HC Deb 18 December 1996 vol 287 cc590-1W
Sir James Hill

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what are the conclusions of her review of the ultra-high frequency television relay building programme; and if she will make a statement. [10295]

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

The announcement made on 16 April 1991 by the then Home Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker),Official Report, column 131, explained that the Government had agreed with the BBC and Independent Television Commission that the programme of building 25 ultra-high frequency relay stations a year to extend UHF television coverage would be maintained until 1996 when its further continuation would be reconsidered. I have now undertaken that consideration in close consultation with the Independent Television Commission and the BBC, which have jointly administered the relay building programme to date.

I have decided, after careful consideration, in the knowledge that UHF television coverage now extends to 99.4 per cent. of the population, and in the light of plans for the introduction of digital terrestrial television that the formal programme of building 25 relay stations a year should cease. The self-help television scheme, established by the Government in 1980 to assist those communities not eligible for assistance under the relay programme, will remain. The BBC and ITC will continue to give free technical advice to those seeking to establish such schemes in the future. In addition, the BBC and Independent Television Commission will continue to promote improvements in the quality and range of television transmission. They will provide free technical advice to the public on television reception and will in exceptional circumstances consider constructing new television relays to extend terrestrial services.