HL Deb 09 April 1987 vol 486 cc1115-7

11.18 a.m.

Lord Gridley

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are satisfied that their proposals for the future of radio broadcasting will not have adverse effects on the existing arrangements.

Lord Beaverbrook

My Lords, the Government believe that the options discussed in the recent Green Paper offer the prospect of significant benefits for listeners, opening up opportunities for an increased range and diversity of services, while at the same time sustaining the public service broadcasting role of the BBC. Both the BBC and the IBA have welcomed the balance which we have proposed to strike.

Lord Gridley

My Lords, while thanking my noble friend for that Answer, may I ask him, in reference to the Green Paper, Cmnd. 92, whether it will not bring excessive competition between radio broadcasters and in particular allow those who have the power to broadcast over the area enjoyed by community broadcasters? Is that really desirable?

Lord Beaverbrook

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his question. In fact there are no community radio stations existing at the moment in this country. In regard to independent local radio, we believe that some of the proposals contained in our consultative Green Paper will help independent local radio companies by raising the profile of radio as an advertising medium and thus perhaps giving the industry a larger slice of the advertising cake.

Lord Mulley

My Lords, although I appreciate that the period for consultation is still running, can the noble Lord give us an indication as to how long after the end of the consultation period it will be before the Government give their proposals, particularly as to the kind of legislation that they will propose to give effect to some of the recommendations in the Green Paper?

Lord Beaverbrook

My Lords, the noble Lord will know that the consultation period expires on 30th June this year. It will be as soon as possible after that, taking into account all the representations, that the Government will wish to bring forward further proposals.

Baroness Birk

My Lords, I appreciate that the consultation period has not yet come to an end, and I hope that we shall have an opportunity to debate the Green Paper in this House. But can the noble Lord give us some idea of how a greatly extended system, as proposed in the Green Paper, which covers national, local and community stations, will be financed in practice? This is not covered—it is just glanced at in the Green Paper—and there is considerable worry about the financing of these new proposals.

Lord Beaverbrook

My Lords, the primary source of finance for any new radio stations, or more radio stations, will be advertising revenues and perhaps other types of revenues, such as subscriptions, or, where local people wish to have a specific service, they might well put together some sort of community contribution to a station. But we see the opportunities for independent radio becoming greater because the stations will be operating under a lighter and less costly regime.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that a number of the smaller areas with independent local radio now are showing signs of financial difficulty because their advertising revenues are not sufficient to pay their way? If he spreads the butter even thinner on the bread, will he not put a number of these valuable stations which are giving a very useful service locally out of existence?

Lord Beaverbrook

My Lords, as I have said, we believe that if we can reduce the cost structure for independent local radio the stations will be more viable than possibly they are at the moment.

Lord Butterworth

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the independent local radio stations are convinced that if national commercial radio is introduced they will suffer a very severe reduction of their national advertising? While many of the bigger stations will be able to recoup that loss by bidding for the franchise of the new national commercial stations, many of the smaller local radio stations which now produce a very valuable local service are convinced that, if the national commercial stations go ahead, they will face bankruptcy.

Lord Beaverbrook

My Lords, as I have already said, the Government believe that a new national independent station could well improve the whole industry. But it is the Government's intention to increase the number of viable radio stations and not to decrease them. I give that assurance to my noble friend.