HL Deb 14 March 1991 vol 527 cc13-4WA
Lord Kimball

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they intend to lay an order under Section 16(5) of the Broadcasting Act 1990 in relation to independent productions.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Earl Ferrers):

Section 16(2)(h) of the Broadcasting Act requires regional Channel 3 licensees to ensure that in each year not less than 25 per cent. of the total amount of time allocated to the broadcasting of qualifying programmes in their service is allocated to the broadcasting of a range and diversity of independent productions. Under Section 16(5) of the Act, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary is empowered to specify, by order, the definition of "qualifying programmes" and "independent productions". We hope to lay the draft of such an order before the House later this month.

In drawing up the draft order my right honourable friend will have regard to the current voluntary independent production initiative, in which the independent television companies and the BBC are participants, the details of which my right honourable friend the Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Tim Renton) announced on 28th April 1988. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary is however minded to make one important change to the current arrangements. Under the voluntary initiative, an independent producer is defined as one in which no broadcaster has any shareholding. Although he accepts the need to limit the scope for undue influence which may arise through cross-shareholdings of this kind, he believes that the present requirement is too restrictive and is not in the best interests of the independent sector itself. My right honourable friend therefore proposes to permit a broadcaster to have up to a 15 per cent. shareholding in an independent producer, and to apply a similar limit on investment by an independent producer in a broadcaster.

A more detailed set of proposals has been placed in the Library.