HC Deb 24 June 1959 vol 607 cc1198-9
68. Mr. Ness Edwards

asked the Postmaster-General if he will exercise his powers under Article 15 (4) of the Licence and Agreement with the British Broadcasting Corporation and under Section 9 (3) of the Television Act, 1954, regarding the Independent Television Authority, and direct them to arrange their respective programmes so as to prevent the same type of programme being shown at the same time and so provide viewers with a real alternative programme.

Mr. K. Thompson

I have no powers to act as the right hon. Member suggests. Programme arrangements are matters for the B.B.C. and I.T.A. themselves.

Mr. Ness Edwards

Is the Assistant Postmaster-General aware that the purpose of bringing in commercial television was to provide an alternative picture for the viewer? Are we not entitled to ask that both the I.T.A. and the B.B.C. should not arrange their plays at the same time and arrange the same sort of programmes at the same time, thus preventing the viewer from having a choice?

Mr. Thompson

I have no doubt that both authorities will take note of what the right hon. Gentleman says. My right hon. Friend has no power to direct them

Mr. Mayhew

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, no matter how many competitive channels there are, if they all try simply to obtain the maximum share of the audience, they will all tend to put on the same type of programme and the viewers will not have a choice of programme, as United States experience shows? Does he realise that this is one of the reasons why public opinion surveys show that the great majority of the British public does not want the third channel to go to commercial television?

Mr. Thompson

I have no knowledge on the latter part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question. I am sure that the other considerations must be in the mind of both authorities, but they are no part of my right hon. Friend's duty.