HC Deb 12 March 1941 vol 369 cc1269-71
24. Mr. McGovern

asked the Minister of Information whether he will set up a committee to inquire into the policy adopted by the British Broadcasting Corporation of refusing to allow persons having pacifist views to broadcast?

The Minister of Information (Mr. Duff Cooper)

No, Sir.

Mr. McGovern

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the growing anxiety among a large number of people in this country at the exclusion of people from the microphone—that on account of their pacifist views they are not allowed to broadcast music and literature? Is he aware that there is this growing anxiety among people, many of whom support this war and think it is a great contradiction that we should be pretending to fight for liberty and at the same time adopting Nazi methods at the B.B.C.?

Mr. Cooper

I am replying later to a Question by the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) on the whole subject, and perhaps the hon. Member will wait for that Question to be reached.

Mr. Liddall

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that 90 per cent. of our people do not want to listen to pacifists?

27. Mr. Noel-Baker

asked the Minister of Information whether he has come to a decision as to the policy to be followed in future by the British Broadcasting Corporation in connection with the non-employment of artistes holding certain political or religious opinions?

Mr. Cooper

It has been the policy of the B.B.C. not to invite to the microphone persons who have taken part in public agitation against the national war effort. I see no reason why the Governors should be asked to revise this policy.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider again whether this principle ought to apply to artistes who are not expressing opinions in any way whatever, and if he does not feel able to ask the B.B.C. to reconsider the principle, will he at least ask them to reconsider the cases connected with the People's Convention, where their decision served no useful purpose and simply gave advertisement to a current of opinion which commands no national support or even respect?

Mr. Cooper

Yes, Sir. I think some confusion arose over the People's Convention Many of those who attended it did so without any reprehensible motive. I have asked the Governors of the B.B.C. to reconsider those cases, and they have consented to do so. On the general question, I would say that in my opinion it is not the business of the B.B.C. to ascertain what are the private opinions of artistes, but when artistes, apart from their artistic activities, take an active part in public agitations, then they must expect not to be given the great privilege, for it is a privilege and not a right, of being employed by the B.B.C.

Mr. Lipson

Will my right hon. Friend make it clear that there is no discrimination so far as religious opinions are concerned?

Mr. Cooper

That is so.

Mr. Maxton

Have we not a right to expect from the B.B.C, a publicly-owned corporation, the same kind of freedom for its employés as is granted by a privately-owned newspaper?

Mr. Cooper

That is an entirely different matter.

Mr. Maxton

I hope so.

Mr. Kenneth Lindsay

Does the right hon. Gentleman confirm the view expressed by the Lord Privy Seal yesterday that there should be no discrimination and the statement that that was the attitude of the Government?

Mr. Cooper

My right hon. Friend was speaking about the right of free speech. Certainly there should be no discrimination against people expressing views which may not be popular. Everybody has the right of free speech, but not everybody has a right to expect the privilege of exercising free speech through the B.B.C.