§ 3.50 p.m.
§ LORD BRABAZON OF TARA rose to move to resolve, That this House is of the opinion that before an extension be granted of the B.B.C. Charter, an investigation into the present development be held The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name. The Postmaster - General asked me whether I would postpone this Motion because he has a White Paper up his sleeve. I do not like being discourteous in any way to the Postmaster-General, but we have had a spate of White Papers that should be called pink. There is one troublesome thing about a White Paper: that once it is printed the policy therein becomes sacred and you never can change it. Consequently I thought it wise to have a debate upon this whole subject in the hope, although it may be a forlorn one, of modifying the White Paper, because we realize from our knowledge of the stable from which it is coming that it will probably be a very unsatisfactory document.
§ A lot of us here had the privilege of being alive during the whole development of wireless. I myself used to listen to the crackling of sparks before the last war and when the thermionic tube came in I well remember the tremendous excitement of receiving sound on the radio from 1174 nowhere the first time. To my mind it was, and still remains, the greatest conjuring trick of all time. I remember well the early days of the British Broadcasting Company (as it then was), when, transmission was going on and Mr. Eckersley was on all fours on the floor in a room with condensers, accumulators and resistances all over the place. That was really an exciting time of development. Over all of it there was the great figure of Lord Reith, who went on with the noble work and made his name a house-hold word throughout the world. I became President of the Radio Manufacturers' Association, although I was not in the trade. That was a matter of great interest to me and I loved all who took part in the early days of building up what to-day is a great industry. It is a very good rule in speaking in either House that you should early disclose any interest you have in the subject about which you are speaking, and I should like to confess—although I am very proud of it—that I am a Director of Electric and Musical Industries, Limited. I am not briefed—it is very difficult to brief me—and, for all I know, the board may disapprove very much of what I am going to say. But it is my funeral and I have no doubt I shall be able to look after myself.
§ In these days, when the Government is rather prone to run down private enterprise and yet relies entirely on it to maintain our finances and our exports, and when we are accused of doing nothing on the research side, I think it is well worth while to point out that the system of television as used today at Alexandra Palace, which is acknowledged to be the best in the world, is the product of E.M.I.; it is the product of Mr. Shoenberg and of his staff. I noticed the Postmaster-General, when reopening television at the Alexandra Palace the other day, paid no sort of tribute or thanks to the originators of this successful system. The general impression was that it all happened through the B.B.C. and the Post Office. That is not true. It is ten years since the Ullswater Committee reported, and the Charter is due to be reviewed. We hear from another place that the Government say there is to be no investigation at all. I suppose we shall have a second example this afternoon of a Minister saying nothing. We have had one, and due to this White Paper we shall have another. It is not the first 1175 time this has happened and I do not suppose it will be the last, but it is unsatisfactory to think that we shall not have a moving speech from my noble friend the Postmaster-General.
§ In this vast moving field of electronics we cannot stand still. I want to remind your Lordships of the fact that policy is dependent on technical possibilities and development. If it were not for the early researches on the corpuscular theory of electricity, if it had not been for the work of Crookes, of Thomson and of Hertz, we should never have had broadcasting as it is now carried on. Until you have explored the technical field you do not know what you can do. In business to-day any first-class firm would consider itself out of date if it did not have a thorough investigation into its organization at least every five years. Yet here the Government say the B.B.C. requires no reorganization or investigation. Is that a sort of shibboleth to be laid down, that Government services when they have no competitors need not be up to date? Are we to accept the idea of" Hands off the State; the State is automatically perfect"? That is a very dangerous thing.
§ I hope you will not think me an enemy of the B.B.C. Not at all. I am a great admirer of the B.B.C. There are, of course, some things one dislikes in broadcasting. Women's voices singing to hotted tunes, out of tune and out of time, is one of the things to which I object. How anybody gets paid for that sort of thing I never can understand. On the other hand, there are people who like it; and if people like it, it just discounts my criticism. One thing, however, during the war always made me hopping mad, and that was the quarter of an hour of Welsh. At a time when every moment of broadcasting was valuable, when people in Europe were risking their lives to hear every word, at that most important hour of eleven o'clock we had a quarter of an hour of Welsh. I do maintain that if people want to talk Welsh let them talk Welsh or any other language they like; but people who talk Welsh and only Welsh must be in bed by eleven o'clock.
§ It would be most ungenerous not to acknowledge the many hours of enjoyment given to us by the B.B.C. We have had great music and we have had other 1176 music less great but as enjoyable. We have had good entertainment, good humour and splendid discussions and talks, and the war record of the B.B.C. was nothing short of heroic. The way all those who loved freedom in Europe turned to the B.B.C. as the Mahomedan does to Mecca when nightly he sends up his prayers, was a remarkable thing. Here, indeed, was a lighthouse that shone through all the storms of Europe, giving succour and inspiration to the oppressed and hope for the future. Let us be fair. There is no station in the world more favoured than the B.B.C. I think we should be indeed scurvy if we did not all convey to those who ran the B.B.C. during the war our thanks and our gratitude for a job that was nobly and well done. There will, of course, be noble Lords and others who later will criticize programmes, very rightly, from various points of view. There is also the political aspect; both sides always think the other is getting undue prominence, but that has always gone on, and I do not intend to deal with it. I hope someone will raise the question of the new contributions from hearers, and say what worse programmes we should have got if we had kept to the former fees and what better ones we shall get now we have to pay the higher fee.
§ I want to confine myself to the possibilities of the future, and how they are going to fit in to this organization. During the war the whole field of electronics has advanced in a way hitherto not dreamed of, and it is with some of those possibilities that I would like to deal. They are perhaps possibilities of tomorrow, but in these days of intensive technical application, how soon is tomorrow to-day? First of all, one word on the subject of television, to which Lord Hankey's Committee made a really useful contribution. The Report of that Committee recommended the pre-war set-up, and it was criticized by many for not being imaginative enough. We must hasten slowly, but there is a lot to be done. There are vast areas which are unserved to-day; there are relay stations which have to be set up, we have to get colour, we have to get stereoscopy, and we have got to get more than 405 lines to the picture. I hope development will proceed on those lines, and we are grateful to Lord Hankey because not only did he make up his mind upon what was 1177 wanted, but he laid down, so to speak, a progress report of what has to be done in the way of development in the near future.
§ One thing I want to speak about is what is known as ultra-short wave transmission. This is nothing very new; it is the sort of thing you hear with television. It uses short-waves, but not remarkably short waves, which have what is called an optical range, a range of about 40 miles; after that they more or less fade out and are very difficult to pick up. I would like to ask what is the future for the development of that technique in various areas. For instance, there is no doubt that we want more local broadcasting. Manchester and Liverpool would very much like something which deals with their own wants and their own news and the other great cities of the west, such as Bristol, Birmingham and Glasgow, all have their local news which they would like to distribute. There is no reason at all why that should not be done with this new type of ultra-short wave transmission. Then, of course, with that type of broadcasting (which dies away in 40 miles, and which does not upset any other big station) there is the possibility of local authorities running their own broadcasting stations to deal with education locally. There is a great future along the lines of lecturing to all children directed from one office. However, if we are going to develop this sort of thing, there will be opposition. Just as the Air Ministry considers that all the land in this country is really to be used for aerodromes, so the Services always claim all the wave-lengths in the ether for themselves, and unless there is a strong recommendation from an important body such as a Select Committee or a Royal Commission, the Services will not give way quietly to the demands of the B.B.C.
§ There is another development which is known as frequency-modulation. As your Lordships know, at present the carrier wave is modulated, and that is known as amplitude modulation, but the new method, which varies the frequency, has certain advantages. First of all, it gives unrivalled selectivity; you can have several stations very near to one another, using the same wave-lengths, and you can pick out one from the other with great ease. It also has the advantage that you do not hear static, that is the ordinary local thunderstorm, and that you do not 1178 get interference from trams, trolley-buses, lifts, from the refrigerator next door, or that sort of thing. It is also extremely difficult to jam. Jamming, of course, was becoming quite an art during the war, and if we can stop jamming, it will be a decided advantage. I maintain that this new process wants attention and investigation because it may well be that a changeover to it will eventually come about, and I think it is a reflection on our present system that we have never heard of it here. When you have a monopoly you do not hear of the very latest things, because they do not come into use; that is the penalty of a monopoly. I do not say, of course, that the technicians do not know all about it, that is a different thing. In America there are already forty-five frequency modulation stations, there are already half-a-million receivers receiving upon that method, and we are told, that within about four years there will be no fewer than 500 stations sending out on frequency modulation. I think we should inquire into this thing to see its advantages and disadvantages, and to see what we can do to encourage new developments.
§ Now I want to say a word about sponsored stations. Your Lordships know, of course, that a sponsored station is one which derives its money not from the people who hear what is sent out but from advertisers who broadcast advertisements from it. In America, of course, that is done very extensively, sometimes clumsily and sometimes well. An example of doing it well is what is called "The Ford Hour," in which no mention of the firm of Ford's is made, but in which they try to get, and do get, the best talent in the land. Everybody listens to it, and the fact that it is the great Ford Hour gives Ford's the advertisement they want. I am not going to say there are not some very distressing examples of advertising in American broadcasting, because there are, and unless you are used to them you are sometimes quite shocked. But there it is; it may be annoying, and it may sometimes be done very well.
§ I want to make this quite clear to your Lordships, and I hope that nobody will take the point up with me afterwards. I maintain that it would be wrong to introduce advertisements into the great B.B.C. That, I think, would be a great mistake. The B.B.C. are paid for the services they give, and there is no reason at all why 1179 they should take advertisements. You may say, "That is fine, we are never going to have advertisements," but it is no use living in a fool's paradise. You may say that we are not going to broadcast any programmes with advertisements in them, but this is no longer an island from the point of view of broadcasting. There will be stations in Ireland, Belgium, France and Holland, pouring out advertising programmes, and how can you stop them? It is of no use to adopt the ridiculous attitude of saying that we are above advertisements, because we are going to have them in this country, and people are going to listen to them. You cannot stop them.
§ It seems to me to be a funny attitude to say that the people of England may listen to broadcast advertisements of American goods while British firms are refused a similar opportunity to advertise their own products. In America to-day £150,000,000 is spent on radio advertising, and although you may think that in this country there is no advertising by radio, in 1938 people in this country spent £1,50,000 of their money in broadcasting advertisements, not from English stations but from stations abroad, which were pouring their programmes into this country. The two can exist together to-day and they do exist together in Australia. In Australia there is the great State Corporation, financed by contributions from those who have receiving sets, and there are also what they call their "B" stations, which send out sponsored programmes. To listen to either you have got to pay your licence to the Corporation, and the Corporation should consequently have no grumble. But it does key up entertainment, it introduces rivalry and it gears the programme to a high pitch. I maintain that this is a possibility that once again merits close investigation. It has not been investigated or even talked about officially since the Sykes Committee, and a lot has happened since that time. There is another new device which has come in. When you go to bed, by attaching a device to your wireless set and leaving it on, you find in the morning a sheet of paper with the news printed thereon. That is a new development. We have not heard about it here because the B.B.C. cannot do anything new of that type, but I think it is something which needs investigating to see if it might be 1180 developed. I say it is ridiculous to stand pat and say that all is well and nothing new coming along.
§ Let us get this quite clear in our heads. There is first of all the opposition of the B.B.C. After all, they are a human body and nobody wants to be investigated. Their idea is "leave us alone." Like many Government Departments they of course would resent outside interference and probing into their affairs from busy-bodies like a Select Committee of both Houses of Parliament. One does not blame them very much. Then there is the great Post Office. They are quite horrified at any new technique coming in which might mess them about or clash with their pet schemes. The Post Office is a very go-ahead Department with a very fine technical side, and like all people of that type they think the ether belongs to them—they do not want the B.B.C. butting into it. Then let us not forget the great Services represented by the great Departments. They think, and always have thought, that all the wave-lengths belong to them on the basis of national security. Of course, that is great non-sense. It is no good thinking the B.B.C. can take on new developments and put on new programmes on new wave-lengths. Unless you get a recommendation from Parliament to tell them what is wanted you never get any satisfaction.
§ Finally we come to the very big objectors, that is the Press. Some sections of the Press think that they are going to lose advertisements through sponsored programmes. It may be true or it may not be true, but if they are going to lose them, they are going to lose them, never mind whether the programmes come from this country or abroad. I notice that in America some of the papers are wiser than that, and actually advertise upon the sponsored programmes. That seems to me the wise thing to do. Of course, you may take the attitude that you ignore the B.B.C. altogether. I notice that The Times does not give the television programmes. I can understand perhaps an illustrated paper refusing to give the television programme, but I am at a loss to understand why The Times refuses to do it, because it is not an illustrated paper. It may, of course, be contemplating amalgamation with the Daily Mirror.
§ This very extensive opposition exists and the only people who really want an 1181 inquiry are the poor British public and here in the House of Lords we are as usual representing the British public. The Government do not represent them—do not think that for one moment. You must remember that arty Government, whatever its colour, does not want any other stations in this country but the B.B.C., because they have at their disposal the colossal power of the only broadcasting stations in this country. Nowhere else in the world except Russia is there such colossal power vested in the Government to be used should they really want it. The Government to-day tell us that our future and our existence depend on' exports, and so I think the Board of Trade should help us to get this inquiry. If you want to sell, you must advertise. There is no machinery for us to advertise at all, yet all the machinery exists for other people to advertise in this country. Why should you bar the trade from the one selling weapon that jumps all national barriers? It is a very difficult thing to answer, and I am sure the Board of Trade will have very definite views along those lines.
§ There is of course the question of entertainment. Entertainment I think we should look upon as an industry. The Government take the view that the concentration of the cinema industry into one canal so to speak is bad, and they have always opposed it. They seem to have forgotten entirely that the B.B.C. is the only channel in which the entertainment world can express itself. We must remember that the B.B.C. cannot pay the prices which are demanded to get the great artists and they are going to drift across the world to America where they can get bigger money, just as all our film talent went across the sea and is going across the sea. That is not good. I think it is vital to the spread of the British way of life that the world should listen to its great humorists and to its great artists.
§ I hope I have shown in the few words I have addressed to your Lordships no animosity towards the B.B.C. I should like to see them refreshed and some other organization besides them set un in this country. But I cannot help saying this in conclusion to the Government. In these days of nationalization and the increase of State-owned corporations, the Government would be well advised to set 1182 up a Joint Committee.. If the Postmaster-General says, "I have no time to set up this Committee before the Charter ends,"-and he is going to grant an extension of the Charter for one year and set up a Committee in the meanwhile, that would be perfectly satisfactory. I am quite prepared to accept that, but if the Government refuse an inquiry what sort of interpretation will be put upon their action? Here is, one of the first great national corporations, the B.B.C. Instead of saying how much they wish to help such an organization to keep alive, virile and up to date, their policy is to allow it, in the words of the old song, to "go sailing along in the old way." Is this the way the mines are going to be run, in a spirit of perpetual self-satisfaction? Are the railways, when they are taken over, never to be investigated and refreshed with new ideas once they are handled with the clammy hands of the State? Here indeed is the test. Do the Government really and sincerely believe in the strong medicine of nationalization and public ownership? Do they really want them kept up to date by inquiry and improvement, or are the Government a lot of quacks who know that they are selling to the people a series of dud set-ups that will not stand up to investigation in any form? If they refuse this inquiry into the B.B.C. they will show the world this significant fact: that they have no confidence in their own policy and no trust in themselves. I beg to move.
§ Moved to resolve, That this House is of the opinion that before an extension be granted of the B.B.C. Charter, an investigation into present development be held.—(Lord Brabazon of Tara.)
§ 4.10 p.m.
§ LORD ELTON
My Lords, I am sure that we shall all be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, both for introducing this Motion and for the very exhilarating manner in which he has moved it. I believe that with the exception of the noble Viscount, Lord Ullswater—who, I fancy, is not with us this afternoon—I am the only surviving member of the Ullswater Committee of 1935, which examined the Corporation before the Charter was extended in that year. Also during the last ten years, as a fairly hardened broadcaster, I have had some opportunity of seeing the workings of the Corporation in a certain sense from within, 1183 and I should like, if I may, to say a few words in support of Lord Brabazon's plea to the Government to reconsider their decision, if it be a decision, to extend the Charter without any repetition of a public inquiry.
I am afraid that I am not able to follow the main thesis of the noble Lord, which I understood to be that recent scientific and technical developments make it eminently desirable that an inquiry should be held, for I know nothing whatever of scientific and technical developments. With regard to the scientific and technical aspects of broadcasting—or of anything else—I am afraid I am one of the primitives. I just press the button and, so far as I am concerned, the rest is mystery. But I should like to support the noble Lord from a somewhat different angle. I suppose that the decision of the Government to dispense with an inquiry may be taken to be a tribute to the efficiency and popularity of the B.B.C., and I may say at once that I have no doubt whatever that that tribute is well deserved. On the Ullswater Committee, in 1935, we went through the Corporation with a tooth-comb—its organization, its finances, its programmes, everything—and we found no trace whatever of any latent scandal or smouldering resentment such as the Press of that time were particularly ready to proclaim. We did not even find anything which seemed likely to develop into a scandal during the next ten years. The year 1935 was the zenith of the rule of Sir John Reith, as he then was, and his critics, as your Lordships may remember, were very ready to charge him with a dictatorial tendency in his conduct of the Corporation. I am very glad to have this opportunity of saying that the very voluminous evidence which was before us left us in no doubt that although the strongly marked personality of the Director-General undoubtedly pervaded the Corporation, it was quite clear that he left his subordinates every and ample scope for initiative and enterprise. In fact, I was left with a very strong impression that Sir John Reith was the ideal chief of a Corporation such as the B.B.C. in its initial and creative phase.
We were very apt to be told at that time, and we are very apt to be told to-day—Lord Brabazon of Tara has referred to it—that all would be well if 1184 there were not a bias in the programmes in favour of the wrong kind of politics and of the wrong kind of music. We had a great deal of evidence before us, and I think it seemed to all of us fairly clear that the complaints of those who held that there was too much favour shown to left-wing politicians, or jazz music, were just about equally balanced by the protests of those who were equally certain that all would be well but for the indulgence extended to right-wing politicians and classical music. On the whole, our general impression was undoubtedly that the most familiar criticisms of the Corporation had very little justification behind them. But, in a sense, on the Ullswater Committee we failed, I think, to see the wood for the trees. We examined almost every question except the great question, the fundamental question: Is a Government monopoly of broadcasting justified? We went meticulously through detail after detail, but we took for granted the principle that there should be a Government monopoly in what is after all—whether intentionally or not—primarily a factory of opinion.
It may be said that if we took that for granted then, there is all the more ground for taking it for granted now, when so many areas of industry are themselves passing under some form of Government monopoly. On the other hand, I think it might equally well be said that since the Corporation is the pattern to which the process of nationalization under the present Government is tending to conform, there would be a great deal to be said for having it publicly discussed at this moment. Although it is not for me to offer advice on such a matter to the Government, I cannot help feeling that it would be very sound strategy on their part, for I have no doubt whatever that as a pattern for the control of an industry, the corporation, as instanced by the B.B.C., would emerge with every credit from such an inquiry. On purely political considerations I should, therefore, be tempted, if I were a member of the Government, to welcome an inquiry into what is after all a most creditable specimen of the pattern to which their legislation is obviously going increasingly to conform.
Feeling that this fundamental issue was somewhat overlooked, or at least treated in a somewhat cavalier fashion by the Ullswater Committee, of which I had the honour to be a member, I have taken 1185 some interest in the following ten years in those considerations which have from time to time been advanced in favour of some degree of competition in broadcasting. Many of your Lordships will have noticed that these arguments have been very powerfully reinforced this morning by a letter from my old friend Sir Frederick Ogilvie, who was Director-General of the Corporation for some years during the war; a letter which appeared in The Times this morning and in which he pleads very cogently that there ought to be some sort of competition with the B.B.C. He says, very truly I think, that this is no question of the shortcomings or the triumphs of the B.B.C.; it is merely a question of whether there should be a monopoly in the things of the spirit and of the mind.
I do not intend to venture on the ground already covered by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, but I think that during the last ten years three main considerations have emerged in favour of breaking down the exclusive monopoly of the Government Corporation. First, during the war, there was an opportunity such as had not existed before, for large numbers of persons in this country to hear broadcasts from the competitive systems of the United States and of Canada. I am told that there was a very widespread impression that those broadcasts were of a much higher quality than those of the B.B.C. Serious broadcasts were more impressive; broadcasts which were intended to be funny, succeeded in being funnier. I am not competent to express an opinion of my own on that point. On the rare occasions when I listen to our own "Itma", I find that I understand one joke in three, and am amused by about one in six. On the much rarer occasions when I have heard American comic turns on the air, I have understood about one joke in ten, and for the greater part of the time I have not been quite certain what language was being spoken. But I am assured by those who should know that the broadcasts of commentators like Walter Lippman are incomparably better than anything we produce in this country.
I have no doubt that one of the main reasons for that, if it is so—and this is the second main consideration which seems to have emerged in the last ten years—is that under a competitive system enormously more generous fees are paid to the artists than are paid under our own monopoly. I 1186 believe it is true that a really successful serious broadcaster in the United States can make an income of five figures—in pounds. I do not suppose there is one making £500 a year in this country. The maximum fee paid for a serious broadcast of about a quarter of an hour or twenty minutes (which involves the writing of about 1,700 words, travelling perhaps twice to London and delivering the broadcast at the microphone), is somewhere about three-quarters of what could be earned by a reasonably well-known contributor, sitting in his study and writing about half that number of words for the popular Press.
Presumably the Programme Contracts Department of the B.B.C. is controlled by the general policy of the Corporation. Nevertheless, it has succeeded in giving to many of those who deal with it a strong impression of a certain niggling meanness in its treatment of broadcasters. I know of instances where an artist has had his contract cut by 10 to 15 per cent. without explanation. When protest has been made to the Department, the cut has been restored without comment. As we know, prices have gone up, and the cost of the licence to the listener has been doubled; but there have been virtually no increases in the fees paid by the B.B.C. to serious broadcasters. This means that there can be nothing resembling the professional broadcasting of the United States. What also contributes to that result, is what appears to be the declared, or at any rate the accepted, policy of the Corporation, that when a broadcaster has built up a fairly large popular following through some successful series of talks, he is almost invariably soon taken off the air and his series is discontinued.
The only exceptions I can think of to that are the original members of the Brains Trust team, who have continued to delight, or exasperate, their very numerous listeners for a great many years. It may be that this policy is wise. Possibly if Mr. Harold Nicholson or Mr. J. B. Priestley had been allowed to continue those highly individual broadcasts which won them at the time such immense popular followings there might have been some sort of political danger. Personally I do not think it particularly likely. But at any rate let us note that in the United States their broadcasts would certainly not have been discontinued because they were 1187 popular, for the competitive system is not afraid of popularity. If Mr. Nicholson or Mr. Priestley had been turned off by the B.B.C. and there had been competition available, they would have been not only encouraged, but lavishly bribed, to continue somewhere else.
All this means that there is no professionalism in the sense that there is professionalism under a competitive system. There is no one who broadcasts year in and year out, no one who can practise broadcasting as the art which it really is. And since there is no perfection in art without practice, no man can be a skilful broadcaster without practice, any more than he can be a skilful violinist without practice. The consequence is that our best is as much worse than the American best as an amateur violinist would be worse than a professional. I do not suggest that that amounts to an argument in favour of abandoning monopoly, although it may be a consideration which perhaps the Postmaster-General would be willing to bear in mind, in favour of an inquiry. What I am certain of is that there is a lot to be said for more generous treatment, inquiry or no inquiry, of the artists who provide the wares which the B.B.C. sells. In the Ullswater Report, I see we actually recommended, in Section 71, a more liberal treatment of creative artists. That is one of the few recommendations which the B.B.C. have entirely neglected. Now that the Government have arbitrarily doubled the cost of the licence—at a time when officially we are told that there is no such thing as inflation—I think there is a very strong case for spending a fraction of the added revenue on more generous treatment of those who, after all, provide the wares of which the B.B.C. dispose.
The third ground which I have against monopoly, and which seems to have emerged into greater prominence in the last ten years, although it is not new, is the claim that certain opinions are almost entirely excluded from the microphone. It is said that Communism and atheism are almost totally tabu. That suits me extremely well. I regard both as not only poisonous, but dreary creeds, and I have no desire to listen to their advocates. But when I remember a famous passage in Milton's Areopagitica, I find it a little difficult to prick the 1188 complacency of my American friends who point out that in their country no opinion is debarred from the microphone. Even the Radio Priest, they remind me, can have his brief period of popularity and power. One has to remember, after all, that one day there may be a Government disposed to bar from the air not Communism and atheism, but Christianity and democracy.
There can be no doubt that some element of competition on the air would be powerful in eliciting not only new artists but new ideas. My own view is that if there were an inquiry it could only redound to the credit of the Corporation within the field in which it operates. Officials of the B.B.C. are not bureaucrats. They are energetic, accessible and modest. The control of the Government is not becoming stricter. I see indeed that in the report of 1935 we actually speak of having a major Cabinet Minister responsible for broadcasting, answering questions in Parliament and possessing the right of vetoing programmes, whereas technical matters, we say, should be controlled by the Postmaster-General. I am very glad that that advice has not been followed. On the contrary, I understand the control of the Government has steadily relaxed, so that it is now rather difficult to get questions on the policy of the B.B.C. answered in Parliament. That is all to the good.
The real danger is the danger of every monopoly, that sooner or later it starts giving you not what you want but what it thinks is good for you. The B.B.C. has so far largely avoided that danger through an elaborate system of listener research. Incidentally, it would be very interesting to know whether some analogous method of sounding public opinion and meeting public wishes is planned for the other fields in which the Corporation is to be introduced. But of course research cannot indefinitely or always replace competition as a means of discovering what in fact the public wants. What therefore, I venture to urge on His Majesty's Government is that an inquiry will undoubtedly demonstrate the efficiency of the B.B.C. and implicitly, therefore, of the pattern to which their own process of nationalization is tending to conform. Will they not therefore recognize the subtle dangers which lurk in monopoly in this one sphere, the sphere of thought and ideas? I see that 1189 Mr. Attlee, the present Prime Minister, who was a Member of our Committee in 1935, said in a reservation dealing with the possibility of political emergencies:There is a point where it is difficult to decide whether the emergency is really that of the State or of the Government as representing the political Party in power.That, I think, is a very shrewd observation, and could be carried a good deal further. Will not the Government recognize the kindred dangers? They know that there is no real danger to the principle of the Corporation in an inquiry. They know it could only strengthen their case for the Corporation as a pattern for nationalization. Will they not therefore consider allowing a public inquiry to be held before monopoly in broadcasting is perpetuated, perhaps this time for ever?
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ LORD FOLEY
My Lords, I confess it is with certain trepidation that I address your Lordships for the first time. I hope that if I seem a little ill at ease you will bear with me. I should like to say one or two more words on that aspect of broadcasting—commercial broadcasting—which was dealt with so aptly by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon. There are one or two aspects of commercial broadcasting about which I believe your Lordships would like to hear. Before the war two stations alone, Radio Fécamp in Normandy and Radio Luxembourg, which were broadcasting mostly on Saturdays and Sundays, were responsible for capturing an enormous number of the B.B.C. public. I do not quite know to what extent or percentage this was, but I believe that as many as 70 or 80 per cent. of the people who normally listened to the B.B.C. on Saturdays and Sundays listened instead to Radio Luxembourg and Radio Fécamp. Surely it is of immense importance that so many people should listen to what, after all, was the very much despised commercial broadcasting? Because it was very much despised. People said: "How awful that when one has had a late night and perhaps dined too well, one should wake up, switch on the wireless and hear someone say, Do buy a can of pork and beans.' "That is rather a horrid thought, I admit. Certainly a great deal of commercial broadcasting was really awful, rather crude and unpleasant, but I do think it was an enormous and unprecedented 1190 success; ant. I do believe that now it will be an even bigger success.
Moreover, I feel that, apart from anything else, its financial aspect has to be considered very closely. For instance, Radio Luxembourg charged £400 an hour for time on the air, and I believe that a large number of British firms are prepared to pay that amount. That money will go out of England, and not only into the firms who own the stations, which might be partially British; 50 per cent. or 75 per cent., I believe, will go to foreign Governments. I believe that 75 per cent. was the amount that the respective Governments charged on the takings from Radio Luxembourg and Radio Fécamp. Surely it is very serious, when so many firms are clamouring for their wares to be advertised on the air, that so much money should go to foreign Governments. Not only would foreign Governments be involved, with their stations in France, in Iceland and in Ireland, but any person who cares to broadcast from a ship towed outside the three-mile limit of British territorial waters is, I believe, legally entitled to broadcast. Therefore the possibilities are enormous, and whether the, British Government sanction commercial broadcasting or riot, commercial broadcasting will certainly take place. How much better it would be, therefore, that it should take place legally and properly, so that the money paid by these firms—and they are in a position to pay for the very cream of the artistic world—should come to Great Britain, and that the British Government and the British nation should benefit.
I heartily agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, whet he said that the B.B.C. would be all the better for the competition caused by commercial broadcasting. The fact that commercial broadcasting stations can afford to pay, and do pay, to their artists high fees, should be a great incentive to the B.B.C. to raise their standard of artists by increasing the pay, because the pay for B.B.C. artists has been very bad. Many artists of the much-despised category that Lord Brabazon mentioned—crooners and lady singers who sing out of tune, and so on—would not be singing on the B.B.C. if it were not for the money they make "on the side", which is paid to them by music publishers and others. It is a strictly illegal practice, but it goes on a great deal, and you cannot blame the artists for 1191 accepting it. They have to live, and after all they get very little pay from the B.B.C., whereas they will get very high pay from commercial broadcasting stations. I feel, therefore, that the Government would be wise to sanction commercial broadcasting and make it not only part of British life but also something which is recognized and accepted.
§ 4.39 p.m.
§ LORD TWEEDSMUIR
My Lords, I know that your Lordships would wish me, on your behalf, to congratulate the noble Lord who has just sat down on an extremely well-considered and helpful contribution to the debate. I hope that we shall often hear him again. There are a certain number of institutions in this country which by their nature are unique. Most of them have been hammered into their present pattern by the passing years, but the B.B.C. is a unique twentieth century mushroom growth. Between 1927 and 1936, if the value of the B.B.C. assets can be taken as a guide, it multiplied its size twenty-fold. In the year 1938, the year before the war and the last year in which an annual report and accounts were issued, its revenue for the year was £3,800,000. So in a very few years, from a comparatively humble start, the British Broadcasting Company, whose beginnings Lord Brabazon outlined in detail, has grown to be an extremely powerful force.
During the war, when it had a glorious record, it fulfilled a rôle which is really far outside its normal scope. It has now reverted to peace, and it is one of the most potent forces in our national life. I think it is not too much to say that it provides first-class news and third-class entertainment. The pros and cons for the B.B.C. in its present form, as I see them and very briefly, are that it gives the most respected news service in the world; that its war record was glorious, and that millions of hapless people in countries over-run by the enemy, from listening to the B.B.C., maintained that spark of hope when all hope would otherwise seem to have been extinct. There is a third point. I think the B.B.C. has remained, in spite of certain lapses, remarkably impartial, which is no easy thing to do. To turn to the much more popular platform of criticising it, one finds that it is, after all, a monopoly in a 1192 country which hates monopolies. It raises by the licence tax vast sums of money, which it spends, one might say, in a manner far removed from the scrutiny of the public or even of Parliament. It has just doubled the licence fee and no reason has been given. It has the vices that are inherent in all monopolies, and they will come out in the long run. The first is an arbitrary attitude towards the public, and the second is that with the lack of competition a monopoly eventually sells to the public an inferior product.
The noble Lord, Lord Elton, has said, and also the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, before him, that whatever an investigation of the B.B.C. did, it could not possibly do harm. I call upon His Majesty's Government to tell us whether or not they will give sympathetic consideration to the appointment of a Joint Select Committee of both Houses, to examine and review the B.B.C. Charter before it is renewed at the end of this year. As I think both Lord Foley and Lord Elton said, so far as broadcasting goes England is no longer an island, and from the present nature of the B.B.C. it is bound to fall behind in the race. A Joint Select Committee, if it were set up to examine the present functioning of the B.B.C. and all the possible alternatives, would then be able to look round the world and examine the different patterns, country by country.
It will find at one end of the scale, in totalitarian countries, a Government-owned, Government-run radio service. Those who sigh for that particular form of paradise in this country are happily very few. The antithesis of that is the American system, where all is private enterprise, though not, I sometimes suspect, as free as it looks. But although their news is far inferior to ours, by virtue of competition and the much higher prices they can pay they are able to get a far higher standard of individual talent in entertainers. Then there are countries like Canada, New Zealand and Australia who come between the two; part of the time on the air is Government property and part is that of private enterprise. If we study those systems there must be certain points which we can learn and which will redound to our benefit.
To those of us who sit on these Benches a monopoly is wholly repugnant, and that goes for State monopoly as well as 1193 others. It has, as I have said, these inherent vices: an arbitrary attitude to the people and the inevitable result of a second-class product being foisted on the public. If we are to have the B.B.C. constituted as it is now, there must be two absolutely certain safeguards. One is that it comes before the public for review at least every seven years when the Charter is renewed, so that the public may have a chance to see how it works and how it has developed, and at the same time to criticize; and also, for the first time, so that the staff and officials of the B.B.C. can be given an opportunity to answer some of the criticism which is thrown at them, to which they normally have no right of reply and no channel of reply. Secondly, by the present Charter the Director-General and the Governors quite necessarily have a good deal of power. It is impossible in any form of words in a Charter or Statute to make absolutely certain that the right man is always picked. I do not, for a moment, criticize those who have held those jobs —in the main I think they have done extremely well—but I believe most noble Lords will agree with me when I say that in picking the Director-General and Governor of the B.B.C., as much discretion is required as is employed in choosing a Judge of the King's Bench.
To sum up, there are really four things we want in broadcasting in this country. One is news which is issued accurately without bias; one is good light entertainment; and one is a very much higher standard of cultural entertainment than we are getting at the moment. The most important thing of all, however, is that we want to keep it entirely non-political. It should never become a platform for Ministers of the Government in power at any time, or worse still, a kind of Kilkenny Fair with partisans of both sides slanging each other. I hope the noble Lord who replies to the debate will tell us that the Government have revised their previous attitude and are prepared to consider an independent inquiry which, whatever it did, could not possibly do any harm. If an inquiry is not held, it may leave a state of affairs where we have a repugnant monopoly, while at the same time England will fall behind the rest of the world in the whole art of broadcasting.
§ 4.59 p.m.
§ LORD CALVERLEY
My Lords, I intervene in the debate because I am what 1194 is called a very ordinary listener. I have listened with great respect to my noble friend, Lord Brabazon, and with all the more respect because he is not an ordinary listener; he is not ordinary in any way, he is extraordinary. Listening to the debate I find from previous speakers, including Lord Elton who actually was on the Ullswater Committee ten years ago, that so far as the B.B.C. is concerned they have had more bouquets than brickbats to offer this afternoon. Noble Lords in taking that attitude might encourage the Director-General and his Governors of the B.B.C. to become addicted to that dreadful habit of self-complacency. Lord Brabazon mentioned the sponsored programme and in particular he mentioned Ford's. The American broadcasters were simply copying what was done in this country, to my knowledge, twenty-three years ago.
We have had the privilege of having with us this afternoon a man who, by his self-sacrifice and his industry, helped to make the B.B.C., and in order to make certain of my facts, went to him and said "I think I remember listening to sponsored programmes orgy the B.B.C. Am I right?" He said "Certainly, we had sponsored programmes: we started 23 years ago." There is no reason in the world why we should not have sponsored programmes now, especially if we can have additional wave-lengths. I agree entirely with Lord Brabazon when he condemns the crudities of the American broadcasts, and I certainly should be horrified if I could obtain the consent of the B.B.C. to advertise on their programmes, say, Calverley's Cough Cure, somebody's bunion cute or something like that. We do not want that.
In paying my tribute to the B.B.C., perhaps I may say that I hope the Governors and the Director-General are not going to suffer from a lack of imagination or get into a rut; and there is, I think, a danger of that, so far as my observations go. I am a listening "fan." I enjoy listening to a prize fight, I enjoy listening to the children's hour, and I have listened on many occasions to "Just William." I am doing a little "plugging" now for these people, but a lot of "plugging" takes place in the B.B.C., especially in dance music, and I wish it could be stopped. I can enjoy community singing. I think one of the great features of the B.B.C. is 1195 that programme at four o'clock which is of great help to women, when they can enjoy, be encouraged by and sympathise with the vicissitudes and victories of the Robinson family. There is a lot that we can be proud of.
Only yesterday the News Chronicle published the results of a sort of Gallup Poll. It appears to me that the B.B.C. is under the constant spotlight of criticism, and that is as it should be. Lord Brabazon asked that we should be given a Royal Commission. At any rate, he mentioned a Royal Commission, although I agree he amended his recommendation a moment or two later by saying "Let us have a Select Committee." I hope we shall be delivered from a Royal Commission, which might report in two or three years. The point I am emphasizing is that the B.B.C. cannot be too complacent when it receives the amount of criticism it does receive. I have only written to it myself two or three times, and on each occasion they ticked me off, and quite rightly so. The Corporation is under constant criticism, and long may that continue.
At the same time I do not rule out the possibility of there being a sponsored programme. Lord Brabazon mentioned Henry Ford's Hour, at the beginning of which it is said "This is Henry Ford's programme," that being the only mention of the name of Ford in the programme. I read with interest what the ex-Director-General had to say this morning in The Times, but he has nothing really constructive to offer, and neither has Lord Brabazon, for I cannot believe that there is no research going on in the B.B.C. I pay my tribute in passing to the man who passed away only last week, Mr. Baird. He sowed and others have reaped, and I am hoping that in the course of the next few months, or perhaps it may be longer, we shall see the fruits of that research which has been going on in what we call television. I am certain that the B.B.C. is going to continue with it, because we are going to make them do so. Lord Brabazon said that we were going to have a White Paper—he called it a pink paper. I do not know what colour it is going to be, but I shall read it with interest. His Majesty's Government—and this applies to all governments 1196 —cannot, and will not, be permitted to allow the B.B.C. to deteriorate; it will be told to have imagination.
Take the Brains Trust, which has, I think, deteriorated. I could suggest a better Brains Trust myself; I would suggest the noble Lords, Lord Pakenham, Lord Lindsay and Lord Cherwell, and the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton. The ideal question master would, of course, be myself—perhaps. With regard to entertainment, I agree that it has deteriorated. It is no good trying to be high-brow, and to denounce jazz music. If we are to have crooners, let them be real crooners. When I have been able to listen to the greatest of the American crooners, I have been able to gain a certain amount of enjoyment from it. You have got to cater for the ordinary listener who loves a crooner, a real one, but the B.B.C. has debased music by employing some people who are called crooners and whose contribution consists of making discordant noises with their mouths, accompanied by equally discordant bands. Lord Elton said that certain of the bands, such as those of jack Payne and Henry Hall, had left the B.B.C., but they left simply because the B.B.C. made them leave, as they have made many artistes leave. They are not sacked, and perhaps we could do with a little sacking sometimes. Lord Elton mentioned "Itma," and perhaps I may say in passing that I have a great regard for a lady I have never seen, Miss Hotchkiss.
I enjoy, also, the Saturday Night Theatre, as many others do. I would advocate the abolition—this is my own personal aversion—of the series called "Appointment with Fear" which is bad psychology when there is so much fear about in these days, even after the war. Then we have third-rate comedians, and when they say that what they have received as their fee is five shillings, then I say that is about as much as some of them are worth. I wish the B.B.C. would sack them, and spend more money on getting good comedians. I am glad that has been mentioned, because the B.B.C. is somewhat mean and niggly in its payments to some of these people who broadcast for us. Now that we are to pay double the amount for our licences, we should see to it that no Chancellor of the Exchequer comes along to rob the hen-roost and to take away what is given 1197 to the B.B.C. for the use of the B.B.C. Any contributions should be spent by the B.B.C. on programmes, and also on research. There is no suggestion that the B.B.C. should be abolished. Even Lord Brabazon could not expect this Government to agree to the abolition of the B.B.C., and I am certain that that will not be done.
What we want is some competition in ideas and imagination, and in ideals as well, because there are many people who find great comfort in the 10.15 a.m. service. Our wives receive great consolation from those services, as some of us do if we get up and listen to the programme about five minutes to eight in the morning. Some people despise community singing, but that is a feature for which I wish personally to thank the B.B.C. I thank the B.B.C. myself for the man who is in charge of the Children's Hour. His "Goodnight children, everywhere" is to me like a benediction. So if could go on. We have got to make every foreign country including America agree that our broadcasting service is the best so far in the world but we have got to make it even better. It is the duty of His Majesty's Government through Parliament, being trustees for the B.B.C., to see that the B.B.C. is not only kept up to that pitch of perfection but brought to a higher state of perfection in the future.
§ 5.12 p.m.
My Lords, the debate has struggled its way rather far from the original terms of the Motion, an investigation into present development, and I feel it is important that that should be very much borne in mind. Development in all things is something that is stimulated in every way by competition. The B.B.C. until the beginning of the war held a complete monopoly. I believe they hold a complete monopoly again now. I think it is worth remembering that during the war their monopoly was by no means complete. The most powerful and the most efficient broadcasting station in this country during the war was not run by the B.B.C., but was run by the Government, and it was in no way under B.B.C. control. It is also worth bearing in mind that that station, which was put up by engineers and run by engineers who had no connexion with the B.B.C. at all, was able to do things which the B.B.C. engineers had announced in advance were impossible. That station 1198 reached a pitch of efficiency and set an example of what could be done in wireless which the B.B.C. would never have set. In the days to come, if this country is going to set an example to the world, it is essential that it should do it over the air. You will not do it if you only have one station under one control, because your technical efficiency will drop behind.
I am afraid I cannot agree with the noble Lord, Lord Calverley, that the B.B.C. is the most efficient broadcasting corporation in the word. I will give him two instances in which they lag badly behind even private corporations on the Continent. Their reproduction of gramophone records is frankly paralytic corn-pared with that of other nations. If you take a gramophone record programme of the B.B.C. and compare it with a gramophone record programme coming out of Germany, Holland, France, America or anywhere you like, there is just no comparison at all. Again, on their relayed programmes. The other day the Viceroy of India was broadcasting from Delhi. I started to listen to him on the B.B.C. relay. I switched to the direct transmission on another wireless set so as to compare the two. When you listened to the direct transmission and you listened to the B.B.C. relay you realized how technically faulty the B.B.C. were in that relay.
It is only by competition that we can hope to keep a lead in the world in wireless matters. It was competition with Baird and others that gave us the lead in television. If it had not been for the war I do not know where we would not have got to in that direction. If we are going to remain with one broadcasting corporation which has no spur driving it along to increased technical efficiency and keeping up with every modern development, then I believe we shall gradually drop behind in our technical efficiency in wireless, which will mean that in the field of advertising our goods, in the publication of our news and in everything that we want to put across, we shall drop behind. I believe an inquiry and investigation is very essential, but I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon when he suggests that it is necessary to renew the Charter and give the investigating people a year in which to make their investigation. Do not try and rush that. Give a 1199 temporary renewal of the Charter, but have your investigation.
§ 5.20 p.m.
My Lords, at this late hour I will only keep you a few minutes, but there are one or two points which I feel should be elaborated. I should like to associate myself with Lord Brabazon's statement of his admiration for the B.B.C. I think they have done an excellent job of work, and so have many other people. Now some people of certain age, and some machines become out of date and have to be overhauled and re-inspected. I believe the time has come when we must overhaul and re-inspect the whole of this system. I am not a technician, so I cannot speak of matters in that line, but with regard to the programmes, having been in America for nearly a year and having heard the broadcasts there, I feel that we should think very seriously about the subject of sponsored radio. I do not believe in this new idea which has gained ground since the war that we are going to be able to sell our goods just by sending them abroad with "Made in England" marked upon them. I am sure that in this connexion we are rather apt to overlook the true position. We think that that inscription is a sort of password to the world. In this last war, propaganda was undoubtedly a great success. Propaganda in war is advertising in peace-time. I feel convinced that we must have this inquiry which is now being asked for, and that this question of sponsored radio must be considered very carefully indeed.
My Lords, may I, before I forget to do so, join in paying the customary tribute to my noble friend Lord Foley on his maiden speech which had amongst its other qualities those, in my view, tremendously important virtues of brevity and speed. In both respects I will try to emulate the example which the noble Lord has given. I think there can be no doubt in the minds of anyone who has listened to this debate that the noble Lord who moved the Resolution has made his point and that an investigation into the B.B.C. is called for. It is, of course, a very popular Aunt Sally, and one could spend a long time abusing it, but I do not think there is much to be gained to-day by that sort of thing. I think that it is the common opinion of 1200 most people out of the infants' class that the B.B.C. is on a level of mediocrity which few British institutions have succeeded in attaining. The only possible competitor I can think of is my noble friend's other headache, the telephone. So far as that is concerned everyone has given it up, and those who want to convey a message now walk or take a taxi.
Now to turn to more serious matters. When one goes to the cinema one reads the boast of the newsreel, I forget which one it is, it may be the Gaumont-British or the Pathé-Phone, that it is the eyes and cars of the world. Well, the British Broadcasting Corporation ought to be, but, of course, most certainly is not, the voice of the world. It is most important that everything that goes out over the B.B.C. network to the world should be of the very first order, instead of being about the fifth-rate tripe that is regularly turned out for eighteen hours a day. One point I would ask the noble Earl who is going to reply to deal with is this: what control, if any, he exercises, and if he does exercise control how he exercises it on the foreign broadcasts from this country. Important as they were during the war these foreign broadcasts are now immeasurably more important. Take for a moment the matter of our old friend the Mufti of Jerusalem. It may seem that this is a little far removed from the subject which we are debating this afternoon but I shall hope to show in a little while that really it is not.
Is the B.B.C. foreign service—of which I, personally, know absolutely nothing—taking the greatest possible care to see that it is being pumped daily and nightly into the ears of Arabs, Jews, Levantines and Syrians what a wicked old scoundrel this man really is, and that it is due entirely—I presume that this is so, again I do not know—to French ineptitude, with perhaps American connivance, and the weakness and vacillation of our own present Government that he has not been apprehended and brought to book long ago. He has been a wicked enemy of this country for years as we all know, and now he has taken refuge with King Farouk. Only three weeks have elapsed since we discussed this matter in your Lordships' House. I referred then to what the Egyptians were doing. Now after an interval of three weeks they have given this man shelter. For this apparent digression—though, as I say, it is not 1201 really a digression—I apologize to your Lordships. But I want to make it clear that I do regard the foreign broadcasts of the B.B.C. as being vitally important. I hope that the noble Earl when he replies will be able to give some assurance either on behalf of his own department or the Foreign Office or both—after all he is a member of the Government and must accept responsibility—that they are being attended to and properly attended to, and that people in the Middle East are left in no doubt as to the type of gentleman that the Mufti really is.
As regards the B.B.C. itself, to my mind it is in much the same category as the B.O.A.C., that is to say it could be greatly improved by an infusion of fresh blood from outside, I do not much care whether on the technical or administrative side or in the matter of the actual speakers themselves. But no matter what department one takes, all could be greatly improved by having first-class people speaking, and in this connexion I must say that I agree fully with what Lord Elton has said about fees. They should be raised considerably. Anyone who heard Mr. Menuhin at the Albert Hall on Sunday afternoon or saw Mr. Richards ride at Ascot last week will know what I mean. Each of these two men, in his own particular sphere, is an expert. That is what is required at the B.B.C. People in the B.B.C. should be men—or women if you like—well known in their own walks of life, people whose views will command respect. The entertainers who are responsible for the entertainments should be people at the top of their profession. I do not want to hear the views on life of some gentleman who plays a cinema organ, and while I am quite prepared to admit that, this being a free country, people can go to watch a cricket match for three days, I do not want to hear it described at length on the radio. I do not want to have to listen to long cricket reports.
The trouble with the B.B.C. is that if you don't want to listen to cricket, there is probably no alternative or only one alternative at most. On matters of religious belief I do not want to hear the views of some tame cleric at Broadcasting House. I want to hear the Archbishop of Canterbury, Cardinal Griffin or the Chief Rabbi if you like, or someone else holding an acknowledged leading position in his own particular communion. One could 1202 go on ad infinitum suggesting improvements of this kind that the B.B.C. might well introduce to the immense benefit of the general public. Again, I do not think sight should be lost of the fact that the B.B.C. is not a private concern; it is a Government-controlled monopoly for which we pay, and we are now paying £1 instead of 10s. I think we ought to have considerably more to show for it than we have had up to date.
The noble Lord, Lord Sempill, who was unable to remain for the end of the debate, has asked me to put to your Lordships two points which perhaps the noble Earl will deal with specifically in replying. I claim no credit for mentioning them, although I cannot put on my noble friend the responsibility for my wording. The first of the points concerns monitoring. Perhaps the noble Earl who is to reply will tell us whether monitoring is still going on, because it was a very valuable and important service, and there are many reasons why it should be continued. The second point, which commends itself to me and might well do so to the general public and to some of your Lordships, is that it should be possible for a vast organization like the B.B.C. to have a twenty four-hour service. It would only call for shifts, and there are many people who, owing to illness or through having to work through the night, could do with music or some light entertainment in the small hours. That is a small point to which the attention of the B.B.C. might well be invited.
The question of monopoly and sponsored stations is really one for people with inside knowledge of the subject, and I do not presume to speak with that. Several noble Lords have held forth on this subject, but it is completely covered by the very high authority and the considerable experience of Sir Frederick Ogilvie, retired ex-Director General of the B.B.C. in his letter in The Times to-day, when he says that this monopoly is all wrong. He indicates why it is wrong, and points out that monopoly and freedom are mutually exclusive—as, of course, they are. In a free country there must be a choice. We have no choice. We have to take our indifferent "medicine" that is handed out to us by the B.B.C., whether we like it or not. There must be more stations, brighter programmes and higher fees. These matters 1203 can only be attended to by an open, vigorous public inquiry; and the sooner that inquiry is held, the better. The Government can give no reason for refusing an inquiry—if they do refuse it—except that they are afraid of it, and, as has already been suggested this afternoon, that they recognize that the B.B.C. is at the present time a very useful Government-controlled machine.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
My Lords, I should like to add a very few words of support for the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon. It would be quite the normal course for an inquiry to be held at intervals of years into a great national institution such as the B.B.C. There has been no such inquiry for ten years, which is a very long time in the life of an infant institution such as the British Broadcasting Corporation. It should be a rapidly developing and growing institution. Your Lordships' House are not being asked here and now to express any opinion of whether the monopoly should be maintained, or whether it should be abandoned. We may hold one view or the other. For my part, I do not feel that I have sufficient information, or that I am sufficiently aware of the facts, to arrive at any opinion on that point. It is for that reason that I would press for an inquiry, in order that both Houses of Parliament, and the public, should receive full information as to what the situation is, and what future alternatives may be.
There is one other point which I think has not yet been mentioned—that is, the question how far it is legitimate for the Treasury to take so large a part of the receipts of the B.B.C. Is the sum taken a proper and legitimate charge for the services rendered to the B.B.C. by the Post Office or other Government Department, or is it in the nature of taxation? And if it is in the nature of taxation, is it a desirable form of taxation? These, and other points, are to a large extent political, and therefore I am inclined to think that the form of inquiry suggested in the Motion now before us, namely, a Joint Select Committee of both Houses, is probably the right form, and better than a Departmental Committee or a Royal Commission.
In my earlier years in the House of Commons, the appointment of Select 1204 Committees of inquiry was a very frequently adopted practice. Every session each House used to appoint two or three committees, on which members of all Parties were represented, to inquire into various subjects. Sometimes we had Joint Select Committees. That practice seems to have fallen to a great extent into disuse. It might well be revived. It is a useful form of inquiry. The conclusions reached, as one might expect, were always sensible. They were not always acted upon immediately, but sooner or later they had their effect. These committees also provided useful training for members of both Houses in their legislative business, and this would seem a suitable occasion to set up a tribunal of that kind.
To do so would not necessarily imply censure on the B.B.C., nor would it suggest a foregone conclusion on the question of monopoly. The report of such a committee might be to the effect that the present system should be maintained. Minor suggestions might be made, but they would not necessarily be of fundamental importance. That would depend on the judgment formed on the evidence presented. For my part, I do not think that the holding of such an inquiry could do any harm; it might do good. The only disadvantage would be some delay before the Charter of the B.B.C. was renewed. If a few months' delay in renewing that Charter were necessary, no doubt that could be effected without difficulty, and by general consent. For all these reasons I trust that the Government may see their way to accept my noble friend's Resolution.
§ 5.37 p.m.
My Lords, we have had a very full discussion on this extremely important subject, and I do not wish to keep the House long. But as the debate is drawing to an end, I would like to add one word in support of the Motion. I think it will be generally agreed that this has been a valuable debate, and that it has been a constructive debate. It has not been acrimonious, and there has been no witch-hunt of the B.B.C., as there might have been. As the noble Lord, Lord Calverley said, there have been as many bouquets as brickbats. The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, in his brilliant opening speech, was often trenchant—as he usually is— but was quite unbiased. He reviewed the position objectively, and I think that we 1205 were all moved by the very eloquent tribute which he paid to the work of the B.B.C. during the war. It was a richly deserved tribute.
Like other noble Lords, I suppose, listening to this debate, I have been driven to certain broad conclusions. The first is that the B.B.C. is an extremely well-conducted organization in accord with the highest traditions of this country, an eminently respectable institution. Secondly, we gather that it is not entirely up to date. I am not an expert on the technical side of broadcasting, but I understood from what the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, said that there were certain inventions which are already being practically applied in the United States but which, so far as we know, have not even been considered here. The third conclusion we can draw is that programmes have not quite so high a standard in some respects here as sponsored and other programmes in other countries. A fourth conclusion, perhaps more controversial, is that these last two shortcomings are largely due to the monopoly enjoyed by the B.B.C.
There is really—although I know this will perhaps seem heresy to noble Lords opposite—nothing like healthy competition to keep people up to the mark. I remember, as we all remember, Radio Normandy before the war. The B.B.C. hated Radio Normandy. They made effort after effort to get it suppressed. But actually that station gave extremely good light programmes, and a large number of people derived great enjoyment from them. Moreover, I think the existence of Radio Normandy did exercise a constantly stimulating effect on the B.B.C. They did not like it, but they always had the feeling that there was this other programme coming over the air, and that they had to compete with it. I think that did them good. No doubt that position will arise again. As the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, said, stations of a similar kind will be set up in other countries. Possibly the B.B.C. will try to prevent sponsored programmes here. If they do, it will be an ostrich-like policy on their part, and I hope neither the Government nor anybody else will give them support. The B.B.C. is going to have this competition from abroad. Why should we not be allowed to have a similar system of broadcasting for ourselves? That would be a form of protection of which 1206 the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, would not approve, and I feel the same. We may in fact maintain a monopoly in this country by adopting an ostrich-like policy, but it will be an ineffective monopoly, and we shall get the worst of all worlds.
There is one other reason of some importance why I believe that it is desirable that a monopoly by the B.B.C. should be abolished. It would help to get over the real difficulties connected with political broadcasting. Several speakers to-day, and certainly many writers in the Press, have stressed the extreme delicacy of the position which is created by the political power of broadcasting. I think we all recognize how tremendous that power is. By means of the radio it is possible for a political protagonist to make his voice heard in every home and to talk to every individual citizen at his own fireside, a thing never known before. It is often pointed out that the main difficulty with regard to this problem—which is a very real one—is to ensure that this terrific power should be apportioned evenly among the various Parties. It is a real difficulty. So far as I understand their argument, those who favour the continuation of monoply in broadcasting urge that a correct balance can only be secured by a severe limitation of the expression of political opinion over the radio. At Election time of course there is a sort of ration system. So many half-hour periods are given to the leaders of the various political Parties. In between elections I think that political leaders, at any rate—if not also political thinkers—are not encouraged to speak at all on controversial questions. They are very much discouraged by the governing body of the B.B.C.
As a result there is, between elections, so far as the radio is concerned, an almost complete black-out of speeches by leaders of political thought or leaders of political Parties in this country. Even so, the danger is not entirely averted. The other day I was listening to a speech by a Minister, the Minister of Food, who was just leaving for the United States, and certainly in listening to him—I speak as a Conservative—I thought that, in a talk on a rather technical subject he managed to sandwich in quite skilfully a considerable amount of Party propaganda. I have no doubt that noble Lords could quote similar examples on the other side. Probably 1207 instances of that kind are not wholly avoidable under a monopoly system. The balance is so delicate that it cannot always be entirely preserved. But this, I suggest, is only true under a monopoly system. Were there two or three private networks—I believe that is the proper technical term—it would be open to representatives of every shade of political thought to find a rostrum from which they could speak. There would be complete freedom of speech or a much greater freedom of speech than there is at present.
This is a point which was made with considerable force in a letter in The Times by Sir Frederick Ogilvie who not only is a man noted for his great breadth of outlook, but also speaks with special authority as a past head of the B.B.C. It seems to me that the more political discussion we have and the more encouragement given to the people of this country to think for themselves, the better for everybody. That is just the sort of fundamental aspect which a Select Committee should consider, and I submit that it certainly should be considered before any new charter is granted and before the monopoly of the B.B.C. is renewed.
This Motion, as your Lordships know, only asks for an inquiry. It is not a very far-reaching Motion. That is all it asks for. It does not tie the Government to accept the conclusions of that inquiry. They must ultimately take their own responsibility. It only asks that the facts should be sifted out and a report made. I have not seen the White Paper. None of us have seen the White Paper. We do not know what it contains. But however well balanced and intelligent it may be, it does not seem to me that it can obviate the necessity for an inquiry of the kind for which the Motion asks, and I hope most sincerely that the noble Earl, when he replies, will be able to agree in principle that some such inquiry shall take place.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ THE POSTMASTER-GENERAL (THE EARL OF LISTOWEL)
My Lords, I am sure that your Lordships would wish me to begin by adding my congratulations to those which have already been offered to the noble Lord, Lord Foley, on his interesting and thoughtful maiden speech, which was rendered all the more acceptable 1208 by its exemplary brevity. I feel certain that, having made such a successful debut, we shall all be disappointed if he does not speak on many occasions in future. He emphasised very rightly the dangers of commercial broadcasts to this country from foreign stations. I can assure him that the Government are acutely aware of this unpleasant problem, and we shall do all in our power to protect home listeners from those broadcasts. Perhaps your Lordships will allow me to answer the next two questions asked by the noble Lord, Lord Morris, as they are still fresh in my mind. He asked about the responsibility for foreign broadcasts. Foreign broadcasts, like other programmes of the B.B.C., are a B.B.C. responsibility in which the Government does not wish to interfere. Of course, matters of policy arising out of such broadcasts would be dealt with, in the ordinary course of events, by the Foreign Office. The noble Lord also asked about the monitoring service which, of course, was very considerably developed during the war. This service has been considerably reduced since the end of the war, as it was no longer necessary on such a large scale, but it has been retained and will be continued as a valuable source of information and news from abroad.
The noble Lord who has moved this Resolution will not expect me to make any fresh statement this afternoon about Government policy in relation to the B.B.C. He was good enough to make that perfectly clear in his speech. When I saw this Resolution placed on the Order Paper for to-day I asked the noble Lord if he would be good enough to postpone it to a later date—a fact he also mentioned—for the reason that the whole question of broadcasting policy is now under consideration and review by the Government. This obviously makes it impossible for me at the present juncture to add anything to previous Ministerial statements on the subject.
I was also anxious, in this vain effort to deter the noble Lord, that the House should have an opportunity for a full debate on the future of the B.B.C. There are several noble Lords, some of whom have already spoken and others who have not spoken, with much experience, whose advice or criticism would be most welcome as soon as the Government is in a position to submit their proposals to Parliament. But the noble Lord decided, as 1209 indeed he was perfectly entitled to do—and I think he has been justified by the results—that the Government ought to have the benefit of his views without even a short delay. I can assure him and other noble Lords who have spoken in the debate this afternoon that I and my colleagues in the Government will consider what they have said with the utmost care, and give due weight to their opinions in arriving at decisions of policy about the future of the B.B.C. I should like to associate myself with what the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition said about the value of this debate. I do agree with him that the whole tone has been constructive and instructive.
My right honourable friend the Prime Minister said, in replying to a question addressed to him in another place on February 19, that the Government had considered the question of appointing a body to inquire into the B.B.C. before the renewal of the Charter, and had decided as a result of this consideration that no independent investigation was necessary. I have explained to your Lordships why I have nothing to add to this statement and why I am not in a position at the moment even to argue the case against the inquiry. I am, however, authorized to say that the Government is now preparing a White Paper on broadcasting policy in relation to the renewal of the present Charter, and that this White Paper will be published not at a remote date but in the near future. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, will recognize in this document one of those pink White Papers that come out of a common stable to which I am afraid he takes strong objection. The White Paper, when it is published, will be seen to cover the various aspects of Government policy, which of course will include the attitude of the Government to the noble Viscount's suggestion that a Parliamentary Committee of inquiry should be appointed. The date of publication—I can give the noble Lord an assurance on this point—will give Parliament ample opportunity for reviewing the whole position of broadcasting before the summer recess.
In the meantime I should like to ask the House to consider some of the reasons against having at this moment a committee of investigation. Hitherto I think we have heard in the course of the debate only about the advantages of adopting such a procedure. It may therefore assist 1210 noble Lords to arrive at a balanced judgment on the merits of the proposal before the House, and on what the White Paper may recommend as to the desirability or undesirability of another inquiry into the B.B.C., if I point out some of the difficulties and drawbacks that I clearly see on the other side of the picture. The demand for an inquiry presupposes either that the B.B.C. has failed to give satisfaction to the public, or that facts at present unknown to the Government would, if revealed, suggest important improvements to raise the level of achievement reached by our present broadcasting system. I think most people will agree—and indeed general agreement has been shown in the course of the debate—that in the past ten years, six of which have been war years, the B.B.C. has carried out efficiently and conscientiously its responsibility as a public corporation, and that its services during this period will bear comparison with those of any broadcasting agency, private or public, in any other country in the world.
For six years—let it not be forgotten too soon—the B.B.C. was a potent factor in our war effort. It was busy right round the clock for twenty-four hours, sustaining civilian morale throughout the United Kingdom, keeping our men overseas in touch with their homes, strengthening resistance in occupied Europe and mobilizing world opinion in support of the United Nations. During the whole of the war, although hit 111 times by enemy air attack, it was never once off the air. Your Lordships will compare this mentally with the German broadcasting stations. The additional work it undertook during these years trebled the total programme output for home and overseas listeners. A large part of this increase was due to the sudden spurt in foreign language broadcasting, which leapt up from broadcasts in nine to broadcasts in forty-six different languages. In this way the B.B.C. succeeded in building up a world-wide reputation for the accuracy and reliability of British news. This is borne out by the fact that its news bulletins were picked up and re-transmitted in the local programmes of almost every neutral and allied country, including the United States of America. It also rendered an important service to the Government by monitoring news and talks broadcast from stations in foreign countries.
1211 Those of your Lordships who have been to Europe since the war will certainly have met some of those for whom the B.B.C. represented hope and truth during the long years of German occupation. The noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, is among them. I myself met a resistance leader in Brussels a fortnight ago. He told me that, though several of his friends had been shot for listening to British broadcasts, the Germans were unable to stamp out secret listening, and that the B.B.C. was chiefly responsible for keeping up the spirit of the resistance movement in Belgium. Such a war record testifies to the efficiency, adaptability and public spirit that prevailed throughout the organization of the B.B.C. It should not be forgotten that the Corporation has never been taken over by the Government, not even in the greatest national emergency since its origin, and that its administrative structure remained intact throughout the whole of the war.
During the shorter span of peace-time conditions since 1936, the B.B.C. has maintained its high broadcasting standards, to which none contributed more substantially than its first Director-General, whom we have the good fortune to have with us as a member of this House. Instead of being satisfied to give people only what they ask for, it has tried consistently to stir them into asking for something better. Its programmes have been remarkable for their effort to spread a wider enjoyment of art, literature and music, to popularize science and serious educational pursuits, and to give every home the sound democratic feeling of having to care for and being cared for by a large community of fellow citizens. That the B.B.C. has nevertheless not been too highbrow or priggish to lose the enthusiastic support of the man in the street is attested by the steadily growing figure for wireless licences. At the end of 1936 nearly 8,000,000 licences had been issued, and the present figure of 10,600,000 licences will have risen considerably by the end of the current year. It has been estimated that already four out of every five households throughout the country are listening to B.B.C. broadcasts. Not only are listeners more numerous now than they have ever been in the past, but the service they receive has expanded in many directions since 1936. For example, the number of 1212 studios used for broadcasting has just about doubled, and will have more than doubled by December 31. The exact figures are 79 studios in 1937, 154 now and 167 anticipated by the end of the year. There has also been an expansion in the amount of time during which programmes are on the air. The home listener has now 33 per cent. more time than he had ten years ago during which he can tune in to a wireless programme.
But whatever may be said about the undeniable efficiency and steady progress of the B.B.C. in the past ten years, it may still be argued that important changes in broadcasting have taken place since the report of the Ullswater Committee, and that these new developments have not been studied with sufficient care and attention by the Government. It is true, of course, that the Ullswater Committee renewed the Charter for ten years only, and not for a longer period, because it foresaw the possibility of changes sufficiently important to make our present organization of broadcasting something of a back number. But there can be no doubt that the changes the Ullswater Committee had in mind were technical. Paragraph 8 of the Ullswater Committee's Report states quite clearly—and I should like to quote its words—that "the rapid development of modern invention" is the reason why "an opportunity for further review should be afforded at not too late a date." But, my Lords, instead of ten years subsequent to the last renewal of the Charter during which research and experiment in wireless technique could have made steady progress, we have had six years' interruption of this work by the war.
It is not, therefore, surprising that the scientific advances expected by the Ullswater Committee have not yet reached fruition. When the Charter expires at the end of this year, broadcasting will have functioned for less than four years in all under the peace-time conditions envisaged in the Report. I have little doubt myself—and I shall be interested to hear the opinion of the noble Lord, Lord Elton, on this matter, as he himself was a member of the Ullswater Committee—that this Committee, if it could have foreseen the war and its inevitable retarding effect on scientific research not directly connected with the war effort, would I have recommended a considerably longer 1213 period than ten years for the expiry of the Charter after 1936.
There is, besides, a serious practical difficulty about appointing a committee of inquiry within six months of the expiry of the Charter. Such a committee, with terms of reference wide enough to cover the whole of the ground, would need plenty of time to hear and consider the evidence submitted by a multitude of witnesses. Subsequently, Parliament would expect sufficient time for a full discussion of the conclusions in the report and the Government would also be entitled, I think, to a reasonable time in which to work out its final decisions about broadcasting policy. The Ullswater Committee, I should like to remind your Lordships, was appointed eighteen months before the expiry of the Charter in 1936, and there was then a margin of about eight months after it reported for the Government of the day to deal with its recommendations. The proper time at which to set up another committee of inquiry would have been last year, immediately after the war. I am rather surprised, I must confess, that noble Lords opposite, when they had a majority in the Government did not use their powers of persuasion quite as forcibly as they have done this afternoon.
The result of starting a comprehensive investigation at the last minute would be either to rush the inquiry so as to render it unsatisfactory, or possibly even worthless, or, if a short and provisional extension of the Charter were sanctioned—and that was, I think the alternative suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon and the noble Viscount, the Leader of the Opposition—to handicap the B.B.C. by causing it grave uncertainty about its future. The efficiency of the Corporation would undoubtedly be impaired if it was obliged to carry on under the shadow of far-reaching and quite unpredictable changes. It would be particularly unfortunate if the improvement in the service of the B.B.C., which the public has been expecting for a considerable time, and which may atone for the increase in the licence fee, were delayed indefinitely, pending the report of an investigating body.
I should like, if I might, to address myself, in conclusion, to one or two of the specific questions that were asked in the 1214 course of the debate. May I start with the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, to which we all listened with pleasure, as well as with interest. The noble Lord evidently was not watching his television screen when the first television programme was broadcast from the Alexandra Palace on June 7. I cannot believe that it was due to political bias, or to the fact that [...] takes strong exception to my person appearance! Although I hesitate to quote a speech of my own, I do think it is important to emphasize that we do not under-rate the contribution of industry to television. For that reason I should like to convince him, by a short quotation, that I have always regarded industry as a partner. On that occasion I said:The B.B.C., the Post Office and the radio industry together are resolved to build television into a great new public service worthy of the finest administrative and technical achievements of the British people.I want to emphasize that it is a threefold partnership, that this threefold partnership has been responsible for the building up of television and for the possibility of restarting television programmes so soon after the war, and that it is essential that this partnership should continue if television is to develop satisfactorily in time to come. I should also like to stress the fact that the Government recognize to the full the importance of E.M.I. for television research. We are keenly conscious of the promising developments that are offered by research that has already been started, and we look to E.M.I. to help us very considerably to achieve as speedy results as possible. In this connexion may I say that we should like to see co-ordinated and co-operative research between all the private firms engaged in investigation into television and in experimental research, because we feel that that is likely to produce results in the shortest possible space of time.
The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, referred to frequency modulation, and I think he suggested that great progress had been made in the United States of America—where they were actually carrying on with this form of broadcasting from a number of stations—but that very little effort had been made in this country. I should like to assure him that that is not the case, and that we look forward to frequency modulation as the most 1215 promising means of improving programmes for the home listener. Both the B.B.C. and Post Office are at this moment actively engaged in research on frequency modulation, because, of course, they are in the best position to do so. In addition to that, the B.B.C. have been carrying out frequency modulation transmissions every night for many months with the [...]pose in mind. I am delighted that the noble Lord has emphasized this point, because this is the technical development which, more than any other, can contribute to the progress of broadcasting. The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, and several other noble Lords, referred to sponsored broadcasts. I should like to remind him and them that all three of the committees that have inquired into British Broadcasting—the Sykes Committee, the Crawford Committee, and lastly the Ullswater Committee—turned down sponsored programmes as a general and permanent practice for providing programme material for the B.B.C.
The question was whether we might have sponsored programmes in this country that were run other than by the B.B.C.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
I hope to deal with that point later on. There was one point at the end of the noble Lord's remarks with which I did not at all agree. I do not think that the B.B.C. should be treated as a test of the nationalization policy of the present Government, because it was established, let it not be forgotten, by a Conservative Government, and has been consistently supported by subsequent Governments of every political complexion. I think it is important that this view should be refuted, because it is most undesirable that the B.B.C. should ever become the plaything of Party politics. It never has been influenced by Party politics in the past, and its future success depends on the capacity of all political Parties for keeping it outside the field of party controversy.
There is only one other point—I apologize to those of your Lordships whose points I may have overlooked—of 1216 major importance with which I think I can deal on the spur of the moment. The noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir and I think the noble Lord, Lord Sandhurst, and the noble Viscount, the Leader of the Opposition stressed the advantage of competitive broadcasting as exemplified in the United States as compared with the monopoly enjoyed by the B.B.C. Now I think everyone who has been to the United States admires their broadcasting system and I am the last to yield to the noble Viscount opposite in paying due tribute to the virtues of healthy competition.
There is, I am perfectly certain, a strong theoretical case that could be made out for competitive broadcasting, but this case ignores completely the peculiar practical difficulties which face us in this country. The main difficulty expressed very simply, is a technical difficulty, the lack of a sufficient number of suitable wavelengths. This lack may possibly be overcome by frequency modulation, but I can assure noble Lords that if we were to switch over from monopoly broadcasting to competitive broadcasting in a short period of time, if we were to change our present system, there would immediately be an outcry from thousands of people all over the country because the programmes to which they listen would have deteriorated to such a great extent. I am perfectly certain that any Government of any political complexion which might be in power at the time of such a decision would have to restore the status quo very soon after the attempt to set up a competitive broadcasting system for this country.
I should like to emphasize that point because, owing to the ignorance of the general public about the technical problem of wave lengths it is generally ignored that it is this particular difficulty which makes a number of competing stations quite impracticable. The noble Lord is aware, as I am, that wave lengths are allocated by international agreement; that no country has as many as it wants; that we are limited to a very small number, and that we cannot even ask for an increase until the next international conference takes place. I think I should warn your Lordships that we are extremely unlikely to get an increase when that time comes. So long as we are limited to this small number of wave lengths suitable for broadcasting programmes to home listeners it is 1217 essential that they should be planned for the country as a whole and allocated as they are at the moment by agreement between the different regions and for the different programmes of the B.B.C. I have done my best to answer as many points as I could which were raised in the course of the debate. I apologize to noble Lords for those points I have had to overlook, but I hope that the noble Lord opposite, having ventilated his views on this important subject, and having given other noble Lords the same opportunity, will be good enough to withdraw his Motion.
§ 6.14 p.m.
§ LORD BRABAZON OF TARA
My Lords, I cleared the way for the Postmaster-General to say nothing and we must congratulate ourselves very much that he made a first-class winding-up speech. Anyhow, it was enjoyable to get some information out of him upon this subject which I think interests not only Parliament but the whole of England. I appreciated very much his statement that he thought the debate had been useful. The only way I think it can be useful is that it will influence the White Paper. I do not think he quite promised that, but by implication I hope it is there. There was one thing which I must say surprised me very much. The noble Earl said the Government would try to protect listeners from foreign broadcasts. Is the Postmaster-General going to be a modern Canute?
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
May I make my meaning rather more explicit? It is possible by agreement with other Governments, if broadcasting stations abroad are under Government control, to avoid a foreign broadcast. That is what I was suggesting.
§ LORD BRABAZON OF TARA
Of course any agreement between Governments at the present time is very difficult, and in most cases broadcasting is not entirely under the Governments. The idea that the whole of the B.B.C. is on tenterhooks because there might be an inquiry is the state in which they should always be, and the state in which they always have been. They knew very well that there might be an inquiry every ten years. Do not let us have a bogey like that put forward. The noble Lord said that owing to the war the advances in electronics and developments were stulti- 1218 fied, and that if the noble Viscount, Lord Ullswater, had thought there was going to be a war he would have put the time for the investigation a good deal later. We know there has never been such an advance. The whole thing is wrapped up with Radar and we never had such an advance. We like the B.B.C. and we hope it will go on, but the whole system of broadcasting from top to bottom needs fresh investigation. It is true there was objection to sponsored programmes years ago, but the whole world has changed. We cannot defend ourselves from sponsored programmes and it is high time that this subject should be looked into de novo. We shall look forward to this White Paper and no doubt have another debate upon it when we have read it. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 6.18 p.m.