HC Deb 04 February 1942 vol 377 cc1163-6
16. Mr. Viant

asked the Minister of Information the nature of the reorganisation effected in the British Broadcasting Corporation; and the reason for the same?

18. Mr. Evelyn Walkden

asked the Minister of Information whether he can make any statement on the resignation of Mr. Ogilvie, the Director General of the British Broadcasting Corporation; whether he was consulted before the Governors decided to appoint two director generals in his place; and whether the changes will involve any extension of the present Government control of the programmes and other activities of the British Broadcasting Corporation?

21. Mr. Lipson

asked the Minister of Information whether he w11 make a statement about the recent changes in the directorship of the British Broadcasting Corporation?

The Minister of Information (Mr. Brendan Bracken)

Hon. Members will have seen the statement which the Governors of the B.B.C. issued to the public on 26th January. A reorganisation of the B.B.C. necessitated by the war-time expansion of its services has been in progress for some time. In order to facilitate the task of the Governors in carrying out this reorganisation, the late Director-General, Mr. F. W. Ogilvie, placed his resignation in their hands. The Governors accepted it and appointed Sir Cecil Graves and Mr. Robert Foot to discharge the duties of Director-General jointly for the duration of the war.

I was informed beforehand that this joint appointment would be considered. I felt, however, that this was a matter which the Corporation should decide for themselves and upon which I could offer no advice on behalf of the Government. The relations between the Ministry and the B.B.C. are in no way affected by this change. I should like to pay tribute to the arduous work of the retiring Director-General over a period of four years, during the latter half of which the services of the B.B.C. have developed into a most potent weapon of war. I would only add that I have full confidence in the ability of his two successors to fulfil their onerous task.

Mr. Lawson

Will my right hon. Friend refrain from inflicting on the House the same kind of thing that the B.B.C. does by talking about "In order to facilitate the reorganisation of the B.B.C., Mr. F. W. Ogilvie placed his resignation in the hands of the Governors"? That is really an insult to the intelligence, and the right hon. Gentlemal ought not to treat the House of Commons in the same way as the B.B.C. treat the public.

Mr. Bracken

I cannot understand that criticism. Mr. Ogilvie placed his resignation in the hands of the Governors.

Mr. Lipson

Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that the resignation of Mr. Ogilvie was made entirely on the initiative of the Governors of the B.B.C. and was not in any sense inspired by sources associated with the Government?

Mr. Bracken

I have already told the House that the Government expressed no opinion about the resignation of Mr. Ogilvie or the appointment of his successors.

Mr. E. Walkden

Does this reorganisation mean more dictatorial control of the B.B.C. by the Ministry of Information? Can we have a frank statement whether Mr. Ogilvie was sacked and told to go, or was he asked to put in his cards right away?

Mr. Bracken

I think that my hon. Friend must not have heard me when I said that no change was involved in the relationship of the B.B.C. to the Ministry of Information. It is not my business to delve into the domestic affairs of the Governors of the B.B.C. They are supposed to be an independent body. Why should I try to elicit from them what arrangements they are making about their staff?

Mr. Walkden

Are they not responsible to this House?

Mr. Viant

It not the Minister of Information responsible to this House for giving replies to Questions relating to the B.B.C., and in these circumstances are we not justified in asking that the Minister shall satisfy himself about the relationship between the ex-Governor and the existing B.B.C. controllers, so that he might reply to Questions that are put in the House?

Mr. Bracken

I am perfectly willing, if the House so desires, to write to the Governors of the B.B.C. and ask them whether they would like to put in writing what exactly happened. I must point oat that I am often asked Questions about too much Government interference in the B.B.C., and great indignation is expressed from time to time that the -Government do interfere. The House cannot have it every way. Either they want the Governors to have a certain amount of independence or they want to make the B.B.C. an appendage of the Ministry of Information which would be a very bad thing.