HC Deb 04 July 1989 vol 156 cc100-1W
Mr. Greg Knight

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a further statement on his legislative proposals for the allocation and ownership of independent radio licences, and for combating unlicensed broadcasting.

Mr. Hurd

Our proposals for the allocation of independent radio licences were set out in paragraph 8.4 of the White Paper "Broadcasing in the '90s: Competition, Choice and Quality" (Cm. 517, November 1988). For national stations they envisaged allocation by competitive tender, subject to a requirement that each service should provide a diverse programme service calculated to appeal to a variety of tastes and interests and not limited to a single narrow format. We now propose that the form of competitive tender for independent national radio licences should in its main essentials follow that proposed for Channels 3 and 5 in my statement on commercial television on 13 June at columns 710–13.

Independent national and local radio licences will be awarded for periods up to a maximum of eight years. The presumption is that on the expiry of a licence the service will fall to be readvertised; but we propose that the Radio Authority should have discretion not to readvertise a service where it believes that this would not serve to broaden listener choice.

Paragraph 8.4 of the White Paper envisaged that no one would be able to control more than one national licence and more than six local licences. These limits will be capable of variation in subordinate legislation. In order to prevent, for instance, one person from gaining control of the six largest local stations we propose that the rules on concentration of radio ownership should be capable of being supplemented, in subordinate legislation, by reference to the coverage or size of stations. We also propose that there should be power for limits to be set in subordinate legislation on degrees of financial interest not amounting to control.

My noble Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and I are considering a range of measures to strengthen the legislation on unlicensed broadcasting. Among these, we propose to broaden the offence in section 1(1) of the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949 of using wireless telegraphy apparatus without a licence, and to make it an offence to advertise on, or supply certain goods and services to, an unlicensed broadcasting station. We propose that these offences should be triable either way, and that on indictment the maximum penalties should be two years' imprisonment, or an unlimited fine, or both. We also intend to strengthen present search, seizure and forfeiture powers.