HC Deb 12 May 1969 vol 783 cc1116-7
Mr. Hay

I beg to move Amendment No. 118, in page 68, line 37, leave out subsection (4) and insert: (4) Subject to the provisions of subsection (5) of this section, this section shall not apply to the Post Office, the British Broadcasting Corporation or the Independent Television Authority. (5) This section shall apply to the operation by the Post Office of a system of distributing programmes whether in sound or vision or both of domestic entertainment. Clause 87 deals with the situation where a programme distribution system is to be run or is being run. It provides that if what is put over this distribution system is a programme of an educational or entertainment nature, it is prohibited, except—and this is the effect of subsection (4)—where it is the Post Office, the B.B.C. or the I.T.A. which is the organisation that puts it out.

One would naturally expect the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. to be exempted from this prohibition of putting out programmes of an educational or entertainment nature over the wire, because that is what they do in any event. They have their land links from the studios to the various transmitting stations. But we also see there the words "the Post Office".

I put down the Amendment really to obtain from the Postmaster-General some statement about the intention of the Post Office. Is it the intention that the Post Office will be able, in competition with the B.B.C. and the I.T.A., to run a programme distribution system, consisting of entertainment material, to the homes of individuals?

The purpose of the Amendment is to ensure that, if that was what the Post Office sought to do, it would not have the exemption that subsection (4) gives. This is a probing Amendment in many ways, and I should be grateful if the right hon. Gentleman would say what is the intention of the Post Office. Does the Corporation intend to put out programmes originated by itself, perhaps in its own studios, over the wire to the homes of individuals?

Mr. Stonehouse

I am all in favour of the diversification of Post Office activities, but I should not go as far as is suggested in the hon. Gentleman's probing Amendment. I assure him that the Post Office Corporation would not want to duplicate or triplicate the services being provided by the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. by originating entertainment programmes of its own.

If the hon. Gentleman were to press the Amendment, which I do not believe he is anxious to do, it would affect the services, such as Dial-a-disc and the test match scores, which the Post Office now provides. It may be possible in the future for these services to be provided on a public vision phone service, but I do not believe that the Corporation will want to go further than that and provide entertainment on the lines of the B.B.C., and I therefore willingly give the assurance asked for.

Mr. Hay

In those circumstances, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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