BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Audio/Video: Programmes: Breakfast with Frost
Front Page 
World 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 
Programmes 

banner
BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST HOSTED BY PETER SISSONS INTERVIEW
CHRIS SMITH MP, CULTURE SECRETARY JULY 30TH, 2000

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

PETER SISSONS
Now when the Arts Minister was first elevated to the Cabinet and given a wider brief, they called him the 'minister of fun'. His brief covers everything from football to film, to Fleet Street, and the Culture Secretary, Chris Smith, is here. Good morning Chris.

CHRIS SMITH
Good morning.

PETER SISSONS
Now let's first deal with this business of the Prime Minister asking the Press Complaints Commission to advise on the pictures of Leo's christening. Come on, they're lovely pictures, and they're, they're a testament to family life. We thought this was a family government.

CHRIS SMITH

They are indeed lovely pictures and I think the point that the Prime Minister is trying to make is that he does want, particularly Leo, to be a very private matter for the, for the family, and he doesn't want an intrusive attention, he'd much rather that they got on with the business of bringing up the baby as a family, in their own time and in their own way. It's a, I can, I can understand exactly why he was worried about all the press attention and all the photographs.

PETER SISSONS
So do you think the PCC should take a stern line on this one? Draw the line on little Leo here?

CHRIS SMITH
Well I think the, the PCC will obviously need to make up its own mind about what advice to give to the Prime Minister. They have, I have to say, had some very good guidelines in place now for a couple of years, particularly following the death of Princess Diana, and especially about the protection of children. There was clearly a need with Prince William and Prince Harry to make sure that the press acted in a responsible way, and on the whole I think those guidelines have worked.

PETER SISSONS
Now let's just move onto this, the other big event this week for you. You must be over the moon to have got shot of the Dome.

CHRIS SMITH
Well of course the Dome will continue for the remaining five months of the year as a, a major visitor attraction and I hope many hundreds of thousands of people are going to go and visit it during those five months. But what we have now been able to do is to reach agreement with Nomura that on the 31st December/1st of January they will take over the Dome, they're paying 105 million in order to do so, and they will then reconfigure and continue to use it as a major visitor attraction and help with the permanent regeneration of south east London.

PETER SISSONS
They've got it for practically nothing, haven't they? A hundred and five million to Nomura which thinks nothing of spending billions on, you know, its leisure interests - leisure investments - is, is small change.

CHRIS SMITH
I certainly wouldn't say they've got it for nothing - the hundred million pounds is not to be sneezed at - but of course what they want to do is put in a very substantial amount of investment as well, over the course of the next couple of years, in order to develop the attraction - and develop the area around it, because one of the crucial things that they're doing of course is not just buying the building, but they're buying an area of land around it and they will want to continue that work of regeneration, which actually has been one of the major points that the Millennium Commission certainly had in mind when it first decided to provide funds for the dome.

PETER SISSONS
Is that why you let Nomura have it for less than the other bidder, who, according to reports this weekend, was offering 50 million more?

CHRIS SMITH
Of course I wasn't personally involved in the decision that the -

PETER SISSONS
Yes but you must know -

CHRIS SMITH
- ministerial team took. I think that the thing that they bore in mind in this was that with Nomura the, the cash was already there, there didn't need to be a process of, of raising funds in order to, to provide the, the money. I think the team felt that there was more security in, in that - as I say this is purely second-hand information, I was not part of making that decision.

PETER SISSONS
And half the money, despite all the promises that the dome was not get a penny more, half the money is going to be ploughed back into the dome.

CHRIS SMITH
Well that is, of course, money that realises some of the asset that's been created by the creation of the dome in the first place, and I think that is indeed a perfectly legitimate way of ensuring that the dome itself can be handed over as a thriving and, I very much hope, extremely enjoyable attraction.

PETER SISSONS
And if, if it does thrive, and it becomes a lot more valuable, and the land around it becomes worth far more as a result, has the government taken the precaution of putting a little clause in saying can we have a share of that please, if Nomura really hits, hits gold.

CHRIS SMITH
Well there are provisions, as far as I understand it, in the contract with Nomura that mean that further benefit can be realised in due course, depending of course on what value is created and how successful it is. That would be only right and proper in any normal sort of commercial negotiation of this kind.

PETER SISSONS
So the government's in for a, in for a cut if Mr Guy Hands makes this a winner?

CHRIS SMITH
Well we obviously hope that it's going to be a winner and that it's going to continue to be a winner for many years to come. I notice that he is saying that it's their intention to continue using it as a visitor experience, visitor attraction, for at least 15 years - so I think we're talking quite long term here.

PETER SISSONS
Of course politicians tried to run the dome and that was, or at least they, they had a huge intake - input - into how it was run and what went into it, and many thought that was the big mistake. But they haven't tried to run the lottery, but they have allowed the lottery to become a political issue. Does the pledge in your 1997 manifesto, that you are committed to a not-for-profit lottery still stand?

CHRIS SMITH
Well what we said, of course, in the '97 manifesto, was that we would seek an efficient, not-for-profit operator. In fact what we have is two contending bids. One is from the existing operator, Camelot, who've teamed up with the Post Office and have changed a lot of the rules about remuneration of directors and so on - they've done a lot to improve the way in which they're putting forward their bid - and alongside them there's the bid from Richard Branson, the people's lottery bid, and that is a not-for-profit bid. So let me -

PETER SISSONS
for him really isn't it?

CHRIS SMITH
Not necessarily, because -

PETER SISSONS
Your backbenchers would after their - after that manifesto pledge - if you give it to Camelot.

CHRIS SMITH
Remember first of all, this is not a decision which I personally or the government takes. It's the Lottery Commission, a group of five eminent people who've been appointed to make an impartial decision on this. It's not something that the government can or should interfere with. And their, they are charged with looking at which of these two bids will produce the most for the good causes - for the arts, sport, heritage, health education and so on - that the lottery helps to fund.

PETER SISSONS
So if they come down for Camelot, again, you'd be perfectly happy with that - you'd accept that?

CHRIS SMITH
Well I have every confidence in them making an impartial judgement, a fair judgement, of the, the competing merits of the two bids.

PETER SISSONS
Camelot would be happy with that?

CHRIS SMITH
I'm actually delighted that there are two competing bids, because they're strong bids, they both have merits and I'm sure that what the Lottery Commission will be doing is examining those merits in minute detail so that they make the right decision at the end of the day.

PETER SISSONS
Is it good news that two big companies, Granada and Carlton, now control ITV? When it was set up I remember - I'm that old - when it was set up as a federation of local companies, in touch with local communities, giving lots of local news and for the big events they'd come together under the network and they would sell their programmes into the network - which is exactly how Granada started.

CHRIS SMITH
And of course remember we're not at that stage yet, there's still quite a lot of negotiation going on, but what certainly does seem to be the case is that we're moving towards a position where the two major dominant owning voices in ITV are going to be Granada and Carlton. Now I have no particular problem with that, and indeed the competition commission had no particular problem with that, provided that - and this is a very, very important proviso - provided that we don't lose the regional strength of ITV. Because one of the things that ITV has been most about over the whole of the last 30, 40 years, is that regional character, regional programme making -

PETER SISSONS
Who's - who's going to stop it being lost? Who's going - the ITC didn't stop News at Ten going.

CHRIS SMITH
Well of course they're now locked in a battle with ITV, saying that there is a need to bring the News at 11 further forward during the evening.

PETER SISSONS
But who's going to - who's going to stop these things happening to IT - who's going to stop it being one big company eventually, called ITV Inc, which will be, you know, have a, a huge ability to manipulate advertising rates, the way that all their little small companies couldn't?

CHRIS SMITH
Two, two things to say on that - the first is that at the moment there are the, the franchises in place, each of, when you, when you buy a particular company what you're buying is the existing contract, which specifies very clearly what you have to deliver in terms of regional programming. But beyond that, what I want to see is in the new regulatory environment, and we're doing a lot of work at the moment to think through how the shape of regulation, for both telecommunications and television, should be in this exploding world of, of new communications. What we want to ensure is that that regulatory environment ensures regional strength within the ITV -

PETER SISSONS
You're talking of regulatory environment but a lot, a lot of people do share the view of the Daily Mail - "Welcome"- talking of the ITC - "to Britain's most useless, spineless and politically correct watchdog. The same body which presided over the death of serious news on ITV now proposes to allow sexual intercourse to be depicted on screen before the nine o'clock watershed, despite the fact that most parents already believe there's too much adult material on TV in the early evening. " What use is the ITC?

CHRIS SMITH
Well as I said earlier on, they are in fact being very robust and being prepared to go to court if necessary, on the issue of News at Ten, because they've quite rightly identified that with the shift of news away from ten o'clock on ITV, what's happened is that we've lost something like over one million viewers to news altogether from television. And given that television is the major source of news that people get, in a democracy I think that's quite worrying.

PETER SISSONS
Are you happy -

CHRIS SMITH
The ITC have agreed with that and they're now taking pretty firm action.

PETER SISSONS
Are you happy about simulated sexual intercourse before the nine o'clock watershed.

CHRIS SMITH
Well we need to see exactly what's proposed here of course but I would say quite strongly to all the broadcasters that the watershed is important, even in an age when

PETER SISSONS
You say important, why don't you say sacrosanct?

CHRIS SMITH
The - well it's not for me as a politician to tell broadcasters what to do, so it's actually very important that the state doesn't control broadcasting in this country. What I can do is express a view, and I would certainly express a very strong view to the broadcasters that the watershed is something they need to continue to pay very close attention to.

PETER SISSONS
One of the views that you've expressed is that the BBC may need a regulator and the board of governors should be replaced by the regulator, or overseen by the regulator. Does that really show an understanding of what the BBC is? The gov - the board of governors of the BBC are, are they not, constitutionally the BBC! If you were to replace them or give them a supervisory body, that would really amount to a sort of political interference which the BBC has never had before.

CHRIS SMITH
No. There must not be political interference - that is very clear. But there is an issue about whether it is right that the BBC board of governors is both the ultimate management of the organisation and the ultimate regulators of the organisation. Now the BBC is special, it has to remain special - it is the premier public service broadcasters in this country. It's why we have the licence fee. And in an age of multi-channel television, the BBC is actually the best bulwark we have to ensure quality in television into the future.

PETER SISSONS
Of course now the BBC's got its licence settlement for the next seven years, there is a view that it doesn't have to take any notice of you at all - that it can treat your views as that of any other licence payer.

CHRIS SMITH
Well they - they have their licence fee settlement - I'm very pleased they have their licence fee settlement because it enables them to, to programme, plan properly for the future and I will continue to remind them all the time, whatever the regulatory provision may be, that it's a benchmark of quality that the BBC has to remain.

PETER SISSONS
Chris Smith, thank you very much for joining us this morning. Now an update on the news, the news headlines from Moira Stewart.

[NEWS]

PETER SISSONS
And just before we leave, Chris Smith, do you - what are your views, what are the government's views about the News of the World publishing these paedophile profiles? Just very briefly.

CHRIS SMITH
Well very worried. I can see exactly why the News of the World wants to do this and it's a noble motive to say we want to ensure that paedophiles and the issue of paedophiles are more widely discuss, discussed and known and protected - and the children are properly protected, but I fear that this is not the right way of going about doing it and I think it would be very wise for the News of the World to listen very carefully to the advice of the police in this matter.

PETER SISSONS
Chris Smith, thank you again. Well as Betty, Betty Boothroyd used to remind us, times up - and time's up for me too, with Sir David still in his deckchair, Anne McKenzie will be in this chair next week and I trust you'll be able to tune in again. There's more news on the hour every hour on the BBC's digital channel BBC News 24 but from all of us here today a very good morning.

ENDS

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
BBC RADIO NEWS
BBC ONE TV NEWS
WORLD NEWS SUMMARY
PROGRAMMES GUIDE











E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Breakfast with Frost stories