§ 2.36 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM rose to move to resolve, That this House, whilst recognising the desirability of an alternative Television Programme, regrets that it cannot approve of the proposals of Her Majesty's Government as outlined in the Memorandum on Television Policy (Cmd. 9005). The noble Viscount said: My Lords, some experience of the controversy in which we are going to embroil ourselves to-day has taught me that it is a subject about which people have thought deeply and feel deeply. But there is one subject on which I feel sure that I speak for the whole House this afternoon—that is, the feeling of regret, which I am certain is universal among us, that my noble friend Lord Halifax has been prevented by indisposition from moving in person this Motion which stands in his name on the Order Paper. I am sure that I am not being extravagant when I say that, in your Lordships' House and in the country, there can be few figures more respected and beloved than the noble Earl; and his presence here to-day, whatever views we may ultimately take about the topic under discussion, would have enriched and exalted our deliberations. I know that all will join with me in regretting his absence this afternoon. This House, with its customary chivalry, will also feel with me, I know, when I ask for its indulgence at this moment, the mantle of Elijah falling rather big about 512 my shoulders, and will forgive any defect in the speaker, remembering the authority and prestige of the noble Earl whose Motion we are to debate.
§ The Motion endeavours to fix a point of agreement and to define a matter of difference. There is one matter about which everyone will be in complete agreement: our national recovery, happily, is of such an extent, and the technical development of our television services so far advanced, that the time has come for us to enjoy an alternative television programme. The freedom of the knob, which so long has been only a freedom to switch off, is now, as soon as technically possible, to be enlarged to a freedom to listen to something different. That is a matter upon which, whatever disputes we may have, I feel certain this House is in entire and wholehearted agreement. It is also a matter for congratulation to the country that its economic resources and its technical power are sufficient to achieve this purpose. But the matter about which there is dispute, and it is as well to define it accurately, is this: now that we are to have one (and I think for some years no more than one) alternative programme, how best are we to achieve that object? What is the administrative arrangement which will give the people the best possible alternative television programme, which is what I am sure they both desire and deserve? It is upon that topic that we have to discuss this Motion.
There are, of course, many alternatives to the White Paper, and I take it that those noble Lords who disagree with it will support the Motion, though not necessarily for the same reasons. I count among my prominent supporters the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. In his last speech on this subject, he said this (OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 176, Col. 1447):
I sincerely hope that…there will be sponsored television in this country. I believe that it will work for the good. I personally also hope that in time it will lead to sponsored radio—but that lies in the future and is a purely personal opinion.
But the present White Paper, Memorandum on Television Policy, prefers what is described as "a basic principle,"
that there should be no 'sponsoring' and that responsibility for what goes out on the air shall rest on the operator of the station, and not on the advertiser.
I imagine, therefore, that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, will accept the necessity for an alternative television programme but will regret that he cannot give support to the proposals outlined in the Memorandum on Television Policy.
§ It is also noteworthy that we are hearing a little less nowadays about "trusting the people": not because we trust the people less, but because it has at last been discerned that the people themselves desire to have some legislative protection against unreasonable exploitation of their home circles. Instead of trusting the people, the While Paper seems pre-occupied rather with the zariba of fortifications now surrounding this palladium of liberty which has been introduced into our midst to protect it against its own self. I am sure that noble Lords who believe in untrammelled trust for the people will support this Resolution and condemn the White Paper. I do it, however, from a somewhat different viewpoint. I sincerely believe that the alternative programme will be the best programme—and by "the best," I do not mean to lay down what other people ought to like or dislike: I mean the best from the point of view of what the people themselves want—if it is under the control of the B.B.C. and administered as a public service.
§ I would go further than that. If it should at any time be proved—which I do not conceive, and of which I see and have seen not the smallest tittle of evidence—that in order to provide a supplementary revenue it was necessary to introduce any advertising at all, I should still prefer that advertising to be administered, as it can be under the Charter of the B.B.C., through the B.B.C., and I should be opposed in all circumstances to the provision of an alternative programme which derived its revenue solely from advertisement. The B.B.C. wants the alternative programme—of that there is no doubt. There is equally no doubt that the Government have rejected the desire of the B.B.C. for the alternative programme, not because they cannot provide it, or even because they cannot provide it at a reasonable cost. The television White Paper which is under discussion has made it plain that the desire of the B.B.C. to administer the alternative programme is rejected on a question of principle, the principle being that the 514 Government assert that at this moment of time it is desirable "to introduce an element of competition" into our broadcasting arrangements.
The first thing I want to say about that is that it is idle to pretend that such an introduction does not constitute a revolution in our broadcasting policy. I know the Postmaster General wants to say that he loves the B.B.C. dearly, admires it greatly and desires to leave it unaltered. But it simply will not do to deceive ourselves about this. For thirty years it has been the deliberate policy of this country to run its broadcasting service with the B.B.C. as the sole broadcasting instrument, and now it is proposed to alter that principle. As long ago as 1924 the Sykes Committee reported:
We attach great importance to the maintenance of a high standard of broadcast programmes, with continuous efforts to secure improvement, and we think that advertisements would lower the standard.
That was the view of the first committee. Whilst I am not pretending that that Committee committed itself for ever and a day to the principle of what is, I think, miscalled monopoly, that was its unequivocal opinion of advertisement. In 1925 the Crawford Committee said:
It is agreed that the United States system of free and uncontrolled transmission and reception is unsuited to this country, and that broadcasting must accordingly remain a monopoly"—
in other words, that the whole organisation must be controlled by a single authority. That was the view of the Crawford Committee. Although, again, there may be qualifications, that was its unequivocal and its accepted recommendation—a recommendation, I must add, accepted by successive Conservative Governments in a period of almost unchallenged power.
In 1935, the Ullswater Committee, the last Committee appointed before the war, reported:
The possible admission of direct advertisements in the ordinary broadcast service was discussed by the Sykes Committee and rejected. The conclusion was approved and has remained in force, being embodied in the Corporation's licence. We in our turn form the same conclusion, and are most anxious that the intellectual and ethical integrity that the broadcast system in this country has attained should be preserved.
That Committee went on to say that in the pioneering stage of television, from which we have now emerged, it might be
desirable to allow direct sponsorship; but the Conservative Postmaster General of that day deliberately and expresssly rejected that proposal. The Conservative Cabinet decided—and I quote from the White Paper (Command 5207) of 1936:
The Government propose that sponsored programmes as well as direct advertisements"—
that is, both kinds of commercial television—
should be excluded.
The Beveridge Committee, which was instructed more recently to decide upon the terms of the B.B.C.'s Charter, by a large majority, with, I think, only one exception, reported in favour of the continuance of the public service. I am glad to see the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, in his place to-day, and I think I am not misrepresenting him when I say that the whole cast of his mind and the minds of his colleagues (if I may call them so, because I should share the same view) was in favour, as my own is, of free enterprise, competition and the absence of an exclusive right. None the less, after examining this matter at length, the Beveridge Committee decided in favour of what is called monopoly. And yet the Government, without, so far as I can see, any attempt to justify the intellectual background against which their decision has been made, have decided to throw overboard the whole experience of thirty years, and all the work of all the Committees that have investigated this subject; and, for reasons which are imperfectly disclosed, they have decided that the time has now come when the whole principle of British broadcasting should be overthrown and that an element of competition should be introduced into television.
§ This debate takes its place in the context of the great debate in our national affairs between the two rival principles upon which goods and services can be supplied—the principle of public service, sometimes called monopoly, and the principle of free enterprise and competition. Hitherto, broadcasting has been out of that controversy. It has been beyond the range of Party politics because both Parties have accepted the principle that broadcasting should be an exclusive public service. To my mind, it is a great disaster that it has now been thrown 516 into the cockpit of Party politics by the present Government's decision to introduce an element of competition. I say it is a disaster because—make no mistake about it—in every case, where possible, the machinery of democracy, of which our broadcasting is a vital and indispensable part, should be outside the range of ordinary controversial Party politics.
§ If that were the only objection, I should still find it a matter for grave consideration whether, on that point alone, the Government's White Paper and decision ought not to be rejected. It is idle to pretend that a public service which ceases to be an exclusive public service is not being fundamentally attacked. I have objected to the word "monopoly," and I still object to it. I think we have learned enough about this controversy in the quarter of a century in which it has been raging to know that we cannot secure acceptance by mouthing catchwords on one side or the other. The supporters of the public service principle are driven to recognise more and more that there are subjects which are essentially the preserve of private enterprise. The supporters of private enterprise—and this is an example, because all that has been done has been done by Conservative Governments and Parliaments—have recognised more and more that there are certain services which are better not bound by competition. Although the whole essence of Party politics rages round the question where the frontier should be drawn, it is no longer possible to utter catchwords like "monopoly" or "profit" and think that you have settled the debate; still less, if I may say so respectfully to one for whom I have the deepest possible regard, to quote eloquently from the public servant of a tyranny, John Milton, and think that you have concluded a matter in favour of freedom by so doing.
§ How would the Postmaster General like it if a powerful case were made about the dangers of the monopoly in distributing the post? How serious, it might be said, is the possibility, not with the Post Office in its present hands but in the hands of some totalitarian Government, that offensive matter might be censored or suppressed in the post? How would he like it if it were suggested that the time had come when, in the interests of freedom, a number of blue 517 pillar boxes ought to be erected in the centres of population, financed by advertisements on their outsides, with postmen of rival categories marching up and down the street, in order to give the Post Office a little healthy competition? You destroy the principle of public service, without securing the advantages of private enterprise, by trying to create competition between a public service and something else which is not a public service.
§ In my sleepless hours the other night, when I was wondering what I could say to convince your Lordships to-day, I thought I found myself in the camp of Israel, when their assembly was debating the suitability of erecting a golden calf in addition to the established Church of the time. The Government of the day was in favour of the proposal on the ground that the calf was only a little one. They said: "Of course, we all admire Jehovah and think Jehovah did a very good job of work in getting us out of the land of Egypt; but a little golden calf will provide just that element of healthy competition." The Postmaster General of that day made a splendid speech in which he described it as a typical Israelitish compromise between monotheism on the one hand and polytheism on the other—which secured resounding cheers. The Lord Chancellor of the day was profoundly disturbed that those who defended the exclusive prerogatives of the Establishment should adopt a "holier than thou" attitude. His view, quoting prophetically from a future English writer, was that a great and puissant nation would arise as if from deep slumber, with a little healthy competition in the matter of religion.
§ There is nobody who supports compromise more sincerely than I do. In the range of human relations, in the clash of human desires, in the conflict between human personalities and interests, it is part of the gospel of Christian charity which we have inherited from our forbears. But inside the realm of some questions of principle, compromise is not so much a typically British or admirable thing as a sort of intellectual smog—something which is a passport to chaos and confusion and a convenient cloak for complete muddle-headednesss. That is precisely why the White Paper—although I accept at once the view that it con- 518 stitutes a sincere attempt on the part of the Government to meet criticism—is, in practice, not only not an advance but in some ways a retrogression on what has gone before. You cannot or should not try to create one public corporation in competition with another public corporation. That is to get the worst of private enterprise and the worst of public service. It is difficult in this world to get the best of both dispensations. It is fatally easy to fall between two stools; and the White Paper is a retrogression because it falls between two stools. It is not a purebred animal at all; it is a mule with which we have been presented—a dangerous and unworkable animal, a ludicrous and inglorious hybrid, a creature proverbially without pride of ancestry, and devoid of any hope of legitimate posterity. In the name of freedom, the Government have decided to create a Mistress of the Robes to Miranda, and they have selected Caliban for the post. And when, at last, in the name of freedom, he has emerged from his slimy cavern, they have not been pleased with his appearance at all, which has given rise to the darkest suspicions with regard to his proclivities. So, in fear of these, they have loaded him with fetters, again in the name of freedom, with the result, as I apprehend, that Caliban will either prove an inefficacious servant, or else, wearying of servitude, knock off his gyves and pursue his natural inclinations without inhibition or effective hindrance. I may be wrong, but it may well be that the Corporation, with their satellite programme companies, have in truth had their baser instincts carefully and successfully removed, like the keepers of some peculiar seraglio. But if that be so, I apprehend that, by the same token, they will find themselves unable to discharge their proper functions.
§ So much for compromise. Where do we get on broadcasting? I want to outline what I conceive to be the desiderata of an alternative programme, and I want to inquire which of the two rival systems is more likely to provide these desiderata. What are these desiderata? Coverage—the area covered by the programmes—an effective difference in programmes so that, when you turn the knob you do not hear another version of the same thing; variety (I use the word in its general sense), range, comprehensiveness, balance, 519 something for the children, adequate religious and political broadcasting—these are the desiderata of an alternative programme as I see it. Which of these two alternative methods of arrangement is more likely to achieve them? With regard to coverage, is it generally realised that at this very moment, or at any rate until comparatively recently, despite all the disadvantages of the war and the long and tearful progress towards recovery which followed, this nation, with its tiny resources, starting much later, still covers with its television network 85 per cent. of the country, while the United States, that great and prosperous community, still has 40 per cent. uncovered? Of course it is possible to hear eight or nine different programmes from New York, where those great centres of population are competed for by the advertising companies; but, unhappily, it does not pay to carry television into the countryside, and so the country is starved.
§ I believe that in television we have an instrument which, in the long run, and possibly even alone, might be of sufficient power and interest to stop the drift of our population to the towns. I think it is impossible to overestimate the power of this thing. Is it to be said that a Conservative Administration is going to hand over half that potential instrument to a system which, almost by definition, will be less likely to carry television to the country than to the great centres of population? I cannot doubt the answer to that. What about range and comprehensiveness? I do not think that everybody wants to listen all the time. A person who is trying to give the people what they want will try to give a programme which, over a period of weeks or months, will give to everybody something which really interests them. All of us, my Lords, are members of some tiny minority or other: some collect stamps, or skate; others are gardeners, or race pigeons, or like to go to football matches. We all want something on the radio over a period which will satisfy us. It may be that quite a small number of people will listen to our particular programme, but everyone will listen in over the month; and it is not good enough to say that a philosophy of broadcasting which aims at keeping the maximum number 520 of people listening all the time is a popular form of broadcasting, something which is either democratic or fulfilling the popular desire.
§ It is not, of course, because we have any quarrel with advertising, or think there is anything wrong with advertising, that we suggest that a philosophy of broadcasting by advertisers is wrong. It is not because we have any desire to insult the responsible commercial interests involved that we say that it will lead to the lowest common denominator. It is because they are aiming at the wrong thing by definition; they are competing for the maximum audience all the time, instead of giving all the people what they want during some of the time. And here I come to the radical difference between advertising, by newspaper and advertising by broadcasting. Advertisements in newspapers have two salient characteristics. First they are extended in space; second, the newspaper selected is selected because it sells on its own merits. Advertisements by broadcast differ in both these essential respects. They are extended in time and not in space. They are seen in every home and the time selected is selected not only to the extent that the broadcast service attracts the viewer on its own merits, but also to the extent that it puts the viewer, at the moment the advertisement is presented, into a proper frame of mind to buy.
§ I hope that I may be forgiven if I make reference to what your Lordships will perhaps think is a somewhat foolish television programme, in which I myself have appeared. It is a programme called In the News, a highly controversial political programme. The viewers seem to like it a great deal—some people would say because it resembles knockabout, although I do not take that view; but they like it, and at the end of the programme—and this is part of the reason for its success—they go on talking and arguing amongst themselves about what has been said and the issues involved. This is good television, but the viewers are not in a suitable frame of mind to buy toothpaste, and I doubt whether the advertiser of toothpaste would want to select that moment to sell his commodity.
§ Take the case of religious broadcasting. Nobody is going to accuse the advertiser of being against religion in any 521 way. But suppose that a moving religious service or a beautiful and moving piece of classical music is put on the air—and programmes of this sort attract an enormous listening public, for the public taste in these things is vastly better than many people think. They will listen and view, but none the less they will not be in a frame of mind, at the moment when the last bars are sounding, or the last "Amen" is being pronounced, to buy some cure for some imaginary disease. The advertiser is not getting his money's worth—and so there is no particular reason why he should provide that kind of programme. There is every reason why a public service should provide it. So much for range, comprehensiveness and balance to the programme.
§ How about the children? The people in my house who get most out of television are certainly my children, and may I say at once that, at any rate in my opinion, some of the B.B.C.'s programmes for children are absolutely enchanting and of the highest possible order. Sometimes the smaller the child the better the programme—Andy Pandy, for instance, at four o'clock in the afternoon. My children do not buy the toothpaste in my family and I am afraid the parents do not always listen to the children's programmes: they are not intended for them. What sort of a deal are my children going to get on the alternative television programme which is produced by revenue derived solely from advertising? I question whether they will get a very good deal or as good a deal as they get under an alternative programme provided by public service.
§ I know that we are told that the programmes will be in the hands of the programme companies and will be rigidly controlled by the nationalised corporation which, under the White Paper of this Conservative Government, owns the means of production, distribution and exchange. But will they? Suppose that the scheme does not pay. Suppose the advertisers come to their masters and say, "Of course, we do not want to influence your programme in the least. We are not allowed to, but it so happens that, if you put on all this classical muse and all this stuff for Lord Hailsham's children, we cannot sell anything; and, although we should not like to influence your programme in the least, we are going to tell you frankly that we cannot 522 afford to place advertisements unless you alter its character radically." What is going to happen then? I think I know what is going to happen. They will "cave in." Of course it is possible that the Government will then become alive to their mistake and come back to Parliament and say that their policy has failed, that the thing must be handed over to the B.B.C., that it is no longer running at a profit. But if that is what is going to happen, I should rather start that way.
§ That leads me to one or two reflections on the question of the economics of this scheme. I concede that sponsored television might pay. I have some reason for believing that it would not, but I concede that it might, or at any rate that it might for a short time. But is it generally appreciated that commercial television of the type that is to be introduced has never been successfully tried in any country in the world, and that there is no evidence whatever that it will pay its way as it goes along? Now, £500,000 of public money is to be invested in this scheme in order to enable advertisers to make a private profit. I have nothing against a private profit for advertisers, but it is a queer example of classical finance, coming from a Conservative Government. What guarantee have we that this scheme will be commercially successful? There are certain things which may be said, I think, without cavil. The factories of this country are giving, on the whole, full employment and are producing to capacity. The Government are urging a further increase in our export drive—that is, that we want to sell things abroad. There is no particular sign that any mass market at home awaits advertisement over the whole range of consumable commodities. Where is the money coming from? Who is going to provide it? What effect is all this extra expenditure of economic effort on advertisement going to have on the inflationary spiral?
§ I know one responsible economist at least who maintains that the effect will be so serious that it may be necessary to have an increased surplus on the Budget, which is unlikely to prove satisfactory to the Conservative supporters in all its implications. At any rate, what guarantee have we, what reason have we to suppose, that all this is economically sound? It is certain, of course, that the existing 523 B.B.C. service will cost more for the same service. The only form of competition which can exist between a public corporation and private advertisement is competition for the artistes—and I suppose that here I ought to declare an interest. My interest is in favour of the White Paper, because I am sometimes paid for my broadcast performances, and I feel no doubt that, if the policy outlined in the White Paper is achieved, broadcast performances will command a higher rate of reward. But what will the public get out of that? I am certain that they will have to pay for it, and I ask the Postmaster General to deal specifically with this point: Is it not a fact that, if the White Paper is put into operation, the immediate effect upon the B.B.C. will be to compel them to put up the price of licences for their existing service? Why not allow them to put the price of a small increase in licence, together with the 15 per cent. taken from them so recently, into the charges for an alternative programme run as a public service? What is the argument against it?
§ I have, I fear, wearied your Lordships, and I will close with one or two simple remarks. I said that it was a disaster that this had been drawn into the cockpit of Party controversy. Must it remain there? I understand—and the noble and learned Earl who sits opposite me will confirm or deny it—that there are no Labour Party Whips on in this debate. I understand that the Liberal Party have no Whips on in this debate. Why is it considered essential to make this a matter on which the Government Whips are placed? The House of Lords surely is a place where, without any loss of prestige or moral stature, a Government can afford to say: "The Whips are off. You can follow your own consciences"—as, no doubt, we shall in any event. Surely, there is nothing to be lost by such a course? Personally, I should also recommend it, if my words carried any weight, in another place in a matter of this kind. There is ample precedent for so doing. In 1948 the Government of the day had a most definite view, which they put forward, in the course of the Criminal Justice Bill, on the subject of capital punishment. But the matter was expressly left to a free vote.
§ There was one figure in my fantasy about the Camp of Israel who played a 524 predominant part but whose speech I was unable to forecast. It was the figure of Aaron, the beloved and respected person who, in the absence of Moses went in another place and commanded the battalions of the Government. I wonder what Aaron is going to say here? Is he going to keep the Party Whips on, after all that he has told us about the functions of the Second Chamber? I hope not. I suspect that Aaron has a somewhat uneasy conscience about this matter, and felt that the golden calf was not all that it was "cracked up" to be. I hope if, at the end of this debate, he finds that some of his suspicions may have proved only too correct, he will report it to Moses at Mount Sinai and hope that he may not have to break any of the Tablets of Stone on the way down.
§ There is just one other thing I should like to say. Are we not all a little too afraid of uplift? I have been broadcasting fairly regularly now for ten years, broadcasting for the B.B.C. because they are, in fact, the only organ who broadcast. Never once have they tried to interfere with my highly controversial opinions. They have, it is true, imposed some sort of code of controversial conduct. They have tried to stop people attacking others behind their backs—with the result that the standard of controversy on the B.B.C. is not only freer but also higher than in almost any other forum in the country. It is far higher than in the Press, not in the least higher than in your Lordships' House; but there are other places where the standard is not quite so high as on the B.B.C. The B.B.C. have, I genuinely believe as a result of ten years' experience, no other bias. But must we be afraid of bias as regards things about which the enormous majority of the people of this country are genuinely convinced? Can Christian civilisation abandon the pulpit altogether? Must it for ever have no message, but leave the place of preaching only to those with a financial interest to serve?
§ We are fighting for our lives in the present generation, no less than during the period of the war. During the period of the war, when in Europe men had to suffer the peril of death to hear the truth, there was a voice of freedom to which attention was universally paid. It was the Voice of Britain and it was the voice 525 of Britain's public service broadcasts. Are we now to condemn this as a dangerous monopoly, as a weapon which we tremble to use in peace as in war? Are objective truth, objective justice, objective standards of duty and of conduct so utterly unworthy of advertisement that we must hand over to purely commercial interests the greatest instrument for good that has been devised since the printing press? We cannot avoid preaching a standard of conduct by all that we do and all that we say in this life. If we say nothing it is because we believe nothing. I sincerely believe that this democracy, this system of Government to which we are for one reason or another, for good or for ill, committed, for all its virtues is to some extent a race against time. Can education keep pace with responsibility? In the B.B.C., and in television, above all things, we have an instrument which will enable democracy to win that race in a canter. Must we abandon that weapon, or at least half of it, to the shifting chances and changes of commercial advantage? I beg to move.
§ Moved, to resolve, That this House, whilst recognising the desirability of an alternative Television Programme, regrets that it cannot approve of the proposals of Her Majesty's Government as outlined in the Memorandum on Television Policy (Cmd. 9005).—(Viscount Hailsham.)
§ 3.22 p.m.
§ THE POSTMASTER GENERAL (EARL DE LA WARR)
My Lords, may I start by associating myself with the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, and I think in so doing I am speaking for the whole House, in saying how disappointed we are that the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, cannot be here to-day. No doubt he is deeply disappointed himself, but I hope he knows that that disappointment is shared by everyone in this House, no matter what his opinion. As the noble Viscount who has just spoken said, whenever the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, contributes to our debates he enriches them, and undoubtedly this debate on a subject about which he feels so deeply will be very much the poorer for his absence.
I have no doubt all your Lordships were just as interested as was I in the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham. At one time I was taking out my pencil and paper in order to make 526 notes on the subject and looking forward to congratulating him on his moderation. I was looking forward also to being able to congratulate him on his conversion to the principle of competition. The trouble with the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, is that he always starts off with the best of resolutions and the first part of his speech is generally very wise and moderate. Then his blood rises a bit and his emotions take control, and he completely lets the cat out of the bag. So, in the rest of his speech he thoroughly threw over all idea of an alternative programme—
§ EARL DE LA WARR
Every word, every argument that he uttered, chiefly based on the opinions of Committees of many, many years ago, was for the principle of monopoly and for nothing else. I noted down certain words he used: "the element of competition is a disaster." What about this Motion:Moved, to resolve, That this House, whilst recognising the desirability of an alternative Television Programme.…"?
§ EARL DE LA WARR
Noble Lords over there may say, "Hear, hear!," but I think the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, if he really feels deeply what he said, would find it very hard to say, "Hear, hear!" to the terms of this Motion. On this subject there are many points which are still open for discussion, but there is one point on which the Government is quite firm, and that is that there should be competition in the providing of an alternative television programme. It was a great disappointment to me personally, and I am sure to many other noble Lords in this House, that this apparent bridge, slender though it might seem to be, has been completely broken down by the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham.
Before I pass on to outline and discuss our proposals, may I deal with one further point made by the noble Viscount? He asked that the Government should have no Whip. Coming from the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, and his colleagues, that really is a most extraordinary proposal. What is a Whip? A Whip is a lead on matters of importance from the Government to its supporters. It is only necessary to look at the 527 Benches in your Lordships' House to see how important your Lordships feel this subject to be. The noble Viscount mentioned that neither the Labour Party nor the Liberal Party in this House had issued a Whip. But what about his own group? During the last week or two, as one has moved about the passages of this House, as one has looked into the corners of the Library and the Dining Room, one has seen little, anxious groups, I will not say of elderly Peers, all colloguing together, propaganding, lobbying. We have been circularised with papers: "Britain unites to demand competitive B.B.C."—" Britain unites against competitive B.B.C."—that is the production of the noble Viscount. As the poor, battered Minister, trying to swim around in all this unity, I must say I wish there was a little more unity in the picture. But to suggest that there has been no attack, no whipping in favour of this Motion, is, I must say, speaking with great moderation, pure hypocrisy. Naturally, when there is organisation and lobbying of this character, the Government must see to it that it at least asks—and no one in his senses would venture to do more than ask your Lordships to do anything—that its supporters should support it.
We can agree with the noble Viscount when he said there are few subjects which have excited so much argument during the last two years. What has struck me throughout those discussions has been the deep sincerity on both sides. Some of the feelings that have been expressed are based on great experience and deep thought. But, let us be quite frank with ourselves, some are based on a certain amount of prejudice. I cannot help repeating to your Lordships an account of something that I could not help overhearing the other day—aconversation between two noble Lords. One said, "I have regretfully come to the conclusion that I shall have to vote against the Government on this issue." When he was asked whether he had a television set, he said no, he had not. Then he was asked what he thought of the programmes that he had seen, and he had to admit that he had never actually seen a television programme. He was then asked what he thought of the Government White Paper, and he answered, "Well, old boy, I'm afraid I must admit 528 that I have not yet had time to read the White Paper." My Lords, it was an interesting but, needless to say, not entirely typical example of our opponents.
In dealing with this subject, our aim has been not merely to achieve a compromise between two strongly opposing views—obviously, that is desirable in itself—but, much more important, and what really matters, to establish a positive approach to what is admittedly an extremely difficult problem, that of, on the one hand, providing a competitive television programme, and, on the other, maintaining the high standard of broadcasting that exists in this country. We have hoped, in doing this, to provide yet another demonstration of what this country is so supremely good at—namely, achieving liberty without licence. Our opponents believe that this is not possible. Here is the real point of conflict. They believe that liberty must mean licence. On our success in proving that they are wrong, at any rate in regard to this country (and we are not discussing America or any other country) we must be judged; and that is the challenge that we very gladly accept.
The noble Viscount who has just spoken thought to depreciate the Government's appreciation of the B.B.C. I refuse to give way to the noble Viscount in my admiration for the B.B.C. It may be an excellent point in his debating speech that he should say that we fail to appreciate it. That is not so, and the best proof of our attitude is that as soon as the economic position made it possible it was this Government that did away with the last Government's ban on their extension. At the present moment we are actually discussing with the B.B.C. increased revenue. I say this because it would be a great tragedy for this country if this new policy were embarked upon in a spirit of hostility to, or even lack of appreciation of, the B.B.C.
I now turn for a moment to our White Paper. The advantage of a White Paper is that the Government set out their principles and their objectives, but of course the Government are free to consider Parliament's views before they actually prepare definite and detailed legislation—and even then, Bills are subject to discussion and amendment. This is what Parliament is for. Now what are the main principles contained in our White Paper? I put them under four headings. The first, 529 to which I have already referred, is that there must not only be an alternative television programme, but that that alternative television programme must be provided by minds other than those of the B.B.C.—and that means both that it must be by private enterprise and that it will be paid for by advertisement.
The noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, asked: What will happen if these companies cannot make it pay? Well, as these are privately financed companies, that is their affair; it is really only in the case of Government concerns, such as the groundnuts scheme and so on, where the taxpayer has to "carry the baby." At that moment, I thought the noble Viscount was going on to say that he was prepared to face the possibility of a Corporation if it were financed by licence and not by advertisement. Frankly, I am not at all clear about what he really feels on this point. But let me assume for a moment that he and other noble Lords would accept such a scheme. The difficulty of that scheme is undoubtedly that it would mean a licence to be paid for by all viewers of television, at the rate of at least £5. It would be a considerable period before the whole country could be covered, and during that period many millions of people in the country would be paying an increased licence fee for a second programme which in fact they were not getting.
My Lords, principle No. 1 is competition. Principle No. 2 arises from the use of the word "competition," and that means that new programmes will be alternative to and not a substitute for existing programmes—which means, of course, that the B.B.C. continues in its present form. Our third principle is that the controlling body (or as we now intend to call it, the public corporation, because they are the same), which was in fact promised in our original White Paper, will own and operate the transmitting stations and will be responsible for maintaining the standard of the programmes. They will hire facilities or contract with programme companies, on terms and conditions and for periods laid down on behalf of the Postmaster-General; and, as may well happen, if different companies are allowed to operate on one station, then it will be for the public corporation to ensure the 530 proper planning and balance of programmes. I want to underline that point. Our fourth principle is, no sponsoring. That means that programme makers would hire time to advertisers, either for short advertisements, commonly known as "spot," or else documentaries; but at all times there would be a clear line of distinction between what is presented as advertisement and what is presented as programme, and programme makers, and not the advertisers, would be solely responsible for their programmes at all times. Needless to say, at no time would interruption of programmes be permitted.
As I have mentioned, these last three principles—the continuation of the B.B.C. as it is, the controlling body armed with the ownership of the transmitting stations, and no sponsoring—are our three main safeguards. I am quite prepared to admit that any one of them taken alone might be considered to be inadequate, but I would say that, taken together, they are a formidable trio. Incidentally, in a moment I will deal with the noble Viscount's point that they are so formidable as to inhibit the efficient operation of the scheme. Now I must confess to having had a certain sympathy with those who had misgivings on this matter before we made clear these principles, and before we made clear the nature of our proposals, but it is not easy to understand what all the worry is about now, considering the extent to which the Government—and we say this with no sense of shame but rather with a sense of pride—have taken their views into account in drawing up this plan; I think rightly so.
I have tried to summarise in my own mind some of the difficulties that seem to be in the minds of those opposing the scheme. I had hoped that the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, would tell us what really is worrying him. So far as I can remember, not one single clear objection to the working of our scheme was laid before the House by him in the course of his speech. Of course, there are those who are afraid of television altogether—who look upon it as a great new terrifying force. We cannot help them. Television has come to stay. No one ever helps a difficult problem by playing King Canute, and certainly the Government have no intention of doing that. Then there are those who genuinely feel that they know best what is good for us. 531 They do not challenge the freedom of literature, drama, art or the Press, because they are completely established—too well established for them. But when there is a new medium they speak out what they feel. They are very high-minded, very sincere—but so were Cromwell and his Puritans. These people probably feel that they could run our lives extremely well. But I do not think the British people have the slightest intention of living like that, and I can assure your Lordships that the present Government have not the slightest intention of asking them to do so.
Then there are those who insist on comparing our system with that now operating in the United States. They fail to remember that the United States have nothing like the B.B.C. running the main broadcasting system of the country. They do not tell us that the United States have not a controlling body which owns the transmitting station that will transmit the competitive programmes, as will the new Corporation. What the United States have is sponsoring, which means that the advertisers themselves produce the programmes; and, in fact, interrupt them continually with their advertisements. Above all let us remember another great distinction affecting the British and the American systems. That is the difference between the mentality of British advertisers and the mentality of American advertisers, and the difference between British and American taste. I am not saying that one is better than the other; I am saying merely that they are different. I believe that that is an imponderable which may well be the most important difference of all. To these people, I would say that it is hard to conceive of conditions more divergent, both in principle and practice, than those under which the system now operating in American broadcasting is carried out and those which we are proposing to establish in this country for television.
Again, there are those—and Lord Hailsham is certainly one of them—who tell us, on the one hand, that our control is so rigid that it will be impossible to make a success of the scheme. I have frequently read statements to the effect that it will "give us the worst of both worlds"—that is a favourite phrase. But some people tell us, on the other hand, that our control will be ineffective. In 532 a merely debating speech it would be quite easy to say that those two arguments so completely cancel one another out that we can leave them to deal with each other. But I believe that a great number of your Lordships are seriously concerned about this matter. Therefore, I think it is better to assume, for the purpose of argument, that one or other of those contradictions holds the field, and to try to answer them both.
Let me first deal with those who say that the severity of our controls is such as to give us the worst of both worlds. Only lawbreakers are afraid of the police. Certainly, the advertisers themselves are not afraid of our controls, and they intend to establish their own system of self-discipline, as they have done already in other spheres—in every other sphere, in fact, in which they operate. I am assured by those interests that they consider non-sponsoring to be better advertising practice in this country than sponsoring would be. The reason I would give for that view is that sponsoring would be so unpopular in this country that it would be bad advertising. But it is for the advertisers to give their own reasons. They do not want to be concerned with the programmes, because they are not equipped for it. They are advertising firms, not programme-producing companies; and certainly they do not want to invest in the programme-producing companies to obtain control. In fact, it is against their own rules that they should have any considerable investment in any such medium. Unless any of us likes to assert that he knows more about advertising than do the advertisers themselves, there is nothing in these proposals that should endanger the financial success of this scheme by making it unacceptable to the commercial world.
Now let me turn to the other point—namely, that the controls will be ineffective. In looking at this point, I hope we are not going to assume, as Lord Hailsham seems to have assumed, that all traders, all industrialists, all advertisers, want to debase programmes. There is no evidence whatever that they have been a debasing influence with the Press. We all readily admit that some newspapers have a higher standard than others. But no one has ever said that differing standards are due to the advertisers. Incidentally, I wonder whether some noble Lord in what I may call the 533 "anti-Government group" would be good enough to define what they mean by the word "debase" used in this connection—it is a word that has been much used. Is it a crime to be light? If it is, then the B.B.C. are certainly guilty of a crime for having a special Light programme for sound. Is it a crime to give the public what they like? If so, why do the B.B.C.—in my view they do it rightly—spend so much time and energy on listener research? Giving the public what they want seems to be a crime, in the eyes of some people.
I was not clear what the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, says on this because, as was the case with so many of his remarks, there seemed to be a considerable contradiction in what he said. As I say, in the view of some people, giving the public what they want seems to be a crime and it is one which the new companies are expected to commit. How is this different from what the B.B.C. now professedly set out to do? Is this what noble Lords who are afraid of the Government scheme mean by the word "debasing"? If not what do they mean? Personally, I continue to be extremely sceptical about this fear of the influence of advertisers. To begin with, if advertisers wanted to influence programmes are we quite sure they could be united? If, in fact they are all united in the desire to debase, why do The Times and the Manchester Guardian, with small circulations and maintaining high standards of journalism, get any advertisements at all? Why do the Ford Foundation in America think it pays them to spend so much of their resources on giving classical music? I know that the noble Viscount says that the Press is not a fair medium of comparison. But why? The Press has other revenue, the noble Viscount says. Of course, we all know that, but if its other revenue cannot keep the Press alive, what of it? Although I do not profess to be an expert on this, and I may well be contradicted—and if I can be, I hope that noble Lords will do so—I should have thought it would be fairly safe to assert that no paper, or practically no paper in this country, could live for any sensible period without advertisements. I believe it is true that before the war well over 50 per cent. of average Press revenue came from advertisements. If you depend on something for your life, your dependence is complete. But in spite 534 of this Press dependence on advertisers, the Press of this country have not been influenced in their standards by advertisements. And if noble Lords think they have been, then I sincerely trust they will give us some very good reason for thinking so.
Why should the new television programme be so influenced? Let me go one step further, and for a moment assume that I am completely and utterly wrong in all that I am saying. Let us assume that advertisers will be able to agree completely on what they want to press for, and to agree that they want to lower and debase the programmes. Then what happens? The Corporation or controlling body, whatever you like to call it, is responsible to the Postmaster General; and he, in turn, is responsible to Parliament for the standard of the programmes. The programme-producing companies rent the facilities from the public Corporation on a contract, and in that contract is a clause saying that the contract can be terminated if they offend against certain standards, If that happens, obviously the first step will be that they will receive a warning, and almost certainly at the same time—it all depends on the nature of the offence—the Corporation will exercise their power to demand the production of scripts before a programme is put before the public. If the offence continues, the Corporation either can grant no renewal of the contract at the end of this period or, if the offence is grave enough, actually terminate the contract. I put it to your Lordships, therefore, that even if I am utterly wrong on this question of Press influence, these safeguards are completely watertight. The fact that many of us do believe that they will not often be needed, and can be kept in the background (I say this particularly for the benefit of the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham) is neither here nor there. If the noble Viscount's distrust of everyone is justified, the safeguards are there, and they are watertight.
I do not believe that this machinery will actually work like that. I believe that close relations will spring up between the Corporation and the programme companies. There will be continual informal discussions between them about the balance and type of programme, in the 535 first instance, and, if they are not very grave, discussions of complaints, too. That is how things happen in this country, and it generally works pretty well. I would apply three words to this sort of control—strong, wide and flexible. I speak with a great disbelief in too many rules and regulations, which on the one hand can be extremely hampering and, on the other, permit a clever man to evade them. Therefore, I stress the words "wide and flexible." In this matter of dealing with standards it is important that the Corporation should have the power of ensuring the spirit as well as the letter of the law, of insisting on good standards and well-balanced programmes as well as on the elimination of indecency and horror.
Above and beyond these safeguards we have the supreme safeguard of all—the decency of the British people, in which the Government believe, and in which, frankly, I cannot see how our opponents can believe. May I close by appealing to noble Lords who are against the scheme that if they cannot think a little less of their own superiority, then at least to have a little more faith in their fellow countrymen? British traders and industrialists are not all unscrupulous or irresponsible; nor are British advertisers. They have standards and traditions of their own and their own methods of self-discipline. Every one of your Lordships who belongs to any trade, industry or profession in this country already knows that very well. What about the British public, too? Must we assume that the best appeal to the British people is salaciousness, horror and indecency? For the purpose of that argument, the programmes would have to be lighter than the programmes of the B.B.C.
There are many theatres left in London and in the provinces. They are not all specialising in strip-tease—although to hear some noble Lords speak one would think they were. The concert halls in this country, the Old Vic, Sadler's Wells and the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, when ballet is being staged, are the most difficult theatres to get into. And what has been the greatest and most popular broadcast event since the B.B.C. came into existence—the Coronation? Are we all so very low-minded? What if places of lighter entertainment are doing well? 536 Are we seriously going to say from now onwards that our entertainment has to be limited to what is approved by elderly and superior persons? We are an adult nation, and Her Majesty's Government do not believe that we need approach this question in daily fear of licence. We have our self-discipline. We have our police, too, but that does not mean we are a police-run State. The British people are allowed to vote for themselves—and some of us think that they did not exercise their right too unwisely a little while ago. But surely we can trust the British public to choose between one television programme and another.
It is true that the Government scheme we have laid before your Lordships in this White Paper has strong controls—in my view quite rightly—but we hope and believe that these controls can be kept in the background because of the decency and good sense of our people. I think that everyone who intends to vote for this Motion must face the fact that it is based on distrust, distrust of those engaged in trade and in commerce, and distrust of the British people themselves. For that reason, I ask your Lordships to reject it. If your Lordships reject this Motion, as I am sure you will, I can assure you, on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, that everything that is said in this debate will be considered very seriously before Her Majesty's Government lay legislation before Parliament.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
My Lords, before the noble Earl finally resumes his seat, I think there is something he would want to correct. At the beginning he quoted me as saying that competition was a disaster, and said that he had taken it down at the time. I think if he reads his notes more carefully he will find that I said there were occasions when "compromise" was a disaster, not "competition."
§ EARL DE LA WARR
I would gladly apologise to the noble Viscount if I thought I had made a mistake. I am sure I have not. However, I will apologise to the noble Viscount if, on looking at Hansard to-morrow, I find that I am wrong.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ LORD SIMON OF WYTHENSHAWE
My Lords, I am glad of this opportunity of speaking in your Lordships' House 537 on a subject very near to my heart, after an enforced silence of five years as Chairman of the British Broadcasting Corporation. May I be allowed to preface my remarks by saying two things which are perhaps unusual from one on these Benches? In the first place, the Chairman of the B.B C., and especially the Chairman, has always to be rigidly non-Party—that I believe to be a good principle. When I became Chairman of the B.B.C. my noble friend Lord Woolton told me that he was going to watch everything done by the B.B.C. with an eagle eye, and would let me know if I went wrong. During the whole five years I was there I had only one very gentle criticism from him, and I am sure he will agree that, not only during my Chairmanship but in my earlier days and since I retired, the B.B.C. has kept remarkably clear of Party politics. Personally, I became accustomed at the B.B.C. to trying to deal with its work in a non-Party manner, and I shall try hard to do so this afternoon. I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, that it is a disaster that the B.B.C., through no fault of its own, has become involved in a Party squabble.
The second thing I should like to say by way of personal explanation is that, again, in spite of my sitting in this part of the House, I have no prejudice whatever against private enterprise and competition in the proper place. I have for forty years been head of a group of highly technical and highly competitive engineering firms, and the staff, under the stimulus of competition and profit, has increased in those years from 400 to 7,000. I believe we owe that largely to the competitive system under which we worked. I am convinced that competition is invaluable, in the proper place. The point I have to consider is whether the B.B.C. is the proper place for a competitive profit-making system. After I had been serving for a year in the B.B.C. and had got to know something about it, the next thing I did was to try to see the competitive system where it can be seen at its best—that is, undoubtedly, in the United States. The Postmaster General has, quite naturally, suggested that we cannot learn much from the United States in this matter. I can only beg, humbly but firmly, to differ from him in that regard. I spent a good many weeks in the United States and in Canada, and when I came 538 back I had been completely convinced of the evil of the commercial system in broadcasting. If I may quote, I wrote:And I hold with the utmost conviction that if we do not want a disastrous lowering of the standards of broadcasting in this country we should avoid sponsored broadcasting like the plague.That conviction has, by several years of additional experience, become steadily stronger. In my view, broadcasting is one of the worst places for the competitive system.
I should now like to attempt to deal with the two great issues before us: first, the issue of monopoly versus competition; and secondly, that of commercial versus public service. I would emphasise that those two issues are completely separate, and I hope they can be kept separate in future, because it is widely believed now, through intermingling in that sense, that if there is to be competition with the B.B.C., it must be commercial competition; although the Postmaster General did point out that that was not necessary, and, in fact, there are certain other countries where there is competition between public service corporations, about which I will say a word later. I want to say very little about monopoly; the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, has already dealt with it; the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, is here; and no doubt it will be covered by many speakers more competent than I. However, I do want to say one thing about it—namely, that I do not believe monopoly to be a moral issue, like the question of commercial broadcasting. If there should be two or more competing public service corporations, I know of no reason why the standard of the broadcasting should be reduced. I have studied broadcasting in Switzerland, where there are six separate and largely competing organisations, each almost completely indepenient—there is no national programme in Switzerland. I talked to many of their people, and their aims are to maintain cultural standards just as well as the B.B.C. does. In Holland, there are four different national organisations, which do, to a certain extent, compete. I venture to suggest to noble Lords opposite that, if they should be considering competition of this sort, it would be well worth while to look at what is done in Switzerland and Holland, 539 So far as I know, they are the only two countries where there is competition between public service organisations.
In this case, I think it is not a matter of principle, but a matter of expediency, whether several organisations would be effective, and whether they would cost more, if it is to be considered as a means of revenue. With great respect, I should like to say to the Postmaster General, who suggested that it would involve a fee of £5, that my recollection is that when Sir Ian Jacob announced his ten-year programme, including an alternative television programme, he suggested that a fee of £3 would cover it, if there were no serious inflation. The licences in this country are cheaper than those of any other country, and a good many countries, with a similar density of sets, have a licence which costs double our own. Therefore, some raising of the cost of a licence is perfectly practicable.
Coming to the question of the great moral issue, as I regard it, of commercial broadcasting, I think all noble Lords know what commercial broadcasting means: it means that a profit-making concern draws the whole of its revenue from advertisements and is, in justice to its shareholders, forced to seek the maximum return and, therefore, the maximum audience to every single broadcast. That certainly has some lowering effect on programmes. I hope the Postmaster General will listen to the following extract I want to read about American programmes, which are commercial programmes; and I beg him not to dismiss this because he thinks the Americans are naturally worse people than we are. I do not think he can mean that. The sole difference is that they have a different system. Nobody suggests that the popular Press in America is any more sensational than the popular Press in this country—I think that is agreed. This is a quotation from an article written by Mr. R. M. Hutchins, then Chancellor of the University of Chicago, in the B.B.C. Quarterly in 1949:Even a perfect educational system…would have a hard time setting up an effective cultural opposition to the storm of trash and propaganda that now beats upon the American from birth…the radio industry disclaim any obligation to improve the people's taste. Actually, they know very well that they are 540 degrading it. We have, therefore, one of the greatest instruments of enlightenment and one of the greatest triumphs of the human mind employed almost exclusively to debase those whom it might enlighten and ennoble…American radio is a disgrace.I repeat that that is written by Mr. Hutchins, the distinguished ex-Chancellor of the University of Chicago.
§ EARL WINTERTON
As one who has himself taken part in television in America, may I ask the noble Lord a question? By this quotation he is making a most serious charge against many of us, including British subjects, who have taken part in television. Does he really agree with the extract that he has just read—that the whole system degrades the American people?
§ LORD SIMON OF WYTHENSHAWE
I hope that I was not making a charge against the American people. I have a great respect for them, and I constantly go over there to learn all kinds of things. I believe that the day on which America went badly wrong—one of the most unfortunate days in Western democracy—was the day on which, thirty years ago, America decided to go in for sponsored broadcasting. The extract I have read gives the view of one very distinguished American on its effect. It is not a reflection on the American people, but on the system, and without any doubt whatever it would have exactly the same effect in this country.
May I give one other example from America? A great many of the programmes in America are made by advertising agents. It has been said that Americans would consider that any advertising agent who had any motive beyond the profit of the sponsor would be crazy. He would certainly be out of business in a very short time. The original White Paper eighteen months ago proposed sponsored broadcasting. As noble Lords know, that produced a most remarkable and widespread protest from almost the whole of the educational and religious worlds. In the new White Paper, published eighteen months afterwards, the Government have disavowed sponsored broadcasting. I think the words are that "as a basic principle there will be no sponsored broadcasting." There are two possible groups of people who produce commercial broadcasts, advertisers or advertising agents (when they do it, it is 541 called sponsored broadcasting) and station owners or station renters, and when they do it the best name would seem to be "unsponsored broadcasting." The Government, having dropped sponsored broadcasting—and I should like to congratulate them on their courage on giving up their original proposal which met with such a storm of opposition—have now adopted unsponsored broadcasting, and the programmes are to be made by the owners of the stations. I wonder what difference the Postmaster General or the Government thinks that that is going to make to the programmes. The programmes are still made by profit-making companies for the purpose of satisfying their shareholders. That is their duty. It cannot make a shadow of difference whether they happen to be the people who are engaged in advertising or the people who are engaged in making a profit in running the station; the programmes will be identical.
May I say a word on behalf of the advertiser? It looks as if the Government think that the advertisers are wicked people and that station owners are virtuous people. I am quite sure that is not the view of the Government, but, if not, why change over from advertiser to station owner? Many advertisers are of the highest class of people in business. With apologies to the Postmaster General, I must again turn to America. In America the programmes are made either by advertisers or advertising agents, or else they are made by networks, or by the heads of stations—station owners or station renters. I do not know what the proportion is, but a, large number of them are made by station owners or station renters. Is there any evidence whatever that programmes are better if they are made by station owners? One of the largest advertisers on the air in America is Unilever, and they produce some of the best programmes in America in the shape of a half-hour radio play. On the other hand, some of the small station owners produce the worst possible programmes. Here is what another former President of Yale, Doctor Angell, who was for many years adviser to one of the largest American networks, stated. He said that the local stations are usually owned by hard-boiled business men who are unashamedly out for all the profit they can 542 get. That is the view of another American President of Yale, and I do not think anybody can dispute that to be perfectly true.
It is not only in America, because what about Canada? There has recently been a Royal Commission on Broadcasting, the Chairman of which was Mr. Vincent Massey, the present Governor-General. The report says the following:We were particularly impressed by the fact that few of the representatives of private stations recognised any public responsibility beyond the provision of acceptable entertainment…we have observed that some of the wealthiest of the private stations have the lowest standard in programmes and show serious neglect of their obligations as parts of the national system.I wish the Postmaster General would listen to that, because that is what will occur here. May I repeat, for the benefit of the Postmaster General, that the Canadian Royal Commission said:…and show serious neglect of their obligations as parts of the national system.It seems to me perfectly clear, both in theory and in practice—wherever there is a practice to be studied, which is mainly in the United States and Canada—that there is no reason whatever to expect any higher standard of taste or programmes from the station owner than from the advertiser. It seems to me that that is incontrovertible.
Now we come to the new precaution which the Government have added in the second White Paper—the public corporation. That sounds very attractive to people who believe in public service broadcasting, and many people have the idea that this is a compromise which will be something like the B.B.C.—that the programmes will produce adequate standards of taste. I will try to show that there is not the least possibility of the public corporation doing anything of the kind. It has certain duties in erecting and letting stations, selecting the programmes and the advertisements, but its main duty is to act as censor to ensure adequate standards of broadcasting. It has powers to revoke licences and actually ask to see scripts in advance, which sounds to me a most remarkable thing. I find this difficult to understand. The programme company are to have independent powers to produce programmes. The public corporation are to have independence in the handling of programmes, and the Government are optimistic 543 enough to hope that there will be continuing friendly and constructive contacts between the corporation and the companies. All I can say is that the Postmaster General is optimistic, and I leave people more experienced than myself to consider whether that is likely to happen. I quote a phrase commonly used in America: "Standards are produced by those who produce the programme. He who controls the pocket book controls the broadcast."
Again I come back to America, because it happens that the set-up in America is to-day almost identical with the set-up which the Government propose for this country. There is, first of all, broadcasting both by station owners on an immense scale and by advertisers. The only difference in the new scheme is that the Government have eliminated, or hope they have eliminated, the advertisers. The Americans have set up a Corporation—the Federal Communications Committee. This Committee, better known as the F.C.C., have as their object the raising of standards. The F.C.C. have to work against the opposition of an extremely powerful lobby, the National Association of Broadcasters. When I was there some years ago the F.C.C. was much poorer than it is now; the income in that period was 750,000 dollars a year. The Director of the National Association of Broadcasters had a salary five times as big as that of the Chairman of the F.C.C. This lobby was altogether too able for the F.C.C.; and the F.C.C. struggled along almost hopelessly. Recently in America they have had a crime wave on the air, then they had a gambling wave. The F.C.C. has protested violently but has not been able to do anything at all. One of the dangers in sponsored broadcasting is that you will get a lobby of this sort. That is one of the dangerous and undesirable results of commercial broadcasting. It happens not only in America: there are powerful lobbies on a small scale in Canada and elsewhere. I beg the Government, before they place their trust in this new version of the F.C.C., to send competent people to the United States to see how far this public corporation there has been successful, so that they will know what can be done by the Corporation here.
I should like to say a few words about other countries. Last year I attended the 544 conference of Dominion broadcasting concerns, held in this country. I met all the broadcasting leaders of the Dominions, and they told me unanimously that the B.B.C. was an invaluable model for their broadcasts and was an important influence for good in their countries. Everyone said that. They said also, again unanimously, that the introduction of commercial television on the lines proposed would certainly mean lowering the standards of broadcasting. I beg that the Government will really consider this well and get in touch with some of the Commonwealth broadcasting corporations. With regard to European democracies, practically all have a monopoly of broadcasting similar to that of the B.B.C. There are only three countries which have sponsored programmes: Luxembourg, Monaco and Andorra. Otherwise, as I say, all European democracies have a monopoly similar to that of the B.B.C. With the exception of the three countries I have named, all the democracies of Europe have refused to have anything to do with sponsored broadcasts and they will have nothing to do with it to-day. We have set Europe the magnificent example provided by the B.B.C. in broadcasting. Do we wish to follow the examples of Luxembourg, Monaco and Andorra, who were the first European countries to allow a substantial proportion of broadcasting to be carried out for private profit?
I hope the Government will not adopt the idea of these unsponsored broadcasts—what some people call "a wolf in sheep's clothing." I am sure the educational world will in time protest just as strongly against White Paper No. 2 as they did against White Paper No. 1. I have already been in touch with certain Vice-Chancellors and especially with the Chairman of the Vice-Chancellors, Dr. Maurice Bowra, the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University; and I see that the Vice-Chancellors of Liverpool and Manchester object to White Paper No. 2 as much as they did to No. 1. I note with pleasure that the Chancellors of the Universities of Liverpool and Manchester are on the Front Bench opposite me. They are no doubt aware of the views of their Vice-Chancellors and of the fact that 95 to 100 per cent. of the staffs of these Universities are just as much 545 against commercial broadcasting as are their Vice-Chancellors. I appeal to them, especially in view of their knowledge of education, to use their very powerful influence to oppose the introduction of broadcasting of a competitive non-sponsored kind, and, above all, not to allow commercial broadcasting to be introduced. Finally, may I be allowed to read to your Lordships a few words from two of the greatest educationists in this country. Dr. Gilbert Murray says:I dread the introduction of a new non-rational instrument for guiding public opinion. The newspapers with the largest circulation are a terrible warning.…Sir Richard Livingstone says:One of the most serious and difficult problems of the country is to raise the general quality of its civilisation. The schools do their best. But outside the schools are plenty of forces working in exactly the opposite direction. It would be a disaster if broadcasting assisted these powerful influences instead of in some measure counteracting them.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ LORD BRABAZON OF TARA
My Lords, we have listened with great interest to a speech from a former Chairman of the B.B.C. It certainly ran along the lines we expected, and we scarcely thought the noble Lord would take any other view from the one he has expressed. I regret very much that we have not heard the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, because nothing is more enjoyable, to my mind, than hearing a good speech on a bad case. But we certainly enjoyed the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham. Some of the points he made with such skill and talent were answered by the Postmaster General, but the Postmaster General scarcely answered the point concerning the Post Office, and the amusing sally the noble Viscount made about the blue post boxes. But the American telephone system, I would remind the noble Viscount, is run by both the State and private enterprise in competition, and there is no better service in the world. I am not advocating a change—not for a moment. I am just reminding him of what does occur there.
I am sorry that the great Lord Hailsham, due to his constant contacts with the B.B.C., has been seduced from the paths of rectitude. I have very much enjoyed hearing his spirited defence of this and that policy. He is, I know, not only intellectual but ornamental. In 546 fact, in many houses up and down the country he is a "pin-up boy." I do not myself indulge in that ornamental activity, but I know he does, because in another place he has confessed to it. What he is, of course, is an artist: nobody will deny that; and I am surprised that as an artist he does not like the installation of competitive media, because, with that, he should get better employment and better rewards. I hope he will not get downhearted about it.
I think it only right to say where one stands in this matter. I am interested in the trade; I am a director of Electric and Musical Industries Limited. I do not speak for them, and I do not know whether the trade are in favour of one side or the other—I have not made any inquiry—but I am proud of the trade, for it was they who started the British Broadcasting Company before the British Broadcasting Corporation was formed. Not only did they do that, but they chose a man called Mr. Reith (now the great Lord Reith), and that was a considerable contribution to the nation, because he is a very curious character. I will say, with all sincerity, about the noble Lord—andI can pay no man a greater compliment—that the more you know him the more you love him; but he does go about looking rather like the wrath of God. He is one of those people who, first of all, have immense influence, and he is one of those people who have the curious characteristic that I believe they would love to go to the stake for something.
My next point is about television itself. That was invented by the company of which I am now a director. The great Schoenberg produced television in this country. It was popularly supposed to be Baird, but it was not; his principle was discarded very quickly. Schoenberg is a name which should be known up and down the country. Sometimes it is rather supposed that the Post Office invented it. It was a great tribute to this country that we had a television service going before the last war. I cannot help reminding your Lordships that we had the Derby on that service before the war, but never since.
I am glad to see that there has been no great dispute about whether this present system is a monopoly or not, because I have a quotation from the great Lord Reith, in which he says that "it was 547 the brute force of monopoly which enabled the B.B.C. to become what it was." The opposition to this Paper sounds very important. I want rather to analyse the opposition: we find it is the B.B.C. speaking, and little else. As your Lordships know, the B.B.C. has a General Advisory Council. The function of that Council is to advise the B.B.C. What it thinks it ought to do is to advise us. That is not its function. In the last debate, I drew attention to the fact that Sir William Haley got all his disciples together and instructed them on what they should say and how they should behave in that debate.
There was, first of all, the great Lord Reith, who is, if anybody, the B.B.C. There was the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, who was a member of it. There was the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, who was a member of it; there was the noble Lord, Lord Brand, who was a member of it and also a director of The Times.
§ LORD BRAND
May I tell the noble Lord that Sir William Haley never got his disciples together, and that, so far as I am concerned, I speak my own opinions and nobody else's, either the B.B.C.'s or anybody else's, any more than the noble Lord speaks, I suppose, the opinions of E.M.I.
§ LORD BRABAZON OF TARA
I quite accept that but, when you rub shoulders with a certain set of people, you get those opinions, and the noble Lord, of course, has been associated with the Committee which advises the B.B.C., and he got the same views. On the G.A.C. there is the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley—
§ VISCOUNT WAVERLEY
May I just say that I regard the noble Lord's assertions as altogether below the level on which such a debate as this should be maintained. There is no truth whatsoever in the implication that I, for one, have at any time been in any way influenced by anyone connected with the B.B.C. in this matter.
§ LORD BRABAZON OF TARA
I am glad to hear that. The point I am trying to make is that the noble Viscount was a member of the General Council and, from that point of view, they were so in 548 close contact with the B.B.C. that they, in fact, speak for the B.B.C. That is the point I am making.
§ LORD MATHERS
If I may interrupt the noble Lord, may I ask him whether it is not the custom of this House, when a statement is made correcting another noble Lord, that the noble Lord making the original statement withdraws it and, to act up to the standards of this House, apologises for having made the statement?
§ LORD BRABAZON OF TARA
I am always prepared to have a lesson in manners from anybody, but I do not think I offended the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley. If I have, I certainly apologise to him, and I certainly withdraw the idea that he was instructed. The point I am trying to make is that he was connected with the B.B.C. and speaks for them.
§ VISCOUNT WAVERLEY
I will set the noble Lord's mind at rest by telling him, in supplement to what I have already said, that I have never, to my knowledge, discussed with anyone connected with the government of the B.B.C. any of the matters that are now in debate.
§ LORD BRABAZON OF TARA
I accept that, of course. There is one exception, though, to those people who have been associated with the B.B.C. and that is Sir Frederick Ogilvie. He was, as your Lordships know, the Director-General. When he left, he issued a pamphlet on what he thought about the B.B.C. in general. In it he says, among other things:This is a monopoly which denies freedom of choice to listeners, it denies freedom of employment to speakers, musicians, writers, actors and all who seek their chance on the air.That was from the late Director-General of the B.B.C.
This debate and this subject have suddenly got a new ally, The Times. The late Director-General of the B.B.C., as your Lordships know, has now become the editor of The Times, and it is curious that in The Times this campaign against the White Paper was started by a letter from some distinguished noble Lords who were at one time connected with the B.B.C. That has started the agitation of which they almost boast, and the National Television Council—
§ LORD BRAND
What is the noble Lord's insinuation about this letter—that the signatories of that letter were influenced by somebody else to write it?
§ LORD BRABAZON OF TARA
I am not making any such insinuation. All I say is that this agitation was started by a great letter to The Times from some very distinguished people. What I want to be clearly understood is that, although there are great names, great speakers, very distinguished people, associated with the opposition to this White Paper, when we boil it down, it really comes to this: that the people who are speaking are people who have been associated in the past in some way with the B.B.C., and they do not carry, I maintain, the weight that their names normally should. I know quite well that the B.B.C. cannot voice an opinion. They are meant not to have any opinion of their own, but they have plenty of people to speak for them. It may be, indeed, that, just as the Radio Times cannot speak for itself, it gets its fellow The Times to speak for it.
I am glad that we have not heard to-day a pæan of praise for the B.B.C. for their Coronation performance—I have heard that argument advanced so many times. I am fully prepared to give the greatest credit to the technicians of the B.B.C. for their remarkable performance, but sometimes credit goes too far. I think one ought to remind the world that the B.B.C. did not produce the Coronation; they did not hire the Queen or the Archbishop of Canterbury; nor did they get the Earl Marshal to produce it. I have been interested to notice the attack that was made on America with regard to the gorilla, a most unfortunate affair, but certainly one that occurred without any premeditation, as has been borne out by our Ambassador in the States.
§ LORD BRABAZON OF TARA
But these things can occur. The night before last I was waiting patiently to see our Sovereign leaving in her aeroplane, and for twenty minutes I had to endure a detailed exposition of the entrails of a mosquito. If that had been in America I am sure those responsible would have been accused of bad taste.
I will not weary your Lordships with technical details as to the disappearance 550 of wavebands, which have been taken up by mobile services, taxis and the R.A.F.—that, perhaps, is a matter for a subsequent debate, but it needs attention drawn to it. If I could advise the B.B.C. on something which is wanted, let them concentrate on the production of colour television. That is badly wanted, and if we do not look out, we shall be late. If, however, we want an alternative black and white programme economically and quickly, there is no other way than along the lines of the White Paper. We must not forget, as Sir Robert Renwick reminded us all the other day, the possibility of programmes coming from the other side of the Channel. That may not be a possibility to-day with television, but in a few years' time it is very possible.
§ LORD BRABAZON OF TARA
No, the Channel. Your Lordships will remember some years ago there was a station on the other side called Luxembourg, which was received all over England. It had indeed a galvanising effect upon the B.B.C. because they had to compete against it. Do you want the B.B.C. to be galvanised by an alternative programme across the Channel which will not be under your control at all, because that is what you will get if you do not get busy in your own country?
§ LORD BRABAZON OF TARA
The debate we are having to-day is really about this alternative programme. Everybody agrees that we want it, and if we must have it let us face up to what it means from the point of view of finance. I make out that if you were to put it in the hands of the B.B.C. it would require, in order to finance it, a yearly contribution from each licence holder of at least £6. At present, the fee is £2 per year—and 20 per cent. of the people avoid that. What would be the effect if it went up to £6? It would be very great.
I cannot see what is the basic objection to the proposals, in spite of the speeches we have heard. There is plenty of public control. If there is any criticism I have of the White Paper it is that we almost fall over backwards in control; there is too much of it. The scheme gives 551 a rival to the B.B.C. It segregates advertisements from the programmes. Much has been said about the Press to-day and the advertisements in the Press. I have never found myself debauched by them. In the cinema you see your films, but between the films you see slides. Has anybody been greatly upset about that? Nobody screams about it at all, but it goes on in practically every cinema and does not upset us. It is difficult to find what all the fuss is about. Moreover, if a viewer does not like the advertisements, which are all going to be, so to speak, in one block, he can always turn back to the B.B.C.
I want to draw attention again to the curious collection of people we have against us. One of them is going to follow me—I refer to the most reverend Primate the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury. If I may say a word to him, I should first like to say that I do not find him a bore. He is always interesting, and he is always lively; and the fact that he joins in contentious subjects is all to his credit. I do not believe that he has ever made a dull speech in his life. I should, however, like to say that I look upon him more as an expert in education than in entertainment, and although I would certainly go to any church service that he had organised, I do not know whether I would go to any music-hall entertainment that he had organised. That is where we part company. Is television to be educational wholly, or is it to be entertainment? I shall certainly look forward with interest to what the most reverend Primate says, because not only has he the power of firing canons but he is a "big gun" himself. When you look at this coalition of The Times, their friends, the Archbishop and the Labour Party, it cannot be right; there must be something "phoney" about it.
Just one further quotation from Sir Frederick Ogilvie. At the end he says:The only possible losers"—that is, if the monopoly were abolished—would be the various Governments of the day—Labour, Tory, Coalition or whatnot. Governments are thoroughly suited by the Charter as it stands. What better could any Government wish for than to have at the end of the street a powerful efficient instrument which has all the appearance of independence but which by the existing provisions of the Charter and licence it can control at will.552 I do indeed congratulate the Government that they have not fallen into the temptation of sticking to the monopoly and putting that entirely under their wing. As for the Labour Party, they are always against monopoly unless they can control the monopoly themselves. That, of course, is humorous, and I suppose that it is unconscious humour. I have always been told that the difference between homo sapiens and the lower mammals is that the former alone had a sense of humour. The Labour Party have a long way to go.
§ 4.49 p.m.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, I am afraid I shall add nothing to the hilarity of these proceedings, but I shall be well content if I add a little to the light and to the relevance of this discussion. We are all agreed that television is an instrument of immense influence upon the social life and habits and thoughts of our people. In fact the ultimate effects of it are not now known and cannot now be forecast. I think we should be grateful to the Government for making it quite clear in the White Paper that complete freedom (such freedom as the Press, for good or ill, now possesses) is out of the question in relation to television.
The White Paper proposals are the product of one political Party and are naturally opposed by the other political Party or one of the other political Parties. That is not an important thing. The really important thing is that on this matter, whose importance is not political in the narrow sense at all but, in the widest sense, social, general opinion is sharply divided throughout the country and is at least very uneasy. The White Paper ends by saying that the Government feels that this solutionis one which will commend itself, at this stage of television development, to the majority of the people of this country.But in this matter what is needed is not a narrow majority decision, certainly not a Party majority decision, but a conclusion that will satisfy the great majority of the nation and be something like an agreed solution. My own hope is that as a result of this debate the Government may be able to recognise, first, that their proposals are by no means the only ones, secondly, that there may be better 553 ones, thirdly, that the real object to be sought is an agreed solution, and fourthly, that until that search has been made and has failed there should be no invoking of the Party machine.
Let me add at this point that in what I go on to say I am not speaking as though there were only one attitude which a Christian or a Churchman could take. I am glad that on this occasion, as on others, there will be a speech in the opposite sense from another member of the Episcopal Bench, This is one of the many matters in which, starting from common principles, Christians may come to different conclusions as to how those principles should be applied for the general well-being. But it is a fact, and I record it, that a great deal of Christian opinion is opposed to these proposals, or is at least extremely uneasy about them, and the same is true of a great deal of educational opinion throughout the country. May I make my position perfectly clear? Neither I nor those educationists to whom I have spoken are in any way influenced by underground work by the B.B.C. We are completely free in our judgment.
I wish to raise three decisive questions, by which I mean a series of three, each of which should be answered in a reasoned order before going on to the next. The first is this: How far is it wise at this time to put a great deal more of our national money and other resources into intensifying the output and accelerating the development of television? Everybody seems to assume that we can cheerfully afford the luxury of a competing and very expensive television system. But can we? In the first White Paper the Government said this:Some element of competition might be introduced when the calls on capital resources at present needed for purposes of greater national importance make this feasible,thus declaring that there are matters of greater national importance than television. One would judge from the general air of discussion that television was really the most important thing there was. The second White Paper quotes these words about capital resources but never refers to them again. Is it left to be taker for granted, without any argument, that the purposes of greater national importance are in fact so well supplied with capital resources that those resources can now 554 be diverted to the lesser purpose of competitive television?
I need not repeat how expensive the thing is going to be. The B.B.C. must in any case either increase its licence fee or get back from the Treasury the odd 15 per cent. to go on and do its present job effectively. It will want far more money if it has to stand up to this intense competition. At the same time, the competitive system is going to demand not only a Treasury loan to start, but an annual income which its advocates put at 20 per cent. or even 50 per cent. more than the annual revenue of the B.B.C. television system. And all this money, my Lords, in one way or another, through the licence or through the advertising companies, comes out of the national purse and out of the citizens' pockets. There are other even more serious capital demands. A very heavy drain will be placed upon manpower, absorbing to this end a vast deal of the thought, ability, imagination, nervous energy, and physical strength of armies of men and women. Are we wise to divert so much of that kind of national resource to this particular end?
Secondly under this head, apart from the cost, is it wise at this stage to supply the nation with more television in bulk? More there will certainly be under these proposals. It is true that the Postmaster General will specify maximum and minimum hours for broadcasting each day, but the programme companies will want money, and their money must come from the advertisers; and the more time they can give to the advertisers the more money they will get. On what principle can the Postmaster General say, "No, you shall have two hours, but not three hours," or "three hours but not four"? How can he resist this pressure for more time in order to accommodate more advertisers and gain more money? The B.B.C. has very wisely begun slowly and limited its hours of television, knowing that there was not yet the experience, the skill, the supply of suitable talent, to justify more time. Now, more television will not in the least mean better television. It will certainly mean, I do not say an increase in debased television—that is not the point—but a great increase in the proportion of mediocre television and trivial television, if not bad television, as compared with good television, 555 at the various levels, to keep both sets going.
And time is itself one of our capital resources. May I quote from a journal of advertising, which states with authority that in the United States the average time spent by the average viewer, taking men, women and children and covering morning, afternoon and evening, is four and a half hours per day. Checks over a two-year period show that daily viewing time seems to increase and not decrease as the novelty wears off. I ask: Is it wise to multiply opportunities of spending time in this way at the expense of other possible occupations for reasonable and intelligent persons? So I ask: Do we really need more television? And my answer is, so far: No, we do not. If we rule that out, then we come to the real question: Can we rightly ask for better television? That is a perfectly reasonable demand. By that I mean, not more highbrow television, but better television at every level of all the programmes, improving their standards in their own kind, an increase not necessarily in quantity at all, since quantity is more likely to injure than to help quality. That is the real question, I would suggest, with which we are confronted: How can we improve television, and does it help or hinder that improvement to maintain what is called the B.B.C. monopoly?
So I come to my second question—and may I here make a distinction I have already made as forcibly as I can? It seems to be assumed that if the B.B.C. monopoly is to be broken it can be broken only by a rival system financed by advertisers. I cannot think that that assumption is in the least correct. There are other ways of breaking that monopoly—indeed, the discussion of this whole matter has been confounded and confused from the start by that very assumption. There has been an unnatural or, at least, an unnecessary alliance between those who want, for cultural or other purposes, to break the B.B.C. monopoly, and those who want, for commercial ends, to use television to increase their own sales; and those two do not, in any sense, belong to one another. So let us take things in their right order, and consider first the cultural means of improving television programmes without 556 regard at this stage to the commercial element.
I believe that there is a very great deal to be said in favour of the B.B.C. monopoly, and much of it has been said already by noble Lords who have spoken. I will not repeat that; I rank myself with those who defend it as a typically British way of doing a thing really well. But I recognise that there is also something to be said for having alternative programmes provided by private enterprise, not vetoed or controlled by the B.B.C., giving viewers possibly a larger and more varied choice of programme, and giving artistes a chance of more than one possible employer. The case for this kind of cultural competition to improve standards is, I think, reasonable, and, for all I know, may be right. What I want to emphasise at this point is that there are more ways than one of providing room for private enterprise programmes free from a B.B.C. veto, and of providing them with studios and transmission facilities. And there are more ways than one of correlating such alternative free enterprise programmes with the system of the B.B.C. so that, without impeding each other, they can be free to do in competition such things as are best done in competition, but are still free to do together the things which are best done together. There are a good many things which, quite obviously, can be better handled jointly than separately.
The White Paper proposes, with regard to religious television, that the B.B.C. example of a Religious Advisory Committee should be followed. I am perfectly sure that the Churches would insist on that provision. But the Churches would not want two separate Committees doing the same job for two different systems; there is no need for such duplication. So, too, with regard to political television. There is no need for separate means of controlling that; and I should think the same would apply to a great deal of the technical side of transmission. But if, in a general programme, there is to be competition other than the provision by the B.B.C. itself of alternative programmes, then I repeat, there are many different ways of relating it to the B.B.C.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY)
May I interrupt the most reverend Primate for one moment? What he is 557 saying now is extremely interesting to all of us. He says, as I understand it, that there are many alternative methods by which private enterprise competition could be provided, without advertising, and paid for without advertising. Would he elaborate that because I think it is important to all of us?
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
I am coming to that in a moment; it is the third of my decisive questions. At present, I am simply considering how to get better programmes, and I suggest that there are various means of doing that. The White Paper works on the assumption that the free system must be paid for by advertisers, and its proposals are governed by that assumption. But if that assumption is rejected, if this dependence of cultural enterprise upon commercial self-interest is disallowed, then the problem of better television can be considered on its own merits, without a good deal of the passion that this controversy evokes, with a whole range of possibilities—from an independent Corporation setting up separate programmes, down to a system by which the B.B.C. itself provides studios and transmission on certain stations at certain times for the use of privately sponsored groups and programmes. That is my second question. If we want to improve our programmes, leaving aside the commercial side and this assumption of the tying of freedom to advertising, does not the White Paper need to be re-written?
So lastly, I come to my third decisive question. If there is to be competitive television, in order to provide better television, how is it to be financed? The White Paper proposes that we shall have two independent systems, one financed by licence fees and the other financed by selling time to advertisers. I hope that I am not wrong here, but this seems to me an astonishingly unbalanced proposal. The viewer pays his fee to the B.B.C., and then gets a rival programme "thrown in" for nothing. The more popular the system for which he does not pay becomes, the wealthier it will become, and therefore the more the viewer will have to pay for the less popular system that he does not want to use so much, order that it may have enough money to compete with the more popular system. Really, that seems to me to be lunacy.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
The noble Earl says that is not true, or it is not sense—I do not know which. Is it not like having to pay for a picture paper without advertisements, in order to be given free a picture paper with advertisements? So far as I can see, that is the proposal. How otherwise can you get your commercial television?
§ EARL DE LA WARR
The effect would be exactly the opposite to what the most reverend Primate has said. In fact, anybody who wants commercial television will have to take out licence costing £2. That will help the B.B.C. But I think he is suggesting that if anybody wants to help the B.B.C. they will, in fact, be enhancing the wealth of the competitor.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
The noble Earl has underlined exactly what I said—you have to pay for the picture paper without advertisements, in order to keep that going, in order to be given another picture paper with advertisements for which you do not pay a penny. It seems to me a very odd system. Surely, what is to be desired is that each system should be able to do its best in providing good television without the irrelevance of two quite different financial bases, one extracting money from the viewers entirely, the other extracting money from the advertisers only.
We are dealing with a matter admittedly of great social importance, and. one entering deeply into the habits, thoughts and imaginations of the vast majority of the nation—and I should like, to make it clear that I am just as fond of the Light Programme as I am of the Third Programme; and whilst I do not often listen to the radio I listen more, often to the Light Programme than I do to the Third. If we introduce competition for the sake of getting better programmes, all the providers of programmes should be equally free to make their best contribution out of the means at their disposal, without irrelevant considerations as to where their money is coming from, and without the distraction of having to please an outside body which has no necessary connection at all with the matter.
That can be achieved only if both the B.B.C. and such private companies as are licensed draw their revenue from one and 559 the same pool, although not necessarily in the same proportions—that is to say, from licence fees. Let the authority divide the pool between them in agreed proportions—so much to the B.B.C. to cover all its television services, all its great responsibilities and any services it gives to its rivals, and so much for the private enterprise group. Then each side will know precisely where it is, and will be able to give its whole mind to the job it has got to do—that is, to provide the best possible television service it can. At once it will be said that the licence fee for such a double programme would be so high that people would not pay it. Personally, I believe in people paying for what amenities they want, and doing without those for which they cannot pay. If they want better television, let the licence fee be raised, whether to enable the B.B.C. alone to do its job well or to enable an element of competitive programmes. If the licence fee for this purpose has to be raised to the terrible sum of £5 per annum, it would be a trivial expense for each family, compared with the average family's expenditure on smoking. The Chancellor of the Exchequer does not want us to reduce our smoking because that would hit him directly. But in every kind of way this White Paper proposal is going to hit the Chancellor of the Exchequer. So let us encourage people to pay for the television they want, even if it means reducing their smoking.
Is there any reason for departing from this straightforward method of financing television by making the consumer pay for it when you have arranged for an element of competition? The only argument, so far as I know, for introducing advertisements into the picture is that the money they will provide will be useful, and that it is the easiest way of getting a subsidy of television without people noticing it. If that argument is pressed on me, I would say: well in that case subsidise the whole television service and not half of it. Let the money from advertising go into the general pool to fructify the whole enterprise, instead of this queer dichotomy of a B.B.C. too pure, too highbrow, too dull, or too whatsoever you please, to be contaminated by advertisement revenue and a free enterprise system ex hypothesi to be equal to, or better than, the B.B.C. in all desirable qualities, which 560 can draw every penny of its revenue from advertisements and yet not suffer any contamination from that source. Let advertisements be permitted on both systems—on the B.B.C. system and on the system of the free enterprise group. If, as we are told—and if the future does not undermine it—advertisements can be strictly confined to a matter of a few minutes between programmes, the damage would not be all that serious. It would please the advertisers, who would get twice the range of programmes. Furthermore, it might double the revenue, if that is what is needed. It need not be offensive to anyone if the times for advertisements were short and fixed. It would then be easy to avoid them, and there would be room for much ingenuity of taste and discretion in deciding what advertisements on either system should precede the various types of programmes on the B.B.C. and the free enterprise system.
My Lords, I do not want any advertisement at all. I want a licence fee by which people pay for what they get. But if advertisements do come, let them be a means of subsidising the whole service, for thus they will certainly be kept in their proper places. Instead of a new and untried combination of private enterprise having to deal with advertisers, there would be the whole tradition, experience and authority of the B.B.C. to deal with what would clearly be sometimes a rather ticklish matter. So I suggest that the wisdom or unwisdom of seeking money from advertisements can be detached altogether from the question of better television, and can be considered on its own merits. I doubt whether the Government themselves believe that they have said the last or the best word on this matter. They describe these proposals as a "typically British approach to a new problem." But there are many typically British approaches, and not all of them are equally admirable.
One typically British approach is to try to combine in one operation the advancement of culture and the increase of commercial sales—to kill the cultural and the commercial bird with one stone. That has been tried many times. It is not a good idea. Another British approach is that of Party warfare, a violent struggle, argument and counter-argument, the Party machine, a Party victory, and a Party defeat. But that is altogether a 561 wrong approach to this matter, which should never have been conceived in Party terms or have been allowed to degenerate into Party terms. But it will be the only possible approach now, unless there can be substituted for it another typically British approach; that is, for all those concerned to get together to see whether they cannot find an agreed solution. I believe that once a firm distinction is made between improving television—if necessary by an element of competition—and the quite separate question of whether there is any need to get a subsidiary revenue from advertising for the whole television service, an agreed solution would not be so hard to find. My sole purpose is to plead that even now, rather than debate and division and continuance of Party dealing with the matter, an agreed solution should be looked for.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT HUDSON
My Lords, I think everyone will agree that we have just been favoured with an extremely interesting speech from the most reverend Primate. I am not sure whether, listening to it like this, I have been fully seized of the meaning of his proposals, but it seemed to me clear that he, at all events—I do not know to what extent he spoke for the other people backing this Motion—did not discard the idea of advertisement coming to the help of television.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
May I make it clear that I was speaking for nobody but myself. I have not even discussed the matter with other people concerned with this debate.
§ VISCOUNT HUDSON
Perhaps I put it unfortunately. But I think other Peers who backed this Motion would agree that the most reverend Primate did move a considerable way towards achieving what he spoke of at the end of his speech—namely, an all-Party solution. I would remind your Lordships that the Postmaster General at the end of his speech—at any rate, as understood him—said that everything that was suggested in the course of this debate would be taken into account and an endeavour would be made to work it into the final scheme which is to be submitted to both Houses of Parliament. I should like to try to deal with the objections that have been put forward, in the Press at all events, 562 by the opponents of the White Paper. I think that they can be summarised as follows. The opponents believe that television should remain a monopoly, subject to Government control, operated for the public good and free from any commercial element. They believe that otherwise standards will deteriorate. They believe that advertising will be forced upon an unwilling public, and, finally, that if a system such as that adumbrated by the White Paper is adopted, large firms will get an unfair advantage over small firms. If your Lordships will bear with me for a few moments, I shall try to deal with those four objections.
First, as regards monopoly: television to-day is the only medium for the dissemination of information, opinions and entertainment which is under the control of a single authority producing a single periodical publication, producing a single programme or other form of presentation. In the case of all other methods the public have a wide choice. In the case of sound radio, there are three programmes on the B.B.C., and, if they so wish, the public are always able to tune in to stations abroad. In the case of the Press, bookselling, music halls, concerts and, to a lesser extent, cinemas and film production, the existence of so many competing organisations means that the public, have a wide choice. Not only have the public a wide choice, but writers and artists also have a wide outlet. In the case of politics, there is the same choice because of the existence of three, or possibly four, Parties; and, in the case also of religion, the existence of a number of denominations gives the public a choice.
The existence of a monopoly in television, which I do not think has been denied by the opponents of the White Paper, in my view pre-supposes the existence of a superior body of persons selected and employed by a single authority appointed by Government, who have the right to decide or to dictate standards of taste for the public as a whole. It involves also the principle that the public should have the choice of accepting or rejecting what these people provide, but if the public do reject what the monopoly provides, they have no alternative and are obliged not to use the medium. In every other way—in books, newspapers, Parties or religion— 563 the mere fact of objection to a particular thing does not deprive the individual member of the public of the medium concerned. He has a wide freedom of choice. I believe the public should have what I might call "freedom of the knob" for television.
The other objection to monopoly is that pressure groups may find it easier to exercise influence over a single authority than they could possibly do where there are many different authorities in control. I suggest that until we come to the stage when we can have only one newspaper, one Party, one publisher, one theatre and one film producer, it is illogical to maintain a monopoly in the case of television. So, if there are to be competitive stations, or alternative stations, I suggest that it is illogical to put them under the authority of the B.B.C. As your Lordships will remember, the B.B.C. emphatically believe in the necessity for a monopoly. In the evidence they gave before the Beveridge Committee, they state (noble Lords will find it on page 196 of the Report of that Committee):The view which the Corporation wishes to put forward with the greatest earnestness it can convey is that it is vital to the public interest that the monopoly of both sound and television broadcasting should be preserved. It is recognised that independence, impartiality, integrity and other absolute requirements of broadcasting are not automatically guaranteed by the existence of a monopoly.On page 48 of their Report the Beveridge Committee commented on that, I think, with extraordinary wisdom. Calling attention to the dangers of monopoly, they say:There is the danger finally that when a sense of mission such as animates the B.B.C. is combined with security of office it may grow into a sense of Divine Right.In the case of the noble Lord, Lord Reith, we have seen that it did grow into a sense of Divine Right. Evidence of that is to be found in the book written by the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, in which he refers to the difficulties he found. He was continually being told that Lord Reith's opinion was all that mattered. That is carried to excelsis in the article the noble Lord wrote in the Observer last Sunday, in which, after a certain number of observations, he commits himself to the statement that an analogy with the Press is 564 just silly. I am sorry the noble Lord is not here to-day. He had no arguments, but expected the readers of the Observer to take his ipse dixit as proof of the case, an expectation which I hope will not he followed by your Lordships. That is a clear example of the effect of a monopoly on the person concerned in running it.
The most reverend Primate the Lord Archbishop of York said the other day that some inventions are so dangerous that they must be controlled lest they be used for the injury of the people. That may possibly be true in the case of atomic energy, but television deals with the human mind. I should have thought that everyone agreed that one of the most dangerous of all things is to try to control thinking. Surely the freedom of thinking, the development of an educated democracy, has been one of the aims of the British people over hundreds of years. Surely our historic freedom to hear, freedom to see and freedom to speak should be extended to new media as they are discovered and developed—in this case to television.
The second objection that the opponents of the White Paper put forward is that the proposed scheme would result in the control of the programmes by advertisers. I doubt very much whether this is true. The freedom of the British Press and its cheapness to the public are maintained because the bulk of the revenue of the Press is derived from advertisers who freely buy space to use because they think it pays them to do so. I have come to the conclusion that some of the opponents of the White Paper do not want freedom of the Press. I think many of their arguments are based on the fact that they do not like a particular newspaper—many will spring to your Lordships'minds—and they would like to prevent developments which they think wrong in that newspaper by not allowing them to exist in the case of television. I believe that is one of the reasons why they allege that the results of advertising would be to degrade the average programme put forward. The White Paper provides advertisers with an opportunity to buy time in the context of the television programme, just as the Press provides space for the advertisers to buy in the context of their news. And the success of selling advertising, either in newspapers or in programmes, depends 565 on the success of the newspapers or the programmes in appealing to the public. Many papers carry advertisements to the extent of £6,000 to £10,000 a day in their columns, but that large sum is contributed by a number of different advertisers. No paper to-day can afford to allow one advertiser to develop a particular line to the exclusion of others; no editor worth his salt to-day would surrender himself to advertisers; and I cannot see any reason to suppose that the controller of programmes under the White Paper would have any lower moral standards or any lesser economic sense.
A good deal has been said about the evils of commercialism. Well, we are a commercial nation and depend on commerce. It is certain that no manufacturer could continue to make an article unless that article served the public in the long or the short run. In the same way, unless the stations perform a public service by televising acceptable programmes to the public, they will be useless to advertisers, and they will cease to earn the money required to keep them going. Newspapers, equally, do not fail to provide public service in the way of the dissemination of news and the criticism of evil. They perform a public service because they sell advertising space. We hear a good deal about the alleged mass response. But to-day advertisers in newspapers do not only go in for mass response. I am told that there are at present in England only fourteen national newspapers with a circulation of more than one million; but there are some 3,700 other newspapers in existence that depend almost exclusively on advertising. Therefore, it is clear that advertisers do not go only for the mass circulation papers, but find it necessary to advertise in a whole host of other papers.
Even The Times and the Manchester Guardian advertise. They do not, presumably, advertise only to increase their circulation and their influence. Surely, one of the main objects of their advertisements is, by offering advertisers more circulation, to raise their advertising sales. No one, not even the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, is going to suggest that The Times or the Manchester Guardian adapt their editorial policy to the requirements of their advertising revenue. Even the Radio Times boasts that it is one of the best advertising 566 media in the country. Under this scheme, if it is carried out, stations will have to secure all kinds of advertisers if their revenue is to be adequate; and if they are going to secure all kinds of advertisers, they will have to appeal to all kinds of viewers. There is no reason for thinking that under the influence of advertising programmes would be confined to crime, sex, and sensation. Finally, I would remind your Lordships that the Royal Commission on the Press, on page 143 of their Report, said that they had discovered no evidence of concerted pressure by advertisers to induce newspapers to adopt a particular policy.
The fourth objection that the opponents have is that a system of advertisement would mean that advertisements were thrust on an unwilling public. What happens to-day? Can anybody read a newspaper without also seeing the advertisements? Can anyone travel without seeing poster advertisements, unless he is blind? The only advertisements of which I know that one could take steps to avoid seeing are those in cinemas, shown during the interval, which one presumably could avoid seeing if one closed one's eyes. Similarly, with television, if there were any advertisements one did not desire to see, it is a comparatively simple thing to turn the set off: indeed, in America, such has been the reaction against listening to advertisements that they have introduced an electronic device which turns off the machine when the advertisements are likely to come on. If I may be allowed to say so, I thought the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, devoted far too much time in his speech to comparisons with what has happened in America. I have been there and I have seen a little of what goes on, but I see no reason to suppose that what is true of America is true of this country. From talks with many people there, and knowing the country as I have done for many years, I have no reason to suppose that there is any comparison between the public opinions of the two countries, or, for that matter, the tastes of the two, except possibly in musical comedy. Therefore, I do not believe that the horrible picture the noble Lord painted of what is happening in the United States would necessarily follow under the scheme outlined in the White Paper.
567 I will not spend time in dealing with other incidental advantages of the competitive system—the advantages from the point of view of the writers and the artistes. There is no reason to suppose that, as a result of their having a better outlook and remuneration, the standard of what is written and shown will not improve as a result of competition. There is the enormous influence on the export trade of the development at home of a large home market. And, so far as unfair competition by large firms is concerned, there is no reason to suppose that television will make any difference to the advantage that they already enjoy in advertising, merely by virtue of their size and their resources. In conclusion, I would say that this White Paper represents merely a possible framework. Eventually, it has to be put into a Bill, and the Bill has to go through both Houses of Parliament. I can see no reason why if, as the most reverend Primate suggested, there is good will on both sides, we should not eventually, in the British tradition, have a workable scheme. People have said that the B.B.C. provides us with a system of broadcasting which is the envy of the whole world. I see no reason why, if this scheme is passed, it should not develop in time into providing this country with a television service which will also be the envy of the world.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
My Lords, I was much struck by the fact that the first words of the noble Viscount who has just spoken, and his concluding words, were in the same sense as the conclusion of the speech of the Postmaster General. The noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, ended by saying—and it has been emphasised by subsequent speakers—that this scheme is not regarded by the Government as sacrosanct, to be forced through Parliament by the use of Government Whips exactly as it stands; but that they are quite prepared to enter into communications with a view to arriving, if possible, at an acceptable agreement. They could, therefore, even before this White Paper is discussed in another place, perhaps find reason, as a consequence of this debate, to modify their policy. However, I hardly venture to hope that they will go so far as that. In any case, it must be 568 clear in their own minds from this debate, so far as it has gone, that the present scheme is not to be regarded by those who opposed the previous White Paper as anything substantially different from the previous proposals.
My noble friend Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, speaking with great knowledge on this subject, advanced a powerful argument to show that no substantial difference has been made in the proposal merely because the word "sponsoring" has been dropped. He has pointed out that in America the advertisers, the great industrial firms and others, do not themselves, for the most part, choose the programmes. The manufacturers of soap, beer, cigarettes or whatever it may be, do not pretend to be impresarios: they do not choose the singers at concerts, or the variety artistes, or the plays to be performed. That is all done either by the station owners in America, or, as, I believe is more usual, by agents whose profession it is. They hire time on the broadcasting stations from the broadcasting companies, and they sell it to the advertisers, having chosen the artistes or the programme, whatever it may be, which they think will have the greatest selling value. The proposal of this White Paper to put that duty on to the station owners is precisely the same, in effect, as the present system in America. It means that the programmes are determined by their selling value, and must be chosen from that point of view; and, unless they are specially conscientious people with very high principles, on that basis alone. These stations, quite unlike the Press, which is not to be compared for a moment with these proposals, will have no other revenue. In the Press, advertising plays only a minor part, and no permanent part in the actual choice of particular articles in the newspaper.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
The point which I think has already been made is this. Though it may be said that in the case of the radio companies the advertisement revenue will be 100 per cent., and though in the case of some of the newspapers the income from advertisement would be 50 or 60 per cent., in either case the company in question would be entirely dependent on advertisements for its survival. In essence it is exactly the same position in both cases.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
That argument has repeatedly been put forward. It is not so at all. Where there is a radio station with no income except that obtained from advertisements, the station has to go to a comparatively small number of people to sell its time. It must satisfy those particular persons that its programme is worthwhile for them to pay for. There is nothing in the least degree comparable in the Press, and whether the Press receives a large percentage of revenue which is essential for its survival or not, does not alter the fact that the system in its working will be entirely different. I shall come back to that in a moment.
My view is the same as that of the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, that in principle and in effect the scheme now put forward is no different from that previously put forward; and whether you call the people who choose the programmes station owners, or advertising agents or advertisers means nothing. What matters is where the revenue comes from, and what will be the motive behind the choice of programme. But it is not only the question of the choice of programme. What about the advertisements themselves? I shall come in a few moments to that question, which again is one of great importance, and to the question of who is to choose the class of advertisement that is to be propagated from these radio stations. In the observations I shall address to the House I shall not enter into any general considerations of monopoly or liberty, or any questions that have now been so fully debated, but will limit myself to points which I do not think have been raised before and which I believe will tend to elucidate the actual meaning, purpose and effect of the White Paper which is now before the House: what it is intended to accomplish by its various provisions; what the results are likely to be in relation to the public, to our cultural development, to the B.B.C. and in other ways.
I gave the Postmaster General notice that I should raise three questions, but he was good enough to inform me that they would be answered by the noble and leaned Lord on the Woolsack who will now be replying as next Government speaker. My first question is with regard to these programme companies. How many will there be, in the first instance, at all events? It might be different if 570 we were to have very high frequency broadcasting, where many channels are available. How many of these programme companies will there be using the whole national system of broadcasting from the centre, and how many will there be in the regions with only a local radius? Will there be more than one at the centre? Will there be more than one in any one region? That is an important question when we come to the matter of monopoly.
Secondly, how many applications have been made for these licences? Is it the case, as has been stated publicly on behalf of the advertisers' association, that the number is now nearly 100? On what principle will selection be made of the comparatively small number of stations to be licensed, and the large number of companies or persons who wish to secure those licences? Who will be the persons who will, in fact, be charged with the management and control of these programme companies and, therefore, of the use of the stations? Will they be the same men as the great advertising agents? Or, if they are not the same men, are they not likely to be closely associated with them, possibly financially or personally? Is there any real difference between the promoters of the programme companies and the great advertising contractors?
The finance of this system is a matter about which nothing has been said to-day, but it is one to which I would earnestly invite the attention of your Lordships. Public finance, I know, is not within our scope; this it a matter more likely to attract close attention in another place. Nevertheless, I am sure your Lordships will be interested when you come to examine what are the financial proposals here. There are two societies of advertisers: one, the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers, and the other the Institute of Incorporated Practitioners in Advertising. These are two powerful representative and reputable bodies, and they have issued two pamphlets, ably written and very informative. I quote some facts from one of them, entitled Memorandum: the Viewer and the Advertiser. The facts are of great interest, and they show that large sums are involved in this question. The pamphlet says:Estimates of the amount spent in Britain to-day on advertising in national and provincial newspapers, magazines, cinema, radio and out-door advertising is something between £80 million and £90 million a year.571 That is a large sum. Whether that adds to the strength of our national economy, in view of all the other claims upon our resources for social improvement, defence and many other matters, is a question into which I do not wish to enter now. The other fact I would quote from this Memorandum is this—I quote textually:Advertisers and their advertising agents are convinced that competitive television on the right basis will prove to be a very powerful selling force, and therefore our considered opinion is that it will be possible to have between £5 million and £10 million a year made available to competitive television when it reaches, say, 75 per cent. of the population.Well, my Lords, it is proposed in the White Paper to establish this system by charter, lasting for a period of ten years. If the licences are for ten years and if the total revenue is going to be between £5 million and £10 a year, that means we are handling to-day a question with a total sum involved of between £50 million and £100 million over that period.
§ EARL DE LA WARR
The licences, of course, will be issued to the public corporation that own the transmitting stations. They will then make contracts of quite a different character with the programme companies.
§ EARL DE LA WARR
That is the sort of point we should like to hear discussed in this debate. Whether the period would be a year, or two, three or four years, I do not know. But it is a matter which will have to be settled between the issue of the White Paper and the introduction of any legislation.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
Whether it is one period or another, there will be this sum of £5 million to £10 million a year for this period of years which will be in question, and which will be handled by these programme companies. If they are to be so remunerative as they seem to be, they will be very fortunate people who, at the start, will what the Stock Exchange calls "get in on the ground floor" and who will control the spending of these vast resources. How are they to be chosen? This is a very important and difficult problem for the Government to solve; and we are entitled to have some information as to who would be these "happy few."
572 Before this White Paper was published, it was supposed that the commercial interests who were to play a part in it would at all events provide a competitive service by themselves building the stations and providing the equipment. They would provide the capital, either by forming companies and issuing shares, or by bank loans or in some other way. That, I imagine, was the universal supposition. But we find in the White Paper that that is not so at all. We find that the public corporation is to own the stations and to operate them. Paragraph 16 says:The Corporation would require adequate finance to pay for its stations, studio equipment and running expenses. Capital would be provided by advances from the Treasury…"—that is to say, from the British taxpayer. Now, the Postmaster General said in his speech that the companies would provide all these stations and equipment and so forth at their own risk. But they are running no risk. All that they undertake to do is to repay the Treasury over a period of years, from revenue, the loans that have been made for these various purposes. And the Postmaster General said that if they were unsuccessful—he posed two alternatives: either that they were unsuccessful or that they were successful—nobody would be worse off than themselves: it would be their own loss. But what would their losses consist of?—not buildings, equipment, or even studio equipment. Possibly there would be scenery and costumes for the performance. That is all they would lose. The rest would belong to Her Majesty's Treasury, who would have to sell the stations to the B.B.C. for whatever they would fetch.
The noble Earl also said, with regard to the control of programmes, that it would involve close and friendly co-operation between the two parties, the Public Corporation on the one hand and the station companies on the other. But would that extend also not only to the choice of programmes but to the choice of things to advertise? We do not know about that. I will take a specific case. The two associations of advertisers have been good enough to put forward not only their own scheme, a few months ago—which is precisely the scheme which has now been presented in the White Paper: there may be some small details in which they differ but I have not discovered them—but also four pages of 573 draft regulations for the consideration of the Government with a view to their being included in the licences.
They would exclude a great many things from being advertised at all. It is an admirable list. But, for example, they do not say anything about football pools, and that is a very important consideration. They say that no tipsters' advertisements are to be included and no speculative financial advertisements. But suppose that in the course of these friendly and confidential communications between these two parties the manager of one of the stations said: "I have had an offer of £10,000 or £20,000 from the local football pool for a five minutes' advertisement showing the advantages and benefits of football pools," would that be ruled out or not? Suppose the Corporation said: "We don't like that and we would not have it," and the manager of the station then said: "The viability of my station depends on my receiving this large sum year by year, and I must insist upon it," what would happen in that event? Who will have the last word? It looks as though the people who provide the revenue are, very likely to have it.
To the great surprise of everyone, this Public Corporation in London is to operate all the stations: not only to own and lease them to the companies but actually to operate them, to provide all the technical staff and also the running expenses and the studio equipment. One authority will have to provide the programme and the other authority all the rest. Your Lordships may imagine the position when, perhaps, an actor says: "Methinks I hear approaching sounds of horses." If there is then a very long and awkward pause, that would not be the responsibility of the station owner: it would be the responsibility of the Public Corporation, since it is a matter of part of the studio equipment. Such a situation might be liable to give rise to a considerable amount of friction which certainly does not occur in the case of the B.B.C.
I am not going to argue on the question of monopoly, as the Postmaster General is the most rigid monopolist of all. I held that post myself for three or four years, forty ears ago, and I was as ruthless as he would be to-day against anyone who should dare to 574 infringe that particular public monopoly. There are monopolies and monopolies. There are those that are run as public utility services in the public interest, which is quite a different thing from a monopoly which is run by private enterprise for somebody's profit. I submit to your Lordships—I do not know what the answer of the Lord Chancellor will be—that the number of these companies would not be large. Nationally it would be only one and locally it would be one, so long as there are so few channels available. So you would have, therefore, a new monopoly, partly local and partly national, set up beside the existing monopoly. That, again, is a great difference between the B.B.C. and the Press, because anybody can start a new newspaper but no one can start new television or radio stations because of the natural monopoly that is imposed by the limitation of the number of channels.
The Memorandum by the advertisers that I quoted previously contains this paragraph on that point:Granting of Licences: our only interest under this heading is to suggest, with great respect, that care should be taken to ensure that the total revenue likely to be available for competitive purposes is not dissipated over too many competitive stations serving the same public.A monopoly is a great evil when it is somebody else's monopoly, but an excellent thing for oneself! The last words of the paragraph are:At the outset, there must be a very strict limitation in the number of licences."Set the people free!" I do not think that the idea of the advertisers is at all in accordance with that slogan. There will almost certainly be a monopoly within every local station, and how will that affect the people of the locality? How will it affect the traders? When this proposal comes out into the open and is considered by the nation as a whole, this is one aspect which will receive the closest possible attention throughout the whole country and amongst all classes of the community, for, as we ail know, in our present economic situation there is a struggle for life by the medium and the small traders against the multiple stores and the great departmental stores. Also, there is a great struggle going on amongst the trades people in the small towns and villages in the neighbourhood of a great 575 city with the shopping centre of that city made so easily accessible by the motor bus.
But what is to happen with regard to these? If you examine the White Paper carefully, you will find that it says that one of the activities of the programme company locally will be to issue shoppers' guides. This is not the proposal of the advertisers—I am not quoting the advertisers' Memorandum, I am quoting the Government White Paper. The shoppers' guides are to specify the particular firms and the particular goods that are being advertised.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
The question is, who can afford to pay for advertisements of that kind in the local television station? Only the largest firms. It will be exceedingly valuable—
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
The selling power will be enormous. We are now approaching Christmas. The Christmas sales, which often make all the difference between a profit and a loss in the year's trading, are beginning. Imagine some town, wherever it may be—say, Liverpool—with a local programme company running the television station provided by the Government, paid for by the Government, maintained by the Government, operated through a Government Corporation and advertising at Christmas time the particular list of favoured firms who pay them a very large fee. What will the public think of that? All the advertisers will say is: "The small man will be catered for equally. No discrimination will be made. He will be allowed to pay. We shall get £1,000 for ten minutes from this group of shop-owners and we shall receive £100 for one minute from the small man."
May I interrupt for a moment? In the United States the small advertisers frequently combine together to get a programme. That is frequently done.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
But will that be effective? You have a great advertiser, with two or three shops in the town, 576 buying several minutes of time, and a number of small men combining together and obtaining perhaps half that time. What effect will that have upon the public mind? It reminds me of a saying of, I believe, Anatole France, who said:The law in its majestic impartiality punishes both the rich and the poor if they beg in the streets.It is a case very much akin to that.
I think that the Government will find, if this system is brought into operation by Christmas next year, that there will be a feeling of bitter indignation on the part of the medium and the small traders wherever these competitive television stations are established. They will say: "We have to stand up to the competition of these big men, these enormous firms, with millions of capital and income behind them." No one, I suggest, will be able to stop that competition. "Oh," they will say, "it is really rather hard this Christmas. Our trade has been spoilt by these most effective advertisements in television which tens of millions of people are seeing. As a consequence we are entirely outclassed and our year's profit may have turned into a loss. Worst of all, this is done at the expense of the British Treasury. It is they who built the station, it is they who operate it, it is they who have licensed these programmes which are gradually ruining us."
The financial aspect of this matter deserves very serious consideration. This movement comes forward under the banner of a great crusade for liberty, with the battle cry, "Set the people free." I have no doubt that members of the Government and those Members of Parliament who are in favour of this scheme, and a great number of people all over the country, perfectly sincere and high-minded, feel that that is so and are fighting in that cause. But, behind and underneath this, there is a movement which is carrying on its propaganda and is engaged in what is substantially a vast financial gamble. The stake is small because all the initial investment is provided for them by the Treasury. The profits may be, and I believe will be, enormous, and great fortunes may be at stake at this moment.
Lastly, what will be the effect upon the B.B.C.? A great deal has been said on this point. I do not claim to be able to 577 judge the programmes of the B.B.C. in television, and I would not presume to give an opinion, but I am entirely with the B.B.C. in desiring an alternative, competitive programme. For a considerable number of years, I have been a member of the General Advisory Council of the B.B.C. I am sorry I was momentarily absent from the House when the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, had something to say about the General Advisory Council, for I should have joined in the protests which I understand were made by other noble Lords who have been members of that Council. I, as a member of the General Advisory Council, have never received any propagandist material or advances or seductions from the B.B.C., but I have received a great deal of information I know all that is going on inside the B.B.C. from that point of view. That information enables me to know that for a long time past the B.B.C. have been only too anxious to have a second, alternative and competing programme, and if it had not been for the action of the Government in taking away the 15 per cent. (now to be 14 per cent.) of the whole of their revenue, which has been given them by the public for a specific purpose, and if it had not been for the restrictions on capital expenditure, they would have established this second programme long since.
I will not trouble your Lordships with what I had to say about programmes but I will come to an end. Television, by common consent, is an exceedingly powerful influence and likely to become a more and more powerful influence in moulding our civilisation of the future. It is much too important for it, or for any part of it, to be regarded as a mere by-product of the British advertising industry. Some of your Lordships who may have passed through the hall at Broadcasting House will remember seeing on the wall there, printed in large letters in a commanding position, a brief inscription, put there by the Governors when the building was opened twenty years ago. It is in monumental Latin. I will not strain the Latinity of your Lordships, or my own, by giving it in its original terms, but will give you the translation which has been included in an earlier publication of the B.B.C. It is as follows:The Governors dedicate the building to Almighty God with this Prayer: 'That good 578 seed sown may bring forth a good harvest, that all things hostile to peace or purity may be banished from this house, and that the people, inclining their ear to whatsoever things are beautiful and honest and of good report, may tread the path of wisdom and uprightness'.Those ideals have been faithfully pursued all these years by this great institution, with the thanks of the nation and the praise of the world. Let us not now undermine it from its very foundations.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ LORD TREFGARNE
My Lords, your Lordships have obviously listened with your usual enjoyment to the speech of the noble Viscount. On the occasions when I have the honour to attend these debates I always look forward with immense pleasure to hearing the noble Viscount. Some years ago I used to sit at his feet and accept his guidance on many an awkward political problem. I must confess, however, that there was one aspect of his speech to-day which left me a little, shall I say, in the air. He dealt with a number of comparatively less important points, such as who would own the stations, what would be the effect upon our economy of increased advertising expenditure and what would be the terms of the licence and so on; but I thought (if he will forgive me for saying so) he skated rather lightly over what is to many of us the paramount question which is at issue in discussing this Motion.
The noble Viscount said that he would not enter into points of monopoly, liberty and so on. I thought that came, if I may say so, a little strangely from the Leader of the Party sitting on his Benches. He appeared to think that the test of the validity of a monopoly was whether or not it was owned and controlled by private enterprise or a public corporation. I venture to suggest, with great deference, that that is not at all the test that a great many of us had in mind. I need give only one example of a famous monopoly against which he and I, I think, shouted in unison, and that was theBritish Gazette. That was a monopoly which was not owned by private enterprise, but many of us thought at the time that it was a pretty devastating example of a monopoly. I did, however, welcome what the noble Viscount said when he urged Her Majesty's Government to be flexible, and to be willing to consider 579 certain general or detailed modifications in the proposals embodied in the White Paper.
I intend to oppose this Motion on grounds which I hope to be allowed to state briefly to your Lordships, but I should like the spokesman of Her Majesty's Government to make it clear, if he concurs in my view about this, that a vote against the Motion does not necessarily commit noble Lords to more than a very general support of the proposals in the White Paper. I do not know whether that has yet been said from the Front Bench, but I feel that it would greatly ease my vote, for what it is worth, if it leaves me free to make certain suggestions when the legislative proposals come before the House. For some years ending in 1948 I had the honour to be Chairman of the Television Advisory Committee. That Committee was composed of myself (the only lay member) as Chairman and the principal civil servants of the departments concerned, together with the Director-General and the Controller of Engineering Services of the B.B.C. Whilst it would, of course, be improper—and I certainly do not intend to infringe that salutary rule—for me to disclose any of the proceedings of that Committee, in view of the onerous service—I think I can say public service—that I endeavoured to do for some years, I think some of your Lordships might understand that I should not like to give a silent vote on this occasion.
The first reason why I am opposed to this Motion is that, with the best will in the world, I cannot take for granted all the extravagant claims that are made, in this House and elsewhere, for the technical, administrative and moral supremacy of the B.B.C. over all other systems. I do not agree that the B.B.C. is the envy of the world. I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, who frequently visits the United States, will bear me out that there is frequent and widespread biting criticism of the B.B.C. programmes in the American papers; and if he will be good enough to refresh his memory of some parts of the Beveridge Report I think he will find that that is not an exaggerated statement. In particular I appeal for more generosity and detachment, and, I might add, knowledge, 580 in comparing the B.B.C. with the United States system. Much of the criticism of the United States programmes has been made by people who have either never heard them or who have been there for only an extremely short time. I think there is nothing more absurd than for a temporary visitor to a foreign country to set himself up as an arbiter elegatiarum about something which is, after all, largely a matter of taste, public or private.
Of course the American commercial programmes at times sound highly objectionable to listeners from this side, but they are not so objectionable to American ears. The noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, in the monumental Report which he gave us, was, I thought, extremely clear in his summary of his authoritative inquiry into the popularity of American programmes. He printed what is probably the most authoritative investigation into that subject that has ever been made in the United States. It is true that it is only in the nature of a highly controlled and organised Gallup Poll, and I know that your Lordships have two views about the reliability of such methods; but after all, they are the best available. There it was shown that out of every 100 listeners, 23 actually liked the advertisements in the programmes, 41 had no objection to them, and only 7 wished to have them taken off the air. I should think that that would be quite a good result for almost any feature of the B.B.C. programmes, if a similar test could be made. Often, the interpretation of the test is the most important part about it, and in this case it was done by the person whom Lord Beveridge describes in his Report as the most eminent authority in this field, a university authority.
Then it has been said that no one with any knowledge of both systems really approves the American system. That is not the case; it is simply untrue, and, I venture to suggest, misleading. There was a gentleman who was Controller of Talks in the B.B.C., and who, for some reason unknown to me, left. He now occupies an extremely high position in the United States broadcasting field, and although he has uttered much by way of criticism, his conclusion about the American system is thatWith all its defects, it is the best system and the best service in the world.581 The noble Lord, Lord Beveridge took particular pains to get a report from one who was recommended to him as an impartial authority, one of the greatest critics of United States broadcasting, Mr. John Crosby, of the New York Herald-Tribune. He wrote quite a long report—I do not intend to repeat it all—and on one of the crucial points which have been discussed in this debate he said:Commercials on our radio are not nearly so offensive to most radio listeners as to you British who are not used to them.And of course that is obviously true. I do not see anything particularly amusing in that, as it is quite germane to what we are trying to discuss.
A further point was made by the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, also reinforced by the noble Viscount, Lord Hudson, with which I am in entire concurrence: that was that when these advertising methods are brought into the English system they will be largely modified to suit English taste. It is common knowledge that anyone who wishes to launch an advertising campaign in the United States has to employ indigenous or local experts to write the copy, otherwise he would get no results at all. It is not only in the field of broadcasting, but in the field of newspaper advertising, as well as in almost every commercial, cultural, and even sartorial field, that the national tastes are entirely different. I know two or three people, who would be equally well known to a great many Members of your Lordships' House, who, in an American background, at a certain time of the year, can be seen wearing shirt jackets, with pink flamingoes printed or embroidered across the front and back, and mermaids, and so on, or American ties. I go South occasionally in the United States, and as I go I change my tie every few hundred miles until down South it becomes something that I certainly would not "sport" in London, or even in Brighton. I think it is fallacious to contend that when advertising is brought under British auspices it will not be modified to conform to English tastes.
Another feature of American broadcasting that we are often inclined to overlook is the immense variety and number of American radio and television stations. Some noble Lords have had more experience of some parts of the United States than I have, but I was recently on the Canadian border and without the slightest 582 difficulty any day I could receive five television stations. I was so curious about this that I made some inquiry to ascertain how many television broadcasting stations there are in the United States, and I found that there are between 75 and 100. It seems to me, with that immense devotion to what the Americans frequently call the grass roots of enterprise, that if we are to confine this to one fount of opinion and control that would be a reactionary policy.
As for the cultural value of some of the American broadcasts, we should keep in mind that there are, I think, close on 100, certainly over 80, purely educational broadcasting stations in the United States. There are at least three stations which broadcast nothing but classical music. I am fond of classical music, though I cannot claim any particular skill in its interpretation; but anyone who so desires can at any time, in any part of the United States, with the exception of those extremely remote geographical parts (of which there are more than people generally realise), obtain a programme of classical music. On the question of variety programmes, it is a moot point, at any rate in my mind, whether the B.B.C. variety programmes are any better than those in the United States. At least one member of the noble Viscount's Committee of Inquiry thought—I have not her exact words, but they can be found by anyone who reads the Report—that they touch depths as low as some of those achieved in the United States.
I, of course, want to make it absolutely clear that if I mention B.B.C. faults it is not to complain, but only to bear out my suggestion that there is something to be said on both sides. If these claims for their supremacy had not been pitched so high I might well have been found here praising the B.B.C., their television and broadcasting programmes—in fact, the whole achievement of the B.B.C. I do not want to put myself among those who regard the B.B.C. as inferior; but because their claims for supremacy, and almost perfection, have been placed so high, thereby confusing what I regard as the paramount issue of monopoly, I humbly feel that it may restore some balance of opinion if some of the faults of the B.B.C. and some of the merits of the American system are recited here.
583 Very briefly, I should now like to say just a few words about aspects of the B.B.C. wider than the quality of the programmes. It is common knowledge that in the past the B.B.C. have been reluctant to accept criticism. They regarded the Beveridge Committee almost as their Armageddon. They mobilised all their forces, the 500 members of their advisory committees, and some of the most powerful and influential Members of your Lordships' House, and they prepared evidence to a total of over 600,000 words. That, as some of your Lordships may know, is approximately the length of the Authorised Version of the Bible, and I do not think the country has even yet realised the debt it owes to the Beveridge Committee for the enormous task they had in sifting and presenting an intelligible analysis and summary of that evidence. One thing is certain: the B.B.C. have stubbornly opposed every proposal for change. I said that I would not infringe the strict conventional rule of repeating anything that happened in the Television Advisory Committee during my period as Chairman, and on one point it is not necessary for me to do so—that is the question of whether the film industry should be allowed to transmit programmes, not to the homes but to the cinema screen. The B.B.C. are still stubbornly opposed to that proposal.
The noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, has just written an extremely fascinating book in which he makes the case for persuasion being a great element of power. Despite the fact that he and, I believe, all his Committee, had these witnesses of the B.B.C. before them for so long, there is no single reservation to this recommendation that the film industry should be allowed to set up a transmission station of its own—and the Government accepted it, rather half-heartedly, I thought, in the statement made. Still the B.B.C. are stubbornly opposed to what I regard as a beneficent move. Therefore, I think it is quite fair to say that they stubbornly oppose change. I wonder whether this determined opposition to change has not something to do with what the noble Lord, Lord Simon, told us about the extreme difficulty he experienced in getting senior officials of the B.B.C., and the Director- 584 General, to pay even a hurried visit to the United States.
I do not know how many of your Lordships have read Lord Simon's book. During the last few months I have had to spend a little time on ships, and I found it of enormous advantage, because I was able to read the noble Lord's book—a most comprehensive, clear and well-documented book, the finest book on this subject (I am not speaking of its partiality or otherwise) that we are ever likely to get. But I should like to give further significant quotations from it. I do so because, having heard the noble Lord's speech, I thought it was a pity that, having written such a magnificent, wide-ranging book, he should come here and make a speech and select out of one or two columns or pages of that wide-ranging, comprehensive book, just two or three quotations from those who see eye to eye with him on the subject of this debate. I am perfectly certain that if noble Lords read the whole book they would get a very different picture from that which Lord Simon of Wythenshawe has given to-day.
In the preface (I have checked my recollection of this), which I see was written after the rest of the book, the noble Lord postulates a number of questions which surely must pervade our thoughts during this debate—for instance: What are the relations between the Governors and the Director-General? How far is the B.B.C. efficiently administered? Is sufficient effort made to seek information and criticism at home and abroad? There are six or seven of these questions. I am not going to read them all but I want to deal with the latest thoughts of the noble Lord on those crucial questions. He says:In nearly all these cases my present view differs either from the established practice of the B.B.C. or from the views held by many of the senior staff. It was only when I retired, after my term of office was over, to my remote and peaceful cottage in the Landale Valley, to meditate in quiet, that I found my views on some of these matters crystallising on lines different from, and sometimes more critical than, those it had absorbed while working in the B.B.C.My Lords, it falls to me to wonder whether the noble Lord, who played such a large part in the preparation and submission of the 600,000 words to the Beveridge Committee, would give the same evidence to-day, after his quiet meditation in the Landale Valley, which I am 585 sure we all envy him. But we can see what has happened. These are his third thoughts, and we know that he has come within the compass of the influence of those who wish to defeat this scheme.
I have only a few more words to say—I appreciate your Lordships' patience in this. I am not forgetful of the fact that the 1952 Charter, with the concurrence of all parties, has erected certain safeguards against some of the dangers of monopoly; and I think they are all to the good I also believe that the present Chairman and Director-General are possibly more open to the consideration of change in the light of development than the B.B.C. has been in the past. But with sincere deference to others who have spoken, I remain of the opinion that monopoly is as unwise in the field of broadcasting as it is in any other field which exercises control over men's minds. I venture to suggest to the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, that the true test of the validity or otherwise of a monopoly is not whether it is given by private enterprise, but is it a monopoly which exercises control over the fountain of action, over men's minds? It is because that is the case that I have such grave misgivings about the continuation of the monopoly. I should feel that concern if it were in any other sphere. One monopoly newspaper, for example, would be objectionable, and it would not make it any the more comforting to me to know that it was controlled by a public corporation. The same would be true of one State Church—I am not attempting to stretch analogies too far. And the possibility of having one political Party would be a sinister thought. I contend that if there is a powerful instrument of opinion over men's minds, it would be a grave public danger that it should be in one, two or half a dozen hands. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge will say something about this because he found great difficulty in dealing with it. He said:The case for some revision rests on the undeniable dangers of monopoly, of concentration of power.My last word, my Lords, is this: that if that danger has not yet become manifest, it is due to our good fortune in the character of the men. It is no part of the case against this Motion that that power has in the past been grossly abused, but when we see extreme reluctance to relinquish that power there is the beginning 586 of abuse; and where we see reluctance to accept a criticism, attempts by executive officials, on various specious grounds, to disengage themselves from the control of the Board of Governors (about which the noble Lord had a great deal to say) these are warning signs the meaning of which, I suggest, is plain. I do not believe that minor safeguards, however good in themselves, are in the end sufficient. The true safeguard against the danger of concentrated power is to spread and divide that power, and I am in favour of measures directed to that end.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ LORD BEVERIDGE
My Lords, in a debate such as this, the first duty of any unofficial speaker is to be as short as he can, and for me the pleasant and easy way to being short will lie in confining what I have to say substantially to commenting upon one of the speeches which we have heard—namely, the speech of the noble Earl, the Postmaster General. It was an excellent debating speech which gave great pleasure to all of us. It gave me, perhaps, even more pleasure than it gave most other noble Lords, because all the gibes and digs and twists which he directed against those who support this Motion appeared to me to leave my own withers wholly unwrung. The noble Earl, for instance, commented on the fact that the noble Viscount who opened the debate, Lord Halisham, had dwelt a good deal on past history and on early committees. I also, as Lord Trefgarne has mentioned, had something to do with Committees relating to the B.B.C. That work kept me very fully employed for one and a half years quite recently. I am going to return to one or two of the things which I learnt through that course of compulsory education about the B.B.C. which the late Government gave me
Before I pass from this matter, however, I should like to say that I am bound to thank the noble Lord who has just sat down for his kindly references to that Report, and his appreciation of the work that went into it—not by any means by me, but by many others who contributed to it. I am sure that all who served on that Committee will be glad to think that it has had one such excellent and attentive reader—perhaps rather more attentive than any reader we found in either of the Governments which had to act upon the Report. The noble Earl 587 the Postmaster General gave a very charming and vivid picture of the lobbying which he said he had observed in this House before this Motion was put forward. Let me tell him that I was not lobbied at all. I first learned about this Motion coming on to-day when I saw it mentioned in the newspapers, and I at once decided that, as I had been submitted to such compulsory education in the subject of the debate, I ought to try to show some of the results of my education here to-day.
The noble Earl, again, challenged those who support the Motion to say why they object to the Government scheme. I find it very easy indeed to answer that. My objection to the scheme is fundamental; it is that "money speaks"; that the scheme is one which by altering the word "sponsoring" makes no difference at all to the substance. It is clear that whoever is responsible for the alternative programmes for which the White Paper provides will, in fact, be dominated—must be dominated—by the people who provide the money by which the system lives. Money speaks! That also makes it easy for me to answer another of the noble Earl's questions—how is it that the advertisers have so readily accepted all the controls that are imposed on them by the White Paper? They have accepted them because the controls mean just nothing at all. If the advertisers do not get what they want they will not produce the money by which the new system will live. They will, in fact, get sponsoring by another name. As the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, has pointed out, it is clear that the advertisers on the whole will aim at the minimum of competition in this new free system. It is also certain that they will aim at the maximum of audiences.
That gives me my answer to what is, perhaps, one of the strongest points made by the noble Earl: I mean his references to the Press. He asked how it is that the Press maintains its reputation in spite of advertisers. I am not going to discuss the Press as a whole. If it were possible, and I did discuss the whole of the Press, my speech would not be short. Nor am I going to say anything against the Press, by which, at one time, I most happily earned a living, writing Radical leaders for publication in a Tory paper. But I 588 would say this: that the glory of the British Press does not lie in those papers which aim at the maximum circulation, or which achieve the maximum circulation. What advertisers will want in the programmes which they will favour under the new system outlined in the White Paper is quite different from what is supplied by the best papers.
§ EARL DE LA WARR
If the noble Lord will forgive my interrupting his very interesting remarks, I should like to ask him whether he will tell us how it is that the Manchester Guardian gets any advertisements, if in fact advertisers are only interested in large circulations and low standards of journalism.
§ EARL DE LA WARR
They are interested in good standards as well as bad. Therefore they would not unite in debasing any service that they used.
§ LORD BEVERIDGE
They are interested in different sections of the community, probably with very different desires. Let me now turn for a moment to the work of the Committee on broadcasting of which I was Chairman in 1949 and up to the end of 1950. That Committee, as is quite obvious from its Report, approached its subject with a rather critical spirit towards the monopoly—the whole of the monopoly. We considered the possible alternatives to continuing the B.B.C. monopoly. We considered them and discussed them very carefully indeed. And, having considered all the alternatives, we came to the conclusion that rather than try to have several different B.B.C.'s, several different broadcasting corporations, it was better to have one with adequate machinery for securing decentralisation, for securing external criticism, and for opening the minds of the B.B.C. to argument. As your Lordships know, monopoly, as such, is not always an evil; there is the admirable monopoly we have in the Postmaster General. After all, we have in this country only one Government at any one time. And on the whole it is better to have only one Government rather than several. But it is better only if the Government we have is open to argument, in place of the brandishing of 589 Whips. After carefully examining every possibility we could see of getting a good broadcasting system by multiplicity of broadcasting organisations, the main conclusion of our Committee was that the monopoly should be continued, with certain devices for securing decentralisation, criticism and so on.
I want to deal with one other point in that Report. It is clear from the Minority Report that the Chairman of the Committee and two of his colleagues had no dislike of advertising as such. We inserted in the Report a proposal that the B.B.C. should be encouraged, and that the Government should allow them, to introduce advertisement under control, strictly limited, as only a supplement to their main income—something on the New Zealand model. That did not appeal to the rest of the Committee and it was not accepted by the Government of the day. I want to make it clear that I signed that Minority Report not in any way as giving any kind of support for what the White Paper is proposing to-day. We said clearly that, though we wanted the door opened to limited advertising, to allow consumers to learn about the things they might want to buy, that bore no relation to putting the financial control of broadcasting in the hands of people who wished to sell other things. Anyone who will read that Report will admit, I think, that all of us who signed it showed no distrust of business men or of advertisers in their right place. There was certainly no distrust of the people. But we did come to the conclusion that the people ought to pay for their broadcasting on sound and on sight directly—rather than indirectly—by licence fee. On that, I should like to express my cordial agreement with the arguments that were put forward by the most reverend Primate the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury in his most interesting and, to me, most moving speech.
For me the Government destroy the whole case for the White Paper proposals by one sentence which, perhaps by inadvertence, they have allowed to stand in paragraph 3—namely, that…television has great and increasing power in influencing men's minds.…From that observation the Government draw the conclusion that television should not be a monopoly. I reach the 590 quite different conclusion, as I hope your Lordships will, that television is too precious to be entrusted to wrong hands, to persons interested in selling other things. Television is a voice and a presence in every home. It is a new means of influencing men's minds, influencing their thoughts, their enjoyments, their whole lives. Therefore, it opens the possibility of really doing something to solve what I believe is the major problem facing all of us who wish to live, as most of us wish to live in this country, under conditions of freedom and democracy. We shall do so only if our democracy is efficient enough, particularly in choosing its rulers correctly. In other words, the survival of democracy will depend upon its education.
Is it reasonable to throw away the great power of education which has been given to us by television, a voice and a sight in every home in the country, by handing it to people not interested in education? We claim that television ought to continue to be a public service, and if it continues to be a public service, then I think, returning to the inquiries that we made in the Committee of which I was Chairman, in practice, for practical reasons, we must continue a monopoly of broadcasting, subject to criticism and review, a monopoly financed essentially by licence fee, whether or not we open the door to supplementing that by advertising revenue and by using this means of communication to help consumers to find things they want to buy—that is a minor matter. Therefore, for the reasons that I have tried to give the House, and I hope that I have set them out shortly, when a Division is taken I propose to vote for this Motion, not because I distrust the people or dislike advertising, and not on a Whip, but on my own conscience.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ LORD BENNETT OF EDGBASTON
My Lords, in addressing your Lordships for the first time I claim the indulgence which you always show on such occasions. I cannot claim to be unused to speaking within these four walls, as for seven or eight years, when your Lordships lent this Chamber to the House of Commons when theirs was bombed, I occupied this identical seat and spoke from this identical point. So I cannot complain that I do not know the acous- 591 tics of this Chamber. But I can assure your Lordships that this occasion is quite different from any I have experienced before. I feel something like a small boy who has come up from his prep. school and appears for the first time in front of the "big noises" of the senior school. I am sure your Lordships will understand that if I do not acquit myself as well as I may do in months to come, it is because I feel nervous even though I do not show it.
Why am I intervening in this debate, particularly as I am opposing the views of many old friends and colleagues, with whom I am generally in agreement and of whose views I have the highest possible opinion? I have had a great deal of literature sent to me lately, and I have read a great many articles in the Press. Possibly they have had upon me an effect quite the reverse to that which was intended. When I find dogmatic and assertive statements, not statements of what is possible or what is likely to happen, but definite dogmatic statements that "this is going to be" and "this will be," I become suspicious. I become suspicious because I have found in the past that those statements are as likely to be wrong as to be right.
I feel that there has been a complete misunderstanding on the part of a great many people of the point of view of the businessman in this controversy. I agree that there is a profit motive which enters into the idea of programme companies, but I do not apologise in the least for that profit motive. Why should I? It has benefited me, and a great many more like me. I believe that the profit motive is the main drive for efficiency and progress in this country. But what I do protest against is the suggestion that there has been a conspiracy going on between advertisers and advertising agents and the programme companies in order that they may secure control of television for their own purposes. That simply is not true; there has been no conspiracy. I speak as an industrialist in fairly close touch with what is going on. My companies have to spend a certain amount of money in advertising and, as some of your Lordships know, I have been President of the Federation of British Industries, and I am in touch with them. I say emphatically that that is not the case. I will be 592 emphatic for once, and I will make the definite statement, from my own knowledge, that there has been no agreement, no lobbying and no conspiracy to obtain television at all costs as an advertising medium.
I was glad to hear the disclaimer of the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, in which he said he did not agree with the suggestion. But he went on, and the inference from what he said was, "Although I put this into words. I have got my eye on them, and I do not exactly trust them." I was grateful, therefore, to the Postmaster General for his statement that he did not believe it. I am indignant at the suggestion of the low morality of the business world which has been introduced into statements that have been sent round to us. It is absolutely incorrect. The business world is not willing to join in an attempt to debase the national life, to get at the children, or to do anything and everything possible simply to sell its goods. That is what is being suggested.
Some of your Lordships are sponsors at times, and I am one of you. We sometimes sponsor appeals on behalf of charitable objects. To whom do we go first of all? We go to these large firms who are the main advertisers of the country, and ask them to support us; and they do support us. Is it suggested that those large firms who support us in that direction are going to debase the whole life of the nation in order to sell a few more goods? It would be a case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: these people are high-minded people when we want money out of them, but they are a lot of "dirty dogs" when they try to sell their goods. That certainly is not true. Your Lordships need not accept my word for it. Here is what the Bishop of Oxford said, writing in the Oxford Diocesan Magazine in August this year:We must recognise that advertisers in the public Press very rarely offend against the canons of decency or good taste—less so on occasion, perhaps, than some of the reading matter provided in books and papers for general perusal. Is it fair to assume that, if they are given access to this new advertising medium, men of business will at once throw taste and decency to the winds, and break out into excesses which no one could excuse?Let us look at these proposals for a moment. The programmes are to be prepared by specialists, and I am sure they will be costly, so that to rent advertising space, when it is offered, will 593 be a most expensive procedure. For that reason, I suggest that the greatest care will be needed to ensure that a really good performance is put on, otherwise it will not appeal to the advertisers, and the company will not get the advertising. I suggest that this scheme is self-policing, in that if the performance is poor the advertisers will "sheer off." In my view—and I speak as an advertiser—they will drop the medium of television, and spend their money elsewhere. To hear some people talk one might think this is the only way we have of advertising and spending our money. I can assure them that there are plenty of other avenues open to us. Advertising budgets are limited, and it is a case of selection by firms of where they spend their money. As I say, what will happen if programmes are poor is that they will "sheer off" What I am quite certain will not happen is that they will attempt to debase the programmes and lower the standard, and put over anything so long as they sell goods. It may be suggested that I am speaking only of the larger advertisers, and that a great many unprincipled small people will crowd in. But it will be too expensive for the little man. I hold, therefore, that the standard must be maintained if the advertisers are to use this medium at all.
Comparisons have been drawn this afternoon with daily newspapers. I do not think that that is a good comparison. The correct comparison, to my mind, is with the illustrated magazines, the weeklies and monthlies, some of which are read for pleasure, and some because they are technical journals which have to be read because of trade and business interests. Do those who oppose this scheme honestly suggest that the advertisements in those periodicals spoil them? I have made it my business to look through a number of them during the week-end, and I have been struck with their interest value, their style and good taste. Quite apart from whether I want to buy anything—which I seldom do—I am always interested, in reading the advertisements, to see what is going on. It must be remembered that the subject matter of these journals would not be what it is were it not for the advertising; the articles written in our scientific papers, and those we get in our technical journals, would disappear, or would be 594 very poor, were it not for the advertising revenue. I have not been buying space lately, but in the clays before the war, when I used to buy space, I remember often being told by the journal proprietors and their canvassers that the rates had to go up. When I asked why, they would say, "Our circulation is increasing." The increase could not be met on the subscription of the journal; it was done on the advertising revenue; and the bigger circulation they had, in spite of the fact that it was paid for, the more revenue they needed from advertising.
What are the alternatives to this scheme? I have listened attentively to what has been said this afternoon, and I was particularly intrigued with the suggestion of the most reverend Primate, that we should go a little further; that we should increase the advertising and include the B.B.C. in it. I know that he made other suggestions, too. I have no doubt, from what the Postmaster General said in his speech, that all suggestions that have been put forward will receive careful attention. One of which I have heard and read is that there should be another Corporation drawing fees from licences. One or two views have been expressed to-day on what that would mean in the increased cost of licences. Two pounds is not enough; the B.B.C. already want more. Then we shall have another increase, and it will double. I read in one newspaper to-day that people have suggested that the licence fee will be trebled and quadrupled—I do not know whether that is right. I can assure dour Lordships that that is the way to kill the one thing which increases business circulation. If you increase the price, you price the article out of the market; and the one way to increase your business is to get the price down. As I understand it, television depends, as things are to-day, on a large increase in the number of viewers, and in fees they pay. I do not consider that raising the amount of the fee is the way to get the extra revenue required.
The noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, raised his hands in horror at the idea of £500,000 being advanced by the State and then turned over to private enterprise. I can assure him that there is nothing new in that. That has been going on, to my certain knowledge, for a long time in advanced productions for which the in- 595 dustrialist cannot see his way to provide the finance, and in factories and plants which are put down for defence purposes. It is common practice to do that. The Government put up the factory, they put in the plant, and then turn it over to the people with the business ability to put in the working capital and run the business. They pay a rent for the facilities provided; and they have schemes worked out for them to pay the interest and eventually, if necessary, take over on agreed terms. There is nothing new in it. I do not see why we should regard it as an exception at which we need look in horror.
It seems to be the general idea that competition is needed. I am not a television fan, but lately I have made it my business to watch. The trivial nature of some of the programmes staggers me, and I believe that needs looking into and improving. There is no spur like competition. As a businessman I can assure your Lordships that that is true. It is a daily experience in our organisations, and we have a saying, "The only way to be safe is never to feel secure." I suggest that the B.B.C., good as it is, has probably a feeling of security which makes for complacency and for getting into a rut. In my view, there is nothing so effective in shaking people out of a rut as to know that if they do not produce the things the public want, somebody else will do to for them. I can assure your Lordships that such knowledge keeps people on their toes.
I am largely neutral on the question of television itself. When I was in another place we did not have much spare time in the evenings for studying television, and now that I have more time I find many other things that I prefer to do. I have tried to look at this matter as impartially as I can, and the one thing I want to repeat is that the large advertisers in the business world are not dying to get hold of television to sell their wares. There seems a pretty widespread view that a competitive system would be good. I believe that if you are going to run it simply on fees and fees alone, you are going to raise them dangerously. Therefore, I would recommend the words in a very critical article which I came across in the Economist during the week-end. That said: 596Outright rejection would be a great pity.That is how I feel about it—it would be a great pity.
One other point I wish to make is that we are relying upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer to see, as the most reverend Primate suggested, that the priorities are right, and that we do not spend money on television when we ought to be using it for some other purpose. The Chancellor is a good watchdog, and I am prepared to leave the priorities to him. I hope, therefore, that your Lordships will not pass this Motion, but will allow the Government to put forward their legislative proposals so that we can have Second Reading debates and go through them as we do in the Committee stage. If that happens, I believe that out of the controversy and the discussions we shall get something which will be to the good of the nation and will not hurt it in the way that has been suggested.
§ 7.15 p.m.
My Lords, I feel it a great honour to follow the noble Lord, Lord Bennett of Edgbaston, speaking, as he said, in the same place but to a different audience. I am particularly pleased to follow him because I take credit for having persuaded him to speak in this debate. I had some difficulty in doing so, because he said he had nothing to say. He has had a great deal to say, including many worthwhile things which we should all take to heart. I congratulate him most sincerely, and hope that this will be the first of many occasions upon which we shall hear him in this House.
The noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, in opening, this debate, gave a most unfortunate example about monopoly. He said that the outstanding monopoly in this country was the Post Office, and what an extraordinary thing it would be if rival concerns were able to stick on different coloured stamps and carry letters. In point of fact, he has "put his foot in it" there, because I have a licence to carry letters and I do use a special blue and silver stamp. I have had this licence since 1936 and my company, the District Messenger Company, have held it for forty years. So even in the carrying of letters the Post Office has, I hope, some healthy competition. The noble Viscount also said that it was un- 597 satisfactory to have two corporations competing against one another. I would say that possibly two of the most successful public corporations to-day are our two great air corporations, the B.E.A. and the B.O.A.C., and I think the fact that they are running their services to some extent in competition keeps them on their toes all the time.
The noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, and others, have in this debate quoted the opinions of Chancellors of Universities and other high educational authorities. I would never attempt to quarrel with such eminent authorities on questions of education, but this is not an educational question—it is a question of entertainment. My job is entertainment, and I feel that in the entertainment world I perhaps know a little better what the public want than do educationists. My experience is that competition improves the London theatre. A new show from overseas, a new management coming into being, puts the other managements on their mettle and we get better entertainment, whether it is in Shakespeare, ballet or the lighter entertainment. Too much has been said in this debate about giving the public what it ought to have instead of giving the public what it wants.
Much has been said about America, but little about the system in Australia which is much more analogous, although I admit not quite similar to the system proposed in the Government White Paper. Anybody who has lived for some years in Australia, as I have, will know that the A.B.C. has been vastly improved and its programmes have been, better than they would have been because of the spur of commercial television. I do not say all the Australian commercial stations are good but some are. 2 G.B. brought out a famous violinist, and as a result of that the A.B.C. had to bring out celebrities of international repute. Some of the transcriptions, as they are called, of the commercial programmes in Australia have been sold all over the world and I am almost certainly right in saying that some of them have been sold to the B.B.C. I think most people are agreed that a second television programme is desirable, but if we do not accept something like the proposals put forward, how can we possibly get it except by paying a licence fee of at least 598 £5 or, in the view of some people, to get a really good second programme, not far short of £10?
A good deal has been said with regard to advertisement and the B.B.C. The B.B.C. itself depends on advertising. It gets an enormous revenue from advertisements in the Radio Times. In addition, I happened to hear to-day about a television programme which was put on the B.B.C. only last Monday, a forty-minute programme of the Italian road race known as the Mille Miglia. It was an excellent programme and the B.B.C. was right to put it on; but at the end of the programme it was announced that the film had been made by the Shell Film Unit. If that is not hidden advertising, I do not know what is.
There are many aspects of this question, and I am not going to weary your Lordships with a long speech. I intend to deal with only one aspect, and that is the question of employment in the radio and television industry. I heard a most moving speech the other day by that great actress Miss Margaret Rawlings, in which she painted a heartbreaking picture of the position of many of these television actors who were barely making a living because of the very limited employment open to them. She also mentioned that if they offended the B.B.C., their one possible employer, they had no chance of getting alternative work. I have here an extract from a report by Mr. R. S. Lambert, who worked for the B.B.C. for some years. He says:It is astonishing to find, after working a number of years inside a big organisation like the B.B.C., how much one's individuality becomes diluted and how much one's initiative and enterprise are sapped.…You can be comfortable and cosy even in Broadcasting House, once you know the ropes and have ceased to be ambitious or critical, especially if you hold an administrative post. But whether these comforts are good for the soil of man, I am not in a position to say.One section of employees in this industry are the radio writers. Their association writes as follows:If one manager rejects a plot, there are others; if one publisher refuses a book, there are others; if the B.B.C. refuses a radio script there is no other market; and if you displease your sole employer you are out.I know that Mr. Sandison, the General Secretary of Equity, was very critical at the T.U.C. Annual Conference of the 599 present state of affairs. He said, I understand, that the actors would very much welcome alternative chances of employment. This is what he said:Fees for acting in the B.B.C. television shows are so low that no actor can make a living in that medium although he satisfies the needs of many millions of viewers.I feel sure that there are many young men of ability both in acting and in writing, and in the technical field, who are not getting a full chance under the present system. Maybe their ideas are unorthodox, and perhaps a little daring. If they do not agree with the B.B.C. they have very little hope. I think this proposal of the Government will give them their chance, and it will also give that spur to the B.B.C. which their programmes need. If it does, then programmes will be better than ever. For these reasons I sincerely support the Government White Paper and oppose the Motion which is before us to-day.
§ 7.25 p.m.
My Lords, there are many speakers in this debate and I have added myself to their number only in order to make two points and to record my convinced support of the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, and my noble friend Lord Samuel on this question. It seems to me that the issue has been clouded by the false application of two well-worn slogans, both of which I hope are on their way out: "State control" and "Free enterprise." The B.B.C. can be considered subject to State control in a technical way only, since in reality the B.B.C. is an outstanding and successful example of British compromise with Socialism, by which State-constituted bodies are administered by experts who never for a moment allow themselves to be controlled either by politicians or by bureaucrats. On the other side, the few advertisers who will be rich enough to use the new system can by no manner of means be allowed to use the phrase "free enterprise." The rest of the population are not going to have any real say in this affair. I know that the Postmaster General considers that the Government have devised a scheme by which the advertiser will be deprived of his money's worth—by which the man who pays the piper will not call the tune. It is impossible to believe, however, that these embattled businessmen, masquerading as the spokesmen of the people, who write 600 flippant circulars deriding some of the most respected members of your Lordships' House, are going to allow the jazz band to be turned off and the C Major Quintet of Schubert to be put on in its place.
Why then should we slavishly copy this low-grade American ideal? Where does Great Britain stand in these days? Not, I hope, cap in hand like a satellite ready to implement other people's way of life. This country does not look like that to me. I think we show an orderly and admirable quiet, as we sit among the ruins of our Empire and our wealth, listening to the ugly noises set up by the rest of the world, and planning to lead the future. And what sort of future is this Elizabethan Age to be to which everybody is looking forward? Surely it must be an age in which we stand for quality, for a high standard in culture and civilisation. Indeed, we remain a first-class Power because of the quality of our people: the people who conquer Everest; who ride like Pat Smythe and dance like Margot Fonteyn; the people who act like Laurence Olivier and compose like Benjamin Britten. Who can deny that opera of superlative standard is produced at Glyndebourne and that the British Broadcasting Corporation is the outstanding superior of any radio system in the world? The Government propose to let down the Elizabethan Age. It is contrary to my temperament to indulge in indignation, but I find it shameful for Parliament itself to undermine the improving standards of our young democracy by giving sanction and prestige to a project based upon nothing but money. Surely it is shameful also to plunge the innocent people of this country into a planned and premeditated orgy of vulgarity. I hope your Lordships will once more show the commercial backers of this scheme that this House more accurately understands the welfare of our democracy.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ LORD AMWELL
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, used the phrase that has been repeated a number of times in this debate and that we hear and read constantly in discussions upon the subject, that "the people are entitled to what they want," and that we should "give the people what they want." But to what people is he referring? When were the people asked, and when and where was 601 the answer given? There has been no question of that kind, and this talk about giving the people what they want is inclined to be quite beside the mark, for those who are responsible for the Government's policy in this matter do not themselves propose to give the people what they want. If the people of this country want anything, to a very large degree they want football pools; and yet it is not proposed to include in the advertisements any advertisements of football pools. It seems to me that there is a certain amount of hypocrisy about this matter. You can always find that kind of excuse for anything, that you should "give the people what they want," because some people want even things of the worst type, whether it is in the matter of culture or anything else.
It is because I was for a number of years associated with the advertising profession that I desire to put a particular aspect of the question in the debate this evening—namely, the business one. I should like to say to my advertising friends that I think they are backing the wrong horse. Now, it is important to understand that there are two different kinds of advertising: the advertising that may be called an announcement, and competitive publicity. They are two very different things. One is exemplified by theatrical advertising, although I never could understand why the theatres never told you where the theatres were, or how to get to them—but theatrical advertising is the kind of thing I mean by "announcement," which is of public usefulness. People wish to know where to buy the things that they have made up their minds that they want. That is a very different thing from competitive advertising. Competitive advertising may be exemplified by the spectacle of five twenty-sheet posters in a row advertising five separate detergents, each one of them saying the same thing and each professing to be better than all the rest. That is the kind of thing in advertising that is going to be dominant in respect to television.
Personally, I think that in the long run that is bad business, too. If advertising by itself were the subject under discussion, I would give my reasons for that opinion. I think it is bad, political economy. It is usually argued that "this kind of publicity keeps the wheels of industry turning." That is quite unsound.
602 All that it does is to induce A to buy from B something which he previously bought from C. And there is the question whether the people should be induced to spend to the last penny rather than save. That is a national question that we have often argued. It is brought up and it is arguable from a public point of view. This idea that the wheels of industry are kept going because of competitive advertising is entirely stupid. If there were no advertising of soap, would people go without baths? It is simple nonsense, and it is just the kind of nonsense which we should expect to dominate television which was under the control of advertisers.
The point I want to put to the advertising profession through this debate is that there are large numbers of people in the country—I shall indicate how many in a moment—who regard this competitive hullabaloo as essentially vulgar, and not only vulgar but contrary to human dignity and reason. There is no reason at all why people should be told what they have to buy and what they have to enjoy. A prominent advertiser in the public Press recently said that we live in the twentieth century—he was defending sponsored television—and we have got to like it. He went on to say that the purpose of advertising was to produce among the public a state of conditioned response. Hitler was a past master at that kind of game. I replied that if I knew that Pavlov proposed to slit my throat in order to find my salival reactions to an advertised delicacy, I should shoot him first in the name of Christian decency.
The argument which I have put so far is an idealistic one, and I have put it for a certain reason which I shall explain in a moment but it is not an argument that will appeal to business men. However, this argument will. There is a strong feeling throughout the country against sponsored television, a feeling that cannot be denied. It is held perhaps not by a majority—we do not know—but by, at any rate, a very powerful minority. I want to ask the advertising world whether it is good business to alienate hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of the population of this nation. The Government are forcing this issue without a free vote on the ground that they have a mandate for competition and free enterprise. But this is not free competition, 603 this is not at all free enterprise. It has already been pointed out by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel—in fact, it was pointed out also by the noble Lord, Lord Bennett of Edgbaston, only a short time ago—that it costs a great amount of money to get on to the air, or on to the ether, or space time, or whatever it is you get on to. A good deal of money has to be spent, which means that only firms who can afford such large appropriations will ever get on to television at all. What about the rest? What about the small man? The Tory Party profess to believe in free competition and the rights of the small man to his corner or niche in the commercial world; but the small men are left right out. They are to be shouldered out, just as the middle class and the working class were shouldered out of the Reform Bill of 1832.
I cannot understand how so many—if it is so many—of the business people of this country are in favour of sponsored television. They will never get on it. They will be shouted down by people who own vast conglomerations of capital, who can afford the tremendous expense of getting on the air for advertising purposes. So there is a certain amount of unconscious hypocrisy about this talk of free enterprise and free competition. Some people will buy the air just in the same way as, if they could bottle it, they would buy sunshine. I was on a Select Committee some time ago which dealt with the question of advertising by means of sky writing, and I remember the blank faces of the business representatives who came to give evidence when I suggested that writing in the sky about personal hygiene or even personal taste was really an unwarrantable intrusion upon public amenities. The question we were considering at the time was advertising over the beaches in the holiday season, and I said that it was intolerable that the privacy of the holiday-maker or the privacy of anyone else should be interfered with in this way in order to sell Eno's Fruit Salts or some toothpaste, or something rather less delightful than those two particular commodities.
There is a gadget which I understand has been invented in America, of all places, whereby the viewer, sitting in his armchair, can cut out the hullabaloo without any difficulty. That suggests, at any 604 rate, that even in America some people are realising that there is, as I say, an essential vulgarity in this kind of thing; and it would be better for this country to keep to what is called a monopoly. It is in a sense a monopoly; but monopolies exist properly where the alternative is impossible, and it is impossible in this particular case. It is as impossible to have free enterprise in commercial television as it is to run half a dozen or twenty railway lines from London to Newcastle or Scotland; it cannot be done. It is a natural monopoly, using the air, or whatever medium it is, which ought not to be monopolised by any private person at all. That is the attitude noble Lords take on this side of the House, whether it is a sound one or not.
Bodies all over the country—and this is the particular point I want to put to your Lordships' House this evening—are passing resolutions. They might pass another resolution—mine: "That no commodity that is advertised in this way shall darken my door." There is, after all, the power of the boycott. That is why I want the business man who is an advertiser, like the noble Lord, Lord Bennett of Edgbaston, to consider whether it really is a paying proposition to insist upon this kind of thing, forcing it upon this House and the other place. There has been no question at all of any right or mandate given on the matter. It ought to have been left to a free vote of the House. Is it really a sound business proposition? There are, indirectly and directly, seven million members of the Labour Party. The Labour Party is to a man and woman opposed to commercial television. No greater expression of feeling has been made on this subject than was made at the last Conference of the Labour Party.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LINLITHGOW
Has the noble Lord taken a referendum of the members of the Labour Party in the country, as opposed to the Members in the House, on this particular point?
§ LORD AMWELL
Of course I have not taken a referendum. I go by the discussions I have heard and the feelings that are expressed. All the members of the Party whom I know are opposed to commercial television. I am merely putting the business point of view; I am not arguing about the matter for the 605 moment. What I am saying is that it is from a business point of view a stupid thing to force this proposal in the way that it is being done. You have your advertising agencies and your advertising departments of big firms, and they have be flagged maps on the walls analysing every village and every town in this country. It is all scheduled for their campaigns of conditioned response—population, industry, general taste, sport, politics, religion; they know all about it. I suggest that they schedule this fact: that the members of the Labour Party alone—and it is not alone the Labour Party but religious bodies and other people concerned in social welfare up and down the country who have the same views and have passed the same resolutions—could kill them stone dead. If this policy is maintained of making it a Party issue when it ought not to be regarded as a Party issue, then every opponent is justified in taking direct action. That is the main thing I want to say, and with that I finish. I ask the advertising world and I ask big business whether it is worth while, from the point of view of business itself, to alienate so many millions of the people of this country, for that is really what they are doing.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ LORD KENSWOOD
My Lords, there are still a number of speakers who wish to address your Lordships' House, and the hour is late. Nevertheless, as a former Governor of the B.B.C. I feel it encumbent on me to say at least a few words on some of the aspects of the Memorandum. I shall not make a long speech, but shall rather content myself with indicating lines of inquiry for Her Majesty's Government to make. We have heard—and we all believe it—that the B.B.C. is held in very high respect in foreign countries. That high respect has redounded to the prestige of this country. I am perfectly willing to accept the assertion which has been made this evening that business people, people who advertise, are men of the highest integrity, that they are benefactors—I will not dispute that. At the same time, I also endorse what the last speaker has indicated—namely, that advertising is to some extent, at least, suspect. I believe it is incontestable that some of the claims made in advertising, however amusing 606 those advertisements may be—and I agree that they are artistic, and incomparably better than they used to be—often exaggerate the merits of the articles advertised. I do not think there can be any doubt about that. If that is the case, my Lords, particularly in foreign countries, then if British broadcasting, whether it be sound or television, is associated with advertising, I am quite sure that the prestige of this country will suffer. I put it to your Lordships: is this the time when we can afford any diminution of our prestige? We have our way to make in the world. We have lost a great deal of our prestige and we must do what we can to secure the respect of foreign countries.
I come now to this question of competition. The White Paper is very vague as to its meaning. Let me begin with monopoly. We are told that monopoly is bad. We have been given examples of monopoly which nobody would care to break. I should like to mention the Royal Navy. Privateering was still permitted less than a century ago, and yet who would go back to privateering? In other words, the bogy of monopoly does require investigation. How are the defects of monopoly combated in the B.B.C.? The answer is, through the Board of Governors. It seems to me extraordinary that Her Majesty's Government, the very Government that appointed the present nine Governors of the B.B.C., should now virtually say they do not trust them. Surely that is unfair and unjust. I have the greatest respect for the present Board of Governors. They were very carefully chosen, and I think the least the Government can do is stand by them and not say, virtually, "We do not trust these Governors; they do not fulfil their duties." On this question of competition I had hoped to hear from the Postmaster General some elucidation of what is meant in the Memorandum by competition. It can mean a great many things. Does it mean—presumably it does—competition for numbers of viewers? That may well be their interpretation, their meaning, in view of the fact that the new bodies to be set up will rely on their income from advertising fees. Surely that is not the way in which we should view television.
It is significant—or perhaps it is not—that in the Charter of the B.B.C. its 607 objects are stated to be information, education and entertainment. In this Memorandum education is omitted. Some of the speakers to-day have already pointed out that if we are to have a really fine population, capable of independent thought, and capable of choice, we must have better education. That has been recognised by all Parties. We are still waiting for the span of compulsory education to be increased. In the meantime, the B.B.C. is doing a great work to help forward education of the people. But this commercial television is not to educate people. The B.B.C. has been criticised because it is said that it is wrong to leave the influencing of men's minds in the hands of a single body of people. Surely that is a very poor argument. I have already alluded to the Governors. The Governors are a cross-section of the population, and include some of the best men and women in the country. Surely they, with their various views, can be trusted to influence the minds of people in the right direction, whichever that may be. I maintain that the right direction is (and this is precisely what the B.B.C. is doing) to enable the people of this country to move towards independence of thought. The various broadcasts that are made give them information; and then, through the various discussions that they have, they are enabled to know how to use that information so as not to be influenced by any particular person or body of persons, but to form an independent judgment.
There is another aspect of competition—that is, competition for artists. It is stated in the Memorandum that amongst other people, writers and artistes (forgive my hesitation, but that is a dreadful word) will benefit. It is perfectly true that if we were to put up competing stations some of the commercial stations would try, and would doubtless be able, through increases of fees, to "cream off" the most popular artists of all descriptions—comedians, ballet dancers, musicians, actors and so on. They certainly will be able to do it, and to the extent that they get the stars, the stars will benefit and will receive even more than their already inflated incomes. But, my Lords, the supply of stars is strictly limited. There are very few geniuses, and they cannot be multiplied. The vast majority of artists—and I say this without fearing that I shall be 608 contradicted—belong to professions which are lamentably overcrowded. I believe—I am speaking from memory—that Equity complained a short time ago that, of 10,000 members, only 6,000 have jobs. I know that this is the case among ballet dancers and musicians.
Here again, I speak as a member of an artistic profession myself. I know that far too many youngsters are already induced by the large incomes of the stars to become musicians, actors, dancers and so forth. It is quite possible, although not certain, that some of these underemployed artists will receive further employment on these commercial television stations. That, however, is a very short-term view. If they did receive more employment, then still more young people would be induced into these artistic professions—in other words, it would increase the numbers of underemployed and unemployed artists and, what is worse, these youngsters would have gone into these professions instead of into the trades and professions which would be productive to the benefit of the country as a whole.
Before I go on to the question of freedom of speech that has been raised, I want to point out that I am surprised that the Postmaster General is apparently not aware that there is already a great deal of competition inside the B.B.C. We have the three basic programmes, and, in addition, there are the six Regional programmes, and of those six Regional programmes the National ones, the Welsh, the Scottish and the Northern Irish, have been further strengthened by this very Government, so that there is practical independence of action as between all the Regions of the country. They compete with one another, or, to use the expression that I much prefer to the word "competition," there is emulation. They receive enough money to be able to be almost entirely independent of Broadcasting House.
Now, with regard to freedom of speech, last June, I think it was, I listened to a broadcast by a distinguished scientist whose whole talk was directed against a certain deodorant which is now very much publicised and which is an ingredient in some popular toothpaste and so forth. He was entirely denunciatory. About two or three weeks ago I listened 609 to a popular radio doctor equally strongly warning against the extravagant claims of certain categories of patent medicines. I ask your Lordships: is it conceivable that such informative broadcasts would be permitted on commercial television? Of course not. The companies who wish to gain clients will not permit anything which will displease them. Here again, it is quite obvious that, in a negative way, it is the advertisers who will control the programmes. Just one word in conclusion. It is a trifle, but I wonder whether it is not significant. I have already alluded to the objectionable word "artistes," a word which makes every serious artist squirm. Is it really possible that Her Majesty's Government have been so ill-informed, and have devoted so little care to the formulation of this White Paper, that they do not know what is going on in the minds of the people who will be employed on commercial television? As a consequence, I hope Her Majesty's Government will find it possible to think even once more, and to come to the conclusion that commercial television is a bad thing for this country.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF WARWICK
My Lords, during the years I have been in y our Lordships' House, one of the things that has amazed me most has been the diversity of subjects upon which one could found a good debate, and certainly this evening has been one of them. In the speeches of those people who have opposed the White Paper of the Government I have found every sort of subject discussed, but very little discussion about the fundamental issue, which is a simple one. I would press the attack harder were it not for the fact that I, also, cannot claim to own a television set but that does not mean that I have not seen television a great deal both here and in America. Surely, my Lords, people who enjoy television are no less moral or intelligent, or less deserving in their particular fields. Some of us like the written word. Those people are no less deserving of Her Majesty's Government's attention than the rest of us. It is for that reason that rather a backwoodsman in the person of myself comes down to speak to your Lordships and to occupy your time.
I was not here during the debate in May last year; but I read it, not very 610 carefully, I must admit; and I thought that what had happened was that the Government were doing their duty. We have to move with the times. Television is here to stay and, unfortunately, the B.B.C. is probably not capable of coping with the great expansion that is to take place, nor is its existing financial set up such that it can continue it. That is why I thought the Government were doing their duty, and the major prophets were doing what major prophets always do, which is saying, "How wicked the world is, and how careful we must be to insist on a lot of safeguards!"—a very good thing. After that, the debate would be concluded and the Bill would go through.
I read no further until, a month later, I received a letter from a friend of mine working in Washington, an American, who said, "Would you be good enough to send me a copy of the House of Lords Hansard on the debate some time in May, because I understand it is the best thing that has been published since Punch was started." That is a remark which obviously in your Lordships' House I could not describe as proper, but I sent him the Report; and because of that remark I read some of the speeches in the debate again a little more carefully. While I certainly do not subscribe to my friend's opinion, I am inclined to think that there was an undue amount of vehemence from some of your Lordships on that occasion.
From an article I had read in the Observer some time before, I knew that the noble Lord, Lord Reith, who cannot be here to-day, was not an enthusiast, but when I read what he said in that debate last May (OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 176, col. 1296):Do the Government know about the American Federal Communications Commission? Would a British one be any more effective?I paused and thought, because I worked a good deal in America before the war in the entertainment business. I broadcast a good deal, and I came under the authority of the Federal Communications Commission. Well, it was not perfect—nothing in this world is perfect, I suppose—but I can tell your Lordships that many reputable people in the entertainment business were hauled up by that Commission; and on the whole, during the years I worked in America, I thought they did a very reasonable job. Then 611 we go further, to the second half of the noble Lord's remark, which is:Would a British one be any more effective?I should have thought, with the experience we can amass from what has gone on in America over the last years, that not only would it be as effective but, if we are any good at all, it would be a great deal more effective. That is what I imagine will eventually arise out of the White Paper.
However, I went on to the next point in this letter from my friend, which was a reference to a speech by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, who spoke again today. We all know Lord Samuel very well in this House. I have always listened to his speeches with the keenest interest; they are classics and things to be greatly admired. But I think he must have been presented with what I will call a misrepresentation when he was in America, for I find from column 1302 that he said in that debate that he asked some of his friends whether they listened to the radio and what they thought of it, and they all answered in almost exactly the same words—namely:I practically never listen to the radio. I do listen in sometimes to the political commentators. I listen if the President or one of the political leaders has a statement to make. I listen to the music on certain programmes, and now and then there may be a good entertainment on the air.They were good enough to add that they rather liked sports on the television. My Lords, that is an exact contradiction to what His Grace the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury said this afternoon. He said, I think, that four and a half hours per diem of life in the United States of America to-day was occupied in the viewing of television. Those two statements are not compatible. Nor was it very reasonable for the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, to have made that statement when one considers that this immense radio industry in the United States is kept alive by people who, so it is said, very rarely listen to it, and then only for a few topics. To proceed further, one is asked to believe that these huge firms that the noble Lord, Lord Amwell, referred to in his speech about advertising, such as Dupont's, Ford's and the other great firms who advertise, are apparently supporting these industries out of nothing but philanthropy. We know that that is 612 not true. The broadcasting industry attracts a great deal of money in America and, of course, many people listen to it.
Advertisers have had many very unpleasant things said about them in the Press and in the course of this debate, and particularly by a body which refer to themselves as the National Television Council and which I believe is supported by the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, who is going to speak to-morrow. I think it would be better if they were to call themselves the National Anti-Television Council. However, they circularised a great many of your Lordships and, I believe, a great many of the public, saying that advertisers would debase standards, would cause crudity in television, and so on. Well, who are these advertisers? They are just plain and simple business men of our country. Many of your Lordships serve on boards of companies—I do myself—and I refuse to believe that the ordinary decent business men of this country—indeed, any of your Lordships associated with the board of a company—are likely to try and degrade television. It is quite unthinkable. And I do not believe they would gain any money by doing so. Then what about the poor agent, the middleman between the manufacturer and the producer? I do not think it likely that he would keep his employment in the next year, or get his contract renewed, if he produced a programme which was of such a nature that there was a public outcry against it, and he was condemned in the Press and in the other vehicles which exist for raising criticism of that kind.
I think there has been a vast amount of exaggeration here. After all, there is a big business side to this question, and that business side, for us, is a good one. I believe that many of the mistakes we have made have arisen out of what happened after the war in the United States. Television was then new and it has expanded there very fast. In consequence, there has been a big shortage of programmes. One matter about which we have heard to-day is the limited channels which we shall have in this country, so there can be no question of expansion occurring at such a rate as to result in a big shortage of programmes. That situation in the United States probably led to the existence of those 613 molehills which have been made into mountains by those who are opposed to the policy set out in the White Paper on account of the moral aspect of the question. I am convinced that in the United States, a great and progressive country, as the time-lag is taken up so programmes will continue to improve. I am sure that the objections which noble Lords raise to competitive television, based on the present situation in America, will have less and less justification. The troubles in America to which I have alluded are decreasing and not increasing.
As your Lordships know, since the war 300 or 400 old British films have been sold to the United States of America for reproduction through the medium of television—that is certainly helpful from our point of view. Further, it seems to me, from such knowledge as I have, of the industry, and in view of figures which I have seen, that we could make films for television which would be exportable to the United States and would thus bring us in a very reasonable dollar payment. In addition, one series has been made here by an American whose name may be familiar to your Lordships—indeed, I think it is familiar to most of us. This series brought us in one year a million dollars worth of currency. I was in America last spring, when the first of these films came out, and it was received with immense respect by the television public in that country—in fact, I might say that it was received with the greatest acclaim, and it did us a great deal of good.
Your Lordships are sufficiently knowledgeable in business matters, I am sure, to realise how important this may be, because television has a quality which in this respect is most useful—it has a very short range: it goes over only a limited number of miles. A film which is made for exhibition in this country does not lose value when exported to another country, because, unlike radio, by means of which the listener can tune in to stations all round the world, television viewers are limited in their field of viewing. So there is the possibility of producing here (I am not speaking of live programmes) films which, if you take advantage of this exportable value, can be made of the highest possible quality, and which, in the end, will not only pay 614 their way but also, perhaps, bring in a small dollar payment. I say "of the highest possible quality" advisedly—and for this reason. A half hour's good entertainment costs somewhere in the neighbourhood of £8,000 or £9,000, and I cannot see how the B.B.C. with their present financial set-up can foot bills of that kind. However much we respect the B.B.C., it has to be admitted, I think, that the present television programmes are not very good. That, I admit, is a matter of opinion, and I will not go further than say that in my view they are not very good.
But I cannot for the life of me see why we cannot use this simple and straightforward system, which has been used in America for all these years, and still avoid the dangers and the pitfalls that those who oppose the policy outlined in the White Paper seem to find everywhere. I do not believe that they have a case against us unless, first, the advertiser or manufacturer in this country, secondly, his agent, and, thirdly, the producers of whatever performance may be put on, are all of them amoral or irresponsible people. And I do not believe that that will ever be the case in this country. A fourth condition would be that, whatever safeguarding body is appointed by the Government, when we come to the stage of the introduction of a Bill—it would be unreasonable to discuss it before then—would be incompetent. So we are envisaging a series of circumstances which I believe cannot possibly arise. I should like to end by quoting the words of Mr. Selwyn Lloyd on this question. Those words hit me hard between the eyes when I first read them. Here they are:The case against competitive television is really a vote of 'no confidence' in the character and judgment of the British people.
§ 8.17 p.m.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LINLITHGOW
My Lords, the "big guns" have departed—though some, I see, have returned. It is coming to be rather a soldiers' battle, and I will not detain your Lordships very long. I must say that I am astonished by the fervour—one might almost use the words "moral indignation"—of noble Lords who have put down the Motion which is now before the House, and of noble Lords who have decided, quite sincerely, to support it. I have 615 always regarded this problem, ever since it came into the news and one began to think about it, as perfectly straightforward. I take it that we are all agreed that it would not be a bad thing—perhaps some of us would go further, and would say that it would be a very good thing—if something were done to put a bit of competition, or a lot of competition, against the present B.B.C., so far as television is concerned. That seems to me to be a point upon which most of us, if not all, are agreed. I was therefore astonished when I discovered that what seemed to me a most common-sense way of providing this competition has affected so many people and so many different areas and organisations so deeply. I still find it rather difficult to understand why.
It seems to me that any suggestion for an alternative Corporation, run on the same lines as the B.B.C., could not possibly result in the provision of proper competition. In my view, it is not unlike a shepherd dividing his flock into two and buying another dog. However, I think I have an idea as to where some of the emotion arises. This matter has already been touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Bennett, who, speaking for the first time in your Lordships' House, defended the ordinary, decent, sensible businessman in this country. I shall not follow his footsteps, for he put the case far better than I could put it myself. There is a prejudice against the businessman of this country. I know where it started, and I know perfectly well who continues it. It is certainly carefully nurtured by the Party of the noble Lords opposite. It is a useful weapon for them. It is part of the armoury of class warfare which, however much the noble Lords themselves may dislike it, is an essential plank in the Socialist platform; and I do not expect them to drop it because I ask them to. There is no doubt that one has only to talk in large enough figures and to mention the hard-faced—I believe the word used in this debate was "hard-boiled"—businessman to excite a Socialist to an absolute frenzy.
I am sorry to see that this prejudice appears to have reached the Liberal Benches. I greatly admired the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel; it was a fine speech, such as we have 616 learned to expect from the noble Viscount, but I was sorry to see that the same old prejudice crept in. Let me give the House an example. The noble Viscount said that in the next ten years a sum of from £50 to £100 million would be spent by advertisers on television. That sounded a very large sum, but what the noble Viscount did not say (and here I think my noble friend Lord Bennett of Edgbaston would agree with me) was that the £50 million to £100 million will come off the total spent on advertising. I presume that if £50 million to £100 million is spent on advertising on television, a similar sum will be taken off some other form or forms of advertising. I know that these phrases can be trotted out to exercise the glands and work up emotion.
The noble Viscount asked "Who is going to be 'in on the ground floor'?" I do not think that was a very helpful comment. Somebody has to start. Why should anyone be blamed for being "in on the ground floor"? What is wrong with the chap who starts anything? It is a prejudice. I hope that what I may call the mistrust of businessmen will be dropped out of this debate. It is quite irrelevant.
My Lords, before the noble Marquess leaves that point, I should like to say a word. I do not know whether it has been made perfectly clear in the Socialist Party, but certainly in the Liberal Party there is no Whip on, and every Member speaks for himself. I think the noble Marquess would be sorry to discourage other Members who sit on these Benches from perhaps supporting the Government. What he calls the prejudice of the Liberal Party may possibly be applied to the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LINLITHGOW
I take that comment in the spirit in which it is made. Perhaps I ought to attribute this to the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, personally, rather than to the Liberal Party. But I am not going to absolve the Labour Party from encouraging the prejudice.
To move from that point to the other side, we have opposite this prejudice against businessmen the ubiquitous "public interest." That is a phrase which has been used over and over again to 617 justify a great many things. It has been used to justify things in other countries which are quite inexcusable. Certainly there is a public interest in some things which one can define, but my view of "the public interest" is simply this: the public interest is what the public want. I am surprised that up to now very little has been said in this debate about what the public want. The noble Lord, Lord Amwell, suggested that seven million Labour supporters, man, woman and child, were against this competitive television. I asked whether he had taken a referendum, and of course he had not. I do not pretend to know the answer to the question of what the public want, but I think it is high time an attempt was made to decide what they do want, rather than sit around arguing about what they ought to want.
I believe that if we were to ask the public, "Would you like an alternative programme on your television sets, which you need not turn on if you do not wish to, and for which you will not have to pay?" (certainly not directly, though I suppose it can be argued that they will pay indirectly), they would say, "Yes" I think that is common sense, and for the life of me I cannot see what is wrong with it. Give the public a choice. If we are going to sit around and debate what in our so-called wisdom we think the public ought to want, I think we are getting too big for our boots. I regard it as the most impertinent suggestion that I have ever come across. Certainly we have canons of good taste. Can we believe that the public should not be allowed to see programmes which are produced by advertisers, because the programmes are going to be of low taste? Of course not. Why should they be? The whole trend of modern advertising in the papers, magazines and hoardings is towards decoration, beauty and dignity. Noble Lords talk of the mass market as if the general approach to the mass market were at the lowest common denominator of taste. That is an outrageous suggestion to make to the British public, and I am surprised that any noble Lord should make it. And that is all that is being said in this Resolution. I would give an example which I am surprised has not been mentioned already, and I am delighted that nobody else has "bagged" it. I imagine that beer is a mass market, 618 and I also imagine that most noble Lords have followed the Whitbread advertisements on the posters. What could be a better form of taste and typography than these? And why suggest that television is going to be any different?
I am not going to say much more. I have said what I wanted to say, and will end by saying this. I am going to vote against this Motion. I suggest that any noble Lord who feels like going into the Lobby to support the Motion should say to himself that he is acting on an unfounded political prejudice against businessmen and in a patriarchal way, as a modern patrician having the right to get up and say, "I am in a position to tell the public what they ought to see." I say, "No, give the public a chance to decide; they are the best judges of what they want. Then need not turn on their programme if they do not want to. Give the public a chance to express their own views in their own way." I think that your Lordships may easily make a farce of this House, if the public get the idea that we are sitting here debating something which is not really our business at all.
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN
My Lords, before the noble Marquess sits down, I think I should refer to something he said which might convey an impression contrary to the fact. I should like to repeat what has been said before, that on this issue the Labour Party have stated to all their members that this is not a Party issue, and all members of the Party are free to speak and vote according to their consciences.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LINLITHGOW
I hope I never made any suggestion that the Labour Party had the Whips on. What I said was that I understand perfectly well why the majority of the Labour Party will vote against the Government on this Motion.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ LORD MILVERTON
My Lords, at this stage in a long and interesting debate it would be presumptuous, perhaps, to think that one has anything new to say or, indeed, to take very long in saying it. My reason for speaking at all in this debate is that I felt that merely to go into the Lobby and register a vote against the Motion on the Order Paper in support of the Government was really 619 not adequate in the circumstances, and that this was an occasion when one should say, as briefly as possible, why one votes as one proposes to do. Therefore, I ask your Lordships' indulgence if I make a statement giving the angle from which I view this matter. It perhaps argues some temerity for a Back Bencher to intrude into the bright light which has been cast by those who support this Motion, and I must admit to feeling a little like one of the untouchables who gets up to question the dictates of a Brahmin hierarchy. It is hard for me to grasp what seems to me the unsubstantial shadow of the objections to the tentative scheme which the Government have put forward.
I do not propose to go into details, or to deal with any of the financial questions which have been mentioned this evening, because I feel, rightly or wrongly, that this is not the occasion to go into details. What I have asked myself is: What are the principles at stake in this matter; and what really lies behind this Motion in the shape of principles? Surely, it is the old attack on liberty and freedom of choice. It is no good saying to me, or to the many people who think as I do, that the B.B.C. is not a true monopoly. In so far as our intelligence enables us to judge, it is. Some, I know, avoid the embarrassment of openly defending monopoly by admitting, the desirability of an alternative programme, but frequently omitting to mention that an alternative programme is not necessarily a competitive one. I have asked myself, also: Have this Government fought for freedom in all the physical markets of our life, only to be urged to yield ignobly at this stage to the planners in matters of the mind? There is, as it seems to me, hardly any argument which has been used in this debate which would not apply equally to control of the Press or of the bookselling business.
I know that the self-appointed supervisors of human destiny have always been busy in this land of ours, but they have not often had an opportunity like this. Surely, there is no merit in the fugitive and cloistered virtue of a Ration bred to mental slavery and servitude, and walled in against temptation to fall below the standards set by a certain small group. Liberty is not, and never has been, a 620 hothouse plant. The primary function of Government, surely, is to protect the life, the liberty and the property of the individual, and not to make the people good by Act of Parliament. All over the world we are trying what seem to some of us reckless political experiments, on the plea that the only way to teach responsibility, and to breed a sense of responsibility and a healthy public opinion, is to grant freedom to make mistakes. I remember long ago in a Colony where I was stationed asking one of the major chiefs what his people would think of certain Government measures which I was proposing. He turned to me and said: "Sir, my people do not think; they think what their chiefs tell them to think." Is that the feudal mentality which we are asked to admire and to set up in this country? It seems to me that that is the idea which many people have who feel that they know better. Do we want to turn England into a kind of intellectual Whipsnade, with a board of directors like the B.B.C., whose duty would be to preserve its hand-fed inhabitants from all contact with the realities of life? Most of us, surely, want the programmes of television and broadcasting to contain something for all reasonable tastes, not to deify the high standards of a distinguished minority.
We hear much about the danger to children. Personally, I cannot accept the assumption, amongst many other assumptions I deplore which have been made in argument in this debate, that competitive television financed by advertising will lead to a deterioration of standards and to the worst features of television as described to us by those who do not like American television. This American bogy seems to me to have been exaggerated beyond reason. In any case, I personally do not want my children to grow up into a kind of political embodiment of the Third Programme. Surely, freedom of choice is still the basis of true democracy. At the back of the arguments we have heard is a desire, as it seems to me, to impose willy-nilly the more cultured tastes of the minority upon the less refined tastes of the majority in this country. It argues a mistrust of the instincts of the people of this country, and a belief that in a fair field the bad, as defined to us by a distinguished group of fellow citizens, will always beat the good, 621 as also so defined by them. I personally am not so pessimistic.
I can understand the temptation of the choice and master spirits of our age to want to impose their high standards upon a reluctant people. But we all remember the very healthy reaction to that kind of thing in Athenian days, when it was a healthy human instinct which led to the banishment of Aristeides because people were so tired of hearing him called "The Just." People of my generation remember only too well the joyless Sabbath of our youth, made so by the determination to enforce what then passed as goodness. The noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, quoted to us that very noble motto of the B.B C. May I, in this connection, venture to offer an even better one in modern days, also in English:Oh! glorious are the guarded heightsWhere guardian souls abide—Self-exiled from our gross delights—Above, beyond, outside;An ampler are their spirit swings—Commands a juster view—We have their word for all these things,No doubt their words are true.The price of liberty is still eternal vigilance, and, for my part I would go so far as to set the B.B.C. free also—if they have not lived in servitude for too long to appreciate it—to take advertisements to help pay for their activities. Government, as I see it, is a creeping disease, and we surely do not want our mental liberties poured into the bottomless pit of State control.
This desire to protect us, willing or not, against the evil outside influences recalls to me an analogy in my own experience. When I was much younger I dreamed of rendering a certain small West African town in the Colony where I was, immune from all tropical diseases by a system of careful controls which I need not specify. I consulted leading scientific authorities in England, and they told me that the scheme was perfectly feasible, but they asked me whether I had reflected what it was that I should be doing if I succeeded. It meant that a generation would grow up which had no naturally acquired immunity from these diseases, and that if ever the ceaseless vigilance required to maintain that condition relaxed for a moment and the defences were breached, the result would be appalling. I wanted to keep out pestilence, disease and that sort of thing. The 622 supporters of this Motion want to keep out fresh air and the virile winds of freedom. In each case the resultant artificiality would render no ultimate benefit to the people concerned. It is, I suggest, attacking a problem the wrong way.
We live, I know, in a world of saints and sinners, and I suggest that we do not want the anæmic paradise of the apostles of control. Age has never been able to impose its standards on youth for very long. I hope it never will, and I think it is good that it should be so. It is still true to say that if we lose liberty we lose all, and the shape of an omnipotent B.B.C. seems to those who think as I do far more likely to debase standards than a competitive system under no more, shall we say, than the ordinary controls of decency, and so forth, which govern the Press. The Government's scheme may be tentative and imperfect, but we have already been assured that any suggestions for improvement will be welcome. I should like to conclude by emphasising what I said at the beginning: that what seems to me so important is not to pick holes in details of what we think the system will be, nor to put up ninepins of that kind for the pleasure of knocking them down, but to examine the principles which lie behind the Government attitude and to compare them with the principles which lie behind the authors of this Motion.
§ 8.45 p.m.
My Lords, I submit that the terms "freedom" and "liberty" are relative terms, and that if the noble Lord who has just sat down had all the liberty and freedom that he desired in those words, used in their literal meaning, we should revert to chaos. I suppose fifty years ago, for example, it would have been supposed to be outrageous that a man should not build a house where he liked, and yet to-day I do not think that even the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, would plead that we should be allowed to build just where we like, how we like and with what materials we like. I quote that only as an example of the statement that really these are relative terms, and that to argue that in this small country we should all have complete freedom is entirely out of date.
623 May I say a word about the fact that one political Party has issued a Whip in this debate, and no other political Party? Surely, if ever there was a topic upon which there should be a free vote not only in this House but, if I might suggest it, in another place also, this is that topic. When I said this to another of your Lordships the other day the reply was, "Well, the other side have put on the Whip and so we must, too." We now find that that is not so, and that one Party only has issued a Whip for this debate. The noble Earl, the Postmaster General, said, "But has there not been plenty of lobbying?" Of course there has—from both sides. I have received many pamphlets and papers from both sides, and from the opponents of this Motion I have received nothing less than a copy of a speech by the Prime Minister, as I suppose we all have. The point is that whilst, of course, the groups have been indulging in lobbying, was it to be expected that they would not? It has been made a political issue on one side and not the other.
We are getting a certain number of things clear as a result of this debate. Sponsoring has gone and complete freedom has also gone. I have already said that you cannot have complete freedom in this matter, and the whole of the White Paper denies freedom. If there is any doubt about that, may I quote paragraph 12 of the White Paper, which says:The Postmaster General would specify a maximum and minimum hours for broadcasting each day, and would thus control the amount of broadcasting, as he does with the B.B.C.If that is the case, surely there is no real freedom in this matter, because, according to paragraph 12, the Postmaster General could say that there should be none at all. The fact is, of course, that however many competitive systems we have under this scheme, the noble Earl will be on the field with his whistle and can order the players off at his discretion. Monopoly has not gone. Under the White Paper, in my submission, the monopoly stays. It might not be the monopoly of the B.B.C., but it is Government monopoly. Surely there is no dispute about that. Under the White Paper there will be Government monopoly, and nobody really thinks there can be anything else.
624 On the question of alternative programmes I am not entirely in agreement with the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, who opened this debate, because, although I am unalterably opposed to advertising, I concede at once that there is a case for alternative programmes. Indeed, does not this Motion say so in its opening words? May we, therefore, take it that we are all agreed that there will be alternative proposals? The question is, who should provide them? Unlike the noble Viscount, I see no objection to competition by corporations, competing one against the other. I do not think he liked that, but several speakers have said, and I agree, that there is no objection to that, provided there is no advertising. Competition is very good up to a point; but all these things can be carried beyond that point.
I want to raise a new point, one which I have not heard earlier in this debate, and, what is more, I have not seen it in any of the correspondence in the papers, of which I have read a great deal. Competition could be positively harmful in this matter. Television, as I, being entirely non-technical, understand it, requires a very high mast and a station from which to put out the programmes. That has to go, for preference, on a very high spot, the higher the better. It is bound to cause considerable injury to the amenities. We all know of the trouble that occurred at Plymouth, where there has been much controversy in the Press as regards Hessary Tor, the highest spot in the Dartmoor National Park. Great objection has been taken to a television station there. Expressing a purely personal view, I hold that the Hessary Tor installation should be allowed, in spite of the fact that it is bound seriously to interfere with the amenities of the National Park. It should be allowed because we must have television and, that being so, we must have the best television. But what is to happen if there are to be three or four Hessary Tors near our large cities? I have already said that I want competitive programmes—and that means two or three programmes. I have been informed—no doubt I shall be corrected if I am wrong—that it is possible to put out more than one programme from a single mast. Therefore, if the B.B.C. is to been trusted with the task of putting out more than one programme, which is one of 625 the possibilities, one mast will suffice, and there will be no more blemish upon the amenities.
But what about competitive programmes? Will they need additional masts? If so, must they be in the same place or may they be in a place separated by some distance? The same problem may occur round Manchester. It has been said that if there is competitive television there will be additional stations at least in the large areas of population in Lancashire. Presumably the best service for Manchester will come from the Peak District National Park. Is that to be another blemish there, or will the existing station suffice? That is a technical question which I cannot answer; but it is all-important that it should be answered, because all these questions have some relevance to this debate. As I have said, that is an unhealthy form of competition.
I submit, my Lords, that the crux of this whole matter is finance. I should like to say how much I admired the speech of the most reverend Primate this afternoon. He put his finger on the real question at issue, which is, who should pay for the additional programmes which everybody wants—except, possibly, I must say, the most reverend Primate himself. Should these programmes he paid for by the viewer or by somebody else? If it is to be somebody else, the only person it can be is the consumer of the goods advertised. I say unhesitatingly that they should not be paid for by the consumer. The noble Marquess, Lord Linlithgow, who, I am sorry to see, has just left the House, when he spoke a minute ago seemed to think that, somehow or other, nobody need pay. That is not so. He would, he said, ask the viewer whether he would rather pay a licence or have a free programme. Well, of course, that is impossible. The consumer will pay. The consumer who lives, perhaps, in far distant northern Scotland, for instance, who does not have any television, will pay. I should prefer the other alternative—thathe who enjoys the programme should pay for it. Much has been said as to the cost of the licence, whether it should be £5 or £6 or maybe £10. Why should not the people who have these programmes pay £6 or even £10 for them? Much criticism has been 626 expressed because viewers do not see such good programmes here as do the Americans. It is all a question of cost. If the B.B.C. were given two or three more pounds a licence, they could give us very much better programmes.
One further point on finance. The B.B.C. have to pay taxation to the Government to the extent of 15 per cent. They could give very much better programmes if this 15 per cent. were restored to them. If we have competitive television with advertisements, are the competing stations also going to be taxed to the extent of 15 per cent. by the Government, or will they get away scot free? I have not heard that question asked or answered this afternoon—unless it happened while I was absent from the Chamber. But, surely, if the B.B.C. have to pay 15 per cent., all the stations should likewise be made to pay. My own preference would be that none of them should pay. My objection to this Government proposal is a very simple one: I object to advertising in the programmes. I have no objection to alternative programmes, even if they ate competitive. It is the advertisements that, quite frankly, I cannot stomach. It is said that it would be no worse than an advertisement in the Press. I cannot agree with that statement. I am bound to say that I think there 'is a great difference between Press advertisements and advertisements in television—and so with the cinemas. I think that advertisements in cinemas are most objectionable; and I would go so far as to say that a good cinema does not have advertisements.
I should like to refer to another matter which Lord Linlithgow raised. He said that somehow there was a prejudice against the business man. Nothing that I, at any rate, am saying is due to any such prejudice whatsoever. But I have a prejudice against certain types of advertising, and I am not ashamed to confess it. I will even admit that I have a strong prejudice against part of Piccadilly Circus. I am ashamed when I see it: I am not proud of it. For these reasons I trust that the Motion will not be opposed by Her Majesty's Government. They have already altered the plan. I would ask them to alter it again and not to upset the system which has been en- 627 joyed by us in this country for thirty years and which I, for one, have come to be proud of.
§ 9.0 p.m.
LORD FAIRFAX OF CAMERON
; My Lords, before coming to the remarks I intend to make, I must refer to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Merthyr, and what he said about the Conservative Party having put on a Whip for this debate. Admittedly, they have put on a Whip, but I would ask your Lordships to remember that the Government policy has been attacked by what is a highly organised group who, in effect, have their own Whip. I saw in the papers just a day or two ago that they were calling a meeting at which to discuss what they were going to do in this debate and were calling upon anyone who opposed the Government White Paper in this matter to attend it. In addition to that, the Leader of the Labour Party in another place—
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
I know that the noble Lord does not wish to misrepresent the position. I can assure him that there has, in fact, been no Whip at all and there is no "highly organised body"—
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
What, in fact, has occurred—and I hope the noble Lord who is on the Front Bench will contain himself for a moment, while I tell him what has occurred; and the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, who is here in his place will confirm exactly what I say—is that those of us who proposed to take part in this debate on a particular side had a meeting together to decide who was to speak first and who were to be the Tellers. There has been no Whip and, speaking for myself and, I believe, for everybody else, no attempt has been made by any of us to influence a single vote.
§ LORD MOYNE
I may say that the first I heard of this debate was in The Times. I was in "Dublin's fair city," and not in the backwoods, by the way.
LORD FAIRFAX OF CAMERON
I, and many of your Lordships, have 628 received enough literature about the opposition to this White Paper to know that a great effort has been made to influence the votes in the Division which will take place at the end of this debate. Further to that, I would point out that the Leader of the Labour Party in another place has said publicly that, if the Government are to pass a measure instituting commercial television, the Labour Party, if and when it gets into power, will repeal that. Certainly, if anything is a Party attack, that is. I do not believe that this Party was the first to instigate the putting on of a Whip. It was forced into that position because it had no alternative. I should like to refer to one thing that has been said in this debate by the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, who moved the Motion when he referred to the children's programmes. He was deploring the fact that, when commercial television comes in, there may not be children's programmes of the kind or standard that the B.B.C. put on now. I should like to remind your Lordships of one thing: the B.B.C. will go on just as it has been going on up to now—in fact, on an even larger scale, covering, I am told, over 90 per cent. of the country. I think there is (I have noticed it in the country) a growing impression among some people who have not studied this question closely that somehow, in some way, commercial television will take over the whole field. That is not so. The B.B.C. will be just as strong as it has ever been and will put on all the programmes it has ever put on.
I will not follow any further other noble Lords who have spoken because I want to talk about the question of employees in the television field. That is a matter which, to a certain extent, has been overlooked. The fact is that there is considerable unemployment amongst artistes, actors and actresses, and this unemployment is serious and growing. These people are unable to find jobs on the stage or in films, and they look to television to provide them with the employment that they cannot find on the orthodox stage. Unfortunately, the B.B.C. is able to absorb only a very small proportion of those unemployed people, and they are now looking to commercial television to provide them with the employment which they have not so far been able to obtain. I should like to quote as an authority for this statement 629 some words spoken by Mr. Donald Wolf it on September 28 of this year—and he is in a position to know what conditions are like in the acting industry. Mr. Wolf it said that 80 per cent. of the actors and actresses in the country would be unemployed in six months unless something was done—something in the nature of commercial television—to employ more of them. In addition to that, I know of one body outside which has received 3,000 letters from artistes saying that they are desperate for employment. That is a rather serious situation, because these people are an essential part of our community. This question not only affects them but also covers cinema technicians, many of whom have been thrown out of work by the closing of film studios. They, too, look to the field of television to provide them with employment.
Leaving the question of unemployment, I should like to turn to another side of this same matter—that of the choice of an employer, which I believe is of great importance to the work in this industry. The fact is that no choice exists at the moment either in the television field or in sound radio in this country. Of course, television is being affected by the Government's proposals, but it will at least be something if a choice of employment is to be permitted in that field. In a dispute between a producer or a director and an artiste, or in the case of friction between them, or a dislike arising, possibly through the fault of neither one, it is the artiste, the actor or the actress, who has to "knuckle under" and take the situation that exists, for he or she has no alternative employment elsewhere. If he is to earn his daily bread in the vocation for which he has been trained, he has to stay there and "knuckle under" to the producer.
I believe that this situation in which there is only one source of employment—namely, the B.B.C. television services—is bad for the artiste, is bad for the standard of programmes and, I believe, bad for the whole of the television industry. In the first place, it leads to subservience on the part of the artiste, to the producer, and with highly individualistic people, as actors are, it must kill the individuality upon which they so greatly depend for their performances. It must stifle their talent. Secondly, it 630 leads to favouritism in the choosing of artistes for particular programmes. Those are the inevitable consequences which one has to bear from a monopoly, and the scheme outlined in the White Paper will remedy that situation. I feel quite sure that many actors and actresses will welcome this Government measure as being a great boon and salvation to them.
I should like to turn for a moment to American television, because I believe that American television has been rather seriously maligned in this country; and it must be irritating for many people in America to hear their television constantly represented by people overseas as such an awful thing. I go to America about once a year on private business, and when I go there I always look at the television. There is a television set in the house in which I stay. To be frank, the programmes are not nearly so bad as people make out. Television in America really does not deserve be frightful reputation that has been given to it. Of course, it is easy to find lapses in television anywhere—I could even mention one or two that I have seen on the B.B.C. Generally, the Americans put on very much more sport on their television than the B.B.C. does; it is possible to watch a boxing match every night—and very good they are too. There are also quite a number of high-quality features, such as concerts and talks. I did not find the degrading and awful programmes which one so often hears are supposed to be put on American television.
The chief criticism I would make about American television is that they almost invariably put the advertisement in the wrong place, usually in the middle of the feature and often just when it is nearing the most interesting part. That can be very annoying. However, as we see in the White Paper, that is not to be allowed over here and I think that is a very wise decision. I would add that one must remember that Americans are of a very different character from ourselves, and it is somewhat natural that their radio entertainment should be of a different character, too. So perhaps it is not surprising that we do not like it and are not used to it. It is simply that we are not Americans.
I believe most firmly and conscientiously that we have no right to 631 withhold an alternative television programme from the British public. In the first place, talking about alternatives, I do not believe that it is a really practicable proposition for the B.B.C. to put on an alternative television programme, because I think that would defeat its own ends. Already we are told that there are about 20 per cent. evasions of licences amongst those who possess television sets. As we have also been told, it would cost £5 or £6 for a licence for every television owner if the B.B.C. were to be able to put on an alternative programme. I am quite certain that if the cost were raised to that figure the number of evasions of payment of the fee would mount up enormously, so that possibly there would be nothing like the amount of revenue coming to the B.B.C. to pay for that alternative programme. In any case, I think it would be a considerable imposition nowadays, with the fairly high cost of living which we have known since the war, to make people pay yet more for their television licence.
Again, for an alternative programme to be really worthwhile I believe that it must not only be a different programme but must also be different in type and character. The B.B.C. certainly would not be able to produce an alternative programme different in type and character from that which they already produce. It needs to be produced in a different way by different people altogether. My Lords, I believe that it is wrong to leave so powerful a medium as television—which is, after all, far more powerful than sound radio; it is something that can come into everyone's home visually and influence them—in the hands of just a few people who can decide what the public of this country shall see. I believe that the Government have taken the right step in introducing their White Paper, and I shall certainly vote against this Motion.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ LORD MOYNE
My Lords, I have to begin by declaring an interest: I am the Vice-Chairman of a company which advertises its stout under a name which is mine but not Moyne. Some of your Lordships may think that my interest would lead me to support the White Paper, but you would be wrong—it leads me to oppose it. I am opposed to it 632 mainly for economic reasons. When I first heard of this kind of proposal, for about five dull-witted minutes I thought that advertisements on the television meant getting your television free; that the money for it came down like manna from heaven and cost nobody anything. Fortunately my wits soon cleared. But there has been a lot of shouting—a lot of quite expensive shouting, with loudspeakers in the streets, I am told—even quite lately about "free" television, a phrase which, if I may say so, is dangerously ambiguous and misleading. There is no such thing as free television. Somebody has to pay for it. In some cases it will be the consumer, in some cases the shareholders, in some cases the smaller concerns who would fall by the wayside. In so far as it was borne by shareholders, approximately half the cost would fall directly on the Exchequer in reduced income and profits tax. It will surprise me if those jealous guardians of the nation's purse who meet in another place are not concerned at this attempt to tax the community to pay for a new service without the scrutiny and quantitative control of Parliament.
It will be argued, I know, by noble Lords who take the other view, first that expenditure on television would be at the expense of Press and poster advertising. This has been considered very carefully in my own firm and I can only say that the view formed on looking at what happened in America is that such expenditure, if we were obliged to incur it, would probably in the long run have to be additional to what we spend already. Next, it will be argued that the community will gain by increased production resulting from increased sales of consumer goods. But, my Lords, we live in an age of inflation, to combat which, since 1947, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has painfully budgeted for a surplus; and our ability to thrive and export depends on saving and on spending less at home. If commercial television simply increases the sales of one manufacturer as against another it will cost the nation and the State a pretty penny; if it succeeds in increasing consumption it brings us nearer to that inflationary disaster which the Party to which I am so proud to belong has worked so hard to prevent. And, my Lords, there are other inflationary tendencies concealed in these proposals, 633 since many companies would undoubtedly be obliged to meet the cost of television advertising by putting less to reserve and would have to go to the market for new issues. The inflationary spiral would therefore be directly increased, whether or not the scheme were successful in promoting the total consumption of consumer goods which might be so disastrous to us all. If those who favour this scheme were wrong, and sales were not increased in the aggregate, it would be bad enough; but if they were right it would be far worse. Really, our Party cannot have it both ways; they cannot urge wage restraint and thrift upon us while at the same time introducing a new and expensive method to stimulate consumption.
One of the most astonishing features of the plans in the White Paper is that producers have not been consulted about them. I can only speak of my own knowledge regarding our own company. We, as one of the six largest advertisers in the country, have never been asked whether we wish to see television advertising introduced. It would appear that industry is to stand beside the State as a milch cow, whether it likes it or not. It is no use saying that no advertiser need go on to the television screen if he does not want to; competition is likely to drive him there. Would it not be right to discover whether anything like a majority of producers favour this vast waste of their own and the country's money before inaugurating this service for their supposed benefit?
The Incorporated Society of British Advertisers and the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, in an open letter to the Postmaster General, which many of your Lordships must have seen, while pleading for flexibility if advertising is introduced, begin and end very fairly by emphasising that they hold no mandate to press for competitive television, which is surely evidence that producers as a whole are not clamouring for it. I believe that the majority of manufacturers would prefer this expensive and extravagant race never to begin; they say very little about it, because if it does begin they realise that they may be forced by the snowball effect of competition to participate, and they do not want to have to eat their words. I, being Irish, have a logical mind, and I see no difficulty at all in saying that I do not want this expensive 634 race to be run, but that if it is run we might be obliged to go in for it and would acquit ourselves creditably. I do urge on the Government the advisability of seeing whether industry as a whole wants this thing started. I am told that it is the most expensive form of advertising in existence in proportion to the results obtained.
We have heard a great deal about breaking the B.B.C. monopoly uttered in almost the same breath as tributes to the B.B.C. for its fairness and its impartiality. But in fact the B.B.C. is not a monopoly in the true sense of the word at all; it is a sounding board from which all sections of opinion, all varieties of taste may make themselves heard and in due course seen. Critics of the B.B.C. have been concerned with ways in which it has not yet gone off the rails, but conceivably might do so. Well, let us watch it and see that it is as good in the future as it has been in the past. That is up to all of us. It is not a monopoly but a balance of representative opinion effected by its Governors. If the balance goes wrong, it can be set right. Parliament has just reaffirmed its Charter, and presumably thinks well of its functioning. But if Parliament feels that there should be a separate programme for television under separate control, that can, I suggest, be achieved within the framework of the B.B.C. at infinitely lower cost and without resort to advertising. Personally, I would simply favour an alternative television programme under B.B.C. direction, bearing relation to the first as the Light or the Third do to the Home Service.
But if separate control is wanted, why not have an independent Scottish (or Welsh) television programme, guided by an independent Committee of Scotsmen (or Welshmen) who would appoint a director and a small producing staff responsible to them? These could use B.B.C. stations and technicians. It is only, after all, against programme selection that any monopolistic criticism can be raised. To pay for the extra expense of this independent director and staff I suggest—and this meets a point regarding evasion made by Lord Fairfax of Cameron—licence fees for the gadgets which would make an alternative programme possible. Such gadgets could be registered and numbered and the seller could be made responsible for re- 635 cording the names of the purchasers. Alternatively—a different arrangement—it would be possible to give a choice, on the buying of an ordinary licence (giving the right to listen to either programme), to have one with a thistle or a leak on it and to earmark the money from such licences for the running of special programmes. National sentiment would ensure a certain measure of initial support which might increase with the popularity of the programmes. I do not wish to be specific about such suggestions. A Countrymen's Committee would be an alternative approach. But it is obvious that anything of this kind would cost the nation far less than what is proposed, and would ensure that the televiewer, and nobody else, would pay for what he got, which is, after all the only fair way unless Parliament chooses to vote the money for something extra.
I suggest that the B.B.C. should be allowed to retain all the funds it collects instead of being taxed as at present. The White Paper would indirectly and directly finance a rival to the B.B.C. while leaving that body with one hand, so to speak, tied behind its back. How much better to set the B.B.C. free and let it do the job instead of resorting to this elaborate and expensive subterfuge to make the man without a television set pay for the pleasure of the man with one, out of the increased costs of what he has to buy, by a penny here and there to begin with, and perhaps afterwards by runaway inflation that would undermine and jeopardise his whole standard of life.
§ 9.25 p.m.
§ LORD FOLEY
My Lords, I should like to say straight away how happy I am to be able to take part in this debate, as I am, and always have been, extremely interested in all matters appertaining to the entertainment industry. I congratulate the Government on their courage in the face of considerable opposition in proposing to go ahead with alternative competitive television. I am 100 per cent. certain that the proposed measures are a step in the right direction, and whilst I welcome the proposals already made, I feel that the Government have not gone far enough. I should like to see commercial television stations completely in the hands of free enterprise—with, of course, reasonable controls. I feel that 636 the danger of the proposed new system, in which a first alternative station is owned by the Government and staffed by Government employees, is that it may well become a second B.B.C. I am pleased to see from the White Paper that programme companies will be responsible for producing the programmes, and I can only sincerely hope and trust that this does not mean that the station will produce the programmes and merely allocate space at the beginnings or ends of these programmes for commercial advertisement. If this were to take place it would be the same as if the B.B.C. offered advertising space at the beginning or end of one of its present television programmes.
It has often been stressed by opponents of commercial television that the sponsor-advertiser should have no control over the programme. This, I feel, is a bad idea, since, quite obviously, the person who spends large sums of money on a programme to advertise his goods must be allowed to have some say in the production of the programme. I am not suggesting that the sponsor should produce the programme, but I feel that he should be allowed to go to reputable companies, well versed in such matters, and be able at least to indicate to them the type of programme that he desires. There are many thousands of artistes, producers, technicians, and experts of all sorts in this country who are looking forward to the day when the great new experiment of free alternative commercial television will arrive. If all plans for this measure were abandoned because of certain well-meaning but, I feel, thoroughly ill-advised people, it would be more than a pity; it would be a great tragedy, not only for the television industry, but for the entire entertainment industry.
Let us face facts. The B.B.C. has done a very good job with regard to television despite its many problems, the chief of which, of course, is a grave lack of funds. But we must not blind ourselves to the fact that, whilst many programmes, such as outside broadcasts, sport, et cetera, are excellent, the standard of most studio productions is, on the whole, pitifully poor. It is interesting (and this I think is an important point) that most of the top programmes of the B.B.C.—that is, programmes which have a big viewing 637 audience—are programmes directly derived from American commercial television. An example of this is, What's my Line? which is an extremely popular programme. What's my Line? is bought by a private company direct from American commercial television and is sold to the B.B.C. It is therefore a direct product of the much-despised commercial television. Yet that is one of the most popular programmes we are seeing today. Another point worth noting is that sport, which we know is an enormous success, and which is well done, is, after all, not entirely without a commercial connection. A boxing match is produced by the boxing promoter for financial reasons. I feel that this should be borne in mind.
I believe that, with the right encouragements, advertisers will supply ample funds under the new system, and I am confident that these programmes could be immensely improved. I cannot for one moment agree with those opponents of commercial television who believe that in striving to reach the greatest possible viewing public, and pandering to general taste, there will be a lowering of the moral tone of many programmes. I feel sure that the reverse will be the case. Surely no sponsor in his right mind is going to associate himself, or the article he produces, with a programme which will be adversely criticised on moral grounds; and the fact that the station itself will have the final word as to whether or not the programme shall go over the air is in any case an additional safeguard. Of course, we do not want the same sort of thing here as in America: we have a different way of life and different standards of taste. But even with regard to this aspect, I feel that the opponents of commercial television have seized upon the worst aspects of it in the United States and ignored the best; and I can assure your Lordships that there are many commercial television programmes over there which are absolutely first-class.
I have never seen American television myself, but many friends of mine who are experts in the entertainment industry, and whose opinion I value highly, inform me that there are programmes produced in the States on commercial television of a standard and variety undreamed of in this country, and that even the com- 638 mercials at the beginning or end of these programmes are themselves in excellent taste and sometimes as short as to be merely the bare announcement of the name or title of the firm producing the programme. I am convinced that in the entertainment industry, as much as, if not more than, in all other industries, free, unhampered, healthy competition is the only way of ensuring a high standard.
The aim will be for the advertiser to produce a programme better than that produced by someone else. I am not suggesting for one moment that we should dispense with the B.B.C. in favour of commercial television. They will certainly have to improve their programmes very greatly if they are to compete with good commercial television, but I fee, certain that healthy competition will also have a beneficial effect upon this excellent public Corporation, which I in no way decry, for I know only too well the tremendous difficulties under which they have been working in the past.
In conclusion, I should like to say this. There are many eminent men in this House to whom we all listen with great respect, men who, indeed, have a profound grasp of many subjects and matters of perhaps more weighty import than this. I cannot help feeling, however (I hope that this House will forgive me for saying this) that by the very virtue of their position in life and the responsibilities they bear, they are somewhat out of touch with the entertainment industry. On the whole, the entertainment industry is not usually a subject which comes within the scope of people holding high public position. I am convinced that commercial television will come—nothing and no one can stop it. Its arrival can be only temporarily delayed. Here I must agree with the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, who said that if we do not do something about this, other people in other countries will. To my mind, it is the only logical way to run a television industry, and, indeed, the whole entertainment industry; and I must repeat that, whilst welcoming the White Paper, I am disappointed that the Government have not had the courage now to give to the people of this country the finest television service and the best possible entertainment in this medium, which I know all your Lordships will agree they so richly deserve.
§ 9.33 p.m.
§ LORD MATHERS
My Lords, it may be thought that a Scotsman has not much connection with this particular debate or with the White Paper, but I make a national claim for the right to participate in this debate, television having been given to the world by a Scotsman. The name Baird, who hailed from Helens burgh, is one to conjure with in respect of television. I am glad that this important matter is being treated by this side of the House, at least, as a non-Party issue, and that we are quite free to vote as we choose. I do not suggest that I shall make a very imposing contribution to this debate, but to-morrow night I shall give my vote in the Lobby in favour of the Resolution that is before us.
On reading Command Paper 9005, I was struck by the words of the first sentence in paragraph 3 on page 3 entitled "Question of Monopoly"—namely:As television has great and increasing power in influencing men's minds, the Government believes that its control should not remain in the hands of a single authority, however excellent it may be.This is a curious declaration, and the subsequent attitude would justify the Government in adding after the words I have quoted a statement to the effect that we must now take television out of the hands of those who are doing their best to give a real service of high quality and put great power at the mercy of persons whose concern is, by any and every means, to add to the number of viewers so that the interests of advertisers who furnish the revenue may be served.
It is pleaded by supporters of the proposals that a decline in the quality of programmes is not inevitable. I do not think I am unfairly prejudiced in declaring that the change of motive is liable to have that result. Remember, "he who pays the piper calls the tune." I also remember that our own national poet, Robert Burns, said:When self the wavering balance shakes, It's rarely right adjusted.I find educationists and church workers very much worried by the possibilities now facing us as a result of the Government's proposals. The effect upon children and young people is dreaded. The subject came before the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland last May, when the work and findings of the Church and Nation Committee were 640 under discussion. The attitude of this great free Assembly which, unlike the great established Church in the Southern part of this Island, has full sovereign powers in all matters concerning its constitution and government, was clearly against commercial television. Not wishing even to appear to usurp the authority of the Government or of Parliament, the Assembly called for a free vote to be allowed when the matter came up in your Lordships' House and in another place, being fully convinced that the good sense of Members would settle the issue.
I cannot speak with any great knowledge of what happens in America, but I had a personal experience in New York five years ago which I shall never forget. It was my first introduction to television, and I believe it was the same for the four colleagues who were with me. On that occasion the advertising of somebody's shirts (I think it was) was done against a background of all-in wrestling bouts taking place in Madison Square Garden. These proved to be spectacles of sheer ugliness. "Sport" is a dignified name that could never be used to describe how those repulsive looking men savagely attacked each other. All of them had heavy limbs and gross bodies, topped with what might be described as Piltdown skulls—I could not speak as to their lower jaws as these were covered with a short growth of black stubble, which added to my disgust at their appearance. I saw nothing entertaining in these contests. The whole programme was repugnant to me, and I ask your Lordships to reflect upon the effect of such spectacles upon children. They might be useful in the hands of a lecturer seeking to demonstrate the feasibility of the Darwinian theory of human evolution, but that would be educational and the broadcast had no such qualities. It is complained that advertisements interrupt programmes in America. The intervention by the advertising of the shirts was a blessing in connection with that particular broadcast.
Frankly, I am apprehensive regarding the use that might be made of this great invention by advertisesrs. They would provide the income to run the competitive, or sponsored or commercial service—the adjective is really immaterial; it all comes to the same thing at the end. 641 Here let me pose a question: would not those who pay for the advertising of their wares be able to charge that as a working expense, thus reducing their profits and therefore their liability to taxation; and does not that mean that indirectly the Treasury would be subsidising the proposed new service? The noble Lord, Lord Moyne, put that same point as an assertion; I put it as a question, hoping to get a definite answer, so that the report on this matter might be complete.
I want to give another sample of what takes place in America by quoting the words of a well-known minister of a New York City church. He is the Reverend Doctor H. E. Fosdick, and I quote his words from a letter written by a correspondent to the Edinburgh Evening News and printed in that paper last Monday. Doctor Fosdick said:Every ingenious device that money can buy is being used to persuade our children to become addicted to alcohol. In homes where the use of liquor is discouraged by family tradition and parental choice, the solicitation of T.V. is continually urging the children and young people to become drinkers. This invasion of our families by urgent appeals to acquire a habit which is ruining millions of our people is insufferable.So says the Reverend Doctor Fosdick. It might be asserted that nothing like this could ever take place here. Are we so sure? Are we certain that our standard will always remain higher than that prevailing in the United States of America? I ask your Lordships to look at what happens to us at the hands of advertisers to-day. We are treated, for example, to a slogan consisting of three words of an unfinished sentence. I am thinking of the words: "Beer is best"—which, in my opinion, should be rendered: "Beer is best left alone." That would complete the sentence and state a demonstrable truth. Beer is a narcotic drink consisting principally of water to which has been added certain substances originally having some food value, but this value has been almost, if not completely, destroyed by the process of manufacture. The resulting concoction impairs health, contributes to disease, lowers industrial efficiency and output, increases the incidence of road and other accidents, and is the cause of an immense amount of human misery and degradation.
But, notwithstanding these proved facts, the false slogan: "Beer is best" still 642 stands because of the wealth used to give it circulation, while those who can prove its falsity have not the power at their disposal fully to blazon forth the truth. I give only that one sample of the dangerous use self-interested persons could make of this proposed new instrument of publicity. Other instances will suggest themselves to your Lordships, especially with regard to alcoholic liquors, in connection with which statements are widely circulated which are scientifically untrue. We can ignore the slogans when we see them on the hoardings and in print, but the same kind of appeal carried into our homes and shown on television screens is a very different matter. The dangers, as I see them, especially to children and impressionable young people in their formative years are so great that I cannot possibly do other than oppose the White Paper proposals.
§ 9.45 p.m.
§ LORD WEBB-JOHNSON
My Lords, I am glad that the Government saw fit to remind noble Lords that the subject now under debate is a matter of some importance. I did not regard their communication as a command or as a crack of the whip, but I was glad to be reminded of this matter. I think perhaps the Government might have saved themselves trouble because the group who have given orders for mobilisation against the White Paper policy would have publicised the need for our attendance. I intervene to make it clear that, although I have been associated with the B.B.C., and have sat on its Advisory Council, I do not agree with, or even acquiesce in, the statements of those who have had intimate connection with the B.B.C. I have sat in company with men for whom I have the greatest respect; I have sat at the knees of the noble Viscount who sits on those seclusive and exclusive Benches, but…evermoreCame out by that same door wherein I went",though I was anxious to learn. Yet I think it is right that I should tell your Lordships of my personal experience which led me to certain conclusions.
I inquired and I criticised. I should have thought that membership of a General Advisory Council carried with it the duty to do so. I raised various questions. I remember, in the 643 first place, raising the question of the insidious infiltration of the inglenook of the home by veiled Communist propaganda. I was met with a considerable essay, running into several pages, on the freedom of speech—with which, of course, I agree. No doubt eternal vigilance is necessary to maintain our freedom. But eternal vigilance is also necessary to prevent enemies of the State from getting a medium of propaganda which they would deny to others if they came into power.
I ventured to criticise some programmes, but I was informed that millions—I forget the number of millions—had listened to these programmes. That statement was based on the reports of the Listener Research organisation. On inquiry, it transpired that the Listener Research organisation consisted of a few inquirers who ascertained by calls on various houses what people had listened to the night before, or the week before, and what programmes they liked. Apparently, the resulting number was multiplied by some multiple which was arrived at by some unknown means. So it was ascertained that so many millions listened. If I had ventured to put before my medical colleagues a statement that I had proved there was a definite familial influence on the incidence of some particular disease, and revealed that I had made inquiries from a selected number of households and then multiplied the result by millions, I should have been ruled out of court. I hope that the most reverend Primate, when he gave us the information, apparently ex cathedrâ that the average number of hours spent by male and female adults, and by children, watching and listening to television in the United States was four and a half a day, was not basing that assertion on the same kind of statistical fantasy such as I have outlined.
The next thing I asked for was extra facilities. I asked that my profession should be able to have facilities similar to those enjoyed by my profession in the United States of America, that on a selected band of frequency we should be able to transmit to a selected audience, in a selected place, educative and informative television. Technical explanations, very laboured, were prof- 644 ferred in excuse for the fact that this facility could not be given. These explanations might have been justified, but the fact that remained in my mind was that my colleagues in America could pass over the air a perfect picture of an operation for 1,500 surgeons from all over the world, yet we in this country cannot do it. Another detail I raised was the remuneration of artistes. We all know that those who have entertainment to offer cannot afford to be off the stage, off the cinema, or off the air. That is no excuse for under-paying them, nor is it right for any public corporation to take advantage of the situation. Why did these experiences impress me particularly? It was because I thought that they were all inherent in the fact that there was a monopoly; that monopoly created an atmosphere of self-satisfaction and complacency, and allowed those concerned a comfortable night's rest, in spite of having refused facilities which are enjoyed in other countries.
The noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, who has been so assiduous in his attendance in this House since proposing the Motion, admits by its terms that the opponents to any duplication of television had lost on the first round, the question of the absolute monopoly. He proposes that, instead of there being the new organisation proposed by the Government, the B.B.C. should run a second service—which would re-create the monopoly against which I have such strong feelings. Your Lordships will not be surprised to know that I am no longer a member of the Advisory Council of the B.B.C. The noble Viscount admits the desirability of an alternative. He is an astute lawyer, and I should have thought he would have been more careful in his choice of words. I should have thought that, instead of "alternative," he would have used the word "duplicate." The noble Viscount also quoted from the Report of the Sykes Committee, but he did not quote the recommendation that the Government should keep their hands free to grant additional licences and should consider various alternatives.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
My Lords, the noble Lord is right about that. I did not quote it, but if he reads Hansard he will see in what I said a direct reference to it.
§ LORD WEBB-JOHNSON
My Lords, I am pleased to hear that, because I should not like to believe that the noble Viscount would have deliberately omitted any reference to it. Nor did he quote the words recently uttered by Sir Frederick Sykes, that the Government White Paper reflects the public feeling which is now manifest. Perhaps the noble Viscount was not aware of that. The noble Viscount dealt with the question of coverage, and tried to draw a comparison between this country and the United States, to the detriment of this country. But surely it is fantastic to try to draw a comparison with such differences in distances. The whole of the United Kingdom, or, if not the whole of the United Kingdom, then the whole of England, could be put in Lake Michigan and still you could sail round it. Comparisons with the United States are invidious. There is one thing that I feel keenly when the United States are mentioned in this regard, and that is a sense of humiliation that the United States are so far ahead of us, although we in this country were the pioneers of television. And why are they so far ahead? Because industry in this country was cramped by monopoly. In favour of the United States, I should like to speak from personal experience of the educational broadcasts on television that are being put over by the universities and by the hospitals, and, as I have already mentioned, in the case of surgical congresses.
I should like now to say a word about advertisements. I believe that advertisements create a desire to improve the individual's lot in various respects, according to his state. I believe that salesmanship encourages production, and advertisement is a part of salesmanship. The bulk of advertising is decent and honest. It is informative and educative. In regard to the Press, I would say that the better the paper the more people want to advertise in it, regardless of its circulation. In fact, some papers are bought because of their advertisements. I cannot understand Lord Moyne's anxiety. Obviously he already spends "a packet" on advertisements and does not want to add to that side of his expenditure account; but, after all, he is in rather a favoured position. Everybody knows that "Moyne's a Guinness" and that 646 "Guinness is good for you"; so perhaps he can "lay off" for a time.
I submit that the Government's White Paper is an excellent effort to meet the views of others, views which have been expressed in a previous debate in your Lordships' House. The Government have introduced an element of competition, and they claim, I think, rightly, that their proposals are in the interests of the viewers, the writers, the artistes and the technicians. They have put down a limit of ten years, and the proposals are open to revision. They have devised effective control and given greater freedom. Therefore I support the Government and oppose the Motion. At the same time, I should like to remark, before I sit down, that I hope there will be no Division. After a debate like this, the value of which, on the whole, is merely informative, it is ridiculous that there should be a Division. I should also like to remark (perhaps the noble Viscount who opened the debate will give me his attention), that I have no readiness to accept his judgment that, because I oppose the Motion. I desire to add another influence to the degrading of the public taste. Nor am I prepared to accept the judgment of the pontifical pronouncements from Printing House Square, and accept a condemnation, because I support the Government's White Paper, as wantingthe educational purpose of broadcasting deposed and vulgarity—or, at best, triviality—enthroned.I thank your Lordships for your patience at this late hour.
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ THE MARQUESS OF DONEGALL
My Lords, I am a very late comer to this debate in your Lordships' House, and shall occupy your Lordships for only two minutes. We have heard much argument to-day. I know that Omar Khayyam's statement about going out by that same door by which you enter has been quoted several times, so I will not quote it again. What I feel about this matter is that we cannot as a nation ran counter to the trend of the times—the "March of Time," as they call it in America. We are going to get commercial television, anyhow; it is just as inevitable as the sands running out and the tide coming in. The Government suggests that we should do it in a British way. Otherwise, we shall 647 undoubtedly get it in a foreign way, by aeroplane, by submarine or from the Continent of Europe. It cannot be avoided in the long run. Let us as we have throughout our history, look at the trend of the times, and go with it, adapting the current tendencies to the British way of life, rather than try to fight what will undoubtedly be a losing battle.
§ 10.2 p.m.
My Lords, I should like, first of all, to refer to a point made by the noble Marquess, Lord Linlithgow, about the prejudice against the businessman shown by those of us who support the Motion of the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham. We should not be talking about the businessman at all in this debate. Why should we be talking about the businessman, when we are talking about this romantic child of science which the B.B.C. have so admirably nurtured, and which should continue to be completely separate from the commercial factor? It is not that we have a prejudice against the businessman, but that we think it extraordinary that the question of the businessman should be taking up so much time in this debate. If I may say so, coming into the Chamber and listening to the debate, at certain moments one might think that it was a debate on industry and trade, instead of on this sensitive child of modern science. We have hardly talked at all about the problems of the medium itself.
I suppose that many noble Lords, on both sides of the House, are at a disadvantage in not being viewers. How many of us, by being here this evening later than usual, are separated from programmes on television that we should want to see? I myself am not a regular viewer, but I am a keen one. I know that on many days there are few things one would want to look at, when one would rather listen to the Third Programme, or the Home Service, or even the Light Programme. But there are days when certain good things happen, which I am sure would never come about but through the B.B.C.—and these things will improve. The need of a second programme is a crying need. I consider that the B.B.C. are crippled by their own unitary audience at the moment. They would put on more thoughtful pro- 648 grammes, were it not for the fact of there being only this one programme. We should regard it as something abhorrent in sound. This absence of a second programme is something to be got over as quickly as possible in television and it will never come about until the B.B.C. have the money to do it. In fact, the whole problem is whether the B.B.C. will have the money to provide this second programme. I take the view that it is a pity that the country was ever encouraged to think that television was something cheap. The mere addition of another £1 to the cost of a licence for sound radio only I consider to have been a mistake in the first place. We should be paying £3 or £4 for this magnificent service with which the B.B.C. provides us.
I find it mystifying and strange to think that a Conservative Government—and I speak, perhaps, as one of the most non-Party animals or beings in this House—should be putting forward these ideas for commercial television; a Party who were themselves responsible for the formation of the B.B.C. in 1926, and who were proud of it. I think this shows an extraordinary collapse of outlook and taste. I was reading to-day the Charter of 1926, and there is a paragraph in the Royal Salutation of the Charter which is interesting for its tone and outlook. It says:AND WHEREAS it has been made to appear to Us that more than two million persons in our Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland have applied for and taken out Licences to install and work apparatus for wireless telegraphy for the purpose of receiving Broadcast programmes AND WHEREAS in view of the widespread interest which is thereby shown to be taken by Our People in the Broadcasting Service and of the great value of the Service as a means of education and entertainment, We deem it desirable that the Service should be developed and exploited to the best advantage and in the national interest.One notes there the use of the noun "education" before that of "entertainment."
I think the Postmaster General suggested that those who support this Motion could not, in fact, be interested in what the people thought, or wanted, in not wishing the air to be free. I thought that he slipped out a most revealing sentence, to which I should like to cling for a few moments, when he said, talking 649 of the new commercial programmes: "For the purposes of our argument they have got to be lighter than at the moment." The crying need is for a television programme that will be nearer to the Home Service, and further away from the evenings of light entertainment that we often get at the moment. The noble Earl asked, "Is it a crime to be light? Is it a crime to give people what they like?" Of course it is not. But, as I think those of us who support this Motion all feel, the position of the B.B.C. is one of leadership, and not of reflection only. The Times leader this morning referred to the B.B.C.'s "duty of acting as enlightened patron." We cannot think well of these Government propositions.
The noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, also asked for a definition of the word "debase." I should say that in this context the definition of "debase" is that the rival programme, the rival product of the producing companies, will, in fact, be competing with the B.B.C. for the largest audience, and competing in one channel only. How can that possibly fail to result in an appeal to people who want to view all-in wrestling from Liverpool, rather than to people who want to view a Brahms symphony from the Albert Hall? We do not for a moment suggest that everybody should be listening, or viewing as well as listening, to Brahms symphonies; but if the B.B.C. or, for that matter, your Lordships' House, have any function it is surely a responsibility of leadership and sensitivity.
Now to turn for a moment to the White Paper and to the question of finance. The White Paper says that programmes of high quality are very expensive, and suggests that at first there will have to be a network operation. It says also, in a sort of schoolboy tone, in paragraph 7…renting from the Post Office any necessary connecting links between stations…I cannot think that the person who wrote that sentence, or the Government, have any serious idea of what it costs to run a television programme. I myself, as a former member of the B.B.C. staff—and I have gone to some trouble to find out—have always been fascinated with landlines. I think it is even more fascinating that a picture can travel through a cable than through the air. I find that the rental to the B.B.C. in one year for the landline between London and Man- 650 Chester—and I think the alternative channel will be concentrating on these two areas, where half or more than half, of the population live—is about£100,000. That is one-fifth of the proposed first birthday present of £500,000, or whatever it is—we do not yet knew properly: it is all so vague. In one studio alone, say at Lime Grove, let alone lighting or anything else in that studio, a unit of four or five cameras is worth perhaps £100,000. I think the biggest "cheek" of the whole matter is that the public are, in fact, paying for this equipment.
I admire Mr. Norman Collins as a writer though I know that, over this matter, he is on the other side. I think that what he wrote in a recent number of the Political Quarterly is interesting. Referring again to this question of the unreality, most of us are talking without reference to the programmes themselves. We probably do not even know that we could go and look at television within this building at any moment. If we were at home we probably should not be looking at it. But this is a good sentiment and one we should take to heart:A note of singular unreality has hung over the whole discussion. It has been—and still is—rather like debating the case for a free Press with a thoughtful Polynesian whose only experience in the matter has been a tattered piece of newspaper that once chanced to drift upon his virgin coral foreshore.Speaking as a person who has been a producer in the B.B.C., I resent the view that there is not within the B.B.C. monopoly a tremendous spur and instigation towards excellence through competition between services, and especially between producers. There is the spur and responsibility of being in a special position. The great thing is that there is never any ulterior motive. I think the ulterior motive through advertising is in itself thoroughly sinister.
It has been said before in this debate, but it remains an overriding fact that the only revenue in support of the alternative programmes will come from the advertisers themselves. Surely, we are a great enough people to stick to this idea of the B.B.C. as an instrument of leadership. There is absolutely no analogy with the Press. If one thinks of The Times or any ether newspaper the pages are so planned that the advertisements do not hold you up. If you are reading a story on the home news page 651 of The Times you do not have to look down to the south-east corner to see an advertisement for a Rover car, if you do not want to. In the time factor, you are held up for three or four minutes. You may turn off, but the great mass of people will not, and they will be inoculated against excellence by whatever happens. In any case, it is the thin end of the wedge, and ultimately you will get advertisements in the middle of programmes.
I wish to say very little more, but may I say this on this point of freedom. The main attack on the B.B.C. monopoly has taken the line that the people must be satisfied by freeing the air. I am afraid that I am in a mood of extraordinary bewilderment and apprehension. If, on principle, the air must be free on television, what are the future plans of the Government for sound radio? Are the Government not horrified that this sound radio will continue in its present form? Or do they think that there is no particular interest from the advertisers' or other persons' point of view and that it is a dying art? I think there is a sinister aspect in their clinging on to what is always the captive audience of television. Unlike the noble Viscount who so brilliantly opened this debate, I have only once, and then only for a brief moment, appeared on television. But as a viewer I can see what a tremendous captive audience there is for this. Even the mere shifting of images themselves on the screen has a witchcraft quality. What a golden opportunity for advertising! There are 10 or 15 million people who may be looking at this, but it is an intimate audience with people in their sitting-rooms or their drawing-rooms. This is one of the most encouraging facts in a mass age. What an absolutely immoral thing to introduce the commercial tone of voice and the commercial image into this intimate situation in people's own homes! Let us be great enough to resist this powerful tide that is upon us. Though we know that, mechanistically speaking, it is possible that we may be defeated on this Motion, we know that in any case morally we have an overriding and permanent victory.
§ 10.18 p.m.
My Lords, I feel that as a production engineer I should preface 652 my few remarks by declaring that I have no interest in the manufacture or sale of television apparatus, I have not been coached by anyone except myself as to what to say, and I do not own a television set. Not having the requisite bawbees to spare to buy one, I enjoy the warm hospitality of my English friends when there is some great event to witness. Your Lordships, I know, will agree that the use of so vital an idea-forming apparatus should first be considered from the children's point of view. I think that is most important. As the proud father of three children from seven to eleven years old, I hired a television set for the Coronation. In theevenings they make their own fun and games with the wife and the rest of us, and do their homework for school next day. This, I suggest, is for the young far preferable to goggling at a screen in a stuffy room for even one hour a day, let alone the four and a half hours a day that Lord Simon of Wythenshawe said was the time spent by the average American to-day.
As the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, has observed, we cannot escape television. In this, of course, I agree; but I am convinced that we must avoid the particular presentation arrangement offered in the White Paper. I have come to this view after having listened, as we all have, with considerable care to the majority of the speeches in your Lordships' House. Those which have touched me most were, first, the speech by the most reverend Primate, then those of the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, and the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe. They have convinced me that the Motion of the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, should be supported. As the most reverend Primate said, we want less, and not more, television, and for that television we must pay as we can afford to do. We are fast becoming a nation of gogglers and leaners when we should be vigorous actors on the stage of life.
§ 10.21 p.m.
My Lords I, like other noble Lords, must make a declaration of my interest in a trade connected with this debate. I am a director of an electronics company, a subsidiary of E. K. Cole, Limited, which makes many television sets. Unlike the 653 noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, I tried to find out what were the views of the people in the industry. I am not speaking on their behalf, but I gather that their general view was that the industry itself, given the fact that there should be a second programme—which, as I gather this afternoon is the general opinion of your Lordships—should not enter into any argument in regard to its setting up. The industry's proper function is, when the second programme is created, to get down to the production of receivers and other equipment with the greatest possible speed and at the lowest possible cost.
I want to make just two points. The first is that, while I agree with the policy in the White Paper (and if this Motion goes to a Division I shall certainly go into the Government Lobby), I think it will be a pity if it does, in fact, go to a Division. I should have thought that it would be much more helpful to your Lordships' House if the Motion were withdrawn and we used what has been said simply as a record of our debate. I want also to make the point—and this is where I clash with the noble Lord, Lord Webb-Johnson—that in the B.B.C. technical services we have the finest technical services in the world, bar none. I do not think that it would be a good thing to add a second lot of transmitters, receivers and so on, particularly the links to which the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Buxton, referred, the radio and other links required to give full coverage. I have mentioned this matter to the Postmaster General: that practically at this moment it would be possible for the B.B.C. to lay on two more channels with virtually their existing equipment—they would not need a great deal more. If that could be done, a great deal of expense could be saved.
We know that the world looks to this country in its achievements on the technical side of the B.B.C. which have been so ably backed up by the Post Office. We should not do anything to destroy that. It might be wiser, if necessary, to divorce the engineering side of the B.B.C. from the Corporation and let the production corporations use it. That would be a wise thing. There could be an arrangement that the B.B.C. would pay so much out of its licence money, and, equally, the Corporation could pay from 654 the money it gets from other sources. I think the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, said in his speech that if the Bill came along fairly soon and went through, then by Christmas of 1954 we should have millions of people, perhaps 10 millions, seeing a second programme. I am afraid that that cannot possibly be true unless Her Majesty's Government tell the industry what frequencies are to be allotted. It is impossible for the industry, in so short a space of time, to be in a position to design and produce the necessary equipment. I can see the position arising, when the Bill comes into being, that the production corporations will have hired staff under contract—they have to do that if they are to get a team and train them. They will be ready, but the producing side of the industry will not be able to get the new receivers on the market because they will not have been told the frequencies in time. This will be very costly for the companies and all concerned. We have the finest possible technical service in this country and we ought to use it without delay.
§ 10.26 p.m.
My Lords, I entirely support the principles outlined in the White Paper by Her Majesty's Government and I must say I am somewhat astonished that so many of my Party are in opposition to the proposals. One would imagine that plans were afoot to destroy the B.B.C. On the contrary, have no doubt that they will materially assist the B.B.C. with their programmes and that competition will act as a spur to the B.B.C. to produce even better programmes than they do to-day, for every new television set that may be brought into use to view a competitive station will bring an additional licence fee to the B.B.C. A former Director-General of the B.B.C.—I think it was Sir FrederickOgilvie—was quoted to-day by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara. The noble Lord made one quotation but left cut one of the most important parts. In a letter to The Times on June 26, 1948, Sir Frederick said:No matter how efficiently it is run, the B.B.C., good as it is, would gain vastly by the abolition of monopoly and the introduction of competition.I suggest that that is a very clear aid forthright statement of a former Director- 655 General of the B.B.C. which should not be lightly disregarded.
I believe that the principle of free broadcasting is just as important as the principle of a free Press; and, in any case, the proposed system provides for stricter safeguards than those under which the Press operate to-day. I am not prepared to accept the present nationalisation of information, education and entertainment as it is envisaged by the present B.B.C. set-up; and the sooner the country has competitive stations the better. Otherwise we shall in course of time lose one of our "four freedoms" which this country has always endeavoured to maintain. I am afraid I do not recognise the right of anybody to choose for me what I am to see and hear; and I strongly urge your Lordships who sit on this side of the House to give your support to Her Majesty's Government. I cannot help feeling that certain sections of the Party opposite are in opposition to the White Paper proposals because they are well satisfied with the present system, which would enable them with little difficulty to control the mind of the nation. For this reason also I am quite unable to understand the attitude of certain Members on this side of your Lordships' House. Perhaps they have not realised the danger which may exist with a monopoly of the mind.
There is no doubt that certain people in the country have sought deliberately to mislead the public by insisting that competitive television is merely an American system under another name. Of course, this is not so. Under the system outlined in the White Paper, the station and not the advertiser will be responsible for the programme. The analogy is the same as with the newspapers, which sell space for advertising but do not allow advertisers to direct their policy. It has been argued that a commercial station would still be entirely subservient to the advertiser because it enjoys no other source of revenue. Why should a commercial station be subservient to the advertiser any more than a newspaper is? It is well known that a newspaper cannot survive very long without revenue from advertisements. That is absolutely true. There was, in fact, one newspaper that tried it and failed dismally, and went into the Bankruptcy Court.
656 What do the B.B.C. say about advertising? Look at this large and imposing document, Facts, Graphs and Figures, which is produced by the B.B.C. and issued to advertise the Radio Times. It is just as well to realise that they think that advertising is a first-class thing and they are doing all they can to provide for it. Also, there is a link up with the programme. If one turns to page 45 of this document, one finds a note which says:Every time interest in the wireless lags for an interval the Radio Times gets the readers' attention. It is looked at when the mind is free and receptive and inevitably the advertisements get seen, read and studied.I really do not see why the B.B.C. should object so much to advertisements on the air when it does all it can to provide them in print, to the tune of something like a £1 million profit. It has been said that the small man would be excluded from commercial television. It is just as well to observe that the small man is already excluded from the National Press, because, of course, it is too expensive; and he is also excluded from the Radio Times. The cost is far too great. But, as I mentioned a short time ago, in replying to a point made by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, in one of his statements about the small man, in the United States small traders combine together to put on a programme, and I see no reason why that should not be done here as well.
We have heard it argued also that the advertisements in competitive television might be blatant and annoying and would destroy all pleasure in viewing. Surely, the answer to that is that, if the broadcast did not give pleasure, no one would bother to look at it, and would quickly observe the simple remedy of switching it off. But what would be of vital importance to the private station would be that advertisers would no longer support it. The idea that advertisements would be inserted in the middle of a programme I am sure would be avoided in this country, as I am certain it would not be acceptable to the public. Another quite unwarranted argument that has been put forward is that, with free enterprise broadcasting, the standards would decline and become trivial, worthless, and perhaps vicious and corrupting. I would ask your Lordships to consider what has been done by private enterprise in parallel fields such as films, plays and 657 other sources of amusement, and I suggest that no further argument in this direction is necessary.
Perhaps it would not be out of place to read to your Lordships a short letter which appeared in The Times on November 21:As an ordinary suburban housewife, who has had to sacrifice in order to buy a television set, I am looking forward to the new commercial programmes. Lord Halifax and Lord Hailsham are rich men with other means of entertainment. Why do they deny me, and thousands like me, additional pleasure? I am old enough to remember the cry of 'Peers versus People.' As a Conservative I should regret its revival.I doubt very much whether those of your Lordships who are opposing the principle of the White Paper are putting forward the wishes of the majority of the people. What has the Gallup Poll to say about it? A recent Gallup Poll has indicated that a majority of the nation, and particularly the owners of television sets, are in favour of the Government's intentions, and also that 75 per cent. of the set owners were earning under £11 a week. The most reverend Primate has told your Lordships to-day that he is not satisfied with the financial arrangements which will arise under the Government proposals. Does the most reverend Primate really suggest that an average family earning under £11 a week should be asked to pay £5 for a licence in older to finance another corporation, instead of the family getting it pretty well free through advertising? Does he realise that, apart from the cost of the licence, a television set will have to be adapted to receive an alternative station programme and this adaptation will cost something like £10 to £15? Surely, the viewer is entitled to get his alternative programme at the least possible cost.
The most reverend Primate has also posed the question whether it is a good thing to put more money into television. I would say that it is vital that our manufacturers of television sets and equipment should be given the utmost encouragement. The television industry will undoubtedly become a large one, and we in this country do not want to lag behind in the world race. We must remember, of course, that we in this country, in fact, invented television. The noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, has said that the monopoly of the B.B.C. should be maintained because it is a public service. Does he 658 suggest that transport should remain a monopoly because it is a public service? If he does not maintain that, I think he is sitting on the wrong side of the House. The noble Viscount has also suggested that the White Paper is a retrogression and that it has presented us with a mule. I think he has got the wrong animal. I suggest it is more like the "eager beaver," anxious to get things done. The noble Viscount suggests that the private station will endeavour to get the largest audience all the time. It may happen that, if the station puts on good programmes, the advertisers will come along and say: "Your programmes are too highbrow. We cannot afford to pay you." The truth, of course, must lie somewhere between the two. Programmes must naturally attract large audiences but not necessarily maximum audiences all the time, though, of course, there are only a limited number of programmes which can capture mass audiences.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Bennett of Edgbaston, I am astonished at commerce being put on such a low plane in your Lordships' House today. The fact is that few of the speakers today have had much practical work in commerce. After we have examined all the arguments today, the fact remains that in a comparatively short time television broadcasts from Europe will be available in this country. I suggest that it might well be better to have an alternative British programme for the public to turn to, rather than a foreign station which may well blow all the arguments of the "goody-goodies" into the dustbin where they belong. I hope that all your Lordships on this side of the House will support Her Majesty's Government, not only for the benefit of the public generally but also as a major asset in assisting our merchants and manufacturers to sell their products and increase their output for the nation. The noble Lord, Lord Moyne, must surely know that without a good home market it is not possible to compete efficiently in the export market, and it is the export market which we must keep ever before us. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will do all they can to get the proposed plans into working order at the earliest possible moment.
§ 10.38 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
My Lords, at this hour of almost unparalleled lateness for your Lordships, I will not detain the House for long. I listened with great interest to what the noble Lord has just said in favour of private enterprise in television but I confess that I rather resented one thing he said. He suggested that certain sections of the Party to which I belong opposed the White Paper because they wanted to control the public mind through the B.B.C. I would remind the noble Lord opposite that the Party to which I belong ruled this country for several years since the war. It therefore had ample opportunity to take over the B.B.C., but my Party has always respected the independence of the B.B.C. just as scrupulously as the Party to which the noble Lord opposite belongs; and it will always do so.
I have one main reason for speaking in this debate and I should like to state it quite briefly. It is this. I happened, owing to circumstances, to be closely involved in the consideration of broadcasting policy for a few years immediately after the war, at the time when responsibility for broadcasting was transferred from the war-time Ministry of Information to the Post Office. Your Lordships will remember that television was suspended during the war, and before we decided to allow the B.B.C. to start up again at Alexandra Palace we considered very carefully the rival merits of commercial television and of the system that had been practised before the war, by the B.B.C. Your Lordships will not expect me to advance any original arguments. I can only say that I have formed a very definite opinion about this matter, and that I should like to throw my opinion into the common pool of the exchange of opinions which has constituted the value of this debate.
The view I formed at that time was that commercial broadcasting in this country would be a very serious mistake. Both on grounds of principle, the maintenance of the B.B.C. standard of broadcasting, and on technical grounds, the shortage of wavelengths available in this country, it seemed to be essential to stick to the public service type of sound and visual broadcasting. I must confess that the fears that I entertained at that time, that standards would fall if we had commercial control, were confirmed by some 660 experience I had of commercial television in the United States of America. My impression of what happened there was similar to that of my noble friend Lord Mathers. If I may refer to it—because I think it is a fair sample of commercial television in America—I would just say quite briefly what happened. I found that my début in television took place in a studio immediately after an item which consisted of an interview with a distinguished New York sculptor on the subject of his work. While this was going on, the television camera was moving to and frobetween the sofa where the sculptor and interviewer were seated and a bevy of fashion models parading at the other end of the studio. This seemed to me to be making the worst of both worlds, either of which might have been very enjoyable had they been taken separately.
I also asked at the time what other English guests had been featured on this programme, and my attention was directed to an item entitled "The last surviving English cavedweller." I was intrigued by this anthropological curiosity and made some further inquiries. It transpired that this somewhat surprising description had been applied to an elderly lady from Somerset, who happened to be the owner of some caves and dabbled in an amateur way in speleology. It may be said, as the noble Earl, the Postmaster-General considered, that there is no fair comparison between this country and the United States. On this point, however, I was greatly influenced by what the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, said about the fairness of this comparison, because I do Rot think there is any noble Lord in this House who has a greater knowledge of international broadcasting (what one may call comparative broadcasting) than the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe. So I do not think this is an unfair comparison.
I know that noble Lords opposite try to draw a dividing line between sponsored broadcasting and broadcasting based on advertisements. But I fail to see how this dividing line can, in fact, be drawn. In both cases the main concern of those who arrange the programmes is bound to be to interest the largest possible number of people in certain articles of very general use, which contribute the money that pays for the programmes. This concern for 661 mass coverage, which is inevitable in commercial broadcasting, has been shown everywhere to produce programmes which cater for the lowest common denominator in taste. The essential difference between public service broadcasting and every variety of commercial broadcasting, whether it is by advertisements or sponsored broadcasting, is surely that the former produces a balanced programme of entertainment and instruction—and nobody wants a programme that is exclusively highbrow or exclusively lowbrow. What everyone wants is a balanced programme that caters for all tastes—while the latter produces an unbalanced programme of undiluted, mainly trivial, entertainment. That is surely the principle at stake in the Government's proposal, and, of course, it is a principle which applies just as much to future developments in sound broadcasting as it does to television. If we approve of this principle for television then surely we cannot refuse it when it is brought up later on when we have, as we all hope we shall have, further developments and new alternative programmes in sound broadcasting. What we have to decide surely is: do we want to continue a system of public service broadcasting, which admittedly gives a balanced programme and tries to improve taste and widen knowledge; or do we want to introduce commercial broadcasting which experience in other countries all over the world has shown quite conclusively to give unbalanced programmes and to do nothing to raise the standard of taste and informed Opinion?
My Lords, one thing on which I think we are all agreed is the desirability of a second television programme. But why should this programme be controlled by a commercial company? There are ether alternatives. I do not think these alternatives have been sufficiently examined by the Government. Why should not responsibility for the second programme be placed in the hands of the B.B.C.—that is one alternative—or of another public corporation which would share the sense of responsibility and public service which the B.B.C. already has? The argument which some noble Lords have used, that monopolies are harmful, is surely a dangerous one. There are monopolies and monopolies. I think the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, put the matter 662 quite clearly when he said that certain types of monopoly are desirable in the public interest—monopolies in certain forms of public service, municipal and national; whereas other forms of monopoly are undesirable and in such cases you want competition—private enterprise.
Surely the test of monopoly must be the service it renders to the public. Three Committees of Inquiry have already testified to the admirable service rendered by the B.B.C. So I do not think that impartial examination would show that the B.B.C. had abused in any way at all its position as a monopoly. But those who, nevertheless, are not satisfied with the B.B.C., and who believe that competition would improve the quality of the service, could get what they want by the setting up of another public corporation. The noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, seemed to overlook this alternative. He maintained that if we want an element of competition in broadcasting it must be provided by private enterprise, by commercial broadcasting. But that is not the case at all: we could get an element of competition into broadcasting by having another and independent public corporation. To have commercial broadcasting is not the only way of introducing a rival to the B.B.C. I share the view of Lord Simon of Wythenshawe that there is no likelihood of a debasement of standards so long as broadcasting remains a public service.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR AIR (LORD DE L'ISLE AND DUDLEY)
Can the noble Lord tell us how he would finance the second Corporation?
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
I should finance it out of an increase in the licence fee. I am not dealing with that side of the matter because I want to be short, but the noble Lord has addressed that question to me and I will certainly answer it. I think that if we had another public Corporation, we could in that way safeguard the standard of broadcasting perfectly. I am not at all satisfied if the second television programme is going to be in the hands of a private company, a programme company. I should have been satisfied if it had been the Government's intention either to set up a public Corporation or to provide broadcasting facilities to a university or a local authority in one of our great cities, because 663 again under these auspices we should have the necessary sense of responsibility and the motive of service to the public. But this, unfortunately, is quite clearly not the Government's intention. The intention is to provide stations for commercial programme companies which will remain in business only so long as they can attract advertising revenue, and this is what those who support the Motion object to so strenuously.
It has been maintained that advertisers will not seriously influence these programmes, that the programmes will be chosen and arranged by the programme companies and not by the advertisers. But surely the first responsibility of the board of any programme company will be a responsibility to its shareholders; and this responsibility can be discharged only by cultivating the good will of the advertisers who will be its sole source of revenue. Moreover, of course, there is nothing to prevent the large firms who will want to advertise from subscribing to the capital of the programme company or companies. A television programme will be costly, and a large sum of capital will have to be raised. I am glad that the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, addressed certain questions to the Government (I understand that the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack is going to be good enough to reply to them when he comes to speak to-morrow) because I think we ought to know more about the financial structure of these programme companies and a great deal more about the nature of the boards of directors which will run them. Will there be interlocking directorates between advertising firms and programme companies? One might well get a nominally independent programme company which in fact would be controlled by firms that might go in for mass advertisement. That might easily happen. There is nothing in the White Paper, as it stands at the moment, to prevent these interlocking directorates. But whether or not the programme company or companies will become creatures of the advertisers, I cannot conceive that a tremendous influence on the character of the programmes arranged by the programme companies will not be exercised by the advertising firms.
Whatever may be the merits of the Government's proposals in the White 664 Paper, there can be no doubt about one thing—and it is something on which the noble Lords who support this Motion and the noble Lords who oppose it will agree; namely, that public opinion is profoundly divided. I suppose the bulk of the Labour Party and the Liberal Party would be in favour of the Motion and against the White Paper; and I suppose the bulk of the Conservative Party would be in favour of the White Paper. But this is a division of public opinion which cuts across Parties, and which, whatever we may say, concerns a very large section of the nation in both camps. I was glad that the most reverend Primate laid special emphasis on the state of public opinion in relation to this matter of commercial broadcasting. The conclusion which the most reverend Primate drew was that the Government would be well advised to try to secure agreement about the proposals in the White Paper. Presumably if this is what the Government intended to do, they would have to suspend their proposals in the White Paper, and any legislation which they might contemplate, until this effort to reach agreement had been made.
I wish that the intention of the Government, as shown from the speech of the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, the Postmaster General, were anything of the kind. It seemed to me quite clear, from the noble Earl's speech, that the Government intend to use the weight of their majority in this House to push their proposals through; and presumably if they put the Whips on and use their majority in this House, they will have to do the same thing in another place. If they do this, they will be making broadcasting policy, for the first time, a Party issue. That is a thing we all deplore. We have always tried, in positions of responsibility in office and in positions of lesser responsibility—though still of responsibility—in Opposition, to keep broadcasting policy out of politics, because there are certain things, touching the welfare of the nation and the Constitution, that we all want to keep above the Party controversy. But if the Government do this they will be forcing broadcasting policy into the cauldron of Party politics. Surely there is one thing which they ought to consider carefully, if this is the line of action which they intend to pursue. Are they convinced that, even if 665 they have a majority in both Houses of Parliament, they have a majority in the country? They have no mandate for commercial television. This was not in their programme at the last General Election. If they are uncertain—and I think most of your Lordships would be uncertain—about the state of public opinion, then surely they should al least wait before introducing this revolutionary principle of commercial broadcasting, which is a reversal of the whole principle upon which our broadcasting has been based since it began. Surely they should wait to do this until they have an express mandate from the electorate. That, my Lords, is an appeal that I should like to make to the Government for their most serious consideration.
§ 10.58 p.m.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD SIMONDS)
I beg to move that the debate be adjourned. In moving the Adjournment may I mention to your Lordships that an Order will be made putting the debate first on the Order Paper for to-morrow, before the other Business at present standing first on the Paper.
§ Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to and debate adjourned accordingly.
§ House adjourned at two minutes before eleven o'clock.