HC Deb 14 December 1960 vol 632 cc406-7
32. Mr. Darling

asked the Postmaster-General what requests he has received from the British Broadcasting Corporation for permission to operate local sound broadcasting services.

Mr. Bevins

The B.B.C. has asked me to approve plans for the introduction, in stages, of local sound broadcasting. I have told the Chairman that the Government does not feel able to authorise an important innovation of this kind at a time when the committee of inquiry is reviewing the whole field.

Mr. Darling

Does this mean that all normal developments in broadcasting in this country must now be held up for four or five years until the Pilkington Committee has reported and the House has dealt with its Report? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that for very good reasons we in Sheffield want a local sound broadcasting service, and that the B.B.C., I understand, is prepared to go ahead with that development? Why should the citizens of Sheffield have to wait five years for a development that can take place pretty soon if only the Government behave properly?

Mr. Bevins

It simply means that all major innovations in television broadcasting will not be permitted until such time as the Pilkington Committee has reported—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"]—because it would be entirely unreasonable for the Government, having set up that Committee, to take over its responsibilities from it.

Mr. Mulley

Would it not be better for the Pilkington Committee to have some experience of such a station and would not a pilot scheme in Sheffield help rather than hinder the Committee in its consideration? Can the right hon. Gentleman assure us that there is no commercial consideration behind this blank refusal?

Mr. Bevins

There are no commercial considerations at all.

Mr. Ross

The right hon. Gentleman should look behind him.

Mr. J. T. Price

The right hon. Gentleman's hon. Friends are grinning all over their faces.

Mr. Bevins

If it would help the Pilkington Committee to have an experiment in local sound broadcasting in Sheffield, I have no doubt that the Committee will ask for it.

Mr. Callaghan

Why does not the right hon. Gentleman tell the House of Commons, what everybody knows to be the case, that some back-benchers opposite and those who have commercial interests in this are determined to prevent the B.B.C. from going in for local sound broadcasting so that they can make fat profits in the future?

Mr. Bevins

No, Sir. I think that is entirely untrue. The hon. Member's approach to this question is completely warped. The position is that to start local sound broadcasting in this country at present, whether by the B.B.C., the I.T.A., or by commercial interests, would be wrong when we have asked the Pilkington Committee to consider it.

Mr. Darling

In view of the Postmaster-General's unsatisfactory reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.

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