HC Deb 09 January 2001 vol 360 c483W
Shona McIsaac

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport when he will publish the final version of the guidelines he uses in assessing BBC public service proposals; and if he will make a statement. [144673]

Mr. Chris Smith

I intend to publish the guidelines, which have been revised in the light of the public consultation, tomorrow. Copies will be placed in the Library of the House.

The guidelines explain how the BBC must meet its obligations under the Charter and Agreement. They make clear that the BBC cannot make material changes to the nature of existing services without properly consulting licence payers and that they cannot establish new national services, or go outside the terms of services which I have approved, without my consent. The BBC cannot make fundamental changes to the nature of existing channels, such as the proposals to change BBC Choice and BBC Knowledge into BBC3 and BBC4, without consulting the public.

Individual scheduling decisions are of course a matter for the Governors, but the Guidelines make clear that the BBC must ensure that its services, including BBC1 and BBC2, continue to meet the standards of content and quality set out in the Charter and Agreement. As I recently made clear over the move of the BBC Nine O'Clock News, I shall be looking to ensure that the Governors perform those duties rigorously. And no changes to those standards of content and quality can be made without the consent of Parliament.