HC Deb 18 February 1957 vol 565 cc5-8
3. Mr. Chapman

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether he is aware of the anxiety in the British Broadcasting Corporation about the increase in guidance and pressure from Government sources about the handling of the Suez crisis in news items; and whether he will therefore define the extent to which his officials will be used to interpret the news to the British Broadcasting Corporation and to newspapers.

23. Mr. Lewis

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what direct contact he intends to establish and maintain between himself and the British Broadcasting Corporation and the Independent Television Authority.

Dr. Hill

My function is to assist the Press and the B.B.C. by securing a better supply of official news and information. I can see no reason why this should give grounds for anxiety on the part of the B.B.C. I shall not establish nor maintain any direct formal contact with the B.B.C. or the Independent Television Authority.

Mr. Chapman

Is the Minister not aware that during the Suez crisis the B.B.C. received what was called an unprecedented amount of "guidance and hints" from official quarters? In view of that, would he give an assurance that there will be no attempt at lower levels by officials to influence the policy content of B.B.C. programmes?

Dr. Hill

I have had no indication of apprehension by the B.B.C. intimated to me. The hon. Member will appreciate that both at home and overseas the B.B.C. is autonomous about programme content. That is the position today.

Mr. 1. Griffiths

In his former post as Postmaster-General, the right hon. Gentleman has been responsible to the House for B.B.C. services. What is the Postmaster-General's position today? Is his now a subordinate post?

Dr. Hill

No, Sir. The Postmaster-General has clear-cut functions under the Charter, Licence and Agreement in the case of the B.B.C., and under the Television Act, 1954, in the case of the I.T.A. Those functions and responsibilities remain entirely unaffected and untouched.

Mr. D. Jones

Does the right hon. Gentleman's original Answer mean that the British public is not now to have the "Radio Doctor" inflicted on it?

Mr. Anthony Greenwood

In view of the need for convincing people that the B.B.C. remains purely autonomous in these matters, will the right hon. Gentleman make representations to the Foreign Office about the undesirability of its maintaining a liaison officer at Bush House to give guidance, as it is called, to the B.B.C.?

Dr. Hill

The hon. Member will realise that there is a clause in the Licence and Agreement which relates to information for overseas programmes being made available. As for this particular appointment, I have no doubt that my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary will take note of what the hon Member has said.

31. Mr. Hobson

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what machinery he proposes to use for coordinating the external services of the British Broadcasting Corporation with those of Government Departments; and whether he proposes to appoint a liaison officer between his Department and the external services of the British Broadcasting Corporation similar to that appointed by the Foreign Office.

Dr. Hill

My right hon. Friends, the Secretaries of State for Foreign Affairs, Commonwealth Relations and the Colonies, prescribe the countries to which broadcasts by the B.B.C. external services should be sent and the languages to be used, but they do not, of course, bear any responsibility for the content of the programmes. I understand that their Departments have established arrangements to keep the B.B.C. informed about the policies and actions of Her Majesty's Government and I do not propose to establish any additional channels of contact.

Mr. Hobson

Does the right hon. Gentleman propose to have any consultations with regard to the strength of the stations broadcasting these programmes in the appropriate language? Secondly, does the latter part of his reply mean that the B.B.C., or whoever is in charge of overseas services, is free to broadcast precisely what it wants in commenting upon the news, as it wishes, just as is done in Britain?

Dr. Hill

The freedom of the B.B.C. in regard to programme content is in no way affected by my own organisation or work.

Mr. J. Griffiths

The Chancellor has said that the freedom of the B.B.C. in regard to the content of programmes is not affected. Is he in any way intervening in other spheres?

Dr. Hill

I have already given the answer that I am not proposing any additional channel of contact. The B.B.C.'s position remains precisely what it was before I began this work.

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