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Public Service Broadcasting

Volume 532: debated on Thursday 8 September 2011

I do not know whether the Minister is a physics graduate, like I am, but does he expect a slimmed-down BBC to maintain excellent science programmes, such as those presented by Professor Brian Cox, which have been credited in part for the 20% increase in the number of students taking physics A-levels?

It is not for me to tell the BBC what programmes it should make, but I know that Brian Cox’s programmes, which I have seen, have been enormously successful. The BBC’s power to make a difference in this area is significant, and I hope now that it will find a charismatic presenter for a history of computer science, so that we can increase interest in computer science education.

Does the Minister remember when, two years ago at the Edinburgh festival, James Murdoch said that he wanted Sky to replace the BBC as the most trusted broadcaster? He might well recall that. Given the events of the recent weeks and months, can this ministerial team and Government start embracing and supporting the BBC, both at home and abroad, as so many viewers in my constituency do by listening to it?

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the Edinburgh festival, which reminds me that I should have said how pleased all the festival organisers were with the extensive coverage that the BBC gave them. They were full of praise for it. May I also take this opportunity to praise BBC Radio Oxford, which I praised last night in the House and which incorporated my remarks in its breakfast programme jingle this morning?

On public service broadcasting, will my hon. Friend condemn the decision by the BBC to stop broadcasting the Israel Philharmonic orchestra at the Proms? Will he also take this opportunity to condemn those extremists who disrupted the Proms and attacked the orchestra?

I was present at the Israel Philharmonic orchestra’s performance at the Proms. It was an occasion when one realised how wonderful the Proms and the promenaders are. It is salutary to remember that even in 1968, when the orchestra from the USSR was playing at the Proms and the USSR had invaded Czechoslovakia, the music was not disrupted. There should be a separation between art and politics, particularly in this case given the astonishing history of the Israel Philharmonic orchestra, which saved so many Jews from death at the hands of their Nazi oppressors.

What representations has the Minister received from Scottish Ministers about setting up a Scottish digital channel, and what resources and support does his Department intend to give to this fantastic cross-party initiative?

If the hon. Gentleman is referring to the Scottish digital network, I discussed the matter with the Scottish Culture Minister at the Edinburgh festival. I know that she is a strong advocate for it. However, I also know that our plans for local television are as exciting for Scotland as they are for England.