HC Deb 14 December 1960 vol 632 cc403-6
25. Captain Orr

asked the Postmaster-General what communication he has had from the British Broadcasting Corporation on the subject of colour television; and what has been his reply.

27. Mr. Hirst

asked the Postmaster-General what representations the British Broadcasting Corporation has made to him with a view to commencing coloured television on 405 lines without waiting for the South and Television Broadcasting Committee report; and whether he will make a statement.

39. Mr. H. Clark

asked the Postmaster-General whether, in order to provide guidance for the public and the radio industry, he will state his policy on colour television.

40. Sir H. Kerr

asked the Postmaster-General whether he is aware of the concern caused to the radio industry by the proposal of the British Broadcasting Corporation to introduce colour television on the present line standards; and whether he will give an assurance that he will not permit such broadcasts before a decision on line standards is taken.

41. Mr. Langford-Holt

asked the Postmaster-General if, when replying to the British Broadcasting Corporation's application for permission to introduce colour television, he will make it clear that no such permission can be given before the Pilkington Committee reports.

43. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Postmaster-General when it is now anticipated, approximately, that colour television will be provided by the British Broadcasting Corporation; and what consideration has been given to the need for an increase in the cost of licences to meet increased expenditure on this account.

Mr. Bevins

On 9th December the B.B.C. sought my approval to the start of an experimental public colour television service in November, 1961. I shall shortly be replying to its request.

My Television Advisory Committee, however, has advised me against the introduction of colour television in the near future for reasons which seam to me to be convincing. This falls within the terms of reference of the Pilkington Committee, which will not doubt report.

Captain Orr

Is my right hon. Friend aware that that decision will be welcomed? [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] If hon. Members wait until I have finished they may find out why. Is my right hon. Friend also aware that the Television Advisory Committee's Report was signed by the B.B.C., and, for good reasons, it said that we should not start colour on obsolete line standards?

Mr. Bevins

That is perfectly true.

Mr. W. R. Williams

Despite what the Postmaster-General's hon. Friends are saying behind him, is this not a very unimaginative and unfair policy? If the B.B.C. is sufficiently advanced scientifically and technically, why should he force it to mark time simply because other interested bodies are either unwilling or unable to make the necessary researches? Will not this unfortunate decision of his mean, in effect, that this country will shortly be lagging behind other countries in the development of colour television?

Mr. Bevins

No, Sir. Nothing that I have said in my reply in any way detracts from my appreciation of what the B.B.C. has already done for colour television. At the same time, however, it would be a profound mistake for any British Government to make a decision on colour television in advance of a decision on line standards. That would be putting the cart before the horse, and it would encourage a public demand for television sets of the existing kind—405 lines—with colour, which might well be completely obsolete and out of date within a few years.

Sir H. Kerr

Is my right hon. Friend aware that if his Department finally decides on the new lineage, we may enjoy the possibility of a big export market in Europe?

Mr. Bevins

Indeed that is quite possible.

Mr. Darling

Could the right hon. Gentleman clear up one point made in his Answer? I have not seen the Advisory Committee's Report, but he said that the B.B.C. had asked for permission to operate an experimental system. Did the Advisory Committee report on an experimental or a commercial system being introduced?

Mr. Bevins

The Advisory Committee reported on the question of whether we should embark on colour television in the near future. The advice of the Committee was against that idea. I will send the hon. Gentleman a copy of the Report to study

Mr. Darling

That does not answer the question.

Mr. W. R. Williams

Nor did the right hon. Gentleman answer the second part of my supplementary question. In view of the delay which must inevitably occur in receiving the report of the Pilkington Committee, does not he think that we shall lag seriously behind other nations if we procastinate in this way?

Mr. Bevins

There is a good deal of misapprehension about what is happening in other countries. In the United States, for instance, I am told that at present there is a very small number of sets capable of taking colour compared with the vast number of monochrome sets. In Japan the cost of a colour television set is £500. I am sure that at present this thing is just not a "starter".

Sir R. Grimston

Is it not the case that the B.B.C. signed the Advisory Committee's Report recommending the opposite of what it is now asking for? Is the B.B.C. not behaving like the Labour Party—voting different ways on the same resolution?

Mr. Bevins

Yes, Sir. The representative of the B.B.C. on the Advisory Committee signed the Report.

Mr. Clark

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the uncertainty created by the B.B.C.'s announcement is deterring a number of people from buying conventional sets, to the detriment of the trade?

Mr. Bevins

In view of what I have said today, that should not happen any longer.