HL Deb 14 April 1965 vol 265 cc417-20

4.1 p.m.


My Lords, it may be for your Lordships' convenience if I now repeat a Statement on B.B.C. finance that has just been made in another place by my right honourable friend the Postmaster General. If I may, I will use his own words: "As the House knows, after the report of the Pilkington Committee, the previous Government asked the B.B.C. to undertake a major expan sion of their services. They were invited to launch B.B.C. 2, to develop self-contained television services for Scotland and Wales, to extend the hours of sound broadcasting, to undertake more adult education programmes and to make a start with colour television.

"In its first White Paper on the Pilkington Report the previous Government said (Command 1770, Paragraph 59). 'The proposals…will mean increased B.B.C. expenditure. The Government accepts its responsibility to see that the B.B.C. can secure sufficient income to finance adequate services.' "This undertaking was not fulfilled.

"Last October, on taking office, the B.B.C. submitted to me an estimate for the five years ending March, 1969, which revealed that if the licence was not increased the cumulative deficit would rise to £125 million during that period. They asked for a combined licence of £6 and a sound-only licence of £1 5s. which would just be sufficient to meet this expenditure during that period.

"Faced with this mounting deficit, the Government has decided that the whole question of broadcasting finance requires further study and I shall be asking the B.B.C. to co-operate in this review.

"Meanwhile I shall not authorise any increase in the hours of broadcasting, whether by the B.B.C. or Independent Television. The date for the introduction of colour television cannot in any case be fixed until the implications of the Vienna Conference have been fully considered.

"In the meantime we cannot allow public service broadcasting to be destroyed for lack of finance, and I shall therefore be laying before Parliament shortly after the Easter Recess proposals to increase the licence fees from the 1st August, 1965, to £5 for the combined sound and television licence and £1 5s. for the sound licence.

"I shall also be introducing, on the same date, special cards which will be obtainable at any Post Office, on which people can affix National Savings stamps over the year to the number required to exchange their card for a licence.

"The review will be completed as soon as possible. It must be seen as a part of the wider review of broadcasting policy which the Government is undertaking which includes the development of educational broadcasting, the allocation of the fourth channel and local broadcasting."

My Lord, that is the end of the Statement.


My Lords, while recognising that this is yet another effort to place responsibility on the last Administration for anything which this Government do which is likely to be unpopular, may I ask the noble Lord whether he is satisfied with the degree of financial control exercised by the B.B.C. over their own existing resources? Does the paragraph about a further review mean that their financial control system is going to be carefully investigated? Secondly, I should like to ask the noble Lord this. He has announced the increases for what is called "public service broadcasting." Is the effect of this that those who wish to see only I.T.V. will now have to pay a further sum to the B.B.C. in order to do so?


My Lords, those are three questions in one and it is almost, again, a speech. I will endeavour to remember the three questions. First, let me say that there is no implication whatsoever that the B.B.C. do not control their finance properly. Secondly, what is implied in the Statement, beyond peradventure, is the fact that we are going to look into the whole question of B.B.C. financing. With regard to the statement that one would be able to look at I.T.V. and would have to pay for a licence, that is perfectly true; but logic is a good servant and a bad master, as no doubt the noble Viscount knows full well. But, of course, there are many other obligations of the Post Office involved, even when the I.T.V. does the television.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the Statement he has just made, with the information contained in it, has appeared fully this morning in the Daily Express and the Daily Sketch? While I am sure that your Lordships are very grateful that we should be told about it too, may I ask when we are going to hear a Government Statement which has not already appeared in the newspapers?


My Lords, I deeply regret that. But, quite frankly, I think the answer is intelligent anticipation in the light of the B.B.C. Report and Accounts, published last year.