§ 2.48 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Earl of Dundee.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The LORD MERTHYR in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Clause 2 [Newsreels:]
LORD SHEPHERD moved to add to subsection (2):
and (c) that the playing time of the film is not more than fifteen minutes.
The noble Lord said: I do not think I need to speak at great length on this particular Amendment. The Committee will remember that this Bill seeks to extend the legislation of 1938 and 1948 which dealt with feature films and secondary short films. But it further brings into the quota and levy provisions the newsreels. A newsreel is defined in Clause 2 as
A film consisting wholly or mainly of photographs which, at the time when they were taken, were means of communicating news.
The "news" could be a wide definition and, as I cited on Second Reading, it might cover a Royal Wedding; it could cover horse racing of such a character as the Derby or the Grand National, or any incident which catches the public eye. I felt, in view of the fact that newsreels will have no production cost to receive quota, that it might be possible for producers to produce films coming within the definition of a newsreel but having a duration extending for thirty to forty minutes, and thereby replace short films which support the main feature.
§ I believe that that is a possibility, though not a big one, bearing in mind that the cost of producing newsreels is relatively small. They require no script, no staff and no supporting cast, and it would be possible, I think, to produce a newsreel film very cheaply and extend it in length so that it would be attractive to the producer, and the renter to exhibit newsreels, in the place of short films. For that reason I propose in my Amendment to limit the running time of newsreels to fifteen minutes. That would bring them into line with the definitions set out in the Second Schedule to this Bill, which defines a long film as one of which the playing time is not less than 33⅓ minutes, and states that the duration of a serial film instalment shall not be more than 33⅓ minutes. There we have laid down clearly what shall be the minimum or maximum playing time of particular types of film, and I believe that it would tighten the definition of a newsreel if we set a limit of fifteen minutes. I beg to move.
Page 2, line 21, at end insert ("and (c) that the playing time of the film is not more than fifteen minutes.").—(Lord Shepherd.)
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
The effect of accepting this Amendment would be to disqualify from registration a newsreel with a longer playing time than fifteen minutes. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, has explained to your Lordships that he has moved this Amendment because of the possible danger that other films might be crowded out by excessively long newsreels. The noble Lord said he thought that the possibility was a rather unlikely one: I would suggest to your Lordships that it is extremely remote. I think it would be very difficult in practice for an exhibitor 785 to find room for the exceptional newsreel that might run for, say, 30 minutes, unless it dealt with some unusual event which had such mass appeal as to secure a place for itself in a cinema programme.
It would not be possible for a producer to make an occasional film of this kind because to qualify as a newsreel a film must be one of a sequence of which not less than one is made every week. If there were any question of the film not fulfilling the definition of a newsreel, so that it could be shown as a short film, obviously it would be to the interest of the producer to show it as a short film, and not as a newsreel, because he would get the 2½ times multiplier—which is not to be given to newsreels. I feel that the exceptional newsreel—and the noble Lord mentioned the Derby and a Royal Wedding—which lasts more than fifteen minutes would be the kind of newsreel which the public would want to see; and there is no reason why it should not last for more than fifteen minutes.
I feel, therefore, that the apprehensions upon which this Amendment is based are unreal and that there are certain cases in which it might in fact be desirable, in the interests of the cinema-going, public, to have a newsreel running for longer than fifteen minutes. If, however, there should be any evidence that excessively long newsreels were crowding out other features we would certainly consider, with the Films Council, amending the levy Regulations in order to disqualify such films from the levy. I believe that such a step would certainly be sufficient to stop the production of any kinds of newsreel which, in the opinion of the Board of Trade and on the advice of the Films Council, were considered to be having an undesirable effect.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
May I thank the noble Earl for his reply which in the latter part I found very satisfactory. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
LORD ARCHIBALD moved to add to the clause:
(8) Nothing in this section entitling newsreels to be registered for Quota as British films shall entitle such newsreels to participate in the benefits of the film production fund administered by the British Film Fund Agency.
The noble Lord said: The point dealt with in this Amendment was fairly fully discussed during our Second Reading debate and I do not want to go over all the ground again at this time. I did feel, however, that the case from the Government side had not been really fully made on Second Reading. After all, this is a complete innovation. After 33 years of Cinematograph Films Acts we now, for the first time, have newsreels brought in for quota. Neither the noble Lord, Lord Westwood, nor I object to that. What we do object to is that at the same time they should be brought in to qualify for the benefits of the production levy.
§ As was pointed out on Second Reading, the production levy is not Government funds but the funds of the industry, and I feel that a much stronger case than has yet been made is required to justify taking £150,000 from a fund set up primarily to benefit feature film production, on which the whole industry rests, to subsidise newsreels produced by prosperous companies. The argument was advanced (not in your Lordships' House on Second Reading but in another place) during the progress of the Bill that the newsreels had a particular value because of their overseas propaganda effect. There is no logical reason why British producers or exhibitors should contribute in a special way towards the Government's overseas propaganda activities. If newsreels have a real value for that, then funds for that purpose ought to come from the ordinary funds which provide other means of overseas propaganda; and that, I believe, is a situation which Her Majesty's Government can justify.
§ The main point in putting down the Amendment, however, was to see whether Her Majesty's Government had given the matter further thought since the Second Reading of the Bill and whether wiser counsels might have prevailed, I beg to move.
Page 3, line 35, at end insert the said subsection.—(Lord Archibald.)
§ LORD WESTWOOD
I would ask my noble friend to accept this Amendment, in the light of all the arguments raised on this clause both during the Second Reading in this House and in another place. The majority of cinema exhibitors 787 are not showing newsreels for a very simple reason—because they are not news. None of your Lordships would buy a three-days-old newspaper if you wanted to keep up to date, but that is usually the length of time it takes before a news item becomes available to the public in a cinema. In some cases it is six days, and in others even nine days.
The clause as it stands permits monies to be paid out of the Film Production Fund to help subsidise the newsreels, which are not shown in the great majority of cinemas in this country. We have been told that the amount involved is something between £150,000 and £200,000 per year. For that sum of money there are several British producers who could make two or three really good feature films, and these films would be shown on every screen in the country and not on just a few, as newsreels are at present. Within recent months there has been a very successful batch of British films which were comedy films: I'm All Right, Jack; Carry on, Teacher; Two Way Stretch; Please Turn Over; Carry on, Nurse, are just a few of them. They were all modest budget films and yet they were all big box-office attractions and made a lot of money throughout the country.
As the noble Lord, Lord Archibald, has told the Committee, it is not Government money that we are spending; it is the industry's money which is at stake, and in my view it should be used solely for the purpose for which it was raised—namely, the financing of feature films. I do not object to the money being used for second-feature films and shorts, because they provide the training ground for stars and technicians, but that argument cannot be used so far as newsreels are concerned, as they do not employ any stars or actors whatsoever. The two companies which own and produce the newsreels are far from being poor companies. They are both prosperous companies, with healthy balance sheets, and both have substantial associations with large American production companies. I strongly support the noble Lord, Lord Archibald, in this Amendment and I hope that my noble friend will be able to accept it.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
The proposal to include newsreels in the quota 788 of levy arrangements is one of the few novel features in this Part of this Bill. As the noble Lord, Lord Archibald, has said, this question was fairly fully discussed on Second Reading by himself and others of your Lordships. He has explained to your Lordships that he could not add very much to what he had said then, but that he put forward his Amendment in the hope that "wiser counsels might have prevailed". I am sorry to have to tell the Committee that "wiser counsels" have not prevailed, and I have very little—indeed, really nothing—to add to what I myself said, I think at fairly considerable length, about this matter on Second Reading.
The sole reason why newsreels were not originally included in the levy arrangements was simply that at that time—in fact, until very lately; until television has become so universal—they were extremely prosperous and they were considered not to need any levy at all. Now, largely as a result, perhaps, of television, they are doing very badly. Only two companies, as my noble friend Lord Westwood said, are still continuing to produce newsreels, and they will not be able to continue to produce them if newsreels cannot get the aid of the levy. It seems a little unfair that, having originally refused to give any part of the levy to newsreels because they did not need it, we should now refuse to give it because they do need it. For that reason I think it would be both unfair and unreasonable to refrain from taking this step at this stage. I thought that everything which my noble friend Lord Westwood has just said about newsreels might equally well have been said not so very long ago about shorts and second-feature films, which at that time were doing very badly and which needed the levy very much and which at one time were the special object of concern by the trade. They were doing badly then and therefore they were given aid under the levy. Now newsreels are doing badly and it would be unfair to continue to discriminate against them.
The noble Lord said that the two companies which are producing newsreels are themselves prosperous. That may be so; but the newsreels are losing money and they will not go on if they continue to lose money. If the newsreels are to be judged as no longer having 789 sufficient appeal to the public to justify their continuance, at least let that happen without any unfair discrimination against them. Whether they really are so bad and so feeble as some critics say is a matter of dramatic or artistic opinion. We might have said the same about any of the films which are now receiving the levy. But at least if they are to fail by the test of not being worth the exhibitors' while to show them (which is, in the long run, the only test by which they can be judged), do not let it be as a result of unfair discrimination. Let them have a fair chance, the same chance as is given to all other kinds of films. Of course we know it is the exhibitors' money and not Government money, but we are doing this on the advice of the Films Council, who have recommended that these newsreels should now receive equal treatment with every other kind of production in this regard.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
I listened to the noble Earl with some dismay. When he said wiser counsels were not prevailing in the Government decision, it occurred to me that many of us on this side of the House have thought that for some considerable time, but now we have the noble Earl admitting it. I have listened to the case made by the noble Earl, and I do not think he met the case that was put by the noble Lord opposite and by my noble friend Lord Archibald. Surely the original object of the quota and of the levy was to support the feature film and, later, the short film only because they were essential to the cinema exhibitors; because if we had not got these British films the exhibitors would have little to show. But here is a very clear case, and it is being proved throughout the country that newsreels are no longer required by the exhibitors; they are no longer appreciated by the public. The public are getting their news first-hand from the newspapers and also from television, and obviously the cinema could never put the news forward in the same way as television. Therefore I see absolutely no reason why the cinema exhibitors, who are the men who find the money, should pay a levy to maintain a service they no longer require.
I believe that the reason the Government want newsreels to continue is for their overseas value. If that is the case—and I believe there is a case—then it 790 is up to the Central Office of Information to find the money. I believe that if the C.O.I. were prepared to subsidise newsreels we might get better newsreels and newsreels that would play a far greater part in putting the British way of life across in overseas countries. I am very sorry that the Government persist in this view. It means using private money; asking that that should bear the burden which should be borne by the country if it is a question of newsreels for overseas markets. I do not know what the noble Lords are going to do on this Amendment, but I think they will join me in saying that the noble Earl has not met the case which they have put this afternoon.
§ LORD ARCHIBALD
May I correct one point made by the noble Earl? He suggested that the newsreels were excluded from levy in the past because they were prosperous. But may I point out that, both at the time of the voluntary levy and at the time of the statutory levy in 1957, the benefits of the levy were channelled only to films which qualified for quota. Until the Bill which we are now considering, newsreels never qualified for quota and therefore did not qualify for levy: and neither at the time of the voluntary levy nor at the time of the statutory levy did anyone suggest that the newsreels should be brought into quota and therefore brought into levy. If, however, the Government have decided that this declining side of the industry is to be artificially supported, there is nothing we can do about it, and I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 2 agreed to.
§ Clauses 3 to 7 agreed to.
§ Clause 8 [Inclusion of studio or maker in credit titles]:
§ 3.11 p.m.
§ LORD ARCHIBALD moved to leave out Clause 8. The noble Lord said: This is a very small point on what I might call a very small clause. All that this clause provides is that the name and address of the studio, or that of the maker of the film, shall be shown at the beginning or end of a film. The background to this clause was, of course, something more ambitious. It was 791 originally intended that all British films should be compelled to carry a title saying, "This is a British film", and to have made that effective there would also have had to be a complicated provision compelling the British producer to introduce into all his overseas contracts clauses requiring overseas distributors to retain these credit titles and not in any circumstances to cut them out. Of course, such a clause would have meant saddling the producer with such an amount of litigation as to make his life hardly worth living. He might have heard, three or six months later, that his distributor in Venezuela, Colombo, or somewhere else, had cut this out. What would he then have had to do: apply for an injunction, or launch an action for damages? For if he did not, he would be breaking the new law.
§ As this Bill has progressed, the clause has become somewhat emasculated, and it now provides only that the name and address of the studio or maker should be in the film. But, as I think was recognised by the Government spokesman on Second Reading, or at least in another place, that is effective only in this country, where it is completely unnecessary. British audiences know when they are seeing a British film, and do not need the name and address of the studio or maker to tell them that it is a British film. When it goes overseas—and in some territories it might be important—if the overseas distributor does not want to have it on the screen that it is a British film, it is a very simple operation with a pair of scissors to take out that matter, and nothing can be done about it. So where it is effective it is unnecessary: where it is, necessary it is completely ineffective. Quite frankly, I do not like silly clauses in a Bill. I do not like ineffective and unnecessary legislation. For that reason, I move as an Amendment that this clause be deleted.
Leave out Clause 8.—(Lord Archibald.)
§ LORD WESTWOOD
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Archibald, that this clause is not necessary and should be deleted. I can fully understand why the clause was included. It was put in by the Government with good intention; but, as the noble Lord, Lord Archibald, 792 has told your Lordships, it will be impossible to carry it out. He has told you that, so far as our British audiences are concerned, the provision is not necessary at all because all the audiences know when a British picture is being shown. When the film goes overseas, there have been many instances when it has been altered and, by some judicious editing, shown and enjoyed by patrons in other lands. This provision in Clause 8 will not be observed, and I suggest that it could come out.
Most of your Lordships will remember—it is only a few years ago—that we had an excellent British film made which was enjoyed by many thousands of people: I refer to Whisky Galore. The film was shown in America, and when they got it over there they made several alterations to it. They edited it; they cut it, and then they changed the title. They went beyond Clause 8. From Whisky Galore it became Tight Little Island. Your Lordships will therefore see that once a British film goes overseas there is not much that can be done to see that the conditions in Clause 8 are observed. The clause is unnecessary and fatuous, and I hope that Her Majesty's Government will accept this Amendment.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Archibald, that this is a small point, but I hope I can persuade him that it is not entirely useless. As he has said, a great many of the best British films are shown abroad with the implication that they are American films and not British, so as to deprive the British film industry of the credit of producing them. But that can be done merely by failing to state that they are British, and by allowing the audience to infer that they are American. Now whatever legal provisions are made here, I do not think there is any way of imposing upon the distributors abroad a requirement that they must state, when they show a film, that it is British. I do not think that would be legally enforceable. It would be quite pointless and fatuous if we tried to provide ourselves with ground for successful legal action on these matters. But surely we could make it just a little more difficult by providing that, if they do wish to show it with the inference that it is not a British film, they must 793 then, as I think I said during the Second Reading, be guilty not merely of negative action by failing to state that it is British but of a positive act of dishonesty by leaving out an integral part of the title. That, of course, is a thing which could not give ground for legal action, but it could give ground for comment and that would make it a little more difficult to do. Distributors cannot make such omissions unless they positively commit an act of dishonesty. We cannot prevent them from being dishonest, but we can at least make it so that they have got to do a dishonest thing if they are going to misrepresent the origin. I do not think that this is an entirely useless or pointless thing to do. Whatever we did, I do not think we could make it legally enforceable to state that it is a British film: we are merely making it, we hope, a little more difficult for dishonest people to make it appear that it is not.
§ LORD ARCHIBALD
Having, perhaps, a wider knowledge of the international film business than the noble Earl, may I say that I am less persuaded of the efficacy of this clause. I am not persuaded. Nevertheless, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 8 agreed to.
§ Clauses 9 and 10 agreed to.
§ Clause 11 [Amendment of register, and registration of alternative particulars]:
LORD ARCHIBALD moved to add to subsection (5):
Provided that for the purposes of this subsection alterations in the Register as regards playing time made within three months of the date of original registration shall be ignored.
The noble Lord said: This is a small fairly technical point, which I explained during the Second Reading debate, and I need only take a minute or two on it now. I hope that it is one on which the Government are going to meet us, because it is entirely technical. May I say that if they feel that the period of three months specified in the Amendment is too long, I shall be quite happy to accept 30 or 45 days in substitution for it?
§ The Amendment applies mainly to British producers. After they have registered their films and have had an 794 opportunity of seeing how audiences react to them, they may want to do a little editing which might have the effect of changing the registered length, and that has to be done within a month or six weeks of a film having been registered. That produces an unnecessary amount of work for the renters, who need to re-register if they are to satisfy the whole requirements of this clause, which otherwise is a very good one. I think that there is no section of the industry which would be opposed to the Amendment which I have put down, and I hope that, either in the form in which I have put it, or limited to 30 or 45 days, the Government will accept it. I beg to move.
Page 8, line 29, at end insert the said proviso.—(Lord Archibald).
§ LORD WESTWOOD
This is a simple and, in my view, sensible Amendment, and I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Archibald, that it would assist the British producers. The provisions contained in the clause as it stands are too restrictive. The noble Lord has told us the reasons for the Amendment. After a film has had its first run in the West End of London, it is sometimes—not often, but sometimes—the case that the producer can, by careful editing, improve the film and speed up the action. This applies to comedy films more than to any other type of film. When the film leaves the West End of London and goes out to the suburbs and provinces, the edited version, which is an improved version, is much more acceptable to audiences. If a period of three months or, as the noble Lord, Lord Archibald, has suggested, one month, were allowed to the producer, in which to make his alterations and improvements, it would be of benefit both to the producers and exhibitors generally and I am confident would make the picture much more attractive, especially at the box office. I support this Amendment.
LORD ST. OSWALD
This Amendment involves a delicate balance between renters' rights and exhibitors' rights, or perhaps I should say, between exhibitors' protection and renters' convenience. The noble Lord, Lord Archibald, considers that the law as proposed in this Bill will bear too heavily on the renters, but I am 795 afraid that he has not persuaded me or the Government of that. He has made the need for occasional cutting, and even drastic cutting, during, the pre-release run quite plain and that is not contested. Something that may make even a film director laugh, may not make an audience laugh and therefore would have to be axed. But this operation is, and remains, a perfectly simple one, without any Amendment.
Under Section 8 of the 1938 Act, a distributor can deliver an altered film without any notice to the exhibitor, so long as the alteration is not more than one-tenth of the running time of the film. That strikes me as a perfectly reasonable tolerance. An average film I suppose would be of 90 to 100 minutes' duration, which means that an undeclared alteration in running time of ten minutes can be made. If a film contains more than ten minutes of "dud" jokes, I should have thought that the director was "slipping" to a dangerous degree and might require "axing" himself.
In this deplorable event, the renter is still not tied to an unwieldy film. He can effect such cutting as he wishes, so long as he tells the exhibitor he has done so. That does not seem to me a very onerous obligation and seems a minimum protection to the exhibitor. It means notifying the exhibitor at the time the contract is made. The renter is always free to re-register the film at a maximum cost of 4 guineas—the new maximum cost of registration is 8 guineas—if he prefers this method. If he does neither, there is always the possibility that an exhibitor may be persuaded to take a film, in ignorance, which he might have refused in wisdom. We feel that it is only right to guard against that possibility, on the public's behalf as much as on anyone's.
The noble Lord spoke of the amount of work entailed. Naturally he has a greater knowledge of that than I have, but that occurred to me when I was studying the Amendment, and my advice is that it does not entail any great amount of work. It entails merely the renter's making a note of the fact that a film, which was a certain length when made and when registered, is now that much shorter, and making a simple announcement of this fact before the 796 contract is signed. In summary, we think it is wrong that a renter should be permitted to make severe alterations in playing time, and even in the content of a film, without bringing these changes to the exhibitors' attention, as this Amendment would permit. If he wishes to do so, which he might well do for perfectly worthy reasons, he should have to say so. For those reasons, I am afraid I cannot meet the noble Lord's wishes on this matter.
§ LORD ARCHIBALD
If the Government are not prepared to accept a very small, eminently practicable and reasonable Amendment such as this, I think that we might refrain from moving the rest of our Amendments, because it is quite obvious that none of them is going to get any consideration. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 11 agreed to.
§ Clauses 12 to 15 agreed to.
§ 3.28 p.m.
§ LORD SHEPHERD moved, after Clause 15 to insert the following new clause:
§ Application of Acts to televised films
§ ". In subsection (1) of section forty-four of the Act of 1938 there shall be added to the definition of exhibitor' the words 'and shall include the British Broadcasting Corporation and any television programme contractor'."
§ The noble Lord said: I must say that I sympathise with the attitude of my noble friend Lord Archibald, but I am going to move this Amendment because I wish to develop the argument that I started on Second Reading. First I should like to make it clear to the Committee that, unlike the noble Lord, Lord Westwood, and my noble friend Lord Archibald, I have no connections with the film industry. In fact, I can claim that on no occasion have I received a free ticket for any film premiere. I may also say that in moving this Amendment I am in no way attacking the television authorities. I am endeavouring to show an inequality that now exists between cinema exhibitors, on the one hand, and television authorities, on the other.
§ The Committee will know that in recent years the television authorities have increasingly exhibited on their medium cinematograph films which were originally produced for showing in the cinema. 797 The 1938 and 1948 Acts were passed primarily to give assistance to the cinematograph film producers. Then television was in its infancy, transmitting only to a relatively few people and for limited hours per day. To do justice to the case I wish to put before the Committee, I feel that I should go over some of the ground that I covered on Second. Reading. I think it will be accepted that film producers in this country were experiencing extreme difficulties, and that the 1938 and 1948 Acts brought into being a quota system which meant that cinema exhibitors were bound by Statute to exhibit a certain percentage annually of British films. In the early days these provisions must have caused hardship, but I think the Committee will agree that over the years they have benefited all parties: in fact, we heard from the noble Earl on the Second Reading that the exhibitors had exceeded the quota that was laid down by Statute, which means that they were showing more British films than they were called upon to do. Then, in 1957, it was found that the film producers will still experiencing difficulties, and by Statute a levy was put on all the cinema exhibitors in this country.
§ I would again call attention to what the noble Lord, Lord Archibald, said: that prior to the statutory levy the cinema industry had a voluntary levy. The producers have been receiving by Statute quite a considerable sum of money. I have no definite figures of what a distributor has received on a particular film, but I understand that if a distributor or producer earns £100,000 he receives approximately £30,000, raised from the exhibitors. Therefore your Lordships can see that, on one side, so far as the exhibitors are concerned, they have a statutory levy placed upon them, but in the case of the television authorities they have no statutory obligation as to the quantity of foreign or British films that must be shown through their medium. It is perfectly true that there are limitations on foreign productions but, as I am trying to show, the television authorities are today acting as cinematograph exhibitors and are continually and increasingly showing cinematograph films through their medium. They have no quota; they are not forced to show any fixed percentage of British films through their medium and they do not have to pay any 798 contribution to the producers who are producing films.
§ I believe that this inequality is something that we should put right. I put down Amendment No. 7, but I withdrew it because I believed that if it were accepted it would mean that no British films would appear on television, and that is something that none of us would wish. But I believe that the Amendment I am now putting before the Committee is possible. It would certainly aid the film producers, for they would then have a fixed percentage of their films to be shown on television, and, equally, they would be receiving from the television authorities quite a considerable sum of money which they could use for the development of their own productions, and in turn that contribution might well reduce the cost of our films and make them more competitive and obviously more saleable in the overseas countries.
§ I have not had any Parliamentary draftsman to help me in drafting the Amendment, but I ask the Government to accept the general principle that I put before the Committee: that the exhibitor and the television authorities, both exhibiting to the public through different media cinematograph films, should be treated equally in bearing the burden and giving aid to the cinema producing industry. I beg to move.
After Clause 15, insent the said new clause.—(Lord Shepherd.)
§ LORD ARCHIBALD
Before the Government reply on this Amendment, I should like to say a few words. I am generally in sympathy with the idea behind the Amendment, but I must say, with all due respect to my noble friend Lord Shepherd, that as he has put it down I do not think, is entirely the correct way of doing it. He has not distinguished between the two kinds of films shown on television. The entire British industry is opposed to the showing of any cinematograph films on television. We think it is ludicrous that films which may have cost several hundred thousand pounds to produce for cinematograph exhibition should be shown on television at a cost of a few thousand pounds and have the effect of damaging the industry which has produced the films. It is not a quota or 799 levy provision that we want, but greater success in the attempts of the industry to keep these films off the television screens altogether.
But there is another side to it, and that is with regard to the films which are specifically made for television. These are mainly the half-hour series films—some of them are now nearer to an hour, but in the main they are half an hour—the bulk of which come from America, of the I Love Lucy type. It is in regard to these series films made for television that the Government might well look, not necessarily for the scope of this Bill, but for future action, at the possibility of imposing a quota, so that where they are showing on television series of American made television films there should be a quota of British made television films to be set against them.
The situation with regard to British television series is at the moment rather serious. They were being produced in fairly reasonable numbers, but, for lack of a quota, the B.B.C. and the television contractors have been offering such ridiculously low prices for the British television series that it is quite uneconomic to make them, and they have to depend on being able to sell these films in the American market if they are going to get back the cost, or anything like it, with the result that the making in the British studios of British television film series has dwindled almost to nothing. I do not imagine that it would be easy to include a quota for television films within the scope of this Bill, but I hope that the Government will look at it and consider whether some action can be taken at a later date.
§ 3.40 p.m.
LORD ST. OSWALD
This Amendment was moved simply and lucidly by the noble Lord, and I wish I could put the argument to it simply and lucidly as well. I have not found any way of doing that. On first reading the terms of the Amendment, I tried to imagine myself moving it, in the course of which I worked up nearly as much enthusiasm as the noble Lord himself, though naturally not so much eloquence. It has an undeniable surface attraction, but I am now convinced, and before sitting down I shall try to convince the noble 800 Lord, that its beauty is only a little more than skin deep. To begin with, and going only a little more than skin deep myself, I should, say that this Amendment could not be effective, because the provisions of the Cinematograph Films Acts up to date—the whole family of Acts—bear on the exhibitor only when he exhibits a film in a theatre. As noble Lords are aware, the whole assessment for levy, as concerns collection and distribution, is affected by the number of full seats which can be counted, or at least the number of tickets sold at the box office. Exemption from quota can be claimed by an exhibitor on the basis of the potentially empty seats he can foresee, or the unsold tickets he can imagine and describe convincingly to the Board of Trade.
The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, has made it plain that this Amendment, like the last which he did not move, is inspired by the buying up two months ago of 55 films for television, and the possibility of further such deals which has been opened up. Although, as no doubt my noble friend would have pointed out, the purpose of the last Amendment required no alteration in the Bill, because it could be achieved by regulations, the object of this Amendment would in fact require a completely different sort of Bill. The main purpose of the Bill is set down in paragraph (a) of the Explanatory Memorandum. It reads:to amend the film quota legislation (which requires cinema exhibitors to show a certain proportion of British films) and to extend it until the end of 1967.That is clearly stated, and it is hard for me to see how, under those terms of reference, we could introduce controls over a completely different medium of entertainment.
If the noble Lords, Lord Shepherd and Lord Archibald, wished to argue on the strength of the situation they have described—that a new Television Act was called for—they could seek an opportunity, but not, I think, this afternoon. For my part, I am not seeking to argue against the noble Lord that television has become or has not become an exhibitor in the sense he used. I am only underlining the fact that it does not exhibit films in the medium which this Bill was designed to cover, but on the television screen.
801 In this connection the noble Lord is probably aware that the present Television Act already requires that programmes put out by commercial television companies should be British to a substantial extent. But if, as I understand him, he now says that the B.B.C. and Commercial Television contractors should register with the Board of Trade under the amended Cinematograph Films Act, I would tell him that the British Film Producers' Association themselves see very grave difficulties and complications arising from this.
I will give noble Lords some examples, first as regards the quota provisions. To start with, it would be necessary to define the sort of films to be included in the quota. This was touched upon by the noble Lord, Lord Archibald. There are many kinds. There are cinema films, long and short; there are films made of variety programmes shown the same day; there are documentary and advertising films and others, some of which have been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Archibald. Would the quota cover all these films, or would a different quota have to apply to a different category of film? It would be presumably necessary, furthermore, to determine all over again the precise definition of a British film for quota purposes. This is defined surely enough for the Cinematograph Films Acts, and to satisfy this definition an eight page form is required from a producer, supported by a statutory declaration, to enable the Board of Trade to pass a given film as being British. But this definition, which is for cinema films, would not be appropriate for many types of small television films. Entirely new requirements would have to be laid down for the implementing of this, even if the Government were entirely persuaded of the wisdom of the noble Lord's Amendment.
Six years ago, the quota problem was faced when the Television Act, 1954, was being considered. It was thought then by some that a full quota procedure should be written into the Act instead of the general provision that a proper proportion of recorded material must be of British origin. The idea was dropped because of the complicated nature of the legislation entailed, even in a specific Television Act. It is most unlikely that the existing quota, or any quota determined for cinemas, would apply fairly 802 to television. There was a time when only about 5 per cent. of screen time was secured by British films in British cinemas. The quota system was introduced to correct this state of affairs. But to-day something like 86 per cent. of all material shown on television screens in this country is British.
I observed, as I imagine the noble Lord did, the resolution by the Association of Cinematograph, Television and Allied Technicians reported yesterday. It condemned the quantity of American material on British television and sought to regulate the showing of cinema films on the television screen. It may be that from within the two industries themselves we shall find some answer to this problem. But, speaking as a relatively small consumer of either type of entertainment, it strikes me that so long as everything, or almost everything, projected on to the cinema screen is assessed for the quota, then everything projected on to television screens should also be taken into account. At present, 86 per cent. of that material is British. If, by legislation, we were to separate all films from this and impose a quota only on that section of television programmes, then television contractors might find themselves showing 90 per cent. of British material, partly under obligation, with cinemas showing only their 30 per cent. quota as ordained. On the other hand, they might feel themselves entitled to show less than before, if this, as I believe, is at present above the 30 per cent. of British film material.
The problem of applying the levy to the television programmes could be even greater than that of the quota. Take, first, the collection. I quote, with the permission of your Lordships, but with no great gusto, from the Cinema Films (Collection of Levy) Regulations, 1957, as amended by the Collection of Levy (Amendment) Regulations, 1958.The levy shall be computed by reference to the payments received by the person liable to pay the levy for admission to entertainments … at any theatre in respect of which that person is licensed, and in respect of each such payment, at the rate of 10 per cent. of the amount by which the total amount of that payment (not excluding the amount of the entertainments duty (if any) chargeable thereon) exceeds 11d.Always supposing that noble Lords have followed me so far, they will realise 803 that this provision would be totally inapplicable to television films, because nothing is paid above or below 11d. for watching a given film on a television screen, be it from your own or somebody else's armchair. As concerns the distribution of the levy, all power of selectivity would be lost if applied to television showing. The object is to encourage the makers of good films, and not the makers of bad films. I think the noble Lord did not bring that point out when he was mentioning the £100,000 earned and the £30,000 received back. To this end, distribution is geared to box office success. But there is no measurable box office success for a film shown on the television screen. I think the noble Lord would agree that some other measure would have to be sought. Would it be on the basis of the sum paid by the television authorities, on the basis of length, cost or in other ways? Any method, I suggest, would require careful and complicated definition, and all ways would, I suggest, excite ferocious criticism from some angle.
There would be yet another difficulty. Noble Lords will know that for different types of cinema film there are different rates of payment from the levy fund. Second-feature films have their earnings multiplied by two, short films by two and a half. But these scales would be quite inappropriate for films shown on the television screen. I have tried to put a reasoned, even if somewhat lengthy, argument to the noble Lord, and for these reasons, without expressing, or I hope implying, any direct hostility to the principle embodied in his Amendment; and because I think, and I hope he now feels, it does not come within the compass of this Act, I ask him to withdraw his Amendment.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
I would thank the noble Lord for his obviously extensive homework and congratulate him. He has raised points which I frankly did not think existed. I spent hours reading this legislation. I shall certainly read his speech with the greatest care and I hope with intelligence. The purpose, as I have made clear, in putting this Amendment down was to raise a principle, a principle of equality between the cinema exhibitor and the television authorities, who in my judgment are both exhibitors. I appreciate—I think 804 I do at least—the difficulties that would arise if I tried to persuade the Government to accept my Amendment, and on that understanding I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 3.53 p.m.
§ LORD SHEPHERD moved, after Clause 15 to insert the following new clause:
§ Irish films
§ ". Notwithstanding anything in the Cinematograph Films Acts, 1938 to 1957, a film made in the Republic of Ireland shall, for the purposes of those Acts and this Act be treated as a foreign film."
§ The noble Lord said: In moving this Amendment I should again make it clear that I am not attacking any person who comes from the Republic of Ireland or raising it in protest about the export of live horses to the Continent. But in recent years there have been built in Southern Ireland the Ardmore Studios. Those are very extensive studios, and very modern. I raised the whole question why the Republic of Ireland was included in this Bill because I felt that with these modern studios in Southern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland there was possibility of abuse.
The noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, in replying to the Second Reading debate stated the reason the Republic of Ireland was included. I will read his words, because they were very clear [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 220 (No. 35), Col. 1058]:
This … is an example of legislation by reference, and by reference to Bills which in fact have nothing to do with any Films Bill. Under the Ireland Act of 1949 the Republic of Ireland ceased to be a Hart of Her Majesty's Dominions, but under Section 3 of that Act it is provided that, until some provision to the contrary is made, any Act of Parliament passed before the Ireland Act and containing a reference to Her Majesty's Dominions continues to relate to the Republic of Ireland as if it were one of those Dominions.
He then pointed out, quite rightly, that as this Bill seeks to amend and extend the provisions of Acts of 1938 and 1948 which had been passed prior to the Ireland Act, 1949, it was necessary specifically to include the Republic of Ireland in this Bill. I cannot believe that it is necessary, simply because it was done in the past and because it may apply quite rightly to certain Acts, that the Republic of Ireland should be included in this Bill.
§ As I said earlier, in Southern Ireland we have these new studios. It is possible 805 for a foreign film to be made in Southern Ireland, with American directors, American producers and American capital, and so long as the percentage of the total cost comes to a certain level (I believe 75 per cent.) that film can be imported and shown in this country and will come within the quota which has been laid down for British films. In other words I would submit that there is a possibility that a basically foreign film might be made in Southern Ireland, with relatively low costs as compared with ours, brought into this country and used against the quota which has been laid down for British films. I believe that is a very serious loophole. I think there is one further point to which I should draw the attention of the Committee: that there are no reciprocal arrangements in the Republic of Ireland and no quota system; our films must fight foreign films and have no special protection. For that reason I would ask the Government to accept the Amendment which I now move.
After Clause 15 insert the said new clause.—(Lord Shepherd.)
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
This Amendment as it appeared on the Order Paper yesterday proposed that notwithstanding the Acts of 1938 to 1957 a film made in the Republic of Irelandshall not, for the purposes of those Acts and this Act, he treated as if it had been made outside the Republic of Ireland.That sounded a little difficult to controvert. The Amendment to-day reads "shall be treated as a foreign film". As the noble Lord has explained to your Lordships, the Republic of Ireland Act, 1949, provided that previous Acts applying to any of Her Majesty's Dominions, which would at that time have included Ireland, should continue to apply to Ireland unless the contrary was stated. But it is also our policy to extend to citizens of the Republic of Ireland the privileges of British citizenship and also commercial preferences and rights pertaining to the Commonwealth, although Ireland is not a member of the Commonwealth. Naturally everybody would probably prefer that Ireland should decide to enter into a fuller association of the Commonwealth not only with the United Kingdom but all the other members. That is the point of the Commonwealth. But it is our policy, which we 806 think is right, that although Ireland chooses to remain outside the Commonwealth nevertheless we shall afford to the people of Ireland the privileges which they would enjoy if they were in it. We are very anxious to do nothing which would depart from that policy unless there is a very clear case for it.
The noble Lord is no doubt aware that films made in studios in the Republic of Ireland are already barred from participating in the levy unless they are made by a United Kingdom company. That is a provision which applies to all the Dominions, and they agree it is fair, because there is no reciprocity on their side. So it could arise only if the film were made by a United Kingdom company. We recognise that there is apprehension in the industry that the studios at Ardmore in Ireland might be used by United Kingdom companies to produce films to an extent which would be prejudicial to labour and the studios in this country. At present we do not think that those apprehensions are likely to materialise. It is the same, I think, in regard to any Dominion. A company may want to take its staff abroad to a Dominion for a certain amount of outside work. It is extremely unlikely that they would want to do more than a little in studios in the Dominions when they have much better studios here, where everything can be done much more cheaply.
I think that, for commercial reasons and reasons of convenience, it is most unlikely that the United Kingdom companies would wish to use the studios at Ardmore to any appreciable extent in preference to studios in the United Kingdom. But we shall certainly watch the situation, and if it should appear that this was being done to a prejudicial extent, we should certainly ask the Cinematograph Films Council to advise us whether the regulations governing the levy should be amended in such a way as to prevent this from happening. It probably would not be a total exclusion; it might perhaps be a provision that a certain proportion of the time of producing a film must be in British studios—only allowing a few small shots which were reasonable in conjunction with outside work to be done in foreign studios.
We will certainly watch the position, but in the meantime it does not seem 807 that the danger which is apprehended by certain people is actually imminent. We do not want to take any action which would seem to discriminate against the Republic of Ireland, or indeed against any part of the Commonwealth. Therefore, we should prefer not to put this Amendment into the Bill, but to wait and see whether, on the advice of the Cinematograph Films Council, any amendment of the regulations might be necessary.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
I thank the noble Earl for his reply and I shall certainly withdraw my Amendment. I believe that this is the last Amendment on this Bill. May I say to the noble Earl and to the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, that, whilst on quite a number of occasions we have been thoroughly dissatisfied with the Government's attitude, we thank them for their courtesy in making their replies to us.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
I am most grateful to the noble Lord. I, too, should like to thank him and his friends for the most reasonable way in which they have made their comments on this Bill, and for so greatly facilitating its progress.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 16 agreed to.
§ Remaining clause agreed to.
§ Schedules agreed to.
§ House resumed.
§ Bill reported without amendment.