Digital Switchover (North-East Wales)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:00 am on 14th June 2006.

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Photo of Ian Lucas Ian Lucas PPS (Bill Rammell, Minister of State), Department for Education and Skills 11:00 am, 14th June 2006

Absolutely; I echo my hon. Friend's concern. My other concern, based on my dislike of monopolies, is the suggestion that satellite television rather than freeview can be used to allow access to television services. That is unfair in the extreme. Those of us who hold strong views about Sky and who do not want to use satellite services do not wish to be forced to obtain a satellite aerial from a particular broadcaster because it is the only way to obtain a secure television signal. It is important that we work to improve freeview reception. I welcome freeview—it is a tremendous innovation—but the service needs to be broadened and spread to as many households as possible.

I do not want to be negative about the digital switchover. Digital television has tremendous potential, and I know that the local media community in Wrexham has a great appetite for services to be broadcast that represent what is happening there. We in north-east Wales feel that we do not receive a satisfactory level of coverage from existing services; the BBC within Wales focuses on other areas of Wales to the exclusion of our culture, and services from the north-west of England do not generally cover our area.

There is a great appetite and capacity among those in the media community in north-east Wales, especially at Yale college and the North East Wales institute at Wrexham, to explore digital television and especially local digital television. About two years ago, the BBC in Wales held a laboratory broadcasting experiment in Wrexham for a week, which led to the successful, high-quality production of local television; it was viewed within a room and not broadcast, but it showed the capacity to make programmes and the appetite for viewing local news in a more localised manner.

One of my major concerns about freeview is the development of gaming shows and channels that seem to appear from nowhere, and without discussion or consultation about their content. I hope that the strength of appetite for local digital television will in due course be registered by the Government, and that it will be taken forward in order to benefit areas such as north-east Wales, and particularly Wrexham.

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to put my concerns on to the radar. It is important that Members of Parliament engage with the issue, because we are leaders in our communities and can put such matters before our constituents. I am pleased to have seen some local recognition of the debate, and pleased that the issue has now been discussed. Of course, that discussion is coupled with the launch of Digital UK.

The Government are making good progress with the roll-out of digital television, and I commend them for that, but I hope that the local issues that I have raised—I make no apology for them—are addressed as early as possible, because the earlier they are dealt with, the better the resolution will be and the more positive the outcome will be for digital television.