears in the amendment. As soon as the licence has been granted I am sure that the licence holders—who, after all, are in business—would be anxious to hear from the local people, in an advisory committee type of way, what is of importance in that area. I cannot for the life of me see why the Government think that what is worthwhile in independent radio is not worthwhile in cable. For that reason, I am afraid that I cannot withdraw the amendment.
Earl De La Warr
I had thought that perhaps I had helped the noble Lord with that point, but let me take it one stage further. Nearly all modern systems will be both interactive and addressable. A great deal of thought goes into very advanced forms of market research, making use of the interactive facility. This was started many years ago by Warners in Columbus. Ohio, and they have used it for a long time. If one has an addressable system, one can get right down to cases and find out what individuals think.
§ Baroness Trumpington
I think that I answered the noble Lord, Lord Aylestone, when I said originally that there is nothing to stop people from forming local committees. The noble Lord has made clear his intentions, but I did say that cable television was not a public service and that it is different from local 381 broadcasting, as the noble Lord knows far better than 1. But as he has made his intentions clear, obviously I shall not be able to persuade him, and I suggest that we put the matter to the test.
§ 6.21 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 45) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 54; Not-Contents, 90.382
|DIVISION NO. 2|
|Ardwick, L.||Kirkhill, L.|
|Aylestone, L.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.|
|Banks, L.||Lockwood, B.|
|Beswick, L.||Longford, E.|
|Birk, B.||Lovell-Davis, L.|
|Briginshaw, L.||Mishcon, L.|
|Brockway, L.||Molloy, L.|
|Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.||Nicol, B.|
|David, B.||Phillips, B.|
|Dean of Beswick, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.|
|Diamond, L.||Rochester, L.|
|Ennals, L.||Ross of Marnock, L.|
|Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.]||Seear, B.|
|Hall, V.||Serota, B.|
|Harris of Greenwich, L.||Shinwell, L.|
|Hill of Luton, L.||Stoddart of Swindon, L.|
|Houghton of Sowerby, L.||Taylor of Blackburn, L.|
|Howie of Troon, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Hughes, L.||Tordoff, L. [Teller.]|
|Irving of Dartford, L.||Underhill, L.|
|Jacques, L.||Wakefield, Bp.|
|Jeger, B.||Wallace of Coslany, L.|
|Jenkins of Putney, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|John-Mackie, L.||White, B.|
|Kagan, L.||Winstanley, L.|
|Kennet, L.||Wootton of Abinger, B.|
|Airey of Abingdon, B.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.|
|Ampthill, L.||Harvington, L.|
|Avon, E.||Henley, L.|
|Bessborough, E.||Hives, L.|
|Birdwood, L.||Hornsby-Smith, B.|
|Blake, L.||Howard of Henderskelfe, L.|
|Boston, L.||Hunt of Tanworth, L.|
|Brookes, L.||Hylton-Foster, B.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Kilmany, L.|
|Bruce-Gardyne, L.||Kinnoull, E.|
|Carnegy of Lour, B.||Kitchener, E.|
|Carnock, L.||Lawrence, L.|
|Cathcart, E.||Lindsey and Abingdon, E.|
|Cockfield, L.||Long, V. [Teller.]|
|Colwyn, L.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.|
|Constantine of Stanmore, L.||Lyell, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||McAlpine of Moffat, L.|
|Daventry, V.||Macleod of Borve, B.|
|Davidson, V.||Margadale, L.|
|De La Warr, E.||Marley, L.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Massereene and Ferrard, V.|
|Digby, L.||Maude of Stratford-upon-Avon, L.|
|Elton, L.||Merrivale, L.|
|Faithfull, B.||Mersey, V.|
|Fraser of Kilmorack, L.||Molson., L.|
|Gainford, L.||Morris, L.|
|Glanusk, L.||Mottistone, L.|
|Glenarthur, L.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Greenway, L.||Munster, E.|
|Murton of Lindisfarne, L.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Napier and Ettrick, L.||Strathcarron, L.|
|Newall, L.||Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.|
|Nugent of Guildford, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Onslow, E.||Swansea, L.|
|Orkney, E.||Swinfen, L.|
|Pender, L.||Swinton, E.|
|Renton, L.||Teviot, L.|
|Rodney, L.||Teynham, L.|
|St. Davids, V.||Trumpington, B.|
|Saltoun, Ly.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Sandford, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Selkirk, E.||Whitelaw, V.|
|Sempill, Ly.||Wynford, L.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ Clause 10 [Programmes other than advertisements]:
§ [Amendments Nos. 46 and 46A not moved.]
§ Clause 10 agreed to.
§ 6.30 p.m.
Lord Mishcon moved Amendment No.47:
After Clause 10, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Prizes and gifts.
§ .—(1) The Authority shall do all that they can to secure that nothing is included in any programme included in a licensed diffusion service, whether in an advertisement or not, which offers any prize of significant value (whether competed for or not) or any gift of significant value, being a prize or gift which is available only to persons subscribing to the service which includes that programme or in relation to which any advantage is given to such persons.
§ (2) Without prejudice to subsection (1) above the Authority shall do all that they can to secure that a programme (other than an advertisement) included in a licensed diffusion service—
- (a) shall not include anything which offers any prize of significant value (whether competed for or not) or any gift of significant value unless—
- (i) the value of the prize or gift does not exceed an amount previously approved by the Authority for that prize or gift in relation to that programme, and
- (ii) the aggregate value of all such prizes and gifts offered in the programme does not exceed an amount previously approved by the Authority for that programme; and
- (b) shall not include anything which offers any prize or gift of significant value in connection with a game, competition or test of any kind unless the rules governing the conduct of the game, competition or test have been previously approved by the Authority.
§ (3) Subsections (1) and (2) above shall not be taken to apply to a programme by reason only that in it there is broadcast a sporting or other event or competion not organised for the purposes of the programme.").
§ The noble Lord said: I wonder whether I could take the Committee shortly through the purpose of this amendment. The Committee will remember that the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, clearly said—and I think this was accepted generally by the Committee—that the cable companies should not have any advantage which was certainly an unfair one over independent television. I believe that your Lordships would subscribe to that view, certainly in regard to matters of advertising and in regard to an unfair way of competing for contracts or for public viewing. The amendment follows closely the wording of Section 7 of the Broadcasting Act 1981, which has, as an indication as to its meaning in the margin of the statute, "Programme prizes". Precisely the same provisions in general appear in this amendment.383
What the amendment means is that the cable companies will not be able, if this amendment is accepted, to do what the independent television people cannot do, and that is to offer prizes,
to persons subscribing to the service which includes that programme or in relation to which any advantage is given to such persons".
That applies whether or not the programme is in an advertisement programme.
If your Lordships will turn to subsection (2) of the amendment, it will be seen that in regard to programmes other than an advertisement a prize is not to be included of any
significant value (whether competed for or not)…unless—
Then, paragraph (b) deals with the question of,
a game, competition or test of any kind unless the rules governing the conduct of the game, competition or test have been previously approved by the Authority".
It may well he that there will not be the co-operation and co-ordination which we hope there will be in regard to advertising, or the consultation with the BBC and the Independent Broadcasting Authority, and especially in those circumstances a clause of this kind should obviously be in the Bill. I would emphasise that now that there is the go-ahead for sponsored programmes this clause becomes all the more necessary.
§ May I repeat before I sit down that this is not a new clause thought up to be a burden upon the cable companies: not a bit. It is a burden which Parliament placed in the Broadcasting Act on independent television because it thought it was proper for that burden to be imposed and that safeguard to be imposed. This amendment merely calls for the same treatment for the cable programme operators. I beg to move.
§ Lord Mottistone
I do not understand why the noble Lord wants to restrain these prizes in this way. I do not see what is wrong with competition with the broadcasting authorities, because everybody is going to have to carry the broadcast channels whether or not they want to, and people will be able to receive the broadcasts through their ordinary receivers which presumably they will still have. I do not see why they have to be all-square with it, and I do not see why there is any particular merit in restraining prizes. Is the noble Lord seeking to prevent people from doing frightfully well on prizes? Is it right that the football pools should pay such vast prizes? I do not see the logic behind restricting prizes in this way. Could the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, explain this?
§ Lord Mishcon
In regard to advertising, this limitation was imposed upon independent television in order to see that improper inducements were not made which were not deemed to accord with proper advertising standards. In regard to programmes which do not constitute advertising, it was thought improper that programme viewers should be "bought". It is particularly important that they should not be 384 "bought" as between the cable operators and independent television when independent television, as I pointed out, is burdened by this limitation.
The noble Lord's point would have been much clearer if he had opposed, had he had the opportunity to do it, the clause in the original broadcasting Bill which dealt with independent television. But Parliament in its wisdom decided that this was a proper limitation to impose, and I am merely asking that the same limitation should apply to the cable operators.
§ Lord Mottistone
I do not understand why it has to be the same limitation. It seems to be a non sequitur that the two have to be treated in exactly the same way.
§ Lord Mishcon
I must not keep bobbing up. I certainly shall not be bobbing up at dinner time, I promise your Lordships. Parliament in its wisdom decided first in regard to advertising that it was improper, and not in accordance with proper standards, for prizes to be awarded on independent television by advertisers. The noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, is good enough to indicate that he understands that part of it, and I rather gather would agree with it. At least I have a vote for subsection (1) of my amendment.
Now may I turn to subsection (2). It was also thought that it was not proper competition as between the independent authority and the BBC that prizes for those who are listening to that particular programme of the independent television should be awarded to those viewers. In exactly the same way I am saying that if independent television cannot compete unfairly in that way with the BBC, so should cable operators not be allowed to compete unfairly with the BBC and independent television.
§ Lord Elton
I am going to be left in suspense as to what the right reverend Prelate is going to say. This means I feel rather like Napoleon with Marshal Blucher's cavalry lurking behind the hill in unknown strength. In the early days of independent television the whole question of quiz programmes generated quite a lot of hostility, including hostility from the late Lord Pilkington. His committee began by saying (and I shall read only a couple of sentences from my extract):In relying upon the appeal to greed and fear, and to the pleasure of watching these emotions roused in others because valuable prizes are at stake".It now seems that quiz programmes with prizes are widely accepted and appreciated. They are no longer the sole preserve of independent television, any more than Bingo is restricted to converted cinemas and parish halls.
Nonetheless, the issue raised by the noble Lord in this amendment is still of interest, still important, and still of concern to the Government. When the Government came to draft the Bill this was in fact a specific issue that came under careful consideration. The conclusion they came to as a result of their consideration was rather different from that of the noble Lord moving this amendment.
§ Lord Elton
The noble Lord's conclusion—and he never lacks confidence, as appears from the Marshalled List—is that the Cable Authority should be treated as if it were a public service broadcasting authority. The drafting of his amendment is based, I believe he has said, closely on that of Section 4(4) and (7) of the Broadcasting Act 1981. Those subsections set out the duties of the IBA as regards prizes and gifts, whereas the amendment seeks to impose the same duties on the Cable Authority. The Cable Authority is to be treated, in other words, as though it were just another public service broadcasting authority with all the obligations and responsibilities which that status implies.
But the Cable Authority will not be a public service broadcasting authority and its relationship with the licensed companies will be different from those between the IBA and its licensees, as both the Hunt Report recommended and the White Paper made clear. There are areas in which similar standards can be expected of both cable and conventional TV, but, in our view, this is not one of them.
We all hope that cable television will be of high quality, but the Government do not believe that it should be subject to the same formal obligations of high quality programming as public service broadcasting. This means that the rules for cable channels are bound to be different from the rules for public service channels. If the rules for both systems were to be exactly the same, cable would simply become another branch of public service broadcasting. There is no indication that sufficient demand exists for that to make cable viable. If what I have said leads noble Lords to believe that we think there should be a free-for-all in this respect on cable, let me reassure them.
Clause 10(1) places on the authority a duty to draw up and, from time to time, review a code giving guidance on various matters and to do all it can to secure that its provisions are observed in the provision of licensed services. Subsection (1)(b) already directs attention to approaches to the audience for money by means of appeals. Subsection (1)(c) gives it the duty to deal also with such other matters concerning standards and practice for programmes as it thinks suitable. That will give the authority the powers necessary to deal with any developments that might amount to doubtful practices contrary to the interests of the consumers or, indeed, of the Church.
The matter raised by the noble Lords in their amendment strikes me as being eminently suitable for that sort of interest. They may perhaps feel, therefore, that it is better to leave it to the authority to decide exactly how to deal with the matter in ways suitable to its particular systems rather than to impose on the authority a system specifically designed for another.
§ Lord Mishcon
I thought from what the noble Lord the Minister said that he had secret information that I was to have the support of the Bishops' Benches. I was looking forward so much to certain speeches being made by the two right reverend Prelates, whom we are delighted to see with us at this time. But my prayers in this connection have not been answered.
The Minister has referred to Clause 11. Normally I should have said that that was a very appropriate 386 answer to make to me, provided I had the assurance that there was a time limit in which the authority, after consultation with the IBA, would draw up this code and that there was a provision that, before the code was drawn up, no licences could be granted. Instead of that, if your Lordships will read Clause 11—which is why the Minister has given no answer to this amendment—it will be seen that licences can be granted, that advertisements can go out without any code, there is no time limit and there is no provision that the licence holder cannot go on with advertisements and programmes most unfairly and not in conformity with standards because there is no code in existence.
Having said that, I propose to leave the Committee with the discussion that took place and the answer of the noble Lord, the Minister, and to revert to the matter when we reach Clause 11 so that we may see that Clause 11 is made to fit with the Minister's answer. We can then consider the whole position when we reach Report stage.
I submit that that is a more sensible way than trying to force a vote on what may look to be debating points between the noble Lord the Minister and myself. When there are debating points between the Minister and myself, he has a habit either of winning or, if he loses, of calling in the cohorts from outside so that the argument may be won in that way. In those circumstances, I beg leave at this stage to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 11 [Advertisements]:
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Earl De La Warr moved Amendment No. 48:
§ Page 10, line 15, leave out ("after consultation with the IBA,").
§ The noble Earl said: In moving this amendment to leave out the words, "after consultation with the IBA", I remind your Lordships that the Cable Authority is placed under a duty to draw up and to keep under review a code governing advertising standards. The Cable Authority will, of course, need to consult widely before drawing up its code and no doubt the IBA will be one, but only one, of the various parties that will be consulted.
In my submission, it is wholly inappropriate to make special reference to the IBA. It is extremely important that the Cable Authority should consult all relevant bodies. First, I draw your Lordships' attention to the Advertising Standards Authority, which, to quote a friend of mine in the advertising business,
is a non-statutory authority operating a self-regulatory control system".
§ There are bodies such as the Advertising Association, the Institute of Marketing, the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers Limited and others. Why do we thus pick out the Independent Broadcasting Authority? This question brings me to a matter that was touched on by my noble friend Lord Mottistone, and will be touched on by me now and more than once this evening by others. To me, it smacks far too much of protection of the established order of things. This is not what new media are all about.387
§ Furthermore, cable television will be in competition for the advertisers' pounds with the IBA's contractors and it will not be the only competitor when direct broadcast satellites arrive. Though it may be hypothetical at this moment, I have always believed that we shall move into a time when pre-recorded cassettes that are used on video recording machines will carry advertising as well.
I repeat, why single out the IBA as the Cable Authority's prime advisers, bearing in mind among other things that it is the prime competitor? In short, that is why I strongly urge that we should leave out the sentence:
after consultation with the IBA",
and all that that implies. I beg to move.
§ Lord Ardwick
I hope that the Government will not accept this amendment. I could not gather from what the noble Lord said what his objection is to the IBA and why the IBA should not be consulted. The IBA is profoundly experienced in what will be new territory for the Cable Authority. I should have thought that it had everything to learn from the IBA. I hope the Government will stand by this. There is nothing to prevent the authority from seeking help and advice from the Advertising Standards Association. They can go to all of them: they do not have to consult the IBA exclusively. I would have thought that the IBA would be the first place that a wise authority would go to.
§ Lord Glanusk
As I read this, it definitely says, "after consultation with the IBA"—full stop. Surely, had it said, "after consultation with suitable bodies" it would have been quite all right; but to leave the IBA as the only name is nonsense and it will not necessarily give the authority the best advice available.
§ Lord Elton
My noble friend has drawn our attention to the fact that out of the many bodies concerned with advertising and standards of advertisements, Clause 11(1) singles out the IBA. Under that clause the Cable Authority will have a statutory duty of consulting the IBA before they draw up or review their advertising code but, as my noble friend Lord Glanusk has pointed out, it specifies them and nobody else. Perhaps I might mention to your Lordships that this duty of consultation is, by virtue of paragraph 37(2) of Schedule 3, matched by a parallel duty for the IBA to consult the Cable Authority, so that in future when it proposes to amend its own code it will have to talk to the Cable Authority. So the first thing I wish to say is that this is a reciprocal duty and not a duty imposed upon one party only.
There are two very good reasons why the IBA should be singled out in Clause 11(1). The first is that we believe it would not be sensible for different standards to apply to similar advertisements appearing on the same screen, depending on whether they originated on cable or with the broadcasters. We recognise that the code for advertisements on cable will need to take account of the special nature of the medium, and that means that it will be different in some respects. However, we think it right that the two codes should share the common core envisaged by the White Paper: where there are differences there needs to be a reason for them.
388 The second reason is that in spite of the impressive list quoted by my noble friend, the IBA are the only body entrusted with the statutory duty of drawing up an advertising code. As the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, says, there is nothing to prevent the Cable Authority from consulting other bodies concerned with standards in advertising—for example, the Advertising Standards Authority—before they draw up their code. The "full stop" to which my noble friend Lord Glanusk referred will not have that effect. Indeed, under Clause 11(5) the IBA's existing advertising committee, which is constituted in part by people representative of organisations concerned with advertising standards, will in future advise the Cable Authority as well, so the authority will be receiving advice from a wide range of bodies with relevant experience of and interest in advertising.
I hope that with the motivation I have revealed and the reciprocity that I have explained lies in the schedule which we have yet to come to, my noble friend will not feel that we are acting partially or unfairly and will not seek to press his amendment.
§ Lord Mottistone
Would my noble friend not agree that, although of course it says they can consult anybody they wish and there is nothing specifically to stop them, the authority of the other advice will be much diminished by the IBA's having been picked out specifically in the legislation? They will always be able to say, if the Advertising Standards Association says one thing and the IBA says another, "Ah, but we have to be consulted because that is what it says in the Act of Parliament. We do not care about what other bodies say, who disagree with us, however expert they may be".
I think perhaps it is a mistake to single out one particular authority: and just because it happens to have the experience of advertising in the broadcast medium, that does not mean to say it is the only one that could give the right sort of advice. I should have thought that if people want to get the sort of experience that the IBA has, all they have to do is to pay enough money to hire IBA people to work for them.
§ Lord Mishcon
I hope the noble Lord the Minister will not be seduced by that appeal. I cannot think of a more seductive Member of this Chamber than the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone: nevertheless, I hope that the Minister will not yield to his argument. This is getting to be terribly dangerous. The noble Lord referred to equality of influence of various people or bodies that might be consulted. If indeed his argument were turned the other way and other bodies were to have a greater influence than the Independent Broadcasting Authority, it would mean that the authority is going to be put under precisely the same disability that so many of us fear in regard to its advertising income. The noble Lord the Minister gave the example of the same advertiser being allowed to put out a different advertisement on ITA than on cable, by virtue of the fact that cable was not restricted by the same standards. What we are going to have, if we are not terribly careful, is a weakening of the standards of independent broadcasting and television because they are going to be unfairly robbed of advertising revenue. This is a dangerous course that we may embark upon if we are not very careful.
The Lord Bishop of Norwich
I think I am disagreeing with the Front Benches on both sides of the Chamber; but because it is known to certain of your Lordships that Bishops do live dangerously, I delicately creep forward. I want to ask a moral question of the Minister about this and I do not think I shall have the support of the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, in so doing. If we do not leave out the words "after consultation with the IBA", and if we do not agree to this amendment, are we not putting the IBA into rather the same position that an individual Member of your Lordships' Chamber would be placed in, in terms of having to declare an interest in a particular issue?
Is there not a corporate interest which the IBA find themselves bearing here, simply because they are in competition in certain areas? Therefore, they could be facing moral issues of not stating their corporate interest in this matter by being brought in as a judge, when really they are a fellow partner with the new authority. For that reason, I think there is a certain moral tinge which does rest on the side of the noble Lord who moved the amendment rather than on the Minister or on the Front Bench opposite. With that rather nervous intervention, I will resume my seat on this Bench.
§ Lord Maude of Stratford-upon-Avon
I hesitate to intervene, however briefly, in this rather arcane debate but I feel rather confused about this. It seems to me that the whole question really revolves around what "consultation" means. It seems quite evident that none of the other bodies which my noble friends have mentioned who could be consulted can have any sanctions or any power to impose their will or advice on the advertisers. Does the IBA in fact have any sanctions or any methods of imposing its views or decisions formally on the cable companies or the advertisers? If it does not, it does not seem to me to matter what the Bill says.
§ Lord Elton
What matters is that where there is one television screen in one sitting room, and pictures may arrive on it either over the air from the broadcasting authorities or over cable from cable programme companies, we should not have a markedly different set of rules for one as against the other. Otherwise, as the right reverend Prelate pointed out, interests may prevail which would lead to the advertisements put over by, for instance, cable being more salacious or more improper than those put over the air by the broadcasting authorities.
I suppose that it would be possible to have a third tier above all the authorities to adjudicate between them, but it is our belief that the duties put upon the Cable Authority in the Bill are not such that they will try to outsmart the broadcasting authorities. They are, in fact, enjoined to set up a code of practice to protect public morality and will be doing so under the eye not only of the Home Secretary but of Parliament. Therefore, I do not see any danger of the authorities trying to outbid each other, after an open discussion, by secret decision.
Reverting to my noble friends, with whom I am always anxious to be friendly, but to whom I never wish to offer an opportunity of seduction, for obvious 390 reasons, I have to say that the Government have not, as it were, singled out one at random of a number of people with whom the authority might be required to discuss. They have singled out the only other body with the statutory duty of overseeing advertising that appears on the television screen in the sitting room. It is the only one we have. It will be open to them, in spite of the full stop to which my noble friend Lord Glanusk drew our attention, to discuss with all sorts of other interests, whether they are openly commercial or evidently impartial, and that I do not doubt they will do.
All I want to convince my noble friends of—because it is always just a shade embarrassing to be supported from the other side of the Chamber against arguments coming from behind one—is that there is nothing uneven-handed about this, nor is there anything sinister, nor I honestly believe' is there anything in it that will limit the commercial prospects of the people who will operate under the code that will result from what we propose.
§ 7.3 p.m.
Earl De La Warr
I do not at all share my noble friend's claim that I have rustled up support from the other side. He has, however, continued to give the impression that the IBA is in the position of being primus inter pares. That is the impression he has given to me and it is in that context that I refer again to what was said by the right reverend Prelate. I draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that there is a competitive element here which I do not think is taken into account in the Bill. In the course of its drafting, I believe that this was slipped in and I invite my noble friend to slip it out again, because it has no purpose other than to give a very bad impression.
It is inconceivable that the Cable Authority would not consult the IBA, but we do not want it put in legislation because of the competitive element, and because of the implication that there is an intention behind this to set about protecting the establishment against the new sunrise industry.
§ Lord Elton
The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, accused my noble friend Lord Mottistone of seduction, and my noble friend Lord De La Warr now casts very grave doubts on the parentage of parts of the Bill. This is becoming a thoroughly improper exchange. But I wonder whether my noble friend accepts my proposition that, where there is one screen in one room with pictures coming from sources governed by two different authorities, it would be totally absurd if they were to be regulated on different moral principles. The commercial principles are, of course, important to the balance sheet and the moral principles are important to the viewers, and between us we have to get both right.
If my noble friend accepts that, then it must follow that he accepts that it is not only right and proper but inescapable that the Cable Authority should consult the IBA, because if they do not we shall not arrive at that happy agreement between the two codes, except by the Cable Authority slavishly following whatever the IBA choose to publish, and I am sure that he would not want that. So there must be consultation.
My noble friend's anxiety is that IBA is mentioned 391 in a prestigious part of the Bill. I have tried to explain to him that it gains no extra prestige from that. Its prestige derives from the fact that it is a statutory body, and the only statutory body with the duty of' supervising advertising, and advertising, moreover, that goes onto television screens. I always think that I can get more eloquent each time I get up, but I think that I have been as eloquent as I can be.
The Lord Bishop of Norwich
If it comforts the noble Lord the Minister, he has set my moral qualms at rest. I believe that I see that he is asking for the same quality of advertising, whatever is on the screen. Therefore, he has now settled my moral qualms to the distress, I am afraid, of the noble Earl.
§ Lord Mottistone
Before we leave this stage, may I draw my noble friend's attention to paragraph 100 of the White Paper (Cmnd. 8866)—not now, but afterwards—because I get the general impression that that states that the Advertising Standards Authority should have equal status with the IBA in the whole discussion area of drawing up the code. I think that the Advertising Standards Authority is not mentioned in this part of the Bill and it should be mentioned somewhere.
§ Lord Elton
This is not eloquence; this is just trying to be helpful. What I have done is put on the record, very definitely, that there is no question that the Government are granting a status of primus inter pares to the IBA. I hope that that, at least, is useful to my noble friends when they consult outside this House.
§ Baroness Lockwood
Is it not a fact that the Advertising Standards Authority is a self-regulatory authority of the industry? Is it not also a fact that the Advertising Standards Authority co-operates with the IBA on advertisements, but it does not itself handle them: it passes complaints on to the IBA? In that sense, the Advertising Standards Authority is in an entirely different position from the IBA in this respect.
Earl De La Warr
Before I withdraw the amendment, as I must, I have just one very small parting shot. It is quite clear that my noble friend regards the word "consult" as having an even stronger meaning than I thought. He means consult and, in the final analysis, do what they tell you——
§ Lord Elton
I must refute that; otherwise, it will remain on the record. The consultation is free and it is open to both parties to move to a common position. There is nothing in the Bill, in the White Paper or in the mind of the Government to say that it is the Cable Authority which should move to the IBA's position, and that is plainly the intention of the language in the Bill.
Earl De La Warr
That is the burden of the disagreement between us. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Lord Denham
Before I move that the House do now resume, I think I should say, for the benefit of noble Lords who are interested in this particular Bill, that we shall resume on this Bill at 8 p.m. I beg to move that the House do now resume.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House resumed.