§ Lord Gainford
asked Her Majesty's Government:
What steps have been taken in respect of the BBC's plans to launch two commercial satellite television services in Europe.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of National Heritage (Viscount Astor)
We welcome the BBC's plans to launch these two services, in partnership with Pearson plc. These plans are fully in line with the proposal in our White Paper on the future of the BBC that the BBC should exploit international commercial opportunities in co-operation with private sector partners.
Following consultation with the Independent Television Commission (ITC), my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has today laid before Parliament an order under Section 13(2) of the Broadcasting Act 1990 providing that the services may legally be provided without a licence from the ITC.
My right honourable friend has also placed in the House Libraries copies of an Approval under clause 3(u) 134WA of the BBC's Royal Charter, approving the setting up of the two companies involved in the provision of the services. The Approval includes conditions requiring the BBC to operate the ventures on a clear arm's length accounting basis from its public services, and on the basis that the services are for reception in mainland Europe, not in the United Kingdom. The Approval also ensures that programmes on the two services will be subject to broadly the same regulatory regime as other commercial non-domestic satellite services, and will comply with the relevant ITC codes. The BBC is required to report on its compliance with the terms of the Approval in its Annual Report which will be laid before both Houses.