Committee (6th Day)

Part of Digital Economy Bill [HL] – in the House of Lords at 7:15 pm on 3rd February 2010.

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Photo of Lord Howard of Rising Lord Howard of Rising - Shadow Minister (Also Shadow Minister for Treasury and Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow Minister, Shadow Minister (Also Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and Treasury), Culture, Media and Sport, - Shadow Minister (Also Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow Minister 7:15 pm, 3rd February 2010

My Lords, Amendments 233E and 233H are designed to test how far the Government see Ofcom getting involved in the running of the IFNCs. Subsection (5)(c) of new Section 287A to be inserted in the Communications Act 2003 under Clause 28 states that Ofcom may lay down conditions requiring IFNCs to make their news content available to "any other person". Subsection (6)(c) allows Ofcom to ensure that IFNCs help to promote other people's content. At first sight, these subsections would appear to allow Ofcom an extraordinary level of regulatory control over the running of these organisations. Ofcom is able to tell the IFNCs who to give their content to and tell them what media or other content they must promote. These organisations will not exactly be independent if they have their activities regulated to such an extent.

Finally, if the IFNCs are required to give their content away, how will they become commercially viable? Their only asset is the content that they make. If they cannot sell it, they will be for ever dependent on public subsidy, or is that the intention? These two subsections appear to confirm that the Government want to see these news consortia run from the centre with no way of weaning themselves away from taxpayers' support. Perhaps the Minister can reassure the Committee that that is not the case. I beg to move.