HL Deb 19 July 1962 vol 242 cc771-847

2.49 p.m.

Debate resumed (according to Order), on the Resolution moved yesterday toy Viscount Hailsham:—"That this House approves the Memorandum on the Report of the Committee on Broadcasting, I960 (Cmnd. 1770)."


My Lords, sometimes a two-day debate is not successful, for what needs to be said is usually said on the first day. But on this occasion our interest in the second day will be stimulated by the maiden speech of the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack. I am sure we are all greatly looking forward to hearing a full speech from him, although it is true that he has spoken on a number of occasions since his arrival on Tuesday.

I feel that I have some duty to endeavour to be a link between yesterday's debate and to-day's proceedings. Therefore, if I should cover some of the ground of yesterday, I trust that I may be forgiven, and I hope that I may give some personal conclusions, and in one case recommendations to Her Majesty's Government. I thought I should make it clear that I would be doing so in a personal capacity, because my Party, rather like the Government, feels that it needs time for reflection on this very important matter.

The noble and learned Viscount who leads the House said in his speech that he did not ask us to mortgage OUT consciences in giving approval to the White Paper. Therefore, at this stage may I say to the noble Viscount that, for my part, and I believe I speak for the majority of my friends, we give a cautious welcome to this White Paper? My Lords, I should have liked to say, and will in fact say it now in spite of the absence of the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, that we extend our sincere congratulations to him on his elevation to a new office. I do not know whether we envy him, taking into account my noble Leader, my noble friend Lord Williams of Barnburgh, and other agricultural experts who no doubt will be "at him" at the first opportunity. I certainly wish him a long life. I say that, although I do not wish him a long political life in a Ministerial position; but, however long it may be, I hope it will be a happy one.

My Lords, I believe the view is generally held in all quarters of this House that we had a brilliant speech from the noble and learned Viscount Lord Hailsham. It was admirable in its content. It could not have been easy for him, because he was a contentious figure in the early debates on the setting up of commercial television. I read his speech last year when I was preparing my statement on my own debate on television, and, in listening to him yesterday while he weighed up one side and the other, I could not help feeling that his basic convictions are the same. The noble Viscount spoke with restraint, and I am glad he did so. I only wish that some other noble Lords had shown equal restraint. There were occasions yesterday when speeches were received with a degree of distaste from all sections of the House. I believe there is a code in Parliament that there should not be special pleading; but that came out on a number of occasions yesterday. I feel that this is to be regretted, and I hope that this afternoon, and on a later occasion when we debate the second White Paper, such speeches will not be made.

May I say to the noble and learned Viscount that the Government have taken a wise and cautious view of the Pilkington Report, but they must be aware that they are going to face considerable pressure. We know a good deal about pressure groups. I would beg the Government, and particularly the noble Viscount, to remain staunch to certain principles and not to give way to any narrow pressure group. What is at stake is not the welfare of a particular side of an industry, but, I believe, in the end, the welfare of our people.

To illustrate the pressures which the Government will face, I would draw the attention of the House to a letter that was sent out on June 30 by the chairman of Associated Television Limited. It was addressed to the shareholders, and I believe I can quote it because it has appeared in the Press. The chairman writes: The Pilkington Committee has tabled a biased report which has one apparent objective: to destroy in one viscious blow the whole structure which has given the public the programmes they enjoy, and, in its place, to set up a second monolithic State institution. This is Lord Reith all over. They go on: It is utterly contrary to the whole tradition of a free enterprise country. It is outrageous enough that the Pilkington Committee emphatically disregarded the express preference of the viewing public. Equally deplorable is the suggestion that advertising time on television should be sold by the Authority—in plain words, sold by a Government agency in competition with the newspapers. It is interesting for us to remember the fears—the genuine fears—that were expressed about the effect on newspapers of their advertising revenue being taken away by television. Perhaps some of these companies feel, having regard to the fact that newspapers participate to such a great extent in these television companies, that so long as they do participate all is well. The chairman goes on: In protection of a free enterprise society and in protection of your own interests in that society, you should immediately write to your local Member of Parliament urging an outright rejection of the dangerous recommendations of the Pilkington Committee. Here is a very strong plea by the chairman of the company to its shareholders to bring pressure on the Government through Members of Parliament. I will not quote the figures I gave last year of the profits of this particular company, but, my Lords, I would ask the House to remember that in the past twelve months the profits of these commercial companies have been in the region of £28 million.

We have before us the Pilkington Report. I suppose it came to us as a shattering blow, and I, like the noble and learned Viscount, agree that it was a good thing that it should come. I do not believe there has ever been a Government Report that has been so widely read, even if the people have been dependant on their newspapers for its content. In fairness to the newspapers, whether they be shareholders of television or not, I feel that they gave a reasonable coverage to the Report, and I think the public now have a pretty good idea of what was in it. Considerable attack has been made on the Pilkington Committee, and I am glad that the noble Viscount spoke on this matter as he did. The members of the Committee were the selection of Her Majesty's Government, who set out to find as representative a group of people as possible. There was a sportsman, who has considerable experience, practical experience, of the training of youth; there was a housewife from Scotland; an industrialist; an artiste of considerable reputation; and others were people of considerable esteem in their own particular profession or business. This Committee received a tremendous amount of information. Nobody was denied or refused the opportunity of putting his point of view before it.

The Committee have now made their Report, and I must say that when I saw it I was delighted, but perhaps, after some reflection, it appeared to be slightly off balance. There is nothing in this world that is completely black or completely white, and there is some virtue in even those Parties and societies for which we have very little affection. Therefore, I would urge that we should look at this Report from a general point of view. There is much that is good; there is much that is sound. Some of the proposals are not acceptable, perhaps, because they are not practicable. We have the Government White Paper, and I have said that we give cautious support to it. It must be obvious to all that the Government, and I believe the people, are not happy with the situation in commercial television to-day. Equally, as I have said, there are some who are not happy with the proposals in the Pilkington Report. My Lords, I think we must look at the I.T.A., as the noble Viscount suggested yesterday, in the way that, whilst we may be opposed to commercial advertising and commercial television, we must recognise that it is here and we must live with it.

I personally have doubts as to how the Government will reconstruct this Authority. I think perhaps we should look first at the means of removing the various vices which are there. The most obvious vice (perhaps, the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, will not agree with me here; but I regard it as a vice) is the exorbitant profits that have been arising—£28 million, approximately one-third of its total income. My Lords, I believe that that is far too high a proportion. But how are these profits to be dealt with? I personally should be opposed to a system of special taxation on these profits. I think it would be wrong. But if we continue the present system, in which contractors provide programmes and sell advertising space, I do not think it could be dealt with satisfactorily merely by raising the rents for the use of the air, the wavelength, by the programme contractors; because inevitably this increase would be passed on to the advertisers, and eventually it would be passed on to the consumer. Therefore, my Lords, if we are going to raise the rents charged to the programme contractors, I believe that the Postmaster General or the Authority will need to have some control over the rates charged by the contractors to the advertisers.

As I understand it, at the moment advertising time is sold on the basis of a willing advertiser and what the article can bear. The rates have continually increased. In fact, I have a statement here by the chairman of Beecham's, one of the largest of the advertisers on commercial television. In the report for 1961–62, he writes: Home profits declined by 8 per cent. due primarily to sharp increases in the operating costs, and I may mention particularly a steep rise in the cost of television advertising. The combined effect of increased rates charged by the programme companies and the tax on television advertising was to put up the cost to us of an equivalent amount of television advertising by more than one-third. We see, therefore, the pressure on the advertiser to pay the rates. I do not think it was anticipated by Her Majesty's Government, When the Chancellor of the Exchequer put a 10 per cent. tax on the advertsing contractors, that it would be passed on immediately to the advertiser, and, of course, to the consumer. Therefore, we say, and I hope the House will accept it, that if we are dealing with rents we must also deal with advertising rates. There is a tremendous demand by companies, particularly in the toothpaste and pill business, for commercial advertising, but time is limited. We limit commercial television advertising to 7 minutes in the hour, and we are in fact creating a scarcity. Therefore, the free reins of free enterprise do not exist.

My Lords, there is another side to this matter. When we talk of a fear of monopoly in regard to the programmme contractors, we must beware that we do not create a monopoly for the advertiser. Many companies might well use commercial television advertising to advantage, but the rates that are being charged are so great that they are excluded from this means of advertising. Therefore, I say to the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, that when the Government are considering this they must take into account that there must be no monopoly position of advertisers.

I do not believe that the answer lies entirely in the provision of a second commercial channel. It may well be that increased advertising time might initially reduce the rates. But I have some experience of advertising, and I know that once a particular company in an industry is committed to heavy advertising, it must continue to do so. If it goes out, it does so with absolutely dire consequences to itself. Therefore, we say that, if you have a two-channel system of advertising, you will bring more and more companies into the business and that may well, in the end, drive up the rates—unless, of course, the Government accept the view that there must be some control over the rates. On the other side, we are to-day spending £90 million in advertising on commercial television, all being borne by production. I wonder whether in our present circumstances we should contemplate an increased charge on industry, perhaps in the region of £150 million to £160 million. I wonder whether it is right that we should do so. I hope, therefore, that the Government will take into account that there are other factors besides entertainment: the economic consequences of our actions also must be considered.

My Lords, there has been some criticism of the programmes on I.T.V. I must admit that I do not see a great deal of I.T.V.—I am bit of a B.B.C. fan, but I will immediately say the reason why. I freely admit that there are many good programmes on I.T.V.; but for me, and I believe for many others, all are spoilt, and many completely ruined, by what is called the natural break. I know that what is a natural break is a matter for dispute. I believe that many of the young writers for commercial television are instructed that, when they produce their script, they must produce a natural break. But I think in many ways these natural breaks are abused. I remember a programme in which I was particularly interested, a tour through Coventry Cathedral. I am not a Churchman, but there are some things which have sanctity. But when we went through Coventry Cathedral with the commercial television cameras, we had that programme broken twice by commercial advertising. I cannot believe that in a tour through a cathedral there is such a thing as a natural break.

The noble Viscount said yesterday that he hoped that the commercial contractors would, in their own interests, do something to reduce their profits. I believe that overnight these programme contractors could do two things. If they finished with what is called the "natural break" and contented themselves with advertising at the beginning or the end of a programme, they would reduce their revenue; they might then make themselves reasonably respectable in other people's eyes; and, above all else they would improve their programmes—and this, I am told, is what they would wish to do. I suggest that this is a challenge to them: I hope they will accept it.

There is much more that could be said. I am not particularly happy about paragraph 7. Naturally, I support the 12-year Charter for the B.B.C. The B.B.C, like Parliament, is built on a tradition, whereas commercial television and its Act is largely man-made, with all the possible errors that may result. Personally, I would be reluctant, in view of our previous experience, to agree to a 12-year Television Act unless, of course, there was a break period within it so that Parliament had the opportunity of considering the effects and the developments within that Act. But here I would not press it, because we do not yet know what are the Government proposals. These we shall look forward to with considerable anxiety.

We now come to the B.B.C. I think they came out of the Report well—perhaps, some may say, too well. There are times when their programmes fall below the high level that they normally attain. I remember "Panorama" of last Monday. I hope that that will not occur again. But, my Lords, the B.B.C. has built up this tremendous reputation, not only in this country but throughout the Commonwealth and the world. As one who has lived overseas, I know what it means, not only to an Englishman but to others, when the London voice comes out—" This is London". This reputation, this position, has been built up by the independence of the B.B.C.; by the fact that it is not dependent upon Government grant, Government finance. I hope that this will continue. I must say that here I am like the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, and the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell: I am rather disturbed with paragraphs 59 and 60. I hope it does not mean that, because the Government have not grasped the nettle of raising the licence fee, they expect and are prepared that the B.B.C. should run into a deficit on its current account. I think this would be utterly wrong.

I do not believe that the figure that has been used in this House, of a £6 licence fee, would be necessary. I believe that this figure was based on the B.B.C. assumption that they would be given local broadcasting, that they would have a second channel with colour, and that there would be much more extended hours of television. I believe that they could operate on a licence figure of £5. I think it is interesting, if the House would bear with me on this, to look at the accounts of the B.B.C. for the present year. They just about broke even. They had a net revenue of £30½ million, with their costs approximately the same—there being a small deficit of £74,000. Their television had a revenue of £20 million, and its cost was slightly over £19 million. This was sustained, not on the £4 that the licence holder pays but on £3, because the Government have retained an excise tax of £1. It is interesting to note (and I think this should be said for the benefit of the public) what in fact the Govern- ment have retained in one way or another from the licence fees that the public have paid.

First there is the retention from licence income, mainly attributable to the cost of the collection of licence fees. Since 1947, they have retained £29,666,000. It is fair to say that that particular extraction has been discontinued. In Excise duty, which commenced in 1958, the Government have collected £49,508,000. Then the B.B.C. has paid income tax. In that period, it has paid income tax of £14,900,000. If those figures are added togther you will see that the licence holders have paid, but the Government have retained for one purpose or another, a figure in the region of £94 million. This is a very large sum of money, when we consider the income upon which the B.B.C. has had to produce all its programmes. I would suggest to the Government that they grasp this thorny problem of the licence fee, because I think it would be wrong to break the principle on which the B.B.C. has been built and to destroy its independence.

I believe that it could be done in this way. I believe that the B.B.C. should be permitted to borrow on capital account a figure of £30 million—that is. £10 million more than the figure in the White Paper. I suggest this figure because my information (I speak subject to correction, but I am fairly sure about it) is that the capital cost of the B.B.C. moving from 405 to 625 lines will be in in the region of £30 million in the next three, four or five years. It depends how quickly we change over throughout the country. In the past, the B.B.C. has paid for its capital costs out of its income, but it cannot provide this amount immediately out of its revenue. I therefore suggest that it should be permitted to borrow that sum of money on capital account. It would then be possible for the B.B.C. to be viable and to meet its development costs up to 1964 with a net licence fee of £4 10s. 0d.—in other words, the whole of the amount raised by the licence fee, which would be increased to £4 10s. 0d., would be passed over to the B.B.C.

Then, when the second channel comes to London, in the London area that licence fee should be raised to £5; and as soon as the 625-line second channel spread throughout the country the licence fee should be raised there, also. I believe it is anticipated that by 1968 there will be 14 million licence holders. That means an income to the B.B.C. of some £70 million. I believe that that sum would be adequate for the B.B.C. to meet all its obligations: its first and second channels of television—even colour—and its sound obligations. It is interesting to note that, while the cost to the B.B.C. of one channel is £18 million to £19 million a year, the operating costs of the second channel will be in the region of £9 million. This is due to the fact that the Corporation will be able to utilise many of their existing facilities.

I believe, from the figures I have seen, that this is a practical suggestion. I think I would stand by it, because I am utterly opposed to the B.B.C.'s losing its independence and being dependent, from one year to another, upon the whims of the Treasury, or even any other outside body. Therefore—and I know that this will not be very favourably received in the country—I think the principle behind this is such that we should be courageous and put this case, because I think we shall rue the day if we do not stand by this principle.

I must say—and here I would depart a little, if I may, from the White Paper and the Pilkington Report—that I much regret the Pilkington Committee were not requested to look into the question of the external services. I would ask the Government whether they will give us some of their ideas when we have our second White Paper, because serious dangers are arising from reductions in our external sound radio broadcasts. I feel that it is right to draw the attention of the House to the fact that in March, 1962, the B.B.C.'s service in the United States, where they provide newsreel materials and B.B.C. recordings to over 1,500 radio stations, who use that material to provide 1,100 hours of broadcasting, went through the serious economies that the Government have undertaken. This may be outside the sphere of this debate, but it is a clear illustration of the dangers which may arise if you put the B.B.C. within the orbit of the Treasury. Like any other organisation the B.B.C. must plan ahead. It must set out its development and its research, and unless it knows at a certain period what will be its income, it cannot satisfactorily go ahead.

My Lords, one last thing. I heard some things yesterday to the effect that television itself makes very little impact upon our people. Frankly I do not believe it. I believe that the amount of viewing which is done, and the amount of material which must be absorbed, maybe subconsciously, when it comes in to our homes through the television receiver, will, in the end, make a very great impact upon our way of life. Science and engineering have made our life easier; they have reduced drudgery. Radio and television have opened a new world to the aged and to the sick. Equally, they open a world of challenge to our youth. What I think should concern us in Parliament is what sort of world is being opened to our youth, and what sort of entertainment is being given to our aged and our sick.

3.24 p.m.


My Lords, let me first begin by declaring that I have an indirect interest in this matter in the fact that I happen to be a director of a company which, in addition to a very wide range of activities and enterprises, is a shareholder in a television company. I may also add that I take no part whatever in making the programmes, or in the conduct of the television company, and therefore I am in a perfectly good position to criticise television all round. But I do not think that that indirect interest could inhibit me in anything I am going to say to-day, with which I think there will probably be a large measure of agreement; because I am so interested to find that this debate is not, for the most part, running on any sort of Party lines. It really is an attempt by people to give their best ideas about what ought to be done; and it is in that spirit—and I hope I always try to speak in that spirit in this House—that I speak to-day.

I want to put in a plea for reasonable liberty of choice for millions of viewers, and for some sense of proportion in our appraisal of the facts and the situation. Let me say at once that I think a great deal of the White Paper is good and sound. I also agree with something said by the Leader of the House yesterday, when he said that no Government can wholly wash their hands of anything touching our standards of taste and behaviour. To that I would fully subscribe. May I add that I think we all not only appreciate, but respect, what he said yesterday: that he does not repent his own "shrill cries" (if I may adopt his own expression in the debate) on the Beveridge Report seven years ago. While I agree with what the Leader of the House said about the function of the Government, I must say that the idea that you should order what people are to see and to hear is repugnant to me, and there I find myself at one with a great deal of what was said by Lord Francis-Williams late last night.

Thirty-five years ago I drafted and piloted through the House of Commons the Cinematograph Films Bill. I think it was a very good Act. At any rate, it proved itself in that, though I asked Parliament to pass it for only ten years, that Act has been re-enacted unanimously every ten years since. When I was piloting that Bill, I was pressed very strongly to introduce a censorship of films. I rejected that proposal, and Parliament rejected it, because I said I thought that the public would be the censors, and that the trade would act with sense and decency. And that is what happened. The trade—the exhibitors—set up their own censorship, and my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth (Ah ! I am so glad he has come back) is now the respected Chairman of the Board of Censors.


The President.


Yes. And that well-known signature of Lord Morrison of Lambeth, when we see it on the screen, is a warranty of purity and good taste.


Hear, hear!


I must say I think he does very well. I do not think he has eliminated all violence or crime or sex from the cinemas, but I do not think he need. Again, I think that what he wants to do, and what I think he does do, is to have a sense of proportion.


My Lords, if the noble Earl will forgive me, we classify films with a "U", an "A" or an "X", which puts people on fair warning. That would be much more difficult to do on television, naturally.


Yes, I quite agree, and I accept that. I think that the classification is pretty good, though I am bound to say that there are a lot of young people to-day who are a good deal more sophisticated than I think probably either he is or I am even yet. But I quite agree with what he says on that. But probably there is—I do not think he will deny this—as much violence and crime and sex on the films as there is on television.

The most common criticism, and one that has certainly to be fairly met on television, is that there is too much violence. Frankly, I think the amount is exaggerated, but it is there. It is not confined to Independent Television. The B.B.C. stand in the same condemnation. Whichever it is, violence which is excessive ought to be corrected. I would say that it is more important to take particular care about this on television, because of the large and varied audience, than in the theatre. I do not know whether it is as important in the cinema, because I would agree that the "A" and "X" certificates make a difference. But let us have a sense of proportion both about the extent of the mischief and about what we mean by violence.

I must say that I agree wholeheartedly with all that was said by my noble friend Lord St. Oswald late last night. I hope that noble Lords who did not have an opportunity of hearing him—and there was a pretty thin House at a quarter paster eleven—will take the opportunity of reading it. I found his researches very informative and thought his boyhood recollections were agreeable. But what do we mean by violence? There are some critics who would say that they would cut out Titus Andronicus. I should not mind that, because I happen to think that it was probably the one bad play Shakespeare ever wrote.


Pericles is much worse.


I will give my noble friend Pericles, too; but I agree with him, that if we are going to take this on mere violence, it would rule out Macbeth, and I should object to that very strongly. It would also rule out the presentation of a great many grand stories. When we were young, we all read Dumas, Henty and Rider Haggard: We read such books as Lorna Doone and Treasure Island, to say nothing of Scott, whom perhaps we were more compelled to read. There is a lot of violence there. When we were young, we all played cowboys and Red Indians, amateur prototypes of what are now called Westerns.

When we were young, crime stories were not nearly so common and popular as they are to-day; but, if crime is to be banned, we ought to censor the thriller "whodunits" and suppress Agatha Christie's plays. I would add that whenever I see a crime play on television (though I am not so regular a viewer as I ought to be, because I am rather fond of patronising films) the criminal always loses out. It is not at all like some of the older criminals we remember—for instance. Raffles. How Gerald du Maurier charmed us with his presentation of this gangster, who was perfectly charming and always got away with it! That does not happen to-day. In the two best crime series I have seen—"Maigret", on the B.B.C. and "No Hiding Place", on I.T.V.—the criminal never gets away and never scores a single point. Both these presentations are of absorbing interest, admirably done, and a wonderful advertisement for the police forces of two countries.

So, if I may say so, let us avoid arrogance in decision and, as Sir Harry Pilkington advises, be humble and positive—though I am bound to say that I think that in the Report those qualities are sometimes more honoured in the breach than in the observance. Let us have a sense of proportion and a feeling for liberty. I should be the last person to say that television, either I.T.V. or B.B.C, is perfect. But, I would add, in passing, do not let us forget that people are not compelled to look at one or the other As my noble friend the Leader of the House said, there is that useful little instrument, the knob, which one can turn from one programme to another, or even, if the worse come to the worst, turn off.

But both the B.B.C. and I.T.V. have produced and are producing a lot of very good stuff. I think that the majority of people would say, as my noble friend Lord Fraser of Lonsdale said last night, that the B.B.C. have been greatly improved by the competition of the I.T.V., but I cannot understand the argument that the B.B.C. are compelled to alter their programmes because the I.T.V. put something on. The B.B.C. are in the fortunate position of getting their revenue, and the whole of their revenue, whatever they put on, and I cannot for the life of me see where this species of compulsion comes in. So let us avoid false arguments. The B.B.C. may follow I.T.V., and no doubt have done it often, because they know that I.T.V. was giving a better or a novel programme, which they thought it better to try to beat. I think that that is a good thing.

Both B.B.C. and I.T.V. present excellent news and current affairs programmes. I.T.V. certainly do. They send 30 of these programmes of daily news out to 30 different countries every day. It costs them a good deal of money to do it, but I believe they can afford it. There is "Panorama"; while I.T.V.'s "This Week" is often in the "top ten"—I may explain that the "top ten" are the ten most popular programmes, not the élite or the fashionable. Both bodies are certainly doing good and varied educational programmes, in which I.T.V. were the Dioneers and, as the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Chichester said yesterday, both have greatly improved their religious programmes. The right reverend Prelate paid what I think was a deserved tribute to I.T.V. If I may add one example, their Laudes Evangeli was one of the most remarkable productions I have ever seen, unsurpassed in reverence and beauty, and I would hope that it might be reproduced every Good Friday, like Bach's Passion music.

Both bodies, too, have discovered and encouraged new talent and new writers. Pinter, now such a popular playwright on both sides of the Atlantic, got his first chance with Independent Television. Both the B.B.C. and I.T.V. have dramatised classical English writers. What is interesting is that this has created a wider demand for books. People say that I.T.V. or television stopped people from reading books. I believe that to be quite untrue. I was told some time ago by the chairman of the library committee of one of the largest county councils that when there had been a play by a classical writer on television they found that almost immediately there was a greatly increased demand in the public libraries for the books of that author-Thackeray, Dickens, or whoever it might be. He said that the same thing applied when foreign scenes were shown: that there were inquiries for books about the particular country. This is what I mean by having a sense of proportion.

We are traditionally and by nature a practical people, and my prescription would be the practical one of carrying on what has, on the whole, proved good and successful, while trying to correct faults and make it better. The noble and learned Viscount the Leader of the House posed a number of questions yesterday and invited us to give him answers. I feel sure that, whatever is the right solution, the Pilkington Committee's recommendation to vest everything in a single I.T.A. monopoly is wrong. It is not just that it would reverse the whole policy of the Act of 1954, which set up a number of programme companies to be selected by I.T.A. and under their general supervision; but I believe that such a plan would stereotype uniformity and stifle initiative, variety and competition, which are essential to progress and popularity.

I believe also (and this was a particular point put by the Leader of the House) that it would prove unworkable in practice. I am sure that anyone with any knowledge of all that is involved in the making of a programme—the continuous contact between the director, author, producer, actors and technicians—would agree that the Committee's proposals for divorcing programme planning from programme producing is hopelessly impracticable. The responsibility must be continuous from the inception to the conclusion of any project, as indeed it must be in any enterprise of any kind. I feel that if you were to limit programme companies to making programmes to order or on spec, and vested the responsibility for planning, ordering and presentation in the I.T.A., it would deprive the companies of responsibility for quality and initiative and vest those duties in a remote I.T.A., which could not do it. Remote control may be very effective with guided missiles, but I do not believe that it would work with television; and I doubt whether any company would be willing to attempt it.

Therefore, my Lords, I think the Government are profoundly wise when they say in the White Paper that they must be satisfied that any new structure would remedy defects it was designed to overcome and would not throw up equally serious difficulties of its own and deprive the system of those features for which it can fairly claim credit. I believe that this plan of Sir Harry Pilkington's would give us the worst of both worlds. Your Lordships will note that the Committee do not suggest any such dyarchy or divorce for the B.B.C.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl for allowing me to intervene, especially as I have to go out for an appointment almost immediately. I appreciate what he bas said, but has he taken into account that the B.B.C. do all this planning, the producing of plays, films and so on?—and they do it pretty wall. There are competitive groups within the B.B.C. organisation. If it can be done there, is it not possible that I.T.V. can produce some, and consult with the programme companies about the production of others?


No. With respect, the noble Lord has emphasised the very point I was making. The B.B.C. are responsible for both the planning of the programmes and the making of the programmes. I do not say that you could not set up another monopoly in the I.T.A.—you could—which was responsible for the whole of that, instead of having a large number of programme contractors, with the I.T.A. in broad control. My whole point is that what you cannot do is to have the I.T.A. planning the thing and the other people carrying it out. It has either to be the B.B.C. system, which is complete control of the project, or it bas to be what we have to-day. That is why I say—and the noble Lord has really borne out my argument—the Pilkington Plan would not work. So much for that.

There is one other matter with which I want to deal. For my part, I do not quarrel with the Government's decision to give a third channel to the B.B.C provided it is genuinely a third channel designed to serve special and minority tastes. To create a third channel which was merely a repetition and competitor of the other two would, as I see it, defeat the whole object and meet none of the criticisms. That would put three channels in competition for a mass audience and would reduce the level and balance which the Committee say they want to improve. This third channel, as I say, is rightly given to the B.B.C. It could be used to increase and enlarge the educational features, though I fully agree that those should still (because there has to be insidious as well as just instructive education) continue to be figured in the main programmes.

I do not see why the Independent Television companies, which have done such admirable educational work, and whose educational programmes are used in many countries outside the United Kingdom, should not co-operate with the B.B.C. on the third channel. This would mobilise large forces of experience, both in juvenile and adult education (incidentally, the cost has come up; the noble Lord was so interested in trying to find how the B.B.C. could be helped) and it would greatly reduce the cost to the B.B.C. of this third channel and make a considerable inroad into the profits of the Independent Television companies. What interests me particularly is that the idea of such a partnership was proposed in evidence by the Council of Churches to the Pilkington Committee. In their Report the Committee turned this proposal down on the ground, as they say, that it was impracticable. But I cannot find any evidence to show why they say it is impracticable, other than that the B.B.C. stated that they did not like it.

Again, to come back to Sir Harry Pilkington. Let us avoid arrogance in our decisions. I hope I have been constructive in my suggestions—I have tried to be—and put a fair sense of proportion and balance into the account and criticisms which I have made. I do not believe that any Government in their senses, least of all a Government, of whatever colour, on the eve of a General Election (whenever that should come) would incur the odium of destroying Independent Television, which has proved so popular with millions of people. To do that would not only be unpopular, but I believe it would be wrong. If the Government proceed as their White Paper encourages me to suppose is their aim, to correct such faults as there are in a well-tried system, and to make what is good still better, then I think they will command the support of the great majority of the country, and may well achieve a policy which everybody can support, and give security, stability and success.

3.52 p.m.


My Lords, I ought to say at the outset that I am a member of the General Advisory Council of the B.B.C. I have taken part in television programmes for both the B.B.C. and the contracting companies, and I have seen them both in action. So far as my experience goes, I have nothing but praise for the way in which they both go about their business. But in what I am proposing to say this afternoon. I shall not attempt to pass personal judgment on the general run of television programmes from either source, or to assess their comparative merits or demerits, because my experience as a listener and a viewer does not run to that. But I shall, however, try to make a few observations of general scope.

In spite of the criticisms that have been levelled at the Pilkington Report, I still regard it as a responsible and persuasive document. The Report is in fact a major event in our national life; so also, I think, is the extraordinary reception which it has received, and so also will be the action which the Government will eventually decide to take upon it. In this phase of our national life we shall be presenting history with a characteristic picture, of one aspect, and an important aspect, of our society in the 'sixties. Now what has happened? Eleven people, covering a wide range of experience, have examined a vast mass of written and oral evidence of varying authority and value. They have reported on that evidence, and they have stated their unanimous conclusions, some of them farreaching. They have, as they themselves have said, approached their task empirically, with no general doctrine or preconceived principles, but with certainly a consciousness of the bearing of broadcasting, and particularly of television, upon the health of society.

In the course of their exposition they have touched upon some of the moral and social problems involved. It seems to me all to the good that the Committee, unlike some other investigating committees, have not minced their words. They have spoken the truth as they saw it, and they have thrown the whole broadcasting problem open to public debate. By so doing, they have laid themselves open to criticism, both as to the character of their proposals and as to the assumptions upon which their recommendations have been framed. But in this way they have facilitated that process of government by discussion to which we in this country are still fortunately attached.

The remarkable range and intensity of the controversy which the Report has provoked highlights, I think, some important aspects of the present state of our national life. Some of the violent initial reactions from interested parties can be discounted. There was the newspaper headline which said: Pilkington tells the public to go to hell. There was the programme company executive who said: The best place for this Report is the waste-paper basket. Others, not all of them interested parties, have spoken of the Report as, "biased, reactionary and retrograde; marked by prejudice and malice; priggish; arrogant; stupid and grossly insulting to the public taste." A spokesman of the I.T.A. has since tried to bring the issue of class into the controversy. Sir Robert Fraser has spoken of the Report as being: motivated by a belief in a class élite of those who know best. And, of course, the liberty of the subject has been widely called in aid, as it always is by those who want to exploit the weaknesses of the public for their own profit.


My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Lord, for the sake of clarity may I ask whether he was in the House last night?


I was, my Lords.


I think the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, said that he wished to withdraw that statement, and that Sir Robert Fraser had not said that. Am I right?


I did not hear that. I am quoting from a statement in the Press, and if I am wrong I withdraw it.


The statement that the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, gave us had been wrongly reported, and the words were not "the élite". The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, then said he withdrew the statement.


I have taken my quotation from the Press, and if I have wrongly quoted—


My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, is not here, I have in my hand what he actually said. He said [col. 636]: Since I made my speech I have seen the Director-General of the Independent Television Authority and he assures me that he did not use the words 'class élite' in connection with the Pilkington Report and that he was wrongly reported.


My Lords, I gladly withdraw what I have inadvertently said.

On the more serious level, the argument has revolved around two themes, the themes of competition and of the impact of television upon the public mind. As to competition, it is the critics of the Report rather than the Committee themselves who seem to be the doctrinaires. For example, the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, to whom I spoke yesterday, and to whose thoughtful speech we listened with great attention, is reported—and accurately, so he tells me—by the Committee as saying that: The first principle—that of competition in broadcasting—was fundamental ! the raising of standards was secondary to the fundamental principle. If it proved that standards declined as a result of competition, competition would nevertheless remain the fundamental principle. That is a firm statement of doctrine. But, having nailed his colours to that particular mast, the noble Lord then went on to say something more. He said this very directly: Proper competition had not been achieved; each of the programme contractors had a commercial monopoly in its own area. 'We want to see competition in those areas, and we do not think we have got competition yet'. That is in fact what the Committee themselves have said, and I will quote from the Report: Between the commercial companies to which the franchises have been given there is little or no competition in the provision of programmes, so that the intentions of Parliament and of the Authority have been frustrated. It is precisely in order to secure such competition that the Committee have proposed their organic changes in the relationship between the Authority and the companies. The Committee are not against competition; indeed, it is the central theme of their recommendations that they: seek to ensure the greatest possible freedom to broaden the range of subject matter available to viewers and listeners. They include within that range programmes designed to amuse and relax no less than those that are demanding. There is, I think, more to be said for this main proposal of the Committee than most commentators seem to recognise. But some of them take a more favourable view and as one of them—and he is one of the best informed—put it—I quote from him: It seems to me that for all its priggish tone the Pilkington proposal might at least elevate the creative people above the moneybags and, by encouraging competition to produce better television rather than sell more advertising time, might usher in a genuine contest of talents. Let us hope that the Government will not too readily dose their mind to the possible merits from this point of view of the proposals which the Committee have made. Let them by all means try to find answers to all the searching questions which the noble Viscount the Leader of the House put yesterday. But until they have found those answers let them keep an open mind.

Indeed, the surprising thing, it seems to me, is that for all the violence of their language, many of the critics are so often, in substance, at one with the Committee. One of the fiercest of these critics admits that the great networking companies by the use of their power have made themselves intolerable to a free country". My Lords, I do not think the Committee said anything as strong as that. There is also a wide consensus of view that the commercial profits are excessive, that quality should be improved, that viewers should have a maximum choice of programmes, and that the material presented should cover a wide range of themes and levels, and, accordingly, that the system of independent television needs drastic reform.

What the serious critics differed about was not so much what needs to be done but how to do it; not so much the substance of the Committee's proposals as the ideas which lie behind them. It is one of those underlying ideas which has provoked a chorus of abuse. The Committee have had the imprudence, I might almost say the temerity, to concern themselves with the moral aspect of broadcasting. They say that their working assumption—it is no more than that—must be that television in particular Will be a potent, or a main, factor in influencing the values and moral standards of our society. The extent of the impact of television upon the minds of viewers, and thus upon society as a whole, must, in the absence of conclusive research, be a matter for argument, but the plain fact that advertisers are willing to pay fantastic sums in order to get at the minds of viewers would argue that such an impact must prima facie be considerable. I cannot find that the Committee go further than this. I do not think as has been alleged, they hold that television alone can mould society.

It is, I would think, a credit to the Committee that they have not hesitated to emphasise the moral aspect of this problem and it is of significance to note that it is perhaps this for which they have been most strongly ridiculed. There is an inquest going on (these days into (the question, "What is wrong with Britain?" There are all kinds of answers to that question, but one of the counts against our society, among many others, is the lack of united, serious, responsible purpose. This may or may not be so, but however that may be, the Pilkington Committee come down on the side of this purpose, and they have been widely satirised for so doing. Goering is reputed to have said that when he heard the word "culture" he reached for his revolver. It is a melancholy sign of our own times that concern for the moral basis of society is too apt to be met with scorn and derision by so many of those with access to our organs of publicity.

It is fervently to be hoped that, whatever Government it is that may take final action on the Report, they will not be blind to this plea by the Committee. It is all the more encouraging therefore to read some remarks by a Conservative Member of Parliament, and one who has since become a member of the Cabinet. This is what he said in the Sunday Telegraph: Competition has its virtues. Some Tories are aware of a widespread feeling, which Pilkington will certainly inflame, that after a decade of Conservative Government other virtues, such as public responsibility, are not flourishing. He added: I share that view. And he went on: In the 1950s they made freedom the goal. They have now to apply their minds more keenly than hitherto to its social implications. I like to think that that is true Conservative doctrine. I am fortified in that belief by the most admirable speech of the noble Viscount the Leader of the House, especially when he said—and I quote [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 242 (No. 106), col. 609]: Despite a belief in freedom I also think that no responsible Government can wholly wash its hands of anything touching our standards of taste and behaviour. I am the more fortified by the fact that those words have just been endorsed by the noble Earl, Lord Swinton.

So to the White Paper, which is more specifically the subject of this debate. It is natural that when committees report, Governments and Oppositions both look narrowly at their recommendations. These must be subjected to the test of practical politics. Political Parties and Governments have their doctrines and their electoral considerations, and in the light of these I have no complaint about the White Paper, so far as it goes, and I can certainly support it. But it raises one big question, on which I should like to say a brief word. Speaking on the question of finance, it says, rather cryptically: The Government accepts its responsibility to see that the B.B.C. can secure sufficient income to finance adequate services. I strongly endorse the plea that has already been made by several noble Lords, that the present system should be maintained under which the programmes of the B.B.C. are financed out of the payments made by the members of the public for their receiving licences. Any other system, whether by way of Parliamentary grant annually negotiated, or by borrowing on a major scale for current expenditure, or by way of introduction of commercial advertising in any of the B.B.C. services as a source of income, would either adversely affect the financial security, freedom and independence of the Corporation, or alter the character of the Corporation or the balance of its services. What the fee would need to be is not yet clear. It may be, as the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, has said, that if the B.B.C. do not need to embark on local sound broadcasting and do not have to find additional hours for television except for educational purposes, they might get by with less than the £6 per annum which has been mentioned. Starting in 1963 instead of 1964 they might make do for a time with £5 10s., or £5; or even, for a shorter time, with the present £4; provided that they get the whole proceeds of the licence. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, has gone into this matter in some detail and I will not follow him except to say that I am in general agreement with him.

But however electorally difficult it may be thought to be to ask viewing households to pay rather more than at present, even perhaps up to the £6 a year—that is, 4d. a day—as a combined fee for sound and television, it is to be hoped that Governments will not now, after all these years, by changing its financial basis, destroy the structure upon which the B.B.C. has been so successfully built, and impair the accumulated prestige of an institution which is unique in the world.

4.10 p.m.


My Lords, I must first declare an interest in this matter, indeed two interests; as conflicting interests perhaps they may be regarded as cancelling themselves out. As director of a newspaper I naturally find the competition of television in attracting advertisements a considerable danger on the one side; on the other side, I am a lowly shareholder in T.W.W. I went into that only because the noble Earl, Lord Derby, had been extremely kind to me in giving me nominations to his stallions.

It was at a time when independent television was losing two or three million pounds a year, and when I put some money into that I never thought I would see a penny of it back. But as so often one has invested money expecting to make money and has lost it, it is rather nice expecting to lose it and then to make it.

Having said that, I want to say first what the noble Lord, Lord Strang, has said about the Pilkington Committee. I do not think the critics of the Committee, which includes a distinguished cousin of mine, regard the people themselves as in any way wrongful people, but they perhaps did not have in their body either the most distinguished people in public life, on the one hand, or the representatives of the ordinary viewer, on the other, two-thirds of whom seem to prefer I.T.V., advertisements and all, to the B.B.C. That is the only criticism one might make. It is a criticism not of the Committee but the Postmaster General who selected them.

The Leader of the House said how thin-skinned under certain criticisms had been the people concerned with I.T.V. Really, I thought the Leader of the House was a more doughty and hardened controversialist than that. Nothing has been said by the defenders of I.T.V. which compares with the outburst which our noble friend, Lord Reith, has made on this subject. The strength of language has not been all on one side. One thing, at least, has been shown: We have destroyed this popular idea that all diplomats are like Having heard the completely conflicting views of two former Permanent Under-Secretaries of the Foreign Office, we realise how live and diverse an institution it is.

It seems to be a complaint against Independent Television that it makes too much profit. The idea is absurd. The idea seems to be that all the profits go to the shareholders. Of course nothing of the sort happens. Two-thirds of the profits go to the Government, in profits tax, income tax and surtax; eventually a good deal goes in death duties. Surely it is better to have an institution making profits, putting enormous sums of money into the Exchequer, than to have these other boards, now joined by B.O.A.C, costing the taxpayer millions of pounds every year. In any case, I say regretfully as a shareholder, the golden days are gone. For one thing the whole climate of business is tending to change. There will be, we hope, greater competition when there is a fourth programme, and therefore there will not be so many advertisers seeking so few channels. Then we all hope that, while it was necessary at the beginning that the local companies should use these network programmes for sheer lack in this country of experienced creative and and technical personnel, now after ten years the Government will lay it down that in future at least 50 per cent. of local programmes should be made by these local companies; which will mean, naturally, that the expenses of the local companies will be much higher and their profits correspondingly diminished.

A great many of the mistakes on the subject come from thinking that there was a great campaign in favour of commercial! television to make money, which was the crucial factor. It was not. Long before I had the slightest interest in I.T.V. I was a Member of another place and of this House and tried to cast my vote independently. The dominant factor to the people of my generation in the Conservative Party was that we were fed up with the B.B.C. monopoly. During the war the B.B.C. had had" its chance to be a really national institution. In fact it had taken a general Leftward tendency, a general pink tendency. Those of us doing our duty overseas felt it was rather hard that continually the B.B.C. was putting out this general idea of turning our back on the Britain of the past, turning to something completely new, which we constantly heard. They chose as Conservative speakers sometimes people who were not good representatives; even on the Brains Trust one person who might be a Conservative was more a figure of fun than a serioue figure. Their epilogues continually had this strong pink tendency.

When this matter was investigated quietly, as it was, it was found on investigation—quiet, subterranean investigation—that the staff of the B.B.C. were predominantly Socialist; their reactions after the elections to the few Conservatives in the B.B.C. made it quite clear that they had a complete bias in what they did. Eventually this was shown: In 1947, in one month there were 32 speakers who were either speaking on political subjects or were politicians; of those 28 were Socialists, two were Liberals, and two were non-parity. The names were carefully collected by a Conservative representative and the B.B.C. was not able to deny it. That showed how very much the monopoly produced a general Left tendency.


My Lords, I must say this is very astonishing. We did not hear so much about these particular aspects in the debates of 1952 and 1953. May I say that my experience of the B.B.C. is this: in my 40-odd years of public life I have had one debate on B.B.C. sound, which was with the noble Earl, Lord Woolton. I remember it well; it was a very long time ago. I just cannot believe that this general tendency actually existed. And if it did the people of this turn of mind bring no reflection on the other members of my Party, who were as good overseas as the noble Viscount.


Entirely: We know that is true of everybody overseas, of whatever Party. There is no reflection; anybody can do his duty. One was saying only that during this period, when members of both Parties were doing their duty as best they could, there was this general Leftward tendency in the B.B.C. Then they came back afterwards and it was thought a good idea that the Conservatives should appoint a liaison officer. They appointed somebody who had a distinguished war service record, now a member of the Government, the Secretary of State for War.


We are learning.


I am glad to have the pleasure of being able to teach the noble Viscount, who has given me so many lessons in the past.


Although I have not come into this debate, I have already had one good lesson from Professor Wilson on pressure groups. I feel quite enough horror about the whole thing to want to debate with the noble Viscount.


All I am trying to say is that the picture that Professor Wilson painted was entirely inaccurate. People like myself are not in the slightest influenced by the pressure groups mentioned. I think we are all sophisticated enough to know the pressure of a pressure group when it is applied to us, and one discounts it. We had enough integrity and intelligence to make up our own minds, even if we made them up in a way which the noble Viscount disagreed with. I hope that he will not attack us on that. The ordinary Back Bencher made his mind. When this liaison officer was appointed the treatment he received from the then Director General of the B.B.C. in warning his subordinates not to have too much to do with him—he did not even ask him for a meal and a talk—showed us that there was a strain of arrogance that had got into the B.B.C. which was intolerable. Nobody should feel stronger on this subject of a monopoly of opinion than the Socialist Party. At the moment there is every danger that the Daily Herald is in a bad way. What could be worse than only Conservative newspapers, and the Socialist Party without a proper organ of daily public opinion? Can you imagine what would happen if the Daily Herald went to the wall? How lamentable it would be if only one political view were put predominantly before the public!


My Lords, may I just intervene to ask the noble Viscount one thing? am not quite sure what he is getting at. Is he suggesting that the B.B.C. selected its personnel on the ground of their politics and therefore that was a bad thing; or is he, alternatively, suggesting that they should have selected them on the ground of their politics and got the balance rather more equal?


My Lords, I think the important thing is that the B.B.C. should keep an equal balance, and should employ such people as will ensure that there is an equal balance, both in what they put out and roughly in the personnel inside. I say no more than that.


I apologise for interrupting again, but, surely, would that not mean that there would have to be some political questionnaire put out before anybody was taken on by the B.B.C. in order to ensure that that balance was maintained?


No; it would require a certain amount of common sense—no more than that. Any body running something which is a great organ of opinion know pretty well that they are trying to keep a balance. That is a normal matter of common sense.


My Lords, would the noble Viscount excuse me for one moment? I feel I must speak now because I was a member of the B.B.C. Appointments Department at one time and certainly the facts were that we never took into consideration a person's Politics when offering him a job in the Corporation. I think that is a reasonable way to interview a candidate. I would think it wrong to inquire after his politics.


I am not disputing that. I am merely saying that the result of those years was that there was at that time a general Leftward tendency in the B.B.C. which a great many younger members of the Conservative Party found intolerable. And we were never prepared to allow a monopoly in this medium by this type of public authority who tended to recruit this particular type of person. That was the reason. It was nothing to do with the pressure groups to make money. That was the fundamental fact which all of us who were there knew and which we did not want to see happening in the newspaper world. We all hope that Lord Shawcross's Committee will produce a Report which will make it certain that the Daily Herald and Left papers will continue as prosperous papers of high circulation, because it is right that in matters of opinion both sides should be heard and that there should not be any form of monopoly. We hope that it will be accepted that there are going to be these two different forms, the B.B.C. and the Independent Television.

Of course it is not quite certain that the B.B.C. have completely accepted this fact. If your Lordships look at the paragraph about the Central Religious Advisory Committee, at page 133 of the Pilkington Report, you will see that it says: The B.B.C. told us that when C.R.A.C. had served only the B.B.C, work with C.R.A.C. had been close and collaborative. It had proceeded in an atmosphere of mutual trust. The Corporation had disclosed its perplexities and had made no concealment of its mistakes. The advisory body and the producers had worked very closely together as a team. Now that the meetings of the C.R.A.C. were attended by representatives of the Authority, the B.B.C. felt inhibited from discussing their plans for religious broadcasting as freely and openly as they had been used to. How extraordinary, with something like religious broadcasting, where there should be collaboration and Christian unity, that the B.B.C. should say that they cannot sit down with the representatives of the Authority and the representatives of the Churches without embarrassment. It shows a most extraordinary attitutde of mind, in my humble submission. It is that attitude of mind which has made people worry, because I think that the Pilkington Committee have taken a rather naïve view of human nature.

Is it their idea that people are moved only by the lowest motives, that people in businesses which make money are interested only in making money? Are we really to believe that Lord Nuffield, when he made cars, was interested only in making the maximum amount of money and not providing good cars? Are we to believe that Sir Harry Pilkington himself when he makes glass, is only trying to provide a cheap and meretricious design that will break quickly and have to be replaced? Not at all! I am sure that he tries to provide a glass of good design and solid durability. Equally, can people really believe that people of character—for instance, my noble friend Lord Derby a worthy son and grandson of great statesmen who served this country well, in peace and in war, and who does an immense amount of public work—have as their only motive the making of money? We have only to look at the people who are directors of these television companies, those whom we know in this House, and others outside, such as Sir Philip Walter, Lord Townshend, Sir Edwin Herbert, Sir Hector Hetherington, Lord Daly-rymple. Lord Forbes, Mr. Tom Williams, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, Lord Nether-thorpe, Lord Cornwallis, Sir Alexander Maxwell, Lord Layton. They are all people, I submit, of high character who are trying equally to render good service as well to accumulate the maximum profit.

There is not only the danger of making too much money, there is also the corrupting effect of anonymous and secret power. That is what people in a Government monopoly tend to have. I know; I have had it once myself in one time in my 'life. It has a most corrupting effect on the character. It is only when there is competition that you do not get these people with their little empires, and with their small and corrupting power which is, I think, a great danger to the human character. Now we have been told that the Church has been wrong for years. It is not breaking the Ten Commandments and committing the seven deadly sins which we have all tried to avoid as best we can, but it is triviality which is the great danger to the soul. They have turned out to be dogmatic theologians, Who have quoted somebody and then wisely refrained from saying whom they were quoting.


My Lords, I still prefer my John Ruskin: Competition is death; only co-operation is life.


As he is a representative of the Co-operative Society, no doubt those are the noble Viscount's views, and I respect them; but equally he must respect mine.

I turn now to the present situation. Independent Television is young; it has had hardly eight years' run. It had to start from scratch, to collect talent, to gain experience, to get technicans. It undoubtedly has made many mistakes, as the B.B.C. and others have made mistakes in their time. The point now is to correct those mistakes. Undoubtedly there has been a certain personality clash between the Authority and the Pilkington Committee. But members of the Authority will change, even as members of the B.B.C. change, and you will get different people correcting the mistakes of the past. What we want is to keep this lively competition between commercial television and the B.B.C, but we should strengthen the Authority, strengthen the control over any faults that may exist, prune anything that has gone wrong in the matter of advertisements allowed. But we have created something which is live, and young and vigorous, which has the possibilities of growth.

5.33 p.m.


My Lords, I feel your Lordships will agree that, however charmingly the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, put his points, in much of what he said he has done a disservice to television, whether it comes under the aegis of the B.B.C. or the I.T.V. In my view, the idea that either the B.B.C. or commercial television should be concerned about the political opinions of their staffs is as distasteful as——


My Lords, I have not suggested that at all. All I suggested was that one had to be sure that what was being put out was a balanced programme; and, if it was not balanced, as it was not in the latter days of the war, it shows that it was not doing a proper job.


I would suggest to the noble Viscount that to-morrow he reads just what he did say. I was carefully listening to every word; and, indeed, in his reply, or failure to reply, to the point which was very cogently put to him by my noble friend Lord Walston, it was perfectly obvious that in order to satisfy the noble Viscount about the political content or slant of programmes, the B.B.C. or I.T.V. would have to conduct a political witch-hunt to determine the views of their employees. I should think noble Lords in all parts of the House would agree that that would be just as distasteful as conducting an inquiry to ascertain whether they were Catholics or Jehovah's Witnesses. I assure the noble Viscount, from my own experience, that it is absolutely absurd to allege that there is this Left-wing, "pale pink" tendency in the B.B.C.


There was.


Well, I have had experience, as he knows, as a Member of another place, and I can assure him of the difficulty I used to have in assuring my own fervent supporters in the Labour Party, in the constituency and in the South-West of England, particularly over programmes like "Any Questions?" that all the B.B.C. staff were not rabid Conservatives. I am quite sure we have all had that kind of experience. Indeed, I would say it would be just as untrue to suggest for example—though the noble Lord did not suggest this—that I.T.V. programmes had a sort of Tory taint. I do not believe that the question of Party politics enters into it at all with either programme, and I know that in both cases they go to the greatest possible length to ensure——


My Lords, that is my point. I am trying to say that when there is competition you get a fair balance in both mediums, which you did not have when you had a monopoly.


I am saying on this point that both organisations go to the greatest possible length to ensure that there should be that fair balance on just the questions of which the noble Viscount was complaining. That is the only point which I wish to take up with the noble Viscount, because I have imposed on myself a time limit to which I should like to adhere.

I would say at once that, like the noble and learned Viscount who opened this debate, I opposed the introduction of commercial television in 1954. But to-day, I am aware, as he is, that no practical politician believes that I.T.A. can be destroyed; nor, whatever one might wish, is it possible to disclaim revenue from advertisements as the main source of revenue on some, at least, of our T.V. channels. I believe that the overwhelming majority of viewers in this country support the plea in the White Paper for the abandonment of doctrinaire and extreme positions. I would say that there have been less extreme positions taken up in this debate than I thought might have been the case. I think that our people wish us to build an enlarged and improved service on the present part public, part independent framework. My own views on most of the controversial points were expressed in two speeches: three parts Hailsham, and one part Francis-Williams. I do not know whether that is an unusual combination, but that is exactly how I feel about it. I say that to make my own position clear, and I hope to avoid saying anything that has been previously said in this debate; though I must confess that after some thirty speeches it is very difficult to find a stone that has not been turned.

One important subject that Lord Hailsham did not even mention was sound broadcasting. He said, with our full agreement, that no Government could wash their hands in matters of taste and behaviour. In my view, that must involve spending, actually and relatively, a lot more thought, money and effort on sound radio. I know that viewers greatly outnumber listeners, but I very much doubt that in its effect on thought sight outdistances sound. Like Pilkington, my evidence, though not scientific, is not to be ignored. The other day I was watching a very good, short T.V. programme in which a wise and witty professional was dealing, on vision, with listeners' letters, but he confessed mournfully that his own fanmail was very light, confined mostly to women who admired, not his wit, but his tie.

The other week T myself came home after a television discussion, and my wife commended my part in it. Quite innocently, I said, "What was it I said that you liked?". She replied, "Oh, no one remembers what anyone said, but you looked comfortable." Remarks of that kind give one an insight into what people think about what is said, as it were, on the television screen. On the other hand, I have done discussions on little programmes like the Third Programme and have received many letters and messages—ten times as many as after a television programme. The fact is that people listen. They listen in factories, in shops, on car radios, on transistors and in the kitchen, but they do listen and it seems to stick more. I think we should make a big mistake if, even in a comparative sense, we neglected this medium.

I know that the White Paper approves the B.B.C.'s intention to extend the hours and, presumably, the scope of the Third and Light programmes, but in my view their rejection of the Pilkington recommendation for a sustained and broadly-based trial of local sound broadcasting is a sad and short-sighted error. I know there has been great pressure for local commercial stations from people who perhaps hope to repeat in sound the great profits that they made in vision, but surely that is no reason for denying the B.B.C. the chance to develop local sound.

I mentioned this point at some length in the broadcasting debate which we had in March of last year, and that the B.B.C. were then ready to start at once, and had plans to provide within five years 80 or 90 local stations each with a live-mile radius. The capital cost of each would be £20,000, and they would each cost something like £30,000 a year to run. That is pennies, my Lords, compared with the comparable cost of television. It would be, in effect, a fourth sound programme providing good broadcasting which, as it were, grew out of the life of the local community around it, something that was intimately in touch with people's lives: local sport, weather, traffic problems, social activities, local church services, programmes for young people—a great deal of it on the "Do it yourself" principle—and all the questions, including local politics, which come close home and arouse the strongest interest. I think that that, done impartially as the B.B.C. would do it, would help, not harm, the local newspapers. I am very much concerned about their future continuance, and I should not willingly advocate anything which I felt would unfairly affect them. I do not think it is true, as the White Paper suggests, that there is no evidence of local demand. I think the demand is there, and I trust the B.B.C. will be given the chance to satisfy it.

I should now like to refer, quite briefly I hope, to some of the Committee's more controversial recommendations. At the beginning of their Report they point out that it was not possible under their terms of reference to suggest the closing down of commercial T.V., but in my own view the suggestion that all advertisements should be handled by I.T.A. would have precisely that effect of closing down commercial television. Moreover—and I do not want to go into detail on this—the suggestion is quite impracticable. I.T.A., my Lords, is apparently not very well equipped, according to this debate, to do the job it is already supposed to do, and I am certain that it is not equipped at all to act either as a programme company or an advertising agency. I think the series of searching questions which were put yesterday by the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, make that point very clear and reveal the snags.

There is one other point which was not made under this head, and it is this. If the Pilkington Committee's suggestion is implemented, then in I.T.A. we shall have, in effect, a State corporation carrying advertising. There would then be no logical argument against the B.B.C.'s carrying advertising, and giving the public television without charging a licence fee. I do not think anyone could support that proposition; nor do I think that the public as a whole would support the alternative, which came out as a result of an exchange between the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, and my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth, that we should have another corporation—call it the National Broadcasting Corporation, if you like—which would also be supported by licence revenue and have no advertisements. So I cannot see that the Committee's proposal is a starter at all.

I think, too, that the Government in the White Paper have been much too coy about the financing of the second B.B.C. channel, and I most firmly support Lord Shepherd's suggestion of a £5 licence fee, which, according to the figures he so carefully explained, would mean that viewers would pay an extra 5d. a week and the Treasury would relinquish the £12 million which they now retain out of the present £4 licence. I support those noble Lords who have said that we must have a much firmer basis for the finances of the B.B.C, and if the money is coming from licences and it is all going to the B.B.C, that will be a firm basis. I think it is much better than the suggestion which has been made in some speeches, that the money should come from I.T.A.

My Lords, it is beyond question that a comparatively small number of people have made vast profits from commercial television, and some of them have been pretty cynical about it. Many of them—perhaps not in whole, but in part—have cashed in, and the companies are now owned by a much larger army of investors, thousands of them, who this year we understand will share total profits of some £28 million before tax. But there are signs that the Klondyke days are over, or at least numbered, and I think, we are all agreed that that should be so. But if that is so, and if, as has been suggested, the commercial companies should be required to pay a higher rent, as with profits at their present level it would seem they could, the sum so obtained is not likely to be anything like sufficient for the B.B.C's requirements, quite apart from the suggestion that if such money goes into the Treasury it is by no means certain that it will eventually accrue to the B.B.C. Certainly, the licence way is the best way.

I suggest, although we do not know the date—I do not think anybody knows the date—that if and when there is a second commercial channel, these financial questions must be settled before any firm arrangements are made about a second independent programme. I trust, also, that we shall ensure that in every area there will be a genuine choice of programmes for the viewer. This brings in a point which was made by my noble friend Lord Shepherd, when he suggested that there should also be something like control of the prices charged for advertising space. I cannot remember his exact words, but I know that was in his mind. I suggest that if we make quite sure that we end the position where to-day, for example, one company has a monopoly for five days of the week, and a monopoly over another area for two different days, say a week-end, and we have instead two companies each working a seven-day week so that the viewers have a genuine choice, then it would not only be very much better for the viewers but it would break the advertising monopoly which, it is sometimes alleged, and I think with justice, has led to overcharging for space. I think that would eventually be a much better way, than by the rather difficult job of controlling advertising rates.

My Lords, I believe that this debate has made clear that we are at one in our determination that broadcasting snail be used to uplift, entertain, educate and improve—we differ only over the method. But I think this is certain: you cannot convert people by preaching in an empty church, and you cannot influence them through an unviewed screen. The people will look only at what they want to see; and, as has been said by many speakers, many serious commercial programmes are deservedly popular. For myself, "Panorama" gives me my best look round the world, but it is also true that twice as many people see "This Week" and that the proportions of viewers are much the same as that with a number of other comparable programmes. It is for the experts to say why that is, but it is the public choice. I merely say that we need both, and that both should strive constantly to improve. I think we are agreed that the White Paper provides a means for a greatly improved television and broadcasting service to the public, and, as such, it deserves our support.

4.52 p.m.


My Lords, I count it a great privilege to be able to join in this debate, because it seems to me, curiously enough, only a few years ago that we had that acrimonious dispute about the introduction of commercial television. In my mind's eye, I can see the present Leader of the House sitting on that second Bench, making possibly the most provocative speech I have ever heard in my life. If I had bad a brick with me, I should have thrown it at him; and I also had a great dispute with my dear friend Lord Waverley, sitting next to me. Noble Lords differed violently on whether or not the B.B.C. should have a rival. But those days are over, and we have had experience of independent television. It is not so good, perhaps, as we thought it was going to be: It is not so bad as some people thought it was going to be.

My Lords, in a debate like this it is important, I think, that everybody should disclose his interests. I am a director of Electric and Musical Industries (usually known as E.M.I.) and I am very proud of it, too, because it was that great company which produced television. If it had not been for the great Sir Isaac Shoenberg, we should mot have bad television as we know it to-day; yet his name is not nearly so well-known as it should be. I should like to tell your Lordships what we do. Our interests are that we put up broadcasting stations, we make receivers, we make valves, we make T.V. cameras and equipment, and we are also the biggest manufacturers of gramophone records in the world. But we are not in any way financially interested in the programme companies. Having said that, I think I can continue, with noble Lords appreciating exactly bow I stand in this matter.

I should like to start by paying a great tribute to the Pilkington Committee. I have said, jokingly, that the Government were unable to see through the difficulties of a new television organisation so they brought in a glazier, with the idea that they might be able to see through the problems a little better; to which a wag added: "It was better than leaving it to Chance". However, that is by the way. But I do not know how we are to persuade decent citizens of this country to serve on Committees, to spend an enormous amount of time digging into "he subject that is put before them if, at the end, having given the views which they believe to be right, they are to be met by a chorus of abuse up and down the country.

The members of the Pilkington Committee obviously did their duty. They must have been stuck before television, hour after hour, trying to judge the various programmes; and, as your Lordships know, in the end the effect and the maddening qualities of advertisements get you down. So I myself can well understand how, in the end, you would praise one system without advertisements and damn the other one. I have listened to such a degree to the various degrees of whiteness caused by detergents that in the summer I am convinced that snow is dark grey. That is the sort of effect that you find, and I can well understand this Committee coming down very enthusiastically on one side instead of the other. I rather regret, if I may say so, the fact that the Government, in their White Paper, have refused to permit "magazine" advertising. I cannot quite see the objection to that. After all, only the very rich firms can advertise during the peak hours, and if there were a magazine programme for a quarter of an hour the less wealthy firms would be able to come on to the air. In the immortal words of Mark Twain, "If you like that sort of thing, that is the sort of thing you like"—and some people actually do like it. On the other hand, you can turn it off. In any event, such advertisements do not come in the middle of some thrilling story which you arc annoyed at having interrupted. I feel that that point might be considered again.

My Lords, I should like now to strike a rather different note from that of most speakers, and that is to speak about the technical side. When we re-started television after the war, I was a lone voice crying for the introduction of 625 lines: everybody else, expert and non-expert, was in favour of the 405 lines, which is now shown to have been a mistake. I am delighted indeed that the Committee have given the lead to the Government in changing to the 625 lines, as indeed was recommended by the technical committee. In that connection, I hope that we shall be able to be standardised with the other countries of Europe; because, although 625 lines are 625 lines, there are many ways of doing it, and it would be a pity if the system were not standardised. I would ask here—and I hope—that the B.B.C. and I.T.A. will avoid duplication of research and development. There has been a great waste of money on this matter. If only they could make up their minds what they want, and then give a development contract to somebody, that would be a good thing; because, speaking from the point of view of the company of which I am a director, we find that the B.B.C. are rather inclined to do the easy jobs and to leave the difficult ones to the equipment manufacturers.

I very much agree with my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth about the plural system and the network. I think that that requires very much closer investigation than was given to it by the Pilkington Committee, and we need to be slow in making up our minds what to do. But I would say this: that if the Government are again to give a monopoly to the companies, the Treasury must look into the question and inspire legislation to prohibit any kind of interest by the programme companies, whether by shareholding or in any other way, in such activities as advertising agencies, broadcasting equipment businesses, record businesses, music publishing or show business. To quote one or two examples, A.T.V. have a 50 per cent, interest in Pye Records. British Electronics has broadcasting equipment and a record business, and a large interest in A.T.V. Members of the A.T.V. board publish music, and they are in the show business. I think this sort of thing is undesirable, because it must affect the placing of orders. With artistes, it must affect, for instance, whether their songs should be "plugged", or who should record them. I am not for one moment saying that anything unpleasant or undesirable has occurred; but the noble Viscount the Leader of the House has told us that he is going to curtail the profits of the great companies, and if they cannot get their money from straight advertising I think there is a very real possibility that they may do their best to get it from the tied companies, which they can inspire with such business as to make them all a success. I hope that that question will be looked into, because I think it is something which should be studied.

Altogether, my Lords, the Pilkington Committee, in my opinion, did a grand job. I do not say that I agree with everything in their Report—certainly not. Nor do I accept everything in the Government's recommendations. On the whole, however, at this time, in consideration of this broad subject, I accept what both say. But I hope that in this very important job we shall "hurry slowly."

5.2 p.m.


My Lords, this debate is proving something of an endurance test, both for those who speak and for those who listen; and had it not been for the fact that Mr. David Sheppard had boosted the morale of the church by getting a century at Lords, probably I should not have risked intervening in the debate at all. But it is now clear that the appearance of the Pilkington Report represents a milestone in the social history of our country, whether or not we accept all its detailed findings. We have to admit that for over a century, I should think, there has been a growing tradition in our country to avoid moral judgments wherever possible. In the courts, in public administration, in the Press, and I think even in the schools, there has been so much stress on the freedom of the individual to make his choice that there has been little willingness to admit that some choices are better than others.

After the Pilkington Report it will be, I think, more difficult for Governments to ignore or repudiate their responsibility in those realms of human life where moral attitudes are formed and developed. I am sure we all heard with appreciation the acceptance of that point by the noble Viscount the Leader of the House. I feel that what he said will be not only appreciated but remembered, and doubtless used in evidence against any Government that tends to stray from that position. For it is now clear that even in 1962 words like "right" and "good" still have a meaning, and they can be used without shame by men who are as far removed from Victorian or effeminate piety as Dr. Richard Hoggart or Mr. William Wright. We are forced by the Report to consider the moral effects of activities which must to some extent be nationally controlled.

Hawing said that—and I shall return to it in a few moments—I, like, I think, most other speakers, want to make my own little list of exceptions to my acceptance of the Pilkington Report. I think we are all very anxious to make it clear that we do not believe in the verbal inspiration of this document, which has its limitations and its exaggerations. And I do not think we need be too softhearted about the Pilkington Committee. They have not hesitated to hand out their good marks and their bad marks, and in this world I think you have to expect to be judged as you judge yourself.

I find the Report—and perhaps this, coming from these Benches, may surprise your Lordships—a little too grandmotherly in its tone and spirit. The Kingdom of England is not the Republic of Plato, and the nation as a whole will not, I think, hand over its cultural fate to any small group of guardians, even if they are dwelling in the most incorruptible corridors of Broadcasting House, or wherever else these things come from. A certain area of liberty and freedom must be left to the average man. I should have felt happier if more of the Committee's criticisms and plaudits had been admittedly based on their observations and impressions, rather than on the depositions of organisations which can easily represent vested interests of one kind or another. I personally do not think the Committee allow enough for that healthy common sense which I believe insulates many minds from the undue influence of the T.V. screen.

Quite a lot of violence which appears there is, I believe, soon forgotten as belonging to an unreal world. Incidentally, I think we all have to do a little more thinking about the place of violence in entertainment. There have been a number of excursions into this interesting subject in the Report, and in the debate in which we are now taking part, but I very much doubt whether we have reached the root of it yet, and I am quite certain I have not. I have a vague feeling in my mind that to watch scenes of violence from places of safety has always had some morbid fascination for the human mind. After all, the story of David and Goliath has a fairly bloodthirsty ending, and this has somewhere to he fitted into the legitimate interests and amusements of men, but with due regard all the time to possible dangers and exaggerations. I am very struck by one sentence in the Report, where it is pointed out that if you repeat violent scenes too frequently, they cease to have their effect, and then people feel forced to make them still more sensational and sadistic, and hence more harmful.

Similarly, I believe that people have plenty of ways of insulating themselves from the exaggerated claims of advertisements. I think the Report is asking for the moon when it insists that advertisements must be strictly truthful. I ask myself whether there could be really such a thing as a strictly truthful advertisement that was compressed into a few seconds but still expected to have some effect. After all, you must allow a certain amount of exaggeration. The Report calls it conventional exaggeration, but it allows very little place for it. I think people know pretty well what is exaggeration and what is not. I remember once hearing a story of an advertising agent who was called upon to advertise some tinned salmon that was so pale that nobody would buy it. So he invented the slogan, "This salmon is guaranteed not to turn red in the tin". If people want to be taken in by that sort of thing, of course nothing we can do can help them; but I do not think that very many do. I think that I.T.V. could legitimately feel that they might have had a few more good marks here and there. My brother Prelate the Lord Bishop of Chichester spoke of the most reverend Primate's view of I.T.V. religious programmes, and I know that he has taken special steps to see that this point was not forgotten in this debate. He feels that they have produced a certain quality of freshness and imaginativeness in their programmes, for which he, at least, is very grateful. They seem to have tripped up rather badly in the Coventry programme, as described by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd; but, of course, like others, they are bound to make mistakes.

When all this has been said, we must admire the Committee for the courage with which they have grasped the nettle and stated their opinion that a good deal of the material which is flooding the homes of England night by night is unworhty, less than the best it might be—in their word, "trivial". I think that it is very difficult to reach an acceptable definition of "trivial", but perhaps it is a help to think of the opposite, which is greatness, Professor Whitehead used to say: Moral education is impossible without the habitual vision of greatness. I expect that it would be rather wearing for all of us if we had greatness thrust upon us, in this sense, for every hour of every night. But to some extent, when we try to picture the total impact of our television programmes, I think that we have to say that a great deal is the reverse of what is great. And in this particular connection, I am afraid that I have to put what is commonly called "kitchen sink drama" in the centre of the picture.

Aristotle said: No lesson is so important to learn and no habit so important to acquire as a right judgment and a delight in fine characters and noble actions. My Lords, does our television help in this direction? Only yesterday, I asked the headmaster of a big modern secondary school in Leicester what he thought about the total impact of television upon his boys. He said, in the first place, that they watched almost exclusively the I.T.V. programmes and that only few of the B.B.C. programmes made any appeal to them. He did not think that the violence had any particular effect in producing delinquency or violent actions on their part, but he did say that he had found it more difficult to develop higher standards of loyalty, of dress and of general behaviour in a school that was largely influenced by what the pupils were seeing, night after night, on television. If this is so, I think that we must admit that we have not yet found a way of seizing the great opportunity that is before us.

Burke once said that: Public life is a situation of power and energy; he trespasses against his duty who sleeps upon his watch as well as he that goe6 over to the enemy. What we have to ask, not only of the I.T.A., or even of the I.T.A. and the B.B.C, but of this whole society in which we all have our share, is: are we rising to this possibility that is put before us? Can we give our people a vision of greatness instead of a nightly vision of the sordid and sallacious?

There is one other point that I should like to mention in connection with our television programmes, although I do not think it is specifically mentioned in the Report, unless I have overlooked it. This is the danger we are in of encouraging our people to form important judgments on slick answers to still more slick questioners. This is a new technique that has come into our country. Obviously, we cannot entirely go back on it, as it has become part of our lives for the time being. I understand from what I have read, and to some extent from what I have seen, that there is competition between interviewers as to who can put the sharpest edge on the questions; and, of course, this can easily slip into something not far short of impertinence and rudeness. But, quite apart from that aspect, the cult of speed has to be looked at with some suspicion when it is being applied to far-reaching issues.

I remember once being coached for a television interview by a very friendly interviewer, who said "Now, Bishop, you lost 15 seconds there". Of course, 15 seconds is a long time for the millions who are waiting for the next pearl of wisdom, but 15 seconds is not very long to formulate an answer that (perhaps concerns the whole future of humanity. Somehow we have to train our people to distinguish between this particular gift of quick repartee and those qualities of true statesmanship and leadership, whether we are (thinking of the Church or of the State.

I should say a few words about the specifically religious programmes. I have been advised by the Church of England Council for Radio and Television that they think, on the whole, that it would be wise now to encourage the setting up of a separate Religious Advisory Council for I.T.A. It is something that, during the formative years, one Council has somehow managed to serve these two bodies: the wolf has so far found it possible to dwell peaceably with the lamb, although apparently not without some slight embarrassment. Nevertheless, I do not think that we can expect this unnatural union to last for ever. With regard to this embarrassment, I do not think that it is an embarrassment born of mutual strife or dissension, but obviously if two organisations are both anxious to give the best, they cannot easily discuss their plans in front of one another without some kind of hesitancy. So I think that we might encourage this division of the Religious Advisory Council.

Those of us who occupy (these Benches particularity welcome paragraph 293 of the Report, which makes the point that the Christian character of the whole programme (I use that word "Christian" in a broad sense) cannot be decided entirely by the quality of the formal religious programme, but will be judged rather by the extent to Which a Christian outlook pervades the whole. Here, I think that we have to encourage all those who are in charge of these great agencies to take a highly responsible view of their responsibility. We do not usually quote texts from these Benches: We have mercy on your Lordships. But I did come across a Proverb of Solomon the other day which seemed to me might well serve as a motto for these agencies, for both sound and television. The hearing ear and the seeing eye, The Lord hath made even both of them. I think it is just a reminder that those who plan and produce what millions hear and see are carrying an immense and awesome responsibility. What we have to be careful about on television is the influence of people who are thought to be authoritative. I have in mind, in particular, doctors and scientists, whose authority has not yet gone the way of most other authorities. Those who represent the establishment—that is, the establishment in the non-ecclesiastical sense—do not count for very much at the moment, but there are still some spokesmen who speak for realms of life that have not yet been completely debunked, and I think scientists and doctors are among them. When people of this sort say things on television to indicate that the great moral tradition of our country is now an entirely open question, that everybody is free to reconsider the most fundamental matters in human relations, that is far more damaging, in the long run, than any amount of blood and thunder.

I feel that the B.B.C. have deserved their reward, in the shape of the next available television channel. I think it would be a drastic step to reorganise the existing companies, which have been formed on the principle that they both sell advertising time and produce, and to reconstruct them so that they become purely producing companies. I wish to differ from the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Chichester, who suggested that the personal fate of those concerned in this operation should be ignored by the Government. I believe that some thought would have to be given to whether this is a reasonable and fair surgical operation to attempt. My own view, if I had to give one, would be that if the B.B.C. had the next channel, then I.T.A. might have the fourth. The fourth channel might be organised from the start on this other basis, and then it could be seen whether or not it was possible for this third kind of technique to make a contribution to our broadcasting.

I would end with a word about local sound, only because I had a personal experience of it recently. I have just come back from an extensive tour of America and Canada in which I covered a great distance by car. We frequently turned on the radio, and it was interesting to me to find that as we drew near each new town we reached into a new programme, and on this new local programme, with all its local news, there would suddenly come an announcement of a sale at the local hardware shop, or something of that kind. To us, as strangers and visitors, this was rather amusing, almost comic. I do not think it would be an addition to the amenities of England to have this same experience. If we could do it without this complication, I am sure that it would be a good deal better. But the people in America and Canada seem to endure it without coming to any great harm. With those remarks, I will bring this speech to an end, with my gratitude to your Lordships for hearing me so patiently.

5.24 p.m.


My Lords, I think we have been most fortunate during this two-day debate, particularly in the two speeches which have been made by the right reverend Prelates, the Lord Bishop of Chichester and the Lord Bishop who has just resumed his seat. Both of them have shown a liberal spirit and a deep appreciation of the problems which we have to face; both speeches were filled with humour, and I must say they delighted me.

I hesitated very much before rising to address your Lordships to-day, because I felt that I had burdened the House too often with remarks about broadcasting and too often had to declare an interest as a director of one of the independent companies. I have none the less done so, because there are a few further points which I feel I should put quite briefly to your Lordships. I might say at the outset that I agree very generally with the kind of criticism that has been made of the Pilkington Report—for example, the leaders in the Daily Telegraph and in the Economist and the Statist, and particularly the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, in The Times two days ago. All in all, I must say that there seem to me to be many reasons why no Conservative Government could view with equanimity the proposals the Report makes with regard to the reorganisation of I.T.A., the implications of those proposals and their consequences if they were put into practice.

I should add, too, that the experience of a colleague and myself in regard to giving evidence before the Pilkington Committee (it was, in fact, on the subject of local sound radio) was not entirely satisfactory. We were told, first, that a summary of our written evidence would almost certainly be incorporated in their Report—this written evidence was carefully prepared—hut that no oral evidence would be published. Curiously enough, what happened was that virtually none of our written submissions came out in the Report, but only two extremely misleading and incomplete references to our verbal evidence; and these were lifted out of their context in order, I think, to prove a case against independent local radio stations. My friends and I have, of course, written to the Postmaster- General on this point. But I believe there are other examples of an incomplete marshalling of evidence and a failure to weigh objectively the various arguments. I am sure that the members of the Pilkington Committee drafted their Report in the best of good faith, but it is not an immaculate Report from the technical point of view, nor in so far as Government Committees' Reports are normally to be judged.

With regard to the third television programme, I am one of those who believe that, in the circumstances, it would not be practicable to hand it over completely to the B.B.C. without raising the licence fee above an equitable figure. I know, of course, as has been stated, particularly by the noble Viscount, Lord Rochdale, that other countries in Europe pay rather larger licence fees; but this does not seem to me to be a reason why we should follow their example. The fact that in most of these countries State monopolies exist is, to my mind, unhealthy: most of them are, indeed, in regard to television in the same situation as this country was seven years ago, and in that respect we are ahead of them. I believe it is perfectly sensible to allow television to be financed by advertising; and I might add that the argument that the consumer is, in fact, paying for these programmes by an increase in the cost of goods is well answered in a letter to the Daily Telegraph to-day from the Chairman of the advertising Committee of the independent companies' organisation. This is a myth which has been constantly expressed, and he points out, what is a fact, that advertising on a mass scale of this size leads to a lower price, because it produces a much larger market.

My noble friend Lord Swinton, to whom I always listen with the greatest possible attention, has advocated a very interesting solution. So far as I understood him, it was that the third channel should be shared between the B.B.C. and the LT.A. That, of course, is a possibility, and I suppose it is also possible that such a service might be financed jointly, and that it could be a specialised one catering for minorities. However, for various reasons, it would seem to me that such a service might be highly uneconomical. Moreover, while I feel that it could certainly be accepted as a temporary measure, I wonder whether this is the final solution. As the noble and learned Viscount the Lord President of the Council said yesterday [col. 606]: I do not ask noble Lords to mortgage their consciences in any way by tying themselves in advance to every detailed proposal contained in the White Paper. I hope that that enables me to speak freely in this matter.

My Lords, this is a discussion, and so I hope that my noble friend will forgive me if, in this particular respect, I criticise somewhat the proposal in the White Paper. It seems to me that if the Government do not want to increase the licence fee, or to give a State subvention (various figures have been mentioned, but I am told that it might be around £45 million), then we must think of some other kind of finance. I submit that the I.T.V. have the means, and it should not be altogether out of the question that they should be given responsibility for a third channel. Under the present proposals, there is not sufficient money available to give effect to the Government's recommendations. On the other hand, if it were possible to reverse the procedure and allow the I.T.A. companies to start an additional channel, I feel that it might be worth reconsidering this point. The companies evidently have the resources. This solution, moreover, would achieve the competition which is desirable, and would also, of course, greatly reduce the profits. It would immediately halve them.

What I should particularly like to emphasise is that I consider it most important that a third service, whatever the content of the programmes, should be on the European standard of 625 lines—a principle that is accepted by the Pilkington Committee and the White Paper—and not on the old 405-lines standard. In view of the importance of trade with Europe and on entry into the Common Market, it seems to me essential that any new service should start off on this new and more generally accepted system. I also believe (and this is perhaps more important, and a new point in your Lordships' debate) that a new service on 625 lines should take priority over a duplication on 625 lines of the existing 405-line services. I hope that I am not being too technical here, but I notice that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has taken my point.

From the Pilkington Report and the Government White Paper, at first I thought it was fairly clear that that was the intention and that it was generally agreed. From what the noble Viscount said in opening this debate (it is in column 612 of yesterday's Hansard), and also from the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, very late last night (for which I have not the Hansard before me), they seemed to think that the duplication of the first two of the existing two programmes on 625 lines might possibly take precedence over the third service. I should have thought it was most important to start with the new programme first. I think the ether is too precious to waste at first on mere duplication, although I know that it must ultimately be done. I hope, therefore, that the Government will be able to look very carefully again at this point. Moreover, I think that world experience has proved that any new station which broadcasts a duplicate programme never creates an audience. It is quite uneconomic to spend the capital required for an additional channel to operate a transmission which is virtually without an audience.

I should now like to quote what is described in the White Paper as "the long-term plan". In paragraph 33 the Committee say: The Committee take the view that it is right to plan on the assumption that the maximum use should be made of frequencies available. They foresee a need, in 15 years' time, for all six programmes. They recommend that one additional programme (B.B.C.) should be authorised immediately and a second (I.T.A.) within five years of the Authority being reconstituted as they propose. From this it is clear that in years to come, in accordance with that paragraph, we should have two programmes on V.H.F. and perhaps four in the ultra-high-frequencies I should hope that it would be possible to have not only a second commercial channel, which would compete for advertising revenue with the existing companies, but also a channel wholly devoted to educational programmes. Maybe there could also be wired pay-television services which would provide further specialisation.

In so far as the second commercial channel is concerned, I hope that when this matter arises these new competing companies which will have to be licensed will be licensed by the I.T.A. There would not be much point in establishing yet a third authority—that is to say, yet another bureaucracy. My own company, A.T.V., as I think your Lordships know, have always advocated the end of independent monopoly. They consider that there should be programmes being shown simultaneously in the principal areas by the independent services. They would provide the viewers with greater choice. They would put advertising on a normal commercial basis, rather than on a monopolistic basis; and, above all (and this point is one that I think I have already implied), would automatically reduce profits. On the question of profits, I should add that increasing wage demands, which were successfully pressed by the trade unions, including Equity, and rising production costs, as well as the whole development of television—and that is a very wide phrase—have already considerably reduced the profits of the existing companies.

In regard to educational television, if I may burden your Lordships for another three or four minutes, I should like to say how glad I was to hear the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, readvocate the idea of the university of the air. He seems very conscious of the value of educational broadcasting, and I was glad to see that the Government White Paper did not altogether rule out the possibility of a wholly educational channel, although it was said that it might be a mistake to hive off such educational programmes at this stage. I underline the words "at this stage." I am glad that it is not ruled out altogether. It is often said that there is not enough programming to fill further channels. But if we go wholeheartedly into education, there is no limit to the amount of valuable and useful programmes which can be included. Such services could be organised either by existing educational bodies or, at any rate, in close co-operation with them. I do not think that we should overlook the need for such a service.

One of the reasons why educational programmes do not fit well into a general service is the problem of outside broadcasts. For example, it may be a Head of State who is visiting this country one morning or one afternoon; or it may be the Cambridgeshire, or a programme that is being transmitted to us by Telstar. When such an event is shown on television, it may mean that the schools programmes have to be cancelled, even though the schools themselves might, in many circumstances, prefer to take the schools programmes. That is why I believe in a wholly educational channel; and also because I do not think that even with two, three or four general services you could have all the different categories of educational programmes which seem to me to be desirable, whether organised from the extramural departments of our universities, which are the finest in the world, or in other ways. Yet how many people in this country are able to follow up their particular subjects, in accountancy, science, economics, and so on"! In the teaching of languages, too, there is a great deal more which could be done. There is a great deal more I could say on that, but I will not burden your Lordships, as we had a debate on this subject some two years ago, but I think it is always worth reminding ourselves of the educational value of the medium.

I will not again go into the problem of how it should be financed. It might follow the same pattern as that adopted to finance educational television in America, where there will be 80 such stations at the end of the year. That is to say, it might be done by a Government grant or through industrial foundations, or a combination of these different methods; and, of course, by subscriptions from the schools themselves, as well as from individuals who find the programmes to be of value. I hope that the Government will be able to give study to these possibilities and go Wholeheartedly into meeting the needs especially of vocational and apprenticeship training, and try to make television an established adjunct to liberal studies of all kinds.

In conclusion, may I repeat what I think most of your Lordships realise: that not all television on either channel is as bad as it is sometimes made out to be. Some of it on both services is already pretty good in comparison with that provided in other countries. Just as in the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods not all the plays were bawdy romps, we now have a number of moving, enlightening and even, I might say, in deference to the right reverend Prelate who quoted Aristotle, cathartic experiences through the new medium. In referring to these bettor programmes I am reminded of the prologue to that remarkable tragedy, The Broken Heart, which your Lordships can hear Sir Laurence Olivier speak so magnificently in Chichester—a theatre which, incidentally, is greatly indebted to the television companies for their financial and other assistance. In reference to good programmes I should like to quote the few following lines from the prologue to The Broken Heart: The title lends no expectation here Of apish laughter, or of some lame jeer At place or persons; no pretended clause Of jests fit for a brothel courts applause From vulgar admiration; and he goes on— This law we keep in our presentment now, Not to take freedom more than we allow … My Lords, those last two lines about not taking freedom more than we allow, would, I recognise, be a motto rather of the O'Conor Committee than that of Sir Harry Pilkington's Committee. I am speaking particularly of the remarks about Violence on television which we have already discussed during this debate. In my view the conclusions of the O'Conor Committee, which did not advocate a written code in regard to the portrayal of violence, are sounder and more sensible than those of the Pilkington Committee, which press for the establishment of such a code, which the B.B.C. does possess.

It is worth noting, however—and reference may already have been made to this—that the British Board of Film Censors have always preferred to operate without written code. I am glad to see that the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, has re-entered the Chamber, and I should like to pay a great tribute to the speech which he made at the start of this debate. He seemed to me to have more knowledge of the programmes even than some of those who are concerned with the companies themselves. His kindly and genial references to them should be welcomed by the B.B.C. and the Independent Television companies. He is truly one of those who appreciate what television has to give.

My Lords, I look forward to seeing an expansion in the fields of broadcasting which will enable a wide and useful range of television programming on several channels, so that the people can really get the variety which they want and be enabled to have a choice. I am glad that the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord President of the Council, recognises that this subject is one that will never stand still, certainly at this stage of its development.

5.46 p.m.


My Lords, we have had a very long debate—one of the longest since your Lordships last debated television. First I should like to extend my good wishes to the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack and is about to make his maiden speech. I am told that the agreeable remarks he has already made to us do not count and that he will still be covered by a maiden speaker's privilege; and obviously we shall expect him to be very uncontroversial.

In passing, I would add my own regret at the departure of his predecessor, not only in personal terms but also because he was one of the architects of Independent and Commercial Television; and we should have liked to hear what he now thinks of his child. His position in that sense is a more equivocal one than that of the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Hailsham, who made not only an admirable but in every way an agreeable speech and set a tone to the debate which I hope, if possible, we shall succeed in maintaining in our subsequent discussions. He really went a long way to puncture the mythologies and nonsenses that are apt to grow as feeling grows in this matter. Whether he will succeed will depend a great deal on his colleagues in the Government—his future colleagues or present colleagues. None the less, I think he played a very valuable part by his speech yesterday.

I should also like to congratulate the maiden speaker the noble Earl, Lord Derby. He had a bit of bad luck yesterday. I do not think I need say more than that, beyond the thought that if it had not been his maiden speech we should all have enjoyed very much to cross swords with him. Certainly his manner was agreeable and his arguments were well delivered, even though I disagreed so strongly with them. But I do not doubt that he will not allow another fourteen years to go by before he returns to this topic.

There is one point I should like to take up in the noble Earl's speech. He quoted a statement of evidence which was put before the Beveridge Committee by the Listeners' Association which, he said, suggested that the British Broadcasting Corporation had pursued a persistent policy of advocating and advertising Communism and trying to disrupt the life of the country. He gave this as an example of the danger of bodies that give this sort of evidence; but he went on to say that this body was the predecessor of the Viewers' and Listeners' Association and I have been asked to correct that. The Viewers' and Listeners' Association have never heard of the Listeners' Association, which seems to me to be more suitably linked with the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, and possibly he was a member of it.


He is not now.


The noble Viscount gave us a most remarkable account of political prejudice. It is, of course, known to all of us who have been active in politics that our respective Parties are quite convinced that the B.B.C. is in the hands of the other Party. The number of times I have been told about Tory domination in the B.B.C can be equalled, I am sure, only by the number of times the Conservatives have been told of Socialist domination. But I regretted the noble Viscount's reference which rather implied the B.B.C. had gone Leftward during the war, in a way which implied that it let down the men who were overseas; and the noble Lord, Lord Aber-dare, who had been in the B.B.C, I think answered the accusation. I do not wish to take it further beyond saying that I think it was an unfortunate intervention in this aspect during a debate that has sought generally to remain on the high standard on which the noble Viscount started it.

I should have liked to debate at some length with the noble Earl who has just sat down. He made, I thought, one of his more agreeable speeches. Indeed, I think his advocacy of commercial tele- vision is gaining polish all the time. And it was interesting to see this alliance between the Prelates' Bench and commercial television; I should not like to suggest there was a pressure group here, but perhaps there is some connection with the amount of time that is allotted to religious broadcasting that produces what I can only describe as a very strange alliance. It may be that the B.B.C. are too high-minded to cater in this way. But, none the less, the noble Earl did, I think, put his case moderately. However, the suggestion (and I think this was a suggestion that came from the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, also) that half the new channel should be handed over to the B.B.C. and half to I.T.A.—I may have misinterpreted; I was not sure whether he meant the same companies or new companies, whether it was a so-called breaking of the commercial monopoly, or what—struck me as the barmiest of all the ideas that have come out. People may criticise Pilkington for the solutions he has produced to this problem of the commercial monopoly, but to divide this channel between the B.B.C. and I.T.A. seems to be really extraordinary, and I am quite certain that that particular proposal is not a starter at all.

It is understandable that the commercial companies are a little concerned about the effect of this new channel from the B.B.C. and it is natural that they should be. But I think they are going to be lucky to get away without a good deal of rather painful reorganisation, and it was obvious, I think, to-day as yesterday, that those who have been so passionate in the past in defence of commercial television are somewhat on the defensive. We find this a completely good state of affairs for us, and we think we can discuss the proposals in the Pilkington Report with the seriousness which so many noble Lords have shown.

I think it has been striking in this debate how serious and how objective many of the speeches have been. On the whole, the speeches have crossed Party boundaries; there have been speeches from both sides of the House whose political origin it would have been impossible to identify. Certainly I have enjoyed very much the speeches from my own side including that from my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth. It is interesting to see what keen televiewers Lord Morrison of Lambeth and Lord Swinton are. Nobody can suggest, as they used to in the past, that the House of Lords never watches television, because here, as the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, made clear, are some passionate viewers, and they view, suitably, I.T.A. or B.B.C. with complete impartiality.

Among the speeches which have certainly impressed me, in addition to that of my noble friend Lord Shepherd, was the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, who did in fact deliver, I think, a quite outstanding and very balanced speech. There were others to-day. It is a mistake to go through a catalogue of approval—and I have indicated one speech of which I did not approve very much—but I think we were most impressed by the extraordinary vigour that the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, brings to these debates, and his extreme modernity. I was rather anxious before he got up as to the particular line he would take. He has one of the great merits that he continues to be as unexpected now as undoubtedly he was when he first flew an aeroplane. Some of those views he expressed were undoubtedly of great interest and I am sure the whole House agreed with him when he regretted (I think he used slightly more forceful language) attacks on the members of the Pilkington Committee.

The noble Viscount, Lord Astor, went out of his way to say he did not condemn them but he condemned the Government because they were not very distinguished. I think he was referring to the Committee, not the Government. This seemed to me an unkind sort of remark and there have been other remarks of that kind, and most notably of course from certain newspapers. I think it was the Daily Mirror which went beyond all reasonable limits in the way they referred to scraping the barrel in relation to this Committee. It is obvious, though, that most of us in this House, and I am quite sure all those who took part in the debate, had read the Pilkington Report, or at least a good deal of it.

Whatever we may say about if, the facts remain that twelve perfectly ordinary sensible people have come to very definite conclusions and, most strikingly of all, unanimous conclusions. Arriving at those views is extraordinary in a field of ideas such as this, and arriving at unanimity is extraordinarily difficult. I think if we bad taken twelve philosophers, or indeed twelve Bishops, it would have been very unusual to find unanimity on points of such subtle doctrine as are involved in questions concerned with broadcasting. But perhaps, emulating the skill of the Church in these matters, they did not seek—and it has never been suggested—to produce a single dogma. They showed a good deal of courage in that they atempted to describe what they thought ware the purposes of broadcasting. They made their assumptions, but it would be unreasonable to expect that you could, as I Chink my noble friend Lord Longford suggested yesterday, roll it all up into a single dogma.

What they have done is to set out views and assumptions, and, if I may say so, I do not believe the sociologists could have helped them very much in this. I disagree with the criticism of the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham—who was in agreement with my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger—that the Committee are to be blamed because they did mot make more use of sociological techniques of investigation. It is my fortune, or misfortune, to have to make use of these techniques sometimes and to study results, and it is quite clear that it would be impossible, unless one were to take five years and spend half a million pounds, to arrive at answers in detail to some of the questions which it has been suggested they should have investigated in this way. Indeed, this figure of half a million pounds was given to me by a distinguished sociologist. I think that in this field it is not reasonable to expect in broadcasting, any more than for the advertisers, excessive respect for the sociologists. I know we all wish to rush in. I am surprised to see that such a distinguished sociologist as Lady Wootton of Abinger should have thought that useful results could have been arrived at in a short enough time for them to have been incorporated in this Report.

Against this we had the personal sociological investigation of the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, who in his admirable and forceful speech told us how he went and sat among his friends in the local working men's club (or it may have been the British Legion club), where I am sure that he is extremely popular with people of all Parties. He told us that when he asked them, "Are you corrupted by commercial television?", they said, "No". Then he said, "Are your children corrupted?" and "he said that they, with some indignation, answered "No, because we would not allow it". One can imagine the noble Lord perhaps asking the same question of the crowd at a public hanging 150 years ago. I think he would probably have received a rather ruder answer than in fact he received on this occasion. I do not think it is reasonable for us to expect the Pilkington Committee, dealing in this field of abstract ideas, to have done much more than seek to make up their own minds by their own observations, taking into account the evidence which they received. It is quite obvious that a great deal of evidence came before them. Some of it they accepted, and some of it they rejected.

I think the way that some of the things they have said have been interpreted is unfair. The noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, perhaps in a jocular way, said that he suspected that the Pilkington Committee might find their prejudices much the same as those of noble Lords on these Benches, against profits in general. That is an absurd remark. There is nothing anywhere to suggest that they are against profits in general. What they were against (these matters were brought before them by the I.T.A., and are a great embarrassment to the I.T.A.; and certainly, I should have thought, even to the programme contractors, although it is an embarrassment which they no doubt bear with equanimity) is the level of profits that have been made in recent years. This is a matter which, as the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, made clear, will obviously have to be dealt with in some way or another.

I should like to refer to certain other points in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale. He said [col. 681]: Parliament consciously, by a majority vote … in both Houses, did m fact determine to set up television supported by advertising, and for the purpose of advertising. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, is not here now. One sometimes expects people who have taken part in a debate to be here when one is replying, but I am sure the noble Lord has a good reason for being absent. But I must go on making this point. The argument for setting up commercial television—an argument which many of us found unconvincing and rejected, but which none the less we believe a number of people held sincerely—was to break the monopoly: it was certainly not for the purpose of advertising. It would be most unfortunate if for one moment we were to accept that sort of view.


My Lords, will the noble Lord forgive me for interrupting? But this is most important. He has definitely come down on the side of advertising at the moment in general, not only on television, as an important part of our present industrial life. He is not condemning advertising as a whole.


I shall be coming on to advertisements later, but certainly I would make the point again that the commercial television system, Independent Television, was not set up to provide a medium for advertisements. This was a by-product, and it was a way of providing finance for an alternative system of television in this country. I wanted just to deal with that particular point.

There were a number of smaller points which were dealt with in the debate to which I should like to refer briefly. There was a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, about local broadcasting and the need to provide local services for motorists. The noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, dealt with this. The only difficulty about the possibility of providing any sort of service to a motorist, except on a medium wave, is that on VHF a motorist would be in grave difficulty in that all the time he is moving out of the range of the station which he wants. But that helps to illustrate the point that there is probably a rôle for local broadcasting of some kind. I agree wholeheartedly with my noble friend Lord Stonham in his hope that the Government will allow an experiment in this field at an early date. The case put forward by the Pilkington Committee, that this should be controlled or run by the B.B.C., is so cogent, and it i apparent that the B.B.C.'s views are so well developed on this, that I hope that some experiment will be started quit soon.

Another of the points that have been made during this debate has been; welcome for the fact that National Broadcasting or Television Council which are at present advising in Scot land, and I think still advising in Wales will now exercise a more executive and authoritative control over programmes Speaking personally, I regard this a; a wholly retrograde step. I do not expect my noble friends who come from these areas to agree with me, but I think it is of paramount importance—I am sun noble Lords who have been concerned in broadcasting will agree—not to put the producer too much at the mercy of local interests. They may be the most admirable people, but having myself had experience as a producer in regional broad-casting, I can say that I was only too thankful when I was protected in some degree from influences of a kind that I thought would have made bad broadcasting. By all means let these Councils be advisory. But I would stress again—I am sure that noble Lords particularly having an interest in commercial broadcasting will agree—that freedom of the producer, and protection from undue influence of any kind, is highly desirable.

That brings me to the suggestion made by my noble friend Lord Francis-Williams last night; that B.B.C. producers were not particularly happy about the Pilkington Report; that they felt that there was a danger that it would strengthen those administrative or bureaucratic influences which they felt might stand in the way of good broadcasting. I do not know how widespread was this feeling, or how far it was justified. I commented that they must have read the Pilkington Report very quickly to have arrived at that opinion. But in any event I think it is true that in the B.B.C. (I think this is almost certainly true also in commercial television) there are producers who are bound to be dissatisfied with authority, who are bursting with ideas and who, I hope, will be rebellious of that authority. But they have to work within established bounds; they have, in the last resort, probably to work within a budget, whether it is within a publicly owned or privately owned company. But I think there an to-day in broadcasting—and I think we should be grateful for this—a consider able number of people who are anything but complacent over the sort of programmes that they put out, and who are only too anxious to develop then further.

We have had a good deal of discussion about the question of violence Here, I think the Pilkington Committee have been fairly moderate. They pointed out that violence, particularly of the standard Western type, or even the gangster type, is so stylised as not to be very harmful. They go into this question of violence in a good deal of detail, and they differentiate between the kinds of violence, and particularly the quantity of it, that might be of harm. I do not think this is a matter on which it is easy to establish the effects. The effects may or may not be shown as time passes. They may or may not be reflected in delinquency, or in other antisocial acts. It is very difficult to judge. But I think there is at least some evidence, and some reason to believe, that too much violence, and certain extreme kinds of violence, are apt to be harmful. This seems to be a reasonable view which the great majority of your Lordships would have come to, and to condemn Pilkington and regard it as "namby-pamby" or unduly soft because of such opinions as this seems to be unreasonable.

My Lords, one of the pleasant things about this debate is that, with few exceptions, we have not begun to play what the First Lord of the Admiralty is pleased to call "the numbers game" in trying to compare the relative viewerships of the different programmes. For a long while commercial television was extremely proud of its T.A.M. ratings. I think that T.A.M. ratings have been a little exploded lately. Moreover, the B.B.C. have produced their own figures which show that their listenership at peak-viewing hours is getting closer all the time to that of commercial television.

One of the important points made by the Pilkington Committee is that it is not simply a matter of counting heads. The point is: is it better to give a majority something that it tolerates or enjoys mildly, or is it better to give a large minority something that gives it intense satisfaction or enjoyment? Surely in a free society we should cater not just for headless majorities, but for a whole range of different individuals and groups, each with tastes of their own. I should be the first to admit that there are programmes on I.T.A. which fulfil that very aim, and provide that sort of interest. But there is some justification for saying—and we cannot dismiss this—that there has been an undue preponderance of mass audience programmes at peak-viewing hours. On Saturdays, when the B.B.C. themselves go out for these mass audience programmes, their programmes have borne a very close relationship with, and similarity to, those of I.T.V. In this matter of trying to assess the effect and value of these programmes (and here again I think the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, was wrong) it is surprising that I.T.A. have done very little in the way of audience research. I am quite sure that this is a responsibility which they ought to take upon themselves in future.

Yesterday the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, made a plea for co-ordination of programmes. He said how annoying it was to see a "leg show" on each of the two programmes, and he made a plea for co-ordination. It is interesting to note that in his evidence to the Pilkington Committee (unless he also feels that he has been wrongly interpreted) he makes a plea for competition. But I do not see how we can have competition and coordination of these two particular operations. It really is not possible to achieve that. Quite clearly, there will have to be some co-ordination in regard to these matters on the new ultra-high-frequencies. This may be a painful experience for them, though not perhaps as painful as the Religious Advisory Council. The argument of the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, that what we now wanted was co-ordination was the main argument put forward by those of us who asked for complementary and not competing programmes. Now we have been confronted with an alternative programme, with a rigid networking system of a kind that certainly produces a monopolistic position, as many supporters of I.T.V. have admitted. That is why at this present moment the Pilkington Committee—rather like the Committee of the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, earlier—have decided to recommend four complementary programmes.

The alternative argument for competition does not stand up, except so far as the advertiser is concerned. There is indeed a case for more commercial television services in order that the advertiser should not be held up by the limited advertising resources. But, of course, television does not exist for the advertiser. It exists for the viewers; and it is the viewer who counts. A theme that is repeated time and again in the Pilkington Report—and I do not see how anybody can reject it—is that the only way in which we can hope to get a reasonable choice of programme is by giving the B.B.C. a second programme. I am very glad to see that the Government have now adopted this proposal.

My Lords, the most controversial part of the Report (and, indeed, this is the matter from which the Government have retired, or at least which they are approaching with great caution, and I do not blame them for it) is: what is to be done about the I.T.A.? It may be that the I.T.A. have had a raw deal from the Pilkington Committee, but they seem to have been extremely inept in some of the things they put forward, which is really quite extraordinary. In fact, the programme contractors made much more intelligent remarks than I.T.A., and recognised much more clearly their responsibilities. But what are we going to do about I.T.A.? We do not want to go on hounding Sir Ivone Kirkpatrick or Sir Robert Fraser, but we have to find a solution. I myself do not know whether the Pilkington solution is the right one, but a number of noble Lords, and indeed others who have been active in this field, believe that it is possible. It is certainly something that ought not to be rejected out of hand.

There have been published opinions on this. I do not know whether anybody has quoted the Television Quarterly of the British Film Institute, who came out very strongly on this matter. They say: Something must be done, and the reorganisation proposed by the Pilkington Committee is, failing any other proposals, the best solution we have. It can be faulted in detail. Its workability can only be demonstrated in practice. Those who criticise the Pilkington proposals do not seem to be bothered at all by the extraordinary complexity of the present arrangements—the arrangements both for the selling of advertising, and for the networking of programmes. It is quite clear that the Independent Television Authority, the Government, and indeed some of the programme contractors—certainly the smaller ones—want something to be done about this rigidity in the networking arrangements. It is to break this rigidity and introduce some real competition in broadcasting among these programme contractors that the Pilkington Report makes its proposals.

Yesterday the noble Lord, Lord Forbes, expressed a good deal of anxiety about the future of some of the smaller programme contractors. I should have thought that if this sort of proposal were put into effect it might well make possible the survival, if they are really seriously endangered, of the smaller programme contractors. Indeed, I think, it would be very serious if the smaller programme contractors disappeared. I agree with those who suggest that the programme contractors are rendering a local service. I do not think it is fair that they should all the time be claiming how much better they are doing than the B.B.C. The B.B.C. have never been able to develop these services, and the people to blame for this are the Government—not just this Government or any other Government, but the Government who succeeded in taking £95 million, as the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said, from the licence holders.

My Lords, time presses on and we are shortly due for a natural break at 7 o'clock. I must allow time for the noble and learned Lord to wind up this debate. I think there is not even space to say very much about advertising. I should only like to say this in conclusion: that I think the critics of Pilkington have been unfair in saying that the Committee's Report is restrictive. It is not restrictive. They make clear time and again—and one could quote at length the things they have said—that they want the widest possible range of programmes. They say that anything less than that is deprivation. They em- phasise something that we, as legislators, ought to take seriously into account: they emphasise that it is in this sort of field that ideas can develop and the challenges and problems of this age can be faced. They emphasise again the importance of experiment and of giving a hearing to dissent.

We cannot deny, however much attention we may pay to particular social surveys, that television is a social force. By itself, a particular programme may have little effect. Over the years, like the behaviour of anyone, whether it is our friends, our colleagues or those whom we meet, it has a very great effect, indeed. It is to the more positive side of television that we hope a lead can be given, not just by those who want to give the public what they think is good fat it but by those who have creative ideas of their own and beliefs that they want to develop. These can help to give us not only good light entertainment of the kind of which my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth is so fond—and, I admit, so am I—but also of the kind of which the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, is fond. I was struck by the modest way in which he said he wanted more music. He said, "I want more music on television, because I enjoy it so much, and I wish other people could have that enjoyment". This seems to be a very reasonable and sensible view.


My Lords, if the noble Lord will forgive my saying so, Sir Thomas Beecham once told me that music on television was no good. It has to be heard, not seen.


I am sure the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, would not agree. I think, on occasions it is better seen and not heard. But with the development of stereophonic sound and the vision of it, this is the next best thing to going to a concert. We in the West have sometimes been accused of being trivial and without social purpose, as opposed to the Communist countries. I think that the Pilkington Report, and what I hope the Government are going to do, will show that we can have a sense of responsibility in these things.

6.23 p.m.


My Lords, in 1943, when I was first elected to another place, your Lordships were allowing that House to use this Chamber, and I well remember making my maiden speech speaking from what is now the third Bench occupied by the Opposition. I still remember what an ordeal that was and how nervous I felt. To-day I make my maiden speech to your Lordships and my feelings are very similar to, though not so acute as, those that I had just over 19 years ago. Perhaps they are not so acute, because of the unusual coincidence of making both maiden speeches to different Houses in the same Chamber.

Yesterday we had another maiden speech—that of my noble friend, Lord Derby. I listened to his speech with the greatest interest. I thought, if I may say so, that he made his points very clearly indeed. He had some cricitisms to make of the Pilkington Report, and he was not alone in doing that. I was indeed surprised, and not a little alarmed for my own sake, to hear it being suggested that he had been controversial. Whether or not he was controversial is not for me, as a newcomer to your Lordships' House, to judge; but I am sure he was not controversial in the sense in which that word is used in another place. I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, and the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, with whom I had some enjoyable controversy in days gone by, would agree with me. My Lords, I have not the least desire or intention to be in any way controversial to-night. If I transgress, it will be unintentional, and I am alarmed lest I should transgress, for I fear that not all I say is likely to secure universal agreement.


My Lords, I hope everything else will be, but not the last part.


I hope I shall not be reproved for being controversial on that account. But I do crave from your Lordships the indulgence which I know is extended to all in the position in which I am to-day.

My Lords, I think this is the first debate in this House to which I have listened almost from the beginning to the end. Your Lordships' House enjoys a great reputation for great debates and, having listened to this debate during these last two days, I hope I may be permitted to say that there is no doubt that this reputation is nightly enjoyed. It has been a very interesting discussion to listen to. It has covered a very wide field, and now I enter upon what I feel is a really formidable task: that of making the winding-up speech in a two-day debate in which so many have spoken and have spoken so well. But my task is lightened to a great extent by the speech made by my noble friend Lord St. Oswald late last night. I thought he did it admirably, if I may say so, and he certainly covered a great many technical points With which I should be quite incompetent to deal.

There have been moments when it has seemed to me that we have been debating the Report of the Pilkington Committee perhaps rather more than the Motion before us, which is just, That this House approves the Memorandum on the Report of the Committee on Broadcasting". We are, of course, debating the White Paper and not the Report, though naturally we have to consider the White Paper against the background of that Report. I am sure the House will agree that that White Paper is an important document, for it deals with the whole future of broadcasting in its fullest sense: with the structure of commercial television, sound broadcasting and additional B.B.C. programmes, educational programmes and many other matters.

We have set out in Part II of the White Paper our proposals, and in Part III the recommendations on which the Government have thought it right to reserve their decision for the time being. I hope that the House will think that this is a sound and sensible approach, and that, as the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said to-day, the Government had taken a wise view of the Pilkington Report. I am glad, too, that this met with the approval of the noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams. It would, indeed, have been wrong for the Government to have delayed informing Parlament of our proposals, set out as they are in the White Paper, until we had reached a conclusion on the other matters on which we have reserved our decision. But I can assure your Lordships that the views expressed in this debate, both with regard to our proposals and with regard to the matters on Which we still have to reach a conclusion, will be most carefully considered.

The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, at the beginning of his speech, reminded us of the comments made in the Press. He criticised them and we listened to his criticisms, and I am sure the House was glad to learn from him that, despite his criticisms, they all remained good friends of his. Even though we may not agree with all the conclusions of the Pilkington Committee, even though it may be thought that, to use a lawyer's phrase, there was insufficient evidence to support some of their conclusions, or even, it may be, that their verdict on one or two matters was against the weight of evidence, I am sure that Parliament and the country are indebted to them for all the work that they have voluntarily done.

Sometimes it is overlooked how much time and effort goes into the production of a Report such as this, and I myself feel Chat, even if we do not accept all the conclusions they have reached, it should be generally recognised that men and women of integrity and vision have laboured hard to fulfil the task set to them. I was very glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, touch upon this matter; and I hope noble Lords will agree, whether we agree with their conclusions or not, that, really, what they have done has been most helpful to us in our deliberations. I think it is true to say not only that the content of their Report has been of real help to us but also that it will be a help to all those who have to consider the future of broadcasting.

The noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, with that frankness one would expect of him, revealed that he had changed his view, the view that he had previously expressed, that there should be a monopoly of television. I am glad that that is so, as he must now be glad that his advice as to that was not followed in 1954. I also think I detected a change of view in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth. He said that there should not be television too many hours of the day; for, he said, it was not good for people to stay up late at night. My Lords, there was a time, when he was leading the other House, when he must have thought it was good for one to stay up late, and very late, for he insisted on our doing so. Many a time has he kept me from my bed, but I would not suggest for one moment that he sought to do something then which he did not think was good for us. So, my Lords, I think I can rightly put forward the contention that he also, like the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, has had a change of view.

Now there was one thesis which he put forward on which I should like to say a little: a proposition that seems to me to be the basis on which the opposition to the idea of programme companies receiving revenue from advertisements is founded. The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, asserted that the introduction of the commercial element is bound to depreciate television broadcasts and is bound to lower standards. If this really is so, I think it is a terrible thought. If this be true of the effect of the commercial element on television, is there any reason why it should not be equally true in other fields? Have we really to envisage a constant lowering of standards so long as we have a free and competitive Press dependent on a commercial element? Personally, my Lords, I do not believe this to be the case. Public opinion and taste Change, and I should not be surprised to see a strong reaction from the public—Indeed, I am not sure that it is not beginning—and I should not be surprised to see a demand from the public for higher standards. If that were to happen, and if that is happening, is there any reason to suppose that there will be mo effort on the part of the television companies to meet it?

My Lords, it is perhaps a little curious to reflect that, just after we have changed and relaxed the law, by the passage of a Bill introduced into another place by a Private Member, so that books and novels of a character which in the old days would have invited prosecution can now be published with impunity and bought by children and young persons, we should now be considering tightening up television broadcasts for the purpose primarily, if I understand it correctly, of protecting that category of society.

I listened with the greatest interest to the speech made by the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Leicester. I enjoyed his observations, and particularly his reference to the reliance that we should place on healthy common sense. We have adopted that with regard to literature, to the printed word. I myself should have thought we should apply the same teat, and keep the same test vary much in mind, when we are considering the position, not in relation to the printed word hut to the picture that flashes across the screen.

My Lords, this debate, like the White Paper, has covered a wide field, and a wide variety of views have been expressed. The noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, stressed the need, in his view, for more televising of music. The noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, asked for more sound radio, which he said was supreme in one thing—music; and I gather that the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, agrees with him. I must confess that in this particular controversy I find myself on their side, for I have not found that a close-up of a man beating a big drum or blowing a trumpet added to my appreciation of music.

We had some discussion, too, on triviality. At one time I thought it was suggested that that was due to the commercial element. I think that was hinted at, if not completely expressed. The other contention or view put forward was that triviality was largely due to the difficulty of filling with good material the long hours of television now available. But then again it was said—and this shows the wide variety of opinion in this House upon the matter—.that if you had long hours of television it would be possible to have more serious and more complete discussions, and, I gathered, more possible to avoid the kind of difficulty to which the right reverend Prelate referred—that of important questions being raised, slick questions, demanding a slick answer, an immediate answer, without any time in which to think. When I listened to the right reverend Prelate I wondered what would be said if, in the courts, witnesses were always expected to answer without having a moment for reflecting what they had to say. I do not believe that it would be regarded as likely to lead to the proper administration of justice: and I agree with the right reverend Prelate that these slick answers to pointed questions do not often add to the elucidation of the problem.

Something has been said about "natural breaks"—and as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said, one will be coming here in a very short space of time. My Lords, on this point many different views can be held. My wife's view is that they are very convenient. They enable her to go out and put through a local telephone call or do something else without missing any important part of a talk. But that, of course, is not an argument for a "natural break" for advertising.

As I have said, I think the task before me tonight is a formidable one. It certainly would be extremely formidable—and, indeed, wearisome to the House—if I sought to reply to every single point raised in the course of the speeches of to-day and yesterday. I shall not, if the House will permit me, attempt to deal with them, but I will attempt to deal with what I think has been the main point of controversy between the speakers. I think the main subject of controversy has been the proposal to divert the revenue earned by advertising from the programme companies to the I.T.A. That was the argument, as I have said, put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, and also by the noble Earl, Lord Longford: the argument that the commercial element due to the collection of revenue adversely affects the standard of television. I do not suppose that anything I say will affect the minds of those who hold that view. I, of course, respect their views, and the sincerity with which they have been expressed: but I simply do not accept the proposition that it is impossible to work to secure a profit and, at the same time, work for the public good. Nor do I personally accept the premise which I think was implied in the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Longford: that if your object is the public good, and you do not have to worry about money, it necessarily follows that you will in fact do more for the public good than those who sell advertising as well as producing programmes.

The noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, spoke a good deal about sponsored programmes. We do not have sponsored programmes. That matter was deliberately omitted from the 1954 Act. We have separated the production of individual programmes from the direct pressure of advertisers. It is now suggested that instead of separation there should be a complete divorce: that the commercial dement, although it does not directly affect the individual programme, does so indirectly by lowering the tone—by giving the public more of what they want, and not enough, perhaps, of what they should want.

My Lords, I see television only at week-ends, and not always then. The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, referred to Perry Mason. I am glad that he enjoys him. I am glad, too, that he has not suggested that we should adopt similar procedures in our courts. The point was made by the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, that criminal activities on television nearly always end up with the criminal being caught, but I have yet to see a Perry Mason picture which has resulted in a conviction. If I may say so, while it may be true that the change of theme from the times when the criminal always escaped, which one used to read in one's youth, has altered to the case which you see on television of the criminal always being caught, I do not think that that antithesis completely concludes the matter. I am not at all sure that some of these crimes which one sees committed on television, where the criminal is ultimately caught, do not put ideas into some people's heads, who may say: "Well, that is a very clever way of doing it, but if only he had not made that mistake, he would not have been caught." I believe that is a factor which has to be borne into account.

But I myself think that we have to be on our guard not to adopt a more grandmotherly attitude in relation to television than we do in relation to literature, and that we should rest on, and place our confidence in, the healthy common sense of the people who use this instrument. I should just like to say this. Speaking for myself—and we each have our own opinion on the question—apart from advertising, when I look at television at week-ends I find very little to choose between the two programmes.

I hope that the House approves of the statements in paragraph 80 of the White Paper, and I think it does, from the speeches which have been made. The previous paragraph says: The Committee's main argument is that in the context of the present structure it is impossible fully to reconcile the commercial purpose of the companies with the realisation of the 'purposes of broadcasting'". Then the White Paper goes on to say in paragraph 80: Whether this argument is valid is a question about which there are obviously two opinions;"— this debate has made that absolutely clear— in any case the Government feels that the practical difficulties presented by these proposals have not been fully appreciated. So fundamental a change in the structure of independent television requires the most thorough examination"— I am sure the House will agree with that— and the Government wishes to be satisfied that any new structure would remedy the defects it was designed to overcome and would not throw up equally serious difficulties of its own or deprive the system of those features for which it can fairly claim credit. I hope the House will forgive me for reminding it of those words. I think that that correctly sums up the present position on that particular question.

My Lords, on this problem we must, all of us, try to arrive at the right answer in the interests of the country. The Pilkington Report is useful, as I am sure this debate will be most useful, in focusing public attention on the issues and the problems it involves.

I should like to deal, if I may, with one or two points which have been made to-day. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, made a most interesting speech in which he put forward proposals for further finance. They were interesting suggestions, but I should not be guilty of exaggeration if I were to say that none of them was free from difficulty. We will certainly consider them most carefully. He also referred to pressure groups. I do not see any reason why any of us in this House, or in any other place, should be alarmed by pressure groups; for they are easy to identify, and unless their arguments are sound they have very little effect on the course of action taken by either this House or the other.

I think I need not say much more in answer to the points which have been raised to-day. I should like to conclude my speech to your Lordships on a personal note. During my eleven years as a Law Officer I have had little, if any-thing, to do with the problems arising from television, though there seems now to be a growing tendency for television to provide work for the courts. I have never spoken in a television debate before. For me it is a novel experience, I should like to express my gratitude to your Lordships for listening to me sc kindly, and I hope that I have not transgressed the ancient custom of this House by saying anything controversial.

6.46 p.m.


My Lords, before my noble and learned friend puts the Question, perhaps I might be allowed to exercise what is technically a right of reply by congratulating him on his safe deliverance of his maiden speech. I felt a little guilty in throwing him in "at the deep end", as it were, and making him wind up, so soon after his introduction, a full-scale debate. I was very conscious of the nervousness which he feels. People think that lawyers do not feel nervousness when they speak in public, but I can testify to the fact that we feel just as much nervousness as anybody else. I hope the House will agree that the noble and learned Lord has delivered himself very honourably and capably on this first occasion, and that we have much to look forward to in the debates in which he will take an increasingly controversial part, I have no doubt, in the future.

On Question, Resolution agreed to.