Digital Economy Bill - Committee (4th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:00 pm on 8th February 2017.

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Photo of Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Shadow Spokesperson (Education) 6:00 pm, 8th February 2017

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Foster, for his not unqualified support. It was useful to have another voice in the debate and he raised good points, which I broadly support. He is right that, on reflection, one would perhaps want to look at the issue of timing in more detail.

I would like to depart from the Minister’s comments on one issue: the focus of the amendment. The amendment is not really about what is happening in the BBC; it is an attempt to focus on what might happen in the broader ecology of radio production. In that sense, I was not straying into encouraging him to interfere in what must be an operational matter for the BBC—I absolutely agree with that. I do think, though, that there will be consequential waves of impact across the whole of radio production, which ought to be of interest to the Minister and to the department.

I still think that there will be strong changes here in matters such as conditions of service for staff. It is nice to hear that the RIG group is encouraged to match BBC conditions, but the likelihood of it doing so is very slim. That in itself may not be the biggest issue, but it is still going to have an impact and we should know about that. For all the reasons previously given, I still think that this would be a good idea.

However, the underlying point that will cause us the greatest concern as we go forward is that this seems to signal a change of approach. I think the Minister said that he strongly supported what was being proposed by the BBC in these measures—I will check in Hansard. Whether or not it was something that originated in the BBC or something it picked up in the negotiations and felt that perhaps it ought to do is a matter we can talk about later. The point is that, as a result of these and other changes, the BBC is moving inexorably from being a producer and broadcaster to a broadcaster that largely commissions work. That in itself has to be of concern. It may or may not be the right thing to do in the circumstances; it may be inevitable, given the way that technology is moving; but it is a change. Unless we mark and measure that in order to assess what is happening, we will all be the losers. That is perhaps for another day; in the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 222E withdrawn.

Clause 77 agreed.

Amendment 223 not moved.

Clauses 78 and 79 agreed.

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