HC Deb 16 March 1965 vol 708 cc1051-3
2. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Postmaster-General what is Her Majesty's Government's policy towards the extension of commercial television and radio services.

22. Mr. Rowland

asked the Postmaster-General what plans he has for the introduction of a fourth television channel.

51 and 52. Mr. Freeson

asked the Postmaster-General (1) whether it is his intention to allocate a fourth television channel to commercial television companies;

(2) whether he will undertake not to authorise a fourth television channel.

54. Mr. Bence

asked the Postmaster-General if he will make a statement on the steps he is now taking to expand radio and television services, either commercial or non-commercial.

58 and 59. Mr. Chataway

asked the Postmaster-General (1) what is Her Majesty's Government's policy towards the extension of commercial television and radio services;

(2) what are his plans for a fourth television channel.

61. Mr. Ioan L. Evans

asked the Postmaster-General if he will consider allocating the fourth channel to a public authority similar to the British Broadcast- ing Corporation with the same right to send advertisements as that given to independent television.

Mr. Benn

The Government are reviewing broadcasting policy in a variety of its aspects. The question whether further services of television and sound radio should be authorised, and if so, how they would be constituted, organised and financed, is one of the issues under examination. This review will inevitably take a considerable time to complete. The Government will announce their conclusions as soon as they have reached them.

Mr. Hamilton

Can my right hon. Friend give any indication of when the result will be announced? Is he aware, for instance, that the educational problems which have been left to the present Government are incapable of short-term solution unless and until we use the radio and television media to this end? Will my right hon. Friend bear that very much in mind when he is allocating new television or radio channels.

Mr. Benn

Yes, Sir. The need to find space for educational broadcasting is one of the reasons why the review will take some time.

Mr. Bence

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the decline in the sale and distribution of the Radio Times, which gives information about radio news and services? Will he give a general direction to improve the standard and quality of the Radio Times so that it gives more information and has the widest circulation in order that people may have greater knowledge of what is done by radio and television?

Mr. Benn

My hon. Friend is raising a rather wider question. I am aware of this fact but it goes beyond the scope of this Question.

Mr. Freeson

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that it is very questionable whether there is need for an additional channel to be provided in any case? There is far greater need, as has been indicated by my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton), for putting the resources of the country which at present are being developed in this field to much greater and better use in education, the hospital service and in technical advance generally without unnecessarily introducing further programmes of the kind we have at present until such time at least as the present services have been improved and we have been provided with these other things adequately.

Mr. Benn

Obviously the demand made upon our national resources by television programmes is one of the factors which we have to take into consideration.

Mr. Evans

When examining the question of a possible fourth channel, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the recommendations of the Pilkington Committee, which was set up by the previous Government, and ensure that the new channel, even should it be allowed to present commercial advertisements, is publicly owned?

Mr. Benn

All suggestions, including that one, will be welcome.

Captain Orr

The right hon. Gentleman says that the review will take some time. Does he expect to make an announcement this Session?

Mr. Benn

I cannot say when a statement will be made. If it is to be a thorough-going review, I am sure that the House will not want it to be hurried beyond the capacity to settle these matters properly.

Sir F. Bennett

Will the review to which the Postmaster-General has referred take within its terms of reference the question of local radio sound services?

Mr. Benn

Yes, Sir; and there are several other Questions on this subject which are coming up shortly.