HC Deb 02 August 1965 vol 717 cc1048-9
23. Mr. Boston

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is satisfied that the amount of broadcasting on the British Broadcasting Corporation's External Services is adequate; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. George Thomson

Yes, Sir. I am satisfied that the total amount of broadcasting by the British Broadcasting Corporation's External Services is about right in present circumstances. I believe that the more important matter is to improve audibility of the External Services, which is far from perfect in areas where sound broadcasting can make a valuable contribution to our information effort, particularly in Africa, Asia and Latin America. A review of the External Services of the British Broadcasting Corporation has been carried out by Sir Thomas Rapp, a former Ambassador, with a wide experience of these matters, and I take this opportunity of expressing the appreciation of Her Majesty's Government for his valuable Report. This is being actively studied within the context of the Government's Review of Expenditure. Meanwhile, projects to improve audibility, which are already completed or being carried out, include modernisation of some of the transmitters in the United Kingdom and the construction of a relay station on Ascension Island which is expected to be operational by the end of 1966.

Mr. Boston

Would my hon. Friend accept that this information is very welcome? Does he agree that these broadcasts provide a very useful service at comparatively little cost? Would he also agree that the recent expansion of the service to the Far East is particularly valuable? But is he satisfied that all this is in fact adequate, and can he say whether he has any further plans for either improving the Far East service or expanding it further?

Mr. Thomson

I regard the B.B.C. External Services as one of our great international assets, never more important than at the present time when we have certain economic difficulties at home. I feel that audibility is a first priority. There is no point in extending the number of hours of broadcasting if people in various part of the world cannot hear adequately.

Lady Tweedsmuir

Could the Minister of State say whether the recent announcement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer will result in any reduction of the services?

Mr. Thomson

There is no intention to reduce any of the services as a result of the present review of Government expenditure. As I have said, proposals to extend the services must be considered in the context of the review of expenditure.