HC Deb 15 February 1937 vol 320 cc829-33
31. Commander Bower

asked the Postmaster-General from what Press agency or other source was obtained the statement interpolated in the British Broadcasting Corporation's news bulletin at 8.50 p.m. on Sunday, 7th February, to the effect that a considerable number of Conservative Members of Parliament had changed their opinions concerning the return of the German colonies?

The Postmaster-General (Major Tryon)

It was made quite clear, in the broadcast

Mr. Ramsbotham

As the reply includes a table of figures, I propose, with my hon. Friend's permission, to circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the reply:

The markets in respect of which prices of eggs are received by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries do not include any in Oxfordshire. The following table shows average prices paid for eggs to producers by retailers, as reported by the Ministry's market reporters, at certain markets in the neighbouring county of Wiltshire in each of the past six months, together with the average wholesale prices of the principal feeding stuffs for poultry. The Ministry has no particulars of retail prices of eggs in Oxfordshire or the adjacent counties?

news bulletin referred to, that a statement published in a Berlin newspaper was being described, and the name of the newspaper was given. The statement was obtained in ordinary course from Reuters.

Commander Bower

Does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman think it desirable that such a highly speculative item of political information should be broadcast in the way it was? Does he think that we of this party are at all grateful for having our minds made up for us by this broadcast?

Major Tryon

I think my hon. and gallant Friend does not realise that the question does not give an accurate account of the broadcast. There was no reference whatever to Conservative Members, but to Conservative circles, whatever that means.

Mr. Thurtle

Does not the right hon. and gallant Gentleman realise that it is the normal procedure for Conservative Members of Parliament to change their opinions?

Major Tryon

No, Sir.

33. Captain Ramsay

asked the Postmaster-General whether he is aware that in the daily reports issued by the British Broadcasting Corporation regarding proceedings in Parliament an impression of bias is aroused frequently owing to lack of proportion and perspective; and, in order to avoid this in the future, will he consider requiring the British Broadcasting Corporation to submit proposed bulletins to the Whips of each party before they are issued?

Major Tryon

On the question of impartiality, I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the answer which I gave to my hon. and learned Friend, the Member for East Leicester (Mr. Lyons) on 25th January. The proposal that news reports of the proceedings in Parliament should be submitted to the Whips of each party before being broadcast, even if it were practicable, would not, I think, be welcomed either by the Whips or by the House.

Captain Ramsay

While thanking the Postmaster-General for his reply, and without discussing whether this may be a desirable method or not, may I ask him whether in view of the fact that the reporting of the Debates does not give the proper proportion and perspective it may not be given in a different way? Is there no other method of which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman can think in order to see that the public get a fair picture of what actually takes place?

Major Tryon

I listened to the report of the Debate relating to coal last Friday, and I thought it was quite admirable and brought out the points made on both sides without any partiality whatever.

35. Sir N. Stewart Sandeman

asked the Postmaster-General whether, in the case of broadcasting generally, and especially in the case of broadcast talks of a supposedly educational nature, precautions are taken to ensure that the matter to be broadcast does not contain anything in the nature of propaganda?

41. Sir A. Knox

asked the Postmaster-General whether he will make representations to the British Broadcasting Corporation to prevent the repetition of Soviet propaganda such as has been included in recent broadcasts to schools?

42. Commander Bower

asked the Postmaster-General whether any steps are taken to ensure that broadcast talks for schools contain no propaganda for or against the political or economic systems of foreign countries?

Major Tryon

I am informed by the British Broadcasting Corporation that great care is taken to exclude political propaganda from its programmes for schools, and that it is not aware of there having been any departure from this rule. If my hon. Friends will furnish me with any evidence to the contrary, I shall be happy to bring it to the notice of the British Broadcasting Corporation.

Sir N. Stewart Sandeman

Who is responsible for these broadcasts?

Major Tryon

The British Broadcasting Corporation under their Charter.

Sir A. Knox

Will the Postmaster-General ask for a copy of the broadcast for schools by Professor John Hilton last Tuesday morning, which was full of fulsome praise for a certain foreign Government? Is it fair to tax owners of receiving sets in order to have such broadcasts spread among their children?

Major Tryon

I am not aware that the gentleman referred to is a Communist or is in any way propagating Communist doctrines. I hope the hon. and gallant Member will read the broadcasts rather than accounts about the broadcasts in the newspapers.

36. Vice-Admiral Taylor

asked the Postmaster-General whether his attention has been called to the continued use of the British Broadcasting Corporation for the dissemination of Communist propaganda; and whether he will bring the matter to the attention of the governors of the British Broadcasting Corporation?

43. Commander Bower

asked the Postmaster-General whether his attention has been called to the increasing tendency of the British Broadcasting Corporation in indulging in left-wing propaganda, both in its presentation of news and in the talks broadcast and printed; and whether he will call the attention of the Government to the matter?

Major Tryon

I am always careful to convey to the British Broadcasting Corporation any representations affecting the corporation which are addressed to me by Members of this House, and I am glad to bear witness to the full and ready attention which the governors give to anything which I bring to their notice on behalf of hon. Members. As regards broadcasts on political subjects, the Ullswater Committee, after detailed examination, reported in favourable terms on the manner in which the corporation discharges its responsibility for maintaining a fair balance between two conflicting points of view. I would remind my hon. and gallant Friends that this House has repeatedly affirmed the principle that the constitutional independence of the corporation should be preserved. The continuance of this policy was recently recommended by the Ullswater Committee, approved by the Government and confirmed by this House.

Vice-Admiral Taylor

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman not aware of the very widespread uneasiness and feeling there is throughout the country at the British Broadcasting Corporation putting over Communist propaganda, especially as regards the children in the schools? May I ask him also whether—

Mr. Speaker

We have been debating this matter for the last 10 minutes.

Vice-Admiral Taylor

May I have an answer?

Forward to