HC Deb 15 July 1963 vol 681 cc5-7
4. Dr. Bray

asked the Lord Privy Seal what is the duration of British Broadcasting Corporation broadcasts in Chinese to China and South East Asia; what it will be on completion of the authorised expansion of this service; and what are the weekly hours of British Broadcasting Corporation broadcasts per hundred million of population in China as compared with the rest of the world.

Mr. P. Thomas

British Broadcasting Corporation broadcasts to China and South East Asia amount at present to three and a half hours weekly in Mandarin and one and three-quarter hours weekly in Cantonese, making a total of five and a quarter hours in the Chinese languages. There is at present no authorised plan for the expansion of these services, but Chinese is one of the languages likely to benefit when the current scheme for improving British Broadcasting Corporation relay facilities in South East Asia has been completed. The British Broadcasting Corporation now provide forty-five minutes of broadcasting per hundred million of population in China compared with roughly nineteen hours per hundred million in foreign languages to the rest of the world.

Dr. Bray

Does the Minister note the gross disproportion in coverage between that of China and that of the rest of the world, by a factor of more than 20 to 1? Is there not a very strong case, particularly in view of the independence of Mayasia and the growing importance of China, for a very large increase in the broadcasting hours to China?

Mr. Thomas

I certainly agree with the hon. Gentleman that there is a need for more broadcasts in Chinese, and this we have very much in mind. The difficulty is that it is very largely a question of technical facilities, and plans are under discussion for the increased use of existing facilities and for the provision of new facilities for the improvement of our broadcasting coverage in South East Asia.

Sir G. Nicholson

What hours are most favourable for broadcasts to China?

Mr. Thomas

I could not answer that without notice.

Mr. Mayhew

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that no one can visit a Communist country nowadays without being aware of the immense importance of these B.B.C. broadcasts? Why have we now lost a place in the quantity of our output, first to the Americans, then to the Russians, then to the Chinese, then to the group of satellite countries, and shortly, we believe, to Egypt? Why do not the Government make a general expansion of these very valuable overseas broadcasts?

Mr. Thomas

As the hon. Gentleman knows, we are making an expansion of these broadcasts, which I agree with him are valuable. It is worth remembering that we are here making a contribution to the total free world effort of broadcasting to China. We are only one of several Western nations in the field with broadcasts in the Chinese language.