HC Deb 30 June 1971 vol 820 cc377-8
12. Mr. Fowler

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications whether he will introduce legislation to protect radio and television reporters from political interference.

Mr. Chataway

No, Sir. I do not believe legislation to be necessary.

Mr. Fowler

May I revert to the question of "Yesterday's Men" and the complaints arising from it? Does not my right hon. Friend agree that it is a highly unsatisfactory situation that such well-publicised complaints should be dealt with as an internal matter by the B.B.C. rather than by the more open procedure of a broadcasting council? Does not he also agree that such a broadcasting council would not only be fairer to the public but might also be fairer to reporters who might believe that they are being unjustly attacked?

Mr. Chataway

It must be faced that if a broadcasting council were set up, it would, to an important extent, alter the functions of the Governors of the B.B.C. and of the Members of the I.T.A. At the moment, they are appointed to act as trustees for the public. If it were held that some outside body should be there to protect the public, presumably those in charge of the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. would be responsible only for the running of the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. I do not think that that would necessarily be an advantage.

Mr. Kaufman

Is it not equally important for radio listeners and television viewers to be protected from political interference by radio and television reporters? [HON. MEMBERS: "Who are they?"] They are such as David Dimbleby and Ian Mclntyre. While those of us on this side who have consistently opposed any kind of political intervention in the B.B.C.'s affairs maintain that opposition, and believe that the B.B.C. should be entirely independent, it is made very much more difficult for us when the B.B.C. televises a vilificatory programme about one party on one night and two programmes of a reverential nature about the other party on another night. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell Lord Hill that the task of those of us who wish to ensure that there is no political interference would be greatly assisted if the B.B.C. imposed some sensible internal editorial control?

Mr. Chataway

If the hon. Gentleman counts himself among the foremost of the friends of the B.B.C., I am not sure, on the basis of his remarks, that that will necessarily be a tremendous source of satisfaction to the Corporation.