Media Ownership (Radio and Cross-media) Order 2011 — Motion to Approve

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:00 pm on 9th June 2011.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Howe of Idlicote Baroness Howe of Idlicote Crossbench 2:00 pm, 9th June 2011

My Lords, as one of those who had the pleasure of serving under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, on the Communications Select Committee and contributing to the report that we have had referred to, I add my welcome to the order. It is a dramatically important step forward. Certainly, at a few meetings that I have attended recently, it has been indicated that new plans are in hand to provide back-up for companies in facilitating more independent, local programmes in both radio and television. That is all to the good.

I should like to take up one point about the public interest. Controls exist in the form of Ofcom and the Competition Commission intervening as and when necessary. Although I quite accept that the previous speaker does not think that that goes far enough, it will be of some reassurance to us. The question has been asked as to what the public interest is. Is it really to ensure standards and quality in what is put over? Are we to be certain, for example, that a few eyes will be kept on some of the extremely bad taste which has crept into a great deal of broadcasting, both before and after the watershed? Then if we look at what has happened with children's broadcasting, we see that the BBC has rather dropped out of it in a number of areas, particularly in radio. Organisations such as Sound Start will be particularly pleased, I am sure, if we have rather more children's content coming in. Children should be able to draw their own imaginative pictures of what they are listening to, something of which my generation and most of your Lordships' generation certainly had plenty of experience. Nowadays, there seems to be rather less of it for the young child growing up. With those questions, I should like to be reassured by the Minister that a high standard will be set for "public interest" in the output that we are going to expect.