HC Deb 16 July 1997 vol 298 c188W
Mr. Sheerman

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what plans he has to ensure diversity, choice and quality in the provision of radio programming in the independent broadcasting sector. [8687]

Mr. Fisher

The Radio Authority is statutorily responsible for licensing and regulating independent radio services in the UK. The Radio Authority is already required under the Broadcasting Act 1990 to do all that it can to secure the provision within the United Kingdom of a diversity of national services, each catering for the tastes and interests different from those catered for by others, and to secure a range and diversity of local services. The Authority is also required under the 1990 Act to facilitate the provision of licensed services which (taken as a whole) are of high quality.

The substantial increase in the number of independent stations presided over by the Authority over the past six years has fostered diversity and choice. In my hon. Friend's constituency, for example, there are now three national and four local independent stations (including the newly awarded small-scale local licence for Huddersfield), compared with none and two respectively. Positive quality is not so readily measured, but worthwhile radio programming is not confined to the BBC; audience figures suggest that the public is satisfied with the output of the independent sector and the Authority actively monitors programming to hold broadcasters to their promises of performance and to maintain standards.

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