HC Deb 30 April 1973 vol 855 cc779-81
11. Mr. Fowler

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications whether he is in a position to make a statement on the talks he is having with the broadcasting organisations on relations between them and the public.

Sir J. Eden

My discussions with the broadcasting organisations are continuing and I would welcome suggestions from other organisations and members of the public on the ways in which viewers' interests can best be represented.

Mr. Fowler

I thank my right hon. Friend for that helpful reply. Perhaps I may make one suggestion. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the idea of an independent broadcasting council to hear complaints from members of the public who believe that they are aggrieved is one of the subjects under active consideration at these talks? Will he also recognise that many of us believe that that would be one of the best ways of improving relations between broadcasting organisations and the public?

Sir J. Eden

All matters concerned with the representation of viewers' interests are pertinent to the discussions that I am having. I must point out that these talks are likely to continue for some months and that I am not likely to be in a position to arrive at an early conclusion on this matter. The fact remains, however, that the broadcasting authorities themselves are anxious independently to make whatever improvements they can in the formal representations procedure that they have introduced.

Mr. William Hamilton

Will the right hon. Gentleman treat with a great deal of caution the complaints of moralising busybodies outside, who want to be self-appointed censors for the rest of us? Does not he recognise that the number of complaints to broadcasting authorities is minute compared with the millions of people who watch and listen to broad casts for hours every day and that, with out any controversy at all, we have the best broadcasting services in the world?

Sir J. Eden

I listen with great and equal respect to all views which are represented to me and I do not judge the quality of a particular opinion by the volume of representation accompanying it. It is important to have a balanced view on this vital subject.

Mr. Evelyn King

In the course of those talks, has there been any discussion about the decision announced in today's Press by the IBA, to the effect that when a programme contains sadism or violence it will be marked by a little badge so that viewers may know what they will be seeing? Does the Minister agree that that would be giving a licence to the Authority to permit sadism? Is this not a deplorable suggestion, likely to do far more harm than good?

Sir J. Eden

That is a matter for the IBA.

Mr. John Grant

The Minister says that he is still welcoming suggestions in this matter, yet the Government's recent White Paper turned down flat the Select Committee's suggestion of a communications council, which it called undesirable. Can he say why?

Sir J. Eden

That, of course, is another matter, but the suggested communications council went far wider than just broadcasting. It would also have included the Press. But this is a matter which I believe is to be debated later this week.

Mr. Jessel

Will my right hon. Friend make it clear to the broadcasting authorities that there is widespread concern about the character of much of what is put out, especially by BBC Television, and that much of what is broadcast is harmful, or in bad taste? Will he also make it clear that if the broadcasting authorities want to improve their relations with the public they should look critically at what they are doing?

Sir J. Eden

There is scope for more than one opinion on that subject, but I have no doubt that the broadcasting authorities will take careful note of what my hon. Friend has said.

Mr. Robert C. Brown

When considering the representations of my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) about those people outside the House who moralise about things that appear on "the box", will the Minister be guarded in his attitude to the moralising of some people in the House, on programmes like "Tom and Jerry", which are greatly enjoyed?

Sir J. Eden

As I have said, there are different points of view both within and outside the House, and I take account of them all.