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Volume 488: debated on Tuesday 24 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what guidance his Department provides for television broadcasters on the use of bad language after the nine o'clock watershed. (255366)

Responsibility for what is broadcast on television and radio rests with the broadcasters and the organisations which regulate broadcasting—the Office of Communications (Ofcom), the BBC Trust and the Welsh Fourth Channel Authority (S4C)—within the overall framework set by the Communications Act 2003 and the BBC Charter and Agreement.

In relation to broadcasting, Parliament has charged Ofcom with maintaining standards, notably to protect children and to protect the general public from harmful and offensive material, including bad language. The Ofcom Broadcasting Code therefore sets out the rules with which broadcasters must comply. Ofcom also produces guidance notes to assist broadcasters in interpreting and applying the Broadcasting Code. In addition, the BBC’s editorial guidelines, under the sovereignty of the BBC Trust, provide clear advice on the standards expected of all BBC content on television and radio. The S4C Compliance Guidelines also provide guidance on the standards expected of all content broadcast on S4C.

Within this framework, it is the broadcasters’ job to make judgements about what individual programmes should contain and the time at which they are broadcast.

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform on arrangements to increase the consistency of regulation of content on television and on the internet; and if he will make a statement. (255478)

The Departments for Culture, Media and Sport and Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform considered the issue jointly when negotiating the Audio-Visual Media Services Directive, which maintains a distinction between the regulation of linear television and television on demand. I believe that such distinctions remain valid for the present, but we recognise that this may not always be the case and keep the matter under review.

Concerns about internet content were considered as part of Tanya Byron’s review of Child Safety on the Internet and fall within the remit of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety which we have established and are also being considered as part of the Digital Britain Report.