Digital Economy Bill - Committee (4th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:15 pm on 8th February 2017.

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Photo of Lord Wigley Lord Wigley Plaid Cymru 6:15 pm, 8th February 2017

My Lords, I intervened briefly on these points at Second Reading and I support at least the principle of Amendment 224, although I would like to query some aspects of the detail. However, it was moved very well by the noble Lord, Lord Wood of Anfield, and I welcome the fact that it brings forward an issue related to the listed events regime that most certainly needs our attention at this point; namely, when the situation is changing so rapidly. If we do not adopt a system that is flexible enough, there is no knowing what difficulties we could get into over the coming years. The amendment offers a straightforward solution to a simple problem, which as I understand it is that by the end of this Parliament there is a real possibility that no PSB will meet the qualifying criteria set out in the listed events regime. The solution lies in this amendment which will update those criteria to ensure that the PSBs are still eligible.

It is no secret, notwithstanding our success in the European soccer cup, that the Welsh are still very big rugby fans. Some 1 million of us enjoyed the Wales-England match in 2015 and indeed 1 million of us watched the Welsh beat the Scots last year. No doubt another million people will be watching on Saturday when Wales plays England. The listed events regime, also known as the sporting “crown jewels”, ensures that some of the most high-profile sporting events can be watched by all for free—from rugby finals and highlights of other rugby matches through to football finals and Wimbledon. I have one slight reservation with regard to using 90% of citizens as a criterion. The public broadcasting channel S4C transmits by agreement a number of listed events, but it certainly does not reach 90% of the population. I wish it did, and no doubt we will get there at some point, but not quite yet.

The point is this: should a PSB suddenly become ineligible to bid for the rights to these great sporting events? It is inevitable that millions of people, particularly those on low incomes such as pensioners, will not be able to afford the pay channels. They will be shut out of the shared experiences that mean so much to everyone in all the four nations of these islands. It is an important issue and an amendment along these lines is needed, if not at this stage, then perhaps one could be drafted for the Report stage. Something ought to be forthcoming so that we can safeguard the position of this regime.