HC Deb 26 July 1979 vol 971 cc862-4
5. Mr. Whitehead

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received about the future of local radio and cable television.

Mr. Whitelaw

I have received representations on the future development of local radio from many organisations and individuals, most of whom were responding to an initiative by the Home Office local radio working party. These representations are discussed in the working party's second report, copies of which were placed in the Library of the House yesterday.

As to cable television, we have received two representations urging the authorisation of pay-TV services.

Mr. Whitehead

As the working party is now looking at the future of local radio, will it also look at the state of local radio that we already have? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the widespread concern, on both sides of the House, at the progressive restriction of BBC local radio? Will he say to the Corporation that a Radio 2 with opt-outs will not be local radio, will not sound like local radio, and will serve neither the neighbourhood nor the community in the way that the BBC intends?

Mr. Whitelaw

As someone who has always previously supported the place of BBC local radio alongside independent local radio in the whole set-up, I shall naturally take that on board. I am discussing the whole question of the BBC's future, as well as its charter and finances, with the BBC, and I shall take the hon. Gentleman's suggestion into account.

Mr. Adley

Is my right hon. Friend aware that some of us did not support the previous Government's unwillingness to allow the BBC to raise the licence fee, which is now one of the reasons being given by the BBC for having to curtail local radio services? Has my right hon. Friend anything to say in that regard?

Mr. Whitelaw

Not today.

Mr. Stoddart

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I am disappointed that he has nothing to say about that today? Does he appreciate that unless the BBC's finances are properly reorganised it will be unable to provide local services on the scale that it requires and which I think the public desire?

Mr. Whitelaw

With my officials I have entered into discussions with the BBC on its future financing and various programmes. It is important that these should be discussed closely and considered carefully before coming to a decision.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

We are glad to note that the second report has been published. Bearing in mind that this is the responsibility of the BBC, may we be told what is happening about local radio, because there are disturbing reports about the number of hours that are being cut in each area? It would be valuable to know about this from the right hon. Gentleman rather than from the newspapers.

Mr. Whitelaw

Decisions on local radio are matters for the BBC. Therefore, I am afraid that I cannot give the right hon. Gentleman a detailed answer.

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