HC Deb 11 April 1968 vol 762 cc1567-8
17. Mr. Hugh Jenkins

asked the Postmaster-General if he will introduce legislation to enable him to require the Independent Television Authority to withdraw the licence of any programme company whose control is materially changed by acquisition or merger.

The Postmaster-General (Mr. Roy Mason)

No, Sir.

Mr. Jenkins

Will my right hon. Friend reconsider this matter and at least amplify his brief but inadequate Answer? Is it not a fact that the award of a licence can represent an award to print money? Is it not desirable that this award should be given to a company only if the nature of the company remains the same? Will he look at the matter again?

Mr. Mason

I do not think that it is necessary to look at the matter again. My hon. Friend is, I think, really concerned with something developing from a merger and I suggest, therefore, that as he is probably thinking in terms of a monopoly position being established, he should direct his remarks to the President of the Board of Trade.

Dr. Winstanley

In this connection, would my right hon. Friend require the Authority to publish the bids of the successful contracting companies so that when they commence transmitting in July their performance can be measured against their previous promises?

Mr. Mason

I cannot promise to do that.

Mr. Whitaker

Why should not the enormous profits of the independent television companies be used to finance the B.S.C. so that old people, pensioners and the public alike are not called upon to pay the licence fee?

Mr. Mason

That has been considered but, so far, without success.

Mr. John Lee

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the principle that is involved here—that the whole object of the Independent Television Act was to ensure that the distribution and control of programme companies is widely spread? Does not every merger that takes place go some way towards defeating the purpose of the Act?

Mr. Mason

No, not at this stage, but if it developed into a monopoly position I believe that my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade would be the right person to examine it.