HC Deb 16 December 1959 vol 615 cc1415-6
1. Dr. A. Thompson

asked the Postmaster-General if he will give a direction under Section 9 (2) of the Television Act, 1954, requiring the Authority to refrain from broadcasting more than a defined proportion of drama depicting physical violence.

The Postmaster-General (Mr. Reginald Bevins)

No, Sir.

Dr. Thompson

Will the Minister bear in mind on this matter that television authorities have a much greater responsibility than other forms of entertainment. that we can go to the cinema or theatre at choice, but that television has unrestricted access to millions of homes, containing children of all stages of education and degrees of impressionability?

Mr. Bevins

Yes, indeed; but the Question asked me if I will use my power under Section 9 (2). That is a reserve power which has never been used for this purpose.

Mr. Ness Edwards

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that Associated Rediffusion has already issued a directive to its producers along the lines of the suggestion in this Question? Will he invite the Independent Television Authority to have regard to that directive, and to see how far it can be expressed to the other programme contractors?

Mr. Bevins

I am perfectly sure that the I.T.A. is constantly vigilant in this matter, and both the B.B.C. and I.T.A. are currently studying the Report of the Nuffield Study Group.

2. Dr. A. Thompson

asked the Postmaster-General whether he is aware that the Independent Television Authority is in breach of its statutory obligations under Section 3 (1) (d) of the Television Act, 1954, in that it permits the broadcasting of more than a proper proportion of items not of British origin or performance; and what steps he is taking in this regard.

Mr. Bevins

As the Answer to the first part of the Question is in the negative, the second part of the Question does not arise.

Dr. Thompson

May I ask the Minister to bear in mind that there is a good deal of material in the British classics—Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson, John Buchan and so on—which are part of our national heritage, which, if successfully adapted in the form of drama, can provide the excitement and dramatic possibilities which the children need of a much higher quality than senseless gangster films—to give one example, the B.B.C.'s excellent production of Bleak House—and that it is this sort of entertainment and drama to which we should be giving our attention?

Mr. Bevins

Of course, I do not dissent from what the hon. Gentleman says; but I think we should also bear in mind that many of the English classics, from Treasure Island to Macbeth, are also a pretty bloodthirsty business.