HL Deb 23 January 1957 vol 201 cc41-100

2.51 p.m.

LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTHrose to draw attention to the broadcasting services, both sound and vision, provided by the B.B.C. and the I.T.A., with particular reference to the revised rules for television broadcasting, and to ask Her Majesty's Government for a statement of their policy regarding the extension of the television services provided by the B.B.C.; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, when I originally drafted the Motion which stands in my name upon the Order Paper. I drafted it in wide terms because I thought your Lordships' House should have art opportunity of debating the broadcasting services which are at the disposal of the population of this country. Your Lordships' had not had the opportunity of doing so for sixteen months—from the date upon which the Independent Television Bill passed through your Lordships' House—and as it is something which affects the lives and the standards of the people of this country, I thought it eminently suitable for discussion.

But, as always happens, having drafted this Motion in such wide terms, I realised that it was a little too wide, and that broadcasting had spread from this country over the entire world at such a rate that, in the compass of a speech which would not unduly tax the time and the patience of your Lordships—the latter you are always generous enough to afford —I thought I had better narrow my own speech. Therefore, in the speech that I am about to make I shall make no reference whatsoever to external broadcasting from this country, which, if he will permit me to say so, is the subject of a most interesting Report presented by the noble Earl, Lord Drogheda. I am particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Strang—a far greater authority on external broadcasting services than I can ever hope to be—for having placed upon the Order Paper of your Lordships' House a Motion on this aspect for early debate. Secondly, I should perhaps say, by way of explanation, that my noble friend Lord Lucan has, as your Lordships will see, withdrawn his Motion from the Paper and has incorporated it in mine. He will wind up this debate on behalf of Her Majesty's Opposition, and I shall deal quite briefly with the subject that was incorporated in his Motion.

To draw the picture that I would ask your Lordships to consider, I think I should place before your Lordships what I might call the elementary arithmetic of this problem. There are currently in existence 14,424,236 wireless receiving licences, 7,990,819 for sound only, and 6,433,417 for sound and vision. I estimate—and I base my estimate on the best information I can gel from the industry concerned—that the current capital investment by the British public in receiving sets amounts to £875 million, and the existing licence holders to whom I have just referred paid £21,321,070 for licences for the pleasure of either listening or viewing. The other significant figure is that it is possible for 19 million adult citizens of the United Kingdom to view television. That represents the number of adults living in houses where television sets are installed, and it gives your Lordships the measurement of the problem which Parliament has to face.

First of all, I will deal briefly with sound broadcasting. Sound broadcasting, which is still a monopoly of the British Broadcasting Corporation, has a national coverage in the United Kingdom, on the Home Service, of 93 per cent. of the adult population; on the Light Programme, of 99 per cent. of the adult population; and on the Third Programme, of 69 per cent. of the adult population. I think that can be claimed to be a nation-wide coverage. But the difficulty with which sound broadcasting is faced is that during the peak listening hours only about 50 per cent. of the coverage on the Home and the Third Programmes is operative in the South Midlands, the South of England and Wales, because of interference from outside sources. The air is so full of broadcasting that unless a very high frequency set is employed, roughly 50 per cent. of the radio sets in the South of England, the South Midlands and in Wales are obsolete.

May I, in passing, congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Munster, that he is still sitting on the Government Front Bench, after what I may call the "shake-up" that has taken place, and will delight us with the thorough and exhaustive replies which we so frequently hear upon subjects for which he is responsible? The first question I want to ask him is: who is responsible, and can responsibility be assigned? Is it the B.B.C.? Is it the Post Office? This matter seems to me to be something that requires thorough examination. It seems a sad thing that, unless the listening public invest more capital in very high frequency sets, which cost a great deal of money—the ordinary existing wireless set cannot be easily converted—they are denied the clear reception that I think they deserve for the money which they spend. Although the B.B.C. can give a coverage of something in the region of 84 per cent. of the entire country on what is known as very high frequency, so far there are in the hands of the British public only about 6 million such sets. I do not know, but that may be one reason for what I think is a significant figure—namely, that while licences for sound broadcasting have diminished over this past year by about 1 million, licences for television sets have gone up by 1¼ million, because television sound uses very high frequency modulation.

My Lords, I turn now to the sound programmes. I will do so only briefly, because it is not my purpose to weary your Lordships with a dissertation on what I think is right. I prefer to concentrate my remarks on what I think is wrong. I would say that the programmes are, on the whole, good, and with the three diverse and contrasting programmes—Light. Home and Third—it could be claimed that the listening public have a wide choice and that the B.B.C., in their sound broadcasting, are carrying out the terms of their Charter: that is, to disseminate information, education and entertainment to the whole of the citizens of the United Kingdom, wherever they may live and whatever taste they may possess. That has been the result of approximately thirty-six years of sound broadcasting by the B.B.C.

Let me now turn to television. We have now had twenty years of public television in this country and I believe I am right in saying that at the present time we are within measurable distance—in a matter of weeks or months—of the stage when the B.B.C. will be able to give in their television service a coverage of about 97 per cent. of the adult population of this country. In that percentage I have taken the adult population because one cannot very accurately measure the children. Perhaps the only criticism that one could make is that, owing to the technical difficulties, reception of television is not as good as it might be in what are called the "fringe areas"—anything further than thirty-five miles distant from one of the transmitting stations. But the television set manufacturers in this country should be highly commended on the rapid strides in the quality of the vision. They have tried, in some cases successfully, to overcome this inherent fault. I will repeat what I have said, for in my view it is a most significant figure: television has taken such a hold on the public of the United Kingdom that it has an audience, or a possible audience, of 19 million adults. I will break that total down in a moment. It is right to say that, of that 19 million, at the present time 7¾ million have an option or choice of whether they tune in to the B.B.C. or the Independent Television transmission.

Commercial television broke in sixteen months ago, in September, 1955, under the Act of 1954, and I propose to try to analyse and examine the experience that we have gained in those sixteen months. How has the viewer fared? What return has he received for his outlay upon sets and licence fees? May I say at the outset that it is no part of any case that I hope to make to advocate the dismissal of commercial television. Commercial television is here. It is now a part of the amenity—if "amenity" is the correct term—of this country, and it will remain while it is a commercial success or while it can obtain from advertisers sufficient revenue to cover its costs and make a profit—or perhaps while it can persuade Her Majesty's Government to subsidise it sufficiently so that it does not have to rely on commercial considerations.

It would be only fair to remind your Lordships of what was the purpose of the introduction of independent television. The then Postmaster-General who presented the Bill to the House made it very clear that it was the intention of Her Majesty's Government that there should be an alternative programme of television, a programme completely independent of the B.B.C. and financed mainly by money raised from commercial sources in the form of revenue from advertising. I am not going to fight old battles, but I feel it would be fair to ask: what of the claims that were then made? What of the fears that were then expressed? For there is one thing upon which experience has taught us without any equivocation whatsoever: that the first main point, that there should be an alternative programme, has not been achieved, if by "alternative" one means contrasting. For we have the same type of programme al the same time by the same artistes doing the same acts. That has been the result, and whether it is the I.T.A. or the B.B.C. has made no difference. I believe few impartial observers will not admit that the general quality of the programmes is poor. In point of fact, I think some of it is absolutely deplorable, bordering upon the vulgar, and if any noble Lord challenges me on that, I am quite prepared to give the House chapter and sordid detail; but I hope that I shall at least be spared that, though it is there in abundance.

Experience has proved one outstanding thing. I know I may not be forgiven for saying this, but noble Lords could not expect me not to say it: all the critics have been proved right and all the protagonists have been proved wrong. But nothing else could be expected when the standard of taste, or programme quality, if you like, has to be set by mass-audience considerations. This is not an attack upon the advertisers. A well-known critic said the other day: "I do not mind the advertisements. What I object to is the 'piffle' that goes on the screen between them." One cannot blame the advertisers. As was pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Brand, at the time, the standard of taste is the reason why the News of the World has a circulation of 8 million a week and The Times a daily circulation of 245,000; and the advertiser has to go for the mass appeal, for the largest circulation. It may be a horrible thing for your Lordships to admit, but taste in entertainment among the masses of this country is deplorably low, especially when it comes to television. I often sit and view some of these programmes, and I wonder how many of those who are sitting, glassy-eyed, staring at people in boxes being tortured to win money, would themselves pay good money at a box-office to see it at a theatre. And what is the reason? It is that we have too much television; we have too much television in this country of the same type. And now Her Majesty's Government are to extend it by an hour—the subject of my noble friend's Motion.

The extra hour will be filled up with the same sort of programmes, especially if advertising conies into it. The hour from six to seven will turn out to be the peak viewing hour, so programmes will be of lower quality still, because they will attract wider audiences. In this race downhill the I.T.A. are leading by a short head, followed on their heels by the B.B.C. One of the reasons is that there is not sufficient talent available. I would put this point to your Lordships. One of these alleged comedians comes on the television screen and is immediately seen by 5 million viewers; and his talent—at the best never expansive—is used up. And. as we know, when these comedians use up their ordinary talent they have only one standby—vulgarity; and that is what we are getting. I would not say that all the programmes presented on television are deplorable: there are some outstandingly good ones. But they are so few as to be outstanding.

I know the danger of expressing any opinion of the quality of a television programme or anything else, because it must at least be a measure of one's own taste, but there is one thing I would ask your Lordships to consider: that is, whether you think that the portrayal in front of a television screen of all the intimate details of a person's life is something that should be presented as entertainment. It there is one thing which the British public have shown they are very mindful of it is the sacredness of the privacy of a person's life. Yet what happens? On the B.B.C. we have men shanghaied into a programme entitled: "This is your Life." I do not know whether my of your Lordships would like to have your private lives paraded before a television screen. Perhaps if the B.B.C. made it worth while, it might be profitable. The other programme of this nature is called, "Is this your problem?" What a sordid thing! I suppose that the sadists who have their lives and personal problems exposed are paid good money. In one instance, if the Press is to be believed, two people were flown from California to take part in this ridiculous programme, "This is your Life." That has to be because that sort of thing has mass appeal.

I have come to the conclusion that Independent Television programmes are no alternative: they are the same programmes, at the same time and by the same people. And one of the dangers is this. The B.B.C.'s own statistics, published only yesterday and supported by independent examiners, show that for every thirty-eight viewers who view B.B.C. programmes, sixty-two view I.T.A. programmes. Therein lies the dilemma of the B.B.C. They cannot afford to lift the quality of their programmes, because the more they improved the quality of their programmes, the wider that gap would be, and it would mean that soon Independent Television would be able to claim that they had the mass viewing of the country. So, while competition between these two organisations is set on the consideration of mass audiences, the quality is bound to get lower and not higher. Is it not tragic that that should be so?


Does the noble Lord imply that every successful and popular play is a bad play?


No; I thought I qualified what I said—perhaps the noble Earl did not hear me. I stated that I was not saying that every programme was a bad programme, and that there were some outstandingly good ones. I thought that was the expression I used. But in what I am saying now I am taking the general run. Is it not significant that even on Sunday afternoons on the B.B.C. we have football matches, and on Sunday evenings variety of not very high quality, and pantomime? That is the standard of entertainment which is coming over.

The Independent Television Authority have admitted publicly that they cannot improve the quality of their programmes and maintain their advertising revenue. On August 6 last, The Times published a unique article. It was headed: "Home to roost." Indeed, the chickens are coming home to roost! This is what The Times said, quoting the Independent Television Authority: The Authority is conscious, and its view is shared by the programme companies, that the present programmes, although extremely popular, do not contain a sufficient number of programmes of information and discussion or of plays and performances of lasting value. For this the explanation is the very simple one that such programmes, whether transmitted by the Authority or the B.B.C., do not attract relatively large audiences, in spite of their national value. Then for over a column and a half The Times—very unkindly, I thought—quoted from speeches made by a number of noble Lords opposite on the occasion of the debate on the Independent Television Bill. I will spare many noble Lords their confused blushes: I will not read out what they said and use their words as evidence against them.

It is because of this that in the later part of my Motion I say that a second television programme produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation, entirely independent of commercial considerations, is a vital necessity if the B.B.C. are to implement their Charter. As I have already said, I do not stand before your Lordships as an arbiter of public taste. The views I have expressed on taste are my own—they may be shared by your Lordships or they may not—and it may well be that there are millions in this country who like the type of programme I have illustrated. But what about those who do not like these programmes? Are they to have no consideration? If it has taken the B.B.C. long and wearisome study and experiment to discover that they need three programmes to satisfy the tastes of 4¾ million people—that is the average number of listeners per sound programme—by what process of deduction is it argued that 7¾ million people, the average viewing audience per programme on television, can be satisfied with one?

I would argue that, in the social interests of the country it is necessary for the B.B.C. to have, as soon as may be, an alternative programme on television, which might be half-way between the Home Service and the Third Programme. At the time the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, then Postmaster General, put the Television Act through your Lordships' House, he said that there was nothing to stop the B.B.C. from having this second programme. The Television Advisory Council have recommended it. What is to stop it? I do not want to go into technicalities, but the only channels open to increased television are those on Band HI. There are eight channels on this band: two have been given to the LTA., two have been promised to the I.T.A. and there are four left. The B.B.C. have not been promised one. Why not? Which side are the Government upon? What they have said is that they will not have any decision made on this matter until 1958. If the Government said to-day that the B.B.C. shall have a second television programme, it would take approximately two years for it to come about, and the longer they wait, the longer it will be before it is ready to broadcast. But why delay, because delay is all in favour of the commercial interests and against the B.B.C.?

The time will come (perhaps this is what the Government want and I should like the noble Earl, Lord Munster, to tell me) when the I.T.A. can claim such a mass viewing audience that they can say that they should be left with the monopoly of the commercial interests in light television entertainment, leaving the B.B.C. to present the alternative programme of a higher value. That does not marry up with the Charter that Her Majesty has granted to the B.B.C. That also would hasten the day when the covetous eyes of the I.T.A. may be focused upon the television income.

Here again, The Times had a pertinent article on this, on December 1. The caption this time was, "Thou Shalt Not Covet", and the article said: The programme companies are also pointing out that while directly responsible for a large proportion in the increase in television licence revenue they receive no part of this licence revenue. It was never intended that they should do so. One of the great points made by the Government when persuading Parliament to accept commercial television was that it should in no way limit the revenue of the B.B.C. Earl De La Warr, then Postmaster General, covered the point specifically in the House of Lords, on May 22, 1952. He said `even if the fears of certain noble Lords are right (it may well be that they are) that competition would deprive the B.B.C. of some of its audience this would not affect its income, because wireless licences are paid for in order to use a receiving set and not for the privilege of listening to the B.B.C. If the programme companies really hanker after a share of the licence money the Government should make it clear to them they are wasting their time. May I ask the noble Earl who is to reply on behalf of the Government whether that is still Government policy? Does the policy stated by the noble Earl, the then Postmaster General, in 1952, remain to-day?

Before I. end what I have to say, I should like to ask the noble Earl, Lord Munster, one or two questions upon the operation of the Television Act, 1954. My criticism—and I think that this is a matter of which Parliament must take notice—is that we find, after sixteen months of experience, that the I.T.A. are quite impotent to do the task that was set out for them to do in the Act. Section 1 states that the I.T.A. must …provide…television broadcasting services…of high quality… Would the noble Earl admit that that has been fulfilled? Section 3 lays down the duty of the Authority to satisfy themselves (a) that nothing is included in the programmes which offends against good taste or decency… Would the noble Earl like to say that that condition has been satisfied? Then the Act lays down the I.T.A.'s duty to satisfy themselves (b) that the programmes maintain a proper balance in their subject matter and a high general standard of quality; Would the noble Earl say that that condition has been satisfied? Then the I.T.A. must be satisfied (d) that proper proportions of the recorded and other matter included in the programmes are of British origin and of British performance; The vast bulk of films shown on both B.B.C. and I.T.A. are American. Have we no British producers who produce films? Perhaps that is a subject for your Lordships' debate next Tuesday—but is it not right that that should be brought home to the I.T.A.?

Then Section 3 of the Act, in paragraph (e), lays on the I.T.A. the duty to ensure that the programmes broadcast from any station or stations contain a suitable proportion of matter calculated to appeal specially to the tastes and outlook of persons served by the station or stations; Will the noble Earl say that that condition has been satisfied? Would the noble Earl tell me the last occasion when the I.T.A. broadcast a piece of good music? One of the programme companies, I know, engaged the Hallé Orchestra for about two weeks. Did they do that to attract advertising revenue? Are we to admit that the citizens of Manchester, which has been the home of good music for so many years, are now satisfied with Tin Pan Alley clatter? What steps are the Government taking to see that this Act is put into force?

Then Section 3 of the same Act says: Nothing shall be included in any programme broadcast by the Authority, whether in an advertisement or not, which offers any prize of significant value… Even to your Lordships £3,200 is not insignificant, is it? But some poor juvenile is put in a box and asked questions, and when he comes out he has won £3,200; and other people, by answering the most inane questions, can walk away with £120. Is that insignificant? What was Parliament's wish in this matter? This Act has safeguards which the Government assured your Lordships were there to take care of all these things, and your Lordships were told that you need have no fears; but, in the event, it has turned out that every fear expressed by noble Lords who took an opposite view upon the advantage of having an Independent Television Authority has been underlined and substantiated.

Now we are going to have a break in on education: we are going to have Independent Television in schools, if the Independent Television programme companies get their way. This I regret, and I hope the noble Earl the Deputy Leader of the House will convey my regrets to the Minister of Education, the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham. I wonder what he thinks about having advertisements flashed across school screens, after the stand he made when he ornamented the Back Benches on the Government side of the House. If I.T.A. are going to be so incompetent and impotent in the matter of education television broadcasts as they are in their other programmes, what is the policy of the Government? Perhaps I may be told that.

I am not going to delay your Lordships further—I have already delayed you long enough—but I think this subject is something that your Lordships must take into consideration. I am not going into the question whether the children's programmes are up to a high enough standard, although there was a trenchant article in the Observer the other Sunday pointing out how many murders and things like that are portrayed in the children's programme. I ask your Lordships and the Government to bear this fact in mind. It has been proved conclusively that you cannot give a nationwide service to 19 million people with one television programme. It has been proved conclusively that you cannot give a high-class programme when commercial considerations are the dominating factor. Is it not the duty of the Government not to delay any longer but to give the British Broadcasting Corporation the right to put out over their network a second television programme? I beg to move for Papers.

3.34 p.m.


My Lords, in his survey the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, has raised a number of interesting questions, some of which, as he said, were related to fact and some to matters of opinion. I hope that in what I am going to say I shall be able to give the noble Lord some of the answers he wants and, in the process, to set his mind and the minds of others of your Lordships at rest on certain subjects on which some unease has been expressed. Incidentally, I must apologise in advance to the noble Lord if some of the answers to questions which he specifically addressed to my noble friend Lord Munster should come from me.

The noble Lord has reminded us, in effect, that there are 8 million homes in this country which still depend on sound broadcasting alone, and that for many of these reception of the national programmes is spoilt by foreign interference. He mentioned, in particular, South-East England and Wales, where the interference comes principally from East German stations. Unfortunately, there are other parts of the country which suffer in a similar way, such as the Scottish and Northern Home services, suffering interference from Spanish stations. Representations have been made to the authorities concerned: and Spanish interference to the West Home Service ceased due to the co-operation of the Spanish authorities in changing the frequency of their Toledo station. We have not been successful as regards the interference from East Germany, as your Lordships will perhaps not be surprised to hear. B.B.C. representatives visited East Germany a year ago to try to discuss the matter with representatives of the East German wireless system, but no meeting could be arranged.

There is, however, no final remedy through this means. The real trouble is that about twice as many transmitters are now broadcasting in Europe as were provided for in the international plan by which the available medium wavelengths were shared out. The result is interference all round, and many European countries are now turning to the use of the very high frequencies for their services to get over this difficulty. Very high frequency broadcasting has the merit of operating over a short range and gives improved reception without overseas interference. There is also an absence of background noise and less chance of local electrical interference. Manufacturers are now turning out V.H.F. sets in ever-increasing numbers, and the B.B.C. expect to be sending out their services in these frequencies to 96 per cent. of the population by the end of 1958. They are already available to some 83 per cent. of the population.

As the noble Lord said, it does, of course, mean that people need V.H.F. sets in order to receive these services, and I recognise the reluctance of some people to buy V.H.F. sets when they feel they should be getting good reception from their existing medium wave sets. But at the same time I must emphasise that V.H.F. is the only final solution to this very difficult problem which, as I have said, affects not only this country but others as well. The B.B.C. and the radio manufacturers are co-operating in the task of explaining the need for those very high frequency sets, what they will do, and why people should change over to them if they can.

The noble Lord expressed the view that if three sound programmes were necessary to give listeners a reasonable choice of subject, then for the same reason the B.B.C. needed a second television programme. He said that Independent Television did not provide a planned alternative programme, but I cannot recall that it was designed to do so. I feel very diffident about querying in any way the noble Lord's sources of information, but, to the best of my recollection, the word used at the time was "additional" and not "alternative".


If the noble Lord will read with great care, as I have done, the speeches of the Postmaster-General, the noble Earl. Lord De La Warr and the noble Earl, Lord Woolton—both Government Front-Bench spokesmen—he will find that "alternative" was the word used.


I should not dream of arguing with the noble Lord. I shall reserve my opinion and have another look at it.


I wonder whether I might add one word to that, as I was responsible, with the Postmaster-General, for piloting the Bill? The word "alternative" was frequently used, and the word "additional" was frequently used. All "alternative" meant was that there would be two programmes which would be in competition, and that the general public would have the choice of listening to one or the other. My old colleague, Lord Woolton, who was there, will bear me out. Is that not right?


That is right.


Perhaps we had better not indulge in a short study of what I believe is called semantics. Perhaps we should leave that for the moment. The point I wanted to make was that, against the background of the fact that in an increasing number of homes—about 3 million at the present time—there is a choice of three sound programmes and two television programmes, it is arguable whether the time is appropriate for the diversion of more manpower, resources, and money to television. Apart from this consideration, however, there are prior and important technical questions to be considered, before further television programmes could be embarked upon. I would remind your Lordships of the Written Answer given by the former Postmaster-General on February 22, 1956, in another place. On the subject of the applications which had been received from the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. for consent to provide a second television programme he said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 549, col. 46]: The Government has decided to defer consideration of any such additional television programme for two years. Such a postponement has the advantage that it should be possible by then to make a better assessment of the influence of current technical developments, including colour. Apart from colour, the major technical factor is the question of the standard of definition which should be used for our future television services. At present television comes to us on a 405 line picture—America has 525 lines and most West European countries 625. The greater the number of lines, the greater is the detail, and so the better the picture, and the adoption of a higher definition, and perhaps also the introduction of colour, would mean the use of channels wider than those in use to-day by both the B.B.C. and I.T.A. These are important questions which are actively engaging the Television Advisory Committee, and it would be quite wrong for the Government to make up their minds in advance of advice from this influential and representative body. These are matters which will set the pattern of television development in this country for many years ahead. I think, therefore, that the Government are pursuing the right course in ensuring that they get the exhaustive and specialised examination that they undoubtedly need before taking decisions about second programmes or channel allocations for them.

I might perhaps digress for one moment to mention the American experience with colour television so far. I understand that there the cheapest colour receiving set costs about £175 and needs much servicing. These circumstances perhaps explain why only 100,000 are in use as compared with about 40,000,000 black and white sets. Your Lordships know, I think, of the colour television demonstration by the B.B.C. which is taking place on January 30 and 31 in Committee Room 4, and if I may be excused any accusation of a piece of advertising, however modest, I would say that that will no doubt give us some idea of the progress which has been made and some of the problems connected with it.

The noble Lord, and Lord Lucas of Chilworth, does not seem to care for the quality of the I.T.A. programmes.


Either programme.


The noble Lord expressed the view that the I.T.A. was leading a downhill race, with the B.B.C. following. Although I must admit that in some ways his argument would be a better one for a new television service if what he says is correct, I doubt whether the B.B.C. or the I.T.A. would accept this picture of the situation. As regards the B.B.C., in my view it simply is not true that they have departed from their standards. It is true to say that they have reacted, and with vigour, to competition, and I think many people would claim that their programmes are all the better for it.

On the I.T.A. side, the Chairman, Sir Kenneth Clark, some time ago stated his view that a little more balance would be welcome in the programmes. It does not mean that they are by any means lacking in the more solid kind of programme. For instance, they have an excellent news service, which has won a good deal of praise, and a fair number of current affairs programmes. From the start they have given a considerable amount of time to religious programmes. This kind of material—all of it attracting big audiences in the I.T.A. areas—fills about one-fifth of the twenty-eight evening hours of television during the week. Then, there are the live plays, which have steadily increased in number since the summer and which inspired the radio critic of the Daily Telegraph to say on January 3: How greatly the standard of drama has improved on Independent Television these last few months, at least in major productions. The Manchester Guardian critic, for once, was able to congratulate the I.T.A. recently, saying that the programme company could look back with pride on its production of "Look Back in Anger". I understand that future plans include an extended news service, more current affairs generally, and a weekly programme about science.

The main point I wish to make is that the Authority is fully alive to its responsibilities in this matter, but it must be remembered that the programme contractors have been on the air at most sixteen months, and in some cases considerably less, in conditions which have not been very easy financially. Their programmes are improving—not deteriorating—in range and quality, and, as your Lordships know, it is the intention of the Government to include provision in the 1957–58 Estimates for a grant-in-aid of £100,000, which, if Parliamentary approval is given, will enable the I.T.A. to arrange for the inclusion of some of the balance they think is needed. This grant is proposed under Section 11 of the Television Act, which was included, may I say, to meet a course advocated by a number of your Lordships.

The noble Lord drew attention to the number of American films shown both on the B.B.C. and the I.T.A., and asked if this were in accordance with the duty placed on the Authority, in particular those under Section 3 (1) (d) of the Television Act, which requires them to see that proper proportions of the recorded and other matter included in the programmes are of, British origin and of British performance. I should like to draw the noble Lord's attention to pages 17 and 18 of the Authority's Annual Report for 1955–56, in which it records the discussions it has had on this matter with the bodies representing British artistes, writers and composers with the aim of reaching with them and with the programme companies a working arrangement which would be as simple and flexible as possible but which would at the same time safeguard the legitimate interest of the British entertainment industry. It records that an understanding was reached which was acceptable to all the interests concerned.

The Authority also points to the two-way process that operates in these natters, and the probability that the dollar value of the sales of British material for overseas television at least equalled, and probably exceeded, the dollar cost of television imports. It is true that a fair number of the most popular programmes here are American, but that should, I would have thought, have acted as a spur to our own endeavours. The B.B.C. have also given an assurance that they will use proper proportions of recorded and other matter in their programmes similarly of British origin and of British performance.


May I interrupt the noble Lord? I only interrupt him the better to follow his argument; I am not contradicting him. Is he then placing the responsibility for the paucity of British material in recorded programmes, on both the B.B.C. and the I.T.A., not on the respective Authorities but on the British producers? They do not produce. Is that what he means to say?


I do not think that was what I meant to say.


That is what I took the noble Lord to say.


What I meant to say, in answer to the noble Lord's original criticism that there was so much American material, was what the I.T.A. and the B.B.C. have done about it. I thought I had merely made plain, which I intended to do, that it would not appear from the information which I have just given out, that other people shared the noble Lord's view.


But it is not a view; it is a fact. The noble Lord can count them up. He then wishes to tell me that, in the view of Her Majesty's Government, the number of American films—what I would call "television twaddle", the short half-hour films shown both on the B.B.C. and the I.T.A.—conforms with the instructions to the I.T.A. to make sure that it has the right proportion of British products by British artistes.


All I tried to say was that if the I.T.A. can get together with the bodies representing British artistes, writers and composers, and agree with them that they are doing the right thing, would it be for the Government to argue with them and tell them that they were not? Surely, if the people who stand to lose are satisfied in the matter, that must be rather a positive fact.

I should like now to turn for a moment to the question of schools broadcasts which are also bothering the noble Lord. The policy was given in the former Minister of Education's Written Answer in another place on January 31, 1956. With your Lordships' leave, I will quote briefly again [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 548, col. 103]: I told the B.B.C. and the School Broadcasting Council last October that I accepted their proposal to provide an experimental service of television to schools starting in the autumn of 1957. The purpose of this experiment is to secure sufficient evidence to determine the educational potentialities of television. Expenditure on the purchase of equipment for schools will be strictly limited to what is necessary for this purpose. The planning of the programme is the responsibility of the B.B.C. The B.B.C. plan to start their series in the autumn of this year, but one of the Authority's programme contractors, it is true, has also announced plans for schools broadcasts, and these proposed school broadcasts are still under discussion between the Authority and the programme contractors. But what is important is that the latter—that is, the contractors—have given the I.T.A. a clear assurance that they do not intend to have advertising immediately before, during or after the school broadcasts. If, incidentally, at some later date they ever have any proposals to make about specific classes of advertising which might appropriately be associated with these broadcasts, they will put them to the Authority, which will in turn consult its Children's Advisory Committee and, as may be necessary, the Postmaster General before they come to any decision on the matter.

Finally, I should like to mention the noble Lord's doubt on the question of the Government's policy of allocating licence revenue only to the B.B.C. I hope I shall succeed in making him very happy in giving him the assurance he seeks: that that is indeed the Government's policy.

3.57 p.m.


My Lords, I welcome greatly the putting down by the noble Lord. Lord Lucas of Chilworth of this Motion upon broadcasting. Broadcasting is not a matter of amusement, nor of an occasional study by ourselves: it is a matter of fundamental importance, in so far as broadcasting and television are among the greatest forces at present available for affecting the minds of the people of this country. For me, this subject has a further mark of rather personal interest, because some seven years ago, under the orders of the Government of the day (let me assure your Lordships that it was not this Government, or anything like this Government; I put no blame upon this Government), I spent some eighteen months of time upon a very strenuous study of broadcasting—and I shall have one particular point to raise from that inquiry. I was then Chairman of the Broadcasting Committee which had to advise before the Charter of the B.B.C. was renewed. Since then, of course, we have had television added. Although we had no television at that time, our Committee studied television and its use.

With regard to television I want to suggest, in particular, two dangers. The first is I think the general one that television, with its easy access of something to look at in every home for many hours a day, has a real danger of tending to turn us into a population of watchers rather than of doers. That is a very important point in regard to the younger generation. I think everyone, if asked, would say that what we want to do with our children is to make them enjoy doing things, rather than watching things. There is that danger in the spread of television. I myself have seen it in children whom I know, and all your Lordships would find that same danger there.

The second point that I want to make about the danger of television is to suggest that many of the programmes, so far from being elevating or educating, are as bad as they can possibly be—not all of them, of course, but some of them. I would draw as evidence of that upon that remarkable article that appeared in the Observer of January 13 under the title of "Is this television for toddlers?" by one George Mikes, who spent a week in considering what, in the Children's Hour, was being served out to his seven-year-old daughter. I hope that any of your Lordships who has not seen that article will send to the editor of the Observer to see if he can get hold of it. I read the article most unwillingly—I was busy on a Sunday trying to do the crossword instead—but I am glad that my wife insisted that I should read the article.

It is an account of violence, crime and horror, and their glorification. It begins with an account of a bank robbery and telling of the young man about to commit the robbery, who uttered such sentiments as, "I want to have money…and a lot of it…I am not going to go home broke…Nobody is going to put me in gaol." Just think of serving that out to your children! It goes on to speak of a song about the gallows, to another programme on robbery and the slave trade, and to seeing an actor stamped to death under the feet of buffalo. Is that really the thing you want your children to see or have the chance of seeing? The article concludes with a few statistics: During my one week's viewing of Children's Hour I saw four major crimes of violence committed on the screen; twenty men killed or wounded; twenty-four men knocked out violently.…I heard 110 shots fired.… Let me say that that article is concerned mainly with the Independent Television Authority, but it does refer to one programme from the B.B.C. which the writer describes as "the worst in the whole collection." That is only one programme, but that is his description.

Let me say that my own personal knowledge of television is strictly limited. My wife and I decided some time ago that, with growing inflation, we could not afford television, but it so happened recently that, having had to take a course of convalescence, I stayed for ten days in an hotel at Bournemouth. I can only say that, though there were one or two really good programmes which we watched in the hotel, to us the main thing we saw (I refer to the programmes of the B.B.C.) was hideous shouting by hideous people. We could not understand why people with such voices should be chosen to appear on the B.B.C. I would add that our conclusion, from our week of strenuous watching in the Bournemouth hotel, is that we have both decided that we would not have television, even if it were offered us as a gift. We would not have it, that is to say, unless there could be a complete change in the character of the programmes. The question is: how can one bring that about?

That brings me back to the Broadcasting Committee and the matter which, more than anything else, exercised that Committee in 1949. Our committee greatly admired the B.B.C. and most of what it did. We advocated continuance of its monopoly, including television. But we tried to face thoroughly the question, how can you safeguard yourself against the dangers of a monopoly in broadcasting and television? Our answer was: only by bringing outside criticism irresistably and continuously home to the makers of programmes. You may ask: how can that be done? We have to face the fact that there is an important difference between the nationalised industry of broadcasting, as it then was, and all the ordinary nationalised industries, such as coal, transport, and so on. With them there is an organ of constant criticism in Parliament—in the House of Commons and to a lesser extent here—chiefly by Questions to Ministers, but also by representations to the appropriate Minister. But that method of Parliamentary criticism is not, and ought not to be, available in regard to broadcasting. The only thing that I can think of that could possibly make the programmes open to more criticism than I would make now is if the Government of the day—of course, a changing Government of the day—were to interfere directly in the programmes. It is impossible to have effective Parliamentary criticism upon the character or the nature of the programmes without destroying the independence of this great broadcasting organisation.

How can we combine real and effective criticism from outside with freedom from Parliamentary control? The answer of my Committee was that self-criticism must be made an integral function of the B.B.C. What we suggested was the setting up, as an integral part of the B.B.C., of a public representation service, headed by a director of equal rank with the five or six other principal Directors of the B.B.C., having no function of making programmes but ready to receive criticisms of every kind, and able to force consideration of serious criticism upon the attention of the people who were making programmes. There must not be Parliamentary criticism from outside through the Minister. The Governors of an organisation such as the B.B.C. have not enough time to deal with continual criticism, and the programme makers have not enough time, because, once they have got through one programme, whatever one may say to damn it or not, they are busy on the next.

We proposed that, as an integral part of any organisation for broadcasting, there should be an officer, with the necessary staff, of adequate power to make certain that every programme organiser could be brought to book to justify what he was doing. Let me say that that proposal was accepted by the whole of the Committee—it was a unanimous Report, except, of course, for the right honourable gentleman who is now our Foreign Secretary, Mr. Selwyn Lloyd. He did not want the monopoly of the B.B.C., and he made an independent Report; but all the rest of us, people of many different points of view, agreed with this particular proposal. We agreed, in other words, that under any new Charter self-criticism should be made a formal duty of the B.B.C.

Nothing of that kind happened, however. The Government of the day (I think it was a different Government from that to which we reported) left it as a pious aspiration to the B.B.C., and naturally our proposal was not very popular with the rest of the B.B.C. The new Director of Public Representation would have been a nuisance to all of them, they felt. My only comment on that is three sentences from our Report, which perhaps I may quote. We ended by saying: There is no confession of weakness so revealing as the desire to be above criticism; there is no access to power more rewarding than comes from the willingness to benefit by criticism. Self-criticism should be a function of the broadcasting authority as vital as the production of programmes. But nothing happened. I am not going to insist that the precise proposal of my Committee for a public representation service is the only possible way of getting our aim. I can only say that it was a carefully thought out plan for combining independence from the Minister and Parliament with effective criticism by all people outside who were entitled to criticise.

But, my Lords, whether in that or some other way, something must be done, above all, to improve the television programmes. To-day the sight of television aerials going up everywhere is impressive and, indeed, alarming—I think even more alarming than impressive. What are these growing millions of viewers to see? It may be said that they will see only what they want to see; that they will turn off if they do not see the kind of thing they want to see. On that, I would urge that no one should suggest that viewers will look at nothing except sport, vulgarity and violence. Let us draw a moral from the past of the B.B.C. I say, without hesitation, that the greatest advance that has been made in the civilisation of this country in the last twenty years or so, ever since broadcasting began. has lain in the spread of taste in the public as a whole—not only in a few highbrows only—for real music. I think that that is the greatest achievement of the B.B.C.'s first Director-General, the noble Lord, Lord Reith. The "croakers" told him: "The public will not listen to good, classical music." But Lord Reith did not listen to the "croakers": he knew better, and he had the power to use his knowledge. That is one of the most encouraging morals of our recent history. To-day we know that, however much music is put on, it will be listened to, and that many people want it above all else.

I beg your Lordships to agree with me that broadcasting and television are not merely, or mainly, amusements: they are among the greatest civilising—or decivilising—instruments at our command. They cannot be civilising unless we can make certain that the makers of programmes are themselves civilised, or that, if they are not civilised, they can be brought to book. I suggest that the only way to ensure that they are continuously civilised is by effective criticism from outside, finding an adequate instrument of criticism within. I pray Her Majesty's Government to bring it about that broadcasting and television are made completely civilising instruments and are never de-civilising instruments. That does not mean ruling out all amusement. Of course it does not mean anything of the kind, for laughing is a very civilised activity. But whether it is that or not depends on what we laugh at and what makes us laugh.

4.15 p.m.


My Lords, I must begin by apologising for intervening in a debate in which I was not in a position to hear the opening speeches, but I had to keep an appointment outside the House and that explains my absence. Not having heard those speeches, I am not going to take up a great deal of time in possibly saying rather badly what has already been said well and much more fully. I will confine myself to two points only. The first is that this is a subject on which those who represent the Churches are very alert. For some years we have had an admirable Advisory Committee in association with the B.B.C., and since the arrival of Independent Television the members of that Committee, and others, have been in touch also with that Authority. By and large, I think it can be said that the lines of communication with the I.T.A. and the subsidiary companies have been reasonably satisfactory up till now. We realise that a good deal depends on the alertness of those who represent the Churches in maintaining that contact. One would not wish to estimate the value of religious broadcasting or religious television just in terms of time. A great deal must depend, therefore, on the quality of the advice given and also on the advice taken. Up till now we have no great complaint to make.

In the second place, I feel that we should be taking a very narrow view of religion in the broadest sense of the word if we did not look more widely at the subject and ask ourselves what was the general influence of broadcasting upon the cultural life of the country or, to use the words of the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, its civilising effect. There I, for one, and, I believe, many others, are increasingly uneasy. While there is bound to be a variety of levels in programmes, especially when programmes have to last, as they do, for so many hours of the day, I should myself endorse (and those who know more about the subject than I do I am sure would also endorse) what was said just now by the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge. Though it is difficult, and perhaps dangerous, to generalise on a subject of this kind, we have a feeling that the kind of competition which has been brought into television by the Independent Television Authority, has not elevated the programmes of the B.B,C., but rather the reverse.

I feel that it is extraordinarily important that people like your Lordships, those responsible for education in this country, those who have some influence in the Churches, and so forth, should be watching the influence of television very carefully. I am grateful, therefore, to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, for bringing forward this Motion. I am sure it is the kind of Motion which we ought to have put down for consideration at regular intervals in the life of this House. But just because one believes that this country still has a most important part to play in civilising, and in the cultural life of the world, it is of vital importance that we should be careful to scrutinise the foundations of our cultural life. It is these foundations about which one is rather uneasy when one thinks of the amount of rather vapid influence upon the younger generation which comes through television.

There is also the very real danger mentioned by Lord Beveridge, that we may encourage this rather dangerous habit, as I think, of just listening, just being a sort of surface on which an impression is registered, and not encourage the younger generation to act and to do. It is in view of these broader influences that I think all of us have to be extremely watchful in regard to what is put forward both by the B.B.C. and by the Independent Television Authority. I am afraid that I, for one, am still quite unconvinced that it was desirable to commercialise this powerful influence, this subtly pervasive influence, in our public life.

4.23 p.m.


My Lords, I have heard a number of interesting speeches in this debate and I shall no doubt hear more, but I am afraid that I have no chance of hearing the speech that I want o hear. I want to hear a speech from the man who has built up a well-spaced family in a three bedroomed council house, with kitchen and parlour, and has acquired a television set. I suspect that the bulk of your Lordships who live—some of you, at least, do—in commodious houses with a dining room, have an entirely different outlook on television from that of the ordinary working man who lacks the spacious, or at least adequate, accommodation of which we can boast.

I do not believe that your Lordships know anything about television, because your Lordships have not seen television at really close quarters. The same disadvantage applies to myself, so I speak with all modesty, and I must draw on my imagination for conditions of which I have no experience. But that is television as it affects the bulk of people in this country, and when we speak of the television audiences it is of such people that we should primarily be thinking. Sound radio did not affect the question as profoundly as television does. The people of this, country are well accustomed to living and working and talking and reading against a background of a constant blare of noise. It does not upset them. They like it. They manage to disregard it. Television, with its need for concentration, its requirement of a slightly darkened room, is a totally different proposition.

Some months ago the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, put down a Question about the effect of the extension of hours after six o'clock upon children's preparation. He received an answer from the noble Lord, Lord Chesham. What was that answer? It was very sound so far as it went. It was to the effect that there was a duty on parents to make sure that their children did their preparation when they ought to do it. And, of course, a good parent will tell his child at six o'clock: "Leave the television, my boy, and go and do your prep." It would not be very difficult for me. It would not be very difficult for other noble Lords. They can go to the library, or, perhaps, to the smoking room. At least, they can 20 to the dining room and sit there. How is it going to affect the man in the council house? The only place where the children can go to be out of reach of the wireless is the kitchen, just across the passage, where mother is preparing supper, or to their bedroom, which they share with the youngsters, who are getting into bed. That is the kind of question we should ask when we are discussing the matter of extended hours. We must not judge it from our own experience—we who are in a position to take it or let it alone.

But I shall be told—it will be an easy answer—to let the television be switched off. The trouble is that the B.B.C.—and, I have no doubt, the I.T.A.—television programmes make a strong appeal to various age groups. I venture to think that in the average family there will be one item, at least, that will appeal to one member of the family. Now this hour and a half of television silence which has been accepted by the country as a good and sensible provision all the time that television has been in existence has been swept away by Her Majesty's Government, apparently without their taking any advice or making any sociological inquiry into the effects of what they were doing. What evidence we may hear—I hope we shall hear it from the noble Earl—as to sedulous inquiries which they have made I do not know. So far we have heard nothing about it. What inquiries have been made of the teaching profession as to the effect of this extension on the future work of the children? Are we not told, again and again, and is it not singularly obvious, that our greatest hope for the future, perhaps our only hope for the future, is to preserve our education and increase our standard of education? If we can no longer be the strongest Power in the world, we can at least be the best educated Power. Yet here is administrative action which will undoubtedly affect the educational progress of our people.

Consider the social aspect of the matter. Father came back from work, and got out into his garden. Mother could get on with her cooking. And there was that blessed interval in which people were invited to concentrate on simple family life. What are we to have instead? I do not know what the I.T.A. are proposing—that does not affect me: I am one of those poor rustics who do not get it. But I know what the B.B.C. are proposing: they are going to have a programme of snippets, of short entertainment items. Could anything he worse? Could anything he more apt to make a child say, "Oh, mummy, just one more. I must see that. It is only five minutes "? I prophesy that seeing is going to be pretty steady now throughout the hour and a half by one member or another of the family. I believe that the effect on education, and on family life as well, though the educational effect is the one on which I would concentrate, is going to be enormous.

I would plead that with a new start and a new Minister of Education, whom we all congratulate on his appointment and on whose appointment we congratulate Her Majesty's Government—because I am perfectly sure that he has it in him to be one of the great men in the Ministry —we should pause again. If the fullest sociological and educational inquiries have not been made, they should now be made, and the new Minister of Education should have an opportunity to consider, with the advice of the teachers, what effect this decision is going to have on his Department.

4.32 p.m.


My Lords, may I deal shortly with the point raised by the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh. The B.B.C. has been working for four years experimenting on the best methods of television in the schools. I think that every conceivable sort of committee has been consulted, and endless trouble has been taken, and I venture to suggest that the results not be quite so bad as the noble Earl suggests.


My Lords, I am afraid that I did not make myself clear. I was not dealing with educational broadcasts but with the new provision that television should be allowed between 6 and 7 p.m., when the children should be doing their preparation. I am sorry if I did not make myself clear.


My Lords, I thank my noble friend. May I say how warmly I agree with everything that he said? Dealing with the subject of television between 6 and 7 p.m., I moved an Amendment on that matter two years ago, when the Television Bill was before your Lordships' House. I then laid a good deal of stress on the bad broadcasting—the horror broadcasting—which was to be seen on United States television, the kind of thing with which my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth has dealt. I may have laid too much stress on it, because the then Postmaster General protested strongly and asked your Lordships to stop talking about the United States, because that kind of thing could never happen here.


It has.


I hope to come to that point shortly. There was a Division in your Lordships' House, and my Amendment was rejected. However, the Government had second thoughts during the next few weeks, and on Repot stage a similar Amendment, moved by my noble and learned friend Lord Jowitt, was accepted by the Government. The Postmaster General took power to regulate hours of broadcasting, and made an order to the effect that the children's silent hour, which already existed on the B.B.C., should continue on both the B.B.C., and I.T.A.

In this connection, I think that everybody will agree that viewing in moderation may be a very good thing, but that too much television is had for anybody. A moderate amount of television may have a great civilising effect, but too much of it, however good it is, will tend to produce what my noble friend Lord Beveridge calls watchers, instead of doers, and I am sure that every noble Lord will agree that that is the last thing we want to do in this country. We were told, firmly, that that sort of thing could not happen here. But we have heard a good deal from my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth on this matter, and the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, read out some startling figures bearing the closest possible family resemblance to what the mothers in the United States were protesting against two or three years ago.

If that kind of thing is happening on a large scale, clearly something ought to be done about it. And, clearly, we do not want these programmes just at the time when children ought to be doing their homework. If the sort of thing that happened in America is happening here, surely it is a strong argument it for maintaining the children's silent hour. May I second very strongly the request of my noble friend Lord Iddesleigh, that the noble Earl, Lord Munster, should tell us what kind of inquiries the Government made before making what seemed to outsiders to be this very hurried decision. Did they consult the National Union of Teachers? Did they consult the Mothers' Union? I know that they consulted the B.B.C., and that the B.B.C. objected strongly, saying that it would cost them £500,000 a year, and that the Governors, I think unanimously, said they thought it better to continue the children's silent hour. I hope that the noble Earl will be kind enough to tell us what inquiries were made, because surely it is almost unthinkable that for no adequate reason this extra burden should be imposed on the B.B.C.—the only reason being, presumably, to increase the profits of Independent Television. If there is any other reason, we should very much like to know it.

My noble friend Lord Iddesleigh asked for a serious sociological investigation. As it happens, such an investigation has been begun and is now being made, as the Government are no doubt aware, under the auspices of the Nuffield Foundation, with Sir Hector Hetherington, the Rector of Glasgow University, as chairman. That inquiry into the effect of television on children of different age groups has been working in four cities on a large scale. The evidence is completed, but they have not yet begun to write their Report, which will probably be published in another six months. When that Report comes out, I beg the Government to study it carefully. It may conclude that everything is all right, and the more television the better; but, on the whole, I think that that is unlikely. If it supports anything like the kind of information that the noble Lords, Lord Lucas of Chilworth and Lord Beveridge, have given us to-day; if it appears from this important Report that extra television is likely to have a de-civilising effect on our children, I hope that the Government, who, from the Minister of Education downwards, can have in mind only the interests of the children, and of the education and civilisation of the children, will have the courage to revise the unfortunate decision they have now made.

4.39 p.m.


My Lords, what a different state of affairs exists to-day compared with that tremendous debate we had when the Television Bill was before Parliament! I am delighted to see my noble friend the Minister of Education here to-day. Your Lordships will remember that he made a very "Omo-ish" speech, full of brightness. I wonder whether, now he is in the Government, he has changed his views or whether he is sitting there under silent protest. At any rate, I know that we cannot get him up on his hind legs to-day. It is a great pity. There is, of course, this fundamental difference between one side of the House and the other. Here we have two television services, one run by the State and one run by private enterprise. Consequently, automatically from that side we find that that which is run by the State is perfect and that that which is run by private enterprise is thoroughly mischievous in every way.


My Lords, is that the noble Lord's interpretation of my speech?


Broadly, yes.


The noble Lord is completely wrong. I do not think that the noble Lord has any right to say that, because I was completely impartial about the badness of both television programmes.


I am entitled to take whatever view I like of the noble Lord's speech and that was the view I took—that he did not like I.T.A. There is only one thing that is fundamental to this question that we must recognise. If you do not like I.T.A., you do not like it. But what it has done is to have improved enormously the B.B.C. programme. There is no question about that, and nobody will doubt it for a moment. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, wanted another B.B.C. programme. I quite see that there is a case to be made for that, but on the technical side we are for the moment in a dangerous situation. When we restarted television after the war, we set up committees and they all recommended that we should go back to the 405 lines. I protested in this House—the only voice, and I was the only one who was right, because to-day they are still trying and would very much like, not to go to the American system, but to go to the Continental system of 600 lines. If we are going to get colour, then we shall require more channels in Band III which will be absorbed to get colour. So we must not set up a new broadcasting station until we have settled these complicated technical questions.

As a man in the street, taking no Party side on this matter, I look at the two programmes every morning to decide what, if anything, I want to view. I feel that most people would agree with me that there is little difference between the two, so long as you can put up with those interfering advertisements in the middle of a thrilling play. They are most tiresome, because they reiterate and repeat themselves to such a degree. I suppose there were many people—my noble friend Lord Iddesleigh was one—who thought that television would gradually become more and more serious and more and more educational.


I never thought that.


The noble Earl hoped it.


I do not recall expressing such a hope.


I thought that my noble friend wanted to see some sound educational propaganda on the screen for the children. Is that not right?


I am afraid I must have made a very unclear speech. I was pleading for the silent hour, and I thought I confined myself to that question. I was not pleading for better or more educational television; I was pleading for no television between six and seven o'clock.


I will deal with that point a little later. It is the ambition of all people who broadcast to get a popular following, and consequently, in this particular medium, there is automatically, and always will be, a certain amount of downdrag rather than uplift. We see that in the newspapers. The newspapers that have enormous circulations are not those which are educational; they are probably quite questionable in their taste. The B.B.C. and all television stations suffer a little from that, and I confess that they are somewhat driven down to the common denominator rather than to keeping us up. However, there are some very good programmes, if you pick them out. I think the news bulletin has greatly improved, and some of the debates, both of a political and of a non-political nature, on each programme, are quite entertaining. What is sometimes forgotten is that we cannot compel people to look at television: either they like it and go on looking, or they turn it off. That is why this idea of an educational television programme is really all nonsense, because you will not get anybody to look. If you are really concerned to introduce education on the State broadcasting station or on another, then I have a spendid solution which will appeal to my noble friend Lord Iddesleigh. I suggest that at six o'clock you put on some educational subject; and from that moment everybody will switch off.

I am certain that, from the point of view of the man in the street, the introduction of this new element, although I agree it is not perfect, has improved the whole position of television. I believe that we in this liaise reflect better than those in another place the general feeling of the country en these things, and I should say that the situation should be left as it is at present, reasonably satisfactory, until we decide what we shall do from the technical point of view, after the committee has made its recommendations.

4.48 p.m.


My Lords, in speaking on this subject I have to declare not an interest, but a lack of interest on one side of it. I have not got television, not because of inflation, but simply because I do not want it. My only acquaintance with it is when I find myself in a typically British provincial hotel, when the boredom after dinner is of such a nature that I even prefer to go and look at the hotel television set. I noticed with great interest what my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth said about finding so much of the programmes vulgar, if not sordid. I would agree with the adjective "vulgar", although I do not know that l should use the word "sordid". Perhaps many of them are worse than sordid; they are so completely unimaginative. I expect that I am like a good many of my fellow men in that I have no objection to a dash of vulgarity, within reason; but it must have imagination and wit to be enjoyable. For instance, I lied it quite impossible not to laugh at the Crazy Gang, who have brought vulgarity to a tine art, but I find it absolutely impossible to laugh at vulgarity on television or on sound broadcasting because it is completely lacking in imagination.

I am told—I believe my noble friend, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, mentioned this —that one defence of these programmes is that they represent what the people want. Well, the same argument is used in their defence by some newspapers who rely upon a very questionable form of news for attracting the public and increasing their circulation. If it is true that programmes of this nature are what the public want, and if a. certain type of newspaper publishes what: the people want, then I can only say that we must be wasting a great deal of the £500 million a year that we spend upon education in those respects, because we do not seem to be getting value for money.

Much has been said to-day in criticism of the programmes, but I should like to say that, in my view, there are two excellent features en the B.B.C. Home Service. One is an item on Tuesdays and Fridays called "At Home and Abroad". It varies, but, on the whole, it maintains a very high standard. I think it depends largely upon the gentlemen who interview the notabilities brought to the microphone. Two of them are very good indeed—urbane, courteous and masters of their subject—but one of them, unfortunately, always sounds to me to be prejudiced, if not, indeed, rather virulent. The noble Earl, Lord Woolton, is no longer here, but he was involved in one of these "At Home and Abroad" programmes recently, and the whole thing brought to my mind Landseer's "Dignity and Impudence". I think the B.B.C. would be well advised indeed to pay particular care to the manners and methods of the interviewers on that programme.

The other thing which I think is well done—the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge referred to it—is music. It is excellently done; in fact, I think it is better done on the Home Service than it is on the Third Programme, because it seems to me that on the Third Programme they are always giving first performances of music which deservedly never receive a second performance. One cannot say that of the Home Service.

The two short points that I wanted to speak on this evening were, first of all, this question of the suspension of television between 6 and 7 p.m. We all have our own opinions, and it has been said that this is not a Party matter. I myself think that it should not be discontinued between those hours. It is said that it interferes with homework. Well. I have never been so very "hot" about homework. When we get our schools built and have smaller classes and higher standards amongst the teachers. I think that education should then be given at school, and that when children come out of school that should end their education for the day. However that may be, I hold the reactionary view that parents should be quite able to handle this matter at home. If they cannot, then there is something very lacking in parental control, because, surely, there must be some equivalent in a television set to a car's distributor head, which can be removed. At any rate the door can be locked. I think that many of these arguments about interference with homework are exaggerated.

That leads me to say one word about education by radio, which has been mentioned in the course of the debate. I believe that there are great dangers in the idea of being able to carry on education by means of sound or visual broadcasting. I heard the other day, and I was astonished to hear it, that a father asked his boy what he had been learning that day, and the answer was, "History." The father asked, "Who teaches you history?", and the boy replied "Nobody." Father said:" Come on, be your age. You say you have been learning history but nobody taught you?" The boy said, "No. They put forty of us in a room and there was a lecture on history with no teacher in the room at all." Now I am quite sure that after five or six minutes very few boys indeed were listening, and that of those who did listen not one of them remembered anything of the lesson the next morning. I remember very well indeed in the early days of broadcasting talking on this subject of the educational value of broadcasting to the late Lord Simon, and he made a remark which I have never forgotten. He said: "It is extremely dangerous, because it gives people the illusion of acquiring knowledge without working to get it, and you learn things only if you work at them." I believe that what Lord Simon said in that respect is profoundly true and should be remembered when this idea of expanding what they call "education by radio" is under discussion.

The only other thing I want to mention is the proposal that the B.B.C. should have more frequencies than the I.T.A. If the figures I have seen are correct, I believe that this assertion ignores public opinion, because I am told on good authority that when it is possible to obtain viewing figures they show that where a choice exists four out of five viewers prefer the I.T.A. If that is so, I really do not see how an argument can be made out for giving the B.B.C. more frequencies than the I.T.A.

4.55 p.m.


My Lords, I shall be very brief, because much of what I was going to say has been ably said by the noble Lord, Lord Winster. I wish to support the proposals for revised hours of television, the only controversial one of which is this break from 6 to 7 p.m. I see absolutely no reason why that break should be maintained. It is not a case for Government interference, as the noble Lord, Lord Winster, has already said. If it is time for the toddlers to go to bed, then the parents should send them. If the older children have homework to do, then they should be sent into another part of the house to do it. What is bedtime? It may be any time from 6 p.m. until 11 p.m., and to make that arbitrary hour from 6 to 7 p.m. the bedtime hour seems to me quite absurd. I hope that the Government will not be influenced by an outcry from some educational authorities against the abolition of this break. Surely, 6 to 7 p.m. is just the time when the man of the household comes back from a hard day's work. He wants to sit down and relax in front of the television, yet, with the break, shortly after he gets in the programme closes down.

I should also like to say how entirely I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Chesham. that we should not rush into a second television programme for the B.B.C. until the complicated technical problems have been decided. The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, knows far more about this aspect than I do, and he also supported that view. I was interested to hear that once again, as so often in the past, he was right in his view that the 600-line picture, or the picture with a greater number of lines, was the future answer. I was also glad that the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, gave a salutary warning about the cost of colour television. Even in America, where incomes are much larger than here, a very small number of people have gone in for colour sets because of their great cost. Nevertheless, we shall be interested to see the demonstration in colour which the B.B.C. are putting on for us next week.

I heartily endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, said about the improvement of the B.B.C. television programmes. As many noble Lords on this side of the House said would happen when the Bill was going through, the competition of the I.T.A. has put the B.B.C. "on its toes", and I think that all of us will agree that its programmes have improved greatly as a result.

I would say two things with regard to sound broadcasting. One is to express my entire agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, about the appalling interference, particularly in South-East England, on the medium and long waves. As the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, has said, of course the answer is V.H.F. I myself recently changed over to a V.H.F. set, and one wonders how one ever tried to listen to music on the ordinary bands having heard the beauty of it on V.H.F. I am glad to hear that soon 96 per cent. of the population of this country will be able to obtain reception on V.H.F. But, of course, as the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, has said, it means a great cost and probably a new set, because the adaptation of old sets is difficult. There is no doubt that people feel a genuine grievance when they have bought a set which in certain parts of England gives only a very garbled reception.

May I add one more thing about sound broadcasting, on rather a different subject, as a result of a letter which has been received from a business man in Chile criticising seriously the selection of news and views, et cetera, put over on the B.B.C. general transmissions overseas. As I understand it—I may be wrong—while the Home Service of the B.B.C. is not subsidised and has entire freedom, the special overseas programmes are heavily subsidised, and it seems to me that there should be much more careful selection of the news items and views which are put over. This is what my informant says: During the last war is B.B.C. did a really remarkably line job, and certainly never gave the world 'close-ups' of the 'squalid nuisances', nor details of petty troubles and mishaps in U.K. Why should this be thought desirable now? He says that many of the things are put over quite regardless of their impact on people who "have not the British mentality or outlook." I hope that something will be done to make these overseas broadcasts more selective. That is all I wish to say this afternoon. I particularly want to emphasise once more that I hope that nothing will be done to try to retain this 6 to 7 p.m. break on television.

5.3 p.m.


My Lords, I must declare an interest in this matter, in that I am a director of Associated Television, which is the programme contractor under the Independent Television Authority for the week-ends in London and for the weekdays in Birmingham—that is to say, Channel 9 in London and Channel 8 in Birmingham. I should like to deal first with this question of the revised rules and the closing of the gap. I think noble Lords are excused to-day speaking of their children, and perhaps also of their grandchildren, but what I have noticed, in watching my seven-year old daughter, and her friends of much the same age, is how extraordinarily discriminating and critical they are, or at any rate how discriminating and critical they have become as a result of looking at television over the last, say, eighteen months.

Of course, their tastes vary a great deal. Last year, my daughter was more interested in "Noddy" and "Mr. Plod", the policeman; but now I fear that her taste has moved and that she prefers Mr. Richard Greene in Robin Hood. These children are discriminating. I myself do not find that there is any great difficulty in persuading them from time to time to turn off the receiver—indeed, it is sometimes more difficult to get them to lay aside a comic periodical which one would rather they were not reading, than to get them to turn off the television receiver. I do not find that they are completely hypnotised, so to speak, by this new medium: I think they can have enough of it. I am not speaking of families who have "nannies"; I am thinking of the masses of working-class families in this country who, incidentally, badly need an interest to occupy their children while they prepare the evening meal. I am sorry that the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, is not here, as I wonder whether he might not agree with me on that point. He was particularly insistent on stressing the interests of the great mass of families in this country. I believe that the closing of the 6 to 7 gap will provide just that interest which many of those families require.

Another reason why I support the closing is that I believe that it will give a greater opportunity for the B.B.C. and the Independent Television companies to balance their programmes. When this hour is filled, I believe that it will contain some extremely interesting items which will help to provide just that balance which we should all like to see. I am sure that the programme companies, as soon as they are on an even keel financially, will do their own balancing—

I do not mean in the sense of trapeze artists of the circus, but as responsible programme contractors, interested in catering for an intelligent minority as well as for the great mass of viewers.

Indeed, I believe that the Independent companies are doing much more balancing than we sometimes are led to believe. The I.T.A. programmes in the field of current affairs and culture now number ten a week (I could read out the list if I had it with me), and they are of great interest. They include religious programmes, which my own company proudly pioneered and the B.B.C. followed, and there are several other programmes of documentaries which I know have great interest for your Lordships. Then, of course, as has already been said, there is the Independent Television News which has, rightly, been praised in all quarters, I think.

In regard to the criticism that there are too many American films on Independent television, I made it my business to inquire what that percentage was. I do not think my eyes deceive me, but I believe that only one-seventh to one-eighth of the total running time of all I.T.A. programmes is American. The total dollar expenditure on American material since the I.T.A. began has not, I understand, exceeded £860,000, but dollar earnings of films made in this country in that same period are not less than £1 million sterling. Thus, the Independent Television purchases of imported films are easily financed out of earnings. Indeed, those films are a net export and not a net import.


My Lords, before the noble Earl leaves that point, may I take advantage of having here the fount of wisdom? Will he tell me this? I do not want so much the figure of the American films on television as a percentage of the whole of the programmes; I want them as a percentage of the films that are shown on television. What percentage of the films on television are of American origin and why cannot we in this country, with our own film producers, supplant them?


The noble Lord makes an extremely important point. Personally, I do not see much difference between a filmed programme and a "live" programme, and I do not think that one should segregate the two in considering the programme schedules as a whole. Therefore, although perhaps, at the start, some less expensive American programmes are being shown, there is no doubt that more and more British films are being shown as well; and if the closing of the gap comes about, I think that there will be still more British films —but I should like to deal with that point a little later.

What I should like to see during this hour from 6 to 7 p.m.—I see no reason why this should not come about—is certain teen-age educational programmes, and, what I hope and think would be of great importance, programmes of vocational guidance. I believe that there is also a very good film series dealing with the March of Science, which I hope may be included during this hour, or at some other time if the gap is filled. I think the programme companies are quite capable of balancing their own programmes; and, in parenthesis, I may add that it seems to me unlikely now that they will need the £100,000 which was allocated to the I.T.A. for this purpose but which has not been used.

For all these reasons, I support what I think has been very well described as "the lifting of the curfew." This is really quite unreal. There are differing habits in the Midlands and in the North, and there are differing ages. Surely the Press Council is not now to be given powers to say how many pages each newspaper should have, and during which hour the newspaper should be read. All this seems to me totally unrealistic. Moreover, the B.B.C., at whose programmes I often look and listen with great pleasure, have three sound programmes going between 6 and 7—the Home, the Light and the Third. What right have we to deny the millions the right to look at television. programmes during this hour? It is curious to note that the B.B.C., who have only reluctantly agreed to close the gap, also wish to have a second television programme. In that case, surely they are not incapable of putting on an extra hour in the present service. Certainly, they have all the resources—about £21 million sterling net per annum, and they are getting richer and richer to a considerable extent as the result of Independent Television.

My Lords, with regard to this second point, the extension of the television services provided by the B.B.C., I have already indicated that these Independent programmes have, as other noble Lords have said, proved more generally acceptable to the public than those of the B.B.C. Already, in March, 1956, even according to B.B.C. statistics, those viewers who could make a choice were three to two in favour of the I.T.A., and further figures, which were even more favourable to I.T.A., were quoted in The Times yesterday. I think they were something of the order of 80 per cent. in favour of the I.T.A.—at any rate, they reached that point on certain programmes. At present, however, only slightly more than 60 per cent. of the population are within reach of the four I.T.A. transmitters. It seems to me to be the first duty of the Government to provide this more generally acceptable service to the remaining 40 per cent. of the population.

The B.B.C. claims something like 97 per cent. coverage in Britain, with fourteen transmitters already operating, and I believe that three more are scheduled to open during this year. That makes seventeen B.B.C. transmitters, in comparison with the present four of the I.T.A. It seems to me essential, therefore, that the I.T.A. should achieve parity of coverage and parity of reception quality with the B.B.C. Only so can the element of competition be really just and the dangers of monopoly be eliminated. Although I am among the first to praise the B.B.C., I do not think it equitable that, already having 97 per cent. of the country, they should demand a second service, thus taking up the remaining channels in Band III of which we have already heard. I think that that extravagance of the B.B.C. should be resisted. It certainly should not be achieved at the expense of the one I.T.A. service. I will not go into details about the ultra-high frequency bands IV and V, but it is impracticable use them now, just as it is impracticable to put on a regular colour television service.

There is one other point about the B.B.C. rates of expenditure. I noticed that the B.B.C. Year Book says that these rates of expenditure seem likely to present the Corporation with a financial problem in 1957, when the present three-year period upon which the licence income is based, comes to an end. If the B.B.C. are pleading poverty now, what will be the position if they have a second television service? Already the B.B.C. licence fee has risen from 10s., in 1922, to £3, for a combined licence, in 1954. Are we to expect a £4 or a £5 licence fee, or even some higher sum? Now that the B.B.C., by virtue of the Television Act, have been relieved of their obligation to be the sole provider of television programmes, and now that Independent interests are, I believe, understood to be prepared, as soon as Parliamentary approval has been given, to relieve the B.B.C. from being the sole provider of sound programmes, I think that an excellent case could be made for reducing the present combined licence of £3. In the near future, the total audience watching I.T.A. will be in excess of the total audience watching the B.B.C. There can therefore be small justification for maintaining the present licence fee. let alone for increasing it.

As I hope I have already shown, the allegation that the B.B.C. broadcasts are more responsible and socially valuable than those of the I.T.A. simply does not stand up to close examination. I have mentioned current affairs and cultural and religious broadcasts put out by the I.T.A. The serious discussion programmes are at least comparable, and many say preferable, to those of the B.B.C., and it is clear that serious drama is no longer exclusively a characteristic of the Corporation. Therefore, I say that we should give the new Independent companies a chance, and let them have at least as fair treatment as the B.B.C. receive.

5.9 p.m.


My Lords, I shall detain your Lordships for only a few minutes. I feel rather sorry for the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, because he appears to get so little enjoyment out of television. It may be that he dislikes the whole of the programmes, but I do not think that the dreary picture which he has painted of the programmes is true. Of course, it is his opinion, but I do not think it is the true opinion of the average person who views television programmes.




I do not believe that there are any really bad television programmes. I think it is rather like the case of the young man who once asked the famous Duke of Wellington which was the best regiment in the British Army, to which the reply was, "My boy, there are no bad regiments in the British Army, but some are better than others."

I wish to support what has been said and I hope that Her Majesty's Government will not give way over the "silent hour". I am sure that nowadays children go to bed very much later than they used to and that those in families of various types by no means go to bed at the same time. We have heard before about parental control. The answer to the argument of the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, regarding the only room where there can be television—the sitting room—is that there must be some control amongst the parents. If they know it is essential for their child to do his homework (though, with the noble Lord, Lord Winster, I hope that homework may soon be done away with) and if they are really keen on the education of their child, the parents must turn off the television. I see no real difficulty in that. The company has said that it will put on a reasonable programme. I should like to see some re-timing of the I.T.A. programmes. On Mondays they have an excellent programme called "Seeing Sport ", covering how to roller-skate, to box, to ride ponies and so on. To my mind they are really first-class programmes, perfectly excellent, not for very small children but for those who can take part in such sports. I should like to see programmes of that description put into the 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. period. Incidentally, I think the noble Lord, Lord Winster, made a mistake in saying that the quiet period was one-anda-half hours, for I think in fact it is only one hour.


My Lords, I did. It is of course from 6 to 7 p.m. I am sorry.


My Lords, I hope Her Majesty's Government will not give way on this matter. I think it would be a very good thing for all concerned if we had television between those hours.

5.23 p.m.


My Lords, having been severely restricted for some time recently in the amount of reading that I could do. I have listened more than usually to the B.B.C. sound programmes and I have been struck by the fact that the choice of three programmes gives something for everyone. That is really the basis of the whole case that was made against the Television Bill when it was before Parliament and against the whole idea of commercially-financed entertainment of this kind; because when we have a Corporation with the statutory duty to provide entertainment for the whole population it carries oat that duty by having different programmes of which the listeners can choose whichever they like. They are not necessarily highbrow; some might be called highbrow, some might not. The choice before the listener gives him what Parliament intended he should have.

When one gets a medium of entertainment whose finance depends on attracting the largest possible number of listeners or viewers at all times, obviously other influences come in and one gets programmes with an appeal to the greatest number rather than a selection of programmes which will provide something for everybody. That is the whole basis of argument which, as noble Lords will have noticed from the debate this afternoon, though still below the surface is just as acute and intense as it was two or three years ago. The new Independent Television has its advocates and its opponents. The object of the Motion of my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth is to extract an expression of the intention of Her Majesty's Government as to whether the B.B.C. is to be allowed to expand its television services in order that it may perform, in the television field, the statutory duty which it has, to provide programmes for everybody. We shall be interested to hear what the noble Earl, Lord Munster, has to say on that matter. We do not want Her Majesty's Government to go beyond the scope of the technical committee which is now sitting—obviously they cannot prejudge the direction which technical development will take in the future. But we notice that they have already given away two of the channels in Band III, and we shall anxiously wait to hear whether Her Majesty's Government propose to allow the B.B.C. to carry out its statutory duty.

I notice that various terms have come into use to describe the period from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., or the terminating of it under the revised rules. The noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, was introducing picturesque phrases like "closing the gap", "ending the ban" and so on. Others just talk of "the silent hour". It is easy anti perfectly true to say that it is the parents' duty to see that children go to bed when they should and do their homework when they should, and to some noble Lords it may sound an equally easy task for the parents. But I would remind your Lordships of what was said by the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh: that not every family has a separate room where one child can go and do its homework and another room where another child can be put to bed in the dark, beyond the sound of radio or television. Do not let us forget the housing conditions of the average family in this country, setting aside those who are overcrowded—and we know that one million or more families are living in overcrowded conditions. To them it is a very serious problem.

It is all very well to say that if the parents think a child should do its homework they should themselves do without television. What about other members of the family, people of all ages? Then, so far as any of us knew, it was generally the opinion of viewers that it was a good thing to have a break in the evening, after the afternoon activities and before the family assembled in the evening, during which there was no television. We should like an answer to the question asked by the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh: what researches have the Government instituted before taking this step? What grounds have they got for taking it? Have the Government satisfied themselves that this will not be to the detriment of any of the people of this country? They may have received from the television authorities results of audience research activities which show the numbers of children viewing in the evening. It may be true that many children look in at television until quite late at night, but that has nothing to do with the fact that to have a break in lie evening from six o'clock to seven o'clock was a positive advantage to many families and one that should not be withdrawn.

Finally, there is the economic question. The noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, gave some figures. It is generally accepted, I think, that this would mean an additional hour of television. Neither the B.B.C. nor the Independent Authority are broadcasting up to the full 50 hours in the week—in the case of the B.B.C. it is something like 44½ hours at present. With the relaxation of the ban on broadcasting between six o'clock and seven o'clock that means that there will have to be an additional hour on six days a week. That, I believe, will cost the B.B.C. something like £500,000 a year, all of which will be expense; there will be no revenue coming in. For the Independent Television Authority, however, it will be a profitable chance for them to increase their broadcasting time at that period of the evening. But is it a good thing that we should increase the number of hours, the number of man-hours, the amount of effort and the amount of money spent on entertaining just at this moment? Not only will there be the £1 million a year direct cost to the B.B.C. and to the Independent Television Authority; there will also be extra outlay on advertising. The advertisers who pay revenue for the services of the Independent Television Authority must get their money back somehow. That means stimulating the sales of consumer goods. How can the Government justify taking this step at this particular time?

The debate, my Lords, has ranged over a pretty wide field, and one or two remarks which slipped out ought, I think, to be mentioned. In particular, Lord Gifford brought in something which I think would more properly come into the debate we are going to have on external services of the B.B.C. He raised the subject of news bulletins to South America, and it did seem to me that he was advocating something very like a censorship of news. I think he said that external services which were subsidised should be more selective, that there should be a careful selection of news items. According to my understanding, that is completely contrary to B.B.C. policy as it has been ever since 1923. The B.B.C. do not give out propaganda. They do not select their news in order to give a specially favourable impression of conditions in this country, or to prevent an unfavourable impression of conditions here from being formed. What they give out is the truth, and it is the reputation gained by that policy that accounts for the extraordinarily high standard of confidence they enjoy all over the world. I hope it will never be seriously suggested that there should be censorship of news going out from this country.

Another remark which Lord Gifford let slip I can hardly believe he meant seriously. He said he hoped that the Government would permit television to proceed during the 6 o'clock to 7 o'clock hour in the evening, and that they would not be influenced by any approaches from educational authorities. I hope that the Government are influenced by approaches from educational authorities, and that the noble Viscount the new Minister of Education, whom we welcomed this afternoon, will see to it that the representations of the educational authorities in the country are given due weight by the Government.

5.37 p.m.


My Lords, my noble friend Lord Chesham, who followed the mover of this Motion. Rave your Lordships a full account of the policy which Her Majesty's Government are following on the whole subject of broadcasting. It falls to me to wind up the debate, and to reply to as many questions which were brought up in the course of our discussions as I can. I think it was generally felt in all parts of the House that broadcasting, either sound or television, must have a considerable effect upon the people as a whole, and that it is therefore necessary that constant vigilance should be exercised with regard to the programmes which both the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. send out. It seems to me that it is right that this question should be discussed from time to time by noble Lords who, as my noble friend Lord Brabazon of Tara said, are so competent to examine impartially the whole of this question.

It was suggested, I think, by the noble Lord who moved the Motion, and by other noble Lords who spoke later, that I.T.A. is not providing an alternative programme to the B.B.C. in the full sense of the word. That is quite probably correct, but as my noble friend Lord Swinton pointed out, the Television Act of 1954 provided only that the new service was to be additional to the B.B.C. However, both services, as we know now, are striving to provide good entertainment, and to this extent they may have become alternatives. Let me, before I pass from that matter, refer to one observation which was made by the noble Earl, Lord Lucan. He said that recently he had been listening in to sound radio more than he was in the habit of doing in previous years. He said he found the system of having three programmes very good indeed and that it gave the individual a choice of listening to one or another of the programmes. He is now saying that the B.B.C. require another television programme. Yet he, and those associated with him, did their best to kill the Television Bill at birth—a Bill that was brought forward to provide an additional programme.

The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, complained about the standard of quality of the I.T.A., which he said did not come up to expectations. He said that, while not wishing to abolish commercial television, he thought their programmes were "vulgar" and "deplorable" and that their output was "piffle". I cannot agree with the noble Lord on any of the adjectives which he used. I think he must appreciate that the Authority has been in operation for a period of only sixteen months and is now just overcoming its "teething" troubles. As time goes on, there is every reason to believe that finances will improve and, with them, the quality of the programmes.

The noble Lord turned to Section 3 of the Television Act and asked me whether I thought that the Authority were carrying out the intentions of Parliament as defined in that section. The noble Lord, possibly by accident, left out the really appropriate words in the section. All the Authority has to do is to satisfy itself "so far as is possible". As I have said, in future, when it has overcome its "teething" troubles, I have no doubt whatever that it will be able to provide a far better balanced programme than it is doing to-day. Indeed, the grant of £100,000, which my right honourable friend announced recently, was to be given, subject to Parliamentary approval, towards that very purpose—namely, to assist the Authority to produce a better balanced programme.

The noble Lord also referred to subsection (3) of Section 3, which deals with gifts of monetary value. I have made inquiries into that point, and I am told that prizes of significant value may be offered to people in the programme or to studio audiences, but on no account are they allowed to be given to viewers—that is to say, the big prizes must not be made available to people simply and solely because they are viewing a particular programme. The whole object of this subsection is to prohibit the buying of an audience. I pass to a matter raised by a number of noble Lords—namely, the new broadcasting hour from six to seven in the evening. Several noble Lords expressed concern about the relaxation of the ban on television broadcasting between these hours. Your Lordships will remember that my noble friend Lord Chesham informed the House last December that the Postmaster General had reviewed the working of the Rules which were introduced in September, 1955, and had decided that, within the present limit of fifty hours a week, and eight hours in any one day, both the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. should be free to broadcast on weekdays during the periods they thought best to meet the needs of their audiences. On Sundays, it would still be the rule that programmes must not: begin before 2 p.m., and there would be an evening break between 6.15 and 7.25 p.m., though, of course, the normal maximum hours may he exceeded for certain stated purposes, such as religious broadcasts, broadcasts of outside events and Welsh language broadcasts. The revised Rules may be introduced from Saturday, February 16.

Several noble Lords, including the noble Lord- Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, asked who were the instigators of this change. As many noble Lords know, the request came from the I.T.A. It is true that the B.B.C. did not seek any alteration in this hour, but the change to be made is left entirely to the discretion of the broadcasting authorities. If the B.B.C. wish to use this hour, they can do so, and a similar discretion applies to the I.T.A. We have heard a number of noble Lords, including Lord Iddesleigh and Lord Beveridge, voicing their concern about the effect of this change on young people. We all know that television may have, and probably does have, a powerful and distracting effect on youth, but I wonder whether the difficulties of television are any more or less serious than those of sound radio, where there is no quiet hour. The noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, for some reason which I frankly could not understand, said that sound does not affect the problem so much as television. He appeared to think, quite wrongly, that viewing took place in a dark room, and that therefore the children were unable to do their home work, first because there was no light, and secondly because they were engaged in looking at television.

Let me pursue this argument further. There are still 8 million homes with sound radio only, compared to 6 million homes with television, but has it ever been said that the absence of a quiet hour on sound radio had an adverse effect on children's homework?


My Lords, I think I dealt with that point. I have often seen young people performing what to me is the amazing feat of reading a serious book intently while the wireless is blaring away.


It must be a remarkable phenomenon. Surely, the point is that this is a matter where the sense of responsibility of parents must intervene. If parents really want their children to have a proper education and, what is more, to go to bed at the right hour, they should be willing to sacrifice one hour's television or one hour's sound radio a night.

I think that noble Lords will agree that family routine must vary in different homes. One research organisation says that in the homes receiving both television services in London, the Midlands and the North, over one million young people under sixteen are viewing between seven and nine o'clock at night; that half a million are still viewing between nine and ten, and that a quarter of a million are viewing between ten and eleven. That is the position regarding children under the age of sixteen. A recent survey made in the City of Oxford showed that only one quarter of the children of five years of age were in bed by seven o'clock at night.

I would ask the House in all seriousness: is a silent hour between six and seven really likely to affect this situation? I am not aware that during the summer months any noble Lord, or any responsible organisation, objected to outside broadcasts between the hours of six and seven at night. These broadcasts continued both during holiday and term-time, from May to August, on three out of every five weekday evenings. I do not believe that there really is any serious case for maintaining the quiet hour on television.

I was impressed with the views of the Secretary of the National Union of Women Teachers who said in this context: "We cannot have everything decided for us by a Government, however well-intentioned." I would ask this question. Would the noble Lord who moved the Motion, or any noble Lord, suggest, against the background that I have given, that these millions of viewers without families should be denied the extra hour's relaxation which they need after a hard day's work? Or are they suggesting that millions of parents are totally incapable of exercising any proper parental control?


I should like to ask whether the Government consulted any parents or teachers as to the desirability of this hour.


The discussion took place with my right honourable friend the Postmaster General and, so far as I am aware, no outside organisation was brought into the discussion.

I now come to deal with the sort of programme which is to be put on during this hour. My right honourable friend the Postmaster General has no power, either under the Charter or under the Television Act, to specify the nature of the programmes, and I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, that it would be unfortunate if he had that power. In any case, I do not think the published plans of either body which have appeared in the Press give any cause for alarm. On the B.B.C. there will be a five minute news at six o'clock, followed by a forty minute magazine programme to be called "To-night", featuring people in the news, entertainers, short domestic items of interest to the home and Eurovision items. At a later hour, there will be another programme of special appeal to the younger viewer.

On the I.T.A., from Monday to Friday the programmes will be for the family, including the late teen-age audience, and on Saturdays there will be news, sports news and a gardening programme, followed by a short play. These programmes do not seem to me to be of the low quality which the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, seemed to anticipate they might be. I have no doubt whatever that both bodies will consult, as they consider necessary, their representative advisers on these matters. As your Lordships will remember, the I.T.A. has a Children's Advisory Committee, which it was required to establish under the Television Act, 1954.

Before I leave the question of the programmes generally, I think it would be worth while if I drew your Lordships' attention to two comments which were made in the radio and television supplement of The Times. It says—and I am in full agreement: Those who anticipated a renaissance of talent as soon as the television monopoly was broken have been disappointed. On the other hand, the new programmes have by no means gone down the drain dug for them by the more censorious prophets. I should hate to use that, name for the noble Lord who moved this Motion, or indeed, for the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge. The article went on to say: There is certainly no evidence so far that the existence of a commercial television system has depressed the standards of the B.B.C. It seems, if anything, to have bucked up the senior Corporation. The noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, objecting to this evening break programme, thought that it would encourage young persons to look in every night. If this should occur, then it seems to me that it would imply at once that the programmes of both services would certainly be attractive and there would be no reason whatever for the Government to intervene to endeavour to ban the programmes. But as I have already said, it is the duty of responsible parents to safeguard their children's welfare. Indeed, in the article quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, which appeared in the Observer recently, it seems that the wife of the author of the article took considerable time to form her judgment as to whether this show, which the author discovered was so bad, was or was not good for her child.

I now come to the question raised about a second television programme. I regret that I cannot go beyond what the former Postmaster General stated in another place towards the end of last year. He said—and I impress this upon your Lordships—that the applications he had received came from both the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. and they both desired a second television programme. But as my noble friend Lord Chesham pointed out, the Government, for reasons which he gave, have deferred consideration of that matter until a later date.

I pass now to deal with the Band III, which, as the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, pointed out, consists of eight channels. Four are being used at the present time by the I.T.A. in developing their present service. The remaining four are, so far, unallocated. Their use for a second programme will be part of the consideration which the Government will be giving to the whole question of sound television programmes at the beginning of 1958. I feel that I cannot at the present moment go beyond what was stated by the former Postmaster General.


Did I hear the noble Earl say that the I.T.A. are now using four channels? They had four promised to them, but I thought they were using two at the present time and that the others were being reserved for their future use.


I understand that four have been allocated to them, and that at the moment they are using three.

Finally, my Lords, I want to deal with a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, when he drew the attention of the House to the fact that when the Beveridge Committee published their Report it recommended that the Corporation should establish a public representation service. In the White Paper published in 1952, some years after the publication of the noble Lord's Report, it was stated that the new B.B.C. Charter would make it a duty of the Corporation to take such steps as might appear to them necessary to bring their work under constant and effective review and to keep them in touch with outside opinion. The Government added that they proposed to leave it to the Governors to decide how this should be done, bat Clause 17 of the Charter put this duty upon the Corporation, and Clause 10 made it mandatory for the Corporation to appoint a general advisory council. I have been told that, through this body, and other committees which the B.B.C. have set up, by a systematic study of its audience and, I hope, by careful attention to the views expressed in your Lordships' House, in another place, in the Press and elsewhere, the B.B.C. aim to keep their work in a sensitive relationship with public opinion.

I do not think I need weary your Lordships with any further observations. I have answered many of the questions addressed to me, and I would only add this in conclusion. It was the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, who feared that the people of this country might become a nation of watchers rather than doers. I remember, a generation ago, hearing exactly the same argument raised, that people might become a nation of listeners and not doers; and I well remember the noble Lord's expression being used also in the early days of the cinema. I venture to think that the cinema has not had on the young people of the land the effect which the noble Lord fears might come about by reason of one or both of the television programmes. I think that the Independent Television Authority might well in the future, once it has overcome its teething troubles, be as great an additional source of pleasure to many millions of people in this country. With regard to the B.B.C., I believe that the programmes they are putting out to-day are received with satisfaction by the majority of people in the country.

6.1 p.m.


My Lords, before I reply to the debate, may I offer a word of congratulation to the noble Lord, Lord Chesham? I believe this is the first major debate in which he has had the responsibility of speaking for the Government. May I respectfully congratulate him upon the way he acquitted himself? I did not agree with him, but that does not in any way detract from the pleasure he gave the House in the manner in which he dealt with the subject. He did, at least, give me the only satisfactory answer I have received from the Government, and I thank him for it. He said without equivocation that the Government's policy as regards the allocation of revenue from wireless licences remains unchanged. So the programme contractors operating under the Independent Television Authority had better cease to covet what will never belong to them while the Government's policy remains as it is now.

One of the strange things about this debate is that noble Lords who like and have an interest in the I.T.A. programmes have been so anxious to jump to their defence that they overlooked what I said. Perhaps I had better repeat it. I said that I did not wish to deny to anyone in this country the opportunity to listen to these programmes. I do not offer myself as an arbiter of taste. But what about the people who do not want to listen to them? Surely they should have some consideration. This country is not made up of majority opinion; it is made up of a conglomeration of minorities, and you will never get two people who agree upon the value of a programme. But there are many people who do not want the programme. I thought I was rather more severe in my criticism of the B.B.C. television programme than I was of the I.T.A. At least I did pick out some things in the B.B.C. programme, so I do not need the sympathy of the noble Viscount, Lord Goschen. I do not like the wretched things, and I look at them only because I think that, as someone standing in a public position, I should acquaint myself with them in the same way that I occasionally look at some of the Press. But I can assure your Lordships that my diet from preference is not the News of the World or the Daily Sketch, and I do not think it is the diet of quite a number of other people. The noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, also made an alarmist and, if he will permit me to say so, quite an incorrect statement. He said, "Now that the B.B.C. have been relieved of their obligation to give a nation-wide programme"—


If the noble Lord will permit me, I would point out that I said that the B.B.C. had now been relieved of their obligation to be the sole providers of television programmes.


But they have not.


There are two authorities who produce television programmes.


But the second Authority can never, and will never, give a nation-wide service.


I do not think we can accept that.


I should say that it is commercially impossible, and the B.B.C. Charter says that they must provide a public service, whether it pays commercially or whether it does not. That is the burden of my complaint: that while the television programmes have to be paid for by commercial interests, commercial standards will dictate. I make no complaint about it. I am in business myself. The company of which the noble Earl is a director is not in business for the benefit of his health; it is in business fix: the benefit of his shareholders, and when it cannot get revenue from advertising and make profits for those shareholders it will go out of business. There is nothing indecent about that. You do not hold it up as a public service which the B.B.C. is under an obligation to give.


I think the Independent Television Service is just as capable of presenting a balanced programme as the B.B.C., regardless of the source of finance.


Of course, the noble Earl quite rightly disclosed an interest. I have never heard in this House, for many a day, a better propaganda, vested-interest speech than that which the noble Earl made. I hope his job in the Independent Television Company is that of public relations, because it is the best public relations speech I have heard for quite a long time, and I was rather jealous of it.

May I come hack to the noble Earl, Lord Munster? I did not say that the I.T.A. programmes were "piffle." I was quoting a well-known television critic who said that he did not mind the advertisements so much, it was the "piffle" which was put on in between.


I was wondering if that was the noble Lord's view or not.


Some of it is, and some of it is not. I said at the outset that some of the programmes are good; they are outstand ing amongst what I consider to be a very low standard. I found myself puzzled over what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, who is not here now. He was supported by the noble Lord, Lord Gifford. The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, said that if there is one thing the independent Television programmes have done, it is that they have improved the quality of the B.B.C., but that it is only natural that they should both go down the hill. That is actually what he said. The noble Lord, Lord Gifford, said that Independent Television had put the B.B.C. on its toes and had greatly increased the quality of its programmes. But the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, said that it must, while it has this mass appeal, decline. With that I quite agree. That was the essence and the basis of my argument. All I want to do is to find a programme that will not decline, but will go up. But the higher the B.B.C. get in their Television programme, the greater will be the gap between the number of viewers who view the commercial television and those who view the B.B.C. The noble Lord quite rightly said, and I think I have the exact figures, that for every twenty-eight who view the B.B.C. television, sixty-three now view the I.T.A. because the lower you get the bigger the audience you will attract.

6.10 p.m.


I think that the competition—as I understood the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, to say —has put the B.B.C. on its toes and has improved the quality of the B.B.C. television programmes. Also, obviously, the I.T.A. are on their toes as well, and in many cases some of their programmes have gone one better than those of the B.B.C. I think that as a result we are getting better television from both sides than we should if there was a monopoly.


The noble Lord is quite entitled to his opinion, because this can only be a matter of opinion.

The one thing I did not touch upon in the course of my speech was something in which I am not really too much interested, and that is this extra hour from six to seven. I have a sneaking regard for what the noble Earl, Lord Munster, said, but what amuses me is that all you men—and by that I do not mean "all you noble Lords"—are the ones who have all the theories on parental control and how to train children, but my experience has been that, while men have theories about the upbringing of children, it is the mothers who have the practical experience. I took the opportunity that the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, did not, of going to interview one or two working mothers in council houses. I asked them their opinion. They had the view that it should not be stopped from six to seven; it should be stopped from six to eight, for a totally different reason from that which has been advanced. I told one of them, "I have a friend in mind who happens to be a responsible member of the Government. He says it is all the fault of you parents. You should exercise greater control." I cannot repeat to your Lordships exactly what she said, but it went something like this: "Of course, he is plain daft. He wants to have a crowd of kids round him from early morning till six o'clock. The wretched television is the only way I can keep them quiet so that I can put my feet up. It is the only time I can do it during the day." I am afraid that I have far more sympathy with the point of view of the woman than I have with the views that have been expressed this afternoon. I have had quite a number of letters from mothers, but none from fathers. They are the academic theorists, but it is the mothers who really say that, if they could have their way, they would have the television off until past all the children's bedtimes—I do not think for the reason of homework but for peace and quietness. That is as far as I am going on that point.

I have only one further word to say to the noble Earl, Lord Munster. When I asked whether he thought that the I.T.A. were carrying out the functions set out in the Television Act, I did not overlook the words "as far as is possible." His reminding your Lordships of that really made my case. It is not possible. The noble Earl may put it down to "teething troubles." I hope he is right. But the day that the I.T.A. insist upon those standards of programme quality that are laid down in the Television Act, 1954, will be the day that the Independent Television of this country will be a commercial failure, because it will be of such a high standard that it will not attract the mass audience and, therefore, will not attract the advertisers. Those were the provisos put into that Act to placate and to meet the point of view of the Opposition. When he comes to the point that a prize in the "64,000 Question" competition which will net £3,200 is permissible if the contestant is there but not so otherwise, I would say with respect that that is a quibble, because what this House and Parliament really had in mind was that these prizes, whoever won them, should be of insignificant value.

I thank the noble Earl for his courteous reply. I did not expect anything other than a courteous reply. I hope he is right about the expert view of colour television. I hope the experts are right in saying that we do not want any more television until this question has been settled. But may I ask the noble Earl to bear this in mind—and this is my last word. Let there be equality of treatment between the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. Before the I.T.A. can expand their service, let the B.B.C. have the opportunity, as they have a right to expect, to fulfil the obligations that the Government and the country have put upon them in their Charter. With those words, I beg to ask leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.