§ 2.10 p.m.
§ Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Motion for Second Reading moved yesterday by Earl De La Warr.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE DUCHY OF LANCASTER (VISCOUNT WOOLTON)
My Lords, after the exhaustive attention that your Lordships gave to this Bill yesterday, I have some doubts whether any further debate is going to clarify anybody's mind. I wonder whether any issue affecting the home life of the people, as this Bill does, has been so confused by so much varying counsel. There are a few major issues to which, after listening to, and reading the Report of, yesterday's debate, I would venture to draw public attention.
First, there is evidence that quite a large number of people want an alternative programme for television, and they want one that is independent of the B.B.C.—and that in spite of the very high regard in which they hold the B.B.C. I personally always read The Times newspaper—not always with pleasure; this morning certainly not—but I like to read 317 other newspapers as well. I think there is a public demand for an alternative television programme based on much the same principles. People like to have the opportunity of seeing more than one thing; they like to have more than one choice. Secondly, may I submit that, with the development of electronics, it is certain that we shall not be able to confine the reception of television in this country to our home production. We already have had some examples of it. We know that (I think it was called) a football match between Hungary and Brazil was televised recently. I did not see it myself, but I am told that actually in one television programme from France racing was shown on a Sunday. The truth is that we cannot draw an Iron Curtain around Britain's television services. Radio Luxembourg broke down the Sabbatarian rigidity of the earlier B.B.C., and we should be wise now to look to the future and satisfy the public mind without being too anxious about the matter. Thirdly, I believe that it requires to be emphasised that nobody who does not like this proposed programme need have a set that will take it. That is entirely a matter of his own choice; and if, as a result of the development that may happen in the future, he has bought a set that will take either one or the other, the freedom of the British citizen remains: he need not turn on the knob that will bring on the commercial television.
Further, for the comfort of the noble Lord, Lord Moyne, may I say that no one need advertise on this programme if he does not want to do so. The advertiser will always be able to choose his medium. If he will allow me to say so, the noble Lord, Lord Layton, in that distinguished (naturally I call it distinguished because I agree with it) and practical speech he made yesterday, told us that there is a shortage of advertising media at the present time. Perhaps another outlet may be helpful to advertisers. It may even, through the force of competition, bring down prices a little. Of course, it may be that therein lies the opposition of the Press to this Bill, although I think their fears have been somewhat exaggerated.
My noble friend the Postmaster General has tried very hard to respect the views put forward by your Lordships in previous debates, and the Government have endeavoured to show a proper con- 318 sideration for the views which your Lordships have expressed. Whenever constructive suggestions have been made on the many occasions on which we have discussed this subject, the Postmaster General (if he will not think I am patronising him by saying so) has examined them with exemplary patience, and not infrequently has invited some of us who are his colleagues to agree to alterations in our first conceptions of this Bill in order that we might secure agreement in your Lordships' House. From the general tone of the speeches made yesterday I doubt whether much has been gained by the considerable concessions that we have made, but I have good hopes that the speeches that are to be made to-day by noble Lords who previously have been somewhat fearful of what this Bill might propose will show that their objections have been met and that their fears have been allayed.
The most reverend Primate, whom I am sorry not to see in his place, made a special appeal to us in the debate on the White Paper to ensure that this new service would not be entirely dependent for its revenue on the payments made by advertisers. He was supported in a strong and reasonable speech by my noble friend Lord Waverley. I was much impressed by the desire of the noble Viscount and the most reverend Primate to help in arriving at some basis of agreement, and it is largely as a result of their approach to the subject, and the views expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, that the Bill was altered. We have now provided that, in addition to the £2 million loan, a sum not exceeding £750,000 a year from the licence revenue shall be placed at the disposal of the controlling body, and thereby secure for them independent financial resources. That was what the noble Lords and the most reverend Primate to whom I have referred asked us to do.
This was a very considerable alteration in the original plan, and I do not hesitate to confess that it met with little favour in the minds of some who wanted this new private enterprise corporation to be entirely independent, for its finance, of any public funds, and to be dependent on its capacity to pay its own independent way and to attract investment and public 319 support on its merits. The people who held these views, and they represented sound Conservative principles, have been prepared to compromise, largely because of their desire to meet the views of the noble Lords to whom I have referred. Negotiation calls for give-and-take on both sides. We have endeavoured to make the first gesture, and I hope that we may have the other. I am hopeful that, recognising the influence which they have exercised, noble Lords to-day will be ready to concede that considerable steps have been taken to meet them, and that they will, at any rate, withdraw their opposition to this Bill.
I found the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, both confusing and disappointing. I gathered that he had no objection, in principle, to advertisements operating in television, but yesterday he opposed this Bill and demanded that the Government should state on what principle they propose to allow payment for advertisement. I must confess that the use of the word "principle" in this respect confuses me. Surely, the answer is that this is a method of finding money for an alternative service of television from another source than licence fees, if, as we believe, there is support for such opportunity. The noble Lord seemed to me to be determined to oppose our plan, and he conjured up some peculiar arguments in justification for his opposition. The truth is that the noble Lord has a plan of his own, and I do not think anything any of us may say will have a great deal of influence on him. He says that he wants to get the opinion of the public—though, apparently, he does not hold it in very high regard if it does not fall in with his ideas. He says that it may influence programmes. For what purpose does he want to find out the opinion of the public if it is not going to have some influence?
If I may say so with respect, there was a peculiar strain of dictatorship running through the noble Lord's speech. I felt that he would trust authority, but would not trust the public. He agrees with abolishing monopoly—I thought that was a big concession—but he wants some authority to maintain "high principles." The speeches of the noble Lord and his noble Leader, pitched as they were on a note of high public policy, left me with 320 the uncomfortable feeling that they just could not bear the idea of people enjoying themselves in the way in which they wanted to enjoy themselves.
§ LORD BEVERIDGE
I have come in just in time to hear this criticism of myself as a dictator, and perhaps in a word I might explain my position. I do not in the least mind the public influencing the people who control what is broadcast. What I object to is the influence of the people who just want to sell, or organise the selling of, something quite different.
§ VISCOUNT WOOLTON
I shall be dealing with that before I have finished.
I realise that there are a number of noble Lords who do not like this Bill, and clearly the purpose of this debate is to test the strength of this view. But, with respect, it is rather foolish to claim that, because we asked people to attend the House yesterday and to-day to hear the debate on a two-line Whip, we are forcing this Bill through your Lordships' House. Noble Lords on this side of the House have been by no means unanimous in the speeches that they have made, although a two-line Whip was sent out. I have long since abandoned any hope of being able to convince my noble friend Lord Brand on this issue, and I am sure that he is presently going to tell your Lordships so. I have not very much hope of convincing the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham—he told me yesterday what he was going to do with me when he made his speech. No one can doubt for one moment the political loyalties of my noble friend Lord Halifax; yet, without hesitation, he made a most vigorous attack on this Bill yesterday—and we on these Benches respect his opinion. I am sure that nobody who leads this Party in the House of Lords expects those who sit on these Benches to abandon their views. But, surely, there is no reason why they should not be invited to come and, if possible, to give their support.
The noble Lord, Lord Moyne, responds to the Whip, and having done so he says that this is a thoroughly bad Bill. He says that it is going to put up the advertising cost of commodities, and he does not like it. He did not say, by the way, that it would put up the cost of the product because it put up the cost 321 of advertising. Perhaps he and the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, will have a conversation about that at some time.
§ LORD MOYNE
Would the noble Viscount forgive me for interrupting? I mentioned the putting up of cost as one of two or three alternatives. I said that the cost could be borne in several ways, and if the noble Viscount will refer to Hansard he will see that one of them was an increase of cost.
§ LORD MOYNE
I understood the noble Viscount to say that I had not said that an increase of cost would result. I did say it was one of the things which might result. It would depend on circumstances as to where the expenditure would be borne. However, I think we are at one, and I am sorry if I interrupted unnecessarily.
§ VISCOUNT WOOLTON
I thank the noble Lord. I do not think I will pursue that argument, because I should dislike doing any injustice to what the noble Lord said yesterday, and unfortunately I was not here when he made his speech.
It is no use our taking the view that we can just let this Bill drop and not do anything about it; that we will not do anything that will lead to an extension of television because we have some fears lest it gets in the wrong hands. That is a very old story regarding new inventions. So it was with the printing press. Every new invention arouses these fears among the timorous. We may be the guardians of public morals, but I do not think the public are going to take much notice of us if all that we do is to say, "This thing is dangerous." The real truth is that, while some of your Lordships are so conscious of the dangers, the viewers, on the whole, seem to be rather unaware of their supposed peril. Perhaps it is that those who see the least of television have the greatest concern on the subject.
There is one remarkable change that I have noticed in the temper of the debate. At the outset there were many who were satisfied that this was a service that ought, from the very nature of the case, to remain a monopoly. It was 322 understandable that such a view should be held by noble Lords opposite—I say this with great respect—whose general political faith is so largely based on State monopoly. But there has been a change in the climate of opinion on this subject. Perhaps some have recognised that the monopoly is not in practice quite so good as they hoped. Perhaps noble Lords have recognised that the public have some rights of choice in the matter. Whatever the reason, I find that the idea of maintaining exclusively a B.B.C. monopoly has lost some favour. It is true that some noble Lords seek to satisfy the public by advocating a choice of programme under the same monopoly, whilst others argue that a form of competition other than the one that we advocate is desirable.
Before this question became a matter of Government policy, I arrived at the conclusion (it was a personal conclusion) that a monopoly of control over such a new, expanding and powerful force as television was a dangerous thing to maintain, and it is on this issue that I base myself. On that issue, I believe that we carry the majority of the opinion in the country, and I believe that we shall carry the majority of opinion in your Lordships' House.
§ VISCOUNT WOOLTON
Is the noble Viscount asking me for Government opinion or for my own opinion? I think that is a fair question.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
I leave it to the noble Viscount to choose. I should have thought that the two were identical, but perhaps not.
§ VISCOUNT WOOLTON
The noble Viscount pays me a great compliment. They may not necessarily be identical.
§ VISCOUNT WOOLTON
I began, and I made speeches in this House to that effect, by thinking that sound radio should be maintained as a monopoly. Because of events to which I referred earlier in the course of this speech I have changed my mind. The power to broadcast from other places—from Southern Ireland or from Luxembourg—has 323 already gone a long way to removing the monopoly of the B.B.C. in sound. But I can tell your Lordships this—and I must tell you, since, the noble Viscount has pressed me—it is no part of the Government's policy at the present time to interfere with the sound broadcast monopoly of the B.B.C. That assurance I think I ought to give the noble Viscount so that I am not misled into having said more than is desirable on this subject.
Let me go back. This abandonment of monopoly is the basis of this Bill. The Bill provides the alternative. It provides one so constructed as to be flexible to the changing needs of the day and the uses of scientific development. We have provided a workable instrument, with enough control to give the public such protection as it needs, but with ample freedom to serve all classes of public demand and interest. All wisdom and foresight does not belong to us or to to-day, and the instrument we have provided is capable of adjustment to the needs and the powers of the future. That was the business of the Government. We listened to your Lordships; we heeded your warnings; we have accepted advice; we have produced the Bill, and we stand by it. It is a new measure to meet a new need.
The noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, said that the Bill is sure to pass. Well, I hope so, and what we are doing to-day in the speeches that we are making is to place on record our respective and divergent views. On the main issue of the Bill Government policy must stand, and the test is in the Division, if your Lordships proceed to it. But that is not to say—and I emphasise this—that when we come to discuss this Bill in Committee, the Government will not again show its high appreciation of the value of this House as a revising and debating Chamber. For the purpose of the record, I have stated the Government view on the subject of monopoly. We regard all monopolies with some suspicion, but the monopoly that deals with the affairs of the mind we regard as dangerous. We are not prepared to leave television in the hands of any one corporation—and that statement is no reflection on the integrity or the competence of the B.B.C. The Government, particularly under the present Postmaster General, have in fact gone to considerable lengths to encourage and develop the resources of that Corporation.
324 The next issue on which I want to place myself on record is this question of the preservation of public taste and morals. What does it all mean? Freedom of education, freedom of the Press, freedom of the platform, freedom of the pulpit and the freedom of the B.B.C.—these are the great forces in the life of the nation. Whilst these varying bodies enjoy such freedom, on what do your Lordships base any legitimate fear that another corporation of British people, because its finances are based mainly on the principle of commercial risk, will be less sensitive to decent behaviour and a proper standard of conduct? Is the reply that it is because it is connected with commerce? What are the newspapers if they are not commercial organisations? If some of your Lordships are inclined to be highly critical about some aspects of the Press, at any rate you must recognise that the freedom of the people is also one of the values that it is the duty of Parliament to protect.
If your Lordships are concerned because advertising may have a demoralising effect on the country, I venture, with great respect, to ask whether you have approached this subject without prejudice. Advertising is essential to the trade of the nation, and the whole of our existence as a nation depends upon our trade. Is it demoralising for a trade to tell the world what it produces and to urge people to buy what it sells? May I, without impertinence, ask those of your Lordships who have doubts about the effect of advertising to come to an impartial judgment on the advertisements that they read in the newspapers, and the effect that those adverisements have on the editorial policy of those newspapers. In this country it is in the newspapers and the magazines that you see a display of the advertisement matter. Why should it be more demoralising to see on television an advertisement about some commodity than it is to read about it in the daily newspapers or to see it on a cinema screen?
Before I became a Member of your Lordships' House, I had much experience with newspapers and with the advertising profession. I found both of them conscious of their responsibilities; and as I have watched men who were concerned with advertising and with the develop- 325 ment, the remarkable development, that has taken place in their technique, I have been much impressed. They give to it the restraints of professional conduct, and I am satisfied that the advertising men of this country, in the matter of both competence and taste, are a reliable body of people from whose activities your Lordships need have no fear. It is to be noted, by the way, that it was they themselves who advocated the clauses in this Bill which act as a check on any who might be likely to offend. If I may say so, I thought the speeches made yesterday about the dangers of advertising influencing the programmes in such a way as to appeal to a larger audience were singularly unconvincing. Of course, the advertiser will want the new television service to be popular and to give pleasure and satisfaction to an ever-increasing number of the public. Do not the B.B.C. want this? Advertisers appeal to special as well as general interests. Many advertisers will be willing to have a smaller viewing public, in order to sell them articles of special appeal.
§ EARL JOWITT
I do not want to interrupt the noble Viscount, but would he like to make plain this passage in his speech, which seems to me to be an argument in favour of sponsoring? I understand that he is opposed to sponsoring. Why is he opposed to sponsoring?
§ VISCOUNT WOOLTON
I shall be delighted to answer the noble and learned Earl. I am not in favour of sponsoring. I have never said that I was in favour of sponsoring. The reason why I do not want sponsoring is that I believe there is a profession for producing over the air, either by sound or by television, things which will be useful, instructive and entertaining to the public. I want those people to be left to do their work; but the charge which has been made, and made frequently, in the course of the discussion has been that if the advertiser is allowed to know what is going to happen he will then proceed, to influence the programme that is taking place. I do not believe that that is true.
I believe that the advertiser will want to know—I certainly should want to know, if I were an advertiser—the nature of the programme. Having ascertained that, if I were a competent advertiser, I should say, "I think that will attract the largest public"; and if I wanted to 326 sell my goods to the largest public (perhaps I should not) then I should say, "I will pay for that space." If I did not want to appeal to the largest public, if I had some speciality to sell, I might say, "I will take another space"—at a cheaper rate, I suppose. That is not sponsoring. The reason why I was making the observations that I have made is that so frequently yesterday, running right through the speeches in opposition to this Bill, was the fear lest, because the advertisers were going to know what was in the programme, they would therefore influence them, and influence them to public disadvantage. I hope that I have satisfied the noble and learned Earl at any rate as to where I stand in the matter. I shall be glad to give way again.
§ EARL JOWITT
The noble Viscount has been very good. I am loth to interrupt, but I understand that we are at one then: that in his view it is most undesirable, on public grounds, that advertisers should be able in any way to influence the programmes.
§ VISCOUNT WOOLTON
I think that that is what one may call a "catch" question. I am sure that that is the last thing the noble and learned Earl would try to ask. I agree with him. On reflection, I do not think that the advertisers should be able to influence programmes. But I do feel that they must have that choice, as to what they are going to buy and where they put their advertisements.
There is little else that I would say. Of course, one of the things that has upset many of your Lordships is that you have been afraid lest, under this new Bill, television should be associated with commerce. Television is a commercial venture. Thousands of people in this country are finding employment in its production and in its development, and many more people are finding happiness around the domestic hearth as a consequence of this development in television. All I ask is that we shall recognise that a new force has come into life during this last few years; that it is giving great pleasure to people; that we need not be afraid of it—and that, in fact, we should encourage it. I hope that we shall extend it. Finally, I would say this. Let the public select for themselves from the widest possible variety of sources, both for their educa- 327 tion and for their entertainment. They are our fellow-countrymen. Do not let us be afraid of the choices that they will make.
§ LORD MOYNE
My Lords, before the noble Viscount sits down, may I remind him of a question which I raised in the debate on the White Paper and to which there was no answer, and which I three times asked the Government to answer yesterday. It is not meant to be a "catch" question—I will explain that when I have read it. The question (I quote from the OFFICIAL REPORT, V01. 188 (No. 86), col. 297) was whether the Governmentconsider that the money spent by the nation on television advertising will be ineffectual in promoting sales in the aggregate, and so, nationally speaking, wasted, or whether they consider it likely to increase the sales of consumer goods at home and so to aggravate our present economic difficulties.As I say, it is not meant to be a "catch" question. The Government are quite entitled to say that they do not think the money is, nationally speaking, wasted, and they are quite entitled to say that it will not aggravate our economic difficulties; but when the Government embark on a Bill of this importance it is obvious that they must have taken economic advice. I think we are entitled to know whether or not they expect the consumption of consumer goods, in the aggregate, to be increased. I hope that I am in order in stressing that question; I did check it with a distinguished economist and I think there is substance in it. I hope that it may receive an answer.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, the noble Lord seems to be appealing that he has not been given fair treatment with regard to his question.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I can assure the noble Lord that the question is going to be answered before the end of the debate.
§ House adjourned during pleasure and resumed by The LORD CHANCELLOR.328
§ 2.48 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I think that the speech we have listened to from the noble Viscount opposite to-day would first bring to our minds how desirable it would lave been if he could have made it yesterday, because it has revealed a state of mind and a series of views upon the Bill which would have been most helpful to the House in coming to the debate to-day. I hope briefly to touch later on in my speech on some of the points he has mentioned. In the first instance this afternoon, I should like to refer to the lead which was given by my noble and learned Leader yesterday, in the hope that this debate on such an important subject would, so far as possible, be on non-Party lines. The lead which he gave has, I think, been a little disturbed by the interventions of the noble Earl the Postmaster General yesterday, and by one reference in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye—that is, as to what action the Labour Party will be likely to take when they are next in office if this Bill becomes law.
Like my noble Leader, I desire to keep this debate, so far as possible, on a non-Party basis, and I should like to clear up this point. Of course, any incoming Government must be expected to reserve the right either to modify, or even to cancel out, legislation of previous Parliaments; but any responsible Government would be expected to take note of the experience derived from the administration of any particular Statute, and to judge by the success, or lack of success, of any schemes carried on under that Statute, whether expansion, modification or abandonment of such schemes was desirable. Their decision, when made, would be open to debate as to whether their judgment and their motives were worthy of support. This is demonstrated most pointedly by the action of the present Government in regard to such matters as the great iron and steel and transport undertakings. This is not the occasion to deal in any way with those matters, but it does cause us some surprise that supporters of the Government's action therein should now introduce any question on this principle. If the scheme before us is adopted and is the great success of which the Postmaster General seems to be quite confident, then obviously, in 329 their own interests, no Government would be likely to abandon it, although modifications and safeguards would have to be examined in the light of experience.
Now I turn to the Bill. There is one point in the noble Viscount's speech on which I find myself at once at issue with him. He says there is great evidence of demand, not only for an alternative to the present programme but for programmes to be supplied other than by the B.B.C.—in other words, for commercial television. I, too, read the Press a great deal, and I am in touch with a fair number of public bodies. To the best of my judgment there is no real evidence to that effect. I can find no origin for this movement which has been now brought to this stage in the Bill, except the comparatively small number in the commercial world who wish to be able to exploit the possibility of profit from what in the past, in the view of every Party in the State without exception, has been a public service. It is said that the demand has come from there. I read my financial papers and I have traced the history of it. From the very moment that the Associated Broadcasting Development Company was set up agitation has been going on for this kind of thing, but I Should dispute the suggestion that in the mind of the great mass of the public there is abundant evidence that this is the kind of thing that is wanted. I am at complete issue with the noble Viscount on that.
I would agree with him that there is evidence that the public would like an alternative programme—I think that is true. But I also think that the public would be perfectly happy if they had an alternative programme provided through the same kind of organisation, and with the same public safeguards as has enabled the B.B.C., both in its sound and in its television direction, to achieve such enormous success. That it has achieved success is not merely the view of the citizens of this country; it is a view which has been expressed to me by people from all over the world. I say that there would be no difficulty whatsoever in having the alternative programme provided by the B.B.C. if the Government would treat the B.B.C. as favourably as they propose to treat the commercial promoter. One of the things that they could do at once in that direc- 330 tion would be to drop the annual levy made upon the licence revenue of the B.B.C. Instead of that, they seem to be proposing to make a sort of entertainment tax levy of £750,000 a year upon the licence revenue from the B.B.C. to hand to the new Independent Television Authority, plus whatever advances they require, up to a certain maximum, for loan development. In the past, so far as I can ascertain from my inquiries, the greater part, at any rate, of the capital expenditure of the B.B.C. has been met out of the revenue of the licence income of the Corporation. That is an extraordinary situation. The Government can easily get competent alternative programmes if they will deal justly with the British Broadcasting Corporation.
If it is a question, as the noble Viscount has said, of some of the public wanting further independence in the submission of these programmes, apart from the B.B.C., I commend to your Lordships what my noble friend Lord Listowel said last night. It is important to remember that an alternative television authority, such as the one which is now proposed in the Bill, could be given a great deal of power in this matter to provide alternative programmes on a different basis. But instead of it being made possible for that Independent Authority to maintain some sort of competition, upon which the Government place so much store, the effect of the Amendments moved in another place has been, in the main, to weaken the position of that Authority. I have already referred to the money which is to be paid out of public funds towards this new scheme. It is an extraordinary situation that we should now be subsidising, out of public funds, the setting up of a private profit-making business organisation—because that is what will happen. They are to get their transmitters provided out of public funds; they are to get the almost exclusive right to the use of the service which is thus to be set up. The Independent Television Authority are to be strictly "cabin'd, cribb'd, confined" as to what they themselves can do in the direction of broadcasting, except, as I should put it, in emergency. They are to be prevented, as an Authority, from getting any income themselves from any advertising revenue that may arise out of their part of any business that they have to do. That is specifically excluded—or, at any rate, if 331 it is not specifically excluded, perhaps in the mind of the Postmaster General, Amendments suggested in another place which would secure their right to that have so far been refused by the Government.
So I think I can come back to the point that if the Government would treat either the B.B.C. or the new body that is to be created as a body capable of supplying this service, without expending public money to provide private profit, and with adequate control such as we have at the present moment, then I think they would be meeting the real desire and needs of the British public in regard to an alternative programme.
§ VISCOUNT WOOLTON
I am sure the noble Viscount would not allow a statement that is not quite right to go out from this House. He said that the transmitters would be provided out of public funds. I have just asked the Postmaster General about that. This sum of £2 million will bear interest charge. Therefore it will be a loan and not a provision in the sense that might have been understood from the noble Viscount's remarks.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
I am well aware from the Bill that the transmitters will be the property of the Independent Television Authority, but my complaint is that that is done in order to "farm out" the scheme to private profit-making companies, and that the Government are doing as much as they can in this Bill to prevent the public Authority from taking any of the profit itself. That is, in my view, a proper interpretation of the discussion in another place. In spite of what has been said in your Lordships' House previously in the debate—it was said yesterday two or three times—that the proposals in the Bill could not possibly damage the work of the Broadcasting Corporation, I do not hold that view. So far as we know, the British Broadcasting Corporation is still being called upon to surrender every year part of its licence revenue. I shall be glad to know from the Postmaster General if I am in error. I presume, unless otherwise instructed, that the surrender will be at least £2 million a year. I am sorry if this causes annoyance to the Postmaster General.
§ THE POSTMASTER GENERAL (EARL DE LA WARR)
It does not give me annoyance at all. But I think it is important that your Lordships' House should realise the position. The B.B.C. is not called upon to surrender annually some of its revenue—in fact, the Postmaster General collects the licence fees for the so-called "telegraph stations" which are established by the purchase of a wireless receiving set. That money goes unconditionally to the Treasury, and the Treasury pay a grant to the B.B.C. The noble Viscount, I think, knows that quite well; and in fact at the present moment and for the next three years it will keep £2 million. As the noble Lord knows, excepting for a very few months, that has always been the position during the last few years, including the lifetime of the noble Lord's own Government.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I know that, but during the lifetime of my Government we were not proposing to introduce this new competition. I am simply saying that, so far as I know, it is proposed to continue the present system. It does not matter whether you put it in my words or yours; whether they have to surrender so much of the licence fee or whether the Treasury grant could be £2 million higher a year but is not. It does not matter which way you put it; the effect is exactly the same.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, this is an important point. I think the noble Viscount is suggesting that if these new Corporations had not been set up the B.B.C. would be £750,000 a year better off. That is not so. The £750,000 a year, the money in licence fees, would have been taken long before the corporation was set up at all. The licence fees are paid into the general pool, and you might as well say that the new corporation is going to be paid for at the expense of the super-tax payer or the road user, or anybody else.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, if what I have already proposed this afternoon were carried through, and extra funds made available to the British Broadcasting Corporation, there would be no difficulty about their providing alternative programmes. I do not accept the views expressed in several quarters yesterday 333 that the operation of the new corporation cannot injure or retard in any way the work of the British Broadcasting Corporation.
§ EARL DE LA WARR
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Viscount, but he has completely misinterpreted the position. I have received the next ten years' programme from the B.B.C. and they inform me in that programme that if they received the full licence fee they might be able to start building stations for a second programme near the end of 1957, and that they would then be able to do about two hours a day. That is the position.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I am not in a position to be able to examine the statement which has been made to the Postmaster General by the British Broadcasting Corporation, but I am quite certain that the general emergence of this scheme will be a growing and severe handicap to the British Broadcasting Corporation; and every study I have made of the statements made on behalf of the Government in another place seems to take me further and more firmly in that direction. In any case, under the Charter of the British Broadcasting Corporation it has to give an all-the-year-round service of a most comprehensive character. It has to give a comprehensive service of news, programmes of entertainment and the like right through the year, whereas the bodies to be set up under this scheme will be able to pick and choose with regard to what programmes they submit to the public. The B.B.C. has to give the general basis of it. I have already observed growing pressure upon the Government regarding the time used, pressure that they should not be compelled in this alternative organisation to use the same time as is used by the B.B.C. Therefore, the B.B.C. may well be subject to great and severe handicap and competition owing to the fact that these other organisations are allowed to broadcast at times other than those to which the B.B.C. themselves are confined.
All this is being done, or so it is claimed, to break the monopoly of the British Broadcasting Corporation. The noble Viscount, Lord Woolton, was good enough to put his case almost in a nutshell. He said that the Government are suspicious of all monopolies. He there- 334 fore includes among his suspicions the case of the British Broadcasting Corporation. I have always been taught, however, in my study of monopolies, that whether a monopoly is injurious or not depends not upon whether or not it is a State monopoly but upon whether it is maintained for restrictive purposes, refusing services, withholding services from the rest of the public and maintaining control and sale of output for the private profit of a limited number of people. Any reference to that very famous economic textbook of Dr. Taussig would bear out that interpretation of what is an injurious monopoly.
§ VISCOUNT WOOLTON
To be suspicious is not to condemn, but is merely to say that it might be looked at.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My experience of monopolies and combines in the past—and I have had quite a lot of experience; in fact I debated them with the noble Viscount on the wireless before the war, in which an organisation with which I was connected had to suffer very severe restriction and very often boycotts in toto—is that that is the kind of monopoly which is injurious to the public, especially when it is in favour of a limited number of shareholders or other persons who are able to exercise the monopoly. Where you have a body which it is open to the whole of the public both to use and to own, there surely cannot be brought that kind of suspicion or charge to which the noble Viscount has referred to-day. I must make a further reference to monopoly, in view of what the noble Viscount has said.
When the detailed proposals are examined, and when one takes note of the answer which was given yesterday by the Postmaster General to the question put to him by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, then one is bound to say that the Government's case about monopoly and competition is very largely dispersed. If your Lordships will look at Column 194, in yesterday's edition of Hansard, you will see there the answer given by the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, to the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel. Lord De La Warr said:The Bill lays down that there shall be adequate competition. There are two or three different ways in which competition can be 335 ensured, either by dividing up the control between different companies, one company to one station or a number of companies at a station, or by having what one might call a more horizontal organisation.Clearly, to me, that answer means that the Postmaster General is fully acquainted with the debate on the Amendments that were put forward in another place, and he knows that Amendments were turned down which would have made sure that the Independent Authority would not allow such a local monopoly in any area. In my view this answer was a much more careful one than it sounded at the time. I should like to ask whether it is correct that you can have one company alone holding a monopoly within a given area? Is that so? Is that why the Government refused Amendments moved in another place to prevent that? Could we have an answer to that question?
§ EARL DE LA WARR
I think I made clear my views yesterday. I concluded by saying that the whole matter would have to be negotiated between the Authority and the company. Obviously, the Authority will bear in mind the sort of point which the noble Viscount has put.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
I must say it is a rather extraordinary position for a Minister in charge of an important Bill such as this to take up, that he cannot give Parliament any further information than that. It is a very clear issue. It is an issue upon which the Government, in another place, have been resisting Amendments moved to obtain clarity. What is the position of the Minister? Has he been prevented from answering? I do not follow what his position is. In the whole of my long Parliamentary experience I do not remember an occasion when questions such as this have not been answered by the Minister on the Second Reading of a Bill. I must say I am most astonished.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
My Lords, I should like to support the noble Viscount upon this matter. This is an extremely serious point. We are told that the whole purpose of the Bill is to break down the principle of monopoly, and we assert that, on the contrary, it seems to be probable that in each of the three regions there will be established a new commercial 336 monopoly—one monopoly as against another. The noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, asks—and he presses his question—is that so or not. The Postmaster General yesterday when I questioned him did not give a clear reply. He said it would be a matter for the Independent Television Authority. Surely, if the whole purpose of the Bill is against the principle of monopoly, how can the Bill possibly permit the I.T.A., even if they wished, to create such a monopoly?
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, surely there will be much less monopoly than there is to-day. Now there is the B.B.C.; then there will be the B.B.C. plus one or more other bodies. when you come to say how far down from that you can go, obviously there must be a point at which you cannot go on splitting down and down and down. That is not practical politics. There will be much less monopoly in this country, in this connection, than there is to-day.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
What has been said about this from the Government side has evaded the point. We are not talking about going down and down. We are asking a plain and simple question. When this Bill is passed and the new system is set up, will the country find that in each of the three regions there is one licence to one programme company which will hold a monopoly to that extent? No doubt there is less monopoly in that the monopoly of the B.B.C. will be broken. We assert that you are establishing a new commercial monopoly or may be—
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
In turn I should like to ask the noble Viscount a question. When this Bill is passed will there be one single television company as there is to-day or will there be three or four as he says?
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
If a monopoly is conferred, for example, in the region of London, it is no answer to say that there will be another company in Liverpool or Glasgow.
§ EARL DE LA WARR
My Lords, I think it would be a pity if we finished this point by assuming that there will necessarily be one company, and only one company, at a station. I fully agree with the noble Marquess that even if there were there would still be two television services in each area instead of one. The 337 noble Viscount is asking how far it can be further broken down. This is largely a technical question, to some extent a question of frequencies. The question arises what other frequencies can be made available. This point will be considered by the Government and by the Authority in working out the details of the scheme.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
I am glad the noble Earl tells us that the Government is going to give further consideration to this point. The noble Viscount asked for this to-day by his references to monopoly. We are entitled to debate it and to have an answer. We are told at the moment only that the Bill will mean that there will be two sources of television instead of one in the country. The Bill is based on the sacred Ark of the Covenant of antimonopolism. We are now told that it is going to be possible to set up a new profit-making monopoly in each of the regions concerned. This is a most extraordinary position. We have been very much strengthened in our view by the full knowledge gained by those who have been inquiring into the matter; we are strengthened in the view that there is constant pressure at the present time to have only one company in each area. It is based upon the ground that television is so costly to produce that if there is more than one company in each of these areas it will be both wasteful and costly. We could apply the same argument to the treatment of the B.B.C. monopoly. That is the argument to which the Government is giving weight and they will substitute, it may be, four, five or six local regional monopolies to satisfy those they are looking after, their friends who have brought about this agitation. We shall watch this matter very carefully indeed. The Government have weakened the authority of the proposed Independent Television Authority by an Amendment which now only authorises the I.T.A. to arrange for the provision of programmes and parts of programmes. The Assistant Postmaster General explained that programmes should normally be given by programme contractors, not by the I.T.A. When the I.T.A. did give programmes, it should commission them. That is putting in another way what I was referring to just now.
338 One can argue both ways on the question of advertisers' control of programmes. Several points stand out. In reference to this question of control of the programmes by the advertisers. I would say that one thing is certain, and that is, that advertisers will demand results, and if they do not get results, they will not want to advertise. Secondly, the commercial companies who will provide the programmes will themselves be driven to seek for larger audiences or for specialised audiences—whichever way you like to put it—if necessary by lowering standards. Can anyone deny that this is what actually happened in the United States, in spite of the most detailed provisions, on paper, for safeguarding the taste and quality of programmes? We listened yesterday to the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, giving some of his personal experiences of television in the United States. There is something else we must remember. Are the Government going to bar the new programme contractors from using United States television films in place of live material? I should like something to be said about that by the Government sometime to-day. Or are we going to repeat the experience we had in films? At least 60 per cent. of the United States television programmes are on a film production basis and they export the surplus at the end of their home exploitation of the material. How are the Government going to deal with that? It is going to be a very serious matter indeed for the personnel employed in live programmes at the present time. We do not want to see in television what happened with the dumping of American films into this country about thirty years ago and onwards. That led to the need for special legislation to safeguard the British film industry.
Because of interruptions and cross-fire—I suppose I provoked some of them myself—I must leave out some of the things I wanted to say. In general, I say that it is not too late for the Government to reconsider this matter. I do not think the noble Viscount, Lord Woolton, is right in protesting that the Government Whips are not forcing the Bill through. Of course, they are forcing the Bill through. It would be a failure to take note of the statement made by the noble Earl, Lord 339 Halifax, that if there had been a free vote in another place there would probably have been very different results to the Bill throughout. Not only was the Whip used in another place, the guillotine procedure was also used to get the Bill through. The Government are using the Government Whip here to-day for the same purpose. But it is not too late to reconsider the matter. When the most reverend Primate comes to join in the debate, I wonder whether he will be able to remind the Government of how many religious, social and ethical organisations have protested against the Bill. Are they continuing to protest? I listened with great interest to the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Bristol yesterday. He is to be congratulated on his maiden speech; I thought he spoke very well indeed. I listened carefully to the right reverend Prelate and obviously he was in a most reasonable frame of mind. He appreciated—and I appreciate—the fact that the Government have made some improvements in the Bill with regard to advice on religious programmes. But the religious organisations are as rigidly opposed to this Bill in its amended state as they were before. Only yesterday I received a communication from the Baptist Union of Great Britain, a very important organisation. Obviously they have studied this Bill and are as rigidly opposed as ever they were to what will come as a result of the Bill.
I beg the Government still to reconsider the matter. There is time. There is a case for reconsideration. In the case of a Bill like this, which is produced to Parliament certainly without any electoral mandate—none whatever—I say that the Government should give way not merely to the opinion of the Opposition but to the general widespread opinion amongst members of this House that the Bill ought to be very substantially amended; and unless we can get such substantial amendment made in this House, on the basis of the Council of State to which the noble Marquess referred, the Bill should be dropped. In Committee and on Report we must either get this Bill withdrawn for further consideration or we must get such Amendments made as will make it workable in the interests of the public.
§ 3.26 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT WAVERLEY
My Lords, I am under the impression that everything, or almost everything, that can be said for and against this Bill has already been said, in some cases several times over, either here or in another place. It will therefore be my endeavour to express what I have to say to-day in as few words as possible. I am sorry to have to disappoint my noble friend Lord Woolton, but I must tell him at once that I find myself to-day in much the same position as I was in at the end of the last debate. In the course of that debate various criticisms were made by other noble Lords and myself and it would be ungracious not to recognise the endeavour that the Government have made to meet those criticisms in various respects. It is true that they appear in some instances to have receded, perhaps under pressure, from the position that they first endeavoured to take up. But we have now in the Bill what was not in the original scheme—an independent source of revenue designed to enable the Independent Television Authority and programme companies to stand up to advertisers. That, I say frankly, I personally welcome. I said on a previous occasion on this question that I thought it was definitely a step in the right direction. It may very well be that the amount so provided will be found to be inadequate. That is a matter of experience. But at all events a principle has been established. I should like to say in that connection that I think it is not quite fair to argue as if advertisers in the main were a solid phalanx of people always acting together and likely always to present a united front to the Television Authority or programme companies. I do not think that it is fair to argue that way. We have to wait and see.
In other respects we asked for changes and changes were made. There was to be a fixed tariff for advertisements published well in advance and to be adhered to strictly. As I think your Lordships all know, in another place that plan, which had much to commend it, was departed from in a very important respect. I think the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, referred to that matter in his speech yesterday and others have also done so. Now it is to be open for the programme companies to quote special terms on special occasions. One might well ask 341 how the expression "special occasions" or "special circumstances" is to be interpreted. I well remember when I was at the Home Office an attempt was made to obtain a judicial pronouncement on the meaning of the words "special occasion" in connection with the licensing laws, and no one succeeded in getting any further than a judicial declaration that "special occasion." was "special occasion." So it may prove here.
Then there is the question of the disciplinary powers of the Independent Television Authority—the power to prevent abuse. There, again, an extraordinary situation has developed. There are to be powers, but they are not to be enforced drastically at once. There must be at least three offences before the offender can, so to speak, be put into the category of a rogue and vagabond and dealt with drastically. An extraordinary tenderness is being shown now in respect of the relations between the Television Authority, the programme companies and the advertisers. I venture to mention those as examples of what I regard as a genuine attempt by the Government to meet the criticisms, but it is an attempt which has not proved by any means wholly successful. I am bound to say that, viewing the scheme as a whole, I cannot regard the result which has been reached now as at all satisfactory.
I should like to refer for a few moments to quite another aspect, which was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Moyne, yesterday, and on which I am glad to know that we are to have a pronouncement from a Government speaker later in the debate; I refer to the bearing of this whole scheme on our national economy. It seems to me that by this plan the Government are promoting the expenditure of large sums of money, and for this purpose it seems to me that it does not matter very much where the money comes from. Large sums of money, for what purpose? To duplicate existing services. I feel that in this matter the Government have been stampeded and have got their perspective quite wrong. It seems to me that there is an analogy here with the development of atomic energy. In both cases we have a vast new field of scientific development. What matters in the case of atomic energy, I venture to say—we had an interesting announcement to-day—is not 342 bigger and better bombs, and not even the speedier application of atomic energy for peace-time purposes: the really important thing is that we, as a nation, should be kept in the forefront of industrial development. Similarly here, I think that if additional money is available in the field of television, it should be devoted in priority to promoting technical progress—and, believe me, my Lords, there is a great deal to be done in such matters, for example, as colour television, where we are certainly in danger of falling behind the United States of America.
If I may venture to mention it, I can quote another example where I believe the Government have lost a sense of proportion. It was brought to my notice the other day that an endeavour is being made to curtail the money available to the B.B.C. for what I believe are called external broadcasts, with the result that large parts of Western Europe will be denied altogether the services by the B.B.C., and the short wave bands on which those services are carried out will be left entirely to the Communists—all for the sake of a quite trivial saving; nothing at all in relation to the sums that will be applied, and, I think, largely misapplied, at the present time for the purposes which we are now discussing. It seems to me monstrous that these large sums of new money should be available for, as I say, duplicating existing services, when trivial savings are being sought in matters of great national importance. In a word, in my opinion, this Bill is an ill-considered measure, and it would be well that it should be shelved altogether. I will certainly vote against it. If the Second Reading is passed, then we must see what we can do in Committee to improve it. But I again say that, in my view, it would be much better postponed to a later day when we have more experience.
§ 3.35 p.m.
§ LORD BENNETT OF EDGBASTON
My Lords, like the last speaker, I feel that nearly everything that can be said has already been said many times over, and that there is no need to go into great detail. I put my view forward in the debate which took place in November and, like my noble friend Lord Waverley, I have not moved very much. My reason for speaking then was because of an intense feeling of irritation that I had at 343 the attack which was being made upon us in the commercial world who use advertising. We were almost labelled as criminals for the way in which we were supposed to be approaching this matter. In his speech on that ocasion, speaking for himself and his friends, my noble friend Lord Waverley was kind enough to say that nothing personal was intended, and that they did not regard us in any way as criminals. I thank him for that. But if one reads what has been said, that attitude has not been entirely removed from the Press and from speeches that have been made, although there has been a shift in the way in which this matter has been approached. We are no longer attacked personally, but advertising itself seems to have been attacked. There is a suggestion that advertising is "not quite nice"; that it is something that ought not to be done. I have no doubt that many will deny that this is the attitude, but I ask them to read the speeches made, and articles in the Press, and I am sure they will agree there is a general feeling to keep advertising out of it.
As my noble friend Lord Layton pointed out yesterday, I do not think we realise how great a debt we owe to advertising. What would our journals and newspapers be like if there were no advertising? They are what they are to-day because of advertising. We should not get the service we do from our newspapers and journals if there were no advertising. Look at those journals which, for various reasons, cannot have advertising, and see what a colourless lot of literature it is! The journals and the literature we enjoy to-day are based largely on advertising. We get nice supplementary brochures and special articles from some of the leading newspapers. But do not imagine that they are given to us: they are paid for by the advertisers, and we should not have those special editions, which are most valuable, if it were not for the advertising. Advertising to-day is an absolute necessity, and we cannot do without it.
Some of those who grumble about advertising as not being a nice thing are those who complain when they do not get the advantage from it. How often have we been told that some fete, sale or concert in connection with some philanthropic work has not gone well because it was not properly advertised? Of 344 course, we live on advertisements. You might call it propaganda, or what you like; but to-day we must have advertising, and to say that there is something rather "not nice" in television's being associated with advertising is to go entirely outside the realms of life as it is to-day. I consider quite unjustifiable the attack on the Government because of the statement made in the other place (it has been referred to a number of times): that advertisers will have the means of ascertaining on what class of programme their advertisements will be put. The example was given that no advertiser would expect his advertisement for ladies' shoes to be put opposite a boxing match or a football match; that is quite legitimate. Then there is the suggestion that we are opening the door and selling the past; and that, because of that, we are on the downward path and are very close to sponsoring. That is complete nonsense. To-day, when you are advertising you ask for your advertisement to be put facing suitable matter. You do not want it in some part of the journal which does not appeal to you. But that does not give you the right to interfere with the editor in his selection of matter. It is purely a commercial arrangement which is perfectly justified, and in my view it does not open the door to any abuse whatever.
A statement which rather amused me, if I may say so, was made yesterday by the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, when he said that this scheme would give advertisers a new kingdom to rule and enjoy. That was answered by the noble Lord, Lord Moyne, who made it quite clear that a large number of advertisers do not want this kingdom to rule. They would be glad if it were not there. The reason is a selfish one, and I sympathise with them. They have to spend a great deal of money on advertising, as it is, and they are not anxious for a new medium to be put forward which will call upon them to spend more money. I can quite understand that view, and I sympathise with them. We who have advertised have to resist from time to time new methods which are put forward for spending our money. How do we do it? We have a budget for advertising. We tell our advertising manager, "That is the amount of money you have to spend, based upon the turnover as it is to-day. Spend it to the best advantage." People will not rush 345 into advertising on television unless they can see means by which it will bring a return. If it does, if it increases their business, they will expand it; but if it does not, they will not.
In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Moyne, I may say that I discussed this question with another well-known gentleman, this time in the food industry, and he told me that he was most interested in getting this medium as soon as possible. He thought that it would be very helpful, and he said something which rather appeals to me. He said, "If we do not get it, we shall spend our money on the Continent, and we shall approach the British public through one of those other channels which are open to us to-day and the new ones which will operate in the days to come." That is my view on the advertising side of the matter.
There is one other point. I am surprised how many people who are generally opposed to monopoly believe that the B.B.C. is quite different. They say: "Oh, the B.B.C. could quite easily arrange another programme." Could they? I believe that it was the noble Lord, Lord Winster, who said yesterday. "I think an alternative programme would have many of the faults which the present programmes have." I agree with him; and I agree with the Postmaster General, who said that an entirely different system, controlled by entirely different minds, is what we are aiming at. It seems to me that the truth comes down on that side. If we had the B.B.C. with a second programme we should have a similar thing to what we have to-day. We want new minds, and, looking ahead. I see a great future for television. I myself am not a television "fan," but I know many others who are, and I believe that there is a great future for television. In my view, now is the time to get television on a proper basis. If it is left as it is, it will become harder and harder to break through the dead hand of monopoly. The vested interests of which we hear so much in other directions are there, and when it becomes an organisation such as the B.B.C., the longer you leave it the harder it will be to get out of it.
To those who are prophesying failure—and there are many—I say: do not let us regard this as an experiment which is bound to fail. Let us rather look at it as an experiment which we hope will succeed: and, let us give it a run. I have 346 no doubt whatever that it will need alteration. Any scheme with which I have ever been concerned has never gone exactly as I planned it. We have always had to make arrangements for altering and modifying it. I believe that this scheme, like all schemes, will probably need modification; but I maintain that it cannot be a failure, as some pessimists suggest and predict, because the money will not be wasted, as it was wasted on other schemes which, my friends who were with me in another place will remember, had to be washed out completely. It will not be wasted, because the money spent will create stations; and those stations will be there whether this particular scheme is carried out in its entirety or not. And those stations will give us the second programme which everybody seems to think is universally wanted.
§ 3.46 p.m.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, like the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, I recognise that the Government have laboured to make a bad Bill a better one, and I appreciate the sincere efforts that have been devoted to this end. But I am afraid that I still regard it as a bad Bill. Moreover, so far as I know, almost every organisation concerned with religion, education and social welfare also regards it as a bad Bill. That is a fact of which I think the Government ought to take serious cognisance. But amid all the welter of words, and arguments and counter-arguments, I have tried to find some one solid, sound, and conclusive criterion by which to judge the merits of this Bill. I think there is one which I should venture to put before your Lordships, and, Judged by that, this Bill is full of astonishing incongruities.
The effect of this Bill is, if I can put it in a sentence, to create a new university—a new educational establishment; and that multilateral and comprehensive, to use words which have a significance in another connection. There are universities which bring their students to a central campus, if I may use an American term. There is no objection to another new university. I do not object to the B.B.C. having a sister university, but this new university, like its sister university, the B.B.C., is to do something far more penetrating, far more pervasive and potent, than either Oxford or Cambridge, 347 or any modern university. It will go to their students and pursue them into their own homes, into their own domestic circles, and there present them with all the art it can command, with its lectures, demonstrations, entertainments, and the whole curriculum of the university. It will do it audibly and visibly, and the students of this university will number millions of our fellow-countrymen. This new Authority and the B.B.C. will, in fact, be the great universities of the people of this land; and most of our people will get from them, from childhood to old age, the most continued, prolonged and effective part of their education.
Someone may say that I am misjudging the matter: that this Authority is there to provide not education, but entertainment. I trust that in this House I need not argue that broadcasting and television are necessarily always and above all instruments of education. The B.B.C. provides, and this Authority will provide, information and ideas in such a way as to evoke, create, and contribute to reactions in the viewers—mental, moral and spiritual; and education is simply that process of stimulus and reaction. Or, if they provoke no reaction at all to the programmes put before the viewers, that also is a kind of education, for it confirms those viewers who hear and see without making any mental or spiritual reply in a passive acceptance of anything that is put before them, in a sluggish torpidity of mind. There is a danger, in these times, that quite a number of people will end by being so educated as to be incapable of being educated at all.
The question before us is this: Is this system created by the Bill a well-conceived and well-balanced educational instrument? I remember that the Postmaster General was once Minister for Education. By that criterion I cannot but say that it fails badly. I ask first: are the Authority, as such, well-equipped as an educational body? Every university, and the B.B.C., has at its head a body of authority whose first concern, interest, responsibility and activity is the educational process as a whole, and especially the value of its educational output. A university has to do many other things. It has to provide laboratories and classrooms, but its positive and primary duty is to teach. But in this university to be established by this Bill, the 348 Authority are given—and I will ask your Lordships to mind it—as their chief and primary duty—one, to provide wireless stations; two, to provide studios, and three, to provide facilities by which other people can carry out the educational process. All that is in subsection (1) of Clause 2, "Powers of Authority." It is as though the Hebdomadal Council at Oxford, or the Senate at Cambridge, were told that its chief and only, or almost its only, business was to build laboratories. If anyone points to Clause 1 (1) and says that I am misrepresenting the matter because there the Authority isto provide … television broadcasting services … of high quality, both as to transmission and as to the matter transmitted,I reply in a twofold way. First, even there the mechanics of transmission are given the first place and the subject matter the second, which is a little significant. Secondly, by that same clause, the new Authority can provide subject matter only "in accordance with the provisions of the Act." As I have said, this Bill gives the Authority no power at all to educate.
But there is worse to follow. Clause 6 (2) proceeds from the mechanics of transmission to the subject matter, and here we look with interest. So far, we have an Authority which is merely an engineer. Now we shall find out what it can do as an educator. Clause 6 (2) says quite bluntly that education shall be provided not by the Authority, not by the university, but by somebody else. It is really astonishing, when you have an instrument which is going to be one of the greatest educational instruments in the nation, to say that it shall not give any education itself, except that, as we shall see, it is concerned with education when we come to censorship—but that waits for a moment. Who, then, is to give the education? Professors, teachers, entertainers, chosen in the oddest way I have ever heard of—those who can pay, presumably those who can pay most, to give education, to buy, as the Bill says, "the right and the duty to provide programmes." If Professors on every kind of subject went to Oxford or Cambridge and said: "I will give you £10,000 to give me a professorial Chair," they would be condemned by any educational system; but that is precisely what the 349 Bill provides for. They are called "programme contractors" but what they are is merchants of education, trying, to buy a place in which to give their lectures. Once you admit—it cannot he denied—that this Authority must, for good or ill, be a great educational instrument, it is astonishing that it does not provide its own education but goes to, presumably, the highest bidder and settles who shall give the education.
But we have not reached the bottom yet. It is bad enough that these professors have to buy their Chairs. These Chairs are very expensive and the professors are penniless. How are they to get their Chairs? By selling the time which they have between their lectures, or at natural breaks in their lectures, when they pause to take breath for a moment. To whom do they sell? To another lot of educators with quite different ideas of the purpose of education that they provide. I speak with all respect of advertisers—I am not casting any stones at them; but they have not the same objectives as teachers ought to have. They are after something else. The programme professors are providing information and ideas on their own merits. The advertisement educators are using information and ideas for an ulterior purpose, either to help or impel people to buy those things which they want, or to persuade them to buy things which they do not want at all. This is indeed a unique educational establishment—an Authority which is not allowed to educate; professors who buy the chance to educate but who have to earn the money with which to buy it from others whose interest is not in education but in selling their own goods to the pupils.
Consider once more the Authority. It cannot, as Clause 2 (1) says, take part in this educational process. But now comes insult added to injury. Clause 2 (2) (a) says that, if the programme contractors are not providing the right balance of subjects, the Authority, the government of the university, can adjust the balance. How? The Bill as introduced in another place said, by themselves providing or arranging for the provision of what is required to adjust the balance. But no—that would give the Authority the astonishing power to teach. So a Government Amendment is introduced to remove the words "by themselves providing." 350 This really is adding insult to injury. The Authority is forbidden to do a bit of teaching itself if the general balance has got wrong. It has ignominiously to go round seeking some other body to give it for them. What, one may ask, is it to be given £750,000 for, if it cannot use the money to put on some programmes of its own to maintain the general balance? It is true that there is Clause 2 (2) (b), and if the horrid situation arises that there is not a professor available, no programme contractor there to provide a programme—possibly because one professor has "downed tools" and the other has not yet come into office—then the Authority must arrange for a stop-gap; or, says the Bill, "if need be," the Authority may themselves provide a programme to fill in with. And that is the only little place in which this great Authority is allowed to do any teaching of its own.
I have faithfully reminded your Lordships of what the Authority may do. Apart from that last tiny exception, it does no television broadcasting at all of any real significance. It provides means of transmission for other people to use, and that, rightly, brings it under the Postmaster General, who is there only to provide means of transmission for other people's mails, posts, ideas and information. But then this Bill, strangely, adds to the Authority the power of censorship, and that duty does not at all belong to the Postmaster General. The one thing he is not allowed to do is to open our mail to see what is in it and to decide whether it can go on or not. Here, the final authority over the Authority itself for censoring is the Postmaster General, but, as your Lordships see, the Authority comes into this particularly difficult problem of censoring, too. It is one thing to teach and find your own mistakes; but to be the engineer concerned in setting up television masts and then to go round the classrooms to see what the professors are teaching and to say, "You must not," is really a ridiculous situation.
I notice that they have also to censor the advertisements, but I fail to notice that the Authority has to secure any kind of balance in the advertisements. The advertisements are educational just as much as what goes on in the programme. The programmes are to be well balanced so that everybody gets his fair look in; but there is no balancing of the advertise- 351 ments. Here money alone counts, so far as I know; and so long as the advertisement is a respectable advertisement, the richer you are the more time for advertisements you can buy. But there are a great many people who deserve advertising time and cannot afford to buy it—such people as little shopkeepers and small firms; all the people who have made England and who have been driven out by these great concerns, and multiple shops. My interest is always with the little tradesman and the little shopkeeper. How is he to get his advertisements across unless there is a balancing of the advertisements too, and somebody in authority is going to say "No; we have had enough of the great concerns which can produce their millions. We are going to give a little of our advertising time to a non-remunerative form of advertisement for the small man."
Well, my Lords, there it is. The Authority, which is the mechanic of the business and also, oddly enough, the maiden aunt, is there to say, "No, you must not." The programme companies (shall I call them "the dashing nephews"?) wish to make a splash. They have paid the Authority for the right to be dashing, and are penniless. And there are the "bold barons" of the advertising world—full of money, not at all bad, perhaps not a bit bad, but influential. The nephews must get the money from the barons, who, incidentally, as the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, said yesterday, avoid a good deal in the way of taxation by giving money away to the nephews. I wonder whether anybody has ever worked out, if this scheme works and the advertising revenue comes in, how much the Exchequer will in fact lose in money which they might otherwise have received from taxation. The nephews must not be influenced at all by the barons, and the barons must not attempt to influence the nephews, except that in certain special circumstances, not yet defined, whilst there must be no influence, the barons may offer to double their tip and the nephews may graciously accept the unexpected increase in their remuneration.
If we examine this Bill as an educational instrument its fundamental unsoundness is revealed. The Bill is full of elaborate devices and safeguards for making a faultily assembled machine go. 352 But the only thing to do with it is to break up the machine, take the component parts which are all right, and put them together again into a machine that works fully. I urge upon the Government that they should, even now, withdraw this Bill, look at it again, and see whether it cannot be reassembled on a less illogical and stupid principle. It is not too late. If I may detain your Lordships a few minutes more I would in fact suggest a way in which, by two simple Amendments, the whole of this ramshackle system can be made perfectly easily workable. If your Lordships would turn to Clause 2 (2), to line 14 on page 4, you will see that almost all that is required is to change the word "to" to the word "by," that the clause will read as follows:Programmes … shall … be provided not by the Authority but by … 'programme contractors' who, under contracts with the Authority, have, in consideration of payments by the Authority"—to provide the programmes. What could be simpler? Then the Authority is hiring people to do its teaching for it. This establishment then comes into line with every other educational establishment that has ever existed, where the Authority appoints its professors and pays them. It is a most proper thing that it should choose the best available professors and give them a job to do.
Where is it to get the money to pay them? Another small Amendment to Clause 4 (1) would mean that the advertisers' money (since by the Government's direction it is to be financed by advertisements) should go to the Authority; you leave out the intervening words about its going to the programme contractors. At once you have all that you want. The monopoly of the B.B.C. is broken, the Authority that stands by the side of it becomes educationally responsible, with power to hire its own programme contractors according to its own plan; to, dismiss them if necessary, not only after three breaches of contract, but after one if it is gross enough. It is easier to dismiss somebody you have hired than somebody who, for payments made, has acquired a right. It is easier to stimulate competition, which is one of the purposes of this Bill, if you are just hiring whom you will and have not created 353 certain people with vested interests who, if I may use this disputed word, are monopolists of one kind or another.
Quite seriously, will not the contractors be happier? They are, so far as I know them, educationalists with a great enthusiasm, wanting to put over what they are possessed of—artists whose only interest is to put on good shows. In this way they are delivered from the distraction of having to run about getting advertisers to pay for the shows that they want to put on, not to back their programmes but to buy the time that they can dispose of. In fact, by this simple Amendment everybody is set free from absurdities to do his own job properly. The advertiser wants advertisements and goes to the Authority, who can stand up to the advertiser perhaps a little better than the professor brought out of the classroom in which he wants quietly to lecture on something else; the contractor can do his job, and the Authority becomes an educational authority choosing and controlling the whole concern.
My Lords, that brings me to my last point, a point of a different kind. I am not clear how the Bill, as now drawn, does, in fact, prevent religious bodies from buying time. I am referred to various places in the Bill, but I am not yet satisfied. The Government are pledged to prevent religious bodies from buying time. I would ask them to make absolutely sure that they have in fact prevented it altogether. But is it satisfactory that programme contractors should be solely responsible for the putting on of religious programmes? It is clear from the Bill that they cannot sell time to any religious body. They are not allowed to have advertisements round the religious services or programmes; there will not be any money for them. I wonder how they are going to finance them. It is not likely that under this system there will be very many religious programmes. Yet the Authority must see that there is a right balance kept. One would think, therefore, that in the early years, at least, the Authority itself would have to do most of the providing of religious programmes, because it will not be easy for commercial companies to do it. Then why should it not be given the job to do? It alone can build up a steady, balanced and continuous experience in a new and 354 very tricky field of religious television broadcasting.
I cannot see how a really sound tradition can be built up if there are three or more contracting companies in various parts of the country playing at it, when they have got the time for it or when they can afford it. Then why not let the Authority itself come in here? Religion is so important that the Bill keeps it out of the risks and vagaries of advertising. Quite right. Religion is so important that it should be kept outside the risks and vagaries of diverse programme contractors, trying their hands at it when they have room for it, even if controlled by an advisory committee. I would go further and say that religion is so important and difficult and full of possibilities in this field that religious programmes ought to have the special attention of a department, given wholly to this one field; and such a department, being outside the advertiser-contractor relationship, must be a department of the Authority. That would indeed give the Authority a job worth doing. Once more I ask, what is this £750,000 for unless the Authority can take up and tackle such a job as that. And if that sum is not enough for this cause, then still more money should be forthcoming.
I think the Bill should be withdrawn and reconsidered. If not, if it goes through the Second Reading, I hope it will be so amended as to make the Authority educationally responsible and master in its own house. It is nonsense to call it an independent Authority when in fact it is bound hand and foot, far more than the B.B.C. is, to the Government, to the people, to the contractors and to the advertisers. Let us have it really independent and responsible. I trust that, apart from that, it may be given the great task of being solely responsible for providing itself, or for empowering programme companies to provide, religious broadcasts.
§ 4.13 p.m.
§ LORD REITH
My Lords, I have never heard the most reverend Primate in the pulpit, but I must say I should not like to be a malefactor under the lash of His Reverence. Some of us, after that indictment of the Bill, must have thought it might be possible to take the Second Reading vote without any further 355 talk at all. Those of us on whom responsibility fell for the introduction and development of broadcasting in 1922 were highly resolved to justify monopoly, as monopoly should be justified: in terms of things done that should be done, and things not done that should not be done. What those unhappy individuals were able to do and refrain from doing was approved by Parliament and public opinion; but seemingly that is all forgotten now, or else derided. It is not just a monopoly that is at stake—not by a long, long way. It is the British way of doing things in this field of broadcasting, radio and television. "Let not England forget her precedence," John Milton wrote, "of teaching other nations how to live." The precedence of Britain in broadcasting was the admiration and envy of the world. It may still be. That precedence was due to the monopoly; to the way the monopoly was read and administered; and to the absence of commercial motive of any sort. All that is to be cast aside. The altar-cloth of one age indeed becomes the doormat of the next.
The changes in this Bill since first introduced, the wafflings and shifts of front as to objectives and as to means, show how ill-considered and ill-conceived the whole action has been. Thomas Chalmers said that a system that was wrong in principle was bound to be unsound in policy and pernicious in execution. It is a pity we do not keep that criterion of principle more in mind than we do. This Bill and the system behind it are wrong in principle—utterly wrong. No number of amendments, many no doubt designed to safeguard this or that or to lessen potential danger and damage here and there, no amount of tinkering with the Bill, can make it sound in policy or otherwise than pernicious in execution. Social, political, intellectual and ethical issues of incalculable gravity are at stake. One more observation only—because, apart from anything else, I am under an obligation to pay the noble Lord a fine of ten pounds per minute over the five, the money presumably going to the Independent Television Authority. There must be at least some searchings of heart in many of those who are expected to vote for this wretched Bill to-day. They are not such as would wittingly or willingly suborn moral responsibility or do moral hurt to 356 Britain, to their country, at the dictate of any body or anybody. But it is that they will find they have done, if they pass this Bill. They will have sunk a maggot— a quite unnecessary maggot—into the body politic of England.
§ 4.18 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT HUDSON
My Lords, I think the course of this debate has shown that there is what we may call general agreement about the need for competition. The controversy now mainly arises, surely, over the objects of television and its relation to advertising. Some of your Lordships may have read yesterday a leading article in The Times which I think epitomises the views of many of the opponents of the Bill and illustrates the sort of case we have to make in its defence. The editor of The Times, in that leading article, talks about the "overriding concern for enduring values." That is a very nice phrase, but what he does in his leading article is to claim, as so many opponents of this Bill claim, the right to assume that he, the editor of The Times, is the best judge of what your Lordships ought to consider as overriding values. The assumption is that that springs from the experience he gained as chief of the B.B.C., and the reputation, or the ruling, left behind him by the noble Lord, Lord Reith, about being a dictator. He and many opponents of the Bill, including the most reverend Primate, regard educational and cultural purposes as one of the main objects of television, and they judge the success of television by its success in promoting educational and cultural objects.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
The noble Viscount will remember how I defined education—the presentation of information and ideas, and the reaction, mental, moral and spiritual, thereby created. Does the noble Viscount deny that television is an educational instrument in that sense?
§ LORD BEVERIDGE
I should like to ask the noble Viscount whether he disagrees with what is stated in the Government White Paper: that television is the most important means of influencing the minds of men that is now available. Is not that education?
§ VISCOUNT HUDSON
There are a large number of definitions of education. I hope to deal—perhaps with some presumption—with the arguments advanced by the most reverend Primate. I personally would deny in toto the claim that education, however defined, is one of the main objects of television—indeed, the B.B.C. Charter states that education is only one of three objects.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Viscount again, but I never said that it was an "object." I said that it was "an inevitable consequence of."
§ VISCOUNT HUDSON
If I were not very polite I should describe that as splitting hairs. I think that for the purpose of the public it ought to suffice to say that those gentlemen who oppose the Bill consider education and cultural purposes one of the main objects of television. In saying that I am merely quoting the leading article in The Times. I believe that entertainment is an equally important object of television, and I believe that the filling of leisure is an equally important object of television.
§ VISCOUNT HUDSON
It seems to me, if I may be allowed to say so with respect, that the fallacy underlying the most reverend Primate's argument is that someone—presumably he, or people who think like him—is entitled to dictate what education in its widest sense is to be. I deny that emphatically. I believe that one of the results of accepting such a doctrine would be very largely authoritarian in its widest sense. I believe that one of the glories of England as it lives to-day is the fact of the freedom of the mind. The more you agree with the most reverend. Primate as to the effect of television on the mind, the more you must admit also the danger of one single Authority—whether it is called "independent" or not—exercising influence over men's minds. What you want to do is to leave men's minds free; to give them free choice to listen to various arguments, to listen to various propositions and then form their own judgment. On that is based very largely the glory and success of our nation as I see it to-day.
358 Underlying the most reverend Primate's argument is the old saying, though in different words, that "Whitehall knows best." But there is a different climate of opinion to-day. The country is beginning to doubt whether "Whitehall knows best," whoever "Whitehall" may be, whether it is the independent Television Authority, the body of the Churches or "what have you?" The opponents of the Bill argue that advertising will debase programmes. They claim that they are the best judges of what people ought to see or hear. The noble Lord, Lord Noel-Buxton, said in the debate last night (OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 188 (No. 86), col. 301):Those of us who argue against commercial television are on the whole the more thoughtful of us…".He had—I was going to say the decency to add some qualifying words—and possibly also sometimes the more priggish,which took away what seemed a certain priggish element in that statement.
Why should we assume—and in this connection I like the view put forward to-day by the noble Lord, Lord Bennett of Edgbaston—that the business man who is going to buy space on television will require or produce a programme so vulgar that it will debase the morals and good taste of the viewing public? America has been referred to repeatedly in the course of the debate. The noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, mentioned it. In this connection, America has nothing to do with Great Britain. We have the same language and we go back to the same traditions, but we have developed on altogether different lines. Public taste in America is very different from public taste here. Because public taste in America has been, or may be, debased by television in America, it does not follow that the same thing is going to happen here. There is no reason to assume that it will. What opponents of the Bill say—
§ LORD MATHERS
My Lords, will the noble Viscount allow me to ask him if he keeps in mind the words of the great Scottish philosopher, Robert Burns:But Oh! mankind are unco' weakAnd little to be trusted.If self the wavering balance shakeIt's rarely right adjusted.
§ VISCOUNT HUDSON
Robert Burns was talking in the eighteenth century. We are talking now about the twentieth century, and it still remains true that the United States are not a reasonble comparison with this country, in so far as people say that what happens in the United States must necessarily follow in this country. The Bill does provide safeguards. Some people think they are not enough, and some think that there are too many of them. I believe, however, that far and away the most important safeguard—and I shall be very much surprised if the most reverend Primate disagrees with me in this—will be the ordinary decent Englishman and his wife, sitting by the fireside in the evening, probably surrounded by young children. I do not believe that these fathers and mothers, or indeed the young people themselves, will willingly sit with their eyes glued to their television sets watching indecent or vulgar pictures. I suggest to your Lordships that the women of this country will be the most passionate censors of programmes that we can require.
The Times said, in the article to which I have referred, that our task as a House is to strip issues of Party rancour and to bring them back to fundamentals. One fundamental in this case is that television is here to stay. Another fundamental is that it is going to become international. People in this country can listen and look at television from other countries besides this one. Those are fundamentals of the matter. It is a new industry that has spread rapidly and is likely to spread even more rapidly in the future over the world. I believe in our British genius and that our task is to find means (this has been largely adumbrated by the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley) of developing television with special reference to the man in the street, not only in this country but also overseas. I believe that one of the results of that will be an enormous possibility of developing export trade both in films and ideas. I suggest that the fundamental, so far as this country is concerned, is the overwhelming mass of decent and tolerant men and women, at all social levels. The opponents of the Bill, with respect, seem to think they are the only persons who can or ought to dictate to the people of this country what they ought to see, what they are to be allowed to see and what they are to be allowed to hear. 360 In other words, they distrust the free choice of British democracy.
I am reminded, when listening to this debate, of a debate which ran on similar lines about federation in Central Africa. Too many of the opponents of Central African Federation appeared to believe that the English man and woman, when they went abroad, automatically forgot their innate decency and tolerance and became slave-drivers. I think that noble Lords who listened to that debate will agree that that is an accurate picture of what was said. Those of us who have watched development since federation was inaugurated can testify to the fact that the British settler has not lost his innate decency and tolerance of other races. Relations out there at present are a prelude, I believe, to a real partnership, and so far as native opinion is concerned we are reaping to-day the benefit of twenty years of liberal policy. The recent overwhelming majority obtained by Sir Godfrey Huggins has proved that not only the older residents of Rhodesia but also the Englishmen—and, for that matter, the Dutchmen—who have recently immigrated in considerable numbers into that country share the same liberal or, as I should like to put it, the same national characteristics.
I hope that this Bill is going to receive a Second Reading. I have no doubt that in the months following the introduction of commercial television we shall make mistakes, many mistakes; but I, for one, am convinced that, so long as we trust to the decent instincts of the ordinary man and woman in the street, we shall come to no harm, and that we shall succeed, so far television is concerned, in setting an example to the world, very much as the defenders of the B.B.C. claim that that organisation has set an example to the world.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ LORD BRAND
My Lords, like other speakers, I propose to speak briefly, and I hope I shall keep my word. I should like first to make a comment on the speech of my noble friend Lord Hudson. I am not going to talk about America, although I could say a lot, having listened for many years to commercial sound broadcasting then. The noble Viscount said that the British people are very decent. I entirely agree with him; but I also consider that the American 361 people are very decent. It does not depend on the decency of the population; it depends upon the sort of system you clamp upon it. The American population as a whole are not responsible for the system clamped upon them, but they cannot get rid of it now, however decent they are, though a great many of them would like to get rid of it.
The noble Viscount, Lord Woolton. said he believed that I was totally unrepentant. I have to say that I am. I believe it is quite possible that some members of the Cabinet, if they could, would now go back to the time when they could have given the B.B.C. a second programme and would have had much more room for their own legislative programme, and would have been rid of all the trouble in which they have landed themselves and are going to land the country by producing this Bill. I agree with the views which Lord Halifax, Lord Samuel, Lord Beveridge, the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Reith have expressed. My greatest objection to the Bill is one that was so strongly voiced by the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge—namely, that, owing to the ulterior motive of the advertisers in selling goods and making profits, that minority of the public which requires interesting and educational productions will not be catered for at all on the new T.V. system. I believe that the new commercial television must be almost entirely entertainment, a point of view which naturally will receive plaudits from the noble Viscount, Lord Hudson, who thinks that the tremendous instrument of television should be entirely used for entertainment.
§ VISCOUNT HUDSON
What I said was that education was not the only object of television. It was shared both by entertainment and education.
§ LORD BRAND
I understood the noble Viscount to say that entertainment must be the first motive. He scorned the views of the most reverend Primate, who said that education in the largest sense must be the motive in the new programme.
362 I want particularly to come to the question which has often been raised in this debate—the analogy between advertising in newspapers and advertising on television programmes. The Bill is based on the assumption that advertisers will not have any control of programmes. I regard that as absolute fantasy, and I wish to state my reasons for saying so as briefly and as clearly as I can. The argument is a simple one. In the case of newspapers, advertisers aim at advertising either in newspapers with the biggest circulations, if they wish to sell consumable goods to the great mass of the public, or in newspapers with smaller circulations, if they want to sell more specialised goods; or they address themselves to periodicals, mainly written for the female sex, if they want to sell ladies' clothes and cosmetics, or to engineering periodicals if they want to sell engineering products. These different audiences, or classes of readers, have been sorted out already over many years by the newspapers and periodicals. The type of reader of each of these publications is known, the circulation of each of them is known, the kind of contents of each is known, the advertising rates are known. There is no need whatever to try to influence editorial or other matter in these newspapers. I am sure my noble friend, Lord Bennett of Edgbaston, would fully agree with that. Advertisers also can choose their place for their advertisement in any of these papers.
But with television, all is different. All that is known at present is that there are some three million sets, perhaps ten million possible viewers, and that the biggest viewing audience will be generally in the early hours of the evening. But the viewers are not sorted out like newspaper readers. In my opinion, for instance, no advertiser who wishes to get at a minority class—say, the readers of The Times—would think of using television for such a purpose. Moreover, commercial television will not sort out its clientele, as it is sorted out by the B.B.C., in a rough and ready manner through three different programmes. Advertisers on commercial television will therefore naturally choose the big battalions. Since they cannot through television get for instance at the engineers, or, separately at the 363 women who wish to buy cosmetics (although there, I agree, very many women are likely to use television) or the readers of The Times or the Manchester Guardian, and so on, they will naturally choose the biggest possible audience they can get. That means—I will put it in a complimentary way—the easiest possible programme: a programme of entertainment, in the main, except when it comes to sport, or spectacles, or special occasions, such as a visit of the Queen somewhere, and so on, which interest all classes.
I might point out that the advertising rates—I have a list of them here—paid by advertisers to the newspapers, vary almost universally with the circulation of the paper. Advertisers in the News of the World have to pay something like four times what advertisers in The Times pay, because the circulation is over 8 million as against 230,000. Everything is arranged on that basis: the bigger the number of readers, the bigger the advertising rates. Why should that not apply to television—the bigger the number of viewers, the more viewers are "got at" by the advertisers, the bigger amount of programme fees received by the companies? To my mind, that result is absolutely certain.
In America they have what they call "listener research," and the "Hooper rating." There is a special organisation for telling the broadcasting people how many viewers listen, for instance, to Walter Winchell—it is 18 million in his case, because he is highly sensational—how many to this man and how many to that, how many listen to a certain concert. The same thing will happen here, and the advertisers will certainly want to know what sort of number of viewers is going to view any particular programme. To ask them not to take an interest in the programme is like asking a man to go into a shop and say that he wants a shirt and to the shopkeeper saying: "All right; put your money down, and when you have put your money down I will show you the shirt you are going to have." It is absolutely certain that the programmes will be arranged in close consultation between the programme companies and the advertisers. These programmes have to be settled months before, and there will have to be the closest co-operation. I am told that in 364 the United States when a programme is being arranged and a rehearsal is taking place there is what is called a sponsor's gallery as well as a producer's gallery: they both watch the programme and equally make suggestions as to what should be done. I do not say that that will happen so much here, but, to my mind, there is no question that the advertisers will day by day be in the closest possible contact with the programme companies. The advertisers will almost certainly go for the largest audience and be ready to pay the highest rates for the largest audience. That will suit the programme companies admirably. The interests of the two concerns work in admirably together, because they both want the same thing—I do not think anybody can deny that. If the Government do not agree with this argument, I should like to know what they think will happen.
Of course, if I am right, the terms of the Bill are most misleading, because it must be untrue that a producer is not to know, or is not supposed to suggest, what will come into the programme. He certainly will know. When these programme companies have shown that they are always, or practically always, going to put in programmes suitable to the greatest possible number of viewers, then it will not be so necessary for the advertisers to keep in the closest touch, because they will know the sort of things the programme is going to contain, just as the advertisers in the News of the World know what that newspaper is going to contain—certainly they would be horrified if suddenly the News of the World one week came out looking like The Times. They know what the News of the World will be, and its circulation, and therefore, they pay four times as much for the insertion of their advertisements. That will happen more or less with the television companies. Therefore, it seems to me that the Bill is highly misleading.
My main point is that this means that minorities—that is to say, the educated, thinking, ruling classes (I must put in ruling classes, for we deceive ourselves if we do not think our civilisation is run by a ruling class of one or two million people, who really run the country)—will never be catered for by television, except in the case of sport, spectacles, documentary films and so on; most of the remaining programmes will be calculated to appeal to the greatest possible 365 number of viewers. That is why I think the Bill is a bad Bill. It will not be educational in the sense that the most reverend Primate, the Archbishop of Canterbury, mentioned. I should never have been bold enough to talk as he has, because as soon as one mentions the word "education" in these days, one is supposed to be highbrow, out of touch with everything, not trusting the people, not believing that the British people are wonderful, and so on. I hope that the Government will reconsider this Bill. In my opinion, this measure will be most damaging to our country, and the Government will be surprised at the ultimate results reaped from it.
§ 4.48 p.m.
§ EARL WINTERTON
My Lords, I should like to commence with an apology to your Lordships' House for not having been present during the whole of the debate yesterday. My absence was due to medical reasons. I always think, as a new recruit to your Lordships' House, that those of us who have the privilege of taking part in a debate should be present during that debate. I have a few short comments to make on the Bill—and I hope they will be short. If there is one thing in the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, with which I agree—and it is the only thing—it is that there has been a certain amount of repetition in the course of this debate. Whenever I have sat on the Front Bench I have always been in favour of long Front Bench speeches; but in the years that I have sat on other Benches, I have been in favour of short speeches; and I am fully in favour of short speeches this afternoon, especially as at one moment in the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, it was difficult to determine who was in possession of your Lordships' House: there were a number of interlocutory speeches, from the Leader of the House, the Postmaster General, the noble Lord, Lord Moyne, the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, "Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all." I may say that we on this side of the House felt very sorry for the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, and much admired the calmness with which he allowed—he used the word—"cross-talk" to go on.
I suggest to your Lordships, with great deference, that it is really a very simple issue with which we are concerned to- 366 day. I think there are only three or four points which need be made at this stage of the debate. The Bill has excited little or no popular clamour for or against it, outside this House or another place. There have been no processions in favour of the Bill or against it. So far as I know, there have been few objections, and I am told by Members of another place that there has been a comparatively small "fan mail" on the subject. The cinema trade and the newspaper trade, who might be adversely affected by the extension of television, have, in the main, offered only tepid opposition to the Bill. That is probably because they recognise, as the opponents of this Bill most stubbornly refuse to do, that commercial television from the Continent, on the analogy of Radio Luxembourg, will be available to viewers here in two or three years' time. Perhaps I might have an answer from my noble friend Lord Hailsham (with whom, for the first time in my life, I find myself in disagreement) when he comes to speak, as to what he and his supporters are going to do about it. Are they going to press for legislation forbidding viewers to turn on the knobs to see foreign programmes? How are they going to protect the people of this country from seeing these terrible programmes. The noble Lord, Lord Brand—
§ LORD BRAND
I think I am right in telling the noble Earl that all European countries except Luxembourg are noncommercial, and, therefore, it will be noncommercial competition at present.
§ EARL WINTERTON
I always thought the noble Lord was not an optimist. I read his speeches on economics which he delivers in this House, and which are properly reported at such length in The Times, and I always thought that he was a pessimist. But he is a great optimist if he believes that there is not going to be commercial television from the Continent to this country, and if he believes that they are not considering this matter at the moment in Luxembourg. Of course they are; and it will also come across the Atlantic. Therefore, in a sense, this is a false issue, because commercial television is coming to this country anyhow. It is a point which was well made by the noble Viscount who spoke from the Front Bench this afternoon. It is not for me to offer advice to the opponents of the Bill, but in the circumstances I would suggest that they would be wise to accept it.
367 After all, the Government have made a number of concessions to them. Some of the Bill's supporters, like myself, think that perhaps they have gone too far in those concessions. Because this will be a dead issue in a few years' time, and because this television will come from elsewhere, I suggest that it is an actual overstatement to say that this controversy, confined purely to another place and to this House, is a storm in a teacup. I think it would be true to say that it is a ripple in an eyeglass. I do not think the public are in the least interested; but no one would believe that from the speeches that have been made. I am a great admirer of the noble Viscount sitting behind me. Although I have listened to many eloquent speeches of his I have never heard such vibrant, sincere and eloquent oratory against so small and inoffensive a thing as an alternative system of television as his winding-up speech when he spoke last time. My noble friend reminds me of someone trying to shoot a fly with an elephant gun.
§ EARL WINTERTON
I am not sure that it did. I thought my noble friend missed the fly, because I think his elephant gun was aimed in the wrong direction. Seriously, I must say, at the risk of offending some of your Lordships, that I should like to see the moral indignation, which has been displayed against this Bill by many very distinguished members of your Lordships' House, directed against the really ugly things in this island. There are such things as juvenile crime, homosexuality, the appalling increase of divorce and the use of one of England's greatest cathedrals by its Dean to preach the anti-Christian views of Communism. Perhaps the most reverend Primate will devote his attention to that matter, as well as the appalling dangers, in his opinion, of having an alternative system of television, which, I understand, he thinks is going to react on the very roots of the educational system of this country.
That reminds me of a remark made by the noble Lord who preceded me which astonished me, and which I hope I took down correctly. He said that this new system would not be controlled by or 368 would not appeal to the minority of the ruling classes in this country. I must say that I thought we had passed over many years since the Reform Bill of 1832. I understood that we were supposed to be a democratic country, where the opinion of the public and not that of the ruling class mattered.
§ LORD BRAND
Perhaps I may explain. By "ruling class" I meant the scientists, educationists, civil servants, industrialists, trade unionists and all the people who really run the country. If they all struck to-morrow, I think my noble friend Lord Winterton would see what they mean to the country. I was not talking in what one might call the old "class" sense.
§ EARL WINTERTON
Of course, I accept my noble friend's correction. I do not want to get into an interlocutory argument with him, but I am rather astonished that he commends so highly the Civil Service as the ruling class. I know that my noble friend is a busy man, but I would advise him to read the Report of the recent Inquiry into what happened at Crichel Down.
§ LORD BRAND
May I say that in the two wars I worked very closely with civil servants, and I have the highest opinion of them. They are, on the whole, the ablest and best people you get in the country.
§ EARL WINTERTON
I am sure that all Members of your Lordships' House will be delighted to hear my noble friend's words. Of course, I never doubted it for a moment, but the use of the term in that connection was unfortunate. I have a great regard for the B.B.C. I have worked for them in the past and broadcast for them, and I hope that I shall do so in the future, though I think that may be a little doubtful, after this speech. But I want to say in all seriousness that I think some injustice has been done by some Members of your Lordships' House to American commercial broadcasting. I have broadcast three or four times in America at the request of the British Government, and I have also been on television at the request of the Government through the Foreign Office.
§ EARL WINTERTON
I did not detect in the people who run television in America the horrible brigands who so excited the animosity of the most reverend Primate. Indeed, the whole of the Church and State is represented by those who have spoken.
§ EARL WINTERTON
I think it was inherent in the speech. I should be glad to learn from my noble friend Lord Hailsham, when he is summing up the debate for the opposition, whether he agrees with those who have attacked American broadcasting and television as such, because I think there are many good things about it. I think it is unfair to choose just one or two programmes.
In conclusion, I should like to say this. I congratulate the B.B.C. on having created (I use the word in no wounding sense) the most successful lobby that has been created, in my recollection, in the last twenty-five years. It is a lobby of both Houses of Parliament, and of the Press. It has enlisted the powerful sympathies of many formerly connected with the B.B.C. To read Sir William Haley's leading articles in The Times is almost to go back to the days of Delane, when he was attacking the Administration for their appalling conduct in the Crimea, and affords great opportunities to Mr. Malcolm Muggeridge to parody it in Punch. Then we come to the distinguished Members of your Lordships' House and of another place who are in this same lobby. Of course, they are very sincere. We admire their sincerity.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
I must protest against this. There has been no lobby. No Member of this House has been influenced by the B.B.C., so far as I am aware. We have simply dealt with facts. I must resent the suggestion that there has been a lobby of which we have been the members.
§ EARL WINTERTON
I used the term "lobby" in a generic sense. I did not necessarily use it in the American sense. Let me put it this way—and I hope that this will avoid offending the noble Viscount: the B.B.C. has succeeded in getting a very influential conclave in both Houses of Parliament.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
My noble friend must not use every word in a generic sense, otherwise he will be using a terminological inexactitude. There has been no action by the B.B.C. in this matter at all I must insist upon that because, although we are all familiar with my noble friend in this House, somebody outside might take him seriously.
§ EARL WINTERTON
I am much obliged to my noble friend for what is one of his typically courteous interventions. I will at once, if it is felt wounding to opponents of the Bill to say that the B.B.C. has exercised any direct or indirect interference, withdraw. But I shall still make my point. My point is this. I am seriously concerned, and so are many others who support the Government on this Bill, at the trend of opinion among those who are opposing it. It seems to me that the opponents of the Bill have got it into their heads that at this distance of time, after all that has happened in the last war and all that we have fought for, it is right and proper that some authority, preferably one of the highest intellectual character, should lay down what is right for the people to see and hear. That is the impression that has been put upon the minds of many of us who are supporting the Bill. All the arguments have been to that end. It is not the public who are to choose; it is not even public opinion outside this House, because, as I say, public opinion outside this House is more or less neutral. It is a small body of people who are to say what shall be seen and what shall be heard. I regard that as a wrong idea.
§ EARL WINTERTON
No. I am sorry that the Archbishop's question has rather lengthened my speech. I thought that he was a little unfair on the programme contractors. It was not necessarily the programme contractors. I was not referring to them. The general trend of the argument has been: "The B.B.C. is an admirable institution. Let it remain 371 so. If people want to hear something different they ought not to, because the B.B.C. knows what is best for them. The B.B.C. is far too modest to say so. After all, look at how many distinguished men in this House and outside it have been connected with the B.B.C. Look at the immense number of people who have worked for it, and see what a fine record it has." All that is true; but is there any logical reason in this democratic country why there should not be an alternative? That question has never been answered. We may say that this is a bad Bill, and we may want another Bill; but none of the opponents of the Bill has come out boldly with the statement that we agree that it is wrong that the B.B.C. should have a monopoly.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
The noble Earl talks about those who oppose the Bill, but I explicitly said in my speech that this new Authority will be a rival university, and I saw no reason at all why there should not be a rival university. I did not argue at all against the existence of another corporation or another authority. The noble Earl must not say that all the opponents of this Bill are against a duplicate system.
§ EARL JOWITT
If I may say a word here, I said something to the same effect. I said that if the I.T.A. was entrusted with running the programmes, I should not regard this Bill as a serious matter.
§ EARL WINTERTON
I am glad to hear that. We have advanced some distance since the last debate. In the unlikely event of the defeat of this Bill, I hope that the noble Lords opposite, the most reverend Primate and others will provide some alternative system.
The trend of speeches, and of leading articles and other articles supporting the opposition to the Bill, is, if I may use a vernacular expression, that "Daddy knows best"; that it is not for the public to know what they want: it is for some other authority. I disagree with that view. The most reverend Primate in his speech made far too much reference to the educational value of television. If we really take that attitude in this illogical country, I say, with the greatest deference to the most reverend Primate, that he must go very much further and 372 say what the people shall read as well. The most reverend Primate and I will be together in this: that we deplore some of the filthy stuff that appears in the Sunday newspapers; but he has never suggested that there should be a censorship on the Press. The argument of "public opinion" has constantly been used. I respectfully agree with the Church view there: that that should be redressed and that public opinion should be the arbiter in this matter. If public opinion likes the alternative programmes, it will listen to them. If it does not, it will not listen to them. Similarly, when these programmes come from overseas, as they will do, it will be public opinion which will decide. It is thoroughly undemocratic to refuse to pass this Bill unless the opponents of it are prepared to put a better Bill in its place.
§ 5.9 p.m.
§ LORD SIMON OF WYTHENSHAWE
My Lords, I do not feel capable of replying to the many frivolous remarks that fell from the last speaker about the B.B.C. I hope that it is quite clear from the noble Earl's remarks that he has never read the Beveridge Report. If he would care to read that Report, he would get very much better answers to all the points he raised. However, I should like to thank him for one thing, and only one thing, in his speech: he was the first speaker to refer to the United States, apart from the Postmaster General, who began the debate by saying that it was quite impossible to learn anything from the United States in this matter. He even went so far as to say that it was not possible to make an honest attempt to do so. I am sure he did not quite mean what he said. My last speech here was devoted to that very point and, with your Lordships' permission, I propose again to devote my speech mainly to what we can learn from the United States in this matter.
The organisation of broadcasting in the United States is almost identical with the organisation put forward in the Bill that is before us to-day. In the Bill, there are three bodies concerned with broadcasting: there are the advertisers, the station owners or controllers (known here as "programme contractors"), and the I.T.A., which is a public service body with certain powers of control. In the United States there are exactly the same 373 three bodies—the advertisers, the stations, and the Federal Communications Commission (to put it shortly, the F.C.C.), a public service body which licenses stations and has the responsibility of controlling the quality of the programmes, for which purpose it has the right to withdraw licences. The difference is that in this country we have no experience whatever of commercial broadcasting. In America there are 3,000 sound commercial stations and 300 television commercial stations, and the F.C.C. has been at work for twenty-eight years. In spite of this difference, the Postmaster General—I cannot quite understand him—says that he does not think we can learn anything from America. I understand that he has not even seen any programmes there, as I have done on two occasions.
That situation amazes me, because every competent concern that I know of, especially in engineering, is doing the kind of thing the Americans do, and in view of their energy and their effectiveness, their wealth and their imagination, is constantly visiting the United States. I have been for forty years head of a highly technical engineering firm, a very competitive firm. I am not against competition in its right place. I attribute our success largely to the fact that there has been competition all over the world. Therefore I can have no prejudice against advertising. We are constantly going to America, to Germany, to France and to other countries, to see what can be learned. When I was at the B.B.C. I know that they did exactly the same thing. Administrative engineers and programme staff were constantly going over to America and were constantly learning things. After all, whilst we may not approve of the standards of much of the American programmes—and I certainly do not—their powerful networks are absolutely first-rate; their research development and their engineering are first-rate; they are highly technical and mechanical. We have much to learn from them, and I, for one, feel that they do a great deal of really first-rate work. The B.B.C. has been and is constantly visiting there. Everybody concerned with broadcasting is constantly going to America—except the Postmaster General and the Government—and I find it very difficult to understand how one can draft a Bill this sort and introduce a great new system with all sorts of dis- 374 advantages, without taking the trouble to go and study what happens in the one country where the thing is done on the largest possible scale and with the greatest possible resources.
My Lords, the point I want to stress is that the Government started eighteen months ago on their intention to introduce sponsoring. There was, as the most reverend Primate has said, a flood of protest from all educational and religious bodies and social welfare organisations. The Government, wisely and rightly, bowed to these protests, and in their White Paper, issued eighteen months later, they said it was a basic principle that there should be no sponsoring. They are to be congratulated on their courage. But they went on to say that there is a vast difference between sponsoring and broadcasting by a private enterprise station. My Lords, they have not been to America, and they have not taken the trouble to find out.
I venture to suggest that there is no difference whatever between the kind of programme that a private enterprise commercial station will put out and that which an advertising station will put out. Why should there be? Their duty is to make profits for their shareholders, and the only way to make a profit by commercial broadcasting is to gain the largest possible number of listeners or viewers. It is by getting the largest number of viewers that you get the largest number of advertisers. That is the plain and inescapable duty of the directors of any advertising firm controlling broadcasts, and any station controlling broadcasts. The result of that is that you get a great deal of bad broadcasting, as Lord Beveridge said yesterday and as I think we all know. That is the theory of the thing: that the interests of the directors of either of these two kinds of company are absolutely identical—namely, to get the largest number of listeners. There can surely be no doubt about that.
What is the practice in the United States? Tens of thousands of broadcasts are constantly being made, some by networks, some by station owners, some by large advertisers and some by small advertisers. You get first-class programmes rather rarely. You certainly get them from the N.B.C. and C.B.S. But you also get the most appalling programmes from many stations. I want to refer to an observation made by the late 375 Professor Angell a few years ago when he was adviser to the National Broadcasting Corporation. He was experiencing great difficulty in getting better programmes. He said that his experience was that the smaller stations were usually owned by hard-boiled businessmen, unashamedly out for all the profit they could get. It is not only the Americans who are concerned in that way; I think you will find the same thing even in the British Dominions where there is commercial broadcasting. Let me quote one case. The Royal Commission on Communications in Canada, of which the present Governor-General was Chairman, sat two or three years ago. They wrote that some of the wealthiest of the private stations have the lowest standards in programmes and show serious neglect of their obligations as part of the national system.
Well, you get the worst possible programmes from many small stations, and you get them from many advertisers. On the other hand, you do get from some advertisers first-rate programmes. The Postmaster General mentioned Unilever. Unilever is one of the two or three biggest advertisers in the United States. Every week for some years past they have had, I believe, an hour's show—a drama—on one of the big networks. These shows are rather short compared to ours, but they are very good indeed, and the B.B.C. would, I think, be glad to have many of them. So there are good and bad, although I am sorry to say that the amount of good is very limited. If one goes to New York, as I think Lord Beveridge did, and switches round the seven television programmes, one gets most disillusioned in regard to commercial broadcasting.
The Government say, and the Postmaster General said, that one of the reasons why one could not compare commercial television here with that in America is because the United States has nothing like the system of control that we envisage in this Bill. That was a very brave thing to say. The United States has the F.C.C., which has existed for twenty-eight years. It has the power to cancel licences, and it has cancelled a number of licences, though a very small number. But it is faced with a lobby—not the sort of lobby that the noble Earl, Lord Winterton, talked about, which is 376 obviously no lobby at all, but a very powerful lobby, representing all, or nearly all, the radio and television people. That lobby has a very large income, and a very large and able staff, and at the head of it is someone who again has a large personal income. It is a highly efficient lobby and it makes the life of the F.C.C., which has very moderate finances, an exceedingly difficult one. I have spoken to three of the past chairmen of the F.C.C., and I gathered that they have had the utmost difficulty. I think it is generally agreed that the F.C.C. is an ineffective body.
My noble and learned Leader, Earl Jowitt, spoke yesterday of the powers of the I.T.A. He came to the conclusion, after a pretty full analysis, that the I.T.A. have no powers whatever, and that they were really a piece of camouflage. On the face of it, by all these limitations and appeals, the I.T.A. has been made a comparatively weaker body than the F.C.C. If the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, doubts that, I wonder whether he would send somebody over to see what are the powers of the F.C.C. What we want to know is what are its duties, what are its successes and its failures and whether we can learn anything to make the Independent Television Authority a success. In the meantime no reply whatever, so far as I have heard, has been vouchsafed to what the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, said, and I think we must take it that the I.T.A. will be an exceedingly ineffective body.
In these circumstances what sort of programmes can we expect from the set-up proposed in this Bill? Clearly, the aim and hope of the directors of these commercial companies must be to emulate the success of the most successful of the popular papers with the largest circulation— not The Times but, shall we say, the Daily Mirror, which I believe has the largest circulation. The natural thing for these directors to say to their editors is: "You try to get the same sort of results and attraction in what you put over as the Daily Mirror does." A quarter of an hour every day of the Daily Mirror obviously amuses a great many people and makes them happy. But what if the television people were successfully to produce the same kind of thing, equally attractive, knowing that the average viewing of television in America (here I think it is rather less) is several hours a day and not a quarter of an hour or half an 377 hour? Watching a thing on television impresses one's memory far more than reading it in a newspaper. What is going to be the effect on the population of several hours of triviality, put over day by day in that very impressive form? Think of the deadening effect of hours and hours of that sort of thing on adults, the citizens of democracy who are going to carry on this country, and, still more, upon the children. It is to me a terrifying prospect.
It is surely clear that in the set-up we have here, if we look at it honestly as I have tried to do, there is not one scrap of reason for supposing that the programmes are going to be any better programmes than those in the United States; they may well be worse, because we have not the great, powerful organisations like the National Broadcasting Company and the Columbia Broadcasting System which are rich and strong enough to have a generous conscience and which try to do a substantial amount of educational work. That seems to me the position with this Bill and that is why I oppose it with every scrap of energy I have. For five years I had the honour to be Chairman of the B.B.C., and I am not as ashamed of it, as the noble Earl, Lord Winterton, seems to think I should be.
§ EARL W1NTERTON
I did not say the noble Lord or any other noble Lord should be ashamed. I said they should be very proud. They have in this debate the spirit of the defenders of Verdun.
§ LORD SIMON OF WYTHENSHAWE
Personally I have no doubt that the B.B.C. is the best public broadcasting service in the world—there just can be no doubt about it. It is not the opinion merely of people here. While I was at the B.B.C. I spoke to hundreds of leading authorities from all over the world. They sometimes said the B.B.C. was not quite as good as it thinks it is; but all said that the B.B.C. is very good, and they envied us and paid us the greatest possible compliment of copying us. Every one of the major European countries has the same sort of monopoly public service organisation that we have in the B.B.C. None of them manages to make it so good, for various reasons—devastation by war in their country, and so on—but they are maintaining their effort and coming on exceedingly well; and with the exception 378 of tiny countries every single one of them is faithful to the public service monopoly system. So far as I know, not a single one is even talking of introducing a commercial system.
The extraordinary thing is that the very great credit due to a Government for introducing the system in this country is entirely due to the Conservative Party. They appointed a Committee, I think in 1926, when the B.B.C. was very young, with Lord Crawford as Chairman. That Committee made what I regard as probably the wisest and most important Report that has ever been made in the history of broadcasting. It was adopted by the then Conservative Government and has been supported by every Conservative Government and every other Government up to the present day. It seems to me little less than tragic that the present Government should finally decide to abandon the principle which their predecessors have so unanimously, so successfully, and with such great benefit to the country, imposed on broadcasting; and that they should hand over these powers to somebody who is out to make a profit. I was very much impressed, as I am sure all your Lordships were, by the speech of the most reverend Primate. He had the courage to say, even at this late hour, that this evil thing surely cannot be. He made a suggestion that the Bill either should be withdrawn or should be drastically amended, and with great ingenuity suggested that only two words need be changed to turn a very bad Bill into a Bill which would give this country a second public corporation which could compete on something like equal terms with the B.B.C. May I, with all the power and earnestness I possess, beg the Government to pay due regard to the most reverend Primate's proposals.
§ 5.27 p.m.
§ LORD HORE-BELISHA
My Lords, if I am impelled to intervene in this debate between two opponents of the Bill, it is only for the purpose of securing, if not a balanced programme, at least a balanced debate. I have not had the privilege, as have most of your Lordships, of listening to the protracted discussions which over a long period of time nave taken place in your Lordships' House. I come new to this matter, and it seems to me that the issue is now narrowed to very simple proportions. Do 379 we wish to establish this particular Authority, with powers as defined in the Bill or as may be amended in Committee; or do we wish to leave a complete monopoly with the B.B.C.? That is the issue in the clearest possible terms. Yesterday, at any rate, the issue was between those who believed that any alternative programme should be provided by the B.B.C. and those who held that any such programme should be provided by a new Authority. To-day, however, the difference is less wide. The most reverend Primate is quite prepared to have this new Authority, subject to the Amendments which he has defined. So we have to consider what the viewer is to expect from this Authority.
What is apprehended? That is what I want to know, and I rise in an inquisitive and not an assertive spirit. I should like to ask my noble friend Lord Hailsham, who is to be the last of the speakers against this Bill, exactly what it is that is apprehended. It is not enough to make vague suggestions. It is not enough to put a general slur on this non- existent body. We ought to know what it is precisely that it is thought will come about if this Authority is established. What will be the nature of the programmes? In what respect will they differ from the programmes we now have? Will there be lowbrow variety? We have that now. Will there be light- hearted parlour games? We have those now. Will there be macabre crime plays? We have those now. Will the Sunday be desecrated? This institution, which the most reverend Primate defends with such sincerity and eloquence, devoted an hour and a half last Sunday to a racing programme.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
I am sorry to intervene again, but I did not defend the B.B.C. I never referred to any defence. In my speech, I said that I was perfectly happy to have an alternative to it.
§ LORD HORE-BELISHA
It is an extremely important admission, because if all the most reverend Primate wishes to 380 do is to amend the Bill, his duty, I would submit, is to vote for the Second Reading or at least to allow the Motion for the Second Reading to pass.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
I accept the challenge. If the Government will assure me that they accept the Amendment which I propose, I will vote for the Second Reading.
§ LORD HORE-BELISHA
The most reverend Primate wishes to put the cart before the horse. The time for him to be given a decision on a particular Amendment will be when the Committee stage is reached. What I am asking the most reverend Primate and others who take this point is, what is it that will degrade our standards of television under this new Authority from those which exist to-day? As I have said, last Sunday we had horse racing, and if the most reverend Primate had not interrupted me at that moment I should have told him that following the horse racing there was a football match. I do not say that these things in themselves are bad, but that was what we had from the existing television Authority, and I think we should be told what is this high standard that has to be preserved. How will the new Authority differ?
Again, who are these people who are to corrupt the people's minds or manners? I have always thought that the great industrialists who head or have headed our enterprises are men of elevated taste and aspiration—men who have done very much to raise educational and ethical standards generally. Only this morning I read that Lord Nuffield, in addition to his other munificent benefactions, had established a day hospital for old people. There are the Rhodes Scholarships at Oxford. There is the new college at Oxford recently founded by Mr. Besse. There is the Courtauld Institute. There is the Rockefeller Foundation. There are the Carnegie Pensions. Wherever you look in the world you find great industrialists, not seeking to depress the moral and educative standards of the countries in which they live, but to raise them. I think it is quite unworthy to suggest that these new programme contractors are going to come under the influence of a number of ex-criminals or Borstal boys who will corrupt our existing standards.
381 I agree with the most reverend Primate that television is a form of education—a university as he described it. But when we have said that, we have not said anything very original except that we are enlarging our definition of education. Merely to state that is not to destroy the case for this Bill. If the most reverend Primate thinks that the Authority has not enough power to put on practical educational programmes, whether in the schools or elsewhere, that surely can be a matter for discussion and compromise. No one is trying to deprive the British public of anything—whether the adult public or the juvenile public. Everyone approaches this matter with the desire to get the best possible results from a great invention.
Only one new argument has been put forward to-day, and that was put forward in the impressive speech of the noble Viscount. Lord Waverley. He said that it is monstrous, or it is wrong, to spend money on a new Television Authority, because the money is required for research. We are behindhand, I understood him to say. That is part of the case for this Bill—we are very much behindhand. America has the lead of us in some aspects of technological or electronic invention or practice. America did not achieve that lead by maintaining a single broadcasting corporation. If America is in the lead it is because of the great spread-out of this industry all over the country and of the vast number of brains and persons it enlists. If, by what is proposed in this Bill, we can enlarge our technological personnel and our manufacture of these instruments, surely we shall stand some chance of getting into the lead which America now holds. Therefore, while it would be impertinent to repeat any of the other arguments addressed to your Lordships, I will content myself with voting for this Bill for the very reason which the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, advances against it, and I will appeal to the most reverend Primate to allow this Bill to pass so that we may have the great advantage of hearing specifically and in detail something of those constructive proposals which I am sure he is ready to advance to your Lordships.
§ 5.37 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
My Lords, there was one argument which appeared in the speech of my noble friend who has just concluded his remarks which I thought was hardly up to the level of the rest. That was the argument that we had something to reproach ourselves with in this country for not having kept up to the American lead in technical advance, and that that lead in American technical advance had something to do with the structure of American broadcasting as against our own. I beg your Lordships to dismiss that argument from your minds as utterly absurd. The American lead was gained during the war, whilst the electronic industry in this country had other and more important things to do, and there can be no doubt that whatever technical position now obtains between this country and the United States, this country, in an era of peace and prosperity, will recapture the lead which rightly belongs to it in the field of research and pioneering. Therefore, I say, with respect, and I say it earnestly, that the remarks with which my noble friend ended were hardly up to the level of the rest of his otherwise admirable address.
Numerous Members of your Lordships' House have complained that there was little new to say about this subject. I am in the happy position, I think, of not being expected to say anything new. The winder-up of a debate is not charged with that office. It is, as I understand it, his relatively humble function to assemble and discuss the various points of view which have been put with greater eloquence and force than he can command, to consider how far they ought to command acceptance, and to consider to what conclusion they ought to lead. But before I address myself to that task I have to say that I have been charged with a duty by the noble Earl, Lord Halifax. He has asked me to apologise to the noble Earl who will, I understand, reply for the Government and to your Lordships because he has had to leave the Chamber before the end of the debate. He desires that I shall tell your Lordships that he did not intend any discourtesy. I feel sure that your Lordships will agree with me when I say that the noble Earl's long service to the public entitles him to indulgence in this respect.
When the Postmaster General opened his case yesterday, he said, with every 383 appearance of sincerity, that the Government had shown that they had been prepared to go out of their way to understand the point of view of those who opposed this measure. That, at least, I can confidently assert the Government have never done. If he had said that they had sincerely tried to satisfy us with concessions—the value of which I shall presently discuss—I should have agreed with him. But "tried to understand our objections"—certainly not. Of course, that is our fault. It is no good complaining in this world about being misunderstood, unless one seeks to arouse sympathy, rather than conviction. We could not have said it often enough; we could not have said it simply enough; and we must try once more, even at this late hour, to say it again.
My noble friend, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, twitting us with not understanding some of the arguments for the Government, said that we had hearts of gold and heads of ivory. The very subtle point which this master of debate was seeking to urge upon us is that hearts of gold do not beat and heads of ivory do not think. But ivory is a substance altogether too hard to describe the inspissate incomprehension with which our whole argument has been treated. We want something very much softer than that to describe the minds of Ministers. A thin mucus of liquefied indiarubber, something which constantly flows back to channels from which it has been industriously brushed, would be more like it. And this invincible ignorance, which undoubtedly will save their souls, although it certainly damns their case, was nowhere better exemplified than in the first sentences of the noble Earl's address in moving the Second Reading of the Bill. He said, with the pontifical assurance of someone who discovers a profound truth for the first time, a profound truth which is utterly conclusive of the matter under discussion, that no one would agree to a single corporation being the sole source of all the plays in the theatres in this country, or one sole corporation the sole source for all the films and cinemas in this country, or one which was the sole possessor of the newspapers of this country. It is all very discouraging.
My noble friend Lord Halifax has tried to say; the noble Viscount, Lord 384 Waverley, has tried to say; the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, has tried to say; the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, has certainly said it very well, and the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge—we have all tried to say that this is a misleading analogy. We do not complain that the Government do not agree with us, but surely we are entitled to be a little plaintive when the same old, dreary fallacy is trundled out again by Minister after Minister, as if none of us had ever spoken at all, without the smallest attempt to answer any one of our arguments. I am not going to do it again. I did it on the last occasion, for which I was accused by the noble Earl, Lord Winterton, of using an elephant gun to kill a fly. Therefore this time I will not try to show all the faults in that analogy. I will content myself with two rather simple comments upon it.
The first is this. This analogy with the theatre, cinema and newspapers, is not so very difficult to think of that it has escaped us all this time. If we had been so stupid as not to see it all this time, it really is not so very difficult that thirty years of successive Governments, instituting and supporting the B.B.C., could not have thought of it all that time. And if the thirty years of successive Conservative Governments had been so stupid that they could not understand the point all that time, it is altogether improbable that four successive Committees appointed by those Governments to investigate the very subject would have not thought of it at all, when in point of fact the subject was exhaustively discussed before these four Committees. What I complain of is not so much that the Government and their supporters disagree with the findings, for instance, of the Committee over which the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, presided, and whose Report is available to them in this very connection. It is not so much that they disagree with or reject that Report, but that there is not the smallest evidence of their ever having read it. It really is a little much for my noble friend Lord Hore-Belisha, at the end of a two-days' debate, to ask me to explain to him once more what a little primary research by himself would have revealed in rather less than half-an-hour before the debate began.
I venture to make one more comment to this supposed analogy. I shall not 385 any more try to correct my noble friends. I shall try only to improve the analogy a little bit, try to put it a little less wrong than it was when they stated it. Of course, I concede that no one in this House, or no responsible person in the country, would want to see a single source of stage plays for the theatre. But suppose that there was only one theatre in the country on which stage plays could be presented at all. That is not, as a matter of fact, so fanciful an analogy. After all, the plays of Aeschylus, Euripides and Sophocles were all presented in such a theatre. I venture to think that it would be a matter of considerable dispute whether that theatre should not be controlled by a public trust. In Athens, they even made the actors public servants, in order that the various rival dramatists could put on their plays with equal chance of success in fair competition
To take the analogy a little further, suppose that in a country where there was only one theatre, it was proposed to build another next year, with the possible chance of having a third, if we were lucky, in two or three years' time, and everything that went on the stage had to be put on in one of these three theatres. Suppose that the Government of the day thereupon said, with smug assurance, that when we build our second theatre no one will be allowed to put a play on in that theatre unless he is prepared to have an advertisement for toothpaste between the acts, and no one will be allowed to put a play on in that second theatre unless the play is first paid for by somebody whose whole income comes from the advertising of the products which are going to be advertised between the acts. I venture to think, with respect to the Postmaster General, that such a proposal would be greeted with a yell of derision, until it was discovered that the Government were serious: and then it would be greeted with a yell of execration.
And if the Government spokesman, with a superior, aristocratic smile, then went on to say, "Well, of course you are perfectly free. You need not go to the second theatre. Stick to one. You may want two, but you cannot have them. If you want a second play, you must take what we think is good for you," I think they would get a certain 386 amount of criticism. We should find, those of us who did not accept their altitude, that such a response was both offensive and arrogant, to use words in their plain and unmistakable sense. If then, having taken that offensive and arrogant position, they were to say that they took it in the name of freedom, under the pretence of giving people what they wanted, then we should say that they had added intellectual perversity to their crimes to a degree almost bordering on insanity.
That is not so far different from the present situation. The Government know that viewers in this country want a second programme. They tell viewers, "You may not listen to the second programme unless you welcome advertisements into your home and unless you have the programmes which are paid for entirely out of revenue of advertisements"—with one trifling exception which I shall examine in a moment. Having told the viewers that, the Government smugly tell us that we are making people look at what we think is good for them. They smugly tell us that we have the right to turn off the knob and do without the second programme altogether if we do not like it. And they say that, claiming to have engraved upon their banner the glorious emblems of Milton's Areopagitica and of British freedom. If it were not a trifle ludicrous, 1 think that it would be an extremely serious intellectual position for the Government to take.
That leads me straight on to what I have to say about advertisements. Four, five, six noble Lords have alleged that we think there is a conspiracy of advertisers; that the commercial people in this country are so wicked that they would debase and debauch the taste of the country. We have the noble Lord, Lord Bennett of Edgbaston, almost in tears at the supposed insult to his colleagues; the noble Lord, Lord Layton, working himself up into a pother about the chocolate manufacturers with whom he is so honourably' associated, and the noble Earl, Lord Winterton; all round the Chamber noble Lords have said that British commerce is being attacked and the good name and integrity of British business is at issue—tremendous enthusiasm for a totally imaginary cause.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
How can I put it in language which my noble friend will understand? Before the war there was a man, ingenious and enterprising—and perhaps my noble friend will forgive me for saying, possibly a little misguided—who hit upon the ingenious idea of using the sky as a medium of advertisement. So he put a little smoke pot on the exhaust of his Piper Cub, and he started to write advertising slogans on the sky. Everybody was up in arms. They legislated—they legislated here; and the only criticism I have ever heard of that legislation was that it may not have gone far enough. No one suggested that an attack was being made upon advertising as an institution simply because we did not wish to sec "Toothpaste" written upon the empyrean. No one for a moment thought that it was being patriarchal; it was simply that we did not want advertisements in the sky. Nobody was silly enough to suggest that legislation was not necessary because, as my noble friend Lord Moyne pointed out, if the medium is effective, advertisers, whether they agree politically with the medium or not, are bound by the force of competition to employ it. It was that we did not want advertisements in the sky.
Now we are discussing the question whether we want, on the one second programme available to us on television, advertisements in the home. That is a question which I think is open to debate. But it is altogether to confuse counsel to suggest that men like the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, or the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, great public servants in public and in political life, who, certainly in the case of Lord Halifax, has given his whole life to the service of the Conservative Party, are really engaged in some kind of diabolical indictment against the friends of Lord Bennett and Lord Layton, the advertisers and men of business. The thing is so preposterous that one does not know how to deal with it.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
I did not say he was. It is such an unreal kind of argument that one does not know how 388 to begin to refute it. What the Government are saying is: "You have got to invite the advertisement on television into the home or do without a second programme." We regard that as arrogant and oppressive. When they go on to say: "And what you listen to on that programme, apart from the advertisements, will be paid for by the advertisers," we regard that as extremely foolish, and bad broadcasting, in principle.
My noble friend Lord Hore-Belisha says: "What is it that you apprehend?" Again, I will try, in language which my noble friend will understand, to say what it is that we do apprehend. It can be stated in a single sentence. You do not give people what they want by aiming at the highest common factor of what they will put up with. That is the case against the Bill. I hope that has penetrated the wool; you do not give people what they want by giving them the highest common factor of what they will put up with.
§ EARL WINTERTON
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Viscount, but he has constantly referred to a Peer who he appears to think is below the average intelligence of your Lordships' House. Perhaps he would distinguish a little more clearly to whom he is referring. We are able to understand the noble Viscount and, if I may say so, we could understand him quite well if he spoke in a less violent voice.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
I am glad that my noble friend can understand me, because that is exactly what I was aiming at. What I was endeavouring to say—I am pleased to know with such notable success—was that when people are advertising a product, and use television as the medium for advertising, they are not so much concerned to give people what they want, as to have at the time of the advertisement the largest viewing audience. The fallacy of the Government's case is to suppose that those two things are necessarily the same. They are not. I must say that the smallest reflection about the nature of the broadcasting medium ought to convince noble Lords that they are not. I am not trying now to be patriarchal; I do not know what they ought to want; but according to my conviction, after the first honeymoon of television, when they look 389 at anything, is over, what they want is a series of programmes which really satisfies them. It may well be that in each one of these programmes they are a tiny minority. This is not an issue of highbrow against lowbrow. You can be as lowbrow—I will not say as what, but you may be a stamp-collector, or a listener to the Third Programme, like my noble friend opposite, or you may be a pigeon fancier, or an allotment holder, and you will still want a programme on the alternative medium that is to be put on television which really satisfies.
The aim of the advertiser is of necessity not to give the people their first choice, but to give them as many second choices as possible. The real vice of commercial television is not that it is lowbrow, but that, of necessity, it aims at giving the maximum number of people something they do not really want, but which they are just prepared to listen to. The case against this Bill is not that it will degenerate the programme, in the sense that it will debauch public taste at the instance of the chocolate manufacturers, but that advertisement, as such, is a bad way of financing programmes. I had thought when I entered this Chamber yesterday afternoon that that simple proposition was now agreed, although the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, in the first of our debates, advocated with boyish enthusiasm the whole principles and practice of sponsorship. I must say it was the most unfair attack that I have ever heard to suggest that he was reading a Government brief; he brought to the speech a freshness and boyishness of mind which revealed not only perfect sincerity, but a considerable degree of naivety. Our objection to this Bill is not that we are trying to tell people what they ought to want. We are trying to get a system which is concerned with giving them what they do want, and we believe, as a matter of fact, that commercial television does not do that.
I do not want to say anything hard about the American system. I would agree with the noble Lord opposite that they have a great deal to teach us in many respects. But I could not help noticing in a recent American periodical that a listener research survey was conducted as to what both the highbrows and the lowbrows thought of the com- 390 mercial television that they have. Since so many noble Lords supporting the Government have accused us of trying to give the people, not what they want, but what they ought to want, I should like to tell noble Lords what it was that American viewers thought of their own system. First, there is the highbrow research. They declared that television commercials infuriated, bored, irritated, deceived the public and destroyed their own value, and they were characterised as:demoralizing, exaggerated, trite, interrupting, poorly-timed, juvenile, anti-social, monotonous, repulsive and insulting to the viewer's intelligence.No doubt they were the authoritarians, the patriarchs, as the noble Marquess, Lord Linlithgow, called us yesterday. But what did the lowbrows think? A second query circulated in equal numbers among members of four vocations—bar and tavern keepers, barbers, beauticians (I apologise for the word) and butchers—in thirteen widely scattered cities of varied size brought almost identical responses. Americans, whatever their station, or profession, resented television commercials. Criticisms were vigorous:Nerve-racking, big-mouthed and low, cheap, noisy, unutterably silly, air of limburger, boring, lying, unscrupulous, too much borax and bunk, and too much yak-yak about nothing.If I had employed such language about the Government's Bill which they are trying to put upon viewers in this country, in the only alternative which we are to be permitted to view under a Conservative Administration. I suppose I should have been accused by my noble friend of employing not an elephant gun but a blunderbuss. Is it to be said that this system is really giving the people what they want, and that those who feel some doubts about welcoming it into their homes are really the reactionaries, the patriarchs and the authoritarians that Government supporters would have led your Lordships to think in this debate?
I come to the next point—variety of choice. Here, again, I feel it incumbent upon me to refer to the speech of the Lord Chancellor in the previous debate as an example of what I do not agree with. In it he says (OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 184. col. 672) that if an alternate programmemeans only an alternative programme supplied by the B.B.C. itself, I think it is … meaningless.391 That is precisely where I join issue with the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack and with the Government. If you have only two programmes available, the essential thing is, as the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, said yesterday, that they should be as unlike one another as possible. When you have a cricket match on one programme you may want a serious piece of music on the other. What you do want—and I am not talking about what you ought to want, but about what people actually do want—is to have something which affords real and genuine choice between two things utterly dissimilar in character, and not a competition between two things each trying to present the same kind of programme in opposition and trying to capture the same maximum audience. It is precisely because the Government principle is designed not to do that that it can never provide an adequate service on two media only, or even on three. It is only if there is some kind of co-operation (whether you have unity of control, as I should prefer, or two or more public corporations, as many of my noble friends quite understandably want, is of no importance), it is only where you have co-operation in the matter of programmes, and not commercial competition, that, with two media only, you can give an effective variety of choice. It is only on that pragmatic around and not because I favour a system of authoritarianism that I find it essential to oppose this Bill.
May I say a word or two about this question of freedom which seems to have puzzled my noble friend, Lord Milverton, and others, so much so that they thought freedom was in issue in this debate. Well, in a sense it is, and I undertake to show—at least, I hope I shall show—that so far from freedom being in issue in the sense that my noble friends mean, there will be a restriction of freedom and of artistic discussion if the Bill is carried, which would not take place if it were rejected. By "freedom," I suppose we mean freedom of religious and political thought and freedom of artistic expression. Those are the main things which are in question when one is discussing a medium of discussion, education or entertainment. On religious and political thought, no serious question really arises. The Government may fail in their inten- 392 tions. The right reverend Prelate, the Lord Bishop of Bristol, and the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, gave reasons which I share for doubting whether they will succeed. But give them the credit for succeeding, and what the Government are attempting to establish by this Bill is nothing more nor less than exactly the same religious and political freedom of expression as exists on the B.B.C., controlled, in fact, by the same organism, the Central Religious Advisory Council, or its twin brother, and in politics by the rules regarding freedom of discussion provided that both sides are put on the air. No one can suggest that in that respect, if it is successful, there will be any difference or any widening of the area of discussion if this Bill is passed. To this extent the Government are concerned with nothing so much as to provide another little B.B.C. and not a new kind of commercial television.
Therefore, I must say that it is astonishing that noble Lords, from the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack downwards, should have worked themselves up into an enthusiasm about freedom of religious and political discussion in a matter in which it ought not to be in question or in peril at all. Of course, in truth and in fact, when you have only two media of expression available, when there are only two programmes—or possibly three, after two or three years—freedom is automatically limited to some extent; but the new Authority or the B.B.C. or both are not in the position of patriarchs trying to tell people what they should or should not say. They are in the position of policemen trying to clear a small space so that as many people as possible can get into it and try to put their views forward within it as freely as possible. When we come to artistic freedom, something more is involved, and, in my judgment at least, the most reverend Primate was right when he pointed out that by imposing this system upon us, as they are endeavouring to do, the Government are removing an editorial responsibility and creating a censorship. In all forms of artistic expression it is censorship which kills, and a live, responsible editor who gives life.
Now just look at the Bill. Let us look at the censor and his powers. I 393 will give only one extract because it happens to come first. Clause 3 (1) says:It shall be the duty of the Authority to satisfy themselves that, so far as possible, the programmes broadcast by the Authority comply with the following requirements, that is to say—(a) that the tone and style of the programmes are predominantly British.Have such nonsensical words of censorship ever been introduced into an Act of Parliament? This is barbarous, illiterate, cretinous, philistine nonsense, without the benefit of the Parliamentary draftsman. Some analphabete on the Government Benches thought of this thing before ever the Bill saw the light of day. Is Father Christmas predominantly British in style and tone? His clothes come from behind the Iron Curtain, his sleigh from Norway and his animals from Lapland. Are we to retain Shakespeare under this rubric, who borrowed so extensively from the Italians that he even copied their names?
This is not a provision provided in order to safeguard British artists—there is a separate clause designed for that. This is sheer artistic censorship, of the worst possible kind. Culture is international. European culture is based not upon this island but upon the whole Continent of Europe, and upon the Christian religion. It is in vain that the Government, by these foolish illiterate pieces of legislation, try to impose a censorship, simply because they have created an animal which even they do not trust. The correct way of ensuring freedom or artistic expression is to create an authority like the B.B.C., which, by and large, people do trust, and then not to impose upon it the duty of censorship but to give it the responsibility and freedom of editors. It is because I believe in freedom of artistic expression, amongst other things which I equally hold to be good, that I regard this as a vicious Bill which is wholly contrary to the tradition of British liberty.
I turn from freedom and censorship to the question of monopoly. The noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, was quite right at the beginning of this debate when he said that it is a little naïve to suggest that the argument which was rightly presented against the activities of the Stuart Kings, when they tried to give a trading franchise to a single merchant which gave him a privilege over his fellows, should apply to a great public service. That is 394 not to say that I have suddenly been converted to Socialism. There are grave arguments against public services in economic life. I accept these arguments, but nothing but confusion of counsel is to be gained from uttering parrot cries as if they determined the whole issue.
This Bill does not destroy a monopoly; it creates a new monopoly. You do not destroy one monopoly by creating two. The B.B.C. continues to exist with its entirely monopolistic franchise. I know that noble Lords wish to make the point that a monopoly in principle involves one thing, and one thing only. Believe me, that is a very simple point which I had thought of, but not a very good one.
§ A NOBLE LORD: Then why make it?
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
You do not break a monopoly by creating two bodies, each with an exclusive franchise, neither competing with the other. It is not the absence of monopoly; it is the duplication of monopoly. I have heard many arguments of an ideological kind since I began politics, but I have never heard an argument seriously presented in favour of what I might call "duopoly." In fact, very serious monopolies are certainly created by this Bill—is possible, at least, that some very serious ones may be created by it. I myself was profoundly disturbed by the evasive answer which was given by the Postmaster General to the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, yesterday, and I was not in the least reassured by my noble Leader in his attitude about the same question to-day. We know that the Government have been under heavy pressure from those whose business it will be to provide the programmes, to grant one of the area stations to one programme contractor only for a considerable period of time.
That is not the way to break a monopoly. In place of a great public service, it is erecting the statue of the tycoon all over the land. It is creating a chain of local monopolies. You do not break a monopoly by erecting a chain of local monoplies. I will come in a moment to some of the practical evils which will follow if this course is, in fact, adopted, but I must say here and now, that, quite apart from the local tycoons whom it is proposed to erect, under the guise of programme contractors, we are going to give a monopoly of presenting programmes on the alterna- 395 tive wavelength to the people with the largest purse, provided entirely out of advertisements. The advertiser as a class has a monopoly of broadcasting which is denied to any other section of the community. You do not break monopoly in that way.
That leads me to the alleged powers of the Authority. The Authority may provide the equipment of studios. It may provide them, but whereas it is entitled, under Clause 2 (1) (a), to use broadcasting stations, there is no provision that it may use the studios which it has equipped. It may not provide the programmes except in the very remote possibility envisaged by the most reverend Primate. It may not own the studios; it may not take the studios; it may not provide programmes. Yet it is upon this body, almost without power and without broadcasting facilities or experience, that the duty devolves of ensuring that the programme contractors do their business. What sanctions are they given? To fine, as it is called, the programme contractor, a maximum of £500—a flea-bite when dealing with modern advertising. Can this great Authority whom you are trusting with this great new responsibility determine the programme contractor's contract? They cannot—at least not at first. The programme contractor, unlike a dog, is to be given three bites, and, however serious the breach, not until then can his contract be determined. Is that trusting the Independent Television Authority?
There is one point which the noble Earl opposite failed to make yesterday upon which I must say I place some reliance. When they recover their so-called fine or penalty of £500, where do they proceed? The Postmaster General tells us that, in order not to be judge and jury in their own case, they go to arbitration. He could have gone straight round to the Lord Chancellor, who would have told him what rubbish that is. What is wrong with Her Majesty's judges? Why cannot the penalty be recovered in the courts, if the programme contractor says that there has been no breach of contract? I will tell your Lordships why, if the Postmaster General cannot. It is because arbitration is secret and because the courts are public. They have taken a privileged class of contract breakers out of the law of the land. They have pro- 396 vided a secret tribunal to adjudge whether they have broken their contract or not, and that they do in the name of the glorious palladium of liberty erected by our forefathers. It is in fact a secret form of privilege devised in the interests of those people who have interests to serve and who have succeeded in deceiving a singularly gullible Administration.
There is one other aspect of the case that I should mention, though before I do so, I will say this. My noble friend the Postmaster General claimed it as a virtue of his Bill that a concession had been made by the provision of £750,000 a year; that was said to be some concession to the most reverend Primate. I cannot think that the most reverend Primate ought to be grateful for that. What the most reverend Primate was objecting to was that the programmes should be financed wholly out of advertisements. They remain financed wholly out of advertisements. The one thing upon which the £750,000 cannot be spent, under the Bill as it has emerged from Committee in another place, is upon financing the programmes, the ordinary programmes provided by the programme contractor. These are to be paid for entirely out of the advertisements. What the £750,000 is going to pay for we do not know, because the Government have not been prepared to tell us; but we know one thing that it cannot pay for, and that is the programme towards which the most reverend Primate asked us that it should contribute.
I turn to the constitutional issue. No one who has taken any part in public life wants to press the doctrine of mandate too far. Governments must govern and do, under their responsibility to Parliament and to the people, what they think is in the public interest. But it is really a little naive to say, with the splendid eloquence that the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, used: "It does not matter that we did not put it in our Election programme. It does not matter at all. This is a dynamic society, and a great deal has happened in three years. We are entitled to do something which we never conceived of doing then." Nothing has happened relative to this issue in the last three years. The Beveridge Report was already out; Britain had already for thirty years been administered under what is called a monopoly of broadcasting. If the Government had harboured 397 the intention of introducing a revolutionary principle into our broadcasting system, it was merely playing with popular opinion not to put it in an Election programme. This is a disreputable piece of chicanery, and it can be described in no other language. It is not simply the absence of a mandate; it is a deliberate concealment, so far as one can judge, of a vital element in a political programme, which either was, or ought to have been, well within the contemplation of the leaders of the Party at the time of the General Election.
It has been put through another place when everyone knows that, on a free vote, it would have been rejected. It has been put through another place by the operation of the guillotine procedure. I remember how, when we were in Opposition, we fought that Labour Government of 1945 for introducing that same procedure—with very much better justification, for they, at least, had a commanding majority; they, at least, were legislating the items in their policy which they had put before the electorate. But this time, in order to put through a measure which could not be put through on a free vote, the Government are legislating something which they have deliberately kept away from the electorate. The difference between the Government and myself appears to be that when I was in Opposition and I objected to the guillotine, I meant what I said; the Government were only play-acting.
My Lords, this is alleged to be a Conservative measure. I listened with great interest yesterday to the telling speech of the noble Marquess, Lord Linlithgow. He described himself as a "thinking Tory." He gave a diverting and rather alarming account of his dietetic excesses. I think I can remember to within a syllable or two what he said. He said, as a thinking Tory, that it did not matter whether the Government got a mandate or not, because thinking Tories could be counted upon to vote against the Government and for the individual any day of the week. I prefer the more traditional criteria of the doctrine and policy of our Party. I would seriously commend to the noble Marquess a more fundamental research into its history and principles. If he made this research it would not be long 398 before he came across the name of the Earl of Beaconsfield, who said, if I mistake not, that the Conservative Party is national or it is nothing. Is this a national measure?—a measure which is condemned by the great stream of religious and educational opinion, by men of service to the State, like my noble friend Lord Waverley, or the chairman of the Committee which sat upon this particular subject, the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, or Lord Samuel, or Lord Halifax? I repeat, is a national measure?
I had thought that the Conservative Party was a constitutional Party. Is this a constitutional measure, brought forward without a mandate, in circumstances which I have described, by the use of the political machinery now available to the Government in another place? We are supposed to be an empirical Party. Is it the policy of empiricism to undermine the system of broadcasting which has worked well for thirty years, and about which the Government cannot say a single evil word in their speeches to-day? We were supposed to be a Conservative Party. Is it the policy of Conservatism to overthrow the work of about six successive Conservative Governments and to destroy the essential principle of one of our great British institutions? I know that many of your Lordships have come, as I have often come, in summons to Parliament to support the Government on the Second Reading of a Bill. I only beg your Lordships to examine the arguments impartially. I believe that this Bill should be rejected by a Conservative majority. It will do the Government no harm to have a rebuff at the hands of the House of Lords. It will do the 1922 Committee, which has been getting out of hand lately, a great deal of good. Your Lordships' House has suffered for many years under the reproach (I believe an unjust reproach) of being only an instrument in the hands of the Conservative Party. Reject this evil, mischievous, ill-considered Bill and that reproach will be for ever overcome; and, in addition, an evil will have been averted, the full consequences and mischief of which may still be apparent only to a very few.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ THE PAYMASTER GENERAL (THE EARL OF SELKIRK)
My Lords, I think your Lordships will all agree with me in two things: one is, that it is great fun to listen to Lord Hailsham at any time, especially as he is a television star; and the other is that this subject has been well and adequately ventilated, and accordingly I will make my remarks as short as I possibly can. But there are a number of points which have been put to the Government to which I am afraid I shall have to reply. First of all, it has been stated, I think by the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, among others, that the B.B.C. would be maimed under this scheme. I do not think that the B.B.C. will in any way suffer by this Bill. The only danger to it will be that it will be in exactly the same position as any other monopoly in face of new competition. If I may put it in this way, it will require an organisation of some courage to enter into the same field as the B.B.C., which already has great experience and, if I may say so, very high technical standards.
The B.B.C. is having its resources increased substantially over the next few years. If this scheme is a success, more people will buy licences, and the B.B.C. will be subsidised to cut the throats of its competitors. The arrangement for the next three years is that the reductions for the Post Office and the Treasury remain fixed, and as licences become more popular the B.B.C. will get the benefit. It seems to me that that places the B.B.C. in an exceptionally favourable position, and any alternative system by which a rival corporation is financed by licence money would inevitably draw from the same source as the B.B.C. Accordingly, there would necessarily be competition either for larger licences or, alternatively, for a larger share of the existing licences. I may add, too, that in the event of the licence fees being increased to £5, necessarily that would impose a restrictive limit on the number of people who would be willing to take out licences. Accordingly, I submit that this scheme is by no means disadvantageous to the B.B.C., and is certainly more advantageous than one which set up a rival corporation to be paid for by licence fees.
It is sometimes said that competition does the B.B.C. harm. We have heard from one Director-General, the noble 400 Lord, Lord Reith. Anybody who knew Sir Frederick Ogilvie, as I did—he may or may not have been a great administrator—must have been impressed by the breadth of his vision, his integrity and his independence of outlook. This is what he said after he had been Director-General for some time:The B.B.C. itself, good as it is, would gain vastly by the abolition of monopoly and the introduction of competition.Those are very pointed words, coming from a man speaking with a great experience, and I think I am justified in saying that no damage whatsoever is done to the B.B.C. under this Bill. I would add this, too, on a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hore-Belisha. We are on the verge of vast technical developments, such as colour television, Eurovision, stereovision and many others. We must have money to develop these things. As the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, said, it is only with money that we can stand in the forefront of this very difficult industry, as we shall do; and I think we should be extremely foolish not to take advantage of another source of revenue.
The noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, said that he read the famous economist Taussig, and he seemed to give the impression that monopolies were dangerous only in private hands. I challenge him, with great respect, to find that in the distinguished works of the economist Taussig. Practically no one except the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, was prepared to defend monopolies. Lord Hailsham defended monopolies both when they were single and when they were double, a very clever performance logically. The rest of your Lordships do not particularly like monopolies, and with very sound reason. They tend to be too big; they allow only one employer; they necessarily have immense power; and moreover, they tend to be stereotyped in performance.
To-day we are living in a world with a very large number of monopolies. If we look around we see a whole host of monopolies—coal, power, transport; and I suggest that there is considerable danger in allowing one more to continue than is absolutely necessary. From the technical point the moment is now ripe to make the change. The first coverage of the B.B.C. is virtually complete. Present plans will bring 401 it to 97 per cent. completion, and there are two channels open at the present time. This is, technically, the time to make the change, and if this Bill is not given a Second Reading the issue will be the continuance of a monopoly. That is the straight issue of this Second Reading. It is asked whether religious bodies can buy time. The answer is that that is entirely in the hands of the Religious Advisory Committee. It is not forbidden by the Bill—
THELORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
I thought the Government gave an assurance that it would be impossible.
§ EARL DE LA WARR
We thought the best way of preventing it was in fact by putting it in the hands of the advisory committee. If the most reverend Primate feels that the matter can be dealt with on the Committee stage, I give him an assurance that I am absolutely open-minded on that, because I am in complete agreement with him on his main objectives.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
I very much appreciate that answer, but if you want to get a thing well and truly and certainly done, the best thing is to put it in the Bill. But that can be considered in Committee.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
The noble Lord, Lord Moyne, made a tremendous point on the economic argument. I am bound to say that, considering the high standard of the Guinness advertisements, I was astonished that he did not seem to think they were of much use, and that he could get on perfectly well without advertisements.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
I am glad to hear the noble Lord say that. Lord Layton told us yesterday that at the present time there are more advertisers wanting space than there are spaces that can be given. The information I have is that the amount of advertising is increasing, but still represents a smaller percentage of our national wealth than it did fifteen years ago. It is therefore clear that there is room for increased advertising, and I do not think this will represent any form of revolution in the adver- 402 tising world. It will be quite a small matter relative to the whole, and it has been entirely absorbed in America by increases in all forms of advertising, from newspapers and so on, without any difficulty. There are no real, deep economic arguments in this. We want a healthy home market, and fortunately we have one at the present time. If this turns out to be a way of increasing productivity, by more efficient advertising, then we shall be delighted. There may be certain advantages for certain manufacturers, who will be able to demonstrate gadgets which cannot he shown, for instance, on a stationary advertisement. There is no inflationary pressure and a small increase in advertising will make no difference at all. That is a clear statement of the position.
§ LORD MOYNE
The noble Earl has been most kind in answering certain points, but he has not answered the question which I read out. It is the economic question: Do the Government consider that the use of more consumer goods at this time will result from television advertising? It is a question of an inflationary tendency, and I cannot possibly believe that the Government would plunge into a scheme which might have that tendency without taking expert economic advice. They must have a view. Perhaps they think that television advertising will not increase the consumption of consumer goods in the aggregate. I have asked a great many times, and I know the noble Earl has been most kind in trying to answer me but he has not done so. Perhaps he cannot answer the question.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
I thought I had made it perfectly clear that this will be an extremely small amount—perhaps 1 per cent. of advertising, or less in the first year. We are living in a world in which production is increasing, and we have not the slightest objection in that respect.
The noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, spoke on the question of British films. I thought that the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, was rather hard on British products generally. I fully agree with the noble Viscount: we are quite alive to the fact that it may be necessary to have legislative action, but there are things to be remembered. It 403 would probably be necessary for a Government Department to administer protective legislation, as we do with the films, but with quite different quotas. We are rather reluctant to do that at the present time. Statutory quotas would have to apply, also, to the B.B.C., as well as to the I.T.A. The reason we are rather reluctant at the present time is that we want the maximum exchange of British and foreign films on both sides, not one-way travel. We do not want there to be anything of a statutory nature to restrict the amount of exchange that takes place.
I have a message for the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, which I am sure will do his heart good. He read a passage yesterday from the Advertiser's Weekly of March 11, in which it appeared that an advertising agent might play some part in the production of the programme. The noble Viscount will be glad to hear that an Amendment in Clause 5 has now made this impossible. I refer to Clause 5 (1) (b) which disqualifies any director or officer of any such body corporate, or any one who is employed by any person who carries on the business of an advertising agent. And the noble Viscount will be interested to hear what the Advertiser's Weekly of June 3 has to say:The Government's decision that the agents are to play no part in television programmes will be welcomed by all responsible members of the advertising business. So far from wishing to have anything to do with loopholes the Advertiser's Weekly is proud to have played a part in writing into the law of the land a rule which has for years been accepted by the advertiser's profession.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
I do not want to argue now, because your Lordships' House wants to proceed to a Division, but the noble Earl does not at all satisfy what I had to say. I was not talking of the appointment of an individual director but quoting the words that advertisers could exercise major influence by capital investment and in other ways. It is a point that we can discuss later.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
I think the noble Viscount will find it a hard point. The opposition to this Bill is only united in one thing—in not wanting it. Nobody wants a monopoly. The noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, does not want the T.T.A.; Lord Beveridge is quite happy 404 with advertising, and the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, is not happy with advertising. The most reverend Primate does not mind advertising, but he does not like contracting companies; and the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, does not like advertisements.
I think the first thing to understand is the character of the I.T.A. It runs very near to a public trust, in the sense in which a noble Lord used this theme. It really bears no comparison with any other system at all: and, with great respect to Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, it has no comparison with the American Federal Communications Commission, which has far wider duties over telephone and telegraphs between States and 3,000 or more companies to deal with, yet with nothing like the powers which, in point of fact, this Authority will have. It is a regulatory body, and we feel that a regulatory body as a private trust can rightly exercise as much power as a public corporation can do. Furthermore, the Authority can take a detached view. Unlike Directors or Governors of the B.B.C., it has no sort of emotional interest in the programme; and in that sense I suggest that in certain ways it has a stronger position. I would only add that its powers are very considerable.
The noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, and the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, have expressed some doubts with regard to the powers of this body. The powers which they will possess have no comparison with those of the Federal Communications Commission. At the risk of wearying your Lordships I will mention some of them. First of all they have basic money which they can use for programmes for balancing or filling gaps. It is entirely in the judgment of the I.T.A. what is a balanced programme. They do something to have something put on which in their judgment is needed to balance programmes, and that is far more than the F.C.C. can do. In the second place they own the broadcasting installations, so that the programme contractors cannot dig themselves in in any permanent way. The F.C.C. does not do that. Then they have very special powers over programme companies. Thus, they can fine those bodies. One noble Lord said that 405 they can do nothing until three mistakes have been made. That is not the case. They can impose a fine of £500 for a first fault—and £500 is quite a lot. After a third fault they can take steps to break a contract for all time. But they also have the courts open if there is a breach of contract. If, for instance, a contractor does not pay the fees, an action may be brought against him in court.
§ EARL JOWITT
You cannot fine him. You can have an arbitration as to whether he shall be fined, and that will take a year.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
I see no reason why it should take a year. I believe that arbitrations can be conducted in a much shorter time than that. As I say, these powers are considerable. Finally, there are all the powers in the Third Schedule which can be brought to bear at very short notice. A noble Lord said that the Authority have to be apprehensive of something happening. If there is no apprehension of something happening, why use the powers of the Third Schedule? If a man does make a mistake you will he entitled in some measure to be apprehensive. The noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, said that he found himself in some difficulty in interpreting the word "special." He need not worry, because the word "special" is entirely within the interpretation of the I.T.A.
The noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, is worrying about sponsoring and what exactly it means. If I may say so with respect, in my view there is nothing wrong in principle with sponsoring, but it may be abused. That is why in my opinion—and I think in the opinion of the House as a whole—the Government is right in coming down against it, because of the possibility of abuse. By that I mean that programmes and advertisements might be mixed up together in a very unfortunate way. The noble Lord asked what influence the advertisers will have. Obviously they will want to know both the number and the class of people that are listening. Of course, they will want to know such things as that. That is what anyone would need to know. They will go to a good deal of trouble in listener research. They will seek to know whether large audiences are interested, and the sort of things they are 406 especially interested in. Are advertisers and large audiences necessarily interested in unpleasant and debasing features? If one can believe the noble Lord, Lord Haden-Guest, they are. Frankly I do not hold that view. I would say that if your Lordships hold that view, then the future of democracy is extremely dim. I do not really see why anyone should hold that view.
We are this week having the tennis championship matches at Wimbledon. Clearly, such a firm as Slazengers would be interested in this. They would want to know the position so far as possible broadcasts are concerned. There is absolutely nothing wrong at all in that. We have nevertheless completely separated the advertisers and the contractors. We have supplied independent funds. It is, moreover, an innovation which I think many countries abroad are going to watch with very real interest. I am afraid that I have to say bluntly to the noble Lord, Lord Brand, that substantially it is his interests which we are maintaining. He dislikes the B.B.C.; he wants only the Third Programme. That programme goes on unchanged. I am afraid he will not like the programmes which go out under the auspices of this new Authority.
§ LORD BRAND
My point is that under this Bill minorities will not get a look in at all. Only the biggest audiences will be appealed to.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
I agree, but I do not think that is really a bad thing. Viewing is a family business and I think standards in families in this country are very high. May I ask what are the features which really attracted the biggest audiences last year? Were they really debasing features? I think we should all agree about the Coronation as seen on television and on films. I think most of us would agree about the final Test Match last summer: it held the country almost spellbound with excitement, day after day. I think most of us would agree probably about the Queen's Speech. Then, if I may take the example of the man who has probably held the biggest public platform since John Wesley—I refer to Doctor Billy Graham—I would recall that he was able to hold a packed audience at Harringay Arena for longer than a circus with all its elephants and tigers and so on. Personally, if I may say so with respect, I thought he had a 407 very healthy message to give to this country. I do not believe that really popular items are unhealthy. There is a selective audience—a very limited one—which likes salacious wit, which likes low-level comedy, just as there is a selective audience of a highbrow character which is prepared to listen to an erudite philosophical commentary.
I suggest to your Lordships that we are here providing a new element of liberty, and we are providing new facilities for trade and industry which we hope will assist in keeping industry in the forefront of our development. We believe that this scheme will be of value in helping to obtain export markets. We are giving a new impetus to the entertainment industry. Every Gallup Poll, for what it is worth, indicates that the scheme is popular in the country. A document which has been circulated in the Lobby described this Bill as "Caliban in chains." Let Caliban remain in chains and let Venus arise supreme from the frothy foam which has been surrounding her.
§ 6.48 p.m.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I have been extremely doubtful about speaking in this debate. I know that the hour is late and that your Lordships are very anxious to come to a decision, and indeed we have had such a wealth of talent that it will be said with great truth that there is not anything I can add. Moreover you have had what I knew you would have, a most capable winding-up speech by my noble friend the Earl of Selkirk, delivered with that combination of force and good humour which we have learnt to expect from him. But now, if I understood the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, aright, the opponents of the Bill propose to divide the House on the Motion for the Second Reading, and I am told that in such circumstances it is only right and proper for the Leader of the House to speak, in order that he may give some advice to his supporters before they actually go into the Division Lobby. I promise that I will do that as briefly as I can, without going into great detail.
First of all, I should like to assure the House that the rumours which the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, said he had heard, to the effect that there are divisions in the Cabinet on these proposals, have no 408 foundation whatever. If the proposition had been for unbridled television on the American model, there might well, I think, have been some differences of view. But this scheme, as has already been made quite clear, is quite different, and I would tell the House definitely that we are united upon it. I would add this, in view of something which was said by the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt. I have always believed that this House should, as far as possible, act as a Council of State, and I have constantly said so. I have never accepted the extraordinary gloss that was put upon that phrase by the noble and learned Earl and by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, that that meant that the Whip should not be put on for Government Bills. So far as I know that was never accepted by the noble and learned Earl or his supporters when they sat on this side of the House.
Secondly, I should like briefly to try to extract from the welter of a two-days' debate the one real issue with which your Lordships are faced on this question. After listening to a very large part of this debate and trying my best, like the rest of your Lordships, to understand what are these issues, and in particular what the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, was trying to expound to our inferior intelligence, I am convinced, like my noble friend Lord Selkirk, that the one cardinal issue raised has been the question of monopoly or no monopoly. Noble Lords on the Labour Benches no doubt support monopoly as a general principle, because public monopoly, public ownership, is a cardinal article of their creed; and I do not blame them for doing so. Of other noble Lords in other Parties who oppose this Bill, I am afraid that I have drawn the conclusion that they take the attitude they do because they are afraid, in their heart of hearts, of letting the public have what the public want. They believe that it is too strong meat for them, and that it is safer that they should trust their elders and betters and take what they are given.
The noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, in the interesting speech which he delivered to your Lordships yesterday, frankly said that. He spoke of advertisers Allow me to quote his words (OFFICIAL REPORT. Vol. 188 (No. 86), col. 249):The real point to the advertiser is whether his advertisement goes on the air at the time 409 of something which appeals to the masses rather than at the time of something which, however good it may be, does not appeal to them.In a later passage of his speech, referring to the British public the noble Lord said:They do not influence the policy of the B.B.C.He went on to say that he had advocated, as I know he did, in his Report that there should be more consultation. Now he may argue that, but from the extracts I have quoted I think it is clear that in his view, although of course the public ought to be consulted, they ought to have no say in any decisions that are taken. And I think the same view was taken by the most reverend Primate in his speech this afternoon. He rejected the view that television should be regarded as entertainment. He used a metaphor about universities which I am bound to say I thought extremely farfetched, and I understood from him that it must be regarded as education.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
I defined education as anything that was a stimulus, giving information or ideas which evoked a response. That, in the strictest sense, is what education is. It includes all forms of entertainment.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
The most reverend Primate did not say that, Certainly the impression he gave to these Benches was that he regarded television as a vehicle for education rather than for entertainment.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, with all respect, I must repeat that I did not say that. I was quoting my exact words, and I call on the House to bear me out. I have not my notes here, because the shorthand reporters have them, but I am certain that I used the words "stimulus" and "evoked," and I spoke of the response to any presentation of ideas or information as educational.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Of course I accept what the most reverend Primate says, but he spreads his educational net very widely, more widely than even I would do. I do not know whether the most reverend Primate has ever listened to the sound broadcasting of the B.B.C.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Does the most reverend Primate put such programmes as "Much Binding in the Marsh" as educational, or "The Goon Show" or "Music Hall," or many others produced by the B.B.C.?
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
Of course I do, because they produce some kind of response of mental, spiritual or moral judgment.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
In that case, I do not really know what sort of complaint the most reverend Primate has against the programmes which are likely to be produced by the new companies. They are intended, I frankly admit, for entertainment for the largest part; but, then, so is the B.B.C. I should like to quote, from the latest Report of the B.B.C., figures showing how much of the programmes is devoted to education and religion on sound broadcasting and television. About 60 per cent. has gone to what they call entertainment; 40 per cent. to what they call education, and only 1 per cent. to religion. I may be entirely mistaken, but I got the impression that the most reverend Primate was criticising the tenor of the proposed new programmes in comparison with those which exist at present.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Marquess again, but I was doing nothing of the sort. I do not think my speech indicated that I merely said that there was a very large range of mental stimulus put out which invited reaction, and that that was just as much true of entertainment as of lectures. I do not think there is any doubt about that.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Then I hope that we may expect the most reverend Primate to come into our Lobby when the Division takes place.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
May I make one point?—I think it is important. The whole argument has been that the people opposing this Bill do not mean that people should have what they want, but somebody has to supply it. All we say is that a responsible body like the Authority is just as capable of supplying what is wanted as 411 the programme companies; but somebody has to provide it.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
That is what the most reverend Primate said, but it is not what was said by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, and the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge.
§ LORD BEVERIDGE
My Lords, I am loth to interrupt but I hope that, before the noble Marquess the Leader of the House passes from the most reverend Primate and myself, he will allow me to say just one thing, and one thing only. I asked the Government one question: why did they make it an article of faith, of dogma, without reasons, that the whole of this scheme should be substantially financed by advertisement? They have not answered me in any way whatever. They have not even at any time discussed any alternative to it.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
If the noble Lord will wait, I am going to deal with that in the very few remarks that remain. In any case, everybody seems to deny what I think the whole House took them to say, and what was inherent in the quotation which I made from Lord Beveridge's speech: that there is undoubtedly a view in this House—and everybody knows it is there—that if the public are allowed to choose for themselves, they will always tend to choose something low and degrading. Personally, I would vehemently reject that view. I do not believe it is true. I do not believe that either the commercial classes, of whom in this connection there seems to be so much distrust, or the middle or wage-earning classes of this country, who will be the principal consumers of television, are nearly so black as they have been painted in this debate.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
It is not for the noble and learned Earl to say that. We have modified and modified our scheme in order to get general agreement. Now he attacks us for it. I am one of those who spent eight years of my life in the City of London. I started there as a clerk, and I rose by gradual degrees to be a partner in a concern. I never found in the City, among the people I met in any of those cate- 412 gories, that morals were any different from those that I know in your Lordships' House. Indeed, having been brought up in political circles, I found that I had to spend a large part of my spare time in trying to convince my fellow workers that politicians were not so depraved and unprincipled as they thought. It is utterly inconceivable to me, after that experience, and also, I am sure, to anybody else who knows them, to think that such men would lend themselves to a policy of deliberately degrading their fellow citizens for personal gain—for that is the suggestion that is being made.
Nor have I any different view of the wage-earners of this country. We all know those long streets of small houses in our great towns which are the real home of television: it is not in the residences of the rich, but in those small houses where the great bulk of the people live. The vast proportion of those little houses are inhabited by men and women who are just as decent and clean-minded as the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, or the noble Lord, Lord Brand. On what ground is it suggested—and it has been suggested—that they will always choose the lowest that they can get? It seems to me, if I may say so to noble Lords for whom I have a high respect, that it is almost insulting to suggest such a thing. The noble Lord, Lord Brand, this afternoon said that the American people were decent, too; that they do not like what they get, but that they have no alternative—that is what I understood him to say at the beginning of his speech. That seemed to me to go against his later argument, that it is the public who dictate the type of programme that they get, because the programme they got, according to him, was an extremely poor one. But, in any case, whatever may be the position in the United States, that would not be the position here. If, under this scheme, the British people were in the same position as the Americans, and found in these new broadcasting stations a type of programme that offended them, they would always have the remedy of turning back to the B.B.C. That is something which I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Brand, will agree does not exist in the United States of America.
413 Frankly, I entirely disagree with the whole thesis that was put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Brand, in the latter part of his remarks. In my view, what these people, who sit night after night watching television want is not vulgar programmes, but alternative programmes; and there is ample evidence of that. That, after all, is what this Government scheme seeks to give them. It does not interfere with the B.B.C.; it only supplements it. If we in this rather antique and detached body, very few of whom use television at all (I wager that a great many of those who have spoken to-day against the Bill are not frequent viewers, and probably many of them do not own a set themselves—I, except, of course, Lord Hailsham;
§ we know that he does; I am referring to the others)—if we refuse these people what they want, on the ground that we, the superior people, know better than they what is good for them, then I believe that it will be a bad day, both for this House and for the country. It is for that reason that, if a Division is forced—and I still hope that it will not be—I must ask all noble Lords whose minds are not already unalterably fixed to go into the Lobby in support of the Government.
§ On Question, Whether the Bill shall be now read 2a?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 130; Not-Contents, 64.415
|Simonds, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Bridgeman, V.||Foley, L.|
|Buckmaster, V.||Fraser of North Cape, L.|
|Salisbury, M. (L. President.)||Davidson, V.||Freyberg, L.|
|Devonport, V.||Geddes, L.|
|Buccleuch and Queensberry, D.||FitzAlan of Derwent, V.||Glenconner, L.|
|Northumberland, D.||Furness, V.||Granchester, L.|
|Goschen, V.||Grenfell, L.|
|Cholmondeley, M.||Hereford, V.||Hacking, L.|
|Donegall, M.||Hudson, V||Hamilton of Daizell, L.|
|Linlithgow, M.||Leverhulme, V.||Hampton, L.|
|Ormonde, M.||Margesson, V||Hardinge of Penshurst, L.|
|Reading, M.||Monsell, V.||Harris, L.|
|Willingdon, M.||Ridley, V.||Hawke, L.|
|Swinton, V.||Hore-Belisha, L.|
|Airlie, E.||Woolton, V.||Howard of Glossop, L.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Jeffreys, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Abinger, L.||Kennet, L.|
|Bessborough, E.||Addington, L.||Kilmarnock, L.|
|Birkenhead, E.||Aldenharn, L.||Kinnaird, L.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Amherst of Hackney, L.||Layton, L.|
|De La Warr, E.||Audley, L.||Leconfield, L.|
|Dudley, E.||Baden-Powell, L.||Lloyd, L.|
|Dundonald, E.||Baillieu, L.||Mancroft, L.|
|Fortescue, E. [Teller.]||Balfour of Inchrye, L.||Milne, L.|
|Grey, E.||Bennett of Edgbaston, L.||Milverton, L.|
|Home, E.||Blackford, L.||Monson, L.|
|Howe, E.||Brabazon of Tara, L.||Palmer, L.|
|Inchcape, E.||Brassey of Apethorpe, L.||Rathcavan, L.|
|Lindsay, E.||Braye, L.||Remnant, L.|
|Lindsey and Abingdon, E.||Brocket, L.||Rennell, L.|
|Malmesbury, E.||Broughshane, L.||Rockley, L.|
|Mansfield, E.||Carrington, L.||St. Just, L.|
|Morley, E.||Chesham, L.||Saltoun, L.|
|Munster, E.||Cornwallis, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Onslow, E. [Teller.]||Cozens-Hardy, L.||Sherborne, L.|
|Perth, E.||Craigmyle, L.||Strathcarron, L.|
|Rosslyn, E.||Croft, L.||Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.|
|Rothes, E.||De L'Isle and Dudley, L.|
|St. Aldwyn, E.||Derwent, L.||Stratheden and Campbell, L|
|Selborne, E.||Dorchester, L.||Teviot, L.|
|Selkirk, E.||Dormer, L.||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|Spencer, E.||Dovercourt, L.||Waleran, L.|
|Winterton, E.||Ebbisham, L.||Webb-Johnson, L.|
|Ellenborough, L.||Winster, L.|
|Astor, V.||Ennisdale, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Bearsted, V.||Fairfax of Cameron, L.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Brand, L.||Morrison, L.|
|Haddington, E.||Burden, L.||Moyne, L.|
|Jowitt, E.||Carnock, L.||Nathan, L.|
|Listowel, E.||Darwen, L.||Noel-Buxton, L.|
|Lucan, E.||Douglas of Kirtleside, L.||Ogmore, L.|
|Russell, E.||Faringdon, L.||Pakenham, L.|
|Glyn, L.||Pethick-Lawrence, L.|
|Alexander of Hillsborough, V.||Greenhill, L.||Quibell, L.|
|Elibank, V.||Haden-Guest, L.||Radcliffe, L.|
|Hailsham, V. [Teller.]||Hailey, L.||Rea, L.|
|Mersey, V.||Hankey, L.||Reith, L.|
|Samuel, V.||Hemingford, L.||Schuster, L.|
|Stansgate, V.||Henderson, L.||Sempill, L.|
|Waverley, V.||Inman, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Kenswood, L.||Silkin, L.|
|Coventry, L. Bp.||Kershaw, L.||Simon of Wythenshawe, L.|
|Airedale, L.||Latham, L.||Sinha, L.|
|Ammon, L.||Lawson, L.||Stamp, L.|
|Amwell, L.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Ashton of Hyde, L.||Macpherson of Drumochter, L.||Strang, L.|
|Beveridge, L.||Mathers, L. [Teller.]||Tedder, L.|
|Boyd-Orr, L.||Milner of Leeds, L.||Wright, L.|
§ Resolved in the affirmative. Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.