HC Deb 25 November 1959 vol 614 cc367-9
48. Mr. Mason

asked the Postmaster-General if he will use his powers under subsection (4) of section 15 of the Licence and Agreement and subsection (2) of Section 9 of the Television Act, 1954, to require the British Broadcasting Corporation and the Independent Television Authority to refrain from broadcasting "Cool for Cats" and other similar record boosting programmes, in view of the discrimination which is taking place.

Mr. Bevins

No, Sir. The hon. Member should send any evidence he has to the B.B.C. or I.T.A. if he is suggesting that there is any irregular discrimination in selection and playing of records for broadcasting by performers or staff employed by the B.B.C. or I.T.A. programme contractors. These are matters for the broadcasting organisations who have assured me that they will receive most careful attention.

Mr. Mason

I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for that reply, but I think that I have a case for examination under the subsections of the Act which I mentioned in my Question, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will later consider the matter. First, is he aware that disc jockeys are, in many instances, responsible for the selection of their records and are employed by recording companies, such as Pye, Decca and E.M.I., and as employees of those companies are subject to pressure? This in itself may lead to undesirable practices. Further, is he aware that there is an American company called Aberbach, with subsidiary companies in this country, three of which have recording managers as partners? One of these partners, in particular, is a television producer. This in itself is an undesirable association. Will the right hon. Gentleman consider looking into the matter?

Mr. Bevins

The practices within the gramophone record industry are not a matter for the Postmaster-General, but the powers to which the hon. Member has referred have always been treated by successive Governments as reserve powers. I very much doubt whether the House would wish me to use those Dowers in order to prohibit certain types of programme. Both the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. have told me that they have no reason whatever to suppose that there is any substance in the alleged irregularities, but, as I say, they will gladly consider any evidence submitted to them.

Mr. Chetwynd

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that within the B.B.C. there are ample means for putting this matter right if there is abuse, regardless of the rights or wrongs of my hon. Friend's case? Also, is he aware that, in spite of what fuddy-duddies in this House may think, these programmes are extremely popular with teen-agers?

Mr. Bevins

I think that what the hon. Gentleman says was implicit in my reply. In answer to the second part of his supplementary question, I entirely agree that television has to cater for the taste of those who are young in spirit as well as the taste of those who have lost their youthful aspirations.

Mr. Ness Edwards

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that these serious allegations which were contained in the Press at the weekend are matters which should cause some concern, particularly in the realm of commercial television? Is he aware that this is a very artificial world; and, in looking at the little fish, will the right hon. Gentleman also look at the bigger ones, the programme contractors who buy publishing firms and use producers to boost their own products? While the I.T.A. and the B.B.C. have to cater for young people, will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that young people are not exploited in the interests of commercial organisations?

Mr. Bevins

Of course, if these allegations were proved to have substance, I entirely agree that it would indeed be a serious matter. But the truth is that neither I nor the authorities know what the allegations are.