HC Deb 17 March 1988 vol 129 cc1216-7
10. Mr. Sumberg

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received in connection with the control of television broadcasting by satellite; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Hurd

A small number of representations on this subject have been received from hon. Members, members of the public, and interested organisations.

Mr. Sumberg

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. We all welcome greater choice on our television screens, but is my right hon. Friend aware of the widespread public concern that the advent of satellite television could bring into our homes more pornography and violence? If my right hon. Friend shares that concern, what steps will he take to prevent it?

Mr. Hurd

We are proposing to bring the broadcasters of domestic television under the Obscene Publications Act, from which they are at the moment exempt. But my hon. Friend is perfectly right about the possibilities of satellite broadcasting from abroad, and that is why we are engaged in negotiations in the Council of Europe on a draft treaty on that subject and also in discussions in Brussels on the possibility of a draft directive. We recognise the need that my hon. Friend has identified and are working to meet it.

Mr. Grocott

Will the Home Secretary explain to the Prime Minister, who does not seem to understand these things, that the proliferation of television channels, far from increasing real choice for the viewer, can, by reducing programme standards, diminish real choice? Will he also make it plain to her that the increased commercialisation of broadcasting under the Government is a real threat to a public service broadcasting system that was once the envy of the world?

Mr. Hurd

That is a distinctly old-fashioned view. There is no reason to suppose that, by offering the British people greater choice in the variety of their television, which is what we propose to do because it is now technically possible, that leads to a lowering of standards. It means that people have a greater choice to listen to and view what they want.