HC Deb 25 January 1956 vol 548 cc178-9
1. Mr. Swingler

asked the Postmaster. General how many complaints of alleged breaches of the Television Act, 1954, on matters where he has a duty under the Act to intervene, he has received; and what action he has taken in each case.

The Postmaster-General (Dr. Charles Hill)

Since the Independent Television Authority started I have received three letters of complaint and I have answered five Parliamentary Questions. In none of these cases is there imposed on me a statutory duty to intervene.

Mr. Swingler

Is the Postmaster-General aware that this reveals a totally unsatisfactory situation, as it is evident that there have been many more breaches than complaints? Is he further aware that the majority of people have the impression that the programme contractors are now flagrantly defying Parliament's intention without any responsibility being accepted by the Minister? When will the right hon. Gentleman take any action?

Dr. Hill

I scarcely think that the figures I gave in reply to the Question—three letters and five Parliamentary Questions—justify the sweeping assertion made by the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Ness Edwards

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that on repeated occasions there have been breaches of the intention of this House when we discussed the Bill, and surely the right hon. Gentleman has an obligation to see that proper monitoring is undertaken with regard to these programmes so that the I.T.A. will not have to take action as a result of questions raised in the House when the Postmaster-General fails to do his duty?

Dr. Hill

I am responsible neither for the day-to-day programmes of the B.B.C. nor those of the I.T.A. This House placed responsibility for those programmes upon the Independent Television Authority, which is seeking to carry out a difficult task, not helped, I suggest, by sweeping and unfair generalisations.

Mr. Hobson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Section of the Act which deals with the predominant British character of the programme is flagrantly broken with regard to short films, and will he take up this matter with the I.T.A. or, failing that, could he advise hon. and right hon. Gentlemen whether they should address their questions to the Attorney-General?

Dr. Hill

If the hon. Gentleman, or any other hon. Gentleman, will give me evidence to support such contentions as he has made, I will see to it that they are properly considered.

Sir R. Grimston

Does not my right hon. Friend realise that at present a campaign is being waged against the I.T.A.? Does it really help if the head of one corporation attacks another corporation for not doing its duty?

Dr. Hill

It would not be proper for me to comment on that, but I suggest to the House that, all past controversies apart, it is only fair to give the Independent Television Authority a reasonable chance to do its work.

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