Digital Economy Bill [ Lords]

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 4:44 pm on 6th April 2010.

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Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport 4:44 pm, 6th April 2010

All I would say to the hon. Gentleman is that, thanks to the actions of the last Conservative Government, we now have a cable network covering half the country that has not cost the taxpayer a penny, a satellite network covering the whole country without any cost to the taxpayer, and a deregulated telecoms infrastructure that has made our international calls the cheapest in the world. That is all because we understand how proper regulation can work.

Another part of the Bill that is totally flawed covers the Government's plans for regional news. The Bill makes provision to subsidise ITV regional news by accessing the licence fee. Our starting point has to be, however, that our local media are in crisis, that newspaper and commercial radio groups are under severe pressure, and that we have never had proper local television in this country. London, Ontario has two local TV stations, despite being one twentieth the size of our London, which has none. Birmingham, Alabama has eight local TV stations, despite being only a quarter the size of our Birmingham, which has none. So will the Bill sort that out? No, it will not. Instead, Government subsidies will solidify the old, failed regional news model, encouraging media groups to put all their energy into lobbying Ministers for more subsidy, rather than finding models that attract viewers and listeners in the marketplace. Instead of measures to stimulate investment, innovation and change, the Bill proposes plans for regulation and subsidy that are so flawed that even ITV now thinks they will make a bad situation worse. ITV is right, and that clause will go.

We have already mentioned another fundamentally flawed proposal-clause 43, which deals with orphan works and extended licensing. These measures have the right intention, and with proper scrutiny could have yielded huge benefits for consumers and authors alike.

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