Clause 1 - Reports on the fulfilment of the public service remit

Part of Media Bill – in the House of Commons am 7:36 pm ar 23 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Kirsty Blackman Kirsty Blackman Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office) 7:36, 23 Mai 2024

I will hold on to the thank-yous because I will probably be here again tomorrow, and can say them then.

We have supported the Media Bill throughout its passage and will continue to do so, but I must flag a few concerns that we still have about it, although we will not vote against the Lords amendments. There are some positives in the Bill, including the changes to radio services, particularly on-demand services such as those accessed through Alexa. The Government could have gone further on in-car broadcasting, for example. Local radio is so incredibly important. In Aberdeen, we have Northsound 1 and Original 106, which are absolutely fabulous—I get on very well with them most of the time. Those local radio stations are incredibly important when it comes to resilience. As the SNP Cabinet Office spokesperson, I know how much people rely on them, particularly when it comes to local events such as flooding, to learn what is happening in their area. I am really pleased that Ministers have recognised the importance of local radio throughout the Bill’s passage.

On the public service remit, I am pleased to echo the comments made by the shadow Minister, Stephanie Peacock, about education. We are happy to support the changes that involve the inclusion of educational content and programming quotas, although more could have been done on regional quotas—particularly those that just specify “outside the M25,” for example. We could go further to ensure that regional content is spread across the United Kingdom. I appreciate that a significant number of public sector broadcasters do that, but we could have legislated to keep to quotas in future.

Prominence in on-demand services is incredibly important, because those services are such a common way for people to watch television nowadays. I still have concerns about the fact that gaming consoles are not included. The provisions on giving prominence to public service broadcasters does not apply to those watching content on a PlayStation, for example; the provisions apply only to devices that are mainly for watching television. The Government may have to change that in the future.

I have concerns about listed events, in relation to Scottish football. Given that we have the Euros coming up, and Scotland is finally doing decently and getting to the finals of an event—it has been an awfully long time since we have had this optimism around football in Scotland—more could have been done on listed events, particularly those relating to Scottish football. Given the massive support in Scotland for football and our national team, that would have been a positive step forward. I would appreciate a commitment to changes in future to ensure that we have free-to-air football, so that we in Scotland are not the only ones excluded from seeing our national team on free-to-air TV.

The future of terrestrial broadcasting was mentioned a significant number of times throughout the Bill’s passage. I appreciate the Government’s ongoing commitment to the ability to access terrestrial services. I have concerns about this issue from the point of view of resilience and ensuring that people are not excluded from watching television if they do not have fast internet. My main concern is that we will accidentally end up with terrestrial broadcasting services being dismantled, or not invested in, because there is no commitment to keeping them. The next Government will have to make commitments to those services to ensure we have access to them post 2030.

My last, and probably biggest, concern is about the changes that clause 50 makes to section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013. Many promises were made to people after Leveson. There were many victims of press intrusion whose lives were devastated by journalists who were not acting ethically. Press regulation is not nearly as good as it could be. I appreciate the Government’s position that section 40 is inappropriate, and that they disagree with how it might be implemented, if it ever were to be implemented. I understand that, but nothing has been put in place to ensure proper regulation, and that when people contact the Independent Press Standards Organisation—the press regulator—they get proper redress.

There is a balance to be found between the Government’s position—they disagree with state-backed regulation of the press—and ours; we disagree with self-imposed regulation of the press, especially when it seems to be able to do what it wants, and IPSO upholds so few complaints. My biggest concern about the removal of section 40 of the 2013 Act is that promises were made to victims during and after the Leveson inquiry. They were promised that the system would improve, but it has not seen significant improvement, and the Government’s removal of section 40 with nothing proper and sensible to replace it means that we continue to face the risk of press intrusion. People could find themselves in the same position again, with no opportunity for redress. However, as I made clear at the beginning of my speech, I will not oppose the Bill; the SNP has been supportive of it throughout its passage.

My last point is personal. I led on the Media Bill because my colleague and hon. Friend John Nicolson, the culture spokesperson, was unavailable at the time. I had to learn a huge amount in a very short time to lead on this Bill for the SNP, and I am indebted to all the organisations that gave me briefings, sat down and spoke to me, and answered all the stupid questions that I brought to them. I am genuinely indebted to them for all the work they did to ensure I could speak in this Chamber and in Committee and not sound too stupid. Of course, any mistakes that I have made are mine, not theirs.

Mr Deputy Speaker, thank you very much for allowing me the opportunity to speak on this Bill. We will support it, even though we have a number of reservations.