§ 4.8 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
THE EARL OF BESSBOROUGH
My Lords, I am sure that we should all like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Willis, on one of the best speeches he has made in this House. He is a most distinguished script-writer in his own right, if I may use that term, and I think that his services are used by both channels. I agreed with a very great deal of what he said, if not perhaps all. I thought he was right when he said that we had the best programmes in the world; that when our programmes are good they are the best in the world. I am certain they are. I also agreed very much with what he had to say about exports and the need to consider that aspect of the problem. I also think he made an extremely good point about youth leaders, and I hope, again, that that will be noticed by both broadcasting organisations. I hope that, although it may still be snowing outside, there will not be any blocks either outside or inside the House to-day. I hope the noble Lord who winds up this debate will, in fact, find what has been said on both sides of the House to 943 be reasonably congenial to him. At all events, I hope we shall not need "Dixon of Dock Green" to clear up the mess, either inside or outside.
As your Lordships know, I was not directly concerned with broadcasting, not even educational broadcasting, while I was in the Government, although my right honourable friend and I were successful in our efforts, which were our chief interest, in encouraging the B.B.C. and Independent Television to put on more programmes on applied science and technology and engineering. However, having spoken on broadcasting policy fairly frequently in former years, while still a Back-Bencher, and declaring an interest, in so far as I am associated with Independent Television, your Lordships know that I have been impressed, as I think have others on both sides of the House, by the educational television systems in the United States and in Japan. There, in many areas, in addition to three, four or five general services, public service and commercial, there is also not merely one but, in some cases, two educational channels: one general, designed for schools and adult educational subjects of wider interest, and the other much more specialised. I shall refer again to that matter a little later.
But the need for educational services unhampered by the requirements of entertainment is not the only problem calling for urgent consideration in the field of broadcasting in this country. Another, of course, is the introduction of a second independent service which would secure the kind of genuine competition which was always contemplated under the original Television Act. There is also the vexed question, which the noble Lord has mentioned, of the proposed increase of 50 per cent. in the B.B.C. licence fee. And, of course, there is the problem of the impending suppression of the "pirate" radio stations.
As your Lordships are aware, this country already has two national television services, and a third service, B.B.C. 2, which so far operates only in London and the Midlands. The two national services are, if I may be mildly technical, radiated in the very high frequencies on the old-fashioned standard of 405 lines. The third service. B.B.C. 2, is radiated in the ultra high frequencies on the new 944 and better standard of 625 lines. It is now acknowledged by many people that B.B.C. 2, although it has produced some very good programmes, has been perhaps something of a disappointment. Technically the Service is excellent, and the improvement in the quality of the picture has fully justified the Government's decision to advance from the outmoded prewar standard of 405 lines. Unfortunately, however, the programmes, with a few exceptions, seem to have failed to excite the interest of a wide public. Not only has B.B.C. 2 perhaps not lived up to its preliminary claims of serious intention, a kind of third programme in television, if you like, but the B.B.C.'s overt attempts at popularisation have not, I thing, so far met with much response. I am not among those who decry B.B.C. 2. I am merely sorry that it has not been more successful.
As your Lordships will have heard before in these debates, in these ultra high frequencies there is ample room for additional national services. A new independent service on the improved 625-line standard could be introduced to-morrow, or at any rate very soon, and I think if there were more independent stations we might also get rather more regional effort, the kind of regional effort which the noble Lord, Lord Willis, would like to see; although I might add, in parenthesis, that the independent television companies seem to do considerably more regional programmes than the B.B.C. regions do.
The record of the independent companies is that they have shown themselves able to produce television services every bit as responsible and well informed as those of the B.B.C., while still possessing something which I think is an indispensable element: that is to say, the common touch. There is, I believe, ample talent available for a second independent service which the public would enjoy, and there is ample finance available from advertising to support such a service. Not only would a second independent television service give immense pleasure to the public, but it would serve to show national confidence in this new 625-line standard to which the country is now committed. And it would also encourage viewers to acquire dual-standard receivers on which they could receive not only B.B.C. 2 but also the kind of wholly educational service which I have so 945 often advocated. It seems to me too much to expect that the electronics industry of this country will throw all their resources and energy into the manufacture of 625-line receivers if the programmes provided by the one broadcasting organisation which gives this 625-line service should have failed by a certain margin so far to have hit the target.
In this age in which our exports are vital to the national economy, it is essential that British manufacturers should be able to practise the most modern methods of marketing, both at home and abroad. It is a little ironic, therefore, that whereas overseas the advertiser can choose the television service which he prefers, he is denied this right in the home market. Every advertiser to whom I have spoken would welcome the possibility of enjoying the same freedom in television advertising as he already enjoys in Press advertising. Indeed, it is a sad reflection on what I might call the monopoly mentality that it allows for only a single independent television service divided up between a number of non-competitive companies.
I do not think that the introduction of advertising into the B.B.C. service, which is sometimes suggested, really provides the answer. Historically, the B.B.C. is opposed to taking advertising, and I see that in a recent letter to The Times Sir Harry Pilkington, Chairman of the last Committee on Broadcasting, advocates the continuance of the licence system and the rejection of advertising; and I agree with him in this matter.
Your Lordships will have learned, perhaps with some dismay, that it is proposed that the B.B.C. licence fee should be increased from £4 to £6. I think it is a startling increase, even in these days of startlingly rising prices. I do not find very much consolation in the somewhat bland assurance that even at the rate of £6 a year this amounts to only 4d. a day. Fourpence a day extracted from some 14 million licence holders adds up to approximately £28 million a year. That is a lot of money. And remember that it is approximately £28 million added to some £46 million, which is the figure of expenditure published to-day in the B.B.C. Handbook 946 for the year ended March, 1964; and this therefore gives a grand total—or should I say a very grand total?—of £74 million. I do not think this is the kind of sum to be agreed to lightly, simply because a public corporation asks for it. It is palpably absurd, in my view, that the British public, some 60 per cent. of which prefers the independent television programmes, should be asked to pay an additional £2 to the B.B.C. in order to be permitted to operate a television receiver in the home at all. The case for an educational service in addition to and not in place of, a second independent service is, I think, quite simple. I have often argued it in your Lordships' House. No one familiar with the exigencies of scheduling a television service can imagine that it is possible to meet all the requirements of the classroom, let alone of adult education, in the evenings, while fulfilling the legitimate requirements of an entertainment service. It is no part of my thinking that a new national education service should be introduced overnight.
Up and down the country there are universities and education authorities who have shown their keen interest in the extended use of television for teaching purposes. I am glad that a number of experimental projects have been launched such as that of the Cambridge Television Committee, under the chairmanship of Mr. Peter Lazlett, in cooperation with a regional television company. This is a venture which was followed by the Wiltshire experiment—the name is that of the professor and not the county. This was arranged by the University of Nottingham in cooperation with two other independent companies. Then, also, there is the closed-circuit experiment at Leeds University which has been inspired by Professor Hemingway and has been strongly supported by their Vice-Chancellor, my distinguished friend, Sir Roger Stevens. Then there is the independent medical series in Glasgow. This was a project which I am sure we all welcomed and which seems to have proven itself to be so useful that I see that B.B.C.2 are introducing a new series entitled "Medicine To-day", in co-operation with the noble Lord, Lord Brain, who is chairman of the Association for the Study of Medical Education.
947 These ventures are encouraging. They should be applauded, and I think there is little doubt that the universities and adult education organisations are glad to see them being furthered. I am only sorry that no progress seems to have been made in the project in which I think Queens University, Belfast, were interested in conjunction with the I.T.A. I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Hobson, or the noble Lord, Lord Snow, whom I did warn that I was going to raise this point, can say anything further about this. In my view, the healthiest form of democratic growth would be to allow these universities and education authorities to conduct their own educational television services, combining at a later stage into a national network in the light of the experience which they would separately gain in the use of localised services.
We have heard much of the proposed University of the Air. When I asked the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, on November 17 last, what progress was being made in the Prime Minister's plan, he said in reply to a supplementary that he certainly hoped to give me a fuller statement within the famous 100 days. So I am expecting a great deal from noble Lords opposite this afternoon. Not many days are left, and I hope sincerely that they will have something further to say about this most ambitious and laudable plan.
At the same time it is worth noting that the number of schools in this country which are equipped to receive programmes over the regular channels is gradually increasing. I think that 7,000 schools in the United Kingdom are now able to receive the regular broadcasts put out on the two existing channels; but I might add that there are still, I think, some 28, 000 schools that are not yet able to receive them. Therefore, of approximately 7½ million children attending schools in this country, only some 300, 000 are able to take advantage of the existing transmissions. A great many children are not, therefore, able to profit from the 40 or so hours of educational broadcasting which is already available for each teacher's selection every week during term time. Interesting details on this subject are given in a lecture which was delivered by my friend Mr. Norman Collins in September last at Tawney House, 948 Matlock. I strongly recommend those of your Lordships who are interested in this subject to read this Tawney lecture.
It is clear from the facts which I have given that progress is certainly being made in this country on both channels and separately in the ways I have indicated. All this is encouraging. All the same—and this is partly for technical reasons connected with the changeover of standards—we have still not yet achieved the wider range of programming which is to be seen in the two countries which I mentioned earlier. I was particularly interested in Japan in the proposed separate educational T.V. programming which is to be devoted mainly to industrial training and retraining. I read recently the remarks of the Minister of Technology, who expects soon to take his seat in another place, that—and I quote him:There ought to be some intensive attempts at retraining for job movementand that in other countries there are something like ten times as many people being trained for new jobs which may entail switching from one part of the country to another. When I read that I thought again what a useful part a local educational television service could play in assisting in such training and retraining.
In the White Paper on Broadcasting in 1962 six programmes were definitely contemplated, two in V.H.F. and four in U.H.F.; and in the Television Act, 1963, to which considerable reference is made in the Report of the Independent Television Authority, a second commercial channel appears to be considered as a definite possibility, if not a probability. As I say, I hope that there will not be any block here to-day, and that the present Government will not debar this, if only for the reasons which I have already given.
I hope, as I say, that new educational stations as well as independent stations may be established, shall I say in parallel, so that we may end up with two alternative B.B.C. channels, two competitive I.T.A. services in, at all events, the more highly populated areas, and one or possibly two educational services in the main centres as well. At the same time, I would hope that the two B.B.C. and the two I.T.A. services would continue with the kind of educational programmes which are particularly suitable for the wider and less specialised audiences.
949 I might have said something about sound broadcasting, but I agree largely with what the noble Lord, Lord Willis, said. I think that his suggestions in this regard are very appropriate indeed; and I am glad that the agreed that there should perhaps be some independent radio stations as well. I will not, therefore, go into details here; but I think that if local radio of this kind is established, then this will certainly put paid to the "pirates" and put them out of business.
In short, I feel that there is still a great deal to be done in British broadcasting if we are to remain abreast of the rest of the world. I do not propose this afternoon to give too many personal observations of my own on the kind of programmes which are at present available on radio or television. This is done often enough, and the special predilections of your Lordships are always given abundant publicity. I will not, therefore, say whether I consider "Emergency Ward 10" to be a more interesting programme than "Dr. Kildare"; nor that I am more fascinated by "Fireball X.L/" than by "Dr. Who" on the B.B.C., although I must admit that if, in recognition of the remarkable speech which was made by the noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Fleet, the other day, we are anxious that people in this country should be more industrious—I think the noble Lord said the American worker was sometimes four times as productive as the British workman—then I think we have a good deal to learn from the ants, or zarbies as they are called in "Dr. Who".
In conclusion, as I say, I hope that some progress will be made in the establishment of wholly educational stations as well as independent stations. If this means that some households may find it necessary to acquire two television receivers—one for Dad, who may prefer to look at Frankie Howerd, when he returns from work, and another for Mum or the daughters in another room, who may perhaps be more interested in learning a language, or at any rate in brushing up on a domestic science subject such as cooking, dressmaking or hairdressing, all of which subjects could be dealt with by televisio n—then I do not think that it would be a bad thing. All in all, in regard to some existing items on television, I would hope that they would be 950 more of a programme and not so much the kind of way of life we sometimes see on the little screen.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ LORD HOBSON
My Lords, I should like first to congratulate my noble friend Lord Willis on raising the question of the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. Reports and Accounts by moving this Motion for Papers. The noble Lord has thereby given your Lordships an opportunity to question those who have to answer ministerially, and also has initiated a debate on matters of policy. The ramifications of these two vitally important public corporations, the B.B.C. and the I.T.A., extend into every household in the land, either by visual or by sound media, and it is valuable that Parliament from time to time should discuss not only the programme content but the future developments which are intended to be pursued by both corporations. Whatever remarks are made in speeches this afternoon, whether they be critical or constructive, I am sure both Corporations will pay great attention to what has been said.
We are fortunate to have present in the House this afternoon both the noble Lord, Lord Normanbrook, and the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, the respective heads of both Corporations. It is with great pleasure that I see on my right, sitting in pensive mood on the Cross Benches, that great pioneer of British broadcasting, Lord Reith. I am sure we should all like to pay tribute to the way in which he laid on solid foundations the British broadcasting system, which is a credit and a pride to the world. Perhaps I may be forgiven a personal note in expressing my thanks to Lord Reith for the friendly way he received me, when, as a very junior and humble Minister in another place, I made my first visit to the B.B.C., and for the engineering phraseology which he immediately used to put me at my ease.
Noble Lords will appreciate that the 16 broadcasting organisations are put through the hoop from time to time. We had the Beveridge Report and then the Pilkington Report; and there has been a good deal of legislation. Nobody in either House of Parliament would, I am sure, agree with all the recommendations put forward by the Pilkington Committee; but at least what these Reports have done is to clarify the problems which 951 arise. Already some of those problems have been raised this afternoon. Following these Reports there was legislation in the 1963 Television Act, which extended the life of the I.T.A. for a further twelve years until 1976, and made several changes in the structure of independent television. Many of your Lordships took part in the discussions on that Bill. There has been a new Charter and Licence and Agreement for the B.B.C., which came into force last July and which extended its life until 1976.
However, broadcasting is dynamic, never static, never still, and there are some problems which Her Majesty's Government are studying. Their views will be announced in due course. I propose to endeavour to answer some of the points which have been raised: there is going to be no attempt, so far as I myself am concerned, and I am sure this will apply to my noble friend, Lord Snow, to evade answering questions. That does not mean that on every question which has been or will be raised we can give the answer; but if we cannot give the answer, we will tell noble Lords why that is the case. I think that is as much as can be expected of any Government spokesman on an industry which at the moment is undergoing change.
So far as the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Willis, and the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, setting out their views on programme contents, are concerned, well, they are their own personal views, with some of which I agree and with some of which I do not. I shall endeavour to illustrate some of the problems which face the Postmaster General and the heads of the Corporations in dealing with programming. I shall perhaps give my own personal opinion on some of the programmes and where I personally think things may have gone wrong.
Let us deal with the first bone of contention raised both by my noble friend Lord Willis and by the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough. It is the question of the B.B.C. licensing fee. At the present moment the B.B.C. are advocating that there should be a £6 combined licence for television and sound, and a 25s. licence for sound only—something for which they have been asking since July, 1962. The present 952 licence fee is £4 combined, and £1 for sound only. It is perfectly true that the Post Office take a 7 per cent. deduction out of that fee for collecting the licence and for administrative expenses. The amount deducted by the Post Office has been the subject of examination. Nobody has said that it was excessive; nobody has said that the Post Office have not done the job efficiently and well. Therefore it is something which must continue.
What is the reason for the B.B.C.'s feeling that they are going to get "into the red"? Their case is that as a result of Government policy—I am not making any debating point; it is not this Government's policy, although we do not disagree with it—B.B.C. 2 has been initiated both in London and in Birmingham on ultra high frequencies. There has also been the extension of broadcasting hours which has already taken place. In addition there have been experiments in the use of colour, on which I propose to say something later on in my speech. Further, there is the separating of Welsh and Scottish television broadcasting from English broadcasting. This is carrying out policy, and the B.B.C.'s case is that they are faced with expenditure which has been incurred as a result of Government policy. Naturally, they ask what is going to be done about it.
Noble Lords direct questions to my noble friend Lord Snow and myself as to what we are going to do about it. At the present time the matter is being considered: I cannot go further than that. To the B.B.C. this may be a matter of urgency; but this Government have been in power only since October, and when one considers the problems with which the Government were faced it would hardly have been sensible to make this a matter of top priority. Indeed, to use a good Yorkshire expression, it would have been "plain daft". Therefore we are not in a position to commit ourselves. But let noble Lords be under No 1llusion: the matter is being considered, as it must be considered, because of the commitments into which the B.B.C. have entered.
Whilst we are on the question of finance, I think I ought to make one reference to an assumption—I think it 953 was hinted at by the noble Lord, Lord Willis—that there was extravagance; that there was probably too much spent on management in the B.B.C. That was really the gravamen of his criticism. The fact remains that both Beveridge and Pilkington, as well as the Post Office, have had a look at the B.B.C.'s finances and at the manner in which they are administered, and there has not been one single word of criticism. That is remarkable. In point of fact, I submit that the B.B.C. are in the position where, if there are to be economies, they can be effected only by a change of policy. I have been through this matter very carefully, and there is no prima facie evidence whatsoever that there is extravagance in the administration of the B.B.C. Therefore, I submit that the possibility of solving the problem through making economies does not arise.
§ LORD WILLIS
My Lords, will the noble Lord allow me to interrupt? In fairness, I think it ought to be made quite clear that I did not accuse the B.B.C. of extravagance. What I said was that a long, cool look should be taken at the proportion of money spent on executive work and on creative work.
§ LORD HOBSON
My Lords, that is a difference without a real meaning. In any case the matter will be looked at—after all, this is a serious debate. But the fact is that two high-powered Committees have already had a look at this matter. Of course, ' the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. are in almost unique position. They cannot have the normal Parliamentary watchdogs looking at their accounts—I am talking in terms of the Public Accounts Committee and the Estimates Committee—and, therefore, it is left to these independent Committees to do this work.
I want now to say a few words about the I.T.A.'s finances, a matter which has not so far been raised, but which I think is rather important, because of the general accusations—which came from both sides of both Houses, and were accepted—that the profits made by the programme contractors were excessive. I do not want to weary your Lordships by quoting a very famous remark made by the noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Fleet, because it will be in all your minds. But the fact is that the previous Government did take action. And 954 what has happened now, as a result of that action? Under the 1963 Television Act, rentals have to be paid by the contractors to the Authority to meet the Authority's costs, including proper provision for reserves. Then, secondly, additional payments, in the form of a levy on contractors' net advertising receipts, are now payable to the Exchequer.
The scale of these payments is: nil on the first £1, 500, 000; 25 per cent. on the next £6 million; and 45 per cent. on the remainder. It was forecast by the previous Administration that the yield would be £15 million in the first year. Some contractors—and, indeed, some of the unions—thought that it would be much less and would cripple Independent Television. The levy came into force in July, 1964, and I am informed that present indications are that the yield will be higher than the previous Government forecast. Therefore, I think we can assume that both the contractors' fears and the unions' fears on that score were unjustified.
I want to endeavour to answer the point that there is not enough regional broadcasting or television, and I if omit anything I am sure that the noble Lord, when he winds ups, will fill in. We have been having a look at that matter, and I am informed that the B.B.C. have plans for an increase in their production capacity to places other than London. But I want to enter a caveat here, speaking as an ordinary individual who has in his time had a little to do with industry, and say that if you start dissipating your production all over the country you are going ipso facto to increase your costs. That is not to say that it should not be done partially; but if there is going to be a complete decentralisation, and the establishment of more television centres in Manchester, Leeds, Glasgow and Bristol, that is bound to increase costs very considerably. Therefore, the B.B.C., and, indeed, the programme companies, will have to balance the present assessments very carefully. But I assure the noble Lord, Lord Willis, that this problem is being looked at.
How far are programmes originating in the regions being put over the television networks and the sound networks? The latest information I have been able to obtain is that something like one- 955 sixth or one-fifth of the total number of hours on the national services of the B.B.C. originates in the regions. So at least this problem is being watched. I am glad that the matter has been raised, because I can understand the attitude. Although I have been a Yorkshire man in exile for many years, one always has this feeling of provincial association and regional association, and it is a matter which one expects to be raised in the Houses of Parliament.
Let us look now at the other—I was going to say "sinners", but that would hardly be the right expression. But what are the I.T.A. doing? The criticism against them was that the programming was in the hands of four major companies. I will not mention them by name, because they are advertised enough. But there are also the smaller companies; and it is said that they do not get their fair share of network time. This matter was raised in another place and, I believe, in your Lordships' House in 1963 when the Act was going through. I think I can say that the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, who is in charge of the Authority, is having a good look at this matter, to see that there is not undue control, shall we say, of these four companies at the expense of the other smaller programme contractors. This new obligation on the I.T.A. has not been working long, and I think that Parliament ought to wait a little while before we arrive at a final conclusion about it.
On the question of programme standards, we come into the field of personal taste. Being at the Box is a very fortunate position to be in when talking about programmes, because one can state one's own opinion. Perhaps I ought not to weary the House with my personal opinions, but perhaps a few general observations may not be out of place. So far as both networks are concerned, I think that their treatment of news, their treatment of documentaries, their treatment of science is excellent. So far as the controversial issues of politics are concerned, I feel that both networks do a wonderful job; and in some cases I do not know how they manage to preserve the balance. Whether they do enough of this work, I do not know. I do not think that either network does enough in focusing attention on British industry. I was 956 very annoyed recently. I know the Ruhr almost like the back of my hand; I certainly know it as well as I know my native county. But when we get films portraying the heavy industry of the Ruhr we can also, surely, have one portraying the heavy industry of South Wales, Yorkshire or Durham. I throw out to both networks the suggestion that British industry should be given a place on the screen, because I am sure that it is a matter of great interest.
When dealing with programme standards, one comes down, finally, to the question of drama—and here I particularly agreed with the final conclusions of the noble Lord, Lord Willis. My personal objection to this "kitchen sink" stuff, and this satire, is, frankly, the bad language. The whole of my life has been spent in heavy engineering, and I must confess that I am not averse at times to having to listen to, or perhaps occasionally to using, bad language. But to have it foisted on my screen I find rather repellent. When ladies come round heavy engineering works, or go on ships, the crews and the dockers, who are probably a little adjectival, stop using bad language. I do not want (as I counted, I think, once) five "damns" and four "bloodies" in one programme. In my opinion, this is not good enough. That does not mean to say that I am going back to the criticisms which were made of Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion because of the use that was made of that sanguinary connotation: my criticism is that they are overdoing it.
But, my Lords, I cannot accept the proposition—and I do not think that any member of Her Majesty's Government, whatever the Government, could accept it—that it is the dramatist himself who has the right to say whether a particular play should be shown on the screen. I do not accept that: it would really mean anarchy. It is not even true in the theatre. Parliament, in its wisdom, has placed on the noble Lord, Lord Normanbrook, and on the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, responsibility for the content of the programmes. If they are to be responsible for the content of the programmes, they must have the full authority to say whether a certain play should go out. And I think we had better leave it there. There has been an easing up of the rigid standards, probably, that were established; but I feel that in some cases the 957 process has gone too far. I may be wrong: I may be getting to be a bit of a "square". I am rather old-fashioned in these things, I admit, but, whilst trying to keep in step with modern youth, I sometimes think that, where drama is concerned, they have overdone it. I think we will leave it at that; and I am sure we look forward to hearing some very interesting contributions from other noble Lords.
As far as local sound radio is concerned, I know that the Pilkington Committee recommended this. We have not got it yet: it is a question of resources. But it is a matter that must be looked at, and will be actively considered. However, here again I would enter a caveat: that, if this broadcasting is to be local, it must really be local: we do not want one station just putting on gramophone records all the time. We want it to have some reference to local needs and local aspirations.
The question of the fourth channel is, of course, highly controversial. I must say—it is my duty to say so—that Her Majesty's Government do not consider themselves committed to the proposition that the fourth channel should go automatically to the I.T.A. The matter has not yet been decided: it is being considered. I think that is a straight answer to the question that has been raised: there is no ducking. We now come to the question: if there is a fourth channel, what should it be used for, independent of the others? Education, obviously, will have to be in the forefront of our minds. I will not attempt to repeat the Prime Minister's speech on the University of the Air, made in Glasgow some eighteen months ago, but we are very conscious of the need for this modern medium of television to play its full rô ole in the educational advancement of our people. It would indeed be a pity if, now that television is so firmly established, ways and means were not found to have a full educational programme.
Now I come to the question of the "pirates" which has been raised again to-day—I seem fated to deal with this matter after it has been settled. The noble Lord, Lord Airedale, asked me a Question on November 12 last, which happened to be almost the very day on which the matter was being discussed by the Council of Europe. I now find 958 myself in the position of having to inform your Lordships that this very day, January 20, is the day on which it is hoped there will be signed the European Agreement for the prevention of broadcasts transmitted from stations outside national territories. That is something which has been achieved by the Council of Europe.
When the Postmaster General makes a statement in another place I think it will be found that legislation will be necessary. I speak now subject to correction, but I should have thought it would be necessary. But when this Treaty comes into force (and it needs three countries to ratify it) we shall be in a position to cut off all supplies—oil, food and so on—to these radio "pirates"; and if every country within the European area does that, it will make it very difficult for the "pirates" to carry on. That is the way it is intended that the European Agreement should work. I believe that it is an effective solution to something which has been a source of annoyance. I do not think this annoyance can be justified at all; and this solution probably has the merit of being a little easier than the rather strong steps which our Dutch friends took against their annoyance off the coast of Scheveningen.
In the few minutes remaining, I should like to make a statement about colour. On the question of colour television, this matter has, of course, been considered, but it is not finalised. There are three methods of colour television, and we are very hopeful that the one which we support, the N.T.S.C, will become the standard for Europe. Naturally, there is strong competition from the French, and the Germans also have entered into the field. But in April the Comité Consultative Internationale des Radiocommunications is discussing this matter, and they will try to decide which system should be adopted. If, however, they cannot come to an agreement, the British Government will be free to decide, so that we can go ahead with colour television.
My Lords, all I want to say in conclusion is this. First, I want to reiterate the tributes which have been paid so far to the excellence of British television and radio. I think they have achieved a unique position in the world. I think they 959 are first-class—and this is something of which we are entitled to be proud. I should perhaps like just to enter another personal caveat. I think the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, has done some tremendous work in improving the I.T.A. I say that because I feel a little guilty. I went to check up on the number of columns in Hansard that I rilled when attacking the measure. I will not say how much it was. In retrospect, I do not think it was one of my best efforts. The noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, and I used to talk about this, and sometimes get annoyed with each other, but I say this to him: that he has cleaned up the I.T.A. and established a standard—and good luck to him! I say that in fairness. Now the developments that we all advocate and know to be desirable can be achieved, that is perfectly true; but, whether we like it or not (without using the jargon or the cliché s of the language of priorities, or anything of that sort), the fact remains, my Lords, that in this nation of ours there is left only a certain amount of capital for the development of these services. However, bearing that in mind, I am sure that the Government are deeply conscious of the rôle that both television and radio play in the life of the country, and they will not be backward in providing the means to enable them to do so.
§ 5.0 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF WORCESTER
My Lords, I am certain we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Willis, for bringing this matter before your Lordships' House to-day. Although I cannot pretend to have his great knowledge of the subject, I have myself been involved in broadcasting and television in this country, America and Canada, and therefore I know a little about the matters raised in the Reports. I should like to endorse what he and other speakers have said about the excellent programmes from both Independent Television and the B.B.C. The first thing I should like to say is that I think it is tremendously important that the general public should realise that the services provided by the B.B.C. and I.T.V. should be regarded as complementary and not as rivals.
Last week I was doing a television interview and, in conversation afterwards when I asked the very charming lady who had asked me the questions 960 if she knew a friend of mine who worked with the B.B.C. she said, "Of course not; he is in the rival show." I realise that this was said jokingly; but there is a certain amount of truth behind it. This is a pity, because in certain parts of broadcasting and television this sense of competition has been excluded. I refer particularly to what has been achieved in the religious departments, because here the B.B.C. and I.T.A. both share the same Central Religious Advisory Committee who advise both in their work.
In connection with religious broadcasting, I might to-day offer a word of praise to the head of religious broadcasting in the B.B.C. because his task calls for tremendous courage and also tremendous tact. As your Lordships will realise, he is between the Scylla of churchmen who demand the programmes which reflect entirely their preconceived ideas—this in the case of the elderly, infirm and bedridden is quite right—and the Charybdis of those who sincerely believe that programmes should hold in a fair balance both Christian and non-Christian points of view. I feel myself most strongly that the Church should neither demand nor expect any priority whatsoever. But when it comes to open discussions, I believe they should be shared and directed by someone in a position as a Christian to know the total impact which might possibly destroy or, on the other hand, belittle faith. Sometimes I would question the chairmanship of some of the discussions on religious programmes of the B.B.C.
While most of the broadcasting of the B.B.C. in the religious broadcasts follows an orthodox pattern, they are to be congratulated because about 5 per cent. of the output is deliberately designed to explore the most controversial areas of religious belief and especially to examine new and experimental formulations of Christian thought, which in a country which has always boasted liberal traditions is something we should be glad is being done. I think the I.T.A. is to be warmly congratulated on the appointment last year of an experienced religious programme officer whose job it is to co-operate with and assist the various companies in their religious programmes which have now become better 961 balanced and less repetitive. Unfortunately, the budget provided by most of the companies is only a fraction of that given to secular programmes. While parity is not to be expected, the result is that often in the religious programmes there is a lack of ambition, a lack of impact and a lack of technical experience. They should be given the resources which would enable them to compete in quality with the general programme standards.
My Lords, at present the religious programmes are insulated from advertising. The Central Religious Advisory Committee has proposed that for an experimental period of six months "Epilogue", and other short, night religious programmes, should not necessarily be insulated from advertising intervals but may precede or may follow them. The Authority has agreed to the experiment and, so far, the Postmaster General has raised no objection. The Church of England Radio and Television Council sees this as a dangerous suggestion because of the possibility of pressure later on to include advertisements actually in a religious programme. They feel that the Churches should recognise the character and value of the existing privileges, and they, of course, may be perturbed by the thought that (shall we say?) a sermon on purity might be followed at once by an advertisement for a soap powder which washes whiter. I cannot reflect this view. Programmes, I believe, should reflect life, and far from wanting the Church to be insulated from life, I want it to be more and more involved in life. Nor am I particularly desirous, as I have said before, that the Church should have any special privileges in this field.
I wonder whether I might say a few brief words about other programmes. With regard to them, as one who is devoted to Westerns, adventure and crimes stories, I feel that when these follow in constant succession in one evening it tends to become somewhat boring and could be considered dangerous. There is, too, something in the criticism of the policy of the B.B.C., which has already been mentioned, that serious writers of to-day may be allowed to say freely what they believe about the society in which they live. My criticism is this. First, the word "freely" does require responsible 962 definition; and, secondly, what "serious writers of to-day believe about life" might possibly sometimes be quite valueless or unrepresentative or quite unfit for proclamation. It is very questionable whether a play which a critic described in a newspaper last Sunday as "an amalgam of adolescence, adultery, alcoholism and amours" is the right kind of drama to present to millions through television.
Finally, my Lords, to the vexed question of the problem of the fee the B.B.C. is asking. The future pattern and the character of broadcasting in Britain depend largely upon what arrangements are to be made for the financial support of the B.B.C. as a public service. The facts are that the B.B.C. has publicly stated that it can no longer support its present responsibilities on its existing resources. It certainly cannot introduce the new services recommended in the Pilkington Report, which were indeed authorised by a Government White Paper. The Corporation has in fact to resort to large-scale borrowing at the present time in order to finance B.B.C.2 and the extended hours of radio broadcasting. What is the solution? Some people suggest that there should be a Treasury grant-aid, but this might prejudice the autonomy of the B.B.C. itself. Secondly, it is suggested—I think it has been suggested to-day in some speeches made here—that there might be a sub-letting by the B.B.C. of B.B.C.2 transmitters for specialised interests, say, in the realm of education. But, of course, to do this we have to face the fact that the B.B.C. would not only sub-let a transmitter, but with it forgo the control of policy in some specialised field. No man can serve two masters. If the Corporation are to continue to give a true public service they surely must have complete control of policy.
Of course, a third way might be the inclusion of advertising during B.B.C. transmissions. When the Church of England Radio and Television Council gave evidence to the Pilkington Committee in 1962 it strongly opposed the introduction of any form of advertising in.C. services on the grounds that public service broadcasting by the Corporation as it has always been, and as we have it now, is respected both in this country and throughout the world and there is no evidence that the majority of listeners 963 want it changed. In addition to these problems, I am certain that local broadcasting cannot long be delayed. Indeed, the B.B.C. have completed plans for this, but were refused permission to implement them by the previous Government. They have now repeated their request, and I very much hope that the present Government will be more sympathetic.
What is the alternative? The "pirate" radio stations have been referred to to-day, and I understand that the Council of Europe has passed a resolution on this very day abolishing them. But we know quite well that these five "pirate" radio stations are already making great plans for their future development. And there could be a take-over by commercial interests, who might very well have little interest in the content of programmes. Some time ago, I had the privilege of taking part in my own area in an experiment in rural broadcasting which was conducted by the B.B.C. and we were unanimous in our appreciation. It was just the kind of programme which was of value to growers of fruit and vegetables in the Vale of Evesham, where it took place. Everybody said that it was the kind of programme that was very useful, and I should think that this would be true of many parts of the country where local interests could be helped but where at present, because of the size of the regions, such broadcasting is not easy.
The solution, I suppose, is that the B.B.C., to meet their increased obligations, should be allowed to put up their fee from £4 to £6, which actually means from approximately 1s. 6½ d. a week to 2s. 3¼ d. a week and which, quite honestly, I do not think could be described as too excessive. Of this £6, 5s., as we have been told to-day, will go to Post Office collection charges and the extra £1 15s. will be needed entirely to finance the second television programme and the existing broadcasting hours, leaving the present fee of £4 to finance the extended programmes of B.B.C. 1 and the radio services, which I imagine include those programmes broadcast overseas by the B.B.C., which I know, having taken part in them for eight years, once a month, have been much appreciated by our own people living abroad.
964 I suppose that one could say that politically the increased fee would be violently unpopular; but whether it is unpopular or not is surely beside the point. One of the proud traditions of your Lordships' House is that we have never been particularly concerned about popularity. We have been informed that I.T.V. has more viewers than has the B.B.C.—58 per cent. as against 42 per cent. Whether that is true or not, it is quite irrelevant. Surely the main question we have to consider is this: is it desirable or not for a system of independent public service broadcasting to be continued in this country? And if it is, to achieve this, as the Pilkington Report reminded us, the B.B.C. cannot be asked to resort to any method of increasing revenue except that of increased fees.
In conclusion, may I quote from the Independent Television Authority's Guide to Independent Television for 1965?Television has emerged in its own right as a main form of relaxation, a main source of information and a growing medium of education.That applies to the programmes of the B.B.C. as well—and that is why I am grateful that the noble Lord, Lord Willis, has raised this matter in your Lordships' House to-day.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF IDDESLEIGH
My Lords, I entirely agree with the speech of the right reverend Prelate and with the observations of the noble Lord, Lord Willis, on the subject of the licence fee. It is very difficult for me to appreciate the arguments of those who oppose raising that fee to the very modest sum proposed, in view of the great financial responsibilities of the B.B.C.
I am myself a part of the financial problem, because I am an underprivileged citizen: I am one of the majority of the people in this country who cannot get B.B.C.2, a programme which I should appreciate very much indeed. I am told that by the end of 1966, if all goes well and if the planning permissions are all granted, as is hoped, some two-thirds of the country will be able to receive that programme; but that implies that, at the best, one-third of the country will remain under-privileged in that respect. And it is not a position 965 with which I or any other countryman can rest content.
One might say that parts of Wales and the Highlands are even more deprived than I am, since they cannot get television at all. Yes; but they do not have to pay for it, and I am paying the same as other people and not getting as much for my money as they do. Therefore the B.B.C. should be given the means to extend to the non-receiving regions the same facilities as London and Birmingham now enjoy and every other town will enjoy in future. This seems only just. Let city dwellers consider how fortunate they are. They have every means of entertainment at their doorstep—operas, plays, a wide choice of films, concerts, lectures. Contrast that with the situation of us poor, deprived rustics.
But I must thank the B.B.C. for giving me a little taste of the pleasures of the younger "kangaroo." They have included in B.B.C. 1 channel some of the best items from B.B.C. 2. And I was astonished, and not a little annoyed, to see that the Corporation were criticised for doing that—criticised by a London critic who obviously had not my situation in mind. Though under-privileged, I am still grateful for what I have received, and in particular for the repetition on B.B.C. 1 of that excellent series "The Great War".
I have cause to be grateful indeed to the Corporation for many new developments. I would say, "Thank you" for the music programme, which is giving me great and increasing pleasure. Perhaps I should include in my thanks the Musicians' Union, who have rendered it possible by their wise and enlightened policy in the matter of needle time. I believe that that decision on the part of the union will redound to the advantage of musicians, and that the country will become more music conscious and render better support to that art.
I am grateful, too, for the developments that have occurred in the region, and for the divorce affected between the West and the Welsh to the great benefit of both regions. I was most interested in the words that fell from the noble Lord, Lord Willis, with regard to regional development, to which I, too, attach great importance. However. I would differ from the noble Lord with regard to local broadcasting. In my 966 belief, local interests, both on sound and television, will be adequately catered for on regional transmissions, and it would be a great mistake to go forward with local broadcasting, whether it be in the Corporation's hands or in commercial hands.
No doubt it would be rather fun for the first time to listen to the local big-wigs and the local dons discussing local problems; but I very much doubt whether the interest would be maintained. I do not want the don because he is local: I want the best don, and I do not mind whether he lives in Exeter or in Edinburgh; and I shall feel no great advantage in the promised participation of my local university in the programme. But I am considerably alarmed at the prospect of local politics being discussed on the air. I have generally found local politics to be either very dull or very acrimonious, and from both of these points of view they should be avoided by the broadcasting authorities.
As regards television in general, I would echo the praises that have been given to our British system, but I would venture to express one word of criticism with regard to radio drama, which is the standby of the television service. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Willis, that we have some excellent radio dramatists and that our native dramatists ought to be encouraged. But I am sure the noble Lord will agree with me that a dramatist is very much in the hands of his producer and his actor, and the best play in the world will not succeed on television, or for that matter on the radio, and will certainly not be exportable, unless the acting reaches a high standard. I urge the Corporation, and the producers of the Authority as well, to keep constantly in their minds the need for a high standard of acting in their productions. I would venture the opinion, with all respect to a profession which I love and admire, that the standard of acting is not at present as high as it might be. So may I beg the beloved children of Thespis to pull up their buskins and do a little better?
Mention has been made of the subject of challenging drama of the present day. I believe that this problem will be solved by putting what are called (I do not 967 know why) "kitchen sink dramas" on B.B.C.2, where they will be less generally seen and will be available to the cultured minority that will appreciate them, just as on the sound service the more experimental type of play is generally put out on the Third Programme as being likely to appeal to a minority rather than a majority of interest.
I apologise for not having said anything about independent television, and I think it is relevant for me to give my reasons. I do not see it, my Lords. My good lady and I like to plan our evening's entertainment. At tea-time we sit down with the Radio Times, and first of all we mark four or five items—usually on the Third Programme, sometimes on the Home, but rather less often on television—which will give us pleasure and interest. We then have to start to plan to avoid conflicts in time: if we see this, we shall not be able to see the other; and to which shall we give priority? That needs a certain amount of planning, and the kind of planning that we can perfectly well do between us with three programmes to choose from. If I introduced a fourth programme, then I should be fixed with the almost unbearable necessity of elaborate choice; and that I want to avoid.
It is for this reason, I think, that most viewers are one-programme men: they are either B.B.C. or I.T.V. men. I do not believe that any high proportion of viewers attempts to cope with both. Competition and freedom of choice is not, therefore, so important as we are inclined to think, and this particularly applies when we are considering the question of a second I.T.V. programme. For my part, I believe that the minority interests will be adequately catered for by B.B.C.2. Let us, at any rate, see whether that programme, still in its infancy, does not provide everything that minority interests really demand. If in a year or two that programme is shown to be inadequate and gives rise to dissatisfaction, then the time will come to stimulate it by a certain amount of competition from an independent body, but for the moment it seems a somewhat uneconomic use of our national resources to go to the great expense of providing another minority television network. There is no hurry in this matter, and 968 this is no time to increase our own luxury and happiness. I am sure Her Majesty's Government will agree that capital should be diverted into the export field, and that the import field should not compete with it. Therefore, let us avoid all unnecessary expenditure and wait and see whether, in due time, further developments of our internal services are required.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ LORD FRANCIS-WILLIAMS
My Lords, I have been fascinated by the domestic, cosy, picture presented to us by the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh. I am sorry that that should have caused him to feel that the intellectual burden of looking at I.T.V. was ruled out by the demands of planning. I, for my part, shall hope to introduce a little socialist realism into his liberal planning by devoting, unlike him, a good deal of attention to I.T.V.
But may I, at the beginning, say how delightful it is, speaking on such a subject, to have among one's audience noble Lords who include not only the Chairmen of the two broadcasting bodies in this country, the B.B.C. and the I.T.V., but what I think one may describe as the spirit of public service broadcasting, in the person of the noble Lord, Lord Reith. I am sorry that Lord Reith is not participating in the debate, because his views on broadcasting are always stimulating if, to some of us, occasionally wrong-headed. I particularly regret that he is not taking part on this occasion, because I have a feeling that some of the things I have to say may not secure his entire agreement—for which I am, of course, sorry.
Let me say at once that I agree entirely with those speakers who have said that the B.B.C. ought to continue as a Corporation financed by a licence fee; that it ought to be given adequate funds for its purpose, and that any question of its turning to advertising for its revenue, or receiving some direct grant, which would bring it in part under Governmental control—or, at any rate, the suspicion of Governmental control—ought to be entirely ruled out. We have in the B.B.C. the most notable example in the world of public service broadcasting, in both radio and television, and we ought to accept the necessity that that public service tradition in broadcasting, which was 969 established in this country, should be financed out of an adequate licence fee which will give the B.B.C. the right to do the things that it ought to do.
Having said that, I also want to add that in reading the B.B.C. Report I must say that I find some traces of a sort of self-satisfaction, which seems to me to be dangerous. The B.B.C. has developed into an enormous monolithic body, in which administration has sometimes taken over control of creative thinking, and in which it tends to feel that it alone knows the secret of a good life, when a good life has to be expressed, whether in words or vision, on the air. Of course, it has produced some very great programmes, although it has also produced some very bad ones indeed. I sometimes wonder what is going to happen when, in a month or two, one member of its staff, who has been the dynamo of ideas in serious broadcasting, Miss Wyndham Goldie, retires. Because it was out of her vision of television that such programmes as "Panorama", "Tonight", "Gallery"—a programme with which I myself once used to be associated—"Press Conference", and a great many others, arose. It was she who was the most dynamic force in that whole area and field of B.B.C. broadcasting.
I have considerable doubts, as I look at the B.B.C. and move among friends of mine in the B.B.C., whether it is doing anything to cultivate the same kind of experimental and new thinking in television that once went on; whether it is not in that rut which, I must say, I found existing even some time ago, when I was for a period a Governor of the B.B.C.: that the promotion of the creative producer in television should be to an administrative post, where he would cease to produce anything.
Not only in the field of ideas, but also in the whole field of the use of the medium, of finding methods and ways and techniques of developing the medium of television to its fullest possible extent, and using all the potentialities of this new and greatly flexible medium, I think that both the B.B.C. and the Independent Television companies are rather resting on their oars. It seems to me that both channels have got rather into a rut of producing only the kinds of programmes—some pure entertainment, some that are called serious tele- 970 vision—which on the whole it is known will "go over", and of not experimenting enough. Of course, the B.B.C. did experiment—I believe very successfully—in its original attempt of, "That Was The Week That Was". I do not think its successor has been anything like so successful. It has not risen from the ashes of "T.W.T.W.T.W." to become a really satirical, energising, programme in any way whatever. It is not so much a phoenix as an addled egg.
What I am particularly concerned with is that we should perhaps get a little out of the habit of thinking that the B.B.C. represents the top mark in television in the world, and of regarding commercial television as the rather poor (not financially poor, of course) and not very respectable brother—an attitude of mind which I find very much in the B.B.C. itself. The previous speaker, and also, I think, the right reverend Prelate, said they were a little amazed to find that television between the two systems went into a sort of rivalry.
I remember talking not long ago to some very senior executives of B.B.C./T.V., and being told by one of them, in the most emphatic terms, that, so far as Independent Television was concerned, it was on his part, and he believed on the part of the B.B.C. as a whole, war to the death. I doubt whether the Governors, a body of respectable and diplomatic people, would perhaps go quite so far as he did, but other B.B.C. executives, very eminent in producing in the executive field, who were present at the time seemed to agree with him that this was the right attitude to have towards the other channel. I do not think it is. I think that, although competition between them is necessary, there ought also to be complementary attitudes.
I have often wondered why there could not be, as there are in many other professions which are capable of stepping on each other's toes in their appeal to the public, occasional joint planning sessions at which some attempt would be made to ensure that programmes which are very close to each other in content and appeal do not absolutely compete with each other in time on the two systems, so that those who, unlike the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, do neglect their planning are not faced, as they frequently are now, with the immense problem of knowing that of two pro- 971 grammes, both of which are excellent, viewers may see only one because the two systems have been apparently determined that that should be so, instead of placing the programmes so that viewers can see them both at different times.
One point I want particularly to make is this. Taking into account the whole of the school broadcasting, the religious and outside broadcasts, and so on, for which it has, so to speak, a special dispensation over the normal hours of broadcasting, the B.B.C., with its two channels, commands on the air, altogether, I think, about 130 television hours a week. The I.T.V. Channels, on the other hand, command about 60 to 65 hours a week. The B.B.C.'s 130-odd television hours—90 if one excludes the educational and schools programmes and so on—are completely at the command of one Corporation, which is able to deploy resources, employ camera teams and set up planning organisations to utilise that very substantial body of television time to the best advantage.
The I.T.A., with only approximately one-half the televiewing hours at its command is, by its nature, divided up among a number of different companies. If the regional companies are taken into account there are 14, to which may be added I.T.N., as the provider of news and, to some extent, news-magazine programmes, making 15 in all. With half the viewing time of the B.B.C., I.T.A. is compelled to divide up its programming among this very substantial number of different companies. Even if one takes, as one must to some extent, the main network companies (although one hopes, as I think everybody will agree, that the regional companies will get in the future more networking than they have had in the past), this means that this comparatively small amount of television time (in B.B.C. terms) has to be divided up among four companies, or five, if one takes the news provider into account as well.
When one breaks down the amount of programme time that can be available for serious programmes, it comes to a very small amount. On its own figures, I.T.A. have reckoned that 35 per cent.—or about 23 hours a week—goes to serious programmes; about 55 per cent., or 35 hours, to entertainment in the very broadest sense; and about 10 per cent. to sport. 972 Television companies, like others, have to take some account of public taste, and I do not think anybody can deny that the broad division of 35 per cent. for serious programmes, 55 per cent. or so for entertainment programmes, in the broadest sense, and 10 per cent. for sport, is a reasonable allocation of the time to meet public demand.
But when one looks more closely at the amount of time that is on that basis available for serious television (meaning, by "serious television", according to one's own breakdown, documentary, discussion, examination of current affairs and so on) one finds that this is reduced to a very small part indeed. By the time the purely children's and educational programmes have been taken into account, about 12 per cent. of the viewing hours available to them, or only about 7½ hours a week, are left to be divided for serious television among four companies. That is less than two hours each a week. With only that amount of time—under two hours a week per company—available for serious television viewing, it is clearly practically impossible for any television company in the world to spend on creative thinking the time, the enterprise, and the planning required to produce the very highest kind of serious television.
The real trouble with Independent Television, as I would agree with many previous speakers, is that it is becoming a fact that there is not enough of it. The reason is that the companies, if they are to set their mind to producing new, serious, creative television in the serious field, must have more chance to experiment and to develop than is possible with the very small number of hours available to them in this field at present. That leads me to the conclusion—and here I find myself in agreement with the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough (we do not always agree on such matters)—that it is very desirable that it should be accepted in principle that when a fourth channel is available it should be made available to Independent Television. Because I believe that only in that way will Independent Television be given command of the televiewing hours and the ability to test out its programmes, to experiment, to spend the time and money and application on trying out and thinking out new programmes which will effectively raise the standard.
THE EARL OF BESSBOROUGH
My Lords, I should like to interrupt the noble Lord for one moment. He quoted me as saying that I should like to see a fourth service given to Independent Television. What I precisely said was that I felt that a second Independent Television channel and a wholly educational channel or wholly educational station should be developed simultaneously and in parallel.
§ LORD FRANCIS-WILLIAMS
I am sorry; I quite agree and I thank the noble Earl for the correction. I was going to come to the educational channel later. The point that I want to make here is that part of the criticism that is often made against Independent Television arises simply, not because there is, as some people claim, too much of it, but because there is too little of it and because it therefore lacks the opportunities and the field of manoeuvre. It has to navigate in such narrow waters that it is unable really to fulfil its best.
I should like to touch also on one aspect of this matter on which the noble Lord, Lord Willis, to whom we are all so deeply grateful for raising this subject in debate, has already touched, and that is the importance of the export market. I had something to do with this myself when I was a director of a small independent television company which was looking particularly to the export market. We found that there existed an enormous potential demand for British programmes in all sorts of countries. I think British television has in the past been very behindhand in developing that export market. Now it is beginning to do so. But here, again, I think it is very remarkable that, although the B.B.C. has picked up considerably and is now, with, I think, a 60 per cent. increase of its exports over the past year, getting a gross revenue from the export of films and programmes of about £1 million, Independent Television has gone a good deal further in this field. Indeed, one independent television company alone, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Willis, mentioned, A.T.V., has in the last year obtained a revenue of somewhere around five million dollars from this source.
That is important not only from the point of view of the general export necessities which face this country, but 974 because it is, I think, enormously important that the British way of doing things, what it is common nowadays to call the British way of life, should be presented to the rest of the world, and it can be presented often in a more easy, attractive and acceptable form through television than it can in any other way at all. A good deal of what goes abroad is, of course, entertainment film, but why should it not be? People all over the world need entertainment, and if while they are entertained they get at the same time some reasonably accurate picture of how a country like Britain conducts its affairs, so much the better. But these exported films also include, both in the case of the B.B.C. and in the case of the independent television companies, a number of programmes of the highest value and standard in the cultural and documentary field, programmes which are of immense value as ambassadors of Britain in seventy or more countries, and which we certainly ought to stimulate in every possible way. And, again, I believe that those could be stimulated, when economic conditions make it possible to think in terms of a somewhat bigger television output than we now have.
Finally, on educational television, I find it very difficult indeed to agree with my noble friend Lord Willis that there is a great danger in having an exclusively educational television programme. He used the phrase, and it has been used several times—I think it was originally used by the Pilkington Committee—that one does not want an educational ghetto. I think it is very much to misconceive what television can do as an instrument of learning in the present age. I believe we have to think of television as an instrument of teaching, of teaching often quite specific subjects, either for young people, or for adults who wish to follow courses of further education; that it can be of immense value as a modern tool in that field; but that it is not right or appropriate to consider that television used for this technological purpose, if you like, in the broadest sense, should be incorporated in the broad programmes of information and entertainment to the general public.
I do not believe it to be the case, as has been suggested, and was suggested by 975 the Pilkington Committee, that if there were a separate educational programme then the serious content of general television programmes would be reduced. I believe that all the evidence shows that there is a general demand for serious general programmes, and I believe that not only the B.B.C. but the independent television companies have enough social responsibility to go on producing those serious programmes to the maximum of their ability, even if there should be a quite separate educational channel.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ LORD FERRIER
My Lords, I should like to join with other noble Lords who have congratulated the noble Lord, Lord Willis, not only on promoting this debate but also on his speech and the refreshing way in which he tackled the problem. I would agree with what he said, as I think all noble Lords will, about British broadcasting as compared with broadcasting in other parts of the world. It is supreme, though of course, as others have said, we can have some bad programmes here. I will refer to some other aspects of his speech later on, but I should like to support his robust appeal for the use of this medium in appealing to people for help and making potential youth leaders and the like aware that their help is needed in work with young people. Also, as a Scotsman, I was thrilled with his obviously knowledgeable criticisms and suggestions about Scottish services. At the same time, as he said himself, more resources will have to be employed if what he feels is needed, and I feel is needed, is going to be brought about. It seems to me that the Scottish services are doing quite a good best with the limited resources at their disposal.
I propose to concentrate my remarks mainly on the B.B.C., by which I mean radio and television, for somewhat similar reasons to those of the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh. For one reason, commercial television has only comparatively recently been available in the area in which I live. I only recently got a set that took it, and I have not learned—shall we say?—to like the texture of its material, if I may put it that way. I have never seen B.B.C.2. I look forward to doing so and hope that as little time as possible will elapse before it is avail- 976 able up and down the country. But that will have to be a long time, in terms of the outlay it requires, not only in dissemination, in the broadcasting of the channel, but the purchasing of the receiver.
I am not an addict of radio, either broadcast or television, but that is not to say that I do not follow certain programmes whenever it is convenient to me. I say "convenient to me" because I am certain that, great as is the influence—and I shall go on to that—of television and broadcasting as a disseminator of information, it can be the most dreadful time-waster, and that is a matter which I feel all of us, particularly the fathers of families, and grandfathers, must watch; it can be a dreadful time-waster. But I marvel at the wonder of it all. I have reason to say that because only recently I have been going over some papers of my father at the turn of the century, correspondence from the Middle East and India with friends and relations and with my mother at home. It is most striking to compare the limited spread of knowledge and information which was available only half a century or so ago with what is available to practically every household in the country to-day. What a spreader of knowledge, what a medium of entertainment, what an anodyne!
At the same time, I tremble at the importance of it all, its power over the mass of the people and its ability to—I nearly used the word "incite "—inspire mass feeling of a most extraordinary and mysterious nature which goes like wildfire across a community, certainly in the country. Consequently, I feel it is proper that we should criticise where we can, helpfully, the Reports to which the noble Lord opposite has drawn our attention in his Motion.
First of all, if I proceed to be critical of the B.B.C., I do so with an absolute declaration of congratulation to them for a magnificent organisation, even if it is expensive, the quality of the bulk of their material, the devoted service of their minions, especially their foreign correspondents—"From our own correspondent", "Eye witness "—their news readers, their "Panorama" organisation, travelogues, wild life, "Today", music and so on. All these are matters for real congratulation to them, though I must say that I wish that the producer of 977 "Today" and his staff would steer clear of witch-hunts. In my view, there have been too many of them. They were badly "off the beam" about a year or so ago at the time of the drug furore, a matter in which I was personally interested at the time. Similarly, the other day—although it was a matter in which I am not especially interested except as a consumer—they were again "off the beam" with a silly little item about packaging and misleading presentation of goods. This is a most complex problem, and it was presented in a way that, to anyone who understands, was a most amateurish one.
Before I get on to my main thesis I would refer to two other small items. One is the problem of background music, which to my mind is getting completely out of hand. I do not say it is not necessary; it is. There are those of us who remember the old silver screen with the piano and the fiddle tinkling away below. One realises that background music is necessary as an adjunct, as part of some of these programmes, but in my opinion it is much too loud. The trouble to-day is that so many young people seem to grow up and live in an atmosphere of noise, noise, noise; din, din, din. They cannot think, they cannot read, they cannot write unless there is some sort of music going on. Can the broadcasting media help in keeping down the volume of background music so that it is not offensive to some of us, as certainly it is to me?
Another small but important item which worries me a little is the prying into private grief. I cannot help feeling that at this particular moment of time it is ghoulish to have these gatherings at Hyde Park Gate. To me, it is offensive and an interference with private grief and private decency, whether it be the home of the greatest in the land or the meanest house in a back street. I believe that because the Press indulge in this sort of thing is no reason why the television media should do the same.
My major criticisms relate to my fear over the sheer power, to which I have referred, of this media, both politically and morally. I think that politically there is too much power in the hands of the interviewer, the political commentator or even the chairman chairing a panel, such as the right reverend Prelate 978 mentioned; or perhaps it is that they are allowed to use this power too much. I would urge the authorities to keep a firm watch on this. These people should be constantly reminded that they are in some measure performers—at least, I see them as such, and such they are. If they are not performers they are certainly journalists; and further, being so, they are entirely without responsibility. I do not say that they are irresponsible; that is not what I mean. Indeed, it would be quite wrong to refer to these people as irresponsible—far from it. But, except for their responsibilities to themselves and to the authority which employs them, they have none. They bear no responsibility to anybody else for their words and actions.
To my mind there is no doubt, for instance, that the B.B.C. staff's approach to the General Election was slanted against the Prime Minister and the Conservative Government. This may be a matter of opinion. But now the shoe may be on the other foot. The other night there was another tiresome programme to which the noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams, referred, in which a series of gibes was made at the Government of the day. As a member of the Opposition I must admit that I could not restrain a chuckle. But was it fair? Was it fair in the context of this trivial satirical matter? I do not think it was. Parliament or the hustings are the proper places for such exchanges. Or is it that these people regard it as entertaining to undermine authority, whatever it may be? That is what I fear. I do not think it is entertainment. Cynicism can be taken too far.
This brings me to my other serious criticism—namely, the undermining of moral standards. There is much too much of this. I protest that this requires urgent and careful study. I agree wholeheartedly with what Lord Willis said about the tone of much of the material which the television and broadcasting authorities put out. It is no use saying, "If you do not like it you can switch it off." That is rubbish. It does not work out in that way in the average family. For that reason, I repeat what I have said before—namely, roll on the day when another television channel, whether it be B.B.C. or I.T.V., can, as in the case of the Third Programme on the radio, be used for serious matter, or 979 matter which is not just on when the whole of the family, from old to young, are present at the "box"!
I think there is too much dirt in the stuff that is broadcast to-day. By "dirt" I mean lewdness. The main fault lies, in some respects, with the critics. I think that critics should look into their hearts and think about it, and that the people who employ them should think about it. Gradually I am ceasing to respect the critics, in general terms. There are individual exceptions of course, but to-day I do not ordinarily read criticisms of films, shows, broadcasts and the theatre. I am losing my respect for critics. I wonder whether they could not be changed around by their employers. I overheard a conversation the other day about a book. One person said, "How did you like it?". Said the other, "I thought it needn't have been so dirty". The other replied, "Oh, no; I think there was only just enough dirt to make it sell." What are we coming to?
The big broadcasting successes were, and are, absolutely clean. There was "Itma" and "Much Binding in the Marsh". May I say, too, that I include in this category "Dixon of Dock Green", "Take it from Here", and so on. Speaking of "Take it from Here", although I never saw eye to eye with Mr. Glum, on his attitude either towards his financial or his home affairs, I well remember a broadcast when Eth was planning a trip to the Continent with her fiancé à deux and Mr. Glum objected. Eth said "Ow, Mr. Glum, you must remember that lots of things have changed since you were young." "Yes, Eth", said Mr. Glum. "And lots of things have stayed the same." This is a profound and ancient truth, and one which we should all remember. Let us continue to honour chastity and marital fidelity.
Many noble Lords will have received papers which the B.B.C. have been kind enough to put about in connection with this debate. In this context I am particularly concerned with the article "Must Contemporary Drama be Sordid?", a reprint of a published article. I find much fault with it. First of all, there is an implication that because many of to-day's writers come from working-class backgrounds standards must be lower. This is nonsense. If we are asked to believe that so much of life to-day 980 is sordid or negative or pessimistic, who is to blame? The answer is the Press and/or the broadcast—always seeking for sensation, always poking about, like the man with the muck-rake. There is too much of it. Drama need not avoid dealing with the doubts and uncertainties of our age, but its contribution should be constructive, not, as so often, merely debilitating.
By reflecting so much the sordidness of life, the broadcast is helping to mould public opinion; there is no question about that. If life is continuously presented as hopeless, meaningless, with no visible gleam of light anywhere, people's resistance to despair or evil is diminished. Repeatedly rubbing people's noses in their private miseries does not help them to find remedies. There should be more plays about people whose courage or firmness of character have enabled them to triumph over circumstances. If more dramatic material is required—I may be open to correction for there may be masses of it available, but I have a feeling that there could be more to select from—let the word go forth that it is not necessary for such to contain "just enough dirt to make it sell".
To return to the article, it says and I quote:To demand optimism when the situation is fraught with danger, to demand moral certainties when many real people in the real world are perplexed, would be both foolish and impracticable.Really! What a disastrous defeatism is covered by remarks like that. Surely we can be of good cheer. Let us see that these wonderful broadcasting facilities are used to help us so that we can have faith in something, trust in something, belief in something and love for something.
§ 6.14 p.m.
§ LORD PEDDIE
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Willis is certainly entitled to our thanks and commendation for introducing this subject to the House. The nature of most of the speeches which we have heard to-day gives an indication of the importance of the subject. This is understandable, because we all recognise that television and radio are to-day a part of our very lives. But it is essential to remember, in any consideration of television policy or programme content, that this is a matter of family participation and not individual participation. There is all the difference in the world between 981 one's attitude towards a book, where one has an individual reading of the book, and towards the time when one turns a knob to receive a television programme when there is no certainty that you, and you alone, will be the person to see that programme. Therefore, the general public's attitude towards television should of necessity be dominated by that factor, the factor of family participation.
I would agree with my noble friend, and with many other speakers, that the general standard of British television is high. I have seen television in other parts of the world and can subscribe wholeheartedly to this view. Yet, at the same time, it is not exempt from criticism, and at different times different bases of criticism apply. We all remember so very well the days of the Reith administration, to which compliment has been paid which I would subscribe to, which was stern and uncompromising and subject (in my opinion, justifiably) to much criticism, but for entirely different resons from those which are being expressed to-day.
I remember years back, as a youngster, attending a week-end school promoted by the B.B.C., held at the Hull University College. It was directed by Professor Searles of the B.B.C. and was intended to study the effects of radio. I moved a resolution condemning the dreary B.B.C. Sunday. I remember the consternation in B.B.C. circles as to the awful disaster that would fall on the whole administration if their policy were changed. There was criticism in those days, some of it justified, some of it not justified; but no one can doubt that the general attitude which dominated the B.B.C. at that time laid down a firm foundation in its recognition of public responsibility.
To-day television is the most important medium of communication, and one can argue that it is as vital to have free expression in television as it is to have a free Press. This appears to be logical, but to my mind is a specious argument, for not even the Press has approached the degree of monopoly which is possessed by television to-day—in one case a monopoly exercised solely for profit. Therefore, our responsibility, particularly that as Parliamentarians expressing criticism, is that we need to recognise the delicate balance between the protection of public interest and freedom of expres- 982 sion. I know that at times all of us—and this view has been freely expressed to-day—feel resentment against some programme or other. I have felt this at many times, and I will make comment on this in a few moments. Out of that resentment, and because of that resentment, we can be tempted to slip into the trap of censorship, under the guise of lofty motives. There is no doubt at all that all too often one finds the narrow-minded prude masquerading as the guardian of morality. There was in another place the suggestion that a viewers' council should be established which would be armed with teeth. I believe that such a body would be likely to have more teeth than tolerance.
I regret personally the introduction of commercial television, but we cannot turn the clock back. I believe that it was not the decision to have a second channel at that time which was bad, but the motive which prompted the decision. Profit at that time was the sole reason; public interest, social standards, culture, were of no consequence. I doubt whether it would have been possible to continue with one TV and radio authority. I think it would have been necessary, ultimately, to have more than one authority, though not necessarily one dominated solely by private interests and private profit.
I believe that the original policy in awarding programme contracts was open to criticism, because newspaper, film and theatre combines almost monopolised the programme contracting companies; and to-day that monopoly has been extended in certain fields even with regard to theatrical performers themselves. There was an opportunity at the time of the introduction of commercial television—and there may in due course be another—to broaden the sources from which the control and capital could be drawn. At that time the idea was rejected, but I hope that on a future occasion Her Majesty's Government will seize the opportunity of introducing entirely different forms of control with regard to television and radio.
To-day, my Lords, I feel that both I.T.V. and B.B.C. battle for viewership with no holds barred. I believe that the lowest common denominator is to maximise viewership; and even B.B.C. 2 has its all-in wrestling. I regret to say it, but I feel that both channels have formed 983 the opinion that the viewers are likely to be found at the bottom of the barrel, and even programmes which are supposed to appeal to intelligence descend to bawdy inanities which are served up as wit. Only this past week, even the programme "Not So Much a Programme, More a Way of Life", to which reference has been made, some of which was quite smart, or "smart alick" (I do not know which), found it necessary to descend to—I was going to call it a barrack-room ballad, but it would have disgraced a barrack room, when a lady sang a song,She was only a small-town whoreSo they buried her flat on her back.Could anybody justify a song of that description? Could anybody find in a programme like that any reason for introducing utter trash of that description? As a matter of fact, I think it was terrible to ask that woman to sing the song.
In the B.B.C.'s Report, the Governors speak of their rôle as trustees of the nation, and I think they recognise it as a trusteeship. Yet I would remind them that they all too frequently allow producers to set a course which is influenced by the track of the I.T.V. The Report of the B.B.C. which we are considering to-day, carries, to my mind, an air of self-satisfaction which the country itself would not share. I am conscious of the fact that my emphasis on criticism can possibly lead to a measure of distortion, because I recognise, as many others do, that first-class jobs have been done by the B.B.C.—and let me say that, here and now, with all the emphasis I can—many of them deserving of congratulation. But I do not think their record justifies their comment that,… for B.B.C. T.V. 1963 was a year of fruition and 1964 a year of fulfilment.They are a little self-conscious in this Report, because they are quite mindful of criticism that is expressed, that the B.B.C. have tended to compete with I.T.V. at the lowest level. But the Report goes on to say (I think on page 23) that theycannot ignore the predominant literary mood of estrangement and lonelinessWhat utter bilge! Of course there is loneliness here, without the B.B.C.'s telling us that in this nation of ours the people in the pubs, the clubs and the factories are the sort of people who are 984 weighed down by estrangement and loneliness. This might be the mood of the introverts who are hired by the B.B.C., but it is not the mood of the people, although it seems to be the intention of the producers and the authors to make it so. In my view, it becomes the responsibility of the B.B.C. and the I.T.V. to mirror the hopes and aspirations of the people; and even, possibly, to project something that will make a contribution to the life and thought and spirit of the nation, not to seek to perform in this manner because some writers, for reasons best known to themselves—God help them!—have a feeling of loneliness. I do not see why the B.B.C. should give them any encouragement.
But great things have been done, and can be done, by both the B.B.C. and the I.T.V. "The Age of Kings" and "The First World War" have already been mentioned, and they were first-class. I believe that both channels have reached a peak of perfection in documentaries, but the real curse lies in head-counting. We can understand the head-counting in the case of the I.T.V., because it is necessary; but that is not the case with regard to the B.B.C. I believe that many politicians and other critics of the B.B.C. are themselves responsible for this attitude in the B.B.C. We tend, as I am doing, to criticise the B.B.C. for its head-counting, for its emphasis on viewership; yet at the same time we tend to judge the merit of a performance by its TAM rating, which I think is wrong. I believe, too, with my noble friend, that the B.B.C. puts too great an emphasis on London and the South and that there is not enough regional expression. In that regard I would pay tribute to Granada, on I.T.V., who deserve a compliment, for they do try to capture the spirit of the area they serve.
I believe that the schools programmes are exceptionally good. The noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, made reference quite recently to the fact that there are no fewer than 8,000 schools with viewing facilities. I believe that this, and an extension of it, could be a development of the project of the "University of the Air", which could be linked up with extramural departments of universities. Great possibilities are available there, and I think that both channels should have the facilities for extending their viewing hours in order to bring this about.
985 We have heard a lot of talk to-day, my Lords, of the influence of TV on the thought and conduct of viewers. I am not so much concerned about adults—by and large, they can look after themselves—but I am concerned about the influence on youth. I know that there is a project in hand, which is likely to cost £250, 000, to study the effect of television on the morals and behaviour of the young. This study should be completed as soon as possible, and I hope that the findings will influence the nature of the programmes.
But, my Lords, I believe that the most serious dereliction of duty, by both channels, is in the abandonment of their responsibility to be a good influence on youth. When thinking of youth they can express themselves only in terms of "beat". Like many others here, I like "pop" songs. I like "pop" music on occasions. But I believe that the constant repetition of programmes like "Juke Box Jury", "Top of the Pops", "Ready, Steady, Go!" and "Thank Your Lucky Stars!" adds up to an irresponsible refusal to acknowledge that modern youth, or at least some of them, want something better. I recognise that such programmes are used as a bait for the teenager, but there is no reason why, having used the bait and attracted them, they cannot provide a better fare than is provided now. There is no attempt at all to take any of the arts as offered to adult viewers, and slant them to develop the interest of young people. To my surprise, even B.B.C. 2 jumps on the band wagon with its "Beat Room".
It is the record industry, of course, that gets the biggest boost out of this business; and I think that, because of it, youth itself gets a shabby deal. There is a massive, weekly deluge dedicated to the theory that young people are blind to any other interests outside the sub-standard. If your Lordships have not already seen them, I would advise you to look in, on occasions, to some of these programmes that I have mentioned, showing television studios bursting with sweating, gum-chewing youngsters contorting to a jungle rhythm, with sometimes the camera, diverted in almost a bored fashion, showing lingering close-ups of bosom-hugging sweaters and the like. Men like Jacobs, Freeman, Murray, Saville and others, are working themselves up into a phoney frenzy, doing a 986 magnificent job in pushing up the record sales to 55 million to-day as against 3½ million in 1950.
Any complete survey of the television field shows it is in the documentary field that television has done an outstanding job of work, combining education with information and entertainment, as prescribed by the B.B.C's T.V. Charter. We are steadily getting rid of some of the more undesirable aspects of T.V. drama, to which reference has been made, but we are now confronted with the B.B.C. obsession with satire, some of which may be suitable for smart West End clubs, but I fail to see that such a "snide" and cruel approach to life, inspired by smart-Alicks striving to say clever and outrageous things, has much place in family entertainment. Yet some sort of purpose can be served, within reason; and I believe, as has already been said, that the B.B.C. might take a leaf out of the book of Bernard Braden, who in that particular field can do a job far better than those responsible for some of these other so-called satirical programmes.
One could go on for quite a long time, my Lords, but I personally believe that the malaise which seems at the moment to affect the B.B.C. is brought about by a clash between those who think that the B.B.C's job is to beat I.T.V. in the running of such banalities as panel games, American serials and all-in wrestling, and, on the other hand, those who think that the B.B.C. should cater for minorities, with professors lecturing on abstruse philosophy and the like. It seems at the moment that the happy medium which has to be secured is agonisingly beyond the reach of the B.B.C.; and this situation, I believe, demands a drastic reappraisal of programme policies. To conclude, although I have been critical, I still believe that both B.B.C. and I.T.V. have done good work. I believe that there are still tremendous opportunities ahead for social good in television, and I refuse to believe that there can be no reconciliation between popular entertainment and good taste.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ LORD AIREDALE
My Lords, I want to mention only one very small point 987 in connection with the Independent Television Authority's most comprehensive Code of Advertising Standards and Practice. Paragraph 14 of this Code deals with the unacceptable products or services for advertising purposes, and the last two matters dealt with in that paragraph are betting and betting tips. No doubt this is quite right. I should imagine that most of us are thankful that the I.T.A. does not allow advertisements from bookmakers to appear upon the television screen in people's homes: but they seem to me to permit their programme companies to pursue a policy which runs somewhat counter to this excellent prohibition against betting advertisements.
When a programme company televise a horse race, they naturally give betting information about that race. That, of course, they are bound to do: you could not convey the atmosphere of the racecourse to people sitting at home unless you did give information about the betting. But they are not content with that. They give not only betting information about the race which they are just going to broadcast: they give the betting on all the races at all the race meetings in England which are about to be run. If there are four race meetings in England, there are four 2.30 p.m. races. You are going to be shown on the television screen one 2.30 race, but you are going to be told the state of the betting on four 2.30 races. It seems to me that in this way the atmosphere of the betting shop is being brought into people's homes, and this is just the sort of situation which I should have thought the I.T.A. were trying to guard against when they so sensibly set their face against accepting advertisements from bookmakers.
The B.B.C. do not do this. The B.B.C. confine themselves to giving betting information about the races which they are going to broadcast, and about no other races. I wish that the I.T.A. would take a lead from the B.B.C. and would adopt this practice themselves, confining their betting information simply to the races which they are going to broadcast. If they want to do more for the betting public, let them televise more races, and then, at least, the betting public can have the 988 satisfaction of the thrill of seeing the race on which they are betting, and not be encouraged to bet blindly upon races which they are not going to have the satisfaction of watching.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ LORD SOMERS
My Lords, I want to say just a very few words on one very small aspect of the B.B.C. I happen to belong to an organisation known as the Composers' Guild, so I think it is hardly necessary for me to say that I must declare an interest. A few months ago that Guild was discussing the amount of music by present-day British composers which was broadcast. It got together a commission to look into this, and some of us were "roped in" to analyse some of the programmes. I happened to be one of those, and I was given copies of the Radio Times for four consecutive weeks and told to confine myself solely to the Home Service and the Third Programme. That, of course, is very reasonable, because one naturally expects the Light Programme to be what it is, and television, with few exceptions, is not a particularly ideal medium for music.
I did this analysis very carefully. I had had a slight suspicion for some years that the amount of serious music of any kind broadcast was rather small, and also, incidentally, that it was broadcast at times when people would not be very likely to listen to it. We were told to give the total time of serious music of all kinds, and then to analyse from that the percentage of music by present-day British composers. By "serious music" I mean everything except just "pop" music. Well I did so. And it was astonishing to me to find that one would quite frequently find no more than about two hours of serious music per day and that one would be lucky to find, perhaps, forty minutes of music by contemporary British composers. There was plenty of contemporary music, but it was not British.
Our composers are turning out a great deal of very interesting music, and the composer to-day does not have an easy job. I do not think that it is generally realised that publishers are closing down very much on what they will take for publication. In fact, one of our leading publishers have issued a statement that they will accept nothing for publication 989 except that which is quite certain of selling at a profit. Of course, one knows what that means. Nothing sells at a profit to begin with, unless it is what one might call popular music or, at any rate, well known music. Therefore, the present-day British composer is finding it very difficult to get a hearing at all.
The B.B.C. is absolutely ideally placed to remedy this. I hope it will not be very long before it will look into this and realise that we are producing good art. I am not speaking for myself in any way whatsoever, but merely for my contemporaries and colleagues. There is a great deal of very good music being written to-day, and I hope the B.B.C. will soon be prepared to let the public hear a little more of it.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, I should like to begin by associating myself with those who have thanked the noble Lord, Lord Willis, for giving us this opportunity to debate the Reports of the B.B.C. and I.T.A. If I may say so, he made a very interesting speech based on his own very considerable personal experience and, with due respect, I thought he spoke with great wisdom on the subject of programmes.
Both of these Reports in their own way make fascinating reading, but in most respects they are not really comparable. The B.B.C. Report covers the whole range of sound broadcasting as well as television, and in the field of television, where competition does exist, the I.T.A. stands in a very different relationship to its programme companies from that of the B.B.C. to its producers. Another point that struck me when I first came to look at these Reports, and which seemed to me fundamental to our consideration of the whole subject, is that there is such a vast output of both sound and television broadcasting that it is almost impossible for any of us to hear or to see more than a very small proportion of what is actually put out. Your Lordships, I know, are all particularly busy people and you may listen while you are shaving or may listen to the radio in your car as you come here, but I am sure it is impossible to do much more listening-in until you return home in the evening. Then you probably prefer to look at television rather than to listen to sound broadcasting. Certainly, when 990 I get home I am afraid I am tied down to "Pinky and Perky "—but then I have small children.
My Lords, it is impossible to cover the whole ground of these Reports and I should like to restrict myself to some of the main matters of policy that seem to me to arise. I should like to state frankly, to start with, that personally I am a very great admirer of the B.B.C. I must admit that I was once paid by them, but I was not paid very much and I do not consider myself in any way prejudiced for that reason. I believe that the B.B.C. is one of the great institutions that have been evolved by our society. I also should like to pay my tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Reith, who was instrumental in setting it on the right course. It is unique in its constitution and enjoys a tremendous reputation overseas. I am not saying it is perfect—and not even the B.B.C. would claim that; I am not saying it is a bad thing that the B.B.C. faces competition from commercial television; and I am certainly not saying I do not admire much that has been achieved by the I.T.A. What I do feel is that in considering future broadcasting policy we should be extremely careful not to take any step that might drastically alter the effectiveness of the B.B.C.
There are real dangers ahead and underlying them all is the root of all evil, money. The B.B.C.'s own broadcasting services, as has been said by other noble Lords, are financed by licence fees. This has been so since the B.B.C. began. It is this independence of Government finance or advertising pressures that has given the B.B.C. its unique standing both in this country and abroad. There is no doubt in my mind that to depart from the licence system would strike at the heart of the B.B.C.'s independence and would seriously damage its position in the world. The difficulty is that the B.B.C. requires a licence fee of £6 in place of the present £4. Obviously, no Government like to pass on additional costs to the consumer, and especially I can sympathise with the present Government at the present time. But I hope they will face up to the realities of the situation.
The noble Lord, Lord Willis, explained how very cheaply, on the whole, the 991 average British household was getting the service given it by the B.B.C. I can only add that, with the exception of Holland where the inclusive fee is some £4 14s. 8d., every Continental country within the European Broadcasting Union charges a combined licence fee of over £6 and, with the exception of France and Belgium, of over £7. Moreover, in spite of rising costs and increased services, No 1ncrease in the licence fee has been asked of the British public since 1957. The noble Lord, Lord Hobson, told us that this matter was under consideration. I very much hope that the Government, when they come to make their decision, will cherish that unique independence the B.B.C. enjoys and will stick to the well-proved financial arrangements of the licence fee.
Personally, I hope the Government will resist the blandishments of those who wish to start commercial sound radio. I know that in this respect I differ from some of my noble friends on this side of the House and I am, therefore, in this matter expressing only my own personal view. It has been suggested that local sound broadcasting should start and should be entrusted to commercial firms. I much prefer the alternative recomended by the Pilkington Committee that such local sound radio stations should be run by the B.B.C. The right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Worcester paid tribute to the experimental programme that had been put on by the B.B.C. in the Vale of Evesham. And I hope that in due course the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, will have a chance to look at that programme, which perhaps will allay his fears about local sound broadcasting, especially if it were to be produced by the B.B.C.
I would say a word on a subject which has not so far been mentioned—the external broadcasting services of the B.B.C. Noble Lords opposite do not believe in an independent nuclear deterrent, and many of them have often said in the past that this country can retain its prestige and influence in the world without it. I suggest that if they really believe that, the more firmly should they support the external broadcasting services, which do so much for British prestige overseas.
At the end of the last war the B.B.C. was the most powerful broadcasting in- 992 fluence in a world of 150 million radio sets. To-day there are 434 million radio sets and 138 million television sets, but the B.B.C. has sunk to fourth in the table of output of broadcasting hours, tailing behind the U.S.S.R., China and the "Voice of America" and hotly pursued by West Germany and Egypt. In 1950, the B.B.C. broadcast about 650 hours a week. To-day, this has decreased to just over 600 hours, at a time when other countries have been increasing their output. I think that opportunities at this moment are outstandingly good. The B.B.C. external services are re-broadcast by more stations than those of any other country, and this is still so, despite the fact that many emergent countries consider it inconsistent with their independence to continue broadcasting B.B.C. programmes. It is interesting to know that in certain of these newly independent countries, where the B.B.C. news bulletins are not now officially re-broadcast, the listeners' demands are being met by commercial broadcasting systems.
There is much to be done, however, if the B.B.C. is to maintain its position, and this must depend ultimately on finance from the Government. Increasingly listeners overseas are turning to the use of medium waves and no longer depend on short-wave broadcasting. The effectiveness of what can be achieved by our overseas broadcasting service on medium waves is shown by the success of the B.B.C.'s Arabic service. Of nearly 200, 000 letters received from overseas during the year, nearly one quarter are in Arabic. Moreover, a survey in 1963 in the four chief cities of the Lebanon shows that the B.B.C. Arabic services had a regular audience of more than half of the radio listeners. This is massive proof of the need to develop more medium-wave broadcasting, and I very much hope that the Government will look with sympathy on the B.B.C. plans for new transmitters to carry their overseas services on medium waves.
Another influence that the B.B.C. has on overseas broadcasting, both sound and television, is in training staff from overseas. There is a continuing demand for such training but, unfortunately, without further Government assistance the B.B.C. is not in a position to help as much as it could. Only recently the principal Director 993 of the Department of Mass Communication of Unesco advised developing countries not to send television trainees to Britain because of the lack of adequate training facilities, and stated that, although he personally regretted it, many emerging countries were now sending their trainees to broadcasting organisations in the Communist bloc. The B.B.C., I know, has discussed this most disquieting situation with: he Ministry of Overseas Development and has its plans ready to provide television training for overseas students. It would be a tragedy if this unique opportunity of influencing the development of newly emerging nations were to be missed owing to lack of finance.
I should like to pass now to the Report of the Independent Television Authority. It equally makes sound and sensible reading. The Television Act, 1964, greatly strengthened the hand of I.T.A., especially in regard to programmes and advertising. And, with respect, I would congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, on the active way in which he is implementing the provisions of this Act. Although it is still early to judge, I have the impression that his use of the powers conferred on I.T.A. will be nothing but beneficial to independent television programmes. I myself am particularly impressed by the fact that I.T.A. have not only established a Programme Policy Committee but have also constituted a series of periodic consultations between their own members in I.T.A., members of the 14 programme companies and outside experts on various fields of programme planning. The first, on children's programmes, is to be held in March, followed by one on drama and a third on current affairs. I believe that this attempt to bring a positive influence to bear on future programmes is not only creative but wholly praiseworthy, and bound to be of great value.
There seem to me to be two main policy matters concerning I.T.A. The first is the question of a second commercial channel, which has been lucidly and eloquently advocated this afternoon, not only by my noble friend Lord Bessborough but also by the noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams. I should like to say that it also has the full support of 994 the Opposition, and I press the Government to accept that I.T.A. should be given a second commercial channel.
There are various advantages that this would bring. In the first place, it would introduce competition for advertising and remove the present monopoly which individual programme companies enjoy in their areas. In the second place—a point that was made in great detail by the noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams—the B.B.C. already have a second channel and therefore enjoy more hours of broadcasting than the commercial companies. In fact, in present circumstances it would be possible for a commercial television company to argue that in order to meet the competition of two B.B.C. channels they have to pay more attention to nothing but popular programmes rather than those of perhaps more educative interest.
In the third place, with two commercial channels it would be possible to give a full seven-day franchise to independent companies, and this would certainly be of benefit. The fact is that at the moment an independent television company that has a franchise only at the week-end is inhibited from producing a fully balanced schedule, and might well not develop some of the better programmes that it would if it had a full seven-day franchise. Lastly, it would allow new companies in the field of television broadcasting. The present franchises granted to existing companies have been limited initially to three years to take account of a possible second channel.
The noble Lord, Lord Hobson, told us that this matter was under consideration and would be taken into acount, but I should like to suggest that, for many reasons, there is a good deal of urgency about this consideration. One of them is that the future planning of transmitters depends on the Government's decision. I know, for example, that in Wales T.W.W. are extremely interested in expanding their reception, and this requires more transmitters in different parts of the country; but naturally, the I.T.A. are reluctant to undertake the building of more transmitters until they know precisely where their future lies with regard to a second channel, which would, of course, be on 625 lines and 995 on U.H.F. I should like to press the Government to authorise the Independent Television Authority forthwith to seek the means of setting up a second independent channel, at least in the areas of large population, by 1966.
The second problem that faces the I.T.A.—or, at least, it is a problem with which they are concerned—is the control of hours of broadcasting. At present, both the I.T.A. and the B.B.C. are limited to 50 hours of broadcasting a week, with extra hours for outside broadcasts, educational programmes and religious programmes. The I.T.A., I think, feel that if they could secure more hours it would be a great advantage in producing more of the minority type of programmes and of allowing them to do more in the way of repeats. I must say that I have great sympathy with them in this request. The extra hours, of course, would not be at the most lucrative financial time, and therefore would be likely to lead to the better type of programme being put on in those extra hours. The possibility of putting on more repeats would provide programmes for shift workers and others who are not always able to view at the most popular times.
I realise that an increase in hours might be difficult for the B.B.C. from a financial point of view, but I am assuming that the Government will provide the B.B.C., through the licence fee, with sufficient money to finance their operations. I should like to see a better service provided to all viewers by an increase of hours.
I am sure it has been most useful for this House to have the opportunity to debate these two excellent Reports, though it is sad that neither the noble Lord, Lord Normanbrook, nor the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, has been able to take part, by reason of the offices they hold. I know we all feel that we have been deprived of their expert knowledge. Broadcasting is one of the most powerful influences on public opinion, and it is right that Parliament should discuss the subject at periodic intervals. I think we must all welcome the initiative of the noble Lord, Lord Willis, in giving us this opportunity.
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