§ 2.40 p.m.
§ LORD MACDONALD OF GWAENYSGOR
My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, opens the important debate on his Motion, may I briefly intervene to ask the noble Earl the Leader of the House a question which we consider of great importance to those of us who are members of the Board of Governors of the B.B.C.? We are aware that, under the ruling which was laid down as long ago as March 21, 1951, we are advised not to take part in debates on B.B.C. matters. What I want to ask the noble Earl is this: What is the position of those of us who are on the Board of I.T.A., and also of those of us who are directors of a programme company in con- 554 tract with I.T.A. to supply material for its programmes? I would add one word: that my sole purpose in raising this matter is for clarification and future guidance.
THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR COMMONWEALTH RELATIONS (THE EARL OF HOME)
My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Lord, and I think the House is. I have taken some advice, and the best answer I can give is as follows. The Addison Rule, so called, covers those of your Lordships who are on the Board of I.T.A. equally with those who are B.B.C. Governors. According to the Addison Rule, they should not speak. The programme companies are simply private commercial undertakings, and, provided that there is a suitable disclosure of interest, there is no more reason for Peers who are on these boards to refrain from participation in the debate than there is for the directors of any other private concern whose affairs are under discussion. In their case, the Addison Rule is irrelevant, and there is no analogy either with the B.B.C. or I.T.A. The distinction, I think, therefore, as the noble Lord will see, is between a public authority and a company which is on a par with any other private concern.
§ 2.43 p.m.
§ LORD BOOTHBY
rose to call attention to the present television service of this country; and to move for Papers. The noble Lords said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. I have, alas, no direct financial interest in television. At the same time, I have an interest which I think I ought to disclose to your Lordships, although it is difficult to define with any precision. Perhaps I might describe myself as a taxi with my flag up for both sides. At least this enables me to make an objective and impartial approach to the problem, perhaps as against my friend Mr. Christopher Mayhew, whose flag is now permanently down for one side only and who, in any case, does not approve of commercial television, or, I suspect, of competition at all.
My purpose this afternoon is simply to have a discussion, which I hope will be non-controversial, about the future of British television, and to stimulate, if I can, some thought about it, for I think that we ought to be thinking about it very seriously indeed. I am not asking 555 for declarations of policy either from the Government or from the Opposition, because I know I shall not get them. Neither of the great political Parties of the State wants to touch this political "hot potato" at the moment before a General Election, and I can understand and sympathise with that point of view. But within a year decisions of great importance will have to be taken, and I do not want them to be ill-considered.
In order to keep this debate well out of the range of controversy, let me start. as I so often do, by attacking both sides—first, the B.B.C.; then, I.T.V. It will probably reduce my chances of getting many more fares in future, but I cannot help that. With regard to the B.B.C.. I am not often shocked in life—I thought was almost unshockable—but I read an article in a magazine called E.P.U., a technical magazine of the European Picture Union, or something of that sort, by the Director-General of the B.B.C., Sir Ian Jacob, in which I came across the following paragraph:Competition in broadcasting inevitably produces the result that the public is denied true alternatives. If the public is to get the best out of two channels, then those channels should be planned in relation to one another. This is impossible when their control lies in different hands. … Competition, when it is carried to extremes, is a continuing threat to freedom of expression.If I may pause for a moment to gather my breath, I will go on by saying that the Director-General continued to refer to the strength which comes from a unified broadcasting system as opposed tothe dangers of the nation appearing to speak with two or three different voices".There must, he says, be one voice, recognisable and authoritative. Now this is really an approach to totalitarianism. I am not accusing the Director-General of the B.B.C. of being a totalitarian. The method, as he points out himself in this article, was of great value during the war. But for a democracy in time of peace to be required to speak with a single and authoritative voice simply will not do. We have to speak with many voices—very interesting voices, I hope, but diverse ones.
I suggest to your Lordships that this is an indication of the sort of danger into which we can be led by the bureaucratic mind when it reaches the point of no return. And it is a possible explanation 556 of the fact that the bureaucracy of the B.B.C. has now become a parody of Whitehall. Only this morning there was put into my hands a copy of a speech made last April in Germany by the Director of News and Current Affairs of the B.B.C., in which he said that Churchill's speeches in 1940 would have lost little of their effectiveness if they had only been read and not been heard; that the B.B.C. broadcasts had little or no effect upon the course of the war and, finally, that businessmen, as well as politicians, should be excluded from any say, direct or indirect, in the control of broadcasting—which shows just how far you can get.
Let me return for a moment to the Director-General, with one other quotation from his important and revealing article:Independence for broadcasting means freedom from two kinds of pressure, the political and the economic … Where competition for the largest audience is supreme, the tendency is to avoid anything which is not generally acceptable or which might be found disquieting or uncomfortable. Where the eye has constantly to be kept on the large audience, conformism is at a premium.This drives me to mention a question which I had not otherwise intended to raise this afternoon. There was a programme called "In the News" started on the B.B.C. It was a success. The noble Viscount the Lord President of the Council, I think, may have some happy, even glorious, memories of it, because he helped to make it a success. He participated in it. I am sure of one thing: that whatever other views he may take of that programme, he can never say, out of his experience, that it was either quiet, or comfortable, or conformist. It may have had many faults; but those faults it did not have. After a certain time—and may I say instantly, long before the noble Viscount took hold of one of them?—the Party machines moved in upon this programme with the object of breaking it up. They said it was unorthodox and unconformist. They said that a proper representation of the official view of the official Parties was not being achieved and that it must come to an end.
The B.B.C. put up a mild resistance. They suggested that Mr. Michael Foot and myself, who were both Members of Parliament at that time and were personally involved, might come to the final meeting, when the "hatchet men" from 557 Abbey House and Transport House were to come down for the last time to present the ultimatum to the B.B.C., because we might have something to say, as we certainly should have had. But the "hatchet men" would have nothing of that kind and the B.B.C. were told to "Shut up". They did "shut up". The capitulation was total.
If your Lordships think that I am exaggerating, I would refer your Lordships to the most interesting book of my noble friend Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, in which, in perhaps slightly less trenchant but still completely accurate phrases, he describes this particular form of yielding to political pressure which the Director-General so deprecates. If that was not yielding to political pressure, I do not know whatever can be—it was the classic example. But it is not quite the end of the story. What then happened? When the I.T.V. were started, they picked us up again; they pushed us out again in a new form called "Free Speech", and they had no more trouble from Abbey House or Transport House. Why was that? They knew it was no good; they knew that the I.T.V. would not listen; they knew that the I.T.V. would not capitulate. I say this only to point out that it is no good the B.B.C. being unctuous about standing up to political pressure and all that, when they themselves capitulated to political pressure far more than the I.T.V. have ever done.
Now I should like to say a word or two on the credit side. Under the stimulus of competition the B.B.C. are producing a series of programmes which compare favourably with any others in the word world to-day. I instance "Panorama", "To-night", and I think I must now add, "Face to Face". The classical novels have been frequently brought to a wide public, and there are, in addition, the regular visits to museums and galleries, which have undoubtedly stimulated public interest in this country in the arts. Where the B.B.C. fall down, and when they fall down, is when they do the very thing that Sir Ian Jacob deplores; that is to say, attempt to apply commercial standards of success to broad-casting. All this shooting in the Wild West is bad enough, but when they start to import American "pop" programmes to use at peak viewing hours, really that is "the end!" The other night I turned 558 on the B.B.C. and there was a young man wiggling about behind a microphone singing a song called "I love you". I stood this for a little time and finally decided to switch over to the I.T.V., and I then found that there was a blonde wiggling about behind a microphone singing precisely the same song. I did not want to be loved by either of them, so I had no option but to switch off altogether. This is the kind of thing that I deplore; it is the kind of competition that I do not like, and it should not exist. We are getting too much of it at peak hours to-day.
I think it would be disastrous for the B.B.C. to lower their standards or their sights, and, therefore, to touch commercial television. They should never touch commercial television. They have achieved a national coverage; let them stick to it and make the best of it, and stick to programmes of the highest quality. That is their true function. I believe that they can discharge it, and that they do not require a second channel to do so: indeed, they have practically said that it would be too much for them and would involve vast additional expenditure. Let them concentrate on the channel they have and make it the best of its kind in the world; and if they want more cash, which I imagine they will, let them get it from the licences, which are expanding all the time. As a matter of fact, I think they should be given at the moment the whole of the licence fees, instead of a computation devised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. As the number of licences gradually increases, it may be possible to reduce the licence fees; but in the meantime I think the B.B.C. should get the whole of the fees and not this computation, which really means that the Treasury are "pinching" some of it.
It may be argued that by so doing we should be subsidising culture. But what is wrong with that? It is done in every civilised country in the world, and to a less extent in this country than I personally would wish. Every country subsidises opera, classical theatre, museums and art galleries. And so they should. So should we. And if, through this medium, we can bring these things within the range of ever-widening sections of the population, so much the better. I 559 have never heard it suggested in any country that variety theatres should be subsidised; and I am not going to recommend this afternoon that that should be done.
My Lords, I turn now for a moment to Independent Television. I think we have to recognise the fact that, whatever views we may have held about this in the past, Independent Television has come to stay in this country. The politicians dare not stop it now, although they can change it, if necessary. The second thing that has to be said is that it is at the moment a monopoly. Four companies in one of the tightest rings ever devised run the show from the contracting and programme point of view. London is carved up between Associated Rediffusion and A.T.V.; the Midlands between A.T.V. and A.B.C.; and the North between Granada and A.B.C. The hold of the "Big Four," if I may so call them, over all the so-called independent pro-vincial stations is complete, in the sense that the latter are dependent upon them for at least 80 per cent. of their programmes. I am not blaming anyone for this situation, but it is a risk. I think it is probably because the Act may not have been very well drafted. But there is a snag in it, and it is this. It was certainly never the intention of Parliament to create by legislation a commercial, television monopoly. I do not think that was the intention of any of the supporters of commercial television, in either House.
Let me turn now to the critics of Independent Television. The first criticism arises from the profits that have been made. I do not think there is much in this. The people who have reaped profits from Independent Television took tremendous risks. There was a moment when the whole thing looked as if it was in danger of collapse. They had courage and faith, and worked hard; and when a lot of other people withdrew, or would not come in, they stuck it out, at the risk of losing everything they had, and a bit more as well; and they came through. If you back a horse at 40 to 1 and it wins, you get more than you do if you back the favourite; and so you should—and it may be happening at this very moment, for all I know. I personally do not resent these profits. They pay large taxes upon them; they will want to plough back a great deal for new 560 equipment. In any case, they have created—let us acknowledge this—a great industry in this country, and that industry is going on.
I come now to the question of advertisements, about which the correspondence recently in some of the national newspapers has been interminable. I believe that we are making a little too much of this. There is an automatic limiting factor here, and it is: how much will the public take? You always have to keep your eye on the public if you are in commercial television. One of the executives of I.T.V., whose name I will not give, remarked to me the other day, rather naïvely, that the public like the advertisements because they are so much better than the programmes. And he added, warming to the theme: "And much more money is spent on them." There is an element of truth in that. I like the advertisements. Very often it is a great relief to turn away from the programme going on to get the advertisement that comes along.
I think the television companies, and the critics, too, would do better to worry less about the number of minutes per hour than the sort of breaks that are made. What I think irritates people is a break in a discussion programme or a dramatic play at precisely the wrong moment, just because those responsible think they have the peak audience. If you are watching a boxing match, what is there to prevent a flash advertisement between every round? Nothing. But when you are watching a tense drama, or a Wild Western, or a political discussion or something of that sort, suddenly to be cut off in the middle of it is very irritating. I would say that the advertisements should be considered much more in relation to the type of programme that is being shown than in relation to the number of minutes per hour, and that they should vary on different programmes. That having been said, I should like to add that in my view our system of advertisements is infinitely better than the sponsored system in the United States of America. Many of my American friends have told me that they wish they could adopt our system now, but they are afraid that it is too late.
The third criticism is that there is too little British content in the programmes; and that, of course, is to some extent a valid criticism. There is far too much 561 canned American stuff bought on the cheap, and I am sorry to see the B.B.C. following that example. Finally, I think the only really valid criticism is that the I.T.A. is accused of permitting monopoly practices contrary to Section 5 (2) of the Act—and that charge was levied this morning in The Times by Mr. Christopher Mayhew. To some extent it is undeniable. I think the remedy lies in the hands of the Government, of the I.T.A. and of the contracting companies themselves. The Government, who I think inadvertently created the monopoly, can end it by establishing as soon as possible a new channel, either under the present Independent Television Authority or another one—I do not think it much matters, but I see no great necessity for creating a new one—and therefore at no cost to the public at all. The companies must seek to improve their programmes and rationalise their advertisements in the way I have attempted to describe, and they must not seek to perpetuate, or to extend, the monopoly.
This question of monopoly—I have nearly done now, but the subject is very important—is really vital. I have a great admiration for the drive, capacity and, above all, the courage of Mr. Littler, Mr. Parnell. Mr. Grade and Mr. Bernstein, but if they think they can convert their present television empire into a closed shop, embracing the whole of independent television in this country, to be run by themselves exclusively for ever and ever, Amen! then I say they are living in a fool's paradise. Parliament would never tolerate such a set-up indefinitely, and there are many ways in which it could be brought to a conclusion.
The future of the existing companies—the "Big Four" as I called them—lies to a large extent in their own hands. Without going into technicalities, it looks as if we shall have to go over to 625 lines in this country. This is a race, the television race, which we cannot afford to lose, either from the point of view of technical development or of the export of television equipment, and on a 405-line system we are bound to lose it. Therefore I think the transition must take place, and as soon as possible. According to the Postmaster-General, a new definition system must delay the introduction of a third programme. In my submission, this would greatly increase the responsibility 562 of the existing companies, because, so far as I can see, whatever happens, they have a clear run for at least three or four years before they can be touched—before we can get an effective third network into operation. In consequence, they have ample time to justify themselves and their medium in the eyes of their critics. In the circumstances, I think they would be well advised to give up of their own accord the options they now possess for the third network, which were given under different conditions, while reserving to themselves the right to apply, in competition with others, for that network when the time comes.
I would remind your Lordships they were given those options when it was being found difficult to get anybody at all to go into this desperately dangerous and intricate business. The risk has "come off". There is a new situation, and I believe they would put themselves right with the public if they themselves said, "We will give up these options now, and we will show you we can do it; we will come in on equal terms with the other competitors."If they do that, I think they put themselves right with the public.
We are dealing here with a new medium of immense and still quite unknown potential power. We cannot calculate it. In a recent address to the students of St. Andrews University, I ventured to say that the manipulative control over the minds of millions, by methods far more subtle than those employed by the Communists, was a great danger, and I reminded the students that Field-Marshal Smuts had said in his Rectorial Address that the disappearance of the sturdy, independent-minded, freedom-loving individual, and his replacement by a servile, standardised, mass-mentality was the greatest human menace of our time.
The decisions which must soon be made about television could affect, for good or ill, the whole future of our democracy. My purpose this afternoon, as I have already said, has been simply to stimulate thought about it. I have indicated what I think is a hopeful line of advance, but I am convinced that the replacement of one monopoly by two, with different functions and purposes, cannot be the final answer. I am fortified in this conviction by the man who has perhaps a greater experience of this medium than anyone else in the world 563 today, Mr. Edward R. Murrow. He said the other day:Let us have a little competition, not only in selling soap, cigarettes, and automobiles, but in informing a troubled, apprehensive but receptive public. For the premise upon which our pluralistic democratic society rests is that if the people are given sufficient undiluted information, they will somehow reach the right decisions in the affairs of the nation, I believe that, potentially, we have in this country a free-enterprise system of television which is superior to any other. But to achieve its promise it must be both free and enterprising.That, I think, goes for independent television in this country just as much as it does for television in the United States of America. I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.7 p.m.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, who has sat for so long spiritually on the Cross Benches in so many matters, has demonstrated by his speech that he brings a great deal of impartiality of a kind that I hope will be evident in this debate, which is upon a subject on which there are strong feelings. But I am afraid I shall be unable to remain impartial any more than the noble Lord was impartial in some of his remarks. This is a subject which was discussed very fully when the present Television Act, setting up an independent television service, was before this House. I heard many of the speeches that were delivered on that occasion. The most notable aspect of that debate was the opposition on the side of the Government to a Bill which was being introduced against the advice of many of their best advisers. I do not need to mention all of the opponents. There were the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, the late Lord Waverley, the noble Lord, Lord Brand, the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, the noble Earl, Lord Jowitt, and, of course, the noble Viscount the Lord President of the Council. I do not propose to embarrass the noble Viscount by quoting his remarks on that occasion. I should like to congratulate him on the fact that his strong opposition—and, indeed, it called forth strong words at the time—has not stood in the way of a successful political career. I believe that many of the words he spoke on that occasion are still as true to-day, and I should be surprised, knowing him, if he were to back down on what he thought.
564 We are confronted with a situation in which we have now in this country two broadcasting services, the B.B.C. and the commercial service. If my remarks are mainly devoted to commercial television, it is not to suggest that the B.B.C. is perfect. Indeed, I would agree with the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, in many of the criticisms that he made. But we are facing quite an exceptional situation to-day in regard to the Independent Television Authority and the contract companies. Those of us who were opposed to commercial television always admitted that once it came into existence it was likely to be popular, indeed successful. in a commercial sense, and impossible to abolish. Much as I personally (and this is a personal view) should like to see the disappearance of commercial television—and I will give some of my reasons for it later—I realise that it is not possible now to turn back the clock.
Those of us who thought that commercial television was doomed to financial failure have, of course, been shown to be hopelessly and desperately wrong, because it is a roaring financial success; and the rewards for those who fought for its introduction are certainly a tribute to their business acumen. Some of these have not been taxed, of course, and it is said that one of the promoters has turned a £2,000 investment into half a million pounds in the course of four years. I cannot vouch for that figure, but it has often been quoted. And this has been done as a result of an Act of Parliament which was designed to create competition! I well remember the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, who was Postmaster General at the time, saying in this House [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 188, col. 195]:What is laid down, and if this Bill is passed will become the law, is that adequate competition shall be ensured. I can give the noble and learned Earl the definite answer that the Government intend to ensure that that is done.And then later he said [col. 221]:I said quite clearly that the words in the Bill showed that there shall be no new monopoly, and that there shall be adequate competition.He went on, prophetically, to say:I did not inform noble Lords what steps would be taken to enforce that.My Lords, we now have a situation in which the Independent Television Authority are asking for another channel 565 in order to break their monopoly. The Chairman of the I.T.A. recently said:If you create a monopoly you must take the consequences, and one of those consequences for the people who get the monopoly is that they make a certain amount of money.If there was a third channel you would not have a monopoly. You would have two competing companies in each area of the country.I shall be interested to hear from the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, who I am glad to see is to speak a little later, what steps he would now propose to break the monopoly which was set up by the Television Act of 1954.
This position of monopoly is now quite firmly accepted by the Government. Quite recently in another place the Assistant Postmaster General said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 602 (No. 80), Col. 378]:I can understand the dismay of the hon. Gentlemen at coming across a monopoly set up by Statute that makes a profit.I hope that that dismay is shared by all noble Lords in this House. It has been, I believe, a tradition of legislation for a long time in this country that where the State creates privileged positions of monopoly, as is sometimes unavoidable, it will take steps to regulate that monopoly and to ensure that undue profits are not made at the expense of the community. Here a monopoly has been set up under State aegis and the profits go to private individuals and not to the further development of a good broadcasting service.
My Lords, at the time when we were debating this matter in another place, and also in this House. I remember having a conversation with the late Lord Waverley, and I recall that he said to me that never in his recollection of public service had he known such strong and active lobbying in a private interest; nor had he ever seen an occasion on which it was so effective with the Government of the day. We are faced today, as we were then, with the fact that free competition in the television services is not likely to be possible for a good number of years. The basic difficulty that we have always been in is that there is a shortage of wavelengths, a difficulty which cannot be overcome until very much greater technical development has taken place.
566 Those of us who opposed commercial television did so on the ground that the theory that it was possible to get free competition was not tenable in the case of television; that in fact there would always be monopoly, and that while there was that monopoly it should be so subject to the control of the public interest that the type of exploitation which has, in fact, taken place should be impossible. We took the view that what was really required—and this was a matter that was put forward time and again—was not to pursue some abstract concept of competition in a field where it was impossible but to seek to provide the maximum of choice to the listener and to the viewer.
The example which the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, gave is one that those of your Lordships who look at T.V. will be able to repeat on many occasions. I have myself switched off a programme, one called "6.5 Special," on the B.B.C.; I turned to commercial television and found that the theme song of "6.5 Special" was being played at that particular moment. If any of you were to examine the T.V. Times and the Radio Times you would frequently see the same sort of programme repeated at the same sort of time. This is inevitable in a situation in which two separate bodies are operating according to their particular lights, and one of them primarily concerned with getting the maximum audience in order to sell the goods of those who advertise on it.
I should not for one moment suggest that all that comes out of commercial television is bad. Indeed, it is quite clear that those of us who were so critical gravely underrated the capacity, and indeed I would say the public spirit, of many of those who went into the business. A number of them have been bold and experimental, and on occasions have shown a freedom in their approach which one would, on occasion, have liked to see more firmly shown by the B.B.C. But the fact remains that we are dominated inevitably by this obligation to reach the maximum audience and to produce standardised programmes of a kind that will command a great listenership at any one time.
There have been many questions in another place on advertisements. Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, I find the 567 advertisements extremely tedious. At first I thought they were greatly preferable to the programmes, but as one begins to see the same sort of repetition and hear the same tune it rings terribly in one's head. I can hardly mention the words T.V. Times without the little jingle that goes with them coming into my head. The trouble about these advertisements is that the Independent Television Authority, obsessed with the need to make a financial success of the service for which they were responsible, have had far too much regard for the financial profitability of the activities of the programme contractors and not enough regard for the convenience of the public.
When we debated this question of television advertising we received a number of assurances, particularly in another place, and more especially from the noble Viscount who now occupies the Woolsack. He gave us his view as to what a "natural break" was. He said:I would say it varies enormously. Suppose there is a two-act play and there is a really natural break between the acts; I cannot myself see any harm in an advertisement coming in there, especially if the first act has lasted for an hour and ten minutes.My Lords, it is not every hour, but every ten minutes that the break comes on so many occasions. And whether the interval is ten minutes or fifteen minutes, those breaks come more frequently at peak periods, which, in my view, and in the view, I am sure, of the great majority of people who watch television services, is a breach of the spirit of the original Act of Parliament and of the undertakings which the Government then gave. We were, in fact, advised that five or six minutes in the hour was likely to be the proper amount. But what we were not told was that this was a five or six minutes average throughout the day, and that it would be perfectly proper, in the view of the I.T.A., to have no breaks at all for advertising, or virtually none, at a time when there was no significant audience which could be cajoled to buy particular goods and up to nine minutes advertising in the hour at peak periods.
I believe that the time has come now for the Government to give some sort of a lead in this matter to the I.T.A. It is not a matter which ought any more to be 568 laughed off. As we know, there is no need to worry about the financial solvency of the companies. That is one thing in this situation which is not in question at all. We should hope, therefore, that the Government will take the initiative in this matter.
One of the criticisms that we had in those days—again, I am not digging this out of the past to fight over old battles, but just to see how valid those criticisms are proving to-day—was that some of these advertisements would be generally of a kind which could not be in the least elevating or encouraging. Again I make no apology for quoting an example of which I myself know, and which was mentioned in another place—namely, the advertisement for the News of the World: that viewers should buy it so that they might read the following day about the Messina case. It is this type of rather demoralised and demoralising approach; the idea that it is possible to get sensation easy; the idea that it is possible to become beautiful without trouble merely by buying somebody else's particular beauty lotion; the idea that one can even cure one's ailments (aided, I may say, by Mr. Wilfred Pickles) that we feared; and it is this type of thing that has come to pass.
I hope that this whole matter will be considered in due course by a Royal Commission, and I strongly support the views of the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, that the matter should not be judged one way or the other; that we should not take a decision, here and now, on whether the B.B.C. should have a second programme or how it should be done. I personally should like the B.B.C. to have a second programme. I will repeat an old argument—it is an argument that is still valid—that if we want freedom of choice there must be some planning of programmes; and, whether it is the B.B.C. or some other Commission which can ensure that there is some alternate choice, I hope that, whatever is done, the opportunity will be taken to provide for the interests, whether they be regional or specialised, that are inevitably lacking in the situation to-day.
There is one other suggestion only that I should like to make, and that is that we ought not to consider the provision of further television as necessarily a good thing. I believe that if it comes naturally, 569 if the wavelengths are available and if the finance is there, then undoubtedly it would be very pleasant to have a wide choice of programmes. But there are other things that we want. We want playing fields; we want more schools. If ever there was an act of irresponsibility at a time when we were heading into a period of inflation, it was the introduction of a commercial television service, using up some of our resources and encouraging people to go out and spend more.
I recently had the unique experience—it may come to some of your Lordships, but it does not come to many people who are engaged in the political field—of taking the chair at a meeting to debate education. All the people present had paid 5s. to come in, and the hall was packed. The meeting went on until 11 o'clock at night. This meeting took place in Ireland, where there is no commercial or State television service. There is little doubt that as television has developed something has gone out of the life of the community. I do not think we can stop that; as I said, I do not believe we can turn back the clock. But I hope that the provision of a further television programme will not necessarily be considered as a matter to which we should give the highest priority.
I support very strongly the views of the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, that here is a great and powerful medium. I support the views of those noble Lords, including the Lord President of the Council, who urged that it ought to be made entirely responsive to the public interest, because its power was of such tremendous significance; that it should not he distorted for the wrong ends; that broadcasting should be for its own sake, to give entertainment and enlightenment, not to sell goods. We hope that the Government, having made their original mistake—and we all know that in fact they introduced the Television Bill largely by accident—will take care to do what they can to limit the harm that is being done at the moment, and will ensure that our broadcasting services, whether they be in the public sector or in the private sector, will be subject to impartial review. I only hope that the Government of the day take the advice which was given upon a previous occasion in the Beveridge Report but which was so signally ignored by the Government of the time.
§ 3.27 p.m.
§ LORD JAMES OF RUSHOLME
My Lords, I had hoped to spend a good deal more time listening and learning before I ventured to address your Lordships' House, but the subject that we are discussing this afternoon is one about which I feel so strongly that it would have been wrong of me not to say anything at all. Therefore I will say something about it, being as brief as I can and speaking with great diffidence. I suppose it is inevitable that someone like myself, whose job is in education, should think of the immense educational impact of television. By that, of course, I do not mean the direct inculcation of opinions or factual information: I am not thinking of educational broadcasts or religious broadcasts or anything like that; I am thinking of the influence that it wields in much more subtle ways in creating standards of value and general attitudes of mind.
I believe that it is particularly necessary that those of us who are not, shall I say, devoted viewers (perhaps that includes many noble Lords) should constantly remind ourselves how great this influence is. After all, there are nearly 30 million adults in this country who are watching television, and it is no exaggeration to say that in millions of homes "the telly" is now the greatest single cultural influence that there is. The world, our society, has changed as much as that in ten years. In discussing it, we are not therefore simply discussing a branch of the entertainment industry; we are discussing something that is fundamental to our national life. It is in the light of the potentiality of this influence that these difficult questions of direction and control have to Abe considered. Here I am in a great difficulty, because I know that it is the custom that anything that I say should not cause controversy; yet I know that anything I say, on this subject at any rate, must be controversial. In what I am about to say I take comfort from Lord Boothby's definition of the word "non-controversial".
It was on the action of this great influence that many of those who opposed altogether the introduction of commercial television rested their case. I still believe that they were right, and I think that the experience we have acquired over the last few years is already sufficient to show how right they were. When I say that, I am not thinking primarily of what 571 might be called the normal lines of attack on I.T.V. I am sure that Mr. Mayhew and others are right when they point out that the law is being strained, shall we say, by a somewhat curious interpretation of the length and timing of natural breaks; but, frankly, I regard all those things as a minor battle. Indeed, it is significant that my only humorous remark has been taken by both the previous noble Lords who have spoken, when they have said that, on the whole, they preferred the advertisements on I.T.V. to the programmes. Nor am I concerned with the more important question of the violence which at times has disfigured the programmes and which is said to be particularly harmful to children. We delude ourselves if we think that all will be well if we disinfect the programmes between 5 and 7 p.m., because it is the total effect of the programme that constitutes the real problem. One cannot but be alarmed as one contemplates the cumulative effects on a growing generation of the trivial, the meretricious and the plain silly; of the presentation of a world in which glittering prizes are to be won every night for negligible knowledge and less effort.
If one likes, one can get a statistical picture of what is happening by remembering that at peak hours, from 7 to 10.30 p.m.—and it is the peak hours which count—commercial television last year devoted 10 per cent. of its programmes to subjects that could, by any stretch of the imagination, be considered serious. The B.B.C. in the same period gave rather more than three times as much coverage. But much more eloquent than statistics—and I wish we could all have this gruelling experience—would be a course of really intensive viewing; not a casual glimpse of one of those prestige programmes that are put out by all companies and principally, of course, by Granada, but a really hard period of solid study of the run-of-the-mill programmes. That they should be as bad as that is comprehensible enough. The aim of the companies is to make money by selling time to the advertisers; and, given their premises, that is a perfectly proper thing to do. No one can say, either, that they have not been very successful in doing it. We should better understand the results of it, I believe. if we called it frankly "Commercial 572 Television", which it is, rather than "Independent Television", which it is not.
The question we have to ask ourselves is whether that is, in fact, a proper aim for this immensely powerful new medium. For if, after all, we aim to sell soap flakes or cereals as efficiently as possible, we shall, in honesty, inevitably do two things. We shall avoid anything that can lead to a genuinely independent and critical attitude on the part of the viewer. That is the first thing; and one cannot but be impressed by the honesty of the programme companies when they tout for advertisements and refer to the receptive condition of their all but captive audiences.
Secondly, if one is to be successful one will present programmes which attract a mass audience; and, by and large, this is most readily done by pandering to the intellectual idleness, the cupidity and the love of escape that exists in all people. The process is given a spurious democratic quality by saying, "This is giving the public what it wants," and "Why should not people have entertainment?" The truth is that what is happening is that tastes are being created and satisfied and their satisfaction is being hailed as a victory for freedom of choice. One cannot on the one hand use all the techniques of mass persuasion, one cannot appeal consistently to the facile, the uncritical and the escapist, and still talk of freedom.
Your Lordships may well feel that those of us who are opposed to the whole idea of commercial television are fighting a battle that is already lost; and indeed to hope that we could ever go back now would demand an optimism greater than I have. But what we can do and what we must do is to resist its growth. Faced as we are with the prospect of extending television to new bands and a new channel, I believe it is vital that these developments should be put in the hands of the B.B.C., and I must say that in uncompromising terms. Your Lordships may well ask, as did the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton—and it is a question which it seems to me is not asked often enough—"Why should we devote great resources of money and, still more, of very highly trained and scarce manpower to extending television services?" Particularly when the dearth of good 573 material, even on two programmes, is considered, one may, with justice, question why one should want a third. But extended those programmes certainly will be. I am sure that pressure of public opinion will force that upon us. The vital question, therefore, seems to me to be: under whose control?
I have said that the term "Independent Television" is a misnomer. The same point has been made by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton. Independent from what? Not a small group of interests already exercising immense power over other mass media and the world of entertainment. Independent, rather, I believe, from any kind of real control and, I must add, from any sense of real public responsibility; because it is the sense of obligation, of being a public service, that the B.B.C., with all its faults, still possesses. It is often timid and sometimes smug, but it does, at any rate, seek quite consciously to raise rather than to lower standards. If the third channel is handed over to commercial television we know perfectly well what we shall get: we shall get "the mixture as before", because it will be the duty of the people who run that channel to give us the mixture as before, to tempt more people Ito watch more uncritically more of the time.
It is—and I know it will seem a paradox to many noble Lords—the B.B.C. that is more genuinely free and more genuinely independent to use new facilities in new ways, whether by really alternative programmes, whether by technical changes which must come in the number of lines, or otherwise. But behind all these details there lies a basic choice of masters. Because I, as a teacher, am professionally involved in any battle for higher standards, this is a question that obviously concerns me deeply; but it is not only educators who are involved. So far as we care for this very difficult idea of an educated democracy, as critical, as knowledgeable and as free as we can make it, then 'the future of this medium concerns us all.
§ 3.40 p.m.
§ EARL DE LA WARR
My Lords, I believe none of us has yet thanked the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, for introducing this Motion and for the speech that he made. He spoke with clarity and courage—though in view of his reputa- 574 tion, perhaps with a disappointing lack of controversy—and I think we owe him our warm thanks. Among other things, it has given us the opportunity of hearing the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, make his maiden speech. He comes to us with a great reputation and a great record of service to education. He may have said a number of things with which all of us do not quite agree, but he spoke with a courage, an eloquence and a sincerity on a matter about which we know he feels extremely strongly; therefore we could not have asked him to make an entirely non-controversial speech. It was a speech we all welcome. We expected a great deal from the noble Lord, and we hope to have a great deal more from him in the future.
This is obviously a very useful debate, a very important debate. We are discussing a subject that may well, as a force, have almost equal importance to the future of mankind as the discovery in another sphere of nuclear power. I speak from a point of view of one who is pretty satisfied with the system that we have. I believe that most people, most men in the street, are in fact satisfied, and I think there is probably more interest in Parliamentary circles, including your Lordships' House, than you would find if you addressed anybody outside casually.
To begin with, we have an extraordinarily full coverage of the country. It is now 98 per cent. and approaching 99 per cent. for one programme and 87 per cent. for two programmes, and I am told it will soon, at the end of this year, he 93 per cent. for the second programme. I have travelled a certain amount in Canada and America particularly, and I am sure that we have better reception in this country and better programmes than I have seen elsewhere. It is easy to criticise programmes. If one liked to adopt the form of criticism adopted by the noble Lord, Lord James of Rushohne, one could say that most of the cinemas of London should be brought under State control because they are too light, and most of the theatres and a great deal of the Press—including some that in the past we have taken seriously. We do not want to return to the controversies of the past. Speaking for myself, I find it very hard to feel that popularity of a programme is a great crime. What does popularity mean? It 575 means what the people in fact want. Not all of us in our spare time are so desperately serious or desperately wanting to improve ourselves. I myself have often looked at the "Wild West" programmes of which the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, spoke with such disapproval.
§ EARL DE LA WARR
We have in our system choice of programme. We have the non-commercial B.B.C. and the private enterprise, commercial Independent Television. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, that in some sense that choice of programme is not enough, because, with him, I sometimes rather wish the B.B.C. would have greater courage of their convictions. After all, I had some responsibility for initiating commercial television; and what the Government always stood for from the beginning was the maintenance of one set of programmes which was entirely uncommercial, with a guaranteed revenue. Why the B.B.C. should feel that they have to degrade their programmes in order to compete with another system, I just cannot see. It seems to me a great pity. I also agree with another point which was brought forward by the noble Lord. I cannot see why there cannot be some discussion and some overall planning with regard to programmes, so that a real choice can be given to the public.
Then we come to the independent companies supported by advertisements. I think that one thing one can say is that the views so strongly expressed lately by Mr. Herbert Morrison, Mr. Mayhew and others, of objections to these advertisements, are certainly not shared by the majority of viewers. It is interesting, incidentally, that since the passing of the 1954 Act television sets have increased in number from 3½million to just under 9½million, so it certainly looks as if we have not a very unpopular system. It is nice to think that most of those who prophesied such disaster to our standards when we previously debated this subject (and we do not ask what my noble friend Lord Hailsham thinks; he will no doubt shortly tell us) realise—I am afraid I have in my notes "the rubbish they talked", but I will say the mistaken 576 views they adopted. They have certainly been disproved by experience.
I believe it is partly due to the system of a controlling corporation, with ownership of the stations and the fact that everyone knows that the system can be reviewed in 1964. These are in themselves very potent factors. But I believe that the greatest benefit of all and the greatest protection of all is the character of English people, and the character of the companies themselves. I believe that I.T.A. will be the first to say how little interference or control from them has been necessary in ensuring the maintenance of good standards; and when any control has been considered necessary it has been able to be conducted on the most informal basis. The entertainment programme of the private companies is equal to that of the B.B.C. They give a great deal of time (I believe it is five hours a week) to their educational programmes and to their religious programmes, and, I believe, something like fifteen hours a week to their information programmes.
Just as the I.T.A. would say that the maintenance of standards by the companies is due to the fact that the companies themselves have proper standards, I believe that the companies would be the first to wish that someone in your Lordships' House—and perhaps as I asked him to take on this responsibility it would come rightly from me—would pay a very warm tribute to the first Chairman of the I.T.A., Sir Kenneth Clark. I believe he did a magnificent job in setting a standard and a tradition for that body which I am sure is going to leave a permanent impression upon it.
If I might turn for a moment to another question raised by the noble Lord, I would refer to the question—a difficult one—of the third programme. I am afraid, on a technical point, that I am a little doubtful of what the noble Lord says about the desirability of adopting 625 lines. I am informed that the capital in sets and other equipment which would have to be scrapped if that were done is something in the neighbourhood of £500 million—and that for what would admittedly be only a slightly improved picture. I think the important point he made was about the possible loss of the export trade. My information is that, if we have not already got a converter that 577 is satisfactory, enabling us to convert our pictures for export, we are in fact on the brink of getting one; and, therefore, we could maintain our export trade.
§ LORD BOOTHBY
My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl one question? It does, of course, rule out colour for ever, because you would never do colour on 405. I think that that may become a hopeless handicap in the long run.
§ EARL DE LA WARR
On that matter I prefer not to attempt to answer the noble Lord; but if that is his information, of course I accept it. There is the major question: do we really need another programme at the present moment? To return to the man in the street whom I mentioned a moment ago, if we stopped the man in the street and said, "Would you like a third programme?", it would be just like asking him whether he wanted a motor car. The answer would be, "Yes, I should like it if I could get it for nothing". It is obvious that somebody has to pay a great deal more for a third programme, and I should think that for the moment we probably have enough. It would, of course, help to deal to some extent with the problem which is obviously concerning the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, in this respect, and the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, in that it would increase the competitive nature of the system. At the moment we have true competition between rival television producers, and we have four major commercial companies providing some competition against one another. However, obviously, if the nation could afford a third programme, or if it is considered desirable, that would increase competition. If we did have a third programme, I should say that there is something to be said for having it as a minority programme, as a programme mainly for education and cultural purposes—unless the B.B.C. can be persuaded to become less competitive with I.T.A. and itself fulfil that function.
My Lords, to sum up, it seems to me that we have a good system, working well. It is subject to review, I suppose, when the B.B.C. has its new charter, in 1962, and when the I.T.A. lease is reviewed in 1964. Her Majesty's Government may or may not feel that they would like to have the whole system examined by some Committee or Commission, especially before making up their minds on such a 578 new development as a third programme; but, there again, I would say that if they did I should be sorry to see any very fundamental change in principle coming out of that review.
§ 3.54 p.m.
My Lords, some wise man—presumably Sir Winston Churchill—has said that what matters most about a speech is who you are; then how you say it; and, finally, what you say. On all those tests Lord Boothby, of course, emerges with flying colours. He is what I believe is called, in the world of television, a "star". I use that expression not sarcastically, but enviously. He has shone very brightly on us this afternoon, and I hope that we shall hear him often—and I see no temperamental reason in his case which would make that impossible in time to come. We are all very grateful to him for opening this debate so delectably.
Then I take special pride in the thought that I was one of those who sponsored my noble friend Lord Shackleton when he entered this House. He has set out the main points in the argument from the point of view of those on these Benches. Further, I am certainly pleased to he the first from this side of the House to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme—one of the outstanding headmasters of our time—who has made a speech which I think we shall all want to read and ponder on. Finally, I know that the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, needs no bouquets of mine, as he is such a well-established and popular figure in this House.
There is often argument—I think a lot of very good and serious argument—about the effect of television on the moral life of the country, and, above all, on its religious life. I think we should do well to assume that that influence is considerable: it may be profound. If that is so, it seems reasonable, before deciding on the effect, to ask a prior question: What are the objectives in these respects of those who are running our television services? What results are they trying to achieve? To put one overwhelmingly important aspect, where do the B.B.C., the I.T.A., and the independent companies stand in regard to Christian belief and Christian morals? I do not approach this matter in any narrow or sectarian spirit: rather, perhaps, in the manner of 579 Mr. Gary Cooper, who I read in the paper to-day has just been received into my Communion. Mr. Gary Cooper said this when asked why he had become so religious:I got round to thinking that I've got a lot to be thankful for. There's my career—heck, I never dreamed I'd be a star with a face like mine. I reckoned that I owed sumpin to someone.I know that that was not the case with the noble Lord, Lord Boothby. His face was his fortune; but even in his case he might feel that he owes something to someone—and which of us is devoid of that feeling in our better moments? The paper goes on to say:Gary said"—adopting a tone of familiarity which does not come easy to me—Brother, it ain't easy to he a nice person.'That, of course, is profoundly true.But if a fella goes to church, any ole church, and tries to straighten out his mind, it sure helps.If I may say so, in these few remarks that is rather my text: "If a fellow goes to church, any old church, and tries to straighten out his mind, it sure helps." I approach this subject in that thoroughly broad-minded spirit.
When I began to prepare these remarks for your Lordships I expected to find answers readily available to these questions about the attitude of the B.B.C. and the independent people in regard to religion and morals. I confess that, after researches during the last week or two, I am surprised and disappointed. In my search for a policy I found myself increasingly enveloped in a thick fog. In what follows I shall be mainly, but not entirely, concerned with the B.B.C., but I am not trying in my observations to distinguish between rival merits. If I talk of being enveloped in a fog, that does not apply to the B.B.C. religious programmes, the programmes sent out by the Religious Broadcasting Department of the B.B.C. Their objectives have often been explained very clearly; for example, on pages 81 to 83 of the B.B.C. Handbook: so there is no complaint of ambiguity there. In the B.B.C. Handbook we are told that the first object of religious broadcasting is that it should reflect theworship. thought and action of those Churches which represent the main stream of the Christian tradition in the country.580 In the second place, thatreligious broadcasting should bring before listeners and viewers what is most significant in the relationship between the Christian faith and the modern world … The third aim is that religious broadcasting should seek to reach those on the fringe of the organised Churches or quite outside it".Ceasing to quote, but describing what I think is the result of that last objective, the religious broadcasting aims to reach—and does, I think, to a great extent reach—the aged, the sick, and the infirm, to whom this is an immense consolation. It reaches people of very special interests, and it reaches that large body of the population—perhaps a majority—who are not hostile to religion but who do not go to church very often. There is evidence that millions of these people welcome the opportunity presented by religious television, and I think we can say that in this respect the Churches are beginning to recognise and take full advantage of the great challenge open to them. We are all aware that religious television is not intended to take the place of church worship, but rather to supplement it and widen its range. I believe that when television first came in there was some anxiety among church bodies that it would compete with church services, to the detriment of the latter; but by and large it now seems to be generally conceded that television has been a real advantage to the Churches and to the cause they represent.
I should like to speak my own conviction very plainly. I believe that we owe an immense debt to the Religious Department of the B.B.C. for its splendid work over many years. I say that all the more dispassionately because in the last fifteen years I do not think that I have consumed more than two minutes of their time; but I am proud to think that it was spent on my share of a general tribute to that great Christian Member of your Lordships' House, the late Bishop of Chichester. The Religious Broadcasting Department of the B.B.C. have rendered a noble service to the cause of Christianity and, if it is not blasphemy, I would say that their work had been pleasing to God. The independent television companies are relative newcomers in this field, but in the period over which they have been operating I would join them in the same tribute.
Those of my own communion, the Roman Catholics, are inclined to think 581 that they get relatively more scope on I.T.V. than on B.B.C. It may be that that is so. It may be that that is true of minorities in general. Certainly a very ardent and sincere critic of Christianity, whom your Lordships may know by name, Mrs. Margaret Knight, with whom I have had the pleasure of debating (and I am glad to think I was not on the losing side) appears to have had the same experience. But, as I say, I am not speaking from any sectarian point of view. I am inclined to think that the present kind of competition between the B.B.C. and I.T.V. makes it impossible, or very difficult, for either network to place any religious programmes at times of mass viewing. Religion is placed at the beginning of programmes or at the end. Often, religious programmes are being shown by the B.B.C. and I.T.V. at the same time, and then follow long periods of sectarian programmes.
I do not want to pursue these rather detailed and arguable questions this afternoon, except to say that they seem to me to deserve very serious consideration when any future adjustment of programmes is embarked upon, if it is ever embarked upon, between the B.B.C. and the commercial companies. Only a small proportion of the total programmes are religious programmes. The figures, which may be of interest to your Lordships (I have not come across them before) are as follows. The B.B.C. sound religious programmes take up 3 per cent. of the total programmes, and the B.B.C. television programmes 2.2 per cent.
The crucial question is, of course: where do the B.B.C. stand in regard to religion and Christian morals in the other 97 or 98 per cent. of their programmes? I break off to say that religious programmes on Independent Television are 4…6 per cent. of the total. There have been two fine statements recently about religious broadcasting by Sir Robert Fraser, Director-General of I.T.A., and by Dr. Eric Fletcher, M.P., the latter given at the inaugural ceremony of A.B.C.'s religious training scheme for clergy on April 18 of this year. I am advised that the I.T.A., while they would consider it their duty to stop anything that was palpably offensive to Christian sentiment, do not take it on themselves to guide the companies in their general 582 approach to religion or morals, and I am not aware of any clear statement from the companies up to the present describing their attitude in those respects. I understand that whenever any of the companies presents a programme in which Christian principles are thought to be directly involved, a Christian spokesman is invited to present the Christian view. In that and in other ways I must not seem to give them some kind of preference over the B.B.C. (I speak briefly due to shortage of time) or to distinguish between the relative merits of the two systems. May I return, therefore, to the B.B.C.?
The B.B.C. were kind enough to indicate to me, as no doubt to other noble Lords, that they would be pleased to supply me with any information required for this debate. I think that that was perfectly proper, and no doubt other noble Lords have benefited from such help from the B.B.C. and the companies. I raised certain points on the topic I am now discussing, and was told this in the course of a reply from the B.B.C.:You ask if there is any official statement of the B.B.C.'s attitude to religion and morality outside the field of religious broadcasting. Sir William Haley, in his address to the British Council of Churches"—delivered in 1948—did seek to convey the B.B.C.'s attitude in these matters. His statement, though a personal one, represented the B.B.C. policy at that time and it has not since been set aside or superseded.Sir William Haley's lecture, as one would expect, was arresting and stimulating. He happens to be under heavy fire at this moment on another matter, and I am anxious to make it plain that nothing I say should obscure my deep regard for his immense abilities and public service. I have read and re-read his address, as I was advised to do, and I still think that it is fair to quote the following key passage on its own, which apparently is still the official doctrine of the B.B.C.:Some people may ask whether this means that British Broadcasting is neutral where Christian values are concerned. Of course it is not … We are citizens of a Christian country, and the B.B.C.—an institution set up by the State—bases its policy upon a positive attitude toward Christian values. It seeks to safeguard those values and to foster acceptance of them. The preponderant weight of its programmes is directed to this end.583 I venture to underline that last statement, though it was not in italics in my copy of his address.
One would think that that was a pronouncement of the first importance. It is clearly not intended to refer only to the 2 or 3 per cent. of religious programmes. It is also made clear by Sir William, in another passage of his speech, that it does not mean—and one would not wish it to mean—that every single programme must be judged by a religious standard. But it would appear—and your Lordships are as good judges of this as I am—to accept a religious standard for the programmes taken as a whole. But, of course, everything turns on the question of what is meant by Christian values. Are these Christian values to be associated with some kind of minimum Christian theology—a belief in God, for example? Or are they to be associated, at the very least, with a preaching and strict observance of the Christian moral code, to take only one (example, in sexual ethics? Can so-called humanist values be included in and preached under the general heading of Christian values? Can so-called humanist values be propounded by well-known atheists, or agnostics, who may be thought to have benefited from the Christian tradition and to represent certain important schools of contemporary thought, but who not only dislike Christianity, but also publicly deride it and constitute themselves its dedicated antagonists?
Questions of this type were among those that I submitted to the B.B.C. in preparation for my discussions with your Lordships. The B.B.C., I am sorry to say—though it would not be a surprise to the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, who knows them far better than I do—were far too "cagey" to answer these questions, advising me to read Sir William Haley's lecture again, which I did, but which I found in a way a little tiresome and a gratuitous piece of exhortation. But one extract from the letter I received throws a painful light on the inability of the B.B.C. to know what they think, or, if they do know, to tell the public who after all, in the last resort are their masters. They were good enough, in the first place, to suggest giving me any in 584 formation I required. This is the quotation:As to what Christian values amount to and whether they can be propounded by those who are not Christians"—I, in fact, asked whether they could be propounded by well-known atheists or agnostics who style themselves humanists—these questions must, of course, to some extent be a matter of personal opinion.In other words, it is an open question whether brilliant and sincere opponents of Christianity like Professor Julian Huxley and Professor Ayer—
I was not going to mention any Members of this House, but I would not dissent from a great figure like Bertrand Russell—can themselves be regarded as exponents of Christian values. This is an open question up to the present, though I hope that it will be closed in a right sense before we finish this debate. I am afraid that if everything has been said that can be said to interpret Sir William Haley's statement, it would have to be regarded as a masterpiece of ambiguity, capable of meaning anything or nothing and devoid of practical effect.
But we cannot as citizens leave it there. We are not entitled to leave it there, whatever our religious or irreligious opinions, if we demand clarity rather than confusion in public policy. This country is still in certain vital ways a religious country—more religious, perhaps, than when many of us were growing up, and certainly more so than when I was an undergraduate. It was, after all, only in 1944 that an act of religious worship was made compulsory in all our schools, and in all the recent discussions about denominational education there has been no serious disposition to question the wisdom of that provision as a necessity of our national health. I have paid tribute before and I pay it again to the Jewish community for their many services to our country and, in particular, for the example they set us in their relative immunity from crime. I feel also a respectful, poignant sympathy for all who yearn for belief but cannot reconcile it as yet with their search for truth and integrity. I hope that all such—many of them my friends—will 585 forgive me if I say that the British people today have a right to insist and a duty to insist that the Christian moral code and the basic religious beliefs of Christianity should be supported unequivocally and fostered by public services such as the B.B.C. and publicly-supervised services such as those of Independent Television.
I said earlier that of course I am not suggesting that no single programme of a secular tendency should be broadcast or televised.
§ LORD AMWELL
My Lords, does the noble Lord mean that everything that is at all critical of Christian theology must for ever be banned from this medium?
I know that my articulation is bad, but I said exactly the opposite in my previous sentence. However, I will say again that I am not suggesting that no single programme of a secular tendency should be broadcast or televised. I cannot say it more plainly.
§ LORD AMWELL
It is rather ambiguous to use the word "secular". I am talking about the highly critical and quite honest criticism that there may be of Christian analogy. Is that to be banned?
The answer is that in its own sphere it should not be banned. For instance, I should not prevent Mrs. Margaret Knight from having her say.
That is my answer. When in fact these militant opponents of Christianity, Bertrand Russell, Professor Julian Huxley and Professor Ayer, have been indoctrinating the public for years, it is fantastic to suggest that what I say is a novelty. I simply say that the critics of Christianity should be in their proper place; I do not say that all opponents of Christianity should be eliminated from the air and the screen. I usually find myself in a minority, and, for that and better reasons, would certainly not wish to blot out all eccentrics or anti-establishment groupings. But what is at stake is the overall objective and criterion.
Again, I am not going to be dogmatic on the question of how far at all a Christian code should be explicitly preached outside the religious programmes. For one thing, it can be argued 586 that preaching defeats its own purpose. But anyone who is adult—and, after all, we here are all adult—knows that the organisation of programmes and the selection of speakers cannot fail to be a means of promoting one code or another. The question is: what is to be the test of the code to be promoted if it is not to be one of pure entertainment?—which I understand the B.B.C. would be the last to accept as the sole criterion.
We hear a good deal at times of the necessity of reflecting current values, and, even by that test, as I said earlier, the Christian argument to-day need not be afraid of scrutiny. A public body has admittedly the duty of satisfying the standards of the moment. But, as Sir William Haley has himself pointed out in a different context in his distinguished lecture, a public corporation has at the same time the duty of elevating standards and providing leadership. The truth is that, whether it likes it or not, the B.B.C., of which we are so justly proud. cannot avoid giving leadership in one direction or another. I hope and pray that the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham—and there is no more sincere man in our public life to-day—when he replies will tell us and convince us that I have done less than justice to the purposes of the B.B.C.; that the possibility for giving Christian leadership is accepted, and that Christian religious and moral values are to be in the future, even more than in the past, their clearly acknowledged inspiration.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
My Lords, in accordance with the practice of your Lordships' House I must, at the beginning of my remarks, declare my interest, in that I am a director of Scottish Television. The noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, asked this question: Where does Independent Television stand on moral issues, and what are we trying to do with broadcasting? I cannot speak for anyone concerned in Independent Television other than myself, but the noble Lord has put out that challenge, and I think he is entitled to a reply from at any rate one Member of your Lordships' House who is concerned with Independent Television.
It is not always easy to write on a piece of paper a definition of one's views during the speech of another Member of the 587 House just preceding one's own, but I would say that I feel that our duty is to provide entertainment, decent and gay, balanced by thought-provoking programmes, including religion. And I can, I believe, support my statement by reminding your Lordships that, of 60 hours broadcasting on the main Independent Television network, some quarter is at present devoted to what I term thought-provoking programmes, which are to-day three times more numerous than they were four years ago. As regards religion, I would not enter into any controversy on B.B.C. or Independent Television, except to remind the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, that in fact the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. both enjoy the benefit of the same Advisory Council on Religious Broadcasting.
I feel that we owe a debt of gratitude to my noble friend Lord Boothby to-day, first for his speech and, secondly, for initiating the debate which has been graced by the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme. If one does not agree with all the noble Lord said, one admires the way it was said and the inspiration which was behind his words.
I submit that one or two things are clear to your Lordships since 1953-54. The first is that it is admitted, even by those like the noble Lord, Lord Shackle-ton, who opposed the introduction of Independent Television, that it is here to stay. In areas where there is coverage by both Independent Television and the B.B.C., approximately 75 per cent. of the people are taking Independent Television, which I think proves the point that it is popular. The second point which I think is now clear is that Independent Television has supplied competition to the B.B.C. and stimulated the B.B.C. over the whole range of its activities, which is all to the good. Thirdly, the Independent Television Authority has not fulfilled the gloomy prophecies which were made concerning that body.
I would not remind your Lordships of what the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, said in the past, except that I thought the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, was a little unfair to the noble Viscount when he implied that the noble Viscount no doubt still felt as he did when he made his 588 speeches in 1953. I am sure the Lord President could not come and speak on behalf of the Government if he still felt that the White Paper upon which the Act was founded was not, as he said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 184, col. 518]:a pure bred animal at all; it is a mule with which we had been presented—a dangerous and unworkable animal, a ludicrous and inglorious hybrid, a creature proverbially without pride of ancestry, and devoid of any hope of legitimate posterity.The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, could not be as unfair as that to the Lord President. I think the next point to be admitted is that Independent Television is a commercial success. Again, the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, was very frank and said he had made a mistake. I have no doubt that when the Lord President comes to reply he will say that he was mistaken when he said (col. 522):I concede that sponsored television might pay. I have some reason for believing that it would not, but I concede that it might, or at any rate that it might for a short time—What guarantee have we that this scheme will be commercially successful?One of the problems to-day is that it is too successful; and that is one of the reasons why we are having this debate.
I submit that we should approach the future of television in what I would term an expansionist and not a restrictive frame of mind. Speaking individually, the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said that he would like to see Independent Television abolished. The noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, said that he would resist its expansion. I think we have to look at this problem in a wide way. I do not think the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, did justice to the substance of his own arguments when he dwelt for rather a long time on whether there should be six minutes in one hour or advertising time spread over many hours. Those are comparatively trivial things compared with the big issue of what we are going to do as regards the future of commercial television.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
The purpose of my remarks was to indicate the extent to which Parliament was misled at the time we were debating this Act.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
I do not think we gain anything by arguing whether Parliament was misled. Personally, I do not think it was. Broadly speaking, I think that the Television Act 589 has worked well. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, referred to the obligation on the Authority in Section 5 (2) of the Act, which I will read to your Lordships:It shall be the duty of the Authority to do all that they can to secure that there is adequate competition to supply programmes between a number of programme contractors independent of each other both as to finance and as to control.In fact, when they came into existence, the Independent Television Authority were faced with a difficult choice. The choice was forced upon them by the action of Her Majesty's Government. They were given four bands out of eight, only on Channel 3. Therefore, they had this choice in front of them. They could either have competition in a limited, heavily populated area with competing programmes, or they could go for maximum coverage in the country and introduce very ineffective competition by having one programme contractor midweek arid another at week-ends. Those two companies would, of course, compete for such of the advertising revenue allocations as industrial firms were willing to lay out. That is not very good competition, I admit, but that was the choice the Independent Television Authority had. They went for coverage; and I think they were quite right to do so. because they now cover something like 95 per cent. of the population of the country.
Soon, we shall come to the new position when the choice which was forced upon them lapses, and when we are able to have a new wavelength. But, of course, the choice made by the Independent Television Authority has resulted in the present big profits. But as my noble friend Lord Boothby said, those who took the original risk risked great sums of money. Perhaps I may remind your Lordships that, before the corner was turned, an accumulated loss of something like £10 million was incurred by those who had hazarded their capital in Independent Television. I would say that were we to-day debating the demise of television companies, and the problem caused by such demise, there would be no word of sympathy from the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, or other critics of Independent Television, for those who had risked and lost all. They would probably be told that they deserved what they got; and I cannot but think at the 590 moment that they are deserving what they are getting.
Let us also remember that of the profit which is supposed to be so great, half goes to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I believe that, generally speaking, profit, which is reward for service properly rendered, is beneficial in a community working under free enterprise. It has given new opportunities for artistes and new opportunities for performers of variety. It has introduced new technical developments, created new technical industries; has earned something like 10 million dollars for this country (which the B.B.C. has not done) in producing films and selling them to America; and it is giving employment to thousands of people.
Having said that, may I add that I do not think profits are at all certain in the future. I do not think monopoly money is healthy money at all. I agree with that—fundamentally, it is not healthy. If competition comes, as it will, broadly speaking advertising revenue will be halved at once, and I think that the problem we may have to face will not be a question of profits for the fringe companies, although the big companies are secure. I am glad to say that Scottish Television is all right, although we are not one of the big four. Some of these small companies which may start in the future will never be able to face competition in their area without facing bankruptcy. As costs rise—and they are constantly rising—it may well be that in a year or two the problem for the minor companies will not be profits, but bow to sustain their existence. Therefore, I submit to your Lordships that an expansionist policy will automatically put the profit position right. What we have to decide is what is the right expansionist policy.
There are several alternatives, which I will not develop. There is one of the B.B.C. having a new programme without any recourse to advertisements but supplied out of public funds. That would at once mean an increase in the licence fee, which I do not think would be very popular with the viewing public. Then there is the possibility of the B.B.C. running a commercial service backed by advertisements. I think that that is a very bad suggestion. It is foreign to the B.B.C.'s status; it is foreign to the B.B.C.'s tradition, and it is foreign to the 591 B.B.C.'s purpose. Then there is the possibility of a third corporation being formed with the purpose of handing over any profit to Her Majesty's Government. With competition for profits in the future divided between the various television companies, and with some experience of how nationalised industries are run, I think that very soon there would be a burden on the taxpayer from such a corporation, and not a dividend to the Exchequer.
Lastly, there is the possibility of the Independent Television Authority allocating new bands for direct competition in existing areas which can carry competition; that is, the big areas. I would say that, on balance, that is probably the best solution. There is the criticism at once that this would mean a debasement of programmes; that competitors would at once try to capture the mass audiences, so that standards would get lower and lower. I would remind your Lordships, however, that in the Television Act there is provision which gives the Independent Television Authority power to ensure that there are balanced programmes; that is to say the Authority could step in and say, "No, we will not allow this generally low level of programmes but you must introduce so much of better-class programmes in order to make a balance." That seems to me to dispose of the argument that direct competition must necessarily debase the standard of programmes.
Before I conclude I would suggest to your Lordships two new big developments that we have to consider. One has been touched on by one noble Lord—that is, colour. I will not go into that topic, but it is a matter which must be considered technically when the future of television is under debate. The other, which I believe may have a vast effect upon the viewing habits of this country, will be the introduction at some time in the future—when I do not know—of the pay-as-you-listen system. Under this system. you will be able to listen to your ordinary programmes, but you will have to put something like 1s. in the slot, or 2s. or 4s.; and only when you have inserted your money will you be able to listen to a special event. Whether it will be by land-line, whether coming across the air with "scramblers", I do not know; that is all in the future.
592 I believe that pay-as-you-listen may be the salvation possibly of the live theatre, certainly of many orchestras and of many cultural activities; because if you get out of, let us say, 30 million people one million people willing to pay once a week for one good event—say a concert for which they are willing to pay 4s.—that would be £200,000. Supposing a third of that went to what I call the givers of the programme, your Lordships can see what a vista of new revenue may open up for the cinema, which is dying; possibly for the legitimate theatre, and possibly for concerts. I paint that picture very broadly to your Lordships merely as something which has got to be reckoned with by the Government when they come to consider the future.
So my conclusion is that so big and vast is this view of future development that it deserves most careful examination from every aspect, and I suggest that the examination should include sound radio as well as television. I personally should like to see the Government extend the charter of the B.B.C., which lapses in 1962, for another two years, to 1964, so that the present Television Act and the present B.B.C. Charter would both expire together. Meanwhile, and well before then, I should like them to appoint an authoritative, sensible (and I repeat the word "sensible") body, representative of all sections of the community, and also with a technical limb belonging to that body, to examine and report to Her Majesty's Government, whatever the Government of the day may be, how best in the national interest this vast new development. to which there must be no limit in the future, provided that expansion is correct and wise, can be dealt with by whoever is in authority at that time.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ LORD FRASER OF LONSDALE
My Lords, may I offer my humble praise to my noble friend Lord Boothby for his initiative and for his speech? It was a pleasure to me, as I am sure it was to others among your Lordships, to hear the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme. For my part, I hope I shall have the good fortune of hearing him again.
I ask forgiveness for calling to mind that long ago I sat on a Government Committee called the Crawford Committee, which was set the task of advising 593 the Government of the day what form the B.B.C. should take, whether it should be a public monopoly or a continuation of the old group of companies. I also, many years after that, sat for the best part of ten years on the B.B.C. itself as a Governor. I mention that because it leads me on to my next observation. It will be thought that having thus had something to do with the early initiation and the early direction of the B.B.C. itself, I should be a wholly orthodox spokesman for their point of view. I was in my younger days, and for a considerable time; but, as in the case of the noble Viscount, the Lord President, and no doubt with the members of the Labour Party, we all change our views as we grow older and as we grow wiser. I have begun in recent years to change my view about broadcasting, and I hope that what I say will illustrate why and for what reasons.
The first thought I want to present to your Lordships is that we, and all who think about this subject among the people at large, or at any rate the thoughtful, educated, governing classes among the people at large on all sides, are too much governed by fear in this matter, as in so many others. One interest was afraid that the introduction of radio would lead to a diminution in the use of the printed word, and a diminution in the advertisements available to sustain the printed word. I can remember the time when the shares of a very well known firm called George Newnes were at a low price for various reasons, one of which was the fear that weekly and monthly magazines would disappear when sound broadcasting took up the practice of magazine programmes. It will be within your Lordships' notice that Newnes' shares were the subject of a notable take-over bid from Odham's within the last few weeks, at a very high price; so this fear was unjustified.
When I first had to do with broadcasting there was fear among my then constituents in London, who made the parts of pianos in little factories all over St. Pancras, that there would not be any more pianos when so much canned music was available. But they were wrong. The fact that more millions could listen to pianos meant that a small fraction of them came to wonder what a piano was, and then to find out, and then to buy 594 one; and it required a very small percentage of millions to double the customers of the piano factories. Those who printed sheet music feared that their trade would disappear; those who made gramophone records had the same fear. Always they were wrong. What happened was precisely the opposite: that the general advertising given to the subject of music, thought and argument led to greater sales of these vehicles—the older-fashioned types of vehicles in the promulgation of the material—and not to less. I believe it would be shown that the advertisements drawn by the newspaper Press are not fewer than they were before television but are more. Why?—because even advertising itself is becoming more popular.
One or two of my noble friends here have observed that the public like advertisements. I am sure that that is true. I will not distinguish between the degrees to which they like programmes or advertisements; I would only say that as well as the liking for drama and competitions; and music, which is, after all, extrinsic, outside yourself, there is a great love among many people for themselves—they love to be told how they can get rid of their headaches, how they can enjoy their drink better, or how they can make themselves more attractive to the young men. They love that. It is not true to say that these advertisements are offensive to the masses. In my opinion, they are enjoyed by the masses, and that is why the circulation of these programmes is so much greater than that of the B.B.C. The thing takes care of itself, and it seems to me it answers itself.
What has always struck me as strange is that we politicians should fear bringing information to the masses; yet we do all that we possibly can to bring our information to them at the appropriate time. It is true that we do fear it, and I think that you will find that the Central Office on the one side and Transport House on the other are waiting with the greatest interest to see what effect this machine and mechanism is going to have upon their fortunes. You will find that many a Minister, many an ex-Minister, and many a Member of Parliament will he wondering what effect it will have at the next Election. We are guided too much by fear of the things that this new medium will do to us. Therefore I would 595 suggest that we try to seek for some principles which can guide us in our approach to this matter.
First, I would say that it is a good thing to place attractive material before the masses. I do not want to be controversial in relation to an excellent maiden speech, but if Lord James of Rusholme, who is an educationist, says that the level of this programme is low, he means that it is lower than that in his famous grammar school. That may be so; but not all persons can go to grammar schools. Like Lord Pakenham, who spoke of the religious field, I like to think that broadcasting and television in every field can attract all of us. There are those who are not attracted by other media. I am certain that there are many who do not from the printed page absorb much information or gain much stimulus or much material that will provoke them to thought. If, then, they come to listen and to look, and if, as a result, they are stimulated to go a little further—and all the circulations of the newspapers and the magazines suggest that this is true—then it has been a good thing to educate the masses. If you have to start educating them on a lower level, it is far better than not getting them to look and listen at all.
If we go hack fifty or seventy years to the time when the Daily Mail and the Daily Express started, we find that educated persons of those days spoke of them as being newspapers for the masses, on a very low level. But it was only a very low level by comparison with the high level which, in their vanity, they had given to themselves. What has happened as the result of millions reading these papers? People have come to understand what reading means and to profit by it, and thereafter to go on reading better things. I venture to suggest that we should not be such humbugs as to say that we do not want the masses to see what they like. The best way of getting the masses to appreciate things is to give them what they like, and we shall soon find that they will he choosing what they like better.
Another principle which might be permitted to guide us is the one I have come to acknowledge more since I left the B.B.C. It is a good thing to have the power in these Islands, and I believe in all communities, divided rather than con 596 centrated. I do not believe that it is a good thing, whether in the economic field, or in the field of government, or in the field of thought, that too much power should be concentrated in one hand. That, I think, is the main reason why I am not a Socialist. If it were not for that, I rather fancy I should be. In the realm of thought and ideas this same theme convinces me that it is not wise to put too much power in one hand.
I was party to the suggestion of the control and management of the B.B.C., and all the power, being in one hand. I do not think it was abused. I used to be very proud of it—indeed, I still am. But I came to change my mind, and when I saw the effect of the competition, even the threat of competition, from the I.T.A., I was confirmed in my change of mind. There can be no shadow of doubt that the B.B.C. is the brighter and the better for having to fight for its life instead of sitting on its backside. There can be no doubt that because of this competition, artists and entertainers, and all the profession of music and drama and literature, are better off, are getting more money and have had their talents drawn out of them, with new persons being brought into this field. I am impressed with that. I do not think it is a bad thing to change one's mind. I listened with pleasure to the candid way in which Lord Shackleton told us how he changed his mind. Of course, the facts have made him do so. It is a good thing to have an open mind. I congratulate him upon that.
Another principle to which I think we should give some weight is that which touches upon the question of advertising. Is advertising a good thing or a bad thing? We politicians advertise our wares. We want the merits of them, from the Left or Right, to reach as many ears as possible. So we stamp the country and we use every modern device in order to make our ideas known, because we think they are good ideas and we want the people to choose which they think are the best. Every Member of the House of Commons will agree with me, I am sure, that it is a good thing that, when an Election comes, we should have enough money and enough time to spend to make our wares known—to make it known what we are offering, so that the people can choose. Why, then, should we say that advertising is a bad thing when it is applied to goods and commodities? 597 I submit, with confidence, that it is an extremely good thing. It promotes the sale of the best to the exclusion of the less good, and it promotes the mass production of the best so that it may be the better for more people to buy. I therefore say that any expansion of the machinery for advertising is a good thing, and accordingly we should make every reasonable use of every new method of advertising—and one of them is television.
There are two or three principles which might guide us in coming to the question of what we are to do with this new channel. In my opinion we should use it. Not to use it is to deny ourselves a new source of pleasure and entertainment and education and a higher standard of living. If my premise that advertising makes more wealth be true—and I think it is—then the more advertising, within reason, of course, the better; and if we feel that we shall get too much, let us be certain that the lookers-in and the listeners will take care of that themselves. They will stop looking and listening if they get sick of it. Do not let us always be worrying about what others do. Competition will control itself if we let it have a reasonably free hand. So what shall we do with the new channel? The first thing is, let us use it.
The next question is, who should control it? Seeing that there is this widespread competition with the B.B.C. I should not mind if the B.B.C. controlled the new channel, but if they do they must swallow their pride and take advertisements on it.
§ LORD FRASER OF LONSDALE
If they do not take advertisements they will have to pay for it out of their existing licence fees, which means they will have to rob the sound service more than they have already robbed it; and I do not think that is fair on the blind or the old people or many others who cannot, or do not want to, look at television. If the B.B.C. are going to finance the new channel out of the licence fees, they have either to rob the sound service or to charge more for the licence. I do not think that that is sensible or wise, and I am quite sure that it is not politically expedient this year.
For all those reasons, I do not believe that the B.B.C. will be offered the new 598 channel. I am only guessing, for I do not know what is in the minds of Her Majesty's Government. If the B.B.C. are offered it, I do not think they will take it if they are told that they have to pay for it out of an increase in the licence fee. We are left with two alternatives. One is that it should go to the existing entrepreneurs, or others, to be used as a new channel, but subject to conditions very similar to those of the Television Act. I should not mind that, for I believe the present Act has worked well.
I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, when he says that the House of Commons was misled. Many of the Labour Party were and have now changed their minds. A few Tories were disappointed at what was done by the Government at that time, but surely they are not now. I am sure that the great majority of us, including people inside and outside Parliament, are pleased with what has happened and feel that a good and sensible thing was done in starting this new machine. The alternatives left to us are that the new channel should be added to one of the existing channels under the same or similar management to those who operate them at present. I should not mind that at all, for I believe it has been well done.
A debate like this may be minatory and have the effect of keeping the managers of the I.T.A. a little more in touch with the more rigid elements in public opinion; and if so, that is a good thing. But something like a debate of this kind every now and then and the ten-year inquiry seems to me all the public control that is required. I do not believe that we want a new Bill or a new Committee other than that which is due. There is something in my noble friend's suggestion, that instead of having two separate Committees—one next year and one in two or three years' time—the two should be brought together. I had not thought of that before but I believe there is something in it.
There is the third proposal upon which my noble friend here touched—"Pay-as-you-look," or, as it is called in America, "P.T.V." That has developed even further than my noble friend told your Lordships. It is a commercial proposition or at least a practical proposition although it has not yet made its way commercially in the United States, which is hardly a 599 good environment for it with so much free advertising television going on. If we chose we could say to a new Authority or one of the older ones—the B.B.C. or the I.T.A.—"Look thoroughly into this. We are willing to give you a licence to do it by P.T.V." We should then have a third kind of service through which anybody could put a shilling in a slot and get the programme he wanted. The viewer would be paying for the programme without advertising and without putting an additional licence fee on the public. I do not prefer that method. I prefer that there should be a third programme paid for by advertisement; but I have mentioned that as a possibility.
I have only one last point to make before reaching my last sentence, and that is to say, that I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, that we ought to go over as quickly as possible to 625 lines. No printer is content with the picture print that was available twenty or thirty years ago. No cinematographic enterprise is content with the standards of twenty years ago. Why should television be? I am on record as having said this ten years ago, in the Beveridge Committee—that they should have gone over then. How much cheaper that would have been than it will be to do so now! But it is not too late and they should go over, otherwise they will always be behindhand in their standard here as well as in their competition overseas.
My conclusion can be put very briefly. We should take advantage of this new medium which can enable us to have more fun, more stimulus, and more advertisements leading to more production. We should take advantage of it quickly, and we should not fear to do it by paying for it with advertising. As to who should control it, I do not fear some body of persons other than the B.B.C. controlling it. I believe that possibly if a third group were to control the new channel so that we have the B.B.C., the I.T.A. and the other, the three might produce better programmes than we have at present. I believe in freedom and competition here.
§ 4.47 p.m.
§ LORD TEVIOT
My Lords, I should first apologise to the House for the unfortunate occurrence on the evening of March 24 last. I was to move a Motion on this subject on the 25th, but in the 600 train on the way home I was stricken with a very serious and painful illness, from which I have yet to recover. I apologise to the House for having had, at the last moment, to give up my Motion. I was very glad to hear my noble friend, Lard Boothby say that there was no financial advantage to him in his connection with the B.B.C. and I.T.V., and I want to assure the House that I have no connection in that sort of way.
§ LORD BOOTHBY
My Lords, I must interrupt my noble friend for a moment to say that I pointed out that I was like a taxi with my flag up. That is my own interest. I have no direct financial interest. but I pointed out that I could be compared to a taxi with its flag up for both sides in the hope of getting some fares, and that I do get them from time to time.
§ LORD TEVIOT
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for what he Chas said. Some time ago I told a friend of mine, a distinguished man whom your Lordships all know, that I had noticed him on the television. I said that I had been very interested to see him on the television and asked him to tell me what happened. He said, "First of all, I was given an excellent luncheon, and then I appeared and did my stuff and I got £25."
§ LORD TEVIOT
My Lords, it was a surprise to me that he got that. That was what he told me. In view of that, I think one needs to be careful in studying the whole of this question, because there are so many people who are employed or who are paid, by the B.B.C., principally, for things they do. I am talking about the B.B.C. more forcibly this afternoon. I feel that that is something one has to consider very carefully.
There is one thing that I object to very much indeed. Suppose I produce a microphone, and give it to the noble Lord, Lord Boothby; and suppose I say, "We are having a most important debate on a very important international subject in both Houses"—which we do have—"Will you go out into the street and go up to anybody you see and push this microphone under his nose and say, 'What do you think about this? What do you think about that'?" I think that is highly improper, and not what the B.B.C. was meant for; and I hope that 601 a very strong effort will be made to stop that sort of thing. It does not happen only here; it happens abroad. Only the other day we were told by the B.B.C. of certain—I forget what they call themselves—television personalities. Well, who are they? We have one. Are there any more here? Things of this sort I consider thoroughly detrimental. Television personalities appear on "Panorama." I am dead against the things "Panorama" does and has done, the sort of things that come on that programme. Certain people come over to this country to discuss very important matters with the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, and we see them all discussed in "Panorama." What on earth do they know about it?
§ LORD TEVIOT
They get a television personality cross-questioning such a person, who always has his back to the camera, so that one does not know who he is or what he is like. Your Lordships are laughing, but that is all wrong. That ought not to be allowed. There was a certain case when a very important and unpleasant question, the question of Nyasaland, was being considered. I heard (and no doubt any of your Lordships who listened in heard the same) that a certain man called the Colonial Secretary and Sir Roy Welensky "liars". Are we going to have the B.B.C. broadcasting that sort of stuff? I say that we ought to stop it; and the sooner we stop it the better.
I should like to see three completely independent but strong-minded men appointed as censors on all international and national affairs, which are essentially a matter for the Government and Parliament. I think that that ought to be done. After all, publicity and propaganda are most valuable things. We get perhaps the Prime Minister to-night making a brilliant speech somewhere in the country, and it is reported in the Press tomorrow, How many people read it? How many people buy the papers and read that sort of speech? Yet we get some "tinpot" person—with a great exception—who is called a television personality broadcasting on the subject and getting the publicity of millions. My Lords, I am against that.
§ LORD TEVIOT
I want to see it stopped as soon as possible. We have those very important international and national affairs which are essentially the work of the Government and Parliament to deal with, and I want to see that broadcasting on them is censored by some responsible persons. I am sorry if I became a little worked up over that point, but I have felt it very strongly for some time.
§ LORD TEVIOT
I do not want to see another organisation, but I do want to see a great many things being done in the present organisation, and I mentioned just now some of the improvements that might be made.
There is no doubt about it, I do not agree with my noble friend Lord Fraser of Lonsdale very much. He talked about the music and the arts side of broadcasting. I am afraid that very often when that comes on, I switch it off straight away; and I believe that a great many other people do as well. But let us try to improve what we have without starting or organising anything further. For goodness' sake! with great respect to the noble Lord, do not let us have these people who are television personalities getting up and laying down the law. They have done nothing in their lives. We do not know who they are. Why should the people of the country have to listen to these people when they do not know who they are and do not know where they get their information from, any more than I do when I listen to them, which I now do not do any more. Let us, for goodness' sake! deal with these matters and improve the general "pushing over" of information which is of vital importance to the country. Let us see to it that the Government have control of this sort of thing.
§ 5.7 p.m.
My Lords, may I say first how greatly all of us, I know, sympathise with the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, in his illness, and how glad we are to see and hear him once again amongst us. What he has to say is always stimulating and entertaining, and we are delighted to have heard him this 603 afternoon. Of course, if he had ever seen the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, on television he would know that my noble friend never turns his back to the audience if he can possibly avoid it—for the pleasure and satisfaction, I would add, of the audience.
Seriously, I intend to address myself for only a few minutes to one point, and that is the point of the proposed third network, because I hold very strongly the view that that network, if and when it is set up, should not be attached to either of the existing networks. I believe that it should be, as it were, a third network. I thought that perhaps my noble friend Lord Boothby was a little unfair to the Director-General of the B.B.C. Later in his own speech he seemed to me to prove the point that the Director-General was making—I think the reproach can be levelled at the B.B.C.; that is to say, that where you have two networks, both of them competing, inevitably, in the end, you really have only one.
This is, I think, a really fundamental point, because what has been happening is that the B.B.C. have been trying to copy the vastly successful I.T.A.—perfectly naturally, if you like, but entirely contrary to what I am quite certain all your Lordships, whichever way you happened to vote on the set-up of commercial television in this country, would have wished the B.B.C.'s functions in television to be. I am quite sure that none of us, when we set up the Independent Television Authority, desired that both bodies should do the same thing; and each trying to do it better than the other. We felt that the B.B.C. had a particular national duty to perform—a function, an educative function, if you like—which unfortunately has not proved to be the case. As one now sees it, I think the inevitable result of setting up I.T.A., and its success, has been that the B.B.C., with its lesser resources, has tried to imitate that success, and has turned out what?—a pale shadow.
Thank you. My Lords, that is the principal reason why I do not think that the B.B.C. should be entrusted with the third network if and when this comes to be set up.
604 In addition, I would point out that, if the third network is in fact to be given to the B.B.C., very substantial additional funds will have to be made available to the Corporation. Here I agree again with my noble friend Lord Boothby. I think he is perfectly right when he says that insufficient funds are made available, and that the whole of what is collected from licences might well be paid to the B.B.C. for the improvement of their programmes—and also, incidentally, for technical research. However, the B.B.C.'s present income is insufficient. I understand that it has spent in the last year something like £12 million on its T.V. programmes; whereas the I.T.A., I am informed, has spent something like £20 million. Clearly, therefore, considerable additional funds would be required if the third network were to be handed over to the B.B.C.
The B.B.C., as your Lordships are aware, has resisted strongly any extension of broadcasting time; and has also, it is said, been responsible for a great deal of resistance to the change in the "higher line standard", which my noble friend Lord Boothby again impressed upon your Lordships. In passing (though this is a point on which I had not intended to touch) I am myself in some little doubt whether there is anything sacrosanct about the 625 lines. It seems to me that that is an immediate compromise at the present time. It will take a certain time to change over from the present position to the 625. Would it not perhaps be wiser to think in terms of a few years ahead, and perhaps, like the French, of 819, or even more, lines? I realise that there are technical difficulties, but if we are to change—and it is a substantial change—I should have thought that it might be better to make a change with an eye to the future rather than to accept a compromise for the present.
§ LORD BOOTHBY
Perhaps I might interrupt the noble Lord for one moment to say that there is, of course, a technical committee which is just about to advise the Postmaster General on the matter. But I am told by technical experts in the industry that the prevailing view is that the 625 lines is, on the whole, the best of the lot, either higher or lower, and the best we are able to foresee. I think that is true.
I am interested, but I have different information, which is that 625 is a compromise, and is about the best we can get in the present circumstances.
The I.T.A. has also made a claim for the third network. My Lords, here again, I am dubious whether there is sufficient finance. I am doubtful whether in fact the resources from which the I.T.A. gets its financial support would be doubled—that is to say, equally available—for another network. And that is not the only objection. Your Lordships were told earlier on about what I think is called the optional agreement. That was mentioned by one of the noble Lords who spoke in the debate. Was it my noble friend Lord Shackleton?—I gather that it was again my noble friend Lord Boothby.
On the contrary, we enjoyed it greatly. However, he pointed out that it was a very undesirable agreement, and that he thought that the companies should renounce it. But, as things stand at the present, the I.T.A. (I hope I am correct) has agreed that the "cream" of any other network which comes under its control will be distributed to the four big companies. Already we have had a number of speakers who have pointed out that Parliament—quite contrary to its intention, as I am satisfied from my own recollection of the debates that took place at the time—has set up a new monopoly. Indeed, at the time this matter was discussed one of the things which was said on every side in support of commercial television was that it would break a monopoly and produce variety and competition. That has not occurred, as some people warned your Lordships' House would be the case. As a result, we are now faced with two monopolies which, as I have said, are unfortunately busy copying each other, and therefore not producing the variety that they should produce.
In those circumstances, it is clear that if the third network were handed over to the I.T.A. we should have identical programming on both services. This, of course, is a phenomenon which is well known in the United States of America, and of which we have had a certain 606 sample already from the B.B.C. As I have said earlier, the B.B.C. is tending to model itself upon the I.T.A. programmes, and a number of speakers have related the unhappy experience of switching from one programme to another only to find exactly the same thing going on there.
I have what I hope may be a constructive suggestion to make. I believe that the third network Should be independent, and I believe that it should be independently financed. I would suggest (and I think the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, said something to this effect) that the third programme should be financed by P.A.Y.V.—Pay-as-you-view. I am reliably informed that research has been made into this question and that it is perfectly practicable. If that were done, I suggest that there would be two advantages. To start with, it would not draw off any of the funds available for I.T.A., and it would not involve an), demand on public funds. It would be tapping a new source.
In addition, it would, as it seems to me, inevitably mean the production of what I will call a popular programme—that is to say, what people want, because it is what they will directly and immediately pay for. You may, therefore, hope that you will get a more intelligent programme than is given on the other network. I say that for this reason: that if I want to tune into a variety programme I no doubt can do so, certainly on the I.T.A., and generally also on the B.B.C., probably at the same time; but I am certainly not going to put my pennies in the slot in order to have an inferior variety programme served up by another network. Therefore, one may resonably hope, I think, that a network financed in this way would be considerably more independent and considerably more responsive to public needs—and, I think, also, to minority tastes.
There is, if I may suggest it, another advantage about this particular system. I think it would give back to the performers on T.V. contact with their audiences. It would obviously not be a very complete or a direct contact, but their popularity with their audiences would immediately be reflected in what those audiences would pay; and they themselves would establish their personalities and their qualities, thanks to that 607 reaction, with the broadcasting network. It is not a very direct way, but I know that it is a deprivation to actors and actresses to be separated from their audiences, and I believe that to some extent this would bring them back into touch directly with the people who view them. If I may sum up in a few words, I believe that the third network should be independent and based on something different from the other two, and I suggest to your Lordships and to Her Majesty's Government that that different basis might well be through its financing through a system of "P.A.Y.V."
§ 5.20 p.m.
THE EARL OF BESSBOROUGH
My Lords, like Lord Balfour of Inchrye, I have to declare an interest at the outset, inasmuch as I am the director of one of the ten television companies to be licensed by the I.T.A. I should like to deal first of all with two points which have been raised by the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon. The first is the question of standards. I must endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, has said. that 625 lines is now the best accepted standard. It is the European and the Australian standard and that of nearly all the countries which have adopted television; therefore it seems appropriate that the United Kingdom should also go on to that standard. On the question of "P.A.Y.V.", I cannot say that I am wholly convinced by the noble Lord's arguments. While there is the possibility of a free service—that is to say, where viewers do not have to put something in the slot—the public will always choose it. Frankly, I should say that it was not immediately practicable, although perhaps when we go into ultrahigh frequencies and have further channels available, one "P.A.Y.V." channel would be desirable.
On the general line on which the debate has been running so far, I would say that I fully endorse what my noble friends Lord Boothby and Lord Balfour of Inchrye have said, and also the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, in so much as they have all tended to suggest that the third television channel should be run on lines somewhat similar to the present one under I.T.A. Your Lordships might consider it surprising that as the director of one of the present companies I should 608 say this, for if there were a second commercial channel, the existing companies inevitably would suffer a reduction in their revenue, but I think it is very important that some such solution should be adopted, for it is clear at the moment that the existing companies are only competing programme-wise with the B.B.C. and not to any substantial extent for advertising revenue between themselves. Therefore, true competition between them has not yet been achieved. The point I wish to make is that even if, under Lord Boothby's proposal, the advertising revenue of the present companies falls, as I think it inevitably must, we must surely put the interests of the country first and support what seems best for it, rather than what may seem best for the existing companies. Naturally, some of them may not wish to end this very happy days-of-the-week monopoly, but, at any rate I hope that your Lordships will realise from what I have said that I am not in any way grinding an axe by getting up to speak this afternoon. On the contrary, financially speaking, I may be blunting it. Incidentally, I read carefully the Addison statement in 1951 and the remarks of the noble Viscount.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, before the noble Earl leaves the point he is making, would he give your Lordships the benefit of his experience as a director? If we increase the present programme time by 50 per cent., as we shall do if we have another channel, where is the talent coming from to provide the programmes? Or shall we have to put up, as we do to-day, with American tinned trash?
THE EARL OF BESSBOROUGH
My Lords, the terms of the noble Lord's question are not quite acceptable to me, but I will try to answer it. I was going to deal later on with the availability of artistes, but I will say now, instead of at the end, that there are a sufficient number of artistes to fill a second commercial programme. Indeed, I regret to say that there is a great deal of temporary unemployment among the best performers in the entertainment industry. As the noble Lord has taken me off my point about the Addison Rule, I think that perhaps I need not pursue it, as I have made the point and I hope your Lordships will not think it impertinent of me to speak today. That there should be any question 609 of whether directors of these new companies should or should not speak no doubt would not have arisen if the implications of the Television Act in regard to true competition had been fully implemented. It is in order that that Act should be so implemented that I should like to see at least two commercial companies in direct competition, seven days a week, in the main areas.
This is not the time and place to suggest which those two companies should be, but I believe that true competition will not be achieved unless, as the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, suggested, one company is vying with another for the attention of the same viewer in the same place and at the same time. Such competition would also allow the expansion of an industry which, by all estimates, is well capable of expanding. On the advertisers' side there is need for a second channel. I am told that if such a channel were authorised in the three main areas it would give regular employment to 4,000 to 5.000 people and provide some 100,000 additional engagements to artistes, designers and others, not only directly but also indirectly in a multiplicity of ancillary industries. Is it right that we should hold a thriving industry down in this way and deprive so many of employment? Should this not be really a question of giving more employment as soon as we can? I will not pursue this line to-day. Personally, I think that if it is going to employ more people, we should have it soon.
Is it right, also, that we should deprive the viewer of his right of selection?—for I do not consider that a mere choice of two programmes can be regarded as a right of selection. Nor can I subscribe to the argument, as I have already told the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, that there is not enough talent already available. As for the B.B.C.'s claim to a second channel, I do not think that that is acceptable. The B.B.C. is doing a very good job, it is true, but, as the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, has said, it already has complete national coverage and is available to virtually every home in the country, while at present the independent commercial companies have only so many days a week in each place. With all respect to them, are the B.B.C. so hungry that, despite their total national coverage. they would wish to deprive the indepen- 610 dent television companies of even one whole week in one place? The B.B.C. have consistently objected to the extension of the scheduled hours for their own existing service. Moreover, they have consistently pleaded the need for larger revenue. If the B.B.C. do not feel that they can afford the extra cost inherent in extending their present scheduled hours, how can they possibly contemplate the operation of an independent second service, no matter what its hours may be? What are we to contemplate in the B.B.C.'s proposals—a television licence of £5 or £10? I do not know which it may be, but I am afraid that neither would be very acceptable.
I repeat that I believe in healthy competition in an expanding industry, and believe that the implementation of the proposals of the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, and of the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of lnchrye, would be the best way of letting it grow. I do not know whether ultimately the limit of three programmes is the right one—in sound radio, if you have a reasonable receiver you can receive hundreds—or how long it would last. Economic circumstances will have to be taken into account, and subsequent allocations of channels to the United Kingdom will, I suppose, in the end decide. But all we are asking for at the moment is that overt competition should be permitted in each of the main areas. Never in the framework of creation has a Thursday been in competition with a Sunday.
With regard to advertising time, I thy not think there is anything that can be usefully added to Sir Robert Fraser's letter in The Times on Monday. That seems to me to answer most effectively the criticisms voiced and re-voiced by a distinguished member of the Labour Party who at the time of the debate on the Television Bill was, or appeared to be, the chief spokesman of that Party. Nor will I comment on the fact that, thanks to the new upsurge in advertising of all kinds, which derives largely from commercial television, one Sunday paper, at least, in this country appears to carry not 10 per cent. but some 40 per cent. of advertising matter in relation to editorial content, or what I might call their programmes. I hope your Lordships will permit me to say that I see no reason why this happy state of affairs should not be 611 so. The Press of this country is not governed in its own domestic, commercial matters by an Independent Press Authority; indeed, I think it is fortunate for the country as a whole that when the Press was established the idea of individual liberty was more acceptable than at the period when commercial television made its appearance. If a certain Labour Member of Parliament in another place goes on trying to hamstring this popular form of entertainment, as he appears to do from his letter to The Times today, it seems probable that the Labour Party may lose more votes in the next General Election than some of us might even hope. In any case, it is interesting to see that the Member concerned seems to be at variance in this matter with his Leader, who has said that Independent Television would not be abolished if the Labour Party came into power.
Finally, as I see the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, in his place, and having listened to his speech today, I should like to say that I consider that the Act drawn up under his guidance has not proved to be such a bad Act; and in view of the criticism he suffered at the time, I think the noble Earl deserves some praise for having created in this country a new and thriving industry and, if I may put it like this, a stepping stone across nationalisation towards the shore of freedom. I hope, therefore, that the suggestions of the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, and those who have supported him to-day will commend themselves to your Lordships. I think I know on which side the people of this country would vote if there was any intention to nationalise Robin Hood. I do not think that in this country there should be any stigma attached to people who, on this day of all days, happen to have backed a dark horse which was a winner.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ LORD SWAYTHLING
My Lords, one of the main reasons for the establishment of Independent Television was the provision of an alternative programme. Several noble Lords who have already spoken in this debate have mentioned how the present régime fails in achieving that desirable objective, and I rise only to stress that matter a little further. For instance, if a viewer turns on his television set at 10 p.m. he will find most 612 evenings that on both channels there is news; and if he does not want the news, he just has to put up with it. On the other hand, if a viewer wants the news and he cannot view at 10 p.m. he will get only a short resumé later in the evening. Why could it not be arranged for those two news bulletins to be shown at different times? Similarly, as has been said, variety programmes are often at the peak viewing hour on both programmes at the same time, so that anybody who does not like, or is bored with, variety finds that he has no alternative programme. I should also like to mention plays. There are a number of viewers who chiefly switch on for television plays. How often do they find that they have to miss the last quarter of an hour of the play on one channel, or the first quarter of an hour or half an hour of the play on the other, because the two overlap? It seems to me that this is something which could easily be avoided.
The only other instance I will mention is Wimbledon. Many people like to see the tennis at Wimbledon. There is not room enough for everybody to go there, and people like to see it on television. It has been arranged up to now that both channels should be able to provide viewers with the play at Wimbledon. But why should they both do it at the same time?—that is, for most of the afternoon. It would be perfectly fair to say that one should do it on one day from, say, two till four, and the other from four till six. At the present moment we even have the ludicrous position at Wimbledon of the provision of cameras on the centre court and No. 1 court, and with interesting matches going on on both courts the keen tennis enthusiast who switches on to view the play he wants to see finds that both channels are covering the same court. I was speaking about this matter to a leader of one of the independent companies the other day and he said that he entirely agreed with what I had to say. He then said that they had often approached the B.B.C. and asked them if they could not co-ordinate in some way, but could not get them to agree to any form of co-ordination; in fact, he said that if they altered their programmes they often found that the B.B.C., following suit, altered theirs. I believe that if I had asked the same question of the B.B.C. I might have got a similar answer.
613 It would appear to me, however, that, although it is a difficult matter to coordinate two independent bodies like the B.B.C. and I.T.A., the problem is not insuperable. It should be possible to arrange for co-ordination on these possibly minor matters, but matters which affect the pleasure and entertainment of a large number of people.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, we spend a great deal of time in this House, often on the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, debating great social questions such as (to give only a few examples) crime, juvenile delinquency, the Youth Service and racial discrimination. We usually come to the conclusion that there are few practical steps in the way of legislation, building or anything practical that can be done to solve these problems, but that it is largely a matter of a change of heart in human beings themselves. We come to the conclusion that parents should realise more deeply their responsibility in the upbringing of their children. We realise that young people themselves should be more aware of the type of adventure and the satisfaction of creative work which is open to them. We realise that we have a duty to impart to our fellow human beings a wider understanding of each other, whatever our creed or colour.
In general, we come to the conclusion also that there are certain pioneering societies in these fields which are doing wonderful work but which need extension and further encouragement. And yet the most powerful medium ever invented for influencing individual people in their own homes, by sight and sound, is overwhelmingly at the present moment devoted to entertainment, and, unfortunately, in many cases, entertainment at the lowest common denominator. If I may say so without impertinence, I find myself in agreement with what was said previously, in the speech by the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme. My figures show that only 10 per cent. of the programmes of companies in the I.T.A. can be classed as serious, in the sense that they appeal to or make some demand on the viewers' intelligence or are of positive cultural value and that few of this 10 per cent. are broadcast at peak periods. The corresponding figure for the B.B.C. is 34 per cent., although I 614 would suggest that this figure might be higher had the B.B.C. not to compete for audiences with commercial television.
It is my personal opinion that it was a mistake to introduce commercialism into television in, this country, especially as we had a unique instrument in the B.B.C. which had shown what could be done in sound broadcasting. I am not suggesting that the B.B.C. has no faults: I agree that there are obvious criticisms which can be made of it. But in general I think that it has shown in sound broadcasting, and still shows, that it is capable of producing a wide range of balanced programmes, from light entertainment to the more serious programmes, and has shown, further, that it is capable of catering for minority tastes. If the B.B.C. is to be criticised I personally would criticise it mostly on the grounds of its public relations, because I do not think a great many people realise the degree to which the staff of the B.B.C. are high principled in what they are doing, and the pride that is taken in the Corporation in its complete independence and its improvement in the standards of programmes.
It has been suggested, I think by the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, that television broadcasting is on a par with the Press, the theatre and the cinema, and that if they were free so should television be free. But the fact is, unfortunately, that at the present moment there are only a limited number of channels, and that, as has already been explained by other noble Lords, television is devoted to two monopoly institutions. In these circumstances, I feel, like the noble Lard, Lord Shackleton, and other noble Lords, that public control should be maintained until the situation alters. It has also been said that it is a mistake for the B.B.C. compete with Independent Television in light entertainment programmes. But the Corporation is in a very difficult position on this matter, because unless it intends to retain some considerably sized audience with light entertainment programmes, it is in danger of reducing its audience to a size where it would be criticised as not being worth the licence fee. I believe that that is a real danger, and I think the fact of competition has forced the B.B.C. into competition in the field of light entertainment.
I do not wish to express any criticism of the programmes or the advertising 615 material of commercial television—far from it. In fact, I believe that within the terms of the Television Act, 1954, the various programme companies have done an excellent job. I wish merely to express my view that fundamentally television is a mass medium which can exert so powerful an influence that it is better directed by an independent authority whose criterion is public service. I believe that it is the experience of many who are working in the social field, or in the field of education or further education, that they receive the greatest of co-operation, and continued co-operation, from the B.B.C., a co-operation which, in the very nature of things, they do not receive from commercial companies.
Take a concrete example which came to my notice the other day—that of N.A.T.O. Nothing could be more vital to the very existence of this country than the N.A.T.O. Alliance; and if that Alliance is to flourish it must be fully supported by public opinion. N.A.T.O. receives the greatest of support, and continuing support, from the B.B.C., whereas, again in the very nature of things, it does not from the commercial companies, who tend to look at it, naturally, from their point of view, as a somewhat dull subject unlikely to provide entertainment. No doubt N.A.T.O., like Omo, could be bought space on commercial television. After all, in one way there is little difference between a deterrent and a detergent, but unlike Omo, N.A.T.O., fortunately, is not to be bought or sold for money.
I am not merely crying over spilt milk. I believe that there is still some milk left in the broken bottle, and there are two proposals that I would make—one which has already been made, and the opposing proposition, which has also been made, that the additional channels in Band 3 should be made available to the B.B.C. This would enable the Corporation to plan genuinely alternative programmes, to extend the scope of its serious programmes, and (though I know that there are technical difficulties) to cater more adequately for minority interests. In this Band I should particularly like to mention the provision of a television service for Wales, which at present has to share its television with the West of England. I do not want to get involved in controversial questions of Welsh language broadcasting, but I think it reasonable 616 that Wales, with her national characteristics, her national pride, her own native language, should, in keeping with the whole process of devolution that is going on between England and Wales, have a television programme of her own at least on the same scale as is provided in sound broadcasting by the B.B.C.
So far as the financing of a second channel by the B.B.C. is concerned, I must say that I fully agree with what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, that it would be well worth while spending the money if it had to be found. But I would also point out that of the present licence fee of £4 the B.B.C. itself, in the last financial year, received an equivalent of only £2 9s. 3d. There is a considerable amount that could be made up to it were it now to be allotted the whole of the licence fees.
The second suggestion that I should like to make I make with some diffidence. Under the Television Act the Independent Television Authority is itself able to produce its own programmes, and I should have thought it possible that the I.T.A., a public service authority like the B.B.C., rather than trying to prod its various companies into raising their standards, might have taken a certain amount of time on its own network to produce its own programmes on a public service basis. I can only throw out that suggestion and hope that there may be something in it. Finally, I would express the hope that the principle of public service broadcasting will not be neglected by Her Majesty's Government when they are considering the extension of television, especially since, in my opinion, it is in a position to make such an influential contribution towards solving our present-day problems.
§ 5.53 p.m.
§ LORD AUCKLAND
My Lords, the terms of the Motion of this debate concern the television services, and I think the maxim upon which we must work is, do the television programmes on both B.B.C. and I.T.A. give the service for which they are intended? It is my contention that when regarded overall they most emphatically do. It is important to remember that television is an innovation; in fact, independent television has been running only since 1955. When the motor car was invented and when the steam engine was invented there were 617 mechanical faults, and indeed there are still to-day. When a great invention like television manifests itself, there are bound to be faults for quite a considerable time. I approach this debate with no financial or business interest in the subject, but as a reasonably regular television viewer of both channels, judged entirely on their merits, when time will allow. I was particularly impressed by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, because in television language I happen to be a very ardent fan of his—
§ LORD AUCKLAND
—not because I always agree with the noble Lord but because the presentation of his views is always entertaining and always sincere. Indeed, if I may be permitted to say so, one of the best programmes which I have watched for many years was his contribution in the series, I believe it was, "Look at Life".
§ LORD AUCKLAND
It was last week. We have two noble Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, and the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord President of the Council, who are both outstanding television personalities.
What has television to offer? It offers music—serious music, dance music, the extraordinary type of music, so-called, the extraordinarily animal-like noises, that one hears coming from the tortured faces in "6.5 Special," which, let us be fair, has a very large audience and which has, in its own grotesque way, quite a polished mode of presentation. The only rider I would add is that a barber would serve some useful purpose during the course of that programme; but that is another matter.
The standard of drama on both channels is extraordinarily high. We have bad, in World Theatre, a particularly fine production of Julius Csœar. There are the Feature programmes, such as "Panorama", "This Week" and "Free Speech", which the medium of television presents in a most convincing manner. I am not going to split hairs as to which channel presents the programmes the better. If I were asked to give an opinion, I think I would say that the B.B.C. presentation is more reasoned 618 and restrained, but that the Independent Television Authority put mote spark and more life into the programmes; but that is purely a matter of taste. The old saying, "One man's meat is another man's poison", applies emphatically to television, as it does to any form of entertainment.
It is not necessarily correct to say that television should always be regarded as a medium for education. Personally, I prefer the more serious programmes; but the television services are catering for some 20 million viewers in this country, and those viewers increase year by year, and it is fair to say, as I believe, the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr pointed out, that if television were so bad, if the quality were so bad, there simply would not be 20 million viewers. It is true also to say that there are a certain number of people who are what they call "television addicts". I think it was last year in the Sunday Times that Mr. Geoffrey Gorer produced a series of articles on the general aspects of television, and he revealed some interesting points particularly regarding children watching television. Perhaps I may quote to your Lordships two extracts of statements that were made by children. The first is:If I am doing my homework with the television on I get my sums wrong. I try to get in the other room. It is on often.That is a quotation from an eleven-year-old boy at a secondary modern school. Then there is another:It is often on. If I am working I have got to keep looking up to see what is on. It makes me tired because it is on your eyes.That was said by a twelve-year-old boy who is planning to be an engineer.
Who is to blame for this situation? Many people blame the Government. Somebody said to me the other day, "Cannot you get the Government to do something about this?" My answer was —and I think any reasonable person's answer would be—that it is the parents' responsibility. My own daughter is not yet of an age to respect the true values or otherwise of television, but when the time comes I sincerely hope that I shall he strong-willed enough to keep a reasonable balance in the matter, so that neither eyesight nor homework is impaired. It is unreasonable to blame the Government in this regard.
619 Much has been said regarding the clash of programmes. It is true, for example, that on Saturday nights two films are shown, the one tending to clash with the other. Plays tend to clash. Reverting to the "6.5 Special", I would remark that following that programme on Channel 1 is an even worse cacophony of sound which I believe is called "Drumbeat". It has been suggested that nothing can be done to prevent these clashes. I contend that something can be done. There must be a number of outside broadcasts which could be looked into. I think that outside broadcasts—sport, and visits to Lake Windermere, among others—have provided some of the finest television, and all concerned in programmes of that kind deserve the utmost praise.
Now a word on advertising. Advertising such as one sees on Channel 9 is rather like the old classic rhyme:When she was good she was very very good,But when she was bad she was horrid.Frankly some of the advertising is horrid, particularly that concerned with detergents; but there is a certain kind of advertising—if I may quote one example, the advertising of Mackeson's Stout—which presents a lot of imagination. The point I would stress is that the products which are advertised in these programmes do not seem to be coming down in price at the shops. One would have thought that the point of advertising these wares was to reduce the price and so get the consumer to buy more. Whether they do or not, I do not know. Certainly the prices do not show much sign of coming down.
What of the future? I think that television has a great future, I do not believe that the time is yet right for a third channel. At present we have the two channels with a great deal of tidying-up to do on both. One hopes that one day we shall see colour television. I am not a technical expert, so I am certainly not going to try to foresee how and when that will come about. Possibly the noble Viscount who is winding up the debate may have something to say on this matter. It is something which the public at large have been discussing a good deal. The technical problems must be enormous. Then there is the influence of television on politics and politicians. I do not think that that matter has been 620 mentioned in this debate. I consider that as a political medium television can be rather dangerous. With respect to the noble Lord who initiated this debate, I would say that there are many politicians who are not photogenic or, if I may use the word, telegenic. I can foresee that if the policy of televising politics is carried too far there will be a lot of jealousy between those who have the "gimmick" of putting it over, whose features are attractive to the opposite sex, whichever way it may be, and those whose features are not quite so attractive. The latter may not be good speakers but are very good behind the scenes as administrators. I conclude by saying that this is the first time in either your Lordships' House or in another place that television has been debated for, I think, some six years. We can, and should, give the television authorities our earnest congratulations upon a job which has not been faultless but has been a veryfine effort.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ LORD BIRDWOOD
My Lords, at this stage I will try not to detain your Lordships for long. I have extremely little experience of television, either at the receiving end or at the camera end. That is through no lofty attitude to television whatsoever but merely a matter, as it must be with many of your Lordships, of the time available. I shall confine myself to two aspects. First of all, I want to cast some doubt upon the whole set-up of advertising, and possibly to suggest a different kind of development for it in the future; and secondly (I say this with great respect to my noble friend Lord Boothby, who has forgotten more about television than I shall ever learn)I want to put into words the attitude of the Director-General of the B.B.C. in regard to the particular point which Lord Boothby mentioned about the logic of this country speaking with one voice. I shall welcome, if he cares to do so, his criticism of what I have to say when he exercises his right to close the debate.
I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, who said that at this stage it is too late to go back on accepted principles. The argument as I remember it in this House in 1954 was that it was quite logical to extend to television the normal democratic processes of advertising which were recognised in newspapers, 621 theatre programmes, on public hoardings or any other aspect of normal public advertising. It was not so much that we saw any flaw in the principle, as that some of us felt at that time that a great and imaginative opportunity to mould the mind and the thought of this nation into channels of discrimination and enlightenment had passed by. It is not the alleged evils of the introduction of a new system so much as the fact that the potential virtue, the potential power for good, seemed at that time to pass. I would ask that, in consideration of any third network, perhaps that opportunity might be grasped once again.
I have said that there was no flaw in the logic of commercially supported television, yet I feel that certain very disquieting features have crept into what was to have been a foolproof system under the Act. In spite of certain ridicule which my noble friend Lord Bessborough has attached to Mr. Mayhew's doubts about advertising, I was personally impressed by his relevation of the abuse of what, it seems to me, was regarded as a "six minutes an hour" rule. I read Sir Robert Fraser's lengthy reply, and I have read Mr. Mayhew's further reply this morning; and I am still extremely puzzled as to the truth of that particular matter. But it seems to me that out of this controversy one could find a way to meet the criticism levelled at Independent Television: that advertisements too often creep into drama, news and other normal presentations and represent a really aggressive intrusion. Curiously, although I am in sympathy with Mr. Mayhew's general view, I am not in agreement with his remedy, which appears to be to alter the rule of an average of six minutes' advertising an hour into a firm ceiling of six minutes an hour.
May I, for a moment, develop in my own way my argument for an alternative? Let us admit that newspapers may live on the income derived from advertisements; that a charity might well thrive on the sale of programmes at some function, those programmes, in turn, deriving a profit from the advertisements in them. But when we come to apply that analogy to television it seems to me that it does not ring quite true. In a newspaper the advertisements are placed separately and concentrated on certain pages in the paper. The citizen who wishes to read his news knows exactly where to look for it and need not bother 622 about the advertisements; and the reverse is also true. If one wants to buy a house one knows exactly where to look in the newspaper for the appropriate advertisements. In other words, there is always the choice before the reader. He can look at the advertisements or read the news.
When we come to television, however, it seems to me that the whole trend is towards an insistence that we must look at the advertisements—whether it is a matter of a shared-out average of time over the day or a fixed ceiling per hour. With a system of constant interruption of programmes for advertisement purposes it seems to me that it becomes only a matter of time before the interruption becomes related to the programme itself. In other words, we are moving, in some way, towards sponsored television which, of course, it was the purpose of the Television Act to defeat. That Act, as interpreted by the Independent Television Authority, may be foolproof, but there appear to be too many loopholes for its abuse.
In this normal advertising process of which I have said a word there are certain things that we do not expect. We do not expect the Flower Maidens, when making their advances towards that rather unimaginative young man, Parsifal, to pause in those advances and remind us that their lovely dresses were made by Dior or Hartnell. We do not expect Brünnhilde, when bidden by Woltan to saddle her horse and ride into the fray, to say that she can do so only if the saddle is made by Salters. We do not expect the poet to halt his Ode to the Nightingale to tell us of the birdseed. The symphony is not halted to remind us that the violins came from Hill's, in Bond Street. Yet that is the kind of way into which freak interruptions of programmes can lead us.
I can see only one way to attach reality to the claim that commercial television is really interpreting the normal democratic principle of normal advertisements. That is to concentrate all the advertisements during the day, whether of the spot variety or of the advertising magazine type, into one known period. The viewer then is given his choice. He can either watch for the advertisements or he can watch for the news, or whatever his programme choice may be. The timings of advertising magazines are, of 623 course, published in the T.V. Times, and therefore it seems to me just a matter of attaching the spot advertisement to the timing of the advertisement magazine. The whole advertising programme is then recognised as such and the viewer may take his choice.
The question would immediately arise of which period would be allotted time for concentrated advertisements and how to avoid the charge that the system enables advertisers to crowd into the peak hour. I would suggest that, so long as the public know when to expect the advertisements, that would not matter very much. A perfectly rational basis would be to give advertisements a period of average popularity. There may be technical or perhaps economic objections to this course. Would advertisers come forward in such conditions? I do not know, but I would say that, rather than tolerate a system under which the advertiser, as time goes on, becomes more and more the master of the system, it would be better to take another look at the system itself. And it seems to me that so long as competitive conditions were applied equally to all advertisers, they would continue to seek their opportunity, for as the noble Lord. Lord Boothby, has told us, there is apparently a public which will always watch advertising for its own sake.
I believe it is recognised that although advertisers have taken risks they have done pretty well from the risks, and I suggest that nothing would more quickly win the goodwill of everybody, whether the highbrow minority or the majority that likes the most frivolous programmes, than for it to be learned that some of these advertisers had turned some of those immense profits to purposes such as subsidising opera, helping the Arts Council and even, perhaps, paying a little money to the World Refugee Year.
§ LORD AMMON
My Lords, did the noble Lord read recently the statement by the president of an advertising association (I forgethis name for the moment) in which he said that the purpose of 624 advertising—and he was backing up advertising on television—was to get people, by a process of conditioning, to buy what they otherwise would not want; that the consumer, in fact, was to be regarded as Pavlov regarded his dog?
§ LORD BIRDWOOD
My Lords, quite obviously, when people advertise the purpose is to sell the goods. I think that that is reflected in the immense increase in purchases and the success of advertisers in selling their goods. I am suggesting that, having made their profits, the advertisers would create a lot of goodwill if they would pass their surplus profits over to charitable purposes; and my noble friend Lord Bessborough has assured us that that in fact happens.
My Lords, I have only one further word to say, and it concerns this aspect of the nation speaking with one voice. It seems to me that, as time goes on, more and more television is going to be projected outwards from this country. Five years ago I doubt whether we appreciated the effect, the increasing impact, that television might make in interpreting this country in the sphere of Commonwealth affairs and international affairs. My noble friend Lord Aberdare has reminded us of the immense part television played in projecting the substance of the North Atlantic Treaty and what it stands for. Whatever criticism may have been levelled against the B.B.C. in relation to its Overseas Services, the sound Overseas Services, I think we shall all accept that the accumulated impact, year after year, of that clear, objective message, either in peace or in war, to the world has won the Corporation a reputation for truth that has paid this nation a very rich dividend. That, I think, is what was in the mind of Sir Ian Jacob, when he spoke of one message given with one voice. That will apply to television in the future just as it has applied to sound in the past.
For purposes of sport, and the great occasion of the Coronation, for instance, the B.B.C. and the Independent Television Authority already consult; and there is a Joint Committee for such purposes as child education, and so on. All I should like to suggest is that as the power of I.T.V. for projecting the actual programme abroad increases, so perhaps we may find a way to prevent two voices rather than one voice speaking. I am 625 not referring to the operation of individual companies in the normal commercial process of assisting a television station to set up overseas. I am not referring to the sale of equipment or anything of that nature. That is a perfectly normal commercial process which no one questions. I am referring to the matter of projecting one voice when it comes to the vital occasion. There is no reason why the life of this country should not be projected in the sphere of entertainment or the arts by anyone prepared to do it; but when it comes to a matter of international affairs I feel that we should not lose the benefit of what the B.B.C. has built up for us in the matter of representation of truth.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ LORD TAYLOR
My Lords, in his delightful old-world contribution to the debate to-day the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, expressed amazement that those who perform on either B.B.C. or I.T.V. should be paid for their services. He also said that those of us who get so paid should declare an interest. May I say at once that I have received very modest payments from both these organisations and that I wish they had been substantially less modest.
It has been a debate of very great interest and, I hope, of very great importance. We are all in the debt of the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, for the delightful way in which he handled his political "hot potato". Those of us who have T.V. sets are already in his debt continuously, and I must say that thoroughly enjoyed, and so did my whole family, his face-to-face interview with Mr. John Freeman, who did keep his back continuously to us. It was a joy to have him talking so intimately at our own fireside. Like the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, I thought out the adjective "telegenic" to describe his face, and it is a very good description. He has the most telegenic face it has been our privilege to see, and it set my family arguing for a good half hour after he finished. We had the same experience when we recently saw the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, performing on television; and it is the same when my noble friend Lord Shackleton performs. In fact, there seems to be a pincer movement from above and below the Bar which is 626 resulting in your Lordships' capturing the star positions on the little screen.
We have had, too, a splendid maiden speech this afternoon from the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme—another T.V. star, if I may say so. Perhaps he was a little pessimistic in thinking that we cannot make good the mistakes of the past. I hope that by the time I have finished I shall persuade him that there is another and a better pattern which we might have for our television services in the future.
I am sure we are all very pleased that the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, is to wind up for the Government. I confess that I have very warm feelings for the noble Viscount. Whether in defence or in attack, he is a master of surprise tactics, and we never know whether he is going to wield a bludgeon or rapier or, which we really like best, the still small voice of reason; and I hope it will be that one to-night. I used to work for another Lord President in another place, and part of my job was to go and hunt up what he called "good quotes"—good quotes being bits of Opposition speakers' speeches which could be quoted to show how mistaken they were in the previous views they held. I might have done that to-day. I could have tried it at any rate; but I might have come to grief had I done so; and I do not want to, because the capacity to change one's mind and to learn from experience is one of the greatest attributes of the human mind.
The noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, is now our Minister for science, and I want to appeal to him as a scientist. The Government are, in fact, conducting an experiment, a social experiment, in T.V. organisation. One must approach the results of any experiment with an open mind. The purpose of an experiment is to discover truth, and this may also mean admitting error. All we ask is that the Government should keep an open mind in examining the effects of their experiment and be ready to try another one if necessary.
I served on the Broadcasting Committee of 1949 under the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge. The noble Lord is a very remarkable person to serve under, and, if I may say so, it was a very remarkable Committee he made of us. That Committee conducted the most complete study 627 of broadcasting that has ever been undertaken. The noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, is no lover of monopoly, whether it is commercial monopoly or State monopoly, and he made us on that Committee approach the B.B.C. in a highly critical way. He made us examine every possible alternative to the B.B.C. monopoly. But at the end of the day we—or, rather, ten out of eleven; there was one dissentient voice—were forced by the known facts, having regard to what was in the best interests of the people of the nation, to come out against commercial television. The solitary voice was, of course, that of the present Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Selwyn Lloyd.
We were driven to our conclusion by one simple consideration which is very much in line with the thinking of the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme: that if there were any kind of broadcasting run for profit, and financed primarily by advertising, the first purpose of those who ran it would be, quite rightly, as I think the noble Lord said, the collection of a maximum audience for the advertisements. Programme planning would be dictated by the need to gather the maximum audience so as to get the maximum revenue. Put in newspaper terms, we should be bound to have circulation-hunting purveyors of human stories and snappy news, rather than serious, steady and accurate—or one hopes accurate—evaluations of all situations. If the B.B.C., or any public service system dependent on licence fees, continued running alongside a profit-making advertising system, it would be forced to compete for audiences, in order, as has already been said, to justify its licence fees. So, instead of offering three levels of taste, as the B.B.C. sound broadcasting does so successfully, we should inevitably get two or more light programmes competing at a lower level for the cheaper kind of popularity. That was what the Beveridge Committee said, and that is precisely how it has turned out.
The condemnation of our present system of television is its triviality. It is not wicked, save that it is a wicked waste of one of the greatest opportunities that science has ever offered to humanity. By and large, my Lords, I really think the I.T.V. programmes are pretty poor stuff. Recently they asked me to advise on the script of a documentary on mental illness.
628 It was, frankly, superficial. That did not matter very much; but what did matter was that it was very inaccurate. In particular, the people producing this programme were convinced that general practitioners knew nothing about psychiatry, which happens, in fact, to be quite untrue. I told them this was untrue. However, they did manage to dig out an old-fashioned G.P. who was prepared to go on the screen and say that psychiatry was bunkum. Then a little miracle took place. During the course of the programme, this old-fashioned G.P. was converted; and, instead of saying his piece as rehearsed, he came out with a reasoned plea for more and better psychiatry. So on that occasion, at any rate, the result was better than the I.T.V. deserved.
Occasionally, I.T.V. gives us something good, but for the most part it is pathetic and puerile. Its "give-away" quiz programmes are, I think, as the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, thinks, socially unhealthy. Its variety is unvarying in its tediousness. Its general level is calculated to stultify and wither the potentialities of what is really the most superlative organ in the human body—the human brain and mind. But, above all, unfortunately, it forces the B.B.C. to angle all its programmes to audience attraction. I think that in the circumstances the B.B.C. does wonderfully well. Its newsmagazines, "Tonight" and "Panorama", have virtually killed popular weekly pictorial journalism. I do not say whether this is good or bad, but I think it is a fact. Its light entertainment programmes are really "not half bad". It has given us, in "Hancock's Half Hour", a tragi-comedy of the small man "up against it" as good as George Grossmith's Mr. Pooter inThe Diary of a Nobody—and if any of your Lordships has not seen it. I can strongly recommend it as a first-class half hour's entertainment. In sport and in spectacle, on the farm and in the garden. it makes the I.T.V. producers look like amateurs.
Nevertheless, what the B.B.C. can do on a single mass-appeal channel is strictly limited. I like to watch my noble friend Baroness Wootton of Abinger in the "Brains Trust", but I always feel that she is being asked to waste her great talents in giving snap answers to queer questions rather than her wise and considered views on the great issues on which 629 she is our leading expert. But, given the circumstances, the B.B.C. is right to do this. It must attract and hold an audience by entertaining. It must play most things to the gallery; so there is not a great deal for the dress circle or the stalls, and little for the hard benches of the lecture theatre. We on the Beveridge Committee said that this would happen, and it has happened; and the responsibility is squarely on the Government. Against, one suspects, their own better judgment, they gave way to Back-Bench pressure with results precisely as predicted.
Now, my Lords, there is nothing very wrong or wicked in advertising. It is not among the great human activities, but it is a useful and necessary adjunct to the processes of production. Advertisement does not spoil The Times or the Daily Mirror—or,indeed, even the Radio Times. The slides and advertising films at the local cinema are quite good entertainment. Advertising on television need do no great harm provided it is a secondary activity and not a main revenue source of the programme-making authorities. I see no objection to advertisements on all television channels, though I notice that those noble Lords who are associated with I.T.V. would hate to see the B.B.C. debauched by the admission of advertising. I do not think there is anything very wicked about putting advertisements on the B.B.C. provided they take a small, second place—and that means provided there is no cash competition between the two channels.
§ LORD TAYLOR
I think I can answer the noble Lord's query in a minute. One would add this rider, however. All advertisements occupy a position somewhere between information and propaganda. The informative advertisement helps the purchaser to make a choice of purchase on reasonable grounds; the propaganda advertisement seeks to persuade by slogan and repetition, without the intervention of reason. Mr. Howard M. Last, who is the Advertising Manager of the Kellogg Company, put it thus:With television, we can almost sell children our product before they can talk. They know who the 'TV' heroes are before they can say full sentences. In the old days, children are what their mothers bought; now the kids tell their mothers what to buy.630 That quotation is from The Cornflake Crusade, an excellent book which I can recommend to your Lordships. It is the story of the building up of the cornflake industry in the United States.
In to-day's issue, Mr. Punch's learned editor puts it thus:I have been on holiday from Independent 'TV' for some months, and the holiday has done me good: I can now listen to the jingles with interest, sometimes with pleasure; I can even stomach the animated cartoon symbols, the dancing bottles, the vocal packets of suet, the crooning sachets of shampoos and so on. The mood will not last, I know, so I propose to have my say before disenchantment sets in. The commercials have improved quite remarkably during the last two years—not, I hasten to add, in aesthetic appeal, but in their general efficiency. The jingles are jinglier, the visual explosions more violent, the accents more mid-Atlantic than ever. Everything, it seems, is N… N-E-W! And, of course, more scientific. The pace is killing. Within a minute or so we are confronted by close-ups of cat food, shampoo, blocked nasal passages, self-slicing jelly-mix, disinfectant, nylons, lollies and more cat food. We have never had itso good.In the long run, my Lords, I doubt if the human race will stand for this nonsense. In the meantime, I suppose selling breakfast foods and detergents by these means does little harm. It would be another matter entirely if these sales methods were applied to the selling of ideas. On the other hand it must be pointed out, as other noble Lords have already pointed out, that most "TV" users dislike "TV" advertising, especially the insertion of advertisements in the middle of programmes. If we must have them, let us limit them to a minute in the hour. and let us keen them to the proper programme intervals.
As a consumer and as a worker, I do not like monopolies, commercial or public service, though there is sometimes no other way of doing a thing. The B.B.C. was the best monopoly that there has ever been. It remains, I think, the best sound broadcasting system in the world. The Beveridge Committee could see no way of breaking that monopoly without destroying their standard of service. Mr. Selwyn Lloyd argued cogently, in his Minority Report, that the television monopoly had to be broken, but he failed to show how two or more channels separately controlled could give real alternative programmes rather than competing light programmes.
I have thought a lot about this and I think that there is an answer. Suppose 631 we create by charter and licence a National Television Corporation as a second public service system, to work alongside the B.B.C. television service. Suppose we divide the television licence fees equally between the two for a ten-year period. If necessary, the licence fees could be increased, as they are a minute proportion of the capital cost of a television set; in fact, television is the cheapest form of visual entertainment ever devised by man. Suppose we allow both channels to carry advertisements, subject to real and proper control, which must be observed. Finally, suppose we write into their constitutions that they shall produce different types of programmes on alternate weeks. Thus, in Week I, the B.B.C. would produce a popular or light programme and the N.T.V. a more serious or Home Service style programme; then, in Week II, they would reverse—the B.B.C. would become serious and the N.T.V. light. By doing this, we should have broken the monopoly; we should have produced competition in quality, whether for serious or for light-programme-style entertainment, and we should have given viewers a real choice of alternative programmes, different in content and in purpose. Then, when a third channel became available, a third competitive corporation could be created and a three-week programme cycle could be worked, of light, medium and "real tough stuff".
The great discoveries of science have to be matched by equally great legislative action. That is the challenge of our time. When wireless telegraphy was invented, almost its first use was for the noble purpose of saving life at sea. Then, when the miracle of sound radio broadcasting came, it was a Conservative Government under Mr. Baldwin which decided that this must be used as a public service for the benefit of society rather than as a means of private profit. In pioneering sound and television broadcasting, the B.B.C. have led the world. Now we are slipping back, and by a deliberate and brave act of social policy we must put things right. Good organisations cease to be good if they become too big. I think that one television channel, with its vast and costly programme output, is enough for any one public body to handle. So I commend to your Lordships and to Her Majesty's Government a second and 632 a third public service corporation, not in financial competition, but charged to produce true alternative programmes, as an experiment in social progress to meet the wonderful potentialities which the cathode-ray tube offers to the hearts and eyes and minds and spirits of mankind.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (VISCOUNT HAILSHAM)
My Lords, it is certainly a somewhat curious turn of the wheel which has resulted in my winding up for the Government on the first major discussion of commercial and other television since the passing of the 1954 Act. Most of the noble Lords who have adverted to this fact have supposed that I must have changed my mind. I noticed that they had not. Those who were against it in 1953 and 1954 said to-day approximately what they said about it then, only pausing for a moment to say that the event had confirmed their worst fears, while those who were in favour of it in 1953 and 1954 were equally emphatic that the obvious success of the Government's plan made it impossible to argue that it was other than well-conceived and extremely successful.
I do not know why I should he assumed to be in any way an exception to the rule in your Lordships' House. Steadfastness of purpose and consistency of outlook on so wide a scale should surely be supported by a member of the Government and is an ornament to any legislative assembly.Nor do I find myself particularly embarrassed. The only embarrassment I find is that, whereas in 1953 and 1954 I thought I could speak with some authority upon television because I was a regular viewer and an occasional performer, I must confess that no Minister ever has time to look regularly at television and therefore can obtain his views only at second hand. Moreover, the intense interest with which one's colleagues scrutinise one's performance so inhibits that performance when it actually occurs, on the rare occasions when one can get the necessary clearances, as they are called, to appeal at all, that I no longer regard myself as an expert on this subject.
I am assisted in my genuine equanimity in accepting this challenge by the reflection that the Government brief to which I am speaking insists that I should 633 remain firmly on the fence, for a number of reasons which I hope will seem wholly satisfactory to your Lordships' House, as I frankly say they are satisfactory to me. If I should happen to put a toe down on one side of the fence or the other, as I shall do from time to time, I hope your Lordships will accept it that the more solid part of my anatomy is still firmly ensconced where it ought to be.
Perhaps I have progressed further, in a sense, than some of your Lordships from my 1953-54 position without in any way being ashamed of or altering the substance of things I tried to say to your Lordships then. This will not be the first time I have urged Parliament to take a course different from what it took. I remember doing so in another place all the way through the 1945 Parliament, when a chain of monopolies was erected, one after the other, by the Party opposite. The important fact which I would urge your Lordships to learn from this double experience of mine is that when Parliament has deliberately come to a particular conclusion of policy, that gives rise to a series of obligations which make it neither desirable in the interests of the nation nor, I think, particularly honourable in either of the contestants in the dispute to seek to alter the status quo before the experiment has had a reasonable run. As the noble Lord, Lord Taylor said, it is true that a deliberate experiment was made in 1954 that gives rise to moral obligations on the part of the Government and, I would venture to say, on the part of any Government which inherits the responsibilities. There are obligations to the B.B.C., which were solemnly undertaken from the Woolsack, and there are obligations to the Authority and programme companies which ought to be honoured by a respectable community.
It may be that the companies have made much bigger profits than was then anticipated. I frankly concede that I did not expect such profits to be made. I thought that in a period of full activity, as it then was, the scope for advertisement was probably more limited than it has subsequently turned out to be. It well may be that the success of the companies and the success of the advertisements were accentuated by the approach of an international recession which was not at that time anticipated. But one thing of which I am certain is that, Par- 634 liament and the nation having entered into obligations of honour towards the recipients of these franchises, Parliament and the nation ought to honour their bond both to the public broadcasting corporation and to the network that we set up in 1954. I think that anything else would he something less than honourable. That is primarily the general line I wish to take.
I should at this stage congratulate both my noble friend Lord Boothby on his introduction of this subject (if I am no longer qualified to speak with authority, nobody can pretend that he is not an acknowledged expert; everything he says is controversial, and the more interesting for that, although not always the more unexceptionable for it) and to join also in praise of the excellent maiden speech made by the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme. The noble Lord apologised to the House in that an element of controversy had entered into his speech. I do not think that that requires any apology at all. I have never taken the view that a first speech in either House of Parliament ought to avoid controversy. I think that this was a heresy first promulgated by the last Speaker in a speech in 1945, and I have never subscribed to it. What I think is true is that a first speech ought never to cause offence; but that is a different thing. The noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, said a number of things with which some Members of your Lordships' House will not agree—and the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, said so—but he did not say anything which was not well worth listening to or which could have caused the most sensitive mind the slightest degree of offence. It was, if I may say so, the sort of maiden speech which a Member of either House would be proud to make on a subject about which he had thought deeply and had strong feelings. I am glad that the noble Lord has broken his silence and I hope that he will come here more often.
There is, however, one thing that should say about this debate. I think that, listening to the speeches, an observer from Mars would feel that there was something very wrong about our broadcasting system. Those who, on the whole, favour the commercial system, like the noble Lord who introduced the debate, tended to say a number of rather harsh things about the B.B.C.; and those who, on the whole, favour the public service system, as did 635 many speakers, not only from the opposite side of the House, tended to decry the commercial television network. I am perfectly sure that if that were the impression received by my suppositious Martian it would be totally contrary to the fact. Whether we favour one system of broadcasting rather than another, I am quite certain that this country has probably the best broadcasting system in the world; and that I say in respect of the commercial network and the B.B.C. I will, when I come to deal with one or two other speeches, indicate in greater detail my praise for it. But, as I see it, the acknowledged reputation in other countries of both sets of broadcasting authorities seems to be one which evokes greater praise than usually penetrates the aura of public debate here; and I think that is the true view.
The other thing I would say on the same theme is that it tends to be overlooked, and has been rather overlooked in this debate, that both networks are, in fact, public services. Their differences I will dilate on in a moment, but it would be wholly wrong to say that either the B.B.C. or the network over which the I.T.A. presides is not a public service. Both are public services. The B.B.C., oddly enough, I think, have nowhere this laid down in their Charter. No one has thought of saying so, although it is clearly implied in the very institution and in the existence of the various national advisory councils and their constitution. Their obligation is to provide a balanced programme, a varied programme and a programme of high quality which people will listen to and look at. It is a public service. Unlike the situation with the B.B.C., the Television Act, 1954, imposes upon the Independent Television Authority precisely this obligation to provide a public service. Nothing could be more explicit than the terms of that Act. All the factors that I have enumerated as being the obligation of the B.B.C. are precisely laid down in that Act of Parliament: balance, quality, impartiality and the other factors that are required. The I.T.A. presides over a public service.
I would say, in passing, that those who took a view contrary to the Government in 1954 underestimated a little the value and extent of their own judgment in writing into the Act a number of safeguards (which were bitterly opposed from 636 various quarters of both Houses) which seem to me of considerable value and a great improvement on the original animal which, as my noble friend Lord Balfour of Inchrye rather teasingly reminded me, I referred to as a "mule." It has, at any rate, added, I think, hope of posterity to the mule, and in many respects it has improved it.
Where then does the difference reside? First of all, it lies in this. Whatever fancy methods of financing broadcasting may be thoughtof—and several have been mentioned in the course of this debate—the only sources of finance which have ever been successfully tried in practice are two: the licence fee and revenue from advertisement. Quite obviously, if you have a licence fee you run the danger of paternalism; and we all dislike paternalism. Obviously, if you rely on advertising, you render yourself liable to be accused of triviality and meretriciousness; and we all dislike, or at any rate pretend to dislike, triviality and meretriciousness. When you run the two systems together it may be that you get the best of both worlds or it may be that you get the worst of both worlds.
I would say, however, that some noble Lords have not fully appreciated the repercussion which one must necessarily have on the other for better or for worse. Some speakers have said that the B.B.C. ought to live in their own ivory tower, not sullied by any reference to popular appeal, and produce programmes of the utmost quality. My noble friend Lord Boothby was profoundly shocked that their lily white hands should be sullied by even the prospect of advertisement—a view which coincides, according to my information, exactly with that of the Governors of the B.B.C., although not with that of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor; and I am bound to say that on this point I have never been quite so orthodox as perhaps I ought to be.
§ LORD TAYLOR
Does that mean that the noble Viscount agrees with me or with the noble Lord, Lord Boothby?
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
I would say that I am not so shocked as my noble friend Lord Boothby at the prospect of the B.B.C. drawing revenue in part from advertisements, which would at any rate have the effect of breaking a monopoly. 637 I would say, in a personal capacity and for reasons which will appear, that it would be wholly wrong to suppose that there was a change of attitude in the Corporation or on the part of the Government, in so far as they have an attitude on the matter at all.
It is, however, inevitable that the relationship between these two networks must be mutual. I would say that the B.B.C. had had a profound influence on the programmes of Independent Television, who cannot afford to have it said that they never balance the prestige aspect in programmes which may originally have been undertaken for financial reasons. I am not suggesting that. I do not take the view of the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, that they are not inspired by a particularly high sense of public responsibility. I should say they were. But one of the sanctions of the Act is undoubtedly the presence of the B.B.C. running on the public service principle, and I would say that it was always intended to he so.
Similarly, it is wholly unrealistic to think that the B.B.C. are not going to be, and ought not to be, influenced by what is going on on the other channel. If people are going to be asked to pay £4 a year for every receiving set they buy, £3 of which is licence and £1 Excise Duty, for a service that they never use, I can assure the House they are not going to pay that money indefinitely, because they will instruct their Members of Parliament to bring that situation to an end. It follows that the B.B.C. are driven, at any rate to some extent, to cater for mass audiences; and for my part I have never desired that they should do anything else. I would say that it is inevitable, on the scheme that has been introduced, that the two systems would have their legitimate and proper repercussion upon one another.
The next point I would make is that I cannot share the view that Parliament was ever misled about the intentions of the Government in this way. The noble Lord, Lord Boothby, appeared to be surprised that what had been created was a second monopoly. He was not in this House then, but I must tell him that that is exactly what I prophesied would happen, because at that stage, and with only two channels available, that was all that ever could happen. Whether anything better will be forthcoming in 638 Chapter three is a matter Which he has discussed, and the House has discussed. But what has happened so far has happened exactly according to plan. To my mind, neither House nor Parliament nor the country has been in the least misled.
Nor has it been misled in the least, so far as I can see, about advertisements. The whole burden of the song which then came from the Woolsack, as I well remember during those debates, was that the whole policy of the Government was to entrust the control of advertisements (which is a very important matter) to the I.T.A.; and that is what has happened. What is alleged to be the Government pledge is this. The Assistant Postmaster General on June 22, 1954, said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 529, col. 245]:I have always envisaged that, so far as the spot advertisement is concerned 10 per cent—that is, six minutes an hour—would probably, or possibly, represent about what the Authority would regard as reasonable.A more clear statement that it was not appropriate for Government or Parliament to interfere with the responsibilities which were going to be put on the Authority I cannot possibly conceive. I must say that when I see these dreary, pompous letters in the Press, complaining that Parliament has been misled, or that some Government pledge has been broken, I am filled with astonishment that people should be so lacking in a sense of humour and that their memories should be so short. The Government have always said that this was to be a responsibility of the I.T.A., and the Government are perfectly consistent in insisting that that responsibility should rest there. Even on the finer point of whether the advertisement period should be a maximum of six minutes or an average of six minutes, if noble Lords care to pursue the matter they will find an average clearly put forward by Mr. Gammans on June 14, 1955.
I frankly feel that this idea that Parliament has been in any way misled about this matter is one which does not bear the smallest examination of any kind; and I think this rather needling, carping criticism about the details of advertisement is doing no good to those who put forward the public service view of broadcasting. On the contrary, I think that if the system is to work at all, it is wholly inappropriate for Parliament to intervene unless there is a gross breach 639 of the Act, which I do not think has yet taken place or is likely to take place in the future, with the responsible persons in charge of the I.T.A. I would say seriously that, whatever the rights or wrongs of this particular controversy, it is at least something about which the sanction of the switch has a certain relevance, if nothing more. The public do not, in fact, turn off the advertisements. They would soon do so if they felt at all concerned about it.
I should like to embark upon some of the details, although I think the House would agree with me that I should be unwise to pursue all the various hares that are merrily running round this debate. I think I ought to deal with one or two of the major points which have been raised in this broad framework. The case which I am going to present to the House is that the time for decision on some of the subjects, like the whole future of television, has not yet arrived. I think that is sound. It is not that it is "a hot potato", as it has been called. It is not something which the major Parties fear. I think that the time has not yet arrived, for the reason put by my noble friend Lord Balfour of Inchrye. The Charter of the B.B.C. does not run out until 1962, and the franchise of the programme companies does not run out until 1964. I should have said there was a great deal to be said for the noble Lord's theory that they should be allowed to run out together, but I do not want to be understood as entering into any commitment whatever on that score.
Quite clearly, however, I believe that it would be wrong to pre-judge that kind of general issue without a careful inquiry into all these matters when it can be reviewed again, because—and here I want to be quite plain—although I think it is not quite legitimate to complain of the profits of those who have risked their money during the period for which they have got their franchise, and during which they can ask for reliance upon the good faith of the Government, it would be wholly unrealistic not to consider that when profits on this scale have now been established, the terms upon which future franchises are given must be subject to review. After all, it is our business to be good stewards of public monies and to secure money from public services; and 640 whichever Party are in power, and whatever kind of inquiry is instituted, they would, I am sure, take that clear view. It does not follow from that that there should be no decision on the question of the third channel.
At the risk of being rather dull and technical, I want to say a word or two about some of the things that have been said this afternoon about the third channel. Thee are many applications for a limited amount of broadcasting space. There is the B.B.C., whose case has been ably argued. There is the existing I.T.A. The noble Lord, Lord Boothby, has the interesting and attractive theory that he can break the existing monopoly, which now consists of two, by adding a third monopoly, which would then be three. It is a controversial suggestion with which not all of us would agree at first sight. But it is another contestant: it is another runner in the race. And so, obviously, is the suggestion that the third channel should be financed on the pay-as-you-go or subscription basis. American experience has not so far proved encouraging, but these are matters which must be considered seriously and treated on their merits.
I think I must insist that the whole of this question must depend upon a prior determination of the answer to the question: what are we going to do about line definition and colour television? Those two matters are currently before the Television Advisory Committee, and it would be wrong, quite independently of what I have said about the ultimate future of broadcasting, to pre-judge that until we have had the views of the Television Advisory Committee on that point.
May I just indicate the kind of problem which is likely to arise? I think the House would readily concede that colour television is probably inescapably bound up with line definition. You would not want to make two changes in your receiving sets when you could make do with one. Secondly, supposing the Television Advisory Committee do report that the existing 405-line definition is inadequate, and that they do not want to turn to the American 525 or the French 819 but prefer, as the noble Lord, Lord Boothby suggests, the common European 625, it means that, for the purposes of any transmission on that particular definition, every receiving set in the country is obsolete, and either you must duplicate 641 your services to some extent or everybody will have to buy a new television set. If it were the latter, I feel sure that no Government would survive the outcry which would emerge.
It follows, then, that you are faced with the problem of a third channel which might either use 405 lines, in which case I venture to suggest you would hopelessly pre-judge the question of line definition and prevent a change, or run on 625 lines, when you must make some provision whereby those with existing sets would not have to change until, as time flowed on, their sets became obsolete and wore out in the ordinary course of duty. That means, I think, the provision of possibly more than one service on the 625-line definition, if that were adopted. It means the evolution and marketing of a universal receiving set for that channel which would also be able to turn onto programmes on the existing channel; and I think it means that the final position on that point could not rationally be taken, by this Government or any Government, until—it need not be too longdelayed—some advice had been received on the subjects of line definition and colour television. In addition, this complication would have to be borne in mind: that as 625-line definition transmits to the receiver an amount of information which exceeds that transmitted by 405-line definition approximately in the square of the ratio of 625 to 405, the width of channel requisite for 625-line definition is substantially greater than that on the existing method of transmission. Those are questions which ought to be looked at impartially, and I hope that I have explained to the House the kind of questions which the Government ought to consider before coming to a conclusion. I have already indicated that in the more distant scene we must have an inquiry before the ultimate decisions are arrived at.
The noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, who gave a speech which I know interested us all very much, asked a number of questions about the religious philosophy underlying the existing authorities. I do not know how far I, as a member of the Government, ought to answer those questions. I am not sure that he did justice to the Director-General (as he then was) of the B.B.C. in his statement of the existing position. I do not think 642 that a public service can be wholly impartial in questions which go to the root of morality, such as good faith, civilised behaviour, and indeed, within limits, of sexual morality too. We are all aware that these are questions which divide men very deeply, about which they demand freedom of expression, and yet about which, in a Christian community, there are certain identities of view, whether or not people hold the same theological opinions which support them. I do not think it is desirable for Governments to interfere very much in that kind of question, or for Ministers replying for Governments to expound more than a tentative personal view. I think the less that Governments try to prescribe religion and morals, the happier and more peaceably we shall live together.
I would also say that the content of programmes ought to be pretty wide and pretty free, and free from intolerance of any kind, religious or anti-religious. The noble Lord, Lord Pakenhan, found the statement of the B.B.C. confusing. I was not altogether clear about what he was really trying to tell us. It was clear that he did not wish to build a faggot for Mrs. Margaret Knight, or even impose a muzzle on her. But we cannot forget that the noble Earl, Lord Russell, Professor Ayer—there were others mentioned, and one could enumerate them—are among the most articulate and learned members of the community. The noble Lord, Lord Pakenhan. and I both accept the Christian faith, but I am not sure that it is really to our advantage., or to the advantage of our children, that in matters of public discussion we should seem to stack the pack against those who do not.
The battle for faith and morals, which is an age-long battle which we all have to fight, is, I am personally convinced, best fought by men entering the arena with bare hands and nothing more, and in the end it is the quality of our own testimony in succeeding generations which will prevail. If we seek adventitious aids, the authority of the State, the power of suppression, which we can do and which Christians have done for many generations past, and must do perhaps within limits of faith and morals even to this day, to that extent we shall render our testimony suspect. I am not at all sure that we should be wise to pursue this 643 line of talk to any very great extent. I would remind the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, of what St. Augustine of Hippo said on this topic in a little known work called De Catechizandis Rudibus. He was talking then about the tolerance to be extended to heretics, a subject very dear to my heart. He said:The heretics are the best schoolmasters of Catholic doctrine because they teach the church to define its own position and to think out its own position.I believe that that is something which ought to be remembered, and I do not think the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, whatever he may think of my orthodoxy, is likely to quarrel with St. Augustine of Hippo.
My Lords, may I just say this to the noble Viscount? He has misrepresented the case I placed before the House. I was quoting what Sir William Haley said in 1948, when he referred to the fostering of Christian values and said that the whole preponderant weight of the programmes is directed to this end. That, I gather, is still official doctrine, and I was anxious to discover what meaning was attached to the words "Christian values". So far as that is concerned, the noble Viscount in his speech has said nothing.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
The last thing I should want to do, especially on a matter of this kind, would be in any way to misrepresent what the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, said, or what was in his mind. The part of his speech I had in mind when I was making my personal reply to it was that part where he used the phrase that these values which he and I both hold dear should, I think his phrase was, be unequivocally supported and sedulously fostered by the authorities. It was only to this that I was directing my mind when I made the remarks I did, and I think perhaps our views about this subject, although they represent an identity, I should have thought, of faith and morals in this matter, are not perhaps the same on this issue of the extent to which the broadcasting authorities may be concerned. If I do differ from him, I do so with reluctance; and certainly I should not wish in any way to misrepresent what he thought. I hope I have made my own position plain.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
I would end by saying this to the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, who to some extent, I think, however much we enjoyed his speech, introduced a jeremiad. I do not myself share his gloomy view. Whether the system be such as is represented by the B.B.C. or by the commercial television network, I think the net effect of television on both channels is wholly good. It is very easy for us—may I say "us intellectuals"?—to decry the triviality and at times the frivolity of popular programmes. But the net effect of broadcasting on both sound and vision is that very many people who would never hear serious discussion at all now hear serious discussion sometimes; very many people who would never have admitted to liking music now are passionately interested in quite serious music. People who knew nothing about the world outside their own country are becoming interested in other lands and other continents. People who ordinarily would never enter a church or see a religious service are now admitted into the sanctuary. People who are kept at home, people who cannot move, people who are ill, people who are blind, and people who are young, and perhaps are denied the things which have made life most worth living to us, now have them available.
If you say to me, a father of a family, as you are entitled to do, "Yes, but there are dangers too. Yes, but right into the middle of your drawing room is the picture of the harlot and the adulterer. Yes, but dishonesty, viciousness and sin are depicted", then I say, "Yes, but they must meet it sometime or another in their lives, and they must learn to face it. Far better, I would say, that they should do so now in my home, with their father sitting by them to talk about it, than that they should see it, possibly under the influence of drink, in bad company, when the whole thing looks attractive and may lead them astray." So I cannot say that this great new invention is other than a net service for good, nor will I believe that the things which we have done have ultimately perverted the integrity of this nation.
§ 7.24 p.m.
§ LORD BOOTHBY
My Lords, before I beg leave to withdraw my Motion, perhaps I may be allowed to say a few words, 645 because for me this has been in every way a most satisfactory afternoon. In this extremely high level debate, I have achieved in its entirety the precise purpose I had in mind—and, incidentally, I have backed the winner of the Derby; so that the combination of the two has left me in a very placid frame of mind and a state of considerable equanimity.
Like the Lord President of the Council—indeed, like the Government—I am more or less on the fence in this matter; but I am a little coarser than he is, and certainly more critical.
I never thought that I should live to accuse the noble Viscount the Lord President of the Council of complacency. That never seemed to me to be a characteristic of his—rather of mine—but this afternoon he seemed to be a little complacent about British broadcasting in general, saying that really it was doing nothing but good, better and better, higher and higher, and was probably the best broadcasting system in the world. It is pretty good, but it could be a jolly sight better. Both the B.B.C. and the I.T.V. could be a jolly sight better, and I think we ought to go on nagging and gnarling at them. I think that criticism is the breath of life. as my noble friend knows very well, and that complacency is death—it stinks of death. So we must keep on at them in the hope that they will go on getting better. Certainly they are better than they were a little time ago, but, my goodness! there is still room for a great deal of improvement on all sides.
With regard to my noble friend Lord Pakenham, I would say that nobody respects his passionate sincerity more than I do, but as his speech proceeded I could not but help feel a slight sympathy for Sir William Haley and for the B.B.C., receiving these letters and having to write back the same sort of slightly equivocal answer, because I think it is the only answer that could be given; and, like the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, I was not quite sure when he sat down what he was driving at. Does he really think that the noble Earl, Lord Russell, for example, should be strictly limited in, if not entirely eliminated from, broadcasting or televising? If so, I would very much disagree with him because I feel that nobody can deny that while the noble Earl is almost a militant atheist, he is probably the greatest philosopher living to-day, and I am sure that we should 646 miss a great deal, and would have missed a great deal, if we had not the advantage of listening to and seeing Lord Russell on radio and television on many occasions during the last few years. I am sure that a slightly equivocal attitude on the part of the B.B.C. and the I.T.V. towards the question posed by my noble friend Lord Pakenham is almost inevitable in the circumstances, and I do not quite see what else they could have said.
Lord Teviot was, of course, straight hostile. He wants me removed from television, secured between the tongs, and as fast as possible. There is nothing I can do about it. I am one of these television personalities, according to him, who is doing such infinite damage to the public life of this country—coming along and talking about things before anybody gets the chance to talk to the Prime Minister, saying that the Colonial Secretary is a liar. But it is not so very long ago that a noble Lord spoke on these Benches and said that the whole of the Africans were liars. Nobody minded that very much. I think we are all getting a bit too mealy-mouthed over this affair. A little vigorous controversy does not do us any harm. It was characteristic of a lifelong Liberal that he should have advocated censorship of this kind. He also said that we should control and censor these television personalities if we cannot get rid of them. His speech was slightly offset, to my great relief, by the speech of Lord Auckland, who was good enough to say that this television personality did not upset him to quite the same extent as clearly it has upset Lord Teviot.
I would conclude simply by saying this. After listening with intense interest to every speech, and with particular interest to what the noble Viscount the Lord President of the Council had to say about the new channel, upon which I thought his remarks were authoritative, of extraordinary interest and absolutely right, I still feel that what I might almost call the Balfour-Bessborough-Boothby plan holds the field. Roughly speaking, it is that we should let the B.B.C. stick to its present network, which gives it national coverage; keep it clear of commercial television and give it enough money from licence funds to enable it to maintain the high standards which have been set up; and, as soon as is practicable on the right channel, as the Government will be advised by their technical advisers, set up 647 another network, either under this I.T.A. or another I.T.A., because there is no other method of getting rid of the two monopolies which do not really compete with each other. I believe that that is the only way to get rid of the danger of monopoly. And ultimately, at a later stage, we may move to a system of "P.A.Y.V." which is another extremely interesting development.
As I have said, my only purpose was to stimulate thought and discussion, and in asking leave to withdraw my Motion I would commend the Balfour-Bessborough-Boothby plan to the earnest consideration of Her Majesty's Government. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.