HC Deb 02 June 1964 vol 695 cc891-3
1. Mr. Swingler

asked the Postmaster-General what conditions he will lay down regarding the fulfilment of a British quota in the showing of feature films on experimental pay-television.

The Postmaster-General (Mr. Reginald Bevins)

Any pay-television operator who shows registered cinema films will be required to include British cinema films at least at the prevailing rate of cinema exhibitors' first feature screen quota, at present 30 per cent. Any film which has been registered with the Board of Trade as a British quota film will count towards the quota requirement.

Mr. Swingler

That is not a very satisfactory Answer. In view of the decline in cinema attendances and the need to stimulate the British film industry, and as the pay-television companies are being given this important concession, ought they not to be required to fulfil a much higher British quota than the ordinary cinemas?

Mr. Bevins

I appreciate the considerations which the hon. Gentleman has mentioned, but at the same time I do not think that it would be fair to have the same provisions applying to pay-television as to cinemas. After all, cinemas can show the newest of films whereas pay-television cannot, and, of course, we have to consider the interests of the local exhibitors. That is why we have made the special provisions for the pay-television companies.

Mr. Mason

Can the Postmaster-General say what proposals he has in mind for limiting the cinema film proportion of total programme content of pay-television stations, and, secondly, is he satisfied that after a film has been on the major circuit the subsequent-run exhibitors will be safeguarded by this new innovation of allowing six-month-old films to go on pay-television?

Mr. Bevins

The latter part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question was, I think, answered before the House rose for the Whitsun Recess. We are providing that at least the prevailing rate of the cinema exhibitors' first-feature screen quota of 30 per cent. shall be observed.

2. Mr. Swingler

asked the Postmaster-General if he will now have discussions with the British Broadcasting Corporation, the Independent Television Authority, and interested bodies in the film industry and cinema trade about the general principle governing the showing or feature films on television, in the light of his decision about experimental pay-television.

Mr. Bevins

The procurement of programme material, including films, is a matter for commercial negotiation both for pay-television and for the B.B.C. and The only reason I have laid down certain conditions about the possible use of films in the pay-television experiment is to safeguard the interests of exhibitors in the few areas concerned during the experimental period.

Mr. Swingler

Does not the Postmaster-General think that it is time that this whole matter was reviewed round the table by the interests concerned? Would it not be ridiculous, as the right hon. Gentleman has made the concession to the pay-television companies to allow them to show feature films six months after general release, that they should be doing that while the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. go on showing this ancient stuff at the weekends? Is it not time that all the interests concerned, especially as the Minister has incorporated provisions for compensation to cinema exhibitors while they suffer competition from pay-television, should now confer and try to reach a new basis of agreement?

Mr. Bevins

I think that there are two points there. The first is that, unlike the B.B.C. and the I.T.A., pay-television, certainly in the early stages, is bound to rely largely on films. I do not think that it would be appropriate to treat pay-T.V. and the broadcasting organisations in the same way.

As regards the six-month provision, as the hon. Gentleman knows there is the film defence organisation which prevents most films from being sold to television, on the score that the interests of the exhibitors would be damaged. The activities of F.I.D.O. are not a matter for me.