HC Deb 03 November 1966 vol 735 cc651-3
Q4. Mr. Dance

asked the Prime Minister, in view of the terms of his official letter to Mrs. Mary Whitehouse of the National Viewers' and Listeners' Association of 19th February, 1965, what steps Her Majesty's Government will now take as a result of the Association's proposals for a Viewers' and Listeners' Council.

The Prime Minister

I must ask the hon. Gentleman to await the publication of the forthcoming White Paper on broadcasting.

Mr. Dance

But how do the Prime Minister's words of support for this type of council tie up with the actual facts? Consistently the heads of the B.B.C. have refused and successive Postmasters-General have either refused or said that they cannot find time to meet Mrs. Whitehouse and the Association and at least listen to their points of view.

The Prime Minister

The question of how far the Government should be concerned in these questions of taste on B.B.C. or other television programmes is a matter of very great controversy not only in the country but in this House. I think that the hon. Gentleman had better await the White Paper on broadcasting in which the Government's conclusions on these matters will be set out.

Mr. More

Do the Government not recognise a moral obligation to ensure, in the words actually inscribed in Broadcasting House, that all things hostile to peace and purity are banished from that Temple of the Arts and Muses?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for reminding me of those words. I think that all of us have seen one or two programmes, not confined to the B.B.C, which might have fallen from the high standards laid down by Lord, then Sir John, Reith in those years. That is a very different thing from saying that the Postmaster-General should appoint himself the censor of public taste on those questions. Where there have been one or two really bad cases, public opinion has made itself felt so strongly that action has been taken by the B.B.C itself.

Mr. Buchan

Would my right hon. Friend agree that this is not so much a moral problem as a Moral Rearmament problem? Would he not agree, further, that it is curious that all the attacks seem to be directed at the B.B.C. rather than at the commercial set-up?

The Prime Minister

I am not concerned with the particular religious or other views of those connected with these programmes. As I said, there has been a great controversy about whether the Government should act as a censor on the morality of anything seen on television.

Mr. Hogg

Whilst accepting to the full the right hon. Gentleman's view about the propriety of Government interference, does he not agree that much of the trouble could be avoided if only the Board of Governors of the B.B.C. would make themselves a little more accessible to complaints and recognise that that was the original function for which they were designated by the Charter?

The Prime Minister

I think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is quite right in what he says about one of their important functions. I do not think that it is for me to express an opinion about it, but it is the case that whereas many hon. Members have complaints about violence and other things on certain commercial channels, the Independent Television Authority has shown considerable vigilance in dealing with complaints where public taste was affronted.

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