HL Deb 29 July 1963 vol 252 cc1004-26

3.13 p.m.

Report of Amendments received (according to Order).

Clause 2 [Authority's responsibility for programmes]:


My Lords, Amendments Nos. 1 to 6 go together. They are to meet an undertaking I gave to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, on the Committee stage, to look again at the wording of Clause 2(2) so as to give emphasis to the point that the I.T.A. can cover in their code objectionable matters other than violence, not only in general, but in particular when children and young persons are likely to be watching. That was what a number of your Lordships thought ought to be done. I must say that I think the wording of the Bill as it was at the time in fact covered that, but in deference to the opinions expressed and the undertaking I gave, we have strengthened the emphasis on this matter in, as we saw it, the way your Lordships wished it. I do not think I have anything more to say, except that I beg to move the Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 7, leave out ("shall—(a)") and insert ("—(a) shall").—(Lord Chesham.)


My Lords, I am sure that it would be the wish of my noble friend Lord Taylor, who is not yet here, that we should express appreciation to the noble Lord for having brought forth this Amendment, which, to the best of my recollection, substantially meets the point raised. We are much obliged, and we support the Amendment.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Amendments moved—

Page 2, line 9, after ("guidance") insert ("(i)")

Page 2, line 12, after ("and") insert ("(i)")

Page 2, line 16, after ("code") insert ("and in considering what other matters ought to be included in the code in pursuance of subparagraph (ii) shall have special regard to programmes broadcast when large numbers of children and young persons may be expected to be watching;")

Page 2, line 17, after ("(b)") insert ("shall")

Page 2, line 18, leave out ("such programmes") and insert ("programmes (other than advertisements) broadcast by the Authority").—(Lord Chesham.)

On Question, Amendments agreed to.

Clause 9 [Advertising agents disqualified from being programme contractors]:


My Lords, Amendments Nos 7, 8 and 9 go together. They define, in what I hope is a more satisfactory form, the expression "advertising agent". As I told your Lordships, in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, in Committee, we were not entirely satisfied with the definition as it then appeared on the Bill, and I said that we would have yet another crack at it, although it had been proving rather difficult. We have had another crack at it. I think this is an improved version, and I hope that the noble Lord will agree. I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Page 12, line 38, leave out from beginning to ("and") in line 45 and insert— ("For the purposes of this Act and the principal Act—

  1. (a) a person shall not be regarded as carrying on business as an advertising agent, or as acting as such an agent, unless he carries on a business involving the selection and purchase of advertising space or time for persons wishing to advertise.
  2. (b) a person who carries on such a business shall be regarded as carrying on business as an advertising agent irrespective of whether he is in law the agent of those for whom he acts,
  3. (c) a person who is the proprietor of a newspaper shall not be regarded as carrying on business as an advertising agent by reason only that he makes arrangements on behalf of advertisers whereby advertisements appearing in the newspaper are also to appear in one or more other newspapers,").—(Lord Chesham.)


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, for having another go at a very difficult subject. The earlier Amendment went some way—indeed, I thought it went as far as necessary—to meet criticisms that had been made in the absence of a proper definition of, "advertising agent". But we gathered that it was too wide. I think the noble Lord was right to try this wider one, and we welcome it and hope that there are not further disadvantages in it.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Amendments moved—

Page 13, line 1, leave out ("is not to") and insert ("shall not")

Page 13, line 4, at end insert ("and any reference in this Act or the principal Act to an advertising agency shall be construed accordingly.").—(Lord Chesham.)

On Question, Amendments agreed to.

In the Title:

LORD SHACKLETON moved, in the Title, to omit "including relations between the Authority and the British Broadcasting Corporation." The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment is unimportant from the point of view of its direct effect, but is of some significance from the standpoint of the B.B.C. The effect of it is to remove from the Title of the Bill the statement that it is also dealing with relations between the Authority and the British Broadcasting Corporation. At an earlier stage the Bill was amended to make it clear that there were certain obligations on the Authority to co-operate with the B.B.C. in regard to certain matters—this is in Clause 18—and it is perfectly right in certain respects in regard to radio masts and transmitting stations that there should be economy and that where they are able to share these it is a desirable thing.

But this Bill is primarily concerned with the Independent Television Authority; it is concerned with laying obligations on the Authority and not on the B.B.C.; and there is some importance in the distinction between the two bodies and their constitutional background. The B.B.C. operates under Royal Charter; the B.B.C. attaches very great importance to this, and I believe there is importance in this from its position both in this country and in the world at large. It is not controlled directly by legislation. It seems therefore to follow that this Bill should be confined, as I believe it ought to be, to the responsibilities of the I.T.A. This is not to suggest in any way that the B.B.C. should not co-operate with the I.T.A., but, historically it derived its authority, as I say, from Royal Charter and I think there is quite a lot to be said for preserving that position and removing this particular phrase from the Title of the Bill. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Line 10, leave out from first ("Authority") to end of line 11.—(Lord Shackleton.)


My Lords, the noble Lord is, of course, perfectly right. This Amendment is in fact consequential on the action that was taken in another place, and naturally I accept it.


I thank the noble Lord very much.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Then Standing Order No. 41 having been suspended (pursuant to the Resolution of July 23):


My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(Lord Chesham.)

On Question, Bill read 3a, with the Amendments.

3.23 p.m.


My Lords, as I now come to move, That the Bill do now pass, I think we can fairly claim that we have now produced a fair and workable Bill, much improved, I should have thought, since it was first introduced, Many of your Lordships have put in a lot of hard work and displayed an interest in the subject, which is very heartening. Broadcasting is a very important as well as a fascinating subject, one which affects the lives of the whole community perhaps more than even the Press, and it is right that your Lordships should have examined, and examined critically, the precise provisions that were put before you, and in particular instances sought for even greater precision and clarification.

Indeed, it would be true to say that the value of your Lordships' contribution to this Bill lies in this very clarification. The value lies more in what has been brought out on the subject of intention, sometimes backed by assurance, rather than in terms of numbers of Amendments made. What we have succeeded in doing, either in the Bill or in discussion of it, is to clarify the directives under which the Authority will work in the future, spell out the standards and give guidance on those matters, such as the need for a code on the showing of violence in programmes. That has caused concern, and we have emphasised the importance of the care needed when children and young people are watching, not only in the case of violence but in the other matters about which we have just been speaking in the course of the Amendment we have just accepted. We have also removed certain restrictions and given the Authority new powers which we hope will help them in the future.

I feel it worth saying once again that the Government are aware that the actual form of the levy arrangements imposed under Clause 7 has been, to say the least, controversial, although there is little doubt that the principle of the rental payments is generally accepted. My right honourable friend the Postmaster General has given assurances on more than one occasion that the working of these arrangements will be kept under close observation both by himself and the Authority, and provision has been made for variation in the arrangements if that should be found to be necessary.

My Lords, I should like to say a final word about the future. The Authority has a tremendous job before it. It has to take a long look at the contract areas, as they are now, and as they may require to be during the next twelve years. The claims of Scotland and Wales, and indeed other areas, must be weighed. The financial requirements of the system must be added up and allocated. The Authority must ensure that its own enthusiasm and vigour, and the enthusiasm and vigour of the contractors and all concerned with them, should be harnessed to produce lively programmes covering all facets of information, education and entertainment, competing strongly with the B.B.C. yet also complementing its services. I would ask your Lordships, therefore, to join with me in extending good will and encouragement to the Authority in its future task, just as I myself want to extend my thanks and appreciation to all your Lordships for the great amount of work you have put into this Bill, particularly to my noble friend Lord Dundee, who currently, I believe, is in Peru, and for the progressive way this Bill has gone through the House. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Chesham.)

3.28 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, and his noble friend Lord Dundee on the way they have smoothed the progress of this Bill. It has not been too easy and I think that, on the whole, we have tried to help the Government—we hope not to their embarrassment—in regard to certain matters. It is noticeable how far we have come since those tremendous battles in your Lordships' House when the original Television Act, 1954, came to pass. I thought that that Act was a mistake, and I still regret it, for reasons which I have declared on a number of occasions, but it is not the moment to re-fight those old battles on a Motion, That the Bill do now pass. The fact is that the Independent Television Authority and commercial television are here, and are likely here to stay.

Following the Pilkington Report—and I repeat again that I myself believe that a great deal of that Report was justified—the Government have gone a considerable way to meet the main criticisms. It was too much to expect, I think, that they should have gone the whole Pilkingtonian hog, but they have now given powers to the Authority which those of us who have been critical of commercial television thought the I.T.A. had to a considerable extent before, but which it is arguable in practice, whatever the drafting of the original Act, they did not have in a sufficiently definite form. This particular excuse—and I do not mean it offensively—is no longer open to them. I hope they now have the authority, and particularly the powers with regard to networking, to ensure that I.T.A. and commercial television are able to overcome those defects to which attention has been drawn not only in the Pilkington Report but by many people including many of your Lordships.

I was grateful for what the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, said in regard to certain of tie matters we raised in Committee and on which assurances were given, although no legislative effect was made. Some of those Amendments which we pressed to a Division the Government saw fit to refuse. I admit, however, that the spirit behind many of them was accepted by the Government, and I accept at full value the assurances that the noble Lord has given in regard to the clarifying effect of these matters and the fact that the Authority, in their discussions with the Postmaster General, will be made aware of the feeling of many people on certain of these matters.

In particular, I was interested to note that he emphasised that the Authority would need to take a long look at the contract areas, a matter on which there was a Division on which the Government came fairly near to defeat. It is quite clear that in future certain of the areas must be drawn, in a more rational way to make them viable. Whatever views we may have held on commercial television and some of the extravagances perpetrated by some of the companies. I think we are all concerned about the welfare and the survival of the smaller contract companies, not on sentimental grounds but because we accept that they serve a particular purpose in their areas. It was clear in the debate in which Anglia Television was a particular example that there was a wish that they should be enabled to conduct their business and in fact be solvent. At the same time, we must also accept that there is a limit to the amount to which private enterprise can be protected from the hazards of possible financial misfortune if they do not conduct their business in an efficient way which enables them to pay their way and make whatever is a reasonable profit.

Some anxiety has been expressed about the effect of the advertising levy on the standard of programmes. Most of us who have been concerned with this Bill have been approached by various interests, not only the contractors themselves but the producers and the unions, and clearly it was a matter of some concern. But I think some of this anxiety has been unnecessary—indeed, some of it has been almost artificially whipped up by certain people, and I congratulate the Government on standing firm. They have, in fact, retained enough in the way of powers and flexibility to temper the wind, if that should be necessary. But it is wrong to temper the wind before we find the lamb is really shorn, and I think we shall find some of the lambs in this business are in fact pretty well covered.

I personally regret that we have not written into the Bill—and I would not develop the point at this stage—an obligation on the Authority to minimise the amount of advertising. It is arguable that the Bill as drafted and the old Act is satisfactory; but I think many will agree, whether they like the advertising part of it or not, that there are still too many interruptions. The Authority have been taking this seriously and I think have improved the position in certain respects. We should like them to improve it further. We hope that the fact that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is to benefit as much as he is going to from the levy—whether it be a tax or not a tax, as the Postmaster General so rashly said in Committee in another place—will not encourage the Government (and all Governments will always look for revenue where they can find it) to regard this primarily as a source of revenue. It is not a source of revenue; it is a windfall. We do not want them to feel they can step it up for revenue purposes.

We shall be interested to see the extent to which competition arises between the different contractors if there is a second programme, but I would repeat again the argument which those of us who were originally opposed to the introduction of commercial television still feel so strongly, and that is that the viewer does not necessarily want competition; what he wants is choice, the opportunity to choose between several programmes. And this is the fundamental weakness in the present set-up. Even though we are committed to it now, we hope that the requirement in the Bill that there shall be an attempt to ensure that we do not get the same sort of programmes on the two commercial networks, whenever there are two commercial networks—a highly doubtful proposition, anyway—will be carried out.

There is one point in the Bill to which I would refer, and that is a matter about which there is some doubt whether it is wise to raise the issue. There is a requirement in the old Act, in Section 3(1)(a) that the Authority had the duty to exclude anything which contained any offensive representation of or reference to a living person. Under this new Bill that obligation is removed. I think it is regrettable, and indeed even a sign of the times, that the most important move towards bringing the I.T.A. and B.B.C. into equality is to take away from the I.T.A. the obligation not to broadcast any offensive representation of or reference to a living person.

I do not want to make heavy weather of this; indeed I think we should be in danger of being accused in your Lordships' House of being a lot of fuddy-duddies who are not prepared to stand up to decent satire; but my complaint about the programme called "That Was The Week That Was" is that there was a point where it ceased to be decent satire. I was very enthusiastic about that programme—in fact I do not think I have ever laughed so much as I have at some of the programmes—but I think it went slightly mad towards the end, and both the more offensive representations of some of the religious questions and some of the pure smut, which might have been amusing in a smoking concert, really were not funny in a programme that was broadcast to millions of homes. It was perhaps the misfortune of that programme that it was intended originally as an "egg-head" programme which only a small number of people would look at, and it was a wild success.

I hope that this standard of what is sometimes called "sick humour" will not be further extended. There is no wish on the part of any of us to limit the maximum degree of freedom, but satire must be real satire, and must have some relation to the facts. I would argue that some of what was broadcast was not satire, either in the historic or in any sense of the word: it was just sheerly offensive. Some of the remarks that were made about politicians, concerning colleagues of my own of all Parties in another place, bore no relation whatsoever to their activities.

I do not want to make more out of the point, beyond saying that I hope that the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. will now not enter into a competition in regard to these matters. A little satire—real satire—is, I think, desirable. Those of us in public life must face the fact that we are liable to be mocked and to be laughed at; but at least I hope that any satire will bear some relation to our activities and will not give as much offence as some of it did. As I say, I am not opposing this particular item. I do not think any of us would wish to do so. But I hope that both the B.B.C. and I.T.A. will realise that, admirable though that programme was, at certain stages and particularly towards the end, it slightly overstayed its welcome.


My Lords, would the noble Lord not agree that 90 per cent. of what was said was completely lost upon the audience—that it was so esoteric that it had really little effect upon those who heard it?


I do not know. I thought some of the esoteric bits were good; but I was referring to the bits which were just purely offensive and which bore no relation to the facts. I do not want to make any more of this. I say this merely in passing, because we are putting a power in this Bill. I know that one runs a risk in doing this; but I think it would be the feeling of many people, including those who, like myself, enjoyed the programme very much indeed, that whether it be the Press or the B.B.C., there should not be continual repetition of statements and imputations that people are pursuing some nefarious or personal end for some particularly selfish motive—such as the argument that politicians are always on the make; or that businessmen are "on the fiddle" or up to no good. That does not do good to the general standards of our society. I do not wish to say any more than that. I am sorry to have taken so long.

I would again congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, and the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, on their conduct of this Bill, and say that we hope it will fulfil their hopes. As I have said, we in Opposition cannot guarantee that when our Party come into power there will be a second channel of the I.T.A. I would say that in broadcasting terms it is desirable; in economic and social terms I have strong doubts. There are strong doubts as to whether it is really desirable to let loose these additional pressures on the home market, both in the way of advertising consumer goods and in the diversion of efforts into making equipment for the home market. Confronted, as any Government must be, with the problem of the balance of payments and really pressing social priorities, whether it be education or hospitals, it is a matter that any Government must look at most carefully. I think the Authority and commercial television should go along on a rather better basis than it has in the past, and we are glad to see this Bill going through its final stages in this House.

3.45 p.m.


I rise briefly to support what the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has said about satire on television. I know an intellectual young couple who do not have a daily paper and have not got a television set or a wireless set, but every Saturday evening last winter they came to me and asked whether they could come in and look at my television set while "That Was The Week That Was" was on the screen. I could not feel that that young couple were obtaining a really balanced view of public affairs by that weekly enjoyment.

Satire is, of course, most valuable in public life—nobody wants to stop it altogether. John Bull is a healthy feeder, and every now and again he needs the purgative that satire gives him. I suggest that this is not the occasion, and this will not be the year, when much satire will be appropriate. I think a doctor would diagnose that John Bull's organs are in a somewhat unhealthy condition owing to a highly spiced diet, and would advise him to modify his diet and take a digestive rather than the purgative of satire. We should remember that while it is perfectly natural that television should wish to claim the same liberty of criticism as occurs in the Press, there is a real difference between the two organs of opinion. Often in the Press we see a savage and rather bitter cartoon; nicknames are bandied about, even of eminent statesmen, and there is a good deal of criticism and abuse. But in the twenty minutes or so which you give up to skimming through the newspaper, you will also see solid news, extracts from speeches and in the editorials, a reasonable discussion of policy. The viewer of the television must view for long hours before he gets a balanced view of that kind, and the danger is that he will be like the young couple I have mentioned, and will form a jaundiced and unfavourable view of our national institutions. In these days, when our morale and our faith in our institutions is a little low and less confident than we should wish it to be, it is peculiarly important that there should be "less funny dog and more bulldog".

3.49 p.m.


My Lords, as one who has taken some part in the passage of this Bill I should not like to remain silent while tributes are being paid to my noble friend Lord Chesham. We are accustomed to his piloting long, difficult and often contentious measures about transport, for which he is responsible, and to his answering innumerable questions, always with courtesy and always with full knowledge of his subject, and with the fullest information. It is most remarkable to find him dealing equally ably with a subject for which I think he is not directly responsible. He has, however, been equally courteous to us and equally well-informed. Not only was he informed on detail but he was informed on the fundamentals of the measure that we have been discussing. I think we owe him a great debt. He has been a great asset to us. I must say that I thought he was extremely astute when he passed over to his noble friend the Minister of State the extremely thorny problems, "When is a tax not a tax?" and "When does a levy which is not a tax in the House of Commons and was not printed in italics, become a tax?" It is a curious transmigration of one element into another. However, there it is. He has told us that it will be carefully watched, and that if the system does not work there are powers in hand to make it work better.

I do not generally find myself in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and I have not found myself in full agreement with a great deal of what he has said in our debates in this House. He very much dislikes I.T.V., and he frankly thinks that it ought never to have been brought into existence; and I have a suspicion that he would be rather glad if, in one way or another, it could be put out of existence and if, like good Socialists, we could return to the good old monopolistic days of the B.B.C. However, there are two topics with which he dealt in his speech on which I found myself in a large measure of agreement with him.

One was the question of this second programme. He said (and I thought it exactly right) that the public were not so much concerned with competition—although I think the competition has done a very great deal of good—but with choice. I ventured to put the same point during the debate on one of the clauses of the Bill. What the public want is an alternative programme. I believe that the Third Programme of the B.B.C. on the radio has served a most useful purpose in this respect. What I am saying applies just as much to a second programme by the B.B.C. as to a second programme by the I.T.V., if one should come. If the result of this Bill is that they are all going to cater for and compete for the mass audience then, although the B.B.C. will not lose money, because it can always send in the bill to the taxpayer, undoubtedly the Independent Television people will lose a good deal of money.

What is needed is a third programme with a genuine choice for viewers. It is not a question of a highbrow programme. Surprisingly, the whole field of sport is actually a minority interest. One would assume that the ratings and the Gallup Polls would show such events as boxing, racing, football to be highly popular as television programmes in what is called "the Top Ten". But that is not the case. By and large, I understand that sport, like some forms of drama, is a minority programme. I hope that in any second programme there will be power in the hands of the Postmaster General, or in the hands of somebody else, to make sure that it is not always just a matter of putting on competing programmes, but that whoever gets a second programme must cater for what one may call the minority tastes.

The other matter on which I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, is in what he said about satire and references to living people. I have been in public life for well over 40 years, and one gets pachydermatous about things said about one, in the Press and everywhere else. People are apt to get sometimes resentful of criticism and of being laughed at. This is a great pity, because the more we can laugh at ourselves the better we shall be. On the other hand, this can, of course, be carried too far. There is a lot of difference between really witty criticism and some of the satire one sees. I agree with what the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, said. It does not matter much saying rude things about the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, or myself, or even about the Prime Minister or Mr. Wilson; but when, for example, it comes to religion one can deeply offend the sensitivities of people by treating religion, as a current joke.

The noble Lord, Lord Iddesleigh, talked about people getting their news from these satirical programmes. I beg leave to doubt that. I think that a great tribute should be paid to the balanced accounts of the news which appear. I quite often see the news bulletins of I.T.V. These programmes are run by Geoffrey Cox, who is known both to Lord Morrison of Lambeth and myself, and who was one of the best Chairmen the Lobby correspondents ever had. The Liberals ought to appreciate this, because he was Assistant Editor of the News Chronicle. I do not think anything can be better than the presentation of the news broadcasts given by Mr. Cox and his staff.

I do not regret that the B.B.C. and I.T.A. have been put on a basis of equality in this matter. I think it would be unfair were they different, and I am quite sure that the I.T.A. can keep the independent producers in order over this. What I am a little anxious about is that they should try to imitate the B.B.C. in some of their grosser forms of satire, of which Lord Shackleton complained. He hoped that they would be kept in order and prevented from doing this. But I should like to know who is going to keep the B.B.C. in order. Both institutions should be subject to some reasonable form of control. I.T.A. have to keep the programme contractors in order, and if they misbehave themselves their contracts can be taken away from them. This, of course, cannot happen with the B.B.C., and the B.B.C. deeply resent any infringement of their privileges if anybody criticises them. I hope that the Postmaster General will be able to exercise some control. There is some control through public opinion, but I am not sure that the B.B.C. are as amenable as some other institutions to criticism from public opinion.

The I.T.A. have been given great powers. In my opinion they have been very unfairly criticised. Some of the criticisms in the Pilkington Report were extremely unfair and bore little relation to the truth. I consider that the Authority have done a good job. Under this Bill they will have more duties to perform, and I believe that they will do an excellent job. I hope that they will have our good will and encouragement to go forward fearlessly in their task, but that they will not pay so much attention to what I may call the negative side—the sort of attitude: "Go and see what the child is doing, and tell him not to." That is not the sort of attitude one wants. I hope that they will keep a measure of control, but I also trust that they will be encouraged to go forward with the constructive work of making I.T.V. as good as it possibly can be.

3.58 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure we have enjoyed listening to the speech of the noble Earl. I had not myself intended to speak, but he has made some observations with which I do not wholly agree and upon which I wish to make some comment. I agree with him that Independent Television News is well done, and in fact I said so during the earlier proceedings on the Bill. But I think that, if the noble Earl was going to be fully impartial, he might have passed an equal tribute to the British Broadcasting Corporation.


I did say they were both good.


Well, all right. It that is so, I withdraw the observation and will look up the Record.


I say it again now, anyway.


That is good. I think they are both very good and impartial and fair. I agree in principle with what my noble friend Lord Shackleton has said about the limits upon satire, as exemplified by "That Was The Week That Was". Like him I have enjoyed it, too, and indeed have sat up late hours—later than I wanted to—in order to see and hear "That Was The Week That Was". It is very smart. But I think it has gone over the line from time to time, and has been calculated to hurt people without need. Like the noble Earl who has just spoken, I can usually enjoy being ticked off. Now and again I resent it. I think I have enjoyed all the cartoons that have been published about me, and there have been many. The great bulk of the cartoonists in print can engage in satire at the expense of public personalities without hurting and without wounding, and I think in this programme the B.B.C. would be wise to keep an eye on the cartoonists, to see where they draw the limit between nasty things and legitimate comment and making fun.

On the other hand, I must remind the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, that "That Was The Week That Was" is the product of the very doctrine which he has been advocating this afternoon—namely, competition between the B.B.C. and I.T.V., for which my noble friend invented the phrase "alternative programmes". That certainly sounds better and probably is better, and the noble Lord followed him in that respect. But do not let there be any mistake about it. When commercial television came along I thought they did some foolish things on programmes, and probably they still do—and maybe the B.B.C. do as well—but the consequence was that their listening numbers were steadily going up and the B.B.C.'s numbers were going down. This was competition, and this situation no doubt brought pleasure to many Conservative hearts.

The noble Lord claims that they brought it in because they object to the monopoly, but in fact in commercial television the monopoly is there over areas of the country. It is a monopoly, and in a sense it must be, because you cannot have half a dozen programmes going over the same areas, wasting resources and being a general nuisance; it cannot be done. Therefore, those who advocated the competition (the other channel, the alternative channel) against the B.B.C. must face the fact that it was inevitable that the B.B.C.—which in the early stages was faced with a decline in its listening public, when the other people were boasting of a noticeable rise in their listening public—should learn the lesson and become a bit more lively in various respects. I would say that if "That Was the Week That Was" was the product of anything, it was the product of Conservative Government policy in insisting upon this spreading and wasting of national resources by the stimulation of artificial competition of an aggressive character, to which the B.B.C. had to respond by livening up its programmes. The Tories and the Tory Press—even some of the most respectable of them—used to call the B.B.C. "Dear Auntie" and "Auntie B.B.C.", but in due course "Auntie" became the naughty niece up to a point, and that was the result of "Auntie" being subjected to this aggressive competition.

Who is the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, to complain about this result? My noble friend has a perfect right to do so, because he does not believe in commercial television; nor do I. But those who believe in commercial television as an antidote to the B.B.C., and for the purpose of producing waste of resources and destructive competition, are the last people in the world who should dare to open their indignant mouths about naughtiness on the part of "Auntie" of Broadcasting House. It is unfair, it is unreasonable, and it is utterly illogical. The noble Earl says that we believe in monopoly. My Lords, we do not: we believe in public service; we believe in economy in the running of public service. I shall believe that the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, does not believe in monopoly when he comes here and advocates the breaking up of the Post Office, including telephones and telegraphs, into a series of competing concerns, some of them receiving competition from private enterprise. But he has never done that. Indeed in the capitalist world there are monopolies, as he will know as a former President of the Board of Trade, and the Government have not done enough about the breaking up of private monopolies.

I have no objection to good, useful private enterprise. What I object to is private unenterprise as exemplified by some of the monopolies that exist. Therefore, the noble Lord must face the fact that he and his noble friends are as much the fathers or, at any rate, the stepfathers of "That Was The Night That Was" as anybody else. My noble friend Lord Shackleton and I have no responsibility for this rather doubtful result, because we did not believe in the principle of bringing in commercial television. But the Government did believe in it, showing their partiality, for the purpose of injuring a public concern because they did not believe in public concerns. They have done the same with the railways; they have done the same with transport. The Government are a destructive lot, unfit for their office, and the sooner they go the better, in order that these things may be put right.

My Lords, I started by intending, not to make a controversial speech, but just gently to dot the "i's" and cross the "t's" of the noble Earl, Lord Swinton. But having got going, and seeing, as I proceeded with my speech, the vulnerability and the weaknesses of his argument, I could not resist developing points further than I intended to do. Nevertheless, I join with my noble friend in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, for his competence. It is true, as the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, has said, that he is used to dealing with transport, which I imagine keeps him pretty busy. This, we thought, was not exactly in his line, because it is a highly technical subject, but I must say that I felt he had mastered the matters very well. I thought the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, got through his troubles on Clause 7 with great ability, great charm and great manœuvrability, because he had to be careful as he had troubles on both sides of the House about it. But we thank the noble Lord for his courtesy. We think that this Bill is a better Bill than we might have expected in the political circumstances, and in view of the pressure groups. I am a believer in Pilkington; I think that Pilkington was right, and this Bill goes a long way to meet the views there expressed. Therefore, my Lords, we agree to the Motion, That the Bill do now pass, and trust that it will have a beneficial effect upon television in our country.

4.9 p.m.


My Lords, I had no intention of speaking, but I was slightly provoked by the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth. I had not been aware that my noble friend Lord Swinton, to whom listened with great care, condemned "That Was The Week That Was". He had certain comments to make on some of the things it did, but I do not think he had any objection to the existence of the programme. But if we are out for competition, I expect that now, under the new law, one or other of the services will adopt the happy amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, and produce a programme called, as he entitled it, "That Was The Night That Was". If the B.B.C. were driven to competition with the I.T.A., it is curious that they should have chosen as the field of competition something that the I.T.A. were not allowed to do at all. Because, under the law as it stood, and as it stands until this Bill becomes law, the I.T.A. cannot deal in this way with living characters. But the B.B.C., stung, according to the noble Lord, into the necessity for competition, apparently thought that the best thing they could do was to compete by doing something which the other side were not allowed to do at all. I think it is worth pointing that out.


Does the noble Lord not appreciate the point that I made earlier on—


I appreciate it very much.


I am sorry, but he does not know what I am going to say. Therefore, he cannot appreciate it. I made the point earlier on that, in the case of a public corporation and a public service, you need less control, and certainly I should not like meticulous interference by Ministers with it: but, in the case of a profit-making concern such as the I.T.A., it is inevitable that there should be more statutory restrictions and more controls.


That has absolutely no relevance to the speech which the noble Lord made this afternoon, when he was speaking not about controls but about the fact that the B.B.C. were driven into doing something (which he, apparently, also thought was slightly regrettable) by the necessity to compete with the I.T.A. I pointed out that their competition took the form of doing something which the I.T.A. were unable to do at all. That I thought worth mentioning. I am very sorry to hear that "That Was The Week That Was" is no longer on, because I had always intended to see it once, and that chance has gone for ever.


The noble Lord would not understand it.


The noble Lord may be quite right. The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, once again repeated this, in my view, quite untrue statement—I am not, of course, impugning his veracity; but this inaccurate statement—that the B.B.C. were compelled to compete. As I pointed out during the Committee stage, they were not. Neither by Act of Parliament nor by any necessity to protect their revenue were they forced to do anything at all that they did not wish to do. If they altered their standards one iota, they did that because they thought their new standards were better than their old standards. There was no necessity to compete for audiences: they had their revenue guaranteed. My Lords, every time it is stated that the B.B.C. were compelled to compete, and that alleged fact is used as an excuse for something which the speaker thinks regrettable, I think it is worthwhile for somebody to get up and point out that the statement that the B.B.C. were forced to compete is completely and utterly untrue.

4.13 p.m.


My Lords, I am grateful to those noble Lords who have said something in what has turned out to be a slightly less brief debate at this stage of the Bill than I had anticipated. I had it in mind not long ago to say that, while I had been very interested in what had been said, I felt in a rather smooth mood about it, because, at least up to the moment that the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, came in, I had so far heard nothing with which I could quarrel—which, of course, always makes it less interesting. I listened as carefully as I could to what the noble Lord said in his contribution, if that is what it was, but, unfortunately, lacking the trained legal mind of my noble friend Lord Conesford, I am afraid I really failed to follow the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, very far. I bogged down at the moment when he told us exactly how you create a monopoly by means of competition—but perhaps that will be for another occasion.

The noble Lord then got into an argument which, so far as I personally was concerned, brought very much to my mind a resemblance (and this, I think, is the only resemblance I had in mind) between the noble Lord and Saint Paul; because Saint Paul, too, put forward some most abstruse arguments which, in the days when I used to read the Second Lesson, I had to read out in a flat voice, because I simply could not understand what it was he was driving at. But there, I think, the re- semblance ends, because there were some clearer points. I do not think there is any doubt in anyone's mind about the desirability for choice when it comes to second channels, whether it be the B.B.C. or I.T.A. On that particular point there is nothing between anybody anywhere in the House. I dealt with that matter fairly fully when we discussed it in Committee, and I do not think I left many misapprehensions about it.

We have had some very interesting things said about "That Was The Week That Was", and that kind of programme. My Lords, I must be careful here. I do not think that, speaking from this Dispatch Box on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, I should express any view as to what has been said, because the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, I know, agrees that it has always been the policy of successive Governments to recognise the importance of the freedom and independence of the broadcasting authorities within the framework of the rules. I resisted that temptation when I moved the Second Reading, but if I may take my hat off for a moment and metaphorically step down from this Box, perhaps I, too, might add a word which is entirely a personal opinion on this matter, if your Lordships would be indulgent and allow me to do just that.

I agree with almost everything that has been said, particularly the view that people in public life, and even more particularly politicians, are expected to have (a) broad shoulders and (b) senses of humour. That has been said by the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, and I think the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, said it as well, and it is perfectly right. So far as offensive personal references (I think the term is) are concerned, I would say that although these are now permitted to the I.T.A., the normal laws of defamation still apply in the rest of the provision, and that provision also emphasises that programmes must not offend against good taste or decency or be offensive to public feeling. The safeguard is only a limited one; but, all the same, with other noble Lords I feel—again emphasising that this is a personal view—that the danger of this type of programme lies in its very debunking of people in authority, in public life, who are actually doing a job. It makes no difference who is concerned—I am not speaking politically in the slightest. It does not matter what colour of Government may be in power. If there is a permanent outpouring that people in authority are stupid, dishonest, corrupt or whatever it is—anything but good—then I think that is a dangerous facet, and I myself would certainly say that such competition, to out-satire satire with more had satire, is very undesirable. I am sorry to emphasise the point, but I have a view on it which I hold quite strongly, as other noble Lords do, and I trust I may be forgiven for having taken the opportunity to express it.

I should now like, if I may, most humbly to thank the noble Lords, Lord Shackleton and Lord Morrison of Lambeth, and my noble friend Lord Swinton, for the extremely generous things they said about me, which I personally thought were undeserved. I thought they were much more deserved by my noble friend Lord Dundee, who I thought wrought mightily. But I am very grateful to those noble Lords. Of course it is perfectly true that I do not enjoy a plurality of offices: I find that one is quite enough; and, naturally, I passed on the difficult question of the tax business to the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, because I am not as silly as I look. When I said that to my son the other day, he said, "Of course not Dad, you couldn't be".

But I should like, in particular, to thank the noble Lords, Lord Shackleton and Lord Morrison of Lambeth, for the generous things—taken by and large—they have said about the Bill; although I know that, fundamentally and politically, they do not agree with some aspects of it. I thought they were generous about that, if not entirely content; and, of course, I understand that. My Lords, I think that between us we have the matter about right; and that we have enabled the Independent Television Authority to go ahead and give us a decent service and the kind of programmes we all want.

On Question, Bill passed, and returned to the Commons.