HC Deb 12 April 1972 vol 834 cc1365-9


Mr. Chataway

I beg to move Amendment No. 52, in page 7, line 2, leave out from 'programmes' to 'there' in line 12 and insert:

'the following subsections shall be substituted for subsection (2): —

  1. "(1A) The Authority shall not enter into any contract with a programme contractor whereby (whether by virtue of that contract alone or by virtue of that contract together with one or more other contracts) the contractor is to provide television programmes for an area and is to provide local sound broadcasts for reception in a locality which, in the opinion of the Authority, is comprised in that area.
  2. (2) It shall be the duty of the Authority to do all that they can to secure—
    1. (a) that persons who are disqualified persons as defined in subsection (3) or subsection (3A) of this section do not become or continue as programme con tractors, either alone or in partnership with other persons, and
    2. (b) that there is adequate competition to supply programmes between a number of programme contractors independent of each other both as to finance and as to control."
    (2) After subsection (2) of that section'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Miss Harvie Anderson)

It will be for the convenience of the House to discuss at the same time Amendment No. 53, in

page 7, line 8, leave out subsection (2).

and Amendment No. 65, in

page 13, column 3 [Schedule 2], leave out lines 29 to 33.

Mr. Chataway

Amendment No. 52 is basically a drafting Amendment which plugs an unintentional gap to which my attention was drawn in the part of Clause 6 which provides against the overlapping of interests in sound and television broadcasting in the same area by a single contractor. Although the existing wording is adequate to exclude the television programme contractor from gaining control over a sound broadcasting contractor in the same area, or vice versa, it is not adequate to prevent a single person from contracting to fulfil both television and sound functions at the same time in the same area.

The redraft simply takes care of the point and also tidies up the Clause in other respects. The deletion of lines 29 to 33 of Schedule 2 in Amendment No. 65 is simply consequential upon this tidying up.

I know my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, North (Mr. Gorst) expressed an anxiety about this. The original purpose as spelt out in the White Paper and, as I thought, given effect in the Bill, was to ensure that no television contractor should have control of a radio company within his own area. The Amendment now ensures that this intention will be carried out.

Mr. Gorst

In spite of what my right hon. Friend has said about the wording being solely of a drafting nature, I would ask him to look carefully before the Bill is enacted to see whether any other interpretation could be put on these words. In spite of what he says, when the Amendment says that The Authority shall not enter into any contract with a programme contractor whereby…the contractor is to provide television programmes for an area and is to provide local sound broadcasts for reception in a locality which…is comprised in that area it means that no programme can be produced by that television contractor. Perhaps my right hon. Friend does not agree with my interpretation of it, but I fear that if it were ever to come before the courts they might make a different interpretation from my right hon. Friend. Therefore, I should like a specific assurance that if it is found on careful examination that such an interpretation could be put on it it will not be allowed to proceed with that interpretation.

9.0 p.m.

Mr. Chataway

I am very happy to give my hon. Friend the assurance that my right hon. Friend will look at that. The provision is that the Authority shall not enter into any contract with a programme contractor who is supplying both television and sound broadcasts. It simply talks about the contract between the Authority and the contractor, and could only mean that the Authority will not have the same company or person as the contractor for radio and the contractor for television in the same area. But since my hon. Friend has that anxiety, I give him the assurance that the provision will be checked to ensure that the interpretation I have given is right.

Mr. Golding

My Amendment, No. 53, is purely probing. We have been told that the Birmingham Post has a share in A.T.V. If a commercial radio station is established in the A.T.V. area, can the Birmingham Post buy into that station?

Mr. Chataway

It might be able to, because the prohibition in the Clause is simply that a television contractor in an area shall not have a controlling interest in any radio company, which is what has been envisaged throughout. Control can amount to a great deal less than a 50 per cent. stake in the sense of who is effectively in charge. That is the nature of the limitation in the Clause.

Mr. Golding

I ask the right hon. Gentleman to move away from the question of control. We have recently discovered that a great deal of control in television is exercised through multiple ownership, the holding of nominee shares and the like. I ask the new Minister to think not of the doctrine of control but of the doctrine of undue influence. Many of us will be very dissatisfied if television, local radio and the Press in the Midlands can all come under the undue influence of one group. It would be healthier if television, radio and the Press were separate and competing, if they were truly alternative avenues of communication.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Chataway

I beg to move Amendment No. 56, in page 7, line 48, leave out from 'which' to 'or' in line 3 on page 8 and insert: '(either wholly, or to an extent which in the opinion of the Authority is substantial)—

  1. (a) consists of the manufacture of records or of the publication of musical works, or
  2. (b) consists of promoting the broadcasting of sound recordings or of promoting the broadcasting or performance of musical works, or
  3. (c) consists of obtaining employment for theatrical performers or for persons to take 1368 part as performers in programmes broadcast (whether by the Authority or otherwise) by way of television or sound broadcasting'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I think it will be for the convenience of the House to discuss at the same time Amendment No. 57, in page 8, line 3, after 'works', insert: 'or in any similar or related enterprise'. and Government Amendment No. 58.

Mr. Chataway

There was a very lively debate in Committee on a number of Amendments the purpose of which was to add to the disqualifications from becoming a programme contractor. Perhaps I may briefly repeat the classification of people I then gave who I thought should be disqualified. I said that if we identified a class which was not already disqualified and which was of substantial importance it should be included in the local radio disqualification, but that if the class was of fairly small importance, or if there was a doubt about whether it should necessarily be disqualified, it would be better not to list it in the Bill but to leave it to the Authority. The reason was that we would not in any case be providing an exhaustive list. There would be large numbers of people whom the Authority would, for a variety of reasons, not regard as suitable to become programme contractors.

The point I was making was that it would be wrong to give the impression by appearing to have constructed a list that anyone not on it would naturally be suitable. With these criteria in mind, I felt unable to accept a number of Amendments in Committee but there were two classes of people, it seemed to me on the representations of the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) and others, who were not at present excluded but should be. They are what I referred to as record-pluggers and agents of singers.

It would be undesirable if an individual whose occupation it was to persuade broadcasters to play particular records or the records of a particular manufacturer, could become a programme contractor. It might be assumed that he would himself perform those records not primarily because they were good programme material for the listener, but because they were good business for the programme contractor.

The question of agents of singers has been looked at much more carefully since the debate in Committee, and I have concluded that the agents of singers cannot really be distinguished from agents of any other kinds of performers who may broadcast for local sound radio. Any agent plugging such a performer might seem to prefer performers of his own choice to performers of rival agents.

These two Amendments should meet the objections which I have mentioned and I think they broadly meet the wishes of hon. Members expressed in Committee.

Mr. Richard

We are grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. The Amendments are the results of points made in Committee which were substantial, and we are grateful that he has found himself able to meet them.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: No. 58, in page 8, leave out lines 10 to 20 and insert:

  1. (a) 'record' and 'sound recording' have the same meanings as in the Copyright Act 1956, and references to the publication, broadcasting or performance of musical works shall be construed as if they were contained in that Act; and
  2. (b) 'theatrical performer' has the same meaning as in the Theatrical Employers Registration Act 1925.—[Mr. Chataway.]

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