§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.31 p.m.
§ The Postmaster-General (Mr. Reginald Bevins)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
This Bill, preceded as it has been by a host of other decisions, on line definition, colour, the second B.B.C. programme, educational programmes, and many other changes, forms part of the quiet revolution which is now under way in the world of British television.
The House today is concerned with Independent Television, introduced by the Act of 1954. As the House knows, after a difficult and chequered beginning, Independent Television is now as securely established in the country as is the B.B.C. and I am sure that it is the desire of both sides of the House that Independent Television should come to be accepted just as much as a national institution as the B.B.C. and should enjoy the same broad responsibilities and freedoms as the B.B.C. itself enjoys.
It is said that Independent Television is not without its faults. Indeed, the Committee on Broadcasting dilated upon these at such length and, if I may say so, with such inexpressible relish that I will not repeat them now to the House. But Independent Television has its virtues as well as its shortcomings. It is earthy. It does not put on airs and graces. Possibly it feels that it is not quite part of the Establishment, which may or may not be a good thing, for nobody quite knows what the Establishment is. I thought I did, twenty years ago, but I am not so sure now. Politically, Independent Television demeans itself fairly, I think. It is popular, and, as hon. Members on both sides of the House know, popularity is not always to be despised. But, of course, it can be improved; indeed, everything can.
The Bill deals with the future of Independent Television from 1964 till 1976. It hardly touches on the future of the B.B.C. That will come before the House when the revised B.B.C. licence is tabled in the not distant future.
How do we see the future of television? What we all want is better 908 viewing, in every sense of the term—a clearer and perhaps a larger picture to look at, a better range of choice and better quality programmes. If people want entertainment pure and simple as many of us do when we are lazy or relaxed, then they ought to have it, and we must at all costs avoid the danger of paternalism in this field. But entertainment should be good entertainment, and, if people want drama or classical music, equally they ought to have it. If they want instruction, as more and more people do, they ought to have that, too.
All along the line the broadcasters, whether they be the B.B.C. or the I.T.V. companies ought, I think, to aim at diversity because, after all, our tastes are themselves diverse. They must not be afraid to break new ground, no matter what the criticisms may be from the public. The last time I said that was a few weeks before the B.B.C. started "T.W.T.W.T.W." More and more television, I think, ought to be developed into a genuinely creative medium, relying less and less on the staple fare of present-day television, and more and more concerned to open up new worlds of interest and of understanding for the public.
In dealing with Independent Television, the Bill makes a sincere attempt to remedy the alleged shortcomings of the system—a lack of balance in programming at certain times, the networking system allied to the rather negative role of the I.T.A. itself, the inadequate rentals, and the supposed iniquity that the Press have too great an interest in the world of television. Those, I think, are the major criticisms.
Then there is the further question whether the Government, either now or in the future, should authorise a second independent programme. We shall also have something to say on that. I know that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster intends to touch upon several other important questions when he winds up the debate, and he will be doing so because he has been closely concerned with the preparation of the Bill and he has taken the initiative in the all-party talks on the future of party political broadcasting.
I should like to come, first, to programming and networking, which certainly, 909 from the point of view of the public, is probably the most important part of this Measure. Some people have criticised the Government's proposals. They fear that we are in danger of turning the I.T.A. into a "nannie" who will fuss so much over the programme companies at almost every stage of production that the sparkle and vitality which are the hallmark of the better independent programmes will be stifled. Let me reassure the House at once on this by making it clear what the Bill does not do in this respect.
To start with, the I.T.A. has no intention of meddling in the actual production of programmes. It is certainly not going to tell the script writer how to write his script, the producer where to put his cameras, or the actor how to say his lines. That, of course, would be quite absurd. Nor will it normally see the programmes before it approves a programme schedule. We on both sides of the House know, as the I.T.A. knows, that the programme companies are perfectly capable of producing programmes of first-class professional standards without any "nannying" on the part of the Authority or anyone else.
What, however, we do want the Authority to do—and this is the first requirement in the Bill under Clause 3—is to get in on the ground floor when the programme schedules are themselves being drawn up. How will this work? The companies, in the first place, will submit their proposed schedules of programmes to the Authority for approval.
These schedules will be discussed and agreed with the companies either individually or, where networked programmes are concerned, in a committee representing all the programme companies with the Authority in the chair. The I.T.A. of course, will make every effort to reach agreement with the companies, but the final responsibility and, therefore, the final word will rest with the Authority itself.
In looking at the programme schedules the Authority has a duty, under Clause 2, to ensure a high standard in all things, including content and quality, and a proper balance in subject matter. That is very important. It must look at all this not only in relation to the overall pattern, but also in relation to the daily pattern and, of course, in relation to view- 910 ing times as well. In practical terms, what this means is that it must consider the range and type of programme in peak viewing hours when millions of people are watching.
In short, the Authority is to be placed in positive charge not of the production, hut of the system itself. It is, therefore, given the specific duty of giving its blessing to programme schedules, a duty which it has never had before. It is also given the reserve power to exclude items from schedules or to direct the inclusion of items or categories. These powers, we believe, will enable the Authority to ensure thewide showing for programmes of meritthat we speak of in Clause 2 (1, c), to see that programmes on the network in peak viewing hours are not monopolised, irrespective of their merit, by a handful of the largest companies.
I interpose here a few words about the big four in case I should be thought to be commenting on their activities unfairly. I think that we must always remember that it is the big four who have produced nearly all the most popular I.T.V. shows. Of course they have, and all credit to them for doing so. They have done it because they have the resources to do it. I suppose that it was inevitable that the first batch of companies who had the larger contracts and were, therefore, the biggest and the richest—which was just as well because, after all, a lot of money was lost in the early days of commercial television—should today have emerged in a dominant position.
Against the background of those early days, I am not criticising the big companies, their control of networking or their dominant position. That is one thing. It would be quite another now to say, at this stage when Parliament, for the first time for many years, has an opportunity to look at independent television as a going concern, that it would be right or, indeed, even tolerable to allow the present arrangements to continue unreformed.
I turn now to another important change. It is not enough for the I.T.A. to be able to secure network showing for the best programmes, whether produced by large or small companies. In general, 911 companies will produce good enough programmes only if they will secure an adequate financial return from those programmes, and, in particular, the smaller companies will be discouraged from producing or attempting to produce network programmes unless they know that they will get a reasonable proportion of the advertising revenue which those programmes are capable of earning throughout the country.
Unless this were done, there would be less competition in the production of good programmes, the Big Four, of course, would remain in effective control of the network, and the intention of Clause 3 would be frustrated. Therefore, the I.T.A. must be able to make sure that the arrangements for the buying and selling of programmes are fair and, under Clause 4, it must approve these arrangements.
This broad picture emerges. The programme pattern will be decided by the I.T.A. in consultation with the companies, with the I.T.A. leading in the front. The I.T.A. will have full authority to ensure that the best programmes, no matter what their source of origin may be, will have a good showing and that the financial arrangements are fair. But, having done this, the Authority will step aside and let the programme companies get on unhindered with the job of actually producing the programmes.
§ Mr. Christopher Mayhew (Woolwich, East)
The right hon. Gentleman says that the I.T.A. will have the duty of ensuring that the best programmes are broadcast. What machinery will there be for the I.T.A. to survey all the programmes offered, including those by the small companies, in order to decide which is best?
§ Mr. Bevins
The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that programme schedules in television are drawn up months ahead of the actual showing of the programmes. Quite clearly, what will happen will be that the I.T.A., on the basis of experience, will judge whether Anglia, Granada, Border, or whichever company it may be, is the best capable of producing the right type of programme for the network. It will be done on the basis of actual experience, and, in practice, there is——
§ Mr. Mayhew
Will the right hon. Gentleman forgive me? He is saying two quite different things. Either the I.T.A. can decide which is the best programme for broadcasting or it can take a general decision on the past record of different companies. Which of these two does the Postmaster-General mean?
§ Mr. Bevins
I mean quite clearly what I said. I said that the I.T.A. would be responsible, in consultation with the companies, for deciding the schedule of programmes. The schedules have to be drawn up months ahead of their actual production. When it comes to deciding whether this small company or that medium-size company should be allowed to go on to the network with a drama production, or whatever it may be, this must be done on the basis of actual experience of programmes produced. The Government are quite confident that these reforms, fairly administered by the I.T.A., will lead to better television.
Before I pass from the subject of programming, I wish to say a word about Clause 10, which provides formally that a sufficient amount of time in the programmes shall be devoted to news. No one, I am sure, underestimates the importance of this, or wishes Independent Television News to become a poor relation of the I.T.A. or of the companies. Equally, it is wrong that control of I.T.N. should be vested solely in the larger companies. All those companies which wish to take a part in the affairs of I.T.N. should be able to do so.
The I.T.A. has always been consulted and, indeed, has itself evolved a system under which the editor of I.T.N. must be approved by the Authority. But this is such an important function that the Government agree with the Committee on Broadcasting that this should now be a statutory requirement. Clause 10 recognises also that the news company should, if necessary, be in a position to supply other types of programme, programmes of the informative and documentary type. These provisions are in no sense a criticism of Independent Television News. Quite the contrary. They are really a compliment to I.T.N. The Pilkington Committee praised the services of I.T.N. and said that it would deplore it if the service could not continue not only to develop, but to improve. This, also, is the wish of the Government.
913 I came now to Clause 7, one of the bones of contention. In this wicked world, money is always a bone of contention. I have always emphasised that the question of the rental payments is a commercial question. It is not a political question. There should never be any question of "licences to print money", nor should there be any question of discriminatory taxation. This is simply a matter of securing commercial rentals for what, after all, are public concessions.
What the Government want is a two-tier system, the first being the reimbursement of I.T.A. costs, the second being an extra payment justified by the value of the public concession. I think that most of us accept this principle. Indeed, I believe that most of the companies themselves do. Of course, it is when we turn to the method to give effect to this principle, and to the amount of money involved, that we run into rather heavy weather. In the second White Paper the Government spoke ofa substantial payment calculated by reference to the profits of the companies before taxand Clause 7 of the Bill stems from that statement. This Clause, however, does not define the detailed basis of payment.
This Clause has come under lire. It has come under fire for the admittedly wide powers of direction which it proposes for the Postmaster-General and the equally wide net envisaged for the proposed financial formulas. I appreciate that some anxiety—indeed, a great deal of anxiety—has been aroused by the proposal in its present form, and the Government now propose to change Clause 7 in a way which will, I hope, commend itself to both sides of the House. In view of the importance of this—and it is important—I should like to refer very briefly to the factors which have influenced our minds.
To start with, I am sure that no hon. Member will argue that the present basis of rentals, or anything like it, can possibly be justified. If any hon. Member wants to break a lance with me on that, I am at his disposal. The rentals at present charged are in no sense economic. A contract carries with it the right to collect very large sums in advertising revenue. To ensure this, all a programme company has to do is to put on popular 914 television programmes not all of which, of course, it produces itself.
The companies earn their profits in the first place because the Government, through the Authority, grant them a public concession, and only in the second place because they have the enterprise—which I acknowledge—to put on programmes which the public are willing to watch. Of course, this is illustrated by the fact that the medium-sized companies, which at present produce very few network programmes indeed, are still on a pretty good financial wicket.
Some people have been talking for years of the "excessive" profits of the companies. I do not object to large profits if those profits are the result of competitive enterprise, but I do object to large profits which are the direct consequence of uneconomic and non-commercial rentals, especially when the Government, on behalf of the taxpayer, have a duty to put that situation right.
The second factor to which I should like to refer is the Television Advertisement Duty, introduced two or three years ago by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd). The duty has been levied since 1961 on the gross advertising revenues of all the companies alike. In practice, it has been a burden on the smaller companies even to the extent of threatening the existence of some.
The practical question is: how do we secure economic rentals? It is quite true that in theory this could be done by putting contracts out to competitive tender, but the Government have ruled that out because of the difficulty, the obvious difficulty, I think, of securing genuine competition in so specialised a field as this.
It is against this background that I have taken counsel with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and as a result we propose to fix the second rental element by reference to gross advertising receipts. It was not possible for me to put forward this proposal earlier since I could not foresee—it is not within my province—the future of the Television Advertisement Duty. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has now authorised me to say, however, that he intends to abolish the duty in mid-1964 on the understanding that before that date Parliament has 915 enacted that the second tier rental payments are related to gross advertising receipts.
This will ensure that the new arrangements will more than recoup—indeed, much more than recoup—the revenue lost through the abolition of the duty, and, moreover, it will enable the Government to take account of the differing circumstances within the industry by arranging for the payments to be related to a sliding scale. In Committee, I propose to table an Amendment to Clause 7 to give effect to these intentions. A definite scale will also be written into the Bill so that there will be no uncertainty about the effect of the payments before the contracts are applied for and entered into, and I shall propose that any variation of the scale should be effected by draft Regulation to be laid before Parliament and subject to affirmative Resolution. In this way the House will have the opportunity to debate the scale and also give effect, in changing circumstances, to the application of the scale at any particular point in time.
It may be asked: how will the smaller companies benefit if the advertisement duty is abolished, but if, nevertheless, we have the rental payment related to gross advertising receipts? The answer is that I shall propose that the first £1¼ million of advertising receipts shall be wholly exempt from the payments. Clearly, there are certain basic costs which must be met by any company be it large or small, and this, of course, justifies the idea of what I may describe as a free slice. There is, of course, an important distinction between the new payments and the existing duty, which, of course, is imposed at a flat rate. The sliding scale will also ensure that the bulk of the levy is collected from the companies with the most valuable franchises.
The Government estimate that the rental payments on the basis I have just been describing will give the Exchequer on the basis of present revenues about £18 million a year. This system would, of course, operate as from 1964, when the new contracts are let.
Before I leave this part of my speech I should like to stress that the rental payments will relate to gross advertising receipts as such and not to total income. Why is this? It is because—here I agree 916 with the Committee on Broadcasting—we oughtto apply the incentive of profitability to the production of the best programmesandto provide real competition in programme production between the programme companies".It is because we accept those objectives of the Pilkington Report that we propose to exclude from the payments income from programme sales. This should be an encouragement to all companies to produce good programmes for sale both at home for the network and in overseas markets.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
Would the right hon. Gentleman just make this point clear? Are we to take it that the rental will be exclusively related to advertising receipts and that population considerations will no longer apply? Or will they still be a criterion?
§ Mr. Bevins
What is proposed is that from 1964 the rental paid by the companies should consist, first, of an element of reimbursement of the I.T.A. for its costs, and, secondly, a payment to the I.T.A. which will flow into the Exchequer and which will be based on the gross advertising receipts of a company alone.
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)
My right hon. Friend gave an estimated figure which the Government expect to get under the new formula. What is the amount of money which the Government get at the moment and which has to be set against that?
§ Mr. Bevins
Apart from the normal forms of taxation, the Government at present derive an income of about £8 million a year from the existing duty.
§ Mr. Bevins
Plus Income Tax. The figure of £18 million represents an additional revenue to the Exchequer of about £10 million a year.
I hope that I have said sufficient to persuade the House that a sliding scale based on gross advertising income is to be preferred to a levy on profits. I think that it is to be preferred to a levy on profits because it will reflect more realistically the basic value of the contract. It will be certain in its incidence. It will be subject to parliamentary approval. 917 Everyone, including the I.T.A. and the companies, will know where they stand.
I turn to the question of the interests of the newspaper world in television. The Committee on Broadcasting recommended that a Press interest ought not to be dominant in a programme company, and they said that, by dominantwe mean it should not be the largest single interestThat is all very well, but why is this reckoned to be so desirable and, if it is so desirable, how do we deal with it?
First, I think that we ought to ask ourselves what is the problem. The Pilkington Committee said that there might be too great a concentration of the power to influence in the hands of the television companies which also included Press interests and that this might involve a threat to democracy. But it went on to admit, quite fairly and rightly, that no abuse had yet shown itself. I want to emphasise that the Pilkington Committee did not recommend the complete exclusion of the Press from television companies. To be fair, there is not a tittle of evidence to suggest that programme companies with newspaper interests have ever attempted to give a one-sided presentation of public affairs. Indeed, if there are any sinners here, the sinners are not the I.T.A. and the commercial companies, but the British Broadcasting Corporation. Let me explain why I say this. Under Section 3 of the Television Act, which remains substantially unchanged, the I.T.A. is obliged to observe impartiality in matters of political or industrial controversy, or those relating to current public policy. Moreover, no editorial opinion either of the Authority or of the programme contractors is allowed to be broadcast. I agree that there is the other side of the picture—how far might the Press themselves be influenced by the fact that they have shareholdings in programme companies?
It is true that the reactions of some of the newspapers, on the appearance of the Pilkington Committee Report. were not very favourable, but, of course, this was a Report which excited strong reactions in all quarters of the House and outside, and there was certainly no question of this hostile reaction in certain parts of the Press being due to vested interests in television all along the line. 918 Some newspapers which shared control of programme companies reacted sharply against criticisms, but they probably would have done so anyway, whether they had interests in television companies or not. It is equally true to say that other newspapers which have and had interests in commercial television supported the Pilkington proposals.
The truth of the matter—and I urge the House to be realistic about this—is that the newspapers regard their shareholdings in programme companies primarily as financial investments, Indeed, some newspapers could not survive without them. The Press does not regard its television interests as a means of waging crusades for high causes. Indeed, the only crusader in the newspaper world is not in commercial television at all, as I have good cause to know.
Even so, the Government recognise that there is concern that two media of expression should be partly in the same hands, though I am bound to say that I feel that this arises from purely theoretical thinking. Even so, in deference to this feeling we are providing reserve safeguards in the Bill. The safeguards are that if either the I.T.A. or the Postmaster-General considers that newspaper holdings in a company either have given or are giving rise to abuse, then they can take action against the company.
First, the I.T.A. can either end or suspend its obligation to transmit the company's programmes, though it can exercise this power only with the consent of the Minister. Secondly, the Minister, after consulting the I.T.A., can make an Order by Statutory Instrument. The effect of this would be to prevent the I.T.A. from transmitting the company's programmes, or, if necessary, from making any further contract with the company. In practice, the Minister would make such an Order only if he thought that the I.T.A. were not taking a sufficiently strong line.
Clearly, such a power would not be lightly exercised, and for that reason I regard it as a reserve power, and its exercise is subject to affirmative Resolution by both Houses of Parliament. Incidentally, the reference to a "proprietor", in Clause 8 (5), is much too narrowly drawn and I shall propose an Amendment to it at a later stage.
919 May I say a brief word about Clause 11, which, I know, excites antagonism in certain quarters. It is the Clause which says that contracts shall not be let for a longer period than three years. I do not propose to die in the last ditch over this, and I will willingly consider the views of hon. Members on both sides of the House if it is felt that the Clause in its present form is too restrictive. Meanwhile, I hope that the House will remember that the risk of non-renewal of a contract is very slight unless the company has completely failed to make the grade. That, I think, is recognised to be so by a number of the existing contractors. I think that they realise that these relatively short contracts would facilitate arrangements for a second programme, if a decision in that sense is made later. But I emphasise that my mind and that of the Government is not closed on this matter.
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls
My right hon. Friend has invited the House to give a reaction. Will he give some guidance on what is likely to be the term which the B.B.C. will get under its new Charter when we discuss it?
§ Mr. Bevins
It will probably run for a period of 12 years.
I apologise for detaining the House for so long, and I want, finally, to say something about the vexed question of a second Independent Programme. The Government's view on this, as the House knows, was stated in our Second White Paper. There we said thata second commercial programme may prove to be desirable in order to allow full scope to independent television to offer more selection to viewers and to experiment".Although we did not propose to authorise a second programme in the near future, we certainly did not dismiss the possibility of doing so later.
Let me give the House a few of the reasons which have influenced the Government to this view—a view which, I recognise, some of my hon. Friends feel is mistaken. They feel that the B.B.C., with two programmes, will gain an unfair advantage over Independent Television. Some of my hon. Friends feel—quite wrongly, I assure them—that there is prejudice against private enterprise in the world of television. There is no prejudice; none whatever; far from it. 920 Moreover, the Government are not being pigheaded or obdurate about this. Indeed, if public feeling, as reflected in Parliament, is, for example, in favour of a second Independent programme, then the Government would certainly be prepared to take that into consideration.
I should also like to make it plain that the Government's present view is not primarily based on technical or financial considerations, or for that matter, even on the wishes of the I.T.A. or the programme contractors, although I agree that these should not be swept on one side. The Government view derives from our belief that we ought to see how the reorganisation of Independent Television works out before we authorise a second dose of the medicine, or tonic. That is the main reason.
Then there is the financial side. Is there enough money in commercial television adequately to sustain two profitable commercial programmes on a national basis? We should do well to remember that advertising revenue is nothing like as predictable as licence revenue. I have no doubt whatever that if a second system were authorised, advertising revenue would increase, but what I doubt is whether advertising revenue would increase to anything like the same extent as increases in costs.
On this difficult question—and I admit that it is difficult—the views of the companies themselves differ a good deal. The smaller and the medium-sized companies seem on the whole to be either undecided or opposed to the idea of a second programme, certainly at this moment, whereas there are differences of opinion among the large four. The House should also bear in mind that a decision to authorise a second commercial programme at this stage would certainly rule out for many years to come the possibility of providing any other new type of programme, for example, a university of the air, or any other completely new service. No one can say at this stage how the demand for education on television may develop in the near future. However, though we hesitate to use what spare frequencies we have to provide a second programme at this stage, it remains the Government's aim to ensure that viewers have the maximum range of choice, and I assure the House that the 921 Government will, therefore, give continuing thought to the possibility of a second programme.
I want to say one word about colour on the I.T.A. service. I have been asked whether Independent Television is likely to be held up in technical progress and research because the Government have not yet authorised a second service. I do not think that this follows. My hope is that the I.T.A. will play its full part in the development of U.H.F. In fact, the I.T.A. has joined in the discussions which my Department has held with the B.B.C. about the start of the new U.H.F. network, and it will make provision for the new network on those of its existing stations which have been agreed as being suitable for the purpose.
Of course, there are tricky technical questions involved, bound up with the problem ultimately of changing over the present 405-line service to the 625-line service in V.H.F. I know that hon. Members will want to know whether we have yet decided that the B.B.C. and I.T.A. first service shall be duplicated on 625-line in U.H.F. to prepare the way for this ultimate transfer. This question is now being studied by the technical Television Advisory Committee, but I am prepared to say now that if we decide to duplicate the existing services—and I should have thought that that was very likely—we should be ready to authorise the I.T.A. to introduce colour into its duplicated service if it so wishes.
Duplication would allow the I.T.A. and the companies to begin taking their full part in technical pioneering in the new U.H.F. network on 625-lines and, as I have said, possibly in colour as well.
§ Sir WaveII Wakefield (St. Marylebone)
Can my right hon. Friend give any indication of whether, in order to make the system in this country as flexible as possible in future, there is any intention, at the same time as introducing the 625 line/50 field, to use the American 525 line/60 field system?
§ Mr. Bevins
I take my hon. Friend's point. I have today decided to refer that question to the Television Advisory Committee for its counsel. I ought to say, in fairness, that this is a many-sided question. As my hon. Friend knows, there are two broad schools of 922 thought on the matter, both of whom take completely differing views.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards (Caerphilly)
In taking his decision to develop colour on 625 for the I.T.A., has the right hon. Gentleman decided to have compatible colour, that is, services receivable both in colour and black and white?
§ Mr. Bevins
Despite blemishes which occur in the world of television, both on B.B.C. and on Independent Television, and of which I am constantly reminded by both my hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite, it is my belief that our television services are continually changing and improving. On behalf of the whole House—and I am sure that the House will not begrudge me this—I should like to express our appreciation to those many thousands of dedicated men and women who work in British television. It is because I am convinced that the Bill will act as a spur to further change and to further improvement that I commend it to the House.
§ 4.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)
If I may begin on a note of accord, it is that on both sides of the House we are anxious to promote good entertainment and a variety of entertainment on television. I congratulate the Postmaster-General on his coyness in face of the bristling of hon. Members on the benches behind him with their prepared briefs. However, I emphasise that we are here dealing not with alleged deficiencies or alleged shortcomings—there would be no purpose in discussing the Bill if we were—but with actual deficiencies and with actual shortcomings. I hope that it is our purpose to see that we remedy those as best we may.
The right hon. Gentleman said that it was not our purpose to discuss the B.B.C. and that we will shortly have another opportunity for that. However, as Clause 18 touches on co-ordination, I should like to say that one of my disappointments is that the Bill does not contain sufficient provision for co-ordination. There ought to be much better provision for coordination. I do not see why we as viewers have to put up with the present rather stupid overlapping. The interests 923 of viewers should come first, and certainly come before rating charts and things like that.
I was disappointed by the White Paper because the Government admitted the case for co-ordination in educational, religious, Welsh and Gaelic programmes, but said that to go beyond that would undermine the benefits of competition. The right hon. Gentleman always relies on competition in the wrong context. We are concerned with seeing that the convenience of the viewer comes first. I know the difficulties of the B.B.C. and the Independent Television Authority, but we might seriously consider the possibility of a broadcasting commission, a statutory body, to represent the viewer and to see that his views are properly regarded by those responsible for television.
Sir Harry Pilkington has said that what the Government propose is better than he expected, but not quite enough. I agree. That is the attitude we take. But in saying that it is not quite enough, we must bear in mind that we need to be convinced that what we are discussing is not only window-dressing. A lot of what has happened need never have occurred if the provisions of the 1954 Act had been carried out.
In view of what the right hon. Gentleman said about Pilkington, and of the tone in which he said it, I remind the House that the Report has had remarkable successes. A considerable number of its 120 recommendations have already been implemented expeditiously, and this is a vindication of the critics of television. It is a recantation by the Government. We hope that that recantation is serious. In an article in the Daily Telegraph today, the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) has conceded that his child needed some corrective training. It is the purpose of the Bill to provide it. The fact that we are considering this Bill shows that the case against the way in which commercial television was being conducted was a serious one.
We and the viewers generally were concerned by the revelation of too much violence, the tendency to lower standards, the too narrow choice offered, and, above all, the triviality which pervaded a good deal of television. However, I make this 924 criticism of the Report: I think that its revelation was foreshortened. I agree with what many people have said—that in considering these things we have to bring the B.B.C. into the survey as well.
I am sorry for the way the doctor and his wife have been treated, but I am sure that "Mrs Dale's Diary" is about the most trivial thing in broadcasting. One does not make a thing less trivial by presenting it in middle-class accents. Unlike Richard Hoggart, I am not an addict of "Coronation Street", but I will say that it is less trivial than "Compact".
The Pilkington Committee's view was not only foreshortened in this respect. Television has not only a duty to affect public opinion but it is, in itself, affected by public opinion in turn. When one thinks of the record of the Government—bingo, betting shops, "I'm all right, Jack", "You have never had it so good"—it is not surprising that, contemporaneously, there is a good deal of triviality on television.
I want to emphasise two conclusions which run like threads through our consideration of the Report. I have already touched upon the first, which is that anyone sharing in responsibility for television must recognise that he is in a position to influence values and moral standards. He cannot escape from that responsibility. It was its abdication of this duty which caused a great deal of the criticism of the Independent Television Authority. The T.U.C., in its evidence to the Pilkington Committee, put it very sanely in saying that the Authority should have shown some determination not to tolerate what it know to be second-rate or worse, and I agree. That was a simple duty which should have been inescapable by the Authority.
I say at once that, although we are considering a Bill, this is a matter which concerns more than legislation. We cannot provide for this by legislation alone. We have to rely as well on the attitude of those responsible for implementing the legislation.
The second point, which must be emphasised again and again, is that competition does not provide, of itself, a choice of service. Indeed, it tends to produce limitation. If one wants to extend competition—a variety of viewing—one wants complementary rather than competitive services.
925 Argument has been conducted about majority audiences. It is clear that there has been a good deal of exploitation in seeking majority audiences—and here I am dealing with television generally. To continue as impartially as I have begun, I take as an example the excellent B.B.C. programme "Z Cars". I think that time and again this programme has resorted to one device or another to stimulate the increasing majority audience. There is also a great deal of double-talk about majority audiences.
When one looks at the facts one cannot justify the pursuit of majority audiences on democratic grounds. I think that it was the Director-General of the B.B.C. who said that the studied neglect of minority audiences was not being democratic. It is as simple as that. Moreover, a great deal of nonsense has been talked about majority audiences. We are dealing with only two programmes, and we cannot provide for all the minorities within those resources. It is not true, as the Pilkington Committee inferred, that we will provide the most acceptable programmes if we try to provide for the widest diversity between the minorities.
There are, therefore, selection and decisions to be taken by those responsible for television. It is the quality and character of those decisions which affect television. We cannot escape from that. It is because of this that we welcome the proposal that the Authority should be given a far more positive responsibility than it has exercised in the past. We recognise—although the right hon. Gentleman expressed himself with understandable ambiguity—that we are considering the Bill in a new context inasmuch as there are to be two complementary services provided by the Corporation—public authority and a third provided by commercial television.
A good deal has been said about networking, but it is not a bad thing in itself. Indeed, it is both unavoidable and desirable. One of the signal successes of commercial television has been networking in the sense that it has provided programmes from three centres—from Birmingham and Manchester as well as London—and has also, to a rather greater degree than the B.B.C. has been able to do, provided local programmes as well. I believe that it has provided four 926 times the amount of regional programmes which the B.B.C. has been able to manage.
Thus, we do not set our faces against networking but only against particular features of it. I remind the right hon. Gentleman of what he said about this when we discussed the Report. He described the present networking arrangements as a "carve-up". He was more tactful today. He has probably been buffeted a bit more by his hon. Friends. But this is a carve-up and it is for that reason that power is to be given to the Authority to break it up. Networking will remain, however. As I see it, the purpose of the Bill is to provide for a more responsible, more effective, and more desirable from of networking.
The other thing that was wrong—and I emphasise this because it is critical to our discussion of these provisions—was the attitude of the Authority. I have always been convinced that when one is considering those who discharge public duties, much more important than defining the duties is considering the people who discharge them and the context in which they discharge their responsibilities; and it is this which has been wrong about commercial television.
I am always horrified to hear the explanation of the plural system and the inevitable consequence of this explanation, the abnegation of responsibility by the Authority—the Authority almost becoming a public relations officer for the programme companies. This is what is wrong, and, as the right hon. Gentleman is subject to pressures, I am not sure what he is going to do, because the White Paper is ambiguous. Paragraph 11 says:The Government proposes that the control of networking should pass to the Authority, which should generally take a much more positive rôle in the affairs of independent television. The Authority will chair a committee representing all the programme companies. It will also approve and supervise the arrangements for the buying and selling of programmes, so that this may operate in a manner which is helpful to all companies alike, large and small. Moreover, it will be responsible for the shape, content, balance and quality of the service as a whole.That is an excellent statement which I would hope was a statement of the Government's intentions, but the next paragraph is not so explicit. It says:The Government considers that the system of 'free trade' in programmes, carried 927 on under the general supervision of the Authority, should produce a service of properly balanced and good quality television. The Government proposes, in addition, that the Authority should be given reserve powers to nominate programmes for the network to guard against the contingency that the new system may not produce the results expected of it.That is rather a different statement. From the first paragraph which I have quoted it seems clear that it is the Government's intention to place the responsibility, as the Bill does, foursquare on the Authority, but it is rather disturbing to find in the following paragraph a reversion to this theory of free trade. When the right hon. Gentleman spoke on the last occasion on which we discussed the Pilkington Report, he said that we could either provide for the controlling of the network or the laying down of broad principles.
I gather from what the right hon. Gentleman said today—I think that we should get this explicit before we conclude our debate—that he still believes that the course set out in that first paragraph is the right one to follow. I warn him that unless we do this we shall run into deep water again. We cannot talk about free trade and rely on the exercise of regulatory powers by the Authority. If we do, we shall run into trouble again. As the Economist said, with its usual old-world charm, it will take us back to "compulsive nannying".
We do not want that. No one is asking for the Authority to meddle in the production of programmes. Their production will be the responsibility of the programme companies, but the Authority must share responsibility for the programmes we receive and accept the responsibility of being accountable for them, and take all the steps necessary to ensure that that responsibility is carried out. In other words, there would be an organic relationship between the Authority and the programme companies. This would, in fact, implement the first provision of the famous Recommendation No. 43, that the Authority should plan the programming.
It would control the networking, and it would cease to be merely a regulatory body exercising a restricted control over the companies. If we had this provision, then I for one would be willing to accept a relaxation of some of the restrictions 928 which seem to be placed unnecessarily on the Authority. These restrictions are there because it still seems to be considered to be a regulatory body, and this is what disturbs me. I want the Authority to be regarded as a positive body, responsible for the programmes we receive over commercial television. I emphasise again that this will depend largely on who is responsible for the Authority and, incidentally, also on who is Postmaster-General, because, as we have seen over the past two years, these two people work together.
The right hon. Gentleman talked about the scheduling of programmes and control. I see a great deal of advantage in having such a control, the programme companies endeavouring to obtain the largest possible audience. Let me give examples from both programmes. I welcome the fact that "Monitor" seeks the largest audience that it can get; that the B.B.C., for prestige reasons, seeks the widest possible audience for this type of programme. I see no harm in the programme companies seeking the largest audience for such programmes as This Week", "Tempo", "Dateline", and so on. This is what we want. This very much affects presentation, and "Monitor" and "This Week" are good programmes not only in content, but in presentation. Those presenting programmes should seek the best possible presentation and endeavour to secure the widest possible audience. There is something to be said for considering other ways of catering for minority audiences—for instance, whether time might be allowed to specialist bodies.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned three-year contracts. I am in some difficulty about this, because I would not like to bring an element of insecurity into the lives of those working for these companies. I would like to make sure that both from the point of view of pension and superannuation rights, and of trade union negotiations, there was no uncertainty and insecurity. The difficulty is that both the Authority and the Pilkington Committee made it quite clear that the short-term contract is the best sanction the Authority can have to enforce its wishes, but I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will consider what provisions can be made to give security to those who work in television.
929 I join in congratulating I.T.N. on the excellent work that it has done on presenting its news programmes. I doubt whether the right hon. Gentleman is going far enough. I welcome the provisions in the Bill, which are an improvement, but one is conscious of the fact that the evidence given to the Pilkington Committee shows that this is a service which is subject to unnecessary economy, and that it has made great progress against a background of considerable difficulty.
I should have thought that the best and simplest course would be to bring I.T.N. in with I.T.A. The right hon. Gentleman has conceded the case to the extent of saying that the I.T.A. should be obliged to give its approval for the top executive appointments. If one is carrying out reforms, the simplest course would be to bring I.T.N. in with I.T.A.
§ Mr. Frank Tomney (Hammersmith, North)
Would my hon. Friend also suggest that if this happened the cost should be borne by the Authority?
§ Mr. Willey
At the end of the day the result would be the same. The cost would be borne by the programme companies. I do not think that this is affected by financial considerations. It is simply that this would be the better formula to follow.
The right hon. Gentleman said very little about advertisements. I want to spell out the position. The excess of advertisements on commercial television causes a great deal of annoyance to viewers. This annoyance is aggravated by the character of some of the advertisements. I am sure that many others agree with me that it is infuriating to know that we are subjected to this unnecessarily, in order to boost profits which are already too great. The Government have taken some prompt action. Advertising magazines are going, and the Bill provides for a more formal and direct control by I.T.A.
In Committee we may be able to consider whether more direct action can be taken by legislation. We have had a lot of argument about breaks, but the structure within which advertising works could well be laid down by this House. This matter could be dealt with by delegated legislation. I am trying to simplify things for the Postmaster-General. We know that he is setting up a medical advisory panel. I concede that medical 930 advertisements are much better than they were. I accept the word of the B.M.A. on that, but I cannot see why the right hon. Gentleman should not ban medical advertisements altogether on television. That would be far better.
I know that I shall be thought to be pusillanimous if I do not refer to tobacco. A case has been made out, because we have a ban on advertisements until nine o'clock already. That being the case, and this being a public medium, an obligation should be placed on the programme companies to show the propaganda issued by the Ministry of Health. That would surely be the proper attitude to adopt.
On advertisements generally, some progress has been made during the past few years. I do not wish to denigrate the work of the Advertising Standards Authority. I hope that it will do much better work than it has done so far, but it has made some progress.
§ Mr. William Shepherd (Cheadle)
I do not wish to denigrate the work of that body, but that work has had no effect on advertising on television. It is the work of the television companies themselves which has produced this result, and credit should be given to them for that fact.
§ Mr. Willey
I have already dealt with medical advertisements, and I was about to deal with advertisements in general. It is only proper that when an industry like this takes some steps in the right direction we should recognise them.
On the subject of advertising on television we have the Advertising Advisory Committee. The Pilkington Committee said that this was dominated too much by advertising interests. The right hon. Gentleman has conceded this and the Bill provides for the inclusion of consumers' representatives. The difficulty here is to know who represents the consumers. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will pay some attention to the Advertising Inquiry Council, or other bodies which seek to represent the consumers, because it is an advantage for anyone on the Committee to act not solely in that capacity, but to have some articulate means of expression outside the Committee.
The simple solution to the difficulties faced by the right hon. Gentleman in this matter is to say that the suggestion of 931 the Pilkington Committee is wholeheartedly accepted, and that even further steps will be taken, by providing that lay interests shall have a majority voice on the Advisory Committee, and that it will be adequately serviced and staffed. If that course were adopted many fears about advertising on television would be allayed.
The right hon. Gentleman dealt with the question of newspapers and television. Again, it is a question of what is the simplest course to adopt. The right hon. Gentleman is taking a certain course. On this subject we have the views not only of the Pilkington Committee, but—to the surprise of many people—of the Royal Commission on the Press. Although this matter was outside its terms of reference, it nevertheless made the point that it was undesirable that newspapers should seek control of commercial television. These conclusions by the Pilkington Committee and the Royal Commission on the Press are serious, in two ways. First—and the right hon. Gentleman did not mention this—the Press owns about a quarter of all the holdings in commercial television. Secondly, apart from what the Postmaster-General said, certain things have occurred which have disturbed many people.
We have the case of Scottish Television. We know where the money came from for the purchase of the Sunday Times. We also know that the Thomson group has a preferential advantage in advertising on Scottish Television. At least, that is how the position appears to me.[Interruption.] All right. As far as I am concerned, the suspicion is not discharged. This is an undesirable position. The right hon. Gentleman puts only one argument in favour of his case, namely, that the Press is in commercial television with an ulterior purpose, but to make money.
This is thoroughly undesirable. It is as anti-competition as it can be. It is undesirable for those entrenched in one medium of communication to seek their profits from a new medium, as it emerges. This is a feature which we should not encourage in British industry. It has done far too much harm already. It is wrong to use a new industry to subsidise an old.
§ Sir Kenneth Pickthorn (Carlton)
fail to follow the hon. Member's argument. Would he argue that when printing was introduced the men who were used to employing pens should have been disqualified from using the new medium?
§ Mr. Willey
I am not surprised that the hon. Member fails to follow my argument; I fail to follow his intervention.
I believe that the right hon. Gentleman concedes that at any rate there are grounds for suspicion, and that there is an obligation on the Government to take some action. The Minister proposes to lay down procedures to safeguard us against abuse. This remedy is far too cumbersome. The simplest remedy would be to provide that the Press should not hold holdings in the programme companies.
Although he did not do so this afternoon, the right hon. Gentleman conceded in his White Paper that further discussions ought to take place on this subject. He made the proposals in his White Paper "pending further discussion in Parliament". I hope that he will seriously consider the position, and that in Committee he will be prepared to think about providing for a divorce between those who are responsible for each medium of communication. The best thing to do will be to keep them separate and competitive, and not to allow this overlap, which is undesirable on many grounds.
§ Mr. Norman Cole (Bedfordshire, South)
The hon. Member has just said that we should keep these media separate and competitive. Does he favour a ban in the opposite direction? If the programme companies make large profits, would he wish to prohibit those companies from buying up newspaper shares?
§ Mr. George Darling (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Surely there is another problem that the Postmaster-General has not touched upon. Newspapers that have shareholdings in television companies have been agreed to by the Authority, while others have been rejected. That point ought to be taken into consideration.
§ Mr. Willey
I am much obliged to my hon. Friend. It is obvious that many arguments can be deployed against the Press having holdings in commercial 933 television, and I hope that they will persuade the right hon. Gentleman that this matter should be seriously considered in Committee.
Finally, I turn to the profits of the programme companies. This has been for many years a grave public scandal. Some years ago, I noticed that the City editor of the Sunday Express gave these details. He said that "in 1955 Mr. Lew Grade put £1,250 into commercial television. Today that is worth about £275,000. Mr. Littler put £900 into commercial television and today it is worth £200,000. Mr. Val Parnell invested £1,000 when commercial T.V. prepared to come on the air, its value today? About £220,000." I do not know whether these gentlemen are friends of the Government, but, if not, they have every reason to feel friendly towards it.
This is a public scandal because, as the right hon. Gentleman said, what we are dealing with here is the exercise of a concession on a means of public communication provided by the State. This problem has been before us for some considerable time. It is many years ago that the Public Accounts Committee called our attention to it. I agree with the Authority that it would have been undesirable to have given these contracts merely to the highest bidder, but what is disturbing about the Report of the Public Accounts Committee is that, although the right hon. Gentleman comes to the House and says today, "I object", the Postmaster-General and the Authority, when the matter was before the Public Accounts Committee, shrugged their shoulders and said that it was no concern of theirs. They can no longer do that. We have tolerated their excessive profits far too long, but, at any rate, we are now dealing with it.
§ Mr. Bevins
I should like to clear up one point. I think that attitude was taken at the time for the simple reason that the contracts were current and nothing could be done about it.
§ Mr. Willey
I do not want to deal with this at too great length, but I would criticise the Authority for the way in which the contracts were let. I think that they could have been much more realistic and revisable contracts. The right hon. Gentleman has given me an opportunity of repeating that towards this problem the attitude of the Authority was quite 934 irresponsible, it was that it was no concern of the Government or of the Authority that these exorbitant, excessive profits were being made.
The right hon. Gentleman has made very sweeping proposals in Clause 7 of the Bill. I can see that there might be apprehension by those who might be affected by such wide enabling provisions. I think that probably the approach that he has made this afternoon is the right sort of approach. It is, after all, the proposal that was made by the Authority to the Pilkington Committee. It made the proposal that the best and most workable formula would be a royalty calculated in relation to profits. It is arguable that the first receipts should be exempt from this levy. I can give the right hon. Gentleman the assurance that we will certainly consider this seriously in Committee. We cannot express a view now about the particulars which the right hon. Gentleman has given us.
§ The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Iain Macleod)
Did not the hon. Gentleman say "in relation to profits"? Surely my right hon. Friend the Postmaster General made the point in relation to gross advertising receipts.
§ Mr. Willey
Yes, I am sorry. It should be the gross receipts from advertising of the programme companies. We accept this as probably being the right formula. We shall have to consider the details of the right hon. Gentleman's proposals when we have had an opportunity to look at them more closely.
I would still prefer the simple approach of realistic, revisable rentals, but here we have a formula, at any rate, which meets the pattern of television as it is today and if enforced sufficiently rigorously would meet what has been over a number of years a public scandal. There are many other points which we can discuss in Committee, but we come back to the original judgment upon the Bill, that so far as it goes it is an improvement and that we shall try to make it better.
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls
My right hon. Friend has suggested that although there is no question of giving a second channel to commercial television now, in future it would get it. He gave a pretty broad hint that later it would probably get it. In the sad and unlikely event of the hon. 935 Gentleman's party being in Government before this is done, would his party be prepared to consider giving a second channel?
§ Mr. Willey
We will consider it in the light of the circumstances then obtaining. What we are considering today is a Bill which dismisses from our consideration the prospect of a fourth channel.
I would emphasise that when we are discussing the shortcomings of television, we are discussing something which is much wider and which goes much deeper than that. I am sorry that the Minister without Portfolio is not with us, because he expressed himself very philosophically and, I think, correctly on this. He said that the ultimate test of commercial television would, in fact, be social balance. He said that if we got the balance wrong then commercial television would be wrong, but he also said—and I largely concede it—that if the balance were wrong we would have to concentrate on the offsetting forces.
It is the acute awareness of this problem that is the key to better television. He said that this sense of tone was something which could affect the governing party's image and, by way of aside, that it might even be its epitaph. I hope that at the next General Election will be the epitaph of the Government and not of the people.
§ 4.48 p.m.
§ Lord John Hope (Edinburgh, Pentlands)
According to custom it is my duty to declare an interest, in that I am on the board of a company which manufactures broadcasting materials. I have absolutely no financial interest whatsoever as between the B.B.C. and Independent Television.
Like my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General, I start from the proposition that Independent Television is entitled to fair competition with the B.B.C.; in other words, that I.T.V. should not have its hands unfairly tied as against the B.B.C. in its task of showing programmes to the public. I.T.V.—I use that word to describe the whole set-up—has no right to ask for more than that. So far as I know, it never has asked for more than that. The B.B.C., on the other hand, is asking for itself a good deal more, as I shall try to show.
936 It is in that context that I and many others are anxious that justice should be done for one reason which I think is of crucial importance: to safeguard the right of the public to have as wide a choice as possible between such sources of information, instruction and entertainment as seek its favours. I shall return to that in a few moments. Meanwhile, I would like to make one or two observations on some of the points at which it seems to me the Bill is aiming at unreasonable restriction. Other of my right hon. and hon. Friends will no doubt find gaps to fill.
One thing that ought to be remembered significantly in this context is that the Bill comes at a time when the B.B.C. is, rightly, going all out for the full audience against I.T.V. I know that some people are a little worried about the wording of Clause 2 (1, a), where the words "information, education and entertainment" are in the reverse order from that in which they appeared in the original Television Act. I do not think that there is much in that, and I should like an assurance from my hon. Friend the Assistant Postmaster-General when she replies that this is simply a matter of bringing I.T.V. into line with the B.B.C. I do not suppose anything in relation to priorities is involved here because anyhow these three words seem to dovetail into one another the whole time. Still there is a difference.
More serious is what is written into Clause 2 (2) at the moment, where a code is laid down. I notice that in subsection (4) the word "guidance" appears—guidance must be given by the Authority as to the rules which must be observed in regard to the showing of violence. I would have no quarrel with the word "guidance", especially where the showing of violence is concerned, but I am worried to the extent that I believe I am right in saying that the B.B.C. has departed a long way from the strict codes that it used to employ. It has done so, rightly, in the interests of good programmes. It would be extremely unfair if I.T.V. were to be shackled by a much more detailed code than was the case with the B.B.C. As I have said, I myself would have no objection to "guidance", which I believe to be correct.
937 In spite of what my right hon. Friend said, I should have thought that Clause 4, as it stands, meant that no programme contractor could buy a programme without the specific approval of the I.T.A. I should have thought that details of that kind must be settled on the spot, just as is, rightly, done by the B.B.C.
I do not want to deal with Clause 7 at all. No doubt others will do so. I imagine that there will be a good deal of reassurance as a result of what my right hon. Friend said.
As far as I remember, my right hon. Friend referred to Clause 11 in fairly reassuring terms, but he did not mention subsection (3), which seems to me, as it is drafted, to make utter nonsense. As far as I can gather, the effect of it would be that a company which is a substantial shareholder in a programme contractor company cannot be represented on the board of that company by one of its own directors or officers. That seems to be absurd. I may be wrong, but I believe that is the effect.
I do not intend to delay the House by dwelling at any length on Clause 13. I would just say that on the balance of the arguments as I have heard them I should have thought that the Government's attitude here was right.
I come now to the Third Schedule. I wish that there had been a mention in this Schedule of repealing Section 3 (1,a) of the Television Act, 1954. That Section requires thatnothing is to be included in programmes…which contains any offensive representation or reference to a living person.If I say "That Was The Clause That Was", I hope the subtlety of the expression will not be lost on my right hon. Friend. Seriously, I.T.V. certainly cannot hope to compete fairly if those words are left in.
One wonders why attempts should be made—I do not think my right hon. Friend means to make them, but attempts are certainly being made—to hamstring I.T.V. I have no doubt that I.T.V. has made errors of judgment, but so has the B.B.C. My view, for what it is worth, is that each service can do very good things indeed and that each service has done things that would have been better not done.
938 I think it significant that neither the Pilkington Committee nor the B.B.C. really believes that the B.B.C. has been hurt by competition. The Pilkington Committee says, on page 46 of its Report:… our broad conclusion is this; that within the limits imposed by a single programme, the B.B.C.'s television service is a successful realisation of the purposes of broadcasting as defined in the Charter.The B.B.C.'s own opinion, as quoted in the Report on page 45, is as follows:The B.B.C. told us that competition had not sapped their basic concept of the purposes of broadcasting. As a national institution, the Corporation had, in the course of a generation, established standards which they had steadfastly maintained against considerable odds.A little later the Report says:There had, however, been some good effectsof competition.In light entertainment in particular competition had, the B.B.C. believed, done something to sharpen and improve their own programmes.The view of the television staff itself is given in page 239 of Volume I of the Memoranda submitted to the Committee, where one reads:Many of them feel that the existence of competition, as such and regardless of its kind, has enabled changes of mood and approach to come about more easily in the B.B.C. than they would have done otherwise and that competition has encouraged professionalism".What, then, is the matter? The B.B.C. admits that I.T.V. has been good for it. It is difficult to see in that event why the B.B.C. should want I.T.V. to be destroyed.
§ Lord John Hope
The hon. Member says "It does not". I see very little means of reaching any other conclusion. On page 230 of the memoranda submitted to the Committee, the B.B.C. said:All this is not to deny the energy, inventiveness and determination sometimes displayed by some of the commercial companies. But the by-products of such enterprise are not often noticed at the time. No one intended that as a result of the industrial revolution in this country, which was the product of energy, inventiveness and determination, and upon which our national prosperity depends, there should be created the industrial slums which are acutely embarrassing to the nation a hundred years later. Further opportunities handed to 939 commercial television, especially if combined with a denial of such opportunities to public-service television, could create mental and spiritual poverty, which would be even harder to eradicate.That is a view, but it is a little hard, I think, to take it from an organisation which produces the "cracks" that now emerge on certain programmes.
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls
Will not my hon. Friend also agree that in its evidence, though it was not so poetical, it made the same point? It said:The Corporation continues to believe that competition is not the best way to get best results.So it wants to do away with that competition.
§ Lord John Hope
My hon. Friend has reinforced my argument, although I chose a rather more juicy piece.
The reason cannot be commercial. After all, the B.B.C. stands to gain—and I think it is right that it should—from the licensing system. So it cannot be that. I think that what is really at the back of it is that the B.B.C.—I hope that I have paid my tribute to it, because it has done wonderful things—in its heart of hearts wants to get back to its mono-policy. I am sure that that is the case. I think that the spirit of that excellent if somewhat narrow-minded Director-General of great ability, Lord Reith, still walks abroad. One recalls his words to the Beveridge Committee when he said:It was the brute force of monopoly that enabled the B.B.C. to become what it did and do what it did; that made it possible for a policy of moral responsibility to be followed.This assumption of the right to decide what is good for one to see and hear is a weapon with which the world has been pretty familiar in the last twenty years. But it is not the sort of weapon that the people of this country ever want to see come into use here.
No one saw that more clearly than my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) in his minority Report to the Beveridge Committee. The safeguard of competition is in my view and in this context much more important than either the quality of the programme or the source of revenue, although I would be the last to deny the relevant importance of both. Of all the illusions to which men are prone none is more dangerous than the illusion of in- 940 fallibility. If my right hon. Friend is not going to deny to those best placed to challenge this, in the vital field of broadcasting, a fair chance to do so, he will certainly agree to considerable amendment of the Bill in Committee.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Goronwy Roberts (Caernarvon)
I propose to be very brief, because I really want to concentrate as quickly as I can on a point relating to Wales; but the noble Lord the Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Lord John Hope) took up another point which has been worrying some of us in the last few weeks and months, and that is the new cry that there should be extended to I.T.A. the same freedom as that which is supposed to be enjoyed by the B.B.C. in the presentation and the content of programmes.
On that point, and referring to Clause 2 which sets out to exercise some sort of control over standards of taste in programmes, I would only say that so far we have heard only of the need for regulations in regard to violence and triviality. I think that the House and the Government ought now to consider whether there is not need to secure some kind of code in order to restrain the worst excesses in relation to the discussion of subjects which are of sacred importance to all of us. I refer to the discussion of religion and religious foundations, and also to the discussion of sex.
I thought that, in passing, the noble Lord was adducing an argument for an extension of this freedom which we have seen growing up on the B.B.C. and on the I.T.A. in the last year or two. It would be very difficult for any hon. Member to argue for restriction in freedom of discussion either on the air or in print. Freedom has long been confused with licence; it should never be confused with licentiousness.
I appeal to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and to the Postmaster-General to consider between now and the Committee stage whether Clause 2, which goes some way to try to set up reasonable safeguards against excessive depiction of sadistic and violent scenes so fatal to the mental health and proper growth of children 941 and young people, should be strengthened with a view to introducing reasonable safeguards into the Clause against the inclusion in certain programmes of unwarrantably disturbing and, I think, profoundly and subtly damaging treatment of such subjects as the sexual instinct.
I have associated with many hon. Members on both sides of the House in trying to secure in the schools and colleges of the country a new enlightened treatment of this subject among children and young people. We are moving into an atmosphere, created by both channels, in which such efforts are being nullified and the decline of standards of taste and behaviour among the young may be aggravated. I leave the point there, though, perhaps, with the additional suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill that he should read an article in today's Guardian. It is a newspaper not given to restrictive and unduly narrow pronouncements on the technique and content of discussion. It is a truly liberal newspaper. I think that if the right hon. Gentleman will read the article on page 7 of the Guardian. today he will find added evidence that there is now growing in the country a feeling that the code of standards envisaged in Clause 2 might include other subjects as well.
My original reason for speaking in the debate today was to appeal to the Postmaster-General on behalf of my Welsh colleagues to consider the position of the peripheral programme companies. There is nothing in the Bill to safeguard the future of these small area companies. Some of these companies find difficulty at the present time and are likely to find themselves in greater difficulty in the next year or so.
The Bill recognises the danger to these small companies. We have heard proposals made today whereby the imposts on various companies will be varied in order to assist these small contractors. But that is not enough to ensure that in many parts of the country these small contractors will survive, let alone develop properly, and be able to mobilise the potential of their areas and contribute to the network in the way in which we have heard some hon. Members speak this afternoon. I take as an example the area I know best, the programme area of West 942 and North Wales, the franchise of which was given to a company which calls itself the Teledu Cymru Company. It is obvious that Wales is a natural, social, cultural unit for broadcasting and television. The Postmaster-General recognised this when he allotted Channel 13 to establish such a service under the ægis of the Corporation.
What is the position in regard to independent television in Wales? While Wales is an obvious national unit, viable in having a population of a little over 2½ million, it is divided into two areas; the rural and sparsely populated area which is least profitable while the West and North is allotted to the Teledu Cymru company and the rest of Wales, containing the heavily populated and profitable south-eastern corner, forms part of the area administered by T.W.W. It is all very well to say that when the new levy system is applied the variation will help the small company to which I have referred, but its position will not be secured unless it is placed in charge of the area which is natural to it and which will make it permanently and reasonably viable and capable of development.
We have a suggestion to make. It seems idle to hope for a radical solution of the difficulties of these small peripheral areas, including the Welsh, some of the Scottish and one, I believe, in the west of England, that is, a rearrangement of areas. There is nothing in the Bill about that and no indication from the Government that such an adjustment of area is thought of, but I hope they do not consider that the present area boundaries must prevail always. One agrees that there must be two, three or four large areas in order to sustain the central force to provide the necessary network programme base which is necessary, although one doubts whether there should be any area which contains within itself as much as a quarter of the entire population of the United Kingdom, as there is.
The real solution for the problems of these peripheral areas is a rearrangement of the areas, but one cannot hope for that soon. There are difficulties. I am told that it must follow the introduction of U.H.F. and a change of linage from 405 to 625. That may be some years hence. The question is what is 943 to happen in the meantime to these marginal areas, some of which have increasing difficulties? The solution, we suggest, in regard to Wales is that one of the now available channels, Channel 7, should be allotted to the Teledu Cymru Company and that company should operate through that channel from the existing mast-head at St. Hilary. That would enable Teledu Cymru, which can now only reach less than 40 per cent. of the population of Wales, to go into the large conurbation between Swansea and Cardiff where 60 per cent. of the population of Wales live, not to dislodge T.W.W. but to compete with it in that area.
Thus, until there is a major rearrangement of areas, as a result of the need for building transmitters with shorter circuits, we would have the creation of a Welsh unit for independent television purposes without unduly infringing upon the rights and the opportunities of the existing company which operates in the west of England and South Wales. I ask the Postmaster-General to look at our problems in Wales and to study that suggestion. Perhaps he will let us know at a later stage whether he thinks it can be done. I leave the matter at that point, but I hope that between now and the next stage of the Bill the two points I have raised will be considered.
I feel that Clause 2, which makes some efforts to establish reasonable safeguards in the matter of content and standard, might be looked at again. Secondly, I hope that the Postmaster-General will not weary of well-doing in Wales and will do for independent television in the Principality what he has already said he will do in regard to B.B.C. television.
§ 5.26 p.m.
Mr. David Gibson-Waft (Hereford)
I hope that the hon. Member for Caernarvonshire (Mr. G. Roberts) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his very interesting argument. I have a great deal of sympathy for what he said at the beginning of his speech and a great deal of interest in the second part of his speech as I live in the same country as he does. I should like rather to talk for a moment on the fact that over the past few months we have had an intensity of argument and discussion about the future of British television.
944 In the Bill before us today is only one of the television eggs which the Government have laid. They have made many outside decisions. Although the Bill is called the Television Bill, it could very well be called an Independent Television Bill, because, except in Clause 18, where there is a passing reference to it, there is hardly a mention of the B.B.C. I think the reference to the B.B.C. in Clause 18 might well be omitted. People in the B.B.C. would like to see the admonition that both the B.B.C. and I.T.A. should co-operate with the Postmaster-General limited to the I.T.A. in this Bill and to the B.B.C. within its Charter. I wonder if my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General would consider that?
The Government have had responsibility for making a number of important and, to some extent unpopular, decisions. There was colour television, there was 625, V.H.F., the second television programme, pay-T.V., local sound broadcasting, and finally what we are mainly discussing today, the future of I.T.A. Before I start to criticise the Bill, I wish to say that in my opinion the Government were brave and wise about some of their decisions. I have no financial interest in television. I am, however, on the General Advisory Council of the B.B.C., and if in my remarks I seem to be critical of the B.B.C. it is because I consider the Corporation does such a good job that it is well able to take a "general advisory" dig.
Earlier, my right hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Lord John Hope) referred to one of the past Directors-General of the B.B.C. The remarks which my right hon. Friend made about that Director-General certainly do not apply to the present Director-General who, in my opinion, is doing a fine job.
§ Lord John Hope
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. I was merely suggesting that the powerful spirit of that former Director-General still walks in the corridors of Broadcasting House.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for bearing out what I said.
Where necessary, advice is given on this subject. I think my right hon. Friend was right to give the B.B.C. the go-ahead regarding colour television. The 945 Corporation has taken the lead in developing that, and it is a matter involving considerable national prestige. I think, therefore, that as the B.B.C. had made that advance it should be allowed to go ahead. It was a right decisions to give a second television channel to the B.B.C. If one visits the Shepherd's Bush Television Centre, which I consider the finest in the world, one sees duplicate studios on either side of a corridor. On the one side, they are occupied in respect of the service on the channel which we have had for several years, and, on the other, there were people waiting almost with their tongues banging out for the Government to say "Yes", which the Government, quite rightly, have said. If the public is to receive the benefit of an extra television channel, I think it right that it should be paid for by the public as a whole rather than by television advertising.
The two channels which are to be operated by the B.B.C. will be complementary and not competitive. That is one of the vital threads running through the argument in this debate. Some protaganists of the B.B.C. would be most inaccurate in their description were they to regard the highly efficient service which has been built up by the B.B.C. as being competitive within itself. It is not. The channels will be complementary, which means that the organisation is immensely strengthened in its power to compete with Independent Television.
I commend the Government for going ahead with the pay-television scheme in face of opposition from the B.B.C. I see no harm in that. It does not cost the Government anything to finance it, and I think that the scheme should have a trial run. I have always favoured such a scheme because of the situation which may arise upon occasions, such as on Saturday, when a number of sporting events take place at the same time. On Saturday there was the France v. England rugby match and the Scotland v. Ireland match. Consideration should be given to a minority who may be disabled or confined to their beds who, because they were perhaps former rugby players or cricketers, desire to see a match televised from start to finish. Even with the extra channel, I do not think that the B.B.C. would be able to cater adequately for their desires.
946 Pay-television may also be a means by which the standard of British television plays could be raised. There are far too many American television plays shown in this country. If we are prepared to pay sufficient for them—not £6,000 but £60,000—we could secure first-class television plays, which could be exported as well as being shown in this country. We must not forget that countries such as the West African countries and other parts of the world judge the West on the quality of its television programmes. A great many of the films which are shown on Western television are shown in those countries, and I think it better that those people should see British films rather than that the majority of the films should be American and of the type that we look at. I consider that the Government were right not to allow local sound broadcasting by anyone. I have always thought that a "dead duck", representing a considerable waste of the taxpayers' money. Of course, it is right to have Scottish——
§ Mr. Gibson-Watt
I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend, and I thank him for helping me out. It is a most controversial——
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls
My hon. Friend the Member for Hereford (Mr. Gibson-Watt) may have anticipated what my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) was about to say, but he did not make that clear. I do not think there is any question of taxpayers' money being involved. If it were allowed on an advertising basis, it could be experimental and it could be tried out without the taxpayers having to pay a penny.
§ Mr. Gibson-Watt
I am grateful to my hon. Friends. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) will be able to make a speech later. I know that he 947 knows far more about this matter than I do.
Without going into the voluminous censure of I.T.A. by the Pilkington Committee, I should like to make two points. I.T.V. and B.B.C. are two entirely different organisations, and what goes for one does not necessarily go for the other. The B.B.C. has been greatly improved by reason of the competition from I.T.V., and as a public Corporation it has responsibilities which it is bound to discharge. It has achieved coherence and organisation which puts it in a commanding position today.
Without referring to specific Clauses, I think that this Bill is far too restrictive on Independent Television. The Government must be careful not to be over-restrictive regarding one side of this industry at a difficult time in the history of television. By their very nature the Independent Television companies are more loosely knit and less centrally organised than the B.B.C. This Bill, particularly in Clauses 2, 3 and 4, lays down requirements which may well make their competitive position even more difficult. I do not believe that in the Charter of the B.B.C. there is a statutory requirement to lay down codes. From time to time codes have been established by the Corporation, but I believe that they have been abandoned and that it was wise to do so. Why should the Government impose these restrictions by statute upon the Independent Television companies?
The appointment of the new Chairman of I.T.A. is a far more important matter than the laying down of strict codes. I believe that the new Chairman should be part-time and be a man of considerable standing in the country. He should on no account be connected in his public image with either or any political party. He should be supported by a full-time Director-General and supporting staff.
I referred earlier to the differences in character between the B.B.C. and the I.T.A., and they are certainly very different organisations. Do not let us forget that the independent side is run on free enterprise lines. We all know that profits have been made, in some cases excessive profits, but we would do well to remind the country that the people who started Independent Television com- 948 menced by making losses and not profits. That must be considered. How are we to know that the volume of advertising will continue for ever at the present rate? Can we be certain that at all times the volume of advertising will be adequate? The I.T.V. relies for its finances on its advertising public, and though some people may spend a lot of time running down this procedure, we must recognise that that is the central problem with which it has to cope.
Returning to the question of the Chairman, when the Government choose a permanent Chairman I hope they will choose a man of the world who has some experience of finance and business organisation. Without such experience no one can control or attempt to coordinate the I.T.A. If the Government get the right man, I do not believe that Clause 15 will be necessary. Clause 15 says:The functions of the Authority shall include the making of arrangements for bringing the programmes broadcast by the Authority and the other activities of the Authority under constant and effective review ….Does anybody in his right mind imagine that a sensible Chairman of the I.T.A. will not automatically do that very thing? Although the desire is clear, I do not think that it is necessary to put it in the Bill. The Postmaster-General may be able to tell me more about this, but as I see it, it is not necessary.
I do not wish to see the I.T.A. restricted too much at present. I believe that of late years the B.B.C. has got itself into a very commanding position. What would have happened if that extremely good programme "That Was The Week That Was" had been produced by I.T.A. and not by the B.B.C.? By jove, there would have been an uproar. It is remarkable to think that those who once referred to the B.B.C. as "Granny B.B.C." must now regard "T.W.T.W.T.W." as the unexpected offspring of an elderly matron. Those people never thought that she could produce such an enfant terrible, and they cannot continue to speak of the B.B.C. in the way they did. I doubt whether under the old Television Act the I.T.A. would have allowed the independent programme companies to bring forward such a programme. A study of the old Television Act shows that it is highly doubtful 949 whether they would have been able to do so. I think that it is an extremely good programme and I watch it a great deal.
It is important to ensure that there is not too much control over the I.T.A. For that reason, I hope that between now and Third Reading the Postmaster-General will make certain changes, as indeed he has very fairly said that he will, which will greatly improve this important Bill.
§ 5.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards (Caerphilly)
I hope that the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Gibson-Watt) will forgive me if I do not comment immediately on what he has said. I shall refer later to his advocacy of pay television.
I listened with close attention and respect to the Postmaster-General's long explanation of the Bill. I am very disappointed with the Bill as a whole. On reading it I came to the conclusion that there was only one Clause with which I could agree, namely, Clause I. We must look at the Bill in the context of the general situation. We had the first White Paper in July of last year, and we had a very good debate on it. In December we had another White Paper which we have never discussed. The White Paper contained decisions which ought to have been the subject of discussion before the Government brought forward this Television Bill to continue commercial television.
We have had the announcement that the Government propose to have a two-year experiment on pay television. I regard this as opening the door to one of the nicest pieces of cake in this field. In my view, this will be a special television service for the rich man, for the man who can pay. This will be a means whereby special functions will be sold at high rates to people who can afford them and will not be available to the general mass of the people. The Leader of the House should give some indication of what it is intended to do. Is the new Rank-Drayton organisation coming into existence for the purpose of running it? Is the purchase of Wembley by that organisation part and parcel of this development? I ask my hon. Friends not to allow themselves to be part of the cultural umbrella under which this very bad commercial proposition is to be exploited.
950 Like the hon. Member for Hereford, I like rugby football. I should have liked to have seen bath matches on Saturday, but is it necessary to have a pay television service so that the hon. Gentleman at Hereford can watch either a match at Dublin or one at Murray-field?
§ Mr. Gibson-Watt
If the right hon. Gentleman had tried to watch the two programmes on Saturday, he would not have been able to. That was one of the points I made. If there are more than a certain number of important programmes of sporting events—say, four or five—it would be impossible, even with the second channel, for that to happen. I laid particular stress upon people in bed and disabled people who rely upon that form of relaxation.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
The innocence of some hon. Members is astonishing. This is supposed to be done by wire, not by radio. If it is to be done by wire, it could not be relayed as the hon. Gentleman suggests. This is a wire relay service. Who has the wire relay service for this experiment? Who owns the means whereby these displays can be put on? These things are confined to a very small number of people. Therefore, the proposal and the decision of the Government is not to do it by radio but to do it by wire. If it is done by wire, neither of the matches could have been seen by either of us, if it was part and parcel of this experiment.
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls
The Bill is not an Act yet. My right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General said that he is open to suggestions. Would the right hon. Gentleman support me in Committee in securing that there is a provision for the experiment to be over the air as well as on wire?
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
I should resist it with all the power at my command. I am astonished at the hon Gentleman. He ought to know that the channels are not available. It is technically impossible.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
I am rather surprised at the hon. Gentleman, with his knowledge, putting forward such a suggestion. I should support the Postmaster-General in resisting it.
951 I repeat that this Television Bill must be examined in the general context. The Bill is an acceptance of much of the criticism which has been made from this side of the House and, indeed, on some occasions by Tory Members. This licence to print money has now been condemned by the very Front Bench that gave it. That is the amusing thing. It was rather cheering to hear the Postmaster-General say that no one ought to have a licence to print money, so at last Daniel comes to judgment. All the defence which was made by the right hon. Gentleman and his predecessors about the fabulous profits made by some of the television contractors goes by the board and now he condemns the very thing of which he previously approved. The House seems to be getting this whole matter out of proportion.
After all, in the first White Paper a decision was taken—approved by the House in the subsequent debate—to change over the linage system from 405 to 625 lines and to leave bands 1 and 2 and enter bands 4 and 5. This is a stupendous operation and the Postmaster-General said today that it will be done by the method of duplication, and that colour television will be compatible and part and parcel of this great technical operation.
Does the House realise that if this operation is spread over 10 years it will cost the country £100 million a year for each year? My authority for saying this is the evidence submitted by the Pilkington Committee. If the method of duplication is applied—duplicating the present service, continuing it in both channels, converting the sets and erecting at least 300 new transmitters—the cost will be £100 million a year for 10 years. Whichever Government are in power, the order of priorities will have to be decided—whether there should be more television, more hospitals, better housing, an improved economy, and so on. We must get this thing into some sense of proportion to ensure that we are driving in the right direction.
It was right to have told the B.B.C. that it could have the second channel. It was wrong to give it authority to start it, but the great transformation which must take place on the technical side should have been effected first. I fear that the action of the Government now has meant 952 that the B.B.C. has been given the right to spend a lot of money on a second programme before duplicating its first and going over to 625 lines. What the licence fee will be, goodness knows. The B.B.C. talks a lot about the cost of the second programme, but it never mentions what the cost will be of duplicating the present one and running the two together. We are getting into extremely difficult financial water over this problem. At the same time, a number of hon. Members opposite are pressing the Government and are saying, "Let us have more television," and, "Let us have a second commercial channel".
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
Nero fiddled while Rome was burning. It seems that hon. Members opposite are asking for more fiddles to be sent, and for more fiddlers. Considering the state of the economy it would seem far better that we should have a sense of proportion about all this and that we should go about it in a logical way, effect the technical transformation and then move on to new developments.
We have before us, against that background, a Bill which does not take these things into account. In fact, it ignores them and we must, therefore, face four decisions. The first concerns the existence of commercial television. For my part it will exist for a good many years to come—certainly for the period provided for in the Bill—no matter what Government are in power. To abolish it would place a financial burden on the viewer, and the public would not accept it; so we accept that commercial television is here to stay for a very long time indeed.
The second problem concerns its organisation. This depends on the financial position of commercial television, and I shall have something to say about that later. The third problem concerns its control, and the fourth concerns the finance to provide it. I have taken the view that it is too late now to turn back the clock and that if we are to have commercial television then, for goodness sake, let us have good commercial television. There is no reason why we cannot have it and, equally, there is no reason why it cannot be as good, if not better than, the B.B.C.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
If it is assumed that it is as good as the B.B.C. then suggest that the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Hirst) should agree with the remarks of the father of commercial television in the Daily Telegraph this morning. I refer, of course, to the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) who, in an article in that paper today, said that commercial television had, in effect, been "a naughty boy".
We want good commercial television but, if we are to have it, the means of providing it must be there. I do not object to successful commercial television, but I do object to bankrupt commercial television. It is a tribute to the stupidity of the I.T.A. that there are four or five successful commercial television contractors while all the rest would be bankrupt without them. My hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) was absolutely right, because one cannot have good television from companies which are next door to bankruptcy. If the big four television contractors withdrew the facilities of the net, not a single contractor in this country could stand for six months. It is an appalling situation and——
§ Captain Orr
Would not the hon. Member agree that this situation could be entirely remedied if we had two networks instead of one?
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
No, it would make matters worse, but I will return to that later. The greatest disservice has been rendered to the possibilities of commercial television by the complete failure of the I.T.A. The programme contractors have appeared to be a power greater than Parliament. One could have debates in the House, criticisms from hon. Members and, despite all that, the PostMaster-General would apologise for the programme contractors, the I.T.A. would apologise for them and we in Parliament could do nothing about it. Had the I.T.A. appeared in public as the boss in its own house it would have done those people who believe in commercial television a lot of good. As it is, the programme contractors have had as their best apologists the people who should have been correcting. I only hope that any new powers given to the I.T.A. will be properly used.
954 It had powers under the other Act, but never used them. The Director-General told the Pilkington Committee that he saw no need to use them. Now, the Postmaster-General proposes to give the Authority more powers. Have we any assurance that those powers will be exercised? Is it to be a real authority? Will it be an authority which, if it fails in its functions, is so linked to the Postmaster-General's responsibility that it can be discussed on the Floor of the House? Will there be Parliamentary accountability, or will the Postmaster-General say, "It's nothing to do with me—it's a matter for the Authority"—and will the Authority remain silent?
There has been no communication between the programme contractor and this House in the way intended in the Television Act. I hope that the Leader of the House will say something about that. We have had a lot of trouble at the Table about Questions on these failures to carry out the intentions expressed in the first place. Will the right hon. Gentleman, as Leader of the House, see that the rights of Members to ask on the Floor of the House that the intentions of Parliament are carried out are observed? It is a tricky constitutional point, but I hope that he will pay attention to it.
Without the network monopoly, commercial television would have failed. We have to face it that 90 per cent. of television in this country is controlled by four men. We talk of competition, and we talk of regional contributions, but nearly all the programme contractors are satellites of the big four, and all this prating about competition and freedom is just a lot of nonsense. The opportunity has been created for four contractors to make millions, with the other nine or ten scratching along, and just putting out what the big four give them——
§ Mr. John Howard (Southampton, Test)
Is the right hon. Gentleman contending that the big four are charging the regional contractors more than the cost of the programmes they put out, or more than a fair proportion of the cost? I think he will find that the reverse is the case.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
I do not suggest anything of the sort. I only suggest that part of the cost of production of programmes can be passed to someone else. 955 I will say in favour of the big four, with the network committee, that if they did not let the small contractors have programmes at less than cost many of the small contractors would have gone "bust" already. The big four are subsidising the others, but what they are also doing is determining what the others shall show —and we talk of freedom !
We have to face the fact that Clause 7 is a daft thing. We have the four big contractors in the four dense areas, the areas in which they can get the mass of viewers, and those four are sitting very pretty. Then we have all the fringe areas let out to the "little boys", who are having a very thin time. Instead of mixing the fat with the lean we have this financial position.
My hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon gave the classic example of what could take place in Wales. In North Wales we have the small company which is a satellite of Bernstein and, in the South, the intensely industrial area. If Wales was one, in the television sense, the fat south could carry the thin north. We would have a viable unit. Other instances are East Anglia and the Grampians. We must get it into our minds that, as things are, every contractor outside the big four would collapse were it not for the supply they get from the big four, and the boundaries should be redrawn to make each contract area economically viable. That is the only way to get competition. This scale of levy that is to be put on gross advertising revenue will not help the small contractors in the fringe areas one little bit.
The hon. and gallant Member for Downe, South (Captain Orr) suggested another programme, and the Postmaster-General has to do that eventually in connection with redrawing the boundary. When we go to 625 and he gets his new masts, he must redraw the areas if this transformation is to take place within the next four or five years. I should have thought that he would be thinking about that now, so that when we go to 625 we redraw the boundaries of the different contractors areas, endeavour to make the heavy population carry the light, and make each contractor viable——
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls
Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting a consortium of B.B.C. and commercial through the same 956 transmitters? That would seem good sense on the lines of the argument he is putting forward.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
On 625, with ultrahigh frequency, the same mast can transmit two or three types of different programmes The transmissions can take place from the same mast, and I should have thought that the division of the cost of that mast between the I.T.A. and the B.B.C. was easily ascertained. Yes—I am quite in favour of the co-ordination of the technical resources, even if it is to provide different programmes from two different bodies. There is no reason why it should not be done.
This Bill is not capable of being transformed in Committee into the sort of instrument it should be. I do not know in whose head first occurred this idea of the three-year contract being a basis for good television. How on earth can we get good television from any company on the basis of a three-year contract? How on earth can we get a pension scheme for the chaps employed? It is about time a little sanity came into this business. If we are to have commercial television, let us have good commercial television, and let us have the conditions by which we can get it both economically and in length of contract.
This Bill does not represent the sort of lead we should be getting from the Government Front Bench. I do not know whether or not the Postmaster-General has had difficulty in getting his Cabinet colleagues to understand the technique of the job—I know that it is an extremely difficult one—but I am indeed sorry that he has put this thing forward to meet this situation, when I am sure that he himself knows—as do his technical advisers—that this is a very amateurish way of dealing with a very complex problem.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Sir Wavell Wakefield (St. Marylebone)
About eighteen months ago a book called "Pressure Group" was published. It was written by an American, Professor H. H. Wilson.[An HON. MEMBER: "An ominous name."] Its object was to prove that the introduction of commercial television into this country eight or nine years ago was due to a pressure group of Conservative Members of Parliament motivated by their commercial interests.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
On a point of order. Is it not customary for hon. Members who are about to address the House to disclose any interest that they may have?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
Order. So far, I see no necessity for an interest to be disclosed, but the hon. Member for St. Marylebone (Sir. W. Wakefield) will bear in mind the traditions of the House.
§ Sir W. Wakefield
On pages 83 and 84 of this misleading book I am mentioned as one of a broadcasting study group of nine people whose main purpose was to get commercial broadcasting introduced into the United Kingdom. My industrial and commercial interests are then described in detail and the fact that I was a director of Rediffusion Ltd., which I still am, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, is emphasised.
All this was described in such a way as to leave no doubt in the mind of the reader that my main, if not sole, interest was the promotion of personal commercial interest. As a matter of fact, in January, 1953, the board of Rediffusion Ltd., unanimously passed a resolution to the effect that it would not be in the interests of the company that commercial television be introduced into this country, but that if it were the position should again be considered.
Professor Wilson could easily have found out this fact if he had wanted to, but, of course, the main purpose of the book would then have disappeared. Similar misleading assumptions were likewise made about Parliamentary colleagues in this slipshod, discreditable book.
§ Mr. Richard Marsh (Greenwich)
Does the hon. Member intend to issue a writ for libel for this outrageous misrepresentation?
§ Sir W. Wakefield
The statement is there in the book, as I have described it. It is all there for everybody to see.
I, like other hon. Friends, have a strong dislike of monopoly and, in particular, when a monopoly is exercised by the State or a State board. The majority of my constituents wanted to see the B.B.C. monopoly broken. The actors, actresses, script writers and producers, of whom 958 there are a substantial number in my constituency, had at that time only one potential television employer, and that was the B.B.C. They wanted the opportunity to work for another organisation if they so wished. How successful has been the introduction of commercial television is shown by the fact that it has enabled all these people to have the opportunity to show their abilities in a way which otherwise would not have been possible.
We have seen the value of competition since commercial television was introduced and, as has been said, the B.B.C. is now a very different animal from what it was. Broadcasting has been livened up and developed in many interesting ways. It was independent commercial television that introduced school broadcasting and developed religious broadcasting, and we have seen a first-class alternative news service provided. Ali this obviously has been of great advantage to the looker-in and to the country as a whole.
During the last decade this great progress has been made because of competition, and the Bill lays down the manner in which the House and the country hope that that progress may be continued into the next decade. There are serious faults in the Bill and I was glad that my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General told the House that he was prepared to consider in Committee any changes of a useful and constructive kind that might be made. In particular, I welcome the changes in Clause 7 which it has already been announced will be brought forward in Committee. It was quite wrong that there should be, as there now is in the Bill, power for the Minister to impose discriminate taxation on an industry. I, and I think everyone in the House, welcomed the interesting and constructive proposal about which we heard this afternoon.
The right hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) has drawn attention to the difficult situation of some of the smaller companies. Clearly, consideration will have to be given to some of the right hon. Gentleman's suggestions about reallocation. An attempt must be made to even things out where the licence is not one to print money, but to lose money. This is one of the matters on which some useful 959 work can be done in Committee. It is as well to point out that the Rediffusion group lost £3 million in the first two years and that after eighteen months the Daily Mail was so frightened of the future that it sold its shares at a discount. None of us at the time ever thought that we would get our money back. We thought that we should be lucky if we were able to get our money back by the time the "licence to print money" came to an end.
It is also as well that the House should remember that over two-thirds of the profits have gone back to the Treasury for the relief of the taxpayer. This is as it should be. I can well envisage that if the country ever has to face the disaster of a Government composed of the present Opposition, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer will be only too glad to see a useful and substantial revenue coming in from Independent Television sources. Therefore, from that point of view the introduction of commercial television has been of value for the country's finances.
A second main criticism of the Bill is that various restrictions are laid down in Clauses 2 and 3 and, as has been mentioned, these restrictions apply to the Independent Television Authority and not to the B.B.C. If continued progress is to be made in the next decade, I suggest that it is essential that the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. should have identical responsibility. Both are responsible bodies and should be treated as such.
In the charters or licences to be granted to both authorities in the near future, full freedom should be allowed to permit improvements in quality and standards of television programmes. In this respect the B.B.C. is, rightly, not restricted. Neither should the I.T.A. be restricted. If we start restricting either or both bodies, by the application of codes and similar devices, everybody will be looking over everybody else's shoulder and we shall have cautious, safe, mediocre and unimaginative programmes. Television will go backwards instead of forwards and will not be the creative medium which the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) said that it ought to be.
§ Mr. Mayhew
Surely the hon. Member is not making the proper distinction. The Bill lays restrictions on the programme 960 companies, but the Authority is actually given power to make the codes and regulations. The restrictions do not operate on the Authority; the Authority is told to regulate the programme companies. Indeed, the whole style of the Bill is to the effect that the Government are prepared to trust the Authority in dealing with the programme companies.
§ Sir W. Wakefield
I am aware of the point that the hon. Gentleman has made, but there should not be a requirement on the I.T.A. to lay down any code, any more than there is a requirement on the B.B.C. to lay down a code. No codes or restrictions of any kind should be laid down. The Independent Television Authority should have full power to do what it wants to do. It should be put into exactly the same position and given the same status as the governors of the B.B.C. to do exactly what it wants to do. That is all I am saying, and nothing more.
It is right that there should be this absolute control, but I do not think that in this Bill the Independent Television Authority should be controlled or resticted any more than the B.B.C. should be. I would oppose any suggestion of restrictions being placed on the B.B.C. through its charter. In exactly the same way, this House ought not to impose restrictions on the I.T.A.
§ Mr. Victor Yates (Birmingham, Ladywood)
It is correct, is it not, that the B.B.C. established a code in regard to violence? Surely there is some sort of code, even if the B.B.C. does not adhere to it. Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that violence and horror should be permitted without the slightest guidance?
§ Sir W. Wakefield
I am not suggesting anything of the sort. The B.B.C. had an internal code, which I believe it has now abandoned. There is nothing to prevent the B.B.C. or the I.T.A. from having whatever internal codes they may wish to have, but I am suggesting that it would be undesirable and restrictive and would stop the creative development of television if this House were to try to control and restrict unduly the powers of either the B.B.C. or the I.T.A. I suggest that they should both be given absolute power to ensure quality and imagination in their productions. That would be best for all.
§ Mr. Chapman
Is the hon. Gentleman discounting all the criticisms that have been made in the Pilkington Report and elsewhere about the quality of programmes, or is he saying—in which case I would agree with him—that the trouble is that the people in charge of I.T.A. have not asserted themselves properly to ensure the right standards?
§ Sir W. Wakefield
The hon. Gentleman should realise, first, that when commercial television started there was a shortage of quality programmes. That situation is improving. It is not possible suddenly to get out of a hat producers, actors, actresses and script writers who are required to make a good programme. That is built up slowly over the years. There will be a great need to get still more of these people for a second B.B.C. programme. That is one reason why I agree with the Postmaster-General in deferring for the time being a second commercial programme. It takes time to build up these things.
As to the criticism of triviality, it is very difficult, day in and day out, week after week and month after month, to get all the quality and all the interesting programmes which are required. Let any Member talk to the B.B.C. or programme contractors and see how they scratch their heads trying to devise this sort of programme. A great deal of triviality goes on in this House, but this House is none the worse for it.
With great respect, Mr. Speaker, you make interesting and what might be considered trivial observations, but, after all, taken in context, it shows that you, Sir, are a human being and that this assembly is human. If ever we are unable to laugh at ourselves and be amused at trivialities, we shall be failing properly to discharge our responsibility to the country. I do not accept as an accusation that, just because there is a certain amount of triviality, programmes must automatically be bad.
I now wish to deal with a point which the right hon. Member for Caerphilly raised. He talked of pay television and criticised the suggestion that an experiment should be made. His attitude is surely typical of hon. Members opposite. They do not want anything new. They look backwards, and not forwards. Here is a chance to experiment with a great new creative 962 medium, but the party opposite say that we must not try it. My group of companies have many thousands of miles of wire. Anybody who wants to experiment with pay television with wires will be free to do so, and any information which they obtain from the experiment will be made available. Complete disclosure will be made. Surely that is the right way to approach a new idea and a new experiment.
§ Sir W. Wakefield
No, I am not advocating my own case at all. I was merely pointing out that here is a chance for a new means by which, perhaps, minority programmes could be seen, which otherwise would not be seen. Here is a chance to experiment in a limited way for a short time with wire, and I am sure that if it were successful it would be widely extended. I am all for it. But it would be regrettable if we did not take every opportunity to see what can be done to provide for viewers as wide a choice as possible in this new and developing medium of entertainment, education and contact.
I want to refer now to Clause 10, which deals with the provision of news. This Clause requires amendment. If I understand it aright, the Clause means that certain restrictions will be placed on programme contractors in providing information programmes. Surely the programme contractors should be allowed to have full freedom to provide their own documentary and similar programmes in whatever way they think best, as well as getting such programmes as they require from Independent Television News. I cannot see any advantage in compelling the programme companies to obtain these documentary and information films only from I.T.N.
I believe that the Government are right in deferring for the time being consideration of a second commercial programme. The Postmaster-General said that most of the regional companies were in favour of deferring it, but that there was a difference of opinion amongst the big four. I believe that three of the big four wish it to be deferred and that the other wishes a second programme to be introduced. The reason for the deferment is that there 963 is to be a large unheaval and a change. I think that the Government are right in waiting for things to settle down. So far as I can see, there will be a reduction of advertising revenue, and when the second B.B.C. programme comes into being there will be greater competition.
There will be more balanced programmes, and that will be a good thing. The imposition of an extra programme on the programme companies would probably mean doubling costs, or very nearly doubling them, and to begin with there would be very little revenue because there would be no audience. Thus, with lower revenue than now and double costs, one would simply be "in the red". Therefore, it is wise to allow matters to develop so that later, in the light of developments, one may see whether a second commercial programme is a practicality.
There are two other reasons. First, we want to give time for the development of quality. With the new second B.B.C. programme coming along, there will have to be time to build up further teams of actors, producers, script writers, and so forth. It would be unwise to impose a second commercial programme to the system while that build-up is taking place, and for this reason, too, it is better that it should be deferred. Secondly, the industry itself will be very busy on all the technical production which is required. In four or five years, or whenever the time comes, it may need the further work which a second commercial programme would give to it then.
There are, in my opinion, sound reasons for deferring, for the time being, a second commercial programme.
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls
What evidence has my hon. Friend for saying that there would not be advertising revenue? That was one of the reasons he gave, that the money would not be there. The advertising trade bodies have said that £80 million was spent in 1962; they estimate £106 million in 1966, and £137 million in 1970, provided, however, that they have not been swamped by a second B.B.C. channel, which means that there are no viewers to look at commercial television.
§ Mr. W. R. Williams (Manchester, Openshaw)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Would you do the House a 964 great favour by trying to allow your eye to be fixed on the hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls), who has just spoken, since he seems to have been taking part in every speech in the debate today and causing embarrassment to speakers on both sides of the House?
§ Mr. Speaker
I do not think that keeping my eye on the hon. Gentleman would have sufficient effect. He has usually been obscured by someone else who was speaking.
§ Sir W. Wakefield
The advertisers may say what my hon. Friend tells us that they say, but, of course, they do not have to provide for the cost of a second programme. Moreover, it is quite obvious that advertising revenue will fall if there are fewer people looking at commercial television because they have an alternative B.B.C. programme to look at. That seems only common sense. Clearly, putting a second commercial programme on the air will, in the first instance, mean that there will be very few people looking in, and I cannot imagine advertisers spending much money on programmes when there is hardly anyone looking at them. Where all the money is to come from, I do not know.
In conclusion, I welcome the Post-master-General's willingness to consider constructive Amendments to the Bill. It is my hope that the Bill will be improved and made better in Committee than it is now.
§ 6.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Greenwood (Rossendale)
Like the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Gibson-Watt), I am a member of the General Advisory Council of the B.B.C. Also, as other hon. Members do, I appear from time to time on commercial television. I hope, therefore, to be able to take a reasonably objective view of these problems.
I begin by parting company from the hon. Member for Hereford on two of the points which he made. I regret very much the possibility of going ahead with pay-television, because I believe that the only effect can be to deprive non-subscribing members of the public of facilities which they would at present receive from either the B.B.C. or Independent Television. I regret, also, that the Government have not seen fit to go ahead with a local broadcasting service. I believe in local 965 broadcasting. I think that the work done by Mr. Frank Gillard on behalf of the B.B.C. has been truly magnificent. In my view, local broadcasting could have a revitalising effect on local government, which in many parts of the country stands badly in need of revitalising.
I must reply to a point made by the right hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Lord John Hope) when he claimed that the B.B.C. wanted to get rid altogether of the commercial television service. I will read to the House part of a speech made by Mr. Kenneth Adam, director of B.B.C. television, at Durham on 30th January. He said:It has been suggested, and the sectional lobbies inside and outside Parliament will press this falsehood, for that is what it is, that we are out, or shall be when we have a second channel, to annihilate the commercial channel, that we shall so mount programmes as to present the viewer with an inevitable desire to watch the B.B.C. only. This is nonsense; it is utter, stupid nonsense.I wish that the right hon. Gentleman had not brought that insinuation into his speech today.
I support very strongly the approach of my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) when he speaks of the importance of the attitude of the Independent Television Authority itself. Although I am on the whole a libertarian, I cannot go the whole way with the hon. Member for St. Marylebone (Sir W. Wakefield) in his contention that there should be no restrictions whatever on either the I.T.A. or the B.B.C. I do not think that anyone can seriously study the criticisms made in paragraphs 97 to 99 of the Pilkington Report on the subject of triviality without reaching this conclusion.
It is very easy to regard this as just a matter of triviality but, if the hon. Gentleman will refer to those paragraphs, he will see that, in addition to the word "trivial" the Pilkington Committee spoke ofmany mass appeal programmesbeingvapid and puerile, their content often derivative, repetitious and lacking in real substance. There was a vast amount of unworthy material"—and so on. These are terms which, I am sure, the hon. Gentleman would never dream of applying to any Member of the House.
966 It is undoubtedly true, as my hon. Friend said, that whatever criticisms are made about triviality, they apply not only to the commercial programmes but to some of the programmes of the B.B.C. too. However, we are today legislating not for the B.B.C., but for the Independent Television Authority. Regardless of what the channel be for the dissemination of triviality, vapidity, puerility, and so forth, we cannot afford to allow such a waste of what the Pilkington Committee rightly calls a national asset.
If the Pilkington Committee's criticisms are justified, as I think they are, the blame attaches, I believe, more to the Independent Television Authority itself than to the programme companies. It is significant that Sir Ivone Kirkpatrick, Chairman of the Independent Authority, himself admitted, as the Committee says in paragraph 154, that, if anything is wrong with commercial television today, it is the responsibility of the Authority itself. The criticisms of the Authority which many of us have advanced were, I think, substantiated by the reluctance of Sir Kenneth Clark, Dr. Honeyman and Dame Frances Farrer to support a second programme for commercial television.
Although one does not want the I.T.A. to be a "nanny"—the Postmaster-General's expression—it is difficult to resist the conclusion that the Authority has at times shown a cynicism, weakness and lack of awareness of the responsibility which rested upon it which cannot have helped the companies to produce the kind of constructive and creative programmes which we all want them to produce. Some of the evidence of the Independent Television Authority's own failure is to be found in the fact that it has not conducted consistent audience research. The audience research upon which it has embarked has been spasmodic and sporadic. I very much welcome therefore the decision of the Government to introduce Clause 15 which provides for consistent audience research by the Authority.
The B.B.C. shows an intense awareness of the need to be sensitive to public reaction and I think that the Independent Television Authority could do worse than study the methods which the B.B.C. adopts, not only the audience surveys conducted by Mr. Silvey but 967 also the other very considerable machinery the Corporation has set up to make sure that those running the Corporation are kept informed of the trends of public opinion.
I should like to touch very briefly on the finances of the programme companies. I fully sympathise with the desire of the Postmaster-General to stop the fantastic profits which some contractors have been making, but I must admit I am a little bit doubtful at this stage about the effect of the Postmaster-General's proposals based upon the gross advertising revenue which the companies receive. We shall, of course, have an opportunity of discussing this in Committee, and perhaps later still, but I hope that the Postmaster-General, or the Leader of the House, when he replies to this debate, will be able to give us an assurance that one of the factors which the Government will take into account will be the need for ploughing back revenue and protecting the conditions of employment, in the widest sense, of all those upon wham the efficiency and initiative and quality of the programmes depend. I would hope that any formula imposing what is, after all, a tax on the programme contractors, will be weighted in favour of those companies which show a proper sense of responsibility in the production of their programmes.
The last point I want to make is a brief one and a simple one and one on which I agree with the hon. Member for Hereford. It is a great pity that the Government should have introduced in the Bill the obligations and duties which it is proposed to impose on the B.B.C. Like the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hereford, I believe that the provisions are much more appropriate to the charter or licence of the Corporation itself, and it does look rather as though the Government are having a bit of a side swipe at the B.B.C. in including in the Bill restrictions which appear to show that they are broadminded and are imposing restrictions in both the B.B.C. and the Independent Television Authority. I hope that the Postmaster-General will have another look at the proposed rewording of Clause 18 which, I think, has been submitted to him by the Chairman of the Governors of the B.B.C.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Partridge (Battersea, South)
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Greenwood) has mentioned the speech by Mr. Kenneth Adam when he was addressing the Durham University Union Society, but what the hon. Member overlooked were the few words which immediately followed those which he quoted, for Mr. Adam went on to say thatWe are less and less concerned with commercial competition. We are even paying less attention to the counting of heads. We shall give up whole evenings to special projects. If, as happened when we did this with the production of Carmen before Christmas, we get an audience as large as 8¾ million, so much the better. But I declare here and now that we shall seek the ratings, in the sense of running after them, less and less.In other words, the B.B.C. is not going in for the counting of heads, although that is what the hon. Member stands for. That is not B.B.C. policy now, which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Rossendale said the Independent Television Authority should go in for, because the Government think it right so to do. I do not quite follow his argument, I am bound to say, but we will leave that point.
§ Mr. Greenwood
I think that perhaps the hon. Gentleman is under a pardonable confusion between audience research and T.A.M. ratings.
§ Mr. Partridge
Well, I will agree to that. However, it was to the counting of heads that he and I were referring.
As the hon. Gentleman said, we are today discussing not the B.B.C. but the Independent Television Authority. Nevertheless, in speech after speech today comparison has been made between I.T.V. and the B.B.C., and it is as though a culprit stands at the bar to have his conduct examined and the verdict brought against him. This seems to me to be wide of the mark, for here was a great adventure and a new venture, which has proved, in the event, so beneficial to so many interests—and I am not talking about tycoons.
It is obvious that after a period of eight years there are now some alterations which should be made, some improvements which have shown themselves as being required, but I am bound to say that I do not think that the Independent Television Authority has been so lax and 969 so wanting in its duty as hon. Gentlemen on the other side would have us believe. It had a difficult task, and I think that on the whole it has discharged it very well, and especially do I say that when the Authority is the first to say that an improvement is necessary now in the revision which had to come about as a result of its working over the last years.
I know that there are a great many of my hon. Friends who want to take part in this debate and therefore I shall confine my remarks to just two or three points which either have not been touched on before—I am sorry my hon. Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Sir W. Wakefield) is going out because I want to say something about him—or need some emphasis.
I must say I am sorry that the Postmaster-General should have allowed himself to use the words "licence to print money". This, I think, is a shocking travesty of the real circumstances.
§ Mr. Stratton Mills (Belfast, North)
My right hon. Friend was quoting, surely, from some other source?
§ Mr. Partridge
Well, I thought he was using the words as his own, that these people should not have a licence for the "printing" of money and that there was an obligation on him to see they did not have that opportunity in the future; but if I am wrong, I stand corrected.
However, as my hon. Friend the Member for St. Marylebone has said, in the first two years it was not a question of printing money. It was a question of printing I.O.U.'s and of guarantees of money by people who backed Independent Television in the first instance, and it took a long tune, and a great deal of courage, to see that Independent Television was on the right road. There has been a lot of talk about a public scandal. I do not see any scandal in it at all. These profits, if they have been made, have been made legitimately, and they have stood their fair share of taxation, which is to the benefit of all of us.
I come to the question of a second channel, which concerns my hon. Friend the Member for St. Marylebone, who said that we ought to experiment in pay T.V. I agree that certainly we ought, and we ought also to experiment with a second channel for the Independent Television 970 Authority. There ought to be no timidity about that and no timidity about pay T.V. There are plenty of people who think that the second channel is viable. If the four contractors, or three of them, do not think it is, they can stand aside. We will find somebody who does think it is viable, and who will operate it.
It is not a question of what the programme contractors want. It is a question of what we feel is best in the interests of the people generally, and it is my belief that it would be best to have a second channel not only as a counterblast to the B.B.C. but because, after all, if the B.B.C. thinks it can get balanced programmes only by having two channels, how is it expected that I.T.V. is to have this fine balance of programmes with only one channel? It is right that there should be two.
On the question of the rental payment, or whatever it may be, which is to be taken from the independent programme contractors, I am bound to say that I think my right hon. Friend's suggestion is better than the proposal in the Bill. Even so, I do not altogether like it. Perhaps I may quote an analogy. If the Crown leases a property in Regent Street or Piccadilly, a rental is charged which is considered consistent with the position of the property, since the lessee will have the benefit of being in the heart of London with crowds passing by. The rental having been settled, the lessee is allowed to make all the profits or losses he likes. It does not lie with the Government to have a sliding taxation scale for one industry, or for one set of people, that is not applicable to others.
Perhaps my right hon. Friend will look at this case from that angle and see whether a rental may not be fixed on a sliding scale, dependent on advertising revenue, which again depends to a large extent on the initiative of those who are selling time to the advertisers. He has already gone a long way to meet us on the question of the lease, but the right thing to do is to grant a programme company its rights for 12 years with a break possible every three years. This system would give a sanction to the Authority to use if a programme company were not standing up to its bargain. I hope that my right hon. Friend will think it right to give 12-year leases as security of tenure, with the Authority 971 having the right to break every third year.
Apparently we are to deal with the sliding scale by affirmative Resolution. I urge my right hon. Friend to ensure that these Resolutions are brought before the House not less than one year in advance so that the programme contractors will know before starting the following year's work what they will have to meet by way of additional revenue.
I do not see why it is not possible to grant a second channel to Independent Television. It could be taken up by those present companies which are willing to do so. If some programme contractors are not willing, we are quite prepared to find some who are. There should be a second channel for the I.T.A. as well as for the B.B.C. If it is said that London or other cities could not stand a fourth channel, I recommend hon. Gentlemen to look at the examples of Sydney and Melbourne, each of which sustains three competitive television channels. What is good enough for our Dominions is good enough for us. If they can make it work, so can we.
There is a vast body of opinion which wants a second channel for the I.T.A. and I hope that my right hon. Friend will take note of that.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
Referring at once to the speech of the hon. Member for Battersea, South (Mr. Partridge), I hope that the Postmaster-General will not consider the letting of a Crown lease as being analogous to a situation in which a franchise is granted to a programme contracting company. In the one case there is monopoly, in the other there is not. The situation is really more akin to the old arrangements under the licensing laws when extra payment was made by the lessee because a monopoly was being granted.
At the outset, I declare what is perhaps a dual interest. First, I am a member of the General Advisory Council of the B.B.C. and have done a fair amount of sound broadcasts on the B.B.C. Secondly, I have also been a televiser on the independent network. In fact, before I tried out the myth of earning my living as a full-time Member 972 of Parliament, I made a living on television. Perhaps this duality of interests can counter any charge of prejudice one way or the other.
This Bill is a compromise between Pilkington and two White Papers. There are factors in the Bill which are profoundly disturbing. There are three objectives which I accept. These are, first, greater control over the quality and balance of programmes, for which purpose greater power is to be given to the Authority; secondly, that a larger share of the profits should go to the Treasury—based largely on the argument that this is a monopoly; and, thirdly—I hope—that help should be given to the smaller companies.
First, however, I want to mention the financial proposals in Clause 7. I am greatly relieved that the Government have withdrawn their original proposals, which really were a constitutional abomination. How any Government, even in the state of decay of this Government, could have thought up such a scheme and expected us to pass it I do not know. I hope that we shall never again have a proposal in which a Minister seeks to arrogate to himself powers to have a discussion with the Treasury, evolve a general formula for taxation and not only decide that formula, but also have the right to vary it, as and when he thinks necessary, without any control by this House.
That would have been a very extended power of taxation which the Government originally hoped to push through without any Parliamentary control. All that we would have had was the report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General on the amount of money raised. I hope that the Leader of the House, now that he is here, will point out to his colleagues that if the Government are really serious about Parliamentary control over taxation we should never again be asked to consider the ridiculous proposals we had originally in Clause 7.
The new proposal is very much more workmanlike. But it is suggested that for a programme to be regional in the sense that it can put out 12 per cent. to 15 per cent. of its own programmes, it will probably need an advertising income of about £1 million a year, and that to achieve this it will probably need a viewership of 2 million and upwards. If 973 a programme company has a population smaller than that, then it will face a real difficulty.
I hope, therefore, that this will be on a sliding scale so that the greater the income from advertising revenue the greater the rate of taxation, or, if that is not feasible, that the figure will start only at perhaps £250,000 or £500,000. I cannot propose a precise level, but at any rate taxation should only begin to operate above a certain figure.[HON. MEMBERS: "That is what the Postmaster-General said."] If that is so, I missed it and I apologise.
§ Mr. John Howard (Southampton, Test)
My right hon. Friend said that the first £1¼ million of advertising receipts would be free and that the percentage thereafter would be on a sliding scale.
§ Mr. Thorpe
I apologise for having missed this. That will be a great help to the smaller companies.
I also think it salutary that the 11 per cent. tax is to be abolished, because that has had a crippling effect on the smaller television companies. I believe that the new financial proposals are likely to be of help to the small companies and will achieve the purpose of drawing off some of the enormous profits of the larger companies.
The provisions of Clause 2 are disturbing. I have no quarrel with the beginning of this Clause, in which general principles are laid down. But what I think is very dangerous is to try to set down a code of broadcasting practice which is to be followed. As has been pointed out by the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Gibson-Watt), the Independent Television companies, pursuant to Section 3 (1, a) of the 1954 Act, are already under very stringent control with regard to certain forms of broadcasting. For example, as I apprehend it, it would be an offence against this Act for any sort of parody on any Cabinet Minister to be seen on Independent Television, whereas it is a cause of great joy not only to hon. Members on this side of the House but, I think, to many hon. Gentlemen opposite, to see this transmitted by the B.B.C., particularly on "T.W.T.W.T.W."
974 What is this code? How detailed is it? Is it merely to lay down general principles as to what is regarded as good taste; as to what is regarded as the maximum amount of violence which may be permitted in any one period of transmission? Is this to be the general principle? If it is, I do not think that it needs legislation for the Authority to bring in such a code. Or is it to be very detailed? For example, is it to be said that the dignity of the office of Prime Minister must be respected on Independent Television; and that it is permissible to imitate the Prime Minister's voice but not to refer to his relations or his moustache? This is very important, because all television codes are basically negative, and I think that we have to be careful not to cripple the initiative and creativeness of those who are responsible for creating programmes.
I agree with those who have criticised the Authority for not having been sufficiently stringent in the application of the principles laid on it by Statute, but if the Authority is to take its general responsibility under Clause 2 seriously, and if the submission of programmes under Clause 3 is also to mean anything, then clearly one must either trust these members of the Authority or not. I do not think that it is right to go on and suggest that over and above that they have to draw up a code.
I also agree with the hon. Member for Hereford that these persons should not be members of any political party. I think that for the moment that problem has been solved. The exodus from this side of the House seems to have stopped, and I believe that there is a natural disinclination for the trickle to continue from the party opposite, for obvious reasons. If the Government appoint someone whom they are confident will operate the first part of Clause 2, and Clause 3, this code could be dangerous, and, I think, would be unnecessary.
I also want to ask a question about Clause 3. The first point which is a little worrying to me is that in the discussions on the schedules all the programme companies are to be together each telling the other what it has in mind. I have a little experience of having drawn up scripts for programmes and having submitted various programmes for consideration. The advantage today is that there 975 are four or five different companies to whom one can take one's script, and I believe that the contracting companies greatly value the competitiveness particularly between the big four.
For example, if one contracting company starts a science brains trust, it is determined that this shall not leak out, because not only may the B.B.C. scoop it, but another company might, and I believe that this element of competition is valuable.
What will be the scope of the submission? Is it merely to be the outline of the general philosophy behind the programme and perhaps one dummy script, or is it to be a verbatim note of all the scripts in the series? This is very important. I know that in certain programmes one wants to reserve some fluidity. For example, I have chaired a scientific brains trust for Independent Television. From week to week we used to decide what some of the questions would be as a result of the queries we received from viewers, and in relation to these questions we would make a selection of either this or that scientist. It is very important that commercial companies should not be expected to submit verbatim scripts which will be gone through line by line.
What is the object of this submission? Is it merely to ensure that there is clearance; that the company is putting out programmes of high quality and high standard, or is it only to be suggestions submitted by companies with the Authority settling the blueprint for the next six to twelve months? If that duty is put on the Authority, I must point out that it has not the people to fulfil that rôle, and that it was never created to discharge such a duty. I hope that we shall get an answer to this point. I think that we should also be told how much in advance these submissions are to be made. Is this to be for a whole year, or quarter by quarter? How much in advance must a company submit its plans?
There are also certain matters of networking about which I hope the Government will help us. It was Pilkington who said that it was desirable and probably inevitable, and I think that this is probably right because it means that good programmes are put on regional networks or regional sets which the regional company could not itself afford to put on. 976 I think also that the affiliation system has, on balance, been good. In many cases the original company could not have got off the ground. The criticisms which have been made are that the small regional companies have had an inadequate choice of programme off the network, and that there is inadequate opportunity for their own programmes to be purchased and put out on the network.
One small company has estimated that on the basis of the price it pays for the programmes which find their way over the network, very nearly £3¾ million a year finds its way into the large companies from these smaller companies. This works out at roughly £1,500 an hour, which is on the high side, even bearing in mind the point made by the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. J. Howard). It is also on the high side, bearing in mind the restriction of choice of the small companies and the difficulty they have in getting their own subject matter put over.
The Leader of the House is at present busy collecting political propaganda. This point might be useful to him. I do not like the power of direction in Clause 4. It seems ironical that a Conservative Government should provide power to direct a programme contractor to put on a particular programme, or part of one. I hope that in Committee this creeping Socialism from the party opposite will be checked.
There are one or two points I should like to make on Clause 8 with regard to newspaper shareholdings. Although it is accepted that there has been no abuse, nobody has tried to indicate what is meant by abuse. What is the Cadbury position—if I may call it that—in which an important franchise in Tyne-Tees was awarded to a daily newspaper? The people concerned got rid of their newspaper holdings, but retained their television holdings. Is such an operation within the purview of the Clause, in connection with shares passing to different sources, or is it merely to operate if it can be shown that there is abuse on the part of the newspaper? What constitutes abuse, in the mind of the Government?
If a newspaper can abuse its position, surely other shareholders can. I know that in one company the directors are closely associated with a theatrical agency. I do not say that there has been 977 any abuse, but what would be the position if it could be shown that only artistes connected with that theatrical agency appeared on television for that company? What would be the position if a chain of cinema owners accepted only advertisements for cinemas connected with their chain? Why are newspapers singled out? I congratulate the Government. They have always been disinclined to cross swords with the predominantly Tory Press; but I should like to know what they mean by abuse, and why they have not included other interests besides newspaper interests.
I hope it will not be thought that the provisions contained in Clause 10 (2, a) are a licence to I.T.N. to go into the market for documentaries and other outside broadcasts. These would be in direct competition to the documentary programmes put on by the independent companies, which have proved to be one of the better type of programme put out by the independent companies. We must remember that the independent companies will be financing the I.T.N., and it seems wrong to subsidise a programme which will directly compete with the best programmes already being put out by the companies.
The hon. Member for Hereford and the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) argued that Clause 18, in its references to the B.B.C., was inappropriate in the Bill. I agree. But I accept Clause 16 with joy. In the past, the House has been very sensitive about criticisms in the Press, and on television, and especially Independent Television. Before I was elected to the House we broadcasters were enjoined to be very careful about the ridiculous 14-day rule that was then in operation. I always went out of my way to break it. I hope that it will be agreed as much by hon. Members as by the television companies that programmes of a politically or industrially controversial nature should be considered as a whole before a conclusion is drawn whether or not a balance has been maintained.
I hope that we shall not have the rather stupid Motions that we sometimes get and which are no credit to the House, put down by outraged Members criticising this or that programme, and similar Questions asked of the Postmaster-General. We are in a walk of life which invites criticism, and the criticism which the 978 B.B.C. has started, at last, in "T.W.T.W.T.W." is excellent for British politics and public life.
The point made by the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) is very important. We must not be rigid in our approach to the precise limits of the regions. It should be possible to redraw the frontiers peaceably. We are discussing, not the Congo, but the regions of commercial television. My heart bleeds for the hon. Member about the position in Wales. I would willingly surrender part of the television territory which he enjoys in North Devon. In Devon, we regularly receive television and sound broadcasts in Welsh. Unfortunately, T.W.W. has not given us any textbooks, and I have no means of knowing what is being said by Welsh speakers. I speak a little Welsh, but not enough to enjoy their programmes. It is ludicrous to have this overlapping, and I do not see why there should not be a redrafting of the boundary.
If the Government can give an answer to the points that I have raised the future of Independent Television can be stimulating. We are still in the infancy of educational television. I had the privilege of giving 12 law lectures in the schools programmes, and I was enormously impressed by the research that was carried out, the notes that went out to the teachers, and the relationship between the company and the various education authorities. In America, people can take extra-mural classes before breakfast. Hundreds of thousands of people there take television courses before going to work. There are enormous possibilities in this.
The Bill goes a long way to check any of the excesses experienced with Independent Television. Apart from that, Independent Television has a great future, provided that the Authority is given the necessary power—but not too much of it.
§ 7.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke (Bristol, West)
I am not a pillar of the Establishment, nor a member of the Advisory Council of the B.B.C. I have not appeared on B.B.C. television, nor have I a financial interest of any kind in any commercial television company. Nor have I a local axe of any sort to grind.[HON. MEMBERS: "Then sit down."] But I can claim to have been 979 and to be a television viewer in London, Bristol, in Somerset, Dorset and Cornwall, and during a long tour of the United States, at the invitation of their Government, I saw a good deal of American television and was asked to appear on it, although not in colour.
During the last few months I have received about one cwt. of paper from television companies and other interested bodies, but I can safely claim not to have been pressurised by it, or by anything else that happened to me during that time. I had some letters from my constituents, however, when a report appeared in a newspaper that I was taking a particular interest in broadcasting. My constituents, in the main, asked two questions—"Are you going to be on T.V.?" and "Are you going to make the programmes better?" Those are two contradictory questions, but I assured my constituents that the one aim of all those of my hon. Friends to whom I had talked was to make the programmes better. That is what the Bill is about; at least, I hope so.
I said that I would not quote from the large pile of paper that I have received, and I will endeavour not to do so, but I must refer in passing to the Pilkington Report. This is not a sort of Bible, although some parts read like the Apocrypha, too much like Jeremiah, and not enough like the Book of Revelation. But the Report provides a useful basis for discussion. That is why it was written. However, it is up to Parliament to decide what to do about the future of commercial television and the B.B.C.
The object of the Bill is to produce the best programmes as soon as possible, but we shall not get them if we proceed with undue haste. Most worth-while things take a little time to bear fruit.
The result of the onset of Independent Television was an improvement in B.B.C. programmes, and now the B.B.C. is to be given the opportunity of producing the new 625-line channel. In my view this should be followed by a commercial channel of the same sort as soon as possible. This is not quite so easy as some hon. Members suggest. A new commercial 625-line channel would, at this moment, necessarily run into certain difficulties, because only a small number of sets can receive the signal, and it will 980 be some time before enough will be able to do so to provide the necessary advertising revenue to finance the programme.
A programme could be produced by one of the existing large companies. It could be run at a loss, if necessary, against the profits made by the large companies from their present transmissions. Associated Television has made a courageous gesture in suggesting that it would be prepared to produce a programme on the 625-line channel. No doubt the other three big companies would have to follow suit if the Government allowed Associated Television to proceed with its plan.
The result of that would be that one would get a duplicated big four, with two programmes each, and not a big eight which would be the best way to get real competition. It is true that if one had the big four duplicated, it might be possible later on to split it up in such a way as to divide each one of the big four into two, so that they did not have any real connection with each other, but it would be extremely difficult to do and to be fair to those who had pioneered the service. I doubt whether, if the Government at this moment offered a second channel on 625 lines for commercial television, anyone would come forward with a new company to produce a programme.
I want to say a word about the smaller companies which have already been mentioned by several hon. Members. Unless the interests of the smaller companies had been protected there would not be any small companies now and we would have no programmes of local character. If I may refer in passing to the Report which I said I would not quote from, I think that it would be rather less than fair to these smaller companies to suggest that they did not produce programmes of a local character. The financial provisions of Clause 7 will, I think, help the smaller companies enormously, and my right hon. Friend's suggestion of imposing a levy when the advertising income exceeds £1¼ million seems a step in the right direction, but it might be necessary to push it a little higher to make quite certain that the smaller companies have enough revenue to produce quality programmes and to go on improving their quality.
We could get two independent programmes on 625 lines in the smaller 981 areas by doubling up the area. For example, if we took the whole of the south of England from Cornwall to Kent and covered it by Westward and Southern television the two companies could compete over the whole of that area. That would provide them with sufficient revenue and sufficient territory to get their advertising income and to produce competing programmes, and we would still get programmes of local character.
Many hon. Members have suggested that the boundaries should be redrawn and I would press for that. I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to make some helpful remarks in that direction in due course, because the smaller companies could do a much better job if the areas were a little more fair. I would not go quite so far as to suggest that it would have been possible for the I.T.A. to have got it all right the first time, because all the companies did not start at the same time, but there are certainly some companies, in North Wales in particular, which, I know, find life very difficult and which may not be able to continue.
It has been suggested by some that the smaller companies have been guilty of extravagance. That may be so, but there is one very dangerous factor creeping in. I am not an expert on trade union affairs, so I am careful how far I go on that, but I think that it is true to say that there have been, and are, certain restrictive practices among unions concerned with television production of one sort or another, which means that more people are employed on particular jobs than are necessary and some companies, at any rate those which appear on the surface to be rich employers, have given in to this pressure and employ more people than are required. This applies particularly to many programmes produced by regional companies. This is against the national interest because the smaller companies could produce very good stuff of local interest if they could afford to do it, but at present they are made to make it too elaborate.
The networking problem is difficult, but it has tended to be a fact that the whole thing has been a carve-up between the big four so far, and I hope that the Bill will give the smaller people 982 a real chance. Although the big companies say that the smaller ones do not produce anything worth putting on the network, it is also true that the smaller ones are not inspired to produce programmes of national interest because they know in advance that they will probably not get them on the network, but if the market can be created perhaps such programmes will come from the smaller people.
The B.B.C. has made observations about educational television and I think that it is right in saying that it should not be a separate service but should be integrated with the existing service. I feel that even if programmes of a sporting, musical or entertaining nature go out for much of the day, no one, whatever his level of intelligence, should leave his television set after a day's viewing without having learned something new, some new useful fact or other.
Much has been said about Clause 7 already and I welcome the fact that my right hon. Friend has been able to take out the objectionable principles. He can never get it right so that it pleases everyone, but he has come very near to doing so. I hope that when the scale is published, it will still be worth while for the more successful companies to earn advertising revenue right up at the top of the scale. I hope that the scale will not be so penal as to frighten them off from doing their best right up to the top.
Much has been said about the monopoly position of television companies. I shall not go into that in any detail, except to say that it occurs to me that enormous sums were lost at the beginning although enormous profits are now being made.
Several hon. Members have referred to the possible dangers of newspaper interests, and it has been said, in reply, that these newspaper interests have had no significant effect up to the present. But it is as well during the proceedings of the Bill to recognise that this could be a danger, perhaps more at local than at national level. One has only to see the way in which some national newspapers have reported certain events recently which have not reflected very well on those papers—omitting great slices of news which did not reflect well on the 983 paper in question—to see the need to have in television one means of communication which is in no way in the hands of the gentlemen of the Press. A healthy diversity of the means of communication is what we want.
I will say only a word about pay television. If there is a case for experiment in pay television, there is surely a case for experimenting in local sound broadcasting. No one has yet managed to convince me, in view of the fact that there seems to be little public enthusiasm for either, that there should not be an experiment in both.
I hope that, as a result of the Bill and what follows it, I.T.A., the companies and the B.B.C. will be able to compete on equal terms. It will be very difficult for commercial television to compete on equal terms with the B.B.C. in many fields, whatever we do, because the B.B.C. is one single, monolithic unit, and its means for gathering news and for producing documentary programmes are bound always to be better and better staffed than anything that any of the companies can provide, including the big four.
The Bill is rather restrictive on the independent companies. Probably it goes a bit far in a few places, certainly if it were to be applied as it is drafted. But we have an assurance that many of these restrictions would not be operated in the way in which some people have suggested.
Nevertheless, the B.B.C. now delights in referring to "Auntie I.T.A." If the B.B.C. has lost its maiden aunt image it has surely done so by sometimes appearing rather like a beatnik teen-ager. Surely a little give and take here and there in the final stages of the Bill and in introducing the new B.B.C. Charter could have a very good effect on both bodies.
I want to look a little further afield. The export of ideas is surely just as valuable as the export of nuts and bolts. No doubt we can do much to export our ideas by means of television, and I hope that no decisions which are taken on the technical side will make it impossible for us to operate in the widest possible field. I hope that the whole thought behind the Bill is to look forward and 984 outward. Commercial television as it has developed has confounded its critics. It has done much better than its opponents ever expected. Given a chance, commercial television has a great future—if we give it a chance.
§ 7.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Francis Noel-Baker (Swindon)
I propose at this stage to intervene very briefly and to confine myself to talking about two Clauses which the Postmaster-General did not see fit to mention at all —much to my surprise and to that of many of my hon. Friends. I refer to Clauses 5 and 6, which deal with the arrangements to control advertisements in commercial television programmes and to set up machinery within the Independent Television Authority to advise upon and to enforce this control.
I do so partly because I am associated with an independent consumers' organisation, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) referred briefly from the Front Bench, of which the treasurer and one of the members of the executive committee are members of the Conservative Party, of which another leading member is a member of the Liberal Party and of which the president is the former Archbishop of Canterbury. We are an entirely non-political consumers' organisation, a pressure group, if hon. Members so wish to describe us, but a pressure group which seeks to represent the interests of the general public in all matters connected with advertising.
During the last two or three years, we have developed a degree of public support and of public recognition which has surprised some of the people who criticised us when we first started. One of the recent activities of this body was a report on tobacco advertising, which has been widely quoted in the House, to which I shall refer briefly before I sit down and which was commended to all Government Departments concerned by the Prime Minister at Question Time.
The Advertising Inquiry Council was one of the bodies which gave evidence to the Pilkington Committee. Nearly all its suggestions were accepted by the Committee and a good many of them have turned themselves into Clauses 5 and 6. Consequently, had it not been for our experience with I.T.A. during the last few 985 years I should commend very much indeed what is done in the Bill about advertising.
Unfortunately, our experience—and I am speaking, I hope, more as a representative of the consumer generally than as a party politician—has been that although in the past the I.T.A. has had ample powers to deal with and to control the abuses in advertising and to ensure that misleading and sometimes dangerous advertisements did not appear on the television screen, it has acted far too often as the apologist of the advertising interests concerned and very often it has not been until my hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite have campaigned, sometimes for months on end about a particular advertisement, that the I.T.A. has taken action.
Like the advertising industry as a whole, it has become much more sensitive recently, and I think that this is partly the result of the growth of consumer consciousness among the general public and of the fact that more and more attention has been devoted by the victims of advertising to the processes by which advertisements are aimed at them.
At all events, the I.T.A. had adequate powers under the old Act to deal with advertising, its content and the frequency of advertising in relation to the programmes in which it appeared. Unfortunately, those powers were not effectively used, and many of us feel that the position will not be satisfactory unless there is a drastic change in the set-up of the I.T.A. and, more important, changes of personnel, too—and I am not referring to the suggestion that a Conservative ex-Minister might become chairman of it; we hope that he will not. We think that some changes of personnel are necessary on the basis of past experience if these Clauses, among others, are not to remain dead letters.
There is a reference to the Advertising Advisory Committee of the I.T.A., which is to be changed and strengthened. Many people feel that this body was over-weighted with representatives of the advertising interests, met far too rarely, had very little effect on which advertisements appeared on the screen and did not see anything like the number of television advertisements which it should have seen. I understand that this body meets three or four times a year and 986 normally does not see an advertisement before it appears unless or until there has been a fuss made about it either in this place or elsewhere. That body is considered to be very ineffective indeed by many people outside and also by some members of the Committee themselves.
I therefore hope very much that when it is reconstituted it will be more effective and more active, that there will be fewer representatives of the advertising interests on it and that there will be representatives of the consumer organisations which seek to represent the public in conformity with the reference in Clause 6 (3) to the reconstituted body including peoplerepresentative of the public as consumers".Incidentally, I very much hope that the Advertising Inquiry Council will be one of those, and I believe that representations will be made to the Government by people supporting that body on both sides of the House before the Bill goes much further.
Anybody who has followed the career of some of the worst medical advertisements on commercial television—toothpastes and others—will welcome the provision in Clause 6 (4) of a medical advisory panel which is to see alladvertisements for medicines and medical and surgical treatments and appliances … for toilet products which include claims as to the therapeutic or prophylactic effects of the products … advertisements for medicines and medical and surgical treatments for veterinary purposes".They are to see them before they appear on the television screen at all. I am bound to say that my colleagues on the Council and I, and many hon. Members also, think that if it is possible and workable to set up a committee of this kind which will see all advertisements dealing with medical products before they are screened, then the argument for not having all television commercials screened by an independent body before they appear has vanished. If it can be done in the case of medicine, why cannot it be done generally, and why cannot the reconstituted Advertising Advisory Committee have a number of subcommittees working under it which will see all commercials before they appear?
§ Mr. Shepherd
The bon. Member has been referring to the advertising policy of the Independent Television companies. Has his organisation looked at 987 the policy of London Transport, which accepts "phoney" medical advertisements much more readily than I.T.A. has ever done?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
That is as may be. We not only scrutinise, within our limited resources, advertisements on television but on all other media. This, however, is a debate concerned with television and, therefore, I am concentrating my speech on television advertising. There is a real difficulty that different media adopt different standards. I should have enjoyed it, had it been in order, to have my attention directed to what is happening to Government posters about the dangers of smoking. When Government Departments and official bodies wished to display them on the hoardings of the advertising industry, that did not take place, and the hon. Member knows the reason.
I am glad to see the last words in Clause 6 (4) which adds other advertisements which may be referred to the panel. The words are:and such other advertisements as the Authority may think fit to refer to the panel".That goes very wide and I am glad it is so. I hope that the time may come when all sorts of advertisements not directly connected with medical products, but with an effect on health may be referred to the medical advisory panel.
Before pursuing that line of thought, I add that I am disturbed by the last three lines of Clause 6, which say:Provided that this subsection shall not apply to an advertisement first broadcast by the Authority on or before 29th July 1964.It means that the medical panel will not be able to stop medical advertising to which it takes exception if that advertising has gone on before that date.
§ Sir Leslie Plummer (Deptford)
Does my hon. Friend appreciate that the panel could not stop any advertising? All it can do is to give advice to the Authority and the Authority does not have to take that advice.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I said at the beginning of my remarks on this subject that the whole thing depended on how the Authority interpreted the new powers and provisions in the Bill. Of course my hon. Friend is quite right; what I should have 988 said is that under the last three lines of the Clause the medical panel will not be able to examine and recommend in respect of medical advertising which has gone on before that date. That is regrettable. If the advertisements are bad and objectionable and the panel thinks that there is something wrong with them, why should they be allowed to continue simply because they had been going on for some time?
I conclude with a few words about a particular type of television advertising which has been mentioned a number of times in Question and Answer in this House. That is the advertising of cigarettes on television. The Leader of the House will recollect the Report by the Royal College of Physicians, presented to their Fellows in October, 1961, which must have been shown to the Government shortly afterwards and which was published in March last year, but on which we did not get a statement of Government policy until July. In answer to Questions, the Assistant Postmaster-General told one of my hon. Friends that the Authority had now completed its new rules about cigarette advertising, but they would not apply until the middle of August. From October, when the doctors said most powerful and categorical things not only about the dangers of smoking, but also about the vices of tobacco advertising, it took ten months before any action was taken. That seems quite disgraceful.
The new rules which are now being applied by the I.T.A. seem entirely inadequate. The whole case against restricting cigarette advertising has been given away by the recognition by the tobacco companies that it ought not to appear before nine o'clock in the evening. This is an "Alice in Wonderland" situation because the children and young people most likely to be affected by cigarette advertising and who are supposed to be protected by the new rules are precisely those who will be watching television after nine o'clock, not before. The rule would make more sense if it were the other way round, but the principle has been conceded. The only policy which makes sense is to ban cigarette and tobacco advertising on television altogether.
If the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Shepherd) asks why I do not relate this to other media, I reply that I would be in 989 favour of doing what the Italian Government did not long ago—get rid of cigarette advertising altogether. In case some of my hon. Friends are wondering what type of image the Labour Party would put before the country at the next General Election by calling for the banning of cigarette advertising, my answer is that I do not believe anyone, except perhaps advertising agents, would care. A large part of their revenue, especially the leading agents', comes from cigarette advertising accounts. Their profits were hit after the report. In some cases their profits went down by a quarter immediately after action was taken by the Government and the tobacco companies. I do not think that anyone else would care at all if cigarette advertising were prohibited.
The hardened smoker—I used to be one myself until I gave it up—would be delighted to see cigarette advertising disappear. The cigarette manufacturers say that their purpose is not to encourage more people to smoke, not to increase the total sales of tobacco and not to attract young people. Some of us may have our private opinions about the sincerity of this sentiment, but that is what they say. If it is not to increase the sales, who ought to be more delighted than they if cigarette advertising were abolished? In view of the seriousness of the medical evidence there is a strong case for following the good example set by other countries.
It appears from Answers given in the House at Question Time that this at one time was, in fact, in the mind of the Government. On 22nd May, 1962, as reported in column 202 in Written Answers for that day, the Postmaster-General told my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun):… I.T.A. is discussing the matter with its Advertising Advisory Committee, which may recommend a complete ban. If it does, that advice would be mandatory on I.T.A.He added:I have power, if I decide to use it, to ban all cigarette advertising on television …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd May, 1962; Vol. 660, c. 202.]
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Wilkins) has tobacco interests in his 990 constituency, as I have in Swindon, but if he will allow me, I shall finish this passage before giving way to him. I think it has been in the mind of the Government to ban cigarette advertising on television. That was indicated by the Answer I have quoted from the Postmaster-General. Later, on 22nd January this year, in a Written Answer, he said:I see no reason to single out the television medium for such a purpose."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd January, 1963; Vol. 670, c. 4.]He meant the banning of cigarette advertising.
§ Mr. Wilkins
Why does my hon. Friend single out tobacco as the one commodity which ought to be banned? Does he not agree intoxicants should also be banned? After all, tobacco smokers are not responsible for people losing their lives in accidents on the roads in the same way as are drunken drivers.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I say for the record that I am not asking for the banning of the use of tobacco, or wishing anyone who wants to smoke to be banned from obtaining cigarettes or any other tobacco products quite freely, but I think that if my hon. Friend takes the trouble to study the report which was published by the Royal College of Physicians——
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
My hon. Friend says that he has read it. If he thinks it over, and also the other medical evidence, he will come to the conclusion that there is a strong case for not allowing the industry concerned to spend up to £18 million a year in apparently persuading people to increase their smoking. There is no doubt in anyone's mind that the advertisements that went out until the new rules were made, which emphasised the link between cigarettes and romantic situations—the loving couple with their "Player's" on the beach or in the woods—were quite a deliberate attempt to capture young people and persuade them to start smoking.
I do not want to go into this at length. If one looks at the contents of cigarette advertising and considers it in relation to this report and other medical evidence, it is quite clearly time something was done. In fact, even without the 991 necessity for Government action, something was done by the tobacco companies. But it was not enough. I urge the Leader of the House and his right hon. Friends to think again about the advisability of a complete ban on cigarette advertising on television and to consider the point which I have made, that the reaction, except from the advertising agents, would not be of any significant importance.
I welcome part of the Bill and trust that it will be very much more effectively implemented than the Television Act which is now in force. The advertising provisions will be all right if they are enforced effectively in the public interest by a new, invigorated, and, where necessary, aggressive I.T.A.
§ 7.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)
In his closing remarks about tobacco advertising the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. F. Noel-Baker) touched on an important and serious problem with which the Independent Television Authority has had to deal. I feel that the arguments are extremely finely balanced, but if the Government should desire the banning of television advertising of cigarettes, I, for one, would certainly not object.
The fact that this debate has taken place in such a passionless atmosphere is a tribute to the success of commercial television and of my, right hon. Friend in drafting the Bill. I agree with hon. Members that the new Clause 7 is a great improvement. I should like to see some strengthening of Clause 8, dealing with newspaper holdings. But I think that it will be almost impossible in Committee to make this part of the Bill more effective.
Considering Clause 11, I am not sure that we have yet hit on the right balance regarding the length of time for programme contracts. It seems to me that three years may well be too short a period. But these are financial details. I wish to turn to the part of the Bill which seeks to improve the programmes. This is an exceedingly difficult thing to do, because, despite Pilkington and the television critics, there is a very wide disagreement about what raises or debases our standards in television.
992 I believe that "Juke Box Jury" is one of the worst programmes put out over the air. On the other hand, an hon. Member for whose views I have the highest respect, tells me that this programme has a great educational value in that it plants—for the first time—tiny seeds of critical analysis in tiny minds, and that this is of immense value. Is it good or bad? It is difficult to set serious objective standards.
One thing with which we should be concerned when considering the Bill is the need to widen the area of choice available to the average viewer. I believe that this could be done if the Postmaster-General would bring the I.T.A. and the B.B.C. together and persuade them to stop the nonsensical war going on between them over television audience ratings. I happen to like Westerns. And if, on Saturday evening, one wished to look at "Laramie" and "Bonanza" it would be quite impossible to do so. There is overlapping of these two programmes and it is impossible to watch both. If, on the other hand, as is perfectly possible, a sensible and well-balanced individual happened to loathe Westerns he is faced with a similar programme on both channels at the same time and has no effective choice.
On Sunday evenings, there is serious drama and it seems absolutely nonsensical that one should not be able to watch the offerings of both commercial television and the B.B.C. One must make a choice. I do not believe, as was suggested by the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey), that this matter could be dealt with effectively by legislation. But I think that it would benefit viewers if the Postmaster-General could bring the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. together to try to put the situation right.
But basically if we are to have more choice on television we must have more channels. I do not believe that the highest priority should be given to a new channel for commercial television. I hope, however, that very soon we shall see the introduction into this country of pay television. I hope that this will happen, not only because I think it would bring more variety and better quality programmes to many sets, but, also, it could be of great benefit to cultural and sporting organisations which, at the moment, are starved of funds. We are in the absurd 993 position that people are sports-mad. They look at sporting events on television and while that is going on many of the leading sporting organisations are faced with bankruptcy.
The recent Test cricket series against Pakistan was not the most thrilling that there has ever been. Yet almost every day almost 3 million people watched these games on television. Yet the county cricket championship is faced with collapse because of the threatened bankruptcy of the county cricket clubs. Pay television could in a couple of days transform this position. Recently, 4 million people watched the Amateur Athletic Association's championships on television, although the Association cannot readily find enough money to send teams to the European Games, the Empire Games and the Olympic Games.
§ Mr. Tomney
I object most strongly to the amount of time devoted by the B.B.C. to cricket. Anybody who wants this should be able to pay for it. How much it is costing the taxpayer for all this cricket to be shown, goodness knows, but whatever it is it is far too much.
§ Mr. Goodhart
I agree with the hon. Gentleman. I believe that the transfer of a considerable section of sport to pay television would be of as much benefit to those who hate sport as it would be to those who like it.
I believe that if pay television were introduced and if the sporting authorities organised themseleves properly, pay television could do more for sport and other parts of our cultural scene than the implementation of any number of Wolfenden Reports on outdoor sports. In the parts of the Bill dealing with the Independent Television Authority I think that my right hon. Friend has been sensible and, I believe, on the whole cautious.
I hope that before the Bill leaves the House we shall have a declaration of intention on the introduction of a pay television experiment which is both bold and forthright.
§ 8.2 p.m.
§ Sir Leslie Plummer (Deptford)
Before I make a comment on the interesting speech of the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart), I have to declare an interest. In 1953 when we were first 994 debating commercial television I pointed out that I had been for many years adviser to a man who was proposing to ask for a commercial television licence. I said then that nevertheless I proposed to vote against the Bill, and did so. I am still an adviser to that gentleman, who has a licence. I must say that he does not take my advice very often but I am in relation with him, and it is only right that the House should know of that.
Like the hon. Member for Beckenham, I deplore this fight for the T.A.M. ratings between the B.B.C. and the Authority, but who started it? It was started as part of the propaganda organised by the Authority itself. The Authority was not content when it started its work with getting on with the job, but it had to traduce the B.B.C.; it had to show that the B.B.C. was incompetent, ineffectual and effete, and it did so by the production of a series of figures and charts designed to prove how absolutely glorious I.T.V. was.
Now we know that it was not. We said that it was not going to be. The Bill now recognises the folly of the Act. It contained follies which we forecast eight or nine years ago. The great mistake which the Government made in introducing the commercial television Bill originally was in assuming that there was an almost inexhaustible reservoir of talent for commercial or other television. We know that that is not so. There is no pool of talent for writers or musicians, for composers, for actors, for comedians, because even the B.B.C. has had to turn to the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir G. Nabarro) to liven its programmes.
The Government would not listen when we said that this medium was all-devouring. It could be fed, and fed and fed with plays, actors, musicians, and so on, and still it would call for more. Because the Government would not recognise these facts when we told them, they established too many programme companies. What we are suffering from at the moment is that we have too many incompetent programme companies.
As the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) made clear, the division of the country was done on the basis that everything would be all right if there were lots of competition. Now there are 15 commercial television companies. 995 Three or four of them are "on the rocks". One of them last week or a fortnight ago literally had to be saved from going under. Others are menaced. This is because this instrument needs not a lot of little companies but some properly organised large companies operating on a basis that makes it viable for them. This is where we are going to go.
It is not possible for the small companies to produce good programmes. It is not always possible for the big companies to produce good programmes. Those of us who have to suffer A.B.C. programmes on Sunday night will know how bad a programme one of the big companies can produce. A.B.C. produces a programme called "The Avengers" which is beneath contempt. It is not that it is not suitable for children. It is not suitable for adults. It is an extremely bad programme produced by one of the big companies with plenty of money and a chain of cinemas behind it.
Now the suggestion is that we can by the Bill ensure that the mistakes or the lack of talent shown by a big company like this can be overcome by the small companies. I do not believe that that is possible. As hon. Members have made clear, some of the small companies have been in existence and will continue in existence only because of the beneficial effects of networking. It is natural that networking would be successful. The four big companies have the resources which were given to them because in the first place the country was divided in such a way that they became automatically big companies. They have the resources to be able to hire the best talent. They did what I think was a right and proper thing in spreading those benefits among all the companies.
One of the accusations has been that networking has resulted in a lot of light and trivial programmes. I am not worried about light and trivial programmes. What I am much more worried about is what are called serious programmes. We have now got to the position in this country when radio interviewers on serious programmes act not as interviewers but as inquisitors. A person who happens to be sufficiently reactionary and has a Canadian accent can play hell with the Labour Party spokesman on television. If one is determined 996 to put somebody over the barrel one can do it quite easily on television.
I want to see the Authority having a few words with these smug young gentlemen who, with no experience of life behind them, are setting themselves up as the inquisitors of the people who go before them. They have to learn—I say this as an ex-newspaper man—that good interviewers do not interpose themselves between the man being interviewed and the person who is looking in. John Freeman was an example of that with his programme: when the viewer never saw anything of him but the back of his head. This is the sort of thing which could be done. I do not believe that the present suggestion for reconstituting the I.T.A. will do much to improve the programmes; certainly not the present I.T.A.
Let us look at the I.T.A.'s record—at its general lack of control and its policy of always defending I.T.V. at all costs. My hon. Friends have gone to the I.T.V. people time and again to complain about what we regard as breaches of the Act concerning advertising. Always we have been told, "Now that it has been drawn to our attention we will see what we can do." Why was it not drawn to its attention by its officials? Why was it always left to my hon. Friends? And why did we find ourselves always having to make out a strong case in this respect? I beg the Postmaster-General—and what fun we are going to have in Committee on the Bill; I am looking forward to it with great interest—to see that the proposed new advertising advisory body is constituted so that it does not contain advertisers or advertising agents. Any commercial interests in advertising should be an absolute bar to membership of the body.
Consider what is happening today under the control of the present Authority. Last night I saw an advertisement on television repeated two or three times stating that a certain toothpaste—I would not sully my lips with its name—strengthens one's teeth with one brushing. Would that apply to everyone's teeth? Would it apply to every single person watching that advertisement? Twenty million people's teeth would be strengthened by one brushing? Is that really so? The advertiser knows that to 997 be a lie. The advertising agent concerned knows it to be a distortion of the facts but, of course, the viewer—who sees an actor simulating a dentist or a set-up in a studio which pretends to be a school inspection dental clinic—does not know that it is a distortion. And the poor sucker goes away to brush his teeth and finds that they do not become any stronger.
The scandal is that the Authority allows this to happen. It also allows the trick of putting a grey smear on a piece of wood or a bit of wall a few minutes before a film is taken of a woman washing it off. These tricks of the advertising agencies have been permitted to be continued by the Authority until the advertising agents do not worry at all.
Like a number of hon. Members, I have received a charming booklet called, "How Advertising Disciplines Itself" published by the Advertising Association. In it it is stated:No advertisement should contain any descriptions, claims or illustrations which directly or by implication mislead about the product or service … Advertisers and their agencies should be prepared to produce evidence to substantiate any description, claims or illustrations that are called in question.There was another charming advertisement on last night. A lady was led blindfolded on to the set to two piles of completed washing. Her surprise when she found that the advertiser's detergent did the job better than something else was quite startling. I should like to know how many times this was rehearsed and how many times the facts were explained to this charming lady, including what she was going to see when the interviewer took off the bandage. The scandalous thing is that the Authority allows this to happen.
It is equally scandalous that the Authority allows an advertiser to say that his product is" the unique prescription for colds and 'flu" The word "unique" has only one meaning in the English language. It cannot mean "slightly unique" or "somewhat unique". If it is unique it is the only one. Thus the advertisement is patently a lie. But it means that when the poor, wretched patient goes to the doctor and is told, You must go to bed for two or three days with that bad cold" the patient asks, "Can I not be given something?" And when the doctor 998 gives him something out of the British Pharmacopoeia the patient says, "I don't want that. I want the 'unique'".
How can we have confidence in the future control of an organisation when its present directorship allows this sort of thing to happen? In this connection, I wish to make some comments on the possibility of a second channel. I support hon. Members who have said that this is something for the future. But who, in fact, wants to have it now? Does the public want it? The hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) said that there was no public demand. Do the advertisers want it? Of course not. They do not want to spend more money than they are now spending on advertising. Some of them are already spending so much that they have reached the point of no return. They are spending money to stay where they are and they would certainly not want to have to spend more money to stay there. Do the advertising agents want it? No, because they are already overburdened with their commercial television departments. Do the programme companies want it? Certainly not, particularly the small ones which are already in trouble. A second commercial television channel would simply mean more advertising time chasing the advertising £, and hon. Members who make the case for a second channel should get their priorities right.
Regarding Clause 7, I part company from many of my hon. Friends who work on the basis of criticising the television companies because they make a lot of money. I do not believe that one can get a capitalist system to work unless people can make a lot of money. One cannot have a private enterprise system half-slave, half-free. If a private enterprise system is to work profits must be made because that is the intention of such a system. It is its mainspring and, therefore, I do not show the same concern as that shown by some of my hon. Friends about the very considerable amount of profit that has been made.
I do not believe that a revised Clause 7 would have the effect of doing anything more than putting a tax on the more popular sort of programmes. It would prove to be unworkable. Anyway, I am concerned not so much with the amount of money the television companies make 999 but with the programmes they produce; the impact they make on the public and the integrity of what they are offering to the public. The argument about their profits disguises the fact that they have committed greater crimes on our social life than they have economically. They have produced some pretty bad programmes, and I hope, therefore, that in Committee some machinery will be introduced to ensure that there will be better balance and quality in the programmes.
I said I thought that the Committee stage will be a lot of fun. I hope that, at that time, we will have an opportunity of introducing an Amendment to force all newspapers to liquidate their holdings in television companies, just as the Government forced the sale of the nationalised steel industry. I want to see newspapers out of television, for it is an unnatural alliance. It may be of no particular harm at the moment and no harm may have been done to date, but I do not believe that the advertising boom will go on for ever. There are already signs that the advertising revenues of all media are falling, and I do not want to see an opportunity being given to the newspaper owners who have major or significant shares in the control of television companies using their influence in a direction, one way or another, which could well be against the public interest.
The Bill is not as bad as it could have been. It rectifies some of the disasters and mistakes which were made in the 1954 Act, but it will have to be improved a great deal more if it is really going to act as a medium of service to the public.
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Johnson Smith (Holborn and St. Pancras, South)
I hope that the hon. Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer) will not mind if I do not follow closely on what he said. He made some strictures on Independent Television, and I shall refer to some of them later, but in respect of advertising, for example, I thought that we heard a remarkably encouraging report from his hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. F. Noel-Baker). Speaking as a viewer—and we know his hon. Friend takes a very close interest in the standards of advertising—I would agree that there has been a tremendous improvement in the standards of advertisements, and their 1000 quality and integrity. I accept the criticism of the hon. Member for Deptford of what he saw last night, but I do not think he need take such a pessimistic view of the future of these advertisements. The Bill goes some way to meeting his criticisms head on, and I have no doubt that it has some pretty strong teeth for the control of advertisement standards.
Every hon. Member so far has declared an interest, or no interest. I am not sure what I should do, because the only interest I have to declare in the Parliamentary sense is that I have had, have and hope in the future to have an entirely visible interest. Beyond that, I have no interest to declare—no secret asset of any kind whatsoever.
I think that my right hon. Friend has accomplished a most difficult job extraordinarily well. He has had a terribly difficult time trying to sort out this sort of jungle of subjective attitudes that one finds after being only a short time in the television industry. There has been a most tremendous conflict of advice from all directions, and I think it remarkable that my right hon. Friend has been able to make any sense of it at all—and not only that, but remarkably good sense.
I am sure that it was right to allow the B.B.C. to go ahead with the second channel. One appreciates that that is not the main part of the Bill, but the Bill stands within the shadow of that decision. I am equally sure that he is right not to close the door against the further expansion of commercial television.
At this stage of the proceedings, everyone has referred to all the detailed points in the Bill, so I shall not weary the House with detailed comments on certain Clauses. Nevertheless, I should like to refer to some of them briefly, if only to reinforce the body of opinion already expressed.
Hon. Members on both sides have drawn attention to the fact that as Clause 2 enforces on the I.T.A. a code of standards which has not been enforced on the B.B.C., it is desperately unfair; but I think that there has been confusion on both sides on this point. Some hon. Members have said that the B.B.C. had some code of practice, but scrubbed it only a few weeks ago. I read that along with everyone else but, though I may be wrong, I have the impression that there still exists in the B.B.C., if not this general 1001 code of practice at least a code on violence.
If we are to urge my right hon. Friend to amend this Clause, we should avoid throwing out the baby with the bath water. With the degree of violence we see on both channels, I think that it would be wrong not to ask the I.T.A. to write a code governing the rules on violence as a brief for the programme companies and respective producers. As to helping the smaller programme companies, many of us are very reassured by what my right hon. Friend said earlier, but there is just one point in that connection.
I do not know whether I misunderstood the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe), but he referred in quite a joking aside to the fact that in Clause 4 there is what he called a form of creeping Socialism, because it empowers the Authority to direct the programme companies. If the Clause is to mean anything, it is only right and proper that, when it comes to the crunch, the Authority should have this power of direction, and the Clause will ensure that the direction will be fair and adequate.
Clause 10 refers to the position of the Independent Television News. In the brief that was very kindly sent out by someone representing the programme companies—and we are all indebted for this sort of advice—I am informed that:The companies object however, to the requirement that the independent television news organisation shall be equipped and financed by the programme contractors to provide, not only news but 'other programmes which such a body or organisation can suitably provide'. If the programme contractors want the ITN to provide documentaries and similar programmes, they can always ask the ITN to undertake the work.The brief ends by using the rather sombre phrase:It is to be remembered that it is the programme contractors who finance the ITN not the ITA.That is a good warning shot across the bows not to make the Clause work. The programme companies want to be in the I.T.N., too, and do not want to be pushed around, but I understand that the purpose of Clause 10 is to improve the status of Independent Television News.
An hon. Member opposite felt that the Independent Television News has not had as clear a run as it might have had, 1002 and has not been allowed to grow to the extent that it could have done because of the controlling interest of the four major companies. We know that the Bill goes some way to meeting that situation, but I hope that my right hon. Friend will not be stampeded into weakening the Clause. The real point of I.T.N. being allowed and encouraged to develop its services is not so much pique against the programme companies but to see that something is done that the companies have not done very well but which the B.B.C. has.
I refer to the coverage of important news as it breaks. There might be an almighty row in the United Nations. The B.B.C. has been able in the past— and no doubt will in the future—to break into a programme to give that news. This will become increasingly important with the use of Telstar, although it was done previously by sound radio links. Independent Television News, as at present constituted, is not able to compete with the B.B.C. in that respect, but I think that Clause 10 will enable I.T.N. to do that if it goes about the job energetically.
I should be most grateful if my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, in summing up, can, if he thinks it worth while, refer to another point that hon. Members have mentioned, which is of great interest to the I.T.A. and the programme companies. Section 3 (1, a) of the Television Act, 1954 requires that… nothing is included in the programmes … which contains any offensive representation of or reference to a living person …I think that should be omitted, because it is argued—again, according to this brief, which I think goes a little far—that if the B.B.C. had such a provision 60 per cent. of "That Was The Week That Was" would have to be scrubbed. I do not comment, but Section 3 does seem to tie the hand of the I.T.A.
Some of my hon. Friends have made no bones about the fact—and it is to their credit—that they are not too happy about Clause 7, not just because of its actual wording—I think that we were all glad to have a reassurance on that point —but because they feel that it gives the B.B.C. an unfair advantage. The B.B.C. got first crack at the second channel. They feel, in any case, that commercial television ought to be allowed to expand. Some of them may harbour the view that we must ultimately seek to have two 1003 commercial channels and that we might even go to three. After all, six channels can be used in this country for television.
I should like to spend some moments looking at the Bill from the wider point of view and looking at some of the principles which should guide us when we come to consider it. I start with the B.B.C. because, as I said earlier, the whole Bill falls within the shadow of the decision to allow the B.B.C. to go ahead with plans for a second programme. Over 40 years ago, under a Conservative Administration, it was decided—and in the light of subsequent events rightly so—to set up this unique organisation, a public broadcasting corporation dependent not on money from the Government but on licence fees from the public.[An HON. MEMBER: "It has borrowing powers."] It has now, but the basic financing of the B.B.C. has been from the public as licence holders.
It has become fashionable to decry some of our institutions. In this respect some of the B.B.C. programmes have led the fashion, particularly on Saturday nights, but it is worth recording that the B.B.C. stands as a broadcasting institution second to none in the world. Wherever one goes, its reputation stands high. If anyone has been subjected to broadcasting in other countries he cannot help the conclusion that the standard and the variety of programmes of the B.B.C. are without parallel.
I am almost tempted to say that in 40 years the B.B.C. has become one of the pillars of the Establishment, though I think that some of those who work there might not welcome that phrase. At least it has become so firmly established in our national life that it not only excites the admiration and indeed the envy of the rest of the world but it appears to be as solid a British institution as those institutions which have centuries of tradition behind them.
I say all this not to seek to butter up the B.B.C. but to ask how this organisation has succeeded to the extent it has. I suggest that it is because it has provided a wide variety of programmes of good quality. We know that many of the programmes are absolutely shocking but, taken over all, the integrity of the programmes and their quality have been of a 1004 higher standard than are to be found anywhere else in the world. The B.B.C. has been able to do this because it has had a comprehensive service in sound, on a basis of three channels with strong regional programmes to back them up. But in television the B.B.C. has been limited to one channel. It seems to me on every count that the organisation deserves the crack of the whip of being able to open up another channel so that it can do in television what has been done for several years in sound, namely, provide a full comprehensive service. The B.B.C. deserves this and I am glad that the Government think so too.
Some of my hon. Friends may suggest that Independent Television should have had the second channel first. They may think that the cost to the B.B.C. will be too great, because undoubtedly it will have to raise the television fees. Some attention must be paid to this point on a future occasion so that we may find out exactly how much it will cost. But if a thing is good and has proved itself good and superior to that to be found in other countries, if broadcasting is to mean anything at all, if we are to treasure it, and if we think of it is a valuable contribution to be made to society, which I think it is and in increasing measure will be, it would have been quite wrong not to have given this boost to the B.B.C. at present.
This does not mean to say for one moment that I denigrate the rôle played by commercial television enterprises in this country. Before I came to the House, and at a time when I was mostly occupied with work for the B.B.C., I spoke quite openly to the effect and felt most strongly that it was right that the B.B.C. monopoly should be broken. I would, of course, have resisted anything which would have harmed the essential fabric of the B.B.C., but the B.B.C. has been able to withstand this storm. Despite the protestations of hon. Members opposite at the time, the B.B.C. has not suffered. It has gained.
As to the rôle of commercial television, which has been helpful to the B.B.C. and has provided competition, I though that the Pilkington Report, which in many ways was admirable, was less than fair to the pioneering activities of the programme companies. If this is so and this accounts for some of the disappointment of my hon. Friends, why not a much wider expansion of commercial television? 1005 Why take this rather precious, restrictive, cautious approach which many people suspect is inherent in the Bill? This is not the way we deal with the Press. If a commission had been set up after Caxton invented the printing press, I suppose there would have been one newspaper by now run by the Central Office of Information. Why, then, this rather cautious approach? Why not carry out the principles of Conservative free enterprise and let the chaps have their heads and, through competition, provide greater variety and more choice for the people?
I think that those arguments can be made reasonably attractive, but I should like to say briefly why I am not convinced by them. My argument has nothing to do with the shortage of talent to which the hon. Member for Deptford referred. I am quite sure that there is not that degree of talent wandering about the place that some people imagine. I think that the quality of our programmes is due to that fact and not to producers, administrators, and programme planners wishing upon us second-class material. There is a false analogy between extending commercial television to three or more channels and the Press. There is a false analogy between free enterprise in the television world and in what I would call the purely commercial, industrial world.
We have only to look at the United States to see what happens when there are many programme companies producing television programmes. I have not been to Sydney, but someone said in the debate that at one and the same time there were six television programmes available there. One would like to see their quality. I have seen a good deal of United States television programmes. What they have succeeded in creating in television production in the United States is a system which produces a conspiracy of mediocrity and nothing else. There are one or two shining examples of good quality programmes but when one considers the huge resources available there and the fantastic number of television stations, it is remarkable what poor value people get for their money. Through this creation of programme companies based on advertising revenue there has been a chase for the biggest audience to attract 1006 the largest amount of revenue—a huge rat-race, in other words.
§ Mr. Dudley Smith (Brentford and Chiswick)
Surely this is because individual programmes are sponsored by advertising concerns.
§ Mr. Johnson Smith
They are sponsored by motor car companies and other giant companies. The principle is the same. Whichever way it is played, whether by our way or by the American way, the fact is that a given sum of money is required in order to attract the largest audience, because by this means the more likely the message is to go through. I should have thought that our system was superior to the Americans', but I am quoting the Americans as an example of where the principle of free enterprise has been allowed to run riot.
There has also developed the fallacy of rating, whereby it is assumed that because so many million people look at a programme, it is therefore better, but no attention is paid to whether people appreciate or enjoy the programme. One sees some of these productions, imported from the United States, on both B.B.C. and commercial television in this country. They are not designed to create the maximum enjoyment in general. The purpose basically of such productions is to make sure that the fewest number of people switch off, and there is a wide gulf between these two objectives.
A friend of mine has seen this system at work. Hollywood has not felt the pinch from the slump in films. It has developed a whole new television industry and it has carried out motivational research to find out what is the latest technique in terms, say, of Westerns which will attract the biggest number of people, or will ensure that the greatest number of people do not get tired of the programme and switch off. There may, for instance, come a time when a certain type of Western becomes a little boring, so the motivational research boys are sent out to investigate and they come back and say, "People are bored because there is too much talk and not enough fight." So a new type of cowboy is manufactured. He is a fighting type of cowboy, a laconic monosyllabic type, and for the next few months a monosyllabic, laconic, fighting type of cowboy will appear in 1007 all the Westerns. This is an industry, and this is how it works. It has nothing to do with enjoyment or quality.
I also think that the question of extending commercial television, as some of my hon. Friends might want, beyond the maximum of two channels in this country raises other questions in the field of broadcasting. It raises the question of how far we should extend the rôle of advertising in our society. I want to reassure hon. Members on this side of the House, at least, that I have the greatest respect for the advertising profession and I have no doubt that it has a very necessary rôle to play in our free society. But I think that when examining the extent to which we should finance the expansion of broadcasting through advertising we should ask ourselves how much of our resources should go into the advertising industry. I have a feeling that, rather like Parkinson's Law, it tends to expand to fill the space provided. We ought also to ask how much broadcasting should depend solely on advertising revenue.
I also ask the further question, how ubiquitous should it be from a social point of view? Should the market place be brought into my living room every time I switch on my set? Some might think that these questions should lead to the conclusion that whereas there is a rôle for commercial television, it is a rôle which should not be allowed to grow to too great an extent. I ask these questions not because I want to restrict the growth of television, but because one wants television to grow wisely and imaginatively. We can all agree on one thing, if on nothing else, that so far it has not fulfilled our expectations.
It seems to me, therefore, that a balance has to be struck when looking at the future development of television, a balance within the framework of these questions, taking into account the fact that, unlike any other country, we have developed a highly efficient form of public broadcasting based on the licence principle of public subscriptions; and, on the other hand, we have also developed a number of private programme companies which have so far rightly avoided the excesses usually associated with television based on advertisement, but which, as I have attempted to show, would find it increasingly diffi- 1008 cult to avoid excesses if they were given what I would call a completely free hand in the number of commercial stations we allowed to operate.
I do not wish to exaggerate the rôle of television, but I think that we have seen enough in the past few years to know that television is more than, or should be more than, just a mirror held up to society, and it is certainly more than just a vehicle for entertainment, important though that be. I think that we ought to learn much more about its effects, particularly on young people. A lot of hot air is talked about this, but some useful research has been done under the auspices of the Nuffield Foundation, and there is television research work being done at Leeds University. We ought to find out a great deal more about it.
In addition, we should keep in mind that we stand on the threshold of international television. Some of my hon. Friends have referred to the war of ideas and the export of ideas. Technical developments are bound to increase this field of endeavour. Incidentally, I was reassured by what my right hon. Friend said in referring to the development of the 525 and 625 line systems and the way this matter has been approached by his advisory committee. We ought to consider at this stage, also, in much greater detail than hitherto, whether we make sufficient use of television for educational purposes.
The decisions on all these points lie in the future and will come up for discussion again and again. Of one thing I am absolutely sure. This Bill does not prejudge these important decisions which have to be taken in the future. It does not determine the future. It puts us in a very good posture to face the future and make broadcasting something far more effective, more dignified and more worthy of itself and us.
§ 8.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Chapman (Birmingham, Northfield)
In view of the shortness of time, I shall not comment on the very thoughtful speech which we have just heard from the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mr. G. Johnson Smith). I was pleased to hear what he said about the B.B.C. and its use of the second channel. I agree with him. If he has read, as he may well have done, the speech of Mr. Kenneth Adam, in Leeds 1009 last November, I think, when he began to set out the ideas of the B.B.C. about the kind of programmes to be put out on the second channel, he will agree, I am sure, that there are quite exciting prosspects ahead. I join with the hon. Gentleman, also, in congratulating the Postmaster-General on deciding to allow the B.B.C. to go ahead with that service.
At the outset, I congratulate the Postmaster-General, if I may, on the Bill. I have been known to be a critic of the existing commercial television set-up since it strated, and I feel that this is a real attempt by the right hon. Gentleman to take some aspects of commercial television outside the realms of controversy. To this extent, I congratulate him and welcome what is being done. I started out as a critic of commercial television, but I am bound to say that, like the B.B.C., I am willing at this stage to accept a television channel with advertising of the kind we have, provided that we go on drawing its teeth, and making it less offensive, and, as the Government are doing in the Bill, learning some of the lessons of the B.B.C. and doing our best to enjoin upon the I.T.V. that it learns them.
Nothing is more significant, I feel, than the changed phraseology which the right hon. Gentleman has put in the Schedule. He is telling the commercial channel that no longer should it concentrate on "entertainment, instruction and information", in that order, but on "information, education and entertainment", in that order. This, of course, is a direct copy of what is in the B.B.C. Charter. In this sense, the Postmaster-General is trying to teach I.T.V. the lessons of the B.B.C. and hoping that it will follow them.
Having congratulated the right hon. Gentleman, I must now do something else. I put the direct question: why was the Bill really necessary? There is a strange paradox in the birth of the Bill, because surely the facts of the situation are that all the powers to do what the right hon. Gentleman wants to do by the main Clauses of the Bill, Clauses 2 and 3, exist already under the Television Act, 1954—all of them. The great tragedy of the present situation is that the people we have had in charge of Independent Television have so interpreted the 1954 Act that we have now got to go much further than we would really like 1010 in writing into legislation controls over them.
It would be much better, as an hon. Gentleman opposite said, if we had no controls over the powers of I.T.V., if we could rely on it to run the system properly, but we now have to have this Bill because it has failed in that trust, because it has not used the powers—not kept the gentlemen's agreement, if hon. Members like—under the 1954 Act. So we are compelled today to write in a whole lot of controls we would be much better without.
I want to examine in a little detail what I have now said. Is it true that the powers which the right hon. Gentleman is taking in Clauses 2 and 3 exist in the 1954 Act? Of course they do. Let us take the one about standards of programmes. If we look first at the evidence given to the Pilkington Committee we see that it is true that Sir Ivone Kirkpatrick definitely said, "If there is anything wrong with I.T.V. it is our responsibility: we are in charge." First of all, there is a clear acceptance of responsibility.
But let us look a little further, and to start with let us look at the White Paper of 1953. It is clearly stated there that the public corporation would be responsible for the standards of programmes, and it was within that framework that I.T.V., once set up, was supposed to work. It knew it was responsible.
Now let us look at the 1954 Act. Right at the beginning, in Section 1 (1), it is said that the function of the independent television authorityshall be to provide … television broadcasting services … of high quality".Section 3 (1, b) says, again, that the programmes must have a high standard of quality, and there is an absolute duty to comply with this requirement. Then what do section 5 (5) and the Third Schedule say? They set out the rights of the Authority to write into contracts of the individual programme contractors anything the Authority likes in order to secure that the main purposes of the Act are carried out in the sense set out in this Act, namely, the preservation of high standards of programmes.
All these powers are absolutely clearly set out in the Act. They could have 1011 been interpreted—there really was no need for the Bill—exactly in the way which Clause 2 of the Bill now demands. The Authority could have set up codes of standards and programmes. It could have made sure triviality was stopped, and it could have kept down violence. It had all the powers and duties set out in the Act of 1954 to do all these things.
Now we come to advertisements. In Clause 3 we have now a whole tightening up of the regulation of advertisements. Why? Only, again, because this weak Independent Television Authority has not carried out its responsibilities. They are clear enough there. Section 8 of the Act says that after the Advertising Advisory Committee has made its suggestions it is the duty of the Authority to comply with them. It was not to be blind compliance, butsubject to such exceptions or modifications, if any, as may appear to the Authority to be necessary or proper having regard"—to its general body of duties under the Act.
There was power to set up codes of standards, to do everything that the Bill is now trying to do and in Clause 5 trying to force on an unwilling Authority. In the Act and in the Schedules to the Act are all the powers to control contractors, the amount of advertising, the amount of time to be given to advertising, and the intervals between advertising times.
We are spending a whole Parliamentary day spelling it out again because the Authority, which was set up by this House, has not carried out its duties. I resent it. It is a scandal that a body set up under public authority should have so disregarded an Act of this House, passed after very great deliberation, and should now be forcing us into erecting codes and standards and regulations which our legislative machinery would be better without if we could only trust the people in power.
What lessons are to be drawn? I do not want to be intemperate. I feel that to some extent the failure of the Pilkington Committee, in its chapter on Independent Television, was that it reiterated too often its condemnation of the Authority. The Authority has done a great deal. Its technical achievement is very great. We all go too far if we condemn 1012 it too much and our words are disregarded. But I hope that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will agree that we must have a change of personnel at this body before we can ever trust that Parliament's intentions will be carried out this time.
In 1954, we enacted legislation which could have been interpreted in the way we are now having to relegislate. But the Authority misguidedly interpreted that Act. It has been criticised by the Pilkington Committee and is now being abandoned by the Government and given new orders spelt out in great detail. The Bill is before us only because of the Authority's shortcomings.
The demands of public life are very heavy. It means that people who are censured in this way and have had shortcomings—I do not put it higher than that —should make way for others. I do not expect the new ones to agree wholly with me, but somewhere between the two sides we have to find a happy medium. The new people should be more independent and ready to operate this new legislation with fresh ideas and a willingness and ability to do what we intend.
What I say applies not only to members of the Authority, but also, I am sorry to say, to the Director-General. After all, he has been a guiding spirit. All credit to him where he has achieved a great deal, but he must bear his responsibility for the fact that public, Pilkington and Parliament have now had to disown a lot of what he has created.
The present revenue from advertising is running at about £70 million a year. The danger of the new set-up in the Bill, and of the proposals by other hon. Members today, is that the Government will have a vested interest in a high level of advertising revenue. This might mean that, as in the case of the Road Fund, this revenue will be looked upon by the Government as something to be raided to help taxation. The Government will, therefore, have a vested interest in having plenty to tax. The danger will be that the Government will not push the Authority further in the direction of reducing the number of advertisements.
We should be able to cut down advertisements. In terms of gross revenue all the four big companies take about £45 million, and on that they are making 1013 between 50 per cent. and 66 per cent. clear profit. In these circumstances, it is not right that we should only say, "Let us milk them for the revenue". We should say also, "Let us reduce the nuisance to the viewers". This can be done by the Government making it clear that they have not a vested interest in keeping advertising revenue high and that they will press on with one of the achievements of the Authority, that is, gradually to get the average amount of advertisement per hour down.
We are now down to an average of between four and five minutes, and six to seven minutes in the peak hours. Let us set a target of five minutes. Let is set a standard, where we can get it without enforcing it, of trying to restrict advertisements to the period between programmes, instead of being pestered with them in the middle of programmes. Perhaps we cannot enforce this and write it into legislation, but, if there is revenue to be cut, let it be cut in this way as well as taking it away from the Exchequer.
I started as a strong critic of Independent Television. I am willing to see it continue, and to support it, provided that we can go on improving it. I have criticised the Authority. I have helped to improve some of the advertisements by criticising them. I have had meetings and rows with the Authority. I hope that a clean sweep will now be made, and that confidence will be given to hon. Members on this side of the House, and many critics outside, by giving us new faces at the top which can inspire a little belief that this time the Act will be carried out.
§ 9.1 p.m.
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)
The hon. Member for Manchester, Open-shaw (Mr. W. R. Williams) has exemplified the friendliness of the House by indicating that if I do not take more than five minutes he will refrain from making his speech now, and I appreciate that very much.
There are two points that I want to impress on the Government. The Postmaster-General asked for suggestions, and I think that we should make our contributions if we feel strongly about this subject.
The three-year contract is wrong. It is not long enough to create the confidence necessary to get people to invest for 1014 development. I think that it will have the effect of making many people lose their enthusiasm for the next stage of development. I think that the period should be twelve years, similar to the new period of the B.B.C. when it comes, or one year annually with breaks every three years so that it can be checked. I suggest that the Government should look again at the contract period of three years.
I urge that consideration be given to offering a second channel to commercial broadcasting. Apart from the picture in the home, I believe that there are other points of view which ought to be taken into account. If we move into U.H.F. 625-line broadcasting, people will have to buy new sets. They will be very expensive, and it is essential for the industry that there should be something of a demand to make up for the rough period of uncertainty there has been in recent months. If it can be seen that when people spend £80 to £100 on a new set they will get a second B.B.C. channel and a second commercial channel, they will be much more likely to help with this new surge forward which the industry must have.
The manufacture of these sets will also help our export trade. When I was in Rhodesia I was appalled to find that not one British television set was displayed in a shop window in that country. I believe that if we can get our sets produced at a price which is competitive in the world, now that we are going on to the 625-line system, which will be the world's lineage, there will be a chance of increasing our exports, and if commercial broadcasting is allowed to play its part in publicising the new set, the exports will be worthwhile.
Last year, one of the commercial companies exported £10 million worth of programmes, and if these companies have a chance of coming in on the new U.H.F. 625-line set-up, I believe that we shall have bigger exports both in the sets and in the programmes these companies make.
We have to face the fact that if the B.B.C. is to carry on its development it will want an increased licence fee, whether it be next year or the year after. This will mean an extra £1 or £2, but if people know that for this extra money they will get not only an extra channel on the B.B.C., but an extra commercial channel, they will be induced to pay it.
1015 Those are my two points. Once again, I thank the hon. Member for Openshaw for giving me five minutes, and I hope that the points I have made will be accepted.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ Mr. W. R. Williams (Manchester, Openshaw)
I felt rather under an obligation to allow the hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) to speak for two or three minutes, in order that he could supplement the various speeches that he has already made in the debate by way of intervention. Since I raised the matter as a point of order, I thought that there was an obligation, in decency, for me to allow him to speak.
We would probably all agree that this has been a most interesting debate. I am rather glad that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod) is gracing us with his presence. I do not know whether he is here as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Chairman of the Conservative Party, or Leader of the House, or if he is here in all three capacities rolled into one. In any event, I think that he will have learned a good deal about this subject from the debate. I have thoroughly enjoyed it, although, almost of necessity, it has ranged a little wider than the Bill which is before us, which deals to the extent of 99.9 per cent. with the re-organisation of Independent Television following its indictment by the Pilkington Committee.
The Government and the Postmaster-General missed one stage in the discussion about the future of broadcasting and television. We should have had a debate on the White Paper issued in January. My right hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) said that we missed an opportunity there. I, too, would have thought that at this stage we would already have viewed the future of broadcasting in a wide and imaginative way, in a preliminary debate on the White Paper, dealing with the subjects of pay-television, local broadcasting and other functions. I can only assume—though I think that it will be badly timed —that we shall be able to do so in the debate on the B.B.C. Charter.
I enjoyed many of the speeches, especially the ones by my hon. Friend 1016 the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman) and the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mr. G. Johnson Smith). Most of the speeches today have been constructive and have shown a general inclination on the part of this honourable House to face one of the biggest problems of our time.
Like many of my right hon. and hon. Friends, I opposed the introduction of commercial television. Although I do not think that I ever spoke in opposition to it in the early debates, I was opposed in principle to its introduction. Now, like many other hon. Members on both sides of the House, I have to accept the fact that commercial television is here and is likely to remain. Therefore, Parliament should decree, at the end of this debate, that from now on there must be between the two major parties involved—the B.B.C. and the I.T.A.—something more than mere co-existence. There must be a real relationship—an affinity—between them. Both must produce programmes which are up to the standards not only that Pilkington is trying to impose, but that every decent man, woman and child in this country wishes to see.
However much we try to trim, between one side and another, in a dialectical way, it is a fact that ordinary men and women feel as I do on many occasions when I look at television in mixed company. They are embarrassed by many of the things they see portrayed. Ordinary, decent men and women do not want this. They can take a joke in its right place, but they are becoming very concerned lest we debase the minds of our young people by allowing them to see certain things that have been permitted to be shown on television.
This medium, whether we appreciate it or not in this House, is moulding the character of our nation. The future of our nation surely demands that the recurring emphasis in programmes of this kind should not be on the debasing qualities of mankind, but on its highest qualities. I think that it should be based on a sense of moral values, of integrity, honesty and sincerity. These qualities are well worth while. How can we expect to face the mysterious future, with the great challenges of the ages that are to come, if we are to portray character in the weak, puerile way in which it is portrayed on many occasions?
1017 I like the English language. I have tried to be a student of it—perhaps the House would not think so—but I must say that I prefer my own language. It hurts me to listen to the prostitution of this great language of ours, when we are getting more accustomed either to the slang of the gutter or obscenity just for the sake of obscenity. I think people are getting tired of this vulgarity just for the sake of vulgarity.
There has been a tendency growing up around us that if one wants to be expressive one must be vulgar. I think that it should go out from someone in this House that people can be funny, that they can entertain and transmit their thoughts without making people feel that they are being vulgar and debasing their own standards of conduct. I ask the House, on the Second Reading of this important Bill, which we shall discuss in great detail in Committee, to accept that as a basic requirement tonight.
It is an obligation on every one of us in this House, irrespective of our personal interests in the industries or bodies connected with this great industry, to see that the future of broadcasting is worthy of ourselves and of our nation. The term "investment" often predominates our debates on television and broadcasting—how much money can be made out of it; how much profit can be made out of it —but the greatest investment in this, as in other media, is the young people of this country, and our duty is primarily to see that they do not suffer because of our weakness and indifference to their ideas.
I turn to discuss the growth of television. I suppose that we all agree that no medium of communication has ever developed as rapidly and with such sweeping power as has television. Within 20 years it has become the greatest challenge to the written word. It has taken much of the power out of the spoken word—and hon. Members realise that better than do most people. It is different even from the Press, because it permeates into the innermost privacy of our homes and it counts its audience in millions. What sometimes amuses and yet annoys me is the silly, stupid, unhealthy challenge from the B.B.C. to the I.T.A., and vice versa, that on a particular occasion in connection with a particular form of entertainment one corporation had a million 1018 more people watching than had the other. That is just too ridiculous for words.
This medium affects our people in an intimate and unique way. The speed of the development of television, and of I.T.V. in particular, has been too great, in my opinion, for it properly to generate a basic philosophy. I believe that this craving, this last, this desire for quick profits and a quick return has blurred whatever vision these people had when they started television—and I am one of those who believe that most people start these things with good intentions. I am sure that in subsequent ideas of getting rich quick, making excessive profits and printing money, as it was put by one of them, we have had our vision blurred.
Here I speak direct to the B.B.C. and the I.T.A.: their greatest need is to find a basic philosophy and to recognise that they are playing with a medium of unlimited potential for good and unlimited potential for evil. I feel sure that both corporations will take note of this. If they do not, then I am sure that ultimately the House will have to take much greater powers in its own hands than it has thought necessary to, take up to now. These warning words go out both to the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. that we mean business.
The I.T.A. is in its adolescent stage and there has been a good deal of controversy as to how we shall deal with it. I have read the Pilkington Report with great care, as I am sure have other right hon. and hon. Members. I venture to suggest in all humility that if anyone has read that report with care and attention and a measure of sympathy, an indelible impression has been left on his mind that there is something seriously wrong in the state of Denmark.
We can do as much whitewashing as we like and make excuses here and there according to our fancy and our inclination, but the plain fact is that the evidence presented to this formidable committee of men with no axes to grind reveals a serious state of affairs. No one has ever suggested that any member of the Pilkington Committee had any axe to grind. It received evidence from all over the place and all sorts of organisations, including women's institutes, women's meetings, mothers' meetings and many other bodies. The impression left on the mind of the Committee was that there 1019 was something seriously wrong; it was an impression of vulgarity and triviality.
I enjoyed the refreshing speech of the hon. Member for St. Marylebone (Sir W. Wakefield). I felt that he must have been feeling in the form which he showed in his old rugby international days. He was forthcoming and made his arguments in a refreshing way which I enjoyed very much, although I disagreed with much that he said.
I disagree with the hon. Member in suggesting that triviality is something which does not really matter. Using the word in one sense, of course it may not matter. As he rightly suggested, a lot of trivial things are said, even in this House, but to make triviality the basis of an approach to things is perhaps more damning to the soul than violence and vulgarity in an open form, because it is more insidious in its effect on people.
How are we to reorganise, to change and to deal with this recalcitrant, naughty boy, as suggested by the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd)? If anyone in the House was responsible for birth being given to this naughty boy it was he himself. Pilkington had no doubt at all what should be done. To use a common phrase, Pilkington was quite prepared to cut its throat and finish it and then to have a new system altogether which would be completely reorganised. I know that I am on sound ground in saying that a number of my hon. Friends would be quite prepared to help in that bloody task. Mercifully, there are more humane characters on our benches. They have decided that the best thing to do in a Christian approach to questions like this is to give the sinner another chance. That is all that is in the Bill. If we mean anything at all we mean to give the I.T.A. another chance to establish itself on a basis which will be acceptable to this House.
I shall not have half the time to say what I wanted to say. In approaching the situation in the way I have tried to, there are two considerations which immediately require attention. The first is this. We have settled on the date of 1976. That is a long time ahead and we are dealing with an industry which will change more rapidly in character, in technique, in equipment, in machinery, in 1020 approach and in attitude than almost any other industry in the country. I hope that we are not taking too many chances by legislating too far ahead.
I am rather sorry that the Postmaster-General has not put in the Bill what I should regard as a probationary condition, that he would agree to some of these things provided that the House had an opportunity from time to time to reexamine and reconsider the situation. I ask the Leader of the House to think of that as a piece of a new constitution. I do not want to be misunderstood. I am not one who for a moment wants to withdraw complete independence from the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. to carry out their functions themselves. I do not want to impose unnecessary restrictions on them, but, as a responsible Member of this House, I want to make quite sure that this freedom, this independence, is not to develop into licence and licentiousness, as Pilkington undoubtedly felt that it had.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly is very popular tonight. I want to support him in suggesting that we should be thinking seriously whether we should have regular debates in the House on television. I cannot remember the last time that we had a debate on the I.T.A. Its accounts and reports must go to the Postmaster-General, but we have not been provided with an opportunity to discuss this matter for a long time. It may be argued that we must not interfere with the freedom of the Authority. But it should not be forgotten that this House is the custodian of decency and public welfare in the broadest sense.
One thing emphasised and underlined by the Pilkington Report is the need for the House to observe the course being pursued by the Corporations and to take account of their conduct and development. I agree with what has been said by a number of hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Northfield that nothing substantial will be added to the provisions of the 1954 Television Act by the contents of the Bill. The only thing which emerges is that in future there will be no excuse, no escape clause, for the I.T.A. The Authority will not be able to blame the programme contractors for a decline in 1021 the standard of values or anything else. By the provisions of this Bill the responsibility is placed upon the Authority.
Many hon. Members have made the point that it is not a lack of power vested in the Authority, but a lack of determination on the part of the Authority which has led to the present situation. I am grieved to think that men chosen for this job should have allowed their responsibilities to rest so lightly upon them, and especially those connected with the four big companies. The House has been let down by these people, and consequently we must take our share of the censure implied by the Report of the Pilkington Committee.
Not only must we ensure that we find the best possible man for the position of chairman, but we must have a man who, in the words of the Pilkington Report, is a remarkable man. That rules out a great many candidates who have been Ministers of the Crown and all sorts of things in their time. I think it worth while to search far and wide for a chairman capable of telling the Authority and the programme companies what they must do. He will also have to tell the Director-General what ought to be done. If we do not succeed in finding a man of that kind we shall be in the same position as when we started. It is essential that such a man be found.
I think that the Government have let us down, for they have had the power. The Postmaster-General was in a position to dismiss any of these people by means of an Order in Council. He was in a position to dismiss the chairman or anybody else. Therefore, if he has allowed incompetent people to continue in their posts he has a responsibility to the House. He could have used the Guillotine on some of these people as freely as the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House uses it on the House at most inconvenient times.
As to the allocation of the fourth channel, I am one of those who believe that we just cannot afford a fourth channel at present, whoever it is to be allocated to. Whether it is to the I T.V., whether it is for educational purposes, or whether it is for anything else, I do not think we have the resources at present to allow us to undertake it. The point has been made by several hon. Members, 1022 including the hon. Member for St. Marylebone. We should be wasting the resources which we now have if we were to misuse them in the way suggested by some hon. Members today.
We have not got sufficient actors. If we had, there would not be so many inferior programmes on now. We have not got the technicians we want. We have not got the materials we want. We have not got the equipment and all the other things that go with this great expansion and development. The hon. Member who said that he was not worried about the financial implications of doing that has not examined the economic situation and the cost of the potential expansion that we have already in our minds. We had better forget all about the fourth channel for the present.
I suggested at the beginning of my speech that there should be a closer relationship than ever between the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. What is happening now is just too silly for words. One of my hon. Friends told me that he is very interested in "Z Cars". He was good enough to explain to me what that meant. "Coronation Street" was due to finish before "Z Cars" started on the other channel. Just to make fools of them-selves and make themselves stupid and annoy the viewers, all to no purpose, the programme was brought forward ten minutes. A viewer had to decide in the last ten minutes of the programme whether he was going to carry on looking at "Coronation Street" or switch over to his other favourite.
This is an example of extreme stupidity which nothing can justify. I appeal to both sides to recognise that they have a big medium, a powerful medium, that they are dealing with men and women in their homes, and that they must think in a big way, always remembering that the House of Commons will have its eyes upon them and upon their performance.
§ 9.33 p.m.
§ The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Iain Macleod)
I very much agree with the hon. Member for Manchester, Openshaw (Mr. W. R. Williams) that this has been an interesting and enjoyable debate. If he will allow me to say so, the speech I enjoyed most was the one he has just delivered. Perhaps I can confirm for him a point that he put 1023 to me. We will, and in this Session, be having another and separate debate on the question of the B.B.C. Licence.
This debate in one sense has gone on for a long time. I suppose that it started in 1949 when the Labour Government appointed the Beveridge Committee, which reported in 1951. We are now considering the Second Reading of a Bill to provide for an extension to 1976. That is something like a generation. In that time many of the arguments—the great arguments, perhaps—have disappeared. We are not arguing any more as to whether there should or should not be commercial television. Comparatively few people would readily argue whether we were right or wrong to break the monopoly of the B.B.C. in television, as the 1954 Act did.
A number of hon. Members have commented, with complete accuracy, that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) had a great deal to do with the birth of independent television, because of his one-man minority Report on the Beveridge Committee. My right hon. and learned Friend is an excellent man to produce one-man reports on difficult subjects. It was said by the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey), and taken up by a number of other hon. Members, that this child or young person, now 10 years old, may need some corrective training. I accept that, but that invites the retort that if the Opposition had had their way this child would have been strangled at birth and corrective training would have been impossible to apply.
I wish to take up what has been perhaps the most important point raised: that relating to standards and codes, for this important topic came into almost every speech. I am not going to argue in detail on this, partly because I recognise the cogency of what was said—the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman) put the point effectively, and I regret that he had to condense his speech —and partly because there are certain differences of view, which I know he realises, although I ackowledge the force of his argument.
I wish to put a different point concerning Section 3— (1, a) in particular—of the 1954 Act and Clause 2 of the Bill. I 1024 know that the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) put forward a point which, on the whole, was different from the general sense of the House in this matter. However, he put it with deep sincerity, although most hon. Members have been worried about a rather different point. Whatever answer we come to we should remember something which was put clearly by my hon. Friend the Member for Hereford (Mr. Gibson-Watt) when he posed the question, "Could independent television have produced 'That Was The Week That Was'"—of which, like him, I am a devoted fan, although I have one reservation, but I will not make it now—"under the 1954 Act"?
We all know that the answer is "No." The restrictions that this House put on independent television in 1954 and the restrictions in Clause 2 as they stand now would not, in my view, have allowed such a programme. No doubt we will wish to consider this position in Committee. I do not suggest—and I am delighted to see the enterprise the B.B.C. has shown in this and other things—that the B.B.C. has too much latitude. I think that it will be worth the Committee's while to study closely the Clause as it stands and the question whether I.T.A. might have too little.
I wish to take up a point raised by the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) in relation to Clause 16. It is a small but important Clause. It was agreed between the political parties—at a meeting at which I took the chair, between Hugh Gaitskell and the Leader of the Liberal Party—that we should alter this position in relation to I.T.A., because under the 1954 Act the I.T.A. had to try to balance each programme within itself. This is an almost impossible thing to do. I am sure that it is right—and the B.B.C. raised no objection at all and recognised it as entirely fair—that they should be on the same footing and be able to consider a series of programmes as a whole.
There is one other small matter in relation to party political broadcasts. Under the 1954 Act, the I.T.A. had an option of taking or rejecting the annual series of party political broadcasts we make. The Authority always took them, and the option was, perhaps, rather an 1025 artificial one. In the course of recent discussions, the Authority has assured me that it will always take the series. I think that is satisfactory. It has, again, been agreed by the Committee to which I have referred and by the B.B.C. as well, and we shall, in future, remove the B.B.C. label, as it were, from these broadcasts. This will necessitate an Amendment in Committee to paragraph 3 (1, g) of the parent Act.
I should like to deal quickly with a number of what are essentially Committee points before coming to some of the main themes. It was argued from both sides with a great deal of force, and I recognise this, that the B.B.C. is not wholly happy that it should be in this Bill in the context of Clause 18. We are quite prepared to look at that argument in Committee but, because this deals with co-operation, I should have thought that there was much to be said for the Bill as at present drafted. Again, on Clause 11, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) referred, my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General made it quite clear that he is not particularly wedded to the three-year limit, and will be glad to consider that in Committee.
Of two other points of more importance, one was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mr. G. Johnson Smith) in relation to Clause 10, which deals with news. We recognise, of course, that it may be necessary for the I.T.A. suddenly—in the event of a national emergency or something of great interest to this country, or even to the world—to reorganise its schedules. We would all recognise this. The B.B.C. does it frequently. I am sure there is a point here, but with respect, I think it is subsections (1) and (3) of Clause 3 which should be amended. We have, in fact, already taken that point and will propose Amendments in Committee.
The hon. Member for Caernarvon referred to the position of Independent Television, in Wales in particular, and of small companies in general, and the hon. Member for Devon, North took up the theme of the small companies, as did other hon. Members. The Government have recognised the claims of Wales to the extent that they have agreed to the provision of a separate B.B.C. programme. The pattern of contracts in the 1026 Principality as a whole will be taken into account by the I.T.A. when the present contracts expire in July, 1964.
Another and perhaps more important point was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South, as well as the two hon. Members to whom I have referred, and that is the question of the future of the smaller companies, to which everyone attaches a great deal of importance. Quite clearly, the free slice which the Postmaster-General has announced as part of the suggested arrangements that he will be putting forward for the redrawing of Clause 7 will help, but not for quite a time in front—for some months. The I.T.A. recognises the problem of the smaller companies, and intends to put proposals to my right hon. Friend to help them during the interim period. My right hon. Friend expects to receive those proposals in about a month. I am sure that this will be generally welcome to those who have raised the matter in the House.
In answering some of the main themes, I turn, first, to the question of pay television, on which differing views have been expressed. The House will be familiar with the view of the Pilkington Committee, which was in effect that pay television could succeed only by impoverishing the B.B.C. and I.T.A. services. This seems to me not only a pessimistic but a rather restrictive approach to this problem. I am glad that it was welcomed on both sides of the House, though I recognise the reservations entered by the right hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) and others, that the Government think that pay television should be given a chance. This is what "experiment" means. The Government think it should be given a chance to show what it can do just as, after all, not only commercial television but indeed in a sense B.B.C. television were in their day given a similar chance. This is why we have authorised an experiment.
I think that this experiment will show whether there is likely to be a substantial continuing demand for pay television. We made it clear in the second White Paper that the result would be reviewed after two or three years. We are suggesting a review and not a terminal date after which the experiment would inevitably have to be closed down. If it 1027 were the latter, practically nobody would be willing to participate, but a comparatively early opportunity for review seems to us to be in everybody's interest.
We propose to move quickly on this. Indeed my right hon. Friend will be issuing before the end of this week invitations to interested organisations to apply. Then we shall be able to determine more closely the way the experiment is to be run. We would intend to send a questionnaire to those who apply, and if hon. Members would like it I will be very ready to put several copies of the questionnaire in the Library so that people can see the sort of questions we intend to put to those who apply.
The right hon. Member for Caerphilly—and I acknowledge the authority with which he speaks as an ex-PostmasterGeneral—touched on the question of relay interests, and so on, in this connection. It is possible to argue that all sorts of people should be excluded from pay T.V.—relay interests, commercial television or film producers—but I think that that approach would be a mistake. I am certain that pay television must grow out of something that is already there, and just as commercial television drew strength from films, cinema, theatre and Press interests, so I believe it would be right not to exclude any given form of interest from pay television. In other words, we want to see whether this is a service which the people want. I do not want to prejudge it in any way. I have merely given out the reasons why we are moving fairly swiftly in this matter.
I turn now to the question of advertising and Clauses 5 and 6 of the Bill and to the speeches of the hon. Member for Sunderland, North and the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. F. Noel-Baker) and others. This is the position as I see it. The first White Paper published in the summer of last year made it clear that we accepted the recommendation in the Pilkington Report that the amount of advertising should not be prescribed by legislation. That Committee had also accepted as reasonable the concept of averaging advertising time, as some programmes are more suitable than others for carrying advertisements. It was also thought that an average of six minutes an hour was reasonable.
Here we come to a question of judgment—and so many of these things are 1028 matters of judgment, as those who have spoken in the debate have recognised. My hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) said that he was a fan of "Laramie" and disliked "Juke Box Jury". My own view is precisely the other way round. I prefer "Juke Box Jury" of the two. So when the hon. Member for Sunderland, North says that he thinks there is very real anxiety about the amount of advertising, I feel bound to say that I do not share his view and I think that he is there expressing, perfectly properly, a purely personal point of view.
The hon. Member for Swindon, who has devoted so much time to the subject and whose interest in and mastery of the subject one, of course, acknowledges, said that a great deal of what he wished to see was in Clauses 5 and 6, but that—if I may abbreviate his argument—he did not wholly trust the Authority necessarily to carry out the provisions of those two Clauses. But at least he will agree that Clauses 5 and 6 can and should work.
Here we come to a point that has been made by a number of hon. Members, that a great deal is going to depend upon the man who is appointed Chairman of the Authority. I acknowledge this; he must be a man of outstanding calibre. It has emerged over and over again throughout this debate that so much depends on this. This question of advertising is a very good example.
The question of the Advertising Advisory Committee and the appropriate representation of consumers—which I always find a more difficult term to define than the hon. Member for Swindon did —is a difficult one, but it is one that we would be very ready to discuss, and the Postmaster-General has said that if the hon. Members for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew), Swindon, Sunderland, North and others concerned in the matter would like to put their points of view to him he would be very glad to consider having discussions with them.
We must all acknowledge that the I.T.A. is going to be in a very strong position to make sure, if it should be necessary, that advertisements do not detract from the value of the programmes. I wish to put my view against that of the hon. Member for Sunderland, North. I think that, on the whole, for some time now there has been very little wrong 1029 with either the amount of spot advertising or the placing of advertisements. I leave out altogether those who would like to take a hatchet to television advertising, because that is not a view that I share. I merely express my point of view that the arrangements that we have in this Bill and that we have put into Clauses 5 and 6 will work, and I acknowledge that a great deal depends on the prestige and calibre of the Chairman of the Authority.
One point that has inevitably aroused a great deal of interest is enshrined in Clause 8, and deals with Press interests. I think this is one of the most difficult points that we as a Government have had to settle because it is extraordinarily difficult to define. The Pilkington Committee, in paragraph 632, said that by "dominant" it meant the largest single interest. But there is, as the House will recognise, something of a non sequitur here, because entirely isolated incidents like quite a small transfer of shares between, unrelated parties might suddenly promote a shareholding to be the largest single interest.
Nor do we get much help on this matter from the Royal Commission on the Press which simply recommended that companies should not be controlled by newspaper undertakings, which clearly brings at least one company into the fold, but it does not attempt to define its terms any further. Of course, we looked at the possibilities of having a given percentage. But this again is impossible because, if there are only two shareholders, 49 per cent. is a minor interest but, if there are tens of thousands of shareholders, 20 per cent. or even a great deal less could, conceivably, be a dominant interest.
As I took it, the hon. Member for Sunderland, North seemed to put forward, a little tentatively, the idea that the Press should be excluded altogether. With respect, if he takes that view, he is, as he knows, going beyond both the Pilkington Report and the Report of the Shawcross Royal Commission on the Press. However, rejecting that view, it is quite plain that no one in this debate, at least, has produced a better answer than has already been put into Clause 8. Whatever we may think about it, it also has the very great advantage that it maintains Parliament, both by subsection (1) and by the 1030 overriding power in subsection (2), at the centre of decision in these matters. Unless a better answer can be found in Commitee, Clause 8 will, it seems to me, continue to stand up to criticism such as it has received today.
A point which many people have returned to, some for and some against, is the question of a second programme for I.T.A. Clause 13 is in the Bill against the day when such a programme will be authorised. One can sum up the attitude which we have taken in the simple phrase, "First things first". This was, although in a different context of reorganisation, the view of the Pilkington Committee—in other words, that the reorganisation should precede any decision on this particular matter.
In Clause 13 we suggest two signposts. I am not myself certain—again this is largely a Committee matter—that we are wholly wise to do this. If I may just put my doubts before the House, we have erected two signposts here, whereas, if the time comes for such a programme, we may need a great many more, and we may need a much more elaborate Clause. It is, therefore, at least open to argument whether Clause 13 is suitable in the Bill as it stands.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Lord John Hope) said that, on balance, he thought that the Government's view on this matter was about right. Others, like my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough, cogently argued the contrary. I make plain that, although "First things first" is the motto I put to the House, I look forward to the day when a second independent programme will be established.
A great deal has happened since 1954. Personally, I think that the coming of independent television is one of the best things that ever happened to the B.B.C.; its programmes, its sport and its news are incomparably better; its present Director-General is more closely in touch than any of his predecessors has ever been. There are brilliant producers like Michael Peacock and others. If this is true, it is true also that great credit must be given to Independent Television which has done so well.
What we want to see is not just a State service or a State-created corporation. We 1031 want it to be leavened by thriving, thrusting and prosperous competition from independent television. Of course, this is trying to get the best of both worlds, but this is what the Bill is designed to do. From the welcome it has had today, I think that it can have a good start, and I believe that it will be a much better Bill still when it comes out of Committee. I hope that the House will speed it on its way.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 38 (Committal of Bills.)