HC Deb 23 November 1970 vol 807 cc26-7
33. Mr. Evelyn King

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications if he will recommend the transfer of control of the British Broadcasting Corporation's external services from the British Broadcasting Corporation to the Foreign Office.

Mr. Chataway

No, Sir. It would be contrary to the fundamental principle that the content of programmes broadcast by the B.B.C.'s External Services should be independent of Government control.

Mr. King

I appreciate that, but is it not true that those who listen overseas will not believe for a moment other than that the British Broadcasting Corporation is the voice of the Government and that this has at times embarrassed successive Governments of both parties? Further, is not the whole of the cost of this service borne by the Government and not by the B.B.C.? Will he consider some of the Foreign Office embarrassments which, if he consults the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, he will find have occurred?

Mr. Chataway

Hon. Members may think that there are errors in judgment from time to time, but we should respect the B.B.C.'s independence and on balance it has been the firm conclusion of successive Governments that allowing the B.B.C. this independence is good for Britain.

Sir G. de Freitas

Is it not the considered opinion of all our high commissioners and ambassadors that the very reason for the tremendous impact of B.B.C. Overseas Service is that it is known to be independent of the Government of the day?

Mr. Chataway

I agree with that point of view.

Mr. Gorst

Is any proportion of the finances available to the B.B.C. for external broadcasting in any way deployed for domestic broadcasting?

Mr. Chataway

No, Sir. I understand that the external services are financed by a Government grant-in-aid which is used solely for the external services.