HC Deb 11 December 1963 vol 686 cc387-9
16. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Postmaster-General if, in view of the increasing concentration of newspapers in a few hands and the growing influence on public opinion of a handful of newspaper proprietors, he will introduce legislation to enable him to exercise supervision over the choice of programme contractors for the Independent Television Authority.

Mr. Bevins

No, Sir. We had very full discussion about the Press and television during the debates on the Television Act, 1963. Under that Act I and the Authority have been given powers which will be a sufficient safeguard against the possibility that the existence of newspaper holdings in a programme company might lead to results contrary to the public interest.

Mr. Allaun

Is it right that Beaver-brook Newspapers Ltd. should have any part in the control of a television programme added to its existing circulation and influence on men's minds? Does not the Postmaster-General think that this is a potential threat to democracy and that it should be stopped by law? If not, at least would he have a word in the ear of Lord Hill, the Chairman of the I.T.A.?

Mr. Bevins

We discussed this matter in principle very fully during our debates on the Television Bill a few months ago. Unhappily, the question which the hon. Gentleman asks is not one for me to answer. It is a matter for the Authority to decide where contracts go.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

Is the Postmaster-General aware that recent developments in the newspaper world have made it very difficult for us to use the phrase "a free Press" with the confidence with which we used to use it, and will he give further consideration to the proposal made by my hon. Friend?

Mr. Bevins

No. As I say, the House gave the most exhaustive consideration to this subject only a few months ago, and I think that the decisions which we reached were right.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

To what extent does the Postmaster-General now exercise supervision over television programmes? Has he exercised any influence over the excellent programme "That Was The Week That Was"? Is he aware that if he told the B.B.C. that this programme should be continued in a General Election year so that politicians could be debunked he would be doing an excellent national service which would be very much appreciated?

Mr. Bevins

That may be true, but the hon. Gentleman is in the wrong shop. This Question refers to the I.T.A., not the B.B.C.