§ 2.38 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE POSTMASTER GENERAL (EARL DE LA WARR)
My Lords, once again we meet to discuss the subject of television. Most of us will probably feel that we are faced with the hard fact that we have already said two or three times what we want to say and that it is not easy, therefore, to think up anything startlingly new or original. On the other hand, each time we meet we seem to have the advantage of being, perhaps, a little calmer than we were the last time. This is partly, I believe, due to the beneficent passage of time and the difficulty of 186 remaining in a permanent state of high indignation. But even more is it due to the fact that the Government, while sticking, and sticking firmly, to their main point, have really gone out of their way to understand the point of view of those who are against our proposals. Speaking for myself, I believe firmly that all our discussions have been worth while, and I gladly give it to our critics that many of their criticisms have undoubtedly helped to improve our proposals; and the controversy, to my mind, has been far from a waste of time.
The Bill which is before your Lordships to-day is based on three main principles: first, that there should be more than one source of television programmes; secondly, that the second programme should be provided by private enterprise and, at the same time, present broadcasting by the B.B.C. should be continued, and, indeed, actually be extended; and, thirdly, that this second service should be financed mainly, though not entirely, by revenue from advertisements. It has been said in another place and elsewhere that the Government have not been prepared to have the discussions that were at one time promised. That is not so. We have, in fact, met representatives of other points of view in both Houses in preliminary discussions, but it would have been extremely dishonest on our part if we had not made it clear that these three points that I have put before your Lordships were in our view quite fundamental. We having made that point, I think it seemed to the Opposition in another place that it was not worth while continuing the discussion. However, we did receive some helpful suggestions arising out of the discussions with certain of your Lordships.
Subject to the three main principles that I have laid down, the Government, as I have already said, have gone a long way to meet those who are afraid of the scheme. In my view, any Government who refused to meet, or to attempt to meet, reasonable fears on a subject of this character would be very foolish and very wrong. On the other hand, I am prepared to assert that there is not a single Member of your Lordships' House who would tolerate for a moment the idea that all plays should come from a national drama corporation, all films from a national film corporation or all news from a national press corporation. Why, then, all television from the B.B.C.? 187 That we all think extremely highly of the B.B.C. is not the point. The question is whether or not it should be the one and only source of programmes; and the answer to this question must be a clear and definite "Yes" or "No." If the Government were saying that the present system of television broadcasting by the B.B.C. must be done away with and some other system put in its place, that would be a very different matter; but we are not saying that. Those who do not want to look at the new programmes can go on looking at the B.B.C. programmes and never use their second knob—in fact, there is no obligation on them whatsoever even to have a second knob. The only change that they may find is that the B.B.C. programmes, being subject to competition, may perhaps become even better than they are to-day. Further, when this Government came into office the B.B.C.'s programme was available to 63 per cent. of the population. When the eleven new stations which have been authorised by this Government are finished that figure will have changed from 63 per cent. to 97 per cent.
I should like to say at this point that there is nothing in our proposals that will in any way stop the B.B.C. from having a second programme later on, if that is decided. I make this point, and I want to stress it, because it really is a travesty of the Government's policy for our opponents to represent it as in any way weakening the position of the B.B.C. It is just as much a travesty as to make comparisons between our policy and the present position with regard to broadcasting in the United States, where there is no B.B.C. or public service broadcasting authority at all; where they have nothing like the system of control that we envisage in this Bill; and where standards are very different from ours. Never mind whether they are better or worse—that is not our affair in this country. What matters is that they are different. Therefore, no comparison between the two systems can honestly be made.
In considering this policy, and the Bill that embodies it, it is important to keep clearly in mind the distinction between the three sets of people who will function under the Bill. First, there is the Independent Television Authority—that is the controlling body responsible for the transmitting stations. Secondly, there are the 188 programme contractors who will provide the programmes. Thirdly, there are the advertisers who will buy time set aside for advertisements, and so provide the basic revenue for the contractors to put on and pay for the programmes.
Now let me turn to the Bill itself and deal with a certain number of its clauses. Clause 1 sets up what I may call the I.T.A., the body that will own the transmitters and be responsible for what goes on the air. The I.T.A. will be composed of men and women of the same distinction and integrity as those who serve the B.B.C.—and all those countless other bodies that contribute to the life of this country. In Clause 2 (2) (a) the Authority are given limited powers to commission, if need be, parts of programmes without advertisements, either to ensure a proper balance of programmes or to help put on those programmes which should not be associated with advertisements at all—for example, royal occasions, or religious services.
By Clause 9, up to £750,000 a year is made available for these purposes. This, I hope, goes some way to meet the point of the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, and of the most reverend Primate when they asked that the scheme should be made not 100 per cent. dependent on revenue from advertisements. This sum of money has been described as a subsidy to advertisers, but in fact it is exactly the opposite. If I may use the phrase coined, I think, and used by the Economist, this is a subsidy not to advertisers but against advertisers. If we turn to subsection (2) (b) of the same clause we find that the Authority may provide programmes themselves, in the extreme case of having to terminate a contract or if a contractor falls out and there is a gap that has to be filled. These programmes may include advertisements. Then Clause 3 (1) deals with the standard and quality of the programmes and with important safeguards for British talent. It also lays down that there shall be programmes of regional interest, that news shall be accurate and impartial and that broadcasts on political or other controversial subjects shall also be dealt with impartially. After a good deal of thought and discussion, the Government decided that a general power in the hands of the I.T.A. to see that films from overseas are not dumped in this country would be more effective than 189 a rigid quota system. I am very sure of this point myself; I have given definite assurances personally—and I should like now to give them publicly to those who look after the interests of British performers—that if the Government prove to be wrong in this conclusion, we shall be prepared, at a later stage, to consider more specific legislation.
If your Lordships will now turn to Clause 6 you will see that that deals with the setting up of advisory committees to help both the Authority and the programme contractors. It is, of course, impossible to mention every committee that is likely to be needed, and however full a list I made now, it would almost certainly need to be altered later. I feel, however, that the Religious Advisory Committee should be specially mentioned, and also the committee on advertising standards, which will, incidentally, deal with the extremely important subject of medical advertisements. Needless to say, I have had many discussions with the Council of Churches and the British Medical Association on these points. Your Lordships will see that programme contractors must accept the advice of both these committees, unless the I.T.A. decree otherwise.
Clause 4 deals with advertisements and refers to the extremely important Second Schedule, in which definite rules are laid down about them. Your Lordships will see that that Schedule can be varied only by an Affirmative Resolution of Parliament. The clause also makes the Postmaster General responsible for stating the goods or services which may not be advertised, and makes it clear that no advertiser is to be responsible for what is presented as programmes. My Lords, this is the most important "no sponsoring" section of the Bill. Your Lordships will find it in detail in Clause 4 (6). Your Lordships will also see that we have gone to some lengths to allow bona fide documentary films, reviews of books, the "Week's Good Cause," and so on, as is now done by the B.B.C. I am sure that we were right to do that. I think your Lordships will agree that no one has produced better documentary films than this country—nor, indeed, in the past, my own Department; and, well done, nothing could be more entertaining, interesting, educative and instructive. I believe that shoppers' guides, too, for the housewife could be interesting and useful. A walk 190 for half an hour through the shops in an area or region would serve the purpose of giving comparatively small shops and traders a chance of getting together in a group advertisement, such as is done elsewhere.
A certain amount of capital has been made of the Government statement in another place to the effect that ladies' shoes would obviously not be advertised in close proximity to a boxing tournament or a football match, for the simple reason that the sort of people who like looking at boxing or football matches are probably not vastly interested in ladies' shoes. To that, we had loud cries of "Sponsoring!" I can think of only one reply to that; and that is, "Rubbish!" It is just a matter of a programme contractor knowing his job and using common sense. Books are advertised in the newspapers to-day on the page containing the book reviews, and sporting goods on the sports page; and there is nothing more in it than that. It has nothing whatever to do with influencing of programmes by advertisers. If your Lordships will look again at the clause to which I have already referred, Clause 4 (6), you will see that that point is made abundantly clear. I have mentioned the Second Schedule, but perhaps I might ask your Lordships to look at it directly, as it is so important. It states that advertisements must be clearly distinguishable from the rest of the programme. It gives power to make sure that too much time is not given to advertisements—though here also I should point out that there must be a distinction between the treatment given to what is called, in the advertising world, "shorts" and to documentaries, because documentaries must obviously be longer. It forbids interruption of programmes by advertisements, and it also forbids advertising by religious or political bodies.
There are two more clauses to which I think I must refer. Clause 5 mentions those classes of people who may not be programme contractors, and provides also for ensuring that there is adequate competition between programme contractors. It also contains the powers of the I.T.A. for seeing that the Act is complied with, to secure, for example, that the standards of programmes which are embodied in Clause 3 are in fact adhered to. The last 191 clause to which I will refer is Clause 10, which provides for loans up to £2 million, in all, for capital equipment and initial expenses. This will allow three stations to be erected initially which we hope will have a coverage of forty miles radius. I shall be very disappointed if the sum of £2 million does not allow the building of at least two more stations to be started within a year or so of the beginning of the scheme. Whenever they are started, I think that the next two stations will have to be one in Scotland—I see the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, looking somewhat anxious—and one in Wales. I mention the radius of the stations because it is sometimes suggested that the new scheme would serve only those people living in areas of dense population In fact, these transmitters will be at least comparable to those being used now by the B.B.C.
If I may return to the rather more general aspects of the matter, I would say something about the system of control. I should like us to ask ourselves: what will happen if a programme contractor puts on an undesirable programme? First of all, he will get a warning. Of course, that is something personal and will not be put in the Bill itself. It is what will obviously happen. If it is just a slip-up, as probably it might be, he will have received his warning and that will be the end of it. But if he ignores that warning, then the Third Schedule can be brought into play. The Authority can demand scripts, either after or before showing, and can even forbid the broadcasting of certain material. The Authority can also fine the company for breach of contract. But, so that the Authority shall not be judge, jury and prosecuting counsel all at the same time, arbitration is provided for in the case of these fines. After three offences the contract can be terminated. How anyone can say that a scheme with safeguards such as these can corrupt or debase the nation, I must confess that I just cannot understand.
I know that it was asserted again and again during the debate on the White Paper that, whatever the Government's intention, the advertisers were bound to dominate the programme contractors; and it was always taken for granted that that must always be of a degrading, or 192 at least a lowering, character. But those who said it were quite unable to answer the point that although no newspaper could exist for a day without advertisements, no single self-respecting newspaper would respond to pressure from advertisers to alter its style or standards. Nor could they ever say how all different advertisers, appealing as they do to so many different types and classes, could ever get together as a united pressure group. I remember asking during the last debate how, for instance, would those who now choose The Times and the Manchester Guardian for commending their wares to the public agree with those who advertise in, shall we say, the News of the World, about the type of programme to press for. That question has never been answered. Above all, no one could tell us what justification there was in the record of British trade, commerce and advertisers for asserting that in the event of their being able to exercise influence—and again I emphasise, in order to be effective, united influence—this must lead to the debasement of the programmes.
The fact is that, in the face of the actual scheme which your Lordships are being asked to consider to-day, the fears which lie behind all such assertions as have been made just do not bear examination. During the debate on the White Paper, one noble Lord used the (to my mind) exceedingly unhappy phrase, "Money speaks." In that context, those words could have had no meaning at all unless they meant money corrupts. I hope the noble Lord regrets using that unhappy phrase. What grounds had he for speaking like that of our British commercial world, to whom this country owes its very standard of living? Incidentally, just let us look for a moment: where is the "big money" in British industry? Let us think of great companies—we will not take companies of which many of your Lordships, including, no doubt, noble Lords on the other side of the House, may be directors, for there are those on all sides of the House who are responsible for the conduct of British industry—but let us take just great and obvious names: Shell-Mex, Dunlops, Unilever, I.C.I., our great motor firms, our engineering firms and our insurance companies. Is it seriously contended, in the use of the words, "money speaks." that 193 these companies will refuse to advertise on the new television system unless they can be assured that the programmes are degraded?
Or was the noble Lord referring just to our smaller firms and traders? If so, again I ask him: By what right and justification? I can easily see a very large majority of these firms taking just the opposite line and firmly refusing to be associated with a medium of advertisement if it is degraded. That—and this is my final answer—has been the attitude of those representing the commercial world who have discussed this Bill with me. It is also, incidentally, a complete answer to those others who say that our controls are so strong that they will frighten off private enterprise from coming into the scheme. Those who think like this are quite out of touch with the standards and traditions of our commercial world, and I would ask them quite simply: why, after all, should trade and commerce be afraid of safeguards for which they themselves have asked?
It may surprise some of your Lordships (I do not think it should, but I am afraid that it may, because of some of the things that have been implied about our commercial world) to hear that I have had just as much pressure for proper safeguards from commerce, from representatives of advertisers and advertising agents and from the British retail trade as I have had from anyone else, including the wise and important critics of our policy in your Lordships' House. The last thing that those who represent the commercial world want is licence for the unregulated activities of a few black sheep that would destroy our good name as a commercial country which we have taken generations to build up. Moreover, they realise perfectly well that these safeguards are powers to be held in reserve if, in fact, the ordinary working of British decency breaks down, which is highly unlikely. These powers that are given to the I.T.A. and to the Postmaster General for ensuring high standards and good balanced programmes are strong and effective for dealing with abuses. They are meant to be, but I would challenge anyone to point to any single safeguard contained in this Bill that will hamper a programme contractor intending to put on programmes that are well balanced and of 194 high quality. And that, I believe, is why so many of those who hope to make application to become programme contractors inform me that they are not worried by the safeguards. They have every intention of producing good programmes; they are not worried that they can be hanged for murder, because they have not the slightest intention of committing murder.
To conclude, the Government's television policy is balanced and comprehensive. On the one hand, it not only continues, but very considerably extends the present public service system provided by the B.B.C. On the other hand, it adds to this a second programme to be provided by private enterprise; that is an entirely different system controlled by entirely different minds. Short of compromising on the basic principle of insisting upon competition, the Government have gone out of their way to meet every possible fear, real or imaginary. I commend this policy to your Lordships as being a definite, albeit cautious, step forward in the development of television broadcasting in this country, and I ask your Lordships therefore to give a Second Reading to this Bill.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Earl De La Warr.)
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
My Lords, I did not wish to interrupt the noble Earl, but there is one point with which he has not dealt in his speech and with which I expected he would deal. I propose to refer to it in my own speech, and I am not clear on the matter. I do not want to mislead your Lordships but the Postmaster-General said that the Bill provided that there should be adequate competition between programme contractors. He also mentioned that it was proposed, in the first instance, to set up three stations. Is there to be competition between contractors for the use of those three stations, or is one contractor to be licensed for a period of time for each station?
§ EARL DE LA WARR
The Bill lays down that there shall be adequate competition. There are two or three different ways in which competition can be 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 195 one might call a more horizontal organisation. That is a matter that will have to be settled by negotiation between the I.T.A. and the contractors.
§ 3.8 p.m.
§ EARL JOWITT
My Lords, I am bound to say that I doubt whether I have ever in this House heard a more utterly inadequate answer to a perfectly simple question. If it is proposed to have three stations—take one station, London, as the most important—do the Government contemplate (because really they must have contemplated something about this) having one programme contractor in London, or more than one? Even now I should like the noble Earl to give me a perfectly simple answer to that question. Does he contemplate having one, or more than one?
§ EARL DE LA WARR
My Lords, it is not customary to conduct the business of your Lordships' House as if we were in the courts, instead of in Parliament. I have given a perfectly clear answer to the noble Viscount. We are appointing a responsible body, the I.T.A.—that is a body just as responsible as the B.B.C. or any other public corporation. The matter of which the noble and learned Earl speaks is a matter which will have to be discussed between the I.T.A. and the programme contractors. What is laid down, and if this Bill is passed will become the law, is that adequate competition shall be ensured. I can give the noble and learned Earl the definite answer that the Government intend to ensure that that is done.
§ EARL JOWITT
My Lords, it is certainly not customary in this House to conduct matters by cross-examination and answer as in the courts, but it is for a Minister in this House to explain his Bill. This is manifestly one of the most important passages in the Bill, and at the present moment we are left completely in the dark about it. It is the fact that we have had two discussions on this topic—one in 1952 and one in 1953. I thought that they were interesting and perfectly calm discussions. Having regard to those discussions, I, at any rate, shall try to make my observations reasonably short, because I have already declared the position in which I stand. In view of the importance of the subject matter, however, I think it well that the House should 196 devote itself with great care and attention to this consideration.
I believe—and I think anyone with any imagination must believe—that the potentialities of television for good or ill are absolutely immense. At the present time it is only in its infancy. Technically, it will be improved out of all recognition. It may have a profound effect, for better or worse, on our national character and on our habits. It may bring to the lonely people in the countryside that sense of companionship which they miss so much and which now so often makes them drift into the towns. It will be an absolute godsend to the old people and to the invalids. Most important of all, I believe that here we really have a chance of fostering and bringing about a better international understanding between peoples of the world. I believe that, through this instrument which science has put into our hands, immense good, from the international point of view, may come. Therefore, I am sure that the Postmaster General will be the first to say that it is a very important step which we are now taking. Let us examine it, by all means, calmly but critically. It is vital that it should be developed at this stage on sound lines.
On that, the first thing I would say is this. We are confronted with a Bill for which, beyond question, there is absolutely no mandate from the people. So far as I know, this matter was never mentioned by any Party during the course of the General Election. I confess that I think it rather surprising that Her Majesty's Government have taken this particular step, because the setting up of the B.B.C. and all it stands for was largely their work. I cannot think—it is not for me to speak about this matter—that in any sense this is in accord with the tradition of the Tory Party. It is true, as the noble Earl has said with regard to the ordinary sound broadcasting of the B.B.C., that it is not proposed to inject advertisements into that. What attitude are we in this House to take? I suggest, in the first place, that in this respect we are perhaps more comfortably placed than another place. I suggest that we may eschew trying to look at this matter from the point of view of Party politics.
I remember an observation made by the noble Marquess the Leader of the House a fortnight ago when my Party was 197 making some complaint that we had not been sufficiently considered in regard to Amendments to a Bill. The noble Marquess rose and said (OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 187 (No. 80), col. 1152):I have never concealed my view that in this House we should, so far as possible, act as what has been called a Council of State.That was what the noble Marquess the Leader of the House said only a fortnight ago. I cannot help thinking that if ever there was a chance of acting as a Council of State we have got it now. So far as I am concerned, as Leader of my Party I caused this Whip to be sent out, about which I will tell your Lordships. It reads:The normal Whip is not being issued. Labour Peers may show by their presence their personal interest in this measure.If any of them care to vote in favour of the Government's scheme they are perfectly free to do so. If any of them care to vote against it—as I certainly shall—then equally they are free to do so.
In what I am going to say, I shall try to bring this matter completely out of the gamut and vortex of Party politics. In so doing I am speaking for myself alone. I can speak for myself alone because I am a keen viewer. So many people who speak on this subject hardly ever see television. I know what I want, as an ordinary viewer in the street, or in the armchair. I certainly think the ordinary viewer needs a better programme. I also think he needs an alternative programme. Speaking for myself, as a practical man, I want it to be a real alternative. For instance, if in the daytime a cricket match is being televised on one programme, you do not want to see a cricket match on the other programme. Personally, I like watching cricket; I should not mind watching cricket on both programmes. But there are a great many people who do not like watching cricket. On Saturday I went to Wimbledon, for I enjoy watching tennis, but I suppose there are a great many people who do not like watching tennis. By all means give tennis and cricket, but let us have some alternative—athletic sports, a dog show, what you will.
§ A NOBLE LORD: A football match.198
§ SEVERAL NOBLE LORDS: Yes, you can.
§ EARL JOWITT
I am a little frightened that if you have two independent bodies who are not consulting with each other, you may not get that sort of balance which is desirable, and you may have something like what I once saw in America. On a certain occasion I found that no fewer than eight television stations were transmitting a baseball game. It so happened that I was not interested in baseball, so I had no effective alternative. Therefore, I regard this as a practical problem. How can we get a better programme? It may be that the available talent at the present time is stretched rather far. It may be that we had better not bother too much about an alternative programme in the evening; it may be that for the present we should concentrate on trying to improve the programme we have. It may be that our talents are spread too thin.
As I say, I regard this as a practical problem; therefore, I hope that in our debates we shall not spend too much time in discussing Milton. I hope that we shall not even spend very much time discussing monopoly. The long and short of the matter is that the word "monopoly" can clearly be used in two senses. Anyone who looks at the Oxford dictionary will see that that is so. In the one sense it means the sole right of manufacture or vending of goods. Of course it can be used in a different and wider sense. The Postmaster General is himself, in a wider sense, a monopolist. So, my Lords, is this House. After all, we have a monopoly of passing legislation passed in another place. The Lord Chancellor has a monopoly of appointing county court judges. Of course, the Sovereign herself has a monopoly of giving her consent to Bills. It does not matter what you call the B.B.C.; it does not matter whether you call it a monopoly or not. As the late Professor Joad used to say, it depends on how you define it. A logical fallacy which I think has crept into some of our discussions is that because some monopolies are obviously odious, therefore all monopolies are odious.
I confess that I have not found that the B.B.C. monopoly, if indeed it is a monopoly, is objectionable. Therefore, for myself, I should certainly have considered the practicability of having a 199 second programme put on by the B.B.C. In another place a right honourable gentleman said—I do not know whether rightly or wrongly—that the B.B.C. had said they could put on a second programme and begin with colour television without increasing the licence fee of £3 a year, so long as they got the full licence fee. Further, he said that they could do that just as quickly as the commercial people. If that is true, there would be no question of increasing the fee at all. But when asked that specific question, the Assistant Postmaster General replied that the Government never asked the B.B.C. what they would need by way of licence fee if they were to do the second programme. Why not ask them? Why not compare one proposition with the other? Why come down to this House and try to make our flesh creep by saying that the cost of the licence, if we went on the old system, would be £5 or £6 a year? The Government have not troubled to investigate whether it is the fact that the B.B.C. could put on this programme without increasing the licence fee at all.
I do not particularly mind there being two public corporations. It may be that two is better than one. I should not be disturbed about having what is called the I.T.A. as well as the B.B.C. On that point, though with some reluctance, I should be prepared to discuss with the Postmaster General. I confess I should never like advertisements, but so long as I was absolutely certain that advertisements were not going to control or even influence the programmes, then I should regard that as a matter of taste and not as a matter of morals. But if the advertisers are to control or influence programmes, then I think it is bad and undesirable. I really cannot understand the speech of the Postmaster General at all, because I understand that the Government are not saying that sponsoring is a good thing to-day. They said that in 1952. What they are saying to-day, however, is that it is not sponsoring at all. In their White Paper in 1953 they said:The Government has decided as a basic principle that there should be no sponsoring. There is a vast difference between accepting advertisements and sponsoring. Separation of advertisements from programmes would not prejudice financial success.200 All the Postmaster General's speech about the "essential characteristics of our business," and all that, was perfectly consistent with this being a scheme of sponsoring. Is he opposed to sponsoring? Because all the observations he made would seem to justify sponsoring, and the Government are claiming, as I shall show presently, that they are opposed to sponsoring root and branch.
Why are they opposed to sponsoring? Why do they think it is wrong, unless it is that "money speaks," unless it is that advertisers would influence and would control the programme and by doing so would debase it; because no man can serve two masters. I know that in 1952 the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor (I am sorry he is not here) declared himself strongly in favour of sponsoring. He said on May 26, 1952 (OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 176, col. 1447):I sincerely hope … there will be sponsored television in this country. … I personally also hope that in time it will lead to sponsored radio.Previously in other debates those of us who dislike sponsoring were told that we were adopting a "holier than thou" attitude. We were asked what right had we to say advertisements would debase programmes, and so forth—we shall get it all to-day. But the Government themselves are opposed to sponsoring. I humbly say to the Postmaster General that he really must make up his mind which horse he is going to run. Is he going to say that he does not mind sponsoring, because our advertisers are such reputable people; or is he going to say that he dislikes it intensely and that this scheme is not sponsoring at all? Because there are passages in this speech which were obviously written in his unregenerate days when he was in favour of sponsoring. He must remember that to-day he is opposed to sponsoring.
This Bill—and I come to consider the Bill—sets up what is called an Independent Television Authority. We are told that the men who will be appointed by the Postmaster General will be men of great distinction and unquestioned integrity. I do not doubt it for a moment. They are appointed by the Postmaster General and they can be removed at any time, for no reason assigned, by the Postmaster General and I think that is perfectly right. But, upon my word! if I set up a corporation like that on those 201 lines I do not think the adjective "independent" is the adjective I should have selected. Why independent? Independent of whom? Is it being suggested that this Television Authority are independent whereas, in contradiction, the B.B.C. are dependent? I shall wish in due course, when this Bill has received a Second Reading, to consider again the use of that adjective.
What are these high-minded and high-principled men going to do? They have indeed a great task thrust upon them. They must satisfy themselves "so far as possible"—I call the attention of noble Lords to those few wards, most significant words—"that the tone and style of the programmes are predominantly British." They are to see that a proper balance in subject matter and a high general quality of standard is maintained. They are to see that a "proper proportion" (what that is no one knows) of films are of British origin. They must see that there is a suitable proportion of matter calculated to appeal specially to the tastes and outlook of the viewers. And they are to control the nature of advertisements. Those are very fine sounding phrases. Those are admirable sentiments. But how are these high-principled and high-minded gentlemen to achieve their end? One may "call spirits from the vasty deep," but will they come? What have they got with which to do all these things? This Independent Television Authority own nothing except the transmission station. They have not even to provide or equip a studio, save under default powers. Am I wrong? I thought I was right. It is stated in Clause 2 (1)—the Postmaster General should know it—that the Authority have power:(b) to arrange for the provision and equipment of, or, if need be, themselves to provide and equip, studios and other premises for television broadcasting purposes;That is a kind of default power. For the rest, they have to arrange for the provision and equipment of studios. I am surprised that the Postmaster-General is not aware of that fact.
How will they achieve these aims? They can do it only by contracting with programme contractors. That is the sole chance they have of carrying out their duties—to enter into contracts with other people so that other people will do it for them. I say that these high-minded men are hamstrung and handicapped 202 from the very beginning. Unless they apprehend a breach—that is, a breach which is likely to come in the future—they have no powers. They cannot ask to see the scripts or programmes in advance; they cannot stipulate for a sound record; they cannot forbid the broadcast of any type or description of matter, unless they apprehend that the breach is going to happen. It must be shown that there are reasonable grounds for apprehending that there will be a breach. That is very different from what was set out in the White Paper. In the White Paper of 1953, paragraph 9, Report of Programmes, we were told this:The Corporation would of course have the right to call for programme schedules and scripts in advance, to require the companies to make sound and visual records of programmes for subsequent examination.Now the I.T.A. are allowed to do that only if it is established that there are reasonable grounds for apprehending a breach. Breaches in the past are no good. If there is a breach in the past, you can claim to fine the programme contractor a sum which must not exceed £500—and whether it shall be £500, or any other sum, is to be setted by arbitration.
How long an arbitration will take, I do not know. You will, first of all, appoint your arbitrators, and the umpire, or whatever it may be; then you will probably ask for a case to be stated, and in a year or a year and a half you will get a decision. That has to happen three times before you can say good-bye to these programme contractors. If I take a year for each one, which is a reasonable enough time, that means to say that you have not the slightest chance of getting rid of a programme contractor, who has admittedly breached the contract, within three years. I say that the powers of the I.T.A., when studied closely, are absolutely illusory. They can act on the programme contractor only by means of contracts, and there are specified in this Bill all sorts of normal provisions which the contract must not contain. I would respectfully ask: Why have the Government done it this way? If they are going to construct an I.T.A. of these high principled men, why not make them directly responsible for the programmes? They might use programme contractors as their agents to carry out their duty, but why should they not be responsible for the programmes? Then 203 there would be a real and effective control.
I am going to follow the suggestion that we should be as brief as possible in this matter, and I have been sufficiently long already. My complaint about this Bill is this. We have here what I can call only an elaborate piece of camouflage. The Government set up the I.T.A. and say, "Look how high-principled this body is." But they have no powers whatever. The people who have the powers are the programme contractors, and they will get in touch with the advertisers. I will stop to consider for a moment what happens when the advertiser walks into the office of the programme contractor. He may walk in himself or, as is more than likely, he will have his advertising agent do it for him. What conversation will take place between the advertiser and the programme contractor? The advertiser will say that he wants to advertise his boots, his shoes, his pills, or whatever it may be; and he will ask, "What can you do for me?" He will get the reply, "I can give you five minutes on Thursday." He will then ask, "What is the programme on Thursday?" Naturally, he will ask that. Why should he not? He is spending his shareholders' money, and he is bound to see that he gets the best return on that money; and he can do that only by having a suitable programme. The programme contractor will then say, "This is the programme we have on that day." Why should he not say that? He wants to get the best money that he can, and he will see that he has a suitable programme. So you will get the advertising agent saying: "You can have my advertising, and the x pounds I am going to pay you, if the advertisement is put in a suitable place, at a suitable time and in connection with a suitable programme."
He will want to see the programme. The programme contractor, whether he likes it or not, will inevitably be bound to see that the programmes he sets out correspond with the wishes of the advertiser. So the advertiser will influence and control programmes. That is the very thing we wanted to avoid and the very thing the Government wanted to avoid—namely, sponsoring. That, the Government admit, is bad. The noble Earl may 204 make a speech in favour of it to-day, but in the White Paper the Government admit that sponsoring is bad. Therefore, as I say, this scheme is a piece of camouflage; and it is sponsoring. It is fair to say that at the present moment it is only the thin end of the wedge of sponsoring; but does anybody doubt that, if we institute this scheme, sooner or later we shall get to the thick end of the wedge? I maintain that this is a bad Bill, badly thought out, and a bad scheme altogether. If I have to go into the Lobby alone against the Second Reading of this Bill, I shall most certainly do so.
§ 3.26 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF HALIFAX
My Lords, my noble friend the Postmaster General and the noble and learned Earl who has just sat down have both set subsequent speakers in this debate an admirable example of brevity to which I shall do my best to conform. One does that the more easily because, as the Postmaster General reminded us, this is not an unfamiliar subject to your Lordships. The noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, had a good deal to say about the debate on the White Paper a few months ago, when your Lordships debated for two days a Motion that stood in my name but which, owing to ill-health, I was unable to move, and which my noble friend Lord Hail-sham was good enough to move on my behalf. I have re-read those debates and, like the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, who has just made what seemed to me a most effective criticism of the proposals of the Postmaster General, I do not desire to re-tread much of that well-trodden ground. Indeed, I do not think that anything very new has emerged from all the debates in public, or in another place, or from articles in the Press since your Lordships had those previous debates.
It may well be that the position of many of your Lordships is already determined; that you have heard all the arguments that can be presented on one side or the other, and that your minds are reasonably made up. You are, perhaps, somewhat in the position of the two lunatics in the asylum, one of whom said to the other, "I wonder why we are all here"; and the other, with a flash of genius, replied, "Perhaps because we are not all there." That may be the position of many of us after listening to six 205 months of argument. None the less, I think the decision of your Lordships on this Bill is still likely to be formed by consideration of those broad issues that the noble and learned Earl brought out, for, to my mind, they are vital to the judgment you will form about this Bill.
I should like to develop something that fell from the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, in relation to the conditions under which this Bill comes into your Lordships' House for Second Reading. That it is an important Bill is quite evident from the interest aroused both here and in another place. Those of us who have been privileged to sit in Opposition under the Leadership of my noble friend the present Leader of the House have more than once been able to watch and to admire—I speak for myself—the way in which he constantly felt it his duty to weigh the question of whether or not the Bill was a proper one to ask your Lordships to amend; to what extent it was proper to amend it, and whether, indeed, it was a Bill that he could or could not rightly advise your Lordships maybe to reject. I can imagine a great many occasions on which the answers to any of those questions cannot have been very easy. Sometimes it may have been that a Bill could fairly claim to be founded upon democratic desire at an Election, or that, owing to the Bill reflecting some tenet of a Party creed, any radical amendment or, still more, rejection of it, was likely to entail grave constitutional consequences.
Fortunately, no such difficulty or embarrassment arises in regard to this Bill at the present time. The noble and learned Earl pointed out that the most ardent supporter of the Bill, or the most ardent supporter of the doctrine of mandate, would find it quite impossible to claim that the Government were under any obligation whatever to deal with this matter in the fashion that they have chosen; and the Bill certainly involves no Party principle that by reason of its inherent merits might claim Party loyalty. It is for these reasons that I think it is a matter for profound regret that Her Majesty's Government did not see fit to allow Members in another place to vote as they might have chosen to do, without any insistence on strict Party support. I do not believe it is a very extravagant assumption to make to assume that, if 206 that liberty had been permitted, the result in another place might well have been different. I have even heard it whispered that it might well have been that several members of Her Majesty's Cabinet would not have been greatly disappointed if that had been the result. The actual procedure of Whips and guillotine was far removed from that of a free vote, and in my judgment may be held to impose a special obligation upon your Lordships when you come to consider the Bill.
Those who are opposed to this Bill are certainly drawn from all Parties, and the vote which will be recorded against it—as I hope it may—will be in no sense a Party vote. From that, this I think would follow: that, apart from any other constitutional conclusion, if the vote of those opposing this Bill were by chance to be successful, it would not be incumbent upon my right honourable friend the Prime Minister to submit the resignation of himself and his colleagues to Her Majesty. That reflection is a source of considerable reassurance to anyone like myself who has great affection for Her Majesty's present Government, but no affection at all for the Bill of which they are the sponsors. Therefore, we can feel that there can never have been a Bill which has come into this House with regard to which your Lordships' liberty of action could be judged more complete.
I think my noble friend who moved the Second Reading of the Bill was perfectly justified in saying that in another place they had made certain amendments and improvements to the Bill. He mentioned the amendment that they had incorporated in Clause 6–the provision for a religious subjects advisory committee. I agree with every word he said. I think there are a great many people and a great many voluntary organisations who would be glad if a similar advisory committee could be established in connection with charitable appeals. It is obviously desirable that there should be as close a correlation as possible between this new body and the B.B.C.'s appeals advisory committee. It would be obviously undesirable if it were possible for charitable purposes—perhaps wealthy charitable purposes—to start buying time in order to advertise their own virtues and the claims of their appeals. I anticipate that my noble friend the Postmaster 207 General would be likely to agree with that point of view, and he might, of course, say that under subsection (1) of Clause 6 it was possible for such a committee as I am adumbrating to be set up. I know that; but I should feel happier, and I think many other people would, if he saw his way to take specific action by way of a committee in regard to charitable appeals, as he has taken in the matter of religious subjects.
There are other alterations which were made in another place that in my view hardly suffice to obscure what are the hard and to me very disagreeable realities of the Bill, to which I will turn in one moment. I think it is true to say that the main departure of the Bill from the White Paper is the provision of public money—the £750,000 to be provided annually, and the £2 million which is capable of being advanced for capital expenditure. I suppose that in making this financial provision Her Majesty's Government had the idea—as did my noble friend who mentioned it to-day—that they had had regard to observations made in the recent debate by the most reverend Primate and my noble friend Lord Waverley: and that, in making the financial provision, the idea was to make the Authority to some extent independent of advertising income. My Lords, in the matter that we are discussing, £750,000 is not a very substantial sum, and I am advised that any such expectation as I have attributed—I hope not wrongly—to Her Majesty's Government, would be entirely illusory and would have no effect at all. Indeed, it is true, I think, that so far from the result of the discussions in another place having been to correct the dangers of advertisement, the effect on the programmes of the Authority has been all the other way. That is the point to which most of us who are opposed to the Bill attach principal importance.
I am not concerned about the principle of competition. I do not mind there being another Authority, and I am not concerned to stand up for what is called the monopoly of the B.B.C., but I am concerned, as the noble and learned Earl who spoke last was concerned, with the ultimate influence of this advertisement business. In the White Paper— and I re-emphasise what has been said—it was definitely stated that the control of pro- 208 grammes and the advertising element were to be entirely separate; and those who commended the Government plan laid great weight on that fact. As we all know, the Bill has now been amended in such a way as to enable advertisers to see in advance the type of programme with which their advertisements would be associated in order that they may, if they so desire, dissociate themselves from a company which, from their point of view, would be unremunerative, unprofitable and, therefore, undesirable.
It is not difficult for anybody, however generously intentioned, to see what a vital concession the advertising interests secured when they got that Amendment out of the Government. My noble friend did not exaggerate by one iota when he stressed the effect that that inevitably had upon the position of strength into which the advertising element immediately moved. The door is immediately thrown open for them to exercise irresistible pressure to secure that the programmes are planned according to their interests and requirements. Obviously, if the advertiser does not like the type of programme that is to be made available to him, he will withhold his advertisement, and the programme contractor will have to vary his programme or go without the advertisement. From the passing of that effectively real power of control into the hands of advertisers another very undesirable consequence seems to me inevitably to follow: inasmuch as power in the same field does not easily rest in two pairs of hands at once, the Authority are bound, as I see it, to find themselves quite unable, except at a cost that they would be loth to incur, to carry out all those excellent objects and duties, and so on, to which my noble friend called attention in Clause 3.
Behind and beyond all the arguments that we may have had, or are to have, on this Bill, one thing, to my mind, remains indubitably clear. There are these three elements to which the noble and learned Earl again drew our attention: the Authority, the programme makers and the advertisers. Their mutual relations may be outwardly varied and adjusted, according to what pattern you will, on paper: by prohibition, by a decrease in responsibility here or an increase in responsibility there; but the essential facts remain. The advertiser is someone who wants to buy something 209 that the Authority or the programme maker have to sell. Their objects are quite distinct and may be quite incompatible. The programme maker wants, or ought to want, the best programmes. The advertiser wants to secure, we have been told, the largest possible field for the advertisement of his pet product. The programme maker has to sell his programme to the advertiser. The advertiser may or may not buy space in the programme into which to put his advertisement.
The whole point—the only point, so far as I know—is whether it is what we call a buyers' market or a sellers' market. We all know what that means in ordinary business, and I do not imagine that television is going to be very different. In this case the advertiser is supplying practically all the revenue, and consequently he is in a very strong position; and if he thinks that it is not worth his while to advertise then the whole of the funds, with the exception of £750,000, dry up, and the business presumably comes to an end. That is the advertisers' power. I do not want my noble friend who introduced the Bill—who put up, if he will allow me to say so, many charming ninepins, which he succeeded in knocking down with the most delightful accuracy that comes from previous preparation and practice—to think that those of us who feel as I do consider that there is something inherently vicious in advertising. I do not—not at all. It is true, as we have been constantly reminded, that newspapers depend largely upon the revenue that advertisement brings to them. But the analogy with newspapers is entirely misleading and, I believe, irrelevant, inasmuch as nobody is obliged to look at the advertisements in The Times if he wants to inform himself, through The Times, of the progress of Senator McCarthy in Washington. If any noble Lord is offended by the advertisements in the Daily Express or the Daily Herald, all he need do is turn over to a more innocuous page, a more attractive page. There is no such easy emancipation for the viewer of television, who has only the alternative of turning the set off altogether. My friend says that there is the B.B.C. But you cannot compare the liberty in the case of one with the liberty in the case of the other.
I would go further than that and say this: if Her Majesty's Government had been willing to consider a scheme by 210 which the revenue of this new Authority was drawn in part from advertisements, reinforced as to the larger proportion from some other source, I personally should have felt it unreasonable not to consider dispassionately such a scheme. For that reason I very much regret that Her Majesty's Government did not see their way to the holding of a completely free conference with those who differ from them, in order that it might have been seen whether a scheme generally acceptable might not have been devised.
For reasons, however, that have seemed to them good, Her Majesty's Government are seeking to establish this new Authority on a basis that seems to me, and to many of us, to offer no effective protection at all against the evils that have accompanied similar arrangements elsewhere. Her Majesty's Government may have been ingenious in the invention of not very important devices, on the strength of which they claim, as my noble friend Lord De La Warr claimed this afternoon, that they have rendered impossible this type of undesirable development that some of us fear. But, my Lords, I have sought to show, and we believe, that, so long as the main principle on which the scheme is drawn is wrong, the matter is not greatly affected, one way or the other, by minor modifications. The Government, I suppose, having once started down the wrong path, have found it very difficult to get back without, as they would suppose, making for themselves new difficulties that would be likely to be very troublesome. It reminds me somewhat of our old friend who, on his deathbed, invited by the minister to renounce the devil and all his works, said that he would not wish to be as downright as that because it was no time to make new enemies in any quarter.
There are other objectionable features to which other of my noble friends will doubtless draw attention. I have said enough to indicate my own feeling, and in conclusion I would add only this. I happened the other day to be reading an address given by one of the learned Judges of the Supreme Court of the United States. In the course of that address, he made an observation that it was a very simple matter to decide any case if only one principle was involved. But, as we all know, in almost every question of importance in the civilisation of the 211 twentieth century, life is more complex, and more than one principle is frequently in issue; and decisions are, accordingly, very much more difficult. In such circumstances, the choice has to be made for one or other of the conflicting principles. I think that is about what is happening in this business of television which is going to affect so greatly, for good or ill, the future of our nation. The character of our people, depending, as it is bound to do, over the years upon every kind of influence, some good, some bad and a great many very powerful, will need all the wholesome nutrition that it can be given from this new service of which science has made us masters. It is because from that point of view—which to me is the only point of view that matters—the principle of public service, as hitherto exemplified by the B.B.C., seems more important than the principle of commercial competition, erected on the foundation of advertisement, the probable consequences of which are not attractive, that I feel unable to support the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ 4.2 p.m.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
My Lords, the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, commenced his speech by saying, I think, that it was the second time within a recent period that your Lordships had debated this subject. I have looked it up and find that this is the ninth Parliamentary occasion since mid-1951, and the fourth time in three years in your Lordships' House, that this matter of television has been debated. Although the noble Earls who have just spoken have said that they had no desire to re-tread old ground, if I may say so they have left their footprints quite clearly on certain old arguments—that there is no mandate, that the B.B.C. is able to provide a second programme, and (the most important point to both of them) the alleged possible control by advertisers. All those old arguments did come out and, indeed, made the main body of their speeches, in spite of their declaration at the beginning that they had no wish to re-tread the old ground.
This Bill, as it seems to me, is a compromise between different views deeply and sincerely held and which cut across Party allegiances. It seems to me also 212 that the questions we have to ask ourselves are these? Is the Bill going to accomplish its purpose? Is the Bill going to provide a second programme at no additional cost to viewers? Will the safeguards which are contained in the Bill meet the dangers which are said to exist? Only experience can give the answers to those questions. Much is left undecided in the Bill, such as the point about which the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, taxed the Postmaster General—whether there were to be one or two programme contractors. I think it is right that in something new, with a new movement, with a new development like this, we should leave it to the future; for whatever we do now may have to be looked at in the future in the light of technical and other developments. Therefore, I am glad that much flexibility and freedom of action has been left to the I.T.A.
I should like to refer for a few moments to some of those footprints on old arguments left by the noble and learned Earl who opposed the Bill from the Opposition Front Bench. He started his speech by saying something with which I believe we are all in agreement he spoke about the vast scope and possibilities of television. But I think the very greatness of the vista which lies ahead of us is an argument against a continuation of one or two State corporations with, as it were, their particular minds controlling this great new medium. It is right, I believe, that there should be this element of competition, and commercial competition, with the State corporation. Of course there are social effects. A rather interesting social effect has already been reported. I understand that in regions where television is popular—and this should appeal particularly to the Liberal Party, if they believe in temperance, as I believe they do—the sale of draught beer at bars has gone down by some 25 per cent., but I am glad to record that the sales of off-licence bottled beer have gone up by about a corresponding amount. The inference there is that the ordinary man is now beginning to like to sit and drink his beer beside his home fire, and it may well be that, if the wife's influence is sufficient, in due course he will change from beer to soft drink, 213 which will no doubt please certain noble Lords.
The noble Earls, Lord Jowitt and Lord Halifax, both dealt with the question of "no mandate." They were severe on Her Majesty's Government for introducing a measure for which, they said, there was no possible mandate: nothing was said about it in 1951. We live in a dynamic age and not a static age, and there have been great developments in television since the General Election nearly three years ago. I cannot see why a Government, keeping up with the needs of the day, with changing situations, should not have the courage of their convictions and introduce a measure when they consider that such a measure is necessary, even though it did not appear in their Election manifesto nearly three years before. One might as well say that the Government have no mandate for bringing into operation the helicopter station in London, or a second civil airport at Gatwick. And, incidentally, those schemes cost far more money than this television proposal. Of course, these new schemes are necessary in a changing situation, just as a Television Bill is necessary in a changing situation. The noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, debated the need for the second programme and, I think, suggested that the B.B.C. could provide it. Here we come right up against a difference in principle: many of us, even if the B.B.C could do it, would dislike seeing the B.B.C. provide a second programme, unless there was also the opportunity for commercial competition. Incidentally, it is well to remember that this Bill does nothing to prevent the B.B.C. from introducing a second programme in the future, should it so wish.
I now come to the third and main point of the speeches of the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, and the noble Earl, Lord Halifax—the alleged control of programmes by the advertisers. It seems to me that there is a confusion of thought—I am sure not deliberate—between the advertisers' being able to have a say in their selection of the audience and the advertisers' having an influence on the programme itself. The noble and learned Earl gave us a most interesting imaginary conversation between the programme contractor and the advertiser, but I do not think that it would work out as he thought. The advertiser would certainly 214 wish to buy time, but the purpose of the programme contractor would be not merely to put out a programme which satisfied the advertiser but to provide something which gave the greatest possible public pleasure and reaction. The advertiser would thereby be able to show a reasonable advertisement to a far larger audience than if the programme contractor looked only to the advertiser's requirements.
It seems to me that the programme contractor must look at the public need and not at the advertiser's requirements; and then the advertiser in his limited time, get the full benefit of the programme contractor's initiative, good taste and good presentation. I know that the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, does not agree with me there. But on this point I have read a great deal of literature from those who oppose this Bill, and have listened to all of the speeches. Somehow, there is an obstinate refusal to accept reasonable arguments. I would say to noble Lords opposite that their minds are jammed by wave after wave of intellectual prejudice and intellectual resistance against the introduction of advertisements. They have created, as it were, a new sort of class of potentially guilty men in these advertisers, when in fact the advertising men of Britain have shown, both by posters and in newspapers, and indeed when they have taken part in sound advertising through Radio Luxembourg, the dignity and decency which we expect from our commercial life.
§ EARL JOWITT
May I ask the noble Lord this question: Does he think it desirable that the advertiser should control or influence programmes?
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
No, I do not; nor do I think he will under this Bill. I think the advertiser will have some influence on the selection of his audience, but that is something quite different from the selection of the programme. We could argue this matter all night, so I will not pursue the matter. I will only say that hearts of gold noble Lords opposite have, but heads of ivory, so far as this particular point is concerned.
I wish to refer to only one more point in the speech of the noble and learned Earl, a point of omission. I hope that 215 perhaps others who may speak on behalf on the Opposition will clarify this particular point. The noble and learned Earl did not repeat the threat uttered in another place, that if his Party were returned to power they would scrap this scheme. It would be interesting to know whether, in fact, the threat, made in particular on Third Reading by a Member in another place, and also by prominent leaders of the Labour Party on the Second Reading, still persists, because as the Home Secretary said:I do not think Her Majesty's Government need be frightened at all if these threats are still in force because, just as we are willing to let the people have freedom and choice of the knob which they may turn, we would be content to trust them as to whether they wish to see abolished by a Socialist Government the alternative programme which, by the time the next Election comes, will I am quite sure be a popular feature of our national life.I do not think that the people are now vastly interested. I think perhaps we are over-valuing the feeling of controversy in the country. But I am sure that people will be acutely interested if one Party goes to the polls promising the abolition of something which has become popular by their fireside every night.
My Lords, I want to turn briefly to another aspect of this case, because commercial television will come. This Bill is not what everybody hoped for; it is not what some supporters hoped for. Some people believe that the safeguards are too great. But never mind that; the Bill is here, and I think that once it is passed it will be the duty of all of us—and in that I include the B.B.C.—to try to make it work successfully. I sincerely hope that, once this measure is passed, the B.B.C. will co-operate fully with the new Authority. The Government have tried to insure against bad taste; they have tried to ensure financial rectitude, and they have tried to ensure freedom from the worst aspects of American sponsored television. But what I think they have not done is to ensure that this scheme will work from quite another angle, which I think it right to bring up on the occasion of a Second Reading speech. They have not ensured that this scheme will work so as to allow the inevitable, enormous demand of viewers to be satisfied from the technical angle. Whether operated by the B.B.C. or by the Independent Television Authority, television 216 is but one aspect of the use of the ether. As the noble and learned Earl said, we are in the position of having before us an almost limitless vista for television, for the use of radio-telephony and radio in other forms. Television by the B.B.C. and by the Independent Television Authority are but two expressions of the future use of the ether. Already, radio cars, the police, ambulances and medical services are gathering together trying to get use of the ether.
I would ask your Lordships to ask yourselves this question. While we are expecting this dynamic future for television and for other radio uses, are we framing our executive policy and administrative machinery of government on a scale large enough or wide enough to cope with this enormous future? Unless, parallel with the introduction of commercial television, the expansion of the B.B.C. and other radio developments, we amend the present administrative structure of government, I believe that we may find ourselves either unable or unwilling to take full advantage of the opportunities that lie before us.
The ether (I use the word "ether" as an expression which describes the air) is to be shared between sound, television and other mobile users. It is worth examining for a moment the present system within the Government for meeting this growing demand for frequencies essential to radio operation. This aspect of the matter is still in the hands of one Government Department—the Post Office. It is also the Post Office who have to look after the B.B.C. requirements. Is it likely that commercial applicants and mobile radio users are going to get from one interested Department, if not the fairest treatment, at any rate treatment on the widest possible basis of national interest? The Postmaster General judges the merits of an application; he is virtually counsel for one side, the B.B.C., and also judge in regard to all the applications that come before him. He has to resist encroachment on what might be required for Government Departments, or semi-Government dependencies, including the Services. He has to resist applications and, at the same time, give judgment on the merits of those applications.
§ EARL DE LA WARR
I do not want to interrupt the noble Lord or to disturb his speech, but I do not quite accept that position.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
Perhaps my noble friend will allow me to develop my argument. I reinforce my contention that single departmental control is inadequate to the needs of the situation, by saying that any application for a frequency in this country is dealt with by the Post Office Overseas Communications Department. If you want a frequency for mobile hospital work, or any other particular radio use, you have to go to the Overseas Communications Department of the Post Office. That Department is like Topsy: it has "just growed." I think that, with the introduction of this Bill, it is time to look again at this machinery of administration. Incidentally, any frequency allocated by the General Post Office at the present time is on a band in the range which was reserved by international agreement for television. One more anomaly on the present situation: it is not illegal to get a radio-telephone from a stationary point to a mobile point, like a taxi or an ambulance, but if you are on a farm and ask to have a point-to-point radio telephone it is illegal, even though the Post Office cannot lay a landline for many years to come.
The Postmaster General is advised by a committee of officials—I think it is called the Cabinet Communications Committee—which reviews applications and also safeguards various reservations on the ether which Government Departments think it necessary to make. The Chiefs of Staffs can indent on this Cabinet committee for any number of frequencies which they consider necessary in peace time or which are potentially required for war. We all know what over-insurance means. It seems wrong that great blocks of the ether should be reserved for possible eventualities, without strict Ministerial supervision beyond that of one interested Minister, the Post-master General. I suggest that now, when this Bill is being passed, is the right time for the Government to review with a big sweep the future policy and administration of Britain's ether use. I would suggest some sort of set-up in which, in the same way as the Lord President is responsible now for atomic energy developments, some Cabinet Minister holding non-departmental office, like the Lord Privy Seal or the Chancellor of the Duchy, should preside over a Radio Board. Whether it should be 218 a Ministerial Board or not remains to be decided. But that Radio Board should be the body responsible for major policy decisions about who should use the ether and what reservations are necessary by various Government Departments. In the United States there is the Federal Communications Commission. For security reasons, and also because we do not like outside bodies, I think that we should have a Ministerial body and not an outside body. I make no apologies for having brought forward the need for overhauling our executive policy and administrative machinery of the use of the ether. At the same time, I support this Bill as one which will, I believe, fulfil its purpose and become a national asset.
§ House adjourned during pleasure and resumed by The LORD CHANCELLOR.
§ 4.23 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
My Lords, the Postmaster General said in his speech that this Bill had been improved owing to the open-mindedness of the Government and their readiness to accept useful suggestions in its passage through another place. No doubt there have been some Amendments, here and there, which have been quite useful and acceptable; but it seems to me that the Bill is unaltered, and, for my own part, I shall have no doubt or hesitation in casting my vote against the Bill when the Division comes. It is an unnecessary Bill and it is misconceived. It should never have been introduced. It is based upon an assertion with which all will agree: that there is need for a second or several programmes on television beyond the one present programme of the B.B.C. That need has been recognised for a long time by the B.B.C. itself, and if they had had a free hand we should by now already have had a second programme.
We are ready to try new experiments and to bring in the advantages of competition, but the promoters of this Bill say that only in one way is it possible to finance a second or several programmes on television. That we deny. We think that argument is entirely fallacious, and that if the Bill rests upon that supposed necessity it rests upon no firm foundation. The Postmaster General in answering a Question in your Lordships' House on March 2, said that the 219 present licence revenue of the B.B.C. was a little over £12½ million; that next year, owing mainly to the increase in licences, it would be £l7 million, and in 1956–57 it would be£20 million. Although, of course, all of that enormous increase cannot go to television, there can be little doubt but that, with care and economy, the B.B.C. would be quite able to produce a second programme without the need for advertising revenue.
Secondly, the Bill is urged on the grounds of principle, or, at least, that it is intended to break the monopoly of the B.B.C. and that that is something worth doing for its own sake because monopoly offends against the principle of liberty. It is said that we must "set the people free" and anything in the nature of monopoly should be condemned and broken. I was criticised for my speech on a previous occasion as being one of those who represent here the Liberal Party, and was asked who are we that we should stand up for the principle of monopoly, since we have always been opponents of it. It is true that in your Lordships' House, year after year. I advocated the need for a Monopolies Commission to investigate existing abuses, and year after year we were the only Party in your Lordships' House that did advocate that. At last it was taken up by the Government and the Labour Party, and a Bill was passed—and very necessary it has been found to be.
But because we are against monopolies of that kind it does not follow that we do not recognise that there are what have often been called by economists natural monopolies, necessitated by the conditions of the case. We are all in favour of the electricity grid, because that is the most economical, simple and effective way of having an electricity supply for this country. The Gas Council and the Railways also are, to a great extent, natural monopolies. As for monopolies, the Postmaster General is the arch-monopolist; and I can tell how necessary his work is in that capacity because a long time ago I also held that office for three or four years, and no one was more ferocious in maintaining every right belonging to the monopoly of the Post Office. Radio and television cannot be the subject of an indefinite number of different sources of supply. There is the 220 wave band, and only a limited number of channels are possible in any country. The number of channels which can be worked simultaneously in this small island, with all the countries of Western Europe near at hand, each with its own system, is very limited indeed.
When we compare the suitability of natural conditions here for radio and television with those of the United States, Canada or Australia, we find they are entirely different. Indeed it is a question of geographic conditions, which are not to be overcome yet by science or mechanics. In New York, for example, you can have a choice of eight different programmes at the same time, because there is plenty of room for all of them on their waveband; and all over the country there are any number of local medium-powered stations which do not interfere with one another because of the distance between them. Indeed, I read that in the United States there are at the present time 139 television stations and that the controlling authority has prepared plans for a possible 2,000. That is quite impossible here. If we had very high frequency and a greater number of channels, maybe the situation would be altered. But the monopoly as it was originally established was really the product of the technical conditions, and to a great extent that still prevails. We cannot have an unlimited number of television stations. I shall refer later to the question of whether we can have more than one competing, station now for London or for the other regions which are to be served.
Before I proceed further, I would pick up the point upon which I ventured to interrogate the Postmaster General at the end of his speech. He mentioned that the Bill includes a provision, in Clause 5 (2), that there shall be adequate competition between programme contractors, and I asked the Postmaster General whether, according to his present contemplation, there will be such adequate competition between the contractors in the regions, because the promoters of these schemes, I have been informed, have been pressing that, at all events in the initial years, there should be only one programme contractor managing or working the station in London, one in Liverpool and one in Glasgow, or wherever the stations are intended to be. And the new trade which is springing up in television 221 has been strongly pressing against anything in the nature of unlimited competition between programme contractors. "Down with the B.B.C. monopoly!" Yes; but when one contractor has been chosen to have the use of one station then he would wish to maintain his own privilege, and to say down with every privilege except his own. That is what is alleged. We want to know whether it is so or not. The Postmaster General gave a reply which, so far as it was comprehensible, was clearly evasive. He would not tell me or the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, whether it is the case that there is to be a new monopoly, competing, indeed, with the B.B.C. but with no internecine competition between programme contractors in London and in other regions.
§ EARL DE LA WARR
I said quite clearly that the words in the Bill showed that there shall be no new monopoly, and that there shall be adequate competition. I did not inform noble Lords what steps would be taken to enforce that.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
It was all to be left to the Independent Television Authority. They were to do it as best they could. Surely the Postmaster General must have been in negotiation with these embryo contractors. He must know what their plans are and whether it is the case that they are asking for one licence for a contractor here in London and for one in each of the three regions which are first to be served. If I am wrong, I should like to be so informed. In that case, my suggestion does not hold good. Am I to be given the information that the people are to be set free, that there is to be catch-as-catch-can competition between twenty different programme contractors to have a right of using the London station, or whatever station it may be? That question must be solved, one way or the other.
Now I come to my main point, which is the main point of the Bill and which has already been dealt with by the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, and the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt—that is, whether or not advertisers will control programmes. Since the early stages of this controversy sponsoring has been disavowed in terms of the utmost emphasis by those defending the Bill. They say that anything in the nature of the American system will most certainly not 222 be found flourishing here under this Bill. I, on the other hand, submit to your Lordships that that is not the case, and that the Bill will undoubtedly have the same effect, though different in form, as the American and other sponsored systems. The Government say that the advertisers will not control what programme shall be put on and what shall be kept off. I shall submit reasons to your Lordships for thinking that that will not be so. All programmes are announced beforehand and are made public—it may be at a short interval before or at a long interval before. An authority like the B.B.C. has to prepare its plans well in advance. They have them in draft. Are we to suppose that those who are working the stations and those who are going to place advertisements will have no knowledge what these programmes are going to be until they see them in print in the newspapers, and that then they will immediately set up competition among themselves to see which of them shall have five minutes before this programme or five minutes after that programme, and how much they can be made to pay and so forth?
That is not what will happen at all. Advertisers must necessarily know and consider well in advance whether the programmes will be worth paying for, and how much they will be worth. The advertiser will need to know, if he pays such and such a sum that is asked, how much publicity it will bring him for his goods and for the money he is ready to pay. In another place—and I am in order in quoting it because it is a statement on a matter of policy, made on behalf of the Government—as recently as June 22, on the Report stage, the Minister in charge of the Bill, the Assistant Postmaster-General, said (OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 529 (No. 132), col. 288):What I think the advertiser is entitled to know is the type of programme which his advertisement will follow or precede … because that must inevitably decide the size and type of the viewing audience. The type of programme—I say 'the type' not 'the particular programme'—might attract a type of viewer who would not be any use to the advertiser. …The Minister went on to say:There is no other conceivable way in which advertisers could put on their advertisements.With that, I entirely agree.
223 Illustrations were given that have already been given in your Lordships' House to-day. What do you mean by "type"? It is not only a question of whether it is a scientific talk or a play or variety; "type" also includes quality and character. Is a broadcast, film, or whatever it may be, lively or dull? Will it be effective for its purpose, or useless? Programmes are known beforehand. The names of the entertainers are well known; they are not shy people who are struggling to avoid publicity. It is well known if So-and-so is performing. You will have one kind of audience for one performer and a much poorer display of interest in someone else in the same line of business. Furthermore, it has been announced—it was announced when the Bill was passing through another place—that these companies will be free to make a special charge for any special programme. Well, that is of great importance. It is not to be a matter of laying out a certain amount on programmes over a period of a month, the charges varying only according to the time of day when you have your viewing period. If there is a special programme at any time, that can be put up to auction, so to speak, in order to see who will pay to have the advantage of it. So it will be necessary for the advertisers and their agents—these things are done through agents—to know well beforehand what sort of programmes are going to be put on by the particular station, before they can make up their minds whether to advertise or not. Why conceal these facts, for they are obvious to everyone? This idea that we can, by the terms of an Act of Parliament or by regulations made by the I.T.A., secure a complete separation between advertisers and programme contractors, is really futile. The fact is that the men who provide the revenue have to be satisfied as to the drawing power of the programmes, and if they do not approve, they will not pay All the rest is camouflage.
In the working of this scheme there is another point to which, I submit, sufficient attention has not yet been drawn. There now enters the I.T.A., so that we have in any local power station two authorities dealing with the same matter, the running of the station. One is the I.T.A. and the other is the programme 224 contractor. They will have, in effect, equal powers because, while I.T.A. will have the power of the law and the requirements of the Act of Parliament, the programme contractor and advertisers will have the power of the purse. I do not envy the members of the Authority their position when, week after week, year after year, they are confronted by the combination of the programme authority and the advertisers—because their interests are the same and they must necessarily combine; and there is nothing wrong in their doing so—one trying to impose the Act of Parliament, the other to get the most remunerative programmes they can. Whether they are the same men or not does not matter at all. There are elaborate clauses to ensure that a person whose business it is to be an advertising agent shall not also be a programme contractor, but, as I say, whether they are the same men or not matters nothing.
I have here an article sent to me from the Advertiser's Weekly, which is a reputable paper. This article was published just after the Television Bill was introduced. The Bill was brought in on March 4; this article appeared on March 11. The first paragraph says this:Provided they do not exercise control, there is no reason why any advertising agency personnel should not play an active part in the programme contracting companies.The last paragraphs—and they are from the advertisers' own journal—are these:The importance of these proposals to the advertising profession is obvious since although agencies are to be prevented from simply appearing under another hat as programme companies there is to be nothing to prevent agency capital, and above all advertising men and women, from playing a part in the production of programmes.The definition of control given in the Act is a strictly legal one. The actual wording may give rise to some discussion, but it seems that, provided the advertising interests have not got an actual majority of the voting power, or other controlling power conferred under the articles of association or other documents, there will be no limit to the rôle they may play in the management of the company.I am not quarrelling with that description. There is nothing improper, nothing illegal, or by way of evasion in that. The advertisers' organisations are highly reputable bodies of men, and when they say that they are saying what is obvious to observers; that they have the same interests as the programme companies, and that they should play an active part, 225 probably in the provision of capital or in other ways, in running these companies.
When these companies have been formed, they will, of course, form some kind of joint committee or council to defend their interests, and they will be in close touch with the advertising agents. They will confer and act together in their negotiations with the Authority. Therefore these television stations will be a kind of joint household. It will be a family business as between I.T.A., as husband, one might say, and the programme company, as the wife. There will be a marriage between them; and the marriage will not be one of affection but solely one of convenience.
It is like a man of intelligence and character who foolishly gives way and makes a marriage for the sake of settlements, for a lady's rich dowry or inheritance. Perhaps he may have intelligence and character and she may have the money. There may be an appearance during the courtship of intelligence or culture on her part, but after the marriage it appears that her only idea is to have a good time. That may prove to be the case when the I.T.A. are endeavouring to apply these high-minded, admirable regulations to the financial interests which have been let loose in the world of television. The incompatibility that arises cannot end in separation, because they are married by Act of Parliament. The only thing that can be done will be for Parliament to dissolve the marriage and hand over to the B.B.C. the custody of the children—the television stations. So in a few years it may be necessary, if pressure continues from the commercial interests, to abolish the I.T.A., to "Set the people free" and make the programme companies entirely independent—as in fact they are in the United Stares—and perhaps add sound radio, giving them half the licence revenue and keeping the other half for the B.B.C. That may be, in a few years' time, the result of passing this Bill.
When it is said, however, that this Bill will work no injury to the B.B.C., I cannot agree. In the first place, take sound radio. Is that to be taken from the B.B.C.? Is it to be shared or not? Under the Bill it is not being taken over, a fact which contradicts the main principle on which this Bill rests, that monopoly is in evil thing in itself. We all remember very 226 vividly the speech of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack when this controversy was in an earlier stage. We remember how Milton was invoked. It was said that it is a matter of high principle. If that applies to television, why should it not apply also to sound radio? I shall await a reply on that point from some noble Lord. I am very disappointed that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor is not to take part in this debate. Milton is mute and inglorious. The reason must be that the Government think the noble and learned Lord will be too frank with the House. They are afraid that the noble and learned Lord may say what he thinks about all this and repeat what he said before: that, so far as he personally is concerned, he would apply the same principle to sound radio.
§ A NOBLE LORD: Hear, hear!
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
The Lord Chancellor has one other frank and vocal supporter who says the same. I noticed that the Postmaster General said to-day that no-one suggests there should be a national monopoly for the theatre. No-one says there should be a national monopoly for the cinema; no-one says there should be a national monopoly for the newspaper. Why for television? And why for sound radio? Can the Postmaster General tell us what difference of principle there because this principle of liberty and no monopoly is absolute? It is like the categorical imperative: it is a monstrous thing not to apply it. Therefore, it seems to me that if Parliament now enacts this Bill, it will give every ground for its further extension as soon as it is thought desirable, and also for its application to sound radio.
The B.B.C., it is said, will not be hurt, and will even be aided. On the contrary, I feel that the B.B.C. is being undermined, and will be maimed and injured. Consider what it does for the sake of the nation and for the Community in the way of service that has no commercial value, for which no advertiser would pay anything. Every day it has its schools programmes, disseminated to thousands of classes all over the country, teaching many subjects. Every evening it has the Children's Hour, which is very popular among the coming generation. It has its religious services on Sundays and 227 weekdays. It collects news for the information of the nation, and sends its correspondents all over the world to collect that news. On the Third Programme it disseminates material of cultural interest—science, art, literature and philosophy. Surely, that programme is well worth providing, even though it does serve only a small minority. It is that minority that has brought us and keeps us in this country in the front rank of civilisation. But that programme, we know, is not the kind of programme that will be paid for by advertisers of soaps, cigarettes and cosmetics.
Furthermore, this great service is now accessible to 90 per cent. of the population, at great cost, in the establishment of stations wherever possible. For this, it is true, the B.B.C. now receive the money collected through the cost of the licence charged to the public—but after many deductions, and not only deductions for services rendered. We know that the Treasury are taking £2 million a year from the B.B.C. licence revenue. When they are asked why this should be done, the Government reply that the B.B.C. pay no entertainment tax, although it is an entertainer. One would, in the ordinary course, expect part of the licence duty, so far as it is entertainment, to go to the State, if it is in competition with cinemas and other organisations that do pay entertainment duty. But what is to happen under this Bill? It has been stated in the other place—and I have not heard it contradicted—that these programme contractors are to pay no entertainment tax. Could the Postmaster General say whether that has been wrongly stated? They are entertainers. The I.T.A. and the programme contractors, and, indirectly, the advertisers, are giving entertainment to the people. If the B.B.C. is charged £2 million a year, partly because of that, why should these companies be exempt? That is a question which I submit needs an answer.
Further—and this is almost my last point—with regard to the dissemination of news, there are, quite properly, provisions in the Bill to endeavour to ensure political impartiality in the dissemination of news. But news may be presented in many different ways. You can get a slant on the news. Three newspapers supporting three different Parties may 228 produce exactly the same item of news, but in three different ways—headlines or no headlines; a prominent situation or an obscure one; in a sentence, in a paragraph or in a column. These stations, during a General Election, for example, will have an enormous influence upon public opinion. Anybody can listen in to them—the whole of the B.B.C. public, and the whole of their own public.
During a General Election when public attention is concentrated upon the polls and people are making up their minds, any emphasis given by a station would have great effect upon public opinion; and also in building up the publicity of public men of Parties, whether they give prominence to people of one particular Party or another. The B.B.C. is impartial, because the B.B.C. is ruled by men whom we know and trust. But how do we know who these programme contractors will be? When some election takes place, as it will do, and constantly does, on the fundamentals of our economic system and the Labour Party are presenting their point of view, when the issue is keen and the controversy is raging, a little influence on the part of these television stations belonging to commercial companies might make a great deal of difference to the result of the polls. These stations, being commercial stations, belong to the commercial classes, so to speak, and it is much more likely that there would be an atmosphere unfavourable to many of the aspirations of the Labour Party. I am not at all surprised that the Labour Party, looking at it from their point of view, are extremely sceptical and suspicious about this scheme.
§ EARL DE LA WARR
I know that the noble Viscount would be anxious not to be guilty of misrepresentation, and I am sure he would like me to rise and point to page 6 of the Bill. There, under Clause 3 (1) (d), it says:That any news given in the programmes (in whatever form) is presented with due accuracy and impartiality.Then there is paragraph (g), which says:That due impartiality is preserved … as respects matters of political or industrial controversy. …The noble Viscount will see that the only direct political broadcasting will be in the form of the Party political broadcasts from the B.B.C.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
I am obliged to the noble Earl. I said that the Bill contained provisions which were designed to establish impartiality. My point is that, although these stations are not likely to engage in blatant Party propaganda, if you have commercial people who are more inclined towards one Party in the State than to another, they would, not perhaps of set purpose again and again, but now and then, put a different impression upon the actual news, while denying that they were in any way partial, which would get round or be exempt from the statutory regulations.
§ EARL DE LA WARR
The noble Viscount is making a most serious charge against the Government. The I.T.A will be the body responsible for ensuring that this does not happen. I hope the noble Viscount is not suggesting that the Government will appoint an I.T.A. that is so unimpartial that it will allow this sort of thing to happen.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
I know that it could try to prevent it. But if this sort of thing happened the day before an Election, what could the I.T.A. do? People might say that it was unauthorised; or they might say that it was not intended, and did not have that effect. The question is again one of atmosphere. Just as with a newspaper, precisely the same news may be presented in a different way by the Daily Herald, the Daily Telegraph and the News Chronicle. All of them are perfectly honest and honourable papers, but they either give prominence to the news or not.
§ LORD GREENHILL
I wonder whether the noble Viscount would permit me to intervene to say this. It may be thought that noble Lords on this side of the House object to this Bill because of its possible effect, for example, in elections. They do not have that fear at all. Indeed, noble Lords on this side of the House may say that, in spite of opposition from the Press, they have gained a great superiority.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
The Labour Party and the Liberal Party have suffered in days gone by through having the whole bulk of the Press against them. When the Liberal Party had the great victory of 1906, the great mass of the British Press was Conservative. But I am not saying 230 for a single moment that this is likely in itself to determine the Election. I say only that, in our present society, with these acute controversies between classes, it is a dangerous thing that one of the most important, perhaps the most important of all influences upon public opinion should not be in the hands of persons who we know can be trusted absolutely to fulfil all the requirements of impartiality. That was my point, and in spite of the Postmaster General's intervention, I still think it is a sound one.
Finally, before the noble Marquess the Leader of the House leaves, I wish to refer to the vote which will be taken on this Bill, and the part that your Lordships' House could play in a controversy of this kind. It is often said that this House justifies its existence because it is able to take an independent view and is not governed by Party considerations; and that that is its great usefulness to the nation. However, this Bill has definitely been made a Government Bill. The Whips have been put on in both Houses to bring pressure—such pressure as is proper—on the members of the Government Party. The Liberal Party have not taken that course. When the noble Marquess spoke on this matter on a previous occasion he said that it was a very mild Whip; it was only a two-line Whip and was not intended to exercise any great terrorism. Whips know that they need not always be scorpions.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I do not think I said that the Whip was a mild one. I read out the Whip, and I also said that the Whip was sent Out because the noble Lord's friends had already sent out a Whip. The noble Viscount said that it did not count as a Whip because it was not a Party Whip, but a Whip by an outside organisation calling on noble Lords in this House to vote in a particular way.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
I was very surprised at that time that the noble Marquess had to use that comparison. There was no comparison at all. When a Bill is before the House and some outside organisation is interested in it—whether it is the Canine Defence League, or whatever it may be—they send out to their supporters a circular saying that the Bill is being considered on such and such a date, and hope their friends will support it. It may be the Society for the 231 Prevention of Cruelty to Children or goodness knows what admirable cause. On this occasion, a Committee had been formed called the National Television Council, in which some of us took a part, in order to inform public opinion of this particular issue. When the Motion of the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, was before the House, that organisation sent out a circular under his name—I think he was President—to say that his Motion was coming on, and asking their friends to attend and support it. That is a very different thing from the sending out by the noble Earl, the Chief Whip of the Conservative Party, of a request to Peers to come on a particular occasion to vote. Surely the noble Marquess cannot seriously say that a circular from an outside organisation, signed by a single individual, stands on a par with one from the Conservative Whips to their four hundred or five hundred supporters, or whatever the number may be. I believe they did not think it necessary to send out to the whole body, because it was quite clear that there would be an ample majority.
What I was about to say was this: The moment it was announced in the other House that the Conservative Party were putting on their Whips, and the same here, then, subject to some political cataclysm, it was certain that this Bill would pass into law. No matter what we may say, no matter what we may do, and no matter what may be the merits, we shall find that though there is a very sparse House to-day of fifty or sixty Members, there will be a very different Voting List to-morrow, and the Bill will be carried on Second Reading. My point is that that does not confirm the claim of your Lordships that this is an impartial body which can act irrespective of Party considerations.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Is the noble Viscount's argument that no Government should ever put on any Whip in this House? Because that is what he is saying. He is saying that it is an independent House which could never be actuated by Party considerations. That is an impossible doctrine.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
I say that this House is a Second Chamber that is now trying to say—very rightly, from the point 232 of view of noble Lords opposite—"This is not really a Party assembly." The Liberal and Labour Parties have been saying for a generation that this is not a Second Chamber which can act irrespective of the Government of the day, and that when the noble Marquess's Party is in power there is in this country no Second Chamber at all in that regard. This House may be admirable in revising the details of legislation and admirable in discussing general questions which are of no immediate controversial importance—I am full of admiration for it. But the Government have made this a Government Bill. They might have said, "We have no mandate for this Bill and we leave it open to Parliament," and no one would have complained. But they say, "This is a Government Bill and it must go through." From that moment—and this is my point—it goes through. It will reach the Statute Book, but at the cost of any claim of your Lordships' House to establish a reputation for being an impartial Revising Chamber.
§ 5.8 p.m.
§ LORD WINSTER
My Lords, the Bill which is before us to-day is certainly very different from the proposals on this subject which were originally put before us. In fact, the resemblance between those original proposals and this Bill seem to me to be largely accidental. I have no doubt whatever that many of the improvements which have been brought into the Bill have been introduced as the result of the remarkable two days' debate which took place in your Lordships' House.
We have been admonished by a previous speaker not to say too much about monopoly because of the difficulty of defining "monopoly." As the Government make a special feature of the question of monopoly, I think it merits talking about. It is extremely difficult to define a monopoly, but I remember long ago a conversation when the question was put: "Can you give a definition of Christianity, seeing that Christianity covers the Pope of Rome and, as he then was, Mr. Arthur Balfour?" The answer was, "No, it is impossible to give a definition; but everybody knows a Christian when he meets one." Similarly, I think everybody knows an objectionable monopoly when they meet one.
My support for this Bill is based largely upon opposition to the B.B.C. monopoly. 233 I regard that monopoly as a negation of freedom which does not exist in either the films or in the theatre. It is a monopoly which is unfair to the consumer who has to take what he is given, and it is unfair also to the broadcaster or to the artist who has to comply with the terms and conditions laid down for him, or else he must go off the air. In regard to broadcasting, the B.B.C. has absolute power to make or mar a man. I am fortified in these views by an expression of opinion by Sir W. F. Ogilvie, a former Director-General, who could not have expressed himself more strongly than he did in opposition to the monopoly which the B.B.C. enjoys. It also happens to be the case that, with the B.B.C., monopoly and mediocrity all too often go hand in hand. But, apart from that, the fact remains that the monopoly gives the B.B.C. the power to exclude and the power to inculcate. It can exclude what it does not like; it can inculcate what it does approve of, regardless of whether the listener is also likely to approve. I do not want to be subject to any censorship by the B.B.C. in regard to what I may hear, and I have no wish to have my taste and standards formed by the B.B.C. In fact, I do not think it is the job of the B.B.C. to try to raise public taste. It may be its job not to offend public taste, as it all too often does, but I do not think it is its job to try to raise public taste by inflicting upon the public what it happens to think is good for the public. I notice that the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York defends this monopoly on these grounds—I am quoting:There are some inventions so dangerous that they must be owned and controlled by the Government lest they should be used for the injury of the people.My Lords, I think it is going rather far to couple this Bill with the hydrogen bomb. It is an extension of the view which I regard as very heretical, that really "the gentleman in Whitehall knows best." I do not think he does, and I do not think the B.B.C. does either.
This question of monopoly gets linked up with the question of vulgarity. I noticed that a Times editorial, written in opposition to the Bill, used these words:There are enough influences at work degrading public taste to forbid adding another,234 and it describes those who support the Bill as wanting "vulgarity enthroned." I am very much obliged to The Times. I am sure that another supporter of the Bill, the Lord Bishop of Oxford, will also appreciate this compliment paid to him by The Times. But in the same editorial The Times complained about those who attribute to the B.B.C. what it called a "holier than thou" attitude. If ever there was a question of a "holier than thou" attitude, I think it is this: that those who venture to disagree with The Times on this subject are to be described as wishing to enthrone vulgarity. Vulgarity is, of course, a matter of taste. I would say that there are few things more vulgar than the cartoons of Rowlandson, but they sell for enormous prices whenever they happen to appear in the sale rooms. I think the frumps find all advertising vulgar—why I do not know. Why should it be assumed that advertisers think vulgarity on television will be remunerative to them? Is it to be supposed that they say, "We must, of course, be refined in Punch and The Times, but we can fairly wallow in our natural taste for vulgarity when it comes to T.V." I must say that sounds very unlikely to me.
In any case, these arguments overlook the power of the I.T.A. to maintain standards, if, indeed, they ever find the need to do so exists. In this respect perhaps I may mention a point made by the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt. He is not here, but I know he would not take exception to a remark I should like to make about something he said in his speech. He described a conversation between the advertiser and the programme contractor. I think he made the mistake of imagining that advertising time will be sold over the counter, because he described the programme contractor as saying, "I have got five minutes I can give you next week." My Lords, advertising campaigns are not run in that manner at all. They are matters which are worked out a long time ahead, and worked out with great care and in great detail. The programme contractors will be dealing with these matters at quite long term with the advertisers. I see no reason whatsoever why, without any detriment to the public in any way at all, the advertiser and programme contractor should not work hand in hand in this matter, perfectly reasonably and perfectly sensibly.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
I am sure my noble friend will not mind my interrupting as my noble and learned Leader is not here. It seems to me he has made no answer at all to my noble Leader's case, except to say that it is going to be done such a long time in advance of the actual appearance of the programme that his argument does not apply. Of course, there is no difference at all. There is a spot to be sold between two progammes, and whenever that is discussed between the buyer and seller of that spot the argument of my noble and learned Leader applies quite fully.
§ LORD WINSTER
I am dealing only with one specific point and I hold to the views I have expressed. It is said (it is out of my recollection as to whether it was said by the noble Earl) that the advertiser will always be in a position to use the big stick on the contractor, and be able to dictate what his needs and requirements are and have them met. On the contrary, I envisage something quite different. I envisage the advertiser and the programme contractor working together like two sensible men and the programme contractor endeavouring to meet the needs of the advertiser, if he can do so without detriment to the public. That is the point I am venturing to put before your Lordships. If the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, will not mind my mentioning one point in his speech, to which I listened with great attention, it is what he said about advertisements in newspapers. I understood him to say that if you do not like the advertisements you can turn over the page. That seems to confine me to reading only the news which appears on the pages where I approve of the advertisements. That might leave me in considerable ignorance as to what was going on in the world.
A final word on this question of vulgarity. I think the arguments on that score largely overlook the fact that it is not merely an affair of T.V. influencing the people; the people will bring their influence to bear upon T.V. It is not entirely a one-way traffic. I cannot help noticing that many opponents of the Bill—I do not say in your Lordships' House, but certainly outside—assume that the people must on no account he trusted in this matter. The adjective "debasing" which is so frequently on their lips is 236 really a vote of no confidence in the public. I do not share the congenital distrust from which they seem to suffer. It really must not be thought that the B.B.C. operates only at a high level; it operates at many levels, including the fatuous, the frivolous and also the vulgar. It is far from representing the aristocracy of taste, as many of its supporters would like us to believe. Many of its programmes are incredibly vulgar and in shockingly bad taste, and that has been said to me by servants of the Corporation itself; it is not merely my point of view.
Another argument is bound up with this—and I notice that it recurs in every speech made on the subject by one opponent of this Bill in another place. He bases a great number of his arguments upon what happens in America, and he draws a most lurid picture of American television which is really not factual because I have seen quite a lot of American television. But, in any case, let us suppose that American television is everything which is vulgar and debased. Why should it be assumed that our commercial television is likely to copy the American television in those respects? We do not always copy America. It is true that coca-cola is making headway over here, but our motor-car manufacturers stick to their own style of body. I do not notice our cricketers and golfers chewing gum incessantly as they play; I have not noticed many padded-shoulder suits in London, and in ties we stick to our own conservative tastes. We do not wear ties showing a bouquet of rockets going up into the sky, or nude blondes. We do not copy them. We do not copy the Americans in our administration of the law, in our method of conducting an inquiry, in our Parliamentary procedure; in the conduct of our police or in our attitude in regard to corruption. In all those matters we do not copy American standards; we preserve our own individuality. I do not really believe that we are going to do anything else but preserve them in television.
§ LORD STRABOLGI
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but does he not remember that, when one walks up the Charing Cross Road to look, perhaps, at bookshops, very often one sees, accidentally, shops which specialise in men's fashions which always have in very large lettering on top, "Latest American Styles"?
§ LORD WINSTER
Yes. I have no doubt that there are a great many Americans now resident in this country, and doubtless the advertisers have their American customers to cater for, which explains what the noble Lord has referred to. But I repeat what I have said: that I do not notice our own people copying American tastes in the particular respects which I have mentioned.
Then the children come frequently into this matter, and the argument about the need for protecting our children against "the wicked advertiser" is invoked at every turn. I think that all this is very largely exaggerated, because it assumes that the child sees things through adult eyes, when, of course, it does nothing of the sort. To the innocent all things are innocent, but to the prurient everything is prurient. The most reverend Primate the Lord Archbishop of York has said thatIt is almost impossible to exaggerate the influence it will have over the young.I think it is very possible to exaggerate it, and that that is, in fact, being done. If television is to be blamed for children who go amiss, it is yet another example of parents blaming anybody or anything but themselves for failure to control their children. Parents can read the programmes which are going to be presented and, if they think that a certain item will be bad for their little angels, surely they can prevent their little angels from watching it.
With one thing which the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, said I most thoroughly agree. I refer to his remark about the incalculable and unforeseeable influences which television may have on our life. I believe that it may profoundly affect the course of our politics. To take only one instance—for I must not weary your Lordships by speaking at too great a length—I think the influence of television may be to put the mob orator Out of business. That delightful creation of the cartoonist Mr. Cummings, Mr. Shinbag Zilliboy, may have a great effect addressing a mass meeting, but he would look silly upon television. I feel that in that and in many other ways we may find our political life profoundly altered by television.
The noble and learned Earl spoke about the possibility of an alternative service, possibly by a second public 238 corporation or by the B.B.C. itself providing an alternative service. I am not at all sure that this would improve matters. There are serious objections to the proposal. If the B.B.C. were to run an alternative programme, I think that there would be grave danger of its duplicating existing faults in its present programmes. Why should we expect another service, an alternative service, provided by the B.B.C. to be any better than the services which it already supplies? The B.B.C., if it supplied an alternative service, would still lack the stimulus of competition; and its monopoly would not merely remain but it would, if anything, he increased. The B.B.C. certainly gets criticism, but it does not get the competition; and criticism without competition never improves matters, and it is not likely to.
The B.B.C. already runs several programmes. None of them is conspicuously better than the others, and if it were to give us yet another programme, I think it would be rather a case of what Mr. Henry Ford said to customers who wanted to choose the colour of their car. He said: "You can have any colour you like, provided that it is a shade of black." I think the alternative programme would have many of the faults that the present programmes have. The B.B.C. television programme, under Sir George Barnes, seems to be stuck at the moment at a poor level of quality and I am afraid that it is not improving. A Press television critic said:
The B.B.C. must give authority to men of commanding stature who can make inspiration carry like an electric charge through the whole of a huge, complex organisation.The B.B.C. has never, in the whole course of its existence, produced a man of that stature, and I really cannot believe that another programme is likely to bring such a man to light; but commercial television possibly may. We do not know, we must see. Even if the B.B.C. were to retain its monopoly, it is the fact that competitive foreign programmes will come, whether the B.B.C. likes it or not, and they will come without any of the safeguards which I.T.A. will be able to exercise. If there is to be competition, I favour having our own domestic competition. After all, if the foreign programmes are to come in they will capture British advertising, and, if advertising is to be done, again I would 239 prefer that it be done as a domestic matter.
I have read with great care—I am not speaking with prejudice, I hope—the arguments against this Bill. Some require careful consideration, which they will receive when we come to the Committee stage. Some are fatuous and a great many are what I should call "frumpish." In the fatuous category, I would commend to your Lordships this example of a criticism by one opponent of the Bill:Crippen was the first criminal to be caught by wireless; the Conservative Central Office are the first criminals to be caught by television.If anybody can make head or tail of that remark I shall be surprised. To me it is completely meaningless. That is an example of what I call the fatuous argument. I cannot say that I myself am a great "fan" of television. I do not fall under the criticism of the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, that many people criticise who do not watch. I have seen quite a lot of television, both here and in America, and I am interested to see that the Prime Minister has been hanging out television as a "carrot" for the Russian people. That surprised me very much indeed, because, of course, we know that the Russians invented T.V., just as they have invented practically everything else that we see on the earth to-day; so I do not think perhaps it is particularly useful to hold out T.V. to them as an inducement to behave themselves. There is a great deal to be said in this matter for the Siamese. In Siam T.V. sets sell like hot cakes—but there are no stations. It is a sign of social prestige to have a T.V. set, so nowhere do T.V. sets sell better at the present moment than in Siam.
My Lords, T.V. will increase. The public want an alternative service, and they are entitled to have an alternative programme. They are adult enough to decide matters of taste by experimenting. I understand that the latest Gallup Poll shows that 66 per cent. are in favour of commercial television and the alternative service. At first, public opinion was opposed to those things, but it is quite clear that public opinion, having listened to the arguments, pro and con, has come down in support of the proposals. There are safeguards which will 240 ensure programmes at least of B.B.C. standards of respectability—they really could not be worse than some of the stuff on the Light Programme to-day. I think the fears expressed about this Bill are exaggerated; I think the main objections have been met, and now, at any rate, I am in favour of giving the people what they want.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LINLITHGOW
My Lords, I have listened with the greatest interest to the noble Lord who has just spoken, and I believe that he has made, perhaps, one of the most important speeches in favour of the Bill that your Lordships will hear. It was a quiet, reasoned, thoroughly good-tempered destruction of every single point that has so far been raised in opposition to the Bill. Much has been said on this Bill in another place; much has been said here, and one can do little more than repeat what one has already said before. I think the most important things have in fact been said, and therefore I do not propose to detain your Lordships for long
There are one or two points that I should like to pick up, which have not been touched on by other speakers, except by those who have spoken in opposition to the Bill. One point upon which I should like to make a few remarks is that which has constantly been thrown in the face of the Government; that they have no right to use, and should not have used, the Whip in this particular debate. My own view on that is perfectly clear. So far as I know, the Labour Party is committed, as a Party, to the destruction of this Bill if it is passed now, and if and when the Labour Party comes back into power. Therefore, in spite of the conventions of your Lordships' House, there is an assumption that the Labour Benches in this House will in fact vote unanimously against this Bill. I would most respectfully suggest that there is no reason to use a whip on a dog which is already chained, and I have no hesitation in justifying the Government's use of the methods that they have used to obtain an interest in their favour on this Bill.
Another point that has been raised dealt with the question of mandate. "Mandate" is a word which I dislike. In a General Election each Party has a programme, which may consist of fourteen, fifteen or even twenty completely different 241 points; and, generally speaking, common sense will tell anybody who has an interest in politics what points (it may be only two) the public have voted upon. It has been frequently suggested, both in another place and in your Lordships' House, either that there is no mandate for this Bill or that there is a mandate for it. I respectfully suggest that usually there is a mandate for only, perhaps, two or three subjects. The fact that the Government have been elected on those two or three subjects does not necessarily mean that there is overwhelming support in the country for the other subjects. In this particular case, it has not been suggested that the Government have a mandate, and I entirely agree with those who say that they have not.
There is no particular mandate for this Bill, but there is an assumption—in my mind a certainty—that if you are a thinking Member of the Tory Party you will be inclined to vote, wherever possible, in support of the individual against the State. The controversy between the Executive on the one side and Parliamentary institutions, on the other has been raging since the war. I respectfully suggest that, as a Tory, one is inevitably biased towards supporting individual choice as against lack of choice or the imposition of one particular programme, the B.B.C., without an opportunity for the public to say which one they want.
So far as I can make out, all the Government do by this Bill is to say to the public, "We do not know whether the B.B.C. are very good or very bad. We know that they are faithful servants of the public and of the country. We cannot tell you they are very good, because unless we let somebody else try we have no yardstick to judge them by. If you like, you can compare them with American television." I have had very little experience of American television and broadcasting, but I do not believe that that is a fair comparison. A real comparison would be between the B.B.C. programmes and those of another British body which has nothing whatever to do with the B.B.C. That is the only form of independent programme with regard to which one can make a comparison. It may be that the B.B.C. would emerge with flying colours, but I would respectfully suggest that nobody in this House knows. They may be first-class; we may 242 find that they are very bad. Let us find out; let us try.
There are two smaller points which struck me while listening carefully to what has already been said. A great deal has been said, both by the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, and by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, about the power that the advertisers have to control the Independent Television Authority, that power resting on the power of the advertisers to refuse to use a certain programme. My view is this. If I were a manufacturer of a particular article, and against me were ranged a number of competitors, and if I saw a programme on the television, the time of which I could buy—although in my view it might not be first-class—I might say to myself, "the public like that programme"; and I should be only too delighted for my competitors to say, "That is not good enough for us." If I considered the programme fairly moderate I might say, "That programme is at least getting across," and I should be delighted for, say, three of my competitors to refuse to take part in the programme.
If the programme is good, the public will know perfectly well, and they will watch the programme. To suggest that an advertiser has a debased taste, and that because a particular programme is not debased enough he will not sell his wares on it must be wrong. Therefore I was particularly glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Winster, say that in his view the people would control television. He was, as I am, dead against the rather patriarchal attitude that it is the job of television to control the people. The people who are going to decide are the people who watch the television sets. What they like they will watch, and what they like the advertisers will use. For the life of me I cannot see, and never have seen, any reason why advertisers should be accused of using debased programmes to sell their wares. I simply cannot see it. I am sorry, but I never have been able to see it. So far as I am concerned, the matter is one of straight common sense: let us see which is best.
There is another point upon which I wish to make a few remarks, and upon which I thought the noble Lord, Lord Winster, was going to speak, but he tackled it from a rather different angle. The noble Earl, Lord Halifax, said that while, when reading a newspaper, he can 243 avoid an advertisement he does not like by turning over the pages, he cannot avoid the advertisements on television if he does not like them. I submit that he can—by turning the knob back to our old friend, the B.B.C. programme. Any time that anybody is offended or bored or happens to dislike a particular programme run by the Independent Authority, he can do one of two things: he can turn it off and write to The Times, or he can go on watching it and write to The Times.
I should like also to mention a point which was raised the last time this subject came before your Lordships—it is rather a "King Charles' head" of mine. I notice that once again we have what has become a perennial in all places of debate; I refer to the very unfortunate contrast drawn between the saintliness of public servants, on the one side, and, on the other, the definite lack of trust of those who make their living in commercial business. The noble Earl, Lord Halifax, towards the end of his speech made a perfectly clear definition. He has every right to believe that there is a difference in intellect between the two bodies. The noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, referred in rather scathing terms to-day (I forget his actual words in the previous debate when he also dealt with the subject) to financial interests "running riot" through television. Having spent all my life in commercial affairs, I would suggest, very respectfully, to both noble Lords—respectfully because of my youth, and because of my immense admiration for both of them—that if we are going to have a match between the integrity of our public servants, on the one hand, and commercial gentlemen, on the other, I can throw some very nasty brickbats at the integrity of politicians. I do not propose to do so, however. If one is going to enter into this controversy beforehand, I would much rather trust the integrity of the commercial businessman than the far greater rigidity, which is becoming the intellectual arrogance, of public servants. I say that bearing fully in mind a recent case which is very much in the news at the moment, and which I hope will be debated in your Lordships' House.
Finally, apart from the fear expressed by those who are opposed to this Bill, fear of the horrible people who spend their lives in trade and advertising—a 244 fear which has been greatly exaggerated—I think there is something slightly more serious. Quite seriously I feel that one of the things from which our society is in grave danger of suffering at the moment is a reversal to a rather patriarchal attitude. That patriarchal attitude represents a new form of aristocracy—people find themselves on a pinnacle, unchallenged, and in many cases supported by Ministers, which in my view they should not be. Believing that, they believe that they have a cage full of some 45 million puppets who will never grow up, who have to be disciplined and before whom it is so easy to arrive with a box of biscuits to get a yap of approval of their personalities. I think there is grave danger there. It is high time we took a serious view of the growth of that attitude.
In saying that I regard myself almost as a revolutionary. I regard those who take the other view as reactionaries. They are rather inclined to suppose that they talk in terms of progress, social values, educational values, and all the other nonsense. I do not believe it. I am "on the side of the angels" of this one, and regard myself as almost ready to go to the barricades for it, with a pike in one hand and a pistol in the other. I can illustrate what I mean by quoting the description of the B.B.C. programmes—and it is perfectly correct—as "wholesome nourishment." They are. When I am ill I go to my doctor, and he says, "You have been overdoing it; I am going to put you on a wholesome diet, with milk puddings, prunes, and Horlicks at night." That is when I am ill. I submit that the patient with whom we are dealing at the moment, the British people, is sound in wind and limb. I do not think he has anything wrong at all, and I think he is perfectly fit to consume good meat. All I am asking is that this Bill should have the full support of your Lordships' House, in the spirit that, having had my rice pudding and prunes when I am ill, as a fit man I should have the right, as has every fit man in this country, to go out and, if I feel like it, "make a beast of myself" in a restaurant; and if I get a stomach ache it is my own fault.
§ 5.37 p.m.
§ LORD BEVERIDGE
My Lords, the noble Earl the Postmaster General who opened this debate began by saying it was 245 hard to find anything new to say, as so much had been said already on this subject. Before I finish I hope to have suggested to him something entirely new to be said from the Government side, a thing that ought to have been said and has not been said at all. The noble Earl referred to another noble Lord who was wicked enough to say that "money speaks." As I happen to be that noble Lord I will, in due course, explain and justify that phrase. But I will go beyond that: I will suggest a slightly different alternative of it, so reasonable that I do not believe the noble Earl, the Postmaster General, will find it possible, as a reasonable person, to differ from me any longer.
I must begin by referring briefly to the debate on the White Paper on November 25 and 26, and to the comment that was made on that occasion on an argument of mine by the noble Marquess the Leader of this House, in which he spoke of an argument used by me as accounting for the decay and disappearance of the Liberal Party. I am not going to discuss the merits of that again, but I feel that I should take this opportunity of pointing out that, when making my speech on the White Paper, though I spoke from these Benches—as I shall always be glad to speak from these Benches, particularly while they are presided over by my noble friend Lord Samuel—I was not speaking as a Liberal. I was not speaking on a Party issue. I was speaking then, as I speak now, because it so happens that, as Chairman of a Committee upon the B.B.C., I spent eighteen months of pretty hard work investigating problems of the kind we are discussing now.
That was a committee of eleven persons of all Parties and of none. All but one signed the same Report; We discussed, in particular, the question of monopoly and its dangers and how to guard against them, and the use of radio or television for advertising goods and services. On monopoly, we came to the unanimous conclusion not to replace the B.B.C. by an alternative body; but in regard to advertisements we differed slightly. I did not, and I do not now, regard any advertisement on the air, on the radio or on the screen, as an accursed thing. Indeed, I believe there can be much worse things on the radio and on the screen than advertisements. I have not been able to test that belief in this country, but I shall refer in a moment 246 to a test of that belief which came within my experience in America. But because we believed that advertisements might be permitted on the radio and on television, three of us wrote a Minority Report in favour of allowing it. At the same time, however, we emphasised that, like all our other colleagues except one, we objected to putting financial control of broadcasting into the hands of people who wanted to sell other things, people concerned with selling goods and services. On those two questions of monopoly and of advertising ten of the eleven members of that Committee, of all Parties and of none, were hostile to what the Government are proposing to do in regard to television.
What are they proposing? Of course we all know. First, they are proposing competition by a corporation independent of the B.B.C., to break the monopoly. Second, they are proposing that the main revenue of this independent corporation shall come from advertisements. I am going to say little about the monopoly question. Actually, in suggesting that the B.B.C. should retain its monopoly, we made certain proposals, in particular one for a Public Representation Service, to limit its dangers. That proposal has not been adopted by the Government or by the B.B.C. In the circumstances, I am the more ready to accept the breaking of monopoly in television as the Government propose, and the more ready to accept it because the Government give a reason for wishing to break that monopoly. I want to stress that for this change they give a reason. It is given in paragraph 3 of the White Paper, and it is, in effect, that the great and increasing power of television in influencing men's minds should not remain in the hands of a single authority, however excellent.
Let me turn from monopoly to the other question of the source of revenue for the new corporation. For the Government, it appears to be equally fundamental as the breaking of the monopoly. They have refused on more than one occasion to discuss the matter with, I think, the Opposition in another place except on the basis of the acceptance of that fundamental principle, that the revenue of the new Authority must come mainly or wholly, or nearly wholly, from advertising. But they have nowhere, at any time, given any reason for 247 this principle. As to this, I have considered with considerable care and considerable weariness of spirit most of the things that have been said in the other place on behalf of the Government. No reason for this second principle is given in the White Paper on television— there is no need to set the civil servants looking for it because they will not be able to find it. Secondly, no reason for it was given in the other place in the Second Reading speech of the Home Secretary, though the speech itself lasted sixty-one minutes. Not a word could be found to defend this fundamental principle or even to explain it. Again, the Assistant Postmaster General in the other place, when he came to wind up the debate, ended by setting out the philosophy of the Bill, but that philosophy did not include any reason whatever for this fundamental principle. When they came to the Third Reading in the other place, once again both the Home Secretary and the Assistant Postmaster General set out the same principle without vouchsafing any reason whatever for it.
Here I suggest that anyone who has to speak for the Government in this House might say something quite new by giving a reason for what they regard as a fundamental principle. They have not given any reason at all in anything they have yet said. The nearest approach to a reason—and I want to be quite fair to the Assistant Postmaster General—was in a casual phrase which he used in one of his speeches, in which he said that by this method the Government would give the country a second programme at a minimum of cost to viewers. I should like to ask: "Why this extreme consideration for viewers?" First of all, I suggest it is rather a dangerous policy to tell people in this country that they can get something without paying for it. That is very dangerous from the point of view of the Government, whatever Government may be in power at the time.
Of course the second programme will be paid for. It will be much more expensive, given in this way, than it would have been if it had been handed over to the B.B.C. It will be paid for by raising the prices of the articles advertised; it will be paid for either in that way or in 248 another, which is by counting the cost as expenses of business, and thereby reducing taxation. If the cost is added to the cost of the articles advertised, then the cost of putting extra television on will be partly borne by people who have not got a television set and who, it may be, do not want one or cannot afford television. Because they buy some things which are being advertised, they will contribute to the cost. Really no reason whatever, I repeat, has been given by the Government for this fundamental principle. And they could give no reason except a desire to give the advertisers a new kingdom to rule and to enjoy. Against this fundamental principle, there is the overwhelming reason that it makes persons who are interested in other things than television the paymasters of the new Authority. You cannot get away from that. The new Authority will be under the control, under the ultimate financial control, of people who are ultimately interested in other things.
I want to illustrate by a number of experiences I had recently of American television how that works out in that country. I have just returned from the United States. While we were there, my wife and I took every opportunity open to us—because we knew of the interest in this country—of viewing television. Of course, there was one programme above all which commanded everybody's viewing—the contest between Senator McCarthy and the Army. It was exactly like the football match which took place recently between Brazil and Hungary, a wrestling match with no holds barred. I can quite understand why viewers liked to see that. But the other programmes enabled me to confirm by observation the theory that I had had before, that much worse things can go on the air and the screen than advertisements. The other programmes that came our way, one after the other, were such that my wife and I turned with relief to the advertisements. We thought them preferable to the violence and inanity of most of the other programmes. I have no doubt that we were a little unlucky in our choice or chance of programmes. I myself gave a television programme, which I hope was at least as high in standard as the advertisement of watches which accompanied it. I cannot say more than that. It was a very discreet advertisement.
249 But I am bound to say that I came back strengthened in my opposition to the second fundamental, unreasoned principle of this Bill. I believe that American standards in television are definitely lower than anyone would like to have here, but that cannot be explained by saying that our people are more cultivated. It is not explained by that at all. After all, the people of America and of this country meet on equal terms in the universities, in the arts and sciences. Nothing would be more ridiculous than to claim superiority for this country. I suggest that the real difference between what goes on the air and the screen in America and what goes on the air and the screen here is the method by which the two things are financed. In this country, thanks very largely to the personality and views of one man—the noble Lord, Lord Reith, who started the B.B.C.—we have had a policy of using the air for improving the standards of discussion, entertainment and music. That was the motive of the body which was then wholly in charge. In America, the standards are lower because the people who ultimately decide the programmes for which they will pay money are not interested in that motive—they could not be and honourably fulfil their duty to their shareholders. They are interested in getting the best results for the money spent for advertisements, and that means that they must pursue the mass audience.
The Government have made a great point of saying that what they propose is utterly different from the American system because it is not sponsored, but for that they have had to invent an entirely new definition of sponsoring. Sponsoring is merely the advertisement with the programme. But it is unimportant whether the advertisement is named with the programme or not. The real point to the advertiser is whether his advertisement goes on the air at the time 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. That is what is meant by "money speaks." "Money speaks" means that you cannot go on doing what your paymaster does not want you to do. As such, I defend that remark completely, though I am going to suggest in a moment a variation which I am sure will cause the noble Earl—
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, whom does the noble Lord conceive to be the paymaster of the B.B.C.?
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I disagree fundamentally with the noble Lord. The paymaster of the B.B.C. is the British public, who pay their licence fees. The B.B.C. get every penny from the British public.
§ LORD BEVERIDGE
But they do not decide how much they will pay. That is raised by the Government compulsorily. They do not influence the policy of the B.B.C. At once may say that they ought to influence the B.B.C. more. That was one of my proposals, for a public representation service to enable the public to influence the B.B.C. more. But that was rejected, first by the Labour Government and then by the Government now in power.
§ EARL DE LA WARR
My Lords, does the noble Lord think it is a crime to have a popular television service?
§ EARL DE LA WARR
That is what the noble Lord accuses the advertisers of wanting—popularity; and he now says that the B.B.C. ought to have that. He says that a special committee should be set up to make sure the B.B.C. gives more popular programmes.
§ LORD BEVERIDGE
I only want what the Government say in their White Paper they want—to use television to make men more intelligent, to be better in their judgment of entertainment, music and everything else. I only want what the Government say they want; but they do not do what they say they want to do. They do not know how to get it.
The Government have set up this absurdly financed independent corporation (I am going to say in a moment that it is not independent at all), producing, as they did not think necessary to produce for the B.B.C., a tremendous number of clauses in the Bill, defining and limiting the powers of I.T.A., adjusting their control of programme contractors and all the rest—all, I suggest, a deplorable Mrs. Partington and her mop 251 to keep out the steady, permanent influence of the pursuit of the mass audience in destroying the value of this great instrument for making our population happier, better amused and more intelligent in every way. Some of these clauses, particularly the prescription of the British attitude or British tone to all these things, frankly strike me as ridiculous. The keeping out of advertisements, apart from special programmes, is utterly irrelevant to the main point. Let me say that advertisements are not necessarily unpleasant. I do not mind having them with some of the main programmes. But the real question is, what financial power behind the alleged throne of I.T.A. is to determine the nature of the programmes?
The £750,000, which is to come from the Government, and which I welcome as an instalment of a much bigger grant of public funds, apart from the fact that it is free from the influence of advertisers is also irrelevant. I venture to say that the whole Bill consists largely of confusing the important with the unimportant. It makes one important mistake; it then tries to remedy that by a number of unimportant details. I would beg the Government, even at this late day, to see whether they cannot keep television in the hands of people, whether by one body or more—I raise no question as to that—whose aim is to raise standards of entertainment, discussion and instruction, instead of to sell something which is absolutely irrelevant. To say that is not to be patriarch; there is nothing patriarchal about it. If anyone will read the Report which I wrote as Chairman of the Broadcasting Committee, he will see the emphasis laid there on getting the opinions—not merely the casual opinions—of every sort and kind of viewers brought independently to the notice of the people who make the programmes in the B.B.C.
I beg the Government to go back to their White Paper; to remember the influence on men's minds of television; to avoid breaking the monopoly by handing over television to an Authority which will not be excellent—they themselves admit that, and that is why they have put in a number of clauses to tie it up in all sorts of ways—and which cannot be excellent, because of the source of finance upon which it depends. The Government are barred from doing that so long as 252 they stick to their dogma. But it is a dogma without any reason at all. I hope that perhaps to-morrow they may give us some reason for that dogma about the source of the finance of the new Television Authority. But I do not really want reasons; I beg of them to reconsider the dogma itself. Money speaks (may I repeat that to the noble Earl, the Postmaster General?) in the sense that it gives power to influence other men. If I may put it in another way, money gives independence of the undue influence of other men.
I beg of the Government. who have begun the process of giving to the I.T.A. an income independent of advertisements, to consider going on and giving real independence to the I.T.A., by giving them enough money not to have to depend on advertisers. I do not mind whether they let them have some advertising, any more than I object to the B.B.C. having some advertising; but let them not depend wholly or mainly upon the money that they get from advertisers. Having set up an Independent Television Authority which is really independent of advertisers, as of everyone else, then trust them: give them as much power as you give to the B.B.C. In this way you will probably shorten your Bill to half its total length. This means, really, that I am asking the Government to reconsider completely their finance. They could begin by removing from Clause 9 the limit of £050,000; they could divide licence fees fairly between the corporations, raising the licence fees—as I think on other grounds they ought to do—and by giving each the same freedom to accept or reject advertisements. That would be real competition on equal terms. That is what "competition" means. It is not competition between one body of one sort, and another of a completely different sort. It would get rid of a clutter of clauses. In abolishing the monopoly, I would support the Government; but I would beg of them to maintain the high aims which were the life-blood of the monopoly which they are breaking.
§ 6.16 p.m.
§ LORD MILVERTON
My Lords, during the past two years I have read so much and listened to so many speeches on this vexed subject of commercial television that I have no wish now to add 253 unnecessarily to their numbers. But, lest silence should seem to indicate in any way that my views have weakened on the subject, it is perhaps better, with the utmost brevity at my command, just to emphasise that my belief still is in support of this Bill. I listened with the greatest interest to the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, this afternoon, and I was particularly sorry that he implored me, amongst others, to refrain from mentioning either Milton or monopoly. I am the more sorry for that prohibition, because I am sure that, at least over Milton, the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, would be on my side and equally regret it; cause were Milton alive to-day, I am sure he would be an ardent listener to the Third Programme, and I gather from the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, that the people who listen to the Third Programme are the salt of the earth and the people who have made England what it is to-day. However, I will meet the noble and learned Earl half-way by not referring to Milton, although it will be difficult to avoid referring, in some respects, to monopoly. After all, the principles upon which this Bill is based have never been effectively challenged here, in another place or even in the Press. They stand where they did, and where they always will stand, I suggest, so long as we believe in freedom of speech and thought, and so long as this continues to inspire this nation.
I do not mind opponents of the Bill implying that it is merely an exhibition of carrying dogma into practice. Of course it is, because, as I see it, a dogma is a belief; and the belief in this case is the belief, as I have said, in liberty of thought and speech, to which we have all paid tribute. It is one of the fundamental assumptions of the democracy which we possess, so frequently lauded on our lips, and so frequently disregarded in our actions. I suppose that the bad flavour which the words "dogma" and "dogmatic" are apt to convey has arisen really from the arrogant assertion of views and beliefs which are only sectionally held, such as the belief in the all-powerful State, and in the virtue of monopoly so long as it remains in those soulless hands. There is no one, I suggest, in public life to-day who dares publicly to declare his opposition to liberty of thought and speech. And why? Surely, because a belief in liberty of thought and speech is, 254 as I have said, one of the most cherished possessions of this country. That is the object of what I have been saying. The Government have endeavoured to apply this principle in the field of television, whose future stretches in unpredictable possibility before us. The Government have sought the co-operation of all Parties and sections of opinion in applying essential Government control with the maximum of reasonable liberty. And here is the Bill which aims at providing a real alternative programme.
I should like, if your Lordships will allow me, to mention one or two things which have been emphasised in the debate this afternoon—first of all this question of advertising. I confess that, although I have listened carefully to the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, and other noble Lords who have stated their objections and their fears about the influence of the advertiser, I have still not been able to follow their arguments. The noble Earl, Lord Halifax (I think it was) said that the programme contractor had to see the advertiser and that he would inevitably fall under the influence of that man, because that man would not advertise unless he was pleased with the programme. Therefore, I believe the argument runs, the Government are handing over television programmes virtually to the control of advertisers. I cannot for the life of me see the strength of that argument. Surely what the advertiser is interested in is the quality of the programme which may attract a large audience—the kind of audience to whom he wants to advertise his goods. He never pretends, or wishes to pretend, to be judge of how to attract that audience. I cannot see why we should assume that he will suddenly be seized with this senseless ambition to interfere in a sphere of activity of which he knows nothing.
Surely, it is the business of the programme contractor to regulate the quality of his programme so as to attract the largest possible audience. That is, I presume, one of the main ideas of a programme contractor; and, incidentally, in so doing, if he has any trust in the public at all, he will do his best to give a programme of the highest possible quality. I know that those words "the highest possible quality" admit of various interpretations, and that is precisely one of the objections that people who think as I do have to opponents of 255 this Bill, in that, quite unjustly in many instances—it has even run through the debate to-day—there is the subconscious feeling that the ordinary person is not a suitable judge of the programme that he wants; that if it is left to him the result will be hideous and appalling. I do not believe that, and I do not believe that a small body of people, however high-minded and however highly qualified, should wish or dream of arrogating to themselves the right to "lift," as they would say, the tone of the people in the country.
I was also particularly interested in hearing what I almost called the apologia of the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, for his defence of a monopoly. I admit that many of the things he said could not, so far as I am concerned, be controverted, but I was disappointed when he applied his principles to this particular case of television. He spoke of natural monopolies, the railways, the Post Office and so forth; and I would not for the moment quarrel with him over those things. Then he passed on to say that television and broadcasting, owing to the technical difficulties, were natural monopolies. I waited in vain to hear him say that he was thus surrendering all the things of the mind to the purely material; that he was prepared, because of technical difficulties, to risk the possible evil influence upon the people of this country of a monopoly in television. Surely the things of the mind must always come first. I am not denying that there are possible technical difficulties, but a challenge of this sort should be easily surmountable; indeed, at the moment there is no reason to suppose that the separate Television Authority and its separate programme is not a technical possibility.
I was also interested in the appalling picture drawn by the noble Viscount of what might happen in the working of the Authority set up by this Bill. I felt throughout, as with many other things that have been said, that all these things are assumptions. Because the I.T.A. is set over programme contractors, it does not seem to me that you put into that particular field two conflicting authorities. You might just as well say that because, when I was working as a Governor in some British Colony, the Secretary of State had powers over the same field, 256 there were two conflicting authorities. I was subordinate to him, and so are the programme contractors subordinate to the I.T.A.
§ LORD MILVERTON
And so was I subordinate to the Secretary of State "so far as possible." It is a system which has worked perfectly well. I was also a little surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, should, by implication, suggest that, because this new Authority and its work was going to be cheap, so far as the public are concerned, there was necessarily something inferior about it. I was particularly surprised to hear him say that the cost of the advertisement would add to the cost of the article, and so forth. Is that a necessary conclusion? Is it not possible that the use of this new means of advertisement will merely mean the transfer of that expense from, say, a newspaper or some other means of advertising? It does not necessarily mean that all the cost of those advertisements will be added to the present total—indeed, it may be that there will be no increase at all.
I also thought that the logic of the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, failed him a little in his reference to the American programmes, when he poured such contempt upon their quality. I could not understand why he should necessarily think that that entitled him to blame the advertisement system. If what he said is correct, does it not redound to the credit of the public which enjoys the programmes? The Americans have a reputation for being very capable business men, and they would surely not put across steadily and consistently a programme of television which revolted the public for whom it was intended. I find it very difficult to believe that.
The noble Lord again said that "money speaks." If money does speak, my Lords, and it should speak, is not the British public, which in the end and in effect pays for television, entitled to have what it wants? Is it not entitled to have the programme that it desires, the alternative programme which this Bill attempts to provide? In my opinion, the tendency has been to overload this Bill with safeguards which experience will probably prove to be either unnecessary or irksome, and perhaps a cumbrous 257 impediment to efficient working. However that may be, I think time will show, and obviously, this Bill will not be the last word in legislation on this subject. We can probably regard it as a transient thing, and it is an attempt which is necessary now to regulate the immense power which is likely to be wielded by this new medium of instruction and entertainment.
Incidentally, as the noble Lord, Lord Winster, mentioned, the prospect looms before us of foreign television programmes becoming receivable in this country, untrammelled by any prohibition of advertisements. As has been pointed out, it would be economic suicide for this country to deny to British trade so powerful an advertising medium. Here again, we all pay lip service to the basis of our being, which, after all, is trade; and successful trade depends for its expansion on profit. The standard of living of our people rests upon the energy and enterprise of those who contribute their brains, their capital and their labour to that end. It puzzles me that the word "commercial," applied to television, should arouse the almost passionate opposition of those who tell us that this is the century of the common man. Then let the common man enjoy the scientific fruits of his century in freedom; and let the profit motive, which, say what you will, continues to vitalise our life, be allowed to give him the best of commercial progress, in television as in everything else. I suggest that we do not want the dead hand of any monopoly to strangle the unpredictable possibilities of this new development. Nor can we safely place so immense a power in the hands of a semi-State monopoly. The B.B.C., as has been said over and over again, will be free to continue in all its virtue, while the public will have the choice of another genuinely competitive programme as an alternative or as a supplement.
The Government, it seems to me, have gone a long way to try to meet the doubts and fears of those who oppose this Bill, but there comes a time when one must ask whether the principles on which this Bill is founded are accepted or not. If they are not accepted, then any further compromise becomes capitulation, since Amendments which are based on a complete denial of those principles would serve only to make the Bill unworkable and must, therefore, be rejected. It is 258 for this reason, that I have deliberately said so little in detail about the Bill. The details have run the gauntlet of unlimited discussion, and the time has now come for decision. It is natural, I suppose, for those who move mentally in an authoritarian atmosphere to tend towards the investment of their prejudices with all the sanctity of Holy Writ. I am reminded of the earnest warnings of the noble Lord, Lord Layton, in the debate in this House last year, when he said (OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 184, col. 699):… some of us feel passionately that we should not allow this enormous new field that is opening up before us to be straitjacketed in Britain.We have a system of democracy in this country, but some of its most fervid supporters, in theory, seem to me to seize an occasion like this to show their fear and mistrust of it. Their attitude to this Bill is shot through with mistrust and fear; fear of public taste if left alone, mistrust of the business man if left free to conduct his business. They want to run the nation in B.B.C. blinkers. The story of mankind is the story of man's struggle for the right to think, and to that we have now added the story of man's struggle for the right to see and to hear. In listening to some of the opponents of this Bill, my mind goes back to Africa and the natural resistance there to anything that is new and strange, to the claim of the medicine man to be the, sole interpreter of mystery to his tribe. For those whose opposition is subconsciously based on dislike and fear of television as a new and potentially evil force, and therefore dangerous to encourage, there is not much that we can do to combat so negative an attitude. They, I suggest, are the Canutes of our generation. The Bill represents a cautious, guarded and empirical approach to this delicate problem, and so I give my support to liberty and to this Bill.
§ 6.38 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF BRISTOL
My Lords, I trust that your Lordships will extend your customary indulgence to one of your number who is making his maiden speech. I should not have ventured to break the silence which seems to me proper for "new boys" anything like so early, but for the fact that the subject we are discussing to-day is one on which over the 259 last ten or fifteen years I have acquired a certain amount of first-hand knowledge and experience, and one for which at the moment I carry a certain official responsibility; I have the honour to be the chairman of the Central Religious Advisory Council, the body which, as your Lordships know, officially represents the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of Scotland, and the Free Churches, as the adviser to the Corporation in religious matters. It would be less than honest if I did not make it abundantly plain from the outset that I greatly regret this Bill. If I may echo the words of the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, I regard it as unnecessary and in many ways ill-conceived. But we must face the lamentable possibility that it may become law. Therefore, I conceive it to be part of my responsibility, as Chairman of C.R.A.C. (if I may use the familiar shorthand) to try to ensure that the provisions in this Bill for religious broadcasting give us certain safeguards and certain assurances which to my mind are vital.
In the earlier debate in your Lordships' House on this subject, it was rather suggested that anyone who spoke with inside knowledge of the B.B.C. or with any close association with the B.B.C. must be regarded as a tainted witness. I trust that I am not that. It has already been suggested in another place that the Religious Advisory Council of the Corporation might be the body to advise the new authority. I think I may say that we have also carefully considered that possibility and regard it as one which would have to receive the most careful attention. I make that point in order, I hope, to bring out the fact that we are not taking a "dog in the manger" attitude. Our actual concern—and it is a concern which I venture to say will be shared by every member of your Lordships' House—is that under the new régime, if it comes into being, religious broadcasting should be conducted with a real sense of responsibility and with that dignity, fairness, and charity which the B.B.C. has at least striven to maintain, and, I would assert, has in large measure succeeded in maintaining. May I therefore make one or two points of principle and then go on to make one or two comments on detailed points of the 260 Bill on which I think some of us would desire to receive rather more definite assurance.
There are doubtless spheres in which competition is a good thing, but I would venture to suggest that it can never be a good thing in the sphere of religion. Keen, frank discussion and debate between believers and non-believers on the air—yes, every time; the most honest expression of differing convictions—yes, every time; the fullest possible illustration of different religious traditions—yes, every time. But any attempt to indulge in competitive presentation of our beliefs without the restraint which can be brought to bear by a body in which all the great Christian traditions are represented and which can consider any proposals for religious programmes which are put before it—any attempt at an unrestrained competitive presentation of religion—no, emphatically no. That means that many of us would be utterly opposed to any possibility of what has been called "buying time on the air" by any religious body or association. I will come back to that in a moment in a little more detail.
Secondly, in listening to the noble Earl, I could not be absolutely certain whether, in speaking to Clause 2, he indicated that the responsibility for religious broadcasting would be solely in the hands of the Authority. He used words which rather suggested that, but I was not quite sure whether I had caught them aright. I would say that it would be a very considerable reassurance to many of us if that were so, and it would remove many of our misgivings. I think it could be achieved by a very simple amendment to Clause 2, (2), (a).
§ EARL DE LA WARR
I can give the right reverend Prelate the assurance that it is intended to hold discussions on religious policy with the Council of Churches, and this network should be between the Council of Churches and the Authority.
THE LORD BISHOP OF BRISTOL
There is a very practical point there which I think is worth making. The Religious Advisory Council is composed of fairly responsible and busy people. We sometimes find that we hardly have time to do full justice to the work which is laid before us by the Corporation. We would willingly try to duplicate our responsibility in dealing with one other 261 responsible body, but we should find it a difficult business if we were to have to deal with half a dozen programme committees up and down the country, and we found we were trapesing up to Liverpool or Birmingham to try to do that. It would greatly ease the burden if that work could be centralised.
May I turn for a moment to one or two detailed points in the Bill which touch on this matter of religious television. I am very glad that Her Majesty's Government have made the appointment of the Religious Advisory Committee mandatory rather than permissive, though I confess, being very unused to interpreting Parliamentary draftsmanship, I am never quite sure what is intended by the note which always seems to occur at the end of a clause. It usually begins, "Notwithstanding" and it implies that there are certain exceptions or modifications in the case to which the above does not apply. I am sorry to put it so crudely, but there is just that doubt in my mind. Further, it is satisfactory to see that the Second Schedule entirely forbids advertisements "wholly or mainly of a religious…character." That does not mean that I object to advertisements at all, but I feel it would be most unfortunate if there were advertisement of a religious character. It is a very real relief to our minds that that has been made quite clear. But there are still one or two questions which are not quite clear and to which some of us would greatly value a clear answer.
Is it a fact that under the terms of this Bill no religious body can buy time on the air? Clause 4 (6) says:Nothing shall be included in any programmes … which … could reasonably be supposed to have been included therein in return for payment or other valuable consideration …That would seem clearly to rule out the possibility of buying time. But again one of these provisoes follows, to say that:Nothing in this subsection shall be construed as prohibiting the inclusion, in any part of a programme … which is not an advertisement …(a) items designed to give publicity to the needs of any association or organisation conducted for charitable or benevolent purposes;That looks very much as though a programme producer could include some- 262 thing in his programme which would give publicity to the fact that a church, which is solely a charitable organisation needed money, members, workers, or anything else. That could quite possibly become a loophole through which people could buy time on the air for their own purposes. I would hope that at some period in the debate we may be assured quite definitely that that is wholly impossible. There are other detailed points, but possibly they are more suitable for consideration in Committee—I am afraid I would not know whether or not that is so. It is very difficult to see just where this advisory council will come into operation. A question was asked whether the I.T.A. would see the programmes when they were first proposed, or only when they were in the final stages. The same thing applies to this council. Shall we be consulted as to religious programmes, or shall we be presented with programmes already made and just asked to approve them? There are several questions there which can perhaps be worked out in detail only as the scheme itself works; but again we should like rather more assurances in advance.
My Lords, I must not take up more time on what may seem to be small points of criticism. May I end on a different note? Frankly, there are dangers to be seen in some of the implications of this Bill, and when we are told that we ought not to be afraid of anything, I am sorry to say that I do not agree. I think there are some things about which Christians and others do well to be afraid. They are some things about which some of us are afraid—unseemly competition, undue influence by wealthy and not always wholly responsible bodies acting in their own interests, without consultation with the other recognised religious bodies; the introduction of an element of salesmanship into a sphere in which it is wholly out of place. Those are, I think, real dangers, and we desire to see that the safeguards in this Bill, if it becomes law, really operate.
The noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, spoke of the enormous potential power of this new medium for our whole civilisation. It would be wholly unnecessary to underline the enormous potential power in the communication and interpretation of the Christian faith, the most powerful that any religious body can possess. I should be the last to claim 263 that the B.B.C. had wholly succeeded in achieving the ideals which I think it has undoubtedly set before it in the past in this sphere, but it has at least set a standard, and I think it would be a betrayal of trust on the part of those who speak in the name of the Church if they did not take every possible care to see that, so far as may be, under any alternative system that standard is maintained.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ LORD LAYTON
My Lords, it is my great privilege to congratulate the last speaker on his maiden speech. He speaks with experience and knowledge on a branch of the subject that we are discussing this evening. He has presented his case with clarity and simplicity, and though, on the major question, I am on the opposite side to him, certainly I, as I imagine is true of every other noble Lord present, entirely subscribe to and agree with everything that he has said with regard to the problem of broadcasting on religious topics. I am sure the House will look forward to hearing him again many times. I also find myself once again in the rather awkward position of being between two fires. I thought that my noble and revered Leader, Lord Samuel, made a remarkable speech. I thought he was in tremendous form—real fighting form. As a Liberal I was delighted; but as a supporter of the Government in this matter I thought his speech was disastrous. Many of the things that he said I agree with, as did the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, but I find myself differing from him on many important topics—for example, the effect of this Bill on the B.B.C. I think he is quite wrong about that. I do not think that there is any reason to fear that the B.B.C. will go downhill when this Bill comes into operation. I take a view about monopoly which, in the main, is the same as that of my noble friend, but, like the speaker who has just sat down, who has reminded us that there is something to be feared, I also fear something. I fear something very much indeed—and that is monopoly of the air.
Like many other speakers, I took part in the debate held in this House in November. Then, major questions of principle were discussed upon which the House came to a definite conclusion. I do not propose to cover the ground again 264 —in spite of temptation, I may say. Several speakers this afternoon, including Lord Samuel, have again raised the whole question of the principles that are at stake, but in view of the number of speakers on the list and their purpose in being here, I think it would be wrong to go over the ground again. What we have to do to-day is to consider whether, in our judgment, this Bill carries out satisfactorily the principles which were approved by the House on the occasion of the previous debate. It has already been observed by a previous speaker this afternoon that the Bill, like the White Paper before it, is a compromise. A compromise is not always necessarily a good thing, but in this case there are the makings of a good compromise, since both parties have gained the major points for which they were contending—at least, in my judgment that is the case. On the one hand, there is to be an experiment in commercial television; on the other hand, both programmes and advertisers are subject to control.
I think, further, that the compromise has an added quality because it embodies a proposition which was made on the last occasion by the most reverend Primate when he pressed for an additional source of revenue for the new setup, primarily because in his view it was desirable to have sources of revenue—a point again dealt with by my noble friend Lord Beveridge—that would be free from the "taint" of advertising. I supported the most reverend Primate on that occasion, but not for that reason alone. It seemed to me—and I developed the point—that this immense new medium would need far larger resources at its disposal than it has at present. It is something which is going to develop, and it will not and cannot develop purely on the basis of advertising revenue. Advertising revenue is subject to trade fluctuations and is unstable. On every ground it is a good thing to see that its resources are extended, and I am glad that a commencement has been made in this Bill. It is in my judgment a very important improvement in the Bill itself.
The Division to-morrow will show whether I am right in thinking that some progress has been made in reconciling differences, but both the debate in another place and the debate we have had today have made it clear that the more extreme opponents, as well as some 265 of the supporters of the Bill, some supporters of the concept of commercial television, are not satisfied. On the one side it is said that the Bill lets in sponsorship by the back door; on the other it is said, with rather less conviction, that the whole business is too cramped and tied up with restrictions to be carried out effectively. As to the first of these, it is surprising to find it still being argued by people to whose opinions I attach great weight, that because the advertiser must know what kind of programme he is going to advertise in, he is therefore in a position to dictate the programme. It seems to me there is a complete logical fallacy in that line of argument. With all respect to many distinguished controversialists, the analogy with the Press which I ventured to put before your Lordships on a previous occasion, still stands. Indeed, I know of no form of advertising in the world where the advertiser does not base his action on his estimate of the audience to which he is appealing. If the audience does not suit him, he does not book his space in the newspaper or, if it is television, his time.
I see no reason to suppose that the advertising community will set to work to alter the character of the medium which is offered to them, any more than the advertiser endeavours to write the leader of the newspaper in which he advertises. I confess I did not expect there would be so much discussion on this subject to-day. I think every single speech in opposition to the Bill has brought up this point and developed it. That the influence that may be asserted in the case of television will be of the same order as in the case of newspapers, is the thesis which I have put forward and is one which I still venture to maintain.
Of course, that does not of itself entirely dispose of misgivings which have been heard; but the implication that the people who will organise the programme under the present scheme—the programme contractors—and the advertisers are necessarily in close league or alliance together, seems to me to overlook the function of the I.T.A., and the fact that it has a supremely important job to do in deciding what is to be the set-up of the programme contractors. It may be that one can conceive a sort of conspiracy between the two groups. If that were the case, I think the I.T.A., would have grossly failed in the mandate given to it by this 266 Bill. It is surely important to remember that they have quite different functions. The noble Lord, Lord Milverton, referred to that point. One has the function of organising the programme, while the advertiser is seeking to appeal to an audience which is already created for him. Is this or is this not sponsorship? I think that is a matter of definition; but the important thing is that this Bill is going to bring into being a certain number of programme contractors who will have the job of producing a completed programme. That is a highly professional job, and the journalistic profession is watching with intense interest for a further outlet in this direction. It is something new and very exciting that is coming along. Is it going to be run by conspiracy with the advertisers? Are the advertisers on their side going to enter into a conspiracy to debase the programmes? It seems to me that that is so far from any practical eventuality as really to need no comment at all.
I have here a list of the twenty largest Press advertisers in this country. I am not going to detain your Lordships by reading the names, but if you were to look down that list and ask yourself the question, "Are those people really, by their pressure on the programme companies, going to degrade the standard?", you would find it really laughable. There happens to be one group of people in the first twelve or fifteen of whom I know something. They are the chocolate manufacturers, people who have been connected with the Society of Friends for generations. Is it really thinkable that they are going to enter into a sort of conspiracy with the whole of the advertising fraternity—and, mind you, it is no good if they do not—to produce the worst kind of programme? All this discussion is very remote from reality.
May I add that even if that point of view is not fully accepted in general terms, present conditions seem to be those least favourable to pressure from advertising interests. At the moment, as is well known to everybody here, the Press is quite unable to accommodate all the advertising there is on offer. Without going into the realms of prophecy or discussing whether that situation will last indefinitely, I would say that there are some reasons for thinking this condition will continue for a considerable time. I will mention two reasons. One is that, 267 alas and unhappily, there is no early prospect of an enormous increase (and I am looking at the noble Viscount, Lord Woolton, who may perhaps agree with me) in the supply of newsprint which might absorb that advertising which is seeking a market. That is not very likely in the immediate future. The second is that events have moved in this direction—and in making this remark, please note I am not discussing the morals of advertising or whether advertising is good or bad, but it is factually the case—that to-day a substantially smaller percentage of the total value of consumers' expenditure is spent on advertising than was the case before the war. Figures show that the expenditure on consumption has trebled since 1938; the total expenditure on advertising has only doubled.
Now I am not arguing that it is going to happen, or that it is desirable that it should extend, but I should have said that the probabilities are that the volume of advertising available for such an enterprise as this will go up—in other words, advertising is going to seek a market. After the first steps have been taken, after the first initial difficulties, which no one can foresee, have been overcome, it will be the advertiser who will be seeking a market, not the contractor who will be seeking the advertiser. Those are surely conditions in which, in any circumstances, the advertiser is not in a position to call the tune. However, in spite of what I have said, I welcome the emphasis which is put in the Bill upon a high standard of advertising, upon truth and good taste in advertising. And I do it not merely in the case of television. I welcome this pressure which I should like to see exercised in all branches of advertising, including the Press.
I turn now to the other side, to the people who suggest that the Bill is being made unworkable by red tape and its elaboration. It has been mentioned that Amendments made in another place tended to restrict—in some respects they tended to increase, but in others they tended to restrict—the control of the I.T.A. I do not think there is any substance in this suggestion that the launching of this new scheme is being unduly restricted. Any group of men who were undertaking the responsibility for developing this new medium of communication and who 268 cavilled at Parliament's insistence on maintaining the highest standards would clearly not be the right people to be entrusted with that responsibility.
It is perhaps a little more pertinent to look at the criticism that the Bill is too heavy and complicated on its administrative side. But I think, looking at it a little more closely, that this, too, is a superficial impression. Anyone reading the Bill for the first time—to a certain extent I felt it myself when reading the Bill in the form in which it came from the other place—must be struck by the fact that it is full of negatives. It reserves very powerful sanctions to the Authority. Many of the paragraphs in it seem to be extremely suspicious and to anticipate that someone will try to "put something over" on the Authority. After all, from another point of view it is well to remember that this is an enabling Bill. It limits action; but within those limits there is considerable room for manœuvring. On the whole, there is very little definition positively as to what can be done, and the Bill might be criticised on that ground. I hope that during the course of the passage of the Bill through your Lordships' House more light may be thrown on the nature of the positive construction that is being set up. But, again, I accept that the right design for a Bill of this kind is not to suggest too elaborate detail for an organisation. When a new medium is being developed by new methods it is right that we should feel our way, by discussion between interested parties and by experience. But I think it is desirable that the public should have a clearer idea; I think it is desirable that as soon as possible we should all get a clearer idea of what is the design intended. I believe that that would get rid of many misunderstandings, and I hope that that will happen during our discussion.
In the hope that it may have some bearing upon that problem, I should like, very briefly, to mention one or two possibilities in regard to the character of this new organisation, in particular the middle factor between the I.T.A. and the advertiser. The first point is that, whatever the scheme that is put up, it must be a provisional one. In that context, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, when he took my noble friend Lord Samuel to task for emphasising, or suggesting, that for a considerable time there 269 must be a monopoly under this Bill because there is only one channel available. I believe that it will certainly be the case that before very long the mechanical and material facilities available will be greatly enlarged. Scientific developments are moving so fast these days that I think it right that here in this House, in considering this Bill, we should look not merely to the limitation to a single channel but forward to see what is the pattern we want later.
It is true that, for the moment, a single channel does, in a sense, make this position monopolistic, because there is only one fresh programme that can be put over at a time. But I would remind noble Lords that even if there were only one authority and one programme company for the new concern, it would meet the major purpose of the new scheme, because there would be competition between the new authority and the B.B.C. There would be competition before the viewer; there would be competition in the profession— a very important point in considering the development of this new means of communication. The only group towards whom there would be monopoly would be the advertisers, who would have only a single market. It has, however, been made abundantly plain, both in the Bill and in this discussion, that that is not the Government's intention.
Some have assumed that the Bill means that there will be a large number of programme companies, a large number of contractors, but I question whether that is either what is in the minds of the Government or what can, in fact, happen. Whatever the words of the Bill may suggest, it refers to what is practical; and in practice it is possible to have only a limited number of contractors. The scheme would not succeed, the viewers would not go to the expense of adapting their sets, the requisite revenue would, therefore, not flow, because the audiences would not be large enough, unless the programme as a whole had balance and order. So the big question before I.T.A. is how to secure that balance and order so as to create a complete programme.
At the risk of being misunderstood I am going to refer to the Press, because a newspaper is very much of the pattern of this new programme with its City page, 270 sports feature, women's pages, political comment and so on. We are producing on television a sort of newspaper. A newspaper cannot be produced unless somebody co-ordinates all the different elements in it. It is equally true that a group of unco-ordinated programme contractors at work would produce chaos. If a large number of these were licensed it would be inevitable that the I.T.A. would have to perform the function of editing this new programme, and would perhaps develop very much into a second B.B.C. If it had to do that, it would have to be a different body, with very different functions, from that contemplated in the Bill, which may be described as the exercise by a landlord of a restraining hand on tenants through covenants in their leases.
How are we to achieve this position? Is there a middle course between an I.T.A., organising and editing a whole series of miscellaneous programmes by different companies, and a body like the B.B.C.? Is there a formula by which we can still retain competition and give to some one or more of the programme companies the function of editing? Various ways have been put forward. First, as has already been suggested, there might be regional contractors in each of the three chief regions and such others as are created hereafter. They would produce a national programme only to the extent that they link with one another for a joint programme. Alternatively, it may be That we should have two national "hook-ups" taking editorial responsibility, if I may use the phrase, for, say, three days a week each. A variation of both schemes would be if a special institution were set up for a whole group of programmes dealing with various things—politics, comments, debates and interviews, the rest being organised on one of the two plans I have suggested.
There are many technical and other problems, and I will not attempt to express an opinion on the choice between this and other possible schemes. It seems to me, however, that there are two or three considerations which bear directly on this matter. I submit that the answer should have special regard to what will happen when Bands IV and V become available. The scheme now proposed should be the preliminary stages towards final settlement. I do not think this is the moment to go into all these details, or to forecast the future, but I hold the 271 view that the pattern for television in this country when more facilities are available will be two, or possibly three, national "hook-ups," with a variety of forms of local stations which will play a much less important part than in the United States. That, in fact, is the pattern of the British Press to-day, as contrasted with the pattern of the Press in America. I think that we shall have the same concentration when we come to consider a more diffused television set-up. But whether that is a correct prophecy or not, the important thing is to start with a design which can most easily be moulded into the pattern which will ultimately come.
Secondly, the evolution of the Government's scheme may be delayed because the picture is not clear enough. Therefore, it is important to avoid confusion. The Government may reply that this is a matter for the Authority and not one for the Government to lay down by legislation. If that is accepted, then it becomes of primary importance that there should be a very early appointment of the Authority. Whatever is done with regard to programme contractors in the immediate future, the Authority have work to do immediately, either in editing the new programme or in creating a properly articulated group of programme companies. In either case they must have a clear picture of the nature of the programme to be produced. Therefore the Authority should include, perhaps consist mainly of, persons with experience in newspapers and films and in other industries concerned with the media of mass communication.
Since last November there have been two significant events in the television field. One was European broadcasting, which has made possible for millions of British viewers a much more intimate knowledge of neighbouring peoples than they have ever had before. The B.B.C. are largely responsible for this fine achievement, which is in their best tradition. The other event was Mr. Ed Morrow's attack on Senator McCarthy, on the Columbia Broadcasting Corporation's programme, and Senator McCarthy's reply. That programme seems to have changed the trend of events in a most vital matter. It was a historic broadcast. I do not believe that so outspoken an attack on the chairman of a 272 Parliamentary investigation could have been given on the B.B.C. as at present organised. I shall vote for the Second Reading of this Bill, not out of hostility to the B.B.C.—on the contrary, I rate their achievements very highly—but because I am opposed to monopoly in the air. I believe that the stimulus of competition will not damage the B.B.C. but will enable an institution of which everybody in this country is properly proud to maintain and improve its very great record.
§ 7.21 p.m.
§ LORD KENSWOOD
My Lords, previous speakers have eloquently put the points which I should have liked to make myself and they have done it much better than ever I could do, so I will restrict myself to points which have been overlooked or I think not sufficiently emphasised. Let me begin by saying that I find this Bill most baffling. Knowing members of the Government and appreciating their good qualities, I cannot understand how they can bring forward and sponsor a Bill which is so confused and so contradictory. I have thought about it a great deal, and I have come to the conclusion that the real reason is that they are determined to break what they call the B.B.C. monopoly. I know that monopolies have to be guarded against; they can have aspects which may become dangerous. But nobody, with the exception of the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, has mentioned the Governors of the B.B.C. Part of the function of the Governors of the B.B.C. is to see that what is broadcast is fair, and not one-sided. There is no monopoly about the views which are expressed over the air by the B.B.C. The Governors were chosen with great care by the present Government, presumably with the help of the Postmaster General, from many men and women of different religious beliefs, of different political allegiances or none at all, and of different experience in life. Yet, virtually, the Government say, together with other speakers: "We do not trust these Governors. We do not think they can do, or will do, what they are obliged to do. We do not trust them, and therefore we must put up some rival organisation to defend the people of this country against monopolistic points of view." It is puzzling to me how the Postmaster General can take that view.
273 On the question of monopoly or competition, the B.B.C. has a great measure of competition within itself. Certainly there is close contact with the centre, but nevertheless, heavy grants of money are given to the regions which they can spend as they like. If anybody takes the trouble, not even to listen but to look at the Radio Times, he will find that there is a great measure of competition between the regions. I do not blame the Postmaster General for not listening—I am sure he has too much to do already—but he should, at least, have taken advice from the B.B.C. as to what happens there. That is the point where I am at loggerheads with my noble friend Lord Winster. I do not like attacking him when he is not here to pull me up if I say anything of which he does not approve; but I had a word with him before he left, he knows what I am going to say, and he gave me full permission to say it. I shall soften it as much as I can. The unfortunate part about his speech and certain other speeches—and this is something that really saddens me—was that it was so lamentably ill-informed as to what is happening. I know that the B.B.C. is a welcome Aunt Sally, free for all to shy bricks at. If it were a commercial concern, people would hold it in respect; but apparently, because it is a public concern, paid for by public money, and a democratic institution, people seem to be able to say any slander about it they like. We may dislike many programmes. I dislike certain programmes put out by the B.B.C., both on television and on sound broadcasting. But there are millions of people who like these programmes. I do not have to listen to them. I pay for my licence, and I find that can get my £2 worth within a month merely by listening to the news, or to some chamber music.
I am afraid I am digressing. With regard to competition, the Postmaster General has been asked what he means by "competition." Everybody who is acquainted with artistic life in any part of the world will know that, particularly to-day, there are a large number of artists in every profession—and I have acquaintance with concert artists, musicians, dancers, writers, painters and so on, and I know the same thing applies everywhere—eating out their hearts because they cannot find sufficient work to do. There are a few front rank artists 274 who get more work than they can cope with, and they are very highly paid. What will happen with this new television organisation? There will inevitably be competition for the top ranking artists, and their fees will be raised still further by their agents; it will not help the artists themselves much, on account of the high rate of surtax they have to pay, but the agents will naturally try to secure as large a fee as possible. The immediate result of competition will be competition for the services of these artists. I believe it will be inevitable that what has happened in industrial sections of other countries will happen here—namely, that the B.B.C. and the so-called Independent Television Authority will have to come together and decide that they are not going to pay these inflated fees, simply because they cannot. Therefore, they will come to some sort of gentlemen's agreement not to compete; and in fact they will go against competition and form a small, but nevertheless effective, cartel.
There is a further aspect of this competition. Not long ago, if I remember rightly—I am relying on my memory here, and I stand to be corrected—on various occasions Actors' Equity complained that there were only 6,000 jobs available for their 10,000 members. Surely, that spells tragedy—I know it does, because I have actor friends. What will happen is that they will jump for joy because there is going to be another television authority, and they will think that their problems are going to be solved. There are two fallacies here. One is that very few artists—certainly not good artists, as opposed to the top-rankers—can live on engagements which they get in broadcasting. The second is that, thanks to there being, apparently, more programmes on which they can appear, the artistic professions will suck into themselves still more youngsters, who would really be much happier if they went into the, ordinary trades and professions where they would have security of life, instead of eating out their hearts in this misery of frustration and unemployment. Those are the evils which at once strike one in regard to competition in television.
Now what has bedevilled this discussion ever since it began is the really tragic confusion in the minds of so many 275 speakers between competition in television and advertising on television. They are by no means the same things, yet they are confused as though they were. I myself have no particular objection to rival corporations being set up against the B.B.C. I think they would be futile. I think the B.B.C. could do it much better by having the monopoly of the organisation of broadcasting in this country; but, nevertheless, I have no rooted objection to trying this rival organisation. My own belief is that sooner or later it will inevitably have to link up with the B.B.C. in order to get a co-ordinated system of broadcasting in this country.
What I object to is the claims that are made for a rival competitive television, with advertising in the backs of the minds of the people who support this Bill. It seems to me grotesque that the claims should be made in the name of freedom of speech, and in the name of reaching the truth, that we must have a rival television authority. It is absolutely grotesque that one should look to advertising for that purpose. I am not going to offend the noble Earl, the Postmaster General—because I know he feels strongly about that; that was evident from his speech—by saying that advertisers are rogues or that they try to deceive the public. But, surely, he must have read advertisements which he must recognise at once as being, to say the least, exaggerated. I am all for information being given to the public, but the information which is being given through advertising is not information; it has only too often degenerated into what has been aptly called "myth-information." I refer here particularly to the insidious poison of advertising drink, tobacco, patent medicines and the like. I think that is—I do not like to use a strong expression, but let us say unfortunate.
Let me give two examples of what I mean. The previous speaker, the noble Lord, Lord Layton, and others, have extolled the virtues of advertising, and have said that the advertisers cannot have any, or any appreciable, effect on the material which is broadcast. Here is one example. A year ago noble Lords will remember that there was a big controversy as to the efficacy of chlorophyll as a deodorant. Experiments were made, and the scientists came down very heavily on the side that 276 the whole thing was an illusion. A year ago a distinguished scientist broadcast for a quarter of an hour on these experiments, and came to the conclusion with his colleagues that the whole thing was a myth. He ended up with this couplet:The goat that reeks on yonder hill,He feeds all day on chlorophyll.Not so many weeks ago, the doctor who gives us practical, sound advice every Friday morning for a few minutes, denounced a certain group of patent medicines as an entire fraud. Do you really think that the Independent Television Authority would tolerate such broadcasts? It has a choice of other broadcasts if it wants to give a medical or a scientific broadcast. It will certainly eschew that type of broadcast, because it will not wish to offend its own clients. It has no need to offend its own clients, but the people of this country will be deprived of seeing the other side of these claims.
So much for that part of direct mis-information. Here is another entirely different aspect of the evils of advertising on television. Those of us who are old enough will remember the rich variety of newspapers that existed in London forty, fifty or sixty years ago. There were quite a number of small independent papers which enriched the thought of the people. They all went by the board, or most of them. During the last discussion we had in this House on commercial television, it was definitely stated by several large manufacturers that they had only a limited amount of money to spend on advertising, and that if they took it away from their present media and brought it into televised advertising, the amount spent would be the same. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Layton, would repudiate that statement. I am not an advertising agent, nor a newspaper man, but I do know that the noble Lord who made his maiden speech during the last debate made that definite assertion. Now see what may happen. Some of the smaller provincial newspapers would have to close down if the advertisements were withdrawn and transferred to television. Is that a good thing? Can the claim be made that sponsored television or commercial television acts on behalf of freedom of speech and broader discussion of points of view? The reverse is the case.
277 I have spoken of one reason against advertising, which is in regard to the information given. There are two other main reasons—there are more, of course—which I should like to mention. One is that advertising on television will be very expensive indeed. It is only the very wealthy firms who could afford to do it. Now see how that will react on the smaller firms. Large firms will get the advertising, and the small firms will be driven out of business. That, of course, is one of the objects of advertising—to eliminate your competitors. That is to say, what commercial television will do is to react in the direction of monoply or at least of cartelisation. The other point I should like to mention in this respect seems to me a very important one. The object of advertising surely is to increase sales. Is that a good thing at the present moment? Advertising on television would be for consumer goods. Here we are at the present moment crying out for more savings, and yet what this Bill will do, if carried, will be to encourage people to spend more money on things that they could, possibly, do without. It would he an encouragement for them to buy them. To that extent also it will act in an inflationary way because the increased sales would have that tendency.
Now, my Lords, I leave to the end an aspect of this discussion about which I feel very strongly, but which I find most distasteful to mention. I cannot believe that the noble Lords sitting on the Front Bench opposite can really be so insensitive as not to feel humiliation at putting forward this Bill with the commendation that they have done: that it is not going to cost anything and that the people of this country are going to get something for nothing. Surely that is not a good argument. They will not get something for nothing. They will get something—they will get certainly another programme—but at the cost of self-respect. I ask the noble Earl, the Postmaster General, is it really a hardship for the owner of a television licence (it is usually a family affair) to put a few coppers into his savings box on the television set, or, as very often happens, a few coppers a week or at regular intervals, or a shilling a week, in the teapot on the mantelpiece? Hundreds of millions of pounds are spent on entertainment every year— 278 entertainment, drink, tobacco, racing, pools and so forth. Is it really impossible, is it really a hardship, for the workers of this country to make a small contribution towards their entertainment over the year? I know it is difficult in many cases to pay£3, £4 or £5 for a licence in one lump sum, but what is to prevent them from saving gradually to pay their bills, the way they pay the electricity or gas bills when they put a shilling in the slot? Surely that is the better way of doing it. That is the way the proud Englishman, the proud Britisher, would prefer to do it, than to have it said to him, "We give you this for nothing"—at the cost, as I say, of your self-respect.
§ 7.54 p.m.
LORD FAIRFAX OF CAMERON
My Lords, I welcome this Bill because it brings a measure of liberalisation to an important and growing industry which affects the lives of so many people in this country, and will continue to do so on an ever-increasing scale. This Bill, of course, breaks entirely new ground. That may, in some part, account for the violent opposition which it has had to face; but the novelty of this measure has also, obviously, set a number of big problems for Her Majesty's Government in making it workable. It is satisfactory that the I.T.A. should have a certain amount of room in which to manœuvre, because they will undoubtedly need it when they get down to practical problems of working out the programmes, dealing with the contractors and so on. Therefore, I think it is a good thing, contrary to what some noble Lords—and notably the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt—said to-day, that the I.T.A. should have a certain amount of free play.
I must say, with great respect to the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, that I really cannot understand how he can say that this is not now a Party matter. It may not have been at one time, but the Opposition have seen to it that it cannot now be a non-Party matter, because they have said in another place on a number of occasions that if they get back to power they will repeal this measure. It is thrown out into the Party arena, and it really would be inconceivable now that the noble Lords on this side should not feel that their Party loyalty was at stake. 279 It has been suggested on a number of occasions that the B.B.C., and only they, should produce a second programme. That proposal would be no substitute at all for the proposals contained in this Bill. If the B.B.C. were to produce a second programme it would be no real alternative to existing programmes. Moreover, of course, when this Bill is passed and commercial television comes into action the B.B.C. will still be able to produce other programmes. If they were to do it alone, however, the important fact would remain that their monopoly would remain unbroken. That, to my mind, is the real basis of the whole problem. The desire to see the B.B.C.'s monopoly broken is no empty battle-cry. It is not a question of fear that the B.B.C. may abuse the undoubted power they have in television. They have been always most careful in the past, and that is something we should all recognise. It is something rather more subtle than that. Television is undoubtedly a most powerful medium, one which has the ability to make a big impression upon the minds of viewers, especially as they develop more and more the viewing habit and look-in three or four or more times a week. I cannot think it right that what they should see should emanate from one single body, controlled by a single group of men and women, no matter how talented or fair-minded they may be. I believe that it is wrong, my Lords, that one single body should be the sole arbiter of what the nation does or does not see on its television screens.
The noble Marquess, Lord Linlithgow, found it repellent, and I do too, and so, I am sure, do many people in this country, that the B.B.C. should be in a monopoly position where they can put on what they think is good for people. We in this country are, after all, adult. We ought to be able to pick and choose for ourselves, to differentiate between what we want to see and what we do not want to see. It is wrong, surely, for some body of people, in a central position in the country, to make up our minds for us. It is certainly not the British habit in life and not the way our country has been built up.
Much has been said about the lower standard that commercial television is liable to produce. I am afraid that view has been put forward largely on the basis of a few isolated incidents in the United States—I am talking now, of course, 280 about something different from the methods of actually inserting the advertisements in the programme. A small number of isolated cases of really bad taste have unfortunately coloured the whole picture, and coloured it wrongly, I am afraid. I do not believe that British commercial television will have any lower standards than those upheld by the B.B.C. television at the moment. I do not wish to decry the standards of many B.B.C. programmes, because they put on some excellent ones, notably programmes of a national character—sport, documentary films, and news films. But there are exceptions. I have seen on one or two occasions—in actual fact, I believe they come on about once a week—some extraordinary sub-standard variety programmes.
But that is not all. What is becoming a well-known feature of the B.B.C. television is the horror plays, which are rather like Grand Guignol. One which I saw was called Thunder Over Mexico. I think your Lordships should know what was in it. It depicted some Mexicans being buried in sand up to their waists and then being trampled to death by horses as a method of execution. There was another serial play of which your Lordships have no doubt heard, called The Quatermass Experiment, which depicted a man turning into a monster from outer space.
LORD FAIRFAX OF CAMERON
I am obliged to the noble Viscount for correcting me. Your Lordships may feel that that may be a little futile. I can assure your Lordships that if a young person had seen that on television he would have been scared out of his wits. Admittedly, the announcer at the beginning warned viewers that young people should not see the play, but the announcer was putting it in the discretion of the family to control their children, as they would be able to under commercial television. Then there was a play (the name of which I forget), which in one scene depicted a girl with her throat slit from ear to ear. I am sure that, if commercial television in this country were to put on anything like that, it would soon have to explain its conduct to the I.T.A., which the B.B.C. does not have to do. I think that the 281 talk about the low standards that commercial television is liable to bring in this country has been slightly exaggerated. I regret it, because I think it is something of an unjustified slight upon our British enterprise, so many notable units of which the noble Earl, the Postmaster General, mentioned to us this afternoon. On other occasions we are proud of British enterprise, and say so; and I think it is a pity that this slander—for it is a slander—is cast upon them.
A number of noble Lords have already said this evening—and I share their belief—that commercial television will come in any case, whether this Bill is passed or not. If we do not have commercial television stations here we shall have the programmes from the Continent instead. What is known as "Eurovision" has proved that it can be done. It would be quite possible to have a transmitter on the coast of the Continent, with a number of floating relay stations, outside the territorial limit, round pacts of our coast; and in that way a large part of the country could be covered. I do not think there is any doubt that advertisers would take full advantage of it. If that were to happen we should get the worst of two worlds, because those who oppose this Bill would be defeated in their objective and they would, so to speak, be jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. Nationally, we should have fallen behind in television techniques and we should suffer in a number of respects. The films (or, as they are known, "canned programmes") which we make here and export to other countries, and which play a considerable part in our foreign trade, would suffer, and the whole entertainment industry itself would remain unprotected from this foreign competition.
I notice that members of the Opposition in another place moved an Amendment in the Committee stage to protect the home television films and other recorded material. I notice a certain inconsistency in their attitude because, having done that, they then say that they are going to repeal this measure when they get back into power. That would certainly leave the home industry, the home artistes and so on, in that respect completely unprotected from foreign competition. I do not quite see how 282 they can tie up their Amendment which they moved with their declaration that they are going to repeal this Bill when they get back into power.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
I do not wish to interrupt the noble Lord during his speech but I will reply to the observation he has just made when come to speak.
LORD FAIRFAX OF CAMERON
I am grateful to the noble Earl. Her Majesty's Government are not alone in making this move, because an Australian Royal Commission has recently reported upon this subject and is in favour of both State and commercial television in Australia. So the Government are accompanied in what they are doing by another member of the Commonwealth. Moreover, Her Majesty's Government are not acting without the support of the majority of people in the country upon this particular issue. A Gallup Poll taken about two months ago registered 68 per cent. of the population in favour of commercial television, compared to about 60 per cent. against only about a year or eighteen months ago. That shows that the people of this country have had time to think over this matter at their leisure and have come to a definite conclusion about it. I support this Bill most strongly and, in view of the feeling about it in the country, if your Lordships' House were to reject this Bill I do not feel that it would be entirely justified in that action.
§ 8.8 p.m.
§ LORD STRABOLGI
My Lords, I have listened with great interest to what the noble Lord, Lord Fairfax of Cameron, said about Gallup Polls, but in my experience they are almost always as wrong as ore the astrologers in the newspapers. The astrologers in the newspapers, your Lordships will remember, all predicted that there would not be a war in 1939. Similarly, the Gallup Poll in America predicted that the candidate who lost the Presidential Election would win it. So I do not think we can say that because a Gallup Poll says that all the people in this country, or the great majority, wish to have commercial television, that is necessarily so.
One of the favourite arguments used by the supporters of this Bill is the one which implies that all its opponents are either connected with the B.B.C. or that 283 they are believers in monopoly, or, if they are neither of these things, that they are all elderly people who are out of touch with youth. May I say that I have no connection at all with the B.B.C., I am opposed to some monopolies but not all, and I belong to the younger generation, but I am strongly opposed to this Bill. Furthermore, I find that many of my contemporaries, particularly those in the scholastic world, are strongly opposed to it also. Thus I must refute most emphatically the unfair suggestion that all the younger generation approve of commercial television—or "independent television." as it is euphemistically called.
I should like now to refer to the speech made by the Lord Chancellor on November 26 of last year. I wrote to the Lord Chancellor and told him that I intended to mention his speech to-day. He replied very kindly that he would be delighted to hear what I had to say if he was not called away on urgent business. I am sorry not to see the noble and learned Lord in his place, but I understand that he is obeying Her Majesty's command to be present at the opera at this time. The Lord Chancellor in his speech last year spoke with his usual clarity about the right of the individual to choose the kind of entertainment he likes, provided it is subject to the appropriate restraints. I agree wholeheartedly with that, but I am surprised, if I may say so with the greatest respect, that the Lord Chancellor made no mention of that corollary of freedom which is duty. If John Citizen has a duty to his country, surely the Government which he elects has a duty to him, and a duty which is not confined to material laws but embraces also the things of the spirit. An important part of this duty would seem to be to maintain, and indeed to raise, standards of education in the fullest sense of the word, not only for children but also for people of all ages. What might be presumptuous in the individual becomes, surely, one of the primary obligations of government—an obligation not only to allow the individual freedom of choice, but at the same time to help him, by encouragement, to a fuller appreciation of his artistic heritage, as was pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge much more eloquently than I could do.
284 In my view, this should be a positive endeavour and not left to chance, or to some disbelief in Gresham's Law. At present the scholastic profession is still labouring under the most appalling difficulties, in the schools and outside the schools, against the many distractions of modern life. To add to these difficulties by making a great new medium of communication like television into a means of commercial propaganda on behalf of interested parties, even indirectly, is, to my mind, wholly wrong. Many safeguards have been put into this Bill for highly creditable reasons—against vulgarity and so on—but there is no legal safeguard against mediocrity. The programmes must tend to be mediocre, as the advertiser will seek to appeal to the greatest number of people at the same time. The standard must be that of the lowest common denominator. This is proved by the fact that, according to the second part of paragraph 5 of the Second Schedule, the advertiser is now to be allowed to buy his time in relation to the type of programme, the selection of which he is bound to influence.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Radcliffe, whom I am sorry not to see in his place to-day, in a memorable address the other day to a society of which I am a member, said that one of the greatest menaces to Western civilisation is vacuity. In my view, a spate of mediocre entertainment will encourage vacuity, and increased vacuity will result in the demand for even more mediocre entertainment—and so on, until the jungle finally closes in. My Lords, I oppose this Bill because in my opinion it is philistine and retrogressive. It is philistine because it seeks to widen the gap between education and entertainment, the separation of which is one of the major weaknesses of our present age. It is retrogressive because by their eleventh hour admission in another place that the advertiser has the right to select the programme before or after which he will advertise, the Government have appointed high pressure salesmanship to be our judge of taste. I feel sure that if this Bill becomes law, future historians will deem it to be one of the most irresponsible measures of modern times.
§ 8.17 p.m.
§ LORD FOLEY
My Lords, I have listened to this debate with great interest, and I remember the last debate which 285 took place in your Lordships' House. I have no intention of detaining your Lordships for more than a few moments—the hour is late already and we have had, I think, almost every conceivable argument on both sides—but there are one or two brief remarks I should like to make. First, I really cannot agree with opponents of the Bill in regard to the dangers that they fear. But I do see a new danger arising from what I feel are certain restrictions and clauses which I know are put in from the highest possible motives. I cannot, however, help agreeing with the noble Lord, Lard Milverton, that although in theory they are most desirable, in practice they sometimes tend to have an opposite effect. Of course, I know that certain restrictions are most desirable. Certainly, we do not want to be flooded with a lot of undesirable advertising of the American type. But I really do not think this will happen. That is my opinion. I have discussed this matter with many people who are interested in the entertainment industry, not necessarily in television alone, and they are also of that opinion. I personally have great confidence in the good taste of programme producers and of advertisers. I cannot feel that they will saw away the branch of the tree on which they are sitting, because they would very soon be much criticised, and much more quickly than would the B.B.C.
I quite agree with the noble Lord, Lord Fairfax of Cameron, that should a programme put out by the B.B.C. of a horrific nature he produced on commercial television, the hue and cry would be greatly increased—nobody would tolerate it for one moment. But in regard to the B.B.C. people tend to say, "Well, perhaps they happen to have been a little unwise on this particular night, but we trust that they will not do it again." In the event of commercial television doing such a thing there would be such an outcry from the Press and various people that the sponsor would be down on the advertising agent, who would in turn be down on the programme producer, and everybody would be out of a job. The result would he that everybody would lose money. I do not think that such a situation would ever take place—in fact, I am sure it would not. I feel that lately there has been a great tendency to avoid calling a spade a spade. Often one does not like to use the phrase "sponsored 286 television." I also feel that at one stage people did not like to hear the phrase "commercial television"—one had to refer to "competitive television." I do not see why commercial television, or the word "commercial," is undesirable. After all, this country is a commercial country, built up on industrial progress and industrial commerce, and anything which tends to make commerce turn over must be a very good thing.
Now, I have something to say about the B.B.C. artists. I am rather worried about this business of the B.B.C. saying to an artist, "If you are working for us you cannot appear on commercial radio or commercial television. You cannot work for two masters." This has happened in the past and I know it is happening now, and I think it is very undesirable. The B B.C. should not be allowed to turn round and say, "You must not work for anybody else if you work for us. If you do you will not get another job from us." There is a very ugly word for that kind of thing which I do not propose to mention, but I will leave it to the no doubt fertile imagination of your Lordships. I should like an assurance from the noble Earl, the Postmaster General, that that sort of thing is not going to be tolerated with regard to the new system.
The noble Earls, Lord Halifax and Lord Jowitt, to whose speeches I listened with great interest, had one thing in common which I thought was a little worrying: they were both tremendously concerned about safeguarding the morals of the people of this country. They are both wonderful speakers, great debaters and able to make a point by cloaking what they have to say in fine Parliamentary language; but if one were to strip what they had to say down to the bare essentials and cut out all the fire phrases, what they really said is: "We do not trust the people of this country and we are jolly well going to see that they have what we want to give them because it is good for them." I am sure they will forgive me, but that is my personal interpretation of what I imagine them to say. If I am wrong I stand corrected, but that is what I feel they have said. I think that is a very bad thing. One must trust the British public. They have very good taste. I do know a little about it because I have myself performed as a professional musician, 287 both on the B.B.C. and on commercial radio, and have produced programmes on commercial radio. I know that opponents of this Bill in this House will say that I am a biased person and have not a detached attitude, but I say, most sincerely, that that is not so. I am merely concerned, as I am sure are all your Lordships, that the people of this country should have the finest possible television service and the finest possible entertainment.
In a completely detached way, I feel sure that this Bill goes a long way towards that end; and therefore I unfortunately profoundly disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, who just preceded me, who thinks commercial television will produce mediocrity. In the entertainment industry as a whole that has not been the result in the past. Competition always produces a very high standard. People who are enthusiastic, talented and outstandingly brilliant have a great incentive to try to do something better than someone else. The whole entertainment industry is founded on competition, as with theatres and cinemas. Competition is the basic factor which cannot be done without. The noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, in his speech made a hypothetical point when he suggested what would happen in a conversation between a sponsor, an advertising agent and a programme producer. Surely that sort of thing happens in the production of any artistic work—in the production of a play or anything of that kind. It must be done in that way.
The entertainment industry as a whole will benefit greatly from this Bill. I support it wholeheartedly and end on this note: progress always brings things which seem unattractive to some people. I read with great interest a week ago a letter written to The Times about the noise and inconvenience caused by helicopters. The letter said: "How dreadful it is that these noisy, ghastly new methods of transport are allowed to come into our city. Think of the noise and the danger." I could not help thinking of fifty years ago. When motorcars first came to the streets of London, similar letters must have been written to The Times complaining of the noise, the dirt and the danger to people. That is the attitude towards commercial television to-day. I am sure commercial 288 television will come, and in future years we will criticise people who were against it. It would be a great mistake for this House to take an attitude against it. One is to be criticised if one does not have a little bit of character to experiment slightly; one should not be a complete stick-in-the-mud. That is why I unhesitatingly support this Bill.
§ 8.27 p.m.
My Lords, I am really very unlucky. It had been my intention in opening my remarks to compliment the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel on his exemplary—I repeat exemplary—patience and on the attention with which he had attended this debate, because it moved my admiration. He did not go out even for tea, and I think it is most remarkable. I am sorry that he is not here to hear what I have to say on the subject, more especially as I propose to deal with some of the points he made in his speech. I listened to his speech with great attention and it occurred to me that the underlying motif, although he spoke in quite general terms, assumed the perfection of B.B.C. broadcasting and the awfulness and poor taste of every other broadcast that might emanate from any other source. I cannot claim for myself any superior gifts of education, taste or anything else of that kind, but I am bound to say that I regard some of the broadcasts from the B.B.C. as simply not worth turning the button for. But I do not on that account claim that the B.B.C. is in poor taste. I merely think that it is not my taste.
The noble Viscount also added that the Third Programme was a high point in civilisation. I am not going to dispute that, but why is it that I have never yet been able to discover any spot in Scotland from which the Third Programme can be heard? The noble Viscount talked about the difficulty of harmonising matters between the programme and the advertiser, and talked of a "marriage of convenience." I am perfectly ready to accept that metaphor. Marriages of convenience are not common in this country—love matches are most common; and the statistics of the Divorce Court are testimony as to whether that form of marriage is wise or not. But where marriages of convenience are almost universally the rule—among the people of Ireland—divorce statistics seem to show that they are particularly happy. 289 And the people themselves say that marriages of convenience are generally happy, and that the only unhappy marriages that occur are the love matches. So, too, I submit that a marriage of convenience is precisely what is needed between the broadcaster and the advertiser. It is the correct relationship.
Advertising is going to provide one very useful thing. It must always be very difficult for the B.B.C, although they have devoted much attention and skill to it, to satisfy themselves as to the effectiveness or range of a broadcast. The advertiser will be able to do that much more simply. With regard to the whole question of advertising, I should have liked to tell the noble Viscount that I do not propose to quote Milton, but I will quote the most common-sense type of Englishman that I have met with in history, William Hazlitt. Talking about the Faerie Queene he said "Some people object to the allegory in the Faerie Queene but the allegory won't bite them." I say exactly the same thing about the advertisement in the programme.
Lord Beveridge, in particular, asked for some valid reason for breaking the monopoly. I can give your Lordships a very valid reason, which relates to matters of taste and so on. I am going to take an incident which occurred a very long time ago, because no one can now get into a row about it, and also because it is a matter which I am sure everyone in this House will agree reflects shocking taste. In the early days of 1940, I was listening to the 6 o'clock news, and, in the course of it, it was announced that a German 'plane had been shot down in the North Sea some eight miles off shore. The harbour-master of a coastal town—as a matter of fact it was Elie—put out in a motor launch and rescued the airman. This was at a time when the attitude of small neutrals, such as Holland and Belgium, was very much in debate, and was causing a good deal of anxiety to ourselves. As soon as I heard that announcement, my heart leapt. I said, "That is the very thing. All those fellows are listening, and they will be as pleased as Punch to hear that." Before I had time even to breathe, the broadcaster went straight on to say, in effect, "We are the only country in the world that does this kind of thing." That, incidentally, does not happen to be true. The broadcaster said that we were the 290 only people who did that kind of thing and he went on for about three or four minutes in the same vein—I am afraid that I did not measure his time very accurately; I was rather overcome by nausea. I had a vision of friends in Belgium and Holland turning away from their wireless sets with expressions of disgust on their faces.
No one can excuse that sort of thing. It may be said that it is only a small, venial matter, but I want to draw one or two lessons from it. In the first place, had there been at that time any other broadcasting medium but the B.B.C. it would have been the simplest thing in tile world to discount that whole gaffe, because it would have been possible in the next broadcast by the rival concern to quote the B.B.C. and to overwhelm it with ridicule. Then that kind of statement of opinion would not have passed for the voice of Britain, as it does when the B.B.C. has a monopoly. It would be easy to give other examples of that kind of thing. I have written to the B.B.C. and complained of certain matters, but I do not propose to bring them up. I do not even wish to go on record as a critic of the B.B.C. I think that, on the whole, I agree with those noble Lords who say that it does a very fine job. I would say that it would always do a very much better job if it were subjected to a little competition in the way I suggest. I should like to say of the B.B.C. that on the only occasion when I have had anything to do with it the authorities were extremely kind to me. They took immense pains to help me in a broadcast which they asked me to do. Though I did not hear it, of course, I am told that their pains, rather than my own gifts, made the effort a success. I should like to add that I received no fee, so I can say that I have no interest in this matter, one way or the other.
There is another point which some noble Lords opposite—in particular, the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, and the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt—mentioned. They said that there is no mandate from the people for this scheme; that the voice of the people is not on the Government side. I have a certain amount to say about that, and it is based to some extent on practical experience. One of the reasons why it is difficult to hear the voice of the people is that the 291 whole of the Press—with, I think, the exception of the Daily Mirror—as well as the B.B.C., are all united to try to stop commercial television. But the Press and the B.B.C. are not the voice of Britain. They are only the voice of special interests.
In order to illustrate the matter to your Lordships, I would remind you of the debate which took place on November 25 and 26 last, when the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, made a marvellous speech. I am bound to say that it made me think that the legitimate stage had lost a great performer when he made that great oration about the Government's two-line Whip, which, as your Lordships know, is the normal indication by the Government that the debate is to be of considerable interest and that your Lordships' attendance is desired. It has no effect, as we all know well, in securing support; and, as a matter of fact, the only Party that went en bloc into one Lobby was the Party of noble Lords opposite. Those noble Lords, curiously enough, were completely unanimous on the matter, though they said that their choice was quite free. They were supported by a very large number of noble Lords who sit on this side of the House and whom I see here at the moment. The reason why the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, said to-day that those who oppose this are drawn from all Parties was because on this side of the House noble Lords are very largely independent of the Whip.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
My Lords, may I ask—because I am sure we all want to understand the point which the noble Lord is making—if he is challenging the accuracy of my noble and learned friend's statement that we did not issue a Whip on that occasion and that we have not done so on this occasion?
Not in the least; I was merely complimenting noble Lords opposite on their remarkable unanimity. The interesting point of all this is what follows. It so happened that I had to go to Scotland immediately after the debate. I saw The Times when I was there, and I noted that there were columns full of letters about the Division which had taken place in your Lordships' House and about "backwoodsmen," and all that kind of thing. As a matter of 292 fact, there was one notorious "backwoodsman," a great friend of my own, who attended that debate, and he voted with the noble Lords opposite. However, when I got back to London I wrote to the editor of The Times and I gave an analysis of the Division. He wrote me, in reply, a charming letter saying that he did not wish the correspondence to continue; that he thought it had gone on long enough. I wrote back and said that I quite agreed.
Then, ten days or so later, on December 14, a letter appeared in The Times over what I always call, for want of a better phrase, a "block signature." It was signed by the vice-chancellors of eleven universities. I thought to myself, "Hallo! the columns of The Times are open again to correspondence on this subject," and I wrote to the editor and asked him whether the signatories to this letter had been authorised by their universities to sign as vice-chancellors or whether they had signed themselves as vice-chancellors just to give more importance to the matters which appeared above their signature. Since then, however, a horrible thought has occurred to me; that is that there is also the possibility that they signed as individuals, and that the editorial staff thought to impress the public by adding their dignities after their signature. Whatever the reason of this may have been, no publication was given to my own letter.
§ SEVERAL NOBLE LORDS: Shame!
Oh, no! Probably I have more reason to be grateful than ungrateful to The Times for the letters of mine they have not published. But on this occasion it seems to me that the wind was purposely blowing one way, and in one way only. I think that anybody who has studied the columns of the Press, not only since November 25 but long before, in fact ever since any project on commercial television has been put forward, is bound to say in candour that only one side has been fairly presented to the people. On that ground, therefore, it is impossible for noble Lords opposite to say that the people do not want this, That the people are against it; because we have had very little chance of ascertaining what the voice of the people really is in this matter.
I would say only one thing more. The people who will have to be approached 293 by advertisement are the people who most steadily and regularly listen to the present B.B.C. programmes, and they are the vast majority of the population—the people in their homes. I know that they will be the first to show their indignation at any real vulgarity on any, broadcasting programme of any kind. Just as the B.B.C. lie under their censure, so will every other broadcasting corporation. I myself am not so terrified of vulgarity as to have a fit of horror at it, and I am satisfied that the taste of the people of this country can be relied upon to see that they get what they want, whether broadcasting comes from one source or from many rival sources.
§ 8.42 p.m.
§ LORD MOYNE
My Lords, since we debated the White Paper in your Lordships' House some water has flowed under the bridges, but the landscape has changed very little, and I find myself, like other noble Lords, obliged to repeat some of the arguments which I used before. I may perhaps be more easily forgiven when it is recalled that certain of these arguments were never met, I can only suppose for the very good reason that they are unanswerable. Before I come to these arguments, I think I am in duty bound to remind your Lordships of my interest in what the late Mr. James Joyce described as the "frothy freshener," and that my firm are advertisers on a considerable scale. Your Lordships may remember that my interest did not lead me to support the proposals now substantially in the Bill, although I was at pains to explain that my firm might feel compelled by the force of competition sooner or later to use the proposed new advertising medium. It is a matter of history that we refrained from using Press and poster advertising until as late as 1928, when, although we had by then become, I believe, the largest single brewery in the world, without having to "blow our own trumpet" on the hoardings, we felt ourselves obliged to do as others were doing. I hope that we may be said to have "blown our trumpet" in a tuneful manner. If we are compelled to play in the proposed new commercial circus, I hope we shall do so creditably, and I have no reason to think that we could not do so successfully in the new medium. So that, although I am interested, I think I may say I am not biased.
294 Nevertheless, I hope that the circus will never be put on. I regard it as ill-timed, extravagant, and probably not wanted by the majority of manufacturers, who are expected to pay for it but who have never been consulted about it. If it comes into being, it may well be that neither we nor the brewery industry as a whole could abstain, since such rivals as, for instance, the cola drinks might otherwise be presumed to receive an advantage. I shall probably not take part in the discussions if an Amendment which was moved in another place should rear its peculiar head amongst us—I refer to the Amendment which sought to ban the new medium to drinks containing alcohol—as, whatever my rights, I might well feel myself too much interested. I can hardly see Parliament giving opportunities for boosting these no doubt excellent new drinks in a way which they deny to the traditional outlet for British barley and hops. I hope that I do not sound too paradoxical in referring to an opportunity, when my main contention is that this particular medium should be denied to everybody. By "opportunity" I mean no more than the right to take part in a race which ought never to be run. I am, of course, not attacking advertising in general. On the contrary, I consider that it has most important economic functions to perform, functions which it would be outside the scope of this debate to define and defend. But what I am saying is, that existing advertising media are adequate and that the vast expense of this additional medium—the most expensive that exists—is, nationally speaking, unjustified.
Now I come to my reasons. I may be wrong, of course, in my contentions, but they are important, since they concern our national economy as a whole; and I think they deserve an answer. If the Government have an answer, I hope that in due course they will see fit to give it. If not, they have only to withdraw this unfortunate Bill and meet with the approval of a majority of the nation, since it is known that, while our own ranks are seriously divided, the Opposition are very largely united on this issue. What is the economic objective of this measure? For what purpose are manufacturers to be asked, or anyway to be 295 allowed and so, in effect, by the operation of competition, to be obliged, to use this new and expensive method of advertising? I do not believe that Her Majesty's Government can really say that they have an economic objective in view, other than the purely opportunist one of wringing some money out of manufacturers to pay for television. Such a device means that ultimately the cost is borne by the nation as a whole, as I shall endeavour to show. It is a device to make the man without a television set pay for the amusement of the man with one. The only fair way to pay for television is by licence fees from those who choose, and can afford, to use it.
But if there is no true economic objective, there are two alternative economic results, one of which must and will be achieved if this Bill is passed. Either manufacturers will be involved in heavy expenditure at the expense of the Exchequer, as well as of their shareholders (I will come to that in a moment) and will achieve by this no result other than a certain amount of customer-snatching from one another, in which case, nationally speaking, the expenditure is not justified; or else—and most of the supporters of the measure I think argue that this is the alternative for which they hope—the total national demand, the total volume of business, will be increased. Such an increase, they say, must, to some undefined extent, lower costs of production. But by its nature television advertising is directed mainly towards selling consumer goods. Are we really expected to accept that it is for the good of the nation as a whole that the total demand for consumer goods should be increased in the home market at the present time? It is surely unnecessary to remind your Lordships, and especially the realistic Party to which I belong, that we are living in a period of economic difficulty, in which it is essential that we should keep consumption at home to a minimum and export as much as possible. A policy of wage restraint and economy is surely not consistent with increased expenditure in the aggregate on consumer goods. Have the Government then abandoned such a policy? The economic result of all this expenditure cannot be in the national interest at present. I suggest with respect that we are humbugging ourselves if we say that it is.
296 On the other hand, if the expenditure does not result in increased consumption, nationally speaking, the expense of this new form of advertising is, anyway, one that we can ill-afford. It will, in effect, be borne by the Exchequer to a large extent, since the profits which the Exchequer taxes will be reduced in consequence. Experience in America has shown that, in the long run, television advertising does not take the place of other advertising but is additional to it. American manufacturers who reduced their Press and poster advertising found themselves compelled to increase it again. This, I think, answers the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, in which he suggested that there would be no total increase. What happened in America is, in this respect, likely to happen here.
It is not long since we heard that the Chancellor of the Exchequer viewed with concern the inadequate expenditure of industry on new capital equipment. Is it consistent with his wise advice to encourage resources to be used instead for a vast new competition in the provision of expensive Circenses, circenses held to encourage the consumption of more panem, cervisiam, or what you will? If the expenditure were found by reducing dividends, the Chancellor would have to contribute 9s. in the pound of income tax, plus tax on distributed profits, as well as surtax, in some cases running up with income tax to 19s. in the pound, or whatever it is. The money must come from somewhere. If it is not taken from profits before taxation (and so largely from the Exchequer); if it is not taken from reduced dividends (and so, in so far as it does not come out of the pockets of the smallest shareholders, again very largely from the Exchequer); if it does not come from smaller firms, who fall by the wayside as a result of new expenditure (and so cease to contribute to the Exchequer, or anyone else), then it can come only from an increase of price, and so will be borne by the community at large through an increase in the cost of living. We all know the vicious spiral to which such price increases contribute, through rising wages, rising costs, and again more rising prices. This Government have done so much to arrest the spiral that it seems extraordinary that they should do anything to set it off again.
I hope that the Government will, in due course, see fit to give a straight 297 answer to the question whether they consider 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 economical difficulties. Some part of the argument I have advanced would be met, I admit, by a postponement of the measure until a time of over-production and under-consumption. If the Government take our economic difficulties seriously, they might well consider withdrawing the Bill and reintroducing it, if they must, in more suitable times, to give us a chance of first getting out of the wood of our present economic difficulties. It is a wood of which they seem to have lost sight in these debates because of a number of relatively frivolous gingerbread trees.
I should now like to refer briefly to the speech by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, reported in the B.B.C. news as lately as last Friday, in which he declared that it was the Government's intention to help small businesses. How can small businesses stand up to the increase of their costs that television advertising must involve? I welcome the Chancellor's statement; it is in the true line of Conservative policy. But the Bill before the House is not. I am constantly meeting admirable men who have lost their jobs as a result of take-over bids. The small, old businesses seem to be going down right and left. It is not good shutting our eyes to the facts. To increase their costs by introducing television advertising may well be the last straw for many that might otherwise survive. This is no temporary disadvantage of the Bill; it is a fundamental result of increasing, as the Bill must, the costs of production. It can be argued—wrongly I think, but it can be argued—that it is cheaper in the end to let the small firms be absorbed. But that is not Conservative policy; it is not consistent with saying you want to keep them alive.
In conclusion, my Lords, it is not for me to suggest at this stage an alternative to the present Bill. I think it is common ground that, given their full licence fees, the B.B.C. could produce a second programme. If there is something, the matter with the B.B.C. which neither the Postmaster General nor the Governors, 298 appointed for their merits by successive democratic Governments, can put right, or if dichotomy must be preferred on principle to monopoly, I am convinced that a second authority, set up perhaps on a regional basis, could be paid for by penny-in-the-slot arrangements, or by licensing the gadgets necessary for viewing it. Evasion could be prevented by making dealers who sell such gadgets responsible as a gunsmith is responsible when he sells a pistol. Such a noncommercial partner to the B.B.C. might well arrange to use B.B.C. plant and technicians, and develop new stations jointly with the B.B.C. After all, it is only in the matter of selection and production that objections to a monopoly can arise. An immense economy to the nation as a whole would be effected by such an arrangement, which would avoid the need for the competition in spending which must ultimately be at the general expense and may well cost many smaller firms their very existence. Therefore, I shall feel compelled to vote against this Bill, and I hope that a great multitude of your Lordships will do the same.
§ 9.8 p.m.
My Lords, I know idealism is often suspect nowadays, yet I conceive that the job and one of the main purposes of a Government should be to act as a university acts, as an educational agent. Therefore I think it is pathetic to see the present Government, as regards television, playing into the hands of the toothpaste manufacturers. That may sound extreme, but I believe it is really what is happening. Listening to the speeches this afternoon in your Lordships' House, I feel that the Government have had rather a bad time, arid there has been a tremendous poverty of their arguments. On the other hand, we have heard brilliant speeches against the Bill which make it incumbent upon a person in a junior position to be brief. I myself have been a B.B.C. producer—not in television—aid I consider that our British nation has evolved a subtle and interesting formula in the B.B.C., a public service corporation which is certainly not a monopoly in the ordinary sense of the word—and we have heard a lot about monopoly. It has to, and does, study most dutifully every point of view, and is far preferable to the type of local monopoly that has already been hinted 299 at to-day that will result from commercial television. Television being a costly business, monopolies are almost certain to result in regions like the Midlands or Lancashire, and the Government have given hints to this effect in the other place which, quite frankly, only make one say: "It is a thoroughly poor show."
This commercial television will not only be in private hands—there is nothing wrong in that—but in private hands which are trying to sell products. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, is not in his place, because in a few moments I should like to come round to his very faithful, trusting and naïve remarks about the best programmes appealing to the widest number of people. Meanwhile, I should not like it to be thought that I find advertising uninteresting. I think it is interesting, and one admires the technique of it. But surely there is enough scope for it in the newspapers, in the tube trains, and on the high roads of this country. Broadcasting, and television in particular, are far too subtle and pregnant media to be subjected to cheapening by the commercial man with the commercial attitude, and I say that without any reflection on commerce. It is just that we should not be talking about commerce; we are talking about television. In an age of mass effect and mass uniformity of thought, one of the most encouraging things is the fact that 10 million television viewers are appealed to in tiny sitting-room groups. The tone of this is against mob oratory, and in favour of the serious comment which we often get. Indeed, the idea of throwing the commercial voice against the flicker of our own firesides is downright preposterous. Yet this is the very thing which this Government is attempting, or is too powerless to thwart.
I do not think of television, as such, as evil. I view it regularly. There are barren evenings, and there are better evenings. One hears comments to the effect that all this "googling" of eyes towards the television is demoralising and against education. But we all know that our eyes are our leading sense and, for a certain group of people, the only sense through which educative influences can be received. We know that a visual image swamps all other activities of the brain. Therefore, here is the most tremendously powerful thing, and a thing 300 we are putting open to the wide issues of doubt. This is an age of mass perception, and through various media of public communication, such as elements of the Press, a considerable amount of corruption of consciousness has already taken place; and commercial television will just about sink the ship.
What does the practical politics of this matter lead one to support? Without any doubt, a vital need is for a second less light programme within the B.B.C. framework. At present the B.B.C. is pretty well crippled by its own unitary audience. If there were a second programme it could produce more serious stuff more often. Your Lordships may say. "Why is this fellow so keen on serious programmes in an age of entertainment?" Without speaking in any Party spirit at all, being a person particularly unconscious of Party, I should like to refer to the wording of the B.B.C. Charter in the 1920's. It was, after all, a Conservative child, and the Conservatives at the time were extremely proud of it. It was conceived in a mood of high Tory morality and gravity, and it was stated in the preamble that owing to the great value of the broadcasting service as a means of education and en- tertainment—one likes "education" before "entertainment"—it was deemed desirable that the service should be developed to the best advantage and in the national interest, and it would be beyond the casuistry and chance of private interests. Hence the B.B.C. And hence now this extraordinary intention for television but not for sound radio, which may perhaps be considered dying out, although I do not think it is. Sound radio has been developing for twenty-five or thirty years and has achieved a stability. It is virtually only since the winter of 1947 that television has made an impact upon the British public. It is a child of a mere six or seven years old. Yet within this short period the Government are prepared to throw it open to the winds and to let every toothpaste manufacturer and purveyor of breakfast cereals grab for the spoil like a crude Iberian of 2000 B.C. I do not think it is exaggerating to look at it in this way. Abraham Lincoln said that you could fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time; but this will end up, if it gets a 301 chance, by a cheap attempt to fool all the people all the time.
It has been brought out by the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, and the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, that the aim of the advertiser is to get the maximum audience. The noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, said that the advertiser wished to be popular. The noble Lord, Lord Milverton, went further and said that the best programmes will in fact appeal to the widest number of people. I think that is a naive faith—that all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds. I think that commercial television will result in a playing down (as has been suggested from all quarters of your Lordships' House) to the lowest common denominator. I know that the B.B.C. in many respects needs wakening up, and I am not unaware of the bad programmes that go out. The B.B.C. need to be given the chance to carry on this matter in a true British tradition. There, again, the idea of the British tradition has been appealed to from the opposite point of view. Certainly we should all be agreed that the issues involved here are as wide as British life itself, and the television controversy is a test tube case of our general attitude to life. Those of us who argue against commercial television are on the whole the more thoughtful of us and possibly also sometimes the more priggish. Those who argue in favour of commercial television believe in it purely as entertainment, and profitable entertainment for those who put it on. There is no art in this field. In that sense what you see on your television screen is not radically different from the glance you put out to a huge beer advertisement on a by-pass as you pass swiftly by.
I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, is not here because I, too, believe in giving the people what they want. I equally believe, and the B.B.C. believe, in the leadership that they can give and the encouragement to education and culture. I am a great admirer every week of Mr. Maurice Wiggin, the Sunday Times television critic. I thought that what he said last Sunday about an hour of American commercial television which the British Press had been shown, which was said to be perhaps not the best but not the worst either, was very interesting, and I should like m read these three sentences before I come to my final point. Your Lordships will, I am sure, have 302 read these remarks before, but I think they are worth going on record and paying credit to him as a first-class critic. He said:I was not put out by the actual commercial 'plugs'. Advertising is interesting: without it, life would lose a lot of colour. It was the entertainment between the 'plugs' which was appalling. It was unimaginative drivel, obviously designed to appeal to a huge naïve audience with no standards of judgment. A nation fed on this pap for one generation might as well scrap its educational system and spend the money on asylums.That is all I have to say, except to state that if the Government and this House have a specific service—and we know that they have; and there again The Times leader was magnificent—in this chaotic world, it is to be leaders of taste and conduct. If you once give this matter of commercial television over to private interests, you have lost it for ever to serious consideration in the tradition of the spoken and written word of the ages.
§ 9.11 p.m.
§ LORD HADEN-GUEST
My Lords, I had not intended to say anything in this debate, hut I have felt inspired to do so by the considerable number of speeches I heard earlier, with some of which—those against commercial television—I agree, and with others of which I very cordially disagree, and also because I have had an opportunity in the last few days of talking with a man coming from New York, where, of course, he is surrounded, as it were, by television, and television advertisements. I find myself in the position that I am against advertising on television just as I am against advertising on the B.B.C. You may say television advertising will be under control, but if it is under control will it pay? If it does not pay, what is the use of it'? If controlled, I do not think it can be of value to the advertiser. Have we not in this country sufficient methods of advertising? Are not the conditions of this country with regard to putting forth advertisements entirely different from those of the tremendously large North American Continent? It is quite a different proposition over there—utterly arid completely different from over here. We have a great many excellent advertisements in this country, in the papers and on the hoardings. Some, of course, could be improved, but on the whole our advertising system is good. Is not that system quite adequate to deal with the trading situation in this 303 country? Is it not a fact that many of those engaged in a number of very important trades in this country are against television advertising? I think myself it is because they have sized it up and have come to the conclusion that it will not pay. The United States is an entirely different proposition from this country, and I do not think we can take a lesson from the United States in this matter any more than we can in a good many others.
The gentleman I have been talking to from the United States put the matter very simply indeed. I asked him what television advertising was like and what television was like in New York, where he has been living for some years. He said "advertising is unpleasant and debasing"—and he is a man who is not by any means narrow-minded. But it is unpleasant and debasing, and I believe that advertising on television in this country would also be debasing. It is not desired, I understand, by certain of the big advertisers. I may be wrong about that. They may want to experiment, but I know some do not want to experiment. I know the man I speak of to be a man of good judgment, carrying out very responsible work in the United States. I do not believe that advertising on television is suitable for this country. The list of speakers against it is an indication of the realisation of that fact. I trust we shall reject this Bill, not only because commercial television is undesirable but also because it will not be of value. It will merely be unpleasant and debasing.
§ 9.14 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
My Lords, I ought perhaps first to say that the noble Lord, Lord Sempill, has asked me to apologise to the House because he has had to leave, although he had intended to speak and to say that he is against the Bill. I am not speaking for my Party this evening; I am speaking for myself. I do not think any of us have spoken for our Parties; but there was one, no doubt unintentional, misrepresentation of the policy of the Labour Party in regard to this Bill which I think I ought to answer, because otherwise your Lordships would be misled. The noble Marquess, Lord Linlithgow, and the noble Lord, Lord Fairfax of Cameron, both said that the Labour Party intend to repeal this Bill, if it be- 304 comes an Act, when the Labour Party are next returned to power. That is not the policy of the Labour Party. The Labour Party have said that if this Bill is a Statute when they are returned after another General Election, they will apply very strictly the safeguards provided for use by the Independent Television Authority. That, I imagine, is a course of action which would be entirely approved by the noble Earl, the Postmaster General. No doubt the noble Earl will do his best to do that himself, and I am sure we are all in accord with him about that.
I will try, as the last speaker in this debate, as briefly as possible to summarise the broad tenor of the speeches which we have heard this afternoon and this evening. After that, I will suggest to the Government a course of action which was proposed, I think, by the noble Lord, Lord Moyne, in his speech. Perhaps I may be allowed to expand the suggestion, which I think would not be at all inappropriate, in view of the criticism that has been expressed from so many authoritative quarters during this debate. I think your Lordships will agree that we have heard admirable and sincere speeches on both sides. It seems to me that one consideration has been uppermost in the minds of every speaker in this debate. What we have been asking our consciences is: what system of broadcasting will give the British public the most satisfactory alternative television programme? My Lords, everyone agrees, whether he is in favour of this Bill or against it, that an alternative programme is essential, and that it should be provided at the earliest possible moment. But when we ask ourselves the next question, the question of how such a programme is to be provided, the wide divergencies of opinion apparent in the course of this debate immediately become obvious. For, clearly, such a programme could be provided by any one of three systems of broadcasting—the commercial system, proposed by the Government in their Bill; the public corporation, such as the Independent Television Authority; or, of course, the British Broadcasting Corporation.
The choice lies between those three systems, and I think, if I may say so, that there was some misapprehension on the part of the noble Earl, the Postmaster 305 General, and subsequently on the part of the noble Lord, Lord Winster, about the existence of a third alternative, in addition to the two alternatives with which we are familiar, the B.B.C. and the commercial system. The noble Earl seemed to be suggesting that if we rejected commercial television then we must uphold the so-called monopoly of the B.B.C. But surely, my Lords, as Lord Beveridge pointed out in his speech, and as Lord Moyne also pointed out, if we had another public corporation such as the Independent Television Authority, if it were given the right to broadcast, that would break the B.B.C. monopoly and provide the elements of competition to which noble Lords opposite attach so much importance. It is then in the choice between these three systems that there are sincere and deeply held differences of opinion—differences which have nothing to do with Party advantage—both in this House and among thinking people outside who realise the influence that television will have, as the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, and other speakers after him pointed out, in the shaping of our national character.
What we have to decide, therefore, at the end of this debate is whether we are certain, as the Government appear to be, that the commercial system proposed in the Bill, or something like it, is preferable to either of the public service alternatives. Many of us expressed our doubts about commercial television in the debate on the White Paper last November. We hoped that the Government would take our views very seriously into account before the Bill was drafted. Now we have the Bill as amended to meet its critics in the debate last November, and of course during its passage in another place. As well as that, again to our advantage, we have a much fuller explanation of how the new system is expected to work. So now we are at last in a position to judge impartially, with all the facts before us, whether the compromise in this Bill on the system of commercial broadcasting, with a whole array of safeguards designed to prevent the well-known abuses which have occurred elsewhere, is, in fact, entirely free from the grave defect that is common to all commercial systems of broadcasting in other parts of the world—I mean what I may call the vulgarisation 306 of broadcasting standards. It is, I suggest, by this single criterion that the Bill should be judged.
When we look at the changes which have been made since the Bill was introduced, we find, looking at them objectively, that some are favourable and some are unfavourable, from the point of view of a sound standard for broadcasting. The prohibition of what are called "give away" advertisement programmes, the appointment of advisory committees on religion, and the separation of religious services and royal events from advertising, are examples of what has been already done to combat the worst evils of commercial television; but other minor changes have been made in the opposite direction. These changes may increase the influence of advertisers and weaken the control of the Independent Authority. But when all these alterations, both for the better and for the worse, are considered, and when they are carefully balanced out, the Bill still has two features which must inevitably lead, in the course of time, to a lowering of our present standard of broadcasting in this country. These are the features which have been pointed out again and again in the debate, and I shall not go into them in any detail. I will simply give two or three sentences which I think summarise the real difficulties that we feel about commercial broadcasting.
The main source of revenue for the programme producers in this commercial broadcasting system will still be advertisements. It will not be the whole source but it will be the main source. These advertisements will inevitably be linked with the subject matter of the broadcast. The financing of these broadcasts by advertisements and the linking of the advertisements with the subject matter of the broadcasts are the two things which must undoubtedly lead to a lowering of standards. So far as this essential matter goes, there is no difference between the Bill as we see it now and the White Paper which we debated last November.
I am not going to go into this alteration in the financing of the new system which the Government hope will do something to counteract the effect that an undiluted advertisement programme would have had. There will be a substantial sum of public money, up to £750,000 a year, in grant, and a consider- 307 able loan to finance development. It is hoped that this will secure a balanced programme and a speedy expansion of capital works. Let us admit that the grant may secure a better balance between entertainment and instruction, but I think we must, nevertheless, consider the alternative ways in which this money, if it had to be spent, could have been spent. We must surely ask ourselves whether, with such a large sum of money as this in the grant, the borrowing powers that are to be given might not have been used to better advantage in other ways. Personally, I think there would have been much less risk of loss to the taxpayer, and a gain for the viewer, if the whole proceeds of the £3 licence were paid to the B.B.C. for the production of a second programme and if they had been given for the expansion of their television programme the borrowing powers which have been given to the Independent Television Authority. In any event, whether one agrees with that or not, I think there should be much more careful consideration of the case for spending public money on this sort of scale for the expansion of public service broadcasting.
As I have already said, the B.B.C. is not the only form of public service broadcasting. Another difficulty about these financial arrangements, the financial arrangements preferred by the Government in the Bill, is that they are using the taxpayers' money to supplement indirectly the earnings of private business. Whether they may be justified or not in the particular case is a matter for discussion, but the general principle is very doubtful indeed. Another respect in which I think the Bill goes seriously wrong is that it enables advertisers to choose the kind of programme in which they will be willing to insert their advertisements. They will be told the type of programme shown at different times of the day and on different days, and they will choose in which programme they will pay for the particular advertisement which they wish to insert. They will naturally choose the most popular programme. As I have said again and again—and it is essential to the case against the Bill—they will choose the most popular programme, the programme with the widest coverage (to use the technical term) such as sporting events and variety, and they will refuse to advertise in the 308 more serious types of programme which appeal to a smaller audience. I am not saying that the advertiser will influence the particular items in a particular programme: they will be chosen by the programme company, quite independently of the advertiser. What the advertisers will do is to influence the type and character of programme most commonly used by these commercial programme companies, and by so doing they will determine the broad pattern of commercial broadcasting in this country. This pattern will have little or no place for educational and cultural values.
Of course, one system of broadcasting that does not depend on advertisements for its revenue, and consequently is not obliged to associate advertisements with the subject matter of the broadcast, is the public service system. This system has another advantage which is lacking in the commercial system and which has not been put forward to-day. It is difficult at this time of night to find a new argument. I must apologise for repeating what has already been said so often but I think this is a new argument, and one to which I hope the Government will reply to-morrow. Commercial broadcasting goes in for numbers. It caters for the densely populated urban areas; it is not concerned about the sparsely populated countryside.
§ EARL DE LA WARR
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Earl, but I specifically dealt in my speech with that point. I said that the new stations which are to be built will have a minimum of forty miles radius, which definitely means that they will cater for a great deal more of the population than the densely populated areas.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
I noted with the utmost care the reference which the noble Earl made in his speech to this matter, and I should like to refer to it in more detail in a few sentences; but I have not yet reached that point. May I substantiate what I have said about commercial broadcasting catering mainly for the towns and not bothering about the countryside? I should like to do so by quoting what has been happening in the United States. I do not, of course, accept the position that American broadcasting is parallel with commercial broadcasting in this country, but there 309 are certain common features and certain common tendencies in all forms of commercial broadcasting. I should like to draw attention to this tendency in the United States, because it is a tendency which will be present in any commercial system here, and unless it is deliberately counteracted it will get the upper hand.
In the United States, as your Lordships are aware—those of you who have been there will certainly know—if you go to a place like New York, you can tune in to fifteen or so different television programmes. At the same time, some States in America and about 40 per cent. of the whole population, have no television programme at all. The 60 per cent. coverage of television in America is much less than the coverage of the B.B.C. television programme, and, of course, much less than the coverage which the B.B.C. will have when its programme is complete. The noble Earl said that there would, first of all, be these three stations—I think he said in London, Birmingham and Manchester, with a forty miles radius—
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
I apologise to the noble Earl; he said there would be three stations with a forty miles radius, and I had assumed that in order to reach as many people as possible they would be started in the largest centres of population; but that is really immaterial to my argument. I should have thought from the noble Earl's point of view, that if this were going to provide a good service it must cover as many people as possible. If the noble Earl is suggesting that these stations should not be for the largest areas of population we will take that into account and I am afraid we will deplore it.
§ EARL DE LA WARR
All I am saying is that forty miles extends beyond the boundaries of the big cities.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
I agree that it will take in the peripheral area and considerably outside. But this is immaterial to my argument. How can stations placed in these large centres of population, wherever they may be, and covering a forty miles' radius, cater for South Wales and for the extremely sparsely covered 310 areas of the Highlands of Scotland? The noble Earl knows perfectly well that these stations will not reach the country people—
§ EARL DE LA WARR
I am sorry to keep on interrupting the noble Earl, but I am sure he knows perfectly well that the B.B.C. stations cater for only something between forty and fifty miles, or it may be up to 100 miles, according to the layout of the country. It is very much the same size as we have at the present time.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
The B.B.C. is working up to a 90 or 95 per cent. coverage of the whole country, and what I am saying is that there is no guarantee that the same thing will happen as a result of commercial television. Everything shows us that in other countries where commercial television has been tried out, the remoter places, where television is needed far more than for the spoilt town dwellers, are entirely left out. I should like the Government, through the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, or the noble Viscount, Lord Woolton, or through any of their spokesmen dealing with this matter, to give us their views, at any rate their intentions, as to the likelihood of this commercial system extending from the towns into the countryside.
The noble Earl referred to two stations which will later on be set up—I think he said one in Wales and one in Scotland. Again, a lot depends upon where those stations are. A station in the Lowlands which may perhaps reach Glasgow and Edinburgh and cover a wide area of the densely populated Lowlands will not be any good for the people of the Highlands. In the same way, a station in South Wales, catering for the Cardiff area and the densely populated mining areas, would not cover the whole of Wales. I should like to know in much more detail whether, for example, the Government can say that these programme companies will not be allowed to put on a second programme for centres of large population before they have catered for people who are receiving no commercial programme at all.
I now pass on to my concluding remarks, which are really in the form of an appeal to the Government to adopt a line of action which I think will be most welcome to a large number of your Lordships. Of course, the noble Earl and his 311 supporters will differ from us on the merits of the Bill, but I hope that they will be able to agree with us upon one matter which is, I think, of the utmost importance in any country like our own which bases its legislation upon public opinion. I am not going to make any exaggerated claim about the state of public opinion—I will not say that it is entirely for or against the Bill—but I sincerely hope that the Government will see our view that opinion on this Bill is profoundly divided. Nobody knows what the electorate thinks; that is a matter of conjecture. I do not believe in Gallup Polls. There has been no Election, and it is impossible for us to know what the voter would say if he were asked to pronounce an opinion upon this Bill. But we do know, most unmistakably, that opinion outside Parliament is so divided that rival organisations—the National Television Council on the one hand and the Popular Television Association on the other—have been set up to canvass opposing views, and have influential and sincere supporters to back them.
Again, there will be no difference about this at all—that Parliamentary opinion in both Houses is extremely divided, and that this division cuts right across Party allegiances; it is not in the nature of a Party division at all. If the Government can agree with us on an assessment of the facts (I am sure that they are bound to do so on an objective estimate of the facts) that there is a division of informed opinion about the best way of organising a second television programme, may we not ask them to go one step further with us? Is it altogether unreasonable to suggest that, even now at this late hour, they could at any rate doubt that their solution is the right one? Will they not accept the bare possibility that they may be wrong? If they are willing to agree that they may be wrong (and I think that a reasonable man would say that that was not an unreasonable conclusion to draw from the facts) should not the next step be to discuss these three alternative methods—commercial, public authority and B.B.C.—of producing this alternative programme, at a conference between the Parties?
My Lords, I think more information should be made available before such a conference could be convened with any 312 hope of achieving a useful result. Such a request has never been made of the B.B.C., but they could be asked, as something of the utmost urgency, to submit their own proposals for a second television programme, and this should be linked, of course, with the financing of such a programme—information which we have not got. The B.B.C. have never been asked by the Government to produce their own proposals. I think the Government should also consider—and they have the expert staff which would enable them to do this with great speed—the implications of making the Independent Authority that they are setting up a broadcasting authority in its own right: that is to say, all that would be involved in establishing a second public authority as the alternative programme producing authority to the B.B.C. I think this information could be collected quite quickly if the Government hastened the matter forward; and, when it is available, I suggest that the Government might then convene a meeting of members of all three Parties, drawn from both Houses of Parliament, to try and achieve an agreed solution and to produce an agreed Bill. I am not suggesting that the Government should drop the Bill altogether; I am not suggesting that they should abandon the Bill. I merely suggest, as the noble Lord, Lord Moyne, for different reasons but I thought perfectly valid reasons, suggested, that the Bill should be postponed until one further effort had been made to achieve the result that we all desire—namely, the best possible technical method of providing a high standard alternative television programme for the British public.
My Lords, I do beg the Government to consider this. It would surely be to the advantage of the country if they were to make this one final effort to bring about agreement between the Parties in regard to this chosen instrument, instead of rushing in now with what is a Party measure which may (I am not putting it higher than that, but I think in their own hearts they would admit of the possibility) be a disastrous mistake.
§ EARL DE LA WARR
My Lords, could the noble Earl, before sitting down, give us some clarification on one point? He said at the beginning of his speech that the noble Lord, Lord Fairfax of Cameron, and, I believe, the noble Marquess, Lord Linlithgow, had 313 misrepresented the standpoint of the Party to which the noble Earl belongs in saying that they intend to repeal this Bill if it ever reaches the Statute Book. Was he then speaking formally for his Party, and, if so, does that represent an alteration of view since the Third Reading of the Bill in the Commons?
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
My Lords, I am anxious to be corrected if I am wrong, but I did intend to say what the responsible authorities in the Party had said—I summarised it—in another place. If the noble Lord thinks I have made a mistake, will he be good enough to read the passage?
§ EARL DE LA WARR
This is the passage (OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 525, col. 1473):… we shall certainly not scrap the safeguards, but must reserve the right to modify or, indeed, abandon the entire scheme, and this may well include the complete elimination of the proposals for advertising. In any circumstances, the Government's plans provide a most insecure and unpromising field for investment on the part of the programme contractors, and, in view of what I have said, they may well find in due course that they are put out of business.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
I tried to put the policy as briefly as I could and I do not think I misrepresented it. There are two stages: first, the application of the safeguards; and secondly, that if the commercial companies fail to do their job, or are not able to do so for financial reasons, then we reserve the right to consider some alternative method of providing another programme. The noble Earl opposite and his colleagues in the Government would have to consider an- 314 other method of providing an alternative programme if the method they have chosen in the Bill were to fail. I do not think there is anything narrow-minded or partisan about it.
§ EARL DE LA WARR
I thought the House before meeting to-morrow would like to know the position as to whether the noble Lord in his remarks in fact represented the view of the Labour Party—we shall read his remarks in Hansard—or whether the words that I have read out represented his own view. I gather from what the noble Lord has said that we must rest standing on what was said in another place.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
I am much obliged to the noble Earl, but I think he will find that if my remarks are compared with those of members of my Party in another place there is no inconsistency.
§ EARL FORTESCUE
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Woolton, I move that this debate be now adjourned.
§ Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.— —(Earl Fortescue.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to and debate adjourned accordingly.