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Broadcasting: Diversity

Volume 623: debated on Thursday 16 March 2017

We are firmly committed to improving diversity and social mobility in broadcasting, as we are in all other areas of the creative industries. Next week, we will host the first ever formal diversity forum at the Abbey Road Studios, bringing together people from music, film, theatre, broadcasting and sport to build a country that works for everyone.

Will the Minister update the House on the discussions he is having and the progress that is being made on securing minimum levels of access—subtitling, signing and audio description—in on-demand services?

We have made some progress with on-demand services, and the broadcasters do a very good job of making sure that subtitling is available. Technology has obviously changed the way people consume video, and a lot more of it is on-demand, so we are going to introduce rules to ensure that on-demand gets the same sort of subtitling.

In October last year, the BBC “Look North” reporter Danny Carpenter was suspended for making vile comments about the Government, relating them to a Nazi regime. I have written several letters to the BBC to find out how its investigations are coming along, but it has not given me an answer. Does the Minister agree that although we agree with diversity of opinion and views in broadcasting, the BBC should take action regarding Mr Carpenter to prevent the recurrence of such ridiculous bias?

We rightly do not have direct Government regulation of the BBC regarding such matters, and I think that is appropriate. Nevertheless, through the new charter we are introducing Ofcom as the regulator. That will be the case once the Digital Economy Bill becomes law, after which it will be for Ofcom to regulate the BBC, and the BBC’s board will ultimately be responsible for making sure it gets these judgments right.

In a previous DCMS questions, the Minister of State told the House that he had chosen four white males for the Channel 4 board and rejected a well-qualified BAME woman because he rejected tokenism. However, this week the Secretary of State failed to appoint a BBC governor to represent Wales because she could not get her way and appoint a women who was not assessed as the best candidate. Is not the only diversity here that between the Secretary of State and the Minister of State, who thinks he should be the Secretary of State?

No. On the Welsh appointment to Wales, it is a great pity that although the Welsh Government had a representative on the panel who signed off the appointability of the candidate, the Welsh Minister then decided not to appoint. Given that the Welsh Government agreed that the candidate in question was appointable, it would be far better for the appointment to be made.