Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Amendment to Question [14th December]:
That this House approves the general policy of Her Majesty's Government on Television Development (Command Paper No. 9005)."—[Mr. Gammons.]
which Amendment was to leave out from "House," to the end of the Question, and to add:
whilst recognising the desirability of an alternative television programme, regards the general policy of Her Majesty's Government on commercial television, set out in Command Paper No. 9005, as being contrary to the public interest."—[Mr. H. Morrison.]
Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ 3.59 p.m.
§ The Minister of State (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd)
I wish to reveal to the House straight away a particular interest of mine in this matter. It is not a particular interest of the nature to which reference has already been made. My particular interest is that the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) when he was Lord President of the Council, appointed me a Member of the Beveridge Committee and sentenced me to 18 months' hard labour on the question of broadcasting in this country.
During those 18 months we had to deal with a mass of evidence of every sort. I visited Canada and the United States, and had repeated contacts with Australian and New Zealand personalities concerned with broadcasting. I therefore speak this afternoon not only as a Member of the Government but as one having had experience of this matter, and firmly convinced that the Government are right in the views put forward in this White Paper on the matters of principle involved.
216 I begin with a general point. During yesterday's proceedings reference was made repeatedly to the fact that, on both sides of the House, the Whips are on for this Motion. The reason for that can very soon be seen if I just remind the House of the opening words of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South. He said:I think that there will be general agreement that this debate, and what comes out of it, is perhaps one of the most important, if not the most important, debates that we have had since the war. An enormous amount depends upon it as to the future of our country, the thinking of the people and the standard of culture of the people."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th December, 1953; Vol. 522, c. 65.]In those circumstances I do not believe that any Government could fail to take responsibility—and Parliamentary responsibility—for the proposals which it puts forward, and that has been done by putting the Whips on for this particular debate.
In order to assist my interrupters—and I have looked it up and find that my hon. Friend had 31 interruptions during the course of his speech yesterday—may I say that I propose to address myself to three topics; the issue of the monopoly, the issue of advertising, and thirdly, the Government proposals. But I would remind the House that this is a debate, not upon matters of detail but upon general principles.
The first of those issues is that of the monopoly. I have no desire, and I do not think that any of my colleagues who served with me on the Beveridge Committee, or any Member of the Government, has any desire, to attack the B.B.C.—its past or present servants. I think that much of the work that it has done has been very good indeed. The question is then at once asked if one concedes that fact, why not leave it alone? Why should it not have a monopoly of television? May I just say in parenthesis that I am not impressed by the argument that it is not really a monopoly. The fact is that no television programme can be put on in this country without the approval and permission of the B.B.C.; that, to my mind, means that the B.B.C. holds a monopoly of this particular medium.
There are four reasons why I think that this monopoly should not continue—four evils which are inherent in the 217 monopoly itself. Firstly, I think that it is much too big. I think that there has been a tendency towards centralisation and bureaucratic methods, and a good deal has been heard about that in other connections, from time to time in this House.
Secondly, I think that a monopoly inevitably leads to complacency and rigidity, and that new techniques will be dominated by the old. Many people feel that that is, in fact, what has happened to television with the B.B.C. I do not rely upon my own judgment only in this matter, but on this question of the complacency and rigidity which attends the working of a monopoly I would refer to some words recently written by Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, who certainly does not take the same general view as I do upon these matters. About this monopoly aspect of the B.B.C. he said:Indeed, there was, I think, a general lack of enterprise in hunting for improvements and economies overseas. I am afraid my efforts at advocating more vigour in that direction met with little success... In this matter of seeking criticisms and information wherever they can be found, the staff of the B.B.C. with some conspicuous exceptions, showed during my period nothing like the energy and the desire to learn everywhere of most first-rate private firms.That is the testimony of Lord Simon of Wythenshawe upon that matter, and I think that it is one of the evils inherent in the monopoly itself.
The third evil is that, with a monopoly, there can be only one employer, and I shall elaborate that point when I deal with some of the evidence given before the Beveridge Committee.
Fourthly and finally, and I think most important of all, a monopoly leaves much too much power in the hands of a few people. I agree with all that has been said from the benches opposite about the power of television. It can project into the home the theatre, the cinema, the public meeting, the brains trust, the news and the great national occasions. Its power to inform, to instruct, to educate and entertain is almost limitless. I cannot believe that all that power and influence should be left in the hands of a few people, or indeed, as may happen, in the hands of one dominant personality.
§ Mr. Lloyd
If the hon. Member will allow me.
I believe that the vast majority of Members in this House would throw up their hands in horror at the idea of a single national newspaper, or a single national theatre corporation deciding what plays should be produced, or a single national publishing company deciding what books should be published. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South sought to justify this monopoly on the grounds that the Post Office and the Army are also monopolies, and that gas and electricity are monopolies, but those are completely different spheres.
What we are talking about today is a medium for expression, for the transference of ideas, for art and for entertainment. To use rather more high-faluting terms than I would aspire to, words used by my colleagues in the majority Report, its rôle is:for filling men's minds with beauty or ugliness, ideas or idleness, laughter or terror, love or hate.It is not just a question of switching on a light or turning on a gas tap, and perhaps it is because hon. Members opposite think of ideas in that way that their reasoning is at fault in this matter.
Nor is the Opposition Amendment any answer to this argument about monopoly. Under the plan of the Opposition, the two programmes would be under the same authority, but we would not avoid the evils of a Press monopoly, for example, by having a three penny and a two penny edition of the same national newspaper.
§ Mr. C. R. Attlee (Walthamstow, West)
That is what we get at the present time with some provincial newspapers.
§ Mr. Lloyd
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition says that that is what we get at the present time. If he suggests that there is at the moment only one national newspaper and only one view put through the papers, then I do not think his intervention could be serious.
Anyone who has read the Beveridge Report will see how the attention of that Committee, which was the first really to direct itself to the issue of a monopoly, was concentrated upon the dangers of a monopoly, and the fears that permeated its deliberations about this 219 matter. All sorts of minor palliatives were suggested, and a substantial one put forward was the institution of a public representation service. Hon. Members will find, in paragraphs 44 and 45 of the findings or recommendations of the Beveridge Report:With a view to carrying out the first of the aims.…which it suggests the B.B.C. should have in mind, that is to say:Bringing the work of the Corporation under constant and effective review from without.it was suggested that a public representation service should be set up:…which, in addition to taking over Audience Research and carrying it further on present lines, should include among other functions:'Receipt of and report on criticism and suggestions from outside;Conducting, either by its own staff or by commissioning outside experts, critical review of home programmes of all kinds;Systematic review of overseas programmes; etc'I know that Lord Beveridge, the Chairman of the Committee, attached very great importance to the setting up of that public representation service, the head of it being a member of the Board of Management and having status equal to that of the heads of the other main divisions of the Corporation's work. [An Hon. Member: "What page?"] I am quoting from page 195.
I confess that I had some doubts at the time about the feasibility of that suggestion. In fact, if hon. Members will again look at Lord Simon's book, pages 71 and 72, they will see how that matter was dealt with by the Governors and how it was considered by them to be undesirable, and that safeguard, to which Lord Beveridge attached great importance, has not been brought into operation. Little or nothing has been done to give effect to the recommendations contained in those two paragraphs.
I suggest the fact that that safeguard has proved either undesirable or impracticable confirms my point that the proper answer to these matters is to break the monopoly. I do not believe that my colleagues allowed themselves to face the logical consequences of their own fears, which appear throughout the whole of 220 that Report, and the emphasis given to them.
§ Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman apply this argument about monopoly to sound broadcasting as well as to television?
§ Mr. Lloyd
We are dealing at the moment with television only but if the right hon. Gentleman will look at my minority Report he will see the views which I put forward in regard to sound broadcasting. There are a number of different programmes in sound and there is a view that the part which sound is going to play is a steadily diminishing one, that the medium of the future, the important matter for the future, is the development of television.
§ Mr. Lloyd
These warnings about the monopoly did not come only from the Conservatives who gave evidence before the Committee. I remind hon. Members opposite, even if they do not like to be reminded of it, of the evidence given by the Fabian Research Group. They did not believe in commercial broadcasting, but what did they say about monopoly? They said, at the beginning of their evidence:These representations are based on the belief that monopoly of a medium of expression is dangerous;…They went on to particularise.
Having said that, they suggested that the monopoly should not be continued. They said:it would be much easier to solve such problems as political impartiality, responsibility to public opinion, good relations between management, staff, and trade unions, fair dealing with artists and speakers, enterprise and diversity in programmes, if a non-monopolistic system could be substituted.They went on to say:The size of the monopoly and the variety of functions that it exercises give a dangerous amount of power to the officials who control it. They can choose who and what is to be heard and seen on the air, and exclude anything they dislike or distrust. However conscientiously these officials try to carry out their work the fact of monopoly constitutes a constant danger to freedom of expression and diversity of approach. The situation may be compared with one that would arise if all publishers, all newspapers, or all theatres were to be subject to centralised control.
§ Mr. Lloyd
I am sorry, but if I may I want to complete these extracts from the evidence given by the Fabian Research Group. I am not suggesting that they came down in favour of commercial television. I am dealing with their arguments in regard to the issue of monopoly itself. They said:This cultural monopoly has its counterpart in the professional monopoly. B.B.C. officials exercise the power of employment, engagements, and publicity over a wide field.A little later it is stated,Staff concerned with production frequently feel that their prospects and conditions of work are governed by rules and decisions taken by remote officials whom they do not know and who have no first-hand knowledge of their work, and the lack of any alternative employment in radio and television makes such feelings more acute.
§ Mr. Donald Chapman (Birmingham, Northfield)
Did the Fabian Research Group report at that time come clearly down, after those arguments, in favour of competing divisions under one public corporation—under a monopoly?
§ Mr. Ness Edwards (Caerphilly)
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has said that they did not come down on the side of non-commercial television—
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
I beg the right hon. and learned Gentleman's pardon—commercial television. I should like to draw the right hon. and learned Gentleman's attention to his own Report. If he will look at paragraph 25, he will find that the Fabian people were in favour of non-commercial corporations, which were the right hon. and learned Gentleman's second choice.
§ Mr. Lloyd
That proves that I was right in what I said. The right hon. Gentleman, who has great knowledge of this matter, is absolutely right when he says that they came down in favour of separate corporations under a co-ordinating authority like the F.C.C.—nothing like 222 the B.B.C. at present. [Interruption.] The hon. Member has to accept that fact.
I am dealing now with the question of monopoly. I am coming in a moment to the alternatives, as to whether there should be commercial television or not. I am dealing at present with the evidence against monopoly and I am quoting to hon. Members what I think is the clear and undisputed evidence of the Fabian Research Group. They thought that the dangers of the B.B.C. monopoly were such that it ought to be broken up in a particular way.
I now come to the Liberal Research Group, and their views on the monopoly. They said that:Given the context of a Free Society, it seems to us indisputable in the circumstances of today and tomorrow that the monopoly of the B.B.C. in sound broadcasting and television in this country can no longer be justified.The reasons they gave were:because the vast expansion since 1927 in the scale and scope of sound broadcasting and television now involves the concentration of too much power in too few hands.…an unwieldy and bureaucratic organisation, too large for effective and imaginative management.because…the breaking up of the monopoly should create a situation favourable to even greater enterprise and initiative in the programme sphere, to the benefit of listeners and viewers throughout the country.…because the monopoly is now inimical to the best interests of the thousands of employees and contributors of all kinds.One page 384, dealing with television, they said:Could there be any objection to a carefully regulated element of sponsored television programmes? Control of all output would remain in the hands of the television authority, but it would be permitted to finance a stated proportion of programme time—perhaps entertainment items only—by negotiating appropriate advertising sponsorship.That evidence and those views really require some consideration. They were reinforced and have been reinforced then and since by the views of individuals of all parties, and the view of the Government is that the case for some breach in the monopoly, some competition, in the national interest, is made out beyond a reasonable doubt.
That is the first proposition, the first issue of principle upon which a decision is required. [An Hon. Member: "What about the cable industry?"] We are debating television today, but the views 223 I have put forward are those I personally hold in regard to all monopolies. However, the monopoly we are discussing today is that of the B.B.C.
The next question is if the monopoly must go how should the changes be made? That brings us to the second big issue: should any advertisements be allowed? The right hon. Member for Lewisham, South said yesterday that that was the main issue in the debate. The view has been put forward, I think explicitly and implicitly, that it would be positively sinful in some way to have advertisements on television. We may have them in the newspapers and magazines, all over the carriages of the tubes, on the hoardings, in programmes in the cinema and theatre, in all sorts of places, without a high degree of moral turpitude. In fact the B.B.C. collect £1 million out of advertisements in the "Radio Times."
Yet to put an advertisement on a television screen is apparently something which would degrade and debase. Apart from the argument that no one need look at the advertisements unless he buys the adapter and then, having bought it, switches on to that programme, and even then keeps his eyes open and looks at the advertisements, I believe that the only way to describe this attempt to work up all this indignation against advertising is pure humbug.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker (Smethwick)
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman apply that epithet to Lord Halifax?
§ Mr. Lloyd
An hon. Member has shouted out the word "disgusting." Let him listen to what Lord Beveridge, Lady Megan Lloyd George and Mrs. Mary Stocks said on the question of advertisements in the note at page 226 of the Report. Again let me make it clear that they were not in favour of a breach of 224 the monopoly but they were dealing with advertising. They said:Advertising to bring sellers and buyers together is universally accepted as a necessary business activity, carried out through the Press, on public hoarding, by notices displayed in all places where people are gathered together, for transport, entertainment or other purposes. Is there any decisive reason why the most pervasive of all means of communication should not be used at all for this legitimate purpose?Then, dealing with the arguments which can be raised against controlled advertising at limited hours, they say that among the arguments most commonly used is:That admission of advertising to programmes would offend public taste. This argument is generally supported by reference to the American practice of interrupting programmes by advertisements which may be offensive and are often rather boring.I shall have something to say about that in a minute.We do not contemplate anything of this nature. If advertisement were limited to fixed hours, there could be no offence to anyone through advertisement unless he deliberately tuned in to that programme at those hours. There would be nothing comparable to the offence which is now given to listeners without any chance of their escaping it, by dramatic performances with a horror element or by many unannounced vulgarities of variety.
§ Mr. Lloyd
May I finish this first? The third reference in their note is:The art of living in a free society includes the considered spending of consumer's income so as to get the most out of it, according to the spender's personal judgment. The art of broadcasting in a free society should include readiness to assist in this exercise of consumer's choice and freedom.I wish I had time to read the whole of that note.
§ Mr. Lloyd
It has already been produced in this Report. Those three distinguished members of the Beveridge Committee—none of whom belong to my party—rejected the contention of the hon. Member for Preston, South (Mr. Shackleton) that broadcasting should not be carried on for the lure of the sale of goods.
§ Mr. Mayhew
The Minister's statement is important. The idea to which these three people gave their sanction is the idea that advertisements should appear at 225 certain fixed times. We should like to know if this is the policy of the Government, and not that advertisements should appear between one programme and another which these three people opposed.
§ Mr. Lloyd
If the hon. Gentleman will do me the compliment of listening to my argument, he will find that I am now dealing with the question whether advertisement is sinful in itself, which is a view apparently held by hon. Members opposite, and I am quoting, in support of my contention that there is no moral turpitude in it, this note by the three members, who are not of my party, in the Beveridge Report. I agree that they were considering the inclusion of advertisements at certain controlled times. No doubt the hon. Gentleman will make clear in his own time, if he gets the opportunity, whether he agrees with that view.
The next argument against advertisements is that the advertisers would be operating from the profit motive and that companies putting on the programmes would be operating from the profit motive. I quite realise that that will create among hon. Members opposite enormous feeling about wickedness, but it does not depress me at all, and I should have thought that even the Opposition would have begun to realise that upon the profits of private industry any Chancellor must depend if he hopes to maintain the existing level of public expenditure.
Then it is said that the advertisers will bring undue influence to bear upon the programmes. Well, they will influence the programmes to this extent—that they will not pay for time unless the programme is a good one. They will not advertise unless the programme is good enough to attract a large viewing public. That is not necessarily an evil thing. What a shocking doctrine for these apostles of democracy opposite to say that if a large number of people choose to look at a programme that is a wicked thing. It is denial of the free choice of the consumers.
§ Mr. Lloyd
In any case, -unless the programmes are good ones they will not attract a large number of viewers.
226 There is another factor. I do not know whether hon. Members are aware, but a large viewing public will not, in my view, be attracted as the result of a single item. I believe it is the experience in the United States of America that it has to be built up as a result of a balanced programme. I had a long discussion on this matter with Mr. Paley who has done a very great public service for broadcasting in the United States. Let me give an example of one thing that he told me he had done, with reference to this idea that people would only put on programmes for a profit motive.
There was one expensive programme which he considered represented the American way of life in a good way. He put it on for a year at the expense of the network before any sponsor could be found for it. I think anyone who knows anything about C.B.S., whose mind is not actuated by prejudice in this matter, will know that that is a balanced programme. I think that I have seen as much American television as anyone else in this House. The advertisements bore, as they do in their newspapers. I do not like the constant unnatural interruptions of a programme. But that will not be allowed under any scheme for which this Government is responsible.
§ Mr. Lloyd
In the United States there is a wide range of programmes on matters of public interest. There is a variety and vitality in American broadcasts which I think is missing from many of our own programmes. [Laughter.] I should be more impressed by the laughter from hon. Members opposite if I thought they knew very much about it. If we consider the most popular programmes on British radio, we find that they have come, in the main, from the other side of the Atlantic as a result of sponsored radio. "What's my line?" "Meet the Press," "Twenty Questions"—those are programmes which have come as a result of the vitality of American broadcasting.
I am confident that advertisements could be introduced into television in this country without offending taste or demoralising the people. My hon. Friend the Member for Oswestry (Mr. Ormsby-Gore) dealt yesterday with one of the economic arguments. If any hon. 227 Members did not hear his speech, I advise them to read it, because it completely disposes of the question that added cost will be put upon consumers.
One final matter on advertisements. I think that private enterprise will be encouraged to produce good programmes and that the technique of advertising British goods by this medium will be developed. There will be two good results from that. First, I think that a new facility will be provided for trade and industry and that techniques will be learned which will be of great value in capturing export markets. Secondly, I think that a new impetus will be given to the entertainment industry and to the production of good documentaries.
There are good markets for these products overseas, and I think it is well within our capacity, given the chance, to capture these markets, and so increase our earnings of foreign currencies. For all these reasons we believe that advertisements should be allowed, and that good rather than harm will come of it. If the result be to break the monopoly, then it is something which is acceptable to us.
So much for the issues of monopoly and of advertisements. I now come to the Government's proposals. Here the Government have gone cautiously and have tried to allay fears and to meet objections. My hon. Friend the Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell) indicated in his speech yesterday that he thought we had gone a great deal too far towards meeting those fears. The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) also indicated yesterday that he thought we had been too timorous, and had gone too far in regard to these objections.
I agree that there are many points on the details of the scheme which require further consideration. I think that the question of this second corporation dealing with religion and politics, the handling of news by it, the commodities and services which may or may not be advertised, the degree of Parliamentary control over the corporation, and the question whether or not 100 per cent. of its revenue should come from advertisements, are all matters which require further discussion and consideration. The Government are very willing to discuss these matters. But this is a debate on 228 principles and not on details. The latter will be dealt with during the various stages of the Bill.
The two matters of principle, of general policy, upon which we seek a decision this evening are, first, whether or not the monopoly should be broken—it being understood that the B.B.C. should remain, financed by licence fees, to put on programmes without advertisements—and secondly, whether alongside the B.B.C. another system should be set up, conducted by a public corporation permitting advertisements to be shown under certain conditions. I think that within those two principles the collective wisdom of Parliament should be able to hammer out a workable and constructive plan.
The right hon. Member for Lewisham, South yesterday made a suggestion. I see that one newspaper has described it as a "peace offer." My reply to what he said is that if he will accept the idea that the monopoly should be broken and that an alternative system should draw some revenue from advertisement, then we are very ready to discuss the matter with him. If the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends accept those two principles, then a very wide and useful field for discussion would be opened up. But unless the two basic principles are accepted, I really think that any further discussion would be without profit. Up to now there has not been the slightest hint of any sort from the Opposition that they would accept either of those two principles. In fact, precisely the contrary has bee a shown.
I shall finish—[Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."]—I am sorry that I have been so unpalatable to hon. Members opposite-very much as I began with, if I may, a quotation from the evidence given by Lord Reith to which my hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Sir R. Grimston) referred yesterday. Lord Reith said:It was the brute force of monopoly that enabled the B.B.C. to become what it did; and to do what it did; that made it possible for a policy of moral responsibility to be followed. If there is to be competition it will be of cheapness, not of goodness. The usual disadvantages and dangers of monopoly do not apply to broadcasting; it is in fact a potent incentive.I believe that in that quotation lies the difference between those who hold contrary views upon this matter. I think 229 that the idea of the brute force of monopoly being so good for everyone is abhorrent to us on this side of the House. The tendencies in the world today are towards uniformity of thought and deed, and a uniform pattern imposed upon us by a single group of men, however high-minded, is a bad thing.
I ask the House to give its support to the general policy of the Government in this matter, as set out in the White Paper and in the speeches of Government spokesmen in this debate. If it does so. I think that it will act with courage and with vision.
§ 4.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards (Caerphilly)
We have listened to a speech which, the latter part especially, was very unlike the way in which the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Minister of State generally does his business with foreign Powers. The right hon. and learned Gentleman lays down the condition that, first of all, we on this side of the House should give up all our principles before going into the conference. I must say that the right hon. and learned Gentleman did not show that toleration for his fellow countrymen that he apparently shows outside.
I wish to reverse the order in dealing with the matters referred to by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. It is strange that he should back this White Paper, because it does not embody his views. His views are on record, and what he recommended was a complete American system. That was his first choice. In the Beveridge Minority Report, which he signed, he was in favour of American sponsorship.
§ Mr. Selwyn Lloyd
With one very important difference, with the maintenance of the B.B.C. as a public service system alongside, of which there is no parallel in the United States.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
The right hon. and learned Gentleman's memory is very much at fault this afternoon. If he will read the section of that Report dealing with television he will see that he said quite the contrary. He wanted sponsored television to be set up under a public corporation. The right hon. and learned Gentleman really should not make statements which contradict the facts, especially when it is his own Report. The right hon. and learned Gentleman, 230 who is the advocate of an American system of sponsorship, comes here to defend a White Paper which attacks this American system of sponsorship. Where does he stand? Is he for sponsorship or, with the Government, against sponsorship? Does he trust the advertisers, or, like the Government, does he not trust them?
§ Mr. Lloyd
As this is a matter dealing with my own Minority Report, I must ask the right hon. Gentleman to be fair about the evidence. In paragraph 22 of that Report I said:This corporation should be licensed by the Commission to put on television programmes with the power as an interim measure to accept advertisements for sponsored items.I then went on to say that when television was further developed it would come under a public corporation.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
I am much obliged to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, but I should have thought that there was nothing wrong in what I said. I think I am correct in saying that, in the first instance, the right hon. and learned Gentleman thought that there should be sponsored television and that, afterwards, there should be created a public corporation run on lines similar to the B.B.C.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
The right hon. and learned Gentleman now agrees, but why does he now defend a system which contradicts his own Report?
Let me carry the matter one step further. He asks, "What is wrong with advertisements or advertisers? After all, there will only be spot advertising." The right hon. and learned Gentleman sat in his place yesterday and listened to the hon. Member who is now regarded by the "Manchester Guardian" as the spokesman for the American lobby in this House—the Assistant Postmaster-General—saying that advertisements would be put in in natural breaks in the items or programmes. I suppose that there will now be a new industry in commercial television—the creation of natural breaks. There will be new craftsmen and a new category of employment, because the more natural breaks that can be created, the more advertisements can be inserted. One could have them between every item in "What's Your Line?"
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
The right hon. and learned Gentleman doubted whether advertisements would do harm. He made this admission, "If it does harm it is worth while if it breaks the monopoly." Has he any doubts about it? Does he really think that commercial advertising will harm television? How much harm can we stand in order to break the monopoly? He is not putting his argument very high. That is not a very good recommendation for the unnecessary system which he now proposes. I should have thought that the worst defender of this White Paper was the right hon. and learned Gentleman himself.
The House should take notice of the way in which the Government have handled this controversy. We have been told that we should "trust the people." Why did not the party opposite trust the people in the Election, and tell them that they had this proposal in mind? Why was this done without any public discussion? I think that everybody had a surprise when the first White Paper was issued in May, 1952, stating that an element of competition was to be introduced and that the B.B.C. was not to be given a monopoly.
A debate was conducted in another place, where the Postmaster-General was made the official spokesman for Government policy. He used the terms "competitive," "commercial," and "sponsored" with complete abandon. He little knew then what the Government intended to do. He did not know which system was to be introduced, and he bandied the terms about as if he were in a field which was strange to him. Their Lordships were very much up in arms. Respected elder Tory statesmen, and younger ones, condemned this proposal. It was a proposal that all previous Tory tradition was against. The monopoly which is now so offensive was created by a Tory Government. They now seek to destroy it.
Despite all that was said in the other place, and despite all the meanderings of the Postmaster-General, we had to wait for the Lord Chancellor, who always approaches political questions with a considerable amount of judicial restraint, before we knew the answer. This is what he said: 232I sincerely hope that in due time—and it must be some years—there will be sponsored television, in this country.I am quoting, and, as this was a Government statement, I am entitled to do so. The Lord Chancellor went further, and said:I believe that it will work for the good.The right hon. and learned Gentleman does not believe that it will work for the good. The Lord Chancellor continued:I, personally, also hope that in time it will lead to sponsored radio—but that lies in the future and is a purely personal opinion."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 26th May, 1952; Vol. 176, c. 1447.]This statement, instead of allaying public anxiety, caused a great deal more controversy.
Then we had a debate here. The Assistant Postmaster-General was the spokesman whose duty it was to satisfy the American lobby, and the Minister for Welsh Affairs—who is supposed to be concerned with Welsh culture—was put up to allay apprehensions on both sides of the House as to the iniquities of this matter. It is astonishing, but that has been the policy throughout every debate. In the other place we had two spokesmen, one appealing to the commercial interests and the other trying to satisfy the apprehensions of those people with a greater social conscience, and the same thing happened here. The "Manchester Guardian" is quite right. I do not wish to be offensive, but the Assistant Postmaster-General has been out to satisfy back bench pressure, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman has been out to show that it is not as bad as his colleague says.
The debates to which I have referred took place in May, 1952. Since then there has been controversy throughout the country. We had to wait until 2nd July, 1953, before we got the promised Government statement of policy. What jockeying has been taking place in the Cabinet? If I may say so, without being offensive and patronising, how can men of outstanding social decency like the Home Secretary, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Foreign Secretary, and the Lord President of the Council, be harnessed to this commercial lobby?
Division in the Cabinet was probably the cause of the delay in announcing this policy. It took 14 months of pushing and 233 pulling to arrive at it, and we had it on 2nd July, 1952, when it was announced by someone who knew nothing about it—the Leader of the House. He gave the broad principles of Government policy and said:The number of stations under any one ownership or control would be limited.That would be a limited breach of the monopoly. He then said:it is not likely that a large number of stations would be licensed in the first instance, and they would be of low power and limited range.That was not much of an attack upon the monoply. It was rather the creation of new monopolies. He also said:A controlling body would be set up to advise the Postmaster-General on the issue of licences.…and the control of standards.
Then, as if it were something out of the blue, came the fourth principle:The owner and operator of a station, whose licence would be at stake, and not the provider of programmes or the sponsor, would be the person responsible for what was broadcast.The sponsor would not be responsible, but the operator of the station, and we were told this as though it was something new. In fact, what we were told was that there was being set up in this country a replica of the American system: because that was the American system. It was the system in which the Minister of State believed. In the United States, as he knows, the licence is given by the Federal Communications Commission; it is the licensee who is liable for what goes on the air, not the programme man. That is the American practice.
When questioned on this statement in the House the Leader of the House said, of what he had said:I have repeated what our previous views were. I stand by that today."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd July, 1953; Vol. 517, c. 594–96.]He is not standing by it today, though; he has shifted his ground again; but when he made that statement in July the Government were in favour of the American system. Sponsorship was the policy, and that, of course, caused further controversy throughout the country.
Then the Postmaster-General acted as a political fireman. He was going to quell those fires of controversy. To quell them he finds an unknown little village buried 234 deep in the heart of the country without a railway station, and he makes a speech, and this is what he says on 29th August, two months after the announcement of Government policy:We are not going to adopt the American system of dependence on what is known as sponsoring, by which I mean the advertiser providing his own programme, instead of the station providing the programme and the advertiser having his advertisements put in.The Lord Chancellor did not make that statement. Here he was deserted. Here the Leader of the House was deserted. The scheme the Government had been in favour of was now cast aside by the Postmaster-General.
What did the advertisers say? The advertisers thought so much of it that they, with the permission of the Postmaster-General, reprinted his speech and circulated it to all hon. and right hon. Members of the House. It is a queer way of handling State business, that a Postmaster-General must have his speech circulated by parties who are interested in the controversy over which he should show some impartiality. Would the Home Secretary do that sort of thing? I think his experience in the courts would lead him to be a little more judicial, and a little more concerned about his position as one of Her Majesty's Ministers. But what did they say? They said this:We realise from your"—that is, the Postmaster-General's——speech at Mottram that the Government and organised advertising are at one on what would be a desirable framework of competitive television.They desired to run commercial television in this country. The Government have bowed to the advertisers, and the advertisers, having won the first round by getting competitive television, have now won their second victory over the Government. I would ask hon. Members on both sides of the House, if they want to see the shape of things to come, if they want to understand some of the phrases in the Government's White Paper, to read this Open Letter, of which I have a copy here, and from which I have just quoted, and which gives one an indication of what the Government are to do to satisfy the advertisers.
Even that did not end the story. It was not until last month that we had the White Paper which embodies this new policy. In paragraph 6 of the White 235 Paper we come across this declaration of basic policy:The Government have decided as a basic principle that there should be no 'sponsoring.' "—The Minister of State, the arch-advocate of sponsoring, has stood up here today to defend the White Paper in which the basic principle is no sponsoring. It goes on to say—and that the responsibility for what goes out on the air shall rest upon the operator of the station, and not on the advertiser. There is a vast difference between accepting advertisements and sponsoring.We have to wait from May, 1952, until last month before we got the White Paper embodying the policy of this Government, but because the Government say they have abandoned sponsoring it does not follow that they have abandoned sponsoring. Because they say they have abandoned the American system, that they will not have the American system, it does not follow that what is in the White Paper does not provide for the American system.
Let me put the American system as briefly as I can—and I agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman that one of the corporations, the Columbia, has done some good work in America. On that we are agreed. Here is the set-up in the commercial field. Stations are licensed by the Federal Communications Commission and owned by private companies. The programmes are made up in two main ways. First of all, the station owner provides the programme and gets an advertiser to buy the advertising time associated with it. In other words, he gets someone to sponsor the programme that he himself has produced. That is, I think, the typical way in which the Columbia Broadcasting System runs its stations.
There is a second method. The advertiser buys time to put on his own show advertising a particular product, and the advertiser determines the whole layout of the show, and it is completely under his control. Most of the American stations are run on a mixture of these two methods. In law, the licensee is responsible, and not the advertiser. That is the American set-up.
Let us see, from the White Paper, what set-up is proposed in this country. What 236 is proposed is that, first of all, there should be a television broadcasting corporation which shall have about £1 million of the taxpayers' money to build transmitters, studios, provide studio equipment, and to hire co-axial links between the various stations. The corporation itself will hire out its capital assets to private operating companies or company. It is permissive in the White Paper. The operating or programme company will obtain its programmes in four ways.
Looking at paragraph 11 the four ways are obvious. First, it produces itself; secondly, it will contract for programmes from outside the company; thirdly, it will have documentary films, or shoppers' guides prepared by advertisers; fourthly, it will have contracts for theatrical productions, music hall and sports events, and public spectacles. The operating company would insert advertisements between items, or, to use the more modern phrase, in the "natural breaks" in the programmes, and be wholly dependent on the advertisers for revenue. That is the theory.
The Postmaster-General is responsible to Parliament; the television broadcasting corporation is responsible to the Postmaster-General; the operating company is responsible to the television corporation; and the advertisers are responsible to the operators. That is the theory. What relation has this to sponsorship? We get an idea of what the Government regard as "sponsoring" from paragraph 6 of the White Paper, which says:…advertisers would…provide and control their own programmes.The view of the advertisers who have been advising the hon. Gentleman is that "sponsoring" implies that the whole programme is either designed or approved by some interest other than the broadcasting authority, such as a business firm or an advertising agency concerned to sell goods or services.
We have seen that the Government, as a matter of basic principle, have abandoned sponsoring. Yet the set-up which the Government describe in the White Paper expressly provides for sponsoring. Documentary films and shoppers' guides are classic examples of sponsoring and of the American system. How can the Government say they have abandoned sponsoring when, on the face of it, one 237 element of the way in which the programmes are to be made up is definitely by sponsoring?
Let us take the programmes prepared by outside bodies. The programme director of the operating company, if he is to get financial support, must supply programme items to satisfy the requirements of the advertisers whose money will be used to pay the costs. That is in the open letter issued by the advertisers. The programme director will realise that if his station is to be a commercial success he must buy his programme items at a cost less than the amount which the advertiser will pay for the advertising time associated with the item. He has to make a surplus. The cost of the programme will be easily ascertainable because, in that case, the programme director is a buyer.
Then the programme director will go to the advertiser and ask him what he will pay for the advertising time associated with the item, offering him the natural breaks in the item. Here he is a seller, and because of the very high cost of television—£1,000 a minute—he is a seller in a very limited market. If the programme item does not suit the advertiser, the advertiser will not buy. The right hon. Gentleman agrees with that, for that is what he says. The programme director is in the position of looking for a sponsor. In the last analysis the advertiser pays the piper and it is he who will call the tune and will determine what shall be broadcast.
What the Government have done is to reverse the American system. Instead of the sponsor buying time, the programme director has to hunt for sponsors to whom he can sell time. Instead of the sponsor producing a programme to suit his own needs, the programme director must provide a programme item to suit the needs of the sponsor. Again, it is the advertiser who will call the tune.
Then there is the other method of the operating company producing its own programme items. The manager produces his own item. He wants sufficient money to pay his costs, so he must sell the advertising time associated with the item. If he cannot sell it, he operates at a loss. He is in the position of having to look for a sponsor. The nature of his items must be such as to appeal to 238 advertisers. Twist and turn as the Government may about this, what they have, in effect, provided for in the White Paper is the American system. It is the American system on the Government's own test; it is that the advertiser determines what is broadcast.
Then there is the fourth method of making up the programme, by contacts with theatres, music halls, Jack Solomons, Shepherds Bush, Earls Court, the White City, and so on. The programme manager must know, roughly, what he can afford to pay for a public spectacle. How does he discover that? There may be some dog racing on, and he must find out, first, how much Little-wood's or Sherman's Pools will pay for the advertising time associated with the programmes. The natural breaks in the item are those between the races. If Little wood's or Sherman's or Bass will not pay, the public spectacle cannot be shown on the television. Again, in the last analysis it is the advertiser who determines what is to be put on the air.
Have the Government thought for one moment that operating companies might be the stooges for advertising interests? Have they thought for one moment that these advertising companies, by their financial contacts, can be inside the operating companies? Are we to be protected against this? A Press lord is known to be interested in one of the companies equipped to do this job, and a licence has been applied for. Will he have an exclusive right to advertise on the new commercial television? Are we sure that the American interests involved in the company will not see to it that American cars are advertised to the exclusion of British cars? What has the right hon. Gentleman to say about this? The White Paper is just a muddle.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
It is a muddle to cover a fiddle.
How is it that it has had so much influence on right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite? Why is it that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kelvin-grove (Mr. Elliot), whom we remember with affection as Minister of Health, has lent his name and his respectability to this racket, to this ideological umbrella 239 under which the narrow commercial interest has been pushed by the Government in an attempt to satisfy their commercial friends?
In this matter the Government have been the prisoners of their own Tory doctrine. The Government agree that the B.B.C. is the best broadcasting institution in the world. The right hon. Gentleman said as much in his Report. It is a magnificent institution, but it is a monopoly, and that is its fault. This fact is in conflict with Tory feeling. How can a monopoly be good? Because the monopoly is powerful, it can control men's minds, and, therefore, it is dangerous. Whatever the shortcomings of the B.B.C. are in relation to answerability to this House, it is the fault of the House. If there are any dangers in a public monopoly, they are dangers which can be corrected by the answerability of the monopoly to the House.
Let us concede that the monopoly is dangerous. How does the Minister propose to correct the danger? He proposes another monopoly, a replica of the worst broadcasting system in the world to run side by side with it so that we get the world's worst with the world's best. We are told that this will correct the dangers that are inherent in monopoly. This is the sort of logic that something bad in theory, but good in fact, is balanced by something that is bad in fact but good in theory. One would have to go to Colney Hatch for reasoning of that sort.
Then there is the argument, which is extremely attractive, of finding an alternative programme. Let me say that we are all at one on an alternative programme. We want a second programme on television, but will the Government's proposal give us an alternative programme? I doubt it. The operating company will have to make its business pay. A balanced alternative programme—and I should like the right hon. Member for Kelvingrove to listen to this—
§ Mr. Walter Elliot (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
I am listening with great attention, and I hope to catch Mr. Speaker's eye later.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
I want the right hon. Member to get this point, because 240 we have had some respect for his views and his attitude in the House. I am sure that he wants a balanced alternative programme. But a balanced alternative programme has many items in it which have no commercial interest—which have no interest for advertisers. If we are to have a balanced programme the advertiser, in the rates he pays for the items which serve his interest, must also pay for those items in which he has no interest. Either the advertiser must be a philanthropist or the non-commercial interests of the programme will have to be very limited or almost non-existent.
Experience elsewhere has shown that the non-commercial element of the T.V. programme is almost non-existent. I am sure that the right hon. Member will agree that no businessman can afford to be a philanthropist in his business. His job is to look after his shareholders, so all that this scheme offers us is a collection of alternative items geared to one purpose, not the interests of the viewers but the interests of the advertisers. To call such a commercial programme an alternative programme will be like calling the "Daily Mirror" a newspaper if every page were filled with Jane.
It has been suggested that there is an analogy between advertising on television and in the newspapers. If we are to test like with like, comparable with comparable, we ought to test commercial television dependent entirely upon advertising revenue with the give-away newspapers that are compiled completely by the advertising companies for issue in the provinces. That is the real test. There is no news at all in the give-away newspaper. It is the shoppers' guide. That is the real analogy and not this comparison, which is continually being made, with "The Times," the "Manchester Guardian" and all the rest of the newspapers.
I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman: Do the Government really think that the serious side of television will get a chance if it has to depend on what is paid for the frivolous side? Do they really think that education, religion and subjects of social importance will really be supported by beer, pools and pills? We had one of the advertisers of pills yesterday waxing eloquent about it. Do they really think that all the serious side 241 of television must depend upon advertisers paying for what they do not get and what they invariably do not want? If they do, that is a classic example of credulity.
Let us take the Government's case at the value which the Government themselves place upon it. Who will get the so-called alternative programme, assuming that there is an alternative programme? Does the Minister for Welsh Affairs think that there will be a commercial programme in West Wales? Does he think that there will be one in North Wales? Does he think that there will be one in North Scotland, or one in Merioneth, or in Montgomery, or in East Anglia or in Cornwall and Devon? All one has to do is to look at the Television Advisory Committee's report to see that all the applications for commercial licences are in the best market areas—London, Manchester and Birmingham. Those are the three with the maximum member of applications for them.
What the advertisers are concerned about is not the second-rate, not the alternative programme; they are concerned in tapping a new market and where there is no new market they will not provide an alternative programme. This Government of Tory businessmen at least ought to know that advertisers only advertise where it pays to advertise, and it will not pay to advertise in Montgomery or Merioneth or West Wales or North Wales or North Scotland. Instead of providing an alternative programme by this White Paper proposal, the Government are stopping the nation from getting an alternative programme. I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman realises that. All this professed affection for the B.B.C., all this admiration for the B.B.C. of the right hon. and learned Gentleman has been operating to ruining the B.B.C. plans for a second alternative programme for the whole of the country.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
If the hon. Member will allow me to finish this point I will give way. I know that I am taking more time than I should.
The B.B.C. applied for frequencies for an alternative programme at the Stockholm Conference in June, 1952, with the 242 authority of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. The application was granted, frequencies were allotted and everything was fixed for the frequencies for the second programme. In May, 1953, when applications were invited, it made its application to the Television Advisory Committee. It said that if it were given the channels, here was its claim to provide a second programme for the whole of the country. But what did the Television Advisory Committee say, in paragraph 37:Clearly, Band III cannot provide both a complete second B.B.C. programme and coverage of extensive areas by competitive television. One or the other, or both must suffer…The Government have decided that the B.B.C. must suffer, and they have wrecked the plan for full national coverage for a real, balanced alternative programme. Commercial television is not interested in a national alternative programme. It is merely interested in the market areas and towns of big population.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will recollect that the B.B.C. plans for an alternative programme required eight channels in Band III and 28 transmitters. It so happens that under his Government, and when he was Assistant Postmaster-General, those channels were given away for other purposes, so that there is no room in Band III for a full national programme.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
The hon. Gentle man is quite wrong. He ought to know that many of the channels were given away as part and parcel of the defence programme—
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
—and it was not the responsibility of the Postmaster-General. It was done in conjunction with N.A.T.O. and part of the North Atlantic defence scheme as well.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
The Government and their Lordships have made great play, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman has done today, about the question of monopoly. They say, "We must end this monopoly," but how do they do it? They propose to create another monopoly, with equal powers of 243 controlling men's minds. They agree that the B.B.C. is a good monopoly, but say that the principle is bad.
We were told yesterday, in a very flaunting attitude, by the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) about the priests deciding what men were to think and to see—the priests of Broadcasting House, a terrible thing. What the hon. Member proposed was that we bring the priests from the temple of the golden calf to join them. The hon. Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell) talked about the "high-minded" people. What he and the Government want to do is to introduce some low-minded people to balance them. We have had all this talk about priests. The priests of the golden calf and the priests of Broadcasting House are both answerable to the same high priest, the Postmaster-General.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
It is not for me to comment on the qualities of a distinguished Member of the Government, but the Assistant Postmaster-General is answerable for the Government to this House. He will be answerable for all that is done, whether it is done by the priests of the golden calf or the priests of Broadcasting House. The Government propose to create a monopoly which half the nation say is bad, and they are to substitute something that is bad for what is good to justify Tory doctrine.
I have taken much too much time, but there is one point I must make in conclusion. The plea that these proposals will end monopoly in broadcasting is false. They will create more monopolies. The plea that they extend freedom is merely a new opportunity for big business to condition people's minds to buy certain products. How far that will lead to the conditioning of people's minds to vote in a certain direction, I leave to hon. Members. The proposals do not provide an alternative programme. Not a single argument has been put forward by right hon. or hon. Gentlemen in this debate which, when analysed, can justify the proposals that are before us.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) made a suggestion yesterday about a round table conference. This problem has always been settled on a non-party 244 basis. Is it possible now to find a solution? I say to the Minister of State, that it may well be that his own recommendations may form a basis for that agreement.
We do not ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to accept our proposition. If he looks at paragraph 25 of his own Report, he will find this:'If the above proposals"—that is, an American system of sponsoring; it has not found favour with the right hon. and learned Gentleman's own Government, and it certainly has not found favour with this side of the House—do not find favour with a majority of those responsible for deciding the pattern of broadcasting for the future, I favour an alternative method…I doubt whether the proposals of Sir Robert Watson-Watt and Mr. Crowther for three independent public service corporations all competing nationally for the same listeners with the same variety of programmes is practicable. The cost in materials and manpower and the difficulty in determining the method of financial reward appear to me to be grave disadvantages.The right hon. and learned Gentleman said:I therefore support, as an alternative, the views of some of those who advocated competition between public service corporations with different functions.Those are public service corporations who are non-commercial groups. These are the proposals which the right hon. and learned Gentleman advocated in his Report. He went on to say:Other suggestions were put forward by other witnesses. My own view is that if this method of breaking up the monopoly were to be adopted, a beginning should be made by setting up a separate television corporation and a separate corporation to encourage and develop local broadcasting. If sponsoring were not to be permitted, the Television Corporation would have to be financed out of licence fees with power to borrow for capital expenditure, and the Corporation for developing local broadcasting would have to receive a proportion of the sound licence fee with similar power to borrow. This split might have certain practical disadvantages but I believe that they would be outweighed by the correctives to the dangers of monopoly which would be provided.The right hon. and learned Gentleman wrote that after very great thought. I suggest that if we have a round table conference—I put this seriously to the Minister, who has a special place in this matter—this might be one of the important elements for such a round table conference. If the Government are prepared 245 for such a conference, they ought, as a first condition, to withdraw the Motion tonight. Let us go in with free hands, and if we fail we all come back to do battle without any of our positions having been prejudiced. That is the way to tackle this issue, and I appeal to the Home Secretary, who has his Welsh responsibilities, not to let television decline to the status of a music room in a "pub." If he does that, Wales will never forgive him.
§ 5.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
I do not intend to detain the House for more than a few minutes. The debates, both in this House and in another place, have not only been very interesting, but have reached a high level. Speeches have been forceful and cogent, and rightly so, because we are considering the use and control of a discovery which, in my opinion, is the most likely of all discoveries made in this amazing age to have the greatest influence upon mankind, for it brings us all, from all the countries of the world, into close and intimate knowledge of one another and of our ideas and thoughts. It is right, therefore, that we should devote all this time to the consideration of this matter.
Tonight, I am not going to advance any argument either for or against either side. I do not think that on this fourth day of Parliamentary debate on this subject any new argument can be put forward on either side. The only difference is that each Member will marshal his arguments and facts in his own way and make his own emphasis. I would add only this: it has taken rather a long time for some hon. Members to express their thoughts.
May I take this opportunity of paying my tribute to the B.B.C.? I had the honour to sit on the 1934 Committee under the chairmanship of a former Speaker, the late Lord Ullswater, and one of my colleagues was the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. That Committee considered the terms of the Charter for the period from 1935 until the new Charter was granted. I always remember the tribute which was paid to the B.B.C. by every country in the world. Every country not only admired, but envied. That was the opinion held at that time.
I turn, next, to the outbreak of war and to the trust and faith which people every- 246 where had in the B.B.C. How many millions listened to the sound of Big Ben, and what comfort it must have brought to them when they realised that the B.B.C. was above suspicion. That was sound radio. Without doubt, in a very short time television will replace sound radio and will become of universal use. It will be a tremendous power throughout the whole world, not only in the countries where it is at present in use—here, in Europe and in the United States—but elsewhere, and it will have a tremendous influence throughout Africa and Asia. It is important that we, above everyone, should maintain a proper standard, for other countries still have a very high regard for us and for what we do.
It seems to be agreed that the present situation is not satisfactory and there is a consensus of opinion that more is needed than is at present provided. But what has happened? The only inquiry has been that by the Beveridge Committee. They looked into this matter and they were divided. The question has never been an issue before the public—and I think rightly so, because I do not think this is a matter which should be brought before the public as a political issue by anybody. Surely this above everything should not be a party matter. Strong views can be held about it, and rightly held.
But for the fact that the Whips are on, the debates here and in another place in many ways would have reminded me more forcibly than any other debate to which I have listened of the debates upon the Prayer Book, in 1927. This matter should be regarded as one for each hon. Member to consider with himself what, in his view, is the best way of using and controlling this medium for the benefit of the public as a whole.
The Government adopted the views of the minority of the Beveridge Committee, and the moment they did so there were protests. A debate was held in the House in which the Government had a majority. Since then, however, even the Government have changed their minds very radically. They have changed their views and this proposal bears little resemblance to the first White Paper they put forward.
The Government then put forward a second White Paper. Nevertheless, at 247 once there appeared to be a considerable volume of opinion opposed even to the present proposals of the Government. That body of opinion cannot be pushed on one side; it cannot be ignored. Even assuming that there were a free vote in the House tonight, as has been perfectly obvious from the speeches which have been made—made by everyone with deep sincerity; and may I pay a tribute to my colleagues in the House by saying that they speak sincerely?—there is bound to be a tremendous division of opinion. It might be that if there were a free vote the majority would still be in favour of the White Paper, but I believe there is considerable doubt about that.
But it is not merely a question of a Division here. I ask the Government to consider whether they can ignore, for example, the protests which have been made by the religious bodies, one after another. Can they ignore the protests which have come from the universities? There was a suggestion that there had been a whip round to obtain the signatures to the letter which appeared in "The Times" the day before yesterday.
The hon. and gallant Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) made one of the most effective speeches which I have heard that very gallant gentleman make in this House, He made the suggestion that there had been a whip round. On consideration, I am sure that he and everybody else will agree that any reflection upon the vice-chancellors of the universities is unworthy. They are all independently-minded men and they are speaking not only for themselves in signing these letters, but after many discussions with their own colleagues in their own colleges. Nor can we ignore the views which have been expressed by trade union leaders, or the views which have been expressed by other people who hold such high position in this country in every walk of life.
If we look at the report of the debate which took place in another place, we find that the opposition there was not confined to members of the Labour Party. If I may say so, about members of my own party, two of the most effective speeches delivered there were one against the Government's proposals by Lord Samuel and the other in favour of them by Lord Layton.
248 Can we ignore the views expressed by these people? I join in the plea which has already been made to the Government that, even now, they should call a round table conference to consider this matter. It is not a political matter. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has said that a Government must take the responsibility, and I quite agree that that is so in a matter which has been argued, debated and put before the electorate in proper time. But this is not such a matter. This has never been put before the electorate and I do not think it could be put before them.
That being so, I was astonished at the curt way in which the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Minister of State turned this proposal down. He has been representing us extraordinarily well at Lake Success, but, if I may say this without any offence to him, he seemed to me to have got the atmosphere of Lake Success into him. It looked to me as if Mr. Vyshinsky had had an influence on him. When the right hon. and learned Gentleman is asked to come to a round table conference, he says, "I am anxious to come, but only on one condition—that you first agree to this"; and "this" is the condition of surrender. That is not the way to approach this matter. That being so, I hope the Home Secretary will consult his colleagues to see whether this cannot be brought about.
I agree that as this debate has gone so far the Government might find it difficult to withdraw now. So let the debate go on, let them have their Division tonight, but let them not depart in triumph and say that they have won. When this is all over, let them then say, "This is too big a matter. Let us see if we cannot bring about a larger measure of agreement than it has been possible to obtain so far." I put that to the Government and to the House as the best way of dealing with this important matter.
§ 5.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Walter Elliot (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
I shall do my utmost to follow the example of the immediately preceding speaker rather than of his predecessors, because an indefinite number of hon. Members wish to speak and the danger is that we shall not have the advantage of the many views which this House is capable of expressing and desires to express this evening. I will, therefore, do 249 my utmost to keep to 15 minutes or less, if I can manage it, and if I am longer, I hope the House will call my attention to it in its unmistakeable way.
I wish to say first that I was asked in a most courteous speech by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) why I myself was interested in this matter and why I was supporting the views that I am. Everyone must speak from his own experience, and everyone must speak of things as he finds them. I happened to find myself in a debate with Senator Knowland of the United States of America, and I had to comment on a speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and on our proposals for trading with Red China. As I was speaking in a foreign country to foreigners, I defended the right hon. Gentleman with my utmost vigour and enthusiasm. As far as I can say, fairly representative views of Britain on Red China and of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition about the Constitution of America were presented from coast to coast of the United States of America on a nation-wide hook-up by courtesy of the Aluminum Company of Canada.
That seems to me to knock the bottom out of the case which the right hon. Gentleman built up so patiently, that no balanced programme could take place, no proper consideration could be given to higher and more general considerations, that the businessmen of this country or of America—by hypothesis still worse in America—would go for nothing but the lowest and the meanest programmes, because only there would it be possible for them to get proximity to a programme which would sell their goods. It is not so. I must speak from my own experience, and in my own experience, which is only one of many experiences, that did not take place. We may find bad and good in the American system, and it would be easy to quote from the American system items at least as creditable as those which have been presented by the B.B.C. in this country.
§ Mr. Elliot
Including the Coronation T.V. There were many presentations of the Coronation on the American system which, according to the testimony of our 250 Ambassador, could not have been done in a more dignified fashion. What is more, it is impossible to believe that any Government system would ever have conceded to a foreign power the amount of publicity which was conceded to this country by the private systems of the United States. They would have been accused at once of undue bias and of propaganda. Does anybody conceive that if Senator McCarthy had owned the B.B.C. or the broadcasting systems of America, he would have permitted the amount of time to have been spent which was given to the broadcasting of the Coronation on what he would have called British propaganda? The idea is preposterous. There is good and bad. But I think that exaggerated claims have been made about the necessarily inevitable evil of any system in which private enterprise was allowed to take a part.
The gravamen of the charge brought by the Opposition has been that advertisement as such is a bad thing. To parody the familiar phrase, that all power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, apparently their view is that all advertisement is bad and that absolute advertising corrupts absolutely.
§ Mr. Elliot
The right hon. Gentleman may shake his head, but it is certainly the view which Lord Reith has expressed on more than one occasion. Indeed, he has hurled charges abroad of a wounding and damaging nature which were replied to effectively in another place by the Lord Chancellor.
The two cases made in this debate are first that advertisement was so evil that it was bound to corrupt and, secondly, that businessmen were so wicked that anything they were conected with would inevitably be warped and twisted and distorted to serve the lowest and meanest ends. I do not think that exaggerates the claim which was made. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caerphilly spoke with the utmost contempt of the priests of the temple of the golden calf. I will come to that in a moment, but let me ask in passing who were the men who selected Lord Reith? They were the priests of the temple of the golden calf, for he was appointed not by the Government or by any Government Commission 251 but by a private commercial company incorporated, and paying 7½ per cent., for the purpose of selling radio sets. It is worth while remembering.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caerphilly looks at the clock. Let him who is without sin cast the first stone. I think tonight the right hon. Gentleman sits in a white sheet. The argument about the corrupting influence of commercial broadcasting was set out in most uncompromising terms in the book "The B.B.C. From Within" by Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, where he said on page 283, referring to the West Indies:All the islands have, therefore, gone over to independent commercial broadcasting. They broadcast almost exclusively the most popular and sensational of American discs, which can be bought very cheaply and which are much liked by the West Indian people"—He was speaking from personal experience of the West Indies which, he said, he had visited recently—the great mass of whom have had very little education. Broadcasting of this type, far from having any educational value in the sense of helping to create an informed and responsible public opinion, must inevitably have a lowering effect on the standard of public opinion.He went on to say that the only way of getting good broadcasting would be to appoint a public corporation—In this way, and in this way only, it would be possible to put an end to the sensational and demoralising broadcasting which now occurs in all the islands.A very strong statement. Yet it is untrue and unfair. I will call only one witness—Lord Simon of Wythenshawe himself. I shall quote from "The Times" of Saturday, 5th December, the account of a libel action in the High Court of Justice before Mr. Justice Hilbery. Mr. Gage, quoting those very passages, announced that a settlement had been arrived at. He said:The plaintiffs not unnaturally took a serious view of those two passages,…which, in their view, were untrue and unfair. The programmes broadcast…were neither sensational nor demoralising.He added that when Lord Simon of Wythenshawe had this brought to his notice, he—readily acknowledge that he had been misinformed as to the position of broadcasting in the West Indies"—252 though he had said that in his book as a result of a personal visit to the West Indies. He at once offered a full and ample apology to the plaintiffs. He did not only apologise, but he said that he would make a payment to cover their expenses and he would give them a sum in respect of damages. His counsel associated himself on behalf of both defendants with that statement.
That is the sort of thing that is being put about all over the country. This one happens to have been disproved in a court of law. Damages have been paid and an apology tendered, but there has not been a word in the headlines of any newspaper about the result of that case. I have taken 10 of my 15 minutes and must not extend beyond my time, but I say that that is a very relevant example of the sort of statements which are being wantonly and recklessly thrown about on this great problem.
On the other point, as to the evil which is done by wicked men, the scandalous influence of the priests of the golden temple, I call only one witness, and that is Lord Reith himself:Scanning the advertisements of public appointments in a newspaper, I read: 'The British Broadcasting Company (in formation). Applications are invited for the following officers:'.He did not turn it down or throw it away. He did not say, "Attempts are being made to seduce me by the priests of the golden temple." He went right along to the office and applied for the job. What is more, after he had applied for this job—and this is another statement from his own autobiography—he looked up the name of the chairman, Sir William Noble, in "Who's Who" andHaving retrieved the letter, I re-wrote it with a reference to my Aberdonian ancestry.Lord Reith is not an Aberdonian at all. He is a Glasgow man like myself. As proof that he is a Glasgow man, the fact that he did not know anything about the job did not deter him from making his application and getting it.
He goes on in his autobiography to say that, in an interview with Sir William Noble:After reference to letters of complaint I was asked if I could deal with correspondence;…I had no idea what the letters of complaint were about nor what would cause such notoriety. I did not know what broadcasting was.253 He went along to the company to take over his job on the 30th December. 1922.
He says:I arrived at the offices of the General Electric Company in Kingsway.He did not say, "Here I am, stepping into the golden temple. Where is the golden calf before which I have to fall down and worship?" He walked up the steps with the utmost assurance and he took on the job of running the British Broadcasting Company, whichhad been carried on from Marconi House in London by Marconi Company; in Birmingham by Western Electric; in Manchester by Metropolitan Vickers.That was the company which had been set up by the wireless manufacturers, the six largest each guaranteeing £10,000 of capital.Shares were available to any British wireless manufacturer; the big six nominated a director each and an independent chairman…
§ Mr. Walter Monslow (Barrow-in-Furness)
On a point of order. Could we not have the life of Lord Reith circulated?
§ Mr. Elliot
That is the sort of silly interruption which casts the utmost discredit on those who make it. The accusation that private companies will inevitably befoul whatever they touch is disproved by the evidence, and it was under the aegis of private companies that the British Broadcasting Company was founded and Lord Reith was appointed. I cannot imagine any argument more germane to the matter we are considering—
§ Mr. Hobson
Would not the right hon. Gentleman, in fairness to Lord Reith, agree that in 1922 very few people knew anything about broadcasting either here or in America?
§ Mr. Elliot
That is true, and that is made perfectly clear by Lord Reith. None of us knew very much about broadcasting.
§ Mr. Elliot
I am not ridiculing Lord Reith. I said that he was a Glasgow man of Aberdonian descent and that he took a job in a commercial company. That is praise not ridicule. He did it extremely well, so well that he earned the admiration of the whole world. I am simply 254 saying that he was selected by commercial men to start a commercial enterprise.
Why should we not think that there are still some "mute, inglorious" Lord Reiths ready to come up—if one can imagine a more mute Lord Reith. Why should we not assume that there are as good fish in the sea as ever came out of it? It is not impossible for British commercial men to repeat the successes that they undoubtedly had in the foundation of the original British Broadcasting Company? It was a company formed to sell radio sets and electrical equipment. It was run by the very same sort of people whom a former Deputy Speaker of this House, the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles), has been accusing in this House today of wanting to pursue their own nefarious ends.
It is not only from the quarters which I have already mentioned that a desire for a new departure comes.
§ Mr. Elliot
If the hon. Member wants somebody more Scottish than Lord Reith, more Scottish than a Glasgow man of Aberdonian descent, then I am through with him.
§ Mr. Elliot
Really, I am speaking against the clock and with the greatest desire to allow other people to speak as well. I was asked for other Scottish opinion. I give another outstanding Scottish opinion.
§ Mr. Elliot
No, I give the opinion of a single man. We are dealing with single men. He is Mr. John Grierson, a man of outstanding reputation in the world of films, television and the cinema, and a Left-Winger if there ever was one. He is a man who has done as much for the development of the British film as any man alive. He founded a whole school of cinema. I will not quote him at length, but John Grierson has come out 255 flatly and solidly for commercial television. After first showing the dangers of commercial television he said:Having thus demonstrated the difficulty of the commercial case, let me say immediately that I am for it.Hon. Members opposite asked for another Scottish opinion. There is one.
Outstanding artists like Grierson, and producers such as John Irwin, have come out and said that we must give a new medium a certain amount of freedom or it will not develop. I am not specially attracted by the suggestion of the ex-Postmaster-General, the right hon. Member for Caerphilly, that we should now call this debate off and then have a round-table conference and come back and start, as he himself said, all over again exactly where we were.
I was not specially attracted by the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend—if I may call him so—the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), when he said that powerful speeches delivered in another place should give us pause—one delivered by a member of the Liberal Party on one side and another by another member of the party on the other side. The time must come for a decision. I ask the House to help us to give the decision tonight. I say that the time has come when these things must be put to the test. Let us now decide to put them to the test, to make a trial of this new medium and this new method, and let us vote for the proposals which the Government have laid before the House.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Sir Leslie Plummer (Deptford)
It is always a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot), especially as he is invariably put up by the Government whenever they have a particularly bad case to present. He does it with a great deal of charm, a great deal of grace and good humour. He has just given us an illustration of how important it is, if one is a Scot, not to write a book. The quotations which the right hon. Member has taken from Lord Reith's autobiography evade the fact that the decision that Lord Reith should be general manager of a company which was to represent the radio set manufacturers was altered only a few years after he took the job. The party of which the right hon. Member is so 256 distinguished a figure saw to it that the British Broadcasting Corporation came into effect with a charter which is now materially in operation.
I want to bring the debate back to the Motion on the Order Paper and to a discussion of the White Paper. Before I do that, it is my responsibility to declare an interest in this matter. I happen to be associated with some friends who have applied for a licence to operate a programme company. If that licence is granted my friends will be busily engaged in their occupation, they think to their profit. Despite the fact that I therefore have an interest, I propose to go into the Lobby to vote in favour of the Amendment, and I would do that even though there were no Whip on at all.
There are three interests which really dominate this issue. I am not putting them in any order of priority. They are, the advertiser, the public and the Press. In the short time I propose to speak I shall try not to accuse hon. and right hon. Members opposite who do not agree with the things which are being said from these benches of being humbugs, meddling prelates, or any of the other choice terms flung by hon. Members opposite at those who take the view that it is a retrograde step to introduce commercial television.
May I say first that nobody on this side of the House has suggested that as soon as commercial interests touch a proposition that proposition is immediately degraded into something that is reprehensible. No one in their senses would suggest that, but no one in their senses would suggest, as the Assistant Postmaster-General suggested yesterday, that we on this side of the House refused to give any confidence at all to industry but regarded industry as being engaged in an attempt to debauch their fellow men.
Let us have a look at the advertiser, built up by hon. Members opposite as a sacrosanct chap who never violates any reasonable standard, or code of ethics or morals and is a fairly disinterested creature in this matter. It is clear that certain advertisers are interested in commercial television as a new media. They are always searching in order to reduce their advertising costs. But of course the advertisers of this country are not united in their desire for commercial television. We know that one of the biggest advertisers 257 in the country, one whose company is among the first six so far as spending is concerned, was never consulted by the Government as to whether he wanted television. He got up and said, "I do not want commercial television. I can sell my beer without television, but, if you force me into it and my competitors use it, I shall have to use it too. That will be a great pity because it will increase the cost of my production."
I thought the hon. Member for Oswestry (Mr. Ormsby-Gore) was arguing yesterday in a rather old-fashioned way that advertising reduces the cost of goods. He should have a word with Lord Moyne who is more closely in touch with the problem of the costs of advertising than the hon. Member. I do not say that all advertisers are in favour of commercial television. It is interesting to see when this question is raised and the argument is put that it will result in the Americanisation of our television, that the big firms which went before the Beveridge Committee and argued, not only in favour of commercial television but also of commercial radio too, were headed by Hedley's, an American firm and Reckitt and Colman, also an American firm. Those are the large spenders.
§ Mr. John Rodgers (Sevenoaks)
I do not think it is correct to say that Reckitt and Colman is an American firm; it is an English firm.
§ Sir L. Plummer
I think it is an English firm under the control of an American firm called Corn Products Limited or General Foods Limited, but certainly Hedley's, the producers of "Tide" and other detergents in this country, is wholly and solely American owned.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir (Aberdeen, South)
I think the hon. Member is also misinformed about Hedley's, which is independently financed. It has a parent firm in America, but the firm in this country is independent of American finance.
§ Sir L. Plummer
That explains why people who run Proctor and Gamble in this country and who hope to gain by commercial television are themselves American, why their managing directors and other executives are brought over from America and why they use 258 American advertising agents in this country. Anyone who knows the advertising world intimately knows that quite clearly there is a strong demand both from American advertisers and American advertising agencies in this country—or American dominated advertising agencies—that we shall have commercial television here.
What sort of programme is it that the advertiser wants? Fundamentally, it is the programme which pleases him and which can be associated with and married to his product. This is the basis of advertising. This is why advertisers go to certain newspapers, why they pay special prices for special positions and why they demand that they shall not have to appear in what are called, "run of paper positions." Their advertising is not necessarily good for the paper and is not designed to be good for the paper, but is designed to be good for the advertiser. It is not designed to be good for the consumer but for the advertiser. This is what will happen when these programme companies produce their programmes. Who is to produce them? Aeroplanes coming from America are chock-a-block with American advertising men who have been in television. They are coming here to work with advertising agencies which have no experience of television advertising.
I should like the right hon. Gentleman who is to reply to the debate to give us the figures, if not now, at some other time, of how many American television executives who have been in American television advertising are now at work in the offices of British advertising agencies? They understand the subject. There are no advertising men of this country—or very few—of British descent who understand the technique of television advertising. The result is that if it comes it will be an American dominated vehicle and we shall have on our programmes, in exactly the same way as we are beginning to get in our newspapers, advertising that seeks its origins in an American approach and an American technique.
Of course it is true that some small agencies are worried. The small advertising agencies in this country have built up conscientiously, laboriously and honestly over a long period of time an 259 understanding of the technique of newspaper, hoarding and mail-order advertising. They are now having to try to understand an entirely new medium, one which is extremely costly for investigation and experimentation. They are worried, but those smaller agencies, I regret to say, have not the influence with the party opposite that some of the larger concerns have and which some of the large advertisers have.
I do not believe that anyone here can view with pleasure the prospect of having American programmes dominating our television. Yesterday the Assistant Postmaster-General said that we should recognise the vitality of American television, and indeed that we should be only too happy if our churches were as full as American churches are under television. I hope that our gaols will never be as full as the American gaols under television, or that we never in this country have the homicide rate of the City of New York which has seven separate television programmes.
The argument always is that the advertiser is a man who can be trusted. But nobody trusts the advertiser. Nobody ever has. In the days when advertising was a question of chalking on a piece of slab, "Come to the circus" of "Wife lost," everyone thought that the circus was bad, and that there was a good reason for losing the wife. Today there are several measures effected to protect the public against the advertiser. Let me give the House one.
The Advertisement Managers' Committee of the Newspaper Proprietors' Association is a very responsible body of people that sits week after week watching the advertiser. There is the Copy Committee of the Newspaper Proprietors' Association which investigates the copy that the advertiser uses. It does so because it wishes to protect the public against false claims and misrepresentation, and also against what is called "knocking copy." Hon. Members opposite will understand that phrase. It is used to describe someone who says his goods are better than the goods of another man with such a wealth of expression and detail that the other fellow "hollers" to the advertisement manager that an unfair advantage is being taken of him 260 and that it is the sort of competition he does not like.
This Copy Committee was set up to prevent that sort of thing and is sitting practically in permanent session. The Billposters' Association have to watch advertising displayed on hoardings all over the country, and, in fact, a Bill is being introduced by the Government after the Christmas Recess to deal with the descriptions applied to food and drink to prevent the advertiser from making false claims on the labels on his product. An advertisement is an advertisement, whether it appears on the television screen on in a newspaper or on a label on a jar of jam.
Too many false statements are being made and the advertisers must recognise that fact. It is not true that the advertiser is a man who can be trusted, because of course this White Paper does not trust him either. It lays down a code of conduct and here I would present the Government with a suggestion for an insertion in the code of ethics and conduct for advertising.
Responsible newspapers who find that their readers are dissatisfied with the goods which they have bought as a result of advertisements in the newspaper see to it that they get their money back from the advertiser, or they repay the money themselves. I hope the programme companies will be responsible for refunding the money of viewers if they are dissatisfied with the products they buy as a result of the television programme. Why should not the programme companies accept exactly the same responsibility as the newspapers?
I am sure we do not want to return to the days when the advertiser was using the Press of this country—before the Press was powerful enough to stop it—to advertise cancer cures which were not cures, syphilis cures which did not cure and consumption cures which were worthless. Now thank heaven, as a result of the work of the Advertisement Managers Committee of the Newspaper Proprietors Association that has been made impossible.
I have dealt with the advertiser and I would now say a few words about the Press. With my right hon. and hon. Friends on this side of the House I believe passionately in a free Press. But a free 261 Press is free only when there is an opportunity to produce new papers and to ventilate new ideas and thoughts. Today, because this Government will not control the big newsprint producers of this country, papers are literally dying because the cost of newsprint is too high. This is particularly true of the provinces where evening papers are prosperous and morning papers are not so prosperous. We all know of cases where a very influential, powerful and important morning paper is in fact subsidised by the profits of an evening paper with which it is associated.
These newspapers are now having a miserable time, because of rising costs. They only need to lose a tithe of their advertising to die, and a dying Press is not a free Press. A free Press is a flourishing Press. There is today in London one morning newspaper which has been losing circulation at a catastrophic rate. That newspaper has to lose no more than three columns of advertising a day to go out of existence, to the great disadvantage of its leaders and with a resultant blow to the free Press of this country.
It is no use advancing the argument which is advanced about the United States that advertising appropriations are expandable. They are not. Ours is not an expanding economy as is the American economy and the amount of money necessary to be found for television time has to come out of the newspaper appropriations. I wish to see more papers in this country, even if they are as odd and crack-pot as the "Recorder." Even a bad paper is better than no paper at all. If this scheme goes through it will not only have an effect on the publication of new papers but will threaten the continued existence of many of our present papers.
We should have no misunderstanding at all about what is the purpose of commercial television. I wish to quote from an article written for a very important advertising paper called "Impact." It is the journal of advertising information and presentation, that means television advertising. Mr. George Plante who is described as the creative director of Young and Rubicam Limited one of the biggest American advertising agencies in this country statesThe commercial"—262 that is the "plug"—is the raison ďetre of the whole operation. Even the best programme is valueless to the advertiser if the commercial fails to persuade the viewer to take the desired action.Of course, the desired action in this case is to buy something. Mr. Plante goes on to say, in a very well-reasoned argument:A TV commercial may be either a separate entity 'cut in' to the programme or it can be 'integrated.' The integrated commercial has the advantage of 'creeping up' on the viewer without in any way interrupting the programme. Since, however, it depends on a personality, comedian or compere who can naturally lead the viewer into the product sell in an entertaining and relaxed manner, its use is limited to certain types of show.This brings us to the commercial that creeps in. Yesterday the Assistant Postmaster-General said that the place for the "plug" is naturally the interval. What is an interval? A playwright inserts an interval into his play at a period of maximum interest. It is not only to get people to go to the bar. It is because he has sustained the interest of the audience up to a point at which it is appropriate to break off in order to keep people in an atmosphere of intense interest about what happens next. That is the purpose of an interval.
Of course, if an advertiser is allowed to choose where he will put his stuff, he will immediately choose the interval. He will see to it that in the thrilling film or play which he puts on, just where the miscreant is about to be arrested, there is an interval—and on comes the "plug" of the product. Of course, every advertising agent who is well versed in his work knows that the tricks of the trade are infinite and that the use of an interval is a heaven-sent opportunity for him to get the maximum interest while at the same time obeying the instructions that will doubtless be laid down for him to obey.
The public will suffer in another way which has not yet been described by the Assistant Postmaster-General. There was no mention yesterday, when the hon. Gentleman discussed the price of the adapter, of the price of the alteration to the aerial. That has to be altered, too. The viewer has not only to find the cost of the adapter but the cost of the new or altered aerial which will be extremely expensive.
Many instances have been given of how events have developed in the United 263 States. I have expressed my fear as to the way in which American influences may be felt over here. Alistair Cook, one of the greatest broadcasters of all time, who made the beautiful remark, "Once we invented the wheel, I guess television was inevitable," had something to say about the phenomenal success of a television programme. I mention this because this is a clean programme to which nobody can object, but look at the dreadful result in the home. He said:In 1948, Boyd got his first Hop along film placed on a Los Angeles station. Last autumn, all his money had gone into trying to distribute and place the others. Three months later the groundswell roared up from the children of America who every twilight saw Hop along rescue the sheriff's daughter, catch the rustler, and while sneaky-looking ranch hands downed whisky and puffed on pipes, stood erect in his black outfit, on a whitehorse, licking lips unsullied by tobacco or the demon drink. Today Boyd finds he has to live up to the spotless heroism he represents on millions of television screens. Obey your parents, children, he says, be kind to animals. And three million childish trebles pipe up 'Yeah, Hop along' and march off to stroke a dog, to say, 'Yes, Mom, no, Mom,' and then refuse to eat any other cereal than the one that Hop along sponsors. Such is the combination of fame salesmanship, and old-time religion exemplified in a myth rescued from the old West and set in motion on a screen sixteen by nine.No words of mine can add to that pregnant description.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Græme Finlay (Epping)
The hon. Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer) put forward what I might call the American theme very strongly. The only difficulty about that theme is that it has no special relevance to the subject we are considering today. It is out of place, because the simple fact is that American advertising methods do not appeal to the British public. The hon. Member for Deptford tells us that advertising agents are coming across from the United States of America in great hordes to teach our agents how to tackle the British public. If that is so, they will find that they need a lot of experience when they arrive.
§ Mr. Finlay
The Americans have a language which is pronounced by us with some difficulty, and we have a certain number of common institutions. America 264 has a constitution and a legal system somewhat related to ours; but the resemblances are all very general and the market which has to be tackled here is quite different from that in America. That is abundantly clear if we consider the advertisements in American magazines which I myself do not particularly like. There are too many and they are not at all directed to our taste. American taste has been very much over-stressed. I do not think, for example, that the position will ever arise when the suicide rate will increase rapidly here because of what we see as the result of the White Paper. That was a gross exaggeration.
§ Mr. Finlay
The word "monopoly" has been dragged into the debate more times than I care to remember. I shall not weary the House by ejaculating it once more, but I would say that from a practical point of view the people are not interested in these doctrinnaire struggles. They are interested in what this will mean in practical terms from the point of view of what they will see.
There seems to be a certain discrepancy of view about that between both sides of the House. On the one side the Assistant Postmaster-General reckons that he will see a certain amount of cabaret, while the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) thinks that he will be deprived of lessons in elementary ballet. I do not believe that that represents the whole picture, or anything like it. It is very much broader than that. I am surprised to find so many hon. Members opposite taking such a pessimistic view of human nature and of the development of human beings. It is my impression that since the war national culture and national education has made great strides, especially in the spheres of music, and ballet has very much increased in popularity.
It may well be possible to run commercial programmes which have among their contents popular ballet, opera and drama which will constitute high-grade shows, but that aspect may have been under-estimated and perhaps the cabaret side has been over-estimated. That is 265 not to say that cabaret is not all right in its proper place. I very much distrust those members of society who seek to impose their own views of entertainment in a priggish way upon others. There is a good deal of that among some of the people who oppose the White Paper.
It may be that some of the entertainment which will result from the proposals of the Government will not be of the highest quality. It may possibly be somewhat mediocre in quality. We might expect something on the lines of Luxembourg with, "We are the Ovaltinies," and all that. It may not be very high grade stuff, but it is harmless and provides the masses with a good deal of enjoyment. I do not put myself forward as priggishly against that. That is an attitude of mind which no one has the right to take.
One of the most popular programmes of the British Broadcasting Corporation is, "Housewives' Choice." That consists of a jingle-jangle of dance tunes and so on, but undoubtedly it provides a public need and gives people enjoyment. Because people do not care to go into the higher stretches of musical taste, they are not to be condemned, looked down on or dictated to about their taste. It would be wrong if they were.
This scheme holds prospects for very good sporting features. It is true that the B.B.C. put on excellent programmes of this type, but there is a chance for competition to bring out a good deal of what is better in the way of sport. The same remarks apply to children's programmes. We have heard the question of the wicked business man explored thoroughly by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot), and I shall not go into that again.
Some people, whether in the educational strata, the Church or elsewhere, do not altogether appreciate the way in which ordinary people's hearts beat, the way in which they have to live and the manner in which they think. It would be a great mistake if standards were to be set up by university dons or high prelates of the Church. I think that may lead to greater evils than either of these types of eminent individuals realise. It is an odd combination which is against this White Paper. On the one hand there are prelates and on the other the Press hand in hand with the dons and the cinema 266 owners. It is a curious combination of spiritual and material balance.
I have no interest in advertising. I am just a simple consumer, but I say that this new technique will offer tremendous opportunities for study by people who have got to address themselves to a British public. They have not only to address themselves to a British public, but they have to address themselves to that specific section of it to which they want to sell their goods. Obviously, if they do things which irritate or shock or displease the public to whom they are advertising, they are going to defeat their own ends.
I do not agree with the hon. Member for Deptford when he talks about the interjection of this advertising matter at unsuitable points in a play, because the effect of that will be only calculated to annoy, irritate and stop people watching that particular programme, thereby frustrating the idea of the whole thing.
Subtle methods will have to be employed to try to make the best of this advertising market, and whilst one realises there are dangers about this—for example, the question of quack medicines springs to mind—I do not think that that particular aspect of it is by any means representative of the whole. The advertising business of this country is not the sinister thing which it has been made out to be by hon. Gentlemen opposite. It is not as malevolent as all that. A rather melodramatic picture has been painted, which is rather defeating its advocates' persuasions.
Much of the advertising of this country is in excellent good taste, and a proposition that will command general acceptance is that it is not in the interests of manufacturing companies to bluff the public by false advertisements about their goods. The hon. Member for Deptford said that that went on in America. Reputable companies in this country have found that unless they can make a good product it is no good advertising it. It may sell once, but it will not sell again, and I believe that to be consistently good business sense.
§ Mr. Finlay
The same is true in America, and there are legal methods here of obtaining redress if this sort of thing happens.
267 The ultimate issue is this. One can overplay this matter. I am not at one with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South when he says that this is the most important matter we have debated since the war. I rather question whether this debate should have two days allotted to it when contrasted with affairs in Africa or foreign affairs, each of which have been allotted one day.
The ultimate issue resolves itself into this shape. The people who are against this White Paper are mainly, from excellent motives, in favour of a philosophy of restriction. They believe that people are not to be trusted to form a good opinion. I prefer a better view of human nature and human taste. I believe that the people of this country are able to do that as well.
This may be a limited step towards freedom, but none the less it is a step. It means a wider choice of programme, and I hope the B.B.C. will accept this matter as one which makes it look to its laurels and that it will really produce something better as a result.
I am not disturbed, as are some hon. Members opposite, about the arguments of money dominating the programmes which are produced by this new corporation. No doubt it would be open to a manufacturer who wishes to sell his goods to say to the programme producer that a particular turn or feature is not likely to attract the audience that he wants. I believe the competition for places in the queue is going to be intense, and the producer will be able to say, "You may think that that is a matter for you, but the fact is that you will not be allotted any space and I shall give the time which you do not want to other people who are anxious to use it." That will be the position.
There is one further matter which I should like to mention before I resume my seat, and that is the characteristics of those who are going to be put in charge of this new corporation. I should like them to be intelligent without being intellectual. The possession of a first-class honours degree should only be a qualification for the person possessing it, provided it did not create a feeling in his own mind that he is an intellectual either expressed or implied.
268 I think, moreover, it would be desirable for any officer appointed to be a cultured person with a sense of proportion and a sense of humour, because those characteristics have not always been possessed by the highest plenipotentiaries in Broadcasting House. It would be a very good thing if there were some discreet method for the appointing authority to find out whether those appointed were good mixers socially, because there is such a thing as being too remote, too aloof, too intellectual and too out of touch with the feeling of the general body of people in this country.
I welcome this White Paper as a modified step towards freedom, and with these words I resume my seat.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ Mr. C. R. Hobson (Keighley)
I want first to deal with the point raised by the Minister of State when he opened the fourth Parliamentary day's debate on this important topic. He tried to draw an analogy between advertising on the air and advertising in newspapers. That is not a fair analogy at all. Anyone can start a newspaper. It is not everyone who can start a wireless or T.V. station, because one of the difficulties has been a limitation of channels in the spectrum, and I propose to deal with that aspect of the matter.
The other point I want to make is that newspapers exist for their readers. That is their prime function, whereas under the Government's scheme the advertisers are going to be the ones responsible for the programmes. Therefore, I submit for the earnest consideration of the Minister of State that the analogy which he presented is entirely false.
We heard the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot), and I regret that he is not in his place at the moment. It was a very humorous speech, and it was the shortest speech that he has made. Those are the two main things that commend it to me. But it certainly cannot be regarded as one of his tours de force. It is all very well to get up and start quoting one person in favour of a scheme and another against. That is the precise difficulty we are all in. Because of the difference of opinion between eminent people of all shades of political opinion, it seems to me prima facie a case why the Whips should be off 269 when this question is being voted on tonight.
After four days it is very difficult not to repeat some of the arguments that have been made. There was certainly no indication in the election programme of the party opposite that they were going to introduce commercial television. After all, this is a major matter. Sponsored television is going to go into 2 million homes, and in view of the tremendous influence that that will have, I think it would have been as well if this proposal had been put before the electorate in order that it could have decided the issue.
Thirdly, there is no indication that the people desire to have commercial television at all. In fact, some ballots which have taken place have proved the contrary. What the people do desire is full coverage, and, at the present moment, they get 90 per cent. coverage with one programme, which has been a tremendous achievement carried out in the very great economic difficulties which the country has had to face since 1945.
The question that I want to ask—and it has not been answered so far, though I hope the Home Secretary will answer it tonight—is why are we to have commercial television and not commercial audio radio. What is the reason? The same principle is involved, and the same arguments against monopoly may be used against commercial radio as against television. The only reason that one can find is that television is regarded as a development of the future, and that, because of that, there is likely to be more profit in it. That is the only reason which in fairness I can find.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir David Maxwell Fyfe)
Would the hon. Gentleman like me to deal with that point now, as it may help him? I did make this point in the debate of 11th June of last year, and that is why it has been stressed. There are really three points. The first, which the hon. Gentleman has mentioned, is that television is, in our view, an expanding medium of the future, while sound is probably contracting. The second point is that we have in sound the choice, not only of the National, Light and Third Programmes, but also of the various Regional programmes which, like the Welsh, have their own special features. The third point is that, in sound, one can if one 270 desires tune in to foreign stations. Therefore, we felt that the problem was not acute regarding sound in the same way as in regard to television. I hope the hon. Gentleman will believe that I am trying to be entirely helpful, because I thought he would like me to deal with the point.
§ Mr. Hobson
I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and I agree that, so far as sound broadcasting is concerned, one can get variable programmes from the Continent and elsewhere, and that is a perfectly fair point, but it does not answer the point that audio broadcasting is a monopoly at home.
I do not like having to say this, but there was no agitation for commercial television until 1950—until the advent of certain hon. Gentlemen opposite whose association with advertising is far from being tenuous. There was no demand or clamour from the other benches until 1950, I know that certain accommodations have to be made in political life, and that there are certain pressure groups, and I say to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that the greatest pressure with which he is faced is that of the Road Federation and these people wanting sponsored television.
The case has been made out about monopoly, but monopoly in itself is not necessarily a bad thing, but, in many cases, highly desirable. As far as the B.B.C. is concerned, it is a monopoly. It is a giant, but there is a tremendous amount of public accountability. In point of fact, under the terms of the Charter and the licence, there is 100 per cent. accountability, should the Government of the day so desire it. Hon. Gentlemen opposite do not object to the monopolies of the National Coal Board, civil aviation, gas or electricity, or even of education, and I submit that winding up this monopoly of the B.B.C. would not accord with the Government's White Paper, because they admit that it has done a good job, that it has produced adequate programmes and that it has been efficient. It has given us 90 per cent. coverage since 1945, and there is complete public accountability should the Government of the day so desire. We have debated in this House the conditions of the staff of the B.B.C. and even the programmes sent out.
271 I remember once replying to a debate when the question of Dick Barton was raised, and, therefore, I do not think there is an argument against monopoly as long as there is public accountability. Finally, on this point, I want to say that the B.B.C. stood the test of war, and that it was a great test. It had to accommodate itself to a new situation, it had to recruit staff quickly, and it had to bring in a new technique of broadcasting, and that seems to me to be one of the tests that could reasonably be applied in order to ascertain whether the B.B.C. is efficient and is doing its job.
I want to ask this question. How will the new scheme work? This public corporation, with £500,000 of capital, is to provide the station and then hire its facilities to production companies which will draw the revenue from the advertisers, subject to certain controls, which I shall not mention since they are stated in the White Paper. I object to the method of financing this scheme. Here we are to have the whole of the risk capital provided by the Treasury. The whole of the cost of the station is to be borne by the Treasury, and the initial £500,000 is to be provided out of public funds. The people who will do the advertising will run no initial capital risks whatever, other than in respect of the studios, and even they may be hired.
I am quite prepared in certain circumstances to agree to public finance being used for private enterprise. It has happened in this House before, on one occasion many years ago when the Government of the day undertook the insurance of the Queen Mary, which provided a great deal of employment on the Clyde. I have no objection to that sort of provision of public capital, but I do object to the provision of public capital for the purpose of giving facilities to advertisers to line their own pockets, because that is precisely what is going to happen. If there was no money in it, there would not be such concern about this scheme.
I want to know also what is to be the responsibility of the production company to the advertiser, or of the advertiser to the production company. That has not been stated at all in the White Paper, and we would like to hear from the Home Secretary some explanation of the 272 agreements that are likely to be made between these two parties.
I want to come now to another point concerning the Government's proposal to clear two channels on band III for the purpose of accommodating commercial television. I should also like to ask how the B.B.C. are going to cover Norwich if these two channels are made available for commercial television. This is a very important point, and I hope the Home Secretary will be able to tell us the answer, because the clearing of channels on band III will put a tremendous lot of people to some expense. At the moment, band III is used by the Air Navigation distance measuring equipment, Thames tugs and some police, and, presumably, they are to be transferred to another channel, along with parts of the civil defence organisation.
This is going to be expensive, because, under the contract, the Postmaster-General is covered in so far as any change of wavelength has to be made by the person who has hired the channel, and, therefore, it seems to me to be very unfair to put these people to considerable expense in order to accommodate commercial television.
§ Mr. C. I. Orr-Ewing
I take some interest in this point. There are two channels there already, and, as the Advisory Committee found, two channels are relatively free and one extra channel could be freed in a limited time. The other five channels are occupied, as the hon. Member has said, by various services and cannot be freed for some years, and the B.B.C, in fact, could not get in with a second national programme on this band for many years to come.
§ Mr. Hobson
The hon. Gentleman has made my point. Throughout the whole of his remarks he used the conditional tense, and that is precisely my point. These channels can only be made available as the result of other people who occupy them being accommodated elsewhere. One of the channels is probably to be used for Norwich in order to give full B.B.C. coverage. That is not good enough. It is another way in which the present Government are in the hands of this pressure group.
§ Mr. Gammans
I think the hon. Gentleman is under some misapprehension. Norwich and the other stations 273 included in the later part of the B.B.C programme will come on band I.
§ Mr. Hobson
I am very pleased to have that assurance. If that is so, there is presumably a band available, but that is the first time that we have had the information. That is the information which I have been seeking.
I want to say a few words about the production companies. So far as I see it, because of the limitation of channels, we do not know whether there is to be one company or a number of production companies. That has not yet been told us. If there is to be only one or two they will have a virtual monopoly as to whom they will allot time. That seems entirely wrong. The Government are giving these people almost monopoly powers. If the Government are against monopoly, why is that being done? On their own premise that matter will certainly have to be looked at again.
I can visualise other difficulties. We had trouble some years ago with the B.B.C, and I well remember how they frequently said it was always the fault of the Post Office land lines. It was never the fault of the valves. This matter was taken up, and eventually a different explanation, without any qualification, was given. What will be the position? We shall have a public board responsible for the transmission of the programme. One day there is a hitch. It may not necessarily be a technical hitch. It may be due to the fact that an actor has missed his cue. There will be all sorts of difficulties in this dual control, particularly when these people are concerned with getting their programmes over in order to satisfy their clients, the advertisers.
I am not enamoured of a second corporation. I am certainly in favour of a second programme, but a second corporation would only lead to a duplication of overheads and we should not get economy. We could have competition between two programmes, and that would be quite satisfactory, as we have it at the present moment. I am certainly not wedded to the idea of a second corporation.
I think we can say, with all due pride, that we have one of the finest broadcasting systems in the world. Every shade of opinion can give expression to 274 its views, and I would not like to see any step taken which would lower the standards which we have set up over a period of years. I plead with the Government: do not let us descend to the mediocre in wireless programmes. The B.B.C. standard has been exceptionally high and I am convinced that if we have a second programme financed out of revenue from advertisers there will be a debasement of quality.
§ Mr. Speaker
In view of the short time that now remains and the large number of Members who wish to speak, I hope the House will not accuse me of any reflection on past speakers if I make an urgent appeal for as much brevity as hon. Members can command.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Fraser (Stafford and Stone)
The speech which we have just heard from the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Hobson), with his experience of the Post Office, is a clear indication of the good done by this two-day debate. This can be summed up in the fact that all the ethical, moral and, I believe, partially bogus pleas that were put up by persons in another place have gone, and we have come down to the fact that the country wants a second programme. The debate is based on two things, the first of which is how that programme should be paid for. The second consideration was touched on by the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, and is what the system shall be.
I believe that the Government have put forward the only possible system which will be effective in producing a second programme which will be controlled and which can be paid for. When the hon. Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer) spoke he made it clear—and he spoke with great authority as the late advertising manager of the "Daily Express"—that conditions of advertising in this country are changing, that we are faced with an ageing population, that raw materials are becoming exhausted and that economy in booking rather than the contrary is the rule.
I believe that the noble Lords and noble leaders of various universities in their flights of fancy imagine that advertisers in this country will indulge in leg shows. There will be no such thing. Advertisers in this country will have to 275 confine themselves, owing to the small-ness of their markets, to the type of entertainment with which many of us are already familiar, what one might call the "lower middle-brow" group: more politicians on quiz-T.V. and more amusing brains trusts and Twenty Questions. I believe that the whole question of the impact of advertisers on the standard of morals of this country has got out of proportion.
The problem of T.V. has not been faced. One of the great problems is the rate at which it devours talent. If Shakespeare were writing today I am convinced from what I know of the T.V. world that he would not have written 37 plays, but 370. To put on a Shakespeare drama, T.V. is the most expensive medium of propagation in the world. It is four or five times as costly as putting it on in the theatre, where it runs for three months while on T.V. it runs only for two hours. We have to face the expense of this system. Away with all the cant and snobbery and moral ridiculousness which we have seen exhibited in very high places about this matter. The second programme has to be provided, and the Government are putting forward a system which, under proper control, will give the country a second programme.
I will go further. I believe that the White Paper, by destroying the monopoly, opens a chance, which the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) mentioned for a few moments yesterday, of a real advance into a new technique and a new science of entertainment which is only just beginning. Coloured T.V. and other forms of T.V. are on the way. We are taking an enormous step towards the creation of an industry, which some people are trying to stifle and destroy at birth by the restrictions which hon. Gentlemen opposite want to impose.
One of the fundamental problems of T.V. in the future, such is the rate at which T.V. consumes talent, is to find a way somehow for all talent to be put into the industry. I believe we shall have penny-in-the-slot T.V.—or subscription T.V.—call it what you will—and the only way we can run it is to have entertainment of every kind—ballet, dog racing, horse racing, cabaret, etc.—in the industry, until there can be no competition 276 between the T.V. industry and the rest of the organsied entertainment industry in this country. That will come one day.
This is the first experimental step forward to free T.V. and encourage it to give the people of the country the second programme they want. The Gallup Poll showed quite clearly that people do want it. Beyond that, it makes possible a fuller and wider expansion of T.V. programmes. I think that the people who are challenged in this debate today are the Socialists opposite, the people who dare not say how they propose to finance the second programme which the country wants.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Christopher Mayhew (Woolwich, East)
I think it is quite easy to answer the rhetorical question with which the hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. H. Fraser) ended his speech. How could we finance the alternative programme? Could there be anything simpler? We know that the B.B.C. alternative programme will cost a £3 licence. Could there be anything simpler than adding £1 to the £2 licence, or to ask someone who has spent £60 on his set and who spends £10 a year in replacements and wear and tear to spend £11 a year instead? If there is anything simpler than that I should like to know what it is.
I think that perhaps the most significant part of this debate has been the failure of the Government even to attempt to say that these programmes are to be independent of the influence of the advertisers. In the other place, this was the centre of the whole debate, and is, in fact, the crux of the opposition's case, yet neither the Assistant Postmaster-General yesterday, nor the Minister of State today, attempted to defend the White Paper against this charge. The Minister of State went far further than I have heard any Government spokesman go, since sponsorship was Government policy, towards saying that advertisers would control programmes. He said, "Of course, the advertisers will control the programmes to the extent that they will not pay for them unless, in their view, they are good." That is what he said, and that is what we have been trying to say on the Opposition side for many months past, because that is the effect of the Government's White Paper.
277 The only answer that the Government ever give is to draw this analogy with the newspapers; to say that since the advertisers finance the newspapers without controlling them surely they can finance television without controlling it. I should like the House to remember that, 30 years ago, advertisers in the United States controlled neither broadcasting nor the newspapers, yet since then advertisers in the United States have got a complete grip on broadcasting but have not got a complete grip on the newspapers. It is worth considering why.
Thirty years ago there was a conference in the United States, under Secretary of State Hoover, who was then the Minister responsible for broadcasting affairs. All the broadcasters with executive positions attended, and the conference declared that advertising on the air was evil. A year or so later a real estate agent made a broadcast, as a result of which he sold two houses. That was the beginning of "spot" advertisements of the kind which we are recommended to have in the White Paper. From then on, inevitably, under the stress of the economic forces to which we on this side of the House have constantly drawn attention, the advertisers began to choose and to control the programmes.
I was reading the official history of the well-known American broadcast agency, the N. W. Ayer Company. It said:Until 1930 all agencies tended to look for attractive programmes and then to seek advertisers who would take a fling on broadcasting.Rather what the programme companies are invited to do today.After 1930 men had to make a more realistic approach. The Ayer firm rapidly developed the view that an agency must start with the study of human problems, determine whether radio can help, and then devise a programme which will achieve specific ends in terms of sales. The complete reversal of the method is significant.This shows how, whereas the American advertisers did not get a grip on the newspapers, they did get a grip on broadcasting, and I think there are several reasons.
There is the reason given by my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), that whereas a newspaper advertiser is interested primarily in the general circulation of a newspaper, and only secondarily in the 278 particular item next to which his advertisement appears, the reverse is the case in television. The television advertiser is interested only secondarily in the general audience created by the station, and primarily upon the nature of the particular programme that precedes or follows his advertisement. That is a profoundly different thing. It means that he has a far more intimate interest and control over those particular programmes.
Then there is the fact, often pointed out, that whereas the newspapers do receive some independent revenue, from their readers, the programme companies will receive none. This was admitted as an argument by the Assistant Postmaster-General yesterday. He pointed out that the corporation could, in fact, achieve a greater measure of independence if given some independent revenue, and I say that the fact that, as they are, the programme companies receive none makes them more likely to fall into the control of advertisers than would be a newspaper in similar circumstances. Those are all arguments which were made in another place, and which the Government failed to counter, but which they may take for granted will be decisive.
We then come to this second, crucial point which hon. Members opposite have very fairly put to us: why it is that advertisers' control and commercialisation must necessarily debase the programmes? As I listened to the speeches of hon. Members I gathered that what was in their minds was that we on this side consider public taste is debased; that the White Paper will give the public what it wants, so the programmes will be debased. I think that is a fair description of what we are accused of believing. Personally, I certainly do not take that view. If I thought that the White Paper gave the public the programmes it wanted I should not oppose it for a moment, but my view is that it gives, not what the public want, but what the advertisers want, and in the time at my disposal I want to show why I believe this to be so.
First, what happens, under this scheme, to the keenly enjoyed, high standard minority programme? I do not mean the highbrow programme necessarily—always when one argues like this people think one is talking of ballet—but such programmes as "Science Review," which is highly enjoyed by a minority audience: 279 or the snooker programme, which gives a great pleasure to a minority audience, or table-tennis, ballet or Shakespeare. All those are among the most keenly enjoyed programmes, yet they get minority audiences. Can the Government tell us what economic incentive there is, under their scheme, for the programme companies to put on programmes like that? The advertiser wants the maximum audience.
§ Mr. Mayhew
May I assume that and come back to it later?
I will assume, for the purpose of my argument, that the advertiser wants the maximum audience. The Minister of State told us that today. He said, "Quite simply, since the advertisers' interest is to get the large audience and the large audience will go for the programmes it most enjoys, it will be to the advertisers' interest to give them what the public want. Therefore, we are to get the advertisers paying for the programme to the maximum audience."
What does that mean? If it were true that the maximum audience was drawn in by the most enjoyable programme and the whole thing was as simple as that there might be some case for commercialisation. But in building up the maximum audience there are other factors besides enjoy ability. It is just as important that a programme's appeal should be universal as that the programme should be enjoyable. It is not the same thing. To get a maximum audience a programme must appeal to everyone at once, Scottish and Welsh, male and female—old and young, stupid and bright, that will get the maximum audience. That means that such highly popular programme as I have quoted, snooker, table-tennis, ballet and Shakespeare, just as keenly enjoyed by those who look at them, will go to the wall under this scheme. Hon. Members opposite, I think, assume that advertisers will have some particular interest in these minority programmes.
§ Mr. Gilbert Longden (Hertfordshire, South-West)
If the hon. Gentleman asks what becomes of the minority audience, the answer is that they stay with the B.B.C.
§ Mr. Mayhew
Now the cat is let out of the bag altogether. I do not know if I need go on arguing this case any more, but for the benefit of the hon. Member's friends, who look rather dismayed at his intervention, may I argue this point. I know what they have in mind. They have in mind the argument that some advertisers want minority audiences. Perhaps I can quote from the pamphlet, which we have received from the Popular Television Association, which says:Nor do all advertisers seek mass audiences. Cunard White Star, for instance, is likely to be more interested in a programme appealing to an intellectual audience than in a variety programme appealing to a different income group.The theory is that those in the same income group, who have the same tastes as shoppers, have the same tastes as viewers. It means that those who travel by Cunard White Star like Shakespeare; that those who travel by car like sports programmes; and that those who walk like sex. The theory only has to be stated for its absurdity to be evident. But perhaps I am doing hon. Members opposite an injustice. Perhaps they prefer to state their theory in another way. They may say, "That is not what we mean. What we mean is that the snooker programmes which appeal to a minority will be given by the advertisers who make billiard balls. The programmes on ballet will be given by the manufacturers of ballet shoes." What kind of a way of running a television system is this? If it happened that there is a manufacturer who makes ballet shoes, we get ballet. If there is not one who makes ballet shoes, or if he does not like commercial television, we get no ballet at all.
This is the way in which this great medium of entertainment is to be run by hon. Members opposite. The whims of advertisers are to be the determining factor as to what programmes we get. That leads me back to what I began by saying, that under their system we shall get not the programmes we want but the programmes which the advertisers want. It is nothing to do with public taste, high or low. It is simply the study of economic considerations.
That is not the only way in which these programmes will be debased. There is also the integrity of the programmes themselves to consider. I was talking recently 281 to an advertiser who handles a big account for a food processing firm. I asked him how he would react to this scheme. He said that he would pay good money for his commercials to appear next food programmes, such as the Philip Harben type of programme. But he added, "We would watch the programme and if, for example, the performer praised fresh food as against canned food, you could not expect us to go on paying advertisement money in those circumstances." I do not think it is dishonour able of him. I think he is being an efficient advertiser. But what would be the effect on the programme company under the Government scheme? How would they feel about their performer who has chased away one of their wealthy customers? They would be much less anxious to re-engage him for a number of programmes.
In the United States we get several amusing examples of this kind; of the American tobacco company, for instance, which, in a variety show with which it was associated, insisted that the song, "Smoke gets in your eyes" should be deleted; of the dairy which would not allow the song "The old wooden bucket" to be sung in similar circumstances. These are trivial examples, but when it comes to the purveying of news and political programmes and serious programmes of that sort we can see how gradually and invisibly the whole thing gets corrupted and undermined by this kind of influence.
There is another reason, quite unrelated to the public taste, why the standard of programmes would be debased by the Government's scheme. I think this might be the most important of all the reasons. Under the Government's scheme, British television will become Americanised. The Assistant Postmaster-General has at least shown himself aware of this danger. He gave us an assurance that the Government would stifle the great flood of American recorded television programmes which threaten to be brought into this country under a commercialised system. That is something. We are glad to have that assurance. But what a strange thing it is that over and over again, on issues of this kind, we find these programme companies, on the admission of the Government, inclined to act contrary to the national interest and having to be 282 stopped from doing so. What a strange idea it is.
The Government have two kinds of attitudes—their attitude to the public corporation which they trust to maintain standards, and their attitude to the programme companies which at all times are not to be trusted and have to be regulated to maintain the national interest. But why put this vital medium of communication into the hands of people one does not trust? Why not begin by choosing people whom one can trust to regard the national interest, and let them run it instead?
Even if we stop Americanisation through the import of these programmes, there is a much subtler and more important way by which television will become Americanised. I leave aside the television methods recommended in the White Paper which, of course, owe their inspiration largely to American sources. I leave that aside, though I would point out to the Assistant Postmaster-General that the White Paper in its most crucial place, actually uses American language. It states that the public corporation will "hire" its stations to the programme companies. If one hires a taxi in London one uses the services of a piece of property which somebody else owns. If one goes to America and hires a taxi it means that one loans one's property to somebody else to use. It is significant that in a crucial stage of the White Paper the language of America, as well as the television methods of America, is adopted.
A more subtle form of Americanisation is this. The programme companies have another source of revenue besides the British advertisers. Their second source of revenue is the American advertisers, because what they will hope to do with all their programmes is to record the television programmes they produce and sell them for huge profits on the American market—that is to the American advertising sponsors. Over and over again we shall get this situation. The programmes that we want in this country will not be produced because they would not sell in the United States, and the programmes that we do not much like will be produced because there is a profitable market in the United States for them. 283 Television programmes will tend to get tailored to American tastes and not merely to British tastes, and that is an important consideration.
My hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer) made a most valuable contribution on this theme. I shall not go into the question of the capitalisation of these programme companies and the influence of American advertising agents, of which much documentation can be given, because he has covered those points. I say most sincerely that there is a serious danger to British television that it will become Americanised.
I want to give a fourth reason why the Government scheme will debase television programmes. That is in the nature of the advertisements themselves. Hon. Members opposite were saying yesterday that they enjoyed broadcast advertisements. But have they really sat through them for long periods, either from the United States or Radio Luxembourg? After all, it is not like a newspaper where one can skip the advertisements. If they come on television, the audience is captive.
§ Mr. Mayhew
One can switch off, although it is not very good for the set. Or one can use the well-known gadget called a "Blab-off" switch, which is well known in the United States and is selling in thousands. I have had one flown over from the United States, and I should like to show to the House what it is like. It is quite a simple gadget. It has two clips, a large amount of flex and a small switch, and it enables a person to sit back in his armchair and when the commercial comes on he switches it off, and when it is over he switches on again.
I maintain that the fact that thousands of these switches are being sold in the United States today to Americans—who have for years been inured to advertising on their screens and radio sets—indicates what the reaction of the average British viewer is likely to be when this monstrosity is perpetrated in the sitting room.
Of course, we know that hon. Members opposite will never use this device. We know that there is nothing which they enjoy more than sitting with their wives 284 and children round a television set listening to advertising slogans. But I would say this. I think there will be millions of British viewers who, if asked to spend £10 or £15 on an adaptor, will prefer to spend £10 5s. or £15 5s. on an adaptor which incorporates this switch, and I announce myself as the first potential customer.
Finally, there is the question of all-party politics. I must say that I thought the speech of the Minister of State this afternoon was profoundly disappointing. Only somebody who had studied Vyshinsky at close quarters could have closed such an inviting door with such a loud noise. We could get further if we put our heads together. We all lose if this system becomes a party political matter. We all agree that whatever else may be said about the B.B.C. monopoly, it will not work well if it is constantly attacked by one political party and defended by another. Not only will public confidence in it be undermined, but its prestige abroad—which is a great national asset—will be undermined as well.
We have heard both in this House and in another place Government spokesmen making speeches telling the public that they believe in the B.B.C., while the supporters of the Government do not believe in it at all, and spend hours attacking it.
§ Mr. Mayhew
Practically every hon. Member opposite has strongly attacked the B.B.C. [Hon. Members: "Names."] The right hon. Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot), to begin with, and the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) is another.
Moreover, if the B.B.C. suffers from being brought into the party arena, does anyone think that this scheme, faced with the implacable hostility of the trade union movement, the churches and the educational authorities, and many others, can succeed? The scheme really assumes a great deal of co-operation among hon. Members belonging to no party who are supposed to take part in political programmes organised by the programmes companies, whose political views generally are certainly not those of this side of the House. A great deal of co-operation is assumed in this White Paper from the opponents of the scheme. Would we not 285 all do better to try to keep both programmes agreed jointly between the parties? I think that would be the right solution.
I want to see the B.B.C. giving a second alternative programme. It can be done in 18 months and it will cost the viewing public £3. That, I think, is the proper solution. I cannot help feeling that this marvellous invention of the human brain should be used for a worthy purpose, not for selling toothpaste, but for bringing enjoyment and enlightenment to millions of British homes.
§ 7.24 p.m.
§ Mr. John Rodgers (Sevenoaks)
One remark of the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) with which I do agree is that no one wishes to see the Americanisation of British television. I also agree with one remark made by the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) to the effect that never during the last few years have we discussed a more important subject than this. I believe that the debates in this House and in another place, discussions in the columns of the newspapers, and up and down the country in the constituencies and in the public-houses have made people realise that we are debating tonight the future of a medium which can revolutionise our lives.
It is hard to realise that radio itself is only 25 years old, and that the first public television programme was broadcast by the B.B.C. as recently as 1936. Then we led the world in radio technique, but, unfortunately, the war suspended development, and today I am afraid that technically we lag behind certain other countries.
We all agree that television is a revolutionary medium. It can affect our entire attitude towards education, commerce, the dissemination of news and entertainment. As the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party said, it can even affect our international relations. I think we ought all to approach the problem with a realisation of the importance of the new miracle. To bring it down on to an individual basis, nothing except the arrival of a first baby so transforms and changes the life of a family as does the coming of a television set.
Educational authorities in the Midlands have made investigations and have shown that in their view television provides an 286 immense enrichment to family life. For instance, it has been found that in the Midlands the average youth used to go out four or five nights a week, whatever the weather. But, with the coming of television he now stays indoors three or four nights a week. Those who are worried about the problem of growing juvenile delinquency should take some comfort from the fact that here is a medium which can attract the young.
It has been assessed that one-third to one-half of the people who see television programmes discuss them afterwards. We know, of course, that certain people, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, fear the effect of television. In another place, that very respected person posed the question whether we need more television. He answered the question himself by saying that we do not. With all due respect to him, I disagree with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and I think that the majority of the British people disagree with him.
We cannot hold up the march of progress; we cannot act as King Canute. At one time, a great many people opposite were opposed to more television. Now they are all agreed that a duplicate television system is desirable. Some go so far as to say that they would like to see a break in the B.B.C. monopoly and the service provided by another Corporation.
I think there is ample evidence to show that television stimulates people. It does not incite them to become mentally or physically lazy. It is a great development, and we are concerned today to see how we can help this development to take place.
I am not going to criticise the B.B.C. because I recognise that it is dedicated and devoted to good works, but I must protest at the idea that the B.B.C. has now become the British sacred cow which can never be criticised. Some of its programmes are excellent, some are trivial and boring in the extreme, while others, again, are even bad and mischievous. We have all sorts of programmes. The general level, I admit, is good, but let us not think that everything which the British Broadcasting Corporation does is good.
I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South trotted out the old stuff about the Coronation. Of course the treatment by the B.B.C. of the 287 Coronation was a triumph of photography and editing, but the B.B.C. did not produce the Coronation. It is not a perpetual justification for the B.B.C. monopoly.
Before I proceed further with my arguments regarding what I think should be the future of television, I wish to declare my various interests. In the first place, I was for six years, until quite recently, a member of the B.B.C. General Advisory Council, although I hope that I am not too biased in its favour on that account. Secondly, I am a member of the committee of management of the Society of Authors, who have put in a memorandum to the Postmaster-General in order to protect British dramatists, script writers and authors, and to see that the programmes do not become Americanised. Thirdly, I am an advertising agent. I realise that to hon. and right hon. Members opposite advertising is gall, and it is also divided into three parts.
As there is so much ignorance on the other side of the House, I should like to explain the three parts into which it is divided. The right hon. Member for Lewisham, South said that one has to take things very simply for simple minds, and I am proceeding to follow his advice. First, there is the advertiser who has a product to sell. He approaches the second person in the advertising business—the agent—who tells him how his product can be sold. Then comes the third person, the owner of the advertising medium—the Press, bill boards, films or whatever it may be. I am a member of the second category. There are some 300 advertising agents, the majority affiliated to the Institute of Incorporated Practitioners in Advertising. My firm is one of those 300. If the Government's plans go forward there is no doubt that my company will try, on behalf of its clients, occasionally to buy space on television programmes, in competition with the other 300 advertising agents. I want to make my position crystal clear in view of my subsequent actions.
§ Mr. Rodgers
I suggest that what we are discussing tonight is not a great moral issue, as certain people have tried to pretend, rather with their tongues in their 288 cheeks. What we are discussing is the very practical problem which faces us as individuals and which faces the country as a whole—the problem of finance. Many people express fears about the B.B.C. monopoly. It is agreed that such fears have been expressed, but hon. Members opposite say, "Ah, yes, but you criticise only the B.B.C. because it is a monopoly. The Postmaster-General would not like to have competition in the delivery of letters or in the telephone system." To my mind this argument shows a fundamental fallacy in the thinking of the party opposite.
Such an analogy would apply only if the Postmaster-General decided who should send letters, to whom they should be written, and at what periods of the day they should be posted, or who should use the telephone, and to whom they should telephone. That would be a direct parallel to the B.B.C, because that is precisely what the B.B.C. monopoly does. It has no voice of its own, but it has power to select the people who shall speak, the subjects upon which they shall speak, and the hours and length of time during which they shall speak. This is a great power, and it is one which all people should regard with suspicion.
The hon. Member for Northfield (Mr. Chapman), in various interruptions yesterday, advanced the view that if the B.B.C. could be allowed to develop a second programme it would be done more economically, and there would be every likelihood that it would be done much more cheaply because the overheads would be less. I am not at all convinced that the B.B.C, any more than most monopolies, is even run efficiently, in this sense. Without the stimulous of competition—and I know this from my own business experience—there is a tendency for staffs to grow; unless there is a way of squeezing the lemon back; it gets bigger and bigger.
I wonder if the House realises that if we exclude the foreign service, all the administrative staff—the programme producers, clerks, and so on—total over 8,000 people in the B.B.C. Let us compare the C.B.S. and the N.B.C. in America, which have a continent-wide service. The comparable staff in the case of the N.B.C. is 4,457, and in the case of the C.B.S. it is 4,081. I am leaving out all the performers on both sides. If 289 my figures are wrong the B.B.C. can correct me.
§ Mr. Wedgwood Benn (Bristol, South-East)
The hon. Member should make the distinction that the C.B.S. use other companies' networks and staffs, but the B.B.C. runs all its own transmissions and all the regions, with their own staffs.
§ Mr. Rodgers
There is no regional staff in the television service of the B.B.C. We are discussing television and not sound broadcasting. It is as well that we keep that point clear.
The hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Hobson) asserted today, wrongly—and I think he would correct his statement if he were here—that Gallup polls and public opinion polls showed that people did not wish to break the B.B.C. monopoly and did not wish to have commercial television. He is quite wrong. It is true if one takes the polls of two years ago or earlier, before the public were aware of the real issue, but the most recent polls show that quite a large percentage of people are in favour of alternative programmes to those of the B.B.C, and a smaller percentage—though still a larger percentage than those in favour of a monopoly—favour commercial television competing with B.B.C. programmes.
§ Mr. Edward Shackleton (Preston, South)
The latest Gallup poll shows that 15 per cent. of people would like commercial television.
§ Mr. Rodgers
The latest Gallup poll, published by the "News Chronicle" shows that 48 per cent. want it, as against 46 per cent. not wanting it.
Most people would concede the desirability of breaking the absolute monopoly of the B.B.C. There are three ways of doing it. Some people, like the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South, would like to see a second public corporation established, and financed from increased licence fees. Some people believe that there should be a second corporation financed entirely by advertising, and a third group—which has not been mentioned much in this House, but which was referred to in the other place by the Lord Archbishop—would like to see a second corporation financed partly from licence fees and partly from advertising.
290 It is admitted that the present television fee is inadequate. I could not follow the argument of the hon. Member for Woolwich, East. I think he got his sums wrong. The television service is already subsidised by sound radio to the extent of some £2½ million. It has been calculated—and these figures were given out by the Assistant Postmaster-General a few days ago—that even to cover the present system of television the B.B.C. would need a licence fee of over £2 a year, or a joint television and sound broadcast licence fee of £3 10s. To add another television service would obviously mean the addition of at least £2 or £3, which gives a minimum fee of £6 or £7 in order to cover two alternative systems.
That is television as we now know it, but looking round the corner is colour television. I have just returned from America, where I saw the first colour television, and I was most impressed. Here was a revolution which I could not believe could have happened in so short a time. I am sure that British people want it, and more money will therefore be required. I am fortified in my belief by a recent remark made by Sir Arnold Plant who said:There can be no doubt that the major obstacle standing in the way of development and improvement of television broadcasting is finance. Its appetite is incessant and insatiable. So long as we continue in this country to finance the television or, indeed, the sound broadcasting service on the basis of annual licence fees, payable by reason of having sets, no solution to the problem will be found.Sir Arnold drew attention to the possibility some time in the future of financing certain types of particularly expensive programmes by the "scrambler system," but to those of us who believe in breaking the B.B.C.'s monopoly it does presuppose the existence of some programme-producing body other than the B.B.C., and if we come, as eventually I think we shall, to the "scramble" system it will follow development on the lines of this White Paper.
We have heard that there is some evasion—not very great—of the television licence fee. If the fee should go up to £6 or £7 there would be a great deal of evasion. Furthermore, I would remind hon. Gentlemen opposite that over 50 per cent. of the people who have television sets today have family incomes lower than £400 a year, and many of them are 291 annually paying out large hire purchase payments for the sets. I would ask hon. Gentlemen opposite to consider very seriously before they go to the British public to tell them they will have to pay a licence fee of £6 or £7.
Why should the public pay the full price of the programmes? People do not pay the full price of magazines or newspapers. Here I will follow the argument of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Woolwich, East. People do not pay the full price of publications because newspapers and magazines also get their revenue from advertising. This reduces the cost of the Press, of magazines and newspapers to the public. Why should it not?
Why should not the public be able to do exactly the same in regard to television? "Ah!" say hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, "for two reasons. First, it means handing over the control of the programmes to advertisers or advertisers' agents. Second"—and this is the argument we have heard advanced from many quarters—"it means a lowering of standards, the degradation of public taste, the debauching of the public." That is what we have heard from hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite.
I believe that the parallel with the Press is not exact, because a newspaper does derive money from other sources, but, nevertheless, the example of the Press provides a lesson for us in considering this very serious problem of where to raise the finance. I believe that the further argument that the case of the Press is different because, in the case of the Press the revenue from advertising may be 70 per cent and that therefore the whole case is different, is a specious argument, a fallacious argument. After all, if a newspaper cannot appear at all without advertising it is as dependent on advertising as if it derived 100 per cent. of its revenue from it. So I think that is a specious argument.
However, let us examine it further. We have heard of the example of the "News of the World." I estimate that that mammoth circulation newspaper has about 25 per cent. of its revenue derived from advertising. The rest comes from subscriptions. The same is true more or less of papers like the "Daily Mirror." 292 But what of "The Times" and the "Manchester Guardian?" Those papers never professed to put both sides of the argument to their readers. They are absolutely in favour of the maintenance of the monopoly of the B.B.C. I estimate that nearly three-quarters of the weekly revenue of "The Times" is derived from advertising. The paper has a circulation of only some 220,000. Over half of the revenue of the "Manchester Guardian," with a circulation of 140,000, comes from advertising.
These two papers, I think hon. Members will agree, are, therefore, far more dependent on advertising revenue than are the "Daily Mirror" or the "News of the World." Is it seriously suggested by anybody that, therefore, "The Times" and the "Manchester Guardian," because they derive up to 70 per cent. of their revenue from advertising, are subject more to the influence of advertisers than the "Daily Mirror" or the "News of the World"? We have only to state an argument like that to realise the absurdity of it. Yet that is the argument trotted out by hon. Gentlemen opposite, why do they say we should do it in the television field?
The Royal Commission on the Press found there had never been a serious attempt by any advertisers or their agents to influence the editorial content of the British Press. I think we shall all agree with that. Why should we suspect that in this new, exciting medium of television that advertisers or their agents would attempt to interfere with the editorial parallel, the entertainment content of television?
"Ah!" the critics say, "because all money comes from the advertisers." The Government, in their White Paper, have planned safeguards that they think are adequate to avoid undue pressure from advertisers. I want to come back to that in a moment or two, because I have my own plans to put before the Government for their consideration. However, if a paper cannot be set up without advertising revenue it is just as dependent to my mind on advertising as a station that derives the most of its income from that source of revenue.
It has been argued by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Woolwich, East that advertising would mean having the largest mass audiences. I think I am 293 quoting him aright. This argument is particularly silly. If it were true why would advertisers go "The Times" or the "Manchester Guardian," papers that have relatively enormous advertising revenues, as I have proved? An advertiser does not necessarily wish to reach the largest mass audience. He wants to reach a particular audience or particular audiences. It may be a mass audience. In the case of certain types of product that is particularly true.
It may, on the other hand, be a selected audience of women, or only of women of a certain age, or of women in a certain income group, and if an agent bought time on a new commercial television station it would only be for a period of time when the new station was attracting all the various people he wished to reach, and this does mean that an onus, an obligation, is laid upon the new public corporation to show that it does achieve a reasonable balance of programmes.
§ Mr. Rodgers
The critics argue that that is exactly what will not happen, that the programmes will be geared to reach the lowest common denominator, that standards will be lowered. If this incorrect premise were accepted, that the advertiser wants the largest possible audience, it does not follow that vulgarity will necessarily ensue. Take the analogy with the Press again—the quality newspapers have a daily circulation of about 1,500,000 while the tabloids, those papers which find so much disfavour but are read so happily by hon. Gentlemen opposite have a circulation of 5,250,000. However, the "Daily Mail," the "Daily Herald," the "Daily Express" and the "News Chronicle" have a circulation of over 10 million. If one is going to reach the mass of the people, the mean in this case is the mass, and the mass is the mean. It is not the lowest common denominator; it is the highest common factor that we are after, which is a totally different aspect of the matter.
I believe only advertising can adequately support the appropriate finance necessary for the proper development of television, and particularly in the future for colour television. I believe that advertising has a positive social function to perform. I do not believe it is just a 294 necessary evil. I should not be in it if I did not belive that advertising has a most useful economic and social function to perform, and I am heartened in my own belief by words which appeared in the Beveridge Report by Lord Beveridge, Lady Megan Lloyd George and Mrs. Mary Stocks, and which have already been quoted. They say there that advertising has this tremendous social task to perform and they ask the question, why should advertising be denied this most pervasive means of communication? I agree, and I think there is a great economic argument for advertising.
Let us not forget that we ought to look to the development of television in this country against the background of television development in other countries. It is not only America that has commercial television. Canada has it too, and Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Japan, which started with a system akin to the B.B.C., and has recently discovered that it cannot provide the necessary finance and has introduced a system not unlike our own proposed system, paralleling commercial television with a public corporation. Nearly all the countries of Europe are bound to have a certain amount of commercial television in their systems. We heard only last week of the debates in the French Chamber about the difficulty of raising funds adequate to finance television development in France at a time when they were being reminded by Government spokesmen that Germany was completing 12 new TV transmitters and Italy 16.
We have to recognise the fact that this is something which is a problem in all countries. We must not be smug and believe that we are so different from other countries or so distrust our own people as to suggest that commercial television is all right in every other country in the world and in every British Dominion but is wrong in this country, so that we must be protected by a public Corporation, the B.B.C.
I have some doubts about the present White Paper. I have studied the whole problem as deeply as any other hon. Member. Since the Government first issued their White Paper, they have decided that there shall be no direct sponsoring by advertisers but that there shall be a public corporation which owns 295 the physical assets, transmitters and studio space and that three or more programme producing bodies will be responsible for producing the programmes, subject to overriding supervision by the public corporation and deriving their income from advertising.
Frankly, I doubt whether that set up will give a balanced programme—and here, for once, I am on the side of the hon. Member for Woolwich, East. I suggest most seriously that the public corporation which will be set up should itself have an authority over all programme planning. That is the first point; it should not leave the programmes to programme producing companies but Should itself control the overall programme planning. Secondly, I think that that public corporation should sell all the commercial time and derive the income from it. Thirdly, it should not produce programmes itself but should go to programme producing bodies and buy programmes from them to fit in with the concept of a truly balanced programme.
There would then be real competition between programme producing bodies—far more competition than under the White Paper proposals. What is more, there would be no danger whatever of influence by advertisers on programme planning.
§ Mr. Rodgers
Perhaps my hon. Friend will allow me first to finish my argument. I am nearly at the end of the suggestions which I want to make. I throw these out to the House for consideration. I believe we cannot otherwise get the necessary finance to go ahead with this great development, and if we do not do so we shall fall behind in many ways other than amenities. If this country lags behind in television development we shall lag behind in all sorts of ways—export and trade generally—because in other countries there is commercial television and if our manufacturers do not have experience of its use here they will not know how to use it fully overseas.
All my experience makes me desperately anxious to try to persuade hon. Members that there is nothing to fear in commerce being aligned to television. I want to see that it has no influence over programme planning, and 296 that is why I am making these suggestions—first, that the public corporation should do all the programme planning, sell all the time and collect all the revenue, and also that it should pay for the actual programmes from a variety of sources which will produce them. I believe that this proposal will have the advantage first of offering more variety, secondly it will divorce revenue from the programme production companies and will set up real rivalry, when we need it, in the field of ideas for programmes.
I cannot have made myself clear. Under my concept, this new public corporation would be responsible for programme planning, it would be responsible for selling programmes later to advertisers and it would take its programme plan to the programme producing companies who would be responsible for the programme production. I think that proposal has great advantages.
It has been suggested that there is a third way of tackling the problem of finance, and that is to have a system of part-licence fee and part-advertising. It has been suggested that this dual system should apply both to the new public corporation, as proposed by the Government, and the B.B.C. This would appeal to the bulk of advertisers, but personally I am opposed to it for three reasons. The first is that I think the Government are right in this very quickly expanding medium to approach the matter experimentally. I think they are right, therefore, to make haste slowly. Secondly, if the B.B.C. took advertising, the new station would be strangled at birth. Nobody would use it because advertisers would prefer the established audience of the B.B.C. to the problematic audience being built up by the new station. Thirdly, since a great many people already pay their licence fee, they have a right to receive television programmes free of all advertising if they so desire. I therefore do not follow the Lord Archbishop in that suggestion.
My objective, and that of the Government, is to break the B.B.C's monopoly. 297 I sincerely believe that the only way this can be done, and the necessary finance produced, is by some method of bringing advertising revenue into television.
It has been said that the revenue will be drawn from other media. The hon. Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer) was frank enough to declare an interest and to say that what worried the newspapers was that they were going to lose advertising revenue and that that is one reason why they have been opposing commercial television all the way through. It is so important that this new medium should not be hamstrung, and should keep pace with development in America and elsewhere, that the House should bless in principle the Government's intention to break the B.B.C.'s monopoly and introduce a measure of commercial competition. In that spirit I shall be very happy to go through the Lobby with the Government this evening.
§ 7.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Wedgwood Benn (Bristol, South-East)
The hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. J. Rodgers) has treated us to a very thoughtful speech, which I think would have been received somewhat more seriously on this side of the House if he had not so blatantly fiddled figures to put before us. I strongly resent, as did most hon. Members, the suggestion that to provide an alternative programme, even under the B.B.C., would involve a licence fee of £6 or £7. This figure was, to the best of our knowledge, cooked up—and I use the word deliberately—by the Assistant Postmaster-General, and the reason that we did not accept it is interesting. In over 35 years, we have come to believe the word of the B.B.C., at any rate on factual matters, and in this argument their figure should be accepted. I will not go into other figures. There was an extraordinarily unfair comparison between the B.B.C., which is one organisation, and C.B.S., which works through a series of networks, but this did not seem to help the hon. Member in his argument.
This is a remarkable debate, because we are trying to argue the rights and wrongs of a second programme and a policy for a second programme although we all know very well that there are vested interests on both sides which would like it organised in their particular way from quite different reasons. When we find the hon. Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell), who spoke yesterday, on quite an 298 opposite side to that of the hon. Member for Westbury (Sir R. Grimston), we realise that there is a very considerable cross-circulation of ideas across the Floor of the House. The Lord's Day Observance Society no doubt opposes commercial television because it does not like television at all, while there are some American advertising agencies who want commercial television in this country because they want a market on which they can unload their canned programmes which have already earned a profit in the United States. I think it is wiser, therefore, for us to confine ourselves to the genuine argument: Which is the best way of running an alternative programme?
I am not an advertising agent, and I am quite willing to accept the word of the hon. Member for Sevenoaks when he talks about advertising. He knows the subject very well indeed. When we have to decide what sort of second programme we are to have in this country, we must surely look for three things. First, we must look for a high quality of programme; secondly, we must look for variety in programmes; and thirdly, we must look for some degree of national coverage for this second television programme.
The hon. Member for Sevenoaks spoke about the way in which advertising works when there is commercial television. He spoke about the manufacturer whose only concern is to sell his product. Good luck to him. If one is a manufacturer that is what one is expected to do. He also spoke about the advertising agent whose only function is the satisfying of advertising requirements, and he spoke about the programme company whose only object is to get sufficient revenue in order to carry on the company.
The extraordinary thing is that the hon. Member did not mention the programme for its own sake. That is the burden of our argument, that under commercial television there is no room for those who are in television because they believe in its capacity for improving itself in that medium and making a programme for its own sake.
§ Mr. C. I. Orr-Ewing
I think that is a false argument. Surely we are not going to say that a person who forms a programme company has no interest in the quality of the programme which he is 299 producing and in the prestige of that company? He is vitally interested and will go straight out of business if he does not produce programmes of the best possible quality.
§ Mr. Benn
I am very grateful for that intervention because it does help me in my argument. The hon. Member says that of course the programme company wants to make good programmes because of what would happen if it did not—it would go out of business. I am not accusing anybody of advocating commercial television dishonestly. I am trying to argue the rights and wrongs of it. When we have commercial television the main consideration of the programme company is whether or not it can stay in business. When we have a public service corporation there is room for consideration: Is this or is this not a good programme?
The analogy with the Press seems to me to be a false one because of the fact that television and broadcasting come at one on a conveyor belt and not through the outlook of the newspaper. The advertising manager of a newspaper does not have to find someone who will sponsor his sports page, sponsor his leading article, sponsor his crossword puzzle or sponsor his correspondence columns; not at all. He finds a number of advertisers who will advertise in his newspaper as a whole. It would be a different thing if, for instance, the "News of the World" had to find advertising to support its own leading article. If the newspaper found that that sort of pressure applied, we should find more of the stuff which is to be found on page 2 of the "News of the World" and far fewer articles by the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Sir R. Boothby) who writes, as he frequently does, on the centre page.
There is another consideration here. It is argued that the "Manchester Guardian" supplies competition against the "News of the World." In our second programme we have competition between "The Times" type of programme and the "News of the World" type of programme, and when we have so little output for programme material, inevitably that means that the maximum audience is bound to win. I do not want to overstate the case, but it seems to me that any programme on commercial television of any country is like a wounded man who 300 has to be carried on a stretcher by his sponsors one at each end, and on that principle we are bound to get more and more programmes appealing to mass-audiences.
It is far more important to look at this-consideration in the light of the attacks made on the public service principle by those who want to break the monopoly. We have had many speeches yesterday and today on this, and I should myself like to see genuine competition introduced into broadcasting and television. I want to say a word more about that later, because I have a great deal of personal sympathy with that point of view. I would point out that those who do believe that commercial television is the way to break the monopoly, that the sort of competition which we are going to get is not the sort of competition by which to break the B.B.C. monopoly. The hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers) has frequently put that point in this House on broadcasting because he believes that the B.B.C. is run by the Communists. The B.B.C. is a menace to him because of the wicked effect of the Third Programme, and even of some programmes in the Home Service.
According to the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) and others, under the system of commercial television we cannot get any competition against that type of programme at all. That is one of my objections, but only a minor one, to the system of commercial television, that where the B.B.C. really needs competition, commercial television will not give it. The people who will have to look to their laurels under the system of commercial television is not my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East who is not going to have to look for competition for International Commentary on commercial television, but Ted Ray and Terry Thomas who are going to have to look to their laurels against the canned entertainment programme of Bob Hope and Jack Benny.
It is because commercial television programmes will not provide competition against the serious output of the B.B.C. that I feel that those hon. Members who very seriously object to the B.B.C. monopoly should not in fact support it. I wrote to "The Times" some 18 months ago when this controversy was raging in its very early stages, and I had a letter 301 afterwards from Dr. Marie Stopes who said that she had read my letter defending the B.B.C. but she must put forward her own problem. She said that she was advocating something in which she believed quite passionately and she could not see how one could defend the B.B.C. monopoly if they refused to allow her to put her point of view. I wrote, "My dear good lady, if you cannot get on the B.B.C. you are not going to find a sponsor risking his good-will by spending time and money allowing you to talk about your work and birth control." Dr. Marie Stopes' only chance of getting a broadcast is in Greek on the Third Programme. It might reach some people with a classical education in that way. It is a great mistake to believe that commercial T.V. is going to provide more genuine competition to the B.B.C. monopoly control.
That is not the way to do it. For exactly the same reasons as my hon. Friends have given about mass audiences and lack of authority, we shall not get national coverage by means of commercial T.V. One of the decisions which the B.B.C. itself had to make when television really got going after the war was whether they would carry one programme and give it national coverage or whether, before they gave the first programme national coverage, they should start a second programme as was technically possible.
They decided, and I think that they were absolutely right, that they should carry the existing programme for the maximum number of people before they started the second programme. Had they been actuated only by commercial interests, the decision would have gone the other way. It would be much more profitable to have two programmes in London. In fact, had the B.B.C. been actuated by even the desire to prevent the advent of commercial television they would be in a much stronger position today. They could have said, "We have two programmes in London; we have not got to Wales yet and we may get to the West of England later, but we have two programmes in London, Birmingham and Manchester."
If it was right for the B.B.C. to provide national coverage for their first programme before they undertook the 302 popular step of introducing the second television programme, national coverage should then logically follow the introduction of a second programme. That is something that commercial television will not do.
§ Mr. C. I. Orr-Ewing
I am very interested in the hon. Gentleman's argument, but I should like to correct an historic inaccuracy. It was not the B.B.C. who decided this themselves. There was the 1943 Committee and the Television Advisory Committee directly after the war, and they advised. It was not the B.B.C. but the Government of the day Television Advisory Committee who advised it, and it spread slowly throughout England. It was never for one moment considered that the second programme should be provided only in the London area.
§ Mr. Benn
With that fact, again, the hon. Member helps me, because he agrees that when we get Government intervention, public service intervention or the service of a commission or committee, as was the Television Advisory Committee, with no financial interests, we get the right answer emerging. When we get commercial interests, we get—
Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hopkin Morris)
There are a great many interventions. A large number of Members want to take part in the debate, and I hope that an opportunity will be given to them.
§ Mr. Rodgers
I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving way. I did not want there to be any illusion that the limitation to London, Manchester and Birmingham was the result of any action taken by the advertisers. It is laid down by the Postmaster-General. It is by no action of the advertising interests that it is confined to these three centres.
§ Mr. Benn
At the same time the hon. Member, who is a fair man, would be the first to admit that it was not a coincidence that the first application for a licence was for London and not for a low-powered one in the middle of Salisbury Plain. 303 There was something more than coincidence in that. These seems to me to be the three tests that we ought to apply to the second programme: Does it give the quality, does it give the variety, and does it give the coverage? I believe that on all three the Government's plans fail.
I should like to deal briefly with two other points that have been put forward. The first is the idea that if commercial television is worked by Mr. Norman Collins in London, an enormous export market will be opened up for British television programmes. That does not bear examination at all. The fact is that an export market is being opened up for the American television programme people, who are just anxious, ready and waiting to pour the stuff in, in the same way as we have had a lot of Hollywood films. I am not fundamentally anti-American on this issue. For an American television programme owner, this is an obvious market, and it is quite right that he should try it; but we should look at it from the point of view of the people who will see the programmes.
The second thing is the question of financing. We on this side are quite honest about it. I answer the question straightaway by saying that I want television extended. I want it to be paid for by the people who will see it, and I am quite willing to pay an increased licence fee for it. Hon. Members opposite have been constantly going around the country in the course of their other political arguments in the last few years, saying, "You do not get something for nothing." Everyone knows the crotchety old individualist who says, "You must pay for everything you get—the welfare State and the rest." Now, hon. Gentlemen opposite are telling us that by means of a miraculous self-financing operation we will all get this wonderful television for nothing.
We have had an argument about whether it cuts the national cake and gives a bigger slice to the advertiser and a smaller slice to the consumer. The fact is that the party opposite are trying to have their national cake and eat it. That cake does not for one moment support the arguments which hon. Members opposite have produced about finance.
304 The burden of our arguments from this side of the House about commercial television is that we believe there is good television when it is run by people whose only concern is to provide good television, and that we get bad television when people are only in television for some outside purpose. I submit, therefore, that the Government's proposals do not deal with monopoly—at least, not with the serious aspects of monopoly—and that they fail to give variety, quality or coverage.
Now, we come to the second question of whether we ought to continue a monopoly. The Minister of State quoted from the Fabian recommendations to the Beveridge Committee. Contrary to most of my hon. and right hon. Friends, I agree with what the Fabian Society submitted. I do not believe in a monopoly. I am not saying that in present circumstances, particularly when we are considering simply television, it would be a good idea to re-examine the whole basis of the B.B.C.'s strength and position. But remember that when Lord Reith went into broadcasting to begin with, he was running one or two very small single programmes, and that when he left the B.B.C., and particularly now, we find the B.B.C. running an enormous organisation—the Home Service, Light Programme, Third Programme, the Regions, overseas services, television, and so on.
Many of the arguments advanced in this debate against the B.B.C. monopoly by hon. Members opposite are valid ones. As I have tried to say, I think the monopoly is too big. It is too centralised, not in the sense that orders go out on detailed matters every day from the centre, but because I believe that the vitality of this medium of communication is something that ought to spring up from the locality in which it is broadcast and not be dished out even from London. The argument that I would advance against the canned American television programme applies just as much when London programmes are peddled around in Wales or the West Region or up in Scotland, or Welsh programmes, for that matter, peddled around in London.
I also believe that in the B.B.C. there is too much centralised power. The Director-General is a very powerful character and I do not think that we ought to give to him the second television 305 programme. To my hon. Friends who have, quite rightly, introduced many great measures of nationalisation since the war, I say sincerely that this is not a comparable industry; it is a great mistake to compare television or broadcasting to a nationalised industry. It is true that prejudice—or, to put it more fairly, feeling—against nationalisation in other things is one of the reasons why hon. Members opposite happen to oppose the B.B.C. monopoly at this time. Whether they are right or wrong to do so on those grounds is not the point. I think that in this connection in television, it is wiser to have a greater spread of power.
After all, in a nationalised industry one wants a degree of standardisation; we want a cheapness as far as is possible in the production of the final product. We want a measure of planning which bears little or no relationship to this medium of expression. What I like about the small American kind of station is that one can go into a little town in the mid-West and see the fire engine going along the street; one goes into a shop, turns on the radio, and hears the news about the fire at Old Ma Brown's before the fire engines reach it. There is something to be said for having a local and lively connection between radio and television and the community.
I do not think that the B.B.C. can provide that. However much it organises itself, I do not think it can prevent so much of the local talent from being sucked to London. The only thing that is worse than having London programmes foisted on to other parts of the country is that the people with talent in other parts of the country should have to go to London in order to get into the programmes that are sent back to districts from which they came. It is almost as ridiculous as the present arrangements for marketing of fruit and vegetables. What we value about the B.B.C. contribution to broadcasting and television is the public service element, the fact that people are in it because they believe in the thing, because they are interested in it and want to put out a good programme for the people who are going to see or hear it. The commercial element is one that we do not want to introduce.
What we are left with at this stage in the debate is a lot of Conservatives who 306 genuinely believe that there ought to be some competition in television with the B.B.C. Most of them, I think wrongly, believe that it is only by the commercial system that we can get that competition. My hon. Friends, on the other hand, believe passionately in the public service principle, and a lot of them—I think, also quite wrongly—think that it can only be done by maintaining the monopoly. It is ludicrous that we should go to a Division with the Whips on tonight on that issue when we are both, or could both be, agreed, on the one hand, on the public service principle and, on the other hand, on competition.
I appeal most strongly to the Home Secretary, who is to wind up the debate tonight, to attempt to give a sympathetic answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) when he appealed for an offer of a conference. I know this has become a party political issue. I wish the Whips had been off; they cannot be off, but it would be a severe condemnation of the Government if they force on an unwilling House and on what I believe to be an unwilling country a doctrinaire solution to a problem which really admits of general agreement. I do not take the Liberal view on this. I do not take the view that if my party is split on both sides on the issue something else must be right. I am not trying to poke fun at the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) who spoke yesterday on this subject.
It is ludicrous that we should be arguing about this tonight when the vast majority of the House are united on the principles which I have enunciated. It is open to the Government even at this stage to offer a conference. All they have to do is to say, "We go to the conference without pre-conditions and without a large number of officials brought in to marshal objections." It would be open for them at this stage to get new television arrangements for Britain on to an agreed basis.
I do not want to venture into the field of party politics, but a very dangerous precedent has been set of one Government undoing what another Government have done. Sometimes that is necessary, but sometimes I do not know that it is. But it would be a great mistake if one medium of communication became the 307 subject of controversy at the next General Election. All I ask with all sincerity of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary is that he should attempt to give a favourable answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South and that this House should move to a conference and into an agreed solution, if that is at all possible.
§ 8.22 p.m.
§ Squadron Leader A. E. Cooper (Ilford, South)
My position in this debate is very difficult, because I find myself in opposition to the Government's proposals as outlined in the White Paper. I find myself in very substantial agreement with the final words of the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn). I believe that on this subject there is a very great deal of common ground between us and I believe that if we could meet together we should find a solution with which we could all agree.
The right hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards), in winding up his own speech, endeavoured to prove to the House that the Government's scheme was simply the back door to sponsored television. I should like him to know—and I say this most sincerely—that if I really believed that that was so I should have no hesitation in voting against the Government tonight. But I do not believe that that is so. I believe that the Government have no intention to go beyond what is set out in the White Paper.
In principle, I am opposed to monopoly, whether public or private. I only wish to make one party point here and to say that hon. Members opposite are, by doctrine, themselves monopolists and that, obviously, they cannot approach a problem such as this with as open a mind as we should all like them to have. But it has been very pleasing to me to listen to this debate and to find, on the part of one or two hon. Members opposite, a realisation that a public monopoly of the kind now existing in television can perhaps be bad and that there is a very strong reason for doing something about it.
I think we all agree that an alternative programme is necessary, but it is fair to the B.B.C. to point out that the fact that there is no alternative programme at present is not its fault. [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."] I do not think that the 308 right hon. Member for Caerphilly should be too hearty with his contribution to the applause at this stage. It was the financial discipline imposed by the Labour Government from the end of the war that prevented capital investment by the B.B.C. for the development of their programme. Had it not been for that, there can be little doubt that we should now have an alternative programme, at least for part of the country.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
Is the hon. and gallant Member not aware that the B.B.C. governing authority applied to the Stockholm Conference for the allocation of frequencies for a second programme and that the present Government prevented their getting a second programme?
§ Squadron Leader Cooper
The B.B.C. has announced its plans for a second programme and presumably, as time goes on, this will develop, notwithstanding the advent of commercial stations.
However, the case for competitive television appears to rest on the desirability of breaking the B.B.C. monopoly on the ground that it could exert an undue influence. I have never been convinced of that, and I have never regarded it as a sound argument. It should be pointed out that nobody has suggested that we should break the B.B.C. monopoly on the ground that the programmes provided are bad. Quite the contrary, and nobody has suggested that we should plumb the depths of mediocrity and banality which is a feature of some American programmes today.
The standard of programmes in this country is relatively high. I do not speak from book learning, but from practical experience. In my business I have had to travel the world and make regular visits to the United States. There are, in fact, only three countries in the world that I have not visited at some time or another. I have seen most of the systems at work and I am very proud of the service which the B.B.C. puts over in this country, on both wireless and television.
Before we throw all this away, if we are to try to do so, we must look at the influence that the B.B.C. is supposed to exert. It must be remembered that the B.B.C. has been in existence for 30 years. During that period we have had a world war and during that war the prestige of the B.B.C. rose to almost undreamed of 309 heights. It was one of the great assets which the allies had in prosecuting the war to a successful conclusion. It earned the reputation for honesty, objectivity and integrity and it still has that reputation today.
It is true that some appointments made by the B.B.C. personnel department may have given cause for some misgivings, but that is an error of judgment rather than deliberate policy, and it is certainly not a conclusive reason for change. We are told that the B.B.C. has a Left-Wing bias. Is this proven? There is much evidence to support this view, for example, the persistent use of Wilfred Pickles and Richard Dimbleby, the high proportion of Bevanites used in certain programmes, and the most recent appointment of the head of the television talks department. Here again, however, these examples are not conclusive examples of a deliberate policy, especially if one considers the wide scope of B.B.C. programmes and the enormous number of personnel involved. But as such tendencies, whether deliberate or not, can be dangerous, on balance it would seem that an alternative programme controlled by another body would tend to correct this fault.
The Popular Television Association would have us believe that commercial television would result in better programmes, but is that so? Indeed, it may well be so, but on the facts available I think it at least open to question. Have we a hidden reservoir of artistes in this country who are simply waiting for the day of commercial television in order to launch their talents upon an unsuspecting world? In fact, the standard of variety artistes in this country today, by common consent, is lower than for many years past. Indeed, one can count our first-rate comedians on the fingers of one hand.
A strong case can be made for improved presentation. Here, again, B.B.C. appointments are open to grave criticism. The head of television variety is obviously a very incompetent man and the standard of Saturday night programmes over the last few months is striking evidence of this fact. Sir Ian Jacob and Sir George Barnes are men of the highest ability and integrity, but they have been badly served by their subordinates. For the sake of brevity, I 310 shall not develop these arguments. I think it sufficient to say that I admit the need for an alternative programme and that the balance of argument as to who should provide it would appear to lie in favour of another body.
It is, therefore, a question of how this alternative body is to be financed. I cannot see how anybody can argue but that whoever pays the piper calls the tune. If I am an advertiser, spending very considerable sums of money on the presentation of programmes, although I may have no influence whatever—or rather, no theoretical influence—on the construction of the programme, I am certainly going to see if that programme does what I want it to do, namely, reaches the public to which I want to sell my goods.
The analogy of the "Daily Mirror" and the "News of the World" has been used today and yesterday. We are told that advertisers who use those papers have no influence at all on the policy of the papers. Maybe that is so, but I suspect that if the "Daily Mirror" became other than a purveyor of pornography, as it is today, and did not reach the vast numbers of people which it does, the advertisers would very soon be withdrawing their advertising. Although they do not exert a direct influence upon the policy of the newspaper, their indirect influence is very considerable.
I was very heartened by the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. J. Rodgers), because I thought that in some of the proposals he outlined, he moved a long way toward those of us who fear that advertising will lower standards. After all, it is no good simply to be destructive unless one has something to offer. My own proposals run very close to the proposals made in another place by the Archbishop of Canterbury. I cannot see any practical reason why these two public corporations should not operate side by side, each receiving a part of the licence revenue and each having the right to accept advertisements.
I would make this proviso, that the advertisements should be of the character and calibre used in our cinemas and in no other way. In other words, in intervals of five minutes between programmes, or such times as it is considered that 311 advertisements should appear, as many as six, eight, or a dozen different advertisers should take a 30 seconds or a minute flash, and so on. In that way revenue would be provided and there could be no possible influence on the construction of the programmes. We should also have succeeded in breaking the B.B.C. monopoly and creating that competitive element which we all think is necessary at present.
My final objection to the present proposals of the Government in regard to advertising is that it seems to me it would be so expensive to put on a show of any consequence whatsoever, even if it be for only a quarter of an hour, that the only advertisers able to afford it would be the big business houses. The smaller companies, perhaps trying to reach the same market, would be shut out from this very important method of putting their sales propaganda across.
Not withstanding all the gibes which we get from hon. Gentlemen opposite that we are the party of big business, we in the Conservative Party support private enterprise and especially the smaller units. It is essential for this country that we should support the smaller manufacturer and encourage him to build up his industry, and not make him fight against the big boys with one hand tied behind his back. That seems to me to be the serious objection to the financial proposals which have been put forward so far.
We are told that the objection to this proposal is that the B.B.C. do not want to accept advertising. They do not want to accept an alternative programme to be run by someone else. But Parliament is proposing to give them one, and if Parliament decrees that they will be able to accept advertising revenue I feel sure the B.B.C. will not hesitate about accepting it. There is a strong and a powerful case for the Government's proposals and there is a great deal of common ground between us.
I beg my right hon. and learned Friend to impress upon his colleagues not to bulldoze these proposals through the House in their present form. There is a way and there are methods by which we may all get together. Television and radio are vitally important to this country and demand a great deal of co-operation 312 between hon. Members of this House to make them work properly. Once the new scheme starts it must have the good will not only of this House, but of the country as well, and that can be done.
The reason why, in spite of my objections, I shall go into the Lobby tonight to support the Government on this matter is contained in the speech of the Assistant Postmaster-General yesterday. The reason why my conscience allows me so to vote is because of these words:I want to go further and say that, in preparing legislation, the Government are prepared to consider most carefully and sympathetically any schemes or any ideas put forward by anyone who is prepared to accept the principle of ending the B.B.C. monopoly, and who will face up to the practical difficulties of doing so."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th December, 1953; Vol. 522, c. 60.]That is a reason for all of us to vote in support of the Government and again I would urge my right hon. and learned Friend to impress upon his colleagues that there are serious feelings on this issue in the Conservative Party, in this House, in another place and in the country. He could carry a united party with him if he will face up to the importance of those words of the Assistant Postmaster-General and meet the sincerely held views of many of his colleagues.
§ 8.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Ernest Davies (Enfield, East)
Hon. Members have listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Ilford, South (Squadron Leader Cooper), which, in some respects, could be described as courageous. I hope that the Home Secretary, who was listening intently, will take the advice the hon. Member offered in its closing passages and will accept the offer made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison).
§ Mr. Davies
If the hon. and gallant Member was logical, however, and followed through his remarks, he would not get out of voting against the Government by taking refuge behind the vague promise of the Assistant Postmaster-General.
I have listened to most of this debate and at the end of it—for I presume that I shall be the last back bench speaker 313 before the Front Bench speakers add to the rather long time they have occupied during our discussions—I find myself quite unconvinced by the arguments deployed from the benches opposite and consider that no case has been made out, and no convincing evidence produced, that it is necessary to break up the B.B.C. monopoly; or that there is no alternative to commercial television, if it is desired to have more than one television programme. The two main arguments produced by hon. Gentlemen opposite have been, first, that it is necessary to destroy the B.B.C. monopoly and, secondly, that if we are to have an alternative programme it can only be financed by commercial television.
There have been some rather irrelevant arguments especially from those interested in advertising itself—in advertising agencies, and the like. They have even produced the argument that there is a deficiency of advertising in the country today. The hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) indicated yesterday that there was an unsatisfied craving on the part of the female population for aids to glamour and on the part of the hypochondriacs for more patent medicines to cure their imaginary ills. I cannot believe, and I do not think that the House would take seriously, any argument which is put forward that the nation is starved of advertising, and that a new advertising medium is required.
The arguments advanced by hon. Gentlemen opposite are, for the most part, produced as a rationalisation of this desire to have commercial television. To use the words of the Minister of State, they are, to a large extent, humbug. A lot of the argument has been hypocritical. I say that because hardly one speaker opposite has argued that the B.B.C. has failed in the task which has been set it. In fact, there has been much praise for what the B.B.C. has achieved. The White Paper itself states that the whole country is justly proud of the B.B.C.
§ Mr. Smithers
The argument put forward from this side of the House is that the B.B.C. cannot face what lies before it under any conditions envisaged by the proposals of the Labour Party.
§ Mr. Davies
I will deal with that argument if I have time.
The Minister of State produced evidence from the Beveridge Report. He quoted considerable passages in support of breaking up the B.B.C. monopoly, but he must not overlook the fact that despite that strong evidence, and the strong case made against the monopoly of the B.B.C, the Beveridge Committee came out strongly in favour of maintaining the B.B.C. monopoly.
I served on the Beveridge Committee for some months, until I had to resign when I took office in the Labour Government. Lord Beveridge started out his investigation into the B.B.C. with the view that the monopoly was wrong; that there were evils in monopoly which were affecting the B.B.C, and that the monopoly would have to come to an end. But in view of the strength of the case which was made on behalf of the B.B.C, and in favour of it retaining the monopoly. Lord Beveridge was bound, in the end, to recommend that the monopoly should continue. In the debates in this House insufficient attention has been paid to the findings of that Committee. It was a high-powered Committee, which took a vast mass of evidence. It met over a long period. Its recommendations have been brushed aside by the Government.
The need today is not so much for competitive television, which is talked of by Members on the opposite side of the House as a euphemism for commercial television, as for an alternative programme. We do not need similar programmes competing with each other. There is no point in there being competition between two corporations for the putting on of the best programme of the same type at the same time. What we need in television is an alternative programme which is different and contrasting.
We need something similar to what is done in sound radio by the Home Service and by the Light Programme. That can only be achieved if we have similar control at the top for both programmes. If we are to have balanced alternative programmes, one complementary to the 315 other, then those who like sport can listen to sport at the same time as those who like music are listening to music, while those who are viewing can see plays on the television during the time that those who like sport will be watching cricket, boxing, or whatever it is.
The programmes have to be balanced, and that can only be achieved if there is one corporation controlling the service. It requires planning by one authority. Only then will the minority be catered for, as, otherwise, we get the mass audience about which we have heard so much in our debates, that mass audience to which the advertiser will appeal.
I apologise for rushing through my speech, but I promised not to be too long. I want to touch on two more points. The first is finance which has been introduced by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Ilford, South. I prefer the figures of the B.B.C. to those of the Assistant Postmaster-General. The B.B.C. claims that it can produce an alternative programme if the licensing fee is raised to £3. The Assistant Postmaster-General says it will cost £5. Even if the B.B.C. is wrong and it would be necessary to raise the fee somewhat higher it is still possible.
I think there are ways in which the B.B.C. can receive more finance today. In the first place, it should receive 100 per cent. of the licence money. I have always been opposed to the licence fees being used as a tax with only a portion of them being returned to the Corporation for providing sound broadcasting and television. Secondly, certain of the collection charges could be dispensed with. It seems to me grossly unfair that the Post Office should today receive 14 per cent. of the licensing fee for the purpose of collecting the fee and for the few services which it renders to the Corporation. If the B.B.C. receives 100 per cent. of the licensing fee it would be in a far better position to provide the alternative programme which is required.
There is another way in which the B.B.C. could be assisted, and that is if some of its public service broadcasts were financed out of grants-in-aid from other Departments. For instance, school broadcasting, which is a very valuable part of the B.B.C. service, could well be financed 316 by the Ministry of Education rather than by the ordinary listener and television viewer.
There is a danger in the financing of the proposed corporation through Government funds. It looks to me as though the Government, who are to put up the money for the capital expenditure, are taking on a risk and have no prospect of gain. The Government will have to provide the £500,000 to £1 million, to which the Assistant Postmaster-General referred, and if commercial television does not work out successfully and the programme companies are not in a position to meet expenditure because sufficient money is not coming in, then the Government will not get back the money which they have advanced. Whether that be so or not, I think it is a mistake for the Government to become an interested party, as it will be, through this public corporation in the provision of programmes for mass audiences in the interests of advertisers, rather than as a public service.
In conclusion, I would say that, in spite of the arguments which have been deployed in the House during the last two days, I cannot see that a case has been made for the introduction of commercial television at this stage. It is possible for the B.B.C. to provide an alternative programme, and it is possible for the finance to be found. If hon. Gentlemen opposite are sincere in attacking the B.B.C. monopoly, if they are sincere in believing that the only alternative to monopoly is commercial television, surely they can look at the possibility of having two public corporations sharing the licence fees in one way or another or receiving finance from the Government; that is to say, two public corporations without advertising.
Personally, I do not favour that. I do not favour the break-up of the monopoly, but, if hon. Gentlemen opposite are sincere, and it is their objection to monopoly which causes them to support the White Paper and to follow the policy there set out, surely the answer is two public corporations, both providing television on a public service basis and dispensing with this commercial advertising which has so many dangers, which have been referred to in the debate?
If the Home Secretary, after listening to the debate, as he has done, will accept 317 the suggestion made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South and have a round-table conference to go into the possibility of breaking down the monopoly—if that is the Government's policy—and of achieving some other way of having alternative programmes, I think there would be far more likelihood of having a united view on this matter and keeping it out of party politics, which is our wish.
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker (Smethwick)
The debate which we have had in the last two days and the debate in another place have put the Government in a somewhat awkward position. They have been ground between the upper millstone of Lord Halifax, who was described by the hon. Member for Westbury (Sir R. Grimston) as launching an unscrupulous campaign, and came very near to being called a humbug by the Minister of State this afternoon—
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
—and what I can properly call, in view of his preoccupation with the virtues of evil, the nether millstone of the hon. Member for Yarmouth (Mr.Fell). Certainly, the policies which the Government have produced under these various pressures have provided a rather moving target for those of us who have been trying to shoot at it.
The Government have only themselves to blame for this awkward position. Why they ever wanted to start this business, after the great services over a quarter of a century of the B.B.C., and why, having done so, they could not make up their minds which way to go, I cannot understand. Even the speeches in favour of the Government's proposals, even the speech of the Assistant Postmaster-General himself, could not be described exactly as pagans of enthusiastic praise. There has been a lot of faint praise in this debate from that side of the House, apart from those who, like the hon. Member for Yarmouth, completely attacked the policy of the Government.
In the speeches of those who have favoured the Government there was one common feature. They tried their best to obscure the very simple main issue that is before us, and which I will try to put fairly. It seems to me to be whether broadcasting should, as a whole, remain 318 a public service or whether it should, in part, be handed over to advertisers. If it is handed over, in part, to advertisers, we shall be handing that part, television, to people who must seek to influence it for irrelevant and necessarily selfish ends. I do not mean that they will be wicked, but that they will seek selfish and self-regarding ends because they will not be in television for its own sake. Selling cosmetics, deodorants, or whatever it may be, will be their prime purpose, and the television programme will be a by product and a side-line of that main activity.
Not all hon. Gentlemen on the Government side like it. Even the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary does not really like it. He regards it as a price to pay. The Government's case is that this is the only way to get an alternative programme. That is the main and the best part of the argument that has been put forward from the Government side of the House. The Assistant Postmaster-General, whom I am glad to welcome back to the Chamber, went so far as to say that our case could be summed up by saying, "Vote Labour and lose your second programme." That is a glaring example of the hon. Gentleman's trick of turning the truth on to its head. He had better be careful of that method of argument.
The alternative programme is a matter of capital investment and frequency, and not of how to organise it. If permission is given to go ahead with the alternative programme it can be had in this country very quickly, but it is entirely a political decision whether it should be given to the B.B.C., to the advertisers or organised in one of the other alternative ways which have been suggested. There will be only one alternative programme, and only one way of organising it will be possible in the reasonable future. We cannot expect two sets of alternative programmes in the reasonably foreseeable time.
Therefore, the Government are proposing to take away from the public service, from the B.B.C., the one alternative programme that is possible and to hand it over to the advertisers. The result, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) said—and I do not know whether hon. Gentlemen on the Government side have fully realised this point—will be a truncated, partial, alternative programme, with less 319 coverage than could otherwise be the case. The reason is quite simple. One of the differences between public service broadcasting and commercial broadcasting is that only a public service system can cover the whole country because it alone is interested in the public as a whole.
Commercial television will be concerned, by its very nature, with the big centres of population. That is quite inevitable. The Government admit that these new stations will depend to 100 per cent. for their money upon advertisers who, of course, are not interested in the public as a whole. They are interested in markets. Where the public does not constitute a market, as in thinly-populated areas, advertisers are, naturally, not interested in them, because that is not a money-making proposition from their point of view. People are only a market when they are gathered together in big centres of population, and it is only there that commercial television will have any interest at all.
This has been proved beyond all doubt by experience in the United States of America. In the big centres of population there are plenty of channels and alternative programmes, in New York and Los Angeles, but taking the country as a whole, there is only 60 per cent. coverage.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
Of course, it is obvious to the hon. Member because he does not think of people as people but as markets.
§ Mr. Fell
I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. It should be obvious to people of the most reasonable intelligence that one cannot compare America with this country when it is a comparison of distances. Here, the distances are a maximum of a few hundred miles; in America, they are a maximum of a few thousand miles.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
The main thing will be the same. Advertisers in this country, as in America, will be interested in the big centres of population where people constitute a market, but not in areas of thin population, such as are represented by many hon. Members, because they are not a market. These programmes 320 will be expensive and it has to be worth the advertiser's while to put up the station where there are enough people to whom he can advertise his goods. How does the hon. Gentleman explain this very small coverage in the United States, where though there has been no restriction of capital as here, and after having a head start on us, nearly half the people of that country are still without television sets—
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
—while the B.B.C., working under conditions where capital investment has been restricted, quite rightly, by both Governments, has a coverage of 85 per cent., which is described in the Government's White Paper as the highest density of coverage in the world? Why has the B.B.C. the highest density of coverage in the world? Because it is an organisation which is concerned with the people as an audience, not as a market.
If the alternative programme were to go to the B.B.C.—and I hope the right hon. and learned Gentleman will deal with this point—we should get a national coverage on the second or alternative programme as soon as frequencies were available. If it is given to commercial television those concerned will not extend it to those thinly-populated areas—everyone knows that—and it would be impossible to expect the B.B.C. only to cater for the thinly-populated areas while giving the dense areas to commercial television.
That would be like asking the Assistant Postmaster-General to deliver and collect letters only in the countryside and leaving the delivery and collection of letters in the bigger centres to private enterprise. If the alternative programme were given to commercial television it would be quite impossible to expect the B.B.C. to fill it out in the thinly-populated areas.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Finlay), quite rightly, said that what people outside the House are interested in is what they are going to see. If this alternative programme is handed to commercial television half of them will see nothing of it at all, because it will not be there for them to see. Hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the 321 House who represent country constituencies should remember that in voting for the alternative programme being given to commercial television instead of to the B.B.C., which is the issue, they will, in fact, be voting for the deprivation of their constituents getting any chance of seeing the alternative programme for, at any rate, a very long time, and that, by voting on our side of the House, they would be voting for shortening very greatly the period of time in which the alternative programme will reach their constituencies.
The Government, through the Assistant Postmaster-General, try to meet this by the financial argument that giving it to the B.B.C. would involve raising the licence fee far too high. It seems to me that the Assistant Postmaster-General himself realised how thin and weak that was because he had to exaggerate it so much to make it stand up at all. He did not challenge the B.B.C. estimate; he did not give any reason why we should doubt it. The B.B.C. estimate, given by the Director-General at a Press conference quite recently, was that the alternative programme could be financed for a licence fee of £3, or thereabouts.
The Assistant Postmaster-General did not challenge that estimate, or give us any reason to doubt it. He just produced his own figure, which he did not trouble to justify, and said that it would cost between £5 and £7. I prefer the B.B.C. figure. After listening to his speech yesterday, and reading it very carefully today, I have the suspicion that he did what I can perhaps politely call a piece of sleight of hand.
The hon. Gentleman was not comparing like with like. So far as I can make out, when he said that the cost would be between £5 and £7, he was talking about the cost of an alternative B.B.C. programme which would give an immediate national coverage. That is not the matter in question. Commercial television cannot give immediate national coverage. The truth is that with a £3 licence fee the B.B.C. can give exactly the same coverage as commercial television, and as quickly, and they can then go further and give a national coverage which commercial television will never give.
The Assistant Postmaster-General seems to have raised this bogy of the 322 £6 or £7 licence fee in order to frighten himself about evasion. I do not think that many of us need be very worried about the effects of a £3 licence fee. If we want to judge the value of this fee, we must compare what the public would get under commercial television as proposed by the Government with what they would get under the B.B.C. with a £3 licence fee.
Under commercial television they would get an alternative programme, which, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) pointed out, would be only nominally free, because the cost would be borne in the price of goods. These alternative programmes would cover areas which the B.B.C. could cover just as well. But if the B.B.C. had a £3 licence fee the present 85 per cent. coverage on the first television programme would be raised to a coverage of well over 95 per cent. and the programme would be two hours longer. Secondly, the people would get the same coverage on the alternative programme that they would get from commercial television.
Thirdly, directly the frequencies allowed the B.B.C. to do so, they would give the people a national coverage on the second programme, which commercial television can never give them. Fourthly, there would be a great development in high frequency programmes—which my hon. Friend the Member for Durham (Mr. Grey) will be glad to hear—which would enable the B.B.C. to solve the problem of giving North-East England and Northern Ireland separate programmes. We have to choose between these two alternatives, which have to be weighed against each other. We cannot have both. The nation must choose, and our case is that the Government, without consulting the people, are making a very bad choice for the people.
It is extraordinary that the Government should do this when determined efforts are being made in the United States of America to escape from this system. My hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) mentioned the invention known as the "Blab-off switch." This is a very significant invention, which represents the revolt of the individual American against commercial television. 323 It shows the effects of advertising on television when people have to put their money and brains into this kind of invention to enable people to guard against advertising. They can sell the invention in its thousands, without the benefit of advertising on television, or in the newspapers. We shall certainly have this invention here if the Government have their way. I hope, in the name of liberty and Milton that they will be able so to advertise this invention on commercial television. It may be that the Government will consider putting them on the National Health Service.
Then there is the development of subscription or slot machine television, which is a serious attempt, backed by considerable capital, to give advertisement-free programmes to the people. It may well be that the Government will launch themselves into this new venture just at a time when it is becoming out of date in the United States of America. If they are really worried about alternative ways of financing programmes they might wait a little to see whether any of these inventions will provide a way of financing them, because that would be worth while, and that may enable us to come to an agreement. Here might be a way of financing the new programmes without any commercialism or advertising at all.
One of the arguments that Government spokesmen have relied upon is this one that there is a difference between sponsorship and advertising. I would point out to the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Ilford, South (Squadron Leader Cooper), who made a very courageous speech, that the change of front on this matter by the Government has been so rapid and so co-ordinated that we may be forgiven for doubting its spontaniety or honesty. Now we are all told that nobody on that side of the House wants sponsoring. Yet a little while ago the Lord Chancellor was saying:I sincerely hope that…there will be sponsored television in this country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 26th May, 1952; Vol. 176, c. 1447.]and was supporting the White Paper because it "opened the door," in his words, to sponsored television.
We must observe that the self-same people who praise this White Paper that 324 forbids sponsorship were those who praised in similar words the first White Paper which permitted sponsorship, or, at any rate, as the Lord Chancellor said, opened the door to sponsored television. Of course, the Minister of State really let the cat out of the bag today. They know, on that side of the House, that it makes no difference, and the hon. Member for Yarmouth really need not worry. Everybody knows money talks, and if the advertisers pay for the programmes the programmes will be solely dependent on them and they will have their own way.
If the Government want even to look serious in this matter they must clarify two points in their own White Paper. These are the only two questions that I will ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman. In paragraph 6 it is laid down that the basic principle is that…the responsibility for what goes out on the air shall rest upon the operator of the station, and not on the advertiser.How is that to be squared, I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman, with paragraph 11, which says:…private companies would be free…to put on documentary films or 'shoppers' guides' prepared by advertisers"?The question I want to ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman is: what is the difference between a documentary film prepared by an advertiser, which is right under paragraph 11, and a programme prepared by advertisers that is banned under paragraph 6? Here is a loophole of which the Lord Chancellor will be glad, because it will leave the door wide open to sponsored television, and it will, of course, if it is left unclosed, throw great doubt on the Government's reputation for good faith.
My second question is this. I take it that the Home Secretary will agree with me that the whole meaning of paragraph 6 is that programme companies shall be distinct from advertisers and their agents. That is the whole meaning of the thing. Therefore, I take it that they must also be financially distinct. If they are not financially distinct that will make nonsense of the paragraph. If they are to be the same person wearing two different hats that will destroy the purpose and intention of this paragraph. If the Government are to go ahead with these proposals, will 325 there be an absolute ban on a financial tie-up between the programme company on the one hand and advertisers and their agents on the other, and will there be provision in any legislation that financial participation by advertisers in programme companies, whether direct or indirect, open or under subterfuge, would be a ground for automatic forfeiture of licence? Anything less than that would leave the door wide open to abuse.
Many people on the other side of the House use the argument—the right hon. Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot) set it up as an Aunt Sally which he busily set about knocking down—that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House are against advertisers as such, because we dislike them. Everybody on this side of the House admits that advertisers are good in their place and everybody on that side of the House, if he is honest, must admit that they can sometimes be out of place. We have heard some talk today about the B.B.C. being a sacred cow, above criticism, but, heavens, the advertisers have become sacred cows whom nobody should criticise and we are assailed as if we think humanity is full of the most awful faults.
We all agree that there should not be advertising in the air above our towns and cities, not because we think advertisers are wicked but because we think, for social reasons, that that is a wrong medium in which to advertise. We are all agreed on this. What we say, on this side of the House, is that for social reasons television is a wrong medium in which advertisers should advertise. We do not say that advertisers are wicked; we say this is the wrong medium, and we say it is wrong because, as the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. J. Rodgers) said, it enters the home as nothing else does. We say that the privacy of our home is as sacred and ought to be as free from advertising as the air above our heads.
We have heard a lot of hypocritical talk about liberty and monopoly. I say "hypocritical," because we all know that the true motive behind this scheme is that certain interests in the country have smelled money. Every argument we have heard from the other side of the House in favour of commercial television would apply to commercial sound—every single one; but not one hon. Member at any 326 time has proposed that we should break the B.B.C. monopoly in sound. There has been no talk of liberty there.
It has been said that there is no money in it, but the Director-General has pointed out that ten years from now there will still be seven million wireless sets in this country. There is a lot of weight there, but it is not concentrated in the way that advertisers want, and when there is no money, as with sound, there is no talk about monopoly. But if the B.B.C. monopoly in television is wicked, then the B.B.C. monopoly in sound is wicked, and if hon. Members do not attack one they cannot attack the other.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
With very high frequency there will be plenty of wave lengths. Let the hon. Member then come forward with his argument.
There is big money in this. This money will be due to Government action, because that action will bring monopoly or near monopoly to one or two programme stations, one network and, as has been pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. G. Darling) it will largely be at public expense. The proposition is that public money shall provide the fixed capital over, including the landline connections, which are very expensive and, above that, shall make advances of initial capital to these private concerns to enable them to sell time to advertisers. It is very dangerous that in this way great fortunes should be in the direct gift of the Government—fortunes which go to one or two concerns. No Government should put themselves in that position, least of all this Government, whose reputation about rewarding their friends at the public expense is not too good.
I come now to what we regard as the gravest aspect of this problem, and it is that a very great established service, which, for 25 years, has been above serious dispute, has been thrown into the arena of party politics. We are told that the B.B.C. will be exactly the same under the Government scheme and, therefore, we need not worry about it, but that misses the whole point. The point is that broadcasting will not be the same if commercialism is introduced into one-half of it. The established principle in this 327 matter, established by Conservative Governments, was not that the B.B.C. should also exist, but was that all broadcasting should in one form or another be a public service. That was the principle that was established and is now in question.
If the Government go on, they know that they will plunge us and this great service into bitter long controversy which will go on and on. It will divide parties. It will go right through the nation. I agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman that there are times when the Government must decide great matters of policy—that is one of the principles of our public life; but there are other principles of our public life, one of them being that changes in great established national institutions should not be made without broad agreement. I do not mean 100 per cent. agreement, but broad agreement. That is a general established principle in great matters of this sort.
I agree with the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) and am very sorry that the Minister of State brusquely turned down the proposal of my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South. The right hon. and learned Gentleman slammed so decisively the door which had been rather grudgingly opened by the Assistant Postmaster-General. I hope that in this matter we can be treated at least as well as the Prime Minister wants to treat the Russians. In his speech on 11th May, the Prime Minister proposed a broad meeting without agenda, without laying down conditions, and without demanding, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman demanded, unconditional surrender before even meeting.
I beg the Home Secretary to consider very carefully the answer that he gives tonight. Let us meet. Let us see if we can find agreement about an alternative programme within the scope of broadcasting as a public service one way or the other. There may be many ways of organising it—the right hon. and learned Gentleman suggested some in the Beveridge Report. As long as it is within the ambit and scope of broadcasting as a public service, we will do our best to look at all these proposals and do our best, if it is possible, to come to an agreement; for our main aim in this, and I hope it 328 is the aim of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, is to raise this great established public service once again above party and national controversy.
§ 9.22 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir David Maxwell Fyfe)
I am rather sorry that the right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) found it necessary to preface his appeal for co-operation by an attack as bitter and unrestrained as any that has been made in the course of the debate, which, on the whole, has been good tempered, positive and contributory. It does not help to suggest that hon. and right hon. Friends of mine and myself are motivated only by the smell of money, as the right hon. Gentleman has suggested.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
That is reducing argument to a level which makes great difficulties for restrained reply. I am anxious that I should be restrained, because the right hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) asked me to deal with the issue in that manner, and I shall try to do it.
I propose, before coming to the general principles, to answer the specific questions which were put to me, first, by the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) and, second, by the right hon. Member for Smethwick, who was good enough to send me a note about them.
§ Mr. Frederick Peart (Workington)
The right hon. and learned Gentleman does not like the charge about money, but will he advise his party to publish its accounts?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I once spent a happy evening in the House, and many hon. Gentlemen were here when we debated that matter. It is a most fascinating subject to debate, but I do not think that it comes within purview of a television debate.
I want to deal with the questions which I have been asked, and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will want an answer. Then I will come to the other specific points. The first question on which the right hon. Gentleman asked 329 for a specific answer was: How will impartiality of news be guaranteed? The answer is that it will be guaranteed broadly in the same way as the impartiality of the B.B.C. news bulletins, namely, through the vigilance of the Governors of the Corporation, by public opinion and by Parliament, and by the fact that the Corporation is specifically forbidden to broadcast its own opinions on controversial subjects.
These restrictions will also be imposed on the new corporation and, through them, on the programme companies. I want to say that the Government agree with the right hon. Gentleman as to the importance of this matter. They believe that they can rely on the public and the parties to see that there is no deviation, but if there is any idea in the minds of hon. Members opposite for improving on that, that is one of the subjects which, as my right hon. Friend said, we shall be most pleased to explore with them.
The next point which the right hon. Gentleman put was: Will the code of advertising to which my hon. Friend referred be published, and will it be submitted for the approval of the House? That again is a most important point. The right hon. Gentleman will see that the White Paper says, in paragraph 9, that the corporation would be required to agree with the Postmaster-General the general conditions it will impose for advertising. Only the broad principles would be appropriate for inclusion in the Bill, and other important provisions would be contained in the licence which would be the Postmaster-General's licence to the corporation. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will accept as an earnest of our views on the point that the Government propose to attach a draft licence to the Bill so that the matter will be brought before the House.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
In that case, we may take it that if it is a draft licence attached to the Bill it must be included in the Schedule and therefore capable of amendment as the Bill proceeds through the House?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
That is certainly what I understand. It is rather unusual, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, to put a draft document in a Schedule, but in view of the particular position here I think that is the right thing to do. 330 The next point, and this was also raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards), was: Will not the B.B.C. be precluded from starting a second programme through lack of frequencies? I am informed that it will not. There are eight channels in band III, and when this band is finally available to TV it will accommodate both the commercial programme and the second B.B.C. programme, both with extensive coverage, and that leaves out of consideration the possibility of using bands IV and V.
The right hon. Gentleman then asked me—I am sorry to have to deal with the matter in this way by answers to questions—Will advertising for football pools and alcohol be permitted? As the White Paper said in paragraph 9, the corporation would be required to agree with the Postmaster-General such things as the types of advertising and the classes of advertisement to be excluded. I think that it would be premature to decide those details at this stage, because there will be an opportunity in this House to discuss this question of advertising when the Government's Bill and draft licence are brought forward. I am certainly not going to lay down the law. I fortified myself by looking in the "Daily Herald" this morning, and I found two pools advertisements in that paper.
Then the right hon. Gentleman asked what would be the opportunity for asking Parliamentary Questions about the new corporation. The answer to that is that in this matter the new corporation will be in exactly the same position as the B.B.C. I now want to clear up another point—
§ Mr. H. Morrison
I apologise for intervening, but, on the first point, I presume that what was called, I think by the Assistant Postmaster-General, the "code of advertising" will be part of the licence and will be incorporated in it and, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman has just said, will be appended to the Bill. There is another point with regard to the rights of Parliament which I should like to put to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. He will understand that the rights of Parliament to Questions on the B.B.C. are very limited. Questions on the programme, for example, are ruled out.
331 The programme in the case of the new undertaking, concerned as it is with commercial and advertising interests, is a very different kettle of fish. The B.B.C. is entirely a public authority, managing the thing as a public authority. I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether the rights of Parliament ought not to be extended in the case of a totally different undertaking which is really run by commercial concerns.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
That is a matter which, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State said, we are perfectly prepared to discuss, but I remind the right hon. Gentleman that while I agree that there is the Scylla of insufficient Parliamentary control, there is also the Charybdis of too much Parliamentary control, which is very important in a matter like this which affects the minds of men. One must bear that in mind. I remind the right hon. Gentleman—he is well aware of it—of what the Beveridge Committee said on this problem.
I should like to deal now with another point which has been referred to several times, including the references made by the right hon. Member for Smethwick. The Postmaster-General announced in another place, and the Assistant Postmaster-General announced in this House yesterday, that if a second television programme were to be provided by the B.B.C. now it would mean a licence fee of about £5. The right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) queried this statement and referred to the B.B.C's own statement on a 10-year programme of development, which was published a short time ago, in which the figure quoted was £3.
In fact, there is no discrepancy between these statements because, as the right hon. Gentleman said, it is one of those things that arise through not comparing like with like. I want to explain how the differences arise. In their 10-year plan the B.B.C. says that it hopes to carry this out for £3, but that was with certain provisos and conditions of great importance. The £3 excluded any deduction by the Treasury, which at present amounts to £2 million a year. It also excluded any deduction for Post Office expenses for collecting revenue and dealing with evasion, which amounts to 332 something between £1 million and £1½ million a year. It made no provision for rising prices in the future. It envisaged a second programme starting with about one hour a day only and building up gradually, and it envisaged also starting on the second programme in four or five years' time.
I now come to two questions which the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South was good enough to put to me. Then I shall have finished answering the particular cross-examination and will deal with the more general points that have been raised.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
Haying spent 30 years of my life cross-examining, I cannot imagine anything more delightful than being at the other end of the gun to the right hon. Gentleman.
The first point which the right hon. Member for Smethwick put to me was to ask what is the difference between the programmes prepared by advertisers mentioned in paragraph 6 of the White Paper and the documentary films mentioned in paragraph 11. The right hon. Member for Caerphilly raised the same point. The difference, as we see it, is that we considered that the documentary film, or the "shopper's guide," is a special form of advertising, perhaps taking a moment or two longer, and will be treated as an advertisement. It will not be treated as a programme—that was one of the points made so often in the last debate in this House—moulded and formed to meet the wishes of advertisers and, as it was suggested, debased in so doing. It is merely an extended advertisement which takes that particular form. Advertisers will have no say whatever in the actual make-up of programmes as distinct from advertisements—
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
The sort of thing one might get is a film of the making of some West African product, a short five-minute programme. Actually it would be extended advertising and would not extend to any other kind of programme.
The other question was of the financial tie up between advertisers, advertising 333 agents and the programme companies. I draw a distinction—and want it to be absolutely clear to the right hon. Member—between advertisers and advertising agents. Advertisers include the whole of industry. It would be ridiculous to suggest, and there is no suggestion, that the whole of industry is to be debarred from investing in these companies. But advertising agents are debarred, both by their own rules and under the scheme of the Government, from holding any financial interest in any advertising medium, and that would include television.
§ Mr. Mayhew
This is quite interesting, because what the right hon. and learned Gentleman is saying now is that advertisers may control these programme companies, but not advertising agents; is that what we understand? Our case is not that the advertising agents will control programmes, but the advertiser. Why is it reasonable to suggest that advertising agents should be prevented from having capital in the programme companies?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
It is obvious to anyone who really approaches the matter without a very clear pre-conception that advertisers include the whole of industry and, therefore, must be entitled to invest. There is no reason why they should not.
I come to the more general points. What is perfectly clear from this debate is that the whole House accept the need—the crying need—for an alternative programme. That is a point upon which we are all agreed. I do say that, in the circumstances, it was unfortunate that the Leader of the Opposition—tempted, I am sure, by the keen Northumbrian air out of his usual care in choosing his words—should have saidIt looks at present as if the Government are going to hand over television to private enterprise.He said that two days after the last debate in this House, when it had been made perfectly clear that there has never been any intention of handing over the television of the B.B.C. to private enterprise, and I should have thought that that was clear.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
This is the most legalistic series of interruptions that I 334 have ever had. First the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South wishes to cross-examine me and then the Leader of the Opposition tries to get out of handing over television by saying that does not mean all television. I quite accept that the right hon. Gentleman did not mean it, because I always accept what he says. But it is extremely unfortunate because, strangely enough, there are people sufficiently misguided to accept the words the right hon. Gentleman uses in their ordinary meaning, and that was the impression given in the country.
I wish to say again what I occupied a great deal of time in saying on 11th June. I shall not repeat it in extenso, but I shall say this, that the present Government intend, as they have always maintained, that the B.B.C. should be the main broadcasting and television vehicle in the country. At that time I said that the needs of the B.B.C. would come first in regard to capital development, and as was stated in this House and repeated yesterday by my hon. Friend, that has been carried out. We have not only stated it as a matter in our minds, we have carried it out and given the B.B.C. their start. We said that they have the first claim and that claim has been met. They will continue to provide a public television service to an increasing number of people.
Right hon. Gentlemen opposite ought to be careful in their extravaganzas. The right hon. Member for Caerphilly said that now what is intended is to put the world's best alongside the world's worst. Were it as easy as that, what hope would the world's worst have?
The next point, and this is one of the divergencies between us in this matter, is that we believe the alternative programme need not and should not be provided by the same authority. I have listened to practically every speech—except when the calk of the inner man were very strong—and I do not think anyone has faced this point; that in the case of a great and expanding medium of thought and expression no one organisation should have a permanent monopoly.
It is interesting on this point to note the change in popular view, and I mention this because the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Hobson) mentioned it. It is not only a question that more people as a whole on the Gallup poll were for 335 B.B.C. and commercial television, than for the B.B.C. alone. It is not only the question—though it is very interesting—that the proportions were exactly the same in the two major parties in the State. The other important point is that of those who had a television set 57 per cent. as opposed to 48 per cent. were in favour of commercial television and the B.B.C.
I know that in this House our view of Gallup polls depends on one thing only, whether they support the point we put. But, with that rather cynical reflection on the practice of the House of Commons, I look at the Gallup polls as they affect this point. The important point is the change. Last June, when this matter was first submitted, the figures were 60 per cent. for B.B.C. only and 30 per cent. for B.B.C. and commercial television. Now they are 48 per cent. generally for B.B.C. and commercial television, against the 46 per cent. and the 57 per cent. of those with sets.
That great change of a nearly 30 per cent. swing is something which, if it were in politics, I think even right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite would consider. But there is a more fundamental point than that. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite and ourselves disagree on one aspect of freedom, liberty or whatever one likes to call it. We put greater emphasis on personal freedom, and right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite put greater emphasis on political freedom. I do not say that in any controversial way; I think it is a fair approach. But, wherever we put our emphasis, the one essential to freedom is diversity and variety. The real nub of the matter was put by Mr. Geoffrey Crowther and Sir Robert Watson-Watt when they said:The only ultimate safeguard of liberty lies in diversity.…But if there is safety only in diversity, how can diversity itself be safe, with the most powerful organ of publicity and propaganda in one centralised control?There was another point raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South, and again I disagree profoundly with his approach. The point was about the position of artistes and performers. He might well discount my views but I ask his serious consideration for what was said by Equity in their report to the Beveridge Committee. They said: 336The main problem, as we see it, is to break down the present economic and artistic monopoly of the B.B.C.That is on page 498, and on the next page they said—and this I put to everyone for consideration:There is thus a constant, if subtle, pressure upon artistes to accept whatever the B.B.C. offers and to avoid any action which might cause the B.B.C. to regard the artiste as in any way 'awkward.' This, coupled with the B.B.C.'s attitude to collective bargaining, is an unhealthy position which arises fundamentally because the B.B.C. is a monopoly. On the above grounds, and in the interests of the public we feel that the monopoly should be broken down.The same was said by the Music Directors' Association. I cannot understand the argument which, on the one hand, emphasises the improved position of artistes and, on the other, says that it must result in debased programmes. It is not my experience of those artistes and entertainers that it has been my good fortune to know.
I come now to what I think is the main issue in this matter and that is the view that we take of advertising. Some parts of the debate have suggested that advertising is evil in itself. I think that the hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. G. Darling) came very near that, in what he said yesterday. I remind the House of what my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State read in these most important and well weighed words from Lord Beveridge, Lady Megan Lloyd George and Mrs. Mary Stocks, which certainly ought to appeal to any hon. and right hon. Gentleman opposite. What gives me great difficulty is, first of all, the statement that advertising has some adverse effect on prices. In the last 18 months the greatest advertising campaigns have been for motor cars and detergents, and in both cases after the campaign the price has fallen. If hon. Gentlemen opposite want other examples, let them read the evidence given before the Beveridge Committee and they will see that the reasons are carefully advanced.
We can see the hypocrisy in this matter. The "Radio Times" carries advertisements, and the names of television stars can be seen in some paper or other advertising not only themselves but some product. I think we ought to try and get this matter in its proper perspective. I am glad to say that in general that attack has not been made. I refer the House to what was said by the 337 Bishop of Oxford in his magazine in August. There are a lot of journalists in this House and most of us have written for the Press in our time. This is what the Bishop said:We must recognise that advertisers in the public Press very rarely offend against the canons of decency or good taste—less so on occasion, perhaps, than some of the reading matter provided in books and papers for general perusal.Hon. Gentlemen opposite suggest that this is only a matter for the large advertiser and that it would not benefit the small man. The small man will be in the same position as he is with newspapers. There is another point which has to be remembered. A great many small shopkeepers make their profit out of proprietary goods, and these proprietary goods will be advertised and will be bought by the general public to the benefit of the small man.
I want to deal with a point which has been raised once or twice, and particularly by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn), as to whether, in fact, there was a difference between the advertising which we suggest and sponsoring. I put it to the House that there is a vast difference and, as we say in the White Paper, one that is well worthy of consideration. A programme that is sponsored is one designed by an outside interest. The Government's plan is that the operating companies would have a "spot announcement" between programmes without being concerned with the programme's contents, or, as I have said and explained, documentary films, shoppers' guide and so on.
The real argument in this matter—and this is one which I think we have to face—is that the advertiser wants his advertisement after a programme with mass appeal. In order to get the greatest revenue, every programme must have mass appeal and, therefore, the lowest factor of taste and interest will set the standard. That is the argument as I understand it. It is quite true that the advertisement—
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I am sorry that I cannot give way, for my time is running out, and I want to deal with the offer made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South. The point I want to make is that no lowest common denominator of programme of the type suggested will make the whole public look at it; only a supreme national event will do this, and, therefore, any organisation that runs a programme will have to get balance into that programme and will have to get viewers of different interests interested in viewing the programme at different times. I am sure that this analogy has not been disposed of in the discussion in this debate.
Advertisers in the Press want to advertise in the tabloid papers like the "Daily Mirror," in the middle range papers like the "News Chronicle," the "Daily Herald" and the "Daily Mail," and in the quality papers like "The Times" and the "Daily Telegraph" and papers of that type. I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend was right in saying that it is only in a balanced programme that we will get the appeal.
The third point is that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have proceeded all along on one part of the story, and that is that the broadcaster needs the advertiser. What is manifest from the history of the world in the last two years is that, equally, the advertiser needs the broadcaster; and it is that side of it which has been ignored, and to compare it with the scattered problem that is raised by the United States is, in my view, irrelevant.
I want to make two more points. The first is that we have tried—as I suggested 18 months ago, when I ventured to make an appeal for moderation in this matter—to meet this suggestion of debasing programmes by putting in machinery which will give control and control with power. The other point with which I want to deal concerns what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South said when he made this offer, which has been referred to before. I want to make clear what the Postmaster-General himself in another place said:…of course the Government are free to consider Parliament's views before they actually prepare definite and detailed legislation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 25th November, 1953; c. 528.]339 My noble Friend the Lord President said:We have always said that, within the broad basic principles of our scheme, we were ready to consider any suggestions that might be made."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 25th November, 1953; c. 743.]My hon. Friend the Assistant Postmaster-General said yesterday:We are prepared to consider very favourably this idea"—that is, the idea of a percentage of the B.B.C. revenue to provide the Corporation with an independent source of income—or any other suggestion which may be put forward in this debate. I want to go further and say that, in preparing legislation, the Government are prepared to consider most carefully and sympathetically any schemes or any ideas put forward by anyone who is prepared to accept the principle of ending the B.B.C. monopoly and who will face up to the practical difficulties of doing so."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th December, 1953; Vol. 522, c. 60.]These are not unreasonable suggestions. We believe we have got to end the monopoly, and I believe that a great many hon. Gentlemen opposite believe that too.
A third point is that we have to face up to the difficulties of doing so. What has not been faced up to in this debate is the question of financing except through an increase of licence fees. We are prepared—and my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State said that—to consider religion, politics, news and services—
§ Mr. H. Morrison
On a point of order. It appeared to us, Mr. Speaker, that the Home Secretary had talked the Motion out. If there was no question about that at all, I should like to know what has been happening over the last few seconds. It appears that there has been a discussion between you and the Chief Whip. We think that the Home Secretary had talked it out.
§ Mr. Speaker
What happened was that I was informed that it was Ten o'Clock and I made the usual remark "Order, order," for interrupting business, according to the Standing Order. At the time 340 I rose I thought that the Home Secretary had not resumed his seat and I was waiting to see whether anyone was going to move the Closure and if the House wanted a decision. The Closure can be moved on the interruption of business. I am now informed that the right hon. and learned Gentleman had sat down—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order—but if that is not so, the business is interrupted and I have to ask, "Debate to be resumed?"
§ Mr. Crookshank
My right hon. and learned Friend had, in fact, sat down. [Hon. Members: "No."] If I may be allowed—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. We shall not resolve the matter by shouting at each other. I hope that the House will listen to the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Crookshank
If I may be allowed to say so, nobody could have seen it better because, not wishing to interrupt my right hon. and learned Friend, I sat on the step behind him and, therefore, I had a lateral view of what was happening, and I am quite satisfied—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Crookshank
If I may be allowed to say so, no one could have seen it better than I, because, not wishing to interrupt my right hon. and learned Friend I sat on a step behind him. [Hon. Members: "No, no."] Therefore, if I may say so, I got a lateral view of what was happening, but I am quite satisfied—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Speaker
I really must appeal for order. I want to hear what has happened. We shall not get out of our difficulty unless hon. Members keep silence.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order, order. I was listening to a submission from the Leader of the House, as I am quite entitled to do without interruption.
§ Mr. Bowles
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You asked to what day the debate was adjourned. You only put that—
§ Mr. Crookshank
I am perfectly satisfied, from what I actually saw—[Interruption.] I am entitled to be heard, and entitled to say what I am certain about. Hon. Gentlemen may be entitled to say other things, but I merely say that I am perfectly certain that my right hon. and learned Friend sat down before there was—[Interruption.]—any question put. I hope, therefore, Mr. Speaker, that as, after all, the whole House wants a decision taken on this matter—[Hon. Members: "No."] I thought that was the whole purport of the two-day debate, and I therefore hope that we may now proceed to a Division.
§ Mr. Attlee
As the Leader of the House has given his impression, I think that we can also give the impression that we had on this side, which is that, far from sitting down, the right hon. and learned Gentleman was continuing his speech and elaborating the argument, and then it appeared that after 10 by the clock—[Hon. Members: "Which clock?"] The clock which is in sight of Mr. Speaker. It must be obvious to hon. Members that Mr. Speaker cannot see the clock above his head so, naturally, I was speaking of the other clock.
I therefore submit that the right hon. and learned Gentleman had continued his speech. It is a thing which I have known to happen quite often in the House, by inadvertency, but I submit that the rule has to be construed strictly. There is no question of the convenience of the House. It is the strict order that the debate is interrupted at 10 o'clock.
§ Mr. Speaker
I must abide by the rules of the House. I have two contrary views from two different sides of the House as to what happened. I must, therefore, in those circumstances, go by what my own impression was. That impression was that I was informed that it 342 was 10 o'clock. I rose to my feet to interrupt the business. The right hon. and learned Gentleman was then still standing. It was open, at that time, to anyone to move the Closure and we should have proceeded to a Division. That was not done. I have no option under the rules of the House but to inquire when the debate is to be resumed.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. R. A. Butler)
As we are obviously facing a difficult situation, and as personal impressions are being given—
§ Mr. H. Morrison
On a point of order. You have, Mr. Speaker, I submit with great respect, twice asked for a day to be named. What day? I submit that there is no Question before the House. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, with his long Parliamentary experience, really should know better. He is now trying to continue the debate when there is no Question before the House.
§ Mr. Speaker
I must ask hon. Members to keep silent and allow me to hear the point of order. There is no advantage to this House if it is continually shouting when an hon. Member is trying to make a submission. The House should listen to what is being said.
§ Mr. Butler
Am I in order in giving my impression, Sir? [Hon. Members: "No."] I should like to establish that first. If I am in order I shall give my impression, and if I am not I shall not do so.
§ Mr. Speaker
Two contrary sets of impressions have been given to the House and, as they have been given, there is no objection to someone else giving his impression, but I am bound to say, having heard what has been said on both sides, that what I saw was what I saw, and I cannot go back on it.
§ Mr. Butler
If you cannot go back on your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, there is no advantage in my questioning it, and I should not wish to do so. But as you have invited impressions—[Hon. Members: "No."]—without going back on 343 your Ruling, I would say that this was an extremely confused situation. I think the difficulty arose from the fact that my right hon. and learned Friend sat down, in my opinion—as I was watching the clock—slightly before 10 o'clock, and as you, Mr. Speaker, had not risen, there was a hiatus.
§ Mr. Speaker
This sort of conduct is not creditable to the House. We ought to hear what is being said. This is a difficult matter.
§ Mr. Butler
If I cannot have your protection in being heard, Mr. Speaker, there is not much point in my speaking. I was saying that my impression was that my right hon. and learned Friend sat down just before 10 o'clock. There was a hiatus before you rose, and the Chief Whip on this side, who was sitting next to me, naturally thought that it was not necessary to move the Closure. That is the impression which I obtained, and it was a perfectly legitimate impression.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I have acted according to the Standing Order, which says that at 10 o'clock I shall interrupt the business. The Standing Order also provides that on that interruption the Closure may be moved. No Closure was moved. According to my recollection, the right hon. and learned Gentleman was still on his feet when I rose. For these reasons I have to ask when the debate is to be resumed.
§ Mr. Hudson
You did not say so, Sir. This is defiance of your Ruling on the part of the Leader of the House.
§ Mr. Crookshank
I listened very carefully to what was said, Mr. Speaker—[HON. MEMBERS: "What day?"]—and the whole issue between us is that the point of interruption had not occurred—[HON. MEMBERS: "It had."]—because you yourself were not then on your feet though my right hon. and learned Friend had sat down. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Therefore, the point of interruption had not then occurred.
§ Mr. Frederick Gough (Horsham)
On a point of order. It is a simple, but, I submit, very serious point of order. At the time when you first rose, Mr. Speaker, the two clocks in the House quite literally were two minutes different. Now the two clocks are exactly the same. I submit that an inquiry should be made as to why they have changed.
§ Mr. Speaker
I can see no way out of this position except to inquire when the debate is to be resumed.
Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.—[Mr. Kaberry.]
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I would remind the House that an hon. Lady has the Adjournment tonight. She is entitled to be heard. I ask hon. Members to go quietly out of the Chamber.