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Eu Directive: Television Without Frontiers

Volume 589: debated on Wednesday 6 May 1998

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2.49 p.m.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will delegate to the Independent Television Commission the duty of monitoring the implementation by British broadcasters of the provisions of the European Union directive "Television Without Frontiers".

My Lords, a revised broadcasting directive was adopted by the European Parliament and Council on 30th June 1997 and member states have until 30th December 1998 to implement its provisions. We are currently giving consideration to how best to implement the directive in the United Kingdom. The Independent Television Commission and other relevant bodies will be consulted on this matter and we will announce our intentions in due course.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that informative and helpful Answer. Is he aware that Sky television, despite its financial success, depends more on American imports and makes fewer original programmes than its terrestrial competitors, the BBC and ITV? When the Government consider future arrangements under the revised directive, and given their sensitivity about Mr. Murdoch's media interests, would not the fairest way of dealing with the matter, and the best way of providing themselves with a little protection, be to hand over professional regulation to professional broadcasting regulators?

My Lords, it is the case that the non-compliers tend to be the satellite channels and new start-up channels, particularly in specialist areas. Sky 1 in particular has increased its European content from 8.5 per cent. in 1993 to almost 40 per cent. in 1996. The general trend in this country, as in the whole of Europe, is towards compliance. Under those circumstances, too much concern about the ownership of Sky television would be looking backwards rather than forwards.

My Lords, if the full additional powers are transferred to ITC will all sections of the industry, including BSkyB and other programme operators, be consulted?

My Lords, I did not say that we were transferring control of these matters to the ITC. I said that we were considering how to implement the directive and that we would make our decisions in due course. I also said that we would consult the Independent Television Commission and other relevant bodies, including the bodies referred to by my noble friend.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that that jewel in the crown of the European Broadcasting Union, the Eurovision Song Contest, will soon be upon us and that there are scandalous reports in the press that no Minister of sufficient rank is willing to attend the event? Given that the Prime Minister has had to ban Ministers attending the World Cup, is there not a deal to be made that any Minister who attends the Eurovision Song Contest can also attend the World Cup?

My Lords, I must confess that the BBC invited me to the Eurovision Song Contest in Birmingham on Saturday, but unfortunately I have had to decline the invitation. However, my interest in the World Cup is such that even the promise of tickets to that event would not induce me to attend the Eurovision Song Contest.