Reallocation of Television Spectrum: BBC Three

Oral Answers to Questions — Culture, Media and Sport – in the House of Commons at 9:30 am on 1st May 2014.

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Photo of Michael Connarty Michael Connarty Labour, Linlithgow and East Falkirk 9:30 am, 1st May 2014

What recent discussions he has had with Digital UK and Ofcom on the re-allocation of the television spectrum to be vacated by BBC Three.

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

The BBC Trust is currently considering the proposal to stop broadcasting

BBC Three. I have not yet discussed what may happen to BBC Three’s Freeview channel number with either Digital UK or Ofcom.

Photo of Michael Connarty Michael Connarty Labour, Linlithgow and East Falkirk

I know that the Minister is very conscious of the concern felt by people in Scotland about Scottish Television’s proposals to introduce local television. Is it not a problem—I have spoken to Ofcom about this—that the BBC seems to think that it can keep the BBC Three channel and invent BBC One plus one, even though it is currently failing to use the channel properly? Is it not important for the BBC not to have a monopoly, and for the channel to be available to other public broadcasters?

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I know that the hon. Gentleman met Ofcom this week, and that he has raised this subject in the House and led a debate on it. The BBC Trust will make the final decision on whether the BBC Three channel should go to an online service, but I understand that Digital UK will allocate the channel in the normal way, taking account of the due prominence rules in the public service broadcasting guidelines. However, I have noted the hon. Gentleman’s point, and will follow it up.

Photo of Martin Vickers Martin Vickers Conservative, Cleethorpes

It is two years since Digital UK completed the changeover from analogue and a large number of households were persuaded to buy Freeview boxes. There have been reports that Freeview is now under threat. Given that many households in my constituency rely on it rather than on cable and satellite, which are more expensive, can the Minister assure them that Freeview will continue?

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I was pleased to visit my hon. Friend’s constituency and see how well local television is doing in his part of the world. I can assure him that Freeview and free-to-air television is very important, and the Government will continue to support it.