§ 3.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward Heath (Bexley)
I beg to move,That this House regrets that the policy of Her Majesty's Government will cause a serious deterioration in the quality of broadcasting.
The Opposition selected this subject to give the House the opportunity of debating the whole sphere of broadcasting; that is to say, both the public service and the commercial aspect of television and the whole range of radio. This, we believe, was really in accordance with the wish of hon. Members in all parts of the House because of the views which have been consistently expressed Thursday after Thursday by hon. Members of all parties.
This debate is being held in Opposition time, as the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) very forcibly pointed out to the Leader of the House last Thursday. I respectfully suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that this is a major area of Government responsibility. There are important financial decisions involved both for the Chancellor of the Exchequer and for the members of the public who pay their licence fees. There are also political considerations which, I think it is fair to say, have obviously been taken into account in these matters. Both the financial and the political will govern the organisation of broadcasting in this country while this Government are in office. It is, therefore, a matter of great importance for the House of Commons.
Looking at it from the outside point of view, acute anxieties have been constantly expressed about "Broadcasting in the Seventies" as a statement of policy and also about the statement of the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications—we can always expect the Labour Government to use 14 syllables where six have done for several centuries—by the staff, by those who follow these matters, and by many actually working in the broadcasting systems who are connected with the arts.
1497 According to many Members in the House, this matter should have been discussed in Government time, but we have provided the opportunity. The points of order which we have just heard have shown that the Government are deliberately denying to the House, although we accept Mr. Speaker's Ruling, the opportunity of expressing a view directly about "Broadcasting in the Seventies" and the Government's policy on it. Of course, we can express our views and we hope that the Government, the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. will take full note and act upon them. Nevertheless, as a result of deliberate Government action in the framing of their Amendment, we are being denied the opportunity of expressing a view about broadcasting policy as a whole, in particular, that put forward by the B.B.C. and the Minister's statement upon it. It is a matter of the greatest regret.
The Government have refused to face the issues. For this reason, they have constantly refused to provide time for a debate. And today they are still seeking to evade the issues. This is because they know that there is widespread agreement in the House with the Motion. The mere fact that they themselves are not prepared to allow us to reach a decision upon this is a condemnation of their own policy which they themselves are admitting. If they had confidence that the policy of the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. and the Government would not lead to deterioration in broadcasting, it was open to them to advise the House to vote down the Motion and vote it straight.
That would have been the normal way of behaving on a matter of substance of this kind. But they were not prepared to do that because the Leader of the House, assisted by the Patronage Secretary, judged that the Motion would get widespread support throughout the House. Thus, my main point is that, generally, the view is that there will be a deterioration in the standards of broadcasting as a consequence of this policy.
I wish to speak briefly, because a large number of right hon. and hon. Members want to make contributions to the debate. To all of us this is a vitally important subject. It is one with which we can all have acquaintance and on which we can 1498 all have views which matter. I want to concentrate, first, on what I regard as the really basic issues in the structure and purpose of broadcasting and then, in the light of this, look at the B.B.C.'s proposals, the plight of commercial television, the proposals for commercial radio and the Government's policy.
First, I deal with the broad structure. It seems to me of importance that in this House we should come to the position which obtains today and cease any longer to fight the battles of long ago. We have now a combination of what is called public service and commercial broadcasting. It is in many ways an artificial description, because both provide a public service. One is supported by the licence and the taxpayer and the other is run, it hopes at a profit, by private enterprise, which makes a very large contribution, which must now be in the region of £40 to £50 million a year, to the Exchequer itself. But the description has become established as public service and commercial broadcasting.
I am quite prepared to accept this description, but the point I want to make is that this is now a complementary system which can give us the best radio and television network in the world, properly handled. I would have thought that it was the objective of the House now, the battles having been fought and the dust having settled, to accept that this is the system which the country has and that the purpose of any Administration must be to maintain a balance between the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. which will give us the best of so-called public service and commercial broadcasting, and to see that, whether we do it through the licensing system or through the balance of levy and taxation imposed on the I.T.A., both have the opportunities to maintain that quality and variety which we require.
I make my position clear. In the early 1950s, I was one of those who not only wanted but was determined to do all I could to break the monopoly of the B.B.C. I believed that it was unhealthy. I was not one of those, so vividly described by the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew), whose views I respect, as being under the pressure of commercial interests. I did not 1499 then, and do not now, have any financial interest in any commercial television project of any kind.
I was interested in breaking the B.B.C. monopoly because I believe that it was unhealthy for the corporation to have a monopoly of this powerful medium, growing in power, in news presentation, in current affairs, and in interviews—including with Members of the House. I believed that it was unhealthy to have a monopoly of employment, not only of performers but of creative artists, whether in drama, music, or any other form. I believed that it was unhealthy from the point of view of the B.B.C. itself, particularly for its technical development.
These were the reasons why I wanted to see the B.B.C. monopoly broken. It seemed to me at that time—the early 1950s—that the B.B.C. had lost the dynamism of its early years, which was tremendous and had produced results of a very high quality, and that it badly needed a fresh inspiration both technically and from the creative point of view. Looking back over the 15 years since, I think that any fair-minded observer would agree that this is exactly what the B.B.C. has got through the establishment of commercial television and that the fears and anxieties expressed on both sides of the House, and which were deep and genuine, have not materialised.
§ Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)
The right hon. Gentleman says that everyone assumes that. But quite a number of hon. Members and members of the general public say, and provide evidence, that the programmes of murder and violence have been much more on commercial television channels first and that "Auntie" B.B.C. has been forced by the competitive position to live up to that to a very large extent.
§ Mr. Heath
I do not accept that argument. When one takes into account the other factors at work in our society which have themselves done a great deal to propagate works of violence, I would not put the blame on commercial television. Also, I do not accept that the B.B.C. is, in any case, under pressure to do likewise; and this is a fundamental part of my thesis to which I shall return.
The other point about this is that commercial television has made a genuine 1500 regional contribution to our life. The B.B.C. makes one as well, but the programme companies have gone to considerable efforts to make a regional contribution of consequence and this is appreciated in their regions.
At the same time, as a result of this competition, we are seeing much more highly-developed techniques, much greater speed of operation and range of coverage. I do not believe that this would have come about if the monopoly had remained. I believe that there are better news media today in both the I.T.A. and the B.B.C, better entertainment value, much greater sporting coverage and, at the same time, because we have this combined system, we have so far had the wishes of minorities adequately catered for.
Since, in some respects, I recognise that I am myself a minority in the arts, I appreciate the fact that, through the B.B.C, I, as a minority, am catered for. At the same time, I regard this as a reason why the licence is paid—for this public service organisation to cater to a large extent for the requirements of minorities.
I accept, and have never debated this argument, that commercial organisation does not to the same extent cater to the minorities. That is why I want a combined system and want to get the best out of that system as a combined working. I do not believe, either, that the fears which so many people held have really materialised.
§ Mr. Christopher Mayhew (Woolwich, East)
The major fear expressed was that commercial television would not cater for minorities. This was contested bitterly by hon. Members opposite at that time, but now the right hon. Gentleman himself accepts it.
§ Mr. Heath
The hon. Gentleman has missed the original point of the change, which was, first, that the monopoly would not exist; secondly, that this would produce a more stimulating B.B.C.—and no one would challenge that it has done so; and, thirdly, that, in a complementary system, a public service system can cater for minorities while, at the same time, the commercial system is providing mass entertainment, if the hon. Gentleman wishes to call it that, for large numbers of viewers.
§ Mr. Mayhew rose…
§ Mr. Heath
I cannot give way again. I am trying to be brief. The hon. Member can express his own view.
Could we not therefore agree that we have this combined system, and that it is to the benefit of the country? The B.B.C. and the I.T.V. long ago accepted this, as did the country, and for us to go on fighting about it in the House of Commons is out of date. We should recognise what is the future of this complementary system. I want to refer to "Broadcasting in the Seventies" and to consider B.B.C. policy in the light of this document.
Lord Hill says, in the instruction:Whatever else happens the public service which the B.B.C. provides should be complete, nationally and locally.That is the first question that we have to ask about the B.B.C.: is it right to say to itself, "Whatever happens in television or in radio we must always be in every aspect of it to the fullest possible extent"?
I have said that I want to talk about the broad structure of broadcasting because that is the first important aspect that we should consider. The governors —if it is their responsibility—may be criticised for apparently taking the view that no matter what development takes place in television or radio the B.B.C. must be in it and must have the resources to go into it, and those resources must come either from the licence fee or from the Exchequer. I fully agree—indeed, I challenge anybody to say otherwise—that the B.B.C. should remain dependent upon the licence fee, and, if the Government wish it, dependent upon the contribution made by the Government. I do not want the B.B.C. to have advertisements, because of the particular role which I think that it should play.
The B.B.C. should ask itself: what are our priorities in the fields of radio and television, taking into account the fact that the Authority exists? It should also take account of the fact that there are proposals for commercial radio, but that is a comparatively small part of the argument. That is why the House regrets that the Leader of the House has made it the major part of the Government Amend- 1502 ment. The B.B.C. should ask itself: what priorities ought we to follow?
What "Broadcasting in the Seventies" does is to change the past priorities of the B.B.C. That is what has caused so much alarm to those who watch and listen to it, and work in it. I do not want to enter into an argument about the consultations which have gone on with the staff, and so on; that is a matter for the B.B.C. What I want to discuss is the fact that there is at any rate some alarm among them, and that, so we understand, their morale is low.
This document represents a complete change in priorities from what the B.B.C. has done in the past. In my view, the B.B.C. should go for programmes of quality—for creative and original work, whether in music, drama, poetry, speech making, or whatever it may be—and go for the interests of the minorities. I put those as the three major priorities for the B.B.C. in the public service field.
§ Mr. Heath
I hope that the hon. Member will contain himself and listen to my arguments.
If the B.B.C. concentrates on those priorities it will not be necessary for it to leave everything else to commercial organisations, but it can take account of what is provided by commercial organisations, instead of saying that no matter what happens it must do not only everything that the commercial organisations do but carry on the three other projects that I have emphasised.
The B.B.C. has made it plain that it accepts competition. I am fully prepared to take it at its word, and to take it that it will accept competition in sound radio as well as in television. The argument, therefore, is not with the B.B.C.; it is with the Government themselves, who are opposed to any further competition in sound radio. Our Motion says that there will be a deterioration in quality. That will be so in respect of radio, unless these proposals are altered, and it is also true in television, especially in commercial television.
I said that there had been a great change in B.B.C. priorities, and I want to examine this aspect in connection with 1503 the B.B.C.'s proposals which will lead to a deterioration in quality. The pamphlet. "The B.B.C. and the Arts" states:The B.B.C. has long been recognised as the most powerful single influence in British musical life. Composers, orchestras, choirs, festivals and individual performers in this country look to it constantly for support and publicity, and in some cases would be virtually lost without the help that it is able to give.That is true. Those who go to the Festival Hall on Sunday or at any other time and see the hundreds of young people flocking there know that they are going there largely because of the work done by the B.B.C. in music in the last 25 years, combined with the work of schools and musical institutions. That statement is unchallengeable. Sir William Haley said:Broadcasting must encourage the young, keep filled the pool of talent, and generally so arrange its patronage that it draws not only upon the masters of today but trains by use and experience the masters of tomorrow.Sir Hugh Greene said:If we are not creators, we are nothing.I agree with every word. That is what I want to see brought about by the B.B.C.
We must, therefore, consider the document "Broadcasting in the Seventies" and see to what extent the B.B.C. will match up to these objectives, so admirably set out in its pamphlet and by Sir William Haley and Sir Hugh Greene. The new proposals do not match up to these objectives. That is what is causing alarm and despondency among people both inside and outside the House.
It is proposed that the regional programmes should end after a transitional period and that the regions should be divided into eight areas. This will mean that there will no longer be the opportunity for creative work in the regions to go on the air in the same way as it has in the past. The B.B.C. itself does not deny that there will be a reduction in that respect; it acknowledges that there will be. To the extent that it is not encouraging creative talent and putting it on the screen and on the air there will be a deterioration in quality.
Radio 3—the music programme—is to be on V.H.F. only. We have heard that the B.B.C. may hold its hand on this. The Minister of Posts and Telecommunications himself announced these proposals 1504 in August and we should like to hear from one of the Ministers how many are now firm decisions and in respect of how many is it just a question of the B.B.C.'s holding its hand in the meantime to allow for consultations or until it can obtain further revenue.
The fact that the B.B.C. could say that Radio 3 would be broadcast only on V.H.F. was a major blow, which showed that there must have been a complete transformation of B.B.C. thinking. Those of us who listen to serious music value above everything Radio 3, as do those who listen to new creative drama, because Radio 3 has been the one place that they knew they would get it, and they were immensely grateful for it. They are minorities, and they accept that. But it is the job of the B.B.C. to cater for minorities.
Three orchestras are to be disbanded and the training orchestra is to go. The training orchestra is probably the greatest obligation that the B.B.C. has taken on outside its normal sphere of operations. Some of us who are concerned with the training colleges of music were disturbed to begin with because we found that our students were going off to join the B.B.C. training orchestra before they had finished their work at college or academy. This has now been righted.
I should be sorry to see the training orchestra go, because it is a training ground for the major symphony orchestras —the five in London and the most prominent, the B.B.C's own orchestra. The cost this year has been £500,000, which is a small sum compared with the total sums used by the B.B.C. The decision that the three orchestras were to be disbanded came out of the blue. There is a case, particularly in Scotland and Wales, for the B.B.C. to say to the national orchestras, "We shall work our orchestra and your national orchestra together. You will then not have two orchestras which are constantly facing difficulties and uncertainties." The B.B.C. could commission performances on radio and television with contemporary music just as with classical music.
There is an argument for saying that. There is no argument whatever for saying out of the blue, "These three orchestras are to go. Three others are held in a state of suspense and we shall 1505 abolish as much as we can." This indicates a style of thinking which was so alien to the corporation in the past that it disturbs us.
There are to be more records, fewer live broadcasts on Radios 1 and 3, and a reduction in the time devoted to so-called minority programmes. It was the fact that the corporation could put forward this as a programme for the 1970s that in itself undermined confidence in the corporation's attitude and approach to its real work and priorities in the coming decade.
On top of this the corporation said that it will add 14 new local radio stations. I respect the corporation's view that it wants to be in local radio because it thinks that the future of radio lies largely in small stations in cities and towns. The corporation may be right and it can cite American experience to a certain extent. However, I doubt whether in a country of our size the corporation is right.
The important point is that under the corporation's arrangements its local radio stations can never make up the creative and original work—nor can the areas, as far as I understand the proposals for their staffing—which the regions do for the corporation at present.
This is what immediately leads us to ask: has the corporation got its priorities wrong in saying that it will move out of regions and into areas and local stations, which will lower the quality of broadcasting and the opportunities for creative work by artistes, whether they are musical or dramatic? I put this to the House as fairly as I can, because this is what we mean by saying that these proposals, although we understand the corporation's line of thinking, will damage the quality we want to see.
Then there is the related question of the financing of local radio. The Director-General has said that the B.B.C. would have got nothing if it had not accepted local radio commitments. This means, in other words, that the Government put it to the corporation that if it wanted further aid it had to accept immediately a greater expansion of local radio. As we see it, the corporation has got very little as a result of accepting local radio. It will get £5.6 million from the addi- 1506 tional licence, of which £5.2 million, in 1971, will go to local radio.
The Minister for Posts and Telecommunications says that the corporation will be helped by the licence anti-evasion measures which are being taken. The Select Committee is very doubtful as to whether all this revenue will come from the anti-evasion measures. The Director-General says that the corporation will be in deficit by £7 million. Therefore, the Government appear to have forced at least this number of local stations on the corporation earlier than was necessary, but have not dealt with the basic financial problems of the corporation. As a result of this, the corporation will be in debt in 1971 and will pursue plans of this kind, adjusted to a greater or lesser degree, which will lead to a reduction in the standard of broadcasting. This is what we mean by our Motion.
§ Dr. M. P. Winstanley (Cheadle)
The right hon. Gentleman has predicted that the corporation will receive £5.6 million in April, 1971. Do I understand it to be a commitment on his part that, if the Tory Party is then in power, it will honour this promise to increase the licence fee at that date?
§ Mr. Heath
I intend to deal with that question later in the general context of the corporation's financing. I was using the Minister's figures. My point is that the Government are not facing up to the corporation's financial problems and are not facing up to what is required to maintain the standard of programme that we want.
I come now to the question of commercial radio stations. As the House will have seen from my general thesis that we can have a system of commercial and public service radio, I see no objection whatever to having commercial local radio stations. The corporation accepts this.
What are the arguments put against it? They are, first, the old arguments which were levelled against commercial television, that it will lower the standards. Where has the real demand for local radio come from? Everybody knows that it sprang largely from the pirate stations. It was when those were abolished, under a European Convention to which we as a Government were a party, that a demand 1507 came from the localities to have their own local radio. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Then let us differ about it.
The corporation reacted by proposing its own pop-like music programmes. Most people will agree that they do not match up to what it was possible to do by pirate programmes, for the simple reason that the system and the outlook are different. There is nothing to be ashamed of in saying that.
So, if the corporation has local radio stations, I see no reason why there should not be commercial radio stations as well. There is no reason at all why the corporation, just as it makes films and documentaries and exports them, should not supply new services to commercial radio if both sides wish it. There is no reason why the local Press should not have holdings in local radio in the same way as the national Press has holdings in commercial television. There is no reason why these complementary systems should not exist together in local radio without damaging each other, in exactly the same way as this is possible, in our system of television.
We reserve our position on the question of the corporation's local stations, because they must be taken into account with the other programmes of the corporation and the extent to which they are meeting what I have outlined as their first priorities.
§ Mr. Mayhew
The right hon. Gentleman concedes that commercial broadcasting does not cater for minorities. So why does he advocate a local radio setup which does not cater for minorities?
§ Mr. Heath
The hon. Gentleman is producing an unnecessary intellectual confusion. In a town or area of, say, 250,000 people there is every inspiration for a local radio station, whether commercial or B.B.C., to cater for the population, because in the commercial field it is a combat area where its viability depends. This is why it will look after that area of 250,000 people. If the hon. Gentleman would return to the original concept that the B.B.C. as a local station can cater for minorities—which it intends to do, anyway, so I am told—there can be a commercial station also catering for the area as a whole.
§ Mr. Heath
The hon. Gentleman has misunderstood me. I said that, qua the B.B.C.'s local stations, we reserve our position for the future to see whether it is possible for the corporation to carry out its other priorities. This is what the House and the public must face up to if they want a public service television or radio arrangement.
I want to deal next with the question of the programme companies, because this is another aspect of broadcasting as a whole, where standards are undoubtedly being depressed—not at the wish of the companies or of the authority, but by the financial burden placed upon them by the present Government recently. [Interruption.] The Tory Government introduced the levy in 1964. Like all these measures, if pushed too far it damages the institutions themselves. There is no doubt—the chairman of the I.T.A., formerly a very distinguished member of this Government, has said so in very plain language—that the position of many programme companies, particularly the smaller ones covering the different regions, is precarious. That is the plain fact. It is due to the additional burden of the levy placed on them.
The position was made more difficult by the way in which I.T.A. handled the franchise on the last occasion. It undermined confidence. During my visits to Wales I have not found all that number of people rushing up to me and saying what a great improvement the present company is on its predecessor. I do not find people in Scotland rushing up to me to tell me how much better the present situation is as a result of the rearrangement of the shareholding. This has undermind confidence within the present programme companies and has caused them to ask themselves whether six years is a sufficient franchise in order to put in the necessary capital investment, with the rapidly changing camera techniques and the requirements of colour placed on them. This, then, is the damage which is being done as a result of taxation and the levy and too short a period for the franchise and the capital requirements which are inescapable.
1509 It has occurred to some that when the Television Act went through those who are now on the Government benches were bitterly opposed to it. It is reported that the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown) said that Labour would like to abolish it. However, when they came to office they did not take this action, but accepted the situation. After all, it was 10 years after the Act was passed. There are some who think that the levy is being used as a means of dragging down the programme companies and commercial television and to put them out of business. I hope that the Government will repudiate that. I am prepared to accept that that is not their intention.
§ Mr. Heath
Because it is undoubtedly the thought in the minds of many of those operating the companies.
In that case, the Government must face the question of the burden of the levy, together with corporation tax and selective employment tax, on the finances of the programmes companies. The authority is well aware of it, and there will undoubtedly be a lowering of standards unless it is handled. This affects us in one particular way. I believe that the 10 o'clock programme of Independent Television News is one of the best half-hour programmes of news and current affairs which we can watch, or which exists in any Western country. When the finances of the programme companies are undermined, they are bound to say, "What reduction can we make in the contribution towards news for the 10 o'clock programme on Independent Television?". That is inescapable. This will be damaging, against their will, to the news and current affairs programmes of commercial television.
There are some who say, "Why not centralise all the current affairs coverage and economise in that way?" This would lead to a lowering of regional coverage by companies like Granada and Tyne Tees. There would be another lowering of quality. So I do not want to see that happen. I want the programme companies to be in a sufficiently stable financial position to be able to go on giving full support, and indeed increased support if required, to Independent Television News.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins (Putney)
Would the right hon. Gentleman address himself to two possibilities? The first concerns the application of the levy. Should not the levy be applied after taking into account programme costs instead of on the gross advertising revenue? The second possibility is the recommendation in the Pilkington Report that the authority and not the programme companies should receive the advertising revenue.
§ Mr. Heath
The latter point was discussed when the Television Bill was going through the House. We felt that that would remove an incentive from the programme companies.
On the first point, I have examined various proposals of this kind, and I am advised that the administration which would be required to deal with the problem in the manner suggested by the hon Gentleman, namely, by ascertaining programming costs before making calculations, would be so elaborate that it would not justify the change. It is much simpler to reduce the levy itself and deal with the problem in that way. This is the advice which I have received, and the best that I could get.
§ Mr. George Brown (Belper)
The right hon. Gentleman and I both like "News at Ten". I understood him to say that he has reason for believing that the companies would say to themselves, "Let us reduce what we spend elsewhere to enable the people who run 'News at Ten' to run it better." [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] In that case, I should like the right hon. Gentleman to repeat what he said. As I understood the right hon. Gentleman, he said that the companies should give more to "News at Ten" by taking some from the popular programmes.
§ Mr. Heath
I said that when the finances of the programme companies are undermined, as they are, by a combination of factors—the levy, corporation tax, selective employment tax and the fact that in the present economic situation advertising has been reduced—inevitably they reach the point at which they are unable to make the contribution which they would wish to make to Independent Television News. This is a danger which we shall have to face in future unless 1511 their finances can be put on a more viable footing. I should like their finances to be put on such a basis that Independent Television News could have greater scope should it want it. That is my general approach to the question of the provision of news by the companies.
Some hon. Members have said, "Should not we have a Select Committee to go into this matter?". There has been some comment in the Press that the Government may set up a Royal Commission. The charters do not expire until 1976. There can, therefore, be little justification for setting up a Royal Commission at this stage to go into the question of broadcasting and television, the programmes, the authority, the corporation, and so on. We would not have any sympathy with a proposal to set up a Royal Commission now when the charters are due for renewal in 1976, and we would not feel bound by it.
There is, however, a deeper point. There is no problem in broadcasting and television which cannot be settled amicably and sensibly with the corporation and the authority by any Government. They can do this on their own. All the information is available. The decisions could be taken by the Government or they could be taken by us when we returned to office. But there is little justification for once again pulling it all up by the roots in order to have another good look at it. Think of the amount of time consumed in working out memoranda, passing them internally between departments, the amount of time which high executives and creative artists would have to devote to compiling evidence for a Royal Commission, which sits for two or three years.
Everything would have to be reexamined. People's attention, energy, skill and creative efforts would be taken from television and radio and channelled into putting evidence before the Royal Commission. That happened with the Pilkington Report. It is unjustifiable now, because the decisions which require to be made can be made by a Government or by a Minister with the support of his colleagues without going through all this process. I do not believe that those in the corporation and the authority 1512 who deal with these matters want to go through it all again.
I sum up by saying this. In view of the proposals discussed by the Minister and the Exchequer's attitude towards the levy, there will be a deterioration in broadcasting—in sound radio and in television on the commercial side and, to some extent, in television on the B.B.C. side. This is to be regretted and is against the wish of all of us in the House. The action which the Minister has announced will not solve the B.B.C.'s financial problems.
I was asked whether we are committed to the licence. Obviously, we are not committed to financial measures taken by this Government. We are committed to ensuring that the B.B.C.'s finances are put on a sound footing, and I do not see how that can be done except by an increase in the licence. I say that quite frankly. I wish that the Government, who announced that they will put up the licence in April, 1971, had faced realities and said, "We shall put it up now because it is necessary to deal with the B.B.C.'s finances". But I accept that the money for a public service broadcasting system must be provided by the licence. At the same time, I emphasise that a proper balance should be kept between commercial television and the opportunities given to commercial radio. This, I know, is acceptable to the corporation and ought to be acceptable to this House.
As the Government have so far failed to solve the problems of the corporation or of the authority we must vote against the Government tonight. Most of all we regret the House not having been given the opportunity, which it ought to have, to express its own view about the deterioration in quality which we all fear during this coming decade.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ The Minister of Posts and Telecommunications (Mr. John Stonehouse)
I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:conscious of the contribution made by the British Broadcasting Corporation as a public service to the development of broadcasting in this country, rejects the Opposition's proposals for private enterprise commercial local radio stations.1513 Last time the House debated broadcasting, over four months ago, I said at the end that the debate on broadcasting would go on. That has been the case, because there can be no final conclusion to an important subject like this even when we have reached the stage of some decisions being made. It is quite obvious that the dialogue between the broadcasting authorities and the public will go on. Indeed, this is one of the healthy aspects of our society, that the broadcasting authorities do take into account views expressed outside Broadcasting House and the programme companies, and, as a result, we have the best broadcasting service in the world.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) referred to the prospects of a Royal Commission. I must admit that I have been considering whether the debate should not be widened in that way. I have not reached any conclusion about this, but I think it right to inform the House that I have been considering the prospects of some commission or committee of inquiry into the long-term future of broacasting after 1976, when the franchise of the I.T.A. and the Charter of the B.B.C. expire, because there will be mammoth implications to be considered, and I think it important that those considerations should be borne in mind well before the time of that expiration.
It is not only a question of the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. themselves. It is a question of the new, exciting technologies now being invented which will be available to us in the late 'seventies and certainly in the next decade, and which will open up an explosion in communications. It will be possible by a small wire or through microwave transmission for communication of 100 channels or more to go into every home in Britain. This will give a new opportunity for communications that will put the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. into a real dilemma. We also have the invention of the cassette, which is also feasible, which can record and play back programmes and will soon be available to the ordinary viewer so that he can build up a library of his favourite programmes and play them at times which suit him.
The TV set will then certainly become the best teaching machine there is. But it is not only that. The cassette idea can be developed, and there can be a com- 1514 puterised library of the world's best performances which will be available to any individual viewer simply by dialling through on one of the communication links I have referred to. These are opportunities which the new commission or inquiry, which we have to consider, will itself have to consider for the future because they will transform the opportunities of communications in Britain, and in many ways this inquiry will be more important than Pilkington.
As the House knows, I announced in August the results of our consideration of the various proposals which had been put to us by the B.B.C. In July, when we had our last debate, I said that I would not be prepared—
§ Mr. John Mendelson
On the point of the inquiry, surely the demand which has come from the Campaign for Better Broadcasting, supported by some hon. Members on both sides, is not for an inquiry into what will happen after 1976 but for an immediate inquiry before the proposals now advanced by the B.B.C. are ever applied in practice.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
I have, of course, considered this request, but I do not think that it is appropriate. It is for the board of the B.B.C. to decide what it does in terms of the budget available to it, and I certainly do not think that it would be appropriate to have a long-running commission or committee of inquiry which would hold up the B.B.C. from going ahead with its plans, particularly —and this is the point I want to come to—particulary as, after the debate we held in this House in July, the B.B.C. agreed quite firmly to amend the proposals it had brought before us.
The Leader of the Opposition himself referred to the original proposals. Perhaps he is not aware that the B.B.C, as a result of the concern which was expressed on this side of the House, and by myself in particular, and also on that side of the House, about the future of the orchestras, has agreed to maintain the employment of the musicians. The orchestras to which he has been referring will be retained. This was one of the arrangements I came to with the B.B.C, and I am very grateful to the corporation for responding—
§ Mr. Stonehouse
—to the views expressed both in this House and outside.
I announced in July that the local radio station experiment had been a success, that 40 stations would be established, that the B.B.C. would protect the position of the musicians and that it would ensure that Radio 3 continued on the medium wave as well as v.h.f.
The question arose how to provide the money required by the B.B.C. to undertake these responsibilities as well as all its other responsibilities. We decided on this side that the appropriate thing to do would be to increase the combined licence fee from April, 1971, by 10s. and to abolish the sound-only fee at the same time, so producing a net increase to the B.B.C.'s income of some £5½ million a year.
This, we think, is quite sufficient to satisfy the B.B.C.'s requirements during the next few years and there is no question of the B.B.C. plans in "Broadcasting in the Seventies" being cut down because the corporation is short of money. What it has said is that most of the proposals it put forward for changing the form and structure of broadcasting would have been put forward any way, irrespective of the cash consideration.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
I know that the B.B.C. says that by 1974 the deficit would have accumulated to about £7 million, but let us get this sum into proportion. It is out of a total income, over five years to that date, of £525 million. So it is 1½ per cent. It is a very small amount which will be easily extinguished by the increase in the colour T.V. set sales which are now beginning to boom and also by the success of the counter-evasion campaign which I am conducting and about which I want to report to the House in a few minutes.
One aspect of the announcement I made in the summer which, I think, met with general approval was, the abolition of the sound-only fee. It is, in fact, true that the number of sound-only fees has dropped from 11.8 million in 1950 to only 1½ million today, but that 1½ million households who still do not have T.V. sets includes people who are old and who are poor. I think that it is generally welcome that the sound-only fee, in April, 1971, is being abolished.
1516 I have given consideration to what should be done in the run-down during the last year to that date, and I have decided that there should be a pro forma reduction month by month so that, for instance, a person paying the fee in September or October of next year will not have to pay for the full year.
§ Sir J. Rodgers
I am grateful to the Minister for giving way, but he has, in fact, answered my question. I wanted the clarification that he has made that if one only has a car radio one will not in future have to pay any fee whatsoever, and that that goes for old folk, too.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
That is true.
We are satisfied that the B.B.C. has sufficient finance and the B.B.C. is satisfied with the arrangement to which we have come with it. When the right hon. Gentleman complains about this Administration failing to give the B.B.C. the finance it requires, I remind him that in this year the B.B.C. income is no less than £93 million. In the last year of a Conservative Administration that income was £47 million. So the income of the B.B.C. is double what it was five years ago.
Further, whereas the Conservative Government ran away from the problem of increasing the fee, we have stood up to it. During 13 years the Tories authorised only two increases in fees, whereas during the five years of our responsibility we have authorised three increases. It lies ill in the mouth of the right hon. Gentleman to accuse this Government of denying money to the B.B.C. The corporation's income has been going up at a faster rate under us than it did under the Tories, and we have had the courage to announce an increase in fee which right hon. Gentlemen opposite were not prepared to do. Even though they had authorised the B.B.C. to go ahead with B.B.C. 2, they did not provide it with the money to do it.
§ Mr. Paul Bryan (Howden)
We can explode that balloon with a very big bang. The Estimates Committee—which, presumably, is an independent Committee—tells us that the B.B.C. finances have been under pressure only since 1962. Therefore, they were presumably under pressure for two years of our Administration, but they have since been under 1517 pressure for many years—for as many years as this Government have been in office.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
The facts stand up for themselves. I submit that we have provided the B.B.C. with more than enough finance to do the job it has to do, and we have arranged this increase in the fee from April, 1971, which will help the B.B.C. to go on with the job of developing its programmes.
That brings me immediately to the details of the announcement I made in August. Anyone analysing that announcement will see that it runs directly counter to the right hon. Gentleman's Motion, because if that announcement meant anything it is that the quality of broadcasting will be maintained and improved in the future and will not deteriorate.
What I announced in August was that the radio system will be improved by the establishment of 40 local radio stations. Twenty of these are already in existence or have been announced, and they will cover about 70 per cent. of the population of England. The other 20 will be set up in Scotland and Wales as well as England, and about 90 per cent. of the population in England will then be able to receive these programmes.
This service will be set up in Wales as well, but I am not quite sure off the cuff what percentage of the population will be reached. It depends on where the stations are established. There is an undoubted case—
§ Mrs. Renée Short (Wolverhampton, North-East)
My right hon. Friend has just said that there is no difficulty about the B.B.C. having enough money. He has also said that by 1974 we shall have 40 additional local radio stations. Will he, therefore, tell the House how much money the B.B.C. is to have with which to run each of these local radio stations so that we can judge whether or not the corporation will be short of money?
§ Mr. Stonehouse
The cost of each station will be about £60,000 or so to establish, and up to £100,000 a year in expenses.
The local radio experiment was an undoubted success. It showed that people in the communities in which it was carried out were more willing to hear it, even on V.H.F. than they were some of the other 1518 sound programmes. It has given an opportunity for community participation. Local organisations have had access to an entirely new medium of communication, and many community activities have been encouraged and developed as a result.
§ Mr. Peter M. Jackson (The High Peak)
My right hon. Friend having said that, would he not agree that these local radio stations are being run on the cheap? I draw attention to the fact, and I am sure that he will not dispute this, that the local radio stations will cost about £16 an hour—that is all they are budget-ting for—as compared with what I understand to be a standard £622 per hour on the Third. That indicates the quality of broadcasting which one can expect from local radio stations.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
As these stations are intended to serve very much smaller communities than do the large networks it is appropriate that the cost should be less. I do not believe that they are being run on the cheap at all: I do not accept that suggestion in any way.
What I announced in Angust about the future of musicians in B.B.C. employ also showed that the quality of broadcasting was to be maintained and, indeed, improved, so that the announcement was directly counter to what is now being put to the House by the party opposite. We had a reaffirmation of the quality of broadcasting, which will be done on sensible and realistic and, I believe, on socially conscious lines.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
Can the Minister help the House on this issue? If he has such confidence that standards are to be maintained under the proposals of which he is now speaking does he not think that the House is entitled to a straight vote on the issue tonight?
§ Mr. Stonehouse
I shall come in a moment to the terms of the original Motion. It is a very curious Motion, indeed, having in mind the views held on the other side. But I should say that if hon. Members want to support the original Motion the best thing they can do is to vote against the Amendment. It is as straight forward as that—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] There is nothing new in this particular form of Amendment, so I am advised.
1519 The programme I announced in the summer for the local radio stations was not sudden; it came after a lot of consideration. We were very glad that the experiment had turned out to be a success. There was only one aspect in which it was not a success and that was the securing of a guarantee of income from the municipalities concerned with the experiment. I very much regretted that there was not some way in which finance could be obtained from that source. I considered the prospects of a mandatory rate, but had to turn it down because of the mass of problems involved when a broadcasting station emits to the territories of several authorities. It may be, however, that a minor part of the future income required for the extension of broadcasting activities of these particular stations can be obtained from this source after the Maud provisions have been considered, debated and brought into effect.
We rejected the idea of commercialisation of local radio because we believe that all experience in other countries demonstrates that it does not provide the local community service that we feel ought to be provided. The experience in the United States of America has been absolutely outstanding in this direction. Every one who visits America agrees that commercial broadcasting there is ghastly. We have had a visit this year from one of the seven Commissioners of the Federal Communications Commission, who said… all of our radio is operated on a profit-maximising basis, which means that you put absolutely as little money as possible into the programming.He added:so you—in the United Kingdom—avoid that problem.All I ask is that we continue to avoid it, because we think that if we set up commercial radio what we do is to establish another product to be sold, and the product is not community participation but good advertising time. The advertisers have to pay for it. They have to be sold the idea that there are so many members of the public anxious to hear a particular programme.
The people who run Radio Luxembourg have their fingers on the subject when they say, quite honestly, "We are after the 'teeners' and the housewives." They have said that from time to time. 1520 They are not ashamed to say that they are after the "teeners" and the housewives and a particular group who have money to spend, but this community broadcasting service which we have allowed the B.B.C. to establish will not only serve teenagers and housewives, but old-age pensioners, local clubs and organisations which may not have money to spend. They will not have a commercial approach to broadcasting; its responsibility will be to the community in which it resides.
I am very proud of the announcement made in August (1) because it showed that the B.B.C. was willing to respond to the announcements and ideas expressed outside Broadcasting House and (2) because we have been able to get going on realistic financial terms a radio development that will help our communities in Britain, in London, in the towns and cities of Wales and Scotland as well, to develop. I should have thought the whole House would have been delighted about that.
§ Sir J. Rodgers
I apologise for making two interventions in the right hon. Gentleman's speech, but the point he has made is of such importance that I should like to intervene on it while I have it in mind. Does he recall that hon. Members opposite used exactly the argument he has advanced when they opposed the creation of I.T.A—
§ Mr. James Dickens (Lewisham, West)
On a point of order. Is it not a long established custom of this House that hon. Members should declare a clear commercial interest in any matter which is under debate in which they participate? Should not the hon. Member for Seven-oaks (Sir J. Rodgers) do so now?
§ Sir J. Rodgers
I do not know what my interest is in this matter since there is no commercial radio, and that is what we are talking about. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Director-General of the B.B.C. said that he is 1521 not afraid of, indeed he would welcome, commercial competition in the local sphere?
§ Mr. Stonehouse
The Director-General of the B.B.C. did not say that he welcomed competition; he said that if the Government decided that there should be commercial broadcasting the B.B.C. would be in a position to compete with it. I think that is fair enough.
I want to go on to the counter-evasion campaign because the Leader of the Opposition in his speech poured cold water on it. He said that it would not succeed, and he did not expect very much from it.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
I do not agree, because the facts show that the counter-evasion campaign is beginning to succeed. For the right hon. Gentleman now to take an interest in evaders is extraordinary because he was a member of an Administration which did not even know how many there were. His Government were not concerned with the problem in 1962, 1963 or 1964. They did not do anything about it. It was left to our Administration to deal with this. One of my predecessors introduced the Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1967, which enabled us to obtain the names of all those hiring or buying T.V. sets from dealers. This gives us a wonderful weapon to attack evasion. Since 1967 the number of evaders has dropped by 1 million, which is a sizeable performance. The percentage of evaders has been reduced by over 5 per cent. of those who have television sets, from 12 per cent. to 7 per cent. This is a remarkable achievement.
I started just before October a new campaign to reduce evasion. I am glad to be able to tell the House that in the Metropolis, where we began this campaign, in the first week the number of television licences taken out for mono- 1522 chrome sets went up by 207 per cent. In the next week it went up by nearly 200 per cent. In the whole month of October over the whole of the United Kingdom the number of new fees paid, in addition to old ones, was 122,000— more than double what it was in October of the year before. I think we can claim that we are beginning to make big inroads into the vexatious problem of evasion. I believe this will also make a very substantial contribution to the financing of the B.B.C.
I recognise that there has been a lot of criticism of the B.B.C.'s proposals, particularly from among the staff and from those who represent them, including my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) whom I am glad to see in his place this afternoon. Now that the B.B.C. has gone into some detail in explaining what its programmes will be, I believe that a lot of the opposition will die down. I have the staff journal of the B.B.C. here. It includes a statement by Mr. Gerry Mansell, the Controller of Radio Programmes. He says that there is amyth (that) … B.B.C. radio is 'abandoning mixed for generic broadcasting.' If this is true then it happened quite a number of years ago with the creation of the Music Programme—and not many of the one million people who listen to it at some point every day would agree that that was an undesirable development. The result of that development was that in day time Radio 4 has become almost entirely a speech network. But that doesn't make it any the less mixed in character —no less mixed than are the tastes of vast numbers of people who like in turn to be moved, amused, challenged, and informed at many levels and right across the range of human experience. The network changes that are being planned aim to extend this pattern to the evening to the extent that this is possible without sacrificing some of the unique contributions made by the Third Programme in the area of Drama and the discussion of ideas. So, even in the evening, Radio 3 and Radio 4 will remain mixed programmes, offering as much mental stimulus and as many opportunities for the raising and widening of mental horizons as in the past but in a different setting and, it is hoped, to larger audiences.There is nothing there aboutdeterioration of the quality of broadcasting".What these plans are designed to do is to improve the quality of broadcasting, to make the quality programmes available to a wider audience. We are anxious that the B.B.C. should succeed in this escape from the elitism of the Third Programme and should manage to get itself 1523 across to the wider audience, of which Radio 4 in particular is an example. Mr. Mansell points out that on Radio 3there will still be two major play spots each week which will be used both for staging world classics at full length and for new writing. Much of the Third's present output of drama, features, documentaries and discussions will move to Radio 4, but there will still be some three hours a week, in addition to the air-time devoted to Drama, in which Radio 3 can continue to play its part in reflecting new thinking, new ideas …
§ Mr. Stonehouse
That does not suggest that the imaginative and creative part of radio broadcasting through the B.B.C. will decay. On the contrary, it suggests that it will be given new opportunities for expression. I am certain that, once the staff have had an opportunity of reading and examining these assurances, and once right hon. and hon. Members have read and considered them, their objections to the B.B.C.'s plans will decline.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins
Does not my right hon. Friend recognise that what Mr. Mansell is giving there is an able defence of the B.B.C.'s decisions? Although, by that playing with words, Mr. Mansell may have convinced my right hon. Friend, he has not convinced many other people.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
He is not playing with words at all. If he gives an assurance that there will still be two major play spots each week on Radio 3, surely that is a clear assurance to the members of Equity that they will have room for employment.
§ Mr. Bryan
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the employees of the B.B.C. have considered those very points and that very document and they have circularised us with their document entitled, "Memorandum on 'Broadcasting in the Seventies' from B.B.C. Midland Region Staff"? They have received absolutely no comfort at all, or very little.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
If he catches the eye of the Chair, the hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity to make those points during the debate. For my part, I am prepared to accept the assurances of the board of the B.B.C. that it is not anxious 1524 for the quality of broadcasting to be diminished in any way.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
The board of the B.B.C. has been appointed from among men of high repute and character. I believe that we can accept the assurances which we have from them in this official release which they have put out.
The right hon. Gentleman made great play of regional broadcasting. Again, we are given an assurance by Mr. Mansell that the regional centres will not be deprived of the opportunity to make a creative contribution to the networks. There will be plenty of chance for them and sums of money available to them to initiate experiments. There is, therefore, no case to be made out against these proposals on that ground.
The same applies to television. The B.B.C. is making great investment in television outside the Metropolis. The area network which will be established to replace the regions will produce about 400 programmes, as compared with the 150 so-called opt-out programmes which the regions are producing per year now. It does not sound as though activity in the regions will be diminished. On the contrary, it will be increased.
In the same document, talking about the local radio experiment, Mr. Ian Trethowan makes a point about standards—and this answers, in particular, my hon. Friend the Member for The High Peak (Mr. Peter M. Jackson)—Lowering standards? This is really rather snobbish, and pays no respect to the enthusiasm and idealism of the local staffs. No one will be so complacent as to say there is no room for improvement in any corner of the B.B.C, and, of course, the style of a local station will be very different from a national network. So it should be: they are providing very different services. But if by 'standards' is meant those qualities of decency and integrity which we regard as fundamental in the B.B.C, then the local stations can fully hold their own.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
The B.B.C.'s document makes the point—I think it worth repeating—that the amount of public interest in its proposals has been small. Fewer than 1,000 people have written to the Corporation about the proposals, and my Department has received about 1525 250 letters. In fact, there have been fewer complaining about this set of proposals than complained about the demise of "The Dales".
I have had opportunity to see a speech made by the Director-General of the B.B.C. in Cardiff last Monday. He made a powerful case for the Corporation's plans and showed that the criticism of them was not justified. Referring to sound broadcasting, he said:… leaving music aside, each of the three regions offers about 400 hours of programmes to the networks every year. What will happen in the future? The level of programmes offered by the regions to the radio networks will continue on roughly the same level".
That is an assurance from the Director-General of the B.B.C. as late as last Monday. It demolishes the case of those who have argued that these changes will mean a substantially smaller contribution from the regions to the network. The Director-General gives the example of a local station such as Birmingham which will offer 1,250 hours a year consisting mainly of news and current affairs, which will actually treble the amount of news and current affairs available in that part of the country. There could be no complaint about that.
As regards television investment, he points out that in Manchester the B.B.C. is spending £5 million, in Birmingham about £7 million—in fact, it is spending more outside the Metropolis than in it. It is even to close a studio in London to make room for facilities for production outside the Metropolis. He goes on to say:This demonstrates why we are so anxious to make sure that these production facilities"—those outside the Metropolis—will be used to the full—even to the extent of making us close one of the older television studios in London to bring this about. The plain fact is that we cannot afford to invest on this scale and not get a reasonable return on our money. There was a time when the B.B.C. could afford to invest in the possibility that talent might develop in a regional centre, and to provide production facilities on this hypothetical basis. We cannot now afford to take these gambles. We must invest in certainty. That certainty is represented by planned activity producing for the national networks. If necessary, that planned activity will have to be initiated from London, but what we would like is to see much of the initiative coming from the regional production centres themselves. As I have said, that is one 1526 of the responsibilities of the new Controller of English Regions—to ensure that this initiative develops.The Director General of the B.B.C. is thus putting his flag to the mast of regionalism. He wants creative ability and talent in the regions to be developed. I believe that, once this becomes clear to those who have been concerned in the various campaigns which have been set up on this issue, there will be far less concern than there is today.
§ Mr. Stratton Mills (Belfast, North) rose—
§ Mr. Stonehouse
I shall not give way now, I really must get on.
The right hon. Gentleman has put down a Motion in curious terms. I shall come back to that in a moment. It does not lie with him to attack us for seeking, as, apparently, he suggests, to reduce the future quality of broadcasting. Under this Administration the quality and range of broadcasting are better than they have ever been before. I have the number of television broadcasting hours. The actual broadcasting hours in 1963–64 were 3,555. In 1968–69 they were 6,486, a very substantial increase, partly due to B.B.C.2 having been developed, which I admit was a decision of the outgoing Administration, but for which they made no financial provision. The hours of sound broadcasting have been increased from 21,000 to 29,000 in the two years which I am now comparing.
It can be suggested that it is not the hours with which we are concerned, that it is the quality. That is exactly right. I, too, am concerned about that. When we look at the serious music output, for instance, about which many hon. Members are concerned, the output in 1963–64 was 3,400 hours, and in 1968–69 5,200 hours, a very substantial increase.
The radio news and current affairs programmes increased from 5,800 to 7,100. The television news and current affairs programmes on the B.B.C. increased from 700 to 1,200. Drama output increased from 1,100 to 1,600 on sound and from 380 to 550 on television in this last year.
This all demonstrates that it is not only the hours of broadcasting that have been extended, that it is also the quality of broadcasting that has been improved, 1527 and the Government wants this improvement to continue. Indeed, we are determined that it should go on. It certainly does not come well from right hon. and hon. Members opposite who have a much more miserable performance than we on this side of the House, to suggest that it is our intention to reduce the quality of broadcasting.
The same is virtually true of I.T.V. I have the details of the first quarter of this year compared with the first quarter of 1964. The amount of broadcasting in 13 weeks has gone up from 63 hours to 77 hours—an increase of more than 20 per cent. The entertainment and music in this period as a percentage has gone up from 9 per cent. to 12 per cent. The number of feature films—the old films—has gone down from 18 per cent. to 11 per cent., and plays, dramas and serials have increased from 16 per cent. to 19 per cent. There is nothing in those figures to indicate that the quality of broadcasting is going down.
The right hon. Gentleman made great play about the position of the independent television companies and the ways in which they are being affected by the decisions which my right hon. Friend announced during this year. I know that some of them are being affected, and I am waiting for the detailed figures from I.T.A. so that I can examine them. Within a few weeks I shall be discussing with Lord Aylestone the significance of these results.
I gave an assurance, a quite unprecedented assurance, at the end of the debate when the House considered this subject. I said that if the figures showed that the programme companies' results were substantially worse than had been expected, we would consider the question very seriously indeed. I believe that no such assurance has been given before. I am prepared to honour that assurance to give this matter very close consideration because it is our anxiety that the programme companies' health and viability over the long term should not be too gravely impaired.
The figures with which we were concerned—the last available financial results —are rather outstanding. There is one company which had a return before tax of 66 per cent. There is another one in the last financial year for which I have 1528 the figures in front of me; it had a return of 57 per cent.; another one of 42 per cent., and another of 60 per cent. Nobody can suggest, in the light of these figures, that the programme companies were exactly starving. When my right hon. Friend made his decision it was on the basis of these figures. If in the light of experience they turn out to have been wrong, we are prepared to consider the position.
There is another thing that I want to make absolutely clear. The right hon. Gentleman made great play of the fact that because the programme companies are going to be hard up, the quality of programmes will be reduced. That is absolutely untrue and I am glad to be in a position to deny it. The managing directors of all the programme companies, when they came to discuss this question with me, gave me the clear and unequivocal assurance that on no account would the quality of programmes put out on independent television—this includes the position of I.T.N.—be affected as a result of these developments.
Why did the right hon. Gentleman put down the Motion in the terms that we have before us today? I believe it is because he did not have the courage to bring forward a Motion which clearly expressed the views of his side of the House, of his shadow Minister and of himself, on commercial broadcasting. I believe that if they were to bring forward such a Motion it would reveal a distinctive split on their side of the House. The right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), for instance, in a noteworthy contribution to the July debate, made his position clear. I believe that there are many right hon. and hon. Members opposite who are against commercial broadcasting and who would not be able to bring themselves to vote for a Tory Motion advocating the setting-up of commercial broadcasting in Great Britain.
Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman, given this golden opportunity of a Supply Day debate on broadcasting, ran away from the real issue that the country is discussing: should the local radio business be run by the B.B.C. or by local commercial firms in one form or another? That is the real issue, and the right hon. Gentleman has behaved in a most hypocritical fashion in regard to it. The only conclusion one can come to is that 1529 he is a funk. He has failed to face the issue because he does not have the courage of the support of his own side of the House.
The hon. Member for Howden (Mr. Bryan) made a speech at the Tory Party Conference when he made the position a little clearer. He said:In any case, we think it is right to break the B.B.C. monopoly in radio, as we did in television"—note his words—as a start by introducing local commercial radio.That is the official policy of the Conservative Party.
That is their policy, that they intend to break the B.B.C. sound monopoly, first by introducing commercial radio to undermine the B.B.C, and gradually extending it to pop music programmes to give the pirates a status; all the chaps who were running the pirate programmes will be encouraged to join the B.B.C. stations—
I am suggesting that we should get the issue clear. I have made clear my position on commercialism. I think this side of the House is almost if not completely unanimously opposed to commercial broadcasting on sound because it would reduce standards considerably if we were to have commercial sound broadcasting. That is why we are against it. We know our position. What we want to get clear is the position of the Opposition. We want to know, if they really believe in this stuff, why they have not brought before the House a Motion enabling us to have a proper debate on that proposal so that they could test the views of hon. Members on their own side of the House.
I hope that the hon. Member for Howden will seek an opportunity in the debate to deny a very disturbing report in yesterday's Sheffield Morning Telegraph with the headline:Scrapheap threat to local radio. We hold no responsibility for jobs future—BryanIn this article the broadcasting correspondent is reporting the shadow spokesmen on broadcasting as saying that the radio stations of the B.B.C. 1530might not fit in with our plans. It is against our policy for the B.B.C. to run local broadcasting.Then comes what sounds very much like a threat. Hewarned that anyone who went into local radio now did so 'at their own risk'.Does this mean that the Corporation's opportunity to run these programmes, should the Tories win the election, which they will not, will be withdrawn? We must have clarification of this, because particularly in this area this report must have caused great concern among the dedicated staff who have served well and who are now anxious to go ahead and do a good job.
Lying at the basis of this debate and our approach to broadcasting is the difference in philosophy between the two sides of the House. I know that the right hon. Gentleman has strong views about culture, but he is anxious to give way to his right hon. and hon. Friends who support the commercial lobby. He is also anxious to give way to the many interested commercial businessmen in the country who are anxious to get their money into this gravy boat of commercialism.
The real distinction between us was revealed by a former Conservative Postmaster-General who went through all this before. We on this side believe in the public service concept and in the wonderful job that the corporation has done and is doing. We believe that it must be given an opportunity to go ahead. We are against the dead hand of commercialism. The Tories are anxious to introduce the lower standards which commercialism in sound broadcasting will bring.
The former Postmaster-General said this about discussions he had with his colleagues at the country home of the then Prime Minister, Mr. Harold Macmillan:I did not enjoy that Sunday. I felt that some of my colleagues were out of touch with reality. With one or two honourable exceptions, whom I shall not name, most of them seemed obsessed by material values. Of course these are very important but they are not all important. I felt then that they did not understand that the younger voters were deserting the Conservative Party because it was so preoccupied with materialism, with easy money, with big business, to the exclusion of what, for want of a better word, I will call idealism. One or two of us said 1531 so, but we might have been speaking a foreign language.I believe that those words of a former Conservative Postmaster-General sum up the Conservative Party's approach to commercialism in sound broadcasting. This is why we on this side will support the Amendment and oppose the Motion.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Sydney Irving)
In view of the very large number of hon. Members wishing to speak, I appeal to hon. Members to keep their speeches brief.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Noble (Argyll)
Mr. Deputy Speaker, as I shall try to obey your precept I will say to the Minister only that he can look forward tomorrow to having a glass of beer with Mr. Mansell, because, just as nobody will believe a word that Mr. Mansell says, so nobody who listened to the Minister can be in the least impressed.
Like the Minister, I accept that the B.B.C. is a public service and that in many ways it has done a great deal for broadcasting. I shall direct my short contribution to a theme which is of great importance in my part of the world and in most country areas. When the Minister made his statement last week I asked him if he would explain to me how I was to tell my constituents that the B.B.C. was to spend all this extra money on local radio stations when there was no money available for them. Within the context of question and answer, I could not pursue the matter.
The House should understand the situation in large parts of the West Coast of Scotland and in many other parts of Britain. The country is by nature difficult for broadcasting. Let no one make any apology for that. There are high hills and deep valleys and it is not easy to serve the area adequately.
I am unable to praise the B.B.C's television service any more than I can praise I.T.A.s, because I can receive neither. That is a natural state of affairs in my part of the world. We live in comparatively small and scattered communities. We are not enormously rich. Most people cannot afford the great expense of erecting special poles on the hill with long leads down to one or two houses in order, 1532 not to improve quality, but to get any reception.
For centuries there has been a high emigration rate from our part of the world. This is a disgrace to the whole area. Many of us, as private individuals or as part of private enterprise, have struggled for years in an effort to correct this. It is right that our efforts should be supported. I have mentioned in the House before the paradox in the whole question of communications that, if it is made easy for people to leave areas, they will stay. This concept applies just as much to television, radio and the telephone as it does to good roads, good piers, and airfields. If the outside world is brought into scattered communities, the inhabitants feel part of the world and do not feel so isolated Then they stay.
In our area we have exactly the same problems as those that exist in the rest of the country. We have a high proportion of old people. We have a certain number of sick. We probably have a higher than average number of disabled, because many people went from these areas to fight in the wars and were injured.
We have infinitely fewer means of entertainment in the evening than are available in cities. We do not have cinemas, bingo halls or the other forms of entertainment which apparently are so highly regarded in more populous places. Whatever one's personal view may be of the merit of such forms of entertainment, the general public wants them.
In the remoter areas we must provide sufficient education and entertainment and all the things which the B.B.C. and the independent companies can provide if the population is to be retained. We have splendid ceilidhs and all sorts of entertainment. Village halls are booked practically every night for them. But they are often three or four miles from the cottages, and people without cars— the old, the sick and the disabled—cannot enjoy the entertainment.
Hon. Members representing the Highland area and myself bombarded the Postmaster-General, in the days when he wore that hat, the B.B.C, the television companies and the Highlands and Islands Development Board with this problem. On every occasion I was met with courtesy and great sympathy was expressed. 1533 But what it boiled down to was, "We are very sorry. There is no money to help. It is expensive to give these people the service that they need." Therefore, not unnaturally, we switched the form of attack last year. We said to the Postmaster-General, as he then was, "If it is true that there is no money to provide us with a proper service, and if it is right that people who are lucky enough to get half a service"—and that is what it amounts to because during part of the year some people cannot get a service at all and many thousands of people have no service—"can have nothing done for them, should not they pay a smaller tax?".
There should be a differential. People who receive services should pay a higher rate, and people who get no service should pay nothing. I know the difficulties. I did not expect this line of attack to work. But it was a fair question to ask, and the answer which we received plainly was "no".
Last week, the situation again changed. The Minister announced that over the next few years £5½ million or thereabouts of extra money would be spent by the B.B.C. on providing local radio in 40 major cities. Speaking on behalf of, not only my constituency, but many others, I must ask the House to give us justice. Why should people who have no service or, at best, a very poor service be once again last in the queue? The Minister talked about the wonderful new means of broadcasting that we would have in the 1970s and 1980s and said that by the provision of a small line every house would be able to receive a service. We do not believe it. Many houses in my constituency have no electricity. Vast numbers of houses have no telephones. It is time that the House and the Government gave priority where it is due.
The B.B.C, backed by the Government of the day—and I am not being party political—thought that Radio Scotland and Radio Caroline should be suppressed. By pure chance—and I do not understand why—Radio Caroline was the only audible station in a large part of my constituency. Radio Scotland was appreciated by a vast number of people who could not get anything else. I do not care whether the new B.B.C. pop music programme is better or worse. The fact 1534 is that it cannot be heard. This is an absurd situation.
The B.B.C. decided, of its own volition, to provide a new channel and later to produce colour programmes on it. What use is that to the huge area which I have in mind? People in it will not get colour television programmes for years. The Government and the B.B.C. are getting their priorities seriously wrong.
At this point we in my area revolt. We are not prepared to take it any longer. Jam tomorrow may be all right for our great grandchildren, but the wonderful developments of which we have heard will not come about in our lifetime. I ask the House, by its vote, clearly to indicate that the Government's priorities are wrong.
The Minister of Technology asked some of us to meet him to discuss the route over which Concorde is to be tested. I gratefully accepted his invitation. We were given a great deal of confidential information. It was clearly arguable and right that the route of this wonderful new plane should be up the West Coast of Scotland, practically slap through the middle of my constituency and many others. I accept that this is right if it is best in the interests of the development of the aircraft and for the safety of the crew who will fly it.
I assured the Minister that I would do everything that I could to help him if this is the route which is finally chosen. The reason for this choice is that this area is the least populated in the country. As always, we are prepared to accept our share of the risk in something which the country needs. But we are not prepared to see our country depopulated by wrong priorities and stupid action by the Government and the B.B.C.
§ 5.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Christopher Mayhew (Woolwich, East)
Strong feeling has been expressed on both sides of the House that the cultural standards of the B.B.C. must be maintained and that they are threatened by the new plans of the B.B.C. I agree with both points. I was not wholly convinced by the defence of the Minister. But we must also blame ourselves, the politicians. We have been far too cowardly in the past about giving public service broadcasting the money which it needs.
1535 It is worth reflecting that in 1971, when the 10s. increase comes into force, there will be no more sound-only licences. Thus everyone who pays the television licence or pays for sound broadcasting will own or hire a television set. A low rental for a television set is 10s. a week. Every listener and every viewer will be paying £26 a year plus £6 on the existing licence, which comes to £32 a year. What the Government are proposing to do is to increase the cost of B.B.C.1, B.B.C.2 and Radio 1, Radio 2, Radio 3 and Radio 4 and local radio from £32 a year to £32 10s. That is the extent of the burden —1½ per cent. more.
I have heard it argued by hon. Members opposite that an increase of 10s. will not be enough. Let us assume that all the calculations go wrong and 10s. increase is not enough, and we are in a spot and have to raise the cost to the viewer and listener from £32 10s. to £32 15s. or even £33. To say that this is a terrible burden and that because of it we should commercialise radio is cant. Admittedly, if the Tories were returned to office and they were handling the economy, possibly the standard of living would slump and the extra 5s. would matter. But we are talking about an increase of 1½ Per cent, or, at the maximum, if everything goes wrong, an increase of 3 per cent. We politicians should have the courage to stand up for public service broadcasting and give it the money which it requires. If we had done this in the past, some of the just criticisms of the B.B.C. which we have heard would not have been made.
I have slightly criticised my right hon. Friend the Minister but at least his position is logical. This afternoon, we heard three propositions from the Leader of the Opposition. The first was that we must safeguard minority programmes and cultural broadcasting. He put it very well and I agreed with almost everything he said. The second was that commercial broadcasting suppressed minority programmes and cultural programmes. The third was that we needed more commercial broadcasting.
It may be said, as I have been saying and as hon. Members opposite say, that we want high broadcasting standard. That is fair and that is a point of view. It 1536 may be said that we want commercial broadcasting, and that is a fair point of view. But to say that we want both is complete humbug, and that is the true basis of the case put forward by the Leader of the Opposition.
One is bound to ask how far the campaign by hon. Members opposite is seriously preoccupied with cultural standards —how far it seriously wants the B.B.C. to maintain its high standards of programme—and how far it is simply interested in clearing the field of popular local broadcasting for the commercial interests which lie behind the Conservative Party.
§ Mr. Mayhew
I am speaking more of the hon. Member for Howden (Mr. Bryan), who is the Opposition's spokesman on broadcasting, than the Leader of the Opposition. When the Leader of the Opposition was speaking about high standards of cultural broadcasting, he was good and I was persuaded. When the hon. Gentleman speaks, he gives me the impression of looking on broadcasting as a business, as regarding it as a doctrinaire believer in private commerce and not as a man greatly experienced in or deeply caring about broadcasting, and in this I distinguish him from the Leader of the Opposition.
One thing was said by the Leader of the Opposition which was striking and which has not often been said by hon. Members opposite—that commercial broadcasting suppresses minority programmes. This is the whole basis on which many of us opposed commercial broadcasting many years ago, not in defence of the B.B.C. monopoly, but, at any rate in my case, in defence of having a second public service corporation. Granted that we want high standards of broadcasting and minority programmes, why the insistence on commercial broadcasting? The Leader of the Opposition prided himself on having insisted on and fought for I.T.V. in 1954; he did. But is he suggesting that it was not a blow to the idea of minority broadcasting? Of course it was, and by his own admission.
There is another point about minority broadcasting which has not been made 1537 clear. It is suggested that minority programmes are somehow highbrow programmes. This is completely false. Programmes on cooking, gardening, swiming, basket ball and a whole number of other things cannot possibly be called highbrow, but are minority programmes. The broadcasting organisations make what they call appreciation reports on whether a programme was enjoyed by those who saw it; another type of report shows simply how big the audience was.
It will be found that those programmes which have the smaller audience because they are addressed to a person as an individual have a higher appreciation index and are most keenly enjoyed by those who saw them. Broadly speaking, the larger the audience to a programme, the less keenly it is appreciated by those who see it. That is natural, in the same way that we prefer a tailor-made suit to a suit off the peg. Commercial broadcasting which suppresses minority programmes, as the right hon. Gentleman said, is not doing something which offends highbrows only, but is depriving viewers and listeners of all kinds of those programmes which they most keenly enjoy because they are addressed to them as individuals and not as members of a mass.
§ Mr. Ian Gilmour (Norfolk, Central)
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not want to mislead the House, but he has founded his entire argument on a misquotation of what my right hon. Friend said. My right hon. Friend did not say that commercial radio or television suppressed minority programmes. What he said was that the B.B.C. was rather better able to cater for minority tastes; that is quite different.
§ Mr. Mayhew
The hon. Gentleman must read HANSARD. Perhaps the Leader of the Opposition did not use the word "suppress", but he said that commercial radio and broadcasting did not deal with minorities, or were biased against minorities. Let the hon. Gentleman read HANSARD and see.
I now come to the complete fallacy of commercial local radio, which I tried to suggest to the Leader of the Opposition, although I think that he did not understand the point. Granted that commercial radio will not cater for minorities, 1538 and that was accepted by the Leader of the Opposition, in these circumstances it could not provide anything which could be called "local" radio.
Why should a commercial radio station in Manchester, which is trying to get the maximum audience, be different from a commercial station in Leeds, which is also trying to get a maximum audience? We all know the formula for getting the maximum audience. It is to put on national and international pop programmes. That is what produces the big audience. There may be different disc jockeys in Manchester and Leeds, but there will be nothing specifically Mancunian about the one or specifically Leeds-like about the other, because as soon as Manchester starts to broadcast something to do with Manchester—schools, or football, or personalities, or hospitals, it will be a minority programme. Under that system, we would have a whole series of stations which might be geographically separate, but which in content would be absolutely identical, a network of mass-appeal pop programmes. It might be good and it might be bad, but it would not be local broadcasting and it would be a complete misnomer to call it local.
The economics of the matter would drive all the stations together. Why should they not all have exactly the same programmes as the pirates did and as Radio Luxembourg did, and as even B.B.C. 1 does? By all means have this if that is what is wanted, but it cannot be called local. The Leader of the Opposition did not think of this and it was perfectly plain when I raised it with him that he did not understand the whole basis of the matter.
I except the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, but the rest of hon. Members opposite are not primarily concerned with cultural standards. What they want to do is to push the B.B.C. out of popular local broadcasting to make room for their commercial friends. That is why they are suddenly interested in culture. I do not say that there are no cultured people in the Conservative Party, but there are not in the broadcasting group of the Conservative Party.
Let us face it—there are financial intrests behind all this. I have here the Local Radio Association's plans, and it is the main vested interest behind all 1539 this. We have here the Fens Broadcasting Company and the London Broadcasting Company, and a dozen or so others. A number of big concerns like Ranks are interested. Ranks have registered 30 local companies, which is more than any other concern. One cannot help noticing that it is Ranks who, through British United Industrialists, have just made a donation of £25,000 to the Conservative Party. I am not suggesting for a minute that there is any connection, but how unfair it would be of the Conservatives, after receiving £25,000, to give nothing back; that would be a great mistake.
The names I have read—these are the people who are interested in the B.B.C. becoming cultured. They are the fellows who want it, because that would clear the ground for them. That is what it is all about and it is to these people that we should listen, not the politicians in the Opposition. The politicians opposite are just a front, just the stuffed shirts concealing the vested interests.
§ Mr. Mayhew
I have strong views about that which are not as far removed from those of the right hon. Gentleman as he might think. However, I will not discuss them at the moment.
The local sound radio people are not the only vested interests. There are the big advertising companies, for example, the Beecham Group. Why should commercials for Beechams powders be confined to television? Why not have them on radio as well? After all, the Beecham Group pays £20,000 a year to the Conservative Party.
§ Mr. Mayhew
Is it not entitled to some return? Let me take another example. Why is Dettol advertised only on television and not on radio? Reckitt and Colman pays £20,000 a year to the Conservative Party.
What we are debating today is not the music of Bach but the jingles of 1540 Beechams. Johann Sebastian Bach never contributed a penny to Conservative Party funds, but Beechams powders lubricate the Tory machine to the extent of £20,000 a year. That is really what we are discussing.
The fact is that commercial local radio would not be local. If it was true to its own principles, automatically it would become a networked national pop programme. To the extent that it deviates from that and pays some attention to some minority group in its locality, it violates the nature of commercial broadcasting, which is wholly motivated towards the maximum audience. That is why I say that this Tory campaign is humbug.
There is a political principle involved here. This is a genuine matter of political if not ideological principle on which the two parties are divided. What a rarity! What a luxury! Let us enjoy it, and, with respect to one or two of my hon. Friends, let us have no deviation on our own benches. Let us show up this Tory campaign. We will find that a surprising number of the public is with us. Let us support the Government tonight.
§ 5.52 p.m.
§ Mr. W. F. Deedes (Ashford)
I will not be tempted into following the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) too far, for reasons of my own. I thought that some of the latter part of his speech was better suited to local sound radio than to national broadcasting.
However, I agree at least with what he began by saying. We have failed altogether to provide financially what a public service corporation should have and, therefore, to a great extent the sins which we now attribute to the B.B.C. are shared by us in this House.
Before I wade into that, there is a subsidiary issue on which I seek the guidance of the right hon. Gentleman. It concerns not so much the structure of broadcasting as its content. There is always a risk that in broadcasting, as in education, we dwell entirely on structure and too little to content.
The issue that I wish to raise is that of violence on the screen. I do it not in a critical manner but in a purely interrogatory frame of mind. There is 1541 public concern about it. In some remarks reported today, Lord Aylestone attributed it to a minority and claimed that I.T.A. exercises restraint. I will not enter that argument, but I want to establish the facts.
In 1962, the Home Secretary of the day, the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, set up the Television Research Committee under Mr. Fraser Noble, the Vice-Chancellor of Leicester University. The task of that Committee was to initiate and co-ordinate research on television's impact. After six years' work and spending £250,000 of I.T.A. money, it concluded that this was a subject on which more research was needed. That is frequently the end-product of such studies.
As I understand it, the whole effort has now been transposed from the Home Office to Leicester University's Communications Centre, from which we may get further results. What is the Government's policy in this important matter of research into the impact of television, putting special emphasis on violence? Do they believe that it is susceptible to research? I am sure that they will not deny that violence in our society and anything which bears on it is a serious matter.
They may have decided that violence on television is not a relevant factor. That would be surprising, in the light of American findings. Only a few weeks ago, the National Commission on Causes and Prevention of Violence declared that television provided a "contributing factor" to violence in the U.S.A. It said:Violence on television encourages violent forms of behaviour and fosters moral and social values about violence in daily life which are unacceptable in a civilised society.I would not be surprised if that was not also established by our own research. It may be that the Government have decided that this is a difficult subject in which to be involved and that it is better left to Leicester University.
Do the Government take this seriously? If they do, do they believe that research is profitable? If it is profitable, what is the proposed course of action? I think that it is fair at this point to put that series of questions.
I turn, then, to the main issue before us. I share the view of my right hon. 1542 Friend who felt that we ought by now to accept the complementary or dual systems which have been established. However, I stress his further words. He added that it was incumbent upon us to maintain a balance and provide an opportunity to both public service and commercial broadcasting to maintain quality and variety.
Have we done that in respect of the B.B.C.? Without wishing to be too controversial, I found the speech of the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications in this respect staggeringly complacent, in marked contrast to his speech in July. In July, we had a different speech in which he set out the six or seven factors which must be weighed in considering the needs of the B.B.C. Today, what he said was in complete contradiction to what he said in July about comparative standards in Europe. He pointed out in July that our combined licence fee is cheaper than that of any European country. Today, he compared our licence fee not with Europe's, but with what the Opposition have done compared with what the Government have done. That is not really relevant.
§ Mr. John Mendelson
Yes, it is. How can the right hon. Gentleman let himself down to the extent of denying the Minister the right to refer to the performance of a Government of which the Leader of the Opposition was a member?
§ Mr. Deedes
I am suggesting that the right hon. Gentleman's argument in July about Europe was more relevant.
The longer that I study the subject, unaided by the B.B.C, the more convinced I become that the aspects of the proposals for broadcasting in the 1970s which worry us most are attributable to the shortage of money. However people try to dodge that issue, I return to the point. Our broadcasters are short of money because none of us has been willing to permit or urge an increase in the licence fee. I was delighted to hear my right hon. Friend end by saying that the licence fee should be increased now. I am sure that that is right. April, 1971, will not supply the needs of the B.B.C. The persistent policy of both sides of the House has been too little, too late. I say that of this side of the House as much as I say it of the Government. So April, 1971, will be too late.
1543 On the cut rates that we are paying by means of our combined licence, what right have we to expect anything but a cut-rate service? We can all arrogate to ourselves the desire to have the best public service system in the world, but we know that we are extracting the lowest licence fee. This makes no sense.
We know that, for political and social reasons, this is an infernally difficult licence to increase. We know the reasons why, but we do not say what they are. Instead, having denied the B.B.C. the money that it should have, we engage in diversionary and rather critical arguments about its shortcomings in its own proposals. So there is an element—and here I take up what was said by the hon. Member for Woolwich, East—of self-deception with which I cannot go along. In fairness to the B.B.C, I must add that it does its best to obscure the issue. Though it admits to being short of money, it insists that the pattern of broadcasting in the 'seventies would still be much the same if it had plenty of money. The Minister supported this.
I not only question that, but in certain regards it can be proved manifestly wrong. I suspect that the B.B.C. is rationalising bankruptcy. It began, probably on the advice of the McKinsey consultants, winding down its patronage of orchestras. I know that this is controversial. I listened to what my right hon. Friend said, and I agree with him.
Why did the B.B.C. wind down its patronage of orchestras? On the ground that they were not giving direct cost-effective benefit to its listeners, its consumers. Who else but McKinsey would put forward a line of thought such as that? Why were the McKinsey consultants there at all? To clean up the Augean stable of the B.B.C.'s finance? I think not.
If we examine the work of the Select Committee, we find that it reports not altogether adversely on the internal economy of the B.B.C. McKinsey was put in to assist the B.B.C. in its main objective, which is to give £1 worth of value in return for every 15s. that it gets. It is high time that we realised that that is a very difficult task. It is almost impossible to accomplish.
Bluntly, we have determined that the B.B.C. shall be run on a shoestring. I 1544 confess that I find the attitude of the Government more surprising than our own. We broke the television monopoly against the B.B.C.—rightly, I believe with my right hon. Friend. We are about to seek to break the sound radio monopoly—I will not dwell on it, but my hon. Friends know my views—wrongly, in my view. I will not make heavy weather of that. My right hon. Friend was right to say that it is a relatively minor issue. The Government are wrong and have got their priorities wrong in attempting to make it a principal issue in the debate. If it gives them any small satisfaction, I shall not vote against their Amendment.
But where do the Government stand? Why are they not more valiant on the B.B.C.'s behalf? I will not suggest, because I am trying to put forward a serious argument, that the shadow of past quarrels darkens their view of the B.B.C. But there is a marked lack of warmth. I noticed this in the Minister's remarks in July, and since. To an extent that it has not experienced since the Corporation was formed, the B.B.C. is out in the political cold.
I can only conclude by pressing, once again, what I have repeatedly urged—a change in the system of administering B.B.C. finances. Until this is done we shall get no further on this perennial question of the licence fee.
It has always seemed intolerable that an independent Corporation should be required to go cap in hand to the Government for funds—seeking, like some penurious divorcee, to squeeze money from a reluctant hand. It is bad for us, because implicit in this system is the danger—and it is a real danger—that more funds, which require a higher licence, may be conditional on the good behaviour of the B.B.C. That is something which touches relationships between the Government and this Corporation closely.
It is for that reason that we declare that local radio should not be financed and controlled by local authorities. That is a sound precept, because we do not want local authorities putting pressure on local radio. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.
Between Government and B.B.C. there must be an independent body required, from time to time, to assess and pronounce on the financial need of the B.B.C. 1545 and, if need be, the level of the licence. No Government would be bound by it, but at least the facts would be known and we should have ended this game of make-believe, round which so much debate and argument on the subject of broadcasting continues to waltz.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins (Putney)
To follow the point made by the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) in his interesting speech, if poverty is not the explanation, the situation is even more serious. It is one thing to be driven out on to the street because there is no alternative, but a process of self-prostitution without need would be a more serious state of affairs. We must hope that the B.B.C.'s reason for the course of action which it has taken is poverty. If it is taken out of conviction, we are indeed in a bad way. This is a consideration which will move many of us. We must hope that the B.B.C. has been driven to this course of action and has not voluntarily taken it out of mistaken conviction.
"Broadcasting in the Seventies" is a false prospectus. The Government, the B.B.C, the Advisory Committee and my right hon. Friend are perhaps now beginning to realise that they have brought a pig in a poke. My right hon. Friend put an excellent face on it this afternoon. But I wonder whether he is quite so happy with "Broadcasting in the Seventies" and all that will follow from it as he led us to believe. Is he now realising that what he thought was a silk purse is in fact something of a sow's ear?
I have had many letters about this subject, but no one has put it better than a lady who wrote as follows:As one of the 1,000 people who did write"—it will be remembered that the B.B.C. said they had less than 1,000 letters about the proposed changesyou might be interested in what happened. As the whole trouble was obviously financial"—the lady is charitable—I wrote to Harold Wilson and John Stonehouse as well as to the B.B.C. The letter to Wilson was forwarded to the P.M.G. and then both letters were forwarded to the B.B.C. When I pointed out that the B.B.C. did not decide how much money it got or how it was raised and therefore to send the letters on to 1546 that body was pointless, all I got was a shrug off ('We do not understand your point').This is the most pertinent point in the whole debate, and this lady has put her finger on it.
Her letter continues:The correspondence reached the point where it became obvious that the B.B.C. were going to be lumbered with not only their own plans but the financial causes which properly belong to the P.M.G. and Treasury as well. After a couple more tries I eventually gave up.I should like to quote the final paragraph from this lady's letter because this, again, has excellent relevance:I think the B.B.C. have been nuts not to have admitted that the underlying cause of their new plans was a shortage of cash plus the wish to go ahead with local radio and that of course the quality of radio would go down as a consequence. Now the problem is compounded by the added difficulty that in the course of 'selling' Radio in the Seventies the B.B.C. have come to believe in the plan as a good plan, instead of the least worst they could think up in the circumstances.That is the explanation of the situation in which we find ourselves today. I believe that hon. Members on both sides who have said that the problem is lack of political courage to tackle the question of the financing of the B.B.C. have put their fingers on the reality of the situation. At least I hope that is the explanation.
These are the questions which need to be answered. First, why is it that the staff of the B.B.C. is overwhelmingly opposed to "Broadcasting in the Seventies"? Is it the case that there is only, apparently, a handful of people to be found at the top of that huge corporation who have anything but doubts and fears and concerns to express about this plan? Why are all the broadcasting unions against it? They are not groups normally renowned for easily working together, but on this issue they take the view that a mistake is being made. Why did the whole idea have to be introduced with such stealth? Only now are the true implications becoming apparent.
No one who knows anything about the subject, no one who has studied "Broadcasting in the Seventies" in detail, no one—still more so—who has heard the B.B.C. spelling out the implications of the policy, believes the policy to be anything other than harmful. It is not a development which fills those directly concerned with broadcasting with enthusiasm. If 1547 it is true that public concern about this matter has not been—at least possibly until this debate—at a very high level, it is because every possible endeavour has been made to play down the consequences of "Broadcasting in the Seventies".
Who does support it? The Chairman of the B.B.C., the Director-General, Mr. Ian Trethowan and Mr. Mansell—the two who, I think, dreamed the whole thing up, so I think that one could reasonably suppose that they might be in favour of it. I think that a rather unwilling supporter is the B.B.C.'s Director of Administration, Mr. John Arkell, because it is his job to administer the policy mistakes of others.
In its anxiety to spread out, to be universal, to be not only the National Radio Corporation, but also the voice of the regions and the street corner oration in every large town, the B.B.C. has been prepared to sacrifice quality for quantity. Quality radio is to be cast down. Instead of the great creative medium it has been and still can be, it is to become the universal audible wallpaper. That is the process on which the B.B.C. is embarking.
§ Mr. Jenkins
My right hon. Friend may say "rubbish", but once this process starts it is difficult to arrest. Once the business of winding down standards begins, it is extraordinarily difficult to stop. I greatly fear that, although, as my right hon. Friend has said, the initial impact of "Broadcasting in the Seventies" and the policy of straining to go beyond the B.B.C.'s capabilities on its inadequate income may have been less severe than originally proposed because of the public outcry, unless this process is reversed the quality of the B.B.C.'s national radio programmes must inevitably decline. It is an unalterable course of events.
I think that the quality of national radio programmes must inevitably be reduced, and the spelling out of how this reduction is going to take place has begun in private conversations with the unions. The trouble is that once the process has started it is extremely difficult to stop.
My hon. Friend is basing his argument on the false premise 1548 that the B.B.C. is somehow going out of its way to reduce standards, and that is not the case. There is no move in that direction. Furthermore, the B.B.C. has sufficient finance at its hands to meet all the responsibilities put upon it.
§ Mr. Jenkins
My right hon. Friend says that there is no move towards that end. The whole process was spelt out in "Broadcasting in the Seventies", which public outcry prevented. But that was only the tip of the iceberg. There is the rest of the iceberg underneath which the B.B.C. has been discussing, and in detail. There is 10 per cent. off here and 20 per cent. off there. There has been deterioration in the quality of national programmes, and this is admitted by the B.B.C. In the Midland Region, it has been described as a 5 per cent. reduction in quality. I repeat that once one starts such a process it is tremendously difficult to arrest. It is against the whole original concept of the B.B.C. That is what we are on about, and it greatly concerns many of us.
I was going to say something about the B.B.C.'s house magazine, Ariel, but I shall not do so in order to save time, except to refer to one point—the B.B.C.'s reply to criticisms by its own staff. Mr. Ian Trethowan claims that facts have been overlooked. I think that he himself has overlooked the most significant fact of all, which is that only now is the B.B.C. beginning to say in specific terms what its detailed proposals are. The only ones which were specific in "Broadcasting in the Seventies" concerned the orchestras and the removal of Radio 3 to V.H.F., and these have been abandoned in the face of public protest. Mr. Trethowan says that only after acceptance in principle can the rest of the proposals be worked out in detail. This seems to me an extremely alarming proposition. It is an extraordinary management technique which claims to make proposals which are going to have very large financial savings without doing any accurate costings before hand, apparently, as to how it will work out. This is another worrying aspect.
I think that the future of broadcasting is not a matter for the B.B.C. I suggest that it is a matter for the Government and this House—
§ Mr. Jenkins
—and, as my hon. Friend says, for the general public. It is not a matter solely for the B.B.C. to bring forward a whole programme for broadcasting in the 1970s, on its own initiative, coming from its Chairman, debated only in Opposition time, decided in August, when we are all away from this House, and discussed once again today in Opposition time. At no point has my right hon. Friend come to us with a series of Government proposals in relation to broadcasting, except to react to propositions put down by the Opposition.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
The reason we did not bring forward proposals was that I did not want to make an announcement before we had a debate. We had the debate in July and I made our position clear on the proposals, and, as a result, a number of them were changed. We cannot complain about the way this has been conducted.
§ Mr. Jenkins
My right hon. Friend has not really answered the point—that at no time has he come forward to this House and said, "These are the Government's plans for the future of the whole range of broadcasting in this country." That is what the Government should have done and what they have failed to do throughout the whole of this sad story.
Even at this late stage, I urge the Government to encourage the B.B.C. to continue the previous style of programming attitudes on the whole line of broadcasting policy. The process upon which it is now engaged is against all that the B.B.C. has stood for in the past. The change of policy at the B.B.C. means that other changes must take place. If it were felt that the B.B.C. was so committed to the present line of policy that it was impossible for it to change its mind and go back without the sacrifice of the Chairman, some of us would be able to withstand that loss. Indeed, I feel that there are even some hon. Members opposite who might be able to withstand it. If it involves the appointment of new personalities, well and good. I appeal to the Government to change their mind. This is not a straight issue of commercial radio versus public service broadcasting. I suggest that my right hon. Friend should anticipate the Royal Commission which he has been thinking about by setting up a Select Committee, and should 1550 charge that Select Committee with the duty of looking immediately into the British Broadcasting Corporation. It could later look into a wider sphere. The advantage of a Select Committee is that it has a continuing existence. It could initially be asked to examine the immediate problem of the B.B.C. and remain in being to make further recommendations about the general future of radio and television.
Do this, and the Government can maintain the status of the B.B.C. and can rescue itself from the charge of being wagged by the corporation tail. If the Government do not do this the decline of the B.B.C. will be measured from this moment and the blame for that decline will be laid at the door of this, our own Government. That would be a tragedy.
I urge my right hon. Friend to withdraw the Amendment so that we can have a straight vote on the Motion—which is the real issue. I assure my right hon. Friend that I am anxious to go into the Lobby with him tonight. In fact, I shall insist upon doing so. Those who oppose the Motion can vote for the Amendment but, as I explained earlier, that is not the case with me. The two issues are not mutually contradictory. I am bitterly opposed to commercial radio, and nothing will persuade me to go into the Lobby in favour of it, but that does not mean that I am not deeply concerned about what the B.B.C. is doing in relation to its own programmes. It is on this issue that I urge my right hon. Friends and the Government in general to have second thoughts.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Angus Maude (Stratford-on-Avon)
If the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) will be so kind as to hear out what will be a short speech, I may be able to help him with the problem which was exercising him in his closing sentences. There is a technical answer to his dilemma, which is one that faces me as well, and for not dissimilar reasons.
I shall confine my remarks entirely to sound radio. I echo what my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) said about the two speeches made by the Minister—in the last debate we had in the summer and in this debate. They were very different speeches. My sympathy with and affection for the 1551 BBC have always been great. My sympathy with the B.B.C. has never been greater than when I heard the right hon. Gentleman's speech in our last debate. He—and some of my hon. Friends—lectured the B.B.C. in a very high-minded way about its duties to the community, to musicians, to actors, to the public and to culture in general. There was a remarkable shortage of suggestions as to where the money was to come from.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
The hon. Gentleman must be fair to me, and what I said in the last debate. I said in my speech in July that it followed from all that that the community must provide the wherewithal for the B.B.C. to finance all these activities, and in August I announced that the fee would go up.
§ Mr. Maude
The right hon. Gentleman announced it in August, but in the meantime, having made this high-minded speech lecturing the B.B.C, and without saying at the time by how much the licence fee would go up, or giving a firm commitment that he would raise the licence fee, he had in the meantime changed the B.B.C.'s policy in respect of broadcasting in the 'seventies.
My complaint against the right hon. Gentleman is that he changed it in the wrong respects. The changes the B.B.C. had announced in "Broadcasting in the Seventies", which seemed most reasonable to me, were precisely the ones which he persuaded the B.B.C. to drop, while the ones in "Broadcasting in the Seventies" which alarmed me most of all are the ones that survive. I agree with the hon. Member for Putney: the B.B.C, having originally taken its policy decisions for economic reasons, have now begun to believe them. That is a pity. It is all very well to say that the B.B.C. has a duty, as patron, to maintain orchestras. Has it a duty to maintain orchestras over and above what are needed for the purpose of its broadcasting functions? That argument has never been made.
I appreciate entirely the argument put forward by the hon. Member for Putney on behalf of Equity. A substantial reduction in the number of jobs for actors on the B.B.C. is virtually synonymous with a reduction in the amount of drama broadcasts. There is no inconsistency in putting this line—trade union line 1552 though it may be. In the case of orchestras and musicians, there is a complete inconsistency. If it is necessary to retain in being orchestras which are not needed for the broadcasting of a given amount of quality music, it is the business of somebody else to act as patron and not the B.B.C. If it is necessary that these orchestras should remain in being, it is a matter for the Arts Council or for local authorities, but it cannot be the duty of the B.B.C. to take out of the licence fee sufficient money to keep in being orchestras which it does not need for broadcasting purposes and which are required entirely in the cause of culture for quite different purposes. Yet this is one respect in which the right hon. Gentleman has persuaded the B.B.C. to change its mind.
There are others. But the thing about "Broadcasting in the Seventies" which worried me most—and I am not yet wholly satisfied that my doubts were not justified—was a further big measure of retreat from the policy of mixed programming which was the essence of the Reith public service ideal. It is possible to exaggerate what is happening. It is possible to exaggerate the extent to which the process will accelerate. But we must face the fact that it is what is happening, and it is possible to entertain doubts whether this is a good idea—and it is right that those doubts should be expressed.
The virtue of mixed programming—I know that it has its disadvantages—if it is intelligently done, is that people whose cultural horizons have been narrow are from time to time dragged up against a new idea, a new conception and a new pleasure. Their horizons are extended, and they may actually catch a liking for it. That this has happened we have seen over and over again during the years of broadcasting. Anything which reduces this possibility is bad. In the Third Programme a kind of cultural quarantine ward was established, but some effort was made to diversify this, and Radio 4—the old Home Service—has been a mixed programme of considerable versatility and very great cultural value.
It is essential that the Music Programme should be preserved. That was another matter in respect of which I thought the right hon. Gentleman was a little hard on the B.B.C. He persuaded 1553 it not to make a gradual change over of the Music Programme to V.H.F. There is much to be said for moving the Music Programme to V.H.F. From the technical point of view good music, properly broadcast, should be listened to on V.H.F. It is technically much more satisfactory than it is on the medium waves. It would release medium wave channels which are badly needed for overseas broadcasting and other purposes. Provided that the changeover was made slowly and gradually as sets began to be obsolete, this would have been an excellent thing to do, and I hope that in the long run it will be done.
I am still far from convinced that the move in the direotion of further compartmentalisation and specialising sound broadcasting programmes is a good thing. I am aware that the B.B.C. has tried not to make Radio 1 simply a solid stream of pop records. I am aware that it has tried—I am not sure with how much success, and I would like to see some research figures on this—having got its teenage audience with pop records, to do something with it beyond the mere infliction of more pop records. It ought to go further. This programme should be more diversified than it is. For a public service corporation to get a teenage audience of that size, hypnotise it in the way that it has, is something of an achievement. It ought to be able to make good use of the audience from a public service point of view. There are possibilities here which I hope will be fully used.
The other respect in which the Postmaster-General was a little hard on the B.B.C. was to do with finance. It has already been said that the increase in the licence fee was inadequate and the recommended date for it too late. This is true, but I also have serious reservations about the abolition of the sound licence fee. This is placing the sound radio service in the position of a poor relation. One of two things is bound to happen. Either, since it is comparatively a minority service, though it is none the less popular with those who listen to it for that, the lion's share will always go to the popular service and sound radio will tend to get what is left or what is doled out, or else the proportion of the licence income which happened to obtain when the licence fee 1554 was abolished will be ossified and become permanent.
Sound radio, whatever its needs, will always tend to get the same proportion of the television licence fee income which it is getting at the time of the changeover. This is not only inflexible, but it makes no provision for possible expansion, and there are possibilities for expansion in sound radio broadcasting services. An overwhelming majority of the letters which the B.B.C. receives about programmes, leaving out requests for gramophone records and so forth, is in respect of sound radio. The sound radio audiences are more appreciative, perhaps more literate, certainly more interested, than television audiences. They take the trouble to write more letters, and in many ways to the person who has not got a television set the radio set can be infinitely more important. For example to the blind person, someone who cannot read newspapers or books or look at a television set, it is almost his only link with the world.
My feeling is that the sound radio services have considerable expansion possibilities, and it is desirable that they should be given their own independent licence fee income, raised from a sound licence fee. It is not only that our combined fee is almost the lowest in Europe, but our sound fee is one of the lowest in Europe too. There is no reason why a sound radio licence of 30s. should not be imposed and an attempt made to make the sound radio services as near independent as may be, to give greater freedom for experiment and improvement to those who want to make this an even better service than it already is.
I do not have much to say about local radio services. I think it was a pity that the B.B.C, with the encouragement of the Postmaster-General, went nap at once on 40 local radio stations. I cannot believe that it was not an attempt to pre-empt the market in view of the possibility that a Conservative Government would introduce commercial stations. I am by no means satisfied that the need for local radio on this scale is yet established, whether commercial or public service, although I do believe that some local stations have been a great success and, for example, in respect of educational programmes have provided a very useful 1555 service, dealing with local history, geography, archaeology and so on.
On the question of local commercial radio, like my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), I cannot bring myself to vote for any system of commercial sound radio. I lived in Australia for three years and I have listened to enough in America to confirm me in my views. I do not believe that it is possible to make it commercially viable except on a basis of cheap, almost non-stop pop music, and I do not believe that it is possible for any public service element to remain.
Having said that, it will be observed that I find myself in a dilemma similar to that of some hon. Members opposite because of the Government's determination to prevent a straight vote on their broadcasting policy generally, through the moving of their Amendment. I would like to suggest to the hon. Members for Putney, Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) and Smethwick (Mr. Faulds)—
§ Mr. John Mendelson
The hon. Gentleman must not mention me in this connection, because I have no difficulty in voting tonight.
§ Mr. Maude
The hon. Member for Putney, then, and perhaps the hon. Member for Smethwick. There is a solution to their difficulties which is also a solution to mine. While it would be impossible for me to vote against the Government's Amendment if it comes as a second vote tonight, just as it would be impossible for the hon. Member for Putney not to vote for it, a vote against the Question "That the Amendment be made" is simply a vote in favour of having a division on the substantive Motion as moved by the Opposiiton. I shall therefore vote on the question, "That the Amendment be made", which is a vote in favour of having a division on the straight Government policy of broadcasting. I shall then abstain on the second vote, and I recommend the hon. Member for Putney to do the same in reverse.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins
Before the hon. Gentleman sits down, may I express the hope that he will have the opportunity of voting as he wishes when the time comes? I fear that he may not.
§ 6.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Blenkinsop (South Shields)
Some of the recent speeches have been of a particularly high order. They have drawn attention to the crucial point, namely, the need to ensure that if we demand a high quality of service from the B.B.C. it has funds to provide it. I welcome the speeches of my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew), the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) and the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude), which directed our attention to this issue.
It is a great pity that my right hon. and hon. Friends have not had courage enough or determination enough to accept the challenge of making an increase in the licence fee much earlier than they have proposed. We should face this challenge. It is clearly the desire of hon. Members that this should be done. I want the development of local sound radio to be carried out by the B.B.C. on the lines which it proposes because they tie in very closely with our desire to find ways of encouraging people to take a greater part in the activities of their area, just as we are trying to encourage people to play a greater part in planning. We want people to express their opinions.
The local sound radio experiment has proved that local radio is a practical way of getting people to express off-the-cuff opinions on local issues. There is a good deal of evidence that many of the local sound radio stations have had a large number of people calling on them wanting to express opinions on certain matters.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins
There are those of us on this side of the House who, while being firmly opposed to commercial radio, do not accept that it automatically means the maintenance of the B.B.C.'s monopoly of sound radio.
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
My hon. Friend has his opinions on this issue. This is another matter. I am satisfied that this function in local sound radio would never be performed by commercial interests. I am therefore wholly in favour of the B.B.C. carrying out its experiment in local sound radio, but I do not want to stop the development of regional broadcasting and the encouragement of artistic work which undoubtedly has been 1557 the great pride of the B.B.C. Some of the critics of the B.B.C. have overstated the case. I do not believe that the damage done to the quality of the B.B.C. programmes is of the character which some of my hon. Friends and some hon. Members opposite have expressed. I do not think that it is as serious as they have made out.
But I accept that, because of the shortage of money, there is a danger of some programmes being cut back. They may be minority programmes, and one of the purposes of the B.B.C. is to provide opportunities for their development. I want regional broadcasting opportunities to increase. I accept that that means the expenditure of more money. This is why I urge my right hon. and hon. Friends, in spite of the decisions which they have taken, to offer further resources to the B.B.C. so that the regional programmes can be developed more rapidly.
I very much welcome the B.B.C.'s proposal to extend the existing number of regional stations from three to eight. Those of us who live in the North-East of England have complained of the dictatorship of the existing regional set-up in the B.B.C. We believe, rightly or wrongly, that it has denied many original writers the opportunity of having their work performed which they might have had if they had been in other parts of the country. Therefore, if there is a fairly rapid development of the extension of regional stations to the eight referred to by the B.B.C, no one will be happier than I. However, I recognise that this is an expensive issue and a matter of cash. The extension of facilities in television as well as sound broadcasting is bound to be expensive. It involves not only the premises but expensive equipment which must be fully used. But this is precisely why I am disappointed that my right hon. Friend the Minister has not accepted the necessity for providing the resources which I believe are needed.
Some of the criticisms of the B.B.C.'s proposals are exaggerated. There has been criticism of the extension of specialised programmes. But the experience of the Third Programme encourages us to feel that this is a reasonable line to follow, particularly if we want to ensure that there is a wider audience on the fourth channel for a good deal of the material 1558 used on the Third Programme. Experience has shown that this would provide a much wider audience for what has been available only to a relatively small number.
I can see the dangers. I well understand the reasons for the anxiety which has been expressed. I do not resent that. But I believe that it has been exaggerated. The proposals, now that we are seeing them more clearly, are shown to be a good deal less frightening than some people thought they might me. If we are serious about our demand for high standards in the B.B.C, it is up to us in the House to ensure that the necessary resources are made available so that what we are demanding can be met. It is hypocritical of us to attack the B.B.C. because we fear that it may not do what we want it to do if we do not provide the necessary resources. That is the demand which I should like the House to present to my right hon. Friend the Minister.
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Ian Gilmour (Norfolk, Central)
The Minister, on this subject, was not able even to convince his Parliamentary Private Secretary, who resigned because of what has happened. It is therefore scarcely surprising that the right hon. Gentleman was unable to convince the House today. He scarcely tried. To spend much of his time reading out extracts from a polemical document put out by the B.B.C. was to reduce himself to being a public relations officer for the B.B.C but in no way answered the criticisms of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
The hon. Gentleman must appreciate that the B.B.C. is entitled to have its point of view heard in the House. I believe that the House does not realise that any group of people, given the responsibility of spending the B.B.C.'s income, would find their own way of doing it. We must respect the integrity and honesty of the men in the B.B.C, from the Board downwards, who are accepting this responsibility and stop the continual carping against their proposals. It was for that reason that I gave an opportunity for their point of view to be heard in this debate. The House is entitled to hear it.
§ Mr. Gilmour
It is all right for the point of view of the B.B.C. to be heard, but the Minister should maintain some 1559 objectivity and not become the spokesman of the B.B.C. The case which he put forward scarcely needs an answer, because it was answered in advance by his own behaviour in tabling the Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman and the Minister of Technology knew perfectly well that if the Opposition's Motion had been left as it was and had been put to the vote it would probably have been carried, despite the strong-arm methods which the Patronage Secretary now uses.
Forty-nine Members of the party opposite, led by the right hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton), who, I understand, is Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party, and the hon. Members for Cheadle (Dr. Winstanley) and Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) and myself, put their names to a Motion criticising the B.B.C.'s proposals and pointing out that they would lead to a deterioration in the standard of broadcasting. The right hon. Gentleman knew that perfectly well, and he was, therefore, not prepared to face the straightforward issue and was not prepared to face a vote in the House on this subject. He tried to get out of it by some silly shouting. Having spent many weeks in debate on the Post Office Bill he knows I am not a detractor of his debating skills but he really must want to forget the silly ranting which he went in for this afternoon.
Turning to the Amendment which has been put forward merely to evade the issue, as the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party said this afternoon it merely means that, instead of considering what is happening to broadcasting now, which is what we should be doing, we are considering what this party will do when it comes into power in 1971 or 1970. In other words, we are having to abandon attention to what is happening now.
However, the Amendment is, of course, contrary both to experience and to logic. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) very frankly implied that if he could have his way he would abolish independent television—
§ Mr. Mendelson
I said nothing of the sort. If the hon. Member will read HANSARD tomorrow, he will see that what I did say was that in my opinion and in the opinion of a number of hon. Members on this side of the House there is more murder and violence in programmes on commercial television than on the B.B.C, but that unfortunately the B.B.C. had followed that trend. That is what I said.
§ Mr. Gilmour
I beg the hon. Member's pardon if I misundertood him, but I thought that was his implication when he interrupted my right hon. Friend, but that merely proves my point, that there are very few hon. Members opposite—possibly only the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew)—who would be in favour of abolishing independent television, and if they really believe in the Amendment they ought to be in favour of so doing.
What is the reason for drawing a rigid distinction between radio and television? The argument for breaking the monopoly in sound broadcasting is stronger than that for breaking the monopoly in television. I have advanced this argument in outline before, and the right hon. Gentleman was good enough to nod when I did, but he did not refer to it when he wound up, and I put it forward again for the benefit of the Minister of Technology, and I hope that he will mention it later on, because the right hon. Gentleman, when he made a speech the other evening about his dealings with industry showed an immense experience of dealing with private industry, and would agree that a monopoly cannot be accepted just like that, and that there must be an argument put forward for it. The argument which used to be put forward for the B.B.C.'s monopoly no longer holds.
That argument, if I may put it more brutally than it is usually put, is as follows, that the general cultural level and taste of the listener is so low that if he is given a chance of listening to what he wants to listen to he will listen to programmes which the cultural élite, many hon. Members opposite and many radio and television critics, despise and disapprove of, and that, therefore, he must not be given that choice; therefore, there must be a monopoly.
That is the old Reithian doctrine. Reith said: "Few know what they want 1561 and very few what they need." Therefore, he gave them what he thought they ought to have, and that, until quite recently, was the doctrine of the B.B.C. The corollary of that doctrine is, of course, monopoly. It is a form of cultural dictatorship which I myself do not particularly approve of. But it is a perfectly defensible doctrine, and it led in the 'thirties to commercial radio stations being set up outside of this country, when the B.B.C. tried to ban them, and so forth. It is a defensible doctrine, and it was one which the B.B.C. followed until quite recently. When Radio Manx tried to get an extension of needle time the B.B.C. opposed the application on the ground that it would lower public taste and therefore there would no longer be a balanced programme. Shortly after that the B.B.C. introduced Radio 1, which is a totally unbalanced programme and can have no other effect than to lower public taste. Therefore, the argument put forward by the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon, that commercial radio would lower public taste, is totally invalid, because B.B.C.1 is already on the floor. As far as I can see, it is impossible to get a programme culturally lower or more unbalanced or more conducive to lowering public taste.
§ Mr. Gilmour
There may be 300, but they are not lower. They are on exactly the same level. One cannot get lower than the floor.
That was not true when commercial television was introduced, but it is different now, and shows that the old Reithian argument no longer applies. Reith has disappeared from sound radio. He has also disappeared from television.
In the Evening Standard last summer Mr. Milton Shulman, who certainly cannot be accused of being an admirer of commercial television, said he had been through the output of both main channels and said:I have been through several weeks' output of B.B.C.-1 and … in the weekend I have discussed above, it seems London Weekend was actually providing a marginally more serious schedule than B.B.C.-1. And, on balance over the week, there is only a slight sliver of qualitative difference in the output of Channels 1 and 9 at peak times with B.B.C. perhaps fractionally more conscientious. Having abandoned, then, its posture as a 1562 channel different in style and philosophy and attitude from its commercial rival, there surely can be no justification in B.B.C.-1 continuing to refuse advertisements.I do not agree that it should accept advertisements, but it makes the point that, as far as television is concerned Reith has also gone by the board.
The B.B.C.'s philosophy now is to give people what they want. That I entirely approve of, and, indeed, it received the sanction of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Social Services when he wrote an article a long time ago when he talked aboutthe addiction to relaxation shared by the vast majority of the British public",and he assertedthe right to triviality belonging to every viewer in a free society.That is rather different from what he was saying a few months ago about television, but I think it is the better of his two views. The B.B.C.'s view now is that it should give people what they want, and I entirely agree about that, but the logical corollary of that is that there is no need for a monopoly at all and no justification for a monopoly. The more people there are to give people what they want, the better.
I think the B.B.C. has realised this perfectly well. That is why it no longer makes a de jure claim for monopoly. It merely makes a de facto claim by trying to pre-empt commercial radio. It realises that, logically, the case for a monopoly no longer exists, because of its policy. I fear, however, that the Government have not understood what has happened.
The right way, of course, to maintain standards would be for the B.B.C. to concentrate on what it does best, and to concentrate on maintaining the standards of its programmes. I do not want to repeat what the hon. Gentleman the Member for Putney said, but I would say that he has examined the situation very carefully indeed, and I agreed with what he said. It seems to me most unfortunate that the Government and the B.B.C. should be prepared to take risks with programme standards.
The other prong of our criticism of the Government is the I.T.A. levy. Just as the right hon. Gentleman has been criticised by his hon. Friends in the 1563 Motion I have referred to, in our debate on the I.T.A. levy he will remember that he was not supported by one hon. Member opposite. He will also remember that he barely seemed himself to be in very strong agreement with what he was saying. He reminded us this afternoon that he gave an undertaking, and that is very welcome, but I would draw his attention to a circular sent out by the 76 Group, which even the hon. Member for Woolwich, East would hardly think gives money to the Conservative Party.
The circular states:Reconciling good programming and profitability has always been the major dilemma of I.T.V. In the present situation it is impossible. As a result of the levy companies are cutting budgets, sacking staff, closing studios, opting out less often from network programmes, and initiating fewer programmes on offer to the network. Consequently innovation and experiment among programme makers are discounted.It is therefore not good enough for the right hon. Gentleman to repeat the figures he gave this afternoon, which he knows only too well related to a totally different situation from that which exists today. He knows that there are a number of companies which were not in existence during those halcyon days he mentioned, and that there is another major contractor, so that the five programme contractors cut down the profitability of the network.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
I was not referring to figures for some years ago but to the last available profit results of a whole list of companies, which showed that many of them made very substantial returns, indeed, in the last available financial year. What I have said to them is that if in the current year their results are appreciably worse than that, I will consider the position. I could be no fairer than that.
§ Mr. Gilmour
It has been perfectly plain for some time that their position is infinitely worse. According to the Economist and others, budgets have been cut already, so it is a bit late in the day for the Minister to say he will start considering the position. He has had several months in which he has known what was happening; several months since the levy was imposed, as I think in ignorance by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who 1564 had not realised that the situation had changed so much.
The essence of our case is that the Government, while trumpeting their devotion to public service principles are allowing a deterioration in public service broadcasting by encouraging or forcing the B.B.C. to go into local radio at the expense of things which are far more important and, at the same time, they are depriving the television neworks of a reasonable return on their money. It is high time that the right hon. Gentleman got into these talks with the I.T.A.
We know, and the right hon. Gentleman knows, that our Motion would have gained very wide support in the House tonight. It is very regrettable that he should, to use his words, funk a straight vote on the Government's broadcasting policy, because he knows that the sad fact is that the Government's policy has led, and is leading, to a deterioration in the standards of broadcasting.
§ 7.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Andrew Faulds (Smethwick)
I find it very difficult to disagree with the Opposition Motion, and I am sorry, as the hon. Member for Norfolk, Central (Mr. Ian Gilmour) is sorry, that we shall not have the chance of a straight vote on it. There can be little doubt that the Government's broadcasting policy is leading, and will lead, to a serious deterioration in the quality of our public service broadcasting, which under the B.B.C. once led the world.
The crux of the problem, is, very simply, finance. I am sorry to have to disagree on this with my right hon. Friend, who was my Minister and for whom I retain a warm regard as a very old friend. Nevertheless, he is inexact on this point, and those hon. Members who look on finance as the crux are on the button, and he is not.
The Government, like every Government before them, have shied from the necessity of raising the licence fee because of its possible electoral effect. Yet look at the position. We have the lowest licence fee in Western Europe but there is £2 million worth of unlicensed car radios and £7 million worth of uncollected licences. There is not much wonder that, as a result, the B.B.C. is operating in the red.
1565 Now, because the Government want to keep local radio out of the irresponsible hands of the commercial carvers-up, they have placed the responsibility for running a network of local radio stations in the lap of the B.B.C. But what they have not realised—and, if they have realised it, it is the more reprehensible—that they cannot have it both ways. With its present income, the B.B.C. cannot afford both to run local radio and, at the same time, maintain the traditional B.B.C. standards of quality and coverage.
This incompatibility of responsibilities has been the genesis of that brilliantly opaque document, "Broadcasting in the Seventies". I have no doubt that the Government have allowed the B.B.C. to get away with the policies which have been pretty dimly adumbrated in that document as a quid pro quo for taking on local radio.
The Director-General, Charles Curran, said at a meeting at Bristol:We'd have got nothing if we had not accepted the local radio commitment.If the proposals in "Broadcasting in the Seventies" are put into effect there can be no doubt whatsoever that the quality of B.B.C. output will suffer grievously.
The old ideal of "quality in programmes" is to disappear before the new aim of giving the public what it wants. What a sad decline from the old Reithian principle of responsibility in broadcasting. As the Pilkington Report said:Those who say give the public what it wants begin by underestimating public taste, and end by debauching it."Mixed" programming to provide for all tastes is to give way to "generic" broadcasting—the regular non-stop pumping out of popular pap—and it is no good the Minister reading happy phrases from Mr. Mansell's somewhat partisan opinions to disprove that.
Radio 1 will gain more pop music, although I find from my young friends that the young for whom it was designed find it pretty tame and dreary stuff. Radio 2 will gain more light music. Radio 3 will get more "standard" classics: I suppose that means more "Nutcracker Suite" and less Mahler—God help us. But Radio 2 loses about 30 speech programmes a week, and the Third loses half its output of the spoken word. It is no good pretending that those losses can be restored 1566 on Radio 4, which has to put out more news and more current affairs. The B.B.C bosses have consistently refused to be specific—and they have been asked again and again by several of their staff—about the actual programmes to be lost. I wonder whether it is because they know that then there would indeed be a public outcry?
I want to look now at the history of these developments—and we should have seen the warning light long ago. The translation of Lord Hill should have been a warning to those of us who care about the quality of our country's public service broadcasting. That gentleman is not exactly renowned for his cultural interests. His greatest gift has been his ability to spread a rather thin talent pretty thinly over a variety of careers. The disappearance of Carleton Greene, who was a giant of a man in every respect, was a disaster for the B.B.C. It led to the appointment of a very much littler man, Charles Curran—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—much smaller, if hon. Members prefer it, though the point is not disputed—whose handling of the reorganisation proposals has been inept and insensitive, and has led to the greatest internal discord in the B.B.C.'s history. But we must be fair. I remind the House that the factor to blame is "Broadcasting in the 'Seventies", which was the inevitable result of the Government's temerity in authorising a licence increase.
The B.B.C. has always been rather timorous about such mundane matters as discussing money. Those of us who worked for her in her monopolistic days will remember that. The B.B.C. evidently did not wish to push the Government too hard with common considerations like cost calculations and accountants' columns. It had been working quite willingly for some time on a range of programmes which left the B.B.C. very much in the red. Now, even more amazingly, it is willing to continue in the red, safely past the date of the next General Election until the licence fee is raised. It is even willing—this is where is becomes absolutely incredible—to extend its responsibilities and financial embarrassment by taking on local radio as a public service on condition the Government allows it to impose "Broadcasting in the 'Seventies" on an unwilling and unconsulted staff and on a public which has not the 1567 foggiest notion of what its proposals entail.
Do hon. Members realise or does the public know that the three B.B.C. regions of incredible value in Bristol, Birmingham and Manchester are due to disappear next year? The regional creative and technical teams which have evolved through 40 years will be disbanded. The studios and facilities in those regions will be used for overflow productions from London when various studio leases run out and where existing facilities may not be sufficient.
There will be no independent air time on radio or television available to the English regions. There will be no assurance of independent programme monies free from London editorial control. There will be no regional broadcasting in radio or television except news and news magazines. And this is at a time when there is an emphatic and healthy emphasis throughout the country towards decentralisation in many spheres of life.
Charles Curran's claim that there has been full internal consultation with the staff is denied by every one of the unions concerned, and even by non-union staff. These are the people who by the nature of their work know and understand, now when at last they are being spelled out, the implications of the proposals in "Broadcasting in the 'Seventies". They deeply resent the imputation that they are concerned only about their jobs. Many of them, particularly in the technical and creative areas, could have got better jobs elsewhere but they chose to spend their working lives in public service broadcasting. It is a pretty poor reward that they are getting.
Now they threaten—this is pretty amazing to anyone who knows the B.B.C.—industrial action to show their concern and dismay about these proposals. Curran also declared on 17th October that the time for public discussion was over. This was when hon. Members and the public outside had simply no understanding of the scope of the changes envisaged and intended. This can be proved by the words of the author of "Broadcasting in the 'Seventies"—a gentleman called Ian Trethowan who has been unkindly described as a metropolitan T.V. journalist. In this month's copy of Ariel, the staff magazine of the B.B.C, he posed some of the disquieted questions raised by 1568 members of the staff and proceeded to answer them. His first question was on consultation:The proposals in 'Broadcasting in the Seventies' closely affect the staff. Yet they only begin to be told the solid facts and figures about what 'Broadcasting in the Seventies' meant on 17th October—the day after the Director-General declared with no previous warning that the plans were to be implemented—in other words, the period of debate was over. Why are the changes being raced through without any opportunity for consultation?He answered his own question and condemned himself by these words:It was at this point, and really not until this point, that we could start going into details. Had we done so earlier, we would have been accused of prejudging the issue. In any event, the first thing that had to be done was to establish the basic programme patterns …".
He can say that again—Not until these were clear was it possible to work out the detailed effects.How could any of us know in that case of the changes that were intended? He affects to be surprised that the B.B.C. received only 1,000 letters about the implications of "Broadcasting in the 'Seventies". I am surprised that he received even that number. That 1,000 people had tumbled to what the B.B.C. governors were up to.
The changes proposed in "Broadcasting in the 'Seventies" are so radical both as regards the regions and as to programme policy that the proposals should be suspended while a public inquiry is set up to look into the responsibilities of broadcasting in the seventies. I quote from the document put out by my union, Equity:The changes about to be implemented are not mere changes of detail, but changes in the very essence of public service broadcasting, of wide social and cultural significance. Changes of this order do not properly fall within the competence of the B.B.C. Governors but should be subject to decision by Government and Parliament after full public examination.I suggest that all this is a matter for this House to decide.
§ 7.16 p.m.
§ Dr. M. P. Winstanley (Cheadle)
I listened with great interest and considerable agreement to the hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Faulds). I shall return to some of his points, particularly to what he said, which is very important, about the state of morale among the staff, especially in the regions. I want 1569 first to underline what he said about the importance of directing attention immediately to the financial implications of this whole business. He was absolutely right to focus attention on this narrow but desperately important point. What we are talking about is money for the B.B.C.
The independence of the B.B.C. in the days of Reith, Haley and Jacobs was not just because of the strength of those people, but because the B.B.C. was financially independent and had a system of remuneration which appeared to be as it were self-perpetuating. There was an automatic growth rate in the licence fees at that time which gave those people confidence and the very necessary feeling of total independence of this place and of the Government. This House is to blame for allowing that situation to run out. The B.B.C. also is to blame for allowing the situation to change and for not acting early enough. The B.B.C. should not have got itself into that sort of position. It should have protested earlier with much more vigour and should have insisted on preserving its financial independence at a much earlier stage. It should not have drifted into the present state of affairs.
My criticisms of the B.B.C.'s plan, "Broadcasting in the Seventies", hinges on five points. The first is the adoption of a system of generic broadcasting rather than mixed programming. The second is the extraordinary decision, at a time of extreme shortage of money and resources, to embark on the plans for so-called local radio. I say "so-called" because I believe these stations will not be local in quite the original sense. Thirdly, I am desperately anxious about the situation in the regions and the effect of the plan on the people in the regions who wish to make a genuine regional contribution towards the national network. Fourthly, I am concerned and disturbed about the intention to start all these plans on 4th April, 1970. From the haste resulting from that decision spring a great many things that we are concerned about in this debate.
Finally, I am deeply concerned about the Corporation's increasing dependence on this Government or on the next one. The Corporation looks like sacrificing its freedom for a doubtful short-term advantage. It has not received any guarantee 1570 of immediate money. It has only a promise—a carrot dangled before it by this Government or by the next one. This has got the corporation in a very serious position of dependence upon the Government which it never occupied previously.
The hon. Member for Smethwick dealt in some detail, and I think correctly, with the question of generic broadcasting. The hon. Gentleman gave figures of the extent to which each of the different radio programmes will concentrate on specific items of output.
Generic broadcasting is essentially a kind of broadcasting which arises in a commercial situation. It is suited to commercial broadcasting. Advertisers like generic broadcasting, because it is nice for advertisers to be able to direct an advertisement at a precise channel or a precise programme which attracts a particular market.
I see the Minister shaking his head, but he must agree that wherever there is commercial broadcasting there is generic broadcasting. Generic broadcasting fits in with the sale of adverts; this is its advantage. Advertisements can be sold much more easily if programme companies can say "We have this particular kind of programme all day which will be attracting this particular kind of people all day for your advertisement". If we were to have advertisements, a case could be made out for generic broadcasting. We are not to have advertisements. We are to have a commercial pattern of broadcasting without the advantage of any advertising revenue. In other words, it is the worst possible of both worlds.
I agree with those who have said that generic broadcasting ultimately leads to a decline in standards. It has done so in the United States. It is a complicated matter. Concentration on one channel, on one programme, on one type of output, necessarily results in a gradual lowering of standards. It tends to squeeze out minorities, even in that channel and even in that stream, and to that extent it results in a decline in standards. The pattern here would follow what has happened in the United States—there would be a decline in our standards here too.
Thirdly, generic broadcasting is bad because it runs contrary to the corporation's former avowed intention of widening tastes and broadening interests. The 1571 hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) was right to make much of this point. The corporation has always had that aim. It is a laudable aim and not just a deceptive ruse like saying, "We will put on this. That will fox them. Then we will suddenly put on something different". Intelligent mixed programming has a great educative effect and can broaden interests and widen tastes by leading people from one interest on to another.
§ The Minister of Technology (Mr. Anthony Wedgwood Benn)
Do I correctly understand the hon. Gentleman to be saying that there is virtue in itself in getting somebody who is hooked on to a programme for its popularity to ingest accidentally something of quality in order to raise his standards? I want to be sure that this is the hon. Gentleman's point, because I shall deal with it.
§ Dr. Winstanley
I prefer to put the point in my words rather than in those of the Minister. I know what I meant, but I am not entirely certain of what the Minister meant. What I meant is that if a programme broadcasts the same thing all the time there is a tendency for some people to stay with the programme. Others switch it off. If changes can be rung in the programme, without any doubt in time people's tastes can be broadened and they can be introduced to other things which they might not have selected but which they then find enjoyable.
I come to the decision to embark on local radio. At a time of acute financial difficulty and a shortage of resources as well as of money, the corporation proposes to spend an additional £7 million on providing local radio which will not be genuinely local and for which there is as yet no objective evidence of any real need of sizeable demand.
I do not say that the experimental stations have not done a reasonably good job. I have listened to them. Within their extremely small budgets they have done well. I take the point made by a number of hon. Members that these stations have been able to bring about a degree of audience participation in programmes which is not possible in programmes of another type. This is a 1572 valuable community exercise, but it depends on the local radio being genuinely local.
I was prepared to have a slightly different attitude towards local radio when upwards of 100 stations were being spoken of. But forty stations broadcasting to 70 per cent. of the population is not local radio. It is spreading the thing too far so that it ceases to have the advantages of parochialism and becomes merely an inadequate and under-financed form of regional broadcasting.
It is possible, too for local radio of a kind to exist complementary to regional broadcasting, if it is genuinely local radio on a small basis. We are talking now about one local radio station for London and one local radio station for Manchester. Once we talk in these terms, it becomes clear that such local radio cannot exist alongside regional broadcasting. So we have moved away from the original objective of local radio.
This step is being taken at a time when the corporation is already in debt, when many people are still unable to receive B.B.C. 2, and when other important developments are being held up for lack of money. This must inevitably destroy regional broadcasting as we have it. It puts the corporation's head in a financial noose held by this Government or later to be held by another Government. The corporation is to do all this in exchange for a promise of an increase in licence fee in April 1971.
It must be noted that this major extension of local radio must result in more recorded music. This is potentially damaging to the interests of music as a whole. The hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon asked this question, and looked very puzzled because he could not find the answer—why should the B.B.C. subsidise orchestras? He said that this was the business of the Arts Council.
The answer is that the B.B.C. is, always has been, and always will be, desperately dependent upon music and musicians. It cannot rely on recorded music beyond a certain extent without somewhow drying up the creative music which it needs. So, if not from the point of view of subsidising the arts, at any rate from the narrow point of self-interest, the corporation has a duty to maintain and stimulate live music so as to ensure 1573 the continuous flow of the kind of music it requires.
I feel strongly on the question of the regions. I understand that people who live in this area and who are used to centralised, London-based institutions, will not feel so deeply about the question. I understand their point of view. Regional broadcasting is not parochial broadcasting. It is not a region talking to a region. To be interesting, it must be local in a very small sense.
To me, who live near Manchester, something which is happening in Bury is of no more interest than it would be if it were happening in Bognor Regis. To be interesting, it would have to be interesting in itself.
The real purpose of regional broadcasting—radio or television—is to enable a region with its own distinctive qualities, which are neither better nor worse than those of other regions, to make its own personal and individual contribution to the national whole. Take the north-west region in which I live and in which there is a population near to that of Scotland and Wales combined. What are the opportunities going to be? It cannot be denied that the opportunities for the North-West to initiate drama programmes and things of that kind will be substantially reduced. Yet in the North-West we have a tradition in the theatre which is still fluorishing. We have repertory movements and we have playwrights. It has been in many ways a nursery of the theatre. All we say is that there must be an opportunity for these people to make their contribution in the North-West without necessarily having to come to London to do so.
This is what the fear is about, and it is a very real fear which has not yet been resolved. I know that these fears may in the end prove to be groundless, but the fact remains that the Director-General has talked to the people in the regions and they are not reassured. They still feel these anxieties. They are not convinced by the kind of reassurances they have been given because the re-assurances, when one examines them, are not very reassuring.
The B.B.C. may say that it is not economic to maintain large regional structures in broadcasting. This is an argument which it is entitled to put, but the 1574 fact remains that we here have a responsibility in so far as public policy is concerned. Any movement towards the greater centralisation or greater metro-politanisation of broadcasting would be contrary to the direction in which politics as a whole is moving and would point in the opposite direction to the Maud recommendations.
I am interested in what has been said about this by a number of people who feel strongly on regional matters. We have Mr. Charles Carter, the former Chairman of the North-West Economic Development Council, who wrote to the Guardian:… the whole matter should now be looked at in the context of the Redcliffe-Maud Report and the consequent desirability of strengthening regional initiatives and local autonomy.He later resigned from his post.
We have the new Chairman of the North-West Economic Development, Sir William Mather, who said:… the proposed cuts in the corporation's regional services will greatly curtail an important element in our regional life and transfer much creative activity to London. It is ironic that the B.B.C, which ever since its inception has resisted the urge to centralise in London, should contemplate doing so at a time when interest in regionalism has never been stronger, and when one of the main reasons put forward by the Maud Commission for the reform of local government is the need to reduce the power and influence of London. Despite the efforts we have made my council have not been approached by the B.B.C. on this issue.I now quote a letter which I received from my friend, Robert Stead, former North Regional Controller who, as the right hon. Gentleman will recollect, retired from his post—he exercised a nice discrimination in doing so—the day before the B.B.C. abolished it. He said this, referring to the general comments on the matter:I was disappointed that there was little Press support for the regional concept. … I still hope that this terribly important factor will arouse further comment before long.This is the kind of feeling which exists among all the staff of the B.B.C. in the regions from the top all the way down. This kind of feeling has not yet been satisfied by the kind of reassurances that have been given. I do not say that it will not prove possible in the end for these people to be reassured. It may be possible to make changes so that a genuinely regional contribution will be 1575 made. All I can say is that the people concerned are not yet reassured. They feel that they have been hanging on waiting for new opportunities, that the building of the Manchester headquarters would give them an opportunity, for which they have waited for many years, to make a really constructive contribution in a regional sense. They now feel, rightly or wrongly, that they have been misled.
It is regrettable that it should have been left, for instance, to Granada to provide opportunities for local actors. I am in touch with a theatrical agency which finds many jobs for artistes living in the North-West. It has been able to find jobs for them in repertory companies and in local companies. This agency used to be able to get work for these artistes with the B.B.C., but the work is now drying up. They found parts in "Z-Cars" and programmes of that kind, but gradually these opportunities are dwindling. It would be a shame if the B.B.C. ceased to provide those opportunities in the regions, be it the North-West or any other region, for the people who reside in them.
It has been said that the old regions were the wrong shape. I agree. I have nothing at all against the area concept, but, if one divides a region into smaller areas the very act of dividing it weakens it unless at the same time one introduces extra resources. What it is possible for one region in a certain form to do is not possible for that region to do if it has been divided up, unless we are prepared to put in additional resources. My attitude towards the area concept would change if there were a clear undertaking to provide additional resources so that these areas could make the kind of contribution which could be made by the larger kind of region.
Let me deal with the proposal to start on 4th April, 1971. Why this indecent haste? This is not a professional demand. Major changes in programmes from the professional point of view invariably start in the autumn. There must be another reason. It must be an administrative reason. But I believe the haste concerning that decision has been responsible for much damage to the B.B.C.'s image because of its failure adequately to consult others. Many people believe that 1576 it has failed, and this failure could have serious effects.
The B.B.C. had a reputation for consulting its staff. Because it had this reputation it did not have much in the way of union troubles. What has happened recently in the B.B.C. may spark off a degree of what I might call unionisation which could in the long term cost the B.B.C. millions if it resulted in the kind of activities which could follow—the right hon. Gentleman knows what I mean—such excessive unionisation in the B.B.C. which in the past the A.B.S. and the employers have always avoided. I see no reason for the start on 4th April and I do not see why it should not be postponed. Confidence has been, if not shattered, at least diminished and it will not easily be restored. Postponing the matter could help.
Now a word about the B.B.C.'s increasing economic dependence on the Government, sacrificing its freedom. This is surely very important. I was interested to hear the Leader of the Opposition today. He made a very good speech. Indeed, he has made two good speeches recently, but on both occasions he had a good case. This time he was attacking the Government's broadcasting proposals, and he was right. On the other occasion he attacked the Government's boundary proposals, and he was right. It is a fact that one makes better speeches when one has a good case. He made no clear commitment to accept this increase in the licence fee in April, 1971. He said that the B.B.C. needed more money and he could not think of any other way to get it except by an increase in the licence fee. I am glad that he made that commitment, because otherwise we would be in a dangerous situation whereby the B.B.C. would put itself in a position of dependence on the return of a Labour Government at the next election. If the B.B.C. had been given a vested interest of over £5 million in a Labour victory at the next election, that would have been a serious matter. Something more should be said about that now. I would rather see the B.B.C. made financially independent now and not merely promised what it may receive after the next General Election.
So what do we do now? We should postpone the plans for more thought and consultation. We should look elsewhere 1577 for economies. I recognise what has been done in dealing with licence evasion, but there are other possibilities pointed to by the Third Report of the Estimates Committee with regard to the arrangements with the Post Office, which charges the B.B.C. nearly £1 million a year for dealing with complaints of interference with programme reception. The Post Office has a curious monopoly over telecommunications. I am told that if I record a programme in Manchester which is later broadcast in London it may be cheaper for the B.B.C. to send a man down on the train with the tape than to send the programme over the line by the Post Office. Economies could be obtained from an attack on the Post Office's monopoly position in telecommunications. I would like to see the B.B.C. have a bit more autonomy, and able to do some of its communications.
I would also like to see administrative economies and economies in establishment, but not economies in programmes. The scope for economies is limited. It is the B.B.C.'s clear duty to put the ball in the Government's court.
I admire the qualities of Lord Hill, and have recognised them for many years. I have known his work for many years, even long ago, when he was Secretary of the British Medical Association. He is a man of great administrative ability and force of character. I am glad that he blew some cobwebs away from the B.B.C., and he has now surrounded himself with new young people. But unfortunately he has been led by McKinsey down a blind alley. I hope that he will turn back and attack the Government and tell them, "We need the money now. Give it to us without strings". He would receive support from many hon. Members if he did that instead of saying, "Let us come to an arrangement. We shall do this if you promise something else for the year after 1971". That is what I hope for and look forward to. I hope that it is not too late for us to arrive at that new situation.
We are in a sad position. We have decided to spend £7 million whilst we are heavily in debt on providing something of doubtful value as yet. In doing so, we may destroy the regions. We are delaying the provision of B.B.C.2 to many people, and we are increasing the B.B.C.'s dependence on the Government. 1578 At the same time, we are in a way moving towards a commercial system of broadcasting, without the corresponding advantage of advertising, and we are bedevilling labour relations within the B.B.C. It is a pretty sorry tale, but I hope that the end is not yet inevitable.
With regard to the vote, we on this bench will follow the advice of the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon and do the only thing we can. By a curious trick—I call it a trick, though I understand that it is one that has often been played—a subject for debate chosen by the Opposition has in effect been changed by the Government by the nature of their Amendment. We can do nothing about it. There are only two Lobbies. We cannot go into a third or fourth, and the only way we in the Liberal Party can express our disapproval of the present plans and our sincere hope that they will be reconsidered, as well as our disapproval of the Government's acceptance of the plans, thus pre-empting further discussion, is to vote against the Government. But we make it clear that in voting against them we are not voting with certain other people for certain other things. We are voting against the Government.
§ 7.44 p.m.
§ Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)
I want to begin with the very point on which the hon. Member for Cheadle (Dr. Winstanley) ended his previously interesting and forthright speech. He is not very good at explaining strategic and tactical positions; I do not know any hon. Member present from the Liberal bench who is. The hon. Gentleman is too forthright to explain the tactical positions in which his party sometimes finds itself.
I have no difficulty on the vote, because two matters have become entangled by a deliberate decision of the Leader of the Opposition and his advisers. There has been for some time a serious debate on the B.B.C.'s new proposals, and the Campaign for Better Broadcasting, which has taken up the subject prominently, has received support from both sides of the House and has made a serious case. I should have liked a debate on that subject separate from the other issues to which I shall come.
But, after the Campaign for Better Broadcasting had been going on for a 1579 while, the Opposition Front Bench decided to take over the subject and use it to attack the Government. That is obvious. It is equally obvious that the Opposition Front Bench has a policy which at any rate the Leader of the Opposition is most hesitant to put forward. But it was clearly spelt out at the Conservative Party conference. That is a policy to which powerful commercial forces are addicted, the policy of commercial radio. It is a matter of money, of commercial greed, and the sort of situation which a former Postmaster-General, Mr. Bevins, described in his book, "The Greasy Pole". One can understand that the Leader of the Opposition, faced with that sort of situation, is not too keen to spell out the policy in too much detail.
It was noticeable this afternoon that in a fairly long speech when he came on to the point of commercial radio, which is the main plank of the Opposition on this subject, he said, "Now a word about commercial radio". He said reams of stuff about all the other subjects, but, "Now a word …", as if he were almost passing it by. He treated the subject like someone introducing Hamlet to a class of students aged 14 to 15 by saying, "I shall deal with all the important subjects now, and mention only in passing the Prince of Denmark". That would not be regarded as a very serious approach to a debate or play, and plays are not relevant in this debate.
Therefore, I have no difficulty this evening, and I am surprised at the conclusion reached by the Liberal spokesman. Moreover, there is no difficulty technically. The Government have put forward a perfectly normal Amendment, and there is no room for the synthetic indignation of hon. Members opposite. Many of them were in office or here as back-benchers when this kind of thing was done by a Conservative Government year after year and week after week. It has been done by Liberal Governments, though I admit that the hon. Gentleman was not here at the time. He has not been here within the lifetime of a Liberal Government, and I cannot promise him that even if he serves for another four or five terms he will be here in the lifetime of a Liberal Government. That is his difficulty. We cannot help it, 1580 and he has no right to express moral indignation either.
I can understand the Opposition Front Bench saying that it is wrong to propose the Amendment, because a Labour Government are in office, but they say that on other subjects, and we do not have to take any notice. The Government are entitled to do this, and I am glad that they have put forward an Amendment in terms which disclose the real purpose and commercial intent of the Opposition in the debate. That is what it is all about—commercial radio. I hope that none of my hon. Friends will be misled by this strategy.
That is why I have no difficulty over the vote, and why I am glad that my right hon. Friends have tabled the Amendment in the way that they have. We shall vote to reject the attempt of the commercial lobby to have its policy affirmed by the House. That is as much as I shall say on that subject.
§ Dr. Winstanley
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that nearly all the speeches made the last time we debated the plan, "Broadcasting in the Seventies", were opposed to it, that most of the speeches tonight are or will be opposed to it, and that therefore it would be a good thing if we were allowed to count those people who are against the plan?
§ Mr. Mendelson
No, Sir. That argument does not hold water, because the House is not a debating society. It is a decision-making legislative body, and therefore the real policy differences between the two sides must be voted on. The Opposition's real policy, in spite of all the attempts by right hon. Gentlemen opposite to make it unclear and blur the issue, is to have commercial radio to pay back all those powerful economic forces that are financing them for the next General Election and are waiting in the wings to have a share in the gravy. As we are not a debating society, it was the Government's duty to put forward an Amendment which disclosed to the House, and thereby to the country, the real policy of the Opposition on which we shall vote and which we shall defeat tonight.
§ Mr. Ian Gilmour
I agree that we are not a debating society, but as we are not surely we should be allowed to vote on 1581 the Government's policy, which is what we are primarily concerned with.
§ Mr. Mendelson
No. The hon. Gentleman knows, particularly sitting on the Front Bench, that for more than 120 years the procedure of the House has been that if a Motion is put forward by one side the Front Bench, representing the other half of the country, is perfectly entitled to select the major elements of political disagreement and make it the basis of the vote. However, I should be depriving the House of valuable time if I went on replying to more interruptions on this subject.
I want to come to the main issue between me and the Government. It has nothing to do with commercial radio. The Government and I and the Labour movement outside and its representatives in the House are in complete agreement in rejecting the plans of the commercial radio lobby. My disagreement with them is about the proposals in "Broadcasting in the Seventies".
I am sorry that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications is not here, but I realise that he has to have a sandwich at some time and that he has to be here for the winding-up speeches. None the less, I regret his absence, because I am about to criticise him. I regretted his tone of identification with these proposals. There is no need for him to identify himself with them so closely. To do so is not his business, and he laid himself open to the criticism that he spent too much time reading out what representatives of the B.B.C. had been saying in the various memoranda which they had sent out.
His reply to the criticism was unconvincing. He said that he wanted these documents to be heard in the House. He must assume that hon. Members can read, and we have all been bombarded with these papers. He must assume that we do our reading, not necessarily in the Chamber, but in our offices and at home. We have all read these documents. What we want from the responsible Minister is not a repetition of what we have read, but his view and the Government's reply to the points which have been made in the debate. He was inadequate in that respect.
What matters here is that it would be highly dangerous for my right hon. 1582 Friend and the Government as a whole to identify themselves completely with the detailed proposals which the B.B.C. is making. My right hon. Friend himself said that the B.B.C. had a board of governors and was independent and therefore able to deal with these matters, but in that event we do not want the Government to have any close identification with these detailed proposals.
This leads me to my second point, which concerns the request for an independent public inquiry. It is no use my right hon. Friend talking about inquiries beyond 1976. That is not what the House is concerned with. Just as we have read the documents, the Minister must have seen the communications which have been sent to him by the Campaign for Better Broadcasting, which is led by many people who together have a sum of experience in the cultural life of the country which is unsurpassed.
In the memoranda which they have sent to my right hon. Friend, they say that their concern is that the Government should set up an independent public inquiry immediately, and the instruction which they hope the Government will then give as a result of having set up such an inquiry would be to the Governors and the Director-General of the B.B.C. not to proceed further with the implementation of these proposals. That is the request, and it has not yet been properly answered, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will address himself to it tonight.
It is true that the Opposition always want the Government to increase the licence fee. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition was very charming during that passage of his speech this afternoon. Normally belabouring the Government for spending too much money on public enterprises, this afternoon he was full of largesse. He sounded like Father Christmas, except that he wanted my right hon. Friend to be Father Christmas, not himself, and he said that he would not mind if the Government increased the licence fee forthwith, or in the very near future.
He was very charming about that and one can see why. To increase the licence fee could not be popular with many people, and for those in the lower income groups and old-age pensioners even a 1583 limited increase would be a serious matter. I happen to be in favour of it, but the right hon. Gentleman has dubious reasons for urging the Government.
If the Government increased the licence fee and if, by some mischance, which I am confident will not happen, the right hon. Gentleman were returned to No. 10, Downing Street at a General Election, he would introduce commercial radio and the licence fee would already have been increased. The odium for the increase would be taken by my right hon. Friend and the right hon. Gentleman would be able to repay the commercial radio lobby which had supported him at the general election by introducing profitable commercial radio for it. It is too simple, and the right hon. Gentleman cannot expect my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister not to see through that even before he has opened the morning newspapers.
That is not serious. What is serious is that, apart from the manoeuvring of the Leader of the Opposition, the Government have a responsibility. They are the Government now and we hope and expect that they will continue to be the Government for the first five years of the '70s and, I hope, for the second five years of the '70s. Therefore, they have a responsibility for seeing that nothing is done by the B.B.C. in the next two years which is irreparable. Hon. Members and others outside who have argued that if these decisions were taken now they could not be repaired are correct.
It is no good reeling off hours, as my right hon. Friend has done. One of the most serious issues concerns the Third Programme and the spoken word on the Third Programme. My right hon. Friend is wrong airily to talk about spreading the sort of cultural values which were represented on the Third Programme in the past to another programme or to other programmes. While we accept that we must provide for the majority of the people and provide well for them, we as a Labour Party should never accept that there has been an élitism in the Third Programme which is undesirable.
We should look at this closely, as has been said by Mr. Marius Goring, who speaks for people who work on the stage perhaps with as much authority as anybody can speak and who has pointed out that some of the finest playwrights who 1584 are now the glory of the English stage first got their start on the Third Programme. Nobody else was prepared to give them a start; nobody else would hear them.
Just as it is the task of the Tate Gallery to bring to the fore paintings and painters of whom nobody has ever heard but who a few years later become household names, so this is the task of the British Broadcasting Corporation. We cannot leave it to the Philistines to judge who is to enrich the national, cultural scene. It must be left to others and the Third Programme has a fine record in advancing the culture of the nation and helping to the fore playwrights who would never have been given the chance, but who later become so well known that people go to the theatre because it is the done thing to see a play by Mr. Orton or Mr. Pinter. A few years ago people would not have known the difference between the plays of those writers and those of anybody else.
It is wrong, therefore, for the Government in any way to give the impression that they do not want to maintain a programme of that standard. As my hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Faulds) pointed out, it is particularly the spoken work which will suffer, because it will be reduced by half in the Third Network if these plans are implemented.
There is a great danger that commercial radio would reduce us to the level of American commercial radio stations. Those who say that there is no difference between Network I and American radio stations are wrong. I assume that those who take that view have been in the United States and, as I have done and as others have done, have listened to commercial radio there on various occasions. What happens there is quite different from Radio One, whatever we may think about that. Even before a listener can hear the news, he has to listen to half of an advertisement. Then he gets part of the news. Perhaps it is an announcement that the President is doing something in California. He is not told what the President is doing. He is told that, after he has listened to another advertisement, he will be told what the President is doing. Programmes are reduced to the lowest level of commercialism, and are far worse than we experience even on commercial television.
1585 It is arguable whether even some of the limited advantages in local commercial radio in the United States would apply here. Ours is a smaller and more unified country, and the fear is that we would get all that is bad and none of the advantages. But, apart from that, there is the problem of the generic programme content in our conditions.
My right hon. Friend did not deal with this aspect. The danger in the new B.B.C. proposals is that we may get a lot of music and Monty Modlyn, and nothing else. The Monty Modlyns of this world may have a place on radio early in the mornings, but I would not like to think that the country was being brought up on that sort of diet. We need contributions from the regions and nationally of new writings, long discussions and programmes of literary criticism.
I notice the presence of my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot). Fortunately, he is not technically in the Chamber and will not be able to shut me up if I praise him. Recently, with three others, he took part in an excellent broadcast on the Third Programme which lasted for two and a half hours. They discussed the permissive society. I challenge anyone to show me a programme on the subject which was more worthwhile than that one. Contributions were made by a university professor, Alistair McIntyre and others. The Head of All Souls was a contributor, and he represented the Conservative side very well. If the spoken word content of the Third Programme is cut by half, that sort of broadcast will find no place.
Those are serious matters, and the Government have to answer them. It is completely misleading for a member of the Government to point to the fact that only a thousand letters of protest have been received. None of these matters were spelled out by the B.B.C. The proposals were put forward as a general set of intentions, and it is unworthy of anyone in politics to use as an argument the fact that only a thousand letters were received.
One does not have to be esoteric to make the point. In cases like prices and incomes or the reimposition of prescription charges, proposals are put forward and we get alarmed about them because it is our professional job to foresee the consequences. It does not require a 1586 great many letters from our constituents to make us do that. What usually happens is that the proposals are accepted and, three or four months later, letters and deputations begin to arrive.
It is unworthy of the Government to use such an argument. A thousand letters is a great number when one considers that they were written before people knew the implications of the plans. It is the task of the House of Commons to foresee the results of trends and to pull back the Government.
I believe that the Government are right in disclosing the shoddy case of the commercial radio lobby, and they are right in putting forward the Amendment in these terms. I hope that all my hon. Friends will vote for it to show up the policy which inspires the Opposition.
At the same time, the Government should realise that there is a strong body of criticism against the B.B.C.'s proposals for the 1970s. The Government should announce that they do not identify themselves in detail with the proposals, that they have taken note of this body of criticism, that they are calling a halt and asking the B.B.C. not to proceed with their implementation until an independent inquiry has been held, by Which I mean not a Royal Commission but a more limited inquiry, and that members of the staff of the B.B.C. need not fear that the proposals will be thrust down their throats without further discussion with them and with the general public.
The Government should make these anouncements tonight. If they do not, although the vote on this side of the House will be quasi-unanimous, the criticism and debate will continue and they will find that they have made the wrong decision by identifying themselves with these proposals.
I hope that it is not too late and that the Government will say that they are asking the B.B.C. to suspend the implementation of its proposals until there has been opportunity for further inquiry into and public debate on them.
§ 8.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Emery (Honiton)
I am sure that the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) will not be surprised to hear me say that he has made the typically caustic speech that we have come to associate with him. He has tried to defend 1587 one of the weakest cases that the Government have had for a long time in attempting to take this House away from dealing with and voting on a major issue about which many hon. Members on both sides wish to express a view.
The hon. Gentleman said that this Chamber is not a debating forum but one for making decisions. He said:Real policies have to be voted upon.That is precisely what the Opposition are trying to do. We want to vote on the Government's policy of supporting the B.B.C., which is planning to bring about a deterioration in the quality of broadcasting. The hon. Gentleman's type of argument is preventing that. He knows it, and he sits there laughing about it. It is a great shame, and it needs to be properly exposed.
I intend to detain the House for only a few minutes. In view of that, I shall concentrate my remarks on the regional aspect of broadcasting. The House must have been bemused by part of the speech of the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications. He gave us a long lecture about what was to happen, not tomorrow or the day after, but years ahead. He spoke of the wire memory concept, the recording of television which could be played back, and the concept of dialling into a computerised bank of television programmes. He does not seem to realise that we in the South-West cannot even get B.B.C.2 and have no colour television. He should consider the real problems of today rather than dwell upon the dreams of the future.
Does he realise that for a great part of the summer in the South-West, even B.B.C.1 is nothing but a screen showing what appears to be a snow storm. Let him put some of his technological assistants to solving problems of that sort. That is what would be appreciated by people in the South-West, who pay the full licence fee to receive only one programme for part of the year.
Many people in the South-West get pretty fed up with the type of advertising done by the B.B.C.—"Why not switch to B.B.C.2? Why not see it in colour?". The local editor of the Exmouth Journal said that he felt like throwing something through the television screen because it was imposible to get the alternatives.
§ Mrs. Winifred Ewing (Hamilton)
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that a Highlands lady is about to sue the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications under the Trade Descriptions Act because he advertises a choice of channels?
§ Mr. Emery
This is my point. There is no choice in many areas. This is something which the B.B.C. in "Broadcasting in the 'Seventies" has not considered sufficiently. People in the outlying regions believe that the Government ought to make the B.B.C. deal with this more quickly.
The Minister says that money is not the problem. I wish that he would instruct those who deal with queries from people in Devon and Cornwall, because the answer that they get is: "We have not the money to advance programme transmission into these areas before 1972 and 1973". Let us get the answer right. Which is it? There is not the money or there is the money. The Minister should not get up and say one thing when the people dealing with the problem locally know that it is not the case.
I am concerned with the regions. I believe, as the Liberal spokesman said, that the role of the regions has produced an aspect of major patronage for the arts and music by the production of programmes both on television and on radio. This new policy will do away with this patronage. The Minister knows that is true.
Will the Minister of Technology, in his reply, put the truth to a statement put out by Mr. David Attenborough about regional T.V. programmes:The facilities which the Areas will have at their disposal are far from dismissible. Each will have three cameras, telecine and processing, film cutting rooms and helical scan V.T.R. In short, they will be able to do everything that 'Late Night Line Up' has done and, in some cases, in a bigger studio.I am told that that statement is untrue. Area producers will have to work with and transmit negative film, there will be no money for printing, no sound dubbing facilities for films, and the low price video tape machine suggested for the areas will not permit editing. In other words, the B.B.C. is trying to fob off the public into believing that these facilities will be available in the regions. Information which I have from the B.B.C. Bristol Staff Group, to whom I 1589 pay tribute for their very able research, throws a good deal of light on what cutting there will be concerning money and facilities for regional programmes.
I turn now to the concept of regional broadcasting. Whether it is television or radio the policy is that there shall be more centralisation towards London. People in the South-West do not want that. We have even been slightly critical when it has been centralised on Bristol, because, to some parts of Cornwall, Bristol is as far away as London. Many people forget the basic geographical structure of the South-West.
The arguments being put out are that the regions will lose nothing because they will be given local broadcasting stations. I do not accept those arguments. They cannot be true in the case of Devon and Cornwall, because there are to be no local stations in that area. So Devon and Cornwall will lose out both ways.
Mr. Gerry Mansell claims that the service which regions have been providing for their own regional audiences is in news and topical programmes. He claims:this is precisely the area in which local radio will be able to provide a really effective service.I do not believe this is true. I believe that the regions have been able to produce a width of programmes to a specific area which have had general acceptance and have met a general demand, but that will not be done by the local radio programmes envisaged by the B.B.C.
Consider the Parliamentary programme "The West in Westminster". Leslie Waye has done this for many years in excellent manner. This is one way by which Parliament has been brought into the West Country. What is to happen to it? It is to be cut out entirely. Is this an improvement of standards of which the Minister approves? I believe that this is a major error.
We hear in Devon and Cornwall about the residual regional programme for Devon and Cornwall. What is meant by that? It has not been mentioned in the debate, but people in that area have a right to know what is in the minds of the B.B.C. and the Minister.
What do the Minister or the B.B.C. hold out for the South-West in their new 1590 policy? Absolutely nothing new at all. Nor indeed is there any consideration for Devon and Cornwall.
Only last week the Prime Minister was attempting to bring praise on his Government for what they have done for the South-west. He mentioned the number of jobs which had been created, but he neglected to say that unemployment was nearly double what it was previously, and that it is still rising. I should be out of order if I continued with that for long. When I asked the Prime Minister about the South-West and the B.B.C. he refused to answer. I told him that we were at the bottom of the league in England. I ask when will this Socialist Government stop ignoring the South-West concerning broadcasting? They have done this for the last four years. We deserve a better deal.
§ 8.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter M. Jackson (The High Peak)
I should like to begin by putting on record my protest against the rather shabby manoeuvre, which is an apt way of describing the action of my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Mr. Harold Wilson) in putting down his Amendment.
My hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) explained very well the dilemma with which he and I and many other hon. Members were faced, particularly those who signed the Early Day Motion tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton), because we feel very keenly that the proposals contained in "Broadcasting in the 'Seventies" will lead to a deterioration in sound broadcasting. I am not suggesting that the issue of commercial radio is not tied up with this. I recognise that it is. However, I feel that the House should have had an opportunity, of which it is now to be deprived, of placing on record its criticism of the B.B.C.'s proposals. Because I bitterly oppose the extension of the commercial principle into broadcasting, I shall be obliged at ten o'clock to vote with my colleagues. Nevertheless, I should like to have had the opportunity—and but for recent changes in procedure, would have done—of voting with hon. Members opposite in favour of the Motion.
Speaking late in the debate and knowing that other hon. Members are waiting 1591 to speak, it would be improper for me to deploy so many arguments which have been advanced cogently by hon. Friends on both sides of the House, particularly by the hon. Members for Cheadle (Dr. Winstanley) and Penistone (Mr. Mendelson). Nevertheless, I want to comment on what I think is the key to understanding why it is that the B.B.C. brought forward its proposals. It stems from two things. First finance, and, secondly, the hypothetical anticipation that, in 1970 or 1971, there will be a Conservative Government and that licences will be extended to commercial radio. Everything falls into place if one understands the nature of these two propositions.
I deal first with the financial aspect. My right hon. Friend commended what the Government had done in putting up the licence and berated the Opposition by saying that they had increased the licence and had increased services. Having said that, I put it to him that he has funked the issue. We know that the licence has been increased, but has it been increased enough? He should consider the position abroad. Like other hon. Members, I have been startled by the comparisons. An illuminating and interesting letter in The Times today points out that, even with the increase to be implemented in April, 1971, only two European countries, the Netherlands and Ireland, will have licence fees lower than what will be operating here.
What are the licences in other countries? I do not have the details but the letter quotes one as being £7 15s. greater than our combined licence while the lowest of those quoted is 30s. greater. We provide a service second to none and we should rate ourselves fortunate in getting that service so cheaply.
It is entirely improper, therefore, that my right hon. Friend—more particularly, perhaps, members of the Cabinet—should have funked the issue in that they should have taken the decision to raise the licence fee far earlier. I know that increasing taxation or fees is unpopular. But it is obvious from the support given to the Early Day Motion and from the speech of the Leader of the Opposition today that this would not be a partisan issue. It would be generally recognised on both sides of the House that there was 1592 real need for an early increase in licence fees. I must regret also that the B.B.C. has not been more vigorous in pressing the Government to bring in a higher licence fee.
I also feel that the B.B.C. has been pressurised—perhaps properly pressurised—into bringing forward its proposals for local sound broadcasting. It is obvious to most hon. Members that this has been done at this juncture to stave off the threat which the Government and certainly the B.B.C. anticipate in 1970 or 1971. I know that this has been denied by the Director-General but, whilst some people may believe it, I do not. I am sure when he made that speech recently he was speaking with his tongue in his cheek. If he made this decision independently of the threat, then I put it to my right hon. Friend that he is obviously an inadequate Director-General. He should be concerned with the future and realise, as I am sure he does, that hon. Members opposite may, in a matter of 18 months, be the Government. If he supports, as no doubt he does, the principle of public service broadcasting, he should be concerned at the changes which may take place then.
Given these two facts, that the Government have funked the issue of raising licence fee and that the decision has been taken to stave off the threat of local commercial broadcasting, what are the consequences? Those consequences are set out adequately but not very fully in the document produced by the B.B.C. earlier this year. They are serious consequences.
I draw attention to a statement made by Mr. Ian Trethowan. My right hon. Friend said—and I am surprised that he should have been so inadequately briefed—that the decision in respect of the changes were brought about independently of any financial consideration. He quoted from a recent issue of Aerial. If he had taken the trouble to read that document, he would have seen on page 8 a statement by Mr. Trethowan that certain of the changes were dictated by finance and that these changes certainly cannot wait.
My right hon. Friend must have been under some pressure from the B.B.C. in that it realised that, if it was to provide finance for local sound radio, it would have to make sacrifices elsewhere. I do not think I need again spell out the 1593 deterioration and the kind of service I expect. I am very sorry indeed about the deterioration.
I remember the tremendous pleasure and benefit which I derived from the Third Programme as a post-graduate student. I remember vividly to this day switching on the Third Programme and finding myself listening to a series of talks by Professor Nikolaus Pevsner. I was not at that point particularly interested in architecture but he fascinated me and I listened to the whole series. Since then, my visual horizons have been broadened and I recognise my indebtedness to Professor Pevsner and the Third Programme. I wonder how many young people will in future not be stimulated intellectually in the way I was at that juncture.
It is not good enough for my right hon. Friend to quote a document and suggest that the B.B.C. staff are satisfied. I attended at lunch time a meeting of B.B.C. staff and they most certainly are not satisfied. I suggest to my right hon. Friend, the Governors of the B.B.C. and the Director-General that, unless there is some movement from the present position, the staff may very well indulge in some very serious arm-twisting. I need not spell that out to my right hon. Friends. I think that they have learned the lesson of previous arm-twisting undertaken by certain economic pressure groups. We have only to remind ourselves of the commitment to penal legislation, or the commitment not to devalue. There have been shifts on these and many other issues. That point has probably not been missed by the B.B.C. staff.
Similarly, it is not good enough to suggest that there has been adequate public consultation. I am a devotee of public service broadcasting and have benefited considerably from listening to the radio. I do not have much opportunity to do so now. Until recently I had not activated myself into taking an interest in this matter because there are many demands on one's time, and the issues are complex. But it does not surprise me one iota that the B.B.C. has received 1,000 letters of protest. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson), I wonder how many letters the Government have received, for example, on devaluation. That is a complex issue, and it is hardly surprising that the Chancellor should receive 1594 few representations on it. In the same way, I suggest that the proposals contained in the B.B.C. document are very complex, and it does not surprise me that there has been such a low level of representation. I go further and express surprise that as many as 1,000 letters or protests have been received.
Nevertheless, my right hon. Friend should know that the Campaign for Better Broadcasting and various other pressure groups have received considerable correspondence, far in excess of what I understand the B.B.C. to have received.
I was grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way and allowing me to draw his attention to the fact that the quality of broadcasting provided by local radio stations was not as high as I—and, I am sure, he—would like. As I suggested to him, allowing for staff costs the budgeting of these local radio stations was to be no more than £16 per hour, as compared with the present figure of £622. My right hon. Friend met that argument by suggestting that the local audience was far smaller than the audience for the Third Programme. That is not true. The Birmingham conurbation, which is the catchment area for the Birmingham station, contains about 3.2 million people, and the citizens of Birmingham and the West Midlands are surely entitled to a programme budgeting in excess of £16 per hour. I hope that my right hon Friend will comment on this matter.
I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to the gist of the argument of the right hon. Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath). The White Paper proposals represent a radical change in the structure and form of broadcasting. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that this was a change of priorities and I agree with him. For that reason I should have voted for the Motion had the procedure given me an opportunity to do so. The B.B.C. argues that these are procedural changes which are solely within its province. That is not the feelings of many hon. Members on both sides of the House. It is certainly not the feeling of the right hon. Member for Bexley, who speaks for many hon. Members opposite, and it is not the feeling of many of my hon. Friends.
In this connection I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to the Early Day 1595 Motion tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby. I do not know how much detailed discussion of this matter there has been in the Cabinet, but it is not good enough for my right hon Friend to seek to bring about this radical change without carrying the House with him. If there were a free vote tonight on the first proposition I am sure that that proposition would be carried. I therefore strongly urge my right hon. Friend to consider the possibility of giving an undertaking that an inquiry will be held not in 1975 or 1976 but now.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Gwynfor Evans (Carmarthen)
In discussing broadcasting in the future, a Welshman must be very much aware that in the past, at any rate, in the 1960s, '50s, '40s and '30s, no Government has ever attempted to devise a system of broadcasting in Wales suited to and adequate for the needs of Wales. They have not attempted to give priority to those needs. Instead what has been done, and this has been the usual practice in other matters too, has been to consider the needs of England. That is what we have heard in this debate. The system has been amended slightly in deference to the peculiarities of Welsh life as it is found on the periphery of the island. At the same time a similar process went on with education. The dominating concern in both these systems has been to maintain the oneness of what has been thought of as being the British nation.
This required centralised control of radio and television, centralised news bulletins and programmes, with a little regional variation. Wales was considered in the past as a region rather than a nation. This centralised system was essentially an English one. It was called British, but we know that "British" as a term is usually used synonymously with "English". In this English system there was no room for Welsh autonomy, even in cultural matters. At the inception of radio broadcasting Wales was not a separate, let alone autonomous entity, for broadcasting purposes. It was then joined to the South-West of England and they said they were resurrecting the Kingdom of Arthur! When the war came we were graciously allowed twenty minutes a day in the Welsh language on 1596 the radio broadcasting system. At the same time, in the Swiss canton of Ticino, where there was a small Italian-speaking community, there was a fully-fledged system of broadcasting, equipped with a theatre company and a symphony orchestra. That has been subsequently developed with television.
In Switzerland, however, all languages are given equality of status and are treated equally in broadcasting as in all other matters. In Britain, education and broadcasting have been used by the State in a way which has tended to destroy the Celtic languages, in Wales and Scotland and in education in Ireland, too. This has been mitigated in part by the valiant attempts of the Welsh staff and of the people in Wales, and by those in the schools. For decades in Wales we put pressure upon the Establishment for a Welsh Broadcasting Corporation. The Establishment here was satisfied that it would not be good for us and the Establishment here always knows what is best for the people of Wales.
Centralism was the order of the day, and it still is. The B.B.C. remained a London-based system for Scotland and Wales as well as England. As the pressure continued some concessions were made.
Although the centralist system remained intact we had a measure of home rule in broadcasting and the Welsh Broadcasting Council was established and given responsibility for programmes originating in that country. There were limits to this control. The bulk of the programmes still came from London, which contributed the main news bulletins. The party political broadcasts came from London alone. This was essential because it was necessary for the Establishment to maintain a centralised system of television and radio because of their importance in the formation of public opinion.
If Wales was to be prevented from living fully the life of a nation, and that is the foundation of Government policy here, it was essential to keep control in London. It was necessary to prevent the Welsh National Party, as it was necessary to prevent the Scottish National Party, from putting their policies before the people of those two countries in party political broadcasts. The Welsh Broadcasting Council kicked against this in 1597 1954 and set out to broadcast a series of political broadcasts in which Plaid Cymru was included. Members of the Council were called before their betters in London, before the leaders of the parties. They had to make two visits and they were asked to withdraw this series of party political broadcasts. They refused to withdraw them, and as a result the Postmaster-General issued an edict in which he said that no party political broadcasts should be made except those made in the official series in London.
Therefore, the situation in 1959 was that there was a national party in Wales contesting 20 of the 36 seats but which was not allowed a minute to broadcast in the annual series or during an election campaign, in Welsh or in English, on radio or television. That was the situation until quite recently when the edict was relaxed a little. Since 1965, we, like the Scots, have been allowed five minutes a year on radio and television during an election campaign to put our policies before the people of our two countries. This is a staggering abuse of the democratic processes, and it should be considered again by those responsible.
However, on broadcasting in the 1970s generally, the Government should consider very seriously whether they can improve the performance of our system in Wales and they should be prepared to change the system if they find change is necessary to meet the needs of the country. I do not think that the present division between a public broadcasting corporation and independent companies is the best system for us in Wales. It may be better for us to have a system which combines income from licence fees, as the B.B.C. gets its income, with income derived from advertising. Wales is too small a country to afford a divided system such as we have today. If we had a corporation which had the right to obtain income from advertising, it would have sufficient money to maintain very good programmes on the four channels which will probably be available to us in the 1970s.
One of those four channels should be devoted to the Welsh language or, at least, to the Welsh language and educational programmes. This is possibly the only way of securing fairness of treatment for our national language. This is done in other countries and there is no reason 1598 why it should not be done in Wales. I hope that the Government will address themselves to this matter and will devise for Wales a system which is suited and adequate to the needs of our country instead of imposing on us a system devised in the first place for the needs of England.
§ 8.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael English (Nottingham, West)
This has been a somewhat confusing debate. The confusion began with the points of order of my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins). I entirely sympathised with my hon. Friend's dilemma, but I do not think that he was blaming the right quarters. In the past, I have criticised what used to be a practice of the Conservative Government and this Government of tabling Motions at the last possible minute. I am glad to say that this practice has ceased in the case of most Government Motions. Those Motions are usually tabled when the business is announced or very shortly after.
The Opposition cannot validly raise this pseudo-argument about the Government's Amendment to their Motion when their Motion only appeared for the first time on yesterday's Order Paper. If it had appeared earlier, there would have been time to table Amendments and to mop up Amendments and organise Amendments in such a way that the debate could well have taken place in the way that the Opposition and my hon. Friends the Members for Putney and The High Peak (Mr. Peter M. Jackson) wanted. It comes ill from the Opposition to raise this pseudo-argument that the tenor of the Motion was changed by the Government's Amendment when they thought up their Motion only in time to put it on yesterday's Order Paper. However, this is a minor point.
I turn to the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition. He said that he believed in a mixed system—mixed as between public service and commercial broadcasting. Strangely enough, and perhaps contrary to the opinion of some of my hon. Friends, I agreed with him. We have a mixed system in television. I am not personally opposed to a mixed system in local radio, subject to safeguards I would mention, but I really think it came extremely oddly that later in his speech the Leader of the Opposition said that the 1599 Opposition reserved its position on the B.B.C. stations. What on earth does this mean? If the Opposition believes in a mixed system presumably it will say that the local radio stations of the B.B.C. would remain if the Opposition became the Government after the next election or some subsequent election. If it does not mean this, if it wants to abolish the public service stations, surely the Leader of the Opposition cannot say he believes in a mixed system. He can have one or the other but he cannot have both.
Personally, as I said, I am extremely glad that we are to get first some public service stations, the ones mentioned by my right hon. Friend but I have reservations about them. I do not myself think that local radio is truly local when it is run by a national organisation, I myself would prefer the concept mentioned at one time by my right hon. Friend who is to reply to this debate, the concept of a mini-B.B.C., which, I think, my right hon. Friend at one time enunciated as a concept. I would prefer the public service basis to be more local than in fact it is, but, given that we are to have B.B.C. stations, I personally, as I say, perhaps unlike many of my colleagues, do not object wholly to commercial radio stations, provided they are not monopolistic in an area, provided they are not merely associated with for example, a local newspaper which has already a monopoly in an area. I have no objection to them if they are not monopolistic; if they are competitive and genuinely so.
To return to the Leader of the Opposition's remarks, he said that the B.B.C. nationally should cater for minorities, which is why the licence fee is paid. This is a remarkable post hoc argument. In actual fact the B.B.C. for most of its existence has been catering for both majority and minority interests in the country because it has only quite recently had any competitor at all. The Leader of the Opposition was in fact saying, in what was purely a post hoc argument, that because subsequently the B.B.C. has had a competitor in television, that is the reason why the licence fee was invented and why it is paid to the B.B.C. The licence fee was invented many years before that.
The right hon. Gentleman went further than that. He said minority interests 1600 should be predominant. This is quite an extraordinary reversal of events. Here we have my hon. Friends on this side of the House, in some cases, I believe, rightly, saying that there is a danger of a decline in quality—that, for example, we might not get news programmes, cultural programmes and educational programmes mixed in with more popular items catering for larger audiences. This was one of the arguments of the Leader of the Opposition—the decline in quality. Has anybody thought what the programmes, if they were catering solely for minority interests, especially if those were predominant, would be like? They would be totally destructive of any educative function the B.B.C. could have. One of the functions of the B.B.C. has always historically been to try to raise the level of public taste, and in so far as the Leader of the Opposition in his speech implied that, I agreed with him, and many on this side have also said so. The right hon. Gentleman talked particularly in relation to his own interest in music, naturally enough, but he went on to say that minority interests should be predominant. But when minority interests are predominant, and we had example of this on the Third Programme, almost nobody listens to the programme. One has a good example of that in the fact that, for the same programme, Radio 4 will draw a larger audience than the Third. That is what for many years was meant by the educative function of the B.B.C. However, the Leader of the Opposition has now had enough attention from me.
My right hon. Friend gave a correct statement about an increase in the amount of money received by the B.B.C, but in doing so he rather gave the impression, and I can understand his wish, that finance was therefore not a problem. Not many back benchers on either side would take that view, because much of our criticism relates to finance. Many of the difficulties over "Broadcasting in the 'Seventies" are related to finance as obviously they must be. In the last document on this subject issued by the B.B.C. to hon. Members, it was stated, talking of the separation of Radio 1 and Radio 2.The above separation will be implemented in so far as needletime restrictions can be eased and as the B.B.C.'s financial situation allows.1601 In other words, if the financial situation does not allow it, we may never get that separation.
There is certainly a case for considering in a whole series of different ways the finances of the B.B.C. First, there is the question of the absolute amount required. I have never yet met any organisation which thinks it has enough money for its purposes, so there must always be some restriction in that respect and the decision must lie ultimately with the Government.
Secondly, there is what I consider to be the ill-advised criticism from hon. Members opposite of the B.B.C. having brought in McKinsey. Why should it not do so? Why should not the Corporation try to do efficiently what it wishes to do? There is no doubt that in times past there have been cases of B.B.C. equipment, which, just because it was not charged to the individual programme producer except on rare occasions was lying idle and was wasted. That no longer happens, because the system has been reformed. Whatever the product whether it be that of the B.B.C. or just a can of peas, the person producing it should know its cost. Strangely enough, the argument against bringing in McKinsey came from hon. Members opposite, yet I should have thought that they would have been the first to realise that simple fact.
Any consideration of what the B.B.C. wishes to do must end up with something of the nature of "Broadcasting in the 'Seventies" in one respect. If one cannot do everything, one must decide which things one will do. This debate is a lot better than the last debate because it does not now, centre solely round the patronage of orchestras and the arts. I think that the B.B.C. is quite right to say, "It is not our function at all to be a patron of the arts just in the sense of keeping orchestras alive. It is our function to make use of orchestras and of actors. It is not our function to keep orchestras in being merely for the sake of doing so and because they were there in the past." It may well be that this should be done by the country for the sake of the arts in the country but, if so, the country, meaning the taxpayers generally, should pay, not the individual licence holder.
1602 If there are financial restrictions it is entirely right that one should look at the regions in some way. I do not mean in precisely the way the B.B.C. would have done it. Any two people would do it in different ways, but if it is to be said that the regional broadcasting of the B.B.C. is tottering as a result of "Broadcasting in the Seventies", that is ridiculous. I live in the Midlands. The Midlands Region of the B.B.C. is the Dark Ages Kingdoms of Mercia and East Anglia put together. It stretches from the borders of Wales to the coast of East Anglia and includes everything between. It is a totally meaningless social area.
I was glad when Lord Hill in his previous capacity split Granada-land into Lancashire and Yorkshire. It may be that for financial reasons the results are not quite successful, but my right hon. Friend has promised to look if necessary at the question of the levy. It is certainly right that there should be regions which are true social regions. We created the original television region of I.T.V. simply because technically one could put a mast on the top of the Pennines which could serve both Lancashire and Yorkshire. This was a case of the machine dominating mankind. It was purely because one could put a mast on the top of the Pennines that Lancashire and Yorkshire became one region. In a similar way the B.B.C. regions have come about. Scotland and Wales may be social areas, but the North Region and the Midlands Region are not social areas in the same way. The proposed new areas are much nearer to being true social areas, although what the B.B.C. proposes as its "first priority", meaning its second priority, I should like to see coming earlier, namely, an East Midlands Area.
I should like more money to be spent on programmes for the areas. This is where the Campaign for Better Broadcasting comes in. The question is how much is to be spent? I think there has been a failure of consultation within the B.B.C. itself to some extent. There is certainly a failure of confidence and a lack of belief that those in charge of Broadcasting for the Seventies will endeavour to keep up the quality of the programme. A large part of this is somewhat mixed because it is not only the quality of programme that we are talking 1603 about, but also the interests of individual actors, musicians and so forth.
This is much less true of drama, but the quality of a music programme would not be altered if no single musician were employed. The quality of the world's music might be altered because then we might not be producing records, but technically we could produce excellent music without employing a single musician. Yet on the same day of the publication of "Broadcasting for the Seventies" the Musicians Union protested and threatened to call a strike because it had not been consulted. If it had not been consulted, it took a very short time to determine its view.
This is not true of drama. The argument with reference to drama is simpler in one way and much more difficult in another. I think that the areas proposed by the B.B.C. are right but I share the doubts of my hon. Friend as to exactly how much we shall get area programmes in the areas as proposed. This is simply a matter of money. The B.B.C. cannot within the licence fee and within the proposed increase do all that we would like it to do. For that reason my right hon. Friends should consider very carefully whether the increase proposed will be sufficient. There is plenty of time for them to do this. They should consider it carefully and should tell the B.B.C. precisely what its limits are to be for the future as soon as they can, if they want an increase in quality in this way.
This is what my hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite should be asking. We should be asking for more money to be spent to raise the quality of programmes if that quality is likely to decline, but we should not argue in defence of archaic regions or that individual members of the B.B.C. staff should stay in Birmingham rather than move to Nottingham, or anywhere else. We should be arguing for the proper social regions, not dominated by the media of communication. The social regions that exist are those to which the media of communication should conform. Then we should say that we will spend an adequate amount of money to ensure that they do so.
I do not wholly follow nearly all of my right hon. and hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite in one respect. The debate has been concentrated on a 1604 remarkably limited field. It has been concentrated substantially, and I suppose largely correctly, on the technicalities of the proposals in "Broadcasting in the Seventies"—where shall we have a region; what shall be put on a network; shall we split Radio 1 and Radio 2, and so on? These are not the problems that worry me most with regard to the supposed subject of the debate.
Whether looked at in terms of the Opposition Motion or of what the Government say, the subject of the debate is broadcasting. It is not just the B.B.C. It is not just "Broadcasting in the Seventies". We should at some time—I know that my right hon. Friend has often done this in speeches—be considering whether we are socially in control of some of our media of communication.
Let us consider, for example, the imitative aspect of television. If a television film contains a scene of someone throwing a brick at a policeman, it is likely that the next day 100 people will do just that. My hon. Friends who are members of Equity talk about the quality of drama. There is a considerable difference between a small audience going to see "Hair" or "Oh Calcutta" and excerpts from those productions being shown on an I.T.V. theatre programme. The difference is an audience of 1½ million in the latter case, which in the theatre I think that only "The Mousetrap" has equalled.
At some time in these debates on broadcasting we should consider the social issues and not just the pure technicalities. Some of the social issues are these that I have mentioned.
I hope that in their replies the hon. Member for Howden (Mr. Bryan) and my right hon. Friend will deal with the question whether what we are arguing about is not first, what we want, then how much we should spend on it, and whether it is not just possible that some of the arguments adduced by the Opposition and some of those adduced by some of my hon. Friends are a little sterile in the face of what are, after all, the greatest technical advances in human communication ever achieved by mankind.
§ 9.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Esmond Wright (Glasgow, Pollok)
Thanks to my hon. Friend the Member for Howden (Mr. Bryan), I have precisely two and a half minutes. Like drowning, 1605 a circumscribed time concentrates the mind wonderfully. I am comforted by the thought that two and a half minutes is about the total amount of time any of us gets on radio or television.
Apart from that of the hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) no voice has been raised in support of the Government or of "Broadcasting in the Seventies". Were there a free vote tonight, there would be a repercussion of what occurred when we debated the reform of the Second Chamber. It is fundamental that we should raise these questions which are, not questions of technicality, but questions of principle.
No one has said that the Trethowan thesis, which is essentially what "Broadcasting in the Seventies" is, is the thesis that in the 1970s we shall be television addicts and sound broadcasting will be ancillary to television. My right hon. Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble) and my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Mr. Emery) made it clear that there are areas, including some in England, which are short of radio facilities and certainly short of television facilities.
This development of 40 local stations inadequately financed and very expensive is a very botched job. Secondly, in terms of "Broadcasting in the Seventies" I should like to query the whole thesis of generic broadcasting. I recall the days years ago when the Third Programme was invented. Admirable and correct tributes have been paid to it, especially by the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Peter M. Jackson). When it was introduced people talked about the Home, the Light and the Third—"the drone, the blight and the weird". We have moved away from that, and it is a good thing we have done so.
The essence of my contribution is to challenge the Minister. He has done this sort of thing once before. He came along with a fancy scheme of 4d. and 5d. stamps. Instead of simply saying, "I want more money for the postal services", he dressed it up with this great parade of a new service. I simply say this to him: this is a real threat to the quality of the B.B.C. We have got all the evidence that we need to prove that it is a threat to the Third Programme and to the contribution in speech and drama that it has made. It is a totally inade- 1606 quately considered document where finance is concerned. It will cost £7 million at least; it may be £12 million.
What approaches have been made to the Schools Council, the Ministry of Education or the Scottish Department of Education asking for the transfer to them of the educational costs in sound and television from the B.B.C? What approach has there been made to the Arts Council? I say that the B.B.C. should proudly fly a flag from the mast of patronage. It has produced a great many musicians and dramatists who have enriched the culture of this country. It is nonsense to say that it should never have done this or that this approach has got to be revised.
My last point is that the whole of the exercise we have had today is an exercise in inadequate consultation with the staff of the B.B.C, and the Minister must know this. We have all been flooded with documentation. The speech he made today was in nothing like his best form. He cited the notorious apologists for these changes. He did not cite the Campaign for Better Broadcasting. He did not say that he or Mr. Curran or any of the figures at the B.B.C. had consulted their own staffs. Those of us who have consulted our own staffs know what we are talking about. We see this as a threat to broadcasting in the 1970s. I am not interested in the hypothetical arguments about commercial radio broadcasting. This was a red herring cleverly devised. The essence of our case is that this is an inadequate document, inadequately thought out.
§ 9.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Paul Bryan (Howden)
I do not think that there was anyone more embarrassed than the Minister of Technology during the speech of the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications. May I say with sincerity that I am glad the Minister of Technology is to wind up this debate, because I hope that with his professional knowledge of broadcasting in general and of the B.B.C. in particular, he at any rate will be able to give a serious answer to the broad and important issues of principle raised in the admirable speech of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and the many more detailed questions, or worries, which have been voiced on all sides of the House. These worries have also been voiced in 1607 the Committee Rooms of this House during the last two or three months.
I think the Minister will acknowledge from the tone of my right hon. Friend's speech that we on this side of the House are not here tonight to attack the B.B.C. He paid generous tribute to the Corporation, as many of us have done in the past. But the attitude of the B.B.C. seems so diametrically opposed to the position that it used to take that we can only think that this has been imposed upon it by Government policy.
May I answer a few points raised by the Minister which seem to me to require an answer. He was very excited to discover that I had issued a warning to those who might choose to accept a post in any of the 40 stations which the Government are rushing up. I said that they might not have a secure job. Surely, that was a thoroughly responsible warning to give, as we expect to be in power within the next few months.
My right hon. Friend explained that we wanted the B.B.C. to set its priorities right, and he detailed what he thought those priorities should be. With the B.B.C.'s finance in its present straits, it seems unlikely that the corporation will be able to support those priorities and the present services which we have come to expect of it and at the same time support all these 40 stations, too. Therefore, I regard my warning as completely appropriate.
I add a paragraph to my right hon. Friend's comments on commercial radio. The philosophy on which we should like to see local radio ultimately based is much more in line with the B.B.C.'s original concent—the concept in which it really believes, I think—than with its new, so to speak, emergency plan. According to Mr. Coys' letter in the current issue of the B.B.C. staff magazine "Ariel", Mr. Frank Gillard said in 1962:One absolute essential of local radio would be the existence of a genuine and well-established community of interests over a wide range, and only on such a foundation would it be possible to build a worthwhile local broadcasting service".That remained B.B.C. doctrine right up to 1967, but Government policy has forced it to switch from local community radio, which is what those words describe, to area radio with each station covering 1608 a population of 1 million, or going up to 3 million in Birmingham. That is quite out of keeping with Mr. Gillard's ideas.
Hon. Members with deep concern for the future of broadcasting bemoan the chronic shortage of money in broadcasting from which they see no escape. But, at the same time, they are apt to say that they are against commercial broadcasting. Have they thought how much more critical the situation would have been had the advertising revenue of independent television never come into the industry? In the same context, it seems wrong when radio is so short of funds now to deny ourselves the money available from that source. The reply is, "But the B.B.C. will then be forced to debase its standards to compete and go for maximum audience".
I bring in that point again because it raises an important question of principle on which we should like the Minister's view. In his opinion, is it the duty of the B.B.C. to maximise its audience? We must have that priority right. The B.B.C. itself thinks that it is its duty to maximise its audiences, and it proceeds on that basis. It does not have to wander from the straight path of producing what it believes to be right. It is a public service broadcasting organisation guaranteed an income provided by the public precisely to enable it to be independent and to produce what it believes to be right.
I cannot imagine that either the House or the television companies drew much comfort from the Minister's reply on the question of the television levy. The House gave the Minister the benefit of the doubt in the debate on 17th June, when he gave the undertaking to which he referred today, He said that he would honour that undertaking, which was in these words:I give an undertaking to the House that we shall keep the position under review, and, if the contractors' worst fears as expressed to me are realised, we shall be ready to consider making a further Order reducing the impact of this charge."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th June, 1969; Vol. 785, c. 176.]I do not believe that his attitude will give them much confidence. All he did today was to take yet another piece of paper out of his pocket and cite a few unnamed companies and some vague figures about 60 per cent, and 40 per cent. 1609 In fact, there are already many distinct and detailed figures which are most disconcerting. Discounting August, which cannot be compared with August, 1968, because of the strike in that month, the period from 1st May to 1st October shows an average decrease of 5.5 per cent. in advertising revenue. I understand that the Cooper Brothers' investigation into I.T.V. finances will show that many of the companies will go into a loss position by the second year of the present franchise. According to the Economist of 8th November, Harlech has already cut its programme budget, despite what the Minister said, from £600,000 to £350,000. The evidence is surely building up to justify honouring his undertaking.
When at last we shamed the Minister into submitting to Questions on the Government's radio policy, I asked him:How does the Minister defend the position in which a shortage of funds is driving the B.B.C. to cut its serious programme output and to cut out regional broadcasting whilst millions of pounds are to be spent on local radio stations which could be provided by commercial means.He replied:The House will be aware that the local radio experiment with the eight existing stations has been regarded as a general success."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th November, 1969; Vol. 792, c. 202.]He went on to say why he thought them a success. That may have been an answer to the question he expected, but it was not an answer to the one I asked.
My question continued to be asked in one form or another from both sides throughout the debate, and it still stands without an adequate or believable reply. Why do the Government think that the B.B.C. is in a financial position to take on local radio while it is both running into debt and running down its services? I ask this question against a record of utter irresponsibility and word-eating up to now. The White Paper of 1966 told us that local stations would not be financed through the local rates or the licence fee. In the event, they are almost totally paid for by the local authorities, that is, by the rates, and the B.B.C., whose money can come only from the licence fee.
In 1971 the licence fee is to be raised specifically to back local radio, yet the last Postmaster-General but two said that it would clearly be unfair to pay for the stations out of income from the 1610 receiving licence, otherwise people in rural areas would have to contribute towards a service they could never receive. These same people in the rural areas are the people on whose behalf my right hon. Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble) and my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Mr. Emery) spoke. They are the people from the South-West, Scotland and Cumberland who are to pay for yet another service they do not receive, the very people who now pay for not receiving B.B.C.2, and often for very poor reception on B.B.C. 1 and I.T.V., and who will be most affected by the cuts in the regions. In addition, most people without a V.H.F. radio set will be paying for what they do not receive.
So much for the word-eating. The irresponsibility lies in the launching of an expensive project, the local radio experiment, with no credible financial backing. Who on earth could have believed that the money would be forthcoming from the voluntary local organisations listed in the White Paper? The Minister admitted that this had gone wrong, as if it were just bad luck. It could not have been worse judgment.
Small wonder that against this background we examine the Minister's statements with some care, especially as time and again they do not tally with the statements of the Director-General of the B.B.C. Of all the laughable things said by the Minister this afternoon, the most laughable was his insistence that the B.B.C. was not short of funds. I asked him on 25th November:Will the Minister say how deeply his local radio plans for 40 stations will put the B.B.C. into debt by the time the licence fee goes up in 1971?He replied with outrageous complacency:We have worked out all the finances of this with the B.B.C. with very great care, and are satisfied that the increase in the fee in April, 1971. together with the counter-evasion campaign that I am now conducting, will provide the B.B.C. with sufficient income to meet all its commitments."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th November, 1969; Vol. 792, c. 210.]But Mr. Curran, the Director-General of the B.B.C, said in The Times of 1st October:B.B.C. radio will have an accumulated deficit of about £7 million in 1971, when the higher broadcasting licence charges are introduced.1611 On page 10 of "Broadcasting in the Seventies" it is said:… B.B.C. radio … by 1974 … will be running an annual deficit of £4½ million and will have an accumulated deficit of nearly £12 million—and this without taking any account of local radio.The sum of £4½ million is about 20 per cent. of total radio income and the accumulated deficit is about half a year's radio income and as far as I can see no step is being taken to clear up these deficits. The increase in the licence fee is to be devoted almost entirely to local radio.
Some money may be squeezed by the tightening of anti-evasion measures, and we naturally all hope that it will, but neither the Select Committee nor I think that the measures will be as successful as the Minister does. I know from personal experience that licence fee collecting has never been a top priority job in the Post Office and now that the Minister has no executive control over the Post Office any more, I would guess that it will be further relegated.
We all hope for a boom in colour television, but it is early days to talk about the boom. It is only three weeks since I.T.V. and B.B.C. 1 went on to colour and of course one can expect a big demand coming in the three exceptional weeks before Christmas, but no one in the trade would be willing to make a firm forecast for some months to come, and so one cannot depend on that.
With this deficit on its shoulders, it seems unlikely that the B.B.C. would want to expand into local radio, and why it did was explained by Mr. Curran when he spoke to the staff at Bristol recently about the increase in the licence fee when he said:The B.B.C. would have got nothing at all if it had not accepted local radio commitments.This hardly reflects an enthusiasm for local radio in present financial straits.
Hon. Members know very well that every B.B.C. employee to whom one talks says the same. One and all say that it is utterly wrong to reach into local radio when present services are strained for funds. They say so individually and they say so collectively through the A.B.S. the Musicians' Union, Equity, the Composers' Guild and the collective declaration of the B.B.C. regional em- 1612 ployees at Manchester, Bristol and Birmingham, the hon. Member for Smeth-wick (Mr. Faulds)—everybody has shouted in the same chorus. Yet the Minister told me in the House a week ago that the request for local radio development came from the B.B.C. Is that the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth?
To put it another way: had the Government allotted a £5 million increase in the licence fee to the B.B.C. without strings, would the corporation have spent it on local radio? Of course not, because it is lack of funds that is truncating regional broadcasting, forcing cuts in staff, over extending and thinning down the programme content. Just as the quality of I.T.V. programmes is being threatened by the levy, so is the quality of radio threatened by the shortage of money.
The Minister replies that this is not so. In that case, will the Minister of Technology explain this? On page 13 of "Broadcasting in the Seventies" are described the economies which financial difficulty makes necessary:… the disbandment of several B.B.C. orchestras, and a reduction in the use of outside musicians, some reduction in other radio staff and the possible loss of the medium wave from Radio Three and of part of the V.H.F. from Radio Four …Since that was written, radio has acquired no more income except for local radio. Orchestras have been reprieved, so presumably compensating cuts must be made elsewhere. Even to the layman it seems obvious that programmes must suffer, and to those in the know it appears an absolute certainty.
The situation is made stranger by an odd contradiction. In radio, no doubt McKinsey says, the regions are costly and should be cut, but at the same time the Government say that local radio must be launched and needs the regions' medium wave frequencies where possible. So the net result, which is expansion in the midst of penury, reflects a combination of these two pressures which is profoundly disquieting, despite the assurances in the official pamphlet entitled "Ariel" read to us by the right hon. Gentleman.
The right hon. Gentleman will know the extent to which regional staff value the facility of regional opting out which 1613 is to be discontinued. On page 4 of "Ariel" there are some smooth assurances, where Mr. Mansell says:The fact is that by far the greater part of this service has been in the field of news and topical programmes, and this is precisely the area in which local radio will be able to provide a really effective service.That sounds fine or at least tolerable until one wakes up to the fact that this alternative to the regional programme will go out on V.H.F., which only a third of the population can receive. The average cost of the programmes per hour is about £44. The average cost per hour of regional radio is more like £350, so the quality of the programmes is not likely to be comparable. In addition, the loss of the regional news bulletins, the regional Parliamentary programmes, the Saturday evening sports results and the breakfast-time magazines will be missed and not replaced.
To be fair to Mr. Mansell, the task of every B.B.C. spokesman is made harder by the fact that when his corporation comes to an incredible decision he is not allowed to give the true explanation which in almost every case is the necessity of competing with commercial broadcasting now existing or threatened. There is only one understandable reason for launching local radio at a time of stringency, and that is to pre-empt commercial radio. However, that cannot be said by members of the staff of the B.B.C, though it can be said in this House by the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Peter M. Jackson).
In television, the cutting of original production in the three regions is presumably a McKinsey recommendation, so one is momentarily baffled that the regions should be increased to eight. The B.B.C. is not allowed to say that the Newcastle station is to be stepped up to compete with the regional services of Tyne-Tees, but that is a perfectly good reason and certainly is better than all that we are told about "sociological reasons".
The right hon. Gentleman must have a knowledge of Bristol and its local station. I ask him to give careful thought and I hope an ample reply to reassure the regional staff. The existing regional stations seem to be about to suffer a severe downgrading. The present regional controller is a person of some standing. He carries regional weight 1614 when he comes to London. Now we are to have one Controller of Regions, Mr. Beech, sitting in London representing and controlling all eight regions.
In the "Ariel" document, David Attenborough protests that at the enormous Pebble Hill complex at Birmingham more production will go on than ever. That may be, but it will be production commissioned from and originating in London. Now that the B.B.C. has sunk such sums in All Saints and Pebble Hill, it can hardly leave them idle. But what I would like the right hon. Gentleman to answer is the question posed by Sir George Beadle, the former Controller of the West Region, in his letter of 18th August to The Times. He said:What does matter is where the initiative lies. Is programme initiative in future to be the sole prerogative of the Metropolis or is it to be shared in due measure as in the past between London, Birmingham, Bristol and Manchester?I hope that the Minister will tell us what is to be the guaranteed sum of money to the local managers in the regions. The comfort which has been put out so far is that each local manager will have a guaranteed amount to spend on his own initiative. What matters is how that compares with what he had in the past, or whether it is merely a face-saving device.
I am surprised that only one hon. Member opposite has had the courage of his convictions and put his name to our Motion, which quite simply regrets that the policy of Her Majesty's Government will cause a serious deterioration in the quality of broadcasting.
The scores of hon. Members opposite who signed the Early Day Motion to almost exactly the same effect must logically have shared his convictions, but are apparently willing to be tricked tonight to another view by what the hon. Member for The High Peak described as "the shabby manoeuvre" of his right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Mr. Harold Wilson).
Through the levy the Government directly control the profitability of the I.T.V. companies and that ultimately affects the quality of their programmes. The B.B.C. would never have had to produce its extraordinary and, in the event, inflammatory document "Broadcasting in the Seventies" had the Government not insisted on the increase in income 1615 being concentrated on local radio. The Government are, therefore, responsible in a direct way. Indeed, that is how they wish it to be. For did not the right hon. Gentleman, who is about to wind up, say on a much publicised occasion:Broadcasting is really too important to be left to the broadcasters"?Had broadcasting been left to the broadcasters we might not have had cause to table our Motion tonight.
It is the Government's policy which has provoked protests from every organised body and union in the industry, which has actually called into existence a Council for Better Broadcasting supported by a roster of artistic and academic talent of the highest repute, which has caused dissention, disruption and distrust in the B.B.C. on a scale previously quite unknown, and which has made hon. Members of all parties join to sign a Motion which speaks ofa serious deterioration in the quality of broadcasting.The Minister of Posts and Telecommunications has never been very staunchly supported by his hon. Friends. There was an occasion when he addressed a major speech to his own benches manned by the solitary figure of his Parliamentary Private Secretary, the hon. Member for Smethwick. Now even he has resigned in protest at the Government's broadcasting policy. It only remains for the Minister to resign, too.
§ 9.33 p.m.
§ The Minister of Technology (Mr. Anthony Wedgwood Benn)
This has been a very important debate conducted generally in the sort of atmosphere that one would hope for an important subject.
I must confess an interest. I began my working life as a B.B.C. employee. I was dismissed by the B.B.C. on being selected as a parliamentary candidate. I have contributed to debates in the House for the last 19 years and also to some controversies outside.
I have enjoyed this debate very much indeed, and hope that I shall be able to answer some of the questions that have been raised.
Without being offensive to the right hon. Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath), I 1616 enjoyed his speech today more than any speech that I have heard him make. The reason I enjoyed it, or at any rate the first part, was because he emerged arguing passionately about something for which he really cares, namely, music. I am not musically inclined, but I listened to the right hon. Gentleman speaking about the B.B.C. as a centre of good music. I heard him speak of the B.B.C.'s sponsorship of the arts, its interest in the orchestras and in the training of young musicians. This was a genuine and absolutely effective contribution to this problem.
I thought that in looking at the B.B.C. as the source of good music—this was his minority interest that had been met by the B.B.C.—the right hon. Gentleman allowed himself to fall into some errors afterwards. They were errors arising from the fact that he saw the B.B.C. historically as a place from which he could get the music that he loved. In saying that the B.B.C. was so good at providing for minority audiences, he almost implied that was really its sole function. I did not note his words in shorthand, but in effect he said that the quality and the creativity of the B.B.C.'s contribution to minority interests inclined him to the view that the B.B.C. should not bid for the majority interests. That was what lay behind what he said. Yet it was the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues— [Interruption.] Let me develop my case. I am trying to be fair. It was the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues who put the B.B.C. in a position—this is why I do not accept that the argument of 1954 is totally over—where, in order to make its case for money, it had continually to fight against an alternative commercial television system that was going for the major audiences all the time.
Whilst I know that controversies die down, and should do, and that the House and the country accept things that are not perfect, one of the basic problems facing the B.B.C. in getting the money it wants out of the community is the continual fear that if it were tempted to do what the right hon. Gentleman said and go for minorities, people would say, "We pay the fee but we do not listen to good music. We listen to commercial television, and that is free." That is really a serious 1617 difficulty which lies behind the right hon. Gentleman's argument.
Then the right hon. Gentleman went on totally to misunderstand the next issue by confusing pop radio with local radio. This was interesting, because it indicated that whenever he heard Radio Caroline he thought that it was local radio. But, as my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) said, the characteristic of pop radio is that it is not local but audible wallpaper which can be pasted up in everybody's houses all over the country. Radio Caroline was not local radio, and the real case on local radio is totally different.
It is untrue to say that the interest of the B.B.C. and the Government in local radio began when these pirate stations began pumping out pirated pop music in the closing months of the Conservative Government and continued in the first several years of the present Government. The right hon. Gentleman touched on commercial radio but left the real presentation of this to the hon. Member for Howden (Mr. Bryan).
The Government have been criticised for putting down an Amendment which, it was argued, prevents the House from reaching a view on the Opposition's Motion. I will tell the House why it was tabled, if it helps. It was tabled so that we would bring into order the speeches we knew we were going to hear from the Opposition. The right hon. Gentleman made a speech about commercial radio. It had nothing to do with the Motion, which was designed to maximise support against "Broadcasting in the Seventies". The hon. Member for Howden also dealt with commercial radio, reaffirming his warning to people not to be employed by the B.B.C. in local radio. Where is that referred to in the Motion? Would it even have been in order to make that statement without the Amendment? Not at all. If we had not tabled our Amendment, there would not have been the broadening of the debate in that way.
The right hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble) and the hon. Members for Honiton (Mr. Emery) and Carmarthen (Mr. Gwynfor Evans) spoke of the problems of remote areas, both the technical and the political difficulties. It is true—and this has often been brought out 1618 in Questions, as I recall from my days at the Post Office—that the argument of the man in the rural area is, "I pay the licence fee, but I do not get everything". In many cases he does not get B.B.C.2 or colour television. In others, he does not get good reception. In others, he can say that he is not going to get local radio. He says that he is, therefore, badly treated.
But the argument when one looks at it economically, is the other way round. To provide all services in rural areas costs an enormous amount of money, and we are really reproducing, in the standard radio and television licence fee, exactly the same position as in the case of the standard postage introduced by Rowland Hill, where it is the urban areas which are subsidising the distribution of programmes to the rural areas. I recall the figures. I had them checked today by my right hon. Friend's Department. The capital cost of V.H.F. television in urban areas is 1s. per household. The capital cost of providing V.H.F. television in marginal areas is £10 per household. That means that for the first two years after a person in a rural area obtains a licence he is contributing only towards the capital cost of his being put into a position to receive the programme. I do not argue that rural areas do not suffer by being rural, but in this case urban areas are quite rightly subsidising the availability of programmes in rural areas.
§ Mr. Noble
It is argued that the B.B.C. must provide a service, and the right hon. Gentleman has mentioned the figure of £10 per household. The electricity companies are prepared to subsidise up to £600 per household to bring electricity to these areas. Is not this the first priority before providing an extra service to all the other areas?
§ Mr. Benn
I know that the hon. Member wants action, but let me put the argument. A man may say. "I listen to I.T.V. only. Why should I pay 1619 the B.B.C. television licence fee?" [Interruption.] If he does not get either he is not paying the television licence fee. In that case he will get everything free under my right hon. Friend's proposal. After April, 1971, he will get sound radio without any charge. He will get what radio is available. The coverage is almost 100 per cent.
The hon. Member for Carmarthen referred to political broadcasting. I daresay that the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mrs. Ewing), who was showing an indication of her readiness to speak, would have made the same point had the eye of Mr. Speaker fallen upon her—in that sense. All I say to the two hon. Members—the one who made the speech and the other who will carry it back tonight with her—is that all the indications that I have lead me to the conclusion that although in the purely party political broadcast sense the Nationalist case may not get a look in, in almost every other programme on current affairs that is shown in Scotland or Wales the Nationalists get very full coverage. Nobody is more popular in Wales or Scotland than the two hon. Members who regularly appear, out of proportion to their strength in the House.
§ Mrs. Ewing
Will the right hon. Gentleman deal with this matter seriously? On 14th October—a year ago—the Secretary of State for Scotland, winding up a debate on parliamentary elections, said in answer to me that there would be a review by the end of 1968 and that the arrangements were in hand. It was thought in that debate that a concession had been obtained. Where is that review? The year 1969 is nearly over. When shall we get more than five minutes a year?
§ Mr. Benn
That is a specific point, relating in part to electoral law. I am not able to answer it, but I will see that an answer is sent to the hon. Lady. I am sure that, in fairness, she will agree that I am dealing seriously with the points that have been made. I repeat that in most public affairs broadcasts that occur in Wales and Scotland there is a much better balance in favour of the Nationalists than of the other parties.
The right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) asked a question about research into television violence. The Noble 1620 Committee, financed by the I.T.A., produced its report earlier this year, suggesting further research but I am told by those who have studied the matter that although it proposed further research projects its recommendations were very inconclusive. There must be many hon. Members, including some with responsibility for law and order, who are extremely anxious about the extent to which what I have heard described as the obscenity of violence—not the violence of real life; the violence that has been occurring in Biafra or Vietnam or similar places but the use of violence to attract an audience in a dramatic programme. I am sure there are a lot of people concerned. This is a subject of continuing interest.
I would also remind the House that we appoint people to look after the B.B.C. and I.T.V. who are people of considerable public distinction. In the case of the B.B.C. they manage the outfit; in the case of the I.T.A. they control it. If matters of this kind arise, Members ought to make their representations to the people to whom Parliament has entrusted this responsibility and not ask my right hon. Friend or myself when I was Postmaster-General: "Did you see that unpleasant bit in the programme last Thursday and will you as the Government deal with it". I was a little distressed to find the Leader of the Opposition saying that the Government could settle many of these problems with the corporation without legislation. I know that he was referring to the strategy of broadcasting, but the general doctrine, which I share, and I think he would too, is that the further the Government, in their responsibility with respect to broadcasting, keep away from the broadcasters on matters of content the better this is.
My hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins), who has a considerable interest in this, made a point about content. Although I have my own views on content, like every other viewer, I do not think that it is right to ask the Government to defend in this House decisions made about the balance between Radio 3 and Radio 2 and some of the aspects of broadcasting in the "Seventies," which was the product of work by the Board of Governors and the management.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins
I said no such thing as my right hon. Friend is suggesting. What I am pointing out is that the Government enunciated their policy on broadcasting in a White Paper in 1966, yet "Broadcasting in the Seventies" is a total denial of almost every page of that White Paper.
§ Mr. Benn
My hon. Friend must not ask us to decide how the B.B.C. should handle its own management matters. If that is what Parliament wants to do, it had better make my right hon. Friend the Chairman of the Board of Governors and question him at Question Time. My hon. Friend made a different point about consultation. I have a great interest in this, because I remember that when I was at the B.B.C. my union was not even recognised. The B.B.C. had a very bad record over consultation with the staff. Certainly the people in Bristol, those whom I know for other reasons, who are passionate believers in the public service principle, who do not yield an inch on commercial radio, brought up by Frank Gillard to see what this could do, are very anxious about the proposals. I would be very surprised if, following this debate, the B.B.C. did not take further measures to consult those actually engaged in the organisation.
May I come now to a point made by the hon. Member for Cheadle (Dr. Winstanley) about generic broadcasting. The point was taken by my hon. Friend the Member for The High Peak (Mr. Peter M. Jackson), who described how he came across an interest in architecture through listening to a programme about something else. My view, and I think it is pretty widely shared now, is that people are adult enough to be able to pick their own programmes and they do not have to have a nose box screwed on by some latter-day Reith so that in their regular diet of pap some little medication of culture will be given to them.
I want to be able to go to a programme for my serious music, my light music or my news, and I do not want to find that it is being presented to me in such a way that I will get a balanced diet, as if we were really dealing with that sort of approach to culture. That is my view, and it happens that the B.B.C. has come down to it. It certainly 1622 would not be right for Parliament to decide these matters.
May I come now to the major assaults made by the Government in the course of the debate. The first was that we have given the B.B.C. insufficient funds for its job and that we have asked the B.B.C. to undertake local radio, implied from the quotation attributed to Mr. Curran, rather against its will. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman did not mean what he said about this.
Mr. Frank Gillard, who previously was in Bristol, and who I believe retires at the end of this month after a very distinguished career in sound broadcasting, was absolutely dedicated to the idea of local public service broadcasting. I remember 15 years ago hearing tapes which that man had made of what it would sound like if we had a local station. Moreover, when I became Postmaster-General and met the B.B.C., the Corporation pushed on me the idea of local public stations from the outset. It is not true to say that this is a vulgar political plot by my right hon. Friend imposed on the B.B.C. at this stage in order to forestall commercial radio were the Opposition to come to power.
§ Mr. Benn
I will come to that.
What have the present Government done concerning B.B.C. finances? We raised the licence fee in April 1965. We raised it again in January 1969. We did an unparalleled thing in announcing an increase in the licence so that the B.B.C. would have security—[An HON. MEMBER: "After the election".]—after the election. It was a great deal better than doing what the Opposition did. I recall vividly the situation when I was confronted with B.B.C. financing. When we came to power the B.B.C. was running at a loss of £40,000 a day. Its forecast budget was £125 million in deficit over the five-year period. The Conservative Party never even revealed to the country what the position was.
I suppose that it is not a very attractive thing for a Minister to boast of an increase in charges, but such a general view has been expressed in the House about the need properly to finance the 1623 B.B.C. that it is right to do so. There was a £1 increase in 1965 and a £1 increase in 1969. There will be a 10s. increase in 1971 and—nobody mentioned this—a £5 supplement for colour television to meet the point which the hon. Member for Cheadle made and to get the B.B.C. away from its plateau on to a self-financing rise as people move to colour television. If anyone in my party or in the Conservative Party attacks us for announcing what will be a £11 10s. licence for colour and television and sound before an election when there were all the temptations to say that we would not look that far ahead, it is an astonishing charge to lay against us.
I come to the question of local radio. I have read all that has been said about shoddy and threadbare programmes because the programme cost is low. Why is it low?—because in local radio people do not ask for fees. [Interruption.] Of course they do not ask for fees. I am talking not about actors but about people contributing to community discussions. Every time an hon. Member goes on the air he gets his cheque—[Interruption.]—more or less. I do not think the hon. Lady the Member for Hamilton has been on a programme, so how does she know whether or not one gets a fee?
Anyone who has been in Brighton or Leeds knows that there is a totally different atmosphere about local radio. The programmes are cheap in cost but not in any other way. There are programmes which may cost a lot more money to put on in those splendid palaces in Lime Grove, but the content of local radio, as it has emerged under the B.B.C. development, has been very different.
We are told that we did something hasty because an election was coming. Does the House know on what date the one commercial radio station operating was licensed? It was 14th October, 1964. Twenty-four hours before the Conservative Party went out of office it licensed the only commercial radio station. I have the schedule of the programme: 7 a.m., Pete's Porridge Party; 9 a.m., On the "A" Side; 9.15, Pete's Porridge Party; 10 a.m., the Don Allen Radio Show; 1 o'clock Lunch-time Lucky Dip; 2 o'clock, Music for Pleasure; 3 o'clock, Musical Show Case, until 7.45, when there was a religious programme spon- 1624 sored by the Mormons. That is its contribution. No local discussions allowed; one journalist; no Telex; no P.A.; no Reuter. This is what was left. Did we, when we came to power, say, "We do not like it and it was only authorised 24 hours ago. We will stop it."? Not at all. We have left it as a monument to what the hon. Gentleman did! I say only this to the hon. Gentleman, that if he really thinks that local radio and pop radio are one and the same thing, he really does not know what local communities need in the world today.
I have one or two more serious general points to make about the role of community radio, but I must say a word about the I.T.A. levy. My right hon. Friend has made it quite clear that he is waiting for the I.T.A. to submit figures. It has not yet done so. He has promised to review them. Obviously, in these circumstances, there is no reason to be anxious. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh?"] There is no reason to be anxious. This has been in operation only a few months.
The hon. Gentleman was really the main spokesman on this, and he deployed the Opposition's case, "We want commercial radio in Britain." He will say, and I accept it, that it will not all be like the Isle of Man. But an awful lot will be more like the Isle of Man than like Radio Leeds, whither the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) is to go as Vice-Chancellor of the University and will be able to spread to the local community the work of the university to which he is going.
The proposals in "Broadcasting in the Seventies" are the B.B.C.'s and the Governors have not been in discussion with us. This is their programme.
I ask only, are hon. Members really going to vote for the Opposition Motion tonight knowing that they are voting in support of a policy—I am not blaming the Opposition party for this, for it sincerely believes in it—that says we must ban B.B.C. local radio and put in its place commercial local sound radio? I say to my hon. Friend the Member for The High Peak (Mr. Peter M. Jackson) who has a genuine conscience about these matters, that if he were tricked by a procedural tactic of this kind he would be quite wrong.
1625 One of the most astonishing things about this debate—I can only speak for myself—is that it has been about broadcasting in the organisational and financial sense, and hardly anybody, with the exception of my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English), has talked about the needs of the community to communicate in the age in which we live. Here we are, living in a period of the most rapid industrial, technical, and military change; here is a time, more than any other, when we have got to use the radio and every other opportunity to communicate with one another, in order to deal, for instance, with racial problems, and problems of violence. The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) has stressed these and raised some burning local issues, but they will not be discussed on commercial local radio: they will be discussed on local community radio, where
§ all points will be able to be made. I would just point out to the House that there has been no mention at all, by either Front Bench spokesman opposite of the University of the Air, the biggest development in educational broadcasting, which, by itself, would negative the Opposition's Motion.
§ I only say to the House, as I finish, that it seems to me that the issues which confront society, particularly urban society—in America, in Washington; in Paris; in all the big cities—are enough to justify, if nothing else, a public service local community radio, and I believe that the B.B.C. should do it, and that the House should support it.
§ Question put, That the Amendment be made:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 286, Noes 245.1629
|Division No. 25.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Ginsburg, David|
|Albu, Austen||Crawshaw, Richard||Golding, John|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Cronin, John||Cordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. c.|
|Alldritt, Walter||Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)|
|Allen, Scholefield||Dalyell, Tam||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony|
|Anderson, Donald||Darling, Rt. Hn. George||Gregory, Arnold|
|Ashley, Jack||Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)||Grey, Charles (Durham)|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)|
|Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice||Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek)||Hamling, William|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Hannan, William|
|Barnes, Michael||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Harper, Joseph|
|Barnett, Joel||do Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)|
|Baxter, William||Delargy, H. J.||Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith|
|Beaney, Alan||Dell, Edmund||Haseldine, Norman|
|Bence, Cyril||Dempsey, James||Hattersley, Roy|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Dewar, Donald||Hazell, Bert|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Binns, John||Dickens, James||Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret|
|Bishop, E. S.||Dobson, Ray||Hilton, W. S.|
|Blackburn, F.||Doig, Peter||Hobden, Dennis|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Dunnett, Jack||Hooley, Frank|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Dunwoody, Mrs. Cwyneth (Exeter)||Horner, John|
|Booth, Albert||Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas|
|Boston, Terence||Eadie, Alex||Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)|
|Boyden, James||Ellis, John||Howie, W.|
|Bradley, Tom||English, Michael||Hoy, Rt. Hn. James|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Ennals, David||Huckfield, Leslie|
|Brooks, Edwin||Ensor, David||Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)|
|Broughton, Sir Alfred||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||Hughes, Roy (Newport)|
|Brown, Bob(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)||Evans, Gwynfor (C'marthen)||Hunter, Adam|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)||Hynd, John|
|Buchan, Norman||Fernyhough, E.||Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Finch, Harold||Janner, Sir Barnett|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Fletcher, Rt. Hn. Sir Erie (Islington, E.)||Jeger, George (Goole)|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n&St. P'cras, S.)|
|Cant, R. B.||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Foley, Maurice||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Foot, Rt. Hn. Sir Dingle (Ipswich)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Chapman, Donald||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)|
|Coe, Denis||Forrester, John||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)|
|Coleman, Donald||Fraser, John (Norwood)||Judd, Frank|
|Concannon, J. D.||Freeson, Reginald||Kelley, Richard|
|Conlan, Bernard||Galpern, Sir Myer||Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Garrett, W. E.||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)|
|Kerr, Russell (Feltham)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)|
|Latham, Arthur||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Sheldon, Robert|
|Lawson, George||Morris, John (Aberavon)||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Moyle, Roland||Short, Mrs. Renée(W'hampton, N. E.)|
|Ledger, Ron||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Lee, Rt. Hn, Jennie (Cannock)||Murray, Albert||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Lestor, Miss Joan||Neal, Harold||Silverman, Julius|
|Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold (Cheetham)||Newens, Stan||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)||Oakes, Gordon||Slater, Joseph|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Ogden, Erie||Small, William|
|Lipton, Marcus||O'Halloran, Michael||Snow, Julian|
|Lomas, Kenneth||O'Malley, Brian||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Luard, Evan||Oram, Bert||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Orbach, Maurice||Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John|
|Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Orme, Stanley||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Oswald, Thomas||Thomas, Rt. Hn. George|
|McBride, Neil||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)||Thornton, Ernest|
|McCann, John||Owen, Will (Morpeth)||Tinn, James|
|MacColl, James||Padley, Walter||Tomney, Frank|
|MacDermot, Niall||Page, Derek (King's Lynn)||Tuck, Raphael|
|Macdonald, A. H.||Paget, R. T.||Urwin, T. W.|
|McElhone, Frank||Palmer, Arthur||Varley, Eric G.|
|Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Pannell, Rt, Hn. Charles||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Mackie, John||Park, Trevor||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Maclennan, Robert||Parker, John (Dagenham)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)||Pavitt, Laurence||Wallace, George|
|McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|McNamara, J. Kevin||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred||Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)|
|MacPherson, Malcolm||Pentland, Norman||Weitzman, David|
|Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)||Wellbeloved, James|
|Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Mallalieu, J.P.W.(Huddersfield, E.)||Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.||Whitaker, Ben|
|Manuel, Archie||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Marks, Kenneth||Price, William (Rugby)||Whitlock, William|
|Marquand, David||Probert, Arthur||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy||Randall, Harry||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Maxwell, Robert||Rankin, John||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Mayhew, Christopher||Rees, Merlyn||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert||Richard, Ivor||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Mendelson, John||Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy||Willis, Rt. Hn. George|
|Mikardo, Ian||Robertson, John (Paisley)||Winnick, David|
|Millan, Bruce||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St. P'c'as)||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Miller, Dr. M. S.||Roebuck, Roy||Woof, Robert|
|Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Rose, Paul|
|Molloy, William||Ross, Rt. Hn. William||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Moonman, Eric||Rowlands, E||Mr. Ernest Armstrong and|
|Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Ryan, John||Mr. James Hamilton.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Bullus, Sir Eric||Errington, Sir Eric|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Burden, F. A.||Eyre, Reginald|
|Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian||Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.)||Farr, John|
|Astor, John||Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Fisher, Nigel|
|Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)||Carlisle, Mark||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles|
|Baker, Kenneth (Acton)||Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Fortescue, Tim|
|Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Channon, H. P. G.||Foster, Sir John|
|Balniel, Lord||Chataway, Christopher||Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)|
|Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Chichester-Clark, R.||Gibson-Watt, David|
|Batsford, Brian||Clark, Henry||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Clegg, Walter||Glover, Sir Douglas|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Cooke, Robert||Glyn, Sir Richard|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm)||Cordle, John||Goodhart, Philip|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Corfield, F. V.||Goodhew, Victor|
|Biffen, John||Costain, A. P.||Gower, Raymond|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Grant, Anthony|
|Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Crouch, David||Grant-Ferris, Sir Robert|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Crowder, F. P.||Gresham Cooke, R.|
|Blaker, Peter||Cunningham, Sir Knox||Grieve, Percy|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.)||Currie, G. B. H.||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)|
|Body, Richard||Dalkeith, Earl of||Gurden, Harold|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Dance, James||Hall, John (Wycombe)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Davidson, James (Aberdeenshire, w.)||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Dean, Paul||Hamilton, Lord (Fermanagh)|
|Braine, Bernard||Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)|
|Brewis, John||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt. -Col. Sir Walter||Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Harris, Reader (Heston)|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Drayson, G. B.||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere|
|Bryan, Paul||Eden, Sir John||Harvie Anderson, Miss|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N&M)||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Hawkins, Paul|
|Buck, Antony (Colchester)||Emery, Peter||Hay, John|
|Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Mawby, Ray||Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.|
|Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Scott, Nicholas|
|Heseltinc, Michael||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. c.||Sharpies, Richard|
|Higgins, Terence L.||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Hilcy, Joseph||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||Silvester, Frederick|
|Hill, J. E. B.||Miscampbell, Norman||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)|
|Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin||Monro, Hector||Smith, John (London & W'minster)|
|Holland, Philip||Montgomery, Fergus||Speed, Keith|
|Hordern, Peter||Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)||Stainton, Keith|
|Hornby, Richard||Morgan-Giles, Rear.Adm.||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Howell, David (Guildford)||Morrison, Charles (Devizts)||Stodart, Anthony|
|Hunt, John||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.|
|Hutchison, Michael Clark||Murton, Oscar||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Tapseif, Peter|
|Irvine, Bryant Gotlman (Rye)||Neave, Airey||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Taylor,Edward M.(G'gow, Caihcart)|
|Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grmstead)||Nott, John||Temple, John M.|
|Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Onslow, Cranley||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy|
|Jopling, Michael||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian||Tilney, John|
|Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Osborn, John (Hal'lam)||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Kerby, Capt. Henry||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Kershaw, Anthony||Page, John (Harrow, W.)||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Pardoe, John||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Kitson, Timothy||Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)||Waddington, David|
|Lambton, Viscount||Percival, Ian||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)|
|Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Peyton, John||Walker, Peter (Worcester)|
|Lane, David||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Langford-Holt, Sir John||Pink, R. Bonner||Wall, Patrick|
|Lawler, Wallace||Pounder, Rafton||Walters, Dennis|
|Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch||Ward, Christopher (Swindon)|
|Lloyd,Rt.Hn.Geoffrey(Sut'nC'dficId)||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)||Prior, J. M. L.||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)||Pym, Francis||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Lubbock, Eric||Quennefl, Miss J. M.||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|McAdden, Sir Stephen||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James||Wiggin, A. W.|
|Mackenzie, Alasdair(Ross&Crom'ty)||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter||Williams, Donald (Dudley)|
|Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Rees-Davics, W. R.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|MacLeod, fit. Hn. lain||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David||Winstanley, Dr. M. P.|
|McMaster, Stanley||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Wolrigc-Gordon, Patrick|
|Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|McNair-Wilson, Michael||Ridsdale, Julian||Woodnutt, Mark|
|McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)||Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey||Worsley, Marcus|
|Maddan, Martin||Robson Brown, Sir William||Wright, Esmond|
|Magimnis, John E.||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)||Wylie, N. R.|
|Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Marten, Neil||Royle, Anthony||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Maude, Angus||Russell, Sir Ronald||Mr. R. W. Elliott and|
|Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald||St. John-Stcvas, Norman||Mr. Jasper More.|
§ Main question, put:—1630
§ The House divided: Ayes 285, Noes 242.1633
|Division No. 26.]||AYES||[10.13 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Crawshaw, Richard|
|Albu, Austen||Boyden, James||Cronin, John|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Bradley, Tom||Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony|
|Alldritt, Walter||Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Dalyeil, Tarn|
|Allen, Scholefield||Brooks, Edwin||Darling, Rt. Hn. George|
|Anderson, Donald||Broughton, Sir Alfred||Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)|
|Ashley, Jack||Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Brown, Bob(N 'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)||Davies, C. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek)|
|Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice||Buchan, Norman||Davies, Ifor (Gower)|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)|
|Barnes, Michael||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey|
|Barnett, Joel||Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Delargy, Hugh|
|Baxter, William||Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Dell, Edmund|
|Beaney, Alan||Cant, R. B.||Dempsey, James|
|Bence, Cyril||Carmichael, Neil||Dewar, Donald|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Carter-Jones, Lewis||Diamond, Rt. Hn. John|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Chapman, Donald||Dickens, James|
|Binns, John||Coe, Denis||Dobson, Ray|
|Bishop, E. S.||Coleman, Donald||Doig, Peter|
|Blackburn, F.||Concannon, J. D.||Dunnett, Jack|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Conlan, Bernard||Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)|
|Booth, Albert||Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)|
|Boston, Terence||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Eadie, Alex|
|Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Leadbitter, Ted||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Ellis, John||Ledger, Ron||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Ennals, David||Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)||Pentland, Norman|
|Ensor, David||Lee, John (Reading)||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)|
|Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||Lestor, Miss Joan||Perry, George H, (Nottingham, S.)|
|Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)||Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold (Cheetham)||Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.|
|Faulds, Andrew||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)|
|Fernyhough, E.||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Finch, Harold||Lipton, Marcus||Probert, Arthur|
|Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Lomas, Kenneth||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry|
|Fletcher,Rt.Hn.SirEric(Islington, E.)||Luard, Evan||Randall, Harry|
|Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Rankin, John|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Rees, Merlyn|
|Foley, Maurice||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Richard, Ivor|
|Foot, Rt. Hn. Sir Dingle (Ipswich)||McBride, Neil||Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||McCann, John||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Forrester, John||MacColl, James||Robinson, Rt.Hn.Kennath(St.P'c'as)|
|Fraser, John (Norwood)||MacDermot, Niall||Roebuck, Roy|
|Freeson, Reginald||Macdonald, A. H.||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||McElhone, Frank||Rose, Paul|
|Garrett, W. E.||Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Ross, Rt. Hn. William|
|Ginsburg, David||Mackie, John||Rowlands, E|
|Golding, John||Mactennan, Robert||Ryan, John|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)|
|Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Sheldon, Robert|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony||McNamara, J. Kevin||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|Gregory, Arnold||MacPherson, Malcolm||Short, Mrs.Renee(W'hampton,N.E.)|
|Grey, Charles (Durham)||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Mallalieu,J.P.W.(Huddersfield,E.)||Silverman, Julius|
|Hamling, William||Manuel, Archie||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Hannan, William||Marks, Kenneth||Slater, Joseph|
|Harper, Joseph||Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard||Small, William|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy||Snow, Julian|
|Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith||Maxwell, Robert||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Haseldine, Norman||Mayhew, Christopher||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Hattersley, Roy||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert||Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John|
|Hazell, Bert||Mendelson, John||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Mikardo, Ian||Thomas, Rt. Hn. George|
|Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Millan, Bruce||Thornton, Ernest|
|Hilton, W. S.||Miller, Dr. M. S.||Tinn, James|
|Hobden, Dennis||Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Tomney, Frank|
|Hooley, Frank||Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Tuck, Raphael|
|Horner, John||Molloy, William||Urwin, T. W.|
|Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Moonman, Eric||Varley, Eric G.|
|Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Howie, W.||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Hoy, Rt. Hn. James||Morris, John (Aberavon)||Wallace, George|
|Huckfield, Leslie||Moyle, Roland||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Murray, Albert||Weitzman, David|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Neal, Harold||Wellbeloved, James|
|Hunter, Adam||Newens, Stan||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Hynd, John||Oakes, Gordon||Whitaker, Ben|
|Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)||Ogden, Eric||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)||O'Halloran, Michael||Whitlock, William|
|Janner, Sir Barnett||O'Malley, Brian||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Oram, Albert E.||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Jeger, George (Goole)||Orbach, Maurice||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Jeger,Mrs.Lena(H'b'n&St.P'crs,S.)||Orme, Stanley||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Oswald, Thomas||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Owen, Will (Morpeth)||Willis, Rt. Hn. George|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Padley, Walter||Winnick, David|
|Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Page, Derek (King's Lynn)||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)||Paget, R. T.||Woof, Robert|
|Judd, Frank||Palmer, Arthur||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Kelley, Richard||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles|
|Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)||Park, Trevor||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Kerr, Russell (Feltham)||Parker, John (Dagenham)||Mr. Ernest Armstrong and|
|Latham, Arthur||Pavitt, Laurence||Mr. James Hamilton.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Balniel, Lord||Bitten, John|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Biggs-Davison, John|
|Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian||Batsford, Brian||Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel|
|Astor, John||Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Black, Sir Cyril|
|Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)||Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Blaker, Peter|
|Baker, Kenneth (Acton)||Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm)||Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.)|
|Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Berry, Hn. Anthony||Body, Richard|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Percival, Ian|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Peyton, John|
|Braine, Bernard||Heseltine, Michael||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Brewis, John||Higgins, Terence L.||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt. -Col. Sir Walter||Hiley, Joseph||Pounder, Rafton|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Hill, J. E. B.||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Hirst, Geoffrey||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Bryan, Paul||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick(Angus,N&M)||Holland, Philip||Pym, Francis|
|Buck, Antony (Colchester)||Hordern, Peter||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Hornby, Richard||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Burden, F. A.||Howell, David (Guildford)||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.)||Hunt, John||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
|Carlisle, Mark||Iremonger, T. L.||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Chataway, Christopher||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)||Robson Brown, Sir William|
|Clark, Henry||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Clegg, Walter||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Cooke, Robrt||Jopling, Michael||Royle, Anthony|
|Cordle, John||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Corfield, F. V.||Kerby, Capt. Henry||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Costain, A. P.||Kershaw, Anthony||Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Scott, Nicholas|
|Crouch, David||Kitson, Timothy||Sharpies, Richard|
|Crowder, F. P.||Lambton, Viscount||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Silvester, Frederick Sinclair, Sir George|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Lane, David||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Smith, John (London & W'minster)|
|Dance, James||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield)||Speed, Keith|
|Davidson, James (Aberdeenshire,W.)||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)||Stainton, Keith|
|Dean, Paul||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Sclwyn (Wirral)||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Lubbock, Eric||Stodart, Anthony|
|Dodds-Parker, Douglas||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.|
|Drayson, C, B.||Mackenzie, Alasdair(Ross&Crom'ty)||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Tapsell, Peter|
|Eden, Sir John||Macleod, Rt. Hn. lain||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||McMaster, Stanley||Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart)|
|Emery, Peter||Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Errington, Sir Eric||McNair-Wilson, Michael||Temple, John M.|
|Evans, Gwynfor (C'marthen)||McNalr-Wilson, Patrick (NewForest)|
|Ewing, Mrs. Winifred||Maddan, Martin||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Eyre, Reginald||Maginnis, John E.||Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy|
|Farr, John||Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest||Tilney, John|
|Fisher, Nigel||Marten, Neil||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Fortescue, Tim||Mawby, Ray||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Foster, Sir John||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Fraser,Rt.Hn.Hugh(S'fford & Stone)||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Waddington, David|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)|
|Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||Walker, Peter (Worcester)|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Miscampbell, Norman||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Clyn, Sir Richard||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Wall, Patrick|
|Goodhart, Philip||Monro, Hector||Walters, Dennis|
|Goodhew, Victor||Montgomery, Fergus||Ward, Christopher (Swindon)|
|Gower, Raymond||Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Grant, Anthony||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Grant-Ferris, Sir Robert||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Grieve, Percy||Murton, Oscar||Wiggin, A. W.|
|Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Williams, Donald (Dudley)|
|Gurden, Harold||Neave, Alrey||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Winstanley, Dr. M. P.|
|Hall-Davies, A. C. F.||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Hamilton, Lord (Fermanagh)||Nott, John||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Onslow, Cranley||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Woraley, Marcus|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian||Wright, Esmond|
|Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Osborn, John (Hallam)||Wylie, N. R.|
|Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere||Page, Graham (Crosby)|
|Harvie Anderson, Miss||Page, John (Harrow, W.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Hawkins, Paul||Pardoe, John||Mr. R. W. Elliott and|
|Hay, John||Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)||Mr. Jasper More.|
|That this House, conscious of the contribution made by the British Broadcasting Corporation as a public service to the development of broadcasting in this country, rejects the Opposition's proposals for private enterprise commercial local radio stations.|