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Cable Television

Volume 35: debated on Wednesday 19 January 1983

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what correspondence he has received concerning the non-provision of the S4C service by cable television operators in Wales; and what is Her Majesty's Government's policy on this matter;(2) what responsibilities are placed on contractors who provide cable television services to make available to their customers the full range of services which are generally available for those receiving pictures directly through the air;(3) what responsibilities he has, and under which legislative provisions, for the control and licensing of cable television operators.

Under section 1 of the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949, as amended, the installation and use of wireless telegraphy apparatus require the licence of the Secretary of State. Licences are granted to cable operators to receive and relay sound and television programmes to their subscribers. Such licences customarily require that all television services provided for the area concerned should be distributed on the cable system. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison), then Minister of State, stated in reply to a question from the hon. Member on 17 November,—[Vol. 32, c. 164]—no cable companies in Wales have been authorised to substitute channel 4 UK for S4C programmes. We have since received a letter from Plaid Cymru suggesting that one cable system is nevertheless relaying channel 4 UK instead of S4C. We have received no other correspondence about S4C not being provided by cable operators. Enquiries reveal that in the one instance, which has come to light, the lack of S4C was a temporary measure pending the installation of new equipment. I understand that the default has now been remedied.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will meet representatives of the consultative committee of the Independent Broadcasting Authority in Wales, and of the Welsh Broadcasting Council, to discuss whether official guidelines should be drawn up concerning the use of poll techniques by cable television companies in Wales to determine whether their customers should have the right to receive S4C programmes.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many licences have been issued for the provision in Wales of cable television services, to households, hospitals and other premises; and what approximate numbers of sets is served by each licence.

This information is not readily available from licencing records. Some relevant information from private sources was however published as appendix 15 to the minutes of evidence about broadcasting in the Welsh language taken before the Committee on Welsh Affairs. [HC 28-xvi, Session 1980–81].

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many applications he has received from what companies and in relation to which areas to allow cable television contractors in Wales to carry channel 4 United Kingdom programmes rather than S4C programmes; and what response he has made to any such applications.

We have received one application, from Rediffusion Ltd. Details of the application and of my right hon. Friend's reasons for not agreeing to it at that stage were set out in the reply he gave to a question by my hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Best) on 28 October 1982. We remain willing to consider applications from cable operators in Wales for permission to distribute Channel 4 UK rather than S4C in the light of reliable information concerning the wishes of subscribers.