§ 9.42 p.m.
§ The Assistant Postmaster-General (Mr. Hobson)
I beg to move,That the Agreement, dated 8th June, 1950, between His Majesty's Postmaster-General and the British Broadcasting Corporation, a copy of which was laid before this House on 15th June, be approved.The Agreement provides for the preparation by the British Broadcasting Corporation of programmes to be broadcast from Radio Ceylon. Radio Ceylon will probably be better remembered by many hon. Members on both sides of the House as Radio S.E.A.C, which proved of such value to our troops who were fighting in the Far Eastern theatre during the last war.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations announced on 1st March, 1949, that the broadcasting station known as Radio Ceylon was to be transferred by His Majesty's Government to the Government -of Ceylon, and arrangements were then made for the British Broadcasting Corporation programmes to be broadcast from this station. Under the terms of the Agreement approved by the House on 2593 20th January, 1949, the B.B.C. is constructing a high-powered station at Singapore. This should be ready for use early in 1951.
Meanwhile, the British Broadcasting Corporation is broadcasting from a low-power station which is already in existence at Singapore, and the additional transmissions from the powerful station in Ceylon are a valuable supplement to the B.B.C.'s services to South-East Asia and the Far East generally. It will also include the broadcasting of programmes for the British Forces serving in that part of the world.
Since 1st April, 1949, the Ceylon Government have provided all the technical facilities for transmitting the programmes which are prepared by the British Broadcasting Corporation. The cost of the service will be paid by the Corporation out of its grant-in-aid for the overseas services. The present operations of the B.B.C. in Ceylon are covered by an interim agreement made in correspondance between the Corporation and my Department. The Agreement which is before the House is intended to provide for the continuation of the existing service until such time as the new station. Radio Malaya. is available.
The Agreement applies to the services from Ceylon, with necessary adaptations, the provisions relating to the operations of the overseas services from the United Kingdom which are contained in the British Broadcasting Corporation's Licence and Agreement dated 29th November, 1946, and approved by the House on 11th December, 1946. The Licence and Agreement relate solely to stations operating in the British Isles, and for the reason that the existing agreement deals only with stations operating in the British Isles, there has to be this new Agreement to deal with Radio Ceylon, which is now before the House for approval.
This Agreement falls within the scope of Standing Orders Nos. 87 and 88, which provide that all contracts for the purpose of telegraphic communication beyond the seas extending over a period of two years and creating a public charge must be approved by a resolution of the House. One point I ought to mention is that the Agreement contains the fair wages Clause which was approved by the House in October, 1946, and which is 2594 incorporated in the Licence of the British Broadcasting Corporation. The latter was approved in December, 1946, and is the basis on which broadcasting takes place at the present time and governs the relationship between my right hon. Friend and the B.B.C. I therefore ask the House to approve the Motion.
§ 9.48 p.m.
§ Mr. R. V. Grimston (Westbury)
There are several matters in connection with this Agreement which I and my hon. Friends wish to discuss. One of them is a House of Commons matter and the other is the question of our Far Eastern broadcasting.
If I may deal first with the House of Commons matter, it is a surprise to us that the arrangement which we are now asked to approve has been going on for some 15 months, yet this is the first time that the House has been officially informed of it. It is hardly the way to treat the House, and it is the more surprising because during the Debate to which the hon. Gentleman referred, when approval was given to Command Paper 7584 to set up this new station, two Ministers spoke—himself and the then Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs—and no reference was made then to this arrangement which, if not actually in operation, had already been the subject of correspondence between the Postmaster-General and the B.B.C.
I do not wish to labour this point. but—
§ Mr. Hobson
I think the hon. Member will appreciate that the Agreement had to be negotiated before it could be laid before the House. Furthermore, the Standing Orders under which the Agreement is placed before the House specify "a period of years." We were not to know precisely when the new station would be ready.
§ Mr. Grimston
The date when the new station would be ready is beside the point. What I am saying is that these arrangements with the B.B.C., which we are now asked to approve have been in operation for 15 months. Had the Government wished, they could have informed the House much earlier than this and they would have been treating the House with more courtesy had they done so, particularly as an opportunity presented itself on the occasion of the previous Debate 2595 to which I have referred. I say no more, except to ask the House to note what 'has happened, and that we are now asked to sanction something, which we have to sanction, 15 months after it has started.
The other point to which I wish to refer is the very large issue which is raised by the Agreement of the whole question of our broadcasts to the Far East. It is almost superfluous, particularly at present, with what must be in the mind of every hon. Member to over-stress the importance of broadcasting in the Far East. Paragraph 3 (2) of the Agreement sets out the way in which the Government responsibility for overseas broadcasts works. I think I should be giving a fair picture if I said that the Government take responsibility to prescribe the languages and times to be used for foreign broadcasts. It is laid down that the B.B.C. must consult such Departments as are specified by the Postmaster-General. Within this framework, the B.B.C. must then produce broadacsts which are in the national interest.
§ Mr. Grimston
I quite agree. That happens to be the period that has been put in the Agreement, but I think I am right in saying that the Government have specified that period of 8½ hours. Furthermore, they specify in the manner I have indicated, by saying what languages are to be used and what Departments the B.B.C. must consult in the make-up of the programmes.
§ The question we now have to ask ourselves is what is the paramount national interest at present in the Far East. I would suggest that it is that the power of the radio should be used to the uttermost to stem the advance of Communism in the Far East. I do not believe that anyone on either side of the House would dispute that.
This raises the question of what type of broadcast is the most suitable and effective for this purpose. I do not pretend to be an expert, but I ask the House for a moment to look at what is now happening in the way of these broadcasts.
I understand that the B.B.C. project Britain, as one might term it, in accordance with what was laid down in the Government White Paper on Broadcasting Policy (Cmd. 6852) of July, 1946. That is the line upon which the B.B.C. is working, and I think it will be useful if I quote to the House exactly what that White Paper lays down. It says:
As far as the content of the overseas services is concerned, the Government consider that great care should be taken to ensure the complete objectivity of the news bulletins which will form the kernel of all overseas broadcasts. The Corporation's reputation for telling the truth must be maintained and the treatment of an item in an overseas news bulletin must not differ in any material respect from its treatment in current news bulletins for domestic listeners.
§ I think it is important that the House should take note of the framework under which the B.B.C. are at present performing these broadcasts. What we have to note here is that under any reasonable definition this would exclude propaganda.
§ The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. Gordon-Walker)
§ Mr. Grimston
I see that the right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. We shall look forward to hearing what he says about that. Speaking not as an expert, but, I hope, with common sense, it seems to me that what will go for a sophisticated listener in Great Britain and impress him, is not necessarily the same sort of thing that should be used in the Far East if we are to use the broadcast to the fullest advantage.
The B.B.C. has no monopoly of broadcasting in the Far East and at present some of the Colonial Governments are carrying on their own broadcast services. I would mention, in particular, Radio Malaya and Radio Hong Kong. I am told that in both cases while the presentation of news is just as truthful as that which is put out by the B.B.C. it is done in a much more colourful manner and that propaganda is definitely regarded and used by those stations as a necessary function for the end we have in view.
I am told, for instance, that one feature is "This is Communism" which is putting colourfully on the broadcast the sort of thing which can happen under Communism. I understand that that type of propaganda is not done by the B.B.C, 2597 but it is quite evident that the people on the spot in South-East Asia who have control of Colonial broadcasting stations believe that it is the right line. Those stations are much less powerful, and it seems a pity that the more powerful sations operated by the B.B.C. should not be used to put out the type of broadcast and the type of propaganda that those on the spot believe to be the right kind to have the maximum effect in the Far East.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman to say something on two points and to give an assurance on one. The first is that the Government will, at least, consider whether the type of broadcast which is being put out at present under the Ceylon Agreement and which will be put out later when the new station is in operation is really the type best suited for the end we have in mind. In other words, I ask whether we can afford, in present conditions, to stick to the very high ideal of the B.B.C. at home, with which none of us quarrel, but which at present is not sufficient to do all that is necessary in the Far East.
I should also like an assurance that whatever decision may be reached with regard to the B.B.C. broadcasts when the new station comes into operation both Radio Malaya and Radio Hong Kong, which are independent of the B.B.C, will be maintained.
§ Mr. Grimston
There is one other small point upon which I seek information. If the right hon. Gentleman will look at Clause 3 (3) of the Agreement he will note that it says:The Corporation shall obtain any necessary approval of the Government of Ceylon to the schedule of broadcast programmes.How far that brings the Government of Ceylon into actual control of the programmes turns on what is meant by "the schedule of broadcast programmes." A number of my hon. Friends who have more on-the-spot knowledge of these matters than I have wish to address the House. I would only reiterate that we feel this matter to be of great importance. I repeat that I am glad to see the right hon. Gentleman here to reply. We feel that the situation with which we are now 2598 confronted in the Far East calls for the maximum impact of the weapon of broadcasting, and, quite frankly, some of us are not satisfied that this will be achieved by what I would describe as somewhat slavish adherence to aloof objectivity.
§ 10.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Profumo (Stratford)
I hope, Mr. Speaker, that you will be able to permit this Debate to range over a fairly wide field. I do so for two reasons. The first is because we are discussing this always important problem of broadcasting against the very serious background of the Far Eastern situation and the threat of war to the whole world. Therefore, it becomes much more important than it might otherwise have been. The second reason is because of the point which my hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Mr. R. V. Grimston) has just mentioned—that we find it strange that this Agreement is only now brought before the House although broadcasting has been taking place without the authority of the House of Commons since April, 1949.
I have heard what the Assistant Postmaster-General has said about not knowing how long it would be. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman could tell us whether it was a fact that at the time when this House was debating the original Agreement the Government of Ceylon had agreed to grant our Government this facility, and that the Posmaster- General at that time invited the B.B.C. to operate that service. At all events, it seems strange that only now we are asked to sanction this Agreement. Perhaps it is in line with the Government's—
§ Mr. Hobson
As soon as the Agreement has been reached it has been placed before the House. It could not be placed before the House until agreement was reached. The alternative would have been no broadcasting. The broadcasting took place on the basis of an exchange of letters. Otherwise, there would have been a vacuum.
§ Mr. Profumo
I am not impressed by what the hon. Gentleman says. Why was agreement not reached earlier? Why was the Government's interest in the matter such that it could make an arrangement only by an exchange of letters? As I was saying, it is in line with the Government's ideas on retrospective legislation to 2599 ask us to agree to something which has been in operation for some time.
My hon. Friends and I welcome this Agreement and the fact that it has been brought about. We hope that the construction of the high-power station in Singapore will be speeded up, and that it will be completed earlier than expected. It is obviously a matter of great importance. Whatever I may now say, I would first state that I have the greatest admiration for senior officials of the B.B.C. I believe them to be doing an extremely good job. During the last two or three years I have had some very close contacts with people there. But my criticism is this, that there is not enough attention and supervision given by the Government to their activities.
Perhaps it might help the House if I spent a moment or two clarifying the broadcasting situation in the Far East. First of all, we have the B.B.C. which is responsible for operating three services; first, the Far Eastern station at Singapore which relays from the Far Eastern and General Overseas Service of the B.B.C. here in England and that is broadcast for about seven-and-a-quarter hours each day in a variety of languages with which I will not trouble the House. Second, we have the direct transmission from this country in the Far Eastern programme which takes up about three-and-three-quarter hours each day. That goes out in many different languages. Third, we have Radio Ceylon relaying the Eastern, Far Eastern and General overseas programme for about eight-and-a-half hours each day, also in a variety of different languages.
The B.B.C. is not the only broadcasting service in the Far East. The Colonial Governments carry on two services which are very important services indeed. There is the Radio Malaya with stations at Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Malacca. In addition there is Radio Hong Kong. On what lines are these separate missiles of the ether being run? The broadcasts from Radio Malaya and Radio Hong Kong develop much more punch and appeal to their listeners than broadcasts carried out under the auspices of the B.B.C.
Propaganda is carried out in these programmes. They make no bones about it. They believe their job to be one of propaganda 2600 the same way as I believe it to be the job of the B.B.C. to include propaganda in its programmes. After all, we are being asked tonight to sanction expenditure which has already taken place. The amount is not very much, but we are not paying for broadcasts just to amuse the people of the Far East. There must be some object in mind in using the taxpayers' money, and that object should be to influence the minds of the people listening to those programmes.
My hon. Friend mentioned the programmes called "This is Communism." Anyone who has heard that programme, which is run by someone I know very well, will realise that it is a programme of stark reality and is directed to trying to influence the minds of the people listening. Radio Ceylon is, of course, working to the established principles of the B.B.C.s overseas services. I would quote from the Agreement under discussion, page 4, paragraph 3 (2):The Corporation shall consult and collaborate with the Departments so specified and shall obtain and accept from them such information regarding conditions in and the policies of His Majesty's Government towards the countries so prescribed and other countries as will enable the Corporation to plan and prepare the broadcast programmes in the national interest.I believe that under these arrangements there is no certainty that broadcasts will always be entirely in the national interest. I believe that the B.B.C. still has too much independence and too much freedom in this respect.
I will quote from another paper, the Seventh Report from the Select Committee on Estimates on 7th August, 1947, paragraph 8:As stated, however, in paragraph 16 of the original White Paper the Government intend that the Corporation should remain independent in the preparation of programmes for overseas audiences.It is quite clear that the Corporation is entirely independent in the sending out of this programme. The principal aim of these services has always been what is known as the "Projection of Britain." That is a very good phrase, but it depends upon how it is projected. It must be done with punch. The object has always been to promote an understanding of British life, customs and thought.
The policy of the B.B.C. in these matters has always been to make no distinction 2601 between peoples and Governments. Today, I find that that is wrong. We must, in our broadcasts, make a difference between peoples and Governments. One of the languages in which the broadcasts we are discussing are broadcast is Japanese. If we are to beam our radio on Japan and Korea, is not it vital that we should make a difference between Governments and peoples? In many cases the people of Korea are perfectly all right. In the North it is the Government which is behind them that is wrong. If our radio is to be of any value we must make a difference between peoples and Governments.
In the Far East, this great inflammable part of the world, we must make that difference, and I do not believe that the B.B.C. do that at present. I agree about the importance of absolute truth in news bulletins. That is another matter. A good medium was struck during the war. There must be more striking broadcasts directed towards arresting Communistic tendencies in the listeners. I am not content that this money will be really well spent unless we can be assured about this. I should like to quote two points which are germane to this argument and to which perhaps we could have an answer. On 19th June I put a Question to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs asking what had been the outcome of the discussions with the United States Under-Secretary of State for Public Affairs, and I was told:The B.B.C. will in due course be advised as to the best means of co-ordinating overseas broadcasting in furtherance of the objectives of the Treaty."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 19th June. 1950; Vol. 476, c. 855–6.]That was a reference to the Atlantic Treaty. What is meant by the words, "in due course,"? Can we expect in the course of time when broadcasts are going out from Radio Ceylon that there will be a step forward? I hope so very much indeed. When the Secretary of State for the Colonies came back from his tour in the Far East, he assured me, on 21st June, that broadcasting was one of the very important services and that he was taking steps to improve the efficiency of broadcasting and would be providing assistance from this country to that area. He could not have been referring to the assistance which we are discussing tonight, because that is already provided. 2602 I wonder what assistance is to be provided and when it will come. I hope that it will be in the near future.
On page 4 of the Agreement we find the statement:The Corporation shall obtain any necessary approval of the Government of Ceylon to the schedule of broadcast programmes.It is obvious that there must be that safeguard. But it is also perfectly plain that ultimately the Government of Ceylon will be responsible for the broadcasts which go out through its station. It is peculiar that it is necessary to get the agreement of the Government of Ceylon and yet it is not necessary to get the agreement of His Majesty's Government to the broadcasts which go out.
§ Mr. Profumo
They are the broadcasts of the B.B.C. whether they are going out from here or whether they are being canalised through an organisation of the Ceylon Government. Yet we have to ask the Ceylon Government, but we do not have to ask our Government. It seems to me important that there should be some restriction on what goes out and that this House should have a say in the matter.
Our broadcasts to Eastern Europe have very much improved in the last few months. That may be because His Majesty's Government have taken more interest in them and have given more advice to the Corporation. It may be because the Communistic tendencies in the countries to which we are broadcasting are more real because they are closer to us. Events in the Far East are showing that, in that part of the world, it is just as important for us to arrest the tendencies of Communism as it is nearer our own country.
The other point mentioned in the retrospective Agreement is dealt with on page 5, and I would seek some advice about this. In paragraph 7 (1), it is stated—(a) the actual cost to the Government"—this is a reference to the payment from the Corporation—of providing for the use of the Corporation Studios and ancillary and office accommodation.Does that mean that, in fact, some broadcasts are going to be originated in the 2603 studios of Radio Ceylon, and, if so. by whom are they to be originated and what check will there be on these broadcasts? Can we be quite certain, because I am not, that if such broadcasts go out, there will be sufficient control, not only by the Government of Ceylon, but also by the B.B.C. and by the Government at home?
The Government need not be timid about what I am asking or about their responsibilities in regard to supervision of the B.B.C. Their responsibilities are perfectly clearly stated, and, if I may direct attention once more to the Seventh Report of the Select Committee on Estimates, I would like to make this quotation from an earlier part of paragraph 8, from which I have already quoted:The Foreign Office or other Government Departments concerned will be responsible for specifying the scope of the service required for reception in foreign countries.Let the Government take that responsibility to the full, because the scope that is now required in the Far East is of paramount importance to our future.
I believe that people have been too apt to link the word "war" with the meaning of a shooting war, a shelling war, and a sinking-of-ships war. In fact, another war started in the days when we were celebrating V.E. Day and V.J. Day, and today the full meaning of the word "war" blazes out in the Far East. This most powerful weapon which we have in the weapon of the microphone, transmitting through the ether, will not be playing its full part if it is not waging political warfare. It must do that, and it should be the responsibility of the Government to see that that happens.
Therefore, we must have a very much closer co-ordination and supervision by Government Departments, and we should re-establish something in the nature of a Political Warfare Executive under the auspices of the Government, but, for heaven's sake, let us do something at once to co-ordinate all our broadcasts to the best effect, so that broadcasting can take its proper place in current events.
There are four media of warfare in 1950. There is ground warfare, sea warfare and air warfare, and there is warfare in the ether. We shall not win in the latter medium unless we understand it and apply ourselves to the problem. It is time that the Government re-drafted 2604 its policy regarding overseas broadcasts, because we simply cannot win a war against the Communists if we try only by the methods of the music microphone.
§ 10.19 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton (Brixton)
The hon. Member for Stratford (Mr. Profumo) made two remarks with which I am disposed to agree. The first was to the effect that the B.B.C. enjoyed too much freedom and independence and the second was that the Government need not be timid in its supervision of the activities of the B.B.C. If I might follow up those two points, at the risk of my hon. Friend the Assistant Postmaster-General regarding what I am about to say as something in the nature of a repeat of what I said on 26th May, I should like to draw his attention to a problem which needs to be faced, and, if possible, settled, in the passing of this Agreement. The attitude of the B.B.C. on previous occasions in respect of its relations with its employees has been described as—
§ Mr. Speaker
We cannot deal with the domestic affairs of the B.B.C. on this Agreement, which is with Ceylon. That would be out of order.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
Paragraph 8 of the Agreement imposes upon the Corporation the duty of observing the fair wages clause to which my hon. Friend referred when he invited the House to approve the Agreement. Later in that paragraph reference is made to the duty imposed upon the B.B.C. under the Agreement to recognise the freedom of workpeople to become members of trade unions.
§ Mr. Speaker
That may be, but it does not enable one to go back into a dispute which is happening now in the B.B.C. quite regardless of Ceylon. That I must rule out of order.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
What I am seeking to avoid is a possible repetition in Ceylon of what has already happened in this country. What I am asking my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations to clarify, if he will, is the interpretation being placed by His Majesty's Government upon paragraph 8 of the Agreement. Does it mean that the B.B.C, in connection with the broadcasting services in Ceylon, is to be required to recognise trade unions as bodies authorised to negotiate on behalf 2605 of employees who will, no doubt, have to be engaged for the purpose of giving effect to this Agreement?
It so happens that Ceylon is by no means the backward area which some people may think it is, because at the end of 1948 there were no fewer than 102 registered trade unions in actual operation in Ceylon, with memberships varying from about 50 to over 100,000. It may well be that in giving effect to this Agreement in Ceylon it will be necessary to arrange suitable terms of remuneration, in the course of which it will be necessary to negotiate conditions of service in that country.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will give the House an idea of what the Government have in mind in asking us to accept this particular part of the Agreement, namely, paragraph 8. Hitherto, it has been found possible to argue that whereas that paragraph provides that a fair wages clause has to be carried out, and must recognise the freedom of workpeople to join trade unions, it has been possible to argue that, notwithstanding these two provisions, the B.B.C., as an employing authority in Ceylon is under no obligation to recognise the right of trade unions to negotiate on behalf of the employees concerned.
My right hon. Friend has some knowledge of the inner workings of the B.B.C., and will, I am sure, be able to give an answer to this particular point. I hope he will be able to allay some of the disquiet which is felt in some quarters over the manner in which paragraph 8 of the Agreement is to be operated.
§ 10.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Walter Fletcher (Bury and Radcliffe)
The title of this document is "Broadcasting from Ceylon," but in his opening speech the Assistant Postmaster-General referred to the use of this service for broadcasting in South-East Asia generally and the Far East. Ceylon is not in the Far East; it is in the East. That raises the first point. Is he entirely satisfied that broadcasts from an area in the East will be entirely efficient in the vitally important task of putting over propaganda in the Far East? There is a considerable difference of outlook between the East and the Far East.
To get to real grips with whether we should approve of this or not or, even 2606 whether if we do approve of it, we should officially condone the fait accompli, we should be given some idea of the range of this station.
§ Mr. Fletcher
The hon. Gentleman says Japan, but it would help if we were given the full facts as to how far and how long, during the period of 7½ or 8½ hours, this optimum range is attained. We are discussing a vitally important matter, and we should have a clear picture in our minds of what all these three stations—and we cannot discuss one without considering the other two—can really achieve, not, on the basis of occasionally in especially favourable circumstances, hitting the target once or twice a week. We should know what is the average utility of the station that is to do the job.
I am very willing to accept its technical efficiency, and I should like to pay a compliment to the Assistant Postmaster-General and his Department for the telephone service he has inaugurated with Singapore. It has been an enormous success, and I use it daily. I am sure that when we get them going on this, as we got them going on that, and they come to inaugurate the full service in Malaya, this technical side will be well handled.
Let us all be quite clear what is the range of each station, and whether we can get that maximum range for anything like sufficient time each day to carry out the job of putting over propaganda in the Far East. I was in the backwoods of China for over two years during the war, and saw the effect of the propaganda which was put over—a great deal of it from the enemy, but also a considerable amount from this very S.E.A.C. station, which has now changed its name.
Are we satisfied that under the terms of this agreement swiftness and suppleness will be achieved in the counter-propaganda, which must be, to a great extent, handled by this station? We must not think in terms of our own propaganda. A great deal of the propaganda has to be propaganda answering the enemy's. I have no doubt that that will be greatly intensified during the period we have in front of us.
2607 We cannot avoid, also, the question referred to already tonight, of what is to happen when the big Malayan station comes into operation. I broadcast from the present station, and from the one in Hong Kong last year. I realise the very limited extent to which they have real access to the vast mass of people under Communist rule now in China. It would be very helpful if we were told later, to what extent the essentially complementary work of increasing the range of the Hong Kong station is to be undertaken when this one becomes merged with the main Malayan station.
It is possible that the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations—I thought I heard him saying under his breath just now that this was out of order—may try to avoid that question, but I think he will be very unwise to do so. While we are considering, as we must consider, under the terms of this Agreement, how we think this station under its new aegis will work, what the House and the country want to know is how the whole question of broadcasting in the Far East will develop. I hope that when the right hon. Gentleman replies to the questions I am trying to put to him through the barrage created by the hon. Gentleman sitting next to him, who is speaking to him at the moment, he will give us the proper answer we are all waiting for.
I hope the Minister will tell us the full range of all these stations for the hours in which they can usefully broadcast, the extent to which overlapping can be avoided, and to what extent this station is to be taken over by the new system. The language question will be difficult, because it is not a local language which will be used for the majority of broad-casts. I should like to be assured that there will be the fullest facilities provided for this station by having on its own broadcasting staff sufficient people with knowledge of local dialects in China and even farther East. This will be vital when we come to the propaganda question.
§ 10.31 p.m.
§ Major Tufton Beamish (Lewes)
I entirely agree with my hon. Friends that this Agreement raises wide and important issues, rather wider and more important 2608 than may perhaps appear at first sight. I have gone to some trouble to sort out the confusing picture of broadcasting in the Far East. Its wide scope is indicated by the fact that broadcasts go out already in Japanese, standard Chinese, Cantonese and several other dialects used in China, in addition to Burmese, Peninsular Malay, Indonese Malay, Siamese, Hindustani, Urdu and, maybe other languages, as well.
So far as Government Departments who have direct responsibility in this are concerned, the Foreign Office, the Colonial Office, the Commonwealth Relations Office and the War Office all have important parts to play. I do not know whether India and Pakistan, or Ceylon itself, or, for that matter, Australia and New Zealand, are broadcasting in any of these languages—that is, over and above their own language—though I expect they are. We know that the United States are broadcasting a great deal in many of these Far Eastern languages. Therefore, I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman a number of questions and I shall be grateful if he will do his best to reply as fully as he can.
What co-ordination is there to be, so far as Radio Ceylon is concerned, with the United States and all other non-Communist countries who are at present broadcasting in Far Eastern languages? Will there be proper liaison, understanding and co-operation between the four Government Departments and the countries who are to be concerned with the scope of these broadcasts?
A few weeks ago, after the Foreign Ministers' Conference in London, a communiqué was issued to which little attention has been paid, though I asked a Question about it, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford (Mr. Profumo). Following that meeting, the United States Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, Mr. Edward W. Barrett, and Mr. J. B. Clark, of the B.B.C., continued the discussions on 20th May on the co-ordination of overseas information work and of broadcast propaganda with the United States. We have not heard very much about the results of these discussions, but according to the reply to my Question, on 19th June, cooperation over the whole field of overseas information work was discussed. I was told that: 2609Broadcasting, particularly to Eastern Europe and to other areas which are dominated or threatened by Communism, occupied an important place in the discussions and the possibilities of co-ordinating activities in this respect were fully considered."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th June, 1950; Vol. 476, c. 854.]I feel that this is a most appropriate moment for the Minister for Commonwealth Relations to let the House know what has resulted from them, and whether any progress will soon be made. It was my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford who asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies on his return from Malaya on 21st June, about broadcasting from civilian stations, and the Colonial Secretary replied:Broadcasting is indeed one of the very important services, and I am taking steps to improve the efficiency of broadcasting and shall be providing assistance from this country to that end."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st June, 1950; Vol. 476, c. 1308.]The Colonial Secretary has charge of, or a very considerable influence over, the Radio Malaya Station, which is at present broadcasting on low power from Singapore. In Singapore we are constructing a station, which, when it is completed in 1951, will take over from Radio Ceylon, to which this Agreement refers. That shows that the Government are apprised of the importance of broadcasting and that considerable improvements are to be made.
I should be out of order and wasting my time if I were to touch more than lightly on the situation in the Far East, which is the backcloth against which these broadcasts are being made, but since the Government have the responsibility for the scope of the broadcasts, the languages used, and the times during which the broadcasts take place, it is not out of order to mention briefly the similarity of pattern from Afghanistan, through India, Pakistan, Burma to Korea and down through China, Siam, IndoChina and Malaya and even further afield through Indonesia to the Philippines. It is the same form of Communist aggression. Stalin said, in 1920, "England's back will be broken not on the banks of the Thames but on the banks of the Ganges, the Yangtse and the Nile." That is the very thing he is trying to bring about now. In his "Problems of Leninism" he wrote:Where does one strike at Imperialism? Where the chain is weakest.2610 We are up against a highly efficient propaganda machine, and this leads me to a question I want to ask the Minister. I might mention that at this moment. possibly—I hope it is not so—British men-of-war and Australian, New Zealand and American men-of-war may be bombed and machine-gunned by Communist planes. We ought to ensure that our broadcasts are as good as they possibly can be. This raises the second question, which was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford, and which I want to reinforce: What is the object of broadcasting in all these languages? Is it done for fun, or with the object of avoiding the unthinkable tragedy of another war. We know we must win the cold war and that unless we do, we shall be involved in a hot war. Cold war is an unfortunate phrase, because the war is very hot in several parts of the world.
At the end of the last war we abandoned our Political Warfare Executive but, far from abandoning their political warfare executive, the Soviet Union has increased its power immensely as the months have gone by, but we have done too little to counter the propaganda on that level. Radio Malaya—and I have stated this before—is definitely broadcasting anti-Communist propaganda. Let us be in no doubt about that. I think it is fair to presume that our Commissioner in the Far East, Mr. Malcolm MacDonald, has approved of the conduct of anti-Communist propaganda through the means of Radio Malaya. The series of broadcasts entitled, "This is Communism," has been mentioned as a good example of the type of propaganda being put out. This particular series has not come in for criticism from any quarter, and so far from being criticised, it has been reprinted in the local language newspapers—I think, in all of them. So it has been popular on the air and in print.
But then the policy in Malaya, for which I presume the Colonial Secretary is responsible, is in complete contrast to the Far Eastern Section of the B.B.C., whose function, so far as I know—I am open to correction—regarding broadcasting in Far Eastern languages is concerned, is to "project Britain." It may be that this is a very laudable object in a good many ways; but surely it should not be the main object at this 2611 moment, so far as these broadcasts are concerned. I am very doubtful of the extent to which a Chinese peasant has the slightest interest in anything which happens in this country.
I am not asking for less objectivity. We cannot be too objective. But I am not impressed by the argument that it is impossible to combine objectivity with the strongest possible propaganda. In the last 18 months, or perhaps the last two years, so far as our broadcasts to Eastern Europe are concerned, there has been a big improvement. Although I was critical 18 months ago, I will say that they are now excellent, though there may be room for improvement still.
Undoubtedly, we must thank very largely for those improvements General Sir Ian Jacob, a very brilliant man. It is true to add that he has departed from his own directive of some two years ago, wherein he laid down that the B.B.C. made no distinction between Governments and peoples. He has departed from that so far as Europe is concerned, but so far as the Far Eastern broadcasts are concerned, and they are to go through Radio Ceylon, I am inclined to think that there has been little departure from that principle.
The contrasts between the Far Eastern section of the B.B.C, and the activities of Radio Malaya and Radio Hong Kong are very great indeed. We must obviously be careful lest anything which we say on the air is such as in any way to help the Communists in their plans. If it were possible for them to make direct quotations from any of our broadcasts, whether in the Far Eastern service or the Home service, but particularly in the Far Eastern service, we should obviously be broadcasting material which was not appropriate.
I have in my hand the script of a Third Programme broadcast. Many of these are—
§ Major Beamish
I dare say that the right hon. Gentleman does not like the line which I am taking, but these are important matters. My answer to his question is that, so far as I know, it did not actually go out over Radio Ceylon. It seems that the right hon. Gentleman 2612 intends to ask whether I am in order. Perhaps he will let me take orders from the Chair and permit me to develop my argument. Anything which we say about the Far East, and that is what we are discussing, can have a damaging effect if it can be quoted back at us. The main question which I am putting is whether we would approve this Agreement if the money involved in it is to be wasted because that station is not going to carry out the propaganda which we want it to do.
This is an example of the sort of thing said recently on the air by the B.B.C, and, for all that I know, repeated in the Far Eastern section. It is an example of the sort of thing which, I feel, should not be sent out on the air at this juncture. It is only one brief example; an extract from an amusing story called "Shooting an Elephant," by George Orwell. I will read only one or two sentences:In Moulmein, in Lower Burma, I was hated by large numbers of people—the only time in my life that I have been important enough for this to happen to me. I was sub-divisonal police inspector of the town.Then, later, it says:I had already made up my mind that Imperialism was an evil thing, and that the sooner I chucked up my job and got out of it the better.A little further on it states:All I knew was that I was stuck between my hatred of the Empire I served and my rage against the evil spirited little beasts which tried to make my job impossible. With one part of my mind I thought of the British Raj…It is very good reading; I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I say that it is an example of the sort of thing which should not be said on the air at this stage, either here or anywhere else. I am not saying that this particular broadcast was typical, but it is one example which came to me; I do not think it was typical, but I do think that it should not have been made.
I am not blaming the B.B.C. for the failure to carry out the right broadcast propaganda programmes; but I am blaming the Government for their spineless approach to the deteriorating situation in the Far East, because, without a proper foreign policy, our propaganda can never be really effective; and who knows what our policy is in, for example, China, where we are wandering around asking them on what terms we shall recognise them.
2613 The third question with which we have to concern ourselves is, why does the B.B.C. "project Britain" through its Far Eastern service, while Radio Malaya carries on a propaganda campaign mixed in with its ordinary programmes? Is Hong Kong doing propaganda, or is it not? Then, why should one Minister have one policy in the Far East, while another has a totally different policy?
Those are really important questions, and another question, which really arises out of the third, is that of broadcasting in Chinese. Can we be told what information has been received about the sort of reception there has been during the last 15 months or so, and what amount of jamming there has been in China? These are very important matters, because we are sanctioning the expenditure of a considerable sum of the taxpayers' money, and if these broadcasts are being jammed so that they cannot be heard, this is all a waste. I should have thought that the Minister would have been very well briefed on that point.
§ Mr. Gordon-Walker
The answer is "None," but I think it will be agreed that it would be a great mistake to stop all broadcasting if there was jamming.
§ Major Beamish
I agree; it would be necessary to increase strength.
This is a very pertinent question. I hope that the Minister, when he comes to reply to it, and to the other questions, will not try to ride them off by claiming that all this is the responsibility of the B.B.C. because it is made perfectly clear by the evidence to the Select Committee on Estimates, in the 1946–47 Departmental replies, in the Seventh Report of the Select Committee, and in the Agreement, as well as in several other ways, that the overall responsibility, so far as the general policy for broadcasting is concerned—the times at which we broadcast, and the languages in which we broadcast—rests fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the Government.
Before I sit down, I want to ask one last question. It really arises out of all the ones I have asked so far. What is to be the future of Radio Malaya and Radio Hong Kong when the Ceylon Station is no longer required, and will the completion of Radio Malaya—that is, the high-powered station of Radio Malaya—which will be ready early in 1951, 2614 mean the end of the valuable and excellent work at present being done by the low-powered station in Malaya? I hope I have made that clear.
§ Major Beamish
I am glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say, "No." These crossed wires which exist so far as Government propaganda in the Far East is concerned, badly need to be uncrossed. It boils down to the fact that because the Government have no clear or definite foreign policy in the Far East, and have drifted from one crisis to another, the B.B.C. has found itself in an impossible position. The Colonial Office has one policy of broadcast propaganda while the Foreign Office has a different policy, or perhaps no policy at all. Either we do or do not wish the whole of the Far East to come under Soviet domination. If we do not wish this to happen, surely this is the time to realise that one of the most important weapons in our hands is that of truth, the weapon of political warfare on the air. [An HON. MEMBER: "Propaganda."] Propaganda which is untrue is always ineffective. I should think that would be perfectly obvious.
In default of a satisfactory reply from the Government and an assurance that urgent steps are being taken to define a clear broadcasting policy in the Far East, it is obvious to me this whole question must be raised again at the earliest possible opportunity. We simply cannot have the British taxpayers' money wasted while we wait for the Government to produce a policy in the Far East.
§ 10.53 p.m.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
I believe that this matter is of very considerable importance, although I do not think that all the matters of importance raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Lewes (Major Beamish) were strictly within the subject we are discussing tonight. The question of the Third Programme and the foreign policy of the Government is not relevant at all to the Debate. I would like to take the hon. and gallant Gentleman up on the question of the broadcasts in the Third Programme, to which he took exception, because, following that point to its logical conclusion, he is asking for Government censorship of talks and broadcasts on the 2615 home stations. If there is anything which is lifted out of its context and broadcast, presumably by a foreign Power to the damage of this country at the present time, I might ask him just to take that a bit further and go to newspapers.
If the hon. and gallant Member asks his hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, South (Sir W. Darling), who, presumably, read with considerable interest today's issue of "The Scotsman," he would find there an article on the situation in Korea and the historical developments leading up to it, many passages of which, had they been lifted, would have been very damaging indeed. Where is the hon. and gallant Member going to define this question of censorship? I really think he was on a very bad point in lifting this thing from the Third Programme, and, I am perfectly sure it did not merit the importance which he attached to it.
§ Major Beamish
I am prepared to admit that the fact that I lifted a broadcast from the Third Programme, and that it may not have been in Radio Ceylon, was not a particularly strong point. I was using this as an illustration of the sort of thing which should never be sent to a Far Eastern country. The last thing I wished to suggest was Government censorship of the B.B.C. broadcasts at home, let alone censorship of the Press. There is all the difference in the world, surely, between our broadcasts to a foreign country of a propaganda content and our broadcasts at home.
§ Mr. Ross
The relevance to the Debate lies in the fact that there is all that difference between broadcasts at home and those to foreign countries. Considering that the hon. and gallant Gentleman two or three times referred to the "spine-lessness" of the Government, I wondered why his hon. Friends who spoke earlier were criticising the Government because these broadcasts were taking place for 15 months before the Agreement came into force. There would have been much more reason to criticise the Government if the facilities had been there and the need for broadcasting had been so urgent and the Government had done nothing about it. In view of the situation in Malaya, Burma and the Far East 2616 generally, it is all the more welcome that the Government had been issuing these broadcasts for 15 months.
§ Mr. Profumo
I thought that I had made it quite clear that we were criticising the Government not for having put out these broadcasts from Radio Ceylon, but for not having made the Agreement much earlier.
§ Mr. Ross
Surely the hon. Member realises that in dealing with Ceylon we are dealing with another Dominion Government, and their point of view is also concerned. It takes two parties to make an agreement. I am gratified that we are using this station. I was a listener to it during the war, and if I had been asked about its range and capacity in 1945, I should probably have been able to give very full details. I can assure hon. Members that it can be heard all over the Far East, although it is sited in Ceylon. It was built specifically for that purpose. As to the technical efficiency of the Sinhalese and the Malays, whose qualifications seem to be called in doubt by the hon. Member for Stratford (Mr. Profumo), from my knowledge and experience of them I am satisfied that they are capable of doing the job. I am sure that our technical experts who are concerned in this Agreement are equally satisfied.
To come back to the subject-matter of the broadcasts, we have heard too little about what has actually been broadcast and too much about how the broadcasts could be improved by making them pure propaganda. I know from my experience of the people whom I met in the Far East that their reaction to pure propaganda is more or less the reaction of people in this country—to dismiss it as such and pay less attention to it because it is propaganda.
I agreed with the hon. and gallant Gentleman when he said that the best propaganda is truth. He also said that untruths were the most ineffective type of propaganda. If that we so, we should not be worrying so very much, but should be encouraging these people to spread their false propaganda because of its ineffectiveness. I do not agree with him that it is ineffective. It is effective. It is because that type is effective that we must use the most effective thing we can against it—truth. If there has been any 2617 characteristic tradition about our British news bulletins and commentaries it is that they have been reliable and true. Each time an occupied country was liberated we got the same story about people who had listened specially to the B.B.C. because they could reply on what they heard.
Do not let us underrate the intelligence of the people who are listening. We are not broadcasting entirely to illiterate Chinese peasants; the illiterate Chinese peasant has not got a wireless set. The educated people of these areas, from the point of view of doing the most damage, are the people we have to get at. It is they who listen and it is their type of mind we have to study. They are the people who will react immediately to propaganda by dismissing it.
The hon. Member for Stratford said that there was too much freedom given the B.B.C. I do not think there is any freedom given as far as these broadcasts are concerned. These broadcasts are prepared by a Foreign Office department.
§ Major Beamish
Perhaps I should tell the hon. Member that the B.B.C. do not have to take the advice of the Foreign Office on anything except the languages and the times at which they should broadcast. Advice can be tendered, but the suggestion that the broadcasts are written in the Foreign Office bears no relation to the facts.
§ Mr. Profumo
I think the hon. Member should get his facts right before making assertions. He started by asserting that there was too much control over the B.B.C. by the Foreign Office—
§ Mr. Profumo
That is the impression the hon. Member gave me. The point we are making is that it is too muddle-headed and woolly.
§ Mr. Ross
The point I was making was that the hon. Member for Stratford 2618 was objecting that the B.B.C. was too free from control. I was suggesting that there were definite links and that they had to consult departments and be guided in the kind of broadcasts they were putting forward. I think the evidence given by the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes about the improvement—and if he is satisfied it must have been a great improvement—in the Eastern broadcasts, does more or less, prove the point that the interests of the department concerned are studied.
The main point I want to emphasise is that we should retain our traditional reliability in broadcasting, whether it be to the Far East, the Near East or to Europe. That is what will count in the long run. If we just turn out propaganda, people will not turn on their wireless sets to listen. If they can rely on our news bulletins to get an intelligent summary, I am certain that we shall get the reaction we desire.
§ Mr. W. Fletcher
I have listened carefully to what the hon. Member said. When he uses the word, "propoganda" does he mean something so obviously propaganda that it loses most of its value, or something so subtle that it puts over the point without making it apparent? I think there is confusion in his mind.
§ 11.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Ian Orr-Ewing (Hendon, North)
I do not wish to detain the House for long, but I would first take up a reference of the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. W. Ross). We are not suggesting that Radio Ceylon or any B.B.C. overseas station should go in for propaganda in its worst sense, but we wish to see the news presented in a vivid form. As an illustration, the Home news bulletin at 6 o'clock is objective and some people, perhaps, find it a little dull. Radio Newsreel at 7 p.m. is still the same truth, but it is much more vivid and many listen to it. I suggest that it is better in dealing with the simple man, to try to put over our news in a vivid form.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I was merely following up a tradition of the House in taking up what was said by the hon. Gentleman who spoke last. It is possible to present the news in vivid form without departing from the truth.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
There is no very great difference on this point between us. We want to see Britain's news presented with a punch and vividness which can command respect, and to which people will listen. My second point is that the new station which is being built appears to be an unconscionable time in coming. After the station was started in January. 1949, the Postmaster General went to the B.B.C. in October, 1949, and asked them to carry on another three months. They must, therefore, have expected that at the end of that period, the new station would be in operation.
§ Mr. Hobson
May I hasten to assure the hon. Gentleman that everything has been done, since the approval of the Agreement, to expedite the erection of the new station?
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I cannot accept the hon. Gentleman's assurance, however hard he thumps the Box.
The hon. Gentleman will recall that we built the station at Crowborough during the war in six months. He now says that it will take two years to build this one during a vital period of development in the Far East. I hope that everything possible will be done to hasten the completion of this new station so that this Agreement need not be extended for a further three or six months.
I would like to ask the Government whether they really think that the B.B.C. is to go on extending its tentacles further and further. Is it really the right instrument for carrying on overseas broadcasting? My hon. Friends have made the point that the whole background of the B.B.C. is objectivity, and yet we have more and more functions planted on the B.B.C.'s plate. It is rather like the Post Office which has to take on everything, from issuing family allowances to sending letters.
2620 Is not the time ripe to say that the £4 million we are spending annually on overseas services of the B.B.C. should be allocated to a separate overseas broadcasting corporation? I am making no party point. I have here the Fabian Society's report. I know that it is perhaps not very popular with hon. Gentlemen opposite when they are wearing their middle-class ties, but on page 11 it states:We suggest that these activities"—and they are referring to overseas broadcasting—should be entirely divorced from home broadcasting, and made the responsibility of an overseas broadcasting corporation with its-own charter. Our reasons for this are that overseas broadcasting differs largely from home broadcasting in aims, technique, and personnel. It is already separately paid for by direct Parliamentary Vote, and its present association with home broadcasting is anomalous and confusing.'I do not often agree with publications from that society, but I believe many of us will feel that the B.B.C. is not the right instrument to undertake broadcasting in West Africa, Ceylon, Singapore, Western Germany, B.A.O.R. or other places. I say that for two reasons. As a monopoly grows, it grows inefficient; but, more important at this stage in the Far Eastern troubles, is that it grows inflexible. To counter the propaganda put out by the enemy we want an instrument in Radio Ceylon which is extremely flexible, and technically able to counter the jamming to which my hon. and gallant Friend has referred. Is it not time to put the whole of our overseas broadcasting, not under the umbrella of the B.B.C, whose Charter was written for a quite different purpose, but under an overseas broadcasting corporation?
I ask the right hon. Gentleman who is to reply to do everything in his power to give a sense of urgency to the construction of the new high-power broadcasting station, and to carry on the one operating Radio Malaya and Radio Hong Kong. Hardly anything, at the moment, is more important than political warfare in the Far East.
§ 11.11 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. Gordon-Walker)
The main burden of criticism from the opposite side of the House has been that there is confusion in the Government's 2621 oversea broadcasting policy in the Far East, that we do one thing in Malaya and another at Radio Ceylon. But the confusion is really in the minds of hon. Gentlemen opposite, who do not seem to understand what sort of a station Radio Ceylon is. It is a re-broadcasting station, located on the soil of a free and sovereign member of the Commonwealth. The arrangements with the Government of Ceylon were laid down in an exchange of letters, in which it was made specific and clear that we should broadcast during 8½ hours re-broadcasts of our B.B.C. programmes. We are bound by agreement, therefore, to do what we are doing.
Radio Malaya is a local station, owned and run by the local Government, and in country which there is fighting going on. Its policy is determined by the local Government there, and not by His Majesty's Government here, or the B.B.C. Some hon. Gentlemen opposite seemed to imply that the overseas service of the B.B.C. was entirely useless, that if it was re-broadcast we were doing nothing in the struggle against Communism, or to win the people in the Far East to friendship and understanding with us. The overseas broadcasts of the B.B.C. are of the greatest value. I was glad that the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Major Beamish) praised our oversea broadcasts in general.
We have the most effective overseas broadcasting of any country in the world. As my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) said, the independence of the B.B.C. is important. It is no good thrusting on the world the sort of propaganda we would like; we have to thrust out the sort of propaganda that people will not switch off. It is not only absolute truth we must broadcast, but acceptable truth. If we start this subtle shading off between truth and propaganda people will soon detect it, and will not listen.
§ Major Beamish
The right hon. Gentleman said there was a considerable difference between the sort of propaganda from Radio Malaya and the sort re-broadcast through Radio Ceylon. The implication was that the Government of Ceylon would disapprove if we used our broadcasts through Radio Ceylon in the way we would like to use them. Surely 2622 the Ceylon Government is as strongly opposed to Communism as we are.
§ Mr. Gordon-Walker
I did not say or imply anything of the sort. I said that we were re-broadcasting, through Radio Ceylon, the B.B.C. programmes, and that in Malaya we were doing something different. It is not that we do not want to broadcast our services over Radio Ceylon. I think our overseas services are of the greatest use in the Far East and South-East Asia.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd (Mid-Bedfordshire)
The right hon. Gentleman is being a little less than fair to my hon. Friends. He stressed the fact, we all know and rejoice in, that Ceylon is an independent, sovereign State within the British Commonwealth. What was the point of stressing that unless he meant that this station could not do things we are able to do in Malaya and Hong Kong?
§ Mr. Gordon-Walker
It is true that I stressed that fact, because I was leading up to this Agreement made with Ceylon, which contains this condition. If we set up a station in Australia, for example, we could not do the same things that we are able to do in Malaya. It does not follow that we are doing something in Ceylon which we do not want to do. There is, of course, a difference between Colonies and colonial territories, over which we have control, and a sovereign country, either foreign or within the Commonwealth, over which we have no control; but we are very pleased with our facilities over Radio Ceylon. They are of the greatest value to us.
§ Mr. R. V. Grimston
I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman has really grasped the case we have presented; he is putting up something we have not said. Let me put it as a question. Assuming that the B.B.C. decided to operate a programme on our broadcasting service which was a reproduction of what was put out over the Malayan broadcast, is it not a fact that nothing in the Agreement would prevent it going out over the Ceylon radio?
§ Mr. Gordon-Walker
Nothing in the least. If it were directed to Malaya there may conceivably be something to be said for that. We can send out over Radio Ceylon whatever we broadcast in the 2623 overseas programme here. What they are doing in Malaya, with their grave problem, is of first-rate importance and they are doing great good for us and great harm to Communism in the Far East and South-East Asia.
§ Mr. W. Fletcher
The right hon. Gentleman must make it clear. He must give us the range and area covered by the station.
§ Mr. Gordon-Walker
I am coming to that. I have not had much chance to get on with my speech. I should first like to answer the questions asked first.
§ Mr. C. I. Orr-Ewing
Could I ask the Minister to make this point clear? I see his difficulty. Could he tell us whether, if he were given a free hand in Ceylon, he could not do better than he is doing now?
§ Mr. Gordon-Walker
I do not think we could do better than have Radio Ceylon, which is a station of great power, broadcasting to many countries, for broadcasting our overseas services of the B.B.C. I have been trying to make it clear and if it is clear now, I am pleased. The hon. Member for Stratford (Mr. Profumo) asked about locally originated broadcasts. There are no locally originated broadcasts being broadcast from Ceylon. The matter is covered by the Agreement. Within the 8½ hours at our disposal under the Agreement any locally originated broadcasts would have to be with the specific consent of the Government of Ceylon. Outside the 8½ hours they would be broadcast by the Government of Ceylon, and we would have no control over them. But there are, in fact. none at all at the present moment
The hon. Member for Bury (Mr W. Fletcher) asked me about the range of this transmitting station. It covers the following countries: Hong Kong. China—I am not sure if it covers all China, but certainly a large part of it—Japan, Burma, Malaya, South-East Asia, French Indo-China, India and Pakistan. It does not include Ceylon, which is not reachable 2624 because the station has too high a frequency.
§ Mr. Gordon-Walker
I could not read the languages, but perhaps, as the hon. Gentleman can pronounce them, I could show them to him afterwards. It will show him the actual area of China that is covered. I can also give him the precise hours, if he wants to know them. We make the best arrangement we can in the 8½ hours, and they are broadcast from London, picked up and re-broadcast from Ceylon. The hon. Member for Hendon, North (Mr. C. I. Orr-Ewing) developed an argument for a separate corporation for Far Eastern broadcasting, but I think it would be unwise for Radio Ceylon to set up a separate corporation. This is a matter—though I do not agree with him—that we ought to debate when the report of the committee of inquiry into the B.B.C. comes along.
I hope the House will approve of this Agreement. We regard it as important in two respects. It is an important link with our overseas broadcasting system, and is a very valuable piece of Commonwealth co-operation, when by agreement with one Commonwealth country another can relay its broadcasts from a powerful station. I have been asked what will happen when Radio Singapore is completed in the middle of 1951. This is an extremely powerful station: it has been built quickly, though it takes a long time to build a powerful station. I have been asked whether we would go on with Radio Ceylon. That has not been finally settled, but, by the Agreement, Ceylon has agreed that if we wish to carry on, they would let us do so, though not for 8½ hours a day. Whether we would take advantage of the clause in the Agreement has not been settled, but Radio Hong Kong and Radio Malaya will continue.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
That the Agreement, dated 8th June, 1950, between His Majesty's Postmaster General and the British Broadcasting Corporation, a copy of which was laid before this House on 15th June, be approved.