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Media Bill

Volume 838: debated on Wednesday 8 May 2024

Committee (1st Day)

Clause 1: Reports on the fulfilment of the public service remit

Amendment 1

Moved by

1: Clause 1, page 2, line 14, at end insert—

“(c) which maintains the high general standards with respect to the programmes included in them, and in particular with respect to—(i) the contents of the programmes,(ii) the quality of programme making, and(iii) the professional skill and editorial integrity applied in the making of the programmes.”Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment seeks to reinstate the requirement in the Communications Act (2003) for public service broadcasters to maintain high standards in terms of content, programming making and professional skills in order to fulfil the public service remit.

My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendments 2, 3 and 7 in my name. I declare any relevant interests in the register, noting that while my own media interests have ceased, I retain many friends in the creative industries. I am grateful for the cross-House support of my cosignatories and to the Citizens’ Forum for Public Service Media and UK Music for supporting my amendments.

The Minister noted at Second Reading that PS broadcasters are governed by laws written over two decades ago. Clause 1 aims to update and simplify the framework by amending Section 264 of the Communications Act 2003 and replacing what the Minister described as

“14 overlapping purposes and objectives … with a new, modernised remit … intended to provide a much clearer sense of our public service broadcasters’ distinctive role ”.—[Official Report, 28/2/24; col. 1119.]

My four amendments share a common purpose, which is to reinstate some of the wording from the 2003 Act, precisely in order to protect the distinctiveness of our PSB content and the qualities that make it, to quote the Secretary of State, attractive to national and global audiences as well as a key driver of our creative economy.

I am not opposed to modernisation; indeed, it would be odd if something written 20 years ago could not benefit from a little updating. My concern is that the process has gone too far, stripping out obligations that are the essence of our public service broadcasting. Section 264(5) and (6) of the Communications Act is replaced by Clause 1(5) of the Media Bill, but aside from Clause 1(5)(a), which protects news and current affairs and references production quotas, very little survives. One paragraph is left to act as a near “catch-all” for what has gone, requiring

“content that reflects the lives and concerns of different communities and cultural interests and traditions within the United Kingdom, and locally in different parts of the United Kingdom”.

This is fine in itself, but reflecting “the lives and concerns” does not equate to the nuanced, if overlapping, requirements of the older Act. What we lose are vital obligations, covering quality, the Reithian principle, PSBs’ fundamental role in the success of the UK’s creative industries as well as the educative value of public service broadcasting—in essence, the very things that distinguish and define PSB.

Amendment 1 would reinstate the requirement to maintain high standards in content, quality of production and

“the professional skill and editorial integrity applied in the making of the programmes”.

These high standards have driven quality products, innovative formats and original programming, under- pinning the domestic success and, in turn, the global popularity of British media productions. The terms of trade paved the way for this success, but it is widely acknowledged that it is the high quality characterising the products of British PSBs that has made a difference in this story. Yet the Bill strips out a requirement for standards, quality and skills. The obligation that remains, to reflect

“the lives and concerns of different communities … interests and traditions”

could be adequately met by a locked-off shot of a talking head, as long as that head talked about a diverse range of subjects and, occasionally, in Gaelic or Welsh.

Removing requirements for standards risks diminishing the experience for audiences and impacting public perception of PSBs. It also risks their global competitiveness and economic value. Of course, reducing production quality reduces the need for skilled creatives, thus further undermining a sector already under threat. It is directly counter to the intention of the Bill.

My Amendment 2 goes to the heart of public service broadcasting, reinstating the Reithian mission, to “inform, educate and entertain”. These three foundational elements are absent from the Bill, in effect limiting the definition of the public service remit to a narrow focus on news and current affairs, regional and children’s content, and original, regional and independent productions. By focusing on “market failure” content that commercial providers need not bother with, it fails to uphold the fundamental principle that the purpose of PSBs is to serve society in its broadest sense with culturally, democratically and socially valuable content across a wide range of subjects.

The Reithian principles have served for almost a century and they represent far more than an outdated belief that “Auntie knows best”. In the words of Professor David Hendy, the Reithian philosophy is a view of broadcasting

“as something that should strive to do more than simply reflect the present state of affairs: it was something that needed to imagine other ways of being in the world”.

Reith’s three little words are vital because they encompass the important possibility of television expanding the interests of audiences beyond their own lives and concerns and into those of others. This is education in its widest sense and, over the life course, it is what many people value about public service broadcasting. In this age of misinformation and disinformation, “inform” and “educate” are surely more relevant than ever.

I jump next to Amendment 7, as it leads directly from this point in that it would reinstate a requirement for PSBs to provide programmes on educational matters, of an educational nature and of educative value. Clause 1(5)(c) of the Bill replaces references to education with the same catch-all, referring to a range of content that

“reflects the lives and concerns of children and young people in the United Kingdom, and … helps them to understand the world around them”.

That is another laudable aim, but it is not the same as content intended to educate or have inherent educative value. The wording in my amendment, which is again lifted directly from the 2003 Act, is important for three reasons. First, it makes a distinction between programmes that reflect the lives and concerns of children and educational programming which might teach them something outside their life experience and beyond their concerns. Secondly, it encompasses the role of public service broadcasting in lifelong learning. Thirdly, it recognises the broader concept of educative value—sometimes concealed in entertainment—which is perhaps a defining feature of PSB content.

GK Chesterton famously noted:

“Humor can get in under the door while seriousness is still fumbling at the handle”.

The same is true of education in the hands of skilled programme makers, insightful commissioners and public service broadcasters. Let us think of Channel 4’s “It’s a Sin”, the “I Am” series, ITV’s “Mr Bates vs The Post Office”, and seminal dramas such as “Cathy Come Home” or “I, Daniel Blake”. I would even point to the educative value of the gossip in soap opera pubs and cafés. When Sonia discussed Section 28 in the Albert Square caff all those years ago, we knew that the issue had moved into a different kind of mainstream. None of those programmes originated in an education department, but they have each been educative, shaping public discourse, dispelling myths, fostering intercultural understanding, changing attitudes and offering us new ways to consider the world and ourselves.

Of course, the responsibility for educational and educative content is distributed across the PSB landscape, with different channels assuming different responsibilities, as agreed in their operating licences. The amendment does not seek to mandate all PSBs to deliver “educational programmes” in any narrow sense, but it seeks to reinstate the fundamental educational purpose and educative value of PSB content. I find it hard to believe that the Government intended to remove any use of “educate” from this clause, and I hope the Minister might be able to reassure us when he speaks to this group.

Finally, Amendment 3 would reinstate the requirement for public service broadcasting to reflect, support and stimulate cultural activity, in all its diversity, in the UK. Since its inception, public service broadcasting has enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with the cultural and creative industries, supporting—and being supported by—a thriving creative sector. This amendment, again lifted from the 2003 Act, enables three societal and sector impacts.

First, it ensures wider and more equitable access to the rich diversity of UK arts and culture by presenting drama, comedy, music, visual and performing arts on screen—a point articulated by UK Music, which supports this amendment. Secondly, it inspires active engagement in arts and culture, stimulating people from all backgrounds and across all ages to get involved as participants, audiences or as a career choice—I look forward to hearing the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, whose Amendment 33 addresses the important issue of workforce diversity in the sector.

Finally, the amendment enshrines a requirement to stimulate and support the development of the creative sector, of new ideas and new talent on and off screen. This has long been a key role of PSBs, which nurture creative talent—writers, actors, designers and composers —and help fill the sector’s skills gap through apprenticeships and training. This talent underpins the sector’s economic contribution to the UK and its commercial success globally.

The Government have put this sector at the heart of their plans for growth, yet, as your Lordships’ Communications and Digital Committee concluded, it is a sector at risk from “policy incoherence”, skills shortages and complacency in the face of international competition and technological change. The workforce has been hard hit by the financial challenges and new restrictions on mobility, with the Film and TV Charity reporting that 45% of respondents are struggling and 71% do not have enough work to stay afloat. The broader cultural sector is still below pre-pandemic levels, struggling to cope with increased energy costs and the loss of international touring.

I know that the Minister is alive to these challenges, and he has personally committed to the sector’s success. Given this, I hope he will agree that now is not the time to cut the creative and cultural sector loose from the protections of the existing legislation. This act of harm would diminish the creative industries and, in doing so, would diminish our public service broadcasters. I would be surprised if a department responsible for both the Bill and the success of the creative sector consciously intended to go down this route.

To conclude, my amendments seek to reinstate important obligations for quality, skills and editorial integrity, for education, for supporting and stimulating the cultural and creative industries, and—of course—the foundational principle that public service broadcasting should inform, educate and entertain. I know that none of the current PSBs would want to abandon these principles and obligations—indeed, they have all voiced support for my amendments—but this legislation needs to set the framework for the future and to recognise these societal and sector impacts as important elements of the PSB role. Without clarity in the legislation on what Parliament expects—and, indeed, what viewers want—neither Ofcom nor Parliament will be able to hold broadcasters to account for delivery.

I do not believe that in modernising the public service remit, government intended the baby to disappear so conclusively down the plughole. Twenty years on, there are surely ways to modernise, streamline and update, but the version before us goes too far, stripping out of legislation the very characteristics that have defined British television and given it the prominent position it holds in the world today.

I hope that the Minister might be persuaded by my arguments and those of other noble Lords, and that he might agree to work with us to find the right balance between baby and bathwater before Report. I beg to move.

My Lords, I rise to support Amendments 1 to 3 and 7, to which I have added my name, and in doing so, I declare my interest as laid out in the register as a board member of Creative Scotland.

The Bill will set the standard for public service broadcasting and is much welcomed. However, the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, has spotted that currently the Bill removes any overarching principles for public service broadcasting, which I believe is a glaring omission.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, has just excellently introduced, the Reithian principles to inform, educate and entertain have been at the foundation of our public service broadcasting for over 100 years. These overarching principles mean that the values, objectives and practices of public service broadcasters are very different from those in the private sector.

A 2022 report by the Ada Lovelace Institute highlighted the importance of the Reithian principles that guided public service broadcasters in what stories they chose to tell, how they were told and presented, and what programmes were commissioned. By extension, they reflect, support and stimulate the nation of the UK in all its diversity and creativity, and therefore support our world-leading creative industries.

Public service broadcasters already face criticism that they do not sufficiently reflect the public whom they serve, which is why the BBC and Channel 4 attempted to address that by moving parts of their workforce and commissioning outside London—but more of that in amendments to come. In contrast, private organisations such as Netflix are designed to maximise market share and shareholder revenue. They use recommendation systems to drive user engagement with their content. They may have some consideration of social values, but public service organisations are currently legally mandated to operate with a particular set of public interest values at their core. Without these amendments, we would lose that. PSBs are building their own recommendation systems to compete in this new digital age but, as the Ada Lovelace Institute report highlights, they will not work unless public service broadcasters are clear about their own identity and purpose.

Amendment 3 reinstates the role of PSBs in supporting our creative industries in all their diversity. The regional production of drama, comedy, music and other visual and performing arts programming plays a vital role in enabling new talent to be heard, local creative economies to be sustained and regional culture to be supported. The UK’s network of PSBs provides a platform for artists, musicians, songwriters, producers, composers and choreographers, enabling them to reach a wider audience and to gain exposure. For example, many people’s first experience of ballet is only through the Christmas Day ballet production. It is a two-way relationship: as government and funding bodies encourage live performing arts companies to make the most of digital viewing opportunities, it is in partnership with the broadcasters that those skills can be developed.

Amendment 7 recognises that education is not solely the preserve of children and children’s broadcasting. Education is a crucial part of the public service broad- casting requirements. Several of the statutory requirements set out in Section 264 of the Communications Act 2003 relate to educational objectives. The noble Baroness’s amendment picks up on them and ensures that PSBs continue to have a role in lifelong learning.

Engaging adults in lifelong learning, to ensure that we continue to invest in the development of crucial skills, is a theme that emerges from numerous Select Committee reports from your Lordships’ House. Lifelong learning is vital to the success of the UK economy. Broadcast media has a unique power and reach as a medium for inspiring adults to take advantage of learning opportunities and can engage unconfident learners who would not normally consider the possibility of lifelong learning. It is therefore essential that requirements are in place that encourage broadcasters to produce high-quality educational programmes and to give them sufficient prominence to attract viewers.

This is our opportunity to ensure that we clearly define public service values for the digital age. Public service broadcasters are already delivering against the Reithian principles and—as far as I understand from my conversations with some of them, and as the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, said—we believe that they have no objections to these amendments. As a group, the amendments seek to ensure that PSBs continue to provide content considered of value to society, if not to the shareholders. I wholeheartedly support them and hope that the Minister will too.

My Lords, I support the first four amendments in this group—Amendments 1 to 3 and 7—and will not repeat what has been said so far in the excellent two speeches. However, I support them for a different reason: I think that they lay the ground for later amendments, particularly Amendments 9, 13 and 32. I will make a serious point about those amendments now, partly because I may have to be on a train when the Committee gets to them.

If we take seriously the Reithian principles to inform, educate and entertain, it means doing what the inscription from George Orwell outside the BBC spells out: that people are enabled to be confronted by, or to hear and see things, that

“they do not want to hear”.

That is essential to public service broadcasting and democratic education. That is also why, when we get to Amendments 9, 13 and 32, it becomes so important to cite in the Bill some of the genres that need to be not just glossed over or assumed but recognised as essential to inform, educate and broadcast in an entertaining way. As was said earlier, not everything has to be serious; often we are informed and educated by being entertained. The reference to “EastEnders” was pertinent: we gauge the public conversation by what we see being conversed about in things such as soap operas.

That is why—I would say this, wouldn’t I?—portrayal of religion is so important and needs to be named, as well as children, the arts, science, and so on. These are often called minority interests but in fact, because something is of interest to minorities does not mean that the majority should not be aware of what those interests are. Whenever we talk about religious broadcasting —I refer to my previous interest as the chairman of the Sandford St Martin Trust for nine years—it is not about proselytism or propagating a particular world view; it is recognising that you cannot live in the world and understand it if you do not understand religion. That should be obvious, given what is going on in the world at the moment. We cannot understand the Sunni/Shia divide and how that impacts on politics in the United Kingdom if we do not get informed and educated about that. So it is not about proselytism; it is about education, social cohesion and so on.

That raises another question that I wish to put at this point. How is Ofcom supposed to be able to report on whether PSBs are fulfilling their remit if there are no metrics in the Bill to say what fulfilment of the remit might be? At Second Reading we were told that it will be left to “flexibility”. Flexibility is as flexible as you want it to be, but it is quite possible to go through a whole year and just have a subjective account of what constitutes, for example, religious broadcasting or children’s broadcasting, which puts it into a narrow silo and which, for example, counts out entertainment as a medium for these things. If there are no metrics, how are we and Ofcom to know whether the remit has been fulfilled? I have been told that it cannot be the number of hours you allot to a particular genre, or a percentage quota. I am very happy with that, but what are the metrics going to be? There have to be some; otherwise, it is totally subjective.

We can speak nobly about creative industries, the creative process and what ought to constitute public service broadcasting, but if we do not put some detail in and nail down those things, name the genres and say something about metrics other than flexibility, we cannot guarantee that the remit is being fulfilled.

My Lords, I rise briefly to support all my noble friend Lady Bull’s amendments.

The world has changed somewhat since about a century ago. My great-grandfather, Stanley Baldwin, who was the then Prime Minister, would go round to Cowley Street, just around the corner, sit down with Sir John Reith, as he then was, and discuss in some detail exactly how best to use the radio to deliver what he wanted to deliver. He was the first Prime Minister to use public sector broadcasting as a means of mass communication to the electorate. Things have moved on somewhat since then, to the extent that I believe that in recent times certain members of the Cabinet have even refused to appear on the public sector broadcaster, which is a strange development, to put it mildly.

I did some research, and I do not think it is an accident that 43% of the 35 speakers at Second Reading referred directly to the issue we are talking about in this group of amendments. If one wants a metric for the depth, strength and breadth of feeling across the House about this set of principles, that is evidence enough.

Public sector broadcasting, which, in a sense, had its birthplace here, has evolved in various forms around the world. The Reithian principles of “inform, educate and entertain” have broadened into a definition that is more generally recognised around the world, and which we can rightly take some credit for. The key principles are, essentially, universality of availability and appeal; provision for minorities, as the right reverend Prelate pointed out; education of the public, as stressed so forcefully by the noble Baroness, Lady Bull; distance from vested interests, which is particularly important in this day and age of mounting disinformation; quality programming standards, which would seem a no-brainer but is not adhered to by all sides; and the fostering of national culture and the public sphere, which is particularly important, not least in an election year.

In his Royal Television Society address in March, the director-general of the BBC highlighted three particular aims he has for the BBC during his tenure. The first is to pursue truth with no agenda, the second is to back British storytelling, and the third is to bring people together. It would be hard to disagree with any of those.

We live in a world where our current Government have, for the last few years, frequently stood at the Dispatch Box and talked—usually when they were slightly on the back foot—about how we are world-leading, world-beating, et cetera. In all my experience of giving praise, praise is at its most effective when it is given to us by other parties. If you go around the world and ask people what they think about our public sector broadcasters, they say they are genuinely world-beating and set the pace for the world. For once, can we accept praise and believe what the rest of the world is telling us, rather than thinking that we can reinvent truth—and do it in a way that may lose what we have? I quoted Joni Mitchell at Second Reading. She did not talk about the baby going out with the bath-water—they use showers in California—but you get my point.

My Lords, I declare my interests as set out in the register, primarily as chair of Peers for the Planet. I rise to speak to Amendment 8 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, who very much regrets that she cannot be here this afternoon.

After listening to the contributions on the first four amendments in this group, I hope—it does not always happen in Committee—that my comments on Amendment 8 will continue the conversation that has been started about overarching principles. This amendment reflects two of the enduring principles which have underpinned our world-class—my noble friend used the phrase “world-beating”—PSB regime: discoverability and trust. Ensuring prominence for public service broadcasters in a digital world is a welcome reform in this Bill. In ensuring that PSB content is discoverable, we need to do what we can to maintain and strengthen public trust in the content that is discovered. I am particularly grateful to the Royal Society for its support for Amendment 8. Its briefing recognises the importance of science and scientific credibility in our national broadcasting framework. It also recognises the risks posed by concerning trends in misinformation.

Amendment 8 would amend the Communications Act 2003 to require Ofcom, in carrying out its functions, to report on the provision by public service broadcasters of accurate and timely science-based public information, and of countering misinformation, including—but not exclusively—on matters such as public health, climate and the environment, which reflect key existential threats of our time.

The effect of Amendment 8 is cross-cutting; it is not genre specific—that is a debate we will have later in Committee. It emphasises the important of good science and the need to tackle misinformation across the totality of PSB output, a theme that has already emerged. It sits alongside a number of other strategic objectives in Clause 1(5) of the Bill, which encapsulate important outputs of the PSB regime, such as “facilitating … well-informed debate”, reflecting diverse cultural concerns and traditions, and the concerns of children and young people, as well as original and regional production.

The need for this amendment is well documented. In its recent report Trusted Voices, the Culture, Media and Sport Committee notes the rise of information on public health issues such as Covid-19, water fluoridation and 5G, alongside climate change. It states:

“The Covid-19 pandemic made clear just how vital it is to be able to access authoritative information. In February 2020, the World Health Organisation warned that, alongside the outbreak of COVID-19, the world faced an ‘infodemic’, an unprecedented overabundance of information—both accurate and false—that prevented people from accessing authoritative, reliable guidance about the virus”.

In this context, the committee emphasised the importance of trusted voices from the scientific community and the role of the media in providing those trusted voices. Recent research from Ofcom further underlines why those trusted voices matter: it found that adults and children “overestimate” their ability to spot misinformation, with “only two in 10” adults being

“able to correctly identify the tell-tale signs of a genuine”

social media post. Worryingly, there is a similar pattern among children.

The damage caused by misinformation in relation to health issues is also well documented. A 2022 study covered in the bulletin of the World Health Organization found that:

“Incorrect interpretations of health information, which increase during outbreaks and disasters, often negatively impact people’s mental health and increase vaccine hesitancy, and can delay the provision of health care”.

This year, a Lancet study indicates that infodemics create damage beyond the negative outcomes for any specific health epidemic,

“such as reduction of public trust in health institutions and economic burden due to increased morbidity and mortality, including costs that take away resources from other public health activities”.

Damage caused by misinformation on climate change is similarly concerning. The Global Risks Report 2024 by the World Economic Forum ranked misinformation as the biggest short-term risk to human society, and extreme weather events as the top long-term risk. Those two findings underline that one of the greatest risks to society is obscuring the facts on climate change. The IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report in 2022 was very clear:

“Rhetoric and misinformation on climate change and the deliberate undermining of science have contributed to misperceptions of the scientific consensus, uncertainty, disregarded risk and urgency, and dissent”.

It also found that misinformation, in turn, is impacting on climate policy decisions.

Everyone agrees that, since the PSB regime was last reviewed, the world has changed. We are now, as the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, said, to look to the future and the effects of that infodemic. The evidence on the level of, and the damage caused by, scientific misinformation is deeply troubling. Some of it can be measured in data, but much of it is much more insidious. Surely the roles of the media regulator and the PSBs in the coming years become more, rather than less, important in responding to this challenge.

Amendment 8 is a proportionate and workable amendment to future-proof the PSB regime. It provides a clear strategic steer on the responsibility of the media sector and its regulator, without being overly prescriptive. The crucial role of science in our cultural and public discourse is something on which most of us agree. If we want a powerful regulator such as Ofcom to take into account the importance of science, and the clear dangers of scientific misinformation, we need to tell it to do so, and we need our public service broadcasters to support trusted voices and be trusted themselves.

I hope the Government will give this amendment serious consideration.

My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendment 33 in my name. I start by apologising for not being able to speak at Second Reading.

Despite good will, good intention and lots of work by activists, the UK’s creative and cultural workforce still does not reflect the diversity of the UK population. Ofcom already undertakes monitoring for PSBs in this area, and this amendment updates the legislative framework accordingly to ensure that this continues. Its own report on diversity and inclusion in broadcasting, published last year, notes that well-intentioned policies are not always actioned. It also draws attention to the fact that there is often a lack of diversity at senior management level in broadcasting organisations across the board. If PSBs are to represent all sectors of the UK’s population, then the workforce should be representative at every level.

Speaking as someone who comes from a television background, I know that diversity is not just about on-screen representation, but those behind the scenes: researchers, technicians, producers, directors, commissioners, and director-generals—there has not been a single woman or person of colour yet in 100 years. Women and people from minority ethnic groups and those with disability,

“remain underrepresented at senior management level: in TV 42% and in radio 36% of senior managers are women, while in TV 13% and in radio 7% are from minority ethnic groups”.

These figures matter, not just because a diverse senior management demonstrates to the workforce a real commitment to diversity at every level, but because a senior management team dictates the culture and practice of the organisations that they run. The more diverse that team, the more it will understand and promote diverse values in their workforce and diversity on-screen.

Despite the positive fact that a higher proportion of people from underrepresented groups are being recruited, broadcasters continue to struggle to retain these staff, with women, disabled workers and people from minority ethnic backgrounds leaving in disproportionate numbers. Ofcom itself has recognised that those broadcasters

“with advanced data collection practices tend to have more representative workforces”.

This amendment will further empower it to specify what kinds of data companies should be required to monitor and publish.

I turn to the other amendments in this group. From these Benches, I congratulate all who have already spoken and the Government on bringing this Bill forward. It is much-needed, and I welcome it, with the caveats already addressed today.

The Government talk about streamlining and simplification. There are advantages to this approach—all of us dealing with bureaucracy and form-filling know that—but there can be oversimplification, and this is what has happened here. These amendments are to ensure that, while we both update and future-proof our incredibly valuable broadcasting media, we do not lose the principles that have made it so unique and internationally renowned. They address the need, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leeds said, for specific genres; I know we will come on to that in greater detail. In particular, they reinstate the Reithian principles—to inform, educate and entertain.

The wording in the Bill as drafted limits the definition of the public service remit and fails to capture the full range of objectives and benefits currently delivered by the PSB system, as well as dismissing what has been a founding principle of public service broadcasting in the UK for more than 100 years, as the noble Baroness, Lady Fraser, mentioned.

At Second Reading, the Minister referred to addressing the concerns of the DCMS committee’s report in its pre-leg scrutiny. The report recommended that the Government should retain obligations on PSBs to provide specific genres of content. The Bill does not. In other words, the Minister has not addressed the concerns —but we do, as set out in the amendments tabled by the noble Baronesses, Lady Bull, Lady Boycott and Lady Hayman, with support, as we have heard, from around the House.

I end up where I began, with Reith and “educate” in Amendment 7, as highlighted by the noble Baronesses, Lady Bull and Lady Fraser. During lockdown, the BBC supplied a lifeline via Bitesize for those who were home schooling. But equally important is shared fun, programmes that entertain children as well as educate them, as the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, mentioned. Just go on a stroll anywhere with my noble friend Lady Benjamin—Floella—and her “Play School” babies flock, united in shared memories. This is true. It is so important for our children, particularly today, that they come together outside the echo chamber that is social media.

Amendment 3 is on “entertain”, in particular the support and stimulation of cultural activity. PSBs, led by the BBC, are the backbone of our world-beating creative industries. The origin of the word “broadcast” is to “sow seed widely”. That is what our PSBs have done. They are pivotal in supporting our creative industries through innovation, skills and training, although, as mentioned in my amendment, work needs be done on diversity. PSB remains essential to UK media. Losing it would leave UK society and democracy worse off. As the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, said, do not harm it.

My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendment 33 in the name of my noble friend Lady Bonham-Carter—I thank her for the name check—which I have put my name to in support. I also support the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, in everything she said in her speech. I declare my interests as set out in the register.

When I started my career in television, more than 50 years ago, diversity and inclusion was not a priority for public service broadcasters. I personally had to break down so many barriers to get diversity on the agenda to where we are today. Thankfully, enormous strides have been taken and the diversity landscape has been transformed, both in front of and behind the camera. Although we have not yet reached what I call “diversity nirvana”, we are well on the way. Broadcasters such as ITV have made huge progress with their diversity and inclusion strategy and should be applauded.

But, talking to people across the industry, the big concern is the redundancies that are sweeping throughout the industry, combined with the slowdown in commissioning, which in turn will lead to many production companies going out of business and will therefore have a negative effect on all the diversity gains over the past few years. As ITV and Channel 4 look for new financial models and tighten their belts, they need to make sure that they do not take their eye off the ball when it comes to diversity and inclusion, because most TV workers are freelancers and work for independent production companies. So perhaps some programme-level data is necessary in order for us to properly see how many of the PSBs’ full-time staff are from under- represented backgrounds and how much of their programming is made by diverse talent from the freelance community.

Adeel Amini, a series producer and the founder of The TV Mindset, said, “While PSBs have certainly been saying all the right things regarding diversity, their impact on the ground level and on the wider industry structure as a whole has been harder to see. In fact, many people from underrepresented backgrounds feel like the industry has gone backwards. Given the current crisis, they feel they are being squeezed out quicker than ever before. This particularly applies to roles at mid and senior level, with not enough representation at decision-making level. It’s important that diversity is seen not as a box-ticking exercise, but something that demands accountability if we are to change the fabric of this industry and make it truly welcoming and inclusive to all”.

Amendment 33 is very much the start of making this process a reality.

My Lords, I shall just slip in on the back of the excellent speech on diversity from the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, because this is a subject very close to my heart. I think Amendment 33, put down by the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, is very telling in calling for public service broadcasters to put forward a diversity strategy.

But I would go behind the amendment and say that, in my experience, it is often the case that public service broadcasters can hide behind a strategy, and a strategy can often be an excuse for inaction. I remember that when I first got involved in the diversity in broadcasting debate, which is now more than a decade ago, I was very struck by the fact that, when we had a meeting with the broadcasters—there were three main broadcasters in play: ITV, BBC and Sky—the BBC came in and said, “We totally get what you’re saying and we’re going to produce a strategy”. ITV came in and said something in between. Sky came in and said “We’re just going to go for 20%”—and it did go for it, in terms of people both in front of and behind the camera. So it is very important that the Minister himself gets very engaged with the broadcasters, because if they simply put strategic documents on his desk, nothing will change.

The other important part of any strategy that is legislated for in this Bill is that it brings forward proper, in-depth statistics about what is happening in broadcasting in terms of diversity and equality. On that point, I would like the Minister to update me on the Diamond network, which was the measurement standard put in place in the mid-2010s in which broadcasters had to report for every production. It gradually included the independent producers, because that was another thing that we discovered made life more difficult, because you then had to go to all the independent production companies and bring them within the system. What has happened to the Diamond system? What kind of statistics is it throwing up that reveal what is actually happening in broadcasting?

I am fully aware that, when one talks about diversity, there may be a small element of the public—perhaps a Venn diagram overlapping with Garrick Club members—who regard talking about diversity as some sort of woke totemic point. But the point is that we live in an extremely diverse country. It is so important—and it really emphasises why this Bill and broadcasting are still so important, no matter how diverse and fragmented broadcasting has become in terms of platforms—that people in this country are able to tell their stories and see themselves represented. Equally, to echo the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, it is not just the people in front of the camera; it is the people making the programmes and making the decisions about what is commissioned. You can have as many diverse people as you like appearing in a television programme but, to be blunt with the Committee, if the people commissioning the programmes are all white, those are the stories that will get told.

As far as the other amendments are concerned, since I am on my feet, I am obviously very much in favour of the principle that the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, put forward about putting back the Reithian principles into broadcasting. But I simply say at the beginning of what will be a mammoth session of days and days of scrutiny of this Bill that I am also very deregulatory minded. It is important for the Committee to be aware as much as possible that broadcasters sit under a plethora of regulations and there must also be a mindset as we debate this Bill that we do not simply put every single issue and principle that we care passionately about—albeit I am now massively contradicting everything I have just said—into the Bill, because technology is changing rapidly, costs are rising, as the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, hinted, and putting a lot of people under pressure, and people need flexibility. To a certain extent we need to trust our broadcasters, for whom quality programme making is to a certain extent embedded.

My Lords, this has been a fascinating debate, capped by a single show of dichotomy from the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey. I am sure that most of us found it both entertaining and enlightening, in line with true Reithian values.

As we draw this debate to a close, we should congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, on tabling her amendments in this group. As we have heard, they broadly relate to the Reithian principles that have under- pinned public service broadcasting for much of the last century. We on the Labour Benches have co-signed Amendments 1 to 3 and 7. Additionally, we support Amendment 8 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, so ably spoken to by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman. We also support Amendment 33 on diversity. On reflection, having spoken to my colleague, the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, I feel that we should have had a separate debate on the whole issue of diversity. It is merited in the context of the Bill. The noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, underlined the importance of workplace diversity, as referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter. There is much to think through about what we see and how it is measured to ensure that our public service broadcasters reflect the diversity of our great nation.

I turn to the Reithian principles. My honourable friend Stephanie Peacock in another place said that she welcomed the attempts to simplify the remit of PSBs. I made a similar observation at Second Reading. As we have heard, a number of commentators have argued that this may have the unintended consequence of leading to rather more restricted content. The Communications Act 2003, which this part of the Bill seeks to update, gave a fair expression of the PSBs’ Reithian principles. Over time, these have become partly enshrined in particular genres. These amendments attempt to take the debate beyond genres and to talk to the issue of the fundamental purpose of public service broadcasting, in particular the purpose of broadcasting in a multimedia world now tackling the challenges of the digital age and digital content.

At Second Reading I said that, while the Bill was very welcome—it continues to be very welcome—and for the most part highly supportable, it seemed to lack an overarching purpose and principle: an abiding vision, if you like. As we have heard, Lord Reith believed that PSBs should “inform, educate and entertain”. The 2003 Act sought to flesh out what that meant. Labour enshrined those principles in legislation. In that regard, it did a more than serviceable job. This new legislation seeks to do it slightly more flexibly. Flexibility is one thing, but I think we need firm statements of principle and purpose. These amendments move to set Reithian standards and values in a more modern context.

We want public service broadcasters to retain high standards of content. We want them to maintain high- quality production and editorial integrity, as referenced in Amendment 1. We want to see content that meets the Reithian dictum of informing, educating and entertaining, while recognising the role of the sector in stimulating, reflecting and supporting the cultural and creative industries.

Finally, these amendments take us to the educative purpose of public service broadcasters and help promote a culture that values learning as a lifelong activity to serve all. Together, one could paraphrase a sort of John Prescott-ism and place old-style Reithian values in a modern setting. For that, and for the other reasons I have set out, we are very happy indeed to support this group of amendments. We hope to receive some words of encouragement from the Minister. I do not think public service broadcasters will object at all to this renewed obligation. It does much that will help Ofcom in its periodic reporting on this aspect of the public broadcasters’ remit.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, for starting our deliberations in Committee in such a careful and considered way. We have already had allusions to Chesterton, Orwell and Sonia from “EastEnders”, so we are off to a good start.

Before I turn to the amendments to which other noble Lords have spoken, perhaps I should say a little on the two government amendments in my name in this group. Amendments 18 and 35 are minor and technical. Amendment 18 provides additional clarity that, for the purpose of calculating the maximum financial penalty to which a public service broadcaster may be subject, the qualifying revenue of the non-UK-based on-demand programme services it provides should be determined with regard to the same provisions as its UK-based on-demand programme services. Amendment 35 changes Clause 27 to make clear that Schedule 2 contains amendments relevant not only to public service broadcasters but to Part 1 in general.

I turn to the amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, and others. Let me start by addressing the legacy of the late noble Lord, Lord Reith, which was referred to a number of times. As we have heard, in an act of great foresight, Lord Reith developed the principles that still guide the BBC today, through its mission to produce high-quality and impartial content that informs, educates and entertains. These remain fine principles and, as a mission statement for the BBC, they continue to work very well indeed. As the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, noted, much has changed in the 100 years since Lord Reith came up with his famous formulation. The BBC is no longer a monopoly provider, and the public service broadcasters are subject to competition for audiences from other television channels and the new streaming giants. This expansion of choice represents an amazing triumph of UK broadcasting, but it dramatically changes the meaning of public service broadcasting and the best way to legislate for it.

We want a Bill that will also stand the test of time. Let me briefly set out how our drafting has aimed to achieve that. At present, Section 264 of the Communications Act sets the purposes of public service broadcasting, as the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, said. This includes broad commitments to concepts such as quality, range and diversity. It goes on to set out a series of objectives. This is a shopping list of very worthy types of content, but it does not represent a clear statement of what we want to be distinctive about our public service broadcasters. In practice, the breadth of the list gives the regulator little guidance about the priorities on which it should focus its assessment of that important public service delivery.

By contrast, the new streamlined remit in the Bill puts audiences at its heart by directly linking the remit to their needs. It focuses on what it means to be public service broadcasters, which will make it easier for Ofcom to work with them to achieve this. Of course, that does not mean that the Bill does not recognise the importance of content that informs, educates and entertains. Indeed, there are already specific provisions in the Bill that directly require the BBC and other public service broadcasters to take action in these areas. For example, the Bill prioritises the provision of news content designed to inform—both by putting this directly in the remit and by retaining Section 279 of the Communications Act, which allows Ofcom to set quotas for news and current affairs content for each licensed public service broadcaster.

With regard to education, the focus of Amendment 7 from the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, there are similar, broadcaster-specific requirements to include educational content. The Bill strengthens the education requirement on Channel 4, and the BBC’s royal charter requires it to support learning for people of all ages, as my noble friend Lady Fraser of Craigmaddie rightly pointed out. Educational and factual programming is well represented among the output of our public service broadcasters. Ofcom’s Communications Market Report found that the BBC and Channel 4 collectively provided more than 180 hours of educational programming, as well as more than 17,000 hours of programming across the various factual genres.

Finally, the need for public service broadcasters to entertain us, while not directly legislated for in the Bill as it stands, is fundamental to their very model and we would expect audiences to vote with their feet if they were not entertained. However, it is worth pondering whether we need to put that in the remit and say that it should be a priority for our public service broadcasters. I take the point that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leeds and others made that it is through being entertained that we can also be informed and educated. This is a question worth pondering further, and I am happy to ponder it with the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, the right reverend Prelate and other noble Lords who have raised it today.

Let me now consider the naming of specific genres, which is covered by Amendments 3 and 8. As I have already set out, it is essential that the public service remit speaks directly to what it is to be a public service broadcaster, and we want to avoid diluting this. His Majesty’s Government have already carefully considered the issue of genres, both in drawing up the Bill and as part of its pre-legislative scrutiny. We have added a new subsection (6) in response to this, which makes it clear that public service broadcasters must together produce a range of genres in order to fulfil the public service remit.

Noble Lords raised a particular concern about how this will be reported on. There are two mechanisms. First, Clause 1 of the Bill requires Ofcom to report at least every five years on the extent to which the public service remit is being fulfilled. Given that the remit can be fulfilled only when a range of genres is produced, we expect that this would continue to include reporting on different genres. Secondly, we have retained the specific obligation on Ofcom in Section 358 of the Communications Act to collect and report statistics annually on the principal genres made available on television and radio services. Furthermore, should Ofcom’s reporting on the remit or licence renewal demonstrate that a particular genre is being underserved, this Bill gives the Government the power to take action.

Against this backdrop, Amendments 3 and 8 seek to add references to specific types of content to the remit. The content to which the amendments refer—drama, comedy, music and science-based public information—are all most certainly valuable and I am entirely sympathetic to the aims of the amendments. But the provision of these genres is already monitored, at least at a high level, by Ofcom and we would be concerned that further legislative granularity would serve only to complicate Ofcom’s role in regulating an area over which it already has oversight. At the same time, the nature of the remit means that, far from strengthening it, these amendments would in fact risk diluting it, reducing clarity for public service broadcasters.

On Amendment 1, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, I am glad to echo what is rightly said by people all around the world, not just by Ministers at this Dispatch Box: that our public service broadcasters produce world-class content. I understand the desire of noble Lords who have put forward proposal to protect and promote this very important feature of UK broadcasting, and I hope that I can reassure your Lordships that the Bill already does just that.

I have spoken already about the importance of the remit being streamlined and the need to focus on ensuring that Ofcom can hold public service broadcasters to the standards set out in it. This amendment would reintroduce the commitment to quality in the current purposes and objectives in Section 264 of the Communications Act. However, the current regime has demonstrated the challenges of attempting to measure and enforce quality. The issue is not a significant focus in Ofcom’s reports on the current public service broadcaster purposes and objectives, and understandably so.

The “quality” of a programme is difficult to measure and somewhat subjective. This requirement asks Ofcom to do something even more complicated: to assess the quality not just of a television programme but of the public service broadcasting system as a whole. We would be concerned that that is not a realistic regulatory goal. Instead, we believe that quality is best assessed with regard to each individual public service broadcaster. That is why we retained the commitment to quality in the remit of individual licensed public service broadcasters, in Section 265 of the Communications Act. A similar requirement to provide high-quality output is in the BBC’s mission statement.

The single best protection we have against a decline in standards is competition. That is why, for all the challenges it brings, the explosion in choice available to viewers in the UK has driven up and will continue to drive up the quality of programme-making, particularly high-end drama and film. What we now see on our small screen would not, I think, have looked out of place on the big screen just 20 or 30 years ago. But the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, is right to raise the important question of the quality of our television, and she right to point to the Government’s commitment to the creative industries and the link this has to them. She knows that the creative industries are one of the five priority areas of our economy, as identified by the Chancellor. We want to ensure that we are helping them to grow even more.

The noble Baroness has shown a great commitment to the creative industries through her work here in your Lordships’ House, and the work that she and others are doing with my department and the Department for Education to help the latter deliver on its White Paper commitment to a new cultural education plan. I very grateful to her for raising this issue as we begin Committee today. I am certainly happy to continue to reflect on it and to make sure that we have the balance between baby and bath-water right in this Bill. I hope I have provided her and other noble Lords with some reassurance today that the Bill maintains the commitment to quality, and that, for now, she will be content to withdraw her amendment on that basis.

I turn now to Amendment 33 from the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, which relates to the promotion of diversity and equality within our public service broadcasters. The Government remain committed to ensuring that our public service broadcasting system offers equality of opportunity to people of all backgrounds. Ofcom already has a duty under the Communications Act to promote diversity and equality of opportunity in the broadcasting sector. As part of this, public service broadcasters are required to report on the composition of their workforce, on which Ofcom itself reports annually. Although we recognise their independence, we welcome the work our public service broadcasters are already doing to improve representation in their workforce. That includes, for example, ITV’s diversity acceleration plan and its diversity commissioning fund, which continues to invest in content that supports diversity both on-screen and off-screen—a point that noble Lords rightly raised. Meanwhile, Channel 4’s diversity and inclusion strategy has committed to ensuring that at least 20% of its workforce is composed of people from different ethnic minority groups, and that its top 100 paid positions are split 50:50 by sex.

I take what my noble friend Lord Vaizey of Didcot says about the difference between strategies and action and, indeed, the need for Ministers to be engaged, although I remind him that, in this instance, it is a case of the Minister taking action herself, whether that is my honourable friend Julia Lopez or my right honourable friend the Secretary of State. He asked about project Diamond. We welcome that and other broadcaster-led initiatives in this area. Given that there are already well-established processes in place to collect diversity data across our public service broadcasters, and a clear statutory role for Ofcom to monitor and track progress against that, while I welcome the sentiment behind the noble Baroness’s amendment and thank those who have spoken in favour of it, I do not think it is necessary and invite her not to press it.

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his, as ever, thoughtful and considered response. I am not sure that I completely share his view that broadcaster-specific agreements are the place to house such fundamental principles; I would imagine that they should be there in an overarching sense. He says that the current regime demonstrates the challenges of measuring, but it also demonstrates the opportunities of succeeding, because it is indeed the high quality and innovation of UK productions that has led to global success, as has been well evidenced over the last two decades. It is a long evening ahead for the Minister, so I will not dally, but I will certainly accept his invitation to ponder and reflect, and take that as an opening to continue to discuss some of these amendments.

If I may, I will say very briefly that the point of Amendment 3 in my name is absolutely not to reinsert a list of activities; it is that cultural activity is stimulated, supported and reflected. That is a slightly different point; it is achieved by presenting those services, but that is not the end in itself. I know that my noble friend here will be talking a lot about that in a moment.

So, in accepting the Minister’s invitation to ponder and reflect together, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 1 withdrawn.

Amendments 2 and 3 not moved.

Amendment 4

Moved by

4: Clause 1, page 2, line 29, leave out “(taken together)”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment seeks to ensure that each of the individually recognised regional or minority languages receives a sufficient quantity of audiovisual content.

My Lords, Amendments 4 and 5 are in my name and I thank the noble Lord, Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, for adding his name to them. We are of course moving on to the area of indigenous minority and regional languages. Proposed new subsection (16) in Clause 1 lists those languages. There are six of them: Welsh, of course—I am glad to see the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, on the Benches—and we have Ulster Scots, Scots, Scottish Gaelic, Irish and, sixth and last to be listed, Cornish.

I am a resident of that area, Cornwall. I am English rather than Cornish, but I have lived there for some time and Cornish is a very important part of the culture of that far south-west peninsula. Many noble Lords will have visited Cornwall during their holidays, or maybe during vacations as children to its beaches or whatever. The Cornish language is of the Celtic family. It is actually nearer to Breton than it is to Welsh, but it is an important part of that family. It has been revived and is an important part of culture these days. Cornwall Council often uses Cornish in its public notices and publications.

What I want to emphasise in these amendments is, first, to welcome very strongly the fact that Cornish is named in the Bill as a minority and regional language. It was first recognised in 2002 by the Council of Europe’s convention on regional and minority languages and this is the first time, as I understand it, that it has appeared in British legislation. I very much welcome that. But it is my belief, having read through proposed new subsection (5), that there is an issue about this. It is around not just Cornish itself but those other regional and minority languages as well.

New subsection (5)(b) says that

“the audiovisual content made available by the public service broadcasters (taken together) includes what appears to OFCOM to be … (ii) a sufficient quantity of audiovisual content that is in, or mainly in, a recognised regional or minority language”.

That reads to me as if, in a practical sense, we could have hours of Welsh broadcasting, which clearly I would welcome, but that could be taken together as a substitute for these other minority languages as well. That is now the Bill reads to me and I do not think that is the Government’s intention. I will be interested to hear from the Minister his own interpretation. That is also why, in my Amendment 5, instead of saying

“a … regional or minority language”,

I have said “each” regional and minority language.

There is a strange bit of grammatical use in new subsection (5). It puts “taken together”, which is what I see as contentious, in brackets. I have looked very briefly through the rest of the Bill and have found no other key provision that is in brackets. My theory is that, when the Bill was put together, those brackets were not normal brackets: they were actually square brackets and there was a question about whether that phrase—the two words “taken together”—should be in the Bill. Then, somehow, they have been translated into normal brackets and so have appeared in the written part of the Bill. I would love to think that that was the case.

Of course, the Government’s statute writers are normally absolutely perfect in what they do, but I genuinely believe this is not what the Government intend. It is really important that each of those minority and regional languages is represented sufficiently in the public broadcasters’ output. On that basis, I would be interested to hear from the Minister whether he agrees that that is the intention or whether we could have a further conversation to try to get this right. I beg to move.

My Lords, I will speak to Amendments 6 and 10 in my name and the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness. I am very grateful to those noble Lords for their cross-party support.

These amendments are designed to address an urgent problem. They seek to provide more explicit protection for Gaelic-language broadcasting within the Bill. Gaelic broadcasting faces a crisis—and I do not use that word lightly—caused by decisions over the allocation of responsibilities when the Scottish Parliament was established. As a result, there is no reliable mechanism for resolving funding and operational matters.

Gaelic broadcasting is provided by the BBC Alba channel, a joint venture between BBC and the Gaelic Media Service, otherwise known as MG Alba. The channel is resourced by the BBC’s contribution to the JV of content and people, valued at £10 million per year, and MG Alba’s annual budget of £13 million per year. Its funding is provided by the Scottish Government via Ofcom. The effect is to split responsibility for Gaelic broadcasting. Broadcasting is a reserved matter. The statutory underpinning for MG Alba is UK legislation—the Communications Act 2003—and Ofcom, the UK regulator, is arbiter of whether enough Gaelic is being broadcast. However, funding responsibility for the forerunner of MG Alba was devolved in 1999 to Scottish Ministers, who are not answerable to Ofcom.

The consequences of this split are clear to see. In 1991, a Conservative Government set up the first Gaelic television fund of nearly £10 million a year; today that would be worth £25 million, almost double MG Alba’s current budget. The Scottish Government have chosen to freeze MG Alba’s budget for the last 10 years and, if that trajectory continues, in two years’ time its budget will be worth half of what it began with in 2008. These arrangements do not provide Gaelic broadcasting with a sustainable future, with all the potentially adverse consequences for Gaelic as a living language, because, make no mistake, education and broadcasting are the twin pillars of its survival.

Let us consider for a moment the practical implications. First, viewers increasingly consume content online rather than via the traditional linear services. To succeed, Gaelic content must be prominent and visible on the new digital channels that people actually use. Digital transition requires investment. I see the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, in his place, and S4C has been provided with ring-fenced funding to develop its digital services, but BBC Alba has not.

Secondly, if Gaelic broadcasting is to engage the next generation of young would-be Gaelic speakers it needs to be able to create new content and not rely on repeats which are increasingly dated. BBC Alba can afford only to broadcast one hour and 40 minutes of new content per day and to commission three hours of drama per year.

Thirdly, one of MG Alba’s potential advantages is the freedom to invest in co-productions with commercial producers, yet it lacks the funds to be an attractive investment partner of any scale for commercial producers.

MG Alba commissioned EY to assess its future funding requirements. EY’s report suggests that an annual budget of around £25 million is required—in effect, restoring the value of the original Gaelic Television Fund —to put the business on a sustainable footing. Unfortunately —this is the main point of my amendments—there is no forum for evaluating this report because Gaelic broadcasting, MG Alba in particular, currently has no formal mechanism for ensuring that its needs are assessed in a holistic way.

This is the context for the amendments tabled in my name, which are supported by both the BBC and MG Alba. As we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, new subsection (5)(b)(ii) in Clause 1(2) places a duty on Ofcom to assess whether public service broadcasters, taken together, are producing

“a sufficient quantity of audiovisual content that is in, or mainly in, a recognised regional or minority language”,

specified as including

“Welsh, the Gaelic language as spoken in Scotland, Irish, Scots, Ulster Scots or Cornish”.

This is very welcome. It does not, however, provide sufficient protection for Gaelic broadcasting, which will otherwise, as we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, be swept up in a generic assessment of minority languages across all PSBs.

Amendment 6 therefore obliges Ofcom to consider specifically the needs of Gaelic broadcasting when making its assessment of sufficiency. Without this specific obligation, Ofcom could determine, for example, that an on-demand curated collection of Gaelic content is sufficient, rather than what is necessary to sustain a Gaelic media service, with at its beating heart a schedule of live daily news, sports events, and topical and lifestyle programmes.

Amendment 10 would bring the Gaelic Media Service into the scope of the PSBs to be assessed by Ofcom. Amendment 11, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, addresses the same issue. This is a very modest and narrowly focused amendment. The Gaelic Media Service would be considered a PSB only for the purposes of assessing Ofcom’s duties in new subsection (5)(b)(ii).

In practical terms, the proposed designation would formally include MG Alba in the scope of Ofcom’s five-yearly review for the period 2019-23, which will start later this year. This will provide a yardstick of sufficiency and a mechanism, which is currently missing, for assessing the needs of Gaelic broadcasting in the round. The affect is more limited than making BBC Alba a PSB in its own right, so Ministers can be reassured that, in agreeing to this amendment, they would not be creating—however great it is—another S4C, with all the associated legal, financial and other obligations, not least for the BBC, that this entails.

The other feature of these amendments is that they would tie the Scottish Government more explicitly into the process for putting Gaelic broadcasting on a more sustainable footing. MG Alba is under a statutory responsibility to provide a wide and diverse range of high-quality programmes in Gaelic. Scottish Ministers have a statutory duty annually to provide Ofcom with a sum they consider appropriate for MG Alba to discharge its responsibilities. However, there is no guidance to or formal expectations of Scottish Ministers in this regard. By bringing MG Alba within the scope of Ofcom’s assessment, Amendment 10 would establish a direct link with Scottish Ministers’ statutory funding responsibilities.

Should Ofcom determine that there is insufficient Gaelic content, the BBC and MG Alba, and by extension its funder, would be obliged to respond to Ofcom. This would create an expectation for the first time of Scottish ministerial participation in a more formal, transparent and joined-up process to consider the overall sufficiency of Gaelic media content.

As things stand, the risk for the UK Government is that they accept there is a problem, that the next charter review is the solution and that they are then held solely responsible for fixing it. In reality, responsibility is and should be shared with the Scottish Government.

I understand that the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, Jenny Gilruth, has written to Julia Lopez to support strengthening the legislative protection for Gaelic broadcasting in the Bill and to highlight the Scottish Government’s record as a strong, consistent supporter and principal funder of MG Alba and BBC Alba. While welcoming their support, I gently suggest to Scottish Ministers, who I know follow avidly the proceedings of your Lordships’ House, that they might reflect on whether freezing MG Alba’s budget for a decade qualifies as strong and consistent support—“consistent”, certainly, but “strong”, not so much.

Why does all of this matter? Gaelic is part of the UK’s and Scotland’s rich and diverse heritage. Gaelic is on UNESCO’s list of endangered languages. If we fail to protect it, we risk losing something precious. It is something which enriches our education, adds colour to our tourism, enhances our music, and provides jobs in fragile island communities and economic value. There is an investment return of £1.34 for every £1 spent on MG Alba.

For over a decade, I have argued strongly for the UK and Scottish Governments to work together to advance issues of common interest. I believe that Gaelic broadcasting is one of those issues and it needs a joined-up approach. What better time than now to adopt this approach, with the return today of Kate Forbes, a Gaelic speaker, to the Scottish Cabinet as Deputy First Minister holding the Gaelic portfolio? I hope my noble friend the Minister, who is a great promoter of cultural heritage, will give these amendments serious consideration. With the pace of digital change, we cannot afford to wait for the next BBC charter review or to fail to address both sides of the Gaelic broadcasting joint venture. These needs sorting out now. This Bill is the perfect vehicle for doing so.

My Lords, I am delighted to participate in the debate. I assume that the time warning was wrongly put here, as we are in Committee on a Bill.

Well, I hasten to add that I have no intention of going beyond that time. If that is a new rule, of which I was unaware, I certainly think it is a highly retrograde step because in Committee we should be exploring all the implications of all amendments. That is something we will no doubt return to at another time.

I welcome this debate and these amendments, particularly the way in which the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, moved his amendment and made reference to Wales as well as Scotland. I do not intend to go in depth into the Scottish context. I welcome the fact that amendments have come from that side of the Committee, with their intentions shared in other parts of the Committee, no doubt. I discussed some of these matters with friends in the Scottish National Party but, quite frankly, I feel incapable of addressing the Scottish context, which is very different from the Welsh context in terms of structure and the location and strength of the language in the country as a whole.

I would like to make this point at the beginning of my remarks. On page 6 of the Bill, which was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, it says

“‘recognised regional or minority language’ means Welsh” ,

et cetera. But Welsh is not a minority language. Welsh is a national language in Wales and is officially recognised as such in statutes passed by Westminster. Therefore, it is inappropriate for that terminology to be used in this context.

In saying that, I should perhaps clarify, in case there is some uncertainty about it, that I come from a very different background to most Members in this House. Welsh is my first language; Welsh is the language that I speak almost all the time at home; Welsh is the language of 90% of my community and village, and 70% in the county in which I live. I have two children and six grandchildren. All six grandchildren speak Welsh as a first language; those six grandchildren have two grandparents who are Welsh-speaking and four who are not Welsh-speaking. That is the reality in Wales today: Welsh is a language that has been grasped by people of Wales, in Wales, but also by people have also moved into Wales. It is part of their heritage. In fact, there are 20 Welsh-medium schools in Cardiff now, teaching through the medium of Welsh. That is the reality.

Welsh is a language that has a diversity within it as well. People come on holiday to Wales and they see Jason Mohammad on Welsh television. The sound is off in the pub, so they turn it up to hear what he is saying. They are amazed when they find that Jason Mohammad is, of course, speaking in Welsh. He is one of the Welsh community, a fluent Welsh speaker, and he learned it as a second language. We have rappers, such as Sage Todz, who raps in Welsh and in English. There is no problem with that. They are an ethnic part of the Welsh community, and the language belongs to the whole of Wales. It belongs to those who speak Welsh and to those who do not speak Welsh, because it is part of our culture.

There have been changes in places such as Merthyr Tydfil, where I lived before I entered Parliament. The language was almost dead when I was there. It is partly thanks to television and partly thanks to education that things have changed since then. We will be coming on to some of these aspects in a later bank of amendments. However, I want to make the point as strongly as I can that the context of the Welsh language is a very different one to being treated as a minority language or a regional language.

This does raise questions in relations to Welsh and to Gaelic, whether they should be seen just in a Scottish context—or in a part-of-Scotland context for Gaelic—or in a Welsh context—the whole of Wales, as far as Welsh is concerned, where it is an official language throughout the whole of Wales—or should they be seen in a British context? That is the implication in some of these amendments. If they are being seen in a British context, do they have a claim to existence, in respect and with regard to nurturing, within England itself?

There was a time when I was on the board of S4C —the Welsh language television service—where some of our programmes were being picked up in England, particularly things like rugby, understandably, where there were audiences of 100,000 and more from within England. That raises the question: how many people in England actually speak Welsh? We do not know that, because in successive censuses—in 2001, 2011 and 2021—there has been a refusal to ask that question in England. It may be 100,000; it may be 200,000; it may even be half a million. We do not know.

We know that many, many young people leave Wales to look for work, and they live in England. They tune into S4C, and, of course, it is very much easier to do that now than when I was on the board in earlier times. The fact that there can be audiences of that scale indicates that a question must arise if you are talking about minority languages. What is the position of minority languages such as the Gaelic language and the Welsh language in England? What intentions will there be to find out how many speakers there are? What are the appropriate requests and demands of those? In terms of television, which we are discussing, there is now no problem: television knows no boundaries, and Welsh-language television can be seen in the United States, in Patagonia or wherever, because of the facility technology affords to it.

There are a number of questions that arise in that context. This is not the time to follow this through, but they run through to questions as to whether the Welsh language and the Gaelic language should be available, in some schools at least, in conurbations in England if we are saying that the Welsh and Gaelic languages are British languages. I just assume that this is the position from which the Government come on such matters. In which case, what are the Government going to be doing about it?

I am grateful for these amendments being tabled because it puts into context our interpretation of the words “regional or minority language”, which are on the face of the Bill. I suggest that this needs to be thought through again, in order for it to have a respect, or even a meaning, as far as we in Wales are concerned.

My Lords, I declare my interest as a director of Creative Scotland. I thank my noble friend Lord Dunlop for his work to champion the Gaelic Media Service and add my support to his amendment.

I just want to respond a little bit to the comment of the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, that the Welsh and Scottish situations are not the same. No, they are not, and we feel rather hard done by because, as the noble Lord said, the two pillars of education and broadcasting have done much to support the Welsh language. I think that my noble friend Lord Dunlop’s amendments are just trying to reverse what I call the devolution deficit that has done no favours to the Gaelic Media Service.

We heard at Second Reading about the economic benefits of MG Alba. It sustains 340 jobs in the Highlands and Islands and produces gross value added of over £17 million. It is very interesting today that the Scottish Government’s new Deputy First Minister is not only a fluent Gaelic speaker and the first-ever Scottish Minister for Gaelic, as my noble friend said, but she also has responsibility for the economy. Despite its impressive economic record, however, MG Alba is facing a huge generational challenge at this very moment of having to transition to a digital service on its existing funding.

My noble friend Lord Dunlop has already set out that Scottish Government Ministers have been very vocal about their so-called strong and consistent support for the Gaelic language service. What I support about my noble friend’s amendments is that, by denominating the Gaelic Media Service as a public broadcaster, they are not committing the UK Government to funding, but they could ensure that the Scottish Government are held more accountable for their—in real terms—dwindling support for MG Alba.

If the Minister is minded in his reply to say that this issue should wait for the BBC charter review, I respectfully warn him that he is in danger of conflating two issues. The Media Bill is the appropriate place to confirm that there should be a Gaelic broadcaster. It is the place that confirms again that there should be a Welsh language public broadcaster, so why not Gaelic? The charter review would simply be a mechanism for the delivery of this. Frankly, if MG Alba has to wait another two years, it may be too late for the future of the Gaelic Media Service.

My Lords, I rise humbly to take part in what has been a very rich and informative debate. I would particularly single out the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Wigley. I apologise that I did not take part in the Second Reading of this Bill due to other commitments. I declare for general purposes for the whole of this Bill that I was formerly an editor of the Guardian Weekly and spent 20 years as a journalist, so that is the background that I bring into this.

We have uncovered some important technical drafting detail here, both from the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, and the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, and I hope that we will certainly be seeing some government amendments on Report addressing those issues. However, I really just wanted to offer general Green support for the importance of having linguistic diversity broadcast across these islands, and I really wanted to stress that this is a terribly important issue.

We were talking in the last group about the British broadcasting ecosystem having a general claim to being world-leading. I am afraid that English characteristic monolingualism is something of a global joke. It is really important that we acknowledge that there is multilingualism on these islands, and it needs to be supported and encouraged.

I experienced a monolingual environment in the Australia of my childhood. Having exposure to only a single language impoverished my youth. Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Ulster Scots, Irish and Cornish are treasures of these islands, and they need support. They preserve tradition and knowledge, and they contribute to cultural diversity.

I note that, last week, the Scottish Parliament’s Education, Children and Young People Committee heard evidence on the proposed Scottish Languages Bill, which aims to establish official status and improve educational support for languages. The chair of the professional association for Gaelic secondary teachers noted that Gaelic-medium education is, in effect, now stopping at S1 or S2. In 2023, only 1% of primary school pupils were in GM education, but 46% of primary school pupils in the Western Isles, for example, are in Gaelic-medium education and 54% study Gaelic. If we are going to have broadcasters that truly serve across these islands, we clearly need to see the delivery of all these languages.

The noble Lord, Lord Wigley, spoke about how Welsh is making advances. I note that the Welsh Government’s target is to increase the number of Welsh speakers to 1 million by 2050, doubling its daily use, yet the census figures show a decline from 19% in 2011 to 17.8% in 2021.

Last month, Cornwall Council wrote to the Government calling for greater protection for the Cornish language. That was on the 10th anniversary of Cornish being recognised as a national minority language. Just in February, Screen Cornwall announced the first funding round for productions of film and culture projects.

I am aware that this Government are not always keen to support the objectives of the Scottish or Welsh Governments, but the push in this group of amendments to preserve the cultures, knowledge and diversity of these islands is very important.

My Lords, I am delighted to respond to this group and speak to my Amendment 11. I think that, by now, the Minister will be aware of the strength of feeling about these matters in the Bill. Amendments 4, 5, 6 and 10 all address the place of minority languages—I hesitate to use that word, having heard what the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, said; I certainly have some sympathy—in public service broadcasting today and in the future.

The preservation of the Gaelic language through public service broadcasting was debated at Second Reading and discussed at some length in the Commons. The subject is important. It exercises people in Scotland and throughout the rest of these islands. There is concern about the lack of a requirement for Gaelic language public service broadcasting. There is no requirement for a minimum amount and no requirements relating to new content. There could, for example, have been a requirement in the Bill for the BBC to produce new Gaelic language content.

That is important because language is the cornerstone of culture. It is not just a way of communicating but a daily expression of history and stories reflecting ways of life, values and heritage as it is spoken. The diversity of the languages in our nations and regions is therefore a living, breathing expression of the rich identities and traditions that we are lucky to carry with us.

However, understanding that requires an understanding of the risk of losing such a language, be it Gaelic or Welsh. That is very unlikely, but, if they are not spoken, nurtured and passed down through the generations, that rich culture would be at risk of being lost. With that recognition in mind, I think it is good that we are discussing this absolutely at the top of the Bill. We believe that the Bill and legislation more broadly seem not to recognise Gaelic language broadcasters in the same way as they recognise, for instance, S4C, which we absolutely support. This is despite there being cross-party support for recognising them, both here and in Scotland. For example, Clause 17 talks specifically about the quota for S4C.

When Ofcom published its sixth review of BBC performance, mentions of the Gaelic service totalled four lines in an 80-page report—and that came from the need to assess BBC Alba only as a BBC portfolio service, which is what the BBC operating agreement does. Given the importance of the service to Gaelic speakers, it would seem appropriate to see it acknowledged and assessed properly, so I hope the Minister might be able to lend his support to the new clause we are putting forward. If he chooses not to, I would like to hear from him about the measures the department is taking to support Gaelic broadcasting in the way it deserves and needs.

My Lords, as several noble Lords have noted, the indigenous languages of these islands are crucial to the lives of those who speak and cherish them. As my noble friend Lord Dunlop and the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, pointed out, that includes holders of high office and substantial majorities in certain parts of the UK. The Bill seeks to ensure that people are able to access content in those languages, as well as content that is culturally important to them, for many decades to come. However, I note the sad paradox that the number of Welsh speakers has declined since devolution rather than grown.

I turn to Amendments 6, 10 and 11. As some of my noble friend Lord Dunlop’s amendments recognise, the Gaelic Media Service, MG Alba, already has a statutory function under the Communications Act to ensure that a wide and diverse range of high-quality Gaelic programmes are available to people in Scotland. I recognise his and other noble Lords’ keenness to ensure that we do not lose such a valuable function. That is why Clause 1 makes clear in legislation the importance of having programmes made available in the UK’s indigenous, regional and minority languages, including Gaelic, by including it in our public service remit for television for the first time. Moreover, elsewhere in the Bill, we make it clear that public service broadcasters must contribute to this remit and that they will be accountable for the extent of their contributions.

As my noble friend Lady Fraser of Craigmaddie noted and anticipated, His Majesty’s Government are formally considering the funding of minority language broadcasting, including Gaelic, as part of the BBC funding review launched in December. As part of that review, we have already asked MG Alba for a range of evidence, including its assessment of the sustainability of its current funding model and of how any changes to the BBC’s funding model could affect it and minority language broadcasting more broadly. I acknowledge what she said about timing vis-à-vis the Bill, but we feel that it is right to wait for the funding review to conclude and then to consider the overall future of MG Alba and the ongoing provision of Gaelic language broadcasting. Given the closeness of the link between the BBC and MG Alba, we think that these considerations are best made alongside the upcoming review of the BBC’s royal charter, for which we will set out further details of the timeline in due course.

In addressing his Amendments 4 and 5, the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, referred to the Cornish language. I recognise the importance that regional and minority language programming plays in representing the rich and diverse tapestry of culture across the country, including in the noble Lord’s home of Cornwall. Amendments 4 and 5 would require each of the UK’s six public service broadcasters to provide a sufficient quantity of programming in each of the six regional or minority languages that are now recognised and set out in the Bill. Adding further rigour to the legislation regarding regional and minority languages is an ambition that the Government share with the noble Lord, which is why we have, for the first time—as he noted—listed Cornish and a range of other languages in this legislation. His amendment would require each broadcaster to provide content in each language stated in the Bill, a proposal that we think would be excessively onerous on the public service broadcasters. It would result in a situation where, for example, S4C would be obliged to broadcast in Ulster Scots and STV in Cornish, which is not, I am sure, the outcome he seeks. There may be some confusion here and it might be easier to clarify it—particularly regarding the choice of brackets—in a format where we do not have to try to describe the shape of punctuation. I will happily do that with him. The choice of parentheses is not a drafting error: “(taken together)” is the formulation used in the Communications Act and indeed elsewhere in Part 1 of this Bill, but if it is helpful to speak about that outside the Chamber, I am happy to do so.

The Bill already puts new obligations on Ofcom to monitor whether a sufficient quantity of minority and regional languages is provided. In our view, any additional obligation on broadcasters would be excessively burdensome. Given the provision already made in the Bill in respect of Gaelic and other languages, as well as the further work I have outlined, although I echo what noble Lords have said about the importance of these languages, the culture and tradition they represent for people and our shared anxiety to make sure that they are passed on to new generations and shared with many—not just in the places where they are currently commonly spoken, but where others can hear them and learn them too—I am afraid that I am unable to accept the amendments noble Lords have proposed in this group. I am happy to continue to talk to them about these important issues, but I hope that, for now, they will be willing not to press them.

I invite the Minister to comment on the question of whether the Welsh and Gaelic languages should be counted in the 2031 census in England. If they are regarded as British languages, as is suggested in the context of the Bill, surely, they should be.

Questions relating to the census are a matter for colleagues in other departments, but I shall happily take the noble Lord’s point to them. I imagine that he has raised it with them directly, but I am happy to let them know that he has raised it again today.

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to this debate, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Wigley. In fact, I worked with Mebyon Kernow on this amendment, and it would probably also criticise me for not referring to Cornish as a national language rather than a minority one—but that is how it started with the Council of Europe in 2002. I suspect that Gaelic language proponents are also not particularly happy with the Minister’s reply.

I agree absolutely with the Minister, in that I am not expecting Cornish to be broadcast sufficiently in Northern Ireland, even though I would love that to be the case. The purpose of my amendment is not that all languages should be broadcast everywhere, but that there is an obligation in each of the regions, nations or areas that the relevant language should be sufficiently broadcast. It seems to me that the Bill does not say that, so I shall have a further conversation, and I thank the Minister for his help in that area. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 4 withdrawn.

Amendments 5 to 8 withdrawn.

Amendment 9

Moved by

9: Clause 1, page 3, line 11, leave out subsection (6) and insert—

“(6) The requirements in this subsection are that—(a) that the relevant audiovisual services (taken together) comprise a public service for the dissemination of information and for the provision of education and entertainment, (b) the range of audiovisual content genres made available by the public service broadcasters (taken together) include but not be limited to content about—(i) religion and other beliefs,(ii) science,(iii) arts and cultural content,(iv) social issues,(v) matters of international significance, and(vi) matters of specialist interest, and(c) there is a sufficient quantity and range of programmes within each genre.”Member's explanatory statement

This amendment would statutorily require OFCOM to report on whether public service broadcasters have made available an appropriate amount and range of programmes in named societally valuable public service genres both on broadcast channels and on their online Broadcast Video on Demand (BVOD) platforms. Without specifying these genres in law OFCOM will not be required to monitor them.

I declare an interest as a freelance TV producer who has worked for all four public service broadcasters. I thank the Voice of the Listener & Viewer and the Media Reform Coalition for their support in putting this speech together, and the commercial public service broadcasters for their information. I am also grateful to noble Lords who have attached their names to this amendment.

I welcome a lot of the Bill. However, I have tabled this amendment because I am convinced that the public service remit set out in Clause 1 is not worthy of the name. The White Paper says that it replaces the

“outdated set of fourteen overlapping purposes … with a new, shorter remit, focussed on the things that”

the PSBs

“are uniquely positioned to deliver”.

Unfortunately, this new remit does not deliver either of those things for audiences or for the industry.

I degrouped this amendment so that noble Lords would have a chance to direct their speeches specifically towards the need for genres within public service broadcasting. In looking at Clause 1, I ask the Minister: are the Government really not going to insist that our commercial PSBs commission and broadcast any content on science, on the arts, on social issues, any content of international significance—or, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leeds said earlier, any content on religion? In a society where there is a desperate lack of knowledge about those matters, surely the media, which has been so privileged and protected in this Bill, should be mandated to battle against ignorance and bring illumination and context to the lives of people in this country. It has never been more important than now to have reliable information easily accessible by everybody. Surely, this is the antidote to the swirl of fake news and conspiracy theories which so dominate the internet.

The list of genres laid out in my amendment builds on Amendments 1, 2, 3 and 7, which I also support, tabled by my noble friend Lady Bull. She has already explained that they aim to maintain the public service remit established in the Communications Act 2003: that PSBs adhere to the Reithian ambition to educate, inform and entertain audiences. These principles, when applied to the PSB ecosystem, have made our great British channels the envy of the world, providing content that is distinctive and reflects Britain back to itself. As many other noble Lords have said, they are the markers of excellence in a media world full of content aimed at a global rather than a British audience, and whose only mission is to entertain.

My amendment backs up this concern about the new mission principles with a clear list of genres which instructs Ofcom to monitor the content created by the public service broadcasters. There was no reference in the original draft Media Bill to the word “genre”. As the Bill stands, the only specific content requirements on the PSBs are to broadcast some news and some children’s programming. Will this limited palette make our public service broadcasters distinctive and, more than that, distinctively British?

Only after concerns were expressed by the industry and civic groups did the Government insert into the Bill subsection (6) at Committee in the other place. Now, the new subsection requires Ofcom to ensure that a

“range of genres of audiovisual content made available by the public service broadcasters (taken together) constitutes an appropriate range of genres”.

If that is a sop to our concerns, it does absolutely nothing to reassure civic groups, nor myself. As the honourable member for Barnsley East, Stephanie Peacock, said in Committee in the other place, the new subsection is supposed to be an instruction to Ofcom to measure the breath of content in the PSB world, but there is no clear specification in the phrase a “range of genres”. The Minister in the other place responded that Ofcom will have a duty to ensure that a broad range of different aspects of public service broadcasting is delivered. The Minister has already cited this subsection as proving that there was no need for a list of genres.

How is Ofcom to measure the range of genres without some kind of clear guidance from Parliament? The Minister has said that Ofcom will revisit the remit every five years, but five years in broadcasting is a lifetime. Look what has happened in the last five years in broadcasting—it has had a complete revolution. In another five years, who knows where we will be? At the moment, the mission guidance is on the vague themes of economic, cultural and democratic content. It could be argued that soap operas meet the cultural requirements, that ITV’s “Dickinson’s Real Deal”, in which people try to sell their household objects, is seen as economic content. The Bill as it stands is too vague for Ofcom to make specific judgments on genre range in its subsequent reviews.

Some broadcasters are concerned that the entire list of genres will apply to each broadcaster. I reassure them that the crucial phrase in Amendment 9 is

“the public service broadcasters (taken together)”,

which means that the genres need to appear somewhere across the PSB system; they do not all have to be commissioned by every channel.

I am aware that the arrival of the streamers has put extraordinary pressure on our PSBs. In this environment, the channels will want to fight for the biggest audiences, which, as we all know, are garnered through entertainment shows. However, if the Government allow an entire ecosystem based on entertainment to emerge, our commercial PSB channels will just become poorer versions of Netflix or Disney+. If the Minister wants proof of the commercial imperative for PSBs to move away from informing and educating audiences towards a concentration on entertainment, he has only to look at what happened to children’s programming after the quota was removed from commercial PSBs in 2003.

I realise that children’s programming is now in this Bill, but its absence from the list of genres in 2003 is a salutary lesson in what can happen when the subject is taken away from the required genre list of programming for the commercial PSBs. Between 2004 and 2018, children’s content almost completely disappeared from commercial PSBs, leaving only the BBC to carry this programming. Between 2004 and 2018, the total hours of first-run UK-originated children’s content fell from 1,889 to 661—a 65% decrease. The genre was only kept afloat by the BBC and its own charter remit. By 2014, the BBC accounted for 95% of total expenditure on first-run UK children’s content. This Bill does require children’s content, but my point is that, when legal requirements for a genre are taken away, commercial expenditure on that subject collapses. This Bill must do all it can to ensure that that does not happen.

To add to my concerns over the effect that Clause 1, as it stands, will have on the PSB system, I ask noble Lords to look at the pressure that it will place on an already beleaguered BBC. This Bill is not directed at the BBC but, as the new charter review approaches, we must ensure that it does not drive the corporation into becoming the sole repository of market failure genres, particularly in unscripted factual programming. To dilute the range of genres on commercial PSBs is to weaken the PSB system as a whole, including the BBC.

A public service broadcaster should aim not just to attract the biggest, most profitable audiences but for a degree of universality. It does not have to be their guiding mission, as with the BBC, but it is our duty as legislators to ensure that the entire viewing public of this country are given a wide choice of content to watch on our PSBs. For myself, I do not watch much drama; I watch documentaries and factual content. I want to be served not just by the BBC but by the other PSBs, which are benefiting from the new regime set up in this Bill.

The last Communications Act was in 2003, over 20 years ago. The next one may well not be for another 20 years. It is our duty, in a very fast-changing media landscape, to future-proof our precious PSB system so that it remains distinctive and British, not just a poor imitation of the American-owned global broadcasters that dominate our digital channels. I ask the Minister, on behalf of the viewers of this country, to support Amendment 9, which would ensure that we have a British television industry to be proud of well into the future.

My Lords, I hope it was fairly clear from what I said at Second Reading that I would be very likely to support the amendments that we heard in the first group and, in particular, to support Amendment 9, which has just been so powerfully introduced by the noble Viscount, Lord Colville.

Many of us at Second Reading, as has been reiterated already today, believed that we had a very good understanding of what a PSB was from the Communications Act 2003. Our fear is that the Bill that is now before us is much less clear because of the changes that have been made to that Act, removing the Reithian values and removing the list of genres—from music to the arts, from science to religion. All we now have is a vague requirement of a range of appropriate genres.

These points have already been well made in our deliberations today, so I will not repeat the arguments for them. I wish to pick up just one point: namely, where does Parliament have any say in the future in what will happen to our public service broadcasters? From the debates that have taken place both in this House, at Second Reading, and in the other place, we know that one of the Government’s arguments about this streamlined arrangement for PSBs is that we should not be worried because, as far as the BBC is concerned, much more detail will be provided within the royal charter and, for the other public service broadcasters, it will be provided for within the licences. However, I asked a question at Second Reading to which I did not get an answer. It was a simple one: does Parliament have any say whatever in the royal charter or the licence agreement? My understanding is that the answer is no. I hope that, when the Minister responds on this group, he will confirm that I am correct, and I hope that, in doing so, he will acknowledge that that argument means, therefore, that there is no opportunity for Parliament to have a say on this important issue.

In response to the first group of amendments, the Minister told us that there was a second way in which we need not be concerned. He told us about the rather pointless, as the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, pointed out, five-yearly “high-level”—as the Minister called it—review, because so much would have changed. He pointed quite rightly, however, to the annual report that Ofcom would have to do, collecting the annual statistics on the genres covered. We should get some confidence from that, because he pointed out that that is contained in Section 358 of the Communications Act, which will be continued.

Well, I had a look at Section 358, which talks about annual reports with statistics on the genres covered, but I noted that, very interestingly, that Section 358(3) states:

“In carrying out a review … OFCOM must consider, in particular, each of the following”—

and the first is

“(a) the extent to which programmes included during that period in television and radio services are representative of what OFCOM consider to be the principal genres for such programmes”.

So Parliament is not going to have a say there, either.

We look to the Bill itself, which also talks about the new streamlined way in which the whole approach to PSBs is set out and how Ofcom will review it. Clause 1(5)(b) states that the requirements of this subsection are

“that the audiovisual content made available by the public service broadcasters (taken together) includes what appears to OFCOM to be … a sufficient quantity of audiovisual content that reflects the lives and concerns of different communities”—

and so on. So, yet again, we have a Bill before us that refers back to a previous Bill and also to something where Ofcom is making decisions on issues in which Parliament has not had the opportunity to be involved.

These amendments are the only opportunity for Parliament to have its say. I, for one, strongly believe that we need to give very clear guidance to Ofcom on what Parliament believes is the appropriate role for a for a public service broadcaster. This amendment gives that very clearly. It would reinstate what was contained within the Communications Act 2003. I very much hope, therefore, that the Minister will accept not only the amendment but the legitimate role that Parliament has in saying what it believes should be the guidance given to Ofcom for the review that it carries out into the nature of our public service broadcasters.

My Lords, I too have added my name to Amendment 9 in the name of the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, which, as he has explained, seeks to define what an “appropriate range of genres” actually is. What worries me is that his amendment has a list and, without that, I do not think that there is any definition of what we think an appropriate range should be.

We are not alone in believing that new subsection (6) is inadequate in its lack of clarity over both what an appropriate range of genres is and how it is going to be monitored by Ofcom. Concerns have been expressed through briefings to noble Lords from the Citizens’ PSM Forum, which welcomes and endorses these amendments. The only change that I suggest is that instead of “religion and other beliefs”, I would prefer “religion and other faiths”, as I think that will ensure that conspiracy theories and the like are not accidently captured by this.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leeds, who is not in his place, is a former chairman of the Sandford St Martin Trust, which has been vociferous about the need to include religion, in particular, at this time. In an earlier debate, the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, spoke of the importance of science broadcasting and illustrated its importance during the Covid pandemic, and the Government have themselves made significant investments through the Arts Council and the levelling up fund to ensure that as many people as possible have access to arts and culture across the UK. Surely broadcasting should be part of this as well.

The Minister said in an earlier debate, as picked up by the noble Lord, Lord Foster, that the Bill gives the Government the power to take action if a sufficient variety of genres is not produced, but can he explain what circumstances would precipitate the Government taking such action? Again, what is the definition of an “appropriate range of genres”? Can he be confident, without it being a statutory duty, that Ofcom will appropriately monitor the amount and range of programmes on broadcast channels, online and on demand? The plain fact is that in recent months, the duties placed upon Ofcom have significantly increased, so if these details are not outlined, how can we be sure? What will Ofcom be measuring and how can we be sure that we know, in Parliament, what Ofcom will be missing? I hope the Minister will listen to the strong feelings expressed across the Committee today and I look forward to his response.

My Lords, I offer Green support for Amendment 9, which I think has already been very powerfully argued for. I also note the degree of lobbying, from the Citizens’ PSM Forum, already referred to, but also a number of other groups and individuals who have contacted me about this, indicating that they regard this as terribly important.

I will focus on science, because I think that science broadcasting, in terms of socially valued public service genres, really deserves to be stressed. This picks up points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, on the first group, in the context of our climate emergency and all the other exceeding of planetary boundaries threats that we face. I am speaking in the context where today’s Guardian reports that a survey of IPCC scientists notes that the majority view is that we are heading towards 2.5 degrees of global heating. I remain an optimist and I do not necessarily agree with that—it is a question of social innovation and change—but what is clearly crucial is that the public sector broadcasters provide the scientific information and context that the public need to understand the debates and the issues.

I declare my position here as a science graduate from 1987. Much of what I was taught in my science degree I now know to be utterly out of date. One thing that may not apply to the other aspects of this—certainly to the first point here—is that science changes with lightning speed. Most of what I was taught in soil science I can now regard only as absolute junk. Much of what I was taught in genetics has been utterly overturned. If we are to have a public who are informed about these really crucial issues, science programming can be difficult, controversial and very expensive but it is crucial that there is a remit in the Bill that we need this from our public sector broadcasters.

Personally, I try to keep up to date with a whole range of podcasts. I can recommend to noble Lords “Big Biology” or the New Books Network “Systems and Cybernetics” channel, but they are not necessarily terribly accessible and it is really important that we have public sector broadcasters providing the content that informs the public on scientific issues.

My Lords, I too have added my name to Amendment 9. As the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, and the noble Baroness, Lady Fraser, said, a clear definition of the genres, rather than the vague “appropriate”, is necessary to ensure commissioning from the PSBs across a full range of programmes and proper oversight from Ofcom. As my noble friend Lord Foster mentioned, the Minister said earlier that the Bill has not removed Section 358 of the Communications Act, which requires Ofcom to collect information on principal genres, but it does not define what these genres are, so we return to the essential fact that, if not specified, Ofcom will not be required to monitor this crucial content in quantitative terms.

Specifying genres provides guarantees for a future we cannot predict. It does not take a lot of imagination to envisage the slippery slope. With the genres gone, there are two likely consequences. First, the commercial PSBs will seek to diminish their commitment and will lobby accordingly, exactly as ITV did with regional current affairs programmes. Secondly, Ofcom will have less discretion to hold them to account if it is under no obligation to monitor individual genres.

I return to the pre-legislative DCMS Committee report and to what the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, said so forcefully, that removing the requirement on commercial PSBs to provide specific genres for UK children’s content

“led to significant reductions in the production of original children’s TV, and we are concerned that the draft Media Bill’s removal of the specific reference to other genres will lead to similar reductions in content, particularly in the less commercially successful areas”.

That is from the committee’s report, but we all agree on it, I think.

I have one rather off-the-wall question, having listened to the very interesting debate about language: can we please find another word instead of “genre”? Maybe there is a Welsh, Gaelic or Cornish word that we could use instead.

My Lords, if I may contribute briefly to this debate, I would not go as far as saying that I support the amendment tabled by the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, but I think it raises some interesting questions. The point made by the noble Lord, Lord Foster, about the role of Parliament in making clear its expectations of Ofcom in discharging its responsibilities in regulating broadcasters is an important one and I will be very interested to hear more from my noble friend about the Government’s position on that.

One of my concerns more generally—I have raised it in the context of other Bills—is how we as parliamentarians can do our job properly in overseeing and properly holding regulators to account for the powers and responsibilities we give them through legislation. What the amendment really does, for me, is expose what I see as quite a strategic challenge, and I will be interested to hear what my noble friend the Minister says about this, because I find it a bit of a dilemma. On one hand, the vaguer the obligations on the public service broadcasters become, the harder it is to argue for the privileges they enjoy as public service broadcasters; on the other hand and by the same token, the more prescriptive the obligations on them are, the harder it becomes for them to compete in the modern media world. It gets to the heart of quite a dilemma. On that basis, I am very keen to listen to my noble friend, because I find this one of the knottiest and most difficult things to come to a hard and confident position on, in terms of the questions it raises. I look forward to what my noble friend says.

When the Government first released Up Next, the White Paper that preceded the Bill, it made no reference to genres such as entertainment, drama, science and religion being removed from the remit, as they have been in this Bill. That is why this is an important question, and why we were very keen to add our name to the amendment from the noble Viscount. As other noble Lords have said, we have seen the effect—particularly with children—of what happens when we do not have specific mention of genres with which we can hold the regulator to account.

It is good that the public service broadcasters have issued reassurances that the new remit will not significantly impact on programming in the removed areas, but I agree with the noble Viscount that the addition of “appropriate range of genres” to the Bill is a small protection. We believe the removal of references to specific genres is still a matter of concern. We think that there is no guarantee, therefore, that Ofcom will be held to account to monitor. In many ways, this is what the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leeds was talking about when he mentioned the matrix: how do we know that things have been delivered properly? That is why we support this amendment.

We do not propose that every genre would have to be addressed by every provider, but I hope the Minister can take on board what Amendment 9 proposes. Simplifying the remit is a worthwhile objective, but not if it is done at the cost of the kind of content that sets our public service broadcasters apart.

My Lords, the noble Viscount degrouped his amendment to give us a chance to look at genres again and in more detail. There was much overlap with the debate we had on the first group, so I hope he will forgive me if I am relatively brief and do not repeat myself but allude to what I said previously. It has, however, given noble Lords the opportunity to ask further questions and make further points.

Let me turn first to what the noble Lord, Lord Foster of Bath, asked about the royal charter. It is not quite as simple as he expects. The Secretary of State must lay the final terms of reference for the royal charter review before Parliament, and a draft of the proposed charter and framework agreement must be laid before Parliament and debated by each House. Both Houses can, of course, hold the Government to account—as they do—for the way they go about their work on charter renewal. I hope that gives the noble Lord some further detail.

In relation to the question posed by my noble friend Lady Stowell of Beeston, there is no change to Ofcom’s accountability to Parliament through this Bill. It is accountable to Parliament and routinely appears before Select Committees, such as the one she chairs in your Lordships’ House.

On the question of genres—which I will continue to refer to in the Norman French because I do not know the Welsh or Gaelic words for it yet—

Yes. The point is, as my noble friend Lady Stowell put it, echoing the point raised by my noble friend Lord Vaizey in the debate on the first group, to strike the right balance with a streamlined remit that gets to the heart of what it is to be a public service broadcaster and does not dilute that. As I mentioned, we have added a new subsection (6) making clear that public service broadcasters must together produce a range of genres in order to fulfil the public service remit. Although we do not object to any of the specific genres that have been mentioned, we are concerned that reintroducing further granularity would serve only to complicate the role we have given Ofcom in regulating this important area.

We are confident that the streamlined remit treads the right line between providing the broadcasters with the flexibility to meet the new challenges of a market that changes very rapidly, as the noble Viscount is right to say, and ensuring that a wide range of genres will continue to reach our screens. The Bill ensures that Ofcom has the tools it needs to ensure that public service broad- casters continue to produce that wide range. It can take enforcement action, should it judge that a licensed public service broadcaster has failed to fulfil its public service remit, which includes making an adequate contribution to the overall public service remit for television.

My noble friend Lady Fraser of Craigmaddie asked in what circumstances the Government would consider using the delegated power in the Bill to add a quota for an underserved genre. That is set out in new Section 278A and follows a recommendation from Ofcom in its reports under Section 229 or 264 of the Communications Act. We would of course carefully consider any such recommendation alongside any other information from Ofcom, such as information from its market report conducted under Section 358, and information provided by the public service broadcasters and other providers in line with the process set out in new Section 278A.

With those further points, and reiterating my response to the noble Baroness, Lady Bull—which gives me the opportunity to acknowledge the distinction she was trying to make in her amendment and the relisting of genres that we value and are familiar with—I hope the noble Viscount will be satisfied to withdraw his amendment.

I am very grateful to noble Lords for their support on this amendment. I think it proved that I was right to degroup it so that we could have a specific discussion about the need for genres.

The Minister said that it is going to be fine because we have Ofcom, which will oversee the remit and make sure that the PSBs give us good, broad content. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Foster, and the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, warned us, this does not give Parliament anything like enough power to hold Ofcom to account. This is an issue we have had in this Chamber a number of times, on different Acts. We discussed it quite a lot on the Online Safety Bill and were very concerned by the enormous powers that were given to Ofcom and the inability to control them. In fact, the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, suggested a parliamentary committee that could look at the way Ofcom carried out its powers.

There is obviously a battle between regulation and competition, as the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, said. The Minister is obviously content that new subsection (6) in particular is going to help direct the PSBs to deal with this problematical and knotty area. However, I remain unconvinced and extremely concerned that the fiercely competitive economic environment in which our PSBs find themselves will drive them inexorably away from serious factual programming and towards entertainment.

I hope that between Committee and Report the Minister will meet me and other noble Lords to discuss this issue, but in the meantime I beg leave to withdraw this amendment.

Amendment 9 withdrawn.

Amendment 10 not moved.

Clause 1 agreed.

Clauses 2 to 7 agreed.

Amendment 11 not moved.

House resumed. Committee to begin again not before 8.30 pm.