HC Deb 18 June 1952 vol 502 cc1175-6
9. Mr. Speir

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General whether he will give an assurance that wider autonomy will not be given by the new Charter to the Northern Ireland regional authorities of the British Broadcasting Corporation so long as the north-east of England is compelled to share the Northern Ireland Regional programmes.

Mr. Gammans

The draft Charter for which my noble Friend proposes to apply provides that the B.B.C. controllers in the English regions and in Northern Ireland shall be given a reasonable measure of independence in respect of programmes. In practice, the controllers already have all but complete autonomy in programme matters. The draft Charter provides that a broadcasting council may be established in Northern Ireland, but I understand that the Government there do not want such a council at present. If such a council were set up it would be open to the Governors of the B.B.C. to make reservations which would safeguard the interests of those listeners in the North of England who share the Home Service programme with listeners in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Speir

While thanking the Minister for his reply, which will give satisfaction in the North-East, may I ask whether he appreciates that it would give greater satisfaction if he could tell us the date when a separate wavelength will be restored to the North-East?

Mr. Gammans

As my hon. Friend knows, the only real solution to this problem is very high frequency. As the House is aware, my noble Friend has given a promise that the highest priority will be given to the North-East coast in providing a very high frequency station.

Captain Orr

Would my hon. Friend bear in mind that we do not want any wider autonomy in broadcasting matters in Northern Ireland; that we dislike the sharing of a wavelength just as much as my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Speir); and, in view of the deterioration of the reception in Belgium on 424 metres, would the Assistant Postmaster-General consider using that frequency?

Mr. Gammans

I am afraid that is a technical question of which I should want notice.