HL Deb 01 April 1936 vol 100 cc405-8

LORD KILMAINE rose to ask His Majesty's Government if something cannot be done to stop the Independent Broadcasting Company of London, who broadcast through Radio Normandie and Luxembourg, from advertising patent medicines and fortune tellers, such publicity being likely to lead to harm. The noble Lord said, My Lords, the Independent Broadcasting Company, with which my question deals, is an English company with headquarters in Hallam Street, London. It operates by means of gramophone records which are made in London and sent out by the company to Radio Normandie and Radio Luxembourg to be broadcast from those stations to this country. This has been going on for some time. Now this company has become a purely advertising company, and I venture to think that not only has it become a perfect nuisance to hosts of listeners, but it has also become a danger. It is chiefly occupied in transmitting records which deal with patent medicines, disinfectants, cheap matches, forms of gambling such as Vernon's Pools and the Irish National Sweepstake, and fortune tellers, for instance, a Professor Eltana. They send records, if you please, to these countries advising people to write to him, in which case he will send them their horoscopes and tell them what the stars foretell of their future.

It is incredible to think that a company can operate and advertise patent medicines—I will not mention their names; your Lordships have listened in and have heard them—in this public mariner when there are hosts of invalids and young and nervous people in this country who may be induced thereby to take these remedies without any advice from their doctors and without realising that the company which advocates them does so for money paid to it and not because it believes in these specifics. I have here the report of the Broadcasting Committee, 1935, and I will venture to read two extracts from it:

" It has been widely recognised that the practice of excluding advertisements from broadcast programmes in this country is to the advantage of listeners. In recent years, however, this policy has been contravened, and the purposes sought by the unified control of broadcasting have been infringed, by the transmission of advertisements in English from certain stations abroad, which are not subject to the influence of the British authorities except by way of international agreement and negotiation. As long ago as May of 1933 this matter was brought before the Council of the International Broadcasting Union."

Then there is this recommendation:

" That the responsible Departments should take all the steps which are within their power with a view to preventing the broadcasting from foreign stations of advertisement programmes, intended for this country, to which objection has been taken."

I fully realise that it is impossible for any Government of this country to deal with a foreign broadcasting station without international agreement. But surely, if a company which operates in London, and is an English company, makes these records at a known address in London and sends them out, it can be made illegal for them to do such things. Recently, when the whole nation was mourning the death of our well-beloved and much lamented King, this English company by means of its records gave out that same advertising programme, only they said: "The programme which comes now is sent you by the courtesy of Messrs. So-and-so "—namely, the makers of some patent medicine or other—" but owing to the feeling in the country the programme has been altered to one of sacred music." Imagine the bad taste—I could use another word—of advertising Sanitas or a patent drug by means of sacred music. I beg to ask the Government whether something cannot be done to stop what a host of listeners consider to be a public nuisance and a danger to the community.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for having withdrawn a Motion similar to this which was down for discussion at the beginning of February last. Since that date we have had the good fortune to receive the Report of the Broadcasting Committee presided over by Lord Ullswater. In that Report they make recommendations regarding advertising programmes given over services in this country and other countries of the world. It has invariably been the practice of successive Governments, and of the British Broadcasting Corporation, to look with disfavour upon anything approaching advertisements in this country or elsewhere. The recommendations in the Report are at present being considered by the Government, and I do not think it would be proper for me to give the noble Lord any information concerning their examination until such is made public. However, I can assure him that the very question which he has put down for discussion to-day is one of the matters under consideration. I hope that in those circumstances he will be satisfied with my reply, and will not press me to give further information at present.


I thank the noble Earl for his reply, and am quite satisfied.

House adjourned at twenty-five minutes before seven o'clock.