HC Deb 07 March 1968 vol 760 cc639-41
11. Mr. Hugh D. Brown

asked the Postmaster-General if he will make a statement on the progress of the local sound radio experiment.

17. Mr. Ridsdale

asked the Postmaster-General what has been the total cost of establishig local radio stations.

Mr. Edward Short

Of the eight stations authorised, five—Brighton, Leicester, Merseyside, Nottingham and Sheffield—are now in operation. The sixth, at Stoke, is due to open on 14th March; and the remaining two, at Durham and Leeds, by the early summer. On the cost and financing of the stations, I have nothing to add to previous Answers. I intend to review the experiment when the stations have been operating for a year or so. The right thing now is surely to let the stations alone to get on with the experiment.—[Vol. 756, c. 458–9; Vol. 757, c. 556–8; Vol. 759, c. 1750.]

Mr. Brown

Looking ahead, and being confident of the success of this venture, would my hon. Friend assure the House that the B.B.C. will not be starved of revenue, however modest it might be, to encourage the creation of other local radio stations?

Mr. Short

We shall have to wait to see. This method of financing the stations is one of the objects of the experiment. It looks as though it is going extremely well in some areas, such as Merseyside and Cheshire, where all the local authorities, including the Cheshire County Council, are co-operating, and less well in other areas. We shall have to wait for a year or so to see how the experiment goes.

Mr. Ridsdale

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many of us on this side of the House think that this is extremely extravagent Government spending and that this matter would have been far better left to private enterprise?

Mr. Short

I wonder whether all hon. Members on both sides of the House really think that. One of the great needs today is to improve the quality of communal life. I should have thought that nothing would have improved it more than a communal, publicly-owned station. I know that that means nothing to the hon. Gentleman, but a communally-owned station, tailor-made for the locality, can make a significant contribution to the quality of communal life.

Mr. English

Is my right hon. Friend aware that these stations have been extremely well received by the public in the areas in which they are situated and that there is not necessarily a conflict between public service and private enterprise if this is permitted throughout the country?

Mr. Short

There is no conflict between public service and financing them commercially. That is the distinction which I would make.

Mr. Bryan

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many highly qualified engineers believe that the daytime use of medium wavelengths for local radio is not only possible but would be a great help to them? Is he absolutely certain that his own advisers are right in saying that this is an impossibility and there is no wavelength available?

Mr. Short

I have taken the best technical advice I could get, and I am assured that this is not possible. In addition, there would be the difficulty that as soon as it got dark one would have to switch to a different wavelength. But, apart from that difficulty, I am assured that the use of medium wavelengths during the day is not "on".