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 Lord Low of Dalston Lord Low of Dalston Crossbench 6:45 pm, 8th February 2017

My Lords, I put my name to this amendment, so I shall speak briefly in support of it. It simply seeks to modernise the prominence regime for our digital age, expanding the existing legislation to cover on-demand services, such as catch- up television, on-demand TV menus and electronic programme guides.

At Second Reading, I shared my own and others’ experience of how frustrating electronic programme guides and user interfaces can be. Navigating them and finding a particular channel can be a particular challenge for people with a sensory impairment. Finding BBC News on electronic programme guides or finding the iPlayer on smart and connected televisions can take a considerable time. Likewise, finding BBC Parliament to allow people to take in your Lordships’ proceedings can be quite difficult—I am assured that people do still attempt to do this.

The Commercial Broadcasters Association has argued that giving public service broadcasting children’s channels extra prominence would create problems for investment in UK children’s content by their members. Moving public service broadcasting channels to higher electronic programme guide positions would mean displacing commercial broadcasting channels, with a detrimental impact on audience share and revenues. This, they say, would ultimately damage investment in children’s content. However, I am advised that greater prominence for public service broadcasters’ channels has a cross-promotional value which ultimately redounds also to the benefit of commercial channels. As I see it, there is no real threat to commercial broadcasters from this amendment.

This is a straightforward amendment which simply seeks to update the letter of the legislation for an increasingly digital age and bring it in line with the spirit in which it was originally conceived. I trust that the Government will see their way to accepting it.