HC Deb 06 November 1940 vol 365 cc1319-22
17. Sir F. Sanderson

asked the Minister of Information whether he is aware that at the present time, this country uses only five wavelengths for Broadcasting, whereas Germany had 40 stations which, including the countries which she now occupies, has increased to over 100 stations, a great number of which are far more powerful than any of the British broadcasting stations; and as it is easier for people in England to tune-in to a German broadcasting station than to a British, will he give urgent and immediate consideration to the whole question of broadcasting?

Mr. Cooper

The hon Member's comparisons between our own broadcasting resources and those under enemy control do not give an accurate statement of the position, but it is the case that Germans have a large preponderance of wavelengths at their command. The present system of transmission in this country has been designed to give the best possible service without at the same time affording valuable navigational aid to enemy aircraft. The fullest use and development of our wavelengths and stations, within the limitations imposed, is under constant review by the Ministry of Information, in consultation with the Air Ministry and the B.B.C., and we are all aware that there is scope for improvement. The German transmission is faced with similar problems and is frequently completely closed down.

Sir F. Sanderson

Is the Minister aware that Greece is already complaining that all the wireless propaganda emanates from Germany and Italy; is it not also the fact that the B.B.C. services cannot reach Albania and Greece on the present broadcasting wavelength?

Mr. Cooper

No, Sir, the last point is not the case. The B.B.C. can reach Albania and Greece; but it must be obvious to everybody that the Germans and Italians are in a very much better position to do so than is Great Britain, and that they have an opportunity of jamming our broadcasts. An attempt is made to reach the Near East from other stations.

Captain Plugge

Is not the Minister aware that the constitution of the B.B.C. precludes it from carrying out propaganda abroad and that, for the last 10 years, at international conferences it has urged that broadcasting should be for internal use only; therefore, that neither its machinery nor its equipment is satisfactory to carry out this type of work; and may I ask my right hon. Friend whether it will—

Mr. Speaker rose

Mr. Noel-Baker

Will the Government make every effort in their power to increase our transmissions for foreign work, and in particular to Germany and the Baltic countries?

Captain Plugge

On a point of Order. May I not challenge a Minister upon his reply regarding the audibility of our broadcasting stations in Greece? The broadcasting hand channels at present used by the B.B.C. are not audible in the daylight in either Greece or Albania and at night can only be received on the most powerful sets situated in the most favourable positions.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. and gallant Member can do so in a Supplementary Question, but he appeared to be making a statement and developing an argument, which can be done only in the course of debate.

Mr. Cooper

I can assure the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) that we are fully aware of the importance of increasing our transmissions, and that every step is being taken to that end.

Mr. R. Gibson

Is the Minister aware that the Home Service programme is inaudible in Scotland?

18. Sir F. Sanderson

asked the Minister of Information whether he is aware that British broadcasts suffer from jamming and that not only people at home, but many countries on the Continent, particularly including ordinary French radio sets, are unable to pick up our programmes; and will he take steps to remedy this state of affairs?

Mr. Cooper

I am aware that the enemy attempts to jam certain of our broadcasts in foreign languages. There is evidence that these attempts are not wholly successful. Advice is frequently given to listeners in the countries affected, with the object of helping them to get the best possible reception of our programmes.

19. Sir F. Sanderson

asked the Minister of Information whether he is aware that there is a growing feeling among the people of this country and in France that the British Government should take greater advantage of the possibilities of broadcasting by considerably increasing the broadcasting facilities for talks and information, in view of the fact that throughout unoccupied France the great majority of the people are ignorant of what is, in fact, happening outside France; and will he consider instituting a more concentrated propaganda?

Mr. Cooper

The possibilities of broadcasting are limited by the number of transmitters available, and, despite the obvious importance of our broadcasts in France, more time cannot at present be given to them without damaging other essential services. In fact, seven quarter-hour news bulletins are broadcast daily to France and French overseas posses-while three further periods, amounting to one hour and a quarter, are devoted to talks and other material. Evidence is accumulating that these full and informative broadcasts are heard by a large number of people throughout the whole of France, despite the attempts of the enemy [...]o make reception impossible. The broadcasting facilities at the disposal of the B.B.C. are being increased, so that in due course more will be possible.

Sir F. Sanderson

Is the Minister aware that I am receiving a large number of letters from all over the country complaining bitterly about our broadcasting, and will he give an assurance to the House that he will do all he can to improve it?

Mr. Cooper

Yes, Sir.

Captain Plugge

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the wavelength power at the disposal of the Germans in France is equivalent to five times the amount of the broadcasting B.B.C. transmissions in their entirety, and, in view of the fact that our transmissions to France represent only 2 per cent. of the time of the B.B.C. transmission, will he tell the House why this safe-saving method of warfare is denied to our Fighting Services and our civilian population?

Mr. Cooper

I cannot guarantee the accuracy of the figures given by my hon. and gallant Friend. The House is, of course, aware that the Germans have at their disposal not only their own equipment but that of Belgium, Holland and France. Therefore, we are suffering at the present moment from a preponderance which it will take a long time to make good, but I can assure the House that everything is being done to increase the equipment at our disposal.

Sir P. Harris

Will the Minister consider appointing a committee to inquire into methods of improving the wavelength available for broadcasting, or the appointment of a special technical committee of experts to survey the whole problem?

Mr. Cooper

I will consider that possibility, but the matter is under continual survey by the best engineers in the country.

Sir Irving Albery

In view of the evident anxiety in this House over this important question of broadcasting, will the Minister welcome the opportunity at an early date of debating the whole question?

Mr. Cooper

Yes, Sir, I have no objection.

Mr. Gallacher

Is not the Minister aware that quality is the essential factor, and in order to get that factor, will he introduce some Marxian propaganda?

20. Mr. Vernon Bartlett

asked the Minister of Information what steps are being taken to build new broadcasting transmitters to counteract the propaganda from transmitting stations that have come under Nazi rule?

Mr. Cooper

I would refer the hon. Member to the answer given yesterday by my hon. Friend to the hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir I. Albery).