Committee (6th Day)
Digital Economy Bill [HL]
Lord Maxton (Labour)
My Lords, I beg to move the amendment standing in my name. I feel almost guilty in raising such a mundane matter after the high-flown principles we have had so far. I also wish to make it clear that, given the specific nature of this amendment in relation to satellite navigation systems, I have no financial interest to declare. The matter was raised with me in the Tea Room at the other end of the Corridor. I thought that it was of interest and tabled an amendment accordingly. It is a probing amendment designed to ask the Government to look at an area of radio broadcasting that appears to have been completely omitted from the Bill.
ITIS, the major company in this area, has two concerns. It provides local and national traffic reports to a variety of outlets including satellite navigation systems. Traffic reports to satellite navigation devices go through the same FM bandwidth used by Classic FM at present via an arrangement with Global Radio, the owner of Classic FM. ITIS is obviously concerned that any changes in the switchover of radio from FM to digital-this part of the Bill is called "Digital switchover"-would make its services inoperable.
Digital technology for satellite devices is being developed, but many existing cars and cars for the immediate future-particularly those in the upper price ranges such as BMWs, Jaguars and Rolls-Royces, which have a longer lifespan than others-have satellite navigation devices built-in to the car. I just use a plug-in whenever I need it, and obviously I could buy a new one, but if you buy a car with a satellite navigation system built in, you cannot do that.
Each of these devices has its own radio transmitter which transmits on an FM bandwidth voice traffic reports to the driver as he is driving. It will say, "There is a major traffic jam ahead. If you turn left, left, left and right you will avoid it and that will be to your benefit". Obviously, that will cease to work if the FM signal is switched off in the future. The company is therefore concerned that the Government should give some assurance that they have at least looked at the matter and considered whether these services can be continued.
The company is also concerned-although this is a matter for Ofcom rather than the Government-that its AS1 licence has to be retendered for next year. There is only one licence of this nature at present. The doubt about its continuation is causing concern not only with the company but with car manufacturers and satellite navigation companies. It is essentially a matter for Ofcom, but there is a concern that there is no provision in the Bill to give a power to Ofcom to renew the licence without retendering. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say. I beg to move.