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Public Bill Committees

Debated on Tuesday 5 December 2023

Media Bill (First sitting)

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairs: Judith Cummins, † Martin Vickers

† Baynes, Simon (Clwyd South) (Con)

† Blackman, Kirsty (Aberdeen North) (SNP)

† Bradshaw, Mr Ben (Exeter) (Lab)

† Butler, Rob (Aylesbury) (Con)

Carter, Andy (Warrington South) (Con)

† Collins, Damian (Folkestone and Hythe) (Con)

† Efford, Clive (Eltham) (Lab)

† Foster, Kevin (Torbay) (Con)

† Green, Chris (Bolton West) (Con)

† Hunt, Tom (Ipswich) (Con)

† Owen, Sarah (Luton North) (Lab)

† Peacock, Stephanie (Barnsley East) (Lab)

† Tuckwell, Steve (Uxbridge and South Ruislip) (Con)

† Western, Andrew (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab)

† Whittingdale, Sir John (Minister for Media, Tourism and Creative Industries)

† Williams, Hywel (Arfon) (PC)

† Wood, Mike (Lord Commissioner of His Majesty's Treasury)

Huw Yardley, Kevin Candy, Committee Clerks

† attended the Committee

Public Bill Committee

Tuesday 5 December 2023


[Martin Vickers in the Chair]

Media Bill

We are now sitting in public and the proceedings are being broadcast. I have a few preliminary announcements. Hansard colleagues would be grateful if Members could email their speaking notes to Please switch electronic devices to silent. Tea and coffee are not allowed during the sittings.

The selection list for today’s sittings is available in the room. It shows how the selected amendments have been grouped together for debate. Amendments grouped together are generally on the same or similar issues. Please note that decisions on amendments take place in the order not in which they are debated, but in which they appear on the amendment paper. The selection and grouping list shows the order of debates. Decisions on each amendment are taken when we come to the clause to which the amendment relates. A Member who has put their name to the leading amendment in the group is called first. Other Members are then free to catch my eye to speak on all or any of the amendments in the group. A Member may speak more than once in a single debate. At the end of debate on a group of amendments, I shall call the Member who moved the leading amendment again. Before they sit down, they will need to indicate whether they wish to withdraw the amendment or seek a decision. If any Member wishes to press any other amendment in the group to a vote, they need to let me know.

I beg to move,


1. the Committee shall (in addition to its first meeting at 9.25 am on Tuesday 5 December) meet—

(a) at 2.00 pm on Tuesday 5 December;

(b) at 11.30 am and 2.00 pm on Thursday 7 December;

(c) at 9.25 am and 2.00 pm on Tuesday 12 December;

(d) at 11.30 am and 2.00 pm on Thursday 14 December;

2. the proceedings shall be taken in the following order: Clauses 1 to 17; Schedule 1; Clauses 18 to 27; Schedule 2; Clause 28; Schedule 3; Clauses 29 to 36; Schedule 4; Clause 37; Schedules 5 to 7; Clauses 38 to 40; Schedule 8; Clauses 41 to 48; Schedule 9; Clause 49; Schedules 10 and 11; Clauses 50 and 51; Schedule 12; new Clauses; new Schedules; remaining proceedings on the Bill;

3. the proceedings shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 5.00 pm on Thursday 14 December.

It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Vickers, and to debate with the hon. Member for Barnsley East, reprising the enjoyable time we had in the Data Protection and Digital Information (No. 2) Bill Committee not long ago. This Bill is important for the future of our public service broadcasters and the media in this country. It has been some time in the preparation. It has been through pre-legislative scrutiny, and has been amended considerably to reflect the views put forward to the Government. As a result, I hope that it is generally non-controversial, but it is obviously important that we scrutinise it in detail.

The Programming Sub-Committee met yesterday evening to debate the programme for consideration of the Bill. It was agreed that we should meet today at 9.25 am and 2 pm, again on Thursday, and then again on Tuesday and Thursday next week. That was the unanimous view of the Committee. On that basis, I commend the programme motion to the Committee.

Thank you chairing the Committee today, Mr Vickers. It is a pleasure to stand opposite the Minister. The last work I did with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport was on the Online Safety Bill, which took a significant time—significantly more than I expect this Bill will. I will talk more generally about the Bill later, when we have moved off the programme motion.

I have questions for the Minister about the lack of oral evidence for the Bill. There is no programme for taking oral evidence. That generally happens when the beginning of a Bill’s Committee stage is taken on the Floor of the House; for example, we have the first part of the Finance Bill Committee on the Floor of the House. The Government have been keen not to take oral evidence on the Finance Bill. It also happens when a Bill originates in the Lords; then no oral evidence is taken in the House of Commons.

I understand what the Minister said about there having been pre-legislative scrutiny. However, I spoke to an external organisation that is often called to give evidence on things related to media, and it assumed that it would be giving evidence this morning when it first saw the draft timetable for Committee during Second Reading. It did not expect that there would be no oral evidence sessions. Let me make it clear how useful oral evidence is. We are able to ask so many experts for their views on specific parts of the Bill. The Minister said that there is a large amount of agreement on much of the Bill, and I do not disagree, but there are significant points of contention, such as the use of the word “appropriate” as opposed to “significant” in relation to prominence. It would be helpful to have experts here who could explain why they believe that “appropriate” is not the appropriate word in the circumstances.

We have had a tight turnover from Second Reading. I very much appreciate all the organisations that have worked hard to put together their written evidence in such a short time, but I guarantee that not everybody in the room will have read all the written evidence, given the tight timescales.

I have two questions. First, why did the Minister decide not to schedule oral evidence sessions when programming the Bill? Will he be slightly ashamed if we do not meet on Thursday 14 December, and we would have had time for an oral evidence session? My second question relates to the timing of the Bill. It is fairly unusual for Committee to begin this quickly after Second Reading. There were two days after Second Reading to table amendments before the deadline. That is a fairly tight turnaround, especially given that we will probably discuss most of the Bill over a few days. I would appreciate it if the Minister let us know the Government’s thinking on the programming.

I hear what the hon. Lady says and understand her points. However, as I indicated, the Bill has been in gestation for a long time. I chaired the Culture, Media and Sport Committee until 2015, and it called for a number of the measures in the Bill, so certain parts have taken at least seven or eight years. As she rightly points out, the Government published the Bill in draft form, and that led to lengthy Select Committee hearings, in which a large range of stakeholders gave evidence. Indeed, there was the Select Committee’s report, and the Scottish Affairs and Welsh Affairs Committees also made recommendations. All those were taken into account by the Government, and published evidence was available.

Since that time, we have held a number of roundtables to hear from stakeholders. I obviously recognise that those were private meetings, so there is not a public record of them, but nevertheless, as the hon. Lady points out, there has been an opportunity for all stakeholders to submit written evidence. I am shocked at her suggestion that there could be members of the Committee who have not read all the written evidence submitted, but it is publicly available. Given the time spent consulting on the Bill, it was felt that a public oral evidence session in the Committee was not necessary. If anybody wishes to make further representations, we would gratefully receive them.

The Programming Sub-Committee felt yesterday that the timetable gave sufficient time, given the Bill’s non-controversial nature. Relatively fewer amendments have been tabled than were tabled to the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill, which the hon. Member for Barnsley East and I took through Committee not that long ago. I hope that we will give the amendments proper scrutiny. I view the timetable with a certain amount of schadenfreude, in that I shall be stepping down from my position at the end of the year so that my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch and Upminster (Julia Lopez) can return to her role. I am pleased that I shall have the opportunity to take the Bill through the whole of Committee, because it is one that I have spent quite a lot of time on. For those reasons, I think the programme motion and the amount of time allocated for consideration of the Bill are correct, although I join the hon. Member for Aberdeen North in hoping that anybody with further representations to make does make them, even if we are not having oral evidence sessions.

I will not vote against the programme motion, but I echo the Minister’s call to stakeholders on written evidence, and say to any stakeholders who are watching: “You have been wrong-footed by the very short timescales we were given for amendments, but there is the opportunity to make amendments on Report.” If they get in touch with us about any amendments they want before the deadline for Report, they could be debated then, even though we may not necessarily have had time to craft them before Committee proceedings.

Question put and agreed to.

The Committee will therefore meet again at 2 pm this afternoon, and on every sitting Tuesday and Thursday until 14 December, unless we complete consideration of the Bill before then.


That the Bill be considered in the following order, namely, Clauses 1 to 17, Schedule 1, Clauses 18 to 27, Schedule 2, Clause 28, Schedule 3, Clauses 29 to 36, Schedule 4, Clause 37, Schedules 5 to 7, Clauses 38 to 40, Schedule 8, Clauses 41 to 48, Schedule 9, Clause 49, Schedules 10 and 11, Clauses 50 and 51, Schedule 12, new Clauses, new Schedules, remaining proceedings on the Bill.—(Sir John Whittingdale.)


That, subject to the discretion of the Chair, any written evidence received by the Committee shall be reported to the House for publication.—(Sir John Whittingdale.)

Copies of any written evidence received by the Committee will be circulated to Members by email and published on the Bill webpage. We now proceed to line-by-line consideration of the Bill.

Clause 1

Reports on the fulfilment of the public service remit

I beg to move amendment 39, in clause 1, page 2, line 38, at end insert—

“(iii) at least ten hours’ transmission time per week in the Gaelic language as spoken in Scotland.”

This amendment would add a similar requirement for broadcast of programming in Scottish Gaelic as there is for Welsh language broadcasting.

With this it will be convenient to discuss new clause 5—Gaelic language service—

“The Secretary of State must, within six months of the passage of this Act, review whether a Gaelic language service should be given a public service broadcast remit.”

It is a pleasure to take part in the Bill Committee, Mr Vickers. I am glad to see everybody here early on a Tuesday morning, either with or without coffee—I mean, definitely without coffee, as that is not allowed in Bill Committees.

Amendment 39 to clause 1 relates to Gaelic language programming. I hold my hand up: I am sorry that this is not a very good amendment. I have been pretty clear about the fact that there was an incredibly quick turnaround, and I could have done a significantly better job on this amendment. In fact, I am quite happy to support new clause 5 on this issue, which was put forward by Labour.

The Gaelic language and its preservation through public service broadcasting was debated at significant length on Second Reading. The subject is incredibly important. It exercises people in Scotland and across the rest of these islands. There is massive 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. The Minister is aware that MG ALBA and BBC Alba are involved in producing Gaelic language TV in Scotland, which is absolutely excellent and makes a massive difference to the use of the Gaelic language.

On Second Reading, we heard about the issues that there have historically been with Gaelic. There was the intention by authorities over a significant number of years to reduce the amount of Gaelic spoken in Scotland, and to stamp it out, and Gaelic is still slowly making a comeback. In Aberdeen, we have Gaelic-medium education; that provision is massively full at the moment, despite Aberdeen not being known as a centre for Gaelic, being on the east rather than the west coast. When I visited a Gaelic nursery in my constituency, I asked people whether they found it difficult to ensure that their children were brought up with enough Gaelic language in Aberdeen, where it is not nearly so prominent as it is in, say, the Western Isles. They talked incredibly positively about the impact of children’s TV in Gaelic. Children can watch that TV and learn Gaelic as a native language. Given that there is less Gaelic spoken by the population, public service broadcasting is even more important. Free-to-air public service broadcasting in Gaelic is vital to ensure the continuation of the language, particularly when many adults in the area are not speaking Gaelic regularly.

I would very much like the Minister to consider the lines about Gaelic in the Bill and whether they are sufficient, because I do not believe that they are. I do not believe that Gaelic is given enough of a footing in the Bill. It talks about having an “appropriate” level of provision in the indigenous languages of the UK, but it does not put Gaelic on the same footing as, for example, Welsh; it talks significantly more about quotas and minimum levels of new content for Welsh. That is incredibly important, and I do not at all want to take away from what is happening with Welsh, because that should be happening.

I am asking for parity for Gaelic, or an increase of it—or even an acknowledgement from the UK Government that Gaelic is important. It should not be mentioned as a small aside, and simply be included in a list of other languages. I would very much appreciate it if the Minister considered augmenting the provisions relating to Gaelic, to make it clear how important it is to people in Scotland and across these islands, as one of our indigenous languages. I will not push amendment 39 to a vote—I will return to the issue on Report—but I am happy to support new clause 5, put forward by Labour.

I am delighted to be on this Committee. I support amendments 39 and 40 from my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen North. The one thing in clause 1 that I baulked at slightly was the term “regional language”. I would not say that Welsh is a regional language, though there are regions in Wales where language is used slightly differently; there is Welsh and Welsh English, if I may use that term.

I suppose I should confess that I was a participant in a campaign during the 1970s to establish S4C, the Welsh language channel. It was a very long time ago— 40 years ago—and perhaps it would be better to draw a veil over my activities then. If hon. Members are interested in the lessons from the last 40 years on how to build, sustain and improve a channel such as S4C, I refer them to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport document of 2018, “Building an S4C for the future”, by Euryn Ogwen Williams. It is a very interesting document that chronicles, to some extent, what has happened with Welsh in respect of the channel, and it has useful lessons for similar channels, and for Gaelic provision.

One of the outstanding successes of our campaign a very long time ago was ensuring minimum hours in Welsh, to refer to a point that my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen North made, and ensuring that programmes in Welsh on a specific channel should be broadcast at peak hours. That was a great success. It is now entirely unremarkable to have programmes in Welsh mid-afternoon, or late in the evening. The very fact that that is unremarkable is a measure of success.

The two sorts of lessons I will briefly refer to from our experience in Wales are, first, what one might call the economic and diversity arguments and, secondly, the cultural arguments. Certainly initially, the arguments for a Welsh channel, and perhaps for a Gaelic channel or Gaelic provision, are essentially cultural. To point to some of the economic features of the argument, an increase in hours in Gaelic would have the same sort of effect.

Initially, in Wales at least, there has been a greater diversity of providers. As with Channel 4, the intention—and the achievement—was to have a larger independent sector and to locate it outside Cardiff, Swansea and Bangor. In my area of Caernarfon, and in Arfon in general, that has led to a huge economic benefit in terms of not only the people employed in television production, but all the other work that has come our way because we have Welsh language television production in the north-west. Those independent producers have also diversified and now participate in international production that has nothing to do with the Welsh channel itself. As a result, we have greater growth in television production skills, and some people have graduated to working in other parts of the world. So there is that argument.

I was in Salford last weekend recording a programme, and there is now a large, successful centre of television production there, so that is an example of the value of regional diversification within England. I should also note that the “Today” programme came from Truro this morning, so even the “Today” programme is catching up with this argument.

As I said, the growth in production in Welsh has led to domestic and international productions. This is from a long time ago, but one instructive example—this is relevant to clauses we will discuss later—is that one of the channel’s early successes was a football programme called “Sgorio”. I am not a sports fan myself, but the channel spotted a gap in the market and broadcast football matches from across Europe when they were not available on the BBC or ITV. That led to people in the areas on the borders of Wales watching S4C, not because they understood Welsh or were interested in Welsh, but because they liked watching Italian football. I remember being at a pub in Liverpool where people were watching Italian matches or Spanish matches—I cannot remember which—in Welsh, which none of them understood.

Another early success was that the volume of production allowed S4C to produce feature films. Some hon. Members will know, for example, that a film called “Hedd Wyn” was an international success and an Oscar nominee early in the channel’s existence. Incidentally, Members will be interested to know that, when it was nominated, the Oscar committee was at pains to find a category in which to fit it, although it was from the UK. Usually, it would have been in the mainstream category, but the committee included it in the foreign language films category. It was a nominee, but it did not win. On all those counts—increasing hours, increasing diversity and increasing the location of producers—this proposal could have an extremely beneficial effect for our friends in Scotland.

Let me turn briefly to the cultural arguments. I have been a long-term campaigner in this field, and I would say that people have an absolute right to be able to speak to each other in the language they use—I think the term is “autochthonous language”, which means the language of the area where they live. One effect of that in Wales, which my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen North referred to, is the growth of the language, which came as a surprise to some people at least. The age range of Welsh speakers is heavier towards the younger end; people usually assume that older people speak the language and that younger people do not bother, so it dies out. However, Welsh, at least, is more likely to be spoken by younger people than older people, and television production and provision are part of the reason for that. That is a very hopeful sign for my language and, I am sure, for my hon. Friend’s language as well. So there is also that function—a language-planning function, I suppose—rather than just the matter of television production. It legitimises the language and establishes it in a new area—a new pau, as we would say in Welsh.

Lastly, as I said earlier, this proposal allows a breadth of provision—more hours and a greater diversity. A long time ago, I discussed the issue at length with a fellow academic from the United States, and it got quite heated—it was quite late at night, if you take my meaning, Mr Vickers. She eventually broke off the argument by saying, “You are saying that if there is trash to be had, it should be in Welsh as well as in English.” Well, I would not put it that way, of course, but we do now have provision that goes from game shows to sports, to drama and feature films, and that also includes erudite late-night discussions on the virtues of 14th-century Welsh poetry, if necessary. Reflecting on all of that, it can only be good for the hours for Gaelic provision to be increased and for that to be stated on the face of the Bill.

I have actually watched “Hedd Wyn” on YouTube. What analysis has the hon. Gentleman made of the distribution of Welsh language products on other digital platforms, rather than just on S4C?

I thank the hon. Member for that point, and I will refer to it if I am lucky enough to be called to talk on the relevant provision later. Welsh programmes are available on all kinds of platforms, but a large number of Welsh-speaking people in England, for example, cannot see programmes in Welsh, because those are not available digitally to the extent I would want. As one would imagine, people have found a way around that, but for the language to prosper and thrive and for provision to be right across the available platforms, we must move forward, and I will speak to that later.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Mr Vickers, and to welcome the Media Bill as it enters a new stage in its passage. Before I begin, I refer hon. Members to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

As I said many times on Second Reading, I am supportive of the Bill on the whole; I only wish it could have been brought forward sooner after the Government U-turned on their decision to privatise Channel 4. Good progress has been made on the Bill thanks to the excellent work of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, whose recommendations the Government have largely taken on board. That is to the credit of the many interested stakeholders who provided detailed evidence.

It is with that in mind that I have tabled only focused amendments where I feel they are really needed, and I will not unduly dwell on areas where no concerns have been raised. I would like to make as much progress as possible, so that our creative industries can reap the benefits at the earliest opportunity. I look forward to having productive discussions with the Minister and with members of the Committee on both sides of the House in the coming days about how we can ensure that the Bill best achieves its aims and truly secures the future of UK television and radio for years to come.

It is with that in mind that I turn to amendment 39 and new clause 5 on Gaelic broadcasting. Language is a cornerstone of culture; it is not just a way of communicating. Languages are daily expressions of history, reflecting a way of life, values and heritage as they are spoken. The diversity of 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. Understanding that, however, also requires an understanding that, if we lost a language such as Gaelic or Welsh—if they are not nurtured and passed down through the generations—that rich culture would also be at risk of being lost. With that recognition in mind, I am pleased that we are explicitly discussing the importance of Gaelic at the top of the Bill.

According to the Scottish Government’s Gaelic language plan, census results in 2011 found that, of the population aged three and over in Scotland, 1.7%—just over 87,000 people—spoke, read, wrote or understood Gaelic. While that represented a decrease in the proportion of people able to speak Gaelic in most age groups since 2001, there was actually an increase among those under 20 years old. That is perhaps due in part to Scottish Government initiatives to encourage Gaelic education, including the Education (Scotland) Act 2016, which gives parents the right to ask their local authority to provide a Gaelic-medium education for their child.

In order to nurture a language, however, progress cannot be limited to education. There must be cultural opportunities surrounding the language too, and Gaelic broadcasting can and should play an important part in that. Indeed, BBC Alba—the Gaelic-language television service launched in 2008 as part of a partnership between MG ALBA and the BBC—is a huge asset to Gaelic culture, providing a wide range of high-quality Gaelic programming for speakers to enjoy. I was pleased to meet representatives over Zoom a few weeks ago.

MG Alba is also of economic importance, sustaining around 340 jobs, half of which are in economically fragile areas. The Government have acknowledged that contribution on multiple occasions, saying that MG ALBA makes a hugely valuable contribution to the lives and wellbeing of Gaelic speakers and recognising that certainty over the future is important for MG ALBA if it is to continue to deliver in that way. The fact that Gaelic broadcasting is recognised for the first time in the public service remit in clause 1 of the Bill is therefore welcome.

However, as was mentioned several times on Second Reading, the Bill, and legislation more broadly, seem not to recognise Gaelic-language broadcasters in the way they do S4C in the Welsh language, despite apparent cross-party support for doing so both here and in Scotland. That is not to dismiss the importance of the provisions made for S4C or to say that the situations of the Gaelic and Welsh languages are comparable—there is currently a much larger population of Welsh speakers than of Gaelic speakers—but it seems to be a disparity that MG ALBA, for example, is not mentioned in the legislation at all. Indeed, there is somewhat of a cycle of reinforcement here: if having fewer Gaelic speakers means there is less provision for Gaelic programming, then less Gaelic programming may in turn mean there are fewer Gaelic speakers. Conversely, a boost for Gaelic broadcasting could be hugely beneficial to the language as a whole. That is something new clause 5 and amendment 39 seek to highlight.

Amendment 39 tries to address the problem by directly rectifying disparities in quota requirements. Specifically, a quota requires the BBC to provide S4C with at least 10 hours of Welsh-language programming per week, but no such quota exists—not even at a lower level—for Gaelic broadcasting. The amendment tries to mirror that requirement with a similar measure for content in the Gaelic language. There is more to be done to understand how we can best incorporate quotas and support for Gaelic services in existing legislation, which is why the new clause I have tabled looks to review the status of Gaelic services in legislation in the round.

I want to be careful to make sure that there is enough flexibility in the legislation to ensure that any future changes and partnerships in the area of Gaelic broadcasting are accounted for. However, I am supportive in principle of the idea of ensuring that there are regulatory and legislative measures in place that give Gaelic broadcasting the status it deserves. That may well be the start of a minimum level of content being available in the Gaelic language.

I anticipate that some might say this particular measure is not necessary given that, for the first time, the public service remit now acknowledges the importance of providing content in minority languages, which I of course welcome. However, as the hon. Member for Aberdeen North has argued, without a definition of “sufficient quantity” of content, there is a risk that that inclusion will not result in the kind of tangible change and assurance needed to ensure the growth or even maintenance of minority language content. I therefore support the idea that “sufficient” should be better defined, whether that be through legislation, Ofcom or elsewhere, so that the provision can be truly enforced and upheld.

New clause 5 takes a more holistic look at the ways in which the Bill fails to address Gaelic broadcasting and suggests an assessment be made on whether giving a Gaelic language service a remit as a public service broadcaster might be suitable. That would be an opportunity to look at how we can ensure the statute catches up with events—BBC Alba did not even exist when the Communications Act 2003 was passed—and would reflect Parliament’s will for there to be an enduring television service in both Welsh and Gaelic. Further, it would provide a chance for Government, Parliament and Ofcom to view the Gaelic service as something to be acknowledged in reference to its own needs, benefits and missions, rather than only being considered as a small part of the wider BBC portfolio.

For instance, just a few days ago Ofcom published its sixth review of BBC performance, and mentions of a Gaelic service totalled four lines in an 80-page report. That comes from the need to assess BBC Alba only as a BBC portfolio service, as that is what the BBC operating agreement does. Given, however, the importance of the service to Gaelic speakers, it would be appropriate to see it acknowledged and assessed as such, irrespective of whether the service remains tied to the BBC. Indeed, new clause 5 is not prescriptive, and recognises that although the partnership between BBC and MG ALBA has been working well, this may not always be the preferred set-up for either or both parties involved. Therefore, with future-proofing in mind, it simply looks to provide an opportunity for Gaelic broadcasting to be recognised in its own right, whatever form that might take.

I hope the Minister might be able to lend his support to the new clause, but if he chooses not to, I would like to hear from him on the measures the Department is taking to support Gaelic broadcasting in the way it deserves and needs. This should matter not only to those who speak Gaelic and will enjoy the content, but to our society as a whole, as we look to keep alive the unique culture and heritage of all our nations.

I thank the hon. Members for Barnsley East and for Aberdeen North for speaking to their amendments and allowing us to debate the importance of the Gaelic language. It is something we spent a little bit of time on at Second Reading, but it is an important issue.

The Government absolutely share the view of the vital necessity of supporting the continuation and future of Gaelic, and recognise the important contribution that the Gaelic media service MG ALBA makes to the lives and wellbeing of Gaelic speakers across Scotland and the rest of the UK. It is for that reason that the Government embedded a duty to support regional and minority languages, although I take the point made by the hon. Member for Arfon about Welsh not being a “regional” language in that sense. It is, nevertheless, a minority language—as is Gaelic. There is a duty within the BBC’s general duties under the current charter arrangements. We want to help ensure that audiences are able to access this culturally important minority language content in the decades to come.

The Bill goes further than existing provisions. Clause 1 makes the importance of programmes broadcast in the UK’s indigenous languages, including the Gaelic language, clear in legislation, by including it in our new public service remit for television. That is a new addition, which puts on the face of the legislation the need to continue to support minority languages of this kind. We will debate later the way in which the public service broadcasters are required to contribute to the remit and are held accountable for doing so. The purpose of clause 1 is to place a requirement on Ofcom to consider how the public service remit has been fulfilled. It sets a high-level mission statement for public service broadcasters, and is underpinned by a more detailed system of quotas in later clauses. It is intended to be simpler and to provide PSBs with greater flexibility.

That point notwithstanding, I reassure the hon. Member for Barnsley East that the availability of Gaelic language content is provided for elsewhere. As she knows, the BBC has a specific responsibility in the framework to make arrangement to provide BBC Alba, which is a mixed-genre television channel for Gaelic speakers and those interested in the Gaelic language. Ofcom also places a number of more detailed responsibilities on BBC Alba in the BBC’s operating licence. For example, it must provide music of particular relevance to audiences in Scotland, live news programmes each weekday evening—including during peak viewing time—and a longer news review at the weekends.

It is for Ofcom to determine whether these requirements remain appropriate, including on the basis of feedback. It is the case, however, in terms of the amount of Gaelic language broadcasting that takes place, that at the moment BBC Alba broadcasts in Gaelic from 5 pm until midnight. That is seven hours each day, starting an hour later at weekends. When not broadcasting television programmes in Gaelic, it plays—forgive me if I pronounce this wrong—BBC Radio nan Gàidheal, which is the Gaelic language radio station. That is broadcast with static graphics during the periods when television programmes are not being aired. That means that there is a total of something like 2,579 hours of Gaelic television content, certainly in the course of last year.

I think that the amount of Gaelic language already being broadcast meets the ambition set out in the amendment from the hon. Member for Aberdeen North, and it is now contained in the public service remit, serving all channels, and the BBC charter agreement. For that reason, I think there is already considerable provision to ensure the continuation of Gaelic language.

I want to turn to the issue raised by the hon. Member for Barnsley East in new clause 5, which refers specifically to the manner in which Gaelic is delivered. BBC Alba is a requirement as part of the charter, and we will again consider how it is delivered by the BBC when the charter renewal takes place. The charter review starts in 2025 and has to be completed by 2027, and we will set out further details in due course on precisely how it is to be carried out.

In the more immediate term, we have recently brought together BBC and Scottish Government officials to discuss the co-ordination of funding decisions for Gaelic language broadcasting between the two organisations. In that respect, I hope that the hon. Member for Aberdeen North and the hon. Member for Barnsley East will recognise that the intention behind their amendment and new clause is already delivered by the Bill and on that basis will be willing to withdraw their amendments.

I thank the Minister for his response and colleagues for their comments on the amendment and the new clause. I am pleased to hear the Minister talk about the co-ordination of funding decisions and the group that has been brought together to discuss future co-ordination on these decisions and how that may work.

There is a significant asymmetry between the funding settlements for the Welsh language and for Gaelic, particularly with the amount that comes from the licence fee and comparing, for example, Gaelic-speaking broadcasting to Welsh-speaking broadcasting. As I have acknowledged, there are significantly more Welsh speakers, and I am not trying to say that those two things should be directly comparable, but looking at the percentage required from the Scottish Government compared with the amount provided by the licence fee, there is a significant difference between that and what is provided for Welsh. I am glad to hear that the Minister has recognised that decisions are required to be made about the future of funding going forward, and is ensuring that discussions take place.

I am not a Gaelic speaker, but I think my pronunciation of nan Gàidheal would be more accurate than the Minister’s—it does sound like it has a lot more letters than that. I am, however, a native Scots speaker and grew up speaking Doric as my first language. In fact, I think I am the only MP ever to have sworn in to this place in Doric. I have done so twice.

I appreciate that Scots is also mentioned as one of the recognised regional minority languages, and I want to back the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Arfon and the hon. Member for Barnsley East about the number of young speakers. There has been a significant increase in the number of young people speaking Scots. Even when I was at school, which is some time ago now, we were very much discouraged from speaking Scots, but anyone standing at a bus stop in Aberdeen nowadays will hear young people arguing and bantering with each other in the broad Doric. That just would not have happened in the same way 25 or 30 years ago, when I was at bus stops bantering with my pals.

It is good to see that increase, but we have not seen a commensurate increase in the amount of Scots language TV. There is some Scots language programming, but it is very unusual for us to hear somebody speaking in an Aberdeen accent, for example. A significant proportion of those in the north-east of Scotland would be able to speak Doric, or at least understand it were it on our TVs. Doric is a dialect of Scots, which is a recognised language, and it is spoken in the north-east.

The Minister talked about the BBC provision and the licence conditions in the charter. I appreciate all that, but the safeguarding of that in this legislation would have shown Gaelic speakers and people who care about the Gaelic language that it is important to have this at this level. It is important to have it not just as part of the BBC charter and of the potential BBC charter negotiations, but as a recognised part of public sector broadcasting. Gaelic should not be playing second fiddle; it should not be down the list of priorities. It is important, and we should not just say, “It is included in the charter, so that’s okay.” That is not exactly what the Minister said, but it was angling in that direction. Such an approach does not provide that safeguarding we need, and it does not provide the requirement for Ofcom to monitor this. He mentioned that Ofcom has to check whether or not there is an appropriate level of Gaelic programming because of the conditions in the Bill. However, what Ofcom has to check is whether there is a

“sufficient quantity of audiovisual content”,

and, as the shadow Minister said, no clear definition of “sufficient” is provided.

The hon. Lady is absolutely right to say that Ofcom has a duty under the Bill to monitor the delivery of the public service remit, but she will be aware that in addition Ofcom has the duty to oversee the BBC’s delivery of its requirements under the charter and the agreement. To that extent, Ofcom will be monitoring whether or not the BBC is meeting is obligations.

I appreciate that Ofcom will be doing that right now, but, as the Minister says, the charter negotiations are about to open; 2025 possibly seems slightly further away to me than it does to him, but those negotiations are about to begin again and there is no guarantee that that duty will continue to be part of the charter. If the Media Bill provides that this is a required part of public sector broadcasting, it would make it easier for that to be included in the charter and to be part of the licensing conditions, and for Ofcom to ensure that the BBC or any other public sector broadcaster was delivering it.

The last point I wish to make on this is about BBC Alba. Later, we will be discussing the appropriate placement of public sector broadcasters on on-demand services, be it on Sky or wherever else one happens to watch TV. There is a requirement for public sector broadcasters to be given an appropriate level of significance. If we ensure in the Bill that Gaelic-language broadcasting is part of the public sector remit, we increase the likelihood of these broadcasters being given that level of prominence on those on-demand services and digital viewing platforms. We have a requirement for them to be given prominence but at the moment BBC Alba is not included in that, because it is just considered part of the BBC, rather than as a relevant service in its own right. I appreciate that the Minister is unlikely to accept amendment 39 and I am not going to press it to vote, but if the shadow Minister does press new clause 5 to a vote, I fully intend to support it. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move amendment 40, page 3, line 10, at end insert—

“(iv) an annual increase in the spend on content and combined content duration made in Scotland until they reach a population share.”

This amendment would add to Ofcom’s reporting requirements a requirement to report on the extent to which the public service broadcasters had made available audiovisual content including an annual increase in the spend on content and combined content duration made in Scotland until they reach a population share.

I promise that I do not have an amendment on every part of every clause—I am sure everyone will breathe a sigh of relief. Amendment 40 is about the proportion of content made in Scotland and the conditions in the Bill for content made outside the M25. It is important that more content is made outside the M25, and I am glad that the Government have recognised that and that there has been a move in public sector broadcasting to ensure that that happens. I recognise the work that broadcasters have done to ensure that that continues to be the case, and that much more content is produced outside the M25 than previously. That is positive and I am glad to see it.

However, Ofcom has produced state-of-the-nation reports on each individual part of the UK regarding broadcasting and viewing: how much television is watched, what kind of TV is watched, and how people are watching. As a strange aside, there is a significantly higher proportion of people in Scotland who watch TV through their gaming consoles compared with the other nations of the UK. I am not sure why, but that was an interesting read for me.

One thing included in the reports is the spend on production, and the number of hours of production and viewing in each of the countries. People in Scotland watch slightly more television than people in most of the rest of the UK. The average number of hours is slightly more, not significantly, but less content is made in Scotland and there is less spend based on population share. TV is really important, as in the case made by the hon. Member for Arfon, not culturally but economically.

The amendment would require Ofcom to look at the percentage of spend. It would requirement Ofcom to report on the extent to which the public service broadcasters had made available audio-visual content, including an annual increase in the spend on content and combined content duration made in Scotland, until they reach population share. Currently, 6% of spend is made in Scotland, despite the fact that Scotland has 8.5% of the UK’s population and a higher proportion of watching hours. It would ensure that we see an increase in the amount of broadcasting content created and money spent in our communities. That is incredibly important, particularly for some of the rural communities in Scotland. We have seen some amazing content, for example, the “Trawlermen” and “Landward” series, produced around Scotland, showcasing different places and accents in the country. There has been a growth of television series and films being created in Scotland.

We still have a fairly small number of people working in broadcasting in Scotland. It is still relatively difficult for newcomers to find their way into broadcasting in places such as BBC Aberdeen, whose representatives I am meeting again tomorrow. There is a very small turnover of staff, because it is a small office and people like their jobs there, which is great.

The rule here is that if there is facility for growth, growth will occur. There is an Irish saying that I like very much: “Live, horse, and ye shall have hay.” If it is there, it will grow. Perhaps the proof of that, in Wales at least, is that the Welsh-speaking population is equal to the size of Sheffield, but is able to sustain a full channel. I am sure that would happen in Scotland, as well.

Absolutely. If there were a requirement for more broadcasting, not just outside the M25, and for looking at population share, even reporting on spend and population share, there would be clarity and transparency about that spend, and whether it is anywhere close to population share. I think that public sector broadcasters would have a look and think, “Actually, we could probably do better than this. We could produce more content that is more exciting and relevant to people across all of these islands, produced in places with incredibly diverse scenery and people taking part in it.”

As for the Government’s position on levelling up, a fairly general statement on content produced outside the M25 is not going to cut it. It will not bring about levelling up or an increase in broadcasting in places that do no currently see significant amounts. As I said, I appreciate that the Minister and his Government are trying with the outside-the-M25 quota, but it could be done better in order to encourage more content, or at least transparent reporting on the level of broadcasting, spend and content creation in various parts of the UK. As expected from an SNP MP, I have highlighted Scotland, but many parts of these islands could make a pitch for more content to be made in their area, or at least reporting on the level of spend and content created in each region.

Not too long ago, just after the Scottish Affairs Committee concluded its important inquiry into the topic, I was joined by colleagues in Westminster Hall to talk about Scottish broadcasting. One of the biggest takeaways from the debate was just how important the sector is to people.

Scottish broadcasting brings communities together. It promotes pride in place and strengthens local economies. For those reasons, and many more, I strongly believe that Scottish broadcasting can and must continue to form a vital piece of the puzzle in the UK’s creative sectors. Indeed, Scotland is already a popular destination for broadcasters. Not only is it home to Amazon, but the BBC and Channel 4 operate there alongside STV, which in 2021 reached 80% of Scottish people through its main channel. Content made in Scotland often represents Scottish people’s lives and the diversity within them. That sort of representation matters. I know, for example, that it was exciting for many when the first Scottish family finally appeared on “Gogglebox”.

I am very sympathetic towards the aspect of the amendment that looks to ensure that the level of content made in and for Scotland is proportionate to the number of people who live there. However, I have questions about the mechanism used to achieve that. For example, what are the implications of directly attaching spend to population? How would population be measured and how frequently, and how would that impact the legislative requirements to match it? I wonder whether this issue could be better addressed through individual channel remits. For example, both the BBC and Channel 4 have existing nation quotas. Perhaps it would be better to focus on that rather than insert a strict spend requirement, tied to population, on the wider remit.

I would like to show my support for Scottish broadcasting, but further investigation might be needed into how we can best ensure that there is a comprehensive and holistic package of regulation and legislation to secure its future.

I start by agreeing with both Opposition spokesmen about the importance of supporting the production sector outside London and across every region and nation of the United Kingdom. The growth of the independent production sector outside London has been a phenomenal success in recent years, and we now have very strong companies in all parts of the UK. That is shown by the fact that since 2010, PSBs’ production spend allocated to programmes outside London has increased from 39% to over 50%, with ambitions to go even further. For instance, the recent publication of the BBC’s “Across the UK” strategy commits it to increasing the proportion of its own TV production budget outside London to 60% by 2027.

The amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Aberdeen North focuses on Scotland, where production spend is now worth over £266 million, supported by developments including the opening of a Channel 4 creative hub in Glasgow in 2019. As I say, the BBC’s “Across the UK” strategy includes commitments to expand its production studios within the city.

Screen Scotland has pointed out that the total production spend last year on film and television and audiovisual content in Scotland was more than £600 million, which is a 55% increase on the 2019 figures, which shows a substantial increase in production in Scotland. Does the Minister agree that that is to be welcomed?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is not just the public service broadcasters that are committing to spending money on production in Scotland; it is right across the range of broadcasters. That exemplifies the strength of Scottish independent production. Indeed, similar figures can be quoted for Wales; it is not unique to Scotland. Every part of the UK is benefiting. Of course, Scotland has its own broadcasting company in the form of STV, which has a production arm, STV Studios, which has an ambition to become a world-class content producer for global networks and streaming services.

The success of the production sector in Scotland and across the UK has been supported and underpinned by a regulatory system. The importance of programmes being made outside London is in the new public service remit. In addition, all public service broadcasters, with the exception of S4C, are subject to regional programme-making quotas for spend and hours of production outside London. Channel 4 has its own out-of-England quota; the BBC also has a specific quota for content made in Scotland. Those quotas are set by Ofcom, which has the power to amend them, where appropriate. One example of the success of that regulatory system is the “Made outside London programme titles register”, published by Ofcom, which, in 2022, had 811 entries, including 543 from English regions outside London, 53 from Northern Ireland, 117 from Scotland and 72 from Wales. In each case, broadcasters are exceeding the production quotas quite comfortably. The Government will continue to support screen industries across the UK through a system of tax reliefs, investment in studio infrastructure and the UK global screen fund.

In line with the Government’s broader ambition to level up the UK, we want the production sector in all areas of the UK to continue to thrive, and we believe that PSBs play a very important role in our meeting that ambition. Returning to comments made by the hon. Member for Arfon, which I did not address earlier, S4C plays an extremely important part in that. I have not had the opportunity to visit production facilities in Scotland, but I have been to visit both BBC Wales in Cardiff and S4C, where I went on the set of “Pobol y Cwm”, and production in Wales is thriving. The position for S4C is slightly different from that for Scotland, in that there is, as the hon. Gentleman pointed out, a dedicated television channel for the Welsh language in the form of S4C. However, the Government are committed to supporting the production sector in all the nations of the UK.

I share the view of the hon. Member for Barnsley East that attempting to set quotas that are exactly in line with the population proportions would impose a constraint, which would be limiting and unnecessary. For that reason, I ask the hon. Member for Aberdeen North to withdraw her amendment.

I highlight that the focus on content made outside the M25 is not enough. There needs to be a focus on ensuring that the economic and cultural benefits, and the talent pool, are spread wider; “outside the M25” cannot just be Salford, for example. It is possible for “outside the M25” to mean “focused in a small place”, which means benefits are not spread as widely as they should be.

I appreciate the comments made about the increase in spend in Scotland, and I am pleased about that. People are recognising not only the glorious scenery of Scotland, but, for example, the brutalist architecture of the zoology building in Aberdeen; it is not just the hills and glens of Scotland being seen on the big screen, as well as the small screen.

The Minister said that public sector broadcasters are comfortably exceeding their quotas for spend in various nations. If a quota is being comfortably exceeded, it is probably not a good enough quota. I feel that we all agree that it would be better if the benefit was spread, so perhaps it would be useful to at least discuss with the broadcasters how to stretch that, and to see if there could be greater commitment to do more across Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the far-flung reaches of England that are not within a couple of hours’ drive of the M25. However, I will not press the issue. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move amendment 19, in clause 1, page 3, line 13, at end insert—

“including education, entertainment, music, arts, science, sports, drama, comedy, religion and other beliefs, social issues, matters of international significance or interest and matters of specialist interest.”

This amendment would add detailed description of the range of genres which Ofcom must report on whether the public service broadcasters have made available.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Clause stand part.

Clauses 2 and 7 stand part.

New clause 1—Delivery of public service content on relevant television services

“After section 264A of the Communications Act 2003, insert—

‘264B Delivery of public service content on relevant television services

(1) Ofcom must monitor the extent to which the public service remit for television in the United Kingdom is met in respect of relevant television services.

(2) If Ofcom considers that the public service remit for television in the United Kingdom is not being met in respect of such services, it may set whatever programming quotas it considers necessary to ensure that the remit is met.

(3) For the purposes of this section, “relevant television services” means—

(a) the television broadcasting services provided by the BBC;

(b) the television programme services that are public services of the Welsh Authority (within the meaning of section 207);

(c) every Channel 3 service;

(d) Channel 4;

(e) Channel 5.’”

This new clause would give Ofcom powers to measure the delivery of public service content on the linear services of the public service broadcasters, and set quotas if it considered the current level to be unsatisfactory.

On the whole, I am pleased to welcome the clause, which looks to simplify the public service remit, and to allow broadcasters to contribute to the remit with programmes that are made available on a wider range of services, including their on-demand service.

Clause 1 makes an important attempt to simplify the public service remit. Currently, the remit consists of a set of purposes that public service television must fulfil in accordance with a different set of public service objectives. The Bill condenses those requirements, so that the PSB remit is considered fulfilled when providers together make available a wide range of audiovisual content that meets the needs and satisfies the interests of as many different audiences as possible. A list is then provided, setting out the types of content that can form part of such a contribution.

That simplification is, on the whole, a welcome idea, and the inclusion of minority language services and children’s programming in the remit is is great to see. However, the Voice of the Listener & Viewer, the Media Reform Coalition, the International Broadcasting Trust and others have expressed concerns that the simplified format has been coupled with the removal of requirements for public service broadcasters to provide specific genres of content.

When the Government first released the “Up next” White Paper that preceded the Bill, it made no mention of references to genres such as entertainment, drama, science and religion being removed from the remit, as they have been in the Bill. Content from those genres is important to people, and has huge societal and cultural value. If we remove explicit reference to them in the remit, there is a risk of less programming in those areas, particularly where they might be of less immediate commercial benefit. That is surely contradictory to the aim of having a public service broadcaster, which is fundamentally to ensure that public benefit is balanced against purely commercial interests.

The change is especially concerning at a time when, commercially, there is more choice than ever before in popular genres such as entertainment and drama, and less choice when it comes to dramas that provide diversity and difference for UK audiences. This would not be the first time that a reduction in requirements for PSB content led to a decline in culturally valuable content. As the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport highlighted in its report on the draft Bill, Ofcom identified how provision of non-animation programming for children became limited outside the BBC after the quota for children’s programming was removed.

I am pleased that the public service broadcasters have issued reassurances that the new remit will not significantly impact programming in the removed areas, and I am glad that, since its draft version, a small protection has been added in the Bill to secure

“an appropriate range of genres”.

However, the removal of references to specific genres is still a concern, even after these reassurances and amendments. Indeed, if there is no clear specification of what counts as a “range of genres”, there is no guarantee that Ofcom will monitor the amount of content in each of the removed genres. Without such monitoring, falls in provision will be difficult to identify and rectify.

It is with that in mind that I proposed amendment 19, which would ensure that public service content continues to be provided across a range of genres, including entertainment, drama, science, and religion and other beliefs. Further to that, in combination with the powers in clause 10, the amendment would enable Ofcom to properly monitor those genres and make proper suggestions, where content is lacking.

I want to be clear that this addition is not intended to change the nature of the remit, so that the issue would be covered by the PSBs as a whole. I understand that it is not, and should not be, the responsibility of each and every individual public service broadcaster to hit each and every one of the remit requirements, and that is no different for the provision of genres. For example, ITV provides nations’ and regions’ news in a way that means it is not realistic for it to meet some of the other obligations; those are then covered by the likes of Channel 4 and Channel Five, which do not provide the same level of news coverage. That sort of balance works well, and I want to explicitly state that I do not propose that every genre would have to be addressed by every provider. I hope that, bearing that in mind, the Minister can take on board what amendment 19 proposes. Simplifying the remit is a good idea, but not if is done at the cost of the kind of content that sets our public service broadcasters apart.

I move on to the other major consequences of clause 1: the changes that allow content provided through a wider range of services to contribute to the remit. This change makes sense as viewing habits start to shift in a digital age. As the Government know, last year, the weekly reach of broadcast TV fell to 79%, down from 83% in 2021. That is the sharpest fall on record. Meanwhile, on-demand viewing increased, reaching 53 minutes a day this year. Having the flexibility to meet the remit through an on-demand programme service is reasonable, given that this pattern is likely to continue for years to come.

In the meantime, online content can also help to deliver content to niche audiences. Indeed, ITV estimates that 3.8 million households in the UK are online only, meaning that they have no traditional broadcast signal. However, it is important to note that, while habits are shifting, a number of households still do not have internet access. Having previously served as shadow Minister for Digital Infrastructure, I have engaged extensively with telecoms providers and organisations such as the Digital Poverty Alliance, all of which have shared their concern and acknowledged that not everyone has access to or can afford a broadband connection. There is a movement to ensure that social tariffs and lower-cost options are available, as well as to improve the roll-out of gigabit-capable technology, so that as many people as possible can be connected.

Regardless of those efforts, there has been and will remain a section of the population for whom broadcast signal is their sole connection to media, news, entertainment and information. It is incredibly important that those people, who are likely to be older citizens, families in rural areas and those struggling with bills as a result of the cost of living crisis, are able to access public service content as usual on linear channels, delivered through a broadcast signal. That case has been argued extensively by the campaign group Broadcast 2040+, which is made up of a number of concerned organisations. We recognise that the direction of travel is that people are watching content online more than ever, but that does not need to mean diminishing content on broadcast linear services, especially where that content caters to a local audience. That belief goes beyond this Bill and ties into wider worries about the impact that a digital-first strategy will have on traditional means of broadcasting, and, as a result, on audiences.

It has been four months, for example, since the BBC decided to replace some of its vital and unique local radio programming with an increase in online journalism, which has been to the detriment of local communities up and down the country. That decision was made without consulting the communities that would be impacted, and it could easily be repeated in other areas, since there is nothing to stop many more services being axed in favour of online services. This is not to say that there will be no decline in audiences in the years to come as the rise in online content consumption continues, but no co-ordinated effort has been made to ensure that our infrastructure is ready for a mass movement toward online broadcasting. That effort must be made before such a transition takes place. The consequences for the internet capacity that will be needed to cater for spikes, and the implications for national security in a world where TV and radio are no longer methods of communication between the Government and the public, have not been thought through. As long as that remains the case, we must think of those for whom internet connection is not an option. That is why I tabled a new clause to protect the provision of high-quality content on linear services.

The new clause would introduce a safeguard, so that if Ofcom believes that the delivery of PSB content on broadcast linear services is less than satisfactory, it will have the powers needed to set a quota—to ensure that a certain proportion of public service content remains available to linear audiences through a broadcast signal. In short, quality content should remain available to those families up and down the country who rely on their TV rather than watch online content. The new clause makes no prescriptive requirements on how that should be achieved; nor does it set a specific figure for how many programmes must be available to a certain percentage of people. It simply allows Ofcom to monitor the effect of the Bill, which allows PSB content to be delivered online, and allows Ofcom to intervene with such measures as it sees fit if the new remit has unintended negative outcomes.

As well as encouraging him to accept the new clause, I urge the Minister to update us on whether the Government intend to support linear broadcasting beyond 2034. If they do not, what plans are they putting in place to manage a possible transition away from linear services? We have simply not heard enough about this from the Government, and I would be grateful to hear today what the Department’s position is and what work it is already doing on this.

Finally, I come to the rules that state that for on-demand content to count toward the remit, it must be available for at least 30 days. In the draft Bill, public service broadcasters including ITV and the BBC raised concerns that that minimum period was not appropriate for every type of content, because on-demand rights in certain areas, especially sport, news and music, often mean that such programmes are available for limited periods. It is welcome that those concerns are recognised in the Bill, and that an exemption is being introduced for news programmes and coverage of sporting events. Did the Department consider adding programmes covering music events to the list of exemptions? If it did, why was the decision made not to do so? Overall, I support a simplified remit, and the change in clause 1 that allows online content to count toward the remit, but further safeguards around certain genres of content and linear television are needed to protect against unintended or negative consequences.

I am broadly happy with clauses 2 and 4, which are consequential to clause 1. Clause 2 updates Ofcom’s reporting requirements to reflect the changes being made; likewise, clause 7 makes consequential changes to section 271 of the Communications Act 2003. On those issues, I refer Members to my remarks on clause 1 as a whole.

I want to pick up a couple of points relating to clause 1 that I have not mentioned yet, but that the shadow Minister has mentioned.

I am happy to support the provision in new clause 1 that would ensure that public service content is available on linear TV, but I do not think it goes far enough, and it does not add much to Ofcom’s requirements. The same concerns arise around matters such as “significant prominence”. The Minister said from the Dispatch Box on Second Reading that the move away from broadcast terrestrial television would not be made until the overwhelming majority of people in the UK were able to access television by other means. I hope that is a fairly accurate version of what he said. I am concerned that the phrase “overwhelming majority” is also not specific enough, although I appreciate the direction of travel that the Minister was indicating with that remark. My concern, like the shadow Minister’s, about the potential removal of terrestrial TV and non-digital output is for the groups who would be significantly disadvantaged by that loss.

The people who are the most likely to be able to access television only through digital TV are those who are already marginalised, struggling or in more vulnerable groups. The impact is greater on rural communities throughout these islands, not just in Scotland, where access to fast enough broadband can be significantly more difficult. People who are struggling financially are less likely to be able to afford the broadband speeds required. Even with social tariffs, which are important, the ability to access fast broadband, so that people can actually stream a TV show to a reasonable quality at the same time as their child looks at Facebook is more difficult for families who are already financially vulnerable, and in the cost of living crisis, that struggle is unlikely to abate any time soon. The fact that there is no firm, clear quota commitment to the preservation of the ability to watch free-to-air on terrestrial television is therefore important. Will the Minister be more explicit about how he will ensure that “overwhelming majority” does not mean everybody except those living in extreme poverty or in rural communities, or who are at the older end of the age spectrum, or digitally excluded as a result of their lack of education and ability to access digital technology? The Minister is talking about an overwhelming majority, but if the 5% who are left unable to get access are in those marginalised groups, would that be a problem for him? Would he consider that the “overwhelming majority” remit or quota was filled if those groups were still excluded?

On that point, as one who grew up in a house where we had only terrestrial television but a lot of my friends had access to Sky and cable, children’s TV programmes on public service broadcasters were really important educationally. They are important for a lot of families. For some, that is the main way that children access educational TV shows and content. They may not have fast enough internet to be able to watch YouTube, for example—although YouTube itself is not very good. Things such as CBeebies and the kid’s TV shows on the main BBC channels viewable on Freeview are important and make a difference. If we end up moving away from terrestrial linear broadcasting and families are further disadvantaged as a result of the Government’s decision to withdraw provision, that will be increasing and entrenching inequalities.

I am still unclear about the 30 days. I appreciate the requirement, but are the 30 days consecutive? Is it 30 days from the day of broadcast or within a year of the day of broadcast? It may be clearer in the Bill, but if the Minister can explain it more clearly than I can understand it from reading the Bill as drafted, that would be incredibly helpful. I do not have the firmest of views on this; 30 consecutive days or 30 days within a certain period from the broadcast date would be the best option. If it is 30 days over the course of a year, for example, and you can view the programme only every second Tuesday, that is deeply unhelpful and will not do anybody any good. If the Minister can provide clarity, that will be helpful.

We are also debating clauses 2 and 7 stand part. Like the shadow Minister, I think it is reasonable that they follow on from the provisions in clause 1.

The past decade has seen a complete transformation in the way in which people access television. Ten years ago, streaming services barely existed; now, they are ubiquitous. That is why the Bill is so important in modernising our approach and, in particular, ensuring that the public service broadcasters continue to thrive in this new landscape.

Clause 1 amends section 264 of the Communications Act to create a modernised remit for public service broadcasting against which Ofcom must report at least every five years. The new remit replaces and simplifies the purposes and objectives of the current public service broadcasting system. That is set out in proposed new subsection (4), and it will be fulfilled when the public service broadcasters provide a range of content that satisfies the interests of different audiences and is delivered in a way that meets the needs of those audiences.

Proposed new subsection (5) identifies the principal types of public service content that should form part of the PSBs’ collective contribution to the remit, specifically news and current affairs, children’s content and distinctively British content, as well as original, independent and regional productions. For the first time, regional and minority language content—content in Gaelic, Welsh, Scots, Ulster Scots, Irish and Cornish—is specified as contributing to the public service remit.

In that list of protected genres, I note the exception of music. Does the Minister agree that the BBC has an integral part to play in the UK’s cultural landscape as the biggest commissioner of music and the biggest employer of musicians in the country? It has a proud cultural record, from the discovery of new artists and the Proms to innovative, brilliant cultural BBC radio programming at home and abroad. It is vital that all that is protected under amendment 19.

While I completely share the hon. Lady’s love of music and recognition of the importance that broadcasters play in the promotion of music, the purpose of the new remit is to remove the specific naming of individual genres and instead put a requirement for them to be a “broad range”. In my view, that would certainly include music. Ofcom will have a duty to ensure that the broad range of different aspects of public service broadcasting is delivered, and there is a backstop power. If it is felt that broadcasters are failing to deliver sufficient quantities of the specific genre, it is possible for us to pass additional regulation to include a named additional genre. While music is no longer specifically mentioned in the remit, I am confident that that will not lead to any reduction. Indeed, the broadcasters have made clear that they have no intention of reining back on specific genres just because they do not appear in the legislation.

On how content is delivered, the Bill updates the present system so that on-demand provision contributes to the fulfilment of the remit, but to count towards the remit, as has been mentioned, it has to be online for at least 30 days. The only exceptions to the requirement are news and the coverage of live sports, which are regarded as being of instantaneous value, but value that perhaps diminishes over a short space of time. We thought about including music, but I think the value of music lasts beyond 30 days—I am as keen to see a performance from Glastonbury today as I was at the time it was broadcast. It would therefore not be appropriate to include it as one of the exemptions to the requirement. The Government recognise that it is valuable for audiences to be able to access news and current affairs in a traditional format, and the Bill accounts for that by ensuring our public service broadcasters are still subject to quotas that require them to deliver news via traditional linear television. Taken together, these changes will help ensure that our regulatory regime keeps up with modern viewing methods.

Clause 2 updates section 264A of the Communications Act in the light of the new public service remit for television. Section 264A describes how Ofcom, when undertaking a review under section 264, should consider the contribution that other media services, including those provided by commercial broadcasters, make to the remit. The changes made by the clause are needed to implement the new public service remit.

Clause 7 makes changes consequential to clause 1. In particular, it amends section 271 of the Communications Act to apply the existing delegated powers in the section to the new public service remit, as opposed to the old purposes and objectives. That will ensure that, should there be a need, the Secretary of State can by regulation modify the public service remit in clause 1, as I was suggesting to the hon. Member for Luton North. I therefore commend the clauses to the Committee.

I understand the intention behind amendment 19, which is to ensure that the range of content shown is broad. We want that too, but we feel that no longer specifying a large number of individual genres simplifies the current system of public service broadcasting. We want to set a clear and simple vision for the industry that narrows in on what it means to be a public service broadcaster, but we do not see that that need comes at the expense of breadth. We continue to want to see a wide range of genres, and we believe the clause achieves that.

The Minister said it is possible by regulation to amend the list to add genres. Could he write to me with information about the process by which that could happen? How can amendments be made to add genres to the list, should that become necessary?

Ofcom has a duty to monitor the delivery of the remit, and that includes satisfying itself that there is a sufficient range of genres and that there has not been a diminution of a particular genre that would be considered part of the public service remit. If, however, it becomes clear that broadcasters are failing in any area, there is a backstop power that allows the Secretary of State to add a specific genre to the remit. We believe that safeguard is sufficient to ensure continued delivery of the range of genres that the hon. Lady and I want to see.

I thank the Minister for giving way again; he is being very generous with his time. At what point would the backstop power be initiated? Is there a standard below which the Government believe the backstop should be initiated? If so, why not just lay it out on the face of the Bill?

The position is that Ofcom has a duty to monitor the delivery of genres, and it produces a report on that. If it becomes clear, and Ofcom states, that the public service broadcasters are failing to deliver aspects of the remit, section 271 of the Communications Act, which is amended by clause 7, provides a delegated power to amend the remit following the report by Ofcom. Proposed new section 278A allows for the creation of additional quotas for underserved content areas. Those powers are designed to address any underserved content areas that have been identified, and could be used to add a specific genre if that proved necessary.

On that point, for clarity in advance of the remaining stages of this Bill, it would be really helpful if the Minister wrote a letter explaining that. He has mentioned both that the Secretary of State would have the power to vary and to initiate the backstop, but also the power to create regulations, and I am not entirely clear about which it is. It would be great if he just laid that out to us in in a letter.

I am very happy to provide the hon. Lady with a written briefing on exactly how the powers can be used.

New clause 1 would put a specific duty on Ofcom to report on how public service broadcasters deliver the public service remit. We agree that that is very important, but we think that the Bill already achieves that. Clause 1 amends section 264 of the Communications Act to put a responsibility on Ofcom to review and report on the extent to which public service broadcasters fulfil the remit. Regarding the specific requirement of delivery of the remit on linear, I think that we are straying into the territory of debate on the next group, about how long viewers should be able still to rely on digital terrestrial television. I am very happy to debate that, but I think that discussion that is more appropriate to the next grouping.

The hon. Member for Aberdeen North raised a specific question about how the measurement of the 30 days requirement should operate. I can assure her that the broadcaster would certainly not be able to pick out individual days and put them all together to make up that 30. It is 30 consecutive days starting from the day that the content is first made available.

I believe that the clauses that we are debating represent a modernisation that will ensure that public service content remains at the heart of our broadcasting landscape but is modernised to take account of the extraordinary transformations that are occurring. On that basis, I commend clauses 1, 2 and 7 to the Committee, but I would, I am afraid, be unable to support new clause 1 or, indeed, amendment 19.

I appreciate the Minister’s comments on amendment 19, but it still remains the case that, without clear specifications as to what counts in the “range of genres”, there is no guarantee that Ofcom will monitor the levels of content in each of the removed genres. Without such monitoring, it will be very difficult to identify whether there is a reduction and to rectify that. With that in mind, I would like to press amendment 19 to a vote.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 3

Public service remits of licensed providers

I beg to move amendment 35, in clause 3, page 7, line 15, at end insert—

“(c) which is broadcast via UHF frequencies that can be received by a minimum of 98.5% of the population of the United Kingdom.”

This amendment would amend the definition of public service for Channel 3 services and Channel 5 to include an obligation to broadcast via digital terrestrial television.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 36, in clause 3, page 7, line 32, at end insert—

“(d) which is broadcast via UHF frequencies that can be received by a minimum of 98.5% of the population of the United Kingdom.”

This amendment would amend the definition of public service for Channel 4 to include an obligation to broadcast via digital terrestrial television.

Amendment 37, in clause 15, page 17, line 35, at end insert—

“(c) after paragraph (c), insert—

“(d) provide for the broadcast of programmes for or on behalf of a Channel 3 licensee using the MPEG-2 or MPEG-4 digital video broadcasting standard via UHF frequencies that can be received by a minimum of 98.5% of the population of the United Kingdom.””

This amendment would amend the definition of public service for Channel 3 licensees to include an obligation to broadcast via digital terrestrial television.

We covered a little of this in the last debate, in relation to access to terrestrial television services. As I said, there is still significant digital exclusion in our society when it comes to those who access television services and public service broadcasts through non-digital means.

It is possible to do what I do, which is to access television entirely through digital means—I have not had an aerial for a significant time. We moved into our house in 2016 and I am not aware that we have ever watched terrestrial television there, but we are lucky enough to have and be able to pay for a fast broadband connection and to live in a city where we can access one; we are not in any of the excluded and more vulnerable groups that find it more difficult to access television through on-demand means. A significant number of people can still access TV only through terrestrial services.

The amendments are about trying to pin the Minister down on what he means by “an overwhelming majority”. This is about looking at the numbers: is 98.5% of the population the kind of figure that the Minister was thinking about when he said “overwhelming majority”, or did he mean 60% or 70%? I am in debt to my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (Gavin Newlands), who, like me, has met Broadcast 2040+, which crafted these amendments. My hon. Friend is significantly more of a football fan than I am, and has specifically mentioned the fact that football viewing figures are higher for terrestrial TV than they are for subscription services. Removing access to terrestrial TV, which may happen at some point in the future and may need to happen at some point in the very distant future, will reduce the number of people able to access Scottish football. Therefore, in addition to the comments I was making about the educational provision available on television, I make the point that it is also important that there is the ability to view sport.

Yesterday in the Chamber, there was a ministerial update on the risk and resilience framework, which was published by the Government last year. Ministers have been at pains to state how much more transparency the framework enables than was the case previously. I appreciate the work that the Government are trying to do to update the national risk register, to ensure that it is as public as possible and that people are able to access this information. However, an incredibly important part of local resilience is being able to access up-to-date news, up-to-date and on-the-spot weather, and information when something significant happens.

I will give an example. Recently, there were significant floods in Brechin, which is just down the road from Aberdeen—although I am not sure that people in Brechin would want to be described in relation to Aberdeen; Brechin is a very lovely place in its own right and not just a neighbour of Aberdeen. People in Brechin saw really significant flooding, and a number of properties were evacuated. Without the ability to access information on what was happening through terrestrial TV or radio services, people would have been much less aware that the river was about to break its banks. If there is really significant wind—as there was, during the significant rain—accessing mobile phone masts, for example, is much more difficult. Terrestrial TV service masts, having been up for significantly longer, are significantly less likely to come down in the kinds of winds that we saw during Storm Arwen and Storm Babet, as weather events increase. In terms of resilience, it is important for people to be able to access that.

During the covid pandemic, people were glued to their television screens for updates about what was happening and the latest lockdown news. If some of our most vulnerable communities were struggling to access such content because, after the withdrawal of the terrestrial services, they did not have the broadband speeds necessary to watch television on demand, they would be less likely to be able to comply with and understand the law if another pandemic or national emergency happened.

It is important for the Government to know that they can reach the general population; that is how they could make the case for lockdown restrictions or ensure that people were aware of when the Queen sadly passed away last year. They can make those announcements and ensure people have the understanding and ability to know when significant national events have happened.

If people who are older, in poverty or otherwise digitally excluded are less likely to hear timeously about extreme weather or massive national events of incredible importance, then we further marginalise communities that are already struggling. As I said, I appreciate the Minister using the term “overwhelming majority” but I am just not confident enough that—

The hon. Lady should recognise that such switchovers are possible only when the technology supports it, which is a question of changing the distribution mechanism at some point. That can lead to more choice.

Take the village in Kent where I live. When we had to do the switchover in 2012, the consequence of turning off the analogue signal and replacing it with a digital one was that we could get Channel 5, which people would otherwise not have been able to get at all. With the improvement in infrastructure, some people may see a significant improvement in services, but only where that infrastructure is ready.

I appreciate that and think it is important, but my point is about those who cannot get access and do not have the financial ability to do so. If we have a commitment to continue to provide terrestrial services and the legacy infrastructure, the providers of that infrastructure—the public service broadcasters—can continue to invest in it and not just say, “Well, the Government are going to allow us to turn it off in 2040 so there is no point in investing in it now. It has only got 17 years left to run, so we are just going to run the network down.” I am concerned that that may be the direction of travel.

Without a very clear commitment from the Government, I am worried that there will be a lack of investment in terrestrial services and that people will lose out. I would not want anybody to lose out on Channel 5 and I am very glad that people have access to it, but they need to have the choice. I would rather people had access to some public service broadcasting than none, which would be entirely possible if the digitally excluded could no longer access terrestrial TV services.

If the Minister made some really clear commitments today, that would be incredibly helpful. He may not be able to do that, in which case I may press some of the amendments. I will certainly be supporting the Labour party’s new clause. If the Minister cannot make more commitments, will he make clear the Government’s point of view about people likely to be excluded from taking part in a switchover, in relation to current investment in the network and investment to ensure that the network can last the next 15, 20, or 30 years? Would the Minister be happy to see that network diminish and for there to be a lack of investment so that services run down of their own accord or would he would prefer people to continue to be able to access them?

It would be great to have a little more clarity from the Government on the proposed direction of travel. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North and also Broadcast 2040+ for all the work that they do to try to ensure that marginalised groups can continue to access public service broadcasting.

As I outlined during the discussion about my new clause 1, it is incredibly important that we recognise the value of broadcast television services and ensure that they are available where needed, particularly when thinking about making public service content available to as many people as possible. Indeed, the Government have themselves highlighted that millions of households in the UK still rely on broadcast television as their form of access to visual content—a trend expected to continue over the next decade.

Furthermore, unlike internet streaming services, PSB content on terrestrial TV does not require a strong broadband connection or rely on monthly subscription fees. Such content is primarily relied on by those already marginalised in society—people on the lowest incomes, people of an older age and those in isolated rural areas. There is a higher population of such people in Scotland given its increased rurality, island communities and comparatively older population, so I understand and support the reasons why the amendment has been tabled. It wants to ensure the future of terrestrial services for those who need them. That is particularly important because, as we have discussed, under the Bill on-demand content can now contribute to public service remits. That is the right move but it should come with safeguards for content on terrestrial TV, which is what my new clause seeks to address.

A host of implications are not being properly considered when digital-first plans are put forward in the Bill for broadcasting. If we move away from broadcast services prematurely, there will be huge implications for telecoms operators, who will have to handle unprecedented surges in internet traffic. For example, if everyone watched the World cup final online rather than on their broadcast TV, the infrastructure would need to be strong enough to carry that. Without due preparation and regulation, questions may arise about how that would be funded without costs being passed on to consumers and without raising bigger questions on topics such as net neutrality.

As we have discussed, there are also national security implications to moving away from broadcast infrastructure in its entirety. How would local and national Government communicate with the public if the internet was down due to an emergency situation? With all that in mind, we need to consider the future of our broadcasting landscape and the important role that terrestrial television will continue to play in the years to come.

I am unsure, however, whether the amendment is right to be so prescriptive in legislation about the percentage of the population who must be reached through digital terrestrial television, particularly given the rapid advances in technology taking place around us. There are already statutory obligations in the Broadcasting Act 1996 that feed into broadcast and multiplex licences, which require the likes of ITV to use DDT on the UHF frequencies to broadcast. Those obligations mean that 98.5% of the population are able to receive broadcast television.

However, although the current infrastructure broadly allows for 98.5% reach, I do not believe that is a precise enough figure or a stable enough measurement to warrant requiring it specifically in legislation; if the Bill wants to be future-proofed and recognise the importance of terrestrial television, I am not sure that quite strikes the balance. I hope the Minister takes on board the strength of feeling on this issue and seeks to ensure that the public service content remains available up and down the country. I also hope the Department puts a future plan in place that really considers the importance of broadcast services and of the certainty over the future that that could provide these services and the people who rely on them.

I want first to make it clear that the Government remain committed to the future of digital terrestrial television. We absolutely accept that millions continue to rely on it. We have already legislated, as hon. Members know, to secure its continuity until at least 2034 through the renewal of the multiplex licences. Obviously, I understand that the Opposition would like to go further and give a commitment going beyond 2034, and the amendments are tabled with that purpose in mind.

I said “overwhelming majority” on Second Reading, because I do not want to be tied down to a specific figure, particularly when we are now looking 10 years ahead, but I repeat that it would be a brave Government who switched off DTT while there was still a significant number—even a small number—of people relying on it.

Since the Minister is not willing to commit to going further than 2034, will he outline when he will make a decision on whether he will extend it past 2034? If not—this is quite important—what plans are the Department putting in place to ensure any future transition takes place effectively?

I am happy to say a little more about what the Department is doing. First, the hon. Member for Aberdeen North is absolutely right that broadband availability is one of the factors that would need to be taken into account. I also have ministerial responsibility at the moment for digital infrastructure, and I can confirm to her that the Government remain committed to the universal availability of gigabit broadband by 2030; if we achieve that target, that is one factor that will have been met. There is also the availability of low-cost tariffs, and I agree with her about the importance of those.

The hon. Lady also talked about resilience. Resilience is important, but it is worth bearing in mind that the Bilsdale transmitter fire was not that long ago—that took out DTT for a significant number of people for quite a few months. Every technology is subject to occasional risk, and that was a rather more dramatic one.

On getting vital messaging across, I gently say to Opposition Committee members that radio is, of course, available through a variety of different technologies as well as television.

The fire that the Minister referenced really outlined how important linear television is to many parts of the country. Actually, the further north we go, the more communities rely on it. In that particular case, I think that a prison was affected as well as a number of older people. It is a good example of how important terrestrial TV still is to many in the country.

We completely recognise that terrestrial TV is important to many in the country. I was in my second incarnation as a Minister at the time of the Bilsdale fire, and I talked to Arqiva about the importance of restoring services as rapidly as possible. A very large number of people were left without the ability to access information, entertainment and all the things that people rely on television to provide.

Looking forward, as hon. Members may be aware the Secretary of State recently announced that the Department is going to carry out a new programme of work on the future of television distribution. That includes a six-month research project working with a consortium led by the University of Exeter, looking at changing viewing habits and technologies. We have also asked Ofcom to undertake an early review on market changes that may affect the future of content distribution. I am very happy to keep the House updated on those. That will be looking at all the various factors that would need to be taken into account.

I make one final point about amendment 37. It puts a particular requirement on channel 3 licensees to use particular standards for compression technology. As with all technologies, the standards for television distribution will change over time. We want to ensure that there remains flexibility, so restricting channel 3 to a particular use of one technology would be severely limiting and actually be contrary to precisely what the Bill is designed to achieve.

On what the Minister just said about the report on the future of television provision being done and the timeline for decision making, does he recognise my point that the degradation of the technology is possible if the Government do not make fairly early decisions—I am not talking about in the next three months—on whether they are going to extend it beyond 2034? Does he understand the importance of making a decision in fairly short order to ensure that broadcasters, for example in Arqiva, keep the technology running so that it stays viable beyond 2034 if necessary?

As I say, we are committed to keeping the House updated about the research. I recognise the point, and my own expectation is that DTT will be around for quite some time to come. For the reasons I have explained, I am not able to accept the amendments. I hope that the Opposition will withdraw them.

Ordered, That the debate be now adjourned.(Mike Wood.)

Adjourned till this day at Two o’clock.

Media Bill (Second sitting)

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairs: † Judith Cummins, Martin Vickers

† Baynes, Simon (Clwyd South) (Con)

† Blackman, Kirsty (Aberdeen North) (SNP)

† Bradshaw, Mr Ben (Exeter) (Lab)

† Butler, Rob (Aylesbury) (Con)

† Carter, Andy (Warrington South) (Con)

† Collins, Damian (Folkestone and Hythe) (Con)

† Efford, Clive (Eltham) (Lab)

† Foster, Kevin (Torbay) (Con)

† Green, Chris (Bolton West) (Con)

Hunt, Tom (Ipswich) (Con)

† Owen, Sarah (Luton North) (Lab)

† Peacock, Stephanie (Barnsley East) (Lab)

† Tuckwell, Steve (Uxbridge and South Ruislip) (Con)

† Western, Andrew (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab)

† Whittingdale, Sir John (Minister for Media, Tourism and Creative Industries)

† Williams, Hywel (Arfon) (PC)

† Wood, Mike (Lord Commissioner of His Majesty's Treasury)

Huw Yardley, Kevin Candy, Committee Clerks

† attended the Committee

Public Bill Committee

Tuesday 5 December 2023


[Judith Cummins in the Chair]

Media Bill

Clause 3

Public service remits of licensed providers

Amendment proposed (this day): 35, in clause 3, page 7, line 15, at end insert—

“(c) which is broadcast via UHF frequencies that can be received by a minimum of 98.5% of the population of the United Kingdom.”—(Kirsty Blackman.)

This amendment would amend the definition of public service for Channel 3 services and Channel 5 to include an obligation to broadcast via digital terrestrial television.

Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.

I remind the Committee that with this we are discussing the following:

Amendment 36, in clause 3, page 7, line 32, at end insert—

“(d) which is broadcast via UHF frequencies that can be received by a minimum of 98.5% of the population of the United Kingdom.”

This amendment would amend the definition of public service for Channel 4 to include an obligation to broadcast via digital terrestrial television.

Amendment 37, in clause 15, page 17, line 35, at end insert—

“(c) after paragraph (c), insert—

‘(d) provide for the broadcast of programmes for or on behalf of a Channel 3 licensee using the MPEG-2 or MPEG-4 digital video broadcasting standard via UHF frequencies that can be received by a minimum of 98.5% of the population of the United Kingdom.’”

This amendment would amend the definition of public service for Channel 3 licensees to include an obligation to broadcast via digital terrestrial television.

I beg to move amendment 1, in clause 3, page 7, line 33, at end insert—

“(5A) In this section, a reference to making available audiovisual content, in relation to a licensed public service channel, is a reference to the provider of that channel making available audiovisual content.”

This amendment describes how audiovisual content contributing to the fulfilment of the public service remit for a licensed public service channel is provided.

I welcome you to the Chair, Mrs Cummins. Clause 3 amends section 265 of the Communications Act 2003 to update public service remits of licensed public service channels to make clear that the high-quality and diverse programmes they make available must themselves contribute to the public service remit and together represent an adequate contribution. In line with the changes made by clause 1, it allows licensed public service channels to fulfil their remits by using a wider range of services.

Government amendment 1 ensures that when a public service broadcaster is required to fulfil the public service remit for a given channel, and that remit is to make available content, then it is the public service broadcaster that should be making that content available, either themselves or through others. That point of detail was arguably included in the Bill at its introduction, but we felt it necessary to bring forward the amendment in order to put this matter beyond doubt. It is a technical amendment, and I hope the Committee can support it.

I too welcome you to the Chair this afternoon, Mrs Cummins. As well as the remit covering all the public service broadcasters, there also exist separate remits covering the activity and content of each individual channel. The channel remits are important, as they ensure that the specific aims of each channel are clear in the context of the wider contribution these channels must make as a whole.

Section 265 of the Communications Act 2003 sets out the specific remit for channel 3, Channel 4 and Channel 5. As will become the theme in coming clauses, only channel 3, Channel 4 and Channel 5 are dealt with by this clause, with many of the same changes to the BBC and S4C made later on in the Bill due to their differing arrangements. In any case, section 265 ensures that channel 3 and Channel 5 must provide a range of high-quality and diverse programming. Meanwhile, Channel 4 has an extended remit that requires its programming to: be innovative, creative, experimental and distinctive; appeal to the tastes and interests of cultural diversity; include a significant contribution to meeting the need for education programmes; and exhibit a distinctive character.

The clause amends section 265 to update the remits. First, it makes clear that the high-quality and diverse programmes they make available must themselves make an adequate contribution to the wider public service remit. This is sensible, as it makes it explicitly clear how the individual channels will feed into the broader remit. Secondly, the clause allows public service broadcasters to fulfil their channel remits by means of any audio-visual service, echoing changes made in clause 1 that allow for on-demand programming to count toward the wider remit.

While I believe it is important we see public service programming on linear services protected, it makes sense that as on-demand viewership increases, channel remits should be given the same flexibility as was provided for the wider remit in clause 1. I therefore welcome the clause and the clarification it provides for each channel and the consistency it ensures for the new public service remit as a whole. I understand that amendment 1 is largely a technical clarification that specifies that audio-visual content contributing to a channel remit must be content made available by the provider of that channel. This seems to be a very sensible tidying up of phrasing.

Amendment 1 agreed to.

Clause 3, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 4

Statements of programme policy

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Section 266 of the Communications Act 2003 puts a duty on Ofcom to require providers of licensed public service channels to prepare statements of their programme policies that set out how they intend to fulfil their individual channel remits. Currently, these statements must only be prepared in relation to the content provided by public service broadcasters on their traditional TV channels. Clause 4 amends section 266 of the 2003 Act. It expands these statements to reflect that the fulfilment of the public service remit could now include, as set out in clause 1, content delivered by on-demand services.

Going forward, the providers of licensed public service channels—channels 3, 4 and 5—must set out in their statement the services they are using to contribute to the fulfilment of the public service remit and explain how each service is contributing. The publication of these statements is important to allow proper scrutiny of our public service broadcasters.

Clause 5 of the Bill, which is grouped with clause 4, amends section 267 of the 2003 Act to update the definition of “a significant change”, so that it would apply if any of the services that a licensed public service broadcaster is using to deliver its remit—not just the main channel, as before—were to become “materially different in character”. For example, this will include on-demand services as well as the traditional TV channels. And like the previous clause, clause 5 will ensure that these statements continue to allow scrutiny of all the ways that the public service remit is fulfilled.

Clause 4 amends requirements on channels 3, 4 and 5 to report on how they intend to fulfil their channel remit. Indeed, due to clause 3, these channels will now be able to meet this remit using qualifying audio-visual services, including both linear and on-demand programmes.

As a result, licensed PSBs will now have to set out in their statement of programme policy which audio-visual services they use to fulfil their channel remit, as well as the contributions that each service will make. This is a necessary change to ensure that reporting standards, and as a result the standards of public service TV, do not slip or falter as a result of the changes made by clause 3.

However, making this change will also be beneficial, as it will help Ofcom to build a clear picture of how the new rules are being used and whether they are working effectively to serve both linear and on-demand audiences. Therefore, as a result of both the necessity for and benefit of clause 4, I am happy to welcome it.

Similarly, clause 5 makes further updates to the reporting requirements on channels 3, 4 and 5. Currently, public service broadcasters must make changes to their statement of programme policy if their public service channel makes “a significant change”. “A significant change” is defined in the 2003 Act as the channel becoming

“materially different in character from in previous years.”

To reflect the new rules, which will mean channel remits can be met by services beyond the public service channel, clause 5 updates the definition of “a significant change”, so that it will apply if any of the services that a licensed public service broadcaster is using to deliver its remit becomes “materially different in character”.

Widening the scope of the 2003 Act to include more than just the public service channel is sensible and necessary in relation to the changes made in clause 3 and, as such, I welcome the inclusion of clause 5 in the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 4 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 5 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 6

Enforcement of public service remits

I beg to move amendment 20, in clause 6, page 8, line 21, at end insert—

“(2A) In subsection (2)(a), after “serious”, insert “, or at risk of becoming serious””.

This amendment would lower the threshold for Ofcom’s intervention if it considers that a public service broadcaster has failed to fulfil its remit.

Clause 6 is another example of necessary changes being made to the Communications Act 2003 to reflect the changes in clause 3. Indeed, since public service broadcasters can now use on-demand services to deliver their remit, Ofcom’s power to consider whether such a broadcaster has failed to fulfil its remit must be adjusted accordingly, so that on-demand services can be taken into account.

Likewise, it is right that Ofcom will be able to make directions and impose licence conditions that apply to audio-visual services, ensuring that its enforcement and monitoring now reflect the new flexibility in the remit. I therefore welcome the premise of this clause.

However, I want to speak briefly about Ofcom’s enforcement powers more generally with reference to amendment 20. Given the increased flexibility that public service broadcasters have been given in meeting their remit, concern has been raised about the strength of Ofcom’s position in being able to step in when things look as though they may go wrong. The British Association of Public Safety Communications Officials and Ofcom can step in only when failure to meet the remit is considered to be serious; and any failure is not excused by economic or market conditions. That seems to be an unreasonably high threshold for intervention that does not allow for preventive action to take place in order to stop an issue becoming serious in the first place.

As the Culture, Media and Sport Committee highlight in its comprehensive report on the Bill, enabling Ofcom to step in earlier if it perceives there is a risk of a breach becoming serious would not only protect the integrity of the new regime but increase public confidence that the new remit would not come with a decline in standards. Ofcom itself has also recognised that, saying in its submission to the Committee that,

“it is important that this flexibility is accompanied with appropriate ‘step in’ powers so the commercial and PSB incentives remain effectively balanced.”

Further, we will speak many times during the passage of the Bill about how important it is for Ofcom to be empowered as a result of it. Indeed, many of the new regimes in the Bill are reliant on Ofcom being able to act confidently in enforcement. As such, it must be given the tools to intervene where needed across the board. Therefore, my amendment proposes that section 270 of the Communications Act is updated to lower the threshold at which intervention can take place in the case of remit breaches. The phrase “is serious” will be adjusted to “is serious or at risk of becoming serious”, thus ensuring that Ofcom can remedy any failures efficiently and in good time. Indeed, it is not my hope that that power will have to be used on a regular basis; there is every reason to believe that the public service broadcasters will continue to do their best to deliver on their remit for UK audiences. However, should that not be the case, it is important that we do all we can to mitigate any failure. I ask for Committee members support for this amendment.

Can the hon. Lady give the Committee any examples of when Ofcom has been unable to act with its current powers against public service broadcasters in the linear world? She talks about making changes for the digital world, but are there current examples where Ofcom is concerned?

I do not believe so, no, but obviously the Bill is changing, and giving more powers to, Ofcom. Like any regulator, it needs to be able to enforce them properly; so it is really a preventive measure. We hope that the Minister will take the amendment in the spirit in which it is put forward.

I rise briefly to support the amendment. This changes the remit requirements on public service broadcasters. I do not think that anyone is disagreeing with some of the changes that are being made. It makes sense for the public sector remit to be able to be fulfilled on some of the on-demand services, for example, in a way that currently they are not. However, the concerns that were raised earlier around genres, for example, are not written into the Bill. There is a requirement for there to be a range of genres but those definitions are no longer included. The system will probably need to bed in; it will probably take a bit of time. I agree with the shadow Minister that we do not expect public service broadcasters actually to create serious risk or enter this situation. If they do, though, I believe it is better for everyone for Ofcom to be able to intervene at an earlier point, for a number of different reasons.

If Ofcom can intervene earlier and is empowered and asked to do so, it will be cheaper, easier and quicker to sort out the issue. If it can act only once the issue is serious enough, then undoing that harm is difficult. Stopping the harm is better for the general public, better for the broadcasters, better for the staff who work within those broadcasters, and better for Ofcom, which will have to spend less time clearing up a mess and ensuring that a mess can be cleared up.

On the empowerment that it gives to Ofcom, I agree with the shadow Minister that it will not be used terribly often, but it does give Ofcom sufficient power to say to the broadcaster, “Things are not going right here. We think there is a risk of things becoming serious, so we would like you to make some changes,” particularly when some of the quotas have been removed, for example, or some of the requirements for genres have been changed. It is going to take a while for the system to work as intended. The Government do intend it to work—I have no doubts that that is the case—but Ofcom needs to be empowered to ensure that it can do that.

It strikes me that a lot of what the hon. Lady is talking about is relevant to the broadcasting code. It is Ofcom’s job to issue guidance in relation to the code and to take action if a broadcaster fails to meet its obligations. If Ofcom feels that a broadcaster has no intention of keeping within the remit of the code, it can withdraw its licence. That is the ultimate sanction, and one that Ofcom has already.

That is absolutely the case. However, on this section of the Bill, which is about enforcing the public sector remit—sorry, I keep saying “public sector” when I mean “public service”; I spent too much time in local government. It is about enforcing the public service remit and amending this section of the Communications Act. The shadow Minister has made the case to allow Ofcom the ability to step in with a lighter touch. We do not want Ofcom to have to take licences away. We want Ofcom to assess that, if things are not going in the right direction, it is better for everyone if it ensures the proper provision and that everybody has access to the public service broadcasting that we would expect. We want Ofcom to have that earlier opportunity to step in and say, “Guys, it’s time to make some changes before it gets to the point of being beyond repair.”

As the hon. Member for Barnsley East has already set out, section 270 of the Communications Act gives Ofcom enforcement powers to use in the event that it believes the provider of a licensed public service channel has failed to fulfil its statutory remit, or to make an adequate contribution to the public service remit for television. In those circumstances, Ofcom could issue a direction to the public service broadcaster setting out the steps for remedying the failure. Should it not give effect to that direction, Ofcom can also then impose additional obligations on the broadcaster.

In that context, clause 6 does three things. It amends section 270 to make clear that Ofcom can make directions and impose licence conditions in relation to any services that the public service broadcaster has indicated it is using to fulfil its channel remit. In the light of the ability of licensed public service broadcasters to use a wider range of services to deliver their remits, it will allow Ofcom to consider the record of the provider in using on-demand programme services when considering enforcement action.

Turning to amendment 20, I understand the Opposition’s concern about whether Ofcom will have the tools it needs, which we absolutely share. However, we believe the particular change sought by the amendment is not necessary and would carry with it some dangers. First, as the Government have already set out to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, there are reasons why Ofcom might form the opinion that the failure of a provider is serious, but it may consider that a failure is more serious if it is likely that it will be repeated without regulatory intervention.

Secondly, the power to enforce against the licensed public service broadcaster is not the only tool available to Ofcom. Ofcom can also take less formal action, working with public service broadcasters to produce good outcomes; it also has legal options.

Thirdly—this is perhaps the most important consideration —the amendment breaches what is quite an important principle: public service broadcasters need to be independent to make their own decisions about how they best run their channels now and in the future. Ofcom’s role is to reach judgment on whether broadcasters have succeeded in meeting their public service remit. The amendment would make Ofcom a pre-broadcast regulator rather than a post-broadcast regulator. It would give Ofcom the ability to penalise failures that have not yet occurred.

It strikes me that the Opposition’s amendment would effectively take regulation back to the days of the Independent Broadcasting Authority where, before anything was done, permission was needed from the regulator. That type of regulation is of no benefit to the creative industries and to the freedom to innovate in the way the sector requires.

My hon. Friend is right. It is a long-established principle that Ofcom is a post-transmission regulator. The acceptance of the amendment would change that and give Ofcom an ability to intervene before transmission. That would be a breach of what we consider quite an important principle. Therefore, on that basis, we cannot accept the amendment.

I have a follow-up question. Can the Minister give us some indication or understanding of how Ofcom will ensure that the remits are fulfilled across public service broadcasting, without having any sort of pre-conversations with each broadcaster—to ensure, for example, that there is enough educational content across all of them? How does he expect Ofcom to ensure that that happens without having pre-conversations and by only being a post-transmission regulator?

Some of the quotas and individualised direction are being removed. I am not necessarily suggesting that that is a bad thing, but the Minister’s point about Ofcom being a post-transmission regulator goes against the fact that it will have expectations on the broadcasters as a whole, and will require some of them to do some things and some to do other things without knowing what those things are until afterwards.

We are about to debate the fact that individual channels will be subject to some quotas. There are also the statements of programme policy that Ofcom will be required to approve. Having said that, Ofcom will reach a judgment on delivery of the remit, looking across the broad extent of public service broadcasting. Ofcom will be able to make it clear if it thinks a particular genre has not been sufficiently provided either by an individual public service broadcaster or, indeed, across the whole range of public service content. It will be for Ofcom to determine that, but I believe the Bill gives it that ability.

Throughout the Bill, we are giving more powers and responsibility to Ofcom. The amendment speaks to the idea that prevention is better than cure. I do not agree with the Minister’s interpretation; indeed, the Select Committee spoke of the matter and the amendment echoes that. However, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 6 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 7 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 8

Quotas: independent productions

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 8 to 17 make amendments to the current system of quotas, which I will discuss in this group and the next.

Quotas are an important tool to ensure that public service broadcasters produce an appropriate range of content. Unlike the public service remit, which is judged by Ofcom in regard to the PSBs as a whole, quotas allow Ofcom to put licence conditions on specific public service broadcasters to ensure that they make available certain types of content. That is how we can ensure an appropriate balance of key types of content, such as news and current affairs, independently produced content and original content. It is worth stressing that such requirements are floors, not ceilings, and that PSBs routinely exceed them, often by a considerable margin.

Section 277 of the Communications Act sets out a minimum proportion of broadcast hours that must be independent productions. It is set at 25% for each of the licensed public service channels. Clause 8 amends this to change the way in which the provider of a licensed channel may deliver the independent production quota. In particular, subsection (2) replaces the existing requirement on the

“provider of a licensed public service channel”

to allocate time on the channel to the broadcasting of a

“range and diversity of independent productions”.

Together with clauses 11 and 12, it will allow the requirements to be fulfilled using a public service broadcaster’s designated on-demand programme services to better reflect modern viewing habits.

The subsection also replaces references to a proportion of hours that the provider of licensed public service channels must make available, with reference to a number of hours. The number of hours that each licensed public service channel must include is to be specified by the order of the Secretary of State. Given that this requirement can now be met using on-demand services, it is more appropriate to use the number of hours of content made available as a measurement rather than the proportion of hours.

Subsections (5), (7) and (9) make comparable provision in relation to expenditure quotas for independent productions that the Secretary of State may establish. In setting the new hours-based quota, the intention is for them to be no more or less demanding than the existing 25% quota. We therefore intend to calculate the effective level of the quota over the last five years and replicate that. Of course, in Channel 4’s case, which we will come to later, that will be revised upward to the equivalent of 35% should Channel 4 decide to start a production business.

We believe that the consequence of that provision represents proportionate and reasonable requirements on our public service broadcasters. Of course, it is open to PSBs to go further and exceed their independent production quotas as they do now. Clause 9 makes similar amendments to section 278 of the Communications Act, which provides that a minimum proportion of broadcasting hours must be allocated to original productions. The proportion for each licensed public service channel, as well as the proportion in peak viewing times, is determined by Ofcom. As with clause 8, this clause ensures that the provider of the licensed public service channel can fulfil the quota using their designated on-demand services. That change is achieved by replacing the requirement to allocate time on the channel to the broadcasting of original productions with a more general requirement. Again, it makes provision for this to be measured by duration rather than as a proportion of broadcast hours as it is currently.

Clause 14 relates to the quotas for making programmes outside of London. The Communications Act currently provides that a minimum proportion of programmes made in the United Kingdom have to be made outside the M25 area. Similarly comparable provision is made in respect of expenditure. We debated this earlier, particularly in relation to the effect on production in Scotland and in Wales. Similarly, clause 14, read with the previous clauses, amends the Communications Act to preserve the substance of the provision, but it changes the way in which the provider may deliver their regional production quotas. In similar fashion, it again makes the change to measure the quota in terms of duration, rather than proportion of hours.

Together, these changes modernise our system to reflect the change that has occurred in audience viewing habits over the past 20 years, and ensure that it will continue to be meaningful and delivering value.

Clauses 8, 9 and 14 change the way in which licensed public service channels may deliver their independent production, original production and regional production quotas respectively. In short, they will first be changed to allow qualifying audio-visual services to fulfil this quota, meaning that on-demand and online services can make a contribution. That is the case with both the channel and the wider remit.

As a consequence of this move, the quotas are moving away from having to fill a certain proportion or percentage of content towards being based on a set number of hours of content and spend to be specified by the Secretary of State. I will look at each of these changes in turn, but first I want to emphasise how important the quotas themselves are, because they maximise the contribution our PSBs make to the wider broadcasting sector. For example, as the Minister just outlined, the requirement to have a number of programmes made outside the M25 area recognises the importance of reinvigorating our creative economy beyond simply the south-east. At the moment, our creative economy is densely concentrated in London, resulting in limited opportunities and entry points in the sector in other regions, including my constituency of Barnsley East. Yet, wherever we look in the UK, there is no shortage of culture and creativity. I am very supportive of the modernising and future-proofing of quotas, like those on content outside the M25, so that steps continue to be taken across the broadcasting industry to make use of the creativity that exists in every corner of the country.

Looking to the changes these clauses will make, I welcome the move to allow on-demand content to count towards these quotas. I note with interest that some of the existing quota obligations are still tied to linear services. In particular, I am pleased that there will remain in place a specific mandate for linear channels to meet news and current affairs quotas. For the reasons I outlined in earlier discussions, many households do not have an internet connection, and it is especially important that those people are able to view news as easily as anyone else. Likewise, it makes sense for some quotas, namely on independent productions and original content, to be given more flexibility. As Channel 4 notes in its contribution to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s pre-legislative scrutiny:

“This is good for audiences who want high quality…content on streaming services, good for content producers to reach new audiences and develop innovative content, and good for public service broadcasters who engage audiences across multiple platforms and seek to leverage the huge opportunities of digital transformation.”

I am therefore happy with the balance struck on the categories of quota that have been selected to allow online content to count towards them.

I move on to the way the Bill amends how these quotas are calculated. As previously mentioned, until now quotas have been proportional. For example, the Communications Act requires licensed PSBs to dedicate at least 25% of their broadcast hours to independent productions. In order to adjust to streaming delivery, the Bill changes that to an absolute quota: the Secretary of State will reference a particular number of hours and spend that each licensed public service channel must include as part of its programming. However, some broadcasters, notably Channel 4 and the BBC, have raised concerns over the lack of flexibility this provides. The current system of percentages allows PSBs to react to the wider economic circumstances on a rolling basis. For example, if anything—from inflation pressure to a global pandemic—changes the landscape in which broadcasting operates, a percentage quota means that even if overall production spend decreases, in order to secure economic stability the quota can still be met from a smaller pool of content. Pure numbers would not offer such a buffer. As Channel 4 put it concisely:

“The net effect of this is that there would be no requirement or incentive…to invest more in content when times are good, and no flexibility to invest less in exceptional circumstances”.

The BBC warned that, in such exceptional circumstances, it may

“have to make trade-offs in order to meet absolute quotas…to the detriment of audiences.”

That should be of concern to not only the PSBs themselves, but all those who consume and enjoy public service content across the country.

Pact has also raised concerns that the number of hours in the quota may end up being too low to be meaningful. That will especially be the case if covid-impacted years are used to calculate an average number of hours of quota-related content produced in recent times. There are further concerns about the impact of changes to how repeat programmes count towards quotas, which I will address when discussing clause 12. Although I understand the intention behind the change, given the change to allow on-demand content to count towards quotas, I would still like the Minister to tell me what will be done to help PSBs mitigate this change while maintaining the impact and purpose of the quota. It would certainly be helpful if he could give an indication of what this numerical quota is expected to be and how it will be calculated so that preparations to meet it can begin. Anything the Minister can do to reassure PSBs and the public that the change will not result in perverse incentives would be gratefully received.

I want to pick up on one more issue related to the quota on original production. There has been some confusion over how peak requirements will apply. When it comes to linear viewing, it makes sense that quotas include requirements to show certain content at peak times. However, peak times do not exist in the catalogue of on-demand services: all content available is there at all times. It would be good to have some clarity from the Minister on how requirements relating to peak time will apply in the context of the new clause and as content continues to move away from linear television.

I also welcome the fact that the Secretary of State will retain the ability to define original productions by excluding certain types of content such as teleshopping from the quota. It is with that in mind that I welcome the intent of the clauses as a whole but look forward to the Minister’s clarifications.

I will make a brief comment on the inclusion of on-demand services and the change to defining quotas in numbers of hours rather than in percentages. It could be incredibly difficult to calculate the total number of hours available of all programmes, because of the number of different platforms, apps and arms that each public service broadcaster has. I therefore understand the rationale for moving to a number of hours model instead of a percentage model.

To make the case in terms of on-demand services and on-demand hours, I hope the Minister will encourage Ofcom to ensure that the content that is counted towards these remits is accessible. We have spoken about digital inclusion already— I am not referring to that—but if, when people open BBC iPlayer, they can find a certain programme only by going through 17 screens, finding it at the bottom of a page further on and finding that it may be available only every second Tuesday, it will be very difficult for the broadcaster to argue that that programme is included in its number of hours. Will the Minister be clear that the broadcaster should be able to demonstrate to Ofcom that the content is both available and accessible in order for it to be included in the number of hours for quotas and to meet the agreed public service broadcasting remits?

I am grateful for the general expression of support from the Opposition. As I said, it is not the Government’s intention to make the quotas any less demanding than they are at present by moving from a proportional measurement to a numerical measurement of the number of hours.

The hon. Member for Barnsley East asked for an indication of what that meant. It is complicated, but using the data published for 2018 to 2022, we expect the quotas to be roughly as follows: all together, the BBC will have an independent production quota of 1,725 hours; regional channel 3 services will have a quota of 725 hours; Channel 4 will have a quota of 450 hours, rising to 625 hours if it chooses to start a production business; Channel 5 will have a quota of 325 hours; and S4C will have a quota of 425 hours. There is a significant variation between them, which, given that they were all at 25%, came as something of a surprise to me when I first looked at the data, but it is a reflection of the proportion of new, original programming commissioned by each channel. There is therefore a variety.

Ofcom will still have the duty to ensure that the quotas are met. If, by some chance, a PSB fails to meet its quota due to extraordinary circumstances, Ofcom can take that into account when considering whether to take enforcement action. However, the purpose of the change is to move the quota requirement into the modern world.

I hear what the hon. Member for Aberdeen North says about the risk of the number being hard to define. As we debated earlier, a programme will count towards the public service remit only if it is available on demand for 30 days, and Ofcom will need to be satisfied that it is accessible in the way the hon. Lady describes. On that basis, I hope that the clause can stand part.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 8 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 9 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 10

Power to create additional quotas for qualifying audiovisual content

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Government amendment 2.

Clauses 11 to 13 stand part.

Clause 10 inserts proposed new section 278A into the Communications Act 2003. This will establish a mechanism for the creation of additional quotas for audio-visual content that has not been made available by one or more providers of

“licensed public service channels…to the extent that is appropriate.”

That is achieved by empowering the Secretary of State in new subsection (1) to specify

“by regulations…a description of qualifying audiovisual content”.

This will include both specifying the type of content—for example, a particular type or genre—and how that content is to be delivered.

The power is essentially a backstop should there be a type of content that is neglected in the fulfilment of the public service remit, as we discussed. It will only be used as an exception rather than by rule. We believe that a modernised public service remit, deliverable across a wide range of services, will in most cases be sufficient to ensure a range of high-quality public service broadcasting. The power will ensure that the legislation is future-proofed against changes in how content is delivered—for example, by allowing the Secretary of State to require that certain content be delivered on certain services.

The bar for imposing additional quotas of this kind will be high. The more specific the proposed quota, the higher it should be. Before making a recommendation under these sections to introduce regulation, Ofcom will be required to consult members of the public, affected licensed public service channels and any other providers of television or on-demand programmed services. Any regulations made under the new section will be subject to the draft affirmative mechanism.

Clause 11 inserts proposed new section 278B into the 2003 Act, which introduces some important definitions that are relied on by other clauses. It defines “qualifying audiovisual content” and what it is to make available a “qualifying audiovisual service”. It also specifies that this must be free of charge where it has been included in an on-demand programmed service, and it must have been included, as we said, for at least 30 days. These important definitions are needed for the functioning of the Bill.

Government amendment 2 is a technical amendment to clause 11, clarifying that, where qualifying audio-visual content has been made available through services provided by persons associated with the licensed PSB, arrangements must be in place between the PSB and that person. That corrects a theoretical anomaly between section 264, as amended, and the proposed new section, which could have resulted in quota content not counting towards a PSB’s remit.

Clause 12 makes further provisions about how quotas can be fulfilled. It inserts proposed new section 278C into the 2003 Act, requiring the Secretary of State to make provision, either directly or through Ofcom, for the appropriate treatment of material that is made available by public service broadcasters multiple times. It can apply whether the repeats are on the same service, as with the traditional repeat, or across multiple services. We believe that this complex issue needs more detailed treatment. Before making any regulations in this area, the Secretary of State must consult Ofcom.

In respect of original and regional productions, and other additional quota conditions that may be determined, clause 12 allows for the treatment of repeats to be determined not by the Secretary of State but by Ofcom. Given that Ofcom is responsible for setting the level of those quotas, in our view it makes sense for it to continue to determine the treatment of repeats.

Turning to clause 13, section 285 of the 2003 Act requires that the provider of each licensed public service channel draws up a code of practice that they will apply when commissioning independent productions for that channel. Those codes of practice must be consistent with guidance issued by Ofcom, and this gives rise to a system of regulation known as the terms of trade regime. The purpose of the codes, and indeed, the terms of trade regime as a whole, is to ensure that broadcasters work fairly with independent production companies and do not take advantage of their dominant market position.

Clause 13 makes amendments to section 285 of the 2003 Act to extend the scope of the codes of practice to cover independent productions commissioned for other audio-visual services—for example, programming that is put on on-demand programme services—should the PSB wish to count those programmes as part of its independent productions quota. Subsection (3) is complementary, in mandating Ofcom to issue guidance with a view to ensuring that the PSB provides the person who is being commissioned with information about the application of the code. These essential provisions support the modernisation of our PSB system, and I commend Government amendment 2 and clauses 10 to 13 to the Committee.

I will speak to each clause in this grouping in turn, starting with clause 10, which enables the Secretary of State to create additional quotas for audio-visual content by licensed public service channels. On the whole, I welcome the clause. In particular, I am pleased that changes have been made to the draft version of the Bill to ensure that the Secretary of State can make regulations only following a recommendation from Ofcom. As the Culture, Media and Sport Committee observed, no explanation was given regarding the circumstances in which it would have been necessary to use this backstop without an Ofcom recommendation. Media regulation is rightly independent from Government through Ofcom, and the adjustment will ensure that there are no concerns about a shift away from that.

On the intent of clause 10 more broadly, in theory, the new power that it provides is important. It is right that Ofcom should be able to mandate new quotas if it believes that audiences are being under-served. This is particularly true given the adjustments in clause 1 that make a number of simplifications to the remit, most notably removing explicit mention of the genres of content that must be provided, including, as we discussed, science, religious beliefs and matters of international importance. However, given that the genres have been removed, Ofcom’s ability to monitor and recognise the gaps is unclear. That creates a sort of paradox: how can Ofcom judge whether audiences are being served properly if it is no longer monitoring the genres of content needed to ensure that there is a good service for those audiences? For that reason, I tabled amendment 19, which would ensure that genres would still be explicitly mentioned in legislation so that could be monitored accordingly. Without such a measure, the clause is at risk of failing to live up to its potential as a backstop measure to ensure that audiences are protected from a fall in quality programming.

Clause 11 underpins almost all the clauses in the first section of this Bill by defining phrases such as make available and “qualifying audiovisual content”. Those phrases allow for on-demand content to count towards remit and quotas, and as such, it is important that they are properly and sensibly defined. I am happy with the definitions on the whole, and it is pleasing that there is also room for additional audio-visual services to be added to the list of qualifying audio-visual content, subject to consultation with Ofcom and the affirmative procedure. That will effectively future-proof the measures in the Bill, subject to proper parliamentary scrutiny.

Clause 12 allows the Secretary of State to make regulations regarding whether content that is made available multiple times—more commonly known as repeats—counts towards production quotas. As I mentioned during the discussion on clauses 8, 9 and 14, some have raised concerns about how changes in this area could impact the ability of public service broadcasters to fulfil their quotas. At present, programmes that have been broadcast before in substantially the same form count towards some of the production quota. Any change, therefore, that results in repeats no longer counting towards those quotas, will mean that the quotas are harder to reach. For example, excluding repeats from counting towards quotas on original content will mean that more original content will have to be produced to meet existing obligations.

However, in the context of on-demand content, which will now count towards quotas, it is unclear how the concept of repeats could possibly be applied. Indeed, when viewing on-demand content, it is usually available 24/7 at the choice of the viewer, rather than run multiple times at the choice of the broadcaster, as is the case on linear. That brings up complex issues relating to how the contribution of repeats will be calculated as counting towards quotas in the digital age, the detail of which will need to be worked out promptly.

I therefore ask the Minister for guidance on how the Department intends to proceed in this area and use the power that the clause will give to the Secretary of State. Will repeats continue to be counted towards quotas on both linear and on-demand content, and if so, how will a repeat be defined on the on-demand service? Ultimately, it is important that the way that repeats count toward quotas and the level of new quotas are considered hand in hand. We must ensure that the quotas remain at levels that are meaningful enough to ensure quality content for audiences and encourage a healthy broadcasting ecology in the UK, while being at a reasonable level, given the economic constraints on the broadcasters.

Finally, I turn to clause 13. As I am sure we will touch on in more detail when we discuss the changes made to Channel 4’s publisher-broadcaster restriction, our public service broadcasters are crucial to the success of the wider UK TV production sector. As stated in the submission from the Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, PSBs account for 77% of original UK commissions and, as a result, hold immense buyer power in the UK domestic commissioning market. Given their role and bargaining power in the sector, it is crucial that fair principles apply when public service broadcasters commission independent productions. The terms of trade regime, which was established following the Communications Act, has done a good job so far of ensuring that that is the case.

That is not to say that the landscape operates perfectly, and I know that some have raised concern over the rise of super-indies, which may make it more difficult for smaller indies to compete. Overall, however, it is welcome that the clause looks to maintain a successful supply side to the market by ensuring that the terms of trade regime will apply to any qualifying audio-visual content. That is important for the health of the sector as a whole. In particular, it has been welcomed by PACT, which has worked hard at many stages of the Bill to ensure that independent production companies are well represented and do not feel adverse effects as a result of the Bill.

I am pleased that the Minister has confirmed, for all these clauses, that any changes by regulation must be made using the affirmative procedure. Particularly on clause 10—a power he suggested would be used very rarely, if at all, and only if needed—it makes sense, given the level of importance attached to the power that it should have to go through the affirmative procedure to be implemented. I appreciate that the Government have chosen to do that.

It is important that additional services can be added by regulation rather than by primary legislation, particularly when there are continual updates and renewals—on digital platforms especially, we are seeing changes on a very regular basis. As I said, I was on the Online Safety Bill Committee, and it was so important to ensure that that Bill was future-proofed as far as possible. There are potentially on-demand services that we cannot conceive of or genres that currently do not exist that will be a massive part of daily life in a few short years. The Minister has ensured that there is flexibility, in concert with the Secretary of State and Ofcom, and then through the affirmative procedure in the House. I think it is sensible to future-proof the legislation by allowing regulations to be decided on using the affirmative procedure.

The same applies to the requirement of quotas for potential genres or ways that television is delivered that we cannot foresee today. I agree with the points made by the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Barnsley East. It is important to look at what happens with repeats and to ensure that everybody is clear about what happens. I probably do not have a firm view of how those should be judged, but I do have a firm view that everybody should understand how they are judged, and people should understand it in advance, so that they know what the expectations are of them.

A clear definition of what a repeat looks like on an on-demand service is important. If something is available for 30 consecutive days, goes away for a day and then comes back for 30 consecutive days, would that be a repeat, or would it not? Would it be included in the quota? It is important that some of the public service broadcasters that are producing this stuff can take it down so that they can sell it abroad for a period of time if they need to in order to generate some income. As long as it is on the service for a length of time here—they are required to include it for those 30 days, for example, or longer—I think it is perfectly acceptable for them to use some of the productions to gain some cash to continue to produce their excellent programmes.

We debated earlier whether we should continue to have specified genres as part of the public service remit. As I said, the Government considered it better to specify that there should be a broad range without necessarily going through each individual category. That does not mean that Ofcom will not have the power to consider the provision of precisely the same genres as they have in the past, and those will include things such as arts and classical music, religion, sport and drama. Ofcom will also be required to produce an annual report on what it considers to be the principal genres and on whether those are being met. Some of the concerns that the hon. Member for Barnsley East identified will be met by the Bill.

The treatment of repeats is complicated, as the hon. Member for Aberdeen North indicated. The Secretary of State will have the power to make regulation under the affirmative procedure, having consulted Ofcom. We cannot go into specific detail at this stage about how the power will be used, but I can say, in respect of independent productions, that the intention is that repeats should not count towards the quota, given the focus on the way in which programmes are made. But in respect of original and regional productions and other additional quota conditions that may be determined in the future, this allows for the treatment of repeats to be determined by Ofcom. Given that Ofcom will have the responsibility for setting the level of quotas, it makes sense for it to continue to determine the treatment of repeats. I hope that that provides a little more clarity, if not an absolute clear statement at this stage of how this will work.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 10 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 11

Quotas: meaning of “qualifying audiovisual content” etc

Amendment made: 2, in clause 11, page 12, line 29, leave out from beginning of line to “by” in line 30 and insert—

“(a) that content is provided by—

(i) the person, or

(ii) a person associated with the person, under arrangements made between the person and that associated person,”.—(Sir John Whittingdale.)

This amendment adds a requirement that the provision of qualifying audiovisual content by a person associated with the provider of a licensed public service channel should be under arrangements made between the provider and the associated person.

Clause 11, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 12 to 14 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 15

Networking arrangements for Channel 3

I beg to move amendment 3, in clause 15, page 17, line 28, after first “for” insert “available”.

This amendment and Amendment 4 secure that networking arrangements must be arrangements that provide for programmes made, commissioned or acquired by one or more holders of regional Channel 3 licences to be available for inclusion in qualifying audiovisual services that are connected with every licence holder, as services provided by the licence holder or by a person associated with the licence holder.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Government amendments 4 to 7.

Clause stand part.

Clauses 16 and 17 stand part.

Schedule 1 stand part.

Clause 15 of the Bill amends section 290 of the Communications Act, relating to the existence of a system of networking arrangements that govern the interaction between the providers of the different regional channel 3 services—that is, ITV and STV. Any such arrangement must be approved by Ofcom and, in considering whether to approve the arrangements proposed by a provider, Ofcom must consider whether the arrangements meet the three networking objectives set out in subsection (4). The basic premise of those arrangements is that the regional channel 3 services should be distinctive, but should nevertheless share programming between them.

Clause 15(2)(a) amends the second networking objective, which relates to the providers of a channel 3 service making programmes available

“for broadcasting in all regional Channel 3 services”.

It replaces those words with the words,

“available for inclusion by every holder of such a licence in qualifying audiovisual services provided by that person”.

Together with Government amendments 3 and 4, this will ensure that the networking arrangements remain relevant in a world where many viewers are choosing to watch programmes on demand.

Subsection (2)(b) amends the third networking objective, which relates to the need for regional channel 3 services to compete effectively in the UK television market. The objective is reframed in terms of the ability of the providers of those services to be able to compete effectively both with programme services and on-demand services provided in the United Kingdom. Subsection (4) amends the requirement for Ofcom to review annually any networking arrangement that it has previously approved, replacing it with a requirement to review it at least every five years.

Clause 15 is amended by Government amendments 3 to 7, all of which are technical in nature and include amendments related to persons associated with public service broadcasters. That terminology is used in part 2 to ensure that all the different legal structures used by our PSBs are adequately and appropriately accounted for. Given that these are technical amendments, I hope that Committee members will support them.

Clause 16 is different. It repeals section 296 of the Communications Act, which makes provision for a quota in respect of schools programming on Channel 4. The Government recognise that schools programming is very important, but the quota is currently set at 30 minutes per year and has been at that level for some time. We do not believe that a quota set at that level is meaningful, so we propose to repeal it. In the light of changes made to the quota obligations imposed by clauses 8 and 9, clause 17 introduces schedule 1, which makes comparable provision for the BBC and S4C. It includes changes to ensure that on-demand content can form part of any quotas for original and independently produced content to which the BBC and S4C are subject in statute and that these are measured directly, rather than as a proportion of hours shown, as we have previously debated.

This grouping covers clauses 15 to 17, schedule 1, and a small set of Government amendments. I will address all of those briefly in turn.

Clause 15 makes amendments that are largely consequential to the issues already discussed. It acknowledges the ability of public service broadcasters to use qualifying audio-visual services to meet their remits, and ensures that that also applies to requirements around network arrangements. I have mentioned previously that I am in favour of that new flexibility for broadcasters, given changing audience patterns, and I believe it makes sense to mirror this change in network arrangement requirements.

Clause 16 removes the Channel 4 quota to create a specified level of programmes intended for use in schools. It is my understanding that the quota is currently set at the low bar of 30 minutes, as the Minister has just mentioned. Channel 4 surpasses that quota, and it is somewhat arbitrary, given Channel 4’s wider commitments around education. These wider themes around educational content are extremely important, but it seems that this specific quota is no longer making an active contribution in the way it once did. I am therefore happy to move on without raising any particular issues. I also have no particular issues with the Government amendments, which are largely technical and consequential, and clear up confusion in some areas.

Finally, clause 17 and schedule 1 primarily echo the major changes made in this part of the Bill for ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, applying them to the BBC and S4C too. That includes confirming that quotas on independent content will be set at a number of hours, rather than as a percentage for both S4C and the BBC. The concern around a move to pure number targets from percentages is something I have already raised, but I wish to note that the BBC in particular took objection to that during the process of pre-legislative scrutiny. In its submission to the Committee, the BBC argued that the Government should take advantage of the distinctive regulatory framework to maintain proportional targets. Would the Minister use this opportunity to explain whether that was something which the Department explored?

I have some questions from colleagues about channel 3, in particular on the provision of ITV Border, which is the cross-border channel 3 provider that operates around Dumfries, Galloway and, across the border, Carlisle. People in the south of Scotland in such areas do not receive STV; they receive ITV Border, with its regional news and other channel 3 provision.

One of my colleagues, Emma Harper, who is a Member of the Scottish Parliament and has done a significant amount of research and work on this on behalf of her constituents has expressed concerns about the percentage of the content made south of the border compared with the proportion made north of the border. If we are to ensure that, for example, the regional dialects and languages of the UK are part of the public service remit, having a significantly unbalanced situation with ITV Border is a slight concern. It is a bit of an issue for my colleague’s constituents.

Another matter that comes into play concerns news, or updating the general public and ensuring that they are aware of issues. STV—channel 3—is a significant place for people to get access to local news in particular so that they can understand what is going on in their areas more widely, as well as nationally. People in the ITV Border region are being given information about school, legal and policing policies that apply south of the border, but not in Scotland. The content has to be significantly delineated because it is split across two very different jurisdictions—that is in some, not all, legal areas, such as school policy. For example, the school systems are completely different north and south of the border.

What consideration has the Minister given to asking Ofcom to look at ITV Border and whether it is best serving the populations on both sides of the border to ensure that everyone has the most up-to-date regional content in their area? I am not suggesting that we should always have certain delineations, but in this sector in particular, which people rely on for news services and updates, having a disparity that particularly affects the people of the Scottish Borders, rather than the English borders—because more content is made in the south—is a concern.

I would very much appreciate it if the Minister agreed to have a look at this, or to have a chat with Ofcom about the provision of ITV Border to ensure that he and Ofcom believe that the broadcaster is appropriate and properly serving people on both sides of the Scotland-England border.

I have a brief point to make about providing services across the border, as the hon. Lady referred to. That has been a problem in Wales, especially with Welsh language programmes intruding on English language provision to the extent that many people on the borders and the south Wales coast would turn their aerials eastwards or southwards, so the news that they got was for the west or north-west of England. That was remedied to some extent in the north-west at least, by Granada carrying Welsh news, which was a peculiar situation for people in the north-west of England who would receive news about the goings-on in the Llŷn peninsula, where I used to live. There are ways of remedying that, and one way would be for the service south of the border to carry some news from the north.

I am grateful to all those who have made contributions. I will come on to address the points made by the hon. Member for Barnsley East returns, but first I will address the points made regarding Scotland and Wales.

I have some sympathy with that, because while we maybe do not feel as strongly about these things as representatives of the SNP and Plaid Cymru, my own constituents frequently have to listen to news about what is happening in London, rather than Essex, because of the way in which some people receive regional programming.

I fully understand the point made by the hon. Member for Aberdeen North. It is perhaps a consequence of the fact that the boundaries of regional services television do not necessarily coincide with national boundaries, which may mean that people on the border are receiving television services that are less appropriate for them, given their geographic location. I think that is probably a difficult issue to solve, but I would certainly encourage her to discuss it with Ofcom, which will obviously need to be satisfied that each of the channels is delivering the public service remit across the geographic area that it is covering. I think that is probably a matter for Ofcom; I will certainly draw it to its attention and suggest that it might like to talk to the hon. Lady further.

In a similar vein, would my right hon. Friend ask Ofcom to look at the implications of the BBC’s decision last year to close its sub-regional newsrooms in Oxford and Cambridge, which means that my constituents in Aylesbury now only get to see regional news from Southampton. It is quite a stretch to see anything in common between the two areas, not least as Aylesbury is one of the furthest inland towns in the country. The BBC, of all organisations, is supposed to represent the whole of the country, and that means each and every part of the country.

My hon. Friend tempts me to go down a route that could open up a whole new area of debate. I have to say that I share his concern about some of the decisions taken, particularly in relation to local news provision, by the BBC on radio and, indeed, in local news services. He will be aware, and he has a lot of experience in this area, that this is a matter for the BBC. That does not mean that we do not make clear our own views to the BBC about how it is delivering its obligations to provide for local news. We will continue to do that, but it is ultimately a matter for the BBC.

In relation to some of the points made by the hon. Member for Barnsley East, we want the BBC to have a consistent approach, recognising its distinctive contribution. We will be looking at all these matters when we come to consider the renewal of the charter which, as we discussed this morning, will start not instantly, but in the not too distant future.

Amendment 3 agreed to.

Amendments made: 4, in clause 15, page 17, line 29, leave out from “substitute” to end of line 30 and insert

“”, in relation to each holder of such a licence, available for inclusion in one or more qualifying audiovisual services provided by that holder or a person associated with that holder”;”.

See explanatory statement to Amendment 3.

Amendment 5, in clause 15, page 17, line 32, after “licences” insert

“and persons associated with any of those holders”.

This amendment secures that the purpose of networking arrangements is to enable holders of regional Channel 3 licences and persons associated with those holders to provide qualifying audiovisual services that (taken as a whole) are able to compete effectively with other television programme services and on-demand programme services provided in the United Kingdom.

Amendment 6, in clause 15, page 17, line 35, at end insert—

“(2A) After subsection (4) insert—

“(4A) Section 362AZ12(6) (meaning of references to a person associated with a public service broadcaster) applies for the purposes of subsection (4)(b) and (c) as it applies for the purposes of Part 3A.””

This amendment is consequential upon Amendments 4 and 5.

Amendment 7, in clause 15, page 17, line 36, leave out “(4)” and insert

“(4A) (inserted by subsection (2A))”.—(Sir John Whittingdale.)

This amendment is consequential upon Amendment 6.

Clause 15, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 16 and 17 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 1 agreed to.

Clause 18

Power to require information

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Clause 18 inserts two new sections into the Communications Act to ensure that Ofcom has the powers to gather the information which it needs to regulate this part of the Bill effectively. Proposed new section 338A of the Communications Act will give Ofcom the power to issue information notices to request any information which it needs to carry out its functions under sections 198B to 198D, sections 263 to 294, schedule 11 and certain provisions in schedule 12 of the 2003 Act. It includes its functions and duties to regulate the public service remit, quotas and licence conditions. An information notice will compel the recipient to provide Ofcom with the information specified in the notice, including where such information must first be obtained or generated by the party. An information notice may be served on a PSB other than the BBC or, where necessary, a third party, but only where proportionate. Proposed new section 338A(7) clarifies that the power to require the provision of information includes the

“power to require the provision of information held outside the United Kingdom.”

Clause 18 also introduces proposed new section 338B of the Communications Act, which will allow Ofcom to take enforcement action against any party that does not comply with an information notice under proposed new section 338A. After allowing the person to make representations, Ofcom may issue a penalty notice imposing a financial penalty. This penalty in respect of an information notice cannot exceed £250,000. In the case of a continuing failure to comply with a notice, a penalty notice may also require a penalty of an amount not exceeding £500 per day for each day the failure continues after the penalty notice is issued. I commend the clause to the Committee.

During discussion of clause 6, I mentioned that, as a result of the changes in the Bill, it will be increasingly important for Ofcom to be able to step in where there is a risk of public service broadcasters failing to fulfil their remit and quotas. I am therefore supportive of this clause, as it gives Ofcom the power to issue information notices and financial penalties to public service broadcasters in respect of breaches in the fulfilment of their duties. Although I have confidence in the willingness of our excellent public service broadcasters to carry out their remits and quotas, it is important that Ofcom is able to ensure that and provide a backstop where necessary.

I will say this more than once: the Bill really does rely on a strong and empowered Ofcom. It is with that in mind that I believe the powers to find out further information and impose penalties where necessary are proportionate and important tools that will enable the regulator to do its job. I therefore welcome the clause.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 18 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 19

Amount of financial penalties: qualifying revenue

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Clause 19 addresses the calculation of financial penalties in respect of channels 3, 4 and 5. By way of context, the Broadcasting Act 1990 and schedule 9 to the Communications Act 2003 relate to the financial penalties that Ofcom may impose on the provider of a licensed public service channel in certain circumstances. In each case, the maximum penalty that Ofcom may impose is set by reference to the qualifying revenue of the provider or, in the case of section 18, whichever is greater—that or £500,000. Having maximum penalties in reference to revenue helps to ensure that penalties strike an appropriate balance between being dissuasive and proportionate. That link is important in accounting for the differences in size and revenue of different public service broadcasters.

The clause inserts proposed new section 18A of the Broadcasting Act 1990, which will amend the existing definition of the qualifying revenue of the provider of a licensed public service channel specifically in relation to financial penalties. The new definition includes revenues from both the licensed public service channel and certain services included in any designated internet programme service provided by that provider. As part 1 of the Bill will expand the ways in which PSBs can fulfil their remit and meet their quotas, it is only right that should a PSB not complete their responsibilities, the revenue of the internet programme services that they provide and which benefit from prominence should be taken into account. That is the purpose of the clause, which I commend to the Committee.

The clause amends the definition of “qualifying revenue” where it is used as a reference measure to help set the maximum penalty Ofcom can impose on public service broadcasters. The change will see the revenue a PSB gains by providing on-demand and online services included alongside the revenue that it gets from its public service channel when making the calculation. Given that online and on-demand content can now count towards quotas and remits, it makes sense that the revenue from such content should be considered when determining maximum fines. I am therefore happy to support the clause.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 19 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 20

Categories of relevant service

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

With this it will be convenient to discuss new clause 2—Digital rights to listed events

“(1) The Secretary of State may by regulations amend the Broadcasting Act 1996 to make provision for coverage of listed events which is not live coverage.

(2) A statutory instrument containing regulations under this section may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.”

This part of the Bill relates to the listed events regime, which seeks to strike a balance, so that broadcasts of key sporting events are widely available and free to air, while sports rights holders are able to use the income that they generate from rights to invest in their sport. Clause 20 updates the listed events regime to make qualification for the regime a PSB-specific benefit, reserved for PSB services that are free of charge. This change was first recommended by Ofcom in its “Small Screen: Big Debate” report in 2021.

The change we are proposing recognises both the practical difficulties around the current audience reach-based approach and the fact that our PSBs play a key role in distributing content that is of interest to British audiences. The current qualifying criteria stipulate that a qualifying service must be free and received by 95% of the UK population. In a changing market, in which audiences can use a range of technologies to access content, we need to ensure that the qualifying criteria are both appropriate and future-proofed.

The clause also closes the streamer loophole; it brings into the regime TV-like service providers that are not based in the UK but intend to show live coverage of listed events to UK audiences. The change recognises that audiences have increased access to content provided by global providers. If we did not bring these providers into scope, there is a risk that the contents of live listed events could be purchased via a streaming service and put behind a paywall, without the provider adhering to the rules of the regime.

The PSB services that will qualify are those that are free and genuinely used by PSBs to fulfil remit. Those are either the PSB licensed channels or the internet programme services that have been designated by Ofcom for prominence. It is important to note that changes to the regime do not preclude non-PSBs from bidding for rights. The regime does not guarantee that an event will be broadcast live or on a free-to-air channel. Rights holders are not required to sell live rights, and broadcasters are not obliged to purchase them or to show events. The legislation sets out that where live rights to a listed event are sold, they must be offered to both PSBs and non-qualifying services. That ensures that the right balance is struck between audiences being able to watch coverage of our major national sporting events, and rights holders and broadcasters having the commercial freedom to negotiate deals in their interest, so that they can reinvest in elite and grassroots sport.

The listed events regime is a vital scheme that allows for major sporting events of national importance to be broadcast on free-to-air channels. Its success since its introduction decades ago has been outstanding. Almost everyone in this room and across the country will have a fond memory of watching a listed event, whether that be watching Mo Farah cross the finish line at the London Olympics in 2012 or seeing Andy Murray win at Wimbledon.

These major occasions bring our country together, and unite us in victory and loss, but the benefit does not end after the programme has finished. An event being televised can be a catalyst for the nationwide success of a sport. The final of the women’s Euros, for example, was watched by more than 17 million people. As a result, the number of women and girls participating in grassroots football has no doubt increased, and attendance at women’s league events has reached a record high, generating further revenue for reinvestment in the sport. Televised sporting events are also a big boost for our hospitality businesses, allowing people to watch major matches together in pubs, bars and restaurants, no matter where they are in the country. With that in mind, it is right that we do all we can to preserve the listed events regime and ensure that important sporting events are available to watch as widely as possible.

An event’s being listed does not guarantee that it will be broadcast live or on a free-to-air channel, but if rights are made available to qualifying services, there is the best chance of the event being seen by as many people as possible. The definition of a qualified service is a broadcast channel that is received by 95% of the population and is free to air. I have spoken many times about the importance of ensuring that there is sufficient content available on linear television. Over the coming years, we must anticipate that viewing on a range of devices will increase. A listed events regime based on broadcast audience reach is therefore no longer fit for purpose because, as Channel 4 notes in its submission to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, there is a risk of some PSBs falling out of the regime altogether in future. It is welcome, therefore, that the clause amends the scope of the listed events regime, so that it is a PSB-specific benefit. That ensures that no one drops out of the regime. It also allows channels such as S4C— a PSB that does not reach 95% of the UK—to be included.

I am also pleased that the clause looks to end the streaming loophole, which has caused widespread concern. Until now, the listed events regime has applied only to television programme providers, meaning those who hold Ofcom broadcast licences, plus the BBC and S4C. The draft Media Bill proposed extending the regime to include “internet programme services”, but that failed to capture unregulated online services such as livestreams. Theoretically, those services could buy the rights to a listed event and put it behind a paywall, and so undermine the regime. It is welcome that the new version of the Bill creates a new definition of services that fall within the scope of the regime, so that TV-like services providing live content to UK audiences via the internet are captured.

The likes of the BBC and ITV had concerns about the effectiveness of some of the other options on the table for shutting the loophole, such as extending regulation of electronic programme guides. What assurances has the Minister received, this time round, that the clause will close the loophole once and for all? If we can be confident that it is the solution, I will be more than happy to support the clause.

Given the effort that Ministers have put into future-proofing the integrity of the listed events regime when it comes to the streaming loophole, it is extremely disappointing that there has been no attempt to include digital rights in the Bill. It seems quite straightforward: if we want to ensure that sporting events of national importance are available for people to view for free in years to come, the regime should be extended to reflect the new ways that people consume content, including online.

Again, as Channel 4 highlights in its submission to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, in recent years, its content on social media platforms, such as YouTube and TikTok, has generated a

“record number of hits for highlights and digital clips of live sport.”

Last year, Channel 4’s sport content on YouTube drew 16.8 million viewers globally and 8.2 million viewers in the UK. Those figures were driven mostly by Nations League and Formula 1 coverage, and were up 430% on the year before. That type of content seems to be catering to a growing younger audience: more than a quarter of the Channel 4 Corporation’s sport content on YouTube is viewed by 13 to 24-year-olds in the UK. However, this is not just about putting content where it is likely to be viewed in years to come. It is about ensuring the integrity of the regime.

As significant sporting events are often global competitions, they may take place in various time zones, including when it is night-time in the UK. In such situations, the live broadcast of the event may be of limited value to UK citizens, who will be asleep during the event. However, the next day, digital and on-demand clips could be immensely popular, as they would allow UK audiences to experience the moments they missed. As the BBC highlights, when Charlotte Worthington won gold at Tokyo in 2020, just 400,000 people were able to watch that in the middle of the night, but in the days that followed, different forms of short-form coverage of the event gathered more than 3.4 million views. If the BBC does not have access to those digital and on-demand rights, which will likely be the case in the future if there is no change to the regime, such national moments of pride could become restricted and hidden behind paywalls. That would go against the entire objective of the listed events regime. I know the Government recognise that, because they are conducting a review of digital rights, but we have had no updates on the progress of the review, and it is unclear how its recommendations will be implemented, if not through this Bill.

I have spoken to many public service broadcasters about the issue, and given that media legislation seems to come round only every 20 years, they are concerned that this Bill may end up being a huge missed opportunity to make changes to digital rights. I therefore tabled an amendment that allows the Government’s review to come to its conclusions, but enables changes to be made to digital rights in the future through secondary legislation. Of course, scrutiny will be required on the detail of changes, which is why the amendment allows for parliamentary scrutiny of any new laws in this area, but without an enabling provision, we risk not being able to address digital rights.

The listed events regime is incredibly important to people in this country, as are the sports that it represents, and I hope that the regime will be protected in the Bill. I ask that, at the very least, the Minister shares with us details of the progress on the Government’s review, and explains why he is of the opinion that an enabling provision is unnecessary, particularly given that it need not be used if his Department’s review concludes that this issue could be addressed in other ways. I look forward to his response, and to working with him to create a Bill that genuinely future-proofs the listed events regime, rather than taking two steps forward in one area and three steps back in another.

I welcome the change proposed in clause 20. Major sporting events are a crucial means of introducing people to S4C’s services and, indeed, the Welsh language. In fact, I noted rather jocularly this morning that that has already happened with some events, which were not specified.

For the Committee’s interest, let me set out a couple of ways of getting round the difficulties that S4C faced. Sky at one time had a red button feature that allowed commentary in Welsh or English, as one pleased, but that experimental provision died a death, I am afraid. Rather more interestingly, when S4C was not allowed to carry Five Nations rugby, many people, including me, watched BBC Wales with the sound turned down, and listened to the commentary in Welsh on Radio Cymru—we are a very inventive nation.

The point is that under the current regime, only free-to-air channels received by 95% of the UK population qualify, as the hon. Member for Barnsley East mentioned. S4C was the only PSB excluded, although of course it could be received by 95% of the population it specifically served. I welcome the provision, which redresses that anomaly by specifying S4C.

I absolutely agree about the rugby coverage. Similarly, we watched Scotland games with the volume turned off and Radio Scotland turned on, so that we had commentary from our nation, rather than another nation. Understandably, commentators are always a little biased, and that is fine, but we would like the option of hearing those that are biased in our favour for once. That does not necessarily happen on some of the other channels.

On new clause 2, which relates to access to listed events, I agree with the comments about time zones, and access to non-live events happening on the other side of the world. It would make sense for public service broadcasters to be able to access rights to listed events happening in other time zones. For example, my husband has been obsessed with American football for a significant time. Quite often, if he is not able to watch a live game, then the next day, or the day after that, he watches the 40-minute highlights available on on-demand services for the most important sporting events. Events such as the Olympics, or the women’s or men’s football World cup, can be held in places that mean that the live rights are not terribly useful unless someone is so dedicated that they get up at 3 o’clock in the morning to watch. I am sure that many people watching then would just not go to bed, but it would be more enjoyable for most people to catch up on the highlights the next day—provided, of course, that their team had done all right.

I agree with the points made on new clause 2, and I think it is a clever way to go about the issue. It does not require the Secretary of State to make legislation, but if the Secretary of State chooses to make it, the new clause requires it to be made through the draft affirmative procedure, so the Houses would have a say on it. It is an enabling provision, which is incredibly important, given the changing nature of viewing.

However, I understand her point. As the hon. Member for Arfon highlighted, under clause 20, the right to listed events that are broadcast free to air must be extended to public service broadcasters, so in future, that will include S4C. I am grateful for the support that the hon. Member for Barnsley East expressed for the closure of the streaming loophole; we think that the Bill will close that, and therefore preserve the ability to watch live broadcasts of listed events.

As more and more people access digital broadcasting, digital rights are clearly something that we will need to consider. That is why we are undertaking the digital rights review. I note that the review was a recommendation of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, so we recognise that there is quite a lot of interest and support for it. It is important that we get this right. As I was saying, the listed events regime is about balancing the ability of a large number of people to watch iconic sporting events free to air, and the ability of rights holders to raise revenue from the sale of rights—revenue that can obviously be invested back into the sport. Striking that balance has always been the difficulty with the listed events regime. If the regime is to be extended in this way, we want to get it right.

New clause 2, tabled by the hon. Member for Barnsley East, does give quite a broad power, which could lead to uncertainty for broadcasters and rights holders when they are negotiating deals, given that at the moment we have not spelled out how and whether we would extend the regime to digital rights. That is actively under consideration.

I appreciate the points that the Minister makes, and I am not against them, but would he enlighten the Committee on how the recommendations made in the review will be put into action and into law, if not through this Media Bill?

I cannot guarantee that there will be a successor media Bill immediately. Equally, although it was suggested that media Bills only come around every 20 years, I hope that we would not have to wait that long. As I say, at this stage, we are concerned with getting this absolutely right, and I have no doubt that we will continue to debate the issue. I hope that we can publish the results of the review very soon, but at this stage, we cannot accept new clause 2.

My apologies; I responded in my intervention. I believe we can vote on the new clause later, but the points that I made in the intervention stand. I am very keen to hear about the findings of the review, and to find a vehicle for changes to be put into action, because I am not sure that the Minister has fully responded to my points.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 20 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 21

Contracts relating to coverage of listed events

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

With this it will be convenient to discuss new clause 8—Regulations about coverage of listed events

“(1) The Broadcasting Act 1996 is amended as follows.

(2) After section 104ZA insert—

‘104ZB Financial matters arising from the listing of events: the Listed Events Fund

(1) The Secretary of State shall establish a fund (the ‘Listed Events Fund’) with the purpose of minimising the consequential financial impact of the listing of events on sporting governing bodies who would otherwise suffer egregious financial distress.

(2) Payments from the fund shall be limited to governing bodies and other sporting rights holders who maintain their registered office in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland or England and whose primary geographic area of responsibility lies within one of these territories.

(3) The Secretary of State, following the revision of the listing of events in Group A of the list drawn up under subsection (1) of section 97, shall invite governing bodies and other organisations who could reasonably assess their turnover or income as dropping as a result of an event being listed in Group A (and who qualify under the provisions of subsection (2) of this section) to apply to him for payment from the fund.

(4) No organisation with a reported turnover of greater than £50 million per annum for the financial year in which any subvention may be paid shall be entitled to payment from the fund.

(5) The amount laid down in subsection (4) may be varied by the Secretary of State on an annual basis, but may not increase by a rate greater than that of the Retail Price Index as measured at any point in the three months previous to any proposed variation.’”

This new clause would provide a fund under the auspices of the Secretary of State to be paid to governing bodies or other broadcasting rights holders who may experience financial detriment as a result of listing under Group A.

As we have just debated, the listed events regime seeks to ensure that key supporting events are widely available and free to air, while achieving balance that ensures that rights holders are able to use the income that is generated from a sale. One of the ways in which we seek to achieve this outcome is by prohibiting exclusive contracts for live rights to show coverage of listed events. This applies equally to PSBs and non-PSBs. It encourages competition and stops a situation in which a broadcaster can work with a rights holder to shut down an open process by concluding an exclusive deal.

The purpose of this clause extends the application of existing legislation that prohibits exclusive contracts for live coverage of listed events to the new wider range of services that the regime covers. The existing section 99 of the Broadcasting Act 1996 ensures that exclusive contracts are void. This stops rights holders and broadcasters bypassing the regime and it enables Ofcom to conduct its work on establishing whether live coverage is being shown by a provider in another category and is therefore authorised, or whether rights were offered to other services without fear of legal repercussions flowing from contracts that have already been concluded. The existing section 100 requires that a contract between a broadcaster and a sports rights holder must specify the category of service on which a listed event is to be televised. In line with the changes we have made to close the streaming loophole, this clause amends the scope of services caught by sections 99 and 100 to include those services which will be in scope of the listed events regime under the Bill. It would be inconsistent to require these services to heed the rules of the listed events regime without also putting in place the relevant protections to allow Ofcom to conduct its assessments.

I stand up in order to speak to new clause 8, in relation to contractual arrangements for listed events. The intention behind this is to provide a fund under the auspices of the Secretary of State to be paid to governing bodies or other broadcasting rights holders that may experience financial detriment because of a listing under group A. Payments from this fund are limited to those organisations with a turnover of less than £50 million per annum, with this threshold allowed to increase by the retail price index on an annual basis, with some limits in relation to the increase.

The Minister is right in relation to the financial implications for both selling rights and buying rights, and the cost. The issue for us is that football is a fundamental part of Scottish culture, and it should be accessible to all. In many other countries, home nation international games must be on free TV by law. As the Minister has said, there is no requirement for a number of listed events to be shown on free-to-air television, but the rights must be offered.

It is absolutely the case that people in Scotland will do whatever we can to watch our team qualify for anything, given that it happens so rarely. Once we have qualified for something, we will do everything we can to ensure we can watch those games. We have already made the case in relation to those people who are excluded from digital participation—for example, those who do not have access to streaming services—who would be incredibly keen to watch our women’s team or our men’s team play football. This new clause would allow for financial backing, which would ensure that organisations were not prohibited from showing listed events. The Government would not then have to converse with those organisations, because they would be able to apply to the fund in order to be able to afford to allow the population to see the events on free to air.

As I did in this morning’s sitting, I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (Gavin Newlands) for his work on this and his ongoing commitment. I am sure that the Minister, and many Committee Members, have heard my colleague make the case in the Chamber that we should be able to see more of our home teams playing football on television. The new clause would ensure that there was a fund in place to ensure that those rights can be offered for all those listed events, whatever the sport, and that it is not necessarily the highest bidder or the biggest amount of money that is the key determinant of whether individuals living in our countries can see their teams on television.

I will start by discussing new clause 8. Once again, I reiterate my support for the listed events regime, which connects communities across the UK in experiencing moments of national sporting importance by prioritising rights for free to air channels, soon to be PSBs. In the following debates, I will also go on to speak about how any expansion of the regime requires consideration. In particular, that is due to the need to balance the benefits of investment in the relevant sport, gained through the funds gathered by financial television deals, and the desire for people to see events in that sport free to air.

I understand where the new clause is coming from in this respect, as it looks to recognise that balance and tip it in favour of making more events available on the regime, with the financial losses compensated by a new Government fund. I recognise also that a good attempt has been made to keep proportionality in mind, given that organisations with a turnover of more than £50 million per year are excluded from being entitled to anything from the proposed fund. However, I fear that there may be a few perverse incentives built into new clause 8.

First, if the Government anticipate that they will be responsible for making up for the financial distress of a sport on the listed events regime, that could disincentivise placing such a sport in the regime at all. Further, for the sports themselves, there may be a disincentive to grow beyond a turnover of £50 million, should that mean their Government support is taken away. I am not sure this is best for the health of the regime, or indeed for the sports, as a result. I believe also that the fiscal implications of this new clause more generally need to be analysed before they are committed to.

I would be interested to hear from the Minister, however, what he believes the best way forward is in terms of promoting sports and making them available to the public, while securing the investment needed to secure the future of such sports. It is worth exploring how we strike this balance, and I commend the new clause for bringing the issue at hand to the forefront for discussion as part of the passage of the Bill.

I will briefly address clause 21 as well. The clause updates other sections of the Broadcasting Act 1996 to acknowledge the changed definition of “relevant services” in clause 20. As previously mentioned, the changes made to close the streaming loophole are very welcome—and this clause will support that. Clause 21 also makes clarification about section 99 of the Broadcasting Act, which looks to be relatively straight forward. I am happy to move forward with that in mind.

The hon. Member for Aberdeen North rightly highlighted that the issue that the new clause addresses is a matter that the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North has been rigorous in pursuing. Indeed, not only have I heard him speak about it in the Chamber; I have also actually met him to hear him put directly his case. I am afraid that we were unable to reach agreement, but I recognise that he feels strongly about the subject. In the grouping which follows this one, we will address the more specific issue which he wants to amend the Bill to cover, which is the inclusion of matches involving the Scottish national team. One of the reasons why we have been resistant to the suggestion—and as I have indicated in a previous debate—is that it is all about establishing a balance. Inclusion of any sport on the listed events regime inevitably means that the potential for raising revenue is diminished, because it excludes a number of broadcasters from bidding for that particular right. It is a question of establishing a balance between the need to raise revenue and the need to ensure that as many people as possible are able to view an event.

The new is clause is quite ingenious in seeking to address that dilemma by asking the Government to set up a fund to compensate rights holders who are subject to inclusion on the list and therefore unable to sell to a non-free-to-air broadcaster. I have to say that that is not something the Government would consider. It would be quite a significant market distortion, and it would be open to potentially a number of other sports or rights holders. What I would say, however, is that sport, as the hon. Member for Aberdeen North is very much aware, is a devolved matter. Should the Scottish Government decide to set up such a fund, they would be free to do so, but I am afraid we are not able to accept the new clause.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 21 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 22

Restriction on showing live coverage of listed events

I beg to move amendment 8, in clause 22, page 26, line 30, after second “to” insert “the coverage of”.

This amendment and Amendment 9 are minor drafting changes.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Government amendment 9.

Clause stand part.

Government amendment 10.

Clause 23 stand part.

New clause 6—Sporting and other events of national interest—

“(1) The Broadcasting Act 1996 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 97 (as amended by section 299 of the Communications Act 2003), after subsection (1B) insert—

‘(1A) The following events must be included in Group A of the list drawn up under subsection (1)—

(a) the Olympic Games;

(b) the Paralympic Games;

(c) the FIFA World Cup Finals Tournament;

(d) the FIFA Women’s World Cup Finals Tournament;

(e) the European Football Championship Finals Tournament;

(f) the European Women’s Football Championship Finals Tournament;

(g) the FA Cup Final;

(h) the Scottish FA Cup Final;

(i) the Grand National;

(j) the Wimbledon Tennis Finals;

(k) the Rugby Union World Cup Final;

(l) the Derby;

(m) the Rugby League Challenge Cup Final;

(n) any match involving the national teams of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland or England pertaining to qualification for the events listed in paragraphs (c), (d), (e) and (f).’”

This new clause would make it compulsory for the Secretary of State to place the list of sporting events in Group A of listed sporting events, ensuring they are available on free to air television in their entirety. The events consist of all current Group A events plus the home nations World Cup and Euro qualifiers.

New clause 7—Consultees for sporting and other events of national interest—

“(1) The Broadcasting Act 1996 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 97(2), after paragraph (b), insert—

‘(ba) Seirbheis nam Meadhanan Gàidhlig (the Gaelic Media Service),’

(3) In section 104(4), after paragraph (b), insert—

‘(ba) Seirbheis nam Meadhanan Gàidhlig (the Gaelic Media Service),’”

This new clause would add Seirbheis nam Meadhanan Gàidhlig/The Gaelic Media Service to the list of organisations which must be consulted when the Secretary of State is drafting or amending listed events and Ofcom is drawing up its related code of guidance.

Clause 22 updates section 101 of the Broadcasting Act 1996 to make specific provision for group B events and to take into account the updated scope of services captured by the regime. That includes TV-like services based both inside and outside the UK providing live content to UK audiences via the internet. We have updated the services in scope of the regime in line with other measures in the Bill that recognise that audience viewing habits and technology have changed significantly in recent years. That has brought all TV-like services, including those delivered via the internet, in scope. 

Since publishing the draft Bill in March 2023, we have heard from stakeholders that the approach to widening the scope of services that can qualify may inadvertently harm the ability of PSBs and non-PSBs to work together, in partnership, to deliver multi-sport events to UK audiences. Partnerships help ensure that rights holders can extract maximum value, both in terms of income and access to a broad audience base, while ensuring that all audiences still have access to the most incredible moments of multi-sport events. Where partnerships deliver great outcomes for audiences, we want that to continue. We have therefore introduced the concept of adequate live coverage for events that involve different sports—multi-sport events like the Olympics—and will require Ofcom to set out in regulations what the threshold for this coverage will be.

That is necessary because previously to receive automatic authorisation for live coverage partnerships between PSBs and non-PSBs had to be arranged so that both held the same rights to show coverage on the services in scope of the regime. That concept worked when there were only a handful of TV channels, but it is now outdated in an age when dozens of sporting events can be taking place concurrently and can all be broadcast live across different distribution channels. Ofcom’s new regulations on adequate live coverage will set out how this will work in practice and will help to ensure that the regime does not deliver suboptimal outcomes for audiences.

Clause 23 amends Ofcom’s existing regulation-making powers in the Broadcasting Act 1996 to take into account the new provision for multi-sport events being added by clause 22. It sets out that Ofcom may make regulations to determine what will be considered adequate coverage. It also updates some language, replacing “televising” with the more general term “coverage”. Ofcom will continue to define in regulations what is to be considered to be “live coverage” for group A events and what is to be considered “adequate alternative coverage” for group B events. Currently, its code defines that as highlights and live radio commentary.

Turning to Government amendments 8 and 9, their purpose is to clarify that the restrictions set out in the clause relate to the coverage of a listed event in part or in whole, as was intended. Government amendment 10 makes it clear that Ofcom’s regulations on adequate live coverage may also relate to parts of multi-sport events, as well as the whole. For the reasons I have set out, I hope that Members will support those three technical Government amendments and the new clauses—I mean, the existing clauses.

I am delighted to hear that the Minister might support the new clauses. That would be amazing, if he were able to do so. At the end of the previous conversation, the Minister mentioned sport being devolved in Scotland, which is the case. However, broadcasting is reserved. Should the Minister wish to devolve broadcasting, we would support such an amendment, so that we could take our own decisions and would not need to stand here having this discussion about our new clauses.

I will speak to new clauses 6 and 7 on the live coverage of listed events. New clause 7 would amend the Broadcasting Act to ensure that the Gaelic Media Service is on the list of organisations that must be consulted when the Secretary of State is drafting or amending listed events or guidance, and when Ofcom is drawing up the code of guidance. I do not think it is unreasonable for us to ask for the Gaelic Media Service to be included. I hope that if the Minister is unwilling to accept the amendment, which is often the case, he will give consideration to ensuring that the service is one of the consultees, whether or not that is written into legislation.

New clause 6 focuses on sporting and other events of national interest. The Minister is absolutely correct that a significant part of the point that we are making is about being able to watch our football team play. It is about having a level of parity for people in Scotland, because as I have said football is part of our national culture. My daughter has been playing football since she was three. It is something in the blood of many Scots people, and seeing our team take part and qualify for something is amazing. The problem, however, is that too many people were not able to see our team qualify or watch those matches, because of the lack of availability as a result of the lack of listing of the event.

The issue is the listing, the fact that the home nations are not included—the home nation games to qualify for the FIFA World cup finals, the women’s World cup finals, the European football championship finals or the European women’s football championship. Currently, we do not have the proposed new paragraph (n) that we suggest in new clause 6. It would ensure that all the games involving the national teams of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland or England pertaining to qualification for the events listed would be included in group A.

I am sure that the Minister has looked at the list of events. I guarantee that more people care and know about Scotland qualifying, or Wales qualifying, for any of those events than even know what the Derby is. The Derby does not have the same level of national importance—it does not have the same place in national consciousness. People know what the grand national is, but the Derby is way further down people’s lists of priorities. The Minister and the Government have the listings, or some of them, slightly wrong. We do not have the level of access to watch those events live that we should. It is not too much to ask for listing as a group A event all the home games—to qualify for those tournaments—of all the nations of the UK.

I have mentioned this already, but I just want to be clear that we are also including women’s football in this list because of the massive rise in the number of people who are keen to watch women’s football, as well as the massive rise in the numbers of women and girls playing football. I will make one last pitch for the women’s parliamentary football team, which is truly excellent, should any women who work in or around Parliament wish to take part, having seen the Lionesses perform. We are not quite at their level, but we do have an awful lot of fun when we play, so I would thoroughly recommend that people take part in that. I know that more people are taking part because of being able to see their teams perform in this way. It is not just the fact that we can all go to the pub, have a drink and watch our team play; it has an impact on participation levels in sport.

Has the hon. Lady consulted any of the bodies involved in her proposal as to whether they welcome being listed in the way she has proposed? I know from discussions with some bodies that they are concerned, as has been pointed out previously, about their capacity to raise revenue for their sport. There is always a consequence when we set out—even with the best intentions—to do something like wanting greater coverage for football, as in this amendment, which I do think is laudable. If the hon. Lady has consulted those people, what was their view?

Those organisations have been consulted. My hon. Friend the Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North has been clear on the roundtable discussions he had, including with the Scottish Football Association, which is open to this happening. New clause 8, on the financial support fund, which we discussed previously, was partly to ensure that those smaller organisations are able to claim back, should they lose out on a significant amount of revenue as a result. As I say, these organisations have been consulted, and the SFA is open to this happening.

It is important to ensure that organisations have enough money to invest in their sport. I do not think there will ever be any lack of young men keen to play football; the number certainly does not appear to have reduced in all the years I have been alive. There are still many children at my kids’ school who are very keen to get involved in football. There are still the grassroots structures there. However, I agree that for organisations involved in women’s football, for example, or involved in nations with lower levels of participation, it may be an issue.

I would be very keen to press both new clauses 6 and 7 to a vote when it comes to that point.

I begin by echoing the comments of the hon. Member for Aberdeen North on the women’s parliamentary football team, having been involved a little over the years. I will address clauses 22 and 23, as well as the associated amendments. It appears from the Government’s explanatory notes on these clauses that their intention is to ensure that partnership arrangements between qualifying and non-qualifying broadcasters on providing coverage of listed events continue as they do now.

I know that many of our commercial and public service broadcasters alike feel they have strong partnerships that allow sporting events to be shown to as many viewers as possible. Indeed, where an event is not on the listed events regime, this kind of commercial partnership is inevitably even more common; for example, Channel 4 has historically teamed up with Sky to show Formula 1 events to many viewers across the UK. These kinds of cross-industry partnerships are integral to the overall ecosystem of sports rights, and I therefore support any movement that seeks to protect these relationships and dynamics.

However, the BBC has raised concerns that clauses 22 and 23 together could undermine the listed events regime, in particular with regard to multi-sport group A events—the summer Olympics and Paralympics and the winter Olympics and Paralympics. In effect, the BBC says the clauses could potentially mean that Ofcom consent is not required for events where there are partnerships such as the BBC and Discovery deal for the Olympics, as long as each partner has adequate live coverage, which lowers the bar from the current expectation of having full and comprehensive rights on both sides. How much that bar is lowered is difficult to gauge. However, given that the Bill does not define what adequate will mean in this context, it only opens the door for live coverage and adequate coverage to be defined. It would be most unfortunate if a Bill that aimed to modernise and protect the listed events regime inserted a change that, in effect, allowed for exclusive rights to parts of the Olympics to be held behind a paywall.

I therefore ask the Minister for a clear indication of what “adequate” is now to be defined as under these new clauses. Further, why were these changes not included in the original drafting, and for what specific purpose did the Government choose to introduce them today? There was a detailed scrutiny process through the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, and it would have been beneficial for these additional clauses on the listed events regime to be analysed by those who know the regime best. If we cannot be absolutely clear on the real intent behind this clause and the impact that it will have on the listed events regime, it will be difficult to support it at this stage.

Let us move on to new clause 6. I hope that by this point it is clear that I am a strong supporter of the listed events regime. It is important in ensuring that British audiences are able to view moments of national sporting importance. However, many Scottish campaign groups and Scottish Members have been long discontented that the definition of such national moments did not seem to encompass crucial events that define their national sporting story. I am aware that these feelings are likely to be echoed by those in Wales and Northern Ireland, too, and I want to be clear that I believe the regime must not be overtly discriminatory in this sense. There has been particular concern over the lack of a formal plan to encourage making Scottish international football free to watch, something which may seem counterintuitive given the intent of the listed events regime. I understand that the new clause hopes to address this issue and to create equality of access to qualifying events for every UK nation.

When considering additions to the listed events regime, however, there is always a careful balance to be struck. It is important that sporting moments are available to watch, but is also important to secure investment in sports through the revenue generated by selling rights. The fact that the number of events in the regime is limited is indicative of the need to recognise that.

I also want to highlight the fact that the listed events regime is not the only method of ensuring that sports are available on a free-to-air basis. As I mentioned when praising commercial partnerships, it was extremely pleasing to see Sky and STV come to a formal agreement that allowed Scots to watch the World cup qualification play-off final. That was a truly beneficial outcome that did not rely on the structure of the regime.

Has the Department thought about the definition of a moment of national sporting importance? It is a fluid concept given changing public attitudes, and it is further complicated by the fact that inclusion in the regime can bolster the status of an event in the public consciousness. However, I think that there will be many more cases in which an argument is made for an event to be added to the regime, and there could therefore be merit in knowing the criteria that events are judged against when considering whether they should be included in the regime.

Finally, I would like to speak to new clause 7. As per section 97 of the Broadcasting Act 1996, the Secretary of State is required to consult

“(a) the BBC,

(b) the Welsh Authority,

(c) the Commission”

and rights holders before drawing up or revising listed events. I understand the intent behind that clause, especially given that many argue that Scottish football and sport has not been duly incorporated into the listed events regime.

Further, we have also discussed at length the desire to improve parity across broadcasting legislation between S4C and Gaelic language services. With that in mind, I believe that there would be benefits to broadening consultation requirements, so that the Gaelic viewpoint can be better taken into account when amendments to the list are being considered.

We could do with more clarity on how decisions about inclusion in the listed events regime are made. There would be a better sense of the fairness of such decisions if requirements to consult those who may be impacted by such a decision were expanded. In fact, the scope of this could have been broadened even further to require consultation with other relevant persons that the Secretary of State deems necessary. That could have perhaps included the other PSBs or relevant stakeholders, such as sporting bodies.

I do not wish to make additions to the listed events regime more onerous than they need be. However, having strong and varied input into decision making would certainly save time in the long run. I hope it is clear that I understand the intent of new clauses 6 and 7, but that I will need answers to my questions on clauses 22 and 23.

First, I welcome the support in principle of the hon. Lady for partnerships. They play a very important role in ensuring that iconic events are shown free to air even if they are not necessarily listed events. The one example that I can recall is Emma Raducanu’s US Open final, which certainly was not one of the listed events. Nevertheless, Amazon made it available to Channel 4, because clearly there was huge demand to watch it. Those kinds of partnerships play a very valuable role.

Regarding the definition of adequate live coverage, which the hon. Lady raised, and how Ofcom will define it, it is certainly not the intention of the new clauses to reduce the threshold. However, in terms of setting parameters as to what is adequate live coverage, that is a question for Ofcom, which has a lot of experience in this area, and it includes setting the standard for adequate alternative coverage for group B events, as well. In doing so, Ofcom would consult widely with stakeholders and analyse what metric works best to balance the interests of audience, broadcasters and rights-holders, and it can look at previous partnership deals to see how such partnerships have been arranged in the past. There are a number of different factors that are taken into account, but it is a matter for Ofcom to determine.

Before the Minister moves on, could he perhaps elaborate and let the Committee know why these new clauses were not included in the original drafting and say what the specific reason is for their being included now?

I cannot say specifically why they were not included earlier, although I have tried to set out why we think it is important that they should be included now. We will provide any additional information that we can provide in writing to the hon. Lady and to the rest of the Committee.

Regarding the support from the hon. Members for Aberdeen North and for Barnsley East for women’s football, there is no question that the increased popularity of and demand for women’s football has been enormous. Both hon. Members will be aware that the most recent changes to listed events were to include the FIFA Women’s World Cup finals and the European Women’s Football Championship finals on the list. I was not sure whether the hon. Ladies were suggesting that the parliamentary women’s football team should be put on that list, too. I am sure that the idea has considerable support, even if that team has not reached the iconic level quite yet.

I am also quite sure that the Opposition welcomed the recent announcement by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport of the £30 million Lionesses fund, which will be invested in grassroots women’s football. Hopefully, it will enable us to reach even greater heights than we have already reached.

I turn specifically to new clauses 6 and 7. New clause 6 is ingeniously phrased, but I understand the frustration of the hon. Member for Aberdeen North regarding coverage of the home nations. Of course the matches involving the England football team, and indeed the matches involving the Welsh football team, are available free to air— through S4C for the Welsh team—but it is harder to find coverage of the Scottish national team and indeed the Northern Ireland national team.

The only thing I would say to the hon. Lady is that inclusion on the list does not mean that events will be broadcast free to air; indeed, it does not mean that they will be broadcast at all. That is a matter for the broadcasters to determine. We have already debated the difficulty of balancing the need for audience accessibility with the need for revenue-raising. At the end of the day, however, it will remain a matter for the broadcasters to decide, as they do in England and Wales, as to whether or not they wish to bid for the right to cover the Scottish team. I am afraid that new clause 6 would not achieve that, because it remains a matter for the broadcasters to decide.

Turning to new clause 7, the Government believe that, as I say, regional and minority language broadcasting has an important role to play, providing an opportunity for speakers of minority languages to access them. Currently the Secretary of State does consult the BBC, S4C, Ofcom and relevant rights holders when revising the list of events protected under the listed events regime.

The BBC and S4C are of course licence-fee-funded public service broadcasters. Although the current legislation does not require the Secretary of State to consult other affected broadcasters, it does not restrict them from doing so. If updates to the list were to be proposed, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State would of course listen to all relevant representations. We therefore do not feel there is any need to list out any additional organisations who may or may not have an interest in particular changes. I am afraid that we are unable to accept new clauses 6 and 7. I urge the Committee to accept Government amendments 8 to 10, and to agree to clauses 22 and 23 standing part of the Bill.

If the Secretary of State were to update the list of statutory consultees, I would appreciate his being made aware of this interaction and the fact that the Gaelic Media Service should be considered for inclusion. I understand the Minister’s point that the Secretary of State will consult more widely than with just those that are statutory consultees. I appreciate that, but I would make a pitch that the Gaelic Media Service should be included and should be consulted. Whether or not it is put on a statutory basis, it would be sensible to speak to it about it.

On matches involving the national teams of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England, the Minister is right: having them included in the listed events does not mean that a match will be shown. It does not mean that it will be shown free to air or that people will be able to access it, but it increases the likelihood that we will be able to watch our national football team play incredibly important games that mean a significant amount to massive numbers of the population. We would be more likely have the opportunity to see those games without having to pay Viaplay or whoever £180 a year to do so. The reality is that this is unfair, and it is unfair for Northern Ireland as well. We should be able to access these things and see our teams playing.

The Derby had 1.6 million viewers it this year, which is about the same number as viewed Celtic v. Rangers. If the Derby is of UK-wide importance with only 1.6 million people choosing to view it, presumably Celtic v. Rangers is also of national importance, although I suggest that that is not quite as important as having a Scottish national team playing on TV.

There is an asymmetry in relation to some of the choices being made. Ensuring that the Derby is on television does not encourage grassroots participation in the sport. As far as I am aware, young girls who ride horses are going to continue riding horses whether or not they are able to watch the Derby on television. We are not going to stop children being obsessed with ponies, no matter whether or not it is on TV. Horseracing does not inspire, as far as I am aware, young people to take part in grassroots sport.

However, watching the Scottish national team or our Scottish women’s team play football on TV, or watching the Welsh team play football on TV, will encourage people to take part in those grassroots sports and be able to think that that is something they can aspire to. If that was the key aim, accepting the amendment would be incredibly important.

The key aim is not necessarily access to grassroots sports, though. For us this is a significant part of our cultural heritage. We want to be able to see our team play football. It is part of the culture in Scotland and we cannot currently do that because of the level of unfairness in the system. Were there an increase in the likelihood of us being able to view it on free to air because it was listed, that would be positive and would show that the Government cared about ensuring that we are all able to watch our teams play football, rugby, or whatever sport it happens to be. In this instance, it is football, and men’s football as well.

I would just say to the hon. Lady that the list will be kept under review. I note her hostility to the inclusion of the Derby on the list, although I am not sure it would have been shared by a former leader of her party, who, as I recall, was a keen fan of horseracing. It is not a matter of unfairness. Scotland is not singled out as not being included on the list of events. None of the home teams are on the list. It is a matter for the broadcasters that they have chosen not to bid for the rights to show matches involving the Scotland team. I am afraid that, at the moment, the Government consider the listed events to be appropriate and we have no intention of changing them at this time. I regret that we are unable to accept her new clause.

Amendment 8 agreed to.

Amendment made: 9, in clause 22, page 26, line 31, after “to” insert “the coverage of”.—(Sir John Whittingdale.)

See explanatory statement to Amendment 8.

Clause 22, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 23

Regulations about coverage of listed events

Amendment made: 10, in clause 23, page 27, line 11, leave out “of an event”.—(Sir John Whittingdale.)

This amendment makes clear that regulations under section 104ZA(1)(aa) of the Broadcasting Act 1996 (inserted by clause 23) may also relate to cases about the coverage of part of a multi-sport event.

Clause 23, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 24

Provision of information

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Government amendment 11.

Clause 25 stand part.

Clause 24 makes amendments to extend Ofcom’s existing powers to gather information and, if necessary, undertake enforcement action to reflect the changes made in clauses 20 to 23. Without these new powers, Ofcom would not be able to enforce the regime against the extended list of services brought in scope by the Bill. The clause amends section 104A of the Broadcasting Act 1996 to create a new power for Ofcom to require providers of the services in scope of the listed events regime and, in limited circumstances, certain other persons to supply it with any information it requires to carry out its functions in relation to listed events. It also creates a new section 104B that sets out the penalties that may be applied for failure to provide information.

Clause 25 is a saving provision for clauses 20 to 23. It ensures that contracts that have already been agreed before the introduction of the new provisions will not be affected. Any contract entered into prior to the commencement of the new provisions will be governed by the old listed events regime. That ensures certainty for deals that have already been concluded.

Government amendment 11 is needed to ensure that the existing list of events, as published on, is revised into groups A and B. It replicates transitional provisions contained in the Communications Act 2003 that mean that the existing list will otherwise be preserved without need for consultation. While provision was made for this division in the Communications Act, for some reason, relevant sections have not been commenced. The Government’s overarching objective for the listed events regime is to ensure that key sporting events are widely available and free to air for all audiences, particularly those who cannot afford to watch sport behind a paywall. As has already been debated, rights holders use income for the benefit of the wider sporting sector, so it is important for the regime to strike the right balance.

The Government believe that the current list of events works well to deliver the best outcome and that it strikes an appropriate balance. The amendment requires the Secretary of State to revise the list into groups A and B but provides that, so long as the list remains the same—other than the division into groups A and B for the purposes of the legislation—there will be no need to consult in relation to that list. For reasons I set out, I hope that Members can support this amendment.

As I have mentioned more than once during this group of clauses on listed events, I am pleased to see that the Government have taken action to close the streaming loophole in the listed events regime. However, bringing into scope those who are not licensed by Ofcom will mean that Ofcom needs new powers to enforce this regime against new providers. I am therefore supportive of clause 24, which provides Ofcom with such powers, including the ability to require information and impose penalties where failures occur.

Clause 25 ensures the legality of contracts agreed before the introduction of this Bill. This sensible clause will minimise disruption and provides clarification and certainty for all involved.

Finally, I understand that Government amendment 11 requires the Secretary of State to categorise the listed events into groups A and B. I wonder therefore if we could hear from the Minister how the Secretary of State intends to use this power, and whether this will be limited to what is essentially a tidying up of the legislation. With that answer in mind, I would be very happy to support and move on.

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her indication of support. Essentially, my understanding is exactly that: the division is in effect already there and it had to be formalised through this clause.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 24 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 25

Sections 20 to 23: saving provision

Amendment made: 11, in clause 25, page 29, line 34, at end insert—

“(2) On the date on which section 21 comes into force, the Secretary of State must revise the list maintained for the purposes of Part 4 of the Broadcasting Act 1996 in order to allocate each event which is a listed event on that date either to Group A or Group B.

(3) Where—

(a) the events listed in the list in force immediately before the Secretary of State revises it under subsection (2) are treated, for any of the purposes of the code in force under section 104 of the Broadcasting Act 1996 at that time, as divided into two categories, and

(b) the Secretary of State’s revision under subsection (2) makes the same division,

section 97(2) of the Broadcasting Act is not to apply in relation to that revision of the list.”.—(Sir John Whittingdale.)

This amendment requires the Secretary of State to revise the list of sporting and other national events so as to divide them into Group A and Group B events. It disapplies the requirement for consultation in section 97(2) of the Broadcasting Act 1996 if the division follows the division into Group A and Group B events by reference to which OFCOM’s code under section 104 of the 1996 Act operates at that time.

Clause 25, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 26

Public teletext service

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Clause 26 ensures that our legal framework is up to date—I have to say this with a degree of nostalgia—by removing the now obsolete legal provision for a public teletext service. This is achieved by repealing sections 218 to 223 of the Communications Act 2003, which established such a service. I can remember consulting Teletext and Ceefax on many occasions, but I am afraid that it has now passed into the mists of time.

Will my right hon. Friend take this opportunity to pay tribute to all those journalists who worked on teletext services, both at the BBC and ITV? When I worked on business television programmes at the BBC, there was a very small team of three people who worked on the business pages of Ceefax. They were extremely diligent and they frequently updated the news faster than we could to get it on the air.

Perhaps, as we mourn the loss of teletext services, we can pay tribute to all those who worked very hard to not only bring us great information but to create some of the most unbelievable graphics on television that people might ever have experienced without any artificial simulation. I am particularly fond of the reveal button that, as Advent wore on, used to show a new little Christmas or festive picture each day. Perhaps this is a good moment in the season of Advent to recall those moments and pay tribute to all those who were involved in providing those great services.

I am very happy to join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to the journalists who made Teletext, for a time, such an essential service in keeping the nation updated with news as it happened. Indeed I do recall—

I am absolutely not too young. I spent an awful lot of hours—far too many hours—playing Bamboozle! on Teletext. I wonder if the Minister would also pay tribute to the fact that Teletext was actually a genius idea. The concept and the way that it was delivered was just brilliant. In addition to the team that worked on it, its creation was completely phenomenal and was incredibly impressive—it changed our lives for the better.

I am very happy to join the hon. Lady in paying tribute to the huge number of benefits that Teletext brought for quite a considerable length of time. It was not just news that could be accessed via Teletext; I understand that one of my colleagues booked her holiday regularly through Teletext. I think there was even a dating service that was provided by Teletext for a time. All these things are now available online in perhaps a little more sophisticated form than was originally the case.

I am afraid it is the case that the most recent public teletext provider ceased to provide a service in 2009, and its licence was revoked in 2010. Therefore, in accordance with the intention of this Bill to modernise the legislative framework and to take account of the changes in the broadcasting landscape, I am afraid I must ask the Committee to support that clause 26 stand part of the Bill.

This clause repeals provisions in the Communications Act 2003 regarding teletext, due to it no longer existing. I would like to echo the Minister’s nostalgia, and also thank everyone who invented it and worked on it. I must take this opportunity to say that my dad was an avid user of teletext. Right until it closed, he would phone me up and be like, “It’s not really going to close, is it?”. He would always check his weather and his traffic. I feel like I should put that on the record, because people like my dad across the country relied on it. While he might, I do not take any issue with this clause in particular. It would be remiss of me not to reiterate how important it is that information and services are available to everyone, including those who are older, those who have disabilities, and those without the internet. While we remove old services, it should serve as a reminder to all of us to ensure new services are as universally accessible as possible.

I commend the clause, with sadness.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 26 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 27

Further amendments relating to public service television

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Clause stand part.

Government amendments 16 to 18.

Schedule 2.

This clause and the Government amendments to it are technical in nature and I hope will not detain the Committee for long. Clause 27 introduces schedule 2, which makes amendments to broadcasting legislation to maintain operability of that legislation in light of the changes in part 1 of the Bill that we have already debated. For example, many of these amendments are intended to remove redundant references to the public teletext services from the 2003 Act. Government amendments 16 and 17 correct references to provision added by clause 20. If this were not taken forward, schedule 2 would incorrectly refer to the incorrect type of relevant service.

Government amendment 18 is essentially a tidying-up exercise. It removes transitional provisions that related to section 300 of the Communications Act, which was never brought into force and is now being repealed by this Bill. Government amendment 11 adds replacement transitional provisions. On this basis, I hope the Committee will support clause 27 and the Government amendments to it.

I believe the changes in schedule 2 and clause 27, as well as Government amendment 18, are consequential on the larger adjustments made in part 1. I have had no specific concerns about these changes drawn to my attention, so I am happy to move forward. I refer members of the Committee to my remarks throughout the discussion on the rest of part 1. I am also glad to see some mistakes corrected through amendments 16 and 17.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 27 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

On a point of order, Mrs Cummins. If I may make a small correction, I understand that when we were debating the listed events earlier, I said that it excluded bidders if the event is listed. It is not the case that it excludes non-PSBs from bidding, but they may be inadvertently precluded from doing so.

I thank the Minister for that clarification.

Schedule 2

Part 1: further amendments

Amendments made: 16, in schedule 2, page 121, line 37, leave out “98(7)(e)” and insert “98(7)(g)”.

This amendment and Amendment 17 correct references to provision added by clause 20.

Amendment 17, in schedule 2, page 121, line 38, leave out “98(7)(e)(iii)” and insert “98(7)(g)(iii)”.

See explanatory statement to Amendment 16.

Amendment 18, in schedule 2, page 126, line 33, at end insert—

“64A In Schedule 18 (transitional provisions), in paragraph 51 (listed events rules), omit sub-paragraphs (4) and (5).”.—(Sir John Whittingdale.)

This amendment repeals provision that relates to amendments made by section 300 of the Communications Act 2003. Section 300 has not been brought into force and is being repealed by this Bill.

Schedule 2, as amended, agreed to.

Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned.—(Mike Wood.)

Adjourned till Thursday 7 December at half-past Eleven o’clock.

Written evidence reported to the House

MB 01 British Board of Film Classification

MB 02 ITV plc

MB 03 David Wolfe KC

MB 04 News Media Association

MB 05 The group of Mebyon Kernow—the Party for Cornwall councillors on Cornwall Council

MB 06 The local TV sector

MB 07 Broadcast 2040+ Campaign


MB 09 Radiocentre

MB 10 Netflix

MB 11 Press Recognition Panel

MB 12 Paramount


MB 14 Pact

MB 15 techUK

MB 16 Service List Registry