Paralympic Games 2016: Terrestrial Television - Question

– in the House of Lords at 11:13 am on 7th July 2016.

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Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Liberal Democrat 11:13 am, 7th July 2016

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to ensure that all sports with British representation in the 2016 Paralympic Games will be available for viewing on terrestrial television.

Photo of The Earl of Courtown The Earl of Courtown Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, coverage of the 2016 Paralympic Games will be the most comprehensive and ambitious coverage of the Games to date. Channel 4 will be showing all sports with British representation on free-to-air channels when covered live by the host broadcaster. Where sports are not covered, Channel 4 will deploy additional camera teams to capture British medal wins wherever possible.

Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Liberal Democrat

I thank the noble Earl for that reply. Can the Government give an undertaking that they will encourage all those who are in the process of granting cities the right to host future Games to insist that those cities guarantee in the planning process that the Paralympic Games will have full coverage? That will ensure that we do not have the situation we are in now, where certain sports will happen to be missed out, many of which have good British medal prospects.

Photo of The Earl of Courtown The Earl of Courtown Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, the noble Lord makes a good point. Channel 4 would like to see comprehensive live coverage of all sports of the Paralympic Games and has been working with the International Paralympic Committee, OBS and the Rio Organising Committee to extend live coverage. As for pressure to put on further Olympiads in the future and television coverage of the Paralympics, this is carried out through UK Sport.

Photo of Lord Holmes of Richmond Lord Holmes of Richmond Conservative

My Lords, when I was at LOCOG I was fortunate enough to do the deal with Channel 4 for the 2012 coverage—the largest broadcast deal ever done for the Paralympic Games. Does my noble friend the Minister agree that the more than 600 hours of Channel 4 coverage this summer will not only bring into people’s homes a sensational summer of sport but have a transformational effect and positive impact on attitudes towards, and opportunities for, disabled people right across the United Kingdom?

Photo of The Earl of Courtown The Earl of Courtown Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I could not agree more with my noble friend. We had 500 hours of coverage in 2012 and in 2016, this year, we will have 600 hours of coverage. My noble friend also mentioned the effect that this had on the population. I can add that 74% of 12 to 16 year-olds said that they felt more comfortable discussing disability after those Games. My daughter was one of those—at the age of 12, she visited the 2012 Paralympics in London.

Photo of Lord Grocott Lord Grocott Labour

Does the Minister agree that terrestrial television was one of the reasons for the phenomenal national interest and excitement that was engendered by the successes of the Welsh football team—I am speaking as an Englishman—which was absolutely terrific? One of the key reasons was the fact that it was available free to air on terrestrial television and it was a great coming together of people’s interest and excitement. Does the Minister deeply regret, as I do, that so many of our national sporting events that were previously available on terrestrial television are now no longer available, and the country as a whole suffers in its enjoyment levels and even its sense of cohesion as a result of that loss?

Photo of The Earl of Courtown The Earl of Courtown Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, mentions the listing of different sports and their availability on free to air. He makes a good point. The ability of people to watch sport is very important because it helps to encourage the legacy of these great events, apart from anything else, and encourages more people to turn out. I shall read out something on the Government’s position:

“Government does not propose to reopen discussion on the Ofcom Code on Listed Events. Rather than being told by government what to show and what not to show on free-to-air television, it is for NGBs and other rights holders to strike the right balance between reaching a wide audience and using their rights to generate as much revenue as possible”,

which they will need to carry out these rights.

Photo of Lord Clement-Jones Lord Clement-Jones Liberal Democrat

My Lords, the Minister mentioned the superb coverage of Channel 4, as indeed did the noble Lord, Lord Holmes. Is it not time to end the uncertainty over the future of Channel 4, or is this another question for the next Prime Minister?

Photo of The Earl of Courtown The Earl of Courtown Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, is aware, no decision has yet been made on the future of Channel 4. Her Majesty’s Government are looking at a broad range of options, including those proposed by the Channel 4 leadership. We want to ensure a strong and secure future for Channel 4.

Photo of Baroness Masham of Ilton Baroness Masham of Ilton Crossbench

My Lords, the Minister will not be aware that I took part in the very first Paralympics in 1960 in Rome. We have come a long way, and Channel 4 should be congratulated on the lead that it is taking.

Photo of The Earl of Courtown The Earl of Courtown Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

The noble Baroness is quite right that it should be congratulated on the amount of coverage and the enjoyment that people got from that coverage. I also did a bit of homework, and I gather that she did table tennis and competed in 1960, 1964 and 1968.

Photo of Baroness Jowell Baroness Jowell Labour

My Lords, I draw attention to my entry in the register as a trustee of the Tennis Foundation, which promotes tennis for disabled people. Will the Minister accept that Channel 4’s establishment of parity between able-bodied and disabled sports in the Olympics is a remarkable achievement? Will he also accept that it is how that participation in sport by disabled people is carried on after events such as the Olympics that is the real test of legacy?

Photo of The Earl of Courtown The Earl of Courtown Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

The noble Baroness is quite right, and that is why I drew attention earlier to the effect on young people—the 12 year-olds and that age group—and how many of them felt what a great experience it was going to the Paralympics and just seeing what great work and endeavour were carried out. I thank the noble Baroness for that.

Photo of Lord Patel of Bradford Lord Patel of Bradford Labour

Can the Minister join me in congratulating the ECB—the England and Wales Cricket Board—on undertaking fantastic work in local communities with young people with disabilities, especially people who are short-sighted or blind, so that they can play cricket? What are the Government doing further to support national organisations such as this to take up local cricket games where facilities are simply not available?

Photo of The Earl of Courtown The Earl of Courtown Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

The noble Lord is quite right. Cricket at a local level very often relies on the good will of local people. A lot of free time is given as well, such as in the maintenance of pitches. If I have any more information on this issue, I will write to the noble Lord.