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 Ashton of Hyde Lord Ashton of Hyde Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport 6:15 pm, 8th February 2017

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Wood of Anfield, for moving this amendment and I hope that I can provide some reassurance to noble Lords. Indeed, I fear we may all be in danger of violently agreeing with each other. Listed sporting events is an issue we have discussed before. As the Minister for Culture made very clear in the other place, the current listed events regime is not under threat at this time and I confirm that we will not let it be under threat. I hope that that directly answers the question put to me by the noble Lord, Lord Wood, and I therefore do not believe that these amendments are needed at this time.

I submit that it would be particularly undesirable to act in the way that Amendment 224 suggests, because it would lock in the incumbents’ position, since the requirement to be watched by 90% of the population would narrow considerably the number of channels that could ever qualify. It would narrow it to channels which had already achieved mass appeal to audiences—and that is not a step we should take rashly. The requirement in Amendment 224A that channels qualify if they are capable of reaching the vast majority of the population and likely to achieve a significant audience is, I respectfully suggest—I would certainly never use the word “sloppy” of the noble Lord, Lord Gordon—perhaps too vague to provide a workable system. Ofcom would be forever subject to challenge by channels arguing over its assessment. It would create enormous flux in the regime, meaning that sports federations could not be sure whether the channels they were negotiating with met the qualifying conditions.

However, I assure the Committee that we are keeping this area under review and we will consider how we can best ensure that any risks can be managed successfully in future. To that effect, we will consider carefully before Report the issues raised and the contributions made by noble Lords today. With that commitment, I hope that both noble Lords will withdraw their amendments.

Amendment 224A (to Amendment 224) withdrawn.