HC Deb 02 November 1970 vol 805 cc656-8
22. Mr. Gorst

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications how many requests he has received from members of the public for a Broadcasting Council to be set up, with functions similar to those of the Press Council, for the purpose of considering complaints from people who feel aggrieved by the contents of either commercial or British Broadcasting Corporation radio or television programmes.

31. Mr. Molloy

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications if he will consider the establishment of a Radio Council similar to the Press Council.

Mr. Chataway

I have received two requests. I would refer the hon. Members to my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley) on 13th July.

Mr. Gorst

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there are many individuals, organisations and industries which have a great sense of injustice about both the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. being able to act as judge and jury in their own case? Would he give further consideration to setting up some form of broadcasting council in the light of the views which have been expressed not only in the Press but on both sides of the House?

Mr. Chataway

The B.B.C. governors and the I.T.A. members are appointed as trustees for the public and there is not much attraction in the idea of appointing a further public body to oversee their activities.

Mr. Edelman

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that the governors of the B.B.C. and the board of I.T.A. are not qualified to deal with individual complaints from the public? Is it not the case that there is no means of public redress in either the B.B.C. or commercial television, not even the equivalent of a letter to the editor? In those circumstances, is not the present state of affairs thoroughly undemocratic, and should not the Minister proceed to the wider consideration of setting up some sort of council?

Mr. Chataway

A number of different views have been put forward in this context. Some have argued—and there is a case for and against—for a completely different set-up in which there would be one overall body in place of the I.T.A. members and the B.B.C. governors. But there would be very little attraction in having another public body whose duties would be to oversee the way in which the I.T.A. members and the B.B.C. governors fulfilled their statutory responsibilities.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

Is this not a rather difficult and doubtful proposition? Is it not of the essence that means of communication and information should have wide variety, and would not the creation of a single organisation tend towards undesirable conformity?

Mr. Chataway

That might be a danger, but the greater danger would simply be that of confusion of responsibility and undermining the authority of the B.B.B.C. governors and the I.T.A. members, who have a clear responsibility to fulfil.