Amendment 1

Part of Media Bill - Report and Third Reading – in the House of Lords am 3:30 pm ar 23 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Baroness Bull Baroness Bull Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords) 3:30, 23 Mai 2024

My Lords, I will also speak to Amendments 2 and 4 in my name. I am grateful to my co-signatories, to other noble Lords around the House and to the Citizens’ Forum for Public Service Media for supporting these amendments, particularly given the pace at which all this has come together. I am also very grateful to the Minister and the Bill team, who found time on very busy days for a helpful meeting earlier this week on these amendments. At the time, we thought we were talking about a discussion we would have in June; it turns out that we are talking about it today, but I am very grateful to him and his team for finding time for that.

These amendments are all about the underpinning ethos, values and distinctive purpose of our PSBs. In tabling them today, I have tried to respect the Government’s intention to streamline and update the overlapping requirements in the 2003 Act, to which the Minister has referred previously. I have tried to do that while addressing the very strong feelings of this House and the sector that, in the process of modernisation, too much of value has been lost.

Amendment 1 would reinstate the principle that public service broadcasting content, taken together, should inform, educate and entertain. This three-legged stool is the foundational principle on which public service broadcasting was built and on which its global and economic success stands. Removing the Reithian principle from the Bill effectively limits the definition of the public service remit to a narrow focus on market failure. It fails to uphold the fundamental principle that PSBs exist to serve society in its broadest sense, with content that is culturally, democratically and socially valuable. Its removal also means that there is no longer any mention of the word “education” in Clause 1, and that the vital role of public service broadcasting in providing content of educative value for citizens across the life-course is no longer protected. Amendment 1 would restore the underpinning philosophy that broadcasting should do more than just reflect. It should help us to imagine other ways of being; to learn about things of which we never expected to know nor care about; and to expand our interests beyond our own lives and concerns and into the lives and concerns of others. It is a principle that has never lost its currency and, in an age when misinformation and disinformation threaten our democratic processes and civic cohesion, it is a principle we cannot afford to lose.

Amendment 2 goes a little further and would clarify what Parliament believes to be content of civic, social and cultural importance, thus protecting the type of content that can so easily be under threat in the face of economic challenge and ruthless competition. Without this clear guidance on what Parliament expects to see in return for public service broadcasting status, and indeed what viewers want, I struggle to see how Ofcom can fulfil its role in holding broadcasters to account. My noble friend Lord Colville championed this point in Committee, and I am grateful to him for working with me on this streamlined amendment. Amendment 2 would also retain the requirement that public service broadcasting should stimulate and support a thriving cultural and creative sector—the very sector on which it depends for its own survival. This modest addition to the Bill enshrines the symbiotic relationship between public service broadcasting and the health and success of the creative industries—a sector that this Government have identified as key to growth and that is currently, unfortunately, at serious risk. I know that the Minister and the Secretary of State are genuinely committed to the future success of this sector. I hope that he can accept this amendment today so that the protections afforded by the 2003 Act remain in place at the time that they are most needed.

Amendment 4, my final amendment, is even more modest. It would add no more than six words requiring public service broadcasters to make available content for children and young people that is educational in nature. I have no problem with the stated ambition of the Bill that content reflect young people’s lives and concerns and help them better understand the world around them, but this is not the same as content that is educational. As I argued in Committee, education is one of the aspects of public service broadcasting that parents value most. Amendment 4 would not require all broadcasters to move into the same space as BBC Bitesize, for example—the specific detail of PSBs’ educational content would still be determined at the level of operating licences—but it would enshrine in legislation the importance of educational content for children and young people in opening up and equalising life chances, which is an aspect of PS broadcasting that licence fee payers deeply care about.

The overall aim of these amendments is to address the concerns so clearly expressed in Committee and by audiences and citizens’ groups that a better balance needs to be found between the intention to streamline and the retention of what makes our public service broadcasting so distinctive. My amendments would reinstate and protect the foundational ethos and core principles and purposes that have long defined our public service broadcasters and underpin their domestic success and the global leadership position they currently enjoy. I very much hope that the Minister might be persuaded by our arguments and be able to accept these amendments at the Dispatch Box. I beg to move.