New Clause 3 - Consultation on section 50

Media Bill – in the House of Commons at 1:03 pm on 30 January 2024.

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“(1) Within six months of the passage of this Act, the Secretary of State must publish a call for evidence seeking views on alternative incentives to encourage publishers or regulators to seek recognition under the terms of the Royal Charter for the Self-Regulation of the Press.

(2) The Secretary of State must lay before both Houses of Parliament a report setting out the Government’s formal response to evidence submitted in response to the call for evidence required by subsection (1).

(3) The Secretary of State may not make an order under section 55(3)(ga) bringing any part of section 50 into force until the report specified in subsection (2) has been laid before both Houses of Parliament.”—(George Eustice.)

See explanatory statement to Amendment 3.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 1—Evaluation of nations-based production—

“(1) The Communications Act 2003 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 286 (regional programme-making for Channels 3 and 5)—

(a) in subsection (1)(d), at end insert “except where the company is a new start-up and has registered itself as being primarily based in that nation”;

(b) after subsection (1)(d) insert—

“(e) Ofcom must require a broadcaster listing a production as being based in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales to demonstrate prior to production that a production company has—

(i) a substantial base (consisting of a specified number of staff) within the nation;

(ii) a commitment to remain within the nation for a specified amount of time;

(iii) had a presence within the nation for at least 36 months.”;

(c) in subsection (3)(d), at end insert “except where the company is a new start-up and has registered itself as being primarily based in that nation.”;

(d) after subsection (3)(d) insert—

“(e) Ofcom must require a broadcaster listing a production as being based in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales to demonstrate prior to production that a production company has—

(i) a substantial base (consisting of a specified number of staff) within the nation;

(ii) a commitment to remain within the nation for a specified amount of time;

(iii) had a presence within the nation for at least 36 months.”

(3) In section 288 (Regional programme-making for Channel 4)—

(a) in subsection (1)(d), at end insert “except where the company is a new start-up and has registered itself as being primarily based in that nation.”;

(b) after subsection (1)(d) insert—

“(e) Ofcom must require a broadcaster listing a production as being based in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales to demonstrate prior to production that a production company has—

(i) a substantial base (consisting of a specified number of staff) within the nation;

(ii) a commitment to remain within the nation for a specified amount of time;

(iii) had a presence within the nation specified for at least 36 months.”.”

New clause 4—OFCOM review of on-demand programme service regulation measures—

“(1) As soon as practicable after Chapter 2 of this Act comes into force, OFCOM must carry out a review of its on-demand programme service regulation measures.

(2) This review must take account of—

(a) the size, and

(b) the turnover of the services to which these regulations apply and assess whether the current application of the regulations is the most effective means to achieve the policy goals of this Chapter.

(3) In conducting the review described in subsection (2), OFCOM must consult with relevant stakeholders, including public service broadcasters, on-demand programme service providers and any other stakeholders as appropriate.”

This would require OFCOM to conduct a review of the Bill’s new on-demand regulatory code. The review must take account of the sizes and turnovers of the regulated services, and assess whether the current regulatory approach is effective in achieving the policy goals of the Bill. The review would have to be conducted in consultation with relevant stakeholders.

New clause 6—Age rating standards—

“Where Tier 1 providers use an age rating or other classification system to comply with the duties imposed on them by or under this Act for the protection of audiences from harm, they must—

(a) apply the age rating or classification system used by the video works authority based on their classification guidelines; or

(b) apply an age rating or classification system that is judged by OFCOM to be—

(i) based on a transparent set of appropriate standards;

(ii) applied consistently across content; and

(iii) informed by regular consultation with the UK public.”

This new clause ensures that, where age ratings are used by Video on Demand platforms, those ratings are the same as the ones used by the British Board of Film Classification or meet equivalent standards of rigour, transparency, and objectivity.

New clause 7—Adequate on-demand coverage to be available—

“After section 101 of the Broadcasting Act 1996, insert—

“101ZA Provision of adequate on-demand coverage

(1) The purpose of this section is to secure, in relation to a listed event, that if any person makes available on-demand coverage of the whole or any part of that event, adequate on-demand coverage is made available widely and free of charge to members of the public in the United Kingdom, whether by that person or another person.

(2) In this Part, in relation to a listed event or part of such an event, “on-demand coverage” means audiovisual content consisting of coverage of, or excerpts from, that event (or a combination of those), where—

(a) a person makes a range of such content available to members of the public, whether through a relevant service or otherwise;

(b) selections from that range can be made by the user and viewed at a time chosen by the user (even if it may be viewed only within a period specified by the person making it available);

(c) the selected content is received by the user by means of the internet; and

(d) the content otherwise meets any criteria or requirements specified (either generally or in relation to particular listed events) by regulations under section 104ZA; and “on-demand rights” means rights to make on-demand coverage available for access by members of the public in the United Kingdom.

(3) Any contract entered into on or after the day on which section [Adequate on-demand coverage to be available] of the Media Act 2024 comes into force under which a person acquires on-demand rights is void so far as it purports—

(a) in relation to the whole or any part of the event, or

(b) in relation to access by means of the internet, in the United Kingdom, to grant those rights exclusively.

(4) For the purposes of this section, on-demand rights are granted exclusively if the person granting them—

(a) has not granted any such right in respect of the whole or, as the case may be, that part of the event to more than one person, and

(b) is precluded by the terms of the contract from doing so.

(5) For the purposes of subsection (4)(a), rights are not to be treated as having been granted to more than one person where the only persons to whom such rights have been granted are connected with each other.

(6) No person may provide on-demand coverage of a listed event unless authorised to do so under subsection (7), (8) or (9), even if that person is authorised to include live coverage of that event in a relevant service by subsection (2), (3) or (4) of section 101.

(7) The provision of on-demand coverage of a listed event is authorised by this subsection if—

(a) on-demand rights have been acquired by the provider of a relevant service falling within section 98(1)(a);

(b) that relevant service includes live coverage of that event; and

(c) the on-demand coverage provided that provider—

(i) constitutes adequate on-demand coverage of the event, and

(ii) may be accessed free of charge.

(8) The provision of on-demand coverage of a listed event is authorised by this subsection if—

(a) on-demand rights have been acquired by one or more persons;

(b) those persons are not connected with each other;

(c) the on-demand coverage provided by at least one of those persons—

(i) constitutes adequate on-demand coverage of the event, and

(ii) may be accessed free of charge; and

(d) the person or persons who have acquired rights to provide the adequate on-demand coverage satisfy the requirements in relation to that coverage of any regulations made under section 104ZA for the purposes of this paragraph.

(9) The provision of on-demand coverage of a listed event is authorised by this subsection if OFCOM have consented in advance to such provision.

(10) OFCOM may revoke any consent given by them under subsection (9).

(11) The code drawn up by OFCOM under section 104 shall include guidance on the matters which they will take into account in determining whether to give or revoke their consent for the purposes of subsection (9).

(12) Regulations under section 104ZA (regulations about coverage of listed events) may include provision—

(a) specifying (either generally or in relation to particular listed events) any criteria or requirements that content must meet in order to be regarded as on-demand coverage for the purposes of subsection (2)(d);

(b) for determining for the purposes of this section what (whether generally or in relation to particular circumstances) is to be taken to represent the provision of adequate on-demand coverage of an event for the purposes of subsection (8)(d).

(13) Failure to comply with subsection (6) shall not affect the validity of any contract.

(14) Subsection (6) shall not have effect where the person providing the on-demand coverage is exercising on-demand rights acquired before the commencement of this section.

(15) In this section, “on-demand coverage” and “adequate on-demand coverage” are to be construed in accordance with regulations under section 104ZA.

(16) For the purposes of sections 104A (provision of information) and 104B (penalties for failure to provide information), any person making available, or wishing to make available, on-demand coverage of the whole or any part of any listed event shall be treated as a person who is within subsection (5) of section 104A.””

This new clause would secure that, where possible, adequate on-demand coverage of listed events, such as clips and excerpts, is made available free of charge to audiences in the United Kingdom.

New clause 8—Protection of digital terrestrial television—

“(1) The Secretary of State shall ensure that—

(a) the licensed public service channels continue to be broadcast via digital terrestrial television to as many of their intended audience as is reasonably practicable; and

(b) a sufficient number of digital terrestrial television multiplex licences are issued to deliver the licensed public service channels via digital terrestrial television and support a diverse range of commercial digital terrestrial television channels.

(2) OFCOM shall reserve sufficient frequencies for television broadcasting services accordingly.”

This new clause would place a responsibility on the Secretary of State to ensure that public service television channels continue to be broadcast via digital terrestrial television (DTT) and that sufficient licences are issued to keep the platform viable. It would also require Ofcom to make spectrum available accordingly.

New clause 9—Review of children’s access to public service broadcast content—

“Within six months of the passage of this Act, the Secretary of State must prepare and publish a report on how to ensure that children have access to public service broadcast content.”

This new clause would require a review of how to ensure children have access to public service content, given their viewing habits.

New clause 10—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.”

New clause 11—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.

New clause 12—Regulation of selection services for on demand and online-only content—

“(1) Within three months of the passage of this Act, the Secretary of State must by regulations provide for the regulation of selection services for on demand and online-only content equivalent to the regulation of radio selection services provided for by section 48 and Schedule 9 of this Act.

(2) Regulations under subsection (1) may amend primary legislation.”

New clause 13—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.”

New clause 14—Age Classifications—

“When considering the adequacy of age ratings, OFCOM must assess whether any age ratings used by providers are—

(a) widely recognised by the UK public;

(b) underpinned by a transparent set of standards;

(c) informed by regular consultation with the UK public.”

New clause 15—Establishing a Broadcasting and Communications Authority for Wales—

“(1) A Broadcasting and Communications Authority for Wales (“the Authority”) is established.

(2) The Authority must perform the following functions—

(a) support for the broadcasting and media sectors serving audiences in Wales;

(b) oversight and accountability for public service broadcasting in Wales;

(c) facilitation and development of the production of content by broadcaster and media outlets in Wales;

(d) promotion and preservation of the Welsh language, identity and culture in broadcasting and media output;

(e) support for and development of English language content made in Wales and ensuring that it is relevant to Welsh audiences; and

(f) any functions the Secretary of State considers necessary to support further devolution of broadcasting policy to the Welsh Government.

(3) In performing the functions under subsection 2 the Authority must have regard to—

(a) public interest journalism;

(b) content for children and young people; and

(c) sport content and national events.

(4) In performing the duties under subsection (2) in relation to broadcasting and media matters in Wales, the Authority must consult—

(a) relevant Ministers in the Welsh Government;

(b) Members of the Senedd; and

(c) members of the public living in Wales.

(5) Section 1 comes into force at the end of the period of 12 months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.

(6) In preparation for the establishment of the Authority a shadow authority may be established in line with the functions set out in subsection 2 after the passing of this Act.

(7) The Secretary of State must by regulations make provision for the appointment of officers to the Authority.”

This new clause creates a new independent Welsh Broadcasting and Communications Authority with responsibility and oversight for broadcasting and media matters in Wales to help reflect and meet the needs of Welsh audiences.

New clause 16—Listed Events—

“(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) Six Nations Rugby Tournament Matches Involving Home Countries;

(m) the Derby;

(n) the Rugby League Challenge Cup Final;

(o) 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 17—Consultation on listing of events—

“(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.

New clause 18—Listed Events Fund—

“(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, 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.

New clause 19—Diversity in the workforce of the public service broadcasters—

“(1) OFCOM must produce a report each year detailing diversity in the workforce of the public sector broadcasters (“PSBs”).

(2) The report under subsection (1) must include—

(a) a breakdown by protected characteristic of the numbers of people in the workforce of each PSB;

(b) the percentage of the workforce on and offscreen who have various protected characteristics as deemed relevant by OFCOM;

(c) if the percentages reported under paragraph (b) are not reflective of the population as a whole or on a regional basis, a statement from each broadcaster on how they intend to increase diversity in their organisation.

(3) OFCOM may request any information they require from the PSBs in order to compile the report under subsection (1).

(4) Provision of data to enable OFCOM to produce the report under subsection (1) is to be considered by OFCOM when it assesses the extent to which a PSB has fulfilled its public service broadcasting remit.”

This new clause would require OFCOM to produce an annual report on workforce diversity within the PSBs.

New clause 20—On-demand programme services—

“(1) OFCOM must report to the Secretary of State each year on the percentage of people who are watching on-demand services that do not fall under the definition of on-demand programme services in section 368A of the Communications Act.

(2) If OFCOM reports concern that the definition is not providing protection for public service broadcasters on on-demand services that are being widely accessed by the public—

(a) OFCOM must write to the Secretary of State, and

(b) the Secretary of State must make a written statement to Parliament on how the Secretary of State intends to remedy this matter.”

This new clause would require OFCOM and the Secretary of State to keep under review the adequacy of the definition of on-demand programme services in section 368A of the Communications Act 2003.

New clause 21—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, including level of programming from a diverse range of genres including, among others, education, entertainment, music, arts science, sports matters of international significance, religion and specialist interests.

(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) It is the duty of relevant television broadcasting services to prepare and publish a statement annually on their performance in the provision of public service content.

(4) 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.

New clause 22—Duty to report on workforce diversity and equality requirement—

“(1) Public service broadcasters (“PSBs”) must prepare and publish a statement on a workforce diversity and equality strategy within the period of one year beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.

(2) A workforce diversity and equality strategy must comprise a plan setting out how PSBs are taking appropriate steps towards improving diversity and equality within the workforce in the period covered by the plan, which must cover not more than three years.

(3) In particular, a workforce diversity and equality strategy must state a PSB’s objectives and priorities for the period it covers.

(4) A workforce diversity and equality strategy must include a summary and an evaluation of the activities and initiatives pursued or commissioned by a PSB in the exercise of its functions under subsection (1) in the period to which the strategy relates.

(5) Before the end of the period covered by a workforce diversity and equality strategy, PSBs must prepare and publish a strategy for a further period, ensuring that each successive strategy covers a period beginning immediately after the end of the last one.

(6) In preparing or revising a workforce diversity and equality strategy, a PSB must consult such persons as they consider appropriate.

(7) OFCOM must prepare and publish a report on workforce diversity and equality strategy statements produced by PSBs set out in subsection (1), in particular—

(a) summarising what actions a PSB is planning and taking in the exercise of its strategy under subsections (1) to (3);

(b) assessing what progress has been made towards achieving the objectives and priorities set out in a strategy in the relevant period.

(8) The first annual report by OFCOM on workforce diversity and equality is required to be published within a period of 18 months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.

(9) OFCOM must prepare and publish subsequent reports on PSBs’ strategies and progress against them every three years thereafter.”

This new clause introduces a requirement for PSBs to publish objectives on the promotion of diversity and equality among the workforce and for Ofcom to monitor and report on PSB performance on meeting this requirement.

New clause 23—Duty to report on media literacy requirement—

“(1) Public service broadcasters (“PSBs”) must prepare and publish a statement on a media literacy strategy within the period of one year beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.

(2) A media literacy strategy is a plan setting out how PSBs are taking appropriate steps towards improving levels of media literacy among audiences in the period covered by the plan, which must be not more than three years.

(3) In particular, a media literacy strategy must state a PSB’s objectives and priorities for the period it covers.

(4) A media literacy statement must include a summary and an evaluation of the activities and initiatives pursued or commissioned by the PSB in the exercise of their functions under section (1) in the period to which the report relates.

(5) Before the end of the period covered by a media literacy strategy, PSBs must prepare and publish a strategy for a further period, ensuring that each successive strategy covers a period beginning immediately after the end of the last one.

(6) In preparing or revising a media literacy strategy, a PSB must consult such persons as they consider appropriate.

(7) OFCOM must prepare and publish a report of the media literacy strategy statements set out in subsection (1), in particular—

(a) summarising what actions a PSB is planning and taking in the exercise of its strategy under subsections (1) to (3);

(b) assessing what progress has been made towards achieving the objectives and priorities set out in a strategy in the relevant period.

(8) The first annual report by OFCOM on media literacy is required to be published within a period of 18 months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.

(9) OFCOM must prepare and publish subsequent report on PSBs’ strategies and progress against them every three years thereafter.”

This new clause introduces a requirement for PSBs to take appropriate steps in relation to improving levels of media literacy among their audiences and for Ofcom to monitor and report on PSB performance on meeting this requirement.

New clause 24—Duty to report on viewer and listener consultation requirements—

“(1) Public service broadcasters (“PSBs”) must prepare and publish a viewer and listener consultation strategy (“consultation strategy”) within the period of one year beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.

(2) A consultation strategy is a plan setting out how PSBs are taking appropriate steps towards improving levels of engagement with audiences in the period covered by the plan, which must be not more than three years.

(3) In particular, a consultation strategy must state a PSB’s objectives and priorities for the period it covers.

(4) A consultation strategy must include a summary and an evaluation of the activities and initiatives pursued or commissioned by the PSB in the exercise of their functions under section (1) in the period to which the report relates.

(5) Before the end of the period covered by an audience consultation strategy, PSBs must prepare and publish a strategy for a further period, ensuring that each successive strategy covers a period beginning immediately after the end of the last one.

(6) In preparing or revising a media literacy consultation strategy, PSBs must consult such persons as they consider appropriate.

(7) OFCOM must prepare and publish a report assessing PSBs’ consultation strategies, in particular—

(a) summarising what actions a PSB is planning and taking in the exercise of its strategy, and

(b) assessing what progress has been made towards achieving the objectives and priorities set out in a strategy in the relevant period.

(8) The first annual report by OFCOM on PSBs’ consultation strategies must be published within a period of 18 months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.

(9) OFCOM must prepare and publish subsequent reports on PSBs’ strategies and progress against them every three years thereafter.”

This new clause introduces a requirement for PSBs to produce a strategy and objectives for increasing levels of consultation with user listeners and for Ofcom to monitor and report on PSB performance on meeting this requirement.

Amendment 81, in clause 1, page 2, line 38, at end insert—

“(iii) a sufficient quantity of audiovisual content so as to permit fulfilment of the public service remit for television in the Gaelic language as spoken in Scotland”.

This amendment would require OFCOM to report on whether a sufficient quantity of audiovisual content in Gaelic is televised to meet the public service remit for television.

Amendment 1, page 3, line 10, at end insert—

“(5A) In assessing the extent to which the requirements of subsection (5)(b)(i) have been met OFCOM must have particular regard to the importance of content recognising the culture and heritage of those parts of the United Kingdom recognised under the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.”

This amendment requires OFCOM to have regard to the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities when reporting on the fulfilment of the public service remit through audiovisual content by the public service broadcasters.

Amendment 86, page 3, line 13, leave out from “appropriate” to end and insert—

“level of programming from a diverse range of genres including, among others, education, entertainment, music, arts science, sports matters of international significance, religion and specialist interests.”

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

Government amendment 19.

Amendment 79, 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 amends the definition of public service for Channel 3 and Channel 5 to include an obligation to broadcast via digital terrestrial television, on the basis of the already existing licence requirements applying to PSB DTT multiplexes.

Amendment 80, 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 amendments amends the definition of public service for Channel 4 to include a obligation to broadcast via digital terrestrial television, on the basis of the already existing licence requirements applying to PSB DTT multiplexes.

Amendment 82, in clause 8, page 9, line 29, at end insert—

“(c) a duration such as OFCOM considers appropriate of those independent productions are commissioned from smaller studios”.

This amendment would require OFCOM to require licensed public service channel regulatory conditions to include commissioning from smaller studios.

Amendment 83, page 9, line 29, at end insert—

“(1A) The regulatory regime for Channel 4 includes the conditions that OFCOM consider appropriate for securing that, in each year, not less than 35% per cent of Channel 4's total expenditure on qualifying audiovisual content is allocated to independent productions made by independent production companies with annual turnover not exceeding £25,000,000.

(1B) The Secretary of State may by regulations amend subsection (1A) by substituting a different figure for the annual turnover specified in that section.

(1C) Before making regulations under subsection (1B), the Secretary of State must consult—

(a) OFCOM,

(b) Channel 4, and

(c) independent production companies that are likely to be affected by the regulations.”

This amendment would require that at least 35% of Channel 4’s annual expenditure on qualifying audiovisual content be allocated to productions made by independent producers with annual revenues smaller than £25m. It also provides the Secretary of State the power to amend, following consultation, the revenue figure defining the production companies to which the requirement applies.

Amendment 84, page 10, line 15, before “commissioning” insert

““annual revenue” means the reported revenues published in the annual accounts of the respective independent production company, covering the most recently available period of 12 months;”.

This amendment would insert a definition for the purposes of Amendment 83.

Amendment 85, page 10, line 17, at end insert—

““independent production companies” has the same meaning as in the Broadcasting (Independent Productions) Order 1991;”.

This amendment would insert a definition for the purposes of Amendment 83.

Government amendments 20 to 40.

Amendment 88, in clause 25, page 30, line 30, at end insert—

“(4) 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 so that it includes—

(a) at least one cricket test match each year between the months of May and September;

(b) at least one cricket One Day International match each year between the months of May and September;

(c) all other currently listed Group A events.

(5) The events listed under subsection (4) must be allocated to Group A.”

Amendment 5, in clause 28, page 41, line 10, leave out “an appropriate” and insert “a significant”.

This would require that designated internet programme services are given significant prominence within regulated television selection services.

Amendment 78, page 42, line 3, at end insert—

“(f) any local digital television programme service that OFCOM determines is willing and able to offer an internet programme service.”

This amendment includes local digital television services within the prominence framework for designated internet programme services where OFCOM determines a service is willing and able to offer such a service.

Amendment 87, page 42, line 21, leave out “an appropriate” and insert “a significant”.

This amendment would require a provider of regulated television selection to give significant prominence to designated internet programme services.

Government amendments 41 to 49.

Amendment 6, page 69, line 1, leave out clause 31.

This would retain section 295 of the Communications Act 2003, which restricts C4C’s involvement in programme-making.

Government amendments 50 and 51.

Amendment 18, in clause 38, page 79, line 25, at end insert—

“(4A) When considering the adequacy of age ratings, OFCOM must report on the extent to which any age ratings used by providers are—

(a) clear and well understood by consumers;

(b) underpinned by a published and transparent set of standards; and

(c) informed by regular and substantive consultation with the UK public.”

This amendment sets conditions to be used by OFCOM when reporting on the adequacy of the age ratings classification systems used by providers.

Government amendment 52.

Amendment 7, in clause 44, page 83, line 36, leave out subsection (3).

This amendment and Amendments 8 to 13 would broaden the scope of the requirements placed by the Bill on local radio broadcasting licences, so that the current scope of local material as news, information and other spoken material is retained.

Amendment 8, page 84, line 6, leave out “news and information” and insert

“news, information and other spoken material and music”.

See explanatory statement to Amendment 7.

Amendment 9, page 84, line 23, leave out “news and information” and insert

“news, information and other spoken material and music”.

See explanatory statement to Amendment 7.

Amendment 10, page 84, line 24, leave out “news and information” and insert

“news, information and other spoken material and music”.

See explanatory statement to Amendment 7.

Amendment 11, in page 84, line 26, after “news” insert

“, information and other spoken material and music”.

See explanatory statement to Amendment 7.

Amendment 12, page 84, line 34, after “news” insert

“, information and other spoken material and music”.

See explanatory statement to Amendment 7.

Amendment 13, page 84, line 36, after “news” insert

“, information and other spoken material and music”.

See explanatory statement to Amendment 7.

Government amendments 53 to 59.

Amendment 2, in clause 50, page 114, line 7, leave out subsections (2) and (3) and insert—

“(2) Section 40(3) of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 is omitted.”

This amendment would allow the Secretary of State the option in future of commencing subsection 2 of Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Acts 2013.

Amendment 3, in clause 55, page 115, line 25, leave out “50” and insert “(Consultation on section 50)”.

This amendment, together with Amendment 4 and NC3, would require the Secretary of State to consult on alternative incentives to encourage publishers or regulators to seek recognition under the terms of the Royal Charter for the Self-Regulation of the Press, and to lay a report on the consultation before Parliament, before section 50 could be commenced.

Amendment 4, page 115, line 35, at end insert—

“(ga) section 50 (but see section (Consultation on section 50));”.

See explanatory statement to Amendment 3.

Government amendments 60 to 74.

Amendment 17, in schedule 5, page 145, line 4, at end insert—

“(aa) persons designated by the Secretary of State as the responsible authority under Section 4(1) of the Video Recordings Act 1984;”.

This amendment ensures that the British Board of Film Classification is consulted by OFCOM when drawing up the Video on Demand codes.

Government amendment 75.

Amendment 14, page 146, line 34, leave out “40 per cent” and insert “80 per cent”.

This would require Tier 1 on-demand services to provide subtitling for 80% of their on-demand TV content from the second anniversary of the publication of the accessibility code.

Amendment 15, page 146, line 36, leave out “5 per cent” and insert “10 per cent”.

This would require Tier 1 on-demand services to provide audio-description for 10 per cent of their on-demand TV content from the second anniversary of the publication of the accessibility code.

Amendment 16, page 147, line 1, leave out “2.5 per cent” and insert “5 per cent”.

This would require Tier 1 on-demand services to provide sign language presentation or translation for 5 per cent of their on-demand TV content from the second anniversary of the publication of the accessibility code.

Government amendments 76 and 77.

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice Conservative, Camborne and Redruth

There are a number of new clauses and amendments in my name that I wish to speak to, but principally among them I will speak to amendment 2, which relates to the repeal of section 40 of the Crime and Courts Acts 2013. With the will of the House, I will press the amendment to a Division later today, but first I will briefly address some of the other amendments.

Amendment 1 is not actually linked to the debate about section 40, or indeed the Leveson inquiry; it is about something very different. It simply states that Ofcom, when considering and assessing the public service remit, should also have regard to the framework convention on national minorities. That is because the current framework acknowledges the importance of languages in this country and their recognition under the framework convention on minority languages, but it omits the framework convention on national minorities. That is of particular importance to places such as Cornwall, Scotland and Wales, where the culture and identity goes beyond just language. I hope the Government will consider addressing this matter in the other place as the Bill progresses.

New clause 3 addresses the simple reality that although the Government have said that they intend to repeal section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act, Ministers have confirmed to me that the Government remain committed to the continued existence of the royal charter on self-regulation of the press. That royal charter was established by David Cameron when he was Prime Minister, in response to the recommendations of the Leveson inquiry. Conservative Members voted to put in place section 40 in order to create an incentive to join the royal charter. Given that the Government have said that they want to repeal section 40, which created that incentive, but that they remain absolutely committed to keeping the royal charter, surely they should at the very least have a call for evidence to examine what other possible incentives might encourage publishers to join that royal charter.

If the Government did not believe in the royal charter on self-regulation of the press, they would simply bring forward Orders in Council to disband the royal charter, as is provided for under article 10 of the charter. The Government do not want to do that, so if they remain committed to the royal charter, let us at least explore those options. They could include giving publishers access to arbitration so that they can get a fairer share of the advertising revenue for the news content they produce. That remains an open problem; some Government legislation seeks to address it, but it could go further.

I wish to focus principally on amendment 2, since that is the one I intend to press to a Division. The amendment would simply put in place a more precise cut to deliver the Government’s objectives. Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 had two parts. The first part—subsection (2)—created an incentive for publishers to join because it gave them protection against those with deep pockets. There was a carrot and a stick in section 40. The carrot was that if, for the sake of argument, a Russian oligarch threatened a publisher and said, “We’re going to get Carter-Ruck to write expensive letters to you. We will see you in court if you publish this,” that publisher would have had protection because they would have been able to say to the rich and powerful, “We have confidence in our story and are going to run it, and if you don’t like the story, we will see you in arbitration; we won’t see you in court. If you insist on taking us to court and bypassing that arbitration, you will pay the publisher’s costs as well as your own.”

That was the carrot—the bit that the press never objected to. No one ever raised an objection to that. But there was also a stick—subsection (3) of section 40. The stick basically said that publishers who do not join a recognised regulator have more cost exposure to ordinary citizens who have had their lives and privacy violated and have no redress other than to bring legal action. The press never objected to the carrot; they only ever objected to the stick. Because they are a glass-half-empty type of industry, they of course tended to focus on the bit they did not like rather than the bit they did like, and they lobbied furiously to have that part of section 40 removed.

Then we come to the 2017 Conservative manifesto—let us be honest: it was not the best manifesto the party has ever drafted. Probably due to a drafting error, that manifesto pledged not just to remove subsection (3) of subsection 40, which was all that was required and which would have delivered the spirit of that manifesto commitment, but committed to remove the entirety of section 40, which was completely unnecessary.

Amendment 2 would remove the stick but retain the carrot. It would remove subsection (3) of section 40. In that, it would deliver everything the press have ever wanted, and therefore also satisfy the Government’s intentions.

Photo of Andrew Slaughter Andrew Slaughter Labour, Hammersmith

This is a point that I have often made. The hon. Gentleman’s “carrot”, as he calls it, seems very similar to anti-SLAPP legislation, which has been welcomed generally on both sides of the House, and I cannot see why anyone who supports anti- SLAPP legislation would not also support amendment 2. I certainly will support it and I hope that it gets support across the House.

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice Conservative, Camborne and Redruth

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. Anyone who truly believes in a free press, as he and I do, would want to ensure that we can protect genuine investigative journalism, and that the rich and powerful would not be able to intimidate and bully publishers with limited financial resources—many of them losing money—into not running a story that was essentially true.

Were amendment 2 to be agreed to, those publishers that chose not to sign up to a recognised regulator would have nothing to lose; they would be no worse off than they are today. Fraser Nelson, editor of The Spectator, has had a very strong position that he would never join a recognised regulator. It would be open to him not to; he would be no better and no worse off than he is today, as if something ended up in litigation he would not be paying both sides’ costs.

A publication such as Private Eye, which famously has never joined anything, would also be free to stand aloof from any kind of regulator, and it would be no better or worse off than it is today. Publications such as The Daily Mail, which have wealthy benefactors standing behind them—people with deep pockets who are willing to pay for litigation and backfill the loses that such companies make—would be no better or worse off than they are today, in that they could decide not to join a regulator.

However, those small, plucky publishers that do not have wealthy benefactors standing behind them, and that seek to do genuine investigative journalism that might attract the attention of those threatening legal action, would have the option of joining a recognised regulator, so that they could get protection against that type of strategic litigation brought by the rich and powerful—people with deep pockets—against them.

So I say to the Minister that I can deliver everything that the Government seek, in a way that is fitting with the spirit of the Conservative manifesto but that keeps open the option of small publishers being able to gain some protection.

Let me remind the House why we ended up with section 40 in the first place. There was a public outcry about what was called the phone-hacking scandal—the widespread recognition that a culture had developed that enabled publishers to hack into people’s phones. It was David Cameron, the Conservative Prime Minister, who established the Leveson inquiry. It was David Cameron who chose Lord Justice Leveson to chair it, because Lord Justice Leveson was known as somebody who was not hostile to the press. Lord Justice Leveson invested huge amounts of his time in coming up with a very sensible set of proposals. It was David Cameron who then said we would implement those proposals, with cross-party support from all parties in this House, and it was the Conservative Whips Office that actually whipped the Conservative side of the House to implement section 40, as David Cameron wished to happen.

Let us remember that in that Leveson inquiry, dozens of victims of phone hacking came forward to give evidence, and they did so because the Prime Minister had set up an inquiry and they felt that it was sincere and genuine, and that they could contribute. We all have had constituency cases in which people have been through extraordinary tragedy, and it is painful for them; but often people who have been through such tragedy want to know that something good has come from it. Many of those witnesses who gave evidence to the Leveson inquiry were the parents of children who had been murdered, who had had their life rifled through by the media, and they wanted something good to come out of that; so they went through the trauma and the painful experience of sharing those experiences, to try to help Parliament wrestle its way to a sensible compromise.

So let us have no nonsense from the Government Front Bench, trying to create some sort of wedge issue. This is a provision that the Conservative Government put in place, and the royal charter on self-regulation was a very Conservative approach to dealing with the challenge.

Photo of Kit Malthouse Kit Malthouse The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

My right hon. Friend will forgive me if I have got hold of the wrong end of the stick. He is making a strong case for his amendment, but I have one nagging doubt in my mind. I understand that he believes that if his amendment is agreed to and we remove the stick, newspapers will be protected from the rich and powerful, but what protection would remain for those who are not of means; those who do not have the money that they can risk in litigation to take on those publishers who may have defamed or libelled them, but who are not members of a regulatory body? This is not just about the rich and powerful. There could be people who do not have any money who are affected by newspapers, and I am not clear how, in his new landscape, they would be affected.

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice Conservative, Camborne and Redruth

My right hon. Friend makes a powerful point, but I am seeking to reach a compromise. His argument is for keeping section 40 in its entirety, so that those who do not have financial means and who face a publisher who refuses to act within any kind of reputable regulator would have some redress in the courts. Of course, in section 40 there was only a weighted presumption in favour of a particular approach to costs. It was never a hard and fast rule.

My right hon. Friend makes a strong case, but I am seeking to form a compromise with the House and with those on the Government Front Bench, and if it is their intention to do what the press want, they can accept my amendment and still look the press in the eye and say, “We gave you everything you wanted, which is the removal of the stick.” Maybe they hope they will get some positive coverage as a result of doing this favour; I suspect they will end up being disappointed by that between now and the general election. Nevertheless, I am trying to make a compromise with them. I hope that the Government will look seriously at this.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley Father of the House of Commons

Will my right hon. Friend help the House by saying whether he has had any communication with The Guardian or Private Eye on this proposal?

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice Conservative, Camborne and Redruth

I had multiple conversations with lots of publishers when the original Leveson architecture was put together, particularly around the royal charter. I know that Private Eye has always objected to joining anything at all, and it would be completely unaffected by the proposal. It is not a member of the Independent Press Standards Organisation, and it was never a member of the Press Complaints Commission. It has always remained entirely aloof, and there is nothing in the proposal that affects its position. Nor would anything in the proposal affect, say, The Spectator, which also has a view that it would not join a recognised regulator.

As I said, small publishers that want to do genuine investigative journalism and that do not have people with deep pockets standing behind them could benefit from the proposal by signing up to a recognised regulator. Many of them are already members of Impress, which is the recognised regulator at the moment, but others may form different regulators or encourage IPSO to join and seek recognition, so that they can benefit from that cost protection.

I intend to press amendment 2 to a Division later. I hope the Government will recognise that they can accommodate the provision and that it can be consistent with their manifesto commitment. I hope that we will not hear any nonsense from the Front Bench about freedom of the press, because what I am suggesting would strengthen the freedom of the press, rather than weakening it.

Photo of John Martin McDonnell John Martin McDonnell Labour, Hayes and Harlington 1:30, 30 January 2024

I would like to run through a number of the amendments in my name, which have largely been promoted by the National Union of Journalists. I will also say that new clause 2 appears to be part of the unfinished business of Leveson, which we need to move on fairly swiftly to ensure that people have proper redress and protections, while maintaining the freedom of the press.

I want to cover a number of issues in my amendments, such as the protection of public service broadcasting, diversity within the sector, media literacy and the demands for consultation on media changes. New clause 21 would add a detailed description of the range of genres that Ofcom must report whether the public service broadcasters have made available. It would also give Ofcom the responsibility to measure the extent of public service broadcasting across specific genres and the ability to set quotas if it felt that specific genres were not covered adequately. It comes from a campaign by the Voice of the Listener & Viewer to protect the requirements in the PSBs’ remit to broadcast programmes within specific genres.

Section 264 of the Communications Act 2003 sets out in some detail the requirements on public service broadcasting across a whole range of different genres, including “cultural activity”,

“the extent that is appropriate for facilitating civic understanding and fair and well-informed debate on news and current affairs,” religion and so on. I will not go through the full list—it is very detailed.

The problem is that the Bill, as it stands, updates that position, but with a generalised list of what will be taken into account and protected in terms of the genres of audio-visual content. There is a general concern that that could lead to a number of specific areas, such as science or religion, becoming vulnerable. There will still be a variety of genres that there is no specific requirement on public service broadcasters to broadcast.

The Select Committee carrying out pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill raised the matter in its discussions. It felt that the Government’s replacing the list of specific commitments required of a public service broadcaster with a general remit was a “step too far”. The Government’s response was that their amendment was simply a simplification. Even the Chair of the Select Committee said the simplification of the remit and enforcement of it for Ofcom would come at a considerable cost. A number of pieces of evidence submitted to the Committee drew attention to areas where the requirement on public service broadcasters could be significantly weakened, even to the point of the overall removal of content.

I will quote the example given by Anna McNamee, the executive director of the Sandford St Martin Trust, about what is happening with regard to the coverage of religion. She said:

“In 2003 ITV successfully lobbied Ofcom for its PSB quotas for arts and religious content to be removed” and, unfortunately:

“In 2015 Ofcom noticed that ITV’s provision of religion and ethics had all but ceased.”

The lesson from that drawn to the Committee and the Minister’s attention was that there was:

“No quota: no obligation to do so” and that, under competing pressures, individual genres and sections of broadcasting would be deleted overall.

What we felt was needed in the legislation was a statutory requirement that, where there is an identification of societal value of a particular genre, Ofcom would be able to track the PSBs’ performance and ensure that the distinctive content is available to audiences. That is a reflection of Ofcom’s own concerns so far. It has noticed a decline in the provision of those genres. Broadcasting legislation—until this Bill—has set out what is considered societally valuable content and defined the remit of Ofcom and PSB in that way. Unfortunately, this generalised statement within the Bill fails to enable that to happen in the future.

My new clause 21 would provide Ofcom with stronger powers, with a clearer remit of what should be protected and the ability to set quotas if it considers current levels in certain genres to be unsatisfactory. It should allow the regulator to stem the significant decline of those genres since 2013.

My new clause 22 would place a duty on public service broadcasters to publish their objectives on the promotion of diversity and equality among the workforce and on Ofcom to monitor and report on the public service broadcasters’ performance on meeting that requirement. That comes out of an analysis of what is happening with regard to the diversity of the workforce in broadcasting.

If public service broadcasting is to represent all sectors of the UK population, the workforce should be truly representative. That is a general view that has been expressed across the House. Ofcom has recognised that broadcasters with advanced data collection practices tend to have more representative workforces. The new clause would further empower Ofcom to specify what kinds of data companies should be required to monitor and publish, therefore ensuring that they are looking at the impact of their diversity policies.

Some of the figures on the lack of diversity in broadcasting are quite startling. If we take class as an example, people from working-class backgrounds are under-represented in the broadcasting sector. Some 28% of employees who provided data were from a working-class background, below the UK population figure of 39%. In terms of gender diversity, men remain dominant in most senior roles, in particular the important roles of director—74.5%—and writers, with 67.3%. The number of women in senior roles has actually dropped in recent years from 46.8% to 45.4%. That has been declining continuously over the past four years. The figures for ethnicity are also pretty stark in terms of the lack of representation. Again, we are finding that without adequate monitoring, there has been a lack of any form of influence to improve the situation.

The Creative Diversity Network ran a project called Diamond to monitor diversity, but a number of the unions did not participate because the broadcasters had failed to share their statistics. Nevertheless, there were significant contributions made by individuals working offscreen and onscreen, reflecting people’s concerns about the lack of diversity in terms of gender, ethnicity and disability. There are stark figures that demonstrate the lack of representation in public service broadcasting. This new clause is simply intended to ensure that adequate statistics are provided and data collected, and that Ofcom’s monitoring and intervention powers are strengthened.

Photo of Kirsty Blackman Kirsty Blackman Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

I once met a young lady who was keen to work in television and she told me that she wanted to be a presenter. However, because she wears a hijab, she was sure that she would never get to be a presenter—she had never seen any presenter wearing a hijab. Does the right hon. Gentleman feel, as I do, that transparency in reporting those figures would help make clear to everybody what diversity is lacking?

Photo of John Martin McDonnell John Martin McDonnell Labour, Hayes and Harlington

The reason for this new clause—I am not pushing it to a vote or anything—is to encourage the debate further, because we seem to have hit a brick wall, or a glass ceiling, whichever hon. Members prefer. Part of the reason those attitudes persist is the lack of ethnic minorities, particularly in senior positions. The figure for black, Asian or minority ethnic community members in all senior roles is just 13%, an under-representation compared with the population; for senior producers it is 5.5% and for heads of production it is 7.4%. South Asian representation offscreen at all levels has actually fallen to 2.4%, less than half of the figure in the population as a whole, which is around 5%.

The reason for this new clause is to stimulate debate because, in addition to the failure of the existing system to maintain levels, we are going backwards in some areas. Not only is the number of people with disabilities in senior roles at a low level, but it has not changed in four years. There needs to be greater intervention and more powers to monitor and to require the delivery of statistics, and there needs to be proper participation by public service broadcasters in that. Ofcom also needs the ability to intervene more effectively.

Just quickly, because other hon. Members want to speak, I will say that new clause 23 is intended to place on public service broadcasters a duty to report on media literacy. It would introduce a requirement for public service broadcasters to take appropriate steps to improve levels of media literacy among their audiences and allow Ofcom to monitor that to see how the public broadcasters are pursuing that media literacy requirement. The reason for this new clause is that things have moved on since the Communications Act 2003. I remember that debate at that point was around teletext; the huge expansion of social media had not been anticipated, still less the arrival of artificial intelligence.

I do not think I need to stress in this House the importance of countering misinformation, disinformation, fake news, conspiracy theories and the like across social media, or the need to raise the issue of media literacy more widely. Public service broadcasters have an even greater role and duty now not only to provide impartial and accurate information, but to increase media literacy and make greater efforts to reach all age groups in the UK, particularly young people.

The BBC’s Marianna Spring, as people will know, is charged with covering some of these issues for the BBC, and a number of other broadcasters try independently to check the veracity of factual claims or to make an assessment of the credibility of sources, particularly in areas where there is conflict around the world. However, there is a need now to be more explicit about the issues that people face in the interpretation of media. For that reason, it is time for a duty to be placed upon public service broadcasters to develop media literacy strategies, which will enable the receivers of their broadcasts to better understand and better cut through some of the misinformation that is being purveyed.

There has been debate in this House already about the need for a greater recognition within the media itself of the threat posed by artificial intelligence. We have already seen the danger of artificially generated news stories and images, with reports of inaccurate data being used to inform artificial intelligence-generated stories, false attributions to journalists and creators, and people discovering that their likenesses have been used without their knowledge or consent. That is why the NUJ is trying to encourage the debate about who is responsible for raising the levels media literacy. New clause 23 would simply put a statutory duty upon public service broadcasters to develop and publish a strategy for what they are doing to raise media literacy, and give Ofcom a role in monitoring that.

New clause 24 is a requirement for public service broadcasters to report on their consultation with the public, viewers and listeners. A number of Members of the House were involved in the discussions with the BBC about local radio services and the cutbacks that were taking place, with no consultation with the recipients of the local radio services, the listeners themselves. We saw the same with regards to the BBC’s news channel and BBC World Service cutbacks. We found that there were groups who were not consulted or engaged whatsoever. As a result, we believe that poor decisions were made. It is within the BBC’s governance framework and the royal charter to highlight public service broadcasters’ obligation to regularly consult the general public and key demographics of viewers and listeners when making key decisions about programming and services to local communities. That seems to have fallen down dramatically in recent years.

It is also important that other public service broadcasters are placed under that obligation. New clause 24 puts public service broadcasters under an obligation to develop and publish a strategy for maintaining regular consultation, and gives Ofcom a duty to report on whether that is being undertaken appropriately. Although the new clause does not deal with this, we urge the Government to ensure that there is a recognition in the negotiations on the licence fee next time around that there is a proper process for the BBC to consult, rather than trying to negotiate secret deals with the Government.

My final point is on amendment 87. The issue here, which relates to amendments from other hon. Members that I will be supporting, is requiring a provider of regulated television selection to give significant prominence to designated internet programme services. It is vital that the digital platforms for on-demand TV do not exclude public service broadcasting content or relegate it to hard-to-find recesses of their sites. The wording of the Bill requires such content to be given appropriate prominence, which we fear is too weak. Raising the requirements to significant prominence would better ensure that public service broadcasting has the level of prominence that the viewing public would expect.

There are other amendments that I welcome and support, particularly new clauses 5 and 7, as they extend the variety of and the commitment to public service broadcasting and the content that viewers would want to see.

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means) 1:45, 30 January 2024

For information, I intend to call those who have tabled amendments before other Members.

I call Sir John Whittingdale.

Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale Conservative, Maldon

You are absolutely right, Madam Deputy Speaker; I have an amendment that I would like to speak to. It might be slightly unusual for the person who was the Minister taking the Bill through Committee then to seek to amend the Bill on Report, but I am sure it is not unprecedented, and I hope my amendment is nevertheless helpful to the Government. It is certainly my intention that it should be.

I have taken the Bill through Committee, and it has already been subject to a lot of scrutiny by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, in this House and in the other place, and with the publication of a draft Bill. I am therefore slightly surprised to see the number of Government amendments that have been tabled. Most are relatively minor and technical, and I welcome the measure that would correct the anomaly around independent national radio, requiring it to continue to broadcast on AM, even though fewer and fewer people are now accessing radio by those means. It is right to remove that anomaly.

Amendment 78 addresses local television, which was the invention of my right hon. Friend Jeremy Hunt. Although it has had a somewhat chequered history, it is successful in a number of areas across the country, particularly outside London. Rightly, the Government have consulted recently on whether they believe there is a long-term future for local TV, and I am optimistic they will conclude that they would like it to continue. The Bill will ensure that those broadcasters that the Government regard as making an important contribution should continue to thrive in a different media landscape. That is the purpose of the prominence provisions, which safeguard public service broadcasters to ensure that whatever means viewer choose to access television, they can find those public service broadcasters easily. Local television is not currently included on the list of channels that should have due prominence. As we move forward into an age when more and more people rely on internet protocol television to access channels, it will become increasingly hard for them if local TV is not obviously available on IPTV sets.

I have a Sky Glass television, which is an IPTV set, and at the moment I cannot get local television on it at all. One reason for that—and the reason the Government have previously given for not including local TV on the list of channels to be given prominence—is the absence of an app to deliver local TV. When I was filling in for the Minister over the past few months I had a meeting with local TV and was told that an app will be forthcoming quite soon that will allow local television to be received by IPTV. The Government suggested in a letter to my right hon. Friend Greg Clark that they see a difficulty with that, and that because there are a large number of local television channels it would be difficult to give all of them individual prominence. However, I am assured by local television that they intend to come forward with a single app, which will be available on a number of major platforms and ensure that a specifically chosen geographical location in the country will receive the specific local TV channel that is appropriate for that area. We are only talking about one app. The Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport said in his letter that the Government will continue to monitor the situation and consider increasing the availability of local content.

As we know, media Bills do not come along every day, and this is our single opportunity to update the law covering the range of media services. It is likely that there will not be another opportunity for some considerable time. My amendment would allow Ofcom, at a future date, to recommend the inclusion of a local TV app, as and when it emerges, in the prominence regime. It would ensure that the Bill future-proofs the regime so that it can be amended in such a way. I hope the Government will consider adopting that measure. I understand it is unlikely that they will accept my amendment, but I ask the Minister whether she will continue to look at this issue and, if the Government believe it is appropriate, consider tabling an amendment to that effect in the House of Lords.

On new clause 3, regarding the abolition of section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013, I was slightly surprised to learn from my right hon. Friend George Eustice that the inclusion of a firm pledge to repeal section 40, which was not just in the 2017 Conservative manifesto but repeated in that of 2019, was a drafting error. It did not strike me at the time that either the initial pledge or the second one were drafting errors.

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice Conservative, Camborne and Redruth

Is my right hon. Friend saying that there were no drafting errors in the 2017 manifesto?

Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale Conservative, Maldon

There may have been—I am not quite sure which others my right hon. Friend might be referring to, but I am pretty certain that that was not one of them.

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice Conservative, Camborne and Redruth

Nobody ever said that they objected to the cost protections for the press contained in section 40. The arguments against section 40 were always shorthand arguments that essentially claimed falsely that it would require publishers to pay the costs of others—and that only related to one small part of section 40.

Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale Conservative, Maldon

My right hon. Friend is right, but as I think I pointed out on Second Reading, not a single major publisher has chosen to apply for recognition by the Press Recognition Panel through joining a recognised regulator.

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice Conservative, Camborne and Redruth

But is that not precisely because the Government failed to move the incentives that encouraged people to join?

Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale Conservative, Maldon

As the Minister responsible, who said that we would not implement section 40, I had considerable talks. It was made plain that if the Government had implemented section 40, no major publisher would apply for recognition. My right hon. Friend talked about the carrot and stick, and his new clause would require the Government to look for alternative incentives to encourage publishers to apply for recognition, even if the existing carrot and stick were removed. He did not go into detail in his speech about what alternative incentive there might be; it sounded slightly like a reference to Marlon Brando’s making “an offer you can’t refuse”. The press have been absolutely plain: they object to any regulator that carries the stamp of Government approval. That is the fundamental principle that has caused every publisher to say that they will not apply for recognition.

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice Conservative, Camborne and Redruth

My right hon. Friend knows that it is not a Government regulator. The Press Recognition Panel was established by the royal charter on self-regulation of the press. The Conservative party established that as a royal charter rather than a regulatory body for precisely that reason—to accommodate that wish of the press.

Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale Conservative, Maldon

I did not suggest it was a Government regulator, but nevertheless, any regulator that requires Government approval through the Press Recognition Panel is viewed by the press as having a Government stamp of approval, which they regard as unacceptable. My right hon. Friend spoke about the discussions he had, but he would agree that the stick and the carrot at that time were thought to be necessary to persuade red-top publishers such as The Daily Mail and The Sun to join a regulator recognised by the PRP. What I do not think he anticipated—indeed, nobody anticipated it at the time—was that not a single major publisher would agree to co-operate with the regime that was being put in place. That includes The Guardian, The Independent, The Observer and the Financial Times. Not one major publisher said that it would co-operate with the system that was put in place, so it has plainly failed. For that reason alone the Government should revisit the issue, remove section 40, and instead encourage those who do not currently accept the ruling of an independent regulator to join the one in existence, which is IPSO. I know that my right hon. Friend and I will not agree on this point, but his suggestion that it was somehow an oversight to include a commitment to repeal in the manifestos of 2017 and 2019 is simply not correct. He will be aware that there is unanimity among all the major publishers that section 40 represents an attack on media freedom. It is not just the publishers who hold that view; many campaigning organisations, such as Reporters Without Borders, have actually downgraded the UK’s press freedom rating because of the existence of section 40, and it is certainly viewed as an infringement of media freedom.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley Father of the House of Commons 2:00, 30 January 2024

This is one of the issues on which my right hon. Friend and I agree. May I suggest that those who wish to follow this up afterwards read a book called “The Laughter of Triumph”, by Ben Wilson? It is about William Hone and the fight for a free press back in 1817. The press should not be forced into any Government regulation; there should be the law of the land, and that is it.

Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale Conservative, Maldon

I am extremely grateful to my right hon. Friend. I hope that this is not the only issue on which we agree, but it is certainly one on which we hold the same view. For that reason, I am sorry that my right hon. Friend George Eustice will press his new clause to a vote, because I shall not support him on it.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham

We should remind ourselves why we are here: it is because those who were described by Alan Bates, the leader of the Horizon scandal complainants, as “small, skinny people” needed redress against the huge, overbearing press. The Hacked Off website pointed out that in 2021, only 0.6% of more than 14,000 complaints were upheld by IPSO—only 88 cases in total, which is a minuscule number. Is that a sign that the system is working?

Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale Conservative, Maldon

I do not think success can be judged simply on the number of complaints upheld. Indeed, as we have seen in other organisations, such as the BBC, we may find that a large number of those complaints relate to a single issue that has generated a great deal of concern. It is not as simple as, “There were x thousand complaints, and only so many were upheld.” Generally, however, IPSO is definitely an improvement on the Press Complaints Commission, which went before it. It is not perfect—no regulator ever is—and I myself have criticised it for not having yet imposed any fines, but the atmosphere surrounding the behaviour of the press is very different from what it was when, for instance, Hacked Off was created, and when I chaired the inquiry on phone hacking, which led to the establishment of Sir Brian Leveson’s report.

I do not want to detain the House any longer. I intend to press the Government, but not as far as a vote; I should say that I urge the Government to look at ways in which they can support local television through my amendment. Given the point about section 40, I cannot support the new clause tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Camborne and Redruth.

Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Armed Forces), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

I want to express my gratitude for the fact that the Bill has been prioritised in this new term, and is progressing quickly. For our public service broadcasters in particular, this legislation is long overdue. I want to refer to my amendment about the language surrounding prominence for PSBs such as the BBC, ITV and Channel 4. The Bill gives public service content an “appropriate” level of prominence on online services, which should make it easier to find not only the apps that take us to the BBC or ITV on a smart TV, but to find those channels on the traditional TV guide with which we are all familiar. However, the Culture, Media and Sport Committee made the suggestion, which I have tabled in the form of an amendment, that the word “appropriate” is perhaps unhelpfully subjective, and should be replaced with “significant”. The prominence of PSBs is an existential issue that should not be underestimated, so I ask the Government to consider that suggestion as the Bill progresses.

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

I thank the hon. Gentleman for tabling his amendment. I strongly agree with him: the issue cannot just be left in the air, given the importance of public service broadcasting. I therefore think that the guidance for Ofcom should be stronger than the Government have recognised so far. I look forward to hearing from the Minister what they propose to do about that.

Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Armed Forces), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

I thank the right hon. Member for her intervention.

Let me move on to the subject of Channel 4 and the removal of the restriction on in-house production. I have concerns about that change to Channel 4’s model, which has worked extremely well for a long time, although the previous Secretary of State was not so keen on its existence—or, at least, its future. Channel 4 has historically supported the independent production sector throughout the UK, in places such as my constituency in the far north of Scotland, but there are concerns that allowing it to create its own content could destabilise the sector. Given the Government’s track record on Channel 4, my ultimate fear is that this could be used as a stick with which to beat the channel, although I hope that does not happen. That being said, Channel 4 and the independent production sector are integral to each other, which is why I am glad to see the channel’s qualifying independent commitment to the sector increased to 40%, and to hear that any changes are likely to be very gradual, allowing the market to adjust accordingly. That can only be a good thing.

I come to the new clause tabled by Sir Peter Bottomley on listed events. The Government must take his proposal forward, so that major sporting events such as the Olympics, the Euros, Wimbledon and the World cup remain free to air in their entirety. In an increasingly digital-first world, digital rights must be included in the listed events regime. Let me turn to a subject that is close to my heart. Earlier this week, Ben Stokes said that England’s test win over India was his “greatest triumph” since he had become England’s captain. I think we can all take pleasure in that, regardless of which of the four corners of the United Kingdom we inhabit. I acknowledge the nod from my colleague on the Scottish National party Benches, Gavin Newlands, for which I thank him courteously. I feel that this sort of shared cultural moment should be available for everyone to watch on free-to-air television. My amendment would enable people to see a cricket test and a one-day international on free-to-air TV each summer, and I hope that Members will strongly consider supporting it.

On the subject of local radio—something that I have mentioned in the past, and was beaten up about when I was a councillor long ago—I tabled amendments 7 to 13 to broaden the scope of the requirements in local radio broadcasting licences, so that the current scope of “local material” as

“news, information and other spoken material and music” is retained. If only I could have heard myself say those words all those years ago! I can see the good that it does. It would not be right for the BBC to be left as sole provider of local speech radio. On a similar point, I welcome part 6 of the Bill, which safeguards the future of the industry with relation to voice-activated smart devices.

Local radio is integral to upholding democracy—a point made many times by many of us in this place. It provides trusted news and information, particularly during an emergency, as we saw during covid, and also provides entertainment. That is especially important to my constituents, who, as may be imagined, often face long drives across very large rural areas.

New clause 3 and amendments 2 to 4 relate to section 40 and our press, a subject already mentioned by a number of Members today. Ten years ago, all the parties made commitments to the victims of press abuse that we would introduce the system of regulation recommended in the Leveson report to protect the public from press wrongdoing. We in this country benefit from a vibrant and rich media, as was pointed out in an urgent question earlier today, but whereas our broadcasting media are the envy of the world, our print media languish at the bottom of international league tables when it comes to public trust and confidence. However, the Government now seek to repeal section 40, although they have no plans to replace it with any alternative mechanism of independent and impartial regulation. That not only leaves local and independent newspapers unable to defend themselves against expensive litigation in the form of strategic lawsuits against public participation, but makes it harder for a normal person to take legal action against a large publisher. As they say, those with the deepest pockets win.

These amendments offer two ways forward. New clause 3 and amendments 3 and 4 would permit the repeal of section 40, but not before there has been a consultation on alternative incentives for the Leveson system. Amendment 2 would repeal the part of section 40 that would disadvantage unregulated newspapers, but keep the part that protects local independent titles that have done the right thing and signed up to regulation. Under either of those amendments, national newspapers would face no detriment at all for their potentially bad behaviour—there is no free speech reason to object to them—but they allow us to show our support for the victims of press abuse and for the underlying principles of independent regulation.

Many sensible amendments have been tabled to this Bill, and I am glad that the majority of us in the House and, indeed, the industry are singing from the same hymn sheet. The world and the way in which our media operate have changed beyond recognition since the Communications Act 2003, and I and my party will be very pleased to watch this Bill make its way swiftly through both Houses, so that our legislation at last reflects the world we live in today. I close by paying tribute to Members for the great efforts that have been made on all sides of this House to make sure that this legislation is fit for purpose.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley Father of the House of Commons

I am grateful to Jamie Stone for previewing the suggestion that time-shifted excerpts from listed events be available through public service broadcasters. I regret that test matches are not presently listed events, because I think that this country would have wanted to see the remarkable parts of the test match in India this week.

Some people may have only read press descriptions of Ben Stokes doing a backhanded flip to the wicket. That can be well described by people such as Neville Cardus and his successors, but it is even better to watch it in real life.

I believe that the number of listed events should be expanded. However, as the BBC and others have reminded us, the number of people watching events on the other side of the world at midnight or four in the morning might be 400,000, whereas those who would want to watch those events the next day might be 4 million or 14 million.

I believe that the new clause should be accepted, and I hope that the Minister will say some comforting words. Like many others, I do not propose to push my new clause to a Division today, but I do hope that the Government will respond by tabling an amendment or a new clause in the House of Lords that has the same effect. I could read out my full briefing, but the point has been well made by the hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, and may be made by others.

What is the reason for embracing the future? It is not just about linear television; there is the opportunity for other rights. So many rights are bought by commercial businesses outside this country. What do they care about what happens in one part of the world broadcasting framework? We must have a requirement to stop those who think they can make money by making most people not watch key events, and making those who do watch pay a lot. People should be able to watch coverage on ordinary public service broadcasting.

My belief is that, for major events, the competition between the public service broadcasters will be sufficient to ensure a fair return for those who buy the rights. I do not believe in having an unrestricted auction, so that people can buy rights that will exclude most people in the country from watching sporting events of great importance. There have been examples of rights holders—Sky has done this well—making an event available on normal public service broadcasting, as well as on their own service, when one of our national teams has got into a final. I pay tribute to Sky for doing that.

I want to follow up on the words of John McDonnell, who talked about genres in public service broadcasting. I thought I would table an amendment or a new clause that does what he argued for. I believe that Ofcom should have an explicit duty to make sure that public service broadcasters are held to account and explain how they are meeting the requirements for the various parts of public service broadcasting. Public service broadcasting can be very interesting and fully commercial; a large number of people may want to watch it, and it may be very popular, but not necessarily. Religion, science and many other areas listed in the right hon. Member’s amendment 86 are important.

I say to the Government: pay attention to what he has said, look to Colin Browne for what viewers and listeners have said, and accept the amendment, so that the requirements are explicit, and the responses by the public service broadcasters are open.

I believe that we can make a success of this Bill. I know that broadcasting regulation is normally about 10 years behind the technology, and I remember that about 30 years ago, David Mellor had to change a virtually complete Bill on Report because so much had changed between the Bill being drafted and its Third Reading in the House of Commons. I believe that we can make a major change, and I can sum this up to the Government in words that someone has offered me, which are absolutely right:

“Don’t let this opportunity pass by. The time to act is now. Once these moments go behind a paywall, that’s the final whistle.”

Let us make all major events available to all people, at least in excerpts, so that they can watch them in daylight.

Photo of Thangam Debbonaire Thangam Debbonaire Shadow Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

I refer hon. and right hon. Members to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. I thank all colleagues, particularly my hon. Friends the Members for Barnsley East (Stephanie Peacock) and for Eltham (Clive Efford), and my right hon. Friend Mr Bradshaw, for their service on the Public Bill Committee and for doing really diligent and careful work.

In general, my colleagues on the Labour Benches and I are supportive of this Bill. It has been too long in the making, and the delays have held back the UK’s world-leading public service broadcasters. They have also affected the productivity of the creative industries as a whole, and the public service broadcast sector is such a large and important part of the creative industries and their commissioning. The last time broad changes were enacted for our public service broadcasters was in 2003. I think we can all agree that the world is now a very different place, but better late than never. Broadly speaking, I believe this is a good Bill, and we support it.

Our public service broadcasters are a fundamental part of British cultural life. If we did not have them, we would want to invent them, and this Bill gives them and the wider broadcasting industry the tools they need to survive in the modern world. The Bill contains crucial measures to ensure that UK broadcasters can thrive in a digital age by protecting radio services when they are accessed on smart speakers, and by ensuring the fair prominence of public service broadcasters on smart TVs. I will return to the question of prominence shortly.

However, the Bill does not take full advantage of the opportunity it creates to shape the broadcasting industry for the next decade. Although we will not seek to disrupt or delay the passage of the Bill, there are areas where we believe it can and should be strengthened and improved. I hope the Minister will listen to our suggestions in the new clauses and amendments standing in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley East.

New clause 9 concerns children’s television. For many children and young people, public service broadcasting is an important part of how they learn and in particular how they learn to understand the world—it is a central part of how their curiosity is ignited. The Bill as drafted fails to recognise that importance by neglecting to try to understand how the viewing habits of children and young people are changing. Provision for children by public service broadcasters is under threat because so few children now watch live TV. The top-rated programme on CBBC attracts as few as 50,000 viewers. Children carry entertainment in their pockets, and they can and do switch between various apps and platforms in a matter of seconds, which is understandably affecting investment in children’s programming.

That creates a vicious cycle: as investment and resources decline, so too does the quality of the output. Instead of trying to provide high-quality, uniquely British public service content for children, broadcasters are then forced to prioritise profitable content that offers little public value and can be sold internationally. Our new clause 9 would enable the Government to take an important first step, recognise the problem and explore routes forward. It would be a shame not to take advantage of this opportunity to shape children’s programming for the future, in what is supposed to be a forward-looking piece of legislation. I ask the Minister to give that some consideration.

The Bill also fails to go far enough on age classification. The hon. Members for Penistone and Stocksbridge (Miriam Cates) and for South West Devon (Sir Gary Streeter) have tabled amendments in this area, for which I thank them, alongside our new clause 14, which shows the breadth of feeling across the House. All these amendments look to tackle the same underlying issue, which is that there is no consistency in how age ratings are currently used on streaming sites. Parents and children alike deserve to be able to have full confidence in age ratings so that when they pick something to watch, they can trust that it will be safe and age-appropriate. Ratings must be easily understood and recognisable by the public and underpinned by a transparent set of criteria that take into account British attitudes on everything from swearing to violence and anything else we might think of.

New clause 14 does not, in my view, overengineer the issue. It does not require every on-demand service to use any specific age rating provider, although we should collectively recognise that the British Board of Film Classification is a great example of best practice. Our public service broadcasters already follow stringent rules, which may mean that age ratings are not appropriate for their content, but where age ratings are already used, there should be clear criteria against which Ofcom can measure their success and quality.

The Bill also falls short when it comes to digital rights to listed events. Listed events have already generated some debate, and I have a great deal of sympathy with the points made by other hon. and right hon. Members about various sporting events. This legislation is supposed to contribute to the future-proofing of public service broadcasters, but I feel that to do that it needs to go further. Our new clause 10 seeks to address that. The rights to broadcast moments of national sporting importance are offered first to channels such as the BBC and ITV, enabling the broadest possible range of British people to watch the likes of Wimbledon and the Olympics.

We agree with the aim of the Bill, which is to protect and modernise the system, while making a few changes to ensure that it is appropriate in the digital age, but unfortunately the Bill falls short in this regard. By not extending the regime to include online clips and highlights, the Bill risks preventing thousands upon thousands of people from feeling the joy of watching British athletes or cricketers compete on the world stage, particularly when those competitions are happening far away, as happened this week with Ben Stokes and co. Considering that the next men’s football World cup and the next two Olympics after Paris 2024

Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport)

The shadow Secretary of State mentions sporting events. In addition to protecting the Six Nations for us all in group A, would she accept the principle that Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish football fans should have the same access to their national teams as English fans do at present?

Photo of Thangam Debbonaire Thangam Debbonaire Shadow Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Of course I would, and I am glad to confirm what my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley East said in Committee. If the hon. Gentleman is trying to press me on a specific aspect, I am also happy to confirm that we would support the new clause tabled in his name if it were pushed to a vote. I will be interested to see whether colleagues in his party will support our new clause on Gaelic broadcasting, as they seemed not to vote for it in Committee. It will be interesting to see whether they take up that challenge as well.

It is likely that, even in the near future, key sporting moments will take place in the middle of the night in this country. Despite the fact that Conservative Ministers ordered a review of this in 2022, there is simply nothing in this Bill as drafted to update the listed events rules so that clips or highlights from those events do not get stuck behind a paywall. Our new clause 10 seeks to guarantee that action is taken on this issue, but it is flexible enough to accommodate whatever mechanisms are identified as most appropriate following their review. I also note new clause 7, in the name of the Father of the House, Sir Peter Bottomley, which is more prescriptive than ours but addresses the same issue.

If Ministers cannot lend their support to either of these amendments, they should at the very least publish the response to the review in full. It would be helpful if the Government took up the suggestion from my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley East that criteria be published, so that we get a clearer sense, rather than having this ad hoc debate—sympathetic though I may be to certain sporting events. There is the question of national fairness—that is a principle—and also the question of what criteria we should use to add to the listings regime.

New clause 12 seeks to fix another problem with the Bill, which is that it fails to take the rising popularity of podcasts into account. I have mentioned podcasts before on the Floor of the House, and it gives me great pleasure to mention them again when discussing the regulation of selection services for audio content. Some 10 million adults listen to podcasts every week. It is emerging as a format that encourages collaboration, new partnerships, interesting discussion and the presence of a range of politicians and other personalities who have something interesting or unique to say. It seems counterintuitive, therefore, to exclude this fast-growing audio medium from the Bill. For example, the Bill as drafted guarantees access to the LBC breakfast show with Nick Ferrari but not to “The News Agents” podcast. Some of us will be listening to both, and we expect similar treatment for both. This new clause would simply provide that consistency.

New clause 11 is designed to ensure that public service content is available to linear services as well as online. Part 1 of the Media Bill introduces new measures to allow public service broadcasters to meet some of their remit requirements through their online services and on-demand channels. Given that streaming and on-demand are growing rapidly, this seems a reasonable forward-looking change. However, there are still millions of people who watch their television through a traditional broadcast set-up. This group of people primarily includes older residents, families in rural areas and those struggling with bills as a result of the cost of living crisis. It is crucial that they can still access public service content as usual. This new clause would give Ofcom the means to assess whether public service broadcasting delivery on linear services was adequate; and, if it found that provision to be inadequate, it would have the power to set binding quotas.

I have already mentioned new clause 13, which encourages the Secretary of State to consider and take advice on whether a Gaelic language service should be recognised as a public service broadcaster in its own right. This was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley East in Committee. BBC Alba, the Gaelic language television service provided by MG Alba and the BBC, is a huge asset, providing a wide range of high quality programming for Gaelic speakers to enjoy and sustaining around 340 jobs, half of which are in economically fragile areas. However, despite apparent cross-party support for the service, Gaelic language broadcasting is still not recognised in legislation across the board in the same way as other minority language services are. That is not to say that Gaelic language broadcasting can be directly compared to Welsh broadcasting, for example, but it is an acknowledgment of the importance of language to our cultural life. Language is a daily expression of our history, and Gaelic language broadcasting is an important forum for that expression. It should therefore be considered for recognition in law.

Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Armed Forces), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

I really hate to say this, but it is worth pointing out, in the context of Gaelic and Welsh, that the situation for Gaelic is very precarious indeed. It is strong enough in some of the Western Isles, but we need to remember that it needs to be nurtured big time now.

Photo of Thangam Debbonaire Thangam Debbonaire Shadow Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

The hon. Gentleman makes a valid and valuable contribution. My hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley East, the shadow Minister with responsibility for media, has met those bodies recently. We understand the points that he is making and take them fully on board. This new clause, tabled in my name and that of my hon. Friend, is not prescriptive as to how we break the cycle; it leaves multiple options open to the Secretary of State.

I turn to clause 50 and the amendment tabled in the name of George Eustice, who made his points earlier. The phone hacking scandal led to section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013. That scandal involved egregious acts, and the treatment of victims of crime or tragedy by some sections of the media was a disgusting abuse of power. We all say that that should never be repeated. The majority of British journalists are decent and honourable, but there are some who even now continue to drag the good name of that profession into disrepute. That profession is a cornerstone of our democracy and it is important that the public are able to trust it, but at the moment we are at risk of the public losing faith in the profession of journalism, as was certainly also the case before section 40 was created and before that scandal was exposed.

We on the Labour Benches want a press that is regulated in a way that makes it accountable for its reporting and that meets the highest ethical and journalistic standards. We want to see a financially sustainable free press in the UK that can carry on holding power to account. Clause 50 repeals section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act, but if the right hon. Member for Camborne and Redruth pushes his amendment 2 to a Division this evening, we will support it, because it offers a way through by keeping some of what he refers to as the carrots. Indeed, by removing some of the sticks, his amendment would incentivise more publishers to join up with an approved regulator, for the reasons that he has outlined much more coherently and clearly than I can now. We thank him for working co-operatively with us.

Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale Conservative, Maldon

It is interesting to hear that the Opposition intend to support my right hon. Friend George Eustice, as they abstained in Committee. If a future Labour Government repealed section 40, would they put in place an equivalent or similar measure?

Photo of Thangam Debbonaire Thangam Debbonaire Shadow Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 2:30, 30 January 2024

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his intervention, but I am speaking about amendment 2, which we will support for the reasons that the right hon. Member for Camborne and Redruth set out.

I want to see publishers protected from defamation cases brought by Russian oligarchs and other wealthy individuals or corporations looking to evade scrutiny in the public interest. The Government have promised to do more to protect people from SLAPPs, but they have yet to come forward with concrete proposals. We would like to see those measures brought forward, as they are needed to secure our free press. We also look forward to seeing the private Member’s Bill of my hon. Friend Wayne David on this subject.

It is an important principle that ordinary citizens should be able to access justice. As the right hon. Member for Camborne and Redruth said, amendment 2 would remove the stick. If that encourages more publishers to join the approved regulator, it would create more compliance with the arbitration scheme, which is another reason why we support the amendment. How will the Government protect publishers from SLAPPs and give complainants access to justice?

I acknowledge the amendments and new clauses tabled by my right hon. Friend John McDonnell. In addition to covering many of the issues that I also support, he clearly cares about the care that public service broadcasters should take in consulting and fully representing their audiences in both their workforce and their output. I ask every culture, media and sport organisation I meet, “Where are the women? Where are the people of colour? Where are the people from working-class communities?” Those questions have to be answered both horizontally and vertically, and my right hon. Friend made that case extremely well.

Before closing, I wish to raise a couple of concerns with the Minister on Government amendments 37 to 39. Those amendments appear to lack clarity and purpose, and they may weaken the position of public service broadcasters in future negotiations with commercial broadcasters. I urge the Government to reconsider them, and at least to make it clear to the House what problem they are trying to solve.

We support the Bill in general terms. I hope Members will join me in supporting the amendments I have outlined, including amendment 2 tabled by the right hon. Member for Camborne and Redruth and our new clause 13 on Gaelic. We feel that these amendments would strengthen the Bill, benefiting people across the country and helping to support our broadcasters in the coming years.

Photo of Gary Streeter Gary Streeter Conservative, South West Devon

I am pleased to speak in support of amendment 18, tabled in my name and the names of other hon. Members.

I generally welcome this Bill as a valiant attempt to bring the law and regulation up to date in a fast-moving sector of our society, namely broadcasting and on-screen entertainment. I will focus on part 4, which deals with on-demand programme services and, in particular, clause 38, which will usher in a comprehensive review, to be undertaken by Ofcom, of audience protection and the production of a video on demand code.

This welcome Bill reflects how many people watch their entertainment today. My two oldest grandchildren, aged 19 and 18, rarely watch anything on television, but they are always on their tablets or smartphones. They have no concept of seeing what is on the box in the evening, and maybe even recording it, as my wife and I still do. They simply source and download what they want to watch, when they want to watch it, via video on demand.

It is therefore important that we ensure the very best protection is in place, not so much for them—they are both adults now—but for my 12-year-old granddaughter, my seven-year-old grandson and even my two-year-old granddaughter, who has her own tablet on which she watches “Peppa Pig” and “The Wheels on the Bus”—I can confirm that the wheels go round an awful lot. [Laughter.] After 20 years, I am so sick of hearing that song.

Ensuring adequate audience protection measures for video on demand is vital, and clause 38 makes a commendable start, but I believe that amendment 18—shades of which are mirrored in amendments tabled by Members on both sides of the House, as was mentioned by the shadow Secretary of State—would enhance that protection. The amendment contains the following reasonable provision:

“When considering the adequacy of age ratings, OFCOM must report on the extent to which any age ratings used by providers are—

(a) clear and well understood by consumers;

(b) underpinned by a published and transparent set of standards; and

(c) informed by regular and substantive consultation with the UK public.”

I do not think that is asking too much, and I therefore hope the Government will consider it carefully.

The Government have said that the Bill’s objective is to bring in

“stronger protections from harmful or age-inappropriate shows through a new Ofcom…Video-on-demand Code”.

Amendment 18 simply sets out objective criteria to achieve this aim with regard to age ratings. All it requires is that age ratings are clear, transparent and reflect UK expectations about what is age appropriate. That is not a high bar to expect services to meet.

As others have said, we are very fortunate in the UK to have a tried and trusted classifier of content, namely the British Board of Film Classification, which has been age-rating our movies ever since I first went to the pictures in Tiverton to see James Bond in “Thunderball”—I wonder how many colleagues remember that underwater film—and probably for a lot longer than that. The BBFC now rates online content and video on demand.

Opinion polls and surveys tell us that parents understand and trust the BBFC’s rating system. My informal survey of parents in my constituency over the past few weeks has confirmed that. It is the gold standard, and the threshold against which Ofcom can consider the sector as a whole. It is therefore reassuring that Netflix, Apple and Amazon all use BBFC ratings for their video content.

Amendment 18 would not force every content producer to use BBFC ratings, but it would help to ensure that each rating system is fit for purpose. That is the bare minimum we can do to prevent commercial VOD services from exposing children to harmful content because, sadly, all is not well in this sector. It grieves me to say that that is particularly so in relation to Disney.

The current ratings free-for-all has seen Disney+ classifying scenes of sexual abuse as suitable for nine-year-olds and scenes of graphic, misogynistic violence or offensive antisemitic stereotypes as suitable for 12-year-olds. That is lower than it classifies some of its “Star Wars” and superhero content. Until we hold services to a minimum standard, we risk eroding public trust in age ratings as a child-protection measure, and thus perpetuating this entirely preventable harm.

The problem with Disney and Disney+ is that, for most of us, the brand conjures a sense of safety and security that is no longer warranted. When people of my generation hear the word Disney, we think of “Bambi” or “Cinderella”, so the thought that our grandchildren are in the next room watching a Disney+ video is intrinsically reassuring. But that would be an error of judgment, because much of its content is now dark and explicit.

Disney’s rating system is very different from the BBFC’s, and it is based on a Dutch system. Transparency and consistency must be part of the new VOD code, and Ofcom should consider the current lack of coherence and consistency in its review and future work.

Amendment 18 does not seek to change the scope of the Bill or prevent new innovations in audience protection. It is not about mandating any particular solution. Most of us know and respect BBFC age ratings, but nobody will be forced to adopt age ratings where they are not appropriate or not expected, such as on services operated by public service broadcasters. It is purely about setting objective benchmark standards to ensure that, where age ratings are used, they are effective for the purpose of child protection. As that is the stated purpose of the Bill, I hope the amendment will attract Government support.

It is not my intention to divide the House on amendment 18, but I hope that the excellent Minister will introduce similar amendments in the other place. If she does not, I am confident that similar amendments will be tabled in the other place that are likely to be supported, and I certainly would not vote against them when they come back to this place.

Photo of Kirsty Blackman Kirsty Blackman Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

I want to respond briefly to the issues just raised by Sir Gary Streeter. I wonder whether he has looked at my new clause 20. The definition of “on-demand services” is not as he imagines. In the Communications Act 2003, it covers only those services whose “principal purpose” is the provision of programmes, so services such as those on the iPad or consoles would not be covered by the legislation as it stands. The legislation is specifically about those whose principal purpose is to do with providing programmes. It will cover Fire sticks, for example, or Sky Glass, as was mentioned by the Minister, but it will not cover those people watching on a PlayStation or on-demand services on iPads, so the prominence regime would not apply for those who are not watching on something whose “principal purpose” is television.

Anything in the Bill that relates specifically to on-demand services, therefore, even when it comes to age ratings or some of the other requirements we are putting on on-demand services, will apply only to Sky Glass, Fire TV and those sorts of things. That is why I tabled new clause 20, which would amend the Bill to recognise how quickly things move, as a number of Members have pointed out. The way that we consume media changes very regularly, and it has certainly changed dramatically in the 20 years since a media Bill was previously proposed.

I therefore ask Ministers to look at the definition of on-demand services and consider whether it continues to be appropriate; if it does not, new clause 20 would ensure that Ofcom is able to regulate all those places where people watch television. I originally tabled the new clause because of the incredibly high percentage, comparatively, of people in Scotland who watch television exclusively on consoles, without the PSB prominence that we might expect in services that are specifically for streaming TV.

I will speak to a number of the amendments tabled by Members across the House, starting with those tabled by the SNP. I have covered my concerns about the definition of on-demand services, and generally I do not think that the Bill as drafted is all-encompassing enough. The issue of smaller studios, which is covered in our amendments 82 to 85, was raised with me by the Media Reform Coalition. Having quotas for independent studios is good, but some broadcasters have a predilection to using only the super-indies, which account for about 20% of the companies that make independent productions; the smaller indies account for about 80%. Some broadcasters commission almost everything from that 20% of the market, from companies such as Endemol. Those companies do a great job, but they cannot be considered to be small independent studios. Amendments 82 to 85 would encourage public service broadcasters to move outside the scope of those largest independent studios and to give some of their work to smaller studios, which would have significant regional benefits.

New clause 1, which was tabled by Hywel Williams, looks at how the regions are accounted for, the production hours in each of the regions, and making sure that productions are genuinely regional productions, rather than a lift-and-shift from somewhere else. Those issues are important. Looking at the quota system for stuff being done outside the M25, for example, is not enough. Amendments 82 to 85 would augment the regional quotas recommendations proposed by the hon. Member for Arfon. If broadcasting companies had to look at the smaller independent studios, it would naturally encourage an increase in regional production.

I have one last point to make about the SNP amendments that has not been covered so much by other people. New clause 22, tabled by John McDonnell, is similar to my new clause 19 on the diversity of the workforce. That is incredibly important. I made the point in an intervention that I am concerned by the lack of diversity in public service broadcasting. I am concerned by that lack of diversity on and off screen. It is important to look at both areas when considering the future of PSBs. This is not about sticks, nor is it about carrots; it is about transparency. It is about ensuring that all individuals are transparent about whether they are meeting the test of having something that looks like the general population. It is clear that Parliament does not match the diversity of the population, given the incredibly large percentage of men in comparison with women still in this place, even though it has been going in the right direction. However, we need people on screen to reflect the population.

I was watching the Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration event on Saturday night and there was a dance group, I think called Chickenshed. It was the first time that I had seen on television a dance group involving someone in a wheelchair. It did not strike me how unusual that was until I saw it on television. Then I thought, “Why is this not more common? Why do we not see more people who look like the general population on TV on a more regular basis?” That was one of those moments that brought home to me how rare it is to see people with visible physical disabilities or in wheelchairs on television at all, and certainly in a dance group. It was an amazing dance. If hon. Members get the chance to look it up, it was impressive to watch and incredibly powerful.

Stephanie Peacock tabled new clause 19, or what was called new clause 5 in Committee, where I was absolutely clear that I was withdrawing my amendment on Gaelic in favour of hers. I also made it clear that I had to leave a few minutes before the end of the sitting, and so missed the vote on her new clause in Committee. I was totally supportive of it, and the SNP continue to be. Unfortunately, I had a clash that I could not get out of and we had only one Committee member, so I could not have someone else vote for the new clause, but we continue to support it.

In Committee, the hon. Members for Barnsley East and for Arfon and I spoke in favour of the protection of the Gaelic language and the importance of it being used as spoken in Scotland on television. I mentioned the importance for places in Scotland where Gaelic is a very minority language. There is, for example, Gaelic-medium education in Aberdeen, but people in Aberdeen are much less likely to be exposed to Gaelic outside the education system, so things like Gaelic children’s TV are even more important in Aberdeen than they are in places where Gaelic is more widely spoken. They mean that children and young people can be exposed to and immersed in the language, rather than only having it for the few hours a day that they are at a Gaelic playgroup or school.

We continue to support what is now new clause 19. I have had much communication from BBC Alba on this and I continue to support its work. I encourage the Government to do what they can to work with the Scottish Government, the BBC and BBC Alba to ensure that the situation continues as is, and that there is clarity about the future of funding, so that everyone agrees on the importance of Gaelic. To be fair to the Minister in Committee, he was also clear about his support for the Gaelic language. Agreement was very much across parties, but Gaelic still does not have the prominence in the Bill that we would like it to, despite the feeling in the House being in favour of it. Anything that the Government can do to improve the prominence of Gaelic in the Bill would be great.

Photo of Hywel Williams Hywel Williams Shadow PC Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Shadow PC Spokesperson (International Trade), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs), Shadow PC Chief Whip 2:45, 30 January 2024

I emphasise the point that the hon. Lady made earlier in respect of the Gaelic language. In terms of language planning, extending the domain of a minority language is extremely important. That domain encompasses the media, including television and radio. She is perfectly right to argue for Gaelic television to be picked up in Aberdeen as well as in the Western Isles.

Photo of Kirsty Blackman Kirsty Blackman Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for backing up my point. I think we are very much on the same page. I am pleased at how much Welsh language TV has changed and moved in recent years. I congratulate him on his personal work to ensure that that happened. He was very clear about the history in Committee, and it was incredibly interesting to learn about that.

I support the amendments about age ratings. I agree that there should be consistency to them and that Disney tends to duck its obligations, which makes it more difficult for parents to make sensible decisions.

The shadow Minister talked about children’s television and the way that children access some television. Children in more deprived households are less likely to have access to smartphones or online systems, and therefore the only way they can access good children’s content may be through the public service broadcasters and their free-to-air services. I want to reinforce the shadow Minister’s point that it is incredibly important to protect those services because of the discriminatory and differential impact their loss would have on the most vulnerable children and those who are least able to access educational programming and have access only to free-to-air services as they air.

It is important to protect children’s television and ensure the provision of good-quality children’s television. I continue to talk and think about the importance of CBBC and CBeebies when my children were young. Other services are available but 10 or 12 years ago, those channels were at the centre of what children and families were watching. I hope that they continue to produce high-quality, useful and interesting programmes. Sometimes we just need to sit our children down in front of the TV and have a few minutes. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] It is thoroughly recommended at times.

The right hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington tabled new clause 21, about genres. We agree that there are issues with their removal from legislation. I hope that the Government will agree at least to keep a watching brief on that and that they are willing to ensure that Ofcom can change the genres covered or encourage extra genres to be added in a slightly easier way than is currently possible. The process for making changes is onerous and if problems are identified, it will be difficult for the Government to walk back from the position that they are including in the Bill. Giving Ofcom more flexibility to increase the number of genres would be helpful.

Let me deal with the issues about section 40 and the lack of independent regulators. I met members of Hacked Off yesterday. I have been speaking to the organisation throughout the Bill’s stages, and I tabled an amendment on the subject in Committee. I have concerns about the Government’s position on section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013. I understand that, as the temporary Minister—if that is the correct term—Sir John Whittingdale said, the provision was a manifesto pledge. I still do not think that it is the right thing to do. We still have significant issues with the Independent Press Standards Organisation. The right hon. Member cannot say that Impress is a state regulator and that it is not independent while at the same time stressing that IPSO is an independent regulator. Either they are both independent or neither of them are. A press-backed regulator and a state-backed regulator would be closer to my definition. I believe that IPSO is not independent, as do many people, if we look at the results and the number of people who go through IPSO processes and do not get the recourse that they hoped for or that natural justice would give them.

I spoke to an individual yesterday whose daughter had died. The seconds before the young woman passed away were filmed and posted on a national newspaper’s website. IPSO found that that was not intrusion into grief. It is against natural justice that that could happen. The individuals from Hacked Off and those who gave evidence to the Leveson inquiry were told clearly by those in charge at the time, “We will make changes. We will ensure that there is recourse.” They were promised by those in the most senior positions that change would happen, yet 12 years on, those people are still waiting for any meaningful change to occur. Given everything that they have been through, they should not have to continue to fight simply to get the press to behave with a little compassion and common sense. I have massive concerns about the Government’s position, and I will support the amendments that George Eustice tabled. I have a slight preference for new clause 3 over amendment 2 because the new clause is very similar to the one that I tabled in Committee. However, I am happy to take the morally correct position and support amendment 2.

My hon. Friend Gavin Newlands will cover the sports issues.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham

I have been perusing new clause 18, which the hon. Member tabled. It would establish a fund to compensate sports governing bodies for loss of income for sale of TV rights. Would that be a levy on the sports governing bodies, which the Government would redistribute, or would the money come from general taxation? It is not clear how it would be paid for.

Photo of Kirsty Blackman Kirsty Blackman Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

I do not mean to be difficult, but the amendments are in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North, and I was saying that he will cover the information about them. I am sure that he would be willing to take an intervention on that point and provide the answer. I have magnanimously allowed him to lead because I know very little about sport. He knows far more about it than me, so it made sense for us to divide up the amendments.

I want briefly to cover terrestrial television and specifically new clause 8, which Douglas Ross tabled, and amendment 80, which my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North and I tabled. The Scottish Affairs Committee did an excellent piece of work on that, and I congratulate my hon. Friend Pete Wishart and the rest of the Committee on all their work. The Committee found that about a third of users in Scotland access television only through Freeview or digital terrestrial TV. Our amendment asks about the percentage of people who access television through means other than terrestrial TV. My biggest concern, which I made clear on Second Reading and in Committee, is about the potential for terrestrial television services to stop accidentally. If the Government refuse to make a commitment about those services’ future, we could end up with the networks degrading accidentally, with nobody willing to make investment in them because the Government have not been clear about their future. I would like the Government to make clear statements about what those services will look like in future. We want to ensure that our constituents can continue to access them and that there is no impact on the most vulnerable and those who live in the most rural areas.

The Bill tries to strike a balance between the rights and the responsibilities of public service broadcasters. Everything that the Government do in regulating them is about striking that balance. They outline the recognised public service broadcasters’ rights and their responsibilities to show certain genres and provide high-quality television. As a result of fulfilling those responsibilities, those broadcasters have the right to prominence on on-demand services. It is reasonable to consider public service broadcasters as different from other broadcasters because they have those responsibilities, which others do not share.

The changes to radio are also important. It was good to hear cross-party commitment to and positivity about radio in Committee. In the recent extreme weather events, people have relied on the radio. They need to know, for example, that a tree has fallen down on North Anderson Drive and that they cannot access the Haudagain slip road. My friend, who lives in Oxfordshire, had no electricity because of a recent storm, and could get updates only by listening to their car radio. Radio is incredibly important for resilience and I am pleased that Members across the House recognised that in Committee.

As I have made clear, the SNP will not oppose the Bill on Third Reading. Changes, which are long overdue, need to be made. However, there are some gaps in the Bill, including issues around future proofing, that have not been adequately addressed. As the shadow Minister did, I thank everyone on the Bill Committee, particularly the hon. Member for Arfon.

Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Conservative, Moray 3:00, 30 January 2024

It is a pleasure to speak in the debate about this important legislation, and to hear cross-party support for the Bill and the work done in Committee, on Second Reading, in which I took part, and now on Report. I warmly welcome the Bill and the work done by the Minister for Media, Tourism and Creative Industries and her team, as well as by the interim Minister, Sir John Whittingdale, in the early stages.

I will focus on new clause 8, which I tabled. The new clause looks at what is not in the Bill and what has been omitted, which I hope the Minister will consider during her summing up and in the Bill’s remaining stages. Protection for digital terrestrial television and radio broadcast services that people receive via an aerial needs to be written into the Bill. New clause 8 would put in law for the first time a legal protection for these crucial life-line services. It would put a duty on the Government to keep issuing multiplex licences and on Ofcom to make available sufficient radio spectrum.

Currently, these services are guaranteed only until 2034, with the risk that they could be switched in 2030 —in just six years. Ministers hinted at Second Reading that these services will have a longer shelf life than 2034, which is welcome. However, I will focus my remarks on the Scottish Affairs Committee, of which I am a member, and our report, which I will come to, because at the Committee, the Minister said:

“What happens after 2034 is a live question.”

I agree that it a “live question”, which is why we need a live answer to the issue.

I welcome the Minister’s positive comments in Committee and those of the Secretary of State on Second Reading—indeed, I quoted a speech by the Secretary of State. There is a lot of positivity about what I am hearing from the Government and I hope they will go a step further by taking on the conclusions I have come to in new clause 8.

No one is pushing against the tide on the growth in streaming, but terrestrial television, often referred to as Freeview, and broadcast radio still account for the bulk of viewing and listening across the United Kingdom. I come to the issue from a Scottish angle, as I represent a Scottish constituency and am a member of the Scottish Affairs Committee, where we discussed this at length, but the issue affects people across the United Kingdom. Research from Ipsos in 2022 showed that most adults had watched digital terrestrial television in the last year and 43% of adults watched digital terrestrial television every week. Some 76% listened to broadcast radio weekly.

Kirsty Blackman was right to highlight the very good Scottish Affairs Committee report on the subject and she mentioned the issues. As the report says on page 13:

“Almost a third (31%) of households in Scotland only used Digital Terrestrial Television services…to watch television in the first quarter of 2022.”

Paragraph 33 highlights correspondence to the Committee from Laurie Patten, director of strategy and regulation at Arqiva, who argued that

“Scotland’s greater rurality than the UK average, its island communities, and its comparatively older population” make terrestrial TV services especially important in Scotland. That is why we made that issue so prominent in the report. I have continued to raise the matter with Ministers, and proposed new clause 8.

The hon. Member for Aberdeen North was right to say the issue is important not only to people in rural communities and older populations, and that it has an impact on some of the most vulnerable in society. The campaign group Broadcast 2040+ has assembled a coalition of groups representing those who rely on broadcast services the most. They include older people, who rely disproportionately on terrestrial television. Some 80% of those aged 75 and above only watch their media, news and programmes through that means, and they often struggle to access IP content.

Age UK is a member of the coalition. Their charity director, Caroline Abrahams, said:

“While broadcast TV and radio is enjoyed by many across the UK, it is especially important for older audiences particularly those on low incomes living alone. Many older people value the current universal services and would struggle to afford alternatives such as subscriptions services.”

Because they are free to air, they are also a lifeline to people on lower incomes or living in digital poverty, who often struggle to afford the additional cost of subscription streaming services and the cost of superfast broadband connections that are required to access them. Elizabeth Anderson, chief executive office of the Digital Poverty Alliance said:

“For the millions living in digital poverty in the UK, TV and radio broadcast services are vital sources of news, public education and entertainment. The universality of access to broadcast services must be paramount. Whilst many services have seen a rush to digital only delivery, applying this to TV and radio when so many lack the devices, skills and connectivity packages to access internet based media would simply push millions of people deeper into financial and social exclusion.”

Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Armed Forces), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

The hon. Gentleman’s words strike a chord with me because he highlights exactly the issues in my vast, far-flung constituency. In the straths and glens of Sutherland, Caithness, Ross and Cromarty, there are many folk who cannot afford such services, precisely as he is saying. I am glad he is saying what he is saying, and I am listening with very great interest. It is important that this issue is aired.

Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Conservative, Moray

The hon. Gentleman represents an extremely rural part of northern Scotland. My constituency is not quite so rural, but many people in Moray experience similar challenges to those of his constituents in the far north.

Photo of David Duguid David Duguid Conservative, Banff and Buchan

My hon. Friend is making some excellent points and I am hesitant to interrupt him. Although I would not sell his constituency short, my constituency is also very rural. Our constituencies, in common with many of the rural constituencies in Scotland, are very low down the league table of superfast broadband coverage. As much as people might be able to afford or want streaming services, they do not physically have access to them—at least, not yet. Does he agree that makes his new clause even more important?

Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Conservative, Moray

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that point and for supporting my new clause 8. I will come on to not just the affordability but the availability of superfast broadband to get streaming services.

I highlight the importance of broadcast services for rural constituents, including mine in Moray, as well as those of my hon. Friend David Duguid and Jamie Stone. Graham Biggs, chief executive of the Rural Services Network, has amplified that point, saying that the

“issue of safeguarding DTT and radio is of fundamental importance to rural areas where the population is much older than the national average and the least well served by broadband connectivity. We strongly support the Broadcast 2040+ campaign.”

I have been extremely encouraged by the work of that campaign to get some movement from the Government on the issue.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan highlighted, the issue of broadband connectivity is of huge concern to constituents in his area, as well as in my Moray constituency. Large parts of Scotland and rural areas around the UK do not have reliable, high-speed broadband, so streaming TV is not an option. I have little confidence that the problem will be solved by 2040, particularly given some of the problems we have seen with the roll-out of the R100 programme in Scotland.

Even if that roll-out succeeds, all the targets are met and high-speed broadband is delivered across the country, the other measure that we must look at is broadband take-up. EY has recently undertaken a study on that, predicting that regardless of whether high-speed broadband is rolled out, more than 5.5 million properties in the UK will still not have a high-speed broadband subscription in 2040—well beyond 2034 as specified by my new clause. The report makes a number of other worrying findings and paints a compelling picture of the genuine dependence that millions of the most vulnerable members of our society have on broadcast services to stay connected and in touch. Any move towards an online-only system of TV distribution, without the option of digital terrestrial television, would put a significant group of people at risk of being left behind.

As for why I have tabled new clause 8 and why am I looking for certainty from the Government, both they and Ofcom are conducting reviews of the TV market. Ministers have urged us to await those findings, but 2034 is not far away and if these services are to remain, it is crucial that we attract investment and ensure that they remain commercially viable. To do that, as the hon. Member for Aberdeen North correctly said, they need certainty from the Government. The danger is that without that longer-term certainty, beyond 2034, where the Minister has accepted there is a live question, broadcasters might run down their services and the technology might not be updated. If they get certainty from the Government, they can put in investment to ensure people are not without these crucial services and are not left isolated. If the commercial viability of the service is lost while millions of people are still relying on it, there is a real risk that, perversely, the Government would have to step in and use taxpayers’ money to keep the service going. My constructive proposal would not only help keep people connected but, in the long run, perhaps save taxpayers’ money. Surely it is better to provide the longer-term guarantee now that would enable that investment and deliver a good-quality, universal service for years to come.

I thank the Minister, the interim Minister and the Secretary of State and others who have listened to my concerns on this issue. I met the Minister just last week and I will continue the dialogue on this, because it is a crucial element that we should be debating in this House. I hope we will get some movement from the Government. As my right hon. Friend Sir John Whittingdale said, Media Bills do not come along often, so this is an opportunity for this Minister, this Government and her Department to put my new clause 8 into the Bill and give that guarantee going forward. That would allow the investment to be made and secure the commercial future for DTT, ensuring that people in Moray, across Scotland and around the UK can continue to rely on those services for many years to come.

Photo of Hywel Williams Hywel Williams Shadow PC Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Shadow PC Spokesperson (International Trade), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs), Shadow PC Chief Whip

First, may I apologise for my late arrival to the debate, Madam Deputy Speaker? I seriously underestimated hon. Members’ capacity for brevity on the previous business. This afternoon, I would like to speak to my new clause 15 and to refer briefly to new clause 1 and clause 28. I thank my hon. Friend Kirsty Blackman for her work with me in Committee—

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. It will not be possible for the hon. Gentleman to refer to new clause 1, because he was not here to move it at the beginning. He is fine to speak to new clause 15.

Photo of Hywel Williams Hywel Williams Shadow PC Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Shadow PC Spokesperson (International Trade), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs), Shadow PC Chief Whip

Thank you for that guidance, Madam Deputy Speaker. New clause 15 seeks to establish a broadcasting and communications authority for Wales. That new independent body would have responsibility for and oversight of broadcasting and media matters in Wales, seeking to reflect the needs of Welsh audiences. Under my new clause, a shadow authority would fulfil the functions of that body before its establishment 12 months after the passing of this Act. The report by the Independent Commission on the Constitutional Future of Wales recommended that move. Some Members will know that the commission was set up by the Welsh Government and is under the chairmanship of the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. It reported last week, and one of its conclusions was that there is a need to look at the devolution of broadcasting. An independent authority to regulate would be an integral part of that provision. Recent events have shown that there is a real need for such an authority in Wales. Some Members will know about the internal issues at S4C, the Welsh language channel, which make the argument that the current broadcasting framework is unsustainable.

I worry about the relatively low interest from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in this matter. The Bill gives the Secretary of State further decision-making powers, but if successive Ministers refuse to meet the chair of S4C, as has happened, I worry that they cannot be trusted to make the right decisions in respect of that broadcaster.

Photo of Jonathan Edwards Jonathan Edwards Independent, Carmarthen East and Dinefwr 3:15, 30 January 2024

My hon. Friend is making a compelling case, and the events of the past week involving the commission vindicate the position he has taken. The recent difficulties in S4C have been very damaging for the channel. My firm view is that if the matter had been in the hands of Welsh Government Ministers and the Senedd, which can provide scrutiny and accountability, we would not have got to the damaging state we are in.

Photo of Hywel Williams Hywel Williams Shadow PC Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Shadow PC Spokesperson (International Trade), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs), Shadow PC Chief Whip

I thank my hon. Friend for that point, with which I entirely agree. Even Welsh Conservative Members concede that the arguments for reserving powers over broadcasting have been undermined by what has happened, and by the Department’s actions—or inactions. We are concerned about S4C, and its funding has plummeted since 2010. The decision to fund it through the licence fee led to a 40% reduction in staff. In 2015, its chief executive officer, Ian Jones, warned about the effects of huge funding cuts and called for “tegwch” or fair play. That was a valuable contribution from him.

S4C’s independence is clearly at stake. We need to remember that there was a substantial and hard-fought campaign during the 1970s to establish the channel. Indeed, we had a discussion about that in Committee, in which Sir John Whittingdale made some interesting points. I had the opportunity in the interim to consult the Cabinet papers, which I obtained from The National Archives. They show how the threat by the then Plaid Cymru leader Gwynfor Evans to go on a hunger strike was integral to the then Prime Minister’s decision to change course and allow the people of Wales our own channel. The Cabinet papers are very interesting to read, and I hope you will indulge my quoting briefly from them, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Photo of John Nicolson John Nicolson Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

Am I correct in remembering that the Conservatives had promised a separate channel in their manifesto, and had broken that promise until Gwynfor Evans threatened his hunger strike?

Photo of Hywel Williams Hywel Williams Shadow PC Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Shadow PC Spokesperson (International Trade), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs), Shadow PC Chief Whip

I thank the hon. Gentleman for making that point; that is what I am coming on to. However, a further argument arises from that unhappy episode, as I will show by quoting from the Cabinet papers. They state that the then Home Secretary, the late Willie Whitelaw, said that the Government

“would withdraw its plans to share Welsh language programmes between two television channels. Instead the programmes would, for an experimental period of three years, be broadcast on one channel as had been proposed in the Party Manifesto.”

That is the point that the hon. Gentleman was making.

What is more interesting is that the papers say that Willie Whitelaw

“still thought that the previous plans were preferable but he had agreed to change them in response to representations, put to him by Lord Cledwyn and others, of the views of informed and responsible people in Wales.”

The interesting point is the reference to

“the views of informed and responsible people in Wales.”

In fact, in the same Cabinet meeting, the Secretary of State for Wales said:

Gwynfor Evans, the leader of Plaid Cymru, was threatening to go on what he called a ‘hunger strike’”,

before going on to say that there could be

“much tension and unpleasantness in Wales later in the year, if he persisted in this intention, and there would be a danger that Plaid Cymru would fall into the hands of extreme left wing leaders”,

mentioning no names. However, later on in the Cabinet papers, the Secretary of State for Wales said that it had been made clear in the press that the change been made in response to

“moderate opinion following very wide consultation in Wales.”

That is the point I want to make. The argument I am making for a Welsh broadcasting authority reflects settled and responsible opinion in Wales. As I said, the constitutional convention has met and taken evidence very widely over two years, and has come to the conclusion that broadcasting should be devolved to Wales.

Photo of Jonathan Edwards Jonathan Edwards Independent, Carmarthen East and Dinefwr

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way and for giving us a history lesson on the hard work of Gwynfor Evans. Anybody who is interested in this period in the history of Wales should watch the great drama that S4C recently commissioned on the life of Gwynfor Evans, and this campaign in particular. I was at Crymych rugby club at the weekend with Rhodri John, the actor who portrayed Gwynfor in the drama.

Photo of Hywel Williams Hywel Williams Shadow PC Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Shadow PC Spokesperson (International Trade), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs), Shadow PC Chief Whip

I can indeed recommend that production for anybody to have a look at; it is very interesting. I can also recommend the biography of Gwynfor Evans, which makes similar points.

The media industry in Wales is more than S4C. We have fantastic production companies, including Cwmni Da in my constituency, news outlets and radio—all kinds of things. The proposed authority would unite the media landscape in Wales under one regulatory roof and safeguard it from harms, including from large conglomerates. It would also focus on areas that are important to the people of Wales. The Labour Welsh Government’s expert panel on a shadow broadcasting and communications authority for Wales proposed that public interest journalism, sports and children’s media be areas of specific focus due to their cultural significance, position in relation to Welsh language ambitions and impact on long-term sustainability, among other reasons. The Welsh Government therefore propose a shadow broadcasting and communications authority for Wales. I look to those on the Labour Front Bench, as potentially the next Government, to give us reassurance that it is their intention to establish that authority, as well as the intention of the Welsh Labour Government in Cardiff.

Wales needs to have a say on its own media landscape to ensure that what works for us is what we get. Prominent commentators such as Professor Tom O’Malley and Mike Birtwistle have said that S4C should be built on shared principles of social partnership, public interest and democratic pluralism; that is, as they say, the Welsh political tradition. An independent regulator for Wales would be better equipped to regulate, defend and promote our national broadcasting and media industry in Wales and ensure that those values are represented. That is my argument in favour of a broadcasting authority.

I will say a few words on the prominence of S4C on the selection services—a point that I also raised in Committee. S4C’s content must be readily discoverable and prominent on television services, but I seek assurances that the “appropriate degree of prominence” will not lead to the limiting of S4C’s coverage to specific audiences, thereby depriving people of a wide range of broadcasts. This language matches that of the electronic programme guides code, which allowed S4C to be on channel 166 on Virgin Media in Wales until 2021. The Government should provide clear principles to guide Ofcom in drawing up the new prominence code, so that public service broadcasters’ designated internet programming services appear prominently and are easily discoverable on screens.

Photo of Miriam Cates Miriam Cates Conservative, Penistone and Stocksbridge

I rise to support new clause 6 and amendment 17, both in my name. The Bill is a substantial piece of legislation and I fully support what the Government are seeking to do through it to bridge the gap in regulation between linear television and internet-based on-demand platforms.

Nobody would argue against the principle that we want to protect children from watching age-inappropriate or harmful content. That is, after all, why Parliament over many years has brought in legislation that mandates age ratings on cinema releases, restrictions on children buying DVDs and videos and, importantly, until the relatively recent past, a watershed for broadcast TV. The watershed, of course, ensures that programmes broadcast before 9 pm are generally suitable for children.

However, now that the vast majority of content watched by children and adults is accessed through on-demand streaming services, the watershed has become increasingly redundant. It does not matter if a programme was originally broadcast live after the watershed; once it is available to stream online, it can be viewed by anyone of any age at any time. That is why we urgently need to apply the same standards of child protection to on-demand video as we do to cinema releases, physical DVDs and linear TV.

While a time-based watershed clearly cannot be adapted for video on demand services, we are very fortunate in this country to have world-class expertise in applying age ratings to video content. The British Board of Film Classification has been empowered by Parliament, through the Secretary of State, to apply age ratings across all cinema and DVD releases in the UK. The BBFC does an excellent job of this, as colleagues have mentioned, and is a global leader in its field. It has produced a system of age ratings that the vast majority of the British population recognises, trusts and understands. Importantly, its ratings are based on regular consultation with thousands of people across Britain to ensure that they meet audience expectations.

We have the relevant age rating expertise already in this country, but as it stands, the Bill will not make use of that expertise. Amendment 17 would address this matter very simply by explicitly requiring Ofcom to consult the BBFC when drawing up the video on demand code. The code will set the rules for streaming platforms, including in relation to age ratings. Why would we not want to ensure that our world-renowned, Government-appointed experts are consulted as part of that?

There was a similar amendment to the Online Safety Act 2023 that required Ofcom to consult with the Children’s Commissioner, and I can see no argument against applying the same principle here. Getting age ratings right is incredibly important, as they will likely become one of the main audience protection measures that platforms employ and will, of course, future-proof the Bill. If parents do not trust the ratings, they will ignore them, and we will then not achieve our aim of protecting children.

That brings me to new clause 6 in my name, which is similar to the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend Sir Gary Streeter, and I will reiterate some of his points.

Photo of Kit Malthouse Kit Malthouse The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

I am very supportive of the theme of my hon. Friend’s amendment. She made an extremely important point about consistency for parents. Those of us who are lucky enough to have children find ourselves in a forest of different media that they consume, some of which seem to decide the rules and ratings on their own—of course, there are websites to go to for third-party reference. Does she agree that it would be sensible to have a standardised view for parents, to manage consumption by their children, as it is the parents’ primary duty to manage that? We have seen in the past that the wider media industry will constantly push the boundary to try to get more under the wire for consumption by younger and younger people, such as in the deterioration of the watershed on terrestrial television. If an organisation such as the BBFC sets the tone and the standard, that must apply online as much as offline.

Photo of Miriam Cates Miriam Cates Conservative, Penistone and Stocksbridge

I agree with every word. The very important factor behind the BBFC is that parents trust it. It even has an app to search for any film or DVD, and it will tell parents not only the rating but exactly why it is there—swearing, violence or whatever. That detailed knowledge is crucial not only to gain parents’ trust but to create an industry standard, as my right hon. Friend said. If we have no industry standard, some companies will try to get around the requirements if there is a commercial advantage. The Bill should set out exactly that.

The Bill lists age ratings as one of the options that tier 1 platforms, such as the providers we have talked about, can use to comply with their audience protection requirements, but it shies away from setting the minimum standard that my right hon. Friend just mentioned for what those ratings should be. The Bill is right to recognise that there cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach. Research has shown that audiences have different expectations of video on demand services than they do of those operated by public service broadcasters. But where age ratings are in use, is it not common sense to expect a consistent standard? My hon. Friend the Member for South West Devon talked about Disney+ and the fact that the film “Avatar” has a 16-plus rating, even though most parents would think it suitable for much younger children, whereas a series that has scenes of sexual coercion is apparently suitable for nine-plus. The outcome is that parents just turn off the security settings, because they do not trust the ratings. How are parents supposed to understand and apply them if they are not consistent across different platforms and providers?

New clause 6 would set a minimum standard for tier 1 providers that choose to use age ratings, by allowing them to use either the BBFC’s system or one of equivalent transparency, clarity, rigour and objectivity that has been approved by Ofcom. The new clause does not seek to mandate the BBFC system, although research has found that 90% of UK parents want on-demand age ratings to be consistent with those for cinema and DVD. Rather, it would set a minimum standard across platforms that parents can trust. We have proof already that that works. Netflix and Prime Video have both voluntarily set up innovative partnerships to include BBFC ratings in their content. That kind of collaboration is in the interests of everyone—parents, children and the platforms themselves. It shows that this can be done without high costs or a reduction in consistency. But the reluctance of Disney+ and others to follow suit shows why this kind of regulation is needed.

The BBFC’s system fits the Government’s own definition of best practice for age ratings. It would surely be preferable for all platforms to follow the example of Netflix and Amazon, but we do not need to be overly prescriptive in imposing solutions. Instead, I ask the Government to accept that it is the role of Parliament—not Ofcom—to set minimum standards to ensure the protection of children from harm. New clause 6 would achieve that by requiring tier 1 platforms to apply either the age rating classification system used by the BBFC or a system based on a transparent set of appropriate standards applied consistently. If this House really wants to protect children and wishes to see a trusted, effective regulatory landscape, it is hard to envisage what objections there might be to this provision.

My amendments are focused on that specific aspect of the Bill, but they speak to my wider concern about the approach to digital media regulation in recent years. In both this Bill and the Online Safety Act 2023, on which I worked with colleagues across the House and in the other place to secure strengthening amendments, we have given far too much power to Ofcom—not enforcement powers, which are needed, but the responsibility to determine regulatory policy. In this Bill, as in the Online Safety Act, Parliament is setting out only the very basic principles through legislation, leaving it up to Ofcom to draft and consult upon the vast majority of the detail.

I have nothing against Ofcom as an organisation—we must have an official regulator to ensure that broadcasters and providers adhere to standards required by law. However, when it comes to setting policy, I subscribe to the perhaps old-fashioned notion that it is our job as elected Members of Parliament. We cannot leave something so important up to the consultations of an unelected body, especially when the vested interests at play are so substantial. As other hon. Members have mentioned, once we pass the Bill, Parliament will not get another chance to set the parameters of the video on demand code, so we must ensure that the final text of the Bill sets out what Parliament believes to be the appropriate standards of audience protection.

Sadly, my concerns in this area are well founded. In the recently enacted Online Safety Act 2023, Parliament decided that age verification checks for sites and platforms hosting pornography must be “highly effective” to address the significant problem of young children accessing violent pornography on social media and websites. “Highly effective” is an outcome measure. Just trying hard to prevent children from accessing pornography does not make a platform compliant under that Act. Compliance means actually stopping under-18s from coming across porn. In other words, this Bill requires effective outcome measures and must not give prizes to the tech companies just for taking part.

Yet in the draft consultation that it published last month, Ofcom does not set out what the “highly effective” standard means, so platforms and users are none the wiser when it comes to what does and does not meet the required legislative standard. Instead, the consultation outlines the kind of activities that Ofcom would like to see, rather than the outcomes that it demands. Given that Parliament has tasked Ofcom with adjudicating on what meets the “highly effective” standard, failing to set a clear definition is completely unacceptable. If Ofcom fails to meet the highly effective outcome standards that are clearly laid out in the 2023 Act, it will leave itself open to judicial review from those who take the view that the will of Parliament is serious and who wish to see age verification applied in a way that makes children safe.

That very concerning but current example demonstrates what may sadly happen to the measures in the Bill if Parliament leaves it to Ofcom to decide what constitutes effective age ratings for video on demand services. We cannot say that we were not warned. I do not intend to press my amendments to a vote, because I very much appreciate the Secretary of State’s continued engagement, but I urge the Minister and their lordships to consider the principle of the amendments. They are designed to set minimum standards for child protection, which are currently lacking. That is our responsibility as legislators, so let us do it thoroughly.

Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport) 3:30, 30 January 2024

I rise to commend my new clause 16 to the House, and to speak to new clauses 17 and 18, and amendments 79 and 80.

This summer will again see Scotland again in the finals of the men’s European championships in Germany. Thanks to listing, every game from the finals will be available free to air on the BBC and STV/ITV. However, once this summer’s Euro 2024 final concludes and Scotland have safely tucked away the Henri Delaunay trophy in the Hampden trophy cabinet, we will be back to the current set-up, which will maintain a paywall for the Scotland men’s national team games.

Last April, I hosted a roundtable summit on how to make progress on getting all of Scotland’s national team matches on free-to-air TV. Two things were clear: as it stood, that would not be an easy or quick fix, with umpteen moving parts and vested interests in the room; however, there was also a willingness to look realistically at what could be done with the right will and resources. We saw how grassroots participation rates in English cricket slumped when the England and Wales Cricket Board signed a deal with Sky and put almost the entirety of the first-class game behind a paywall. The lack of public interest was such that the ECB effectively had to invent an entire competition, purely for terrestrial television, as a shop window for the sport. I assume that we are all aware of the Billie Jean King quote:

“You have to see it to be it.”

No one at the Scottish Football Association, STV, Viaplay, the BBC, UEFA or anywhere else involved in football rights is sitting there plotting to do in Scottish football fans. They are all rational actors, working within the system created by the UK Government and UEFA to achieve their own goals.

Photo of Hywel Williams Hywel Williams Shadow PC Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Shadow PC Spokesperson (International Trade), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs), Shadow PC Chief Whip

The hon. Gentleman is talking about the unanimity of opinion. I should tell the House that the Welsh Affairs Committee, the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, and the Senedd’s Culture, Communications, Welsh Language, Sport and International Relations Committee have all called for the Six Nations rugby tournament to remain free to air for broadcasting. Indeed, the Welsh Conservatives have a whole Senedd debate on that matter tomorrow. Last week, I met a senior executive from BBC Cymru Wales, who said that losing the Six Nations, for example, which is currently shared with ITV, will be a blow both to the BBC and to the audience.

Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport)

I will come to the potential issue facing the Six Nations a bit later in my speech, but in the meantime, I am very much looking forward to visiting Cardiff this Saturday to watch Scotland beat Wales in that very competition.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham

It is just that the hon. Gentleman’s extensive list of events neglects to mention cricket. I wondered whether there was a reason why he had excluded cricket from his list.

Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport)

All I have sought to add to the list is the Six Nations competition and any and all qualification matches for all home nations’ national football teams. As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, I am indeed a fan of cricket, which is probably not a majority position in Scotland. It is obviously not one of the main sports in Scotland at this time, although the SNP will be backing amendment 88, tabled by Jamie Stone, despite the fact that its proposed new clause 25(4)(a) would cover only the English cricket team, given that Scotland does not yet have test status—it is only a matter of time, I am sure.

Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport)

I was going to go back to football, but I feel that we are staying on cricket, so I will.

Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Armed Forces), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

I thank the hon. Member for his generous remarks. Whether it is cricket, football or whatever, getting people to watch sport in the way that is being advocated so strongly means that they might become more inclined to take part in that sport themselves, which could ultimately improve the health of Scotland and the health of the nation.

Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport)

The hon. Gentleman makes an excellent point: the power of sport is simply huge. Participating is obviously the best thing for the health of the nation, but viewing a sport—whatever sport it is—is likely to drive up participation rates. We have seen the opposite with the England and Wales Cricket Board and the Sky contract.

If I can cycle back to football for a second, the problem for Scottish football fans is that sometimes the goals of those involved—again, I am talking about UEFA, the BBC, Viaplay and all the stakeholders—do not coincide with maximising access. What is needed is a change to the system that would change those goals for the better for our fans. The system is currently short-changing fans in Scotland, while elsewhere on these isles, it is a very different story. Football fans in England enjoy free-to-air coverage of their national team via the current deal with Channel 4 and the forthcoming deal with ITV. Viewers in Wales enjoy free-to-air coverage of their national team thanks to S4C’s sub-licensed Welsh language coverage, and viewers in Northern Ireland get free coverage of the Republic of Ireland via RTÉ broadcasts—while many in Northern Ireland welcome that, I appreciate that, for others, it is akin to having England games broadcast in Scotland on Channel 4 and STV. Scottish fans, though, are left with the prospect of paying subscription providers to see their team in action. That is very unlikely to change without amending legislation to level the playing field for Scottish supporters.

Similarly, these days, we are used to murmurings about the Six Nations being moved from its current home on the BBC and STV/ITV to behind a paywall. The airtime available to rugby union fans on free-to-air TV is already incredibly low: last year’s world cup was a four-yearly aberration. As we all know, the Six Nations is a ratings winner and rugby’s big annual shop window to the wider public and the players of the future. Even old relics like me can be convinced to play again—although, having tried to do so last year, it would have been very much for the better if I had not.

Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport)

Stupidity, not a mid-life crisis—yet.

Italian supporters are guaranteed to see their team on free-to-air TV; Ireland supporters will see their team on free TV, as will France supporters; but Scotland, Wales and England supporters face watching a blank screen if the rights are allowed to lapse into subscription TV’s hands. The Welsh Affairs Committee, which has already been mentioned and on which my hon. Friend Ben Lake sits, had it right when it recommended in its report on broadcasting in Wales that

“the Government adds the Six Nations to Group A of the Listed Sporting Events, to ensure its status on terrestrial TV.”

Obviously, that is proposed in new clause 16.

These islands will host the men’s Euro 2028 championships, and there is a reasonable chance that all five countries might qualify. Viewers in England, Ireland and Wales will be able to see their teams live and in full throughout the qualifying campaign without paying a penny—beyond the licence fee, in case anybody wanted to challenge me on that. My amendment would guarantee that right to all across these isles through a simple amendment of the existing legislation, extending the protections that exist to protect “events of national interest”, in the words of the 1996 Act. Scotland’s journey in the past few years under Stevie Clark has shown how much interest there is across Scotland, and it is time that the legislation reflected that.

I am grateful to Labour, Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats for their support for the new clause. I hope that Tory Back Benchers who have been espousing the power of sport and arguing that sport should be shown on free-to-air TV will join us in the Lobby this evening.

New clause 18, the related amendment, is designed to prevent any detriment below a certain annual revenue level to governing bodies and organisations that have their events listed and broadcast outside subscription paywalls. I know from my extensive discussions with governing bodies that they are in something of a bind. On the one hand, they support their sport and want to see it in front of as many eyeballs as possible—and perhaps, on a cynical level, to have as many eyeballs as possible in front of perimeter advertising as well. On the other hand, they receive a decent whack of cash for the TV rights—funds that go into developing the sport and supporting the grassroots—and that might well take a severe knock if the value of the rights is cut through listing in group A.

I fully understand that sports broadcasting rights inflation has been significant over the last decade and more. I understand that it is difficult for an STV to make a winning bid for Scotland rights commercially viable, due to the size of the TV market in Scotland. That is made harder still by the fact that UEFA has bundled Scottish international football rights with those of Wales and Northern Ireland to try and draw larger bids and more money for itself and the national associations. Although the same rights inflation has impacted the BBC, it does not have the same commercial considerations as an STV or an ITV. I appreciate, however, that Tory culture wars have inflicted severe damage to the funding levels available to the BBC in recent years. However, the BBC is required to serve all audiences across the whole of the UK, including provision for those in the nations and regions. From a sporting point of view, that simply does not happen.

We do not know how much the BBC paid to secure, yet again, the rights to “Match of the Day”, but we do know that it is a huge sum that takes up a huge proportion of BBC Sport’s budget. Despite the figures not being available, it does not take a genius to ascertain that per-capita spending to secure English sports rights vastly dwarfs that which is spent on Scottish sports rights. Incidentally, I do not blame BBC Scotland for that; the blame lies firmly at BBC network’s door. It would seem that the approach by the network is to let Scottish football fans eat English cake. If BBC Scotland were afforded the per-capita sums used to secure England football rights, Scotland would be in a far better position to bid for, and secure, Scotland international rights. Or, indeed, if BBC Alba’s funding was anywhere near the levels of per-capita support offered to S4C, that would very likely allow BBC Alba to secure secondary sub-licensed free-to-air Gaelic coverage.

In lieu of any action to address this, new clause 18 would attempt to solve the funding gap by providing financial support to governing bodies, who could rely on that revenue stream to offset any loss of income caused by group A listing. That is a proportionate, cost-effective way of ensuring that there is no detriment from listing, while limiting access to the fund to those who actually need it, rather than those organisations that are already awash with cash. Of course, governing bodies in the devolved nations, being much smaller, are hugely hit by being part of a large UK broadcast market but a very small domestic market. To address the question that Clive Efford asked in an intervention, I would suggest that if the Government are content to flush away nearly £10 billion on unused personal protective equipment, they are flush enough to cough up the relatively small sum needed to protect both grassroots sports and the principle of national teams on free-to-air TV.

In Committee, the interim Minister or temporary Minister, or whatever title Sir John Whittingdale is going with in this debate, made reference to the Scottish Government bringing forward such a scheme if they wished. While the Tories are taking such a relaxed approach to the concept of reserved and devolved powers, perhaps he and his colleagues might extend that relaxation to the other powers that the Scottish Parliament has, such as the right to hold a fresh referendum on independence at a time of its choosing. Whatever the then Minister may have said, the simple fact is that broadcasting is an entirely devolved matter. In schedule 5 to the Scotland Act 1998, section K1 states clearly that

“The subject-matter of the Broadcasting Act 1990 and the Broadcasting Act 1996” are reserved to Westminster. If it were up to me, schedule 5 and its list of powers reserved to this place would be deleted in its entirety, but there we are.

If the 1996 Act is entirely reserved to Westminster, so must be the financial implications of measures enacted under that amended Act. It is not up to the Scottish Government to fix the consequences of the UK Government’s broken devolution system, and it is entirely in order that the UK Government compensate governing bodies and others whose income falls below a threshold if it drops as a result of listing. Taken together, new clauses 16 and 18 would not only give group A listing a firm moral footing, but give rights holders a firm financial footing. Surely that is a win for everyone, including this Government.

I will touch briefly on my other amendments. New clause 17 would place the Gaelic Media Service, which in partnership with the BBC provides the BBC Alba channel, on the same statutory footing as its Welsh counterpart in the S4C Authority, which oversees the Welsh language channel. When the 1996 Act was passed, Gaelic broadcasting was restricted to opt-outs on the two BBC channels and through STV and Grampian’s schedules. MG Alba, which the Gaelic Media Service now operates as, did not exist. Television was entirely analogue, and Gaelic and Welsh language broadcasting were restricted to Scotland and Wales only.

My new clause would simply ensure that Gaelic language broadcasting has parity with Welsh language broadcasting when it comes to the consideration of listed events. It would be an utter nonsense to say that speakers of Gaelic have less of an interest in seeing sports on free-to-air TV than their Welsh-speaking counterparts, yet that is what the current legislation implies. BBC Alba has developed a reputation for high-quality sports coverage since its inception. It therefore has a strategic interest in where sporting rights go, simply because it has invested a great deal of time and money into securing some of those rights and broadcasting the sports free to air not just in Scotland, but across these isles.

On the Broadcast 2040+ campaign, I welcome the pledges made by the interim Minister in Committee, and I am sure that the current Minister will back that up. In response to that campaign for digital terrestrial broadcasting to continue for many years to come, my hon. Friend Kirsty Blackman made some good comments. Even Douglas Ross made some comments that I agreed with, which is highly unusual.

However, pledges made by Ministers have a tendency to become pliable when circumstances make it easier to slide away from the original commitments. Amendments 79 and 80 would simply place into legislation a compulsory requirement for public service broadcasters to continue using digital terrestrial television to deliver their services. I can see no reason why that would be incompatible with those ministerial promises, which is why I see no reason for the Government not to accept my amendments.

Broadcast television has worked and, as the cliché has it, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” My amendments would keep the Government from fixing a problem that simply does not exist at this point, and I commend those amendments, as well as the other new clauses and amendments to which I have spoken, to the House.

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Conservative, Ashford 3:45, 30 January 2024

I would like to address a number of the amendments we have been discussing—some I support, some I oppose. Let me start on a positive note with new clause 7, which was tabled by the Father of the House, my hon. Friend Sir Peter Bottomley. The new clause seeks to introduce protections for digital on-demand coverage of listed events, including clips and highlights of those events, and allows for time-shifted viewing. That is increasingly important for audiences, as it would enable viewing on multi-use devices or the viewing of events that take place overnight in other time zones, as we often see with the Olympic games and sometimes the World cup, depending on where they are in the world.

There are practical examples of how that change would make a difference. At the Olympic games in Tokyo, the gold-winning performance by BMX specialist Charlotte Worthington was watched by only 400,000 people because it took place in the middle of the night, yet in the days that followed, different forms of short-form coverage of the race generated a nearly tenfold increase in views. It is not just about time-shifting; that can also happen just because that is how people absorb content these days. For instance, for the 2022 Commonwealth games in Birmingham, the TV reach was about 20% lower than for the 2014 games in Glasgow, but there were about six times more on-demand views of digital clips. The problem is that without enhanced regulatory protection, what should be shared national moments risk being lost to many people behind a paywall. This Bill is a genuine opportunity to safeguard the future of listed events, as they are now viewed, for future generations.

As it stands, the Bill offers no protection for digital on-demand rights, yet, as I said, that is now a key way in which many people consume such events. I support the new clause because it would ensure that, where possible, adequate digital on-demand coverage of listed events, such as those clips and excerpts, is made available free of charge to audiences in the United Kingdom. I pray in aid the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, of which I am a member. When we looked at this question, we concluded:

“Digital rights should be included as part of the Listed Events regime to reflect sweeping changes in how audiences consume content since the original legislation was passed. We recommend that the Government includes provisions in the Bill to enable digital rights to be included in the Listed Events regime without the need for further primary legislation.”

I know the Government recognise the issue and have consulted the industry about it, but a year later they have not yet reported on the findings of their review.

If those protections were brought in, they would broadly mirror the framework that currently provides protection for live coverage. The new clause seeks to ensure that, where rights holders grant rights for digital on-demand coverage, it is not done on an exclusive basis and there is an opportunity for audiences in the UK to enjoy that coverage for free. I appreciate that my hon. Friend the Member for Worthing West has said he will not press his new clause to a vote at this stage, but I hope the Minister is listening and that the Government will take this away and move an amendment in the other place that meets the needs that my hon. Friend is trying to meet.

I also support amendment 78, tabled by my right hon. Friend Sir John Whittingdale, which offers the possibility for local digital TV services to be given the protections of the prominence regime. I think he undersold the historic nature of having the Minister who took the Bill through Committee moving an amendment on Report. He said he was sure it had happened before, but I am absolutely sure it is the first time any Minster who took a Bill through Committee stage because of maternity cover has tried to amend it on Report. For parliamentary procedure nerds, that alone makes it an historic moment, but there are also great merits in his suggestion. While I am referring to him, I note that there have been various descriptions of him from those on the Opposition Benches as a “temporary Minister”. I should say to the House, from some experience, that all Ministers are temporary at all times. The only permanent thing in any Department is the permanent secretary.

Reverting to the substance of the amendment, local TV is an increasingly important part of the landscape. It is still very small scale, by its definition, and it has had a rocky past, but there is clearly a market and a demand for it, and it is increasingly becoming part of the broadcasting landscape. The only thing I would add, since the amendment was spoken to so well by my right hon. Friend, is that it must apply to genuinely local stations. It is important to establish that caveat.

Photo of Lia Nici Lia Nici Conservative, Great Grimsby

I absolutely agree with my right hon. Friend about local television. People talk about specified channels and programmes for languages, but there are many areas, such as my constituency and his, where it is important that local viewers get a chance to see their specific areas and discussions relevant to them, rather than just regional television. That is why it is important that local television should be included.

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Conservative, Ashford

I completely agree with my hon. Friend. There are distinct markets for regional TV and local TV. In some parts of the country the regions are so large that large parts of what national broadcasters tend to regard as local TV are not local to people and do not register with their interests, whereas local TV can genuinely do that, as local radio does and has always done.

I wish to speak in support of the various Government amendments that cover radio, not least because parts 5 and 6 of the Bill are particularly important in enhancing the prospects of radio flourishing in future. Many people have been predicting radio’s demise for some time, but the sector is doing strongly. I hope that will continue, and anything that encourages that in the Bill is extremely welcome. Some of the amendments remove an out-of-date requirement on Ofcom to impose fines on national analogue stations such as talkSPORT if they sought to terminate the broadcasting of analogue transmissions before the end of their licence period. I do not think there are any plans for that to happen, but it seems sensible to make such flexibility available, not least because analogue transmission and listening is becoming increasingly rare. Some 76% of listening to commercial radio is now on digital platforms, and looking ahead to the future seems perfectly sensible.

Amendments 53 to 59 that would ensure a DCMS consultation before regulations that affect a radio selection service are also sensible. The measures restate the need to ensure access through voice activated smart-speakers—a massively growing and important part of radio listening—and the big tech companies that make and operate those speakers, and which also provide content, clearly need a strong regulatory regime to stop any abuse of the market power that those big companies have. This has been a significant debate. We also had it in the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, and it is important that the regulatory regime recognises the reality of where power lies in modern broadcasting.

Moving to amendments that I am less keen on, I agree with the News Media Association that the argument for state-backed regulation of the press has been lost, and the amendments introduced eloquently and with great sincerity by my right hon. Friend George Eustice are flogging a horse that I am afraid died some time ago. I do not think there is a need for his amendments—

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Conservative, Ashford

I suspected that might happen.

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice Conservative, Camborne and Redruth

My right hon. Friend will know that the royal charter on self-regulation of the press, which the Conservative party established, is still alive and well, and the Government have no plans for its dissolution.

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Conservative, Ashford

My right hon. Friend’s amendment seeks to revive the argument from more than 10 years ago, but I think that argument has gone. The world has moved on and the press has moved on. We had a discussion about whether regulation or the application of the law is the appropriate way to do this, and I submit that the reason why press behaviour has changed is simply the effective application of the law, and the fact that many newspaper groups have had to pay huge amounts of money because they broke the law in behaving the way they did 10, 15 and 20 years ago. That led to the change in behaviour. Where my right hon. Friend and I would come closer together is on SLAPP cases, and the need for legislation to allow individuals not to be intimidated by rich publishing companies. I know the Government have committed to introducing legislation to see those sorts of cases dismissed at the earliest possible stage, and I urge my colleagues on the Front Bench to do that as soon as possible.

While I am in sceptical mode, I similarly question the need for the various new clauses, proposed by Members in all parts of the House, that would mandate a more rigid system of age classifications for programmes already regulated by Ofcom. I absolutely get the intention behind them, which is to protect children from unsuitable content, but I am instinctively wary of suggestions that would mean one regulator having to consult another before introducing a code of conduct. Ofcom has considerable powers, and it can operate those powers. I do not think it sensible to try to tie this down to any particular age classification system, not least because some public service broadcasters, who are pretty responsible in not trying to expose content that is unsuitable for children, operate systems of protection that do not rely on age classification. ITV has its guidance system, and many broadcasters operate a system involving a PIN that sensible parents will keep from their children so that they can be protected at home.

Photo of Lia Nici Lia Nici Conservative, Great Grimsby

Is that not exactly the point? We have world-class regulation in the British Board of Film Classification, which gives us a benchmark. A good arrangement would be for broadcasters and other platforms to register with an organisation like the BBFC and have to pay a registration fee, and for the regulator to regulate that rather than the other way round. My right hon. Friend talks about responsible parents, but we need to guide the people who do not know what to look for, who are not media-savvy, and who need some guidance. Even our public service broadcasters do not always get it right, and sometimes there is content that really should not be seen by those aged 15 and under.

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Conservative, Ashford

I take my hon. Friend’s point, but I return to my original point. Given that the Bill and indeed our whole regulatory structure are based on Ofcom, and given that the Bill seeks to give Ofcom proper powers to provide, in this instance, protection for children in an appropriate way, introducing another different system would, I suspect, lead to more confusion rather than less.

Photo of Miriam Cates Miriam Cates Conservative, Penistone and Stocksbridge

That is precisely what the Bill will do: it will introduce a different system. At present Ofcom is responsible for regulating the public service broadcasters, which it does through the watershed, and the BBFC is responsible for DVDs and cinema. We now have a completely new landscape which resembles the DVD landscape much more closely because it is available on demand. It is therefore sensible to introduce an age-rating system based roughly on what the BBFC does, because the BBFC, not Ofcom, is the expert in that field.

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Conservative, Ashford

I fear that we may go down a rabbit hole. Ofcom is the expert in that field, but the system is based on film classification. The age-rating system is designed for a situation where a person goes through a door and someone makes a guess whether that person was 16 or 18 or 12, for instance.

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Conservative, Ashford

I will give my hon. Friend one more go.

Photo of Miriam Cates Miriam Cates Conservative, Penistone and Stocksbridge

I take my right hon. Friend’s point. However, the BBFC classifies not just films but items that are streamed directly and never released in cinemas by tagging every rateable incident, such as a swear word or an episode of violence, and uses that system to come up with a verifiable, standardised rating that everyone understands. It is exactly the same process as the one that is used to verify a video on demand, and it is what Netflix already uses to rate its own videos.

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Conservative, Ashford

Netflix uses it, but, as my hon. Friend herself said earlier, Disney does not. There will of course be differences. I think that overregulating will just lead to disadvantages for people who are trying to produce content, and that insisting on one system that is partly designed for one mode of operation may well not work for another operation. If Ofcom does its job effectively it will achieve what we all want to see, which is age-inappropriate content not being available to children. As I have said, involving more than one regulator normally leads to confusion and worse regulation than would have existed otherwise.

As I say, a number of the amendments are wholly desirable, and I hope that the Government adopt them; others are less so, and I hope that the Government will resist them. I close by saying that this is a very good Bill, long overdue, and I wish it well in its future stages.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham

It is an honour to follow Damian Green, who, like me, is a member of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee. He speaks with authority on many of these issues, although I did not agree with everything he said. However, I certainly agree with him about broadcasting highlights of major sporting events, and I hope the Government are listening.

I welcome the position taken by Labour Front Benchers, who have said they will support amendment 2. I am delighted that they have been listening to those of us who have been involved in this issue for a number of years and who have supported the work of Hacked Off. I claim only a minor supporting role; other Opposition Members have done far more than I have. None the less, I have been at those meetings and in those discussions. At times, I have taken part in debates in which I have committed to support the aims and objectives of people who have been fighting hard through Hacked Off, and I am delighted that we are not closing the door on them completely today.

I commend George Eustice not just for his amendments, but for the way he has negotiated with others on this issue to get us to what I consider to be a compromise position—one that can allow us to go forwards and not close the door completely on the issue of an independent press complaints system. As he described earlier, his amendments remove the stick element, which is the element that is most opposed by people working in the press. I think it would have given them the incentive to join a proper independent complaints system. None the less, it is a sticking point and, in this compromise, removing it is the right thing to do at this stage.

Then there is the issue of the carrot. Many of us have taken part in debates in this place about SLAPP orders, which enable those with a great deal of wealth at their disposal to abuse our legal system in order to shut down independent reporting that exposes wrongdoing and shines a light into the places that need it.

Photo of Andrew Slaughter Andrew Slaughter Labour, Hammersmith

My hon. Friend underestimates his own role in this area, which has been very strong. I suspect that, like me, he wishes that we were seeing section 40 commenced rather than repealed today, as I am sure do the McCanns, the Dowlers, Christopher Jefferies and all the other historical victims of press abuses. Given that we are going for the carrot rather than the stick—the carrot is better than nothing—can my hon. Friend explain why there is not universal support for that across the House?

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham

I will leave it to others to explain why they are adopting their position, but I do take issue with some of the assertions that have been made by some Government Members, who say that the current system is an improvement on what we had before. As I pointed out earlier, the IPSO system received over 14,000 complaints in 2021, but only 88 of them, or 0.6%, were upheld—less than 1%. I challenge anyone to say that it is a satisfactory situation to have so few complaints upheld.

I met a mother, Mandy Garner, for the first time yesterday. Her daughter was killed in a hit-and-run. In the 24 hours after Mandy was given the news and tried to relay it to her family, the Daily Mail went down to the scene of the crime and managed to purchase CCTV footage from a nearby shop that showed the accident taking place. The Daily Mail did not actually show the moment of impact in the media, but within that 24 hours, it posted that recording for people to watch under a clickbait headline.

That happened in 2020, 10 years after Hacked Off started its campaign. Mandy described her experience in an article:

“the Daily Mail published the CCTV footage of my daughter’s last moments the morning after her death with a lurid clickbait headline—just as we were trying to explain to our other children what had happened. I complained that it was an intrusion into grief and therefore in breach of IPSO’s code on this. I thought it was an open and closed case. Clearly, it was a breach. If it wasn’t, what actually would constitute a breach?”

Months of to-ing and fro-ing with the Daily Mail followed, while Mandy was mourning her daughter. She went on:

“Eventually…IPSO ruled that it was not a breach of their code. One of the reasons given was that you couldn’t make out my daughter’s face because the footage was ‘grainy’”.

There was nothing about how the footage would impact on the people who knew what had happened and knew who was involved, or about the family’s concern that the brothers and sisters of the young woman who had died would see the footage. If that is a satisfactory complaint system, I fail to understand what people think we were seeking to achieve when we went through all of Leveson and supported setting up the royal commission.

These issues continue to occur. The Calcutt report described the Press Complaints Commission, which IPSO was set up to replace, as having been

“set up by the industry, financed by the industry, dominated by the industry, and operating a code of practice devised by the industry and which is over-favourable to the industry”.

If that description of the Press Complaints Commission is not what we see now, I don’t know what is. For people to assert that we are in a better place under IPSO is completely false and wrong. Further to that, the Government want to repeal section 40 in its entirety, but high-profile cases are coming down the road that will attract a great deal of public attention, and they will focus attention back on this area of press complaints and having an independent complaints system. They will call into question the decision of this House to repeal section 40.

I feel that the Government are in the wrong place on this issue, which is why I support amendment 2, tabled by George Eustice. We cannot close the door on this matter; the debate on it is not finished yet. There is much more to come, and it would be wrong of this House to shut the door on an independent press complaints commission in the way that a repeal of section 40 does.

Photo of Steve Double Steve Double Conservative, St Austell and Newquay 4:15, 30 January 2024

I rise to speak to amendment 1, tabled by my right hon. Friend and fellow Cornishman, George Eustice. It would simply put a requirement on Ofcom to ensure that due regard was paid to the Council of Europe’s framework convention for the protection of national minorities when assessing the fulfilment of the public service remit. This is of particular interest to us Cornish, because it is almost 10 years since the Council of Europe formally recognised the Cornish as a national minority and the Government accepted that recognition. This was a historic moment for those of us from the west of the Tamar, because although the Cornish have historically been recognised by this place as distinct from the English, this was the first time for a very long time that the Government had also recognised that. The Government said that the Cornish would be given the same recognition and status as the other Celtic nations of the UK—the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish. Over the last 10 years, we have been grappling with what that means in application. It is disappointing to say that, at times, the Government have been criticised by the Council of Europe for not doing enough to deliver on this new recognition and status.

The Bill gives the Government a straightforward opportunity to do something fairly simple yet tangible that would give meaning to the recognition of Cornish national minority status. It is clear that Cornwall has a history, heritage and culture that is distinct from England’s, and distinct within the UK. It is unique in many ways, and we have far more in common with our Celtic cousins around the fringes of the UK. We have our own language, and it has seen a revival over the last 10 or 20 years, with many schools now promoting the Cornish language and holding workshops. UNESCO has upgraded Cornish from extinct to critically endangered. It is important that we recognise and seek to continue this progress.

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice Conservative, Camborne and Redruth

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for supporting amendment 1. He makes a powerful case for why Cornwall is unique and different. Does he agree that if the BBC had due regard for the framework convention on national minorities, it would take a very different approach to local radio? At the moment, the BBC treats Cornwall like any other part of England.

Photo of Steve Double Steve Double Conservative, St Austell and Newquay

My right hon. Friend makes a very good point that I was going to make. There is clearly a role for the BBC in helping to protect, promote and inform about Cornish culture and the Cornish language. Measures in this Bill could be strengthened to ensure that the BBC plays that role, thereby helping the Government to fulfil their responsibility to give due recognition to the Cornish.

We have seen a revival and fresh interest in Cornish culture and history in recent years, some of which is down to the hugely successful “Poldark” series, which, for many, has brought to life the history of Cornwall and its role in the industrial revolution. Other programmes have also helped to put the spotlight on our unique Cornish culture. I think particularly of “The Fisherman’s Apprentice”, in which Monty Halls went to live in one of our very small fishing communities to highlight both the historical and modern-day struggles of such places.

We are looking for programmes that present a picture of the true Cornwall and our history, heritage and culture, not programmes that present the idealistic, picture-postcard view of Cornwall, and that are just adverts for more second homeowners. We have rich, deep and strong heritage and culture in Cornwall, which is what we want to present and protect. In this day of increased multiculturalism—I do not want to go down that rabbit hole—and with all that is happening in the world, it is important that we do everything we can to protect the uniqueness of our Cornish culture. It is clear that broadcast media can play an important role in helping us to do just that, and in helping the Government to give real meaning and value to the recognition of Cornish national minority status in the UK.

I am not calling for our own Cornish station, just as Scotland and Wales have particular stations—I am not going that far—but more could be done to set an expectation that the BBC will give due regard to Cornish protected national minority status in its public service broadcasting responsibilities. That is simply what amendment 1 would do. I understand that my right hon. Friend the Member for Camborne and Redruth does not intend to press it to a Division, but I ask the Minister to give careful consideration to the points that we have made, and to the purpose of the amendment, and to look carefully at whether the Government can adopt the measure or something similar as a clear sign of the importance that they place on protecting and promoting our Cornish culture and heritage.

Photo of John Nicolson John Nicolson Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

I agreed with all of that, except I am not quite sure how four countries can be described as a fringe. Rather, I would call us the anchor holding the Anglo-Saxon peninsula otherwise known as England in place.

During the lengthy passage of the Bill, we on the SNP Benches have engaged with the UK Government in good faith. We all want a healthy, functioning, responsible and free media. My hon. Friend Kirsty Blackman covered many aspects of the Bill in detail, and it is unnecessary for me to repeat anything that she said, so I will concentrate on the aspect of language.

Historically, the Conservatives have expressed great support for the Gaelic language. Indeed, at my suggestion, the House of Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, on which I sit, has launched an inquiry on the future of Gaelic and other minority languages in these islands. Therefore, one piece of UK Government recalcitrance has been striking: why have the UK Government been so resistant to making statutory mention of the Gaelic language and of Gaelic services? We all agree, cross party, that this beautiful, ancient and vibrant language makes a vital contribution to our cultural life, and we know that its vastly positive impact dwarfs the miserly public expenditure on it.

I come from a long line of Gaelic speakers. Neither of my grandmothers had English as their first language—my mither’s mither was from Scotstoun and spoke Scots, and my faither’s mither came from the island of Harris and spoke Gaelic. I am the first generation not to speak the language at all. That is all too common a story in Scotland, where prejudice against and punishment of Gaelic speakers has seen the language retreat to the heartlands. Gaelic broadcasting has been vital in slowing the language’s decline by introducing it to new generations of young Scots, nurturing a more enlightened attitude towards Gaelic across Scotland and the United Kingdom.

Gaelic programme producers have offered their expertise; they volunteered to engage with Members during the drafting of the Bill and amendments to it. In particular, I mention John Morrison and Donald Campbell of MG Alba. It is therefore disappointing that the UK Government have not drawn sufficiently on that expertise and heeded the calls to reaffirm explicitly their commitment to Gaelic in the digital age. MG Alba, in its written evidence, said that the Bill

“will create a visible disparity in the treatment by Parliament of Gaelic and Welsh broadcasting,” meaning that

“the Gaelic language will continue to be invisible in statute and, as a result, continue to suffer from unclear status and uncertain funding.”

I wish to record the disappointment felt among Gaelic broadcasters and the wider Gaelic-speaking community.

Photo of Gregory Campbell Gregory Campbell Shadow DUP Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

Does the hon. Member agree that one of the best ways for language lovers to cherish and build up languages, minority languages in particular, is to avoid what sometimes happens, which is the greater politicisation of minority languages? That becomes divisive, and people react badly.

Photo of John Nicolson John Nicolson Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

I do agree. I see no reason why languages should be party political. They are a shared cultural asset. When I look online, I am astonished to see people who do not share my constitutional position sometimes attacking Scots or Gaelic, as if it belongs to us and not them. The language belongs to all of us, as do the other national minority languages.

I hope that we will highlight some of the important shortfalls and opportunities when I join my friend Dame Caroline Dinenage and cross-party colleagues in taking evidence from expert witnesses during our minority languages inquiry.

I was in hospital, recovering from injury and surgery during some of the Bill’s passage. I extend my gratitude to my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen North, who worked so assiduously on the measure in my absence and who consistently does so much good work in the House. As is her wont, she spent long hours in Committee, tirelessly scrutinising the Bill line by line. I note that not a single Scottish National party or other Opposition amendment was accepted by the UK Government—yet another bizarre example of Westminster’s methods. We turn up, work hard, research diligently, engage with stakeholders, contribute to debate and then we are largely ignored.

The Government are forcing through their curious insistence on Channel 4’s producing its own content. That is a fig leaf to justify the inordinate waste of time and money on yet another aborted attempt to privatise the channel. As we all know, Channel 4, which is surely best placed to determine its needs, did not want that power. What was it, Mr Deputy Speaker, that a Conservative Cabinet Minister once said about policy making—we have “had enough of experts”?

Photo of Julia Lopez Julia Lopez Parliamentary Secretary (Cabinet Office), The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Minister of State (Department for Science, Innovation and Technology) 4:30, 30 January 2024

I thank Members for their contributions to today’s debate, and indeed during prelegislative scrutiny and the Bill’s passage thus far. The Bill has fantastic support. I have worked on it since 2021 and I am pleased to be back in post, taking over from the interim Minister—whom I prefer to call the eminent, knowledgeable knight and former Secretary of State—my right hon. Friend Sir John Whittingdale; but as my right hon. Friend Damian Green said, we are all temporary in this place. I am glad to take the Bill through its final stages, and I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Maldon for his work and his defence of our position on section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013. He is in the curious position of amending a Bill for which he was once Minister. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford said, our right hon. Friend the Member for Maldon is breaking new parliamentary boundaries.

As we all know, internet access and streaming services have fundamentally changed how audiences access broadcast content, but our public service broadcasters and radio services are governed by laws written 20 or more years ago. The Bill is vital to enable our PSBs to continue to be world leading in their content and to serve UK audiences, while also driving growth in the creative industries across the UK.

I shall briefly address some of the issues that have been raised, but I will first deal with the Government amendments. They are minor and technical and seek to ensure that the existing policy positions are properly operational. I have written to Members with more detail. I am glad to have the support of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford, particularly for the radio amendments.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend George Eustice for his sustained interest. He is a passionate campaigner and has been pushing on section 40 for many years. The Government recognise the intent of his amendments, but their effect would not be to repeal section 40, but to delay its repeal while a consultation takes place. We feel that that would be at odds with our double manifesto commitment to repeal section 40 in full, notwithstanding my right hon. Friend’s view that the manifesto was not the best that we have produced and that there may have been some drafting errors in the publication.

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice Conservative, Camborne and Redruth

I understand that new clause 3 would delay the commencement of clause 50, but that is not the case with amendment 2, which would simply remove one part of section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013.

Photo of Julia Lopez Julia Lopez Parliamentary Secretary (Cabinet Office), The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Minister of State (Department for Science, Innovation and Technology)

We have concerns about my right hon. Friend’s amendments as a package. One issue is about delay, but another is about some of the smaller publishers that do not wish to be part of a regulator. That has been debated at some length this afternoon.

I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Member for Maldon is pleased about the Government amendment on AM. We discussed the matter together. I note his points about local television. He kindly accepts the unlikelihood of our accepting his amendment, but we will continue to consider his representations.

As always, I am glad of the support of Jamie Stone. He suggested that the proposal to privatise Channel 4 was part of a vendetta, but it was borne of a fundamental concern for its sustainability. We have put forward measures in the Bill to give Channel 4 greater freedom. We want the channel to survive and to have the flexibility to continue doing what it does. To the point raised in relation to those new powers, it will be granted the freedom to produce its own content, but it does not have to use them if it does not feel that is necessary.

On public service content being prominently and easily accessible, as is already the case in the linear space, we want PSB content to be as prominent as possible, but there is a question in relation to appropriate language. As has been discussed at length, the core aim is to secure prominence for PSB services and content online, but for it to be flexible, operable and proportionate, so that we can design the Bill for innovation and consumer choice. We are giving Ofcom the power to establish that balance.

The Father of the House, my hon. Friend Sir Peter Bottomley, along with my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford and others, raised the issue of digital rights. We recognise the intent behind the amendment to bring digital rights within the scope of the listed events regime. The Select Committee, ably chaired by my hon. Friend Dame Caroline Dinenage, made a recommendation that would support that outcome. While there is a great deal of support in Parliament for that and I am sympathetic, it is a complex issue.

We have seen how technical just the Government amendments to close the streamer loophole are. Adding digital rights would be a much bigger change, bringing more complexity. It is important that we maintain the right balance between access for audiences and the commercial freedoms that allow rights holders to reinvest in their sport at all levels. We want to get the balance right, and our priority is the impact on the public. It is important that audiences can watch and celebrate major sporting moments, but broadcasting rights provide sports’ national governing bodies with essential income, enabling them to invest in their sports, whether at elite or grassroots levels. We want to fully evaluate the issue, including how it could be best delivered, before considering legislation that enacts any particular conclusion. I assure Members the issue is under careful consideration and we have not yet made a decision.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley Father of the House of Commons

The House will have listened with interest to the Minister’s response to the points made by Members from across the Chamber, but the Government have got to try to sort this out while the Bill is before Parliament. We want to hear from her that the Government are capable of coming to the Lords with an amendment or new clause that does not get rid of the interest for the commercial bidders, but says that, when digital and reproduction rights come up for sale, the interests of people in our country, our team and the sports that we regard as important, whether they are new or old, established ones, are taken into account. The House will not be satisfied unless the Government come forward with a proposal about what they can either agree with the rights holders or the potential rights bidders. The House of Lords will be right to insist on something that addresses that issue, and we want to support them.

Photo of Julia Lopez Julia Lopez Parliamentary Secretary (Cabinet Office), The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Minister of State (Department for Science, Innovation and Technology)

I appreciate that my hon. Friend wants to put down a marker on the issue—I have heard that, and so has the Secretary of State. I maintain that the issue of rights is more complex than one might imagine. We want to get the balance right, and we will continue to look at that.

Moving to the amendments on the issue of age ratings, we are in complete agreement on the need to protect children and vulnerable audiences from harmful and inappropriate video on demand content. I have two children; I have pushed for children to remain in the remit and for there to be protections for them. Kirsty Blackman talked about the importance of public service broadcasters and access to them. A fundamental driving force of the Bill is that we want children to be able to continue to access public service broadcasters.

For the first time, we are bringing mainstream TV-like, on-demand services in the scope of a new video on demand code, to be drafted and enforced by Ofcom. I welcome the general support for the Bill given by my hon. Friends the Members for Penistone and Stocksbridge (Miriam Cates) and for South West Devon (Sir Gary Streeter). Ofcom will be getting new powers under the Bill to look at broader protection measures and to mandate specific approaches in the code, if deemed necessary, which could be BBFC age ratings. We are trying to move to a more outcomes-based approach rather than a prescriptive approach. We think that there has been great innovation in the space of parental controls, which have often been more effective than a badge rating. However, I have heard what has been said in the House today and we will continue to listen on this subject.

The hon. Member for Aberdeen North also raised the issue of protections for viewers watching on devices such as PlayStations. I simply wish to reassure her that the definition of “on-demand programme services” is not platform-specific; Disney and Netflix viewed on a games console would be covered. She also raised questions about the size of producers of content. Smaller producers are not keen on some of the proposals that she has made, as they are concerned that they might one day be larger producers and therefore be penalised. We would not want to disincentivise their growth.

Let me move on to Scottish broadcasting in general. We believe that the Bill will bring significant benefits to the Scottish broadcasting sector and creative economy. I do not underestimate the vital role that our public service broadcasters play in supporting that Scottish screen sector. The Bill contains provisions to encourage our PSBs to broadcast programmes in indigenous, regional and minority languages, such as Gaelic, by including them in our new PSB remit for television. I know that this is extremely important to numerous Scottish Members in this House, and I hope the Government’s efforts here are recognised. The partnership between MG Alba and the BBC is particularly significant for Gaelic language broadcasting. I can assure Members that the ongoing provision of Gaelic will be a key consideration as the Secretary of State and I progress the BBC funding review and the forthcoming BBC charter review. Of course, Scottish audiences will also continue to benefit from the prominence provisions in the Bill.

The Government are also aware of Members’ concerns about being able to access TV via terrestrial means, and I have spoken to my hon. Friend Douglas Ross about that directly. The Bill does not include provisions on that, but I wish to reassure the House that the Government remain committed to the future of DTT and to protecting the millions of households who continue to rely on it. That is why we have legislated to secure its continuity until at least 2034, but let me be clear that 2034 is not a cliff edge for DTT. We have allowed the renewal of the current multiplex licences so that they last until the end of 2034, but that does not mean that DTT will not continue after that point. Even if the Government simply sat on their hands, Ofcom would still be able to re-advertise the multiplex licences, and our public service broadcasters could continue distributing their linear channels over DTT. Furthermore, specific primary legislation would be required to remove the multiplex licensing regime, for example.

We are always keen to make sure that major sporting events are publicly available as widely as possible, which is why we have the listed events regime, but this is a balancing act. It is another issue where we are trying to find a course through. Sports rights holders use income from the sale of rights to the benefit of the wider sporting sector. A lot of sports do not want the listed events regime to be opened up. I know that the Scottish National party likes the idea of a Government listed events fund, but SNP Members do not acknowledge the distortive effect it would have on the value of rights, nor do they say who would pay for it. I suspect that the UK taxpayer would and, once again, SNP promises would be paid for by everybody else.

Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport)

These SNP promises were to protect all governing bodies in the UK, not simply Scottish ones. I just want to correct the record on that. Will the Minister not admit that devolved sporting governing bodies are unfairly disadvantaged, given the size of our TV network, and therefore our free-to-air broadcasters are unable to bid, win and secure the rights? By contrast, the English Football Association, for example, has a large TV market, where we have seen ITV, then Channel 4 and now ITV again show the games.

Photo of Julia Lopez Julia Lopez Parliamentary Secretary (Cabinet Office), The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Minister of State (Department for Science, Innovation and Technology)

I bow to my ministerial colleague the sports Minister on the intricacies of sports funding. However, on the listed events regime, it is for the Scottish Government not only to make a recommendation to us if they want to expand that, but to have the discussions with Scottish sporting bodies as to whether that is actually something they want.

I will finish by responding to my hon. Friend Steve Double. I am glad to say that culture and heritage are directly addressed in the updated public service remit for television. Ofcom is therefore required to ensure that public service broadcasters collectively make available content reflecting the cultural interests and traditions of the UK and different local areas within the UK, which I would expect to include Cornwall.

I thank you again, Mr Deputy Speaker, and all Members present for their contributions to the debate. I am grateful for the scrutiny the Bill has received; it has benefited greatly from the expertise of everybody in this Chamber. I commend the Bill to the House.

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice Conservative, Camborne and Redruth

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the clause.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.