HC Deb 21 November 1968 vol 773 cc1522-3
16 Mr. Boston

asked the Postmaster-General if he will make a statement on the progress of the British Broadcasting Corporation's local radio experiments.

17 Mr. Ridsdale

asked the Postmaster-General what estimate he has made of the annual cost of local radio stations.

Mr. Stonehouse

As I said in the Adjournment debate on 11th November, I am not prepared to prejudge the local radio experiment. The B.B.C. tells me it estimates the annual operating costs at about £60,000 for each station, except Merseyside, where the estimate is £70,000.—[Vol. 773, c. 170.]

Mr. Boston

Would my right hon. Friend confirm that any Bill sponsored by the G.L.C. or any other local authority for commercial stations will be resisted because of the adverse effect which this could have on local newspapers? Would he also congratulate B.B.C. Radio Leeds on its enterprise in mounting a series of programmes on the constructive side of racial integration? Does he not think that this will go some way to counteract the effects of the appalling speech of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell)?

Mr. Stonehouse

I can confirm that there is no question of any commercial station being allowed to start, sponsored by the G.L.C. or any other authority. I appreciate what my hon. Friend says about the Leeds experiment. That station is certainly doing a fine job.

Mr. Ridsdale

As a predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman is now having to cut back on money for primary schools, how long will they continue with this extravagant experiment?

Mr. Stonehouse

This is not an extravagant experiment. Local radio can have an enormously good effect on community life. We want to see this experiment through, evaluate its results about next July, and then give a full report to the House.

Mr. Hugh D. Brown

May I compliment my right hon. Friend on his recent public attempts to destroy the myth that commercial radio is free and assure him that many of us on this side appreciate that local radio can make a remarkable contribution to community participation?

Mr. Stonehouse

Certainly commercial radio is not free, because the customer has to pay through the increased cost of the products advertised.

Mr. Bryan

Does the right hon. Gentleman hold the same belief as his predecessor but one, that the entertainment of the people should not be the by-product of the search for profits?

Mr. Stonehouse

I entertain the belief that we should have a diversity of methods of entertaining and educating the population. I am sure that we have that in T.V., and that in radio the B.B.C. are doing a remarkably good job.