HC Deb 17 December 1958 vol 597 cc1115-6
35. Mrs. Castle

asked the Postmaster-General, in view of the unsatisfactory result of the investigation made by the Director-General of the British Broadcasting Corporation into allegations of political partiality in the current affairs for schools broadcasts, which has given serious offence, if he will now investigate the matter, in accordance with his previous practice in such circumstances; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Marples

I assume the hon. Member is referring to a programme about Cyprus on 19th November in the Current Affairs for Schools series, about which she wrote to the Director-General of the B.B.C., kindly sending a copy of her letter to me. I have read the script, and I have also seen a copy of the Director-General's reply. As he explained, the attempt to show the picture in Cyprus in simple terms suitable for a 20-minute broadcast to children of 13–15 lead to some omissions. The broadcast did not in his view display the partiality attributed to it by the hon. Member, and I see no need for further investigation by myself. If the hon. Member is still dissatisfied she should pursue the matter with the Corporation.

Mrs. Castle

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he is now giving a different impression to that in the Director-General's reply to me? If he will look at the matter again he will see that the Director-General agrees that there were two points on which, in his own words, "inaccuracy crept in." One of the main statements of Government policy was—[HON. MEMBERS: "Speech."]—"undoubtedly inexact," and on another point there also seems to have been an error. The Director-General justifies this on the ground that these programmes have to be simplified. Would the Postmaster-General make inquiries into the organisation of these programmes, in order to see that in future they are sometimes simplified in favour of the Opposition and not of the Government?

Mr. Marples

That is a matter for the B.B.C.

Mr. M. Stewart

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the matter of which my hon. Friend complains is not an isolated instance, that there is a systematic presentation of untrue and biased material in the schools broadcasts and that when one complains to the Director-General the replies one gets, although long, are completely without substance?

Mr. Marples

I can assure the House that the number of complaints we receive about bias about cancel each other out. People on the right say that the broadcasts are baised to the left, and vice versa. I am sure that bias and partiality lie in the eye of the beholder.

Mr. Ness Edwards

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this is the third complaint about the schools broadcasts in the last two months? Will he read the Adjournment debate relating to the broadcast affecting the strike of 1926? Is it not about time that the right hon. Gentleman discussed this matter with the Director-General so that what is wrong in the schools broadcast can be put right?

Mr. Marples

I have already read the debate, and I think the right hon. Gentleman who started it rather overstated his case.