HC Deb 08 December 1971 vol 827 cc1270-2
3. Mr. Whitehead

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications what proposals he has received from the Director-General of the Independent Television Authority relating to a fourth television channel.

12. Mr. Golding

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications whether a decision has yet been made on the allocation of the fourth channel.

Mr. Chataway

I am studying the proposals to be published by the Independent Television Authority today for a fourth television service provided by I.T.V.

Mr. Whitehead

Will the Minister accept that he is dealing here with the disposal of a fourth mass audience television channel and is not simply approving the proposals which this public authority are putting forward for I.T.V. 2? Will he also bear in mind that many people who work in broadcasting regard the timing of these proposals as a preemptive strike to set up a second I.T.V. service before the next general review of I.T.V.? Therefore, would the Minister consider very fully the proposals which will be sent to him by the Federation of Broadcasting Unions, the A.C.C.T., and the T.V. 4 campaign, and set up a general inquiry to look into the feasibility of these proposals?

Mr. Chataway

I have received representations along the lines which the hon. Gentleman mentions, and I will bear in mind these views and others.

Mr. Golding

Is the Minister aware that his reply shows no recognition that today the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries begins an inquiry into the I.T.A.? Will he assure us that he will wait for the Select Committee's report before making any announcement about the allocation of the fourth channel?

Mr. Chataway

I have not been led to believe that that inquiry is an inquiry into the new services which the I.T.A. ought to provide.

Mr. Richard

The Minister will be aware that there are two decisions that he must make: first, whether any decision on the allocation of the fourth channel ought to be taken prior to 1976, and second, if he decides that it should, where it should go. Would the Minister give an undertaking that no decision as to the allocation of a fourth television channel will be taken prior to the inevitable public discussion and debate that must ensue before the charters are renewed in 1976?

Mr. Chataway

I accept entirely that there are those two decisions which the hon. and learned Gentleman describes. I hope that I have made that clear throughout. What we have to do now is to look at the particular proposals which the I.T.A. has brought forward. Hon. Members in all parts of the House will want to consider these before reaching a conclusion.