§ 9. Mr. Ian Gilmour
asked the Postmaster-General whether he proposes to issue directions to the British Broadcasting Corporation and the Independent Television Authority not to send broadcasts containing obscene language; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Edward Short
No, Sir. The broadcasting authorities are already under a duty to satisfy themselves that, so far as is possible, the programmes for which 430 they are responsible should not offend against good taste or decency, or be offensive to public feeling.
§ Mr. Gilmour
I appreciate the undesirability of censorship, but is it not equally undesirable that the Postmaster-General should incite the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. to use four-letter words? Can he say whether he really meant those words which he uttered at that luncheon, or whether they fell out inadvertently?
§ Mr. Short
I neither condoned the use of the words nor suggested that they should be used. The Daily Sketch made this quite clear. I personally very much deplore the use of these words. I was making two points. First, what is acceptable on television is based on a consensus in society, and Parliament has laid on the two broadcasting authorities the duty to interpret this consensus without any Ministerial censorship or directive, or any watchdog committee. My second point was a plea for honesty in art, and I might have added in politics and in life generally. So long as I have breath in my body, I shall advocate honesty and attack cant, hypocrisy and humbug.
§ Mr. Mapp
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the thin line between liberty and licence is gradually being eroded by the television authorities? Would it not be wise to call their attention to the fact that in the country there are many people of that opinion? I respect what my right hon. Friend has just said, but the fact remains that licence is now on the increase in these programmes.
§ Mr. Whitaker
May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his adult attitude and integrity? Does he not think that one reason why we prefer British television and radio to that of the Rhodesian régime which the hon. Member for Hal-temprice (Mr. Wall) supports is that it is, happily, free from day-to-day meddling by politicians?
§ Dr. Winstanley
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many hon. Members who also object strongly to obscenity or other lapses of taste on television would object equally strongly if there were any intervention by the Postmaster-General, or any other Minister for that matter, in programme content, whether on I.T.V. or B.B.C.?
§ Sir G. Nabarro
While generally accepting what the Postmaster-General said, may I ask him to think again in the case of a television film such as "Up the Junction", which gave widespread offence and was then repeated to give even more offence? If it is known that a film gives offence, why repeat it?