HC Deb 17 June 1953 vol 516 cc958-62
26. Sir R. Grimston

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what has been the result of his inquiries from the British Ambassador in Washington as to the alleged insertion of advertisements into the television broadcast of the Coronation Service in the United States of America; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Nutting

Her Majesty's Ambassador reports that, in general, the American television programmes of the Coronation were marked by exceptional restraint and propriety and that, during the main showings of the television film by the three networks with which the British Broadcasting Corporation had made special arrangements, commercials were reduced to an extent unprecedented in American television. All the information available shows clearly that the treatment of the Coronation in the United States was a most profound manifestation of sympathy and good will towards Britain.

Sir R. Grimston

Does not my hon. Friend think that it follows from that information received from our Ambassador that the attempt being made for propaganda purposes in this country to smear the whole of the American Coronation broadcast is quite unjustified?

Mr. Nutting

Yes, Sir. I agree with my hon. Friend. It was most unfortunate that one or two individual lapses of taste in the presentation of the Coronation proceedings by a vast number—several hundreds—of American broadcasting stations and the television network should have formed the subject of headlines in British newspapers. I might also say that I deplore any attempt by any quarter of this House to drag the United States into this particular controversy about sponsored television in this country.

Mr. Woodburn

Is the Minister aware that what is good taste is a matter of opinion and that it may vary on both sides of the Atlantic? [An HON. MEMBER: "And in this House."] Is the hon. Gentleman further aware that whatever the sponsors of commercial television in this country say, any interjection of commercial advertising into such ceremonies in this country would be viewed with nothing but disgust?

Mr. Nutting

I cannot add much to the reply which I have already given. The right hon. Gentleman says that opinions vary in this matter, but we have had the opinion of Her Majesty's Ambassador in Washington, and also reports from our Consular Officers in the United States, and no such complaint as the right hon. Gentleman has made has been made in any of these reports.

Hon. Members


Major Legge-Bourke

In view of his original reply, will my hon. Friend now take steps with the Postmaster-General to restrain the B.B.C. from issuing a statement such as they did when they had a completely false conception of what in fact took place?

Mr. H. Morrison

May I ask the Joint Under-Secretary if he will be very careful about exercising the Government's powers to make representations to the B.B.C. and to control and restrict the reasonable freedom of the B.B.C?

Mr. Nutting

It was because I was very conscious of that need that, as perhaps the right hon. Gentleman noticed. I treated the last supplementary question with extreme caution and discretion.

28. Mr. Edelman

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what cooperation took place between the British Information Services and the American broadcasting companies who reproduced the British Broadcasting Corporation Coronation broadcasts.

Mr. Nutting

The head of the British Information Services in the United States was invited by the National Broadcasting Company to be present as a guest in the studio during a news magazine programme, which included the re-broadcasting of the B.B.C.'s sound commentary against a background of still photographs. He was asked in case his advice was required to ensure that the salient parts of the Abbey Service were properly understood by the audience.

Mr. Edelman

Is it not then clear that our representatives in the United States of the two public bodies, the B.B.C. and the B.I.S., have discharged their duties with dignity and decorum, and was not the debasement of the Coronation programme entirely due to advertising inserts by private companies? In this controversy between public and private bodies, is the hon. Gentleman on the side of the chimpanzee?

Mr. Nutting

The hon. Member has raised the question of the chimpanzee. Perhaps I might inform the House of the actual facts of the case with regard to that incident. The programme in which this animal appeared was not a Coronation programme. It was a news magazine programme which appears periodically, either daily or weekly, I cannot say which, in the United States, and of which the chimpanzee happens to be a regular feature. Some people no doubt like this feature. I would pass no judgment whatsoever upon it myself. But it so happens that this news magazine programme had some still photographs of the Coronation included in it. It was not, however, a special broadcast or re-broadcast or re-television of the Coronation ceremony.

Mr. Wyatt

Is not the Joint Undersecretary aware that his complacency about these broadcasts is not shared by the "New York Times," the "New York Herald-Tribune" and other responsible people and organs of opinion throughout the whole of the United States?

Mr. Nutting

There is no question of complacency involved at all. I am merely giving information, and the facts upon the information that I possess.

Major Beamish

Is my hon. Friend aware that several of the big American broadcasting companies issued an official statement in reply to accusations made by the B.B.C? Can he say why the B.B.C. gave such prominence to their own accusations and no prominence to the official reply?

Mr. Nutting

As I have been reminded by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), I am not responsible for the statements made by the B.B.C, but I am very glad that the broadcasting companies concerned in the United States have taken steps and have taken the trouble to present the true facts. I only hope that the answers that I have given today have helped further to clarify the facts of the situation.