Digital Economy Bill - Committee (4th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:45 pm on 8th February 2017.

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Photo of Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport) 6:45 pm, 8th February 2017

My Lords, I put my name to this very important amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Wood, has said most of what I was going to say, so I will be brief, but I add that we live in such a rapidly changing world, in which the existence and preservation of public service broadcasting is ever more crucial.

As the noble Lord, Lord Gordon, mentioned, we were at a breakfast yesterday hosted by Channel 4. The topic for discussion was fake news—a frightening phenomenon that threatens to undermine democracy as we know it and to distort people’s understanding of the world. It is still the case that the main source of news, and the most trusted, is TV. Given the rise of fake news, PSB content—impartial, well regulated and fact based—is more important than ever.

Alongside being universally available, what is crucial is that PSBs are easy to find. As the noble Lord, Lord Wood, said, this is increasingly difficult—the number of clicks you need to get to BBC Alba is, I believe, 15 on Sky Q. Then there is the specific matter of children—children’s content lurks below numerous foreign cartoon programmes.

Change is needed. Ofcom and the Lords’ Communications Committee have argued it and these amendments provide it. Will the Minister not agree that the Bill offers the opportunity—dare I say an historic one—to ensure changes that are essential if public service broadcasting is to survive, in a time in our history when its survival is more important than ever?