HC Deb 22 July 2002 vol 389 cc697-8W
Mr. Boris Johnson

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what her policy is on spectrum scarcity in the digital environment; and what implications her policy has for the continuation of a statutory ban on religious organisations holding a wide range of broadcasting licences. [71712]

Dr. Howells

Although digital broadcasting has relieved some pressure on spectrum, scarcity remains an issue. The Government's aim is to ensure that limited spectrum is distributed so as to satisfy as many viewers/listeners as possible, and in terms of religious broadcasting, to avoid giving one religion an unfair advantage over another, so that everyone's beliefs are equally respected. The Government's position is set out in the document "The draft Communications Bill—The Policy" which states that, where there is sufficient spectrum availability, restrictions on religious bodies holding licences will be removed (paragraph 9.3.3).

The Radio Authority, which licences all independent radio services in the UK, is currently given discretion under the Broadcasting Act 1990 to award local analogue, satellite and cable licences to religious bodies, subject to compliance with the Authority's codes, and the ITC can also award cable and satellite TV licences to religious organisations.

The draft Bill increases the number of types of licences which religious bodies can hold by giving OFCOM discretion to award local digital sound programme service licences, digital additional service licences, digital programme service licences and TV restricted service licences.

Forward to