HC Deb 15 April 1981 vol 3 cc306-7
2. Mr. Greville Janner

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will consider proposals for the improvement of the audibility of the British Broadcasting Corporation world service programmes; and if he will make a statement.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Nicholas Ridley)

The Government attach great importance to the audibility of all the BBC's external broadcasts. To improve audibility, satellite feeds for the relay stations in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East are being introduced, and four new transmitters are planned to be in service by mid-1982. An additional powerful medium-wave transmitter will start broadcasting from Orfordness in early 1982 and the BBC has eight transmitters ordered for another planned broadcasting station in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Janner

I welcome those improvements in the overseas audibility of the world service, but will the hon. Gentleman confirm that they will not affect the audibility of home broadcasts? Does he agree that although the audibility of overseas broadcasts is probably the greatest asset to our overseas relations, audibility at home is of great importance to vast numbers of people, including most hon. Members?

Mr. Ridley

I agree that there is great concern that the external services should be heard in this country. However, with respect, that is not the responsibility of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. If it is felt that the material put out by the BBC's external services is suitable for home consumption, the BBC might decide to change its home broadcasts. Complaints on that score should be addressed to the BBC.

Mr. Peter Bottomley

Does my hon. Friend listen to the world service when he goes abroad? Is it more audible than Radio South Africa, the Dutch service or the Russian service?

Mr. Ridley

That depends on where one is. Last time that I listened to the world service overseas I heard a strident plea for fewer cuts in the BBC's external services programme.

Mr. Sproat

Is the Soviet Union still jamming overseas broadcasts by the BBC? If so, is that not a total and cynical contradiction of the pledges that it made under the Helsinki agreement? What does my hon. Friend propose to do about it?

Mr. Ridley

There has been serious and continuing jamming of the BBC's programmes. However we have increased the amount of air time and, despite jamming the BBC has managed to get its programmes heard more in Russia by means of various arrangements. Jamming is not at all within the spirit of the Helsinki agreement.

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