HL Deb 11 March 1998 vol 587 cc212-3

3.8 p.m.

Lord Thomson of Monifieth asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will make proposals for alternative financial levies on commercial broadcasters.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, the Government have no plans to change the current arrangements for Exchequer payments under the Broadcasting Act 1990. We are considering the future regulation of broadcasting and telecommunications and intend to publish a Green Paper on convergence during 1998. The licensing regime for broadcasting, including Exchequer payments, is part of that overall framework and may well fall to be considered in that context.

Lord Thomson of Monifieth

My Lords, is the Minister aware that I take some consolation from the second half of his Answer to me? Is he further aware that the previous Conservative administration left behind a special tax system for commercial broadcasters which is thoroughly inequitable? The ITV companies pay more than £400 million a year over and above the normal business taxes and there are grotesque anomalies between one company and another as to what payments they make, while BSkyB, with its dominating position in satellite broadcasting, escapes that taxation. The commercial radio companies are similarly conscious of the unfairness of the present system. Is the Minister aware that we hope that the Green Paper will result in a serious attempt by a new government to create a new and fairer tax system for these commercial broadcasters?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I am aware of the criticism which has been made of the regime which was established by the 1990 Act. As regards the Channel 3 companies, some change will take place in the process of the renewal of licences from 1st January next year. But I share the noble Lord's hope that in the longer term what we do about convergence will deal with some other possible anomalies.