§ Mr. Bartlett
(By Private Notice) asked the Minister of Information whether, in order to keep the Yugoslav people informed of developments and to encourage their resistance to their Government's policy of surrender, the B.B.C. will temporarily cut down other European broadcasts and devote several hours a day to broadcasts in Serbo-Croatian?
The B.B.C. have already increased their Serbo-Croat time period from 45 to 70 minutes, and a further 10 minutes are about to be added. This will provide six regular periods of news and talk, which is the same amount as is given in the Home Service. The number of available Serbo-Croat experts in England is limited, and it is more a question of lack of staff than of available time; it must, however, also be remembered that any alteration of the European schedule, for however short a time, inevitably leads to a loss of regular listeners in other countries. I am inquiring whether it may be possible to extend still further the time devoted to broadcasts to Jugoslavia.
§ Mr. Bartlett
Is it not a fact that in all these other countries the assurance that for the time being, in the hope of saving one more country from coming under Hitler, we have cut down the time normally devoted to them will be readily accepted, and that there is a considerable number of Serbo-Croats in this country who have put in for jobs at the B.B.C. in the past and who could be got at this moment?
The suggestion will be borne in mind. We are doing all we can to find the necessary number of people who can speak the language. The Secretary of State for India, who includes a knowledge of this language among his many attainments, is broadcasting to the Serbo-Croat people to-night.
§ Captain Plugge
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the transmissions to which he has referred are on short waves only and that short-wave receivers in Serbia are practically non-existent; and that owing to the failure of the Government to establish medium-wave stations in Cyprus, Malta and Gibraltar, no medium-wave transmissions from this country ever reach that part of the world? We have, therefore, left an open field to Germany to enforce the Axis views on the 573 whole of the Balkans. Is it impossible for the Government to establish stations in Cyprus such as I recommended eight months ago in a speech in this House?
The hon. and gallant Member is aware that we are steadily doing all in our power to increase the number of transmitters, both in this country and in other parts of the Empire, but it is not always desirable to say where they are and from what wavelength they are going to work. I am satisfied that while the number of short-wave receiving sets in Serbia is limited, the broadcasts we have delivered are widely listened to and are still being listened to by the Serbo-Croat people.
§ Captain Plugge
Is it not a fact that under present conditions the whole policy of broadcasting facilities in this country is virtually in the hands of the engineering department of the B.B.C. and that when my right hon. Friend makes good suggestions for expansion they are turned down by the engineering department of the B.B.C. as impossible and that he is obliged to take their decision as final? Has he not some other body to which he can refer for an independent opinion on such a vital subject, and is it fair that the policy of expansion of such an important war weapon as broadcasting should be left in the hands of a B.B.C. department and not really in the hands of my right hon. Friend?
I do not think that the hon. and gallant Member's question arises out of the Question put by special leave of Mr. Deputy-Speaker as one of immediate and urgent interest. If I were to answer it at any length, the House would be compelled to take part in a Debate on broadcasting.
§ Mr. de Rothschild
In view of the difficulty that may exist with regard to receiving sets in Serbia, will my right hon. Friend urge the Greeks and also Ankara to broadcast in Serbo-Croat in order that the news from those countries could be heard in Yugoslavia and in order that the great effect which news from those countries would have would penetrate to the people of that country?
Those countries can broadcast to Yugoslavia, and we are able also to broadcast to Yugoslavia from Cairo and other places.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
As a considerable number of people in Yugoslavia speak Albanian, will the right hon. Gentleman consider increasing the Albanian transmissions in the next few days?
§ Captain Plugge
With regard to the last reply of my right hon. Friend about the difficulties of obtaining transmitters, after my visit to America eight months ago I informed him that it would have been possible to establish two high-power medium-wave stations immediately in Cyprus, which would have covered the Balkans.