Cross-media Ownership

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:31 pm on 23rd May 1995.

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Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman Chair, National Heritage Committee 3:31 pm, 23rd May 1995

I was concerned at the right hon. Gentleman's response to the hon. Member for Eltham (Mr. Bottomley) on the issue of Channel 4 funding, because it appeared to pre-empt his response to the Select Committee report on the British film industry. I very much hope that his mind is still open on that matter.

In support of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith), I may say that the proposals for the immediate future that the right hon. Gentleman puts before the House will arouse little controversy, and, I am sure, will be widely acceptable. On the other hand, I ask the Secretary of State to accept that what the consultation document says about the longer-term regulatory arrangements is almost certainly impracticable and quite certainly unrealistic.

It is simply not possible to regulate the technology of the future in the way that the right hon. Gentleman describes in his document. He said that we were on the threshold of a new era, but one would never have thought it from the way in which he looked at the possibility, or from the omission from his document of a policy to enable the free market to operate in the interests of the consumer.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, while he includes in his document arrangements to allow newspaper groups greater freedom to cross-invest in television, television companies greater freedom to cross-invest in newspapers, and cable companies greater freedom to cross-invest in terrestrial television, he once again excludes British Telecom from the ability to compete in broadcasting television to Britain against American telephone companies, which are involved in cable in this country? While he is obstinate about that, I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that he is being a King Canute on the matter. The change has got to come, and the sooner it comes the better.