HL Deb 25 February 1970 vol 308 cc79-158

4.2 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, we now come back to the main subject of our debate this afternoon, the proposed reorganisation of the B.B.C. If I open what I have to say from this Despatch Box by supporting one aspect of the proposed reorganisation of sound programmes, perhaps I should qualify it in two ways: first, by making it clear that it is entirely a personal view, and, secondly, by saying that the remainder of my speech will be more critical of the policy of the B.B.C. and, consequently, of Her Majesty's Government.

Personally, unlike the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, I am in favour of the proposed streaming of various kinds of broadcasting in the four national programmes. I cannot agree that each programme should necessarily provide a balance between the various forms of speech and music. In the first place, however desirable it may be, it is a fallacy to assume that someone who has listened to a light comedy item on, say, Radio 4 will continue to listen when that item ends and is succeeded by a concert of classical music. His wireless set is provided with knobs, and if he does not like the ensuing programme he will switch over.

Secondly, with the present system of balanced programmes it seems to be virtually impossible to co-ordinate one with another. It is annoying to find two items which appeal to the same person overlapping on two different programmes. If that happens one is faced with the alternative of missing either the end of the one or the beginning of the other. It is even more annoying to find three broadly similar types of broadcast run- ning simultaneously on Radios 2, 3 and 4. If you like that sort of thing, you may want to listen to all three; and if you do not, you will not want to listen to any. In either case you will be dissatisfied.

If streaming, in the way Broadcasting in the 'Seventies suggests, adds to the convenience of the listener, it will also add to his enjoyment and to his education. But, and it is a big but, it must be done in such a way as not to lower the standard of broadcasting. The sound programmes of the B.B.C. have a very high reputation indeed. If the high standards are maintained; if minority interests are still catered for; if the threatened disbandment of the orchestras does not take place; if Radio 3 is not confined to V.H.F., and if broadly the same mix of broadcasting goes out, but is merely rearranged into streamed programmes for the convenience of listeners, the many apprehensions that have been expressed on all sides in recent months will be proved groundless. But will this happen? And, indeed, can it happen?

My Lords, we on this side of the House suspect that the real reason behind the reorganisation of sound radio is this. Her Majesty's Government dislike so much the Conservative Party's declared intention of bringing in local commercial broadcasting when they are returned to power that they are determined to press ahead at a reckless speed with local radio under the auspices of the B.B.C., and to use up as many as possible of the available frequencies, even if this is done at the expense of drastically lowering the standards of national programmes.

When he opened Radio Leicester on November 8, 1967, the then Postmaster General, Mr. Edward Short, said this: Clearly, it would be unfair to pay for the station out of income from the receiving licence. Otherwise people in rural areas would have to contribute towards a service they could never receive. I agree with this completely. But in a release to the Press on November 25, 1969, the present Minister of Posts and Telecommunications said this: The service will, like the other operations of the B.B.C., be financed essentially from licence revenue. The net increase in licence revenue from April, 1971, will enable the B.B.C. to meet this and other commitments. How can we reconcile these two conflicting statements It seems clear that the increase in the licence fee was made conditional on the B.B.C.'s agreeing to run the local stations.

The total deficit of the B.B.C. in 1967– 68 was £2½ million. In 1968–69 the deficit was over £4 million. Broadcasting in the 'Seventies predicts that in 1971 the running costs of local radio will be £5.2 million. The increase in the licence fee is estimated to bring in £5.6 million in 1971. That leaves £400,000 left over from the increased fee to cope with the vast deficit. Mr. Curran, the Director-General of the B.B.C, has said: The £7 million deficit we expect to have in 1971 is not going to be cleared up very fast. At this rate, my Lords, it is no wonder.

This local radio, the expansion of which is threatening the future of national broadcasting, is to be heard only on V.H.F. Yet I understand that only one-third of the listening public have sets that are capable of receiving V.H.F. In November, 1967, Mr. Short explained that there were no medium wavelengths available. But on April 25, 1969, after being pressed about this in another place, Mr. Stonehouse seemed to hold out a glimmer of hope. He said: We are examining it to see how many of the stations can be put on medium wave as well as V.H.F. Perhaps the noble Baroness, Lady Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, will be able to tell the House whether this examination has borne fruit.

My Lords, the B.B.C.'s policy on the future of national sound broadcasting seems to have been foisted on them, and to arise directly from Her Majesty's Government's policy on local broadcasting to such an extent that when we on these Benches ask questions on broadcasting in the future, we shall have to think twice before accepting the usual reply, that: It is not the policy of Her Majesty's Government to interfere with the day-to-day running of Corporations. We realise that noble Lords opposite are fundamentally opposed to the principle of commercial radio. We understand it, although we do not agree with it. If they can finance local radio by some other means, all well and good. But what we cannot accept, and where we feel that they have got their priorities completely wrong, is that they should insist on going ahead with local radio at the expense of allowing a deterioration, however small, in the national programme.

4.9 p.m.


My Lords, I think the whole House recognises the very real importance of this debate, perhaps going even beyond the Motion itself, and we are indeed grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, for this opportunity for discussion; discussion which, I am sure, will greatly assist the B.B.C. in assessing public opinion in general. I think the House probably has a particular interest in it. In such a radical House, all of us tend to identify ourselves with protesters, and I think this is partly what has happened with all of us. I should like to quote a very short piece from Sir Hugh Greene's last book, The Third Floor Front, in which he made the essential point that: In no other country in the world is there so much public interest in broadcasting, not only in what is broadcast but in those who work in broadcasting. Certainly at the present moment in history this is undoubtedly true.

The House will know that my noble friend the Leader of the House will be replying to the debate. At this stage I think the most helpful thing I can do will be to remind the House of the Government's basic position. It is essentially a debate about programme content. I am sure that one of the most strongly held principles in all parts of the House is that the B.B.C. should be completely free from Government interference in the content of its broadcasts. I am sure that the B.B.C.'s exceptional standing abroad, and indeed at home, sterns from this. It is an unbreakable principle; it goes right back to the beginnings of broadcasting, and every Board of Governors of the B.B.C. has always known that theirs was the responsibility for the programming and content of the broadcasts.

The Government do not, and should not, intervene in day-to-day affairs of the Corporation, but of course the B.B.C. is answerable to the public and to Parliament. I must tell the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, that the B.B.C. is not driven by its political masters, as he put it. The Government would come in only if changes in the fundamental pattern of programme policy were such as to undermine public confidence in the B.B.C.'s ability to fulfil its obligations under the Charter. I do not think that that position has been arrived at in what we are discussing this afternoon, and I am sure that the House will not expect Ministers to make pronouncements on the details of the programming points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and probably by other noble Lords. We all have a favourite bit that we should like to have extended, and have lots of bits that we should like to have suppressed, but that has nothing to do with the Government's duty about the actual programming. Nevertheless, the Government are deeply concerned at the sad and distressing differences of view which have come to our notice recently, and which, indeed, have been apparent for some time.

Secondly, the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, referred to our famous and complicated Addison Rules. I think my noble friend Lord Addison may sometimes wish that his father had not fathered at least these Rules. Although we are very glad to see the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, in his place, we know that we cannot expect to hear from him. In spite of his obviously intimate knowledge of the present situation, if he were to answer for the Corporation's affairs in Parliament it might well impinge on the B.B.C.'s freedom from Parliament and Governmental intervention. There are, of course, many views about the Addison Rules, but I am quite sure that the B.B.C.'s position is specially vulnerable to precisely this situation.

Of course, responsibility for replying to the debate must rest on Ministers. Today's debate will straddle the several responsibilities of the Government and the B.B.C., and the presence of the noble Lord, Lord Hill, will, I know, ensure that the B.B.C. will take very careful note of the debate.

Noble Lords will remember that there have been three debates on this subject in Parliament in the last year—two of them in another place—and I am sure they will recognise that the debate on July 22, the first after Broadcasting in the 'Seventies had been published, had a quite profound effect on the subsequent plans of the B.B.C. Many noble Lords will also have read the pronouncements of the Campaign for Better Broadcasting, to which the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, referred—noble Lords may have been to some of the meetings—and all will, of course, have followed the rather remarkable correspondence in The Times and other newspapers. The crux of the matter is that, in spite of the obvious and, indeed, greatly welcome advances in television, there is scarcely a household in the country without at least one radio. I was delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, was such a fan of radio, though I am deeply sorry about his views on "Pop". As we are speaking in a rather rarified atmosphere this afternoon, perhaps I should say, when we are considering the pleasures of the young, eheu fugaces.


My Lords, does the noble Baroness say that all modern youth are devoted to "Pop"?


Certainly I think most of them are, my Lords, and I do not at all share the noble Lord's view. I think it is an excellent form of music. We do not always get the best kind of "Pop", but there is extremely good "Pop". It is very important to have something to whistle, anyway. It is also very important to remember that sound radio is very effective and its impact on the country is considerable. The B.B.C.'s plans were intended to make sound radio of maximum availability, in the light of their researches into the new habits of the listening public. I shall return to this point in a moment, if I may, but first I should like to recapitulate a little the B.B.C.'s description of what the time-table has been in their consultations with the public and the unions, to which the noble Lord referred.

The Corporation first set up a working group within the B.B.C. two years ago. Broadcasting in the 'Seventies was published in July last year, immediately after the proposals had been approved in principle by the Board of Governors. I am afraid that by then some unions were complaining that they were not being sufficiently consulted, or that the consultation was pretty useless because they were told about things only in secrecy. The B.B.C.'s view, on the other hand, was that there were difficulties in allowing the plans to be given to the broad membership of the unions before they were released publicly. So nothing in the way of actual negotiations could begin until they had published their plans. I noted very carefully what the noble Lord said about that, and I think other people may hold his view.

But the B.B.C. felt that, since the committee which had been set up was a purely advisory body, theirs was not an unreasonable view to take. It took no executive decisions and none could be taken until the proposals had been approved in principle by the Board of Governors. Once they approved them, the B.B.C. decided that it was essential to put them not only to the unions, but also to the advisory committees and to the public, because it was an essential part of its procedure to test the reactions of the public as well as of the staff concerned to the structural proposals before decisions were taken.

The important point to remember is that the programme is for implementation in April this year, so that decisions had to be taken on the structure itself before the programme planning could begin. As noble Lords will know, it takes a considerable time to organise those extremely complicated programmes and the dove-tailing of the timetables of the B.B.C. Many of the options remained open in the B.B.C. until December, and it was then that the Director General made his statement that, although there was further scope for discussing the content of the programmes within the structure, the time had ended for debating the structure itself. Of course, the Government had been looking at the proposals all this time, and especially those which concerned the restriction of Radio 3 to V.H.F., the future of the orchestras and the continuation of local radio. And, as the House knows, my right honourable friend the Minister of Posts and Tele-communications dissented from the first two of these proposals and the B.B.C. abandoned them.

The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, expressed special anxieties about the plans for changing the Third Programme, and many noble Lords have obviously been thinking very deeply about this aspect. As Lord Gladwyn said, the B.B.C.'s record in this field is perhaps the envy of the world. It is all the more important, therefore, that there should be no lowering of the general standards at any time. That is our firm view; and it is in this context, I am sure, that the House desires to consider why the B.B.C. feels that changes are necessary. Their answer is the fundamental change which has happened in the place of sound radio in society in the last few years. I think we might consider that a little further.

The Third Programme was introduced at the end of 1946, when there were still over 11 million households which had sound radio licences. The number of people having sound-only licences has now dropped to 1½ million, while combined television and sound radio licences have grown in number to over 15 million. This is a very different situation. Nevertheless, sound radio is very important— indeed, it is a growing feature in our daily lives. Over half the population listen to sound radio at some time each day, but the B.B.C.'s view is that the attitude of these listeners has undergone a fundamental change since it became a national habit to watch television. The B.B.C. thinks that we use sound radio in a different way: we listen to it because there is a particular programme that we want to hear, or we turn it on to keep us company when we are pursuing some activity, or perhaps pursuing none, and often when we are in solitude. In other words, it is no longer a family entertainment as it was formerly.

In any case, the B.B.C. follows up that view by being quite certain that, with the change of purpose of listening, there is also a change of behaviour by the listening public. The Corporation says— and I find this fascinating—that listeners are no longer prepared to switch on to a programme and to stay with it no matter what comes out, if indeed it changes from subject to subject. People then often switch off. The Corporation feels, therefore, that one of the merits which used to be claimed—that the listener might absorb some kind of knowledge, or widen his horizons, as it were by stealth—no longer applies; or, at any rate not to the same extent as it did.

Here, my Lords, I think is the point at which the lines of philosophy (if I may call them such) and approach within the B.B.C. begin to diverge. The B.B.C. considers that the best way of serving these new listening habits is by clarifying and labelling the nature of each network, thus making it easier for listeners to find the kind of programme they want. That is their case, which the House will agree was very ably argued by the letter of the Director General in The Times last Monday; and, from what he said, I think that the noble Lord, Lord Denham, will agree with this particular kind of labelling. Nevertheless, the House will also wish to consider the, in my view, disastrous misunderstandings from which this unhappy situation grew.

About five months ago, before the B.B.C.'s proposals were published, a Question was tabled in another place about Radio 3 and the regions, and various rumours and leaks were printed from that time onwards which were taken up strongly, and rightly so, by the public. It was rumoured that Radio 3, the Music Programme, and the Third were to be reduced or abolished, that Radio 4 was to be curtailed, and that music overall was to be curtailed, too. The B.B.C. maintained throughout all this time that all these rumours were totally without foundation. As the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, said, there were more accurate leaks that the orchestras and the regional programmes were to be abolished, and that drama was to be reduced; and it was later understood that local radio was to be implemented, at the expense, as some people said, of the networks. Then there was the article in the Sunday Times which actually stated that Radio 3 was to be abolished. The result, I am glad to say, was 10,000 letters to the B.B.C. in one week; and although this was an inaccurate piece of information the reaction shows how great public concern is.

The broad structure of these proposals was published in July, and at this point the programme schedules were not developed, until the B.B.C. could gauge public feeling. Of course, most of the criticism directed against the B.B.C. was then concerned with the orchestras and with the proposal to put Radio 3 on V.H.F., both of which, as the House knows, the B.B.C. undertook to abandon —and I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, for some praise at least for that. Then the next phase began in about August, with the setting up of the Campaign for Better Broadcasting. My Lords, it has been, as I said before, a distressing but an exciting time. The Government and the B.B.C. respect the deep professional concern for standards which prompted the producers to take the extreme step of making their anxieties public in The Times. The producers are of course significantly among those upon whom the B.B.C. relies to put its plans into effect. They and others are responsible for carrying out the B.B.C.'s concern for the maintenance of its high standards in their programmes, which is what all of us in this House, I think, wish for.

May I turn just for a moment to finance, a subject raised by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn? I think that, broadly, the answer here is that we should all wish for the causes in which we most believe to have more money but that the Government have to consider how much money is available. As well as having a duty to the B.B.C. the Government have a duty to the licence holders, to see that they do not pay too much. Nevertheless, I would point out that last summer the Government announced that the television licence fee would be raised from £6 to £6 10s. and that the sound only licence fee of 25s. would be abolished from April of next year; and, as the noble Lord, Lord Denham, said, this will produce an increase of £5½ million in a year.

I think the House will consider that a deficit of £7 million, which the noble Lord, Lord Denham, mentioned, is really marginal when related to a total income of £525 million. It represents the difference between the amount the B.B.C. would like to have and the amount which the Government feel they can afford. I should like to point out that the present Government have paid very much more attention to the raising of the licensing fees than the previous Administration did in all the 13 years they were in office. We have in fact authorised three increases since we have been the Government and the Opposition authorised only two, during a much longer period. Of course there is not enough money for broadcasting: there is never enough money for anything. But in the circumstances I do not think the B.B.C. would feel that the Government have been at all lax in their consideration of this very difficult situation.

To return to what I think are the main anxieties of the House, the Report, Broadcasting in the 'Seventies, marked a break from the traditional pattern of broadcasting over many years. The B.B.C. believes that the new pattern in no way inhibits the same level of achievement from its staff in the future. The Corporation's arguments are closely reasoned, and they are backed by statistics and professional advice. Why then has a large, senior and undeniably devoted group of the B.B.C. staff questioned them so passionately? Is it because of the way in which they have been publicised? Is it because of the way the decisions have been reached? Or is it because of the decisions themselves?

A Noble Lord: The decisions themselves.


My Lords, I think there are various views on that. Members of Parliament have voiced deeply felt protests. Actors, producers, authors, musicians, learned dons, we all know, have written to the Press about how deeply they feel on this matter. Here lies the basic sadness of this whole situation. As I see it, neither side appears to have made itself really clear to the other. The pro-testers are, I think, perhaps worried more for the future even than for the present. We know the urgency of the case made against what they genuinely believe to be the abolition of the Third Programme, at any rate in spirit. We know their passionate objections to the reduction in time of the old Third Programme's contribution, even though some of the speech and drama will be put over on Radio 4. Also the complaint persists of lack of consultation and lack of publicity. Their view is that they are fighting for imaginative radio, not merely on the old Third but in all broadcasting—better quality in "Pop", jazz, drama, everywhere. They maintain that the Third Programme is not a centre of exclusiveness or elitism but an essential and necessarily partly experimental base from which all programmes could eventually benefit. Above all, they maintain that they are not an old stuffy lot of resisters to change but consider themselves young, bold and adventurous.

There, not in a nutshell but at some length, is the position as we have seen it develop. I have given quite clearly the B.B.C. view and we have seen what the protesters have said. I cannot deal with all the anxieties in detail; but I think the tragic thing is that all the protagonists are dedicated to the highest ideals of the B.B.C. They have all looked at their problems in a professional and realistic way. Those in the B.B.C. who made the recommendations have based their judgments on experience, knowledge and research; and the responsibility for taking the decisions lies, as I have said, with them. But, of course, among any body of intelligent people there will be disagreements. Nevertheless, the idea of a fundamental split between the policy-makers and the producers must in the end be artificial. They work in the same medium with, in every case, the success of the enterprise as their ultimate aim.

My Lords, may I turn for a moment to the local radio point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Denham. Local radio —and the noble Lord asked me about this—will have both V.H.F. and medium wave. I think this is very necessary and right, and I sympathise with his worries in case it was not so. But the point about local radio having been set up at the expense of the other networks really cannot be maintained. The Government increased the licensing fees; the B.B.C. decided after an extremely successful experiment with the first eight local stations that there was a very real local demand for them and for their expansion. We cannot question the evidence; there is no doubt that this is so. Many of the existing stations have been really successful and I think it is in the interest of local communities that they should be developed. The regional talent to which the noble Lord referred will certainly not be lost; I can assure him of that. There is also the point about the Maud Commission. This is extremely complicated —everything about the Maud Commission is complicated, in my view—but cultural communities are not necessarily the same as administrative committees. I think one would have to rule out any question of exactly matching local radio areas to the Maud areas. But the principle, which is really that of a conurbation centre for the community and its catchment area, is common to both.

My Lords, to sum the matter up: have the B.B.C. got it right or wrong? I have explained in some detail how they see their case. Of course, they believe they have got it right. The House will know that they must take note of other views and that those views in a sense must be largely speculative. In the end it will be for the public to make a judgment in the light of their appraisal of the new structure and of whether the B.B.C.'s performance matches what their stated intentions were.

I hope that I may reassure the House by saying that the B.B.C. are anxious for Ministers to emphasise that the Corporation will be flexible in their response to public reaction. They want to make it absolutely clear how ready they are to change their approach in the light of public reaction to the first few months of the plan. April, which is the implementation month, is almost upon us and I think the House will understand that since the programmes under the new structure are already set up they must be started then, otherwise programming would be in chaos. I want to emphasise again that the B.B.C. will be responsive to the reactions to their proposals. I am sure—at any rate I hope—that that will be very reassuring to the House and I am very happy to be able to make that clear.

4.37 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that we must all be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, for introducing this subject and for the way in which he has done so, and to the noble Baroness for the irenic explanatory speech that she has given us. I think that all who have spoken have agreed that this debate is really about the maintenance of quality, intellectual and artistic, within the radio services. For some years I sat as a member of the B.B.C. Advisory Council. I remember that there was facing me a large plaque. On that plaque was a motto. That motto was "Qualecumque", which, being translated, means "Whatsoever". It refers, of course, to St. Paul's statement: …whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, … just, … pure, … lovely and … of good report —all that is admirable, all that is excellent— think on these things". I would guess that that plaque was put there during Lord Reith's regime. Certainly during the time he was at the B.B.C. it was nobly adhered to. It is not so evident—


My Lords, I ought perhaps at this stage to point out that Lord Reith was not in favour of the Third Programme. It is not because Lord Reith has gone that there has been any slackening of the Third Programme. He did not approve of the principle of the Third Programme.


My Lords, I was not suggesting that Lord Reith would approve; I was simply suggesting that standards since he left the B.B.C, and particularly in recent years, have tended to decline. It may be said that the permissive society which so many deplore is partly due to declining standards in the Press, television and in other directions. Of recent years the tendency has been to act on the motto, "Give the people what they want. "That was the battle cry of the commercial television lobby, and indeed it was the policy of the Tory Government of the day. Within limits, undoubtedly it is right. No one wants to give or stuff Mr. Binks with esoteric music, astronomy and the higher mathematics. Nevertheless, the B.B.C. has, as we all recognise, an educational and informative function. That is written into its title deeds. "Give the people what they want"—no great artist has ever acted on that dictum. You may remember that Words-worth said that a great poet can only be read in the taste which he himself creates, and that is true of all great artists, whether it be in poetry, or in music, or in the visual arts. Milton said: Truth, like a bastard, comes into the world. No doubt at a later date that bastard is legitimised, but sometimes it takes a long time for that to happen.

My Lords, I am sure we should all agree that quality, creativeness, vision— call it what you will—must be maintained, even though the cost be very high indeed in terms of actual finance. But how does this question of equality impinge upon the present unhappy situation? At this point it seems to me that we enter a territory where no light, but rather darkness, is visible. Indeed, heat is more apparent than light. In Sir Hugh Greene's drawing-room phrase, the staff seem to be accusing the governors of being "a lot of bloody fools". Such language is indicative of a rising temperature. Over the years the Third Programme has established a tradition, and a very fine tradition, too. It has drawn loyalties to it and it has been well supported by artists and producers. It has become an entity in its own right. The contributors have breathed into it the breath of life, and it has become in part a living soul. Or, to change the metaphor, it is regarded by many as being holy ground, and Mr. Curran, instead of taking off his shoes, has stumped around in hobnail boots—so his accusers say. 'Humpty-Dumpty sat an a wall; Humpty-Dumpty had a great fall. All the King's horses and all the King's men Couldn't put Humpty together again. That is really what is feared; that once the Third Programme is split up and divided it is done for. Divide and conquer—and the bureaucrats conquer. These, I think, are the thoughts at the back of the minds of those who oppose the new plan.

The Director-General tells us, with the greatest emphasis at his command, that this is not so. The Third Programme, it is true, will die in title, but it will live, it will achieve a glorious resurrection, in other programmes. In support of this belief I understand that the Controller of Radio 3 is to be the man who is at present controlling the Third Programme. Despite all this, the staff, or many of them, believe that these new proposals are an attempt to jeopardise the quality of the Third Programme. Though I have been on the B.B.C. General Advisory Council I have never fully understood the processes by which programmes come into being. What obstacles, financial and artistic, have they to meet? And where, and to what extent, do financial and administrative considerations impinge on the actual production of programmes? I would guess that this entity, the Third Programme, had a certain autonomy and that it is thought that this automony is in danger. It is really, in effect, the psychological background of the take-over bid.

We are assured that there have been consultations. Some say they have been adequate, others say they have not. Par- ticipation is the popular notion of the day, but if you wait to consult everyone there is no participation because no action is taken. And here, surely, the Director-General is right. The time comes for action and for decision, and this must be taken by those who are ultimately responsible. For democratic control does not lie with the staff of the B.B.C.; democratic control means Parliamentary control. The present dispute points to a crisis of confidence among the staff, and this is regrettable. I hope that in time it will be resolved. I cannot see that the new proposals are inherently destructive of what the Third Programme stood for. I hope that the new schedules may be regarded as a controlled experiment, and reviewed, as the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, suggested, at some later date, either by a joint committee or by a Royal Commission. The fact is that the ingredients of the cake seem good, and we can only wait until we have sampled it before we give our final judgment.

4.46 p.m.


My Lords, I feel that I am obliged to ask you for even more then the usual ration of indulgence that you give to a trembling maiden speaker. In the brief interval of the Christmas Recess I was translated from the Press Galleries of this Parliament to the arena here below, and so, after a life-time of being on the outside looking in, I now find myself on the inside looking out. I can assure your Lordships that it is a bizarre and somewhat unnerving experience. It is made even worse by embarrassing recollections of the times when I have written rather flippant criticisms of the rhetoric of eminent Members of this House, usually when they were in another place. As the Frenchman said, criticism is easy and art is hard. So today, my Lords, I feel rather as my old colleague Sir Neville Cardus might feel if he suddenly found himself, as a commentator on cricket, at the wicket at Lords. Or, even worse, since the best batsman can be. bowled first ball, if, as a music critic, he found himself at the piano at the Wigmore Hall. Yet, my Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord who introduced this debate; first because it is a timely debate, and secondly, because it gives me an early and possibly rare opportunity of talking out of experience as a journalist and a freelance broadcaster. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, will understand that I cannot go with him all the way today, but I remain his faithful disciple in all European affairs.

I begin, my Lords, with a strong belief in the governors and the managers of the B.B.C., who for half a century have kept faith with the concept of public service in broadcasting. Moreover they have made, With great skill, the gigantic adjustments needed to meet the needs and desires of a society which is changing with almost frightening rapidity. Nothing that I have read, none of the schedules that I have seen, has convinced me that they have forsaken that role and suddenly become Philistines. The first question we have to ask is: why is the B.B.C. making this change in the style of its radio programmes? We are told that the new style permits economies and satisfies more exactly the needs of listeners, and I can well believe that. I can readily believe that the old style of a mixed programme at various levels was entirely appropriate at the time when the family gathered nightly round the radio set; but it is no longer appropriate now when the family is gathered round the television set.

The B.B.C.'s most effective market research for the new style was, of course, done by the pirate Radio Caroline and Radio 390. It showed that in fact there was this insatiable appetite for "Pop" among the young and a constant appetite among housewives for "sweet "music. But the new style, I suspect, has, by accident or design, an important third purpose, too. It enables the B.B.C. to compete with whatever may come along. Sooner or later there will be local commercial radio in this country. By its nature, it must aim at the transistorised, free-spending young and the housewife, who are the categories most interesting to advertisers. But the B.B.C. local radio alone will not be an effective answer to this. B.B.C. local radio must cater for local minorities if it is to serve any purpose.

No, the B.B.C.'s main answer to local commercial radio must be Radio 1, with its non-stop "Pop" appealing to youth, and Radio 2, with its unending stream of melody. People are always asking, as the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, asked this afternoon, "Why should the B.B.C. cater for a public which might find enough satisfaction in commercial radio? Why should not the B.B.C. just pursue the noble, the good and the beautiful? "The answer is simple. If ever the B.B.C. lost the majority of listeners, how long would those people be willing to pay for an unused service? Yet it is through the licence system that the B.B.C. enjoys its independence of advertisers and of the Government and is able to give us about the best service in the world. But the B.B.C.'s freedom to broadcast to minorities depends on its ability to cater for everyone else, too. These are the facts of broadcasting life which every idealist has to grasp.

But it is not the changes in Radios 1 and 2 which cause conflict, but those in Radio 3 and Radio 4. I sympathise with the producers and applaud their courage in breaking the rather stuffy rule which would prohibit them even engaging collectively in public discussion about the future of their medium. It is right that there should be a broad debate on the subject and that they should take part in it. I understand their suspicions. Radio producers are not unlike creative journalists; they are very sensitive people. No matter how light the guiding or restraining hand that is laid upon journalists and producers by management, they feel crushed. Every major reorganisation seems to threaten a betrayal, a humiliation and perhaps even redundancy. I know this from my own traumatic experiences as a writer. But I have also been an editor, and as such I have been the author of many such atrocities. I know how difficult it is to get creative people to see the whole administrative picture of the organisation for which they work and not just the part that concerns them. There is always this kind of breakdown in communications, and we must expect this kind of breakdown to happen.

I am sorry that the Third Programme has to go—not so much, however, for what it has been, but for what it might have been. Over the years it has given us much that remains a treasured memory, but I feel that it has never fully used the opportunities and freedom that William Haley gave to it. The intelligent and cultured minority in this, as in other countries, is small enough. The Third Programme, not always, but too often, has divided that minority instead of uniting it. The Third Programme has tended to cater for minorities of that minority; philosophy for philosophers; science for scientists. Too many broadcasts have been conceived, not as the spoken word, but as articles couched in closely woven prose, to be digested at leisure in the columns of the Listener. And in the arts, the test has too often been not simple excellence, but rarity and novelty. Under the new system, the rare and the novel in music should gain by being placed in the context of works of traditional excellence in classical music; and I see, for the highbrows among us, that the new schedules take care that the harpischord has not been silenced and that Stockhausen rides again!

The small reduction in the spoken word, so we are promised, will be made up qualitatively and quantitatively on Radio 4. But will it? It is here that I become sceptical, not of the honest intentions of the Governors of the B.B.C. but of the possibility of carrying out such a broadranging programme. Can a programme which includes "The Navy Lark "at one end, all those news commentaries and all the usual talks on the Home Service, tolerate Third Programme talks, too? I am quite sure that we shall get from Radio 4 highly intelligent, informative and serious programmes in words. But the characteristic of the Third Programme at its best was something beyond this; it dealt also in ideas. I am sure that Radio 3 would pass the test we impose upon it; I am less sure about Radio 4. But I do not think that we can pass judgment today. We must all wait and see.

In conclusion, I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, raised the point about the European Service in English of the B.B.C. I do not think that he differentiated. It seems that the foreign language services of the European Service continue as before and it is the service in English which has been merged with the World Service. It catered formerly for an educated minority of Europeans, for whom English is a learned language, and I believe that the interests of those people are substantially different, say, from those listeners in the British Commonwealth for whom the World Service is designed. I must confess that I speak with some personal interest in this, since I, like other noble Lords in the Chamber, have been a contributor to this service for some years. But I understand that a review of the results of the reorganisation is now taking place, and although it is impossible;, of course, to return to the old system, perhaps some way can be found within the new framework of restoring a more positive identity to the European Service in English, perhaps under an editor who knows what this special European audience needs and how to get it for them. It certainly seems odd to European Anglophiles that at this moment when we are trying to join the European Community we should have ceased providing specifically for the opinion-forming minority in Europe.

My Lord?, I thank you for your patience. I hope that I have taken a middle position between two sets of good people at loggerheads with one another, even at the risk of perhaps incurring the animosity of both sides. My feeling is that we cannot judge on schedules alone. We must make up our minds on the actual programmes as broadcast and only then distribute our praise or blame.

4.58 p.m.


My Lords, I count it a real privilege to be able to be the first in this noble House to congratulate my old friend Lord Ardwick on his excellent maiden speech. He has kindly reminded me since I have come here that he has been with me on several lists of speakers during the last seven years of my existence, and I am honoured to be on the list with him when he has made his first speech in this noble House. We all look forward to many more well-informed contributions from this new, able Lord.

My theme to-day will be largely one of finance. I realise that it will not please many people but it is put forward to deal with the great problem that exists to-day. The basic problem for the B.B.C, as for almost any organisation, is to find sufficient income to balance expenditure. The B.B.C.'s licence fee revenue must by its very nature remain largely static, while its expenditure in constant conditions of inflation must rise year by year. Let us then, by way of a start, ask ourselves whether it might be possible to raise the licence fee annually. I know that the noble Baroness has explained that it has been raised three times in five and a half years, but I fear that this may not be enough. Even so, I think that the answer to the question I have posed must be in the negative—and for two reasons. First, the licence fee is already very high. It is true that the licence for sound radio alone is going to disappear, but we must also remember that a colour television licence will soon cost £11 10s. a year. Secondly, no Government are going to relish being responsible for increasing the licence fees unless they are absolutely forced to take this action.

Before the advent of I.T.V. there is no doubt that the Reithian image of the B.B.C. was still the order of the day. But as soon as competition appeared things rapidly changed. With the arrival of "That Was the Week That Was ""Auntie "B.B.C. finally flew out of the window. Since then it would be hard to argue that the programme content of the B.B.C. is all that different from that of the commercial channel.

That brings me to my next point. If the Reithian basis of the B.B.C. has to a large extent vanished, can the method of collecting revenue alone remain un-changed? To all intents and purposes, Radio 1 is virtually non-stop "Pop". Is it really to be suggested, then, that this programme would be defiled if it were to have carefully controlled advertisements, perhaps selected by an advisory panel? Radio 1 can take us for a "Night Ride", but apparently it would be wicked if we were told to use a particular brand of soap. All sorts of changes loom on the horizon. The houses and flats of the future will through one tube receive electricity, telephone, television and radio. It will then be possible to meter television and radio and to make an appropriate quarterly charge. I realise that this will be a valuable contribution to dealing with licence evasion. But all this lies in the distant future. In the meantime, serious consideration should be given to raising revenue without raising licence fees.

If I may here digress for a moment, I would point out that in the meantime the television levy on the commercial channel is at least hurting the smaller stations. Ulster Television, which has done an ex- cellent job, is being practically strangled at birth, and has now had to abandon its imaginative programme of improvement and expansion; and, in addition, we see this morning that Scottish Television is also in trouble, despite its recent licence to print money. In 1976 both the B.B.C. Charter and the Television Act run out. This may be a golden opportunity to have a new look at the whole problem of broadcasting and television.

If C.B.C. in Canada, originally based on the B.B.C, has now had advertisements on its sound programmes for very many years, why is it wicked for us to follow suit? Indeed, we might even consider carefully controlled and widely spaced advertisements during our "Pop "television shows. There is however one Commonwealth form of revenue that I should not favour and that is a Government grant, even if, as in Canada, it is called a Parliamentary grant. Already we have the situation here where the Government of the day always feel that the B.B.C. are hostile. The imagination boggles at what the position might be if the Corporation were to depend directly on the Government for much of its financial support. May I break off here, since I see that the noble Lord the Leader of the House has come in, to say that I very much regret that, owing to a long standing previous engagement, I shall not be able to be here to hear his words of wisdom later tonight. However, I shall look forward to reading them in Hansard.

My Lords, in case my remarks should be thought merely critical, let me say that we have an excellent regional station in Belfast. When in the Midlands one hears first a news item from Norfolk, and then one from Hereford, one realises how fortunate one is to belong to a small region where every area is known to every other. Owing partly to licence evasion, the Northern Ireland B.B.C. is subsidised from the centre to the tune of some £800,000 a year, because, to use an old phrase, "beggars cannot be choosers". However, as one who has done television in practically every North American city. I know of both the comfort of good air conditioning and the misery of over-heated conditions in the Belfast studio. Having raised this point at least twice with Sir Hugh Greene, I now have much pleasure in raising it once again in the possible hope that the noble Lord, Lord Hill, will also be informed of the situation. Looking back, indeed, on my "Ulster at the Crossroads" broadcasts, which produced 130,000 television replies and jammed the B.B.C. telephone exchange, I wonder that I survived my 20 tropical minutes.

I think it only right this afternoon to end on a note of thanks. By and large, the B.B.C. has done a wonderful job. Over the years, people have been led to musical, dramatic and literary appreciation which could have come to them in no other way. All I want to ensure is that the B.B.C.'s revenue should not be frozen while its costs rise. If anyone can produce some other ingenious way of providing the Corporation with more money, then let us examine that as well. But we cannot, as I see it, expect the Corporation to keep pace with the 'seventies and the demands which they will bring if we are not prepared to provide it with the wherewithal essential to satisfy our constantly rising hopes and expectations.

5.10 p.m.


My Lords, I do not intend to intervene in this debate for the purpose of stressing the possible decline of broadcasting standards in connection with Broadcasting in the 'Seventies. It may involve a decline of standards, but I hope not. I want to examine the causes for the general belief that it may involve a decline of standards. Some two or three years ago the B.B.C. made a considerable breach with what one might call the "Reith tradition" by the appointment of the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, as Chairman. To some of us, perhaps to the noble Lord, Lord Reith, and certainly to me, that appeared to be calling in a chairman from what we regarded as an opposition "gang". It was a considerable breach with the Reith tradition and involved a quite considerable reorientation of the relationship between the Chairman, the Governors and the Director-General, which was an essential part of the Reith tradition which had endured through the offices of various Directors-General and various Chairmen. It was a big change.

Almost at the same time—or very soon afterwards—the B.B.C. advertises Broadcasting in the 'Seventies, a completely new look at its programme policy. The fact that those two events have come to us within a very short space of time, in fact almost simultaneously, naturally would suggest to many people—and has indeed suggested to many people—that a second change also involves a change in the traditional standards of public service broadcasting by the noble Lord, Lord Reith. It seems to me that that represents a bad practice in the public relations of the B.B.C. It sounds rather insulting of me to accuse the B.B.C. of insufficient attention to public relations because, after all, those who govern its policy and programmes have their finger continuously on the figures of listener research and presumably they know what they are doing. If they know a lot about the ethos and composition of the radio listening public, so too, my Lords, do I, because for about twenty years I have been an addicted radio listener, and a very frequent radio broadcaster. I think that in the course of those years I have been on almost ever}' form of talks programme from "Lift up your Hearts"to "Petticoat Line". In the course of that experience one learns a great deal about the listeners; about what they like, what they do not like and about their habits.

The radio listening public is—as the Provost of King's pointed out in a letter to The Times this morning—exceedingly conservative. I use that word with a small "c". Any change in the titles and times of programmes causes distress. I know of the distress which was caused to a very large body of listeners when "Lift up your Hearts" was supplanted by "Ten to Eight". That is a programme title which seems to me to suggest peppermint creams rather than religion. Distress was caused also by the fact that under the new guise, those who listen to sermons in the early morning, instead of feeling that they were being preached at by somebody who had risen in the dark hours of a cold morning in order to clock in at Broadcasting House at 7.30, felt that they might be being preached to by somebody who was possibly fast asleep at the time of the broadcast, or sitting in bed drinking early morning tea and reading the Daily Express, and as such had no right to speak to them in that way.

The listening public is tremendously addicted to the arrangement of programme times. In a recent letter to The Times, the Director-General said that on radio you can no longer count on the effect of mixed programming with new ideas, and programmes having the same results as in the past, because people will look in their Radio Times and choose the programme that they want. That is not true. Radio listeners are not all housewives who like sweet music; they are not all young men who like "Pop "music. Many housewives are exceedingly intelligent. They rely on sound radio to lighten the burden of cooking, ironing and cleaning. I have two daughters, both quite intelligent, and that is the way they listen. That is the way they hear things that they do not expect to hear, and perhaps they would not have otherwise switched on to hear them. That certainly was the case with "Lift up your Hearts". A number of people had their hearts lifted, and no doubt achieved moral benefits from so doing; they found themselves involuntarily listening to "Lift up your Hearts "for fear of missing the weather programme. If the sequence had been different it would not have happened, because nobody can "lift up their hearts" after an English weather report. However, that is by the way.

I think this extreme conservatism of listeners to times and programmes has been overlooked by the framers of Broadcasting in the 'Seventies. I beg them to think again with regard to this matter. The sad part is that I believe they could have done just what they wanted to do without saying anything to the public at all, simply by switching from one channel to another programmes that they wanted to consolidate on one channel or another, so long as they kept their eyes skinned to see what the listener research figures showed as regards the effectiveness for the listener. Therefore, I disagree with the Director-General when he says mixed programmes are no longer relevant on sound radio. They may be relevant on television, but they are certainly relevant on sound radio. Let us have mixed programmes; let us have, so far as possible, our titles and our times. After all, when you rely on a particular programme at a particular time, it is a nuisance to have to alter your household arrangements to do something else at another time.

I feel it impertinent of me to give advice of this sort to the pundits of the B.B.C., merely because I disagree with certain conclusions. I may lay myself open to the accusation which Sir Hugh Greene levelled at the programme producers who ventured to do the same thing. The right reverend Prelate misquoted Sir Hugh Greene when he used the word "fools". What Sir Hugh Greene said was something worse; he said, "liars". Any of us may be fools—and perhaps we are not perfect—but we can all help being liars. As a matter of fact, I think that was a very unsuitable remark for Sir Hugh Greene to make in that connection. I will not repeat it. A Bishop may repeat that word; The Times may print it; in another House it may be used, but I will not soil my lips with it here.

5.20 p.m.


My Lords, I am glad that the noble Baroness has put these questions in perspective. A distinguished foreign visitor with whom I was recently in conversation expressed himself frankly incredulous that, at a time of tension and crisis in the Middle East, let alone Vietnam, the letter columns of our national newspaper The Times should for days on end be devoted to the home broadcasting services of the B.B.C. Had it been the Overseas Services which were under discussion, he would have understood it better. As it was, he found our present preoccupation sadly inward-looking and unworthy. This is not to say that I do not welcome the decision of the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, to put down this Motion on to-day's Order Paper. And I should like at the outset to congratulate also the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, on his extremely entertaining and interesting maiden speech. I am glad to see that we belong to the same club: I hope that we shall both remain members of this club for many years, and I hope that we shall hear him address us often.

I too should like immediately to endorse the views expressed by other noble Lords that in regard to sound and television transmissions our services in this country bear comparison with those in any other part of the world. That said, I will not take issue with the noble Lord on the Liberal Front Bench on the rather stringent and perhaps slightly dogmatic assumption that those competent to judge find the Third Programme "the most satisfying and culturally significant". For those of us who agree with this view are in a minority. But the B.B.C. is in existence to provide a service not only for minorities but also for the public at large. Therefore I would judge that vox populi, if not always vox Dei, is certainly not vox domini Gladwynii. As I understand it, the new plans for streaming the sound programmes are necessary in order to effect economies. Perhaps this may be because the Corporation are trying to cover too wide a field. In an effort to retain (shall I say?) its stranglehold—I hope that that is not too strong a word—on sound programming the Corporation has to spread its resources too thinly over the main nationally networked programmes in order to embark with all speed into the field of local broadcasting.

Under the Government the Corporation has now been openly encouraged to set up numerous local stations. And, as my noble friend Lord Denham has indicated, we on this side of the House feel that this job of local broadcasting is not so much one for a national corporation as one for local interests. Commercial radio companies—and I have often declared that I once in fact formed one—could provide adequate, perhaps even more than adequate, programmes, at no cost to the B.B.C. and, indeed, with a considerable gain to the Treasury through the inevitable taxation which would be imposed—I only hope not levied—upon them. This would have left the Corporation with more money to continue to maintain its necessary standards on national services and, above all in the context of this debate, not to cut down on Third Programme material.

The issue is a domestic one and even, in terms of local broadcasting, a parochial one. Nevertheless, the matter is one of importance. The B.B.C. has many times been defended in this House— indeed, I myself have done it on more than one occasion. The B.B.C. as it was is something of which this country should be proud. The question now before us is whether we shall be able to have pride in the B.B.C. to-morrow. It would be dishonest to pretend that in sound broadcasting the management of the B.B.C. has not lost the confidence of its creative staff. The fact that more than 100 producers, at the risk of their jobs, should have signed a letter of open protest is proof enough of that. Equally, the B.B.C. has lost—I trust only temporarily—the confidence which it once enjoyed in intellectual circles. Those letters from the high tables of certain Cambridge colleges. including my own, are alarming proof of that. I think it is the B.B.C.—or perhaps the Government—which has got its priorities out of perspective. I say the "Government" because it is they who have permitted B.B.C. local sound broadcasting. But, of course, I fully agree with the noble Baroness that there should be no Government interference in programming. In this whole matter of local broadcasting, are we not departing from a policy of quality in favour of a policy of sheer quantity?

The B.B.C. has its four national radio services and will in a sense now have a fifth consisting of forty local radio stations. In addition, it is to be responsible for transmitting the programmes of the Open University, plus its own educational programmes for schools, not to mention the world-wide broadcasting on the Overseas Services, or its considerable magazine and book publications, or its two national television services and, I am glad to say, its exporting operations —all well and good in themselves, but surely such a mammoth would in any other country in the world have been already investigated by a monopolies commission.

The devotion of the B.B.C. to all that is best in sound broadcasting was once the admiration of the world. It would be idle to pretend—and certainly no serious sound producer in the B.B.C. would believe it—that television has not distracted the B.B.C.'s attention. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, in Broadcasting in the 'Seventies describes this as "the Television Age". I personally believe that the only way to restore the sense of dedication which the B.B.C. used to show towards sound broadcasting is to recognise the essential differences between the two media and to establish two corporations: one exclusively concerned with television and the other exclusively concerned with sound broadcasting. If indeed the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, wants yet another Committee of Inquiry, that, and that alone, could well be the main subject of investigation.

In the meantime, it is gratifying that democratic pressures should have been applied. Originally your Lordships will remember that the B.B.C. proposed to abolish an entire orchestra. That lamentable decision has now been rescinded because of pressure from influential musical opinion. Unfortunately no such organised, or so well organised, opposition outside the B.B.C. has been voiced about the spoken or the written word. As an author myself, and indeed a former contributor to the Third Programme, I deplore this. The first glimpse of the new sound radio programmes shows that there is to be a savage reduction in what I would call general literary programmes. Finally, I would say that this important subject—


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Earl?


Yes, but I am at the end of my speech.


I should just like to ask him this. He used a rather interesting phrase, "The first glimpse". What was he referring to? I should like to look at it.


My Lords, there was in fact an analysis of the programmes in The Times this morning. I think that if they are analysed it will be seen that there is a considerable cut in these programmes—and I see other noble Lords nodding their head.


My Lords, it is astonishing that this should be referred to as a "first glimpse". The B.B.C. issued this analysis months ago and it has been published in the Listener. I notice that The Times claimed they were the first to reveal it. But as a comparison, we are not comparing like with like at all.


My Lords, all I can see is that there is a reduction in literary content in the proposed programmes. This important subject is clearly not a matter on which in a general way, apart perhaps from the issue of local broadcasting, I can criticise the Government, and during these pre-election days, weeks or months I must say that that is rather refreshing. We are concerned, my Lords, with the standards of national broadcasting, and national broadcasting is a matter of national and not Party interest.

5.30 p.m.


My Lords, in rising I think I ought to declare an interest. When I came back from the war as a young don I almost lived off the Third Programme—or on it—and I was very grateful in those days for the opportunity to be asked to broadcast; and I owe a great debt to the man who was the progenitor of the Third Programme—Sir George Barnes. I mention his name because we sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that there is a complete dichotomy between the bureaucrat and the creative producer. Undoubtedly Sir George Barnes in his position as the Director of the Third Programme and, later, as the Director of Television, was a bureaucrat, but he had a wonderful way of teasing, encouraging and irritating the brilliant young producers under him to give of their best.

I well remember, too, that chief among those producers was Miss Anna Kallin, whose room was the nearest thing in our intellectual life in those days to a Viennese café in the decade before the First World War, when that city was so renowned for its intellectual brilliance. Here I should have liked to take issue with the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, in his brilliant and magnificently delivered maiden speech, when he said that too often the Third Programme was a matter of dons talking to dons. Miss Kallin always saw to it that you did not give a talk of that kind. You were made to go back and do your homework again: not once, but twice. Those were the standards which the producers of the Third Programme imposed upon the people who talked in it. I am afraid it is all too characteristic of the B.B.C. that she retired without recognition or public honour.

The matter which we are discussing this afternoon is exceedingly complex. It is difficult to understand, first of all, what precisely is being changed, because the document which came out called Broadcasting in the 'Seventies declared that certain orchestras and the B.B.C. chorus were to be abolished and that the Third was to be sent out on V.H.F. Then the Arts Council and the Musicians' Union stepped in and the B.B.C. at once withdrew when they knew that "Big Brother" was watching them. As we all know, the intellectuals have no union, and I really do not see Sir Isaiah Berlin or even my successor, the Provost of King's leading a sit-in in the immediate future in the Director-General's room or the room occupied by the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, on the fourth floor of the B.B.C. However, having no union, they have one way of expressing their indignation. That is, of course, through the correspondence columns of The Times. I still hope, therefore, that the Chairman of the Governors and the Director-General have the impression that in this case "Little Brother" is watching them, too.

That may well be why, even up to this hour, the B.B.C. is still altering a detail here and a detail there and trying to reassure the public that there will be no fundamental change either in broadcasting standards or indeed in the amount of time given to the different kinds of broadcasting. I think the time has come, after this debate, when the B.B.C. should publish, as it were, a balance sheet or a profit and loss account, since the publication of Broadcasting in the 'Seventies. It would be extremely helpful to all of us who want to try to understand the matter fairly. There have been great changes announced, There have also been modifications—and in justice to the Governors and the Director-General of the B.B.C. it should be said that there have been changes made in response to the public protests. I do not think these changes have been sufficiently acknowledged; and they cannot be, unless a profit and loss account is rendered.

I want to make it plain why I did not join in the chorus of protests in The Times. I thought that in part this protest was a little misjudged. Indeed, I was sometimes amused when I saw some of the names of those who signed letters. I knew them to be people whose conversational prowess is of such brilliance and who are so voluble and able to talk for so many hours into the night that it is difficult to believe that any of them has the time to listen to the Third Programme.

Nevertheless I do regret the death of the Third. I have looked on it as a faithful and, to me at any rate, a benevolent old friend. But as an intellectual, I believe in research and in the dispassion- ate analysis of evidence. If the habits of listening to radio have changed since the 1940s, as the evidence suggests and as indeed on a priori grounds I should have thought would have been expected, then I am prepared to trust the Director-General to make the necessary modifications. What disturbs me is not the modifications or the changes: what disturbs me, as it has disturbed every speaker in this debate, is the fact that so many of the producers who are the creators within the British Broadcasting Corporation are so sceptical and fear so deeply that the peculiar qualities of the Third Programme will now be lost.

Yet here again I am perfectly willing to trust Mr. Curran when—having seen the strength of feeling on the death of the Third Programme—he states publicly that he will see to it that the quality of radio will not decline. I would make it clear that in my own mind there has been a decline, or at any rate a change in the style of broadcasting. But that occurred in the time of the last Director-General, Sir Hugh Carleton-Greene, and not in the time of Mr. Curran. Sir Hugh Greene certainly took the starch out of the Corporation and replaced it with a great deal of fizz. I was not quite clear sometimes whether the fizz was mineral water or champagne. It was in his time as Director-General that the first main slash was made at the Third Programme. I think it is to the credit of the present Director-General that during the past weeks of public debate he has made considerable concessions to those producers who opposed the main plan. In fact, I believe he has publicly stated that the new Radio 4 will accommodate just such long discussions as the famous encounter between Lord Russell and Father Coplestone, to which the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, referred, although I doubt whether he has yet got to the point when he would emulate Sir George Barnes in putting on over 50 talks on the "Ideas and Beliefs of the Victorians". When that comes to pass I shall really feel we are back in the old times again!

What makes me still slightly doubtful is not that we are going to have streamed programmes; what worries me is that these streamed programmes are divided into blocks of time. As a result, producers have to think in terms of schedules instead of in terms of programmes. That is one of the matters on which I hope again there may be some minor accommodation. The noble Lord, Lord O'Neill, put his finger right on the matter when he suggested that the business about the Third Programme is only part of a much wider affair; namely, the public financing of broadcasting. Here there has to be some new thinking. I am not one of those who think that now, immediately, we should set up a Royal Commission on the whole of broadcasting, or that we should forget that the Pilkington Commission sat, after all, only as recently as eight or nine years ago. I think it might be worth while, however, to set up an inquiry into the public financing of broadcasting.

Very great changes are going to take place in the 'seventies which were not particularly alluded to in the document the B.B.C. issued. These are technical changes and I do not pretend to understand them. For instance, we shall be able to send out three or four programmes simultaneously on one wavelength. That will make it very much easier to increase the volume of broadcasting. What is more, there will be an increased public demand for broadcasting, if experience in the United States is any guide, an increase in the amount of television and radio broadcasting both during the day and during the night. These prognostications suggest to me that we really ought to have a look again at the financing of broadcasting.

I very much agreed with the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill, when he said that it was not practical to look at putting up the price of the licence again. Let us never forget that the people who need broadcasting, and, if they can afford it, television, much more than the intellectuals, are the old-age pensioners, the old people who sit in their homes and are very often in these days, I am afraid, neglected by their families. It is their one contact with the outside world, provided they can afford the cost of the licence. I think the Government have done very well in resisting the pressure put upon them to put up the value of the licence.

May I add another point, though I add it with some apprehension? If I had to weigh the value educationally of a new university against the production of more broadcasting, I am not at all sure which, at this moment in time, I should prefer. May I refer again to Sir George Barnes? He became Director of Television after his time as Director of the Third Programme; and after he had most successfully seen through the televising of the Coronation he became Vice-Chancellor at the University of Keele. He once said that what puzzled and pained him was the belief, held in those times by the dons there, that television was a time-wasting and trivial affair which had no educational value at all and if you were a wise man, as a don, you would not have it in your house at any cost for fear your children might be contaminated. And George Barnes said: I, who have been to Macclesfield and seen the schools there and seen how television has already widened the horizons of schoolchildren, cannot believe that this has not got enormous educational value. That is why I think some new attempt must be made to try to find funds to finance broadcasting.

May I end on the dispute between the B.B.C. Governors and their staff, on this note? A Director-General has one great advantage over a Vice-Chancellor such as I. A Vice-Chancellor in his university is quite unable to say, as the Director-General of the B.B.C. has said, "The time for talking must now come to an end and a decision must be taken". That is certainly a great advantage. But I think he and I are alike in this sense: that we have as our colleagues the people who are really creating something. They are very awkward and difficult people to deal with, but we must try to understand them, we must try to sympathise with them, we must have great concern for the things they are concerned about. And even if in the end we get absolutely amazed that one's explanations about finance, about administration, about the impossibility, administratively or organisationally, of doing this or that, cannot be understood; even though we cannot get the simplest administrative points across, nevertheless we have to remember that these are creators, these are people who have something which it is our duty to try to bring out as much as we possibly can. When a Vice-Chancellor looks in the mirror every morning as he shaves he ought to say, "I am a nuisance; am I a necessary nuisance?" Might I suggest the Director-General occasionally should say that?

5.46 p.m.


My Lords, may I begin by welcoming my old friend Lord Ardwick and saying how much I am sure we all enjoyed his maiden speech. Knowing him so well under his earlier name, I failed at first to recognise him when I saw his name on the list, but after hearing him speak I could only feel, with the late Lord Birkenhead, who I remember told a Liverpool audience, when he ceased 1:0 be "Galloper" Smith and became Lord Birkenhead, that whatever vissicitudes of nomenclature he might suffer he would always remain their faithful friend. I am sure that my old friend can carry the same compliment.

I participate in this debate with a good deal of sadness. It is now getting on for forty years, which makes me seem, I am afraid, very old, since I did my first radio broadcast for the B.B.C. Since then I have broadcast, I think, on every conceivable sound programme as well as on television. I have been for a period a member of the Board of Governors. I have known intimately a great many producers of all kinds, as well as writers and musicians and actors serving the B.B.C. I am bound to say that at no time in my experience have I found such bitterness and demoralisation among key creative members of the B.B.C. as exists today. Indeed, when one merely considers the correspondence in The Times (and that is only the tip of the iceberg) when one thinks that 134 producers in radio in London, plus 61 regional stall plus the Association of Broadcasting Staffs (which speaks of course for a much greater body), plus all the independent organisations, representing writers, musicians and artists, have all expressed their deep concern, one can only wonder what has happened to the Corporation which one knew so long. I have never been one to suspect that the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, was likely to be ineffective in public relations, but it would seem that in this instance he and his fellow Governors have been so.

The late Director-General, Sir Hugh Greene, said in a remark in a letter which has already been referred to in this House, on one occasion quoted wrongly and on another occasion quoted with a perhaps surprising degree of modesty, that the situation had arisen in which many pro- ducers and a great number of intelligent listeners were saying to the management of the B.B.C. "You are bloody liars"— and that is indeed the case: not that they necessarily are, but that that is what many of the new, most effective creative staff in the B.B.C. feel to be the case. There is a degree of misunderstanding, a credibility gap which is quite beyond anything that has ever been known before in the history of the B.B.C. I ask myself why that should be.

I think that part of the reason may be that there has been, or is suspected to have been, a great shift in the area, in the instruments of power within the B.B.C. Originally, the B.B.C. was created by a great Director-General, Lord Reith, and until recently it has always been felt by the staff—though it is no longer felt—that it was to the Director-General that they should look. Even though they might disagree with some of his decisions, they felt that they were being controlled and organised, and were given their instructions ultimately in programming, by a fellow professional. Now, rightly or wrongly, it is suspected that that long tradition of the B.B.C. of the pre-eminence of the Director-General has been set aside, and that since Lord Hill's appointment (and in many respects I have a great admiration for him) it is the Chairman and not the Director-General who is the pre-eminent personality and who is regarded as the voice and central figure of the B.B.C.

I think that that fact, or that suspected fact, has had a good deal to do with the creation of this atmosphere in the B.B.C. Because the staff tend to feel, perhaps quite wrongly—and here, of course, we are in the area of feelings, suspicions and anxieties, rather than of proven facts— that a Chairman, particularly this Chairman, is liable to be moved by motives and influences of a kind different from those which would move a professional person like the old Directors-General whose whole heart and soul was in the organisation, who lived for it all their lives, and who were not, as the Chairman is, holders of a part-time appointment.

I think, too, that part of the reason for this feeling of anxiety and distrust is that there has been a good deal of shifting of ground by the management of the B.B.C. Some of this shifting of ground we can all applaud. The original rigours of Broadcasting in the 'Seventies have been amended considerably as a result of public and internal protests. But the feeling remains, I know, from all the people that I know on the producer and other levels in the B.B.C., that it was Broadcasting in the 'Seventies, with its sharp cut in orchestras, its sharp cut in many cultural activities, that represents the real mind of the B.B.C. management to-day, even although it has had to move and bend before some public opinion.

Producers have, I believe, lost a great deal of their faith. Ever since the days of Lord Reith the B.B.C. has lived, and it exists and flourishes, on the faith of its producing staff, its creative staff, that they are doing work of great public and, indeed, moral and cultural importance. If that faith is eroded, then this is the most serious blow of any that can fall upon the B.B.C.

It was assumed—I personally think rightly, but I am open to correction—that the implication behind Broadcasting in the 'Seventies was that it was enough in the new situation, in the new changing society, to give the public what it wants. But is it? I think there is a much greater and more profound truth so far as the B.B.C. is concerned, in the statement in the Pilkington Report, that those who do give the public what it wants begin by underestimating public taste and end by debauching it. But it is the case that the impact of the B.B.C, and perhaps particularly the impact in its day of the Third Programme, came from the fact that it was realised that the Corporation must be prepared often to make programmes for what were obviously minority tastes, because in the case of the Arts supply creates demand, and it is only if this kind of programme is available that a public taste for it will grow.

Any of us who have taken part in the Third Programme in the past is well aware of this. One was invited to give a talk on the Third Programme. One applied oneself to it with something of the same sort of mind that one would apply in writing an article for one of the quarterlies rather than for a popular daily. One spent more time on it, although one did not expect to get more, or even as much, money. But again and again I myself found, and I know that other people found, that the programme to which one devoted so much care and attention, simply because one was always measuring oneself against a sophisticated, adult and critical audience, turned out much more profitable than others, even in money terms, because later it was repeated on so many other programmes, and was republished in The Listener, that virtue was rewarded with a much fatter cheque.

It was because programmes of this kind succeeded in building up, if you like in creating larger audiences, that they represented so important a part of the B.B.C. And, as I say, rightly or wrongly it is the great fear of many of the best producers in B.B.C. radio, of many of the best writers for B.B.C. radio, of many of the best musicians and actors who appear on B.B.C. radio, that there is now to be a close-down on this kind of experimentation, this appeal to a possibly small but nevertheless serious audience which may be found to develop very largely. It is this feeling—though it may be wrong—that is at the root of this dismay and bitterness.

Such programme schedules as have been made available suggest that some, at any rate, of these fears felt by the producers and other creative artists may prove correct, but we have not enough evidence really to know whether that is indeed so. I do say, however, that it is now the most urgent business of the B.B.C, of its Chairman, of its Governors, of its Director-General and all its management, to make it clear to producers and other creative workers that they are prepared to allow experiment; that they encourage ideas, and are infinitely more open than they seem to have been in the last few months to ideas and criticisms, not only from their staffs but from viewers and listeners, from the public, even though, to use one of their own phrases, "The public may sometimes be so small that it cannot be traced in an audience survey". It is often that tiny element —as I think the great Directors-General of the B.B.C. like Lord Reith and Sir William Haley recognised—which provides a ground in which, so to speak, seeds can be planted that will later provide a profuse and valuable crop for a much larger audience.

6.2 p.m.


My Lords, I have listened to every speech in this most interesting debate, and I am sure we are all indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, for initiating it. I deplore, with my noble friend Lord Francis-Williams, the staff troubles that have arisen between the staff of the B.B.C. and the Directors and Governors; but speaking from the point of view of the programme alignment, and as a listener, I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough—I cannot see what all the fuss is about. Listening to some of the speeches to-day, anybody would think that the whole of our social fabric was about to disintegrate; when all that has happened is that the Governors of the B.B.C. have taken a long, cool look at what the B.B.C. is doing to-day and what is required. They have brought out a paper called Broadcasting in the 'Seventies—in the 'seventies, not in the 'thirties —which takes into account present-day tastes and requirements.

I agree with my noble friend Lord Ardwick—and I should like to add my congratulations to those expressed by other noble Lords on his most vigorous and constructive maiden speech—that there is a need to-day for streamlining. There are grave disadvantages in mixed programmes. I find it extremely irritating, if I want to hear, say, some "Pop", after a short while finding that there is some Palm Court, or a talk on gardening, which I know nothing about and could not care less about. Or it might happen the other way round. I can understand the original reasons for the mixed programmes. These, of course, stem from the days when the B.B.C. had a monopoly and the paternalistic views prevailed. The idea then was that you infiltrated a popular programme with subjects which you thought were more important because they appealed particularly to you. But, as my noble friend Lord Ardwick said, you cannot get away with that to-day because people will just turn off or switch over to television.

The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, talked about quality, as also did other speakers, including the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester. I think it is very difficult to define quality. Quality can really only be judged in a subjective way, depending on individual tastes. I do not know what is more desirable from a cultural point of view—to cite a typical Third Programme—a poetry reading from Les Fleurs du Mal in English translation, assessed in importance against, say, a light classical concert. I do not know which is the more important, and I do not know which does the more good.


My Lords, would the noble Lord agree that if you cannot define quality it is bound to deteriorate?


My Lords, here again it depends what quality is, and what you mean by deterioration. It really depends on your individual taste. The main need for radio—and here I think the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, agrees with me—is above all for music; whether it is "Pop", light, or serious. I know that the noble Lord does not like "Pop" music or light music, but a great many people do. There is a great need for it, and there is also a need for news, comment, and opinion. There is a need for plays, discussion and light entertainment. Indeed, most listeners today expect to get what they tune in for—and why should they not? If you take a book down from the shelf you expect the contents to be what is shown on the cover. If you start reading and find that it is the same, you do not want it to change half way through.

Therefore, I agree entirely with this new alignment for Radios 1, 2, 3 and 4. I think there are great advantages on the credit side. I welcome the fact that Radios 1 and 2 will have greater separation, although I think it is a pity that they are going to merge again in the early evening. I know that this is a question of finance and that it will be rectified in due course. I welcome the fact that Radio 3 will have more music, and also that some of the cultural speech programmes will be retained. I also particularly welcome that Radio 4 will now be a clearly defined speech network, be cause we must not forget, while we are talking of the minorities, that there is a minority who do not like music in any form, and they are going to be catered for by Radio 4.

What are we going to lose by this realignment? The Third already consists largely of serious music, and that is to be increased. Radio 3 will carry some poetry and plays, which they do extremely well. What will be dropped, I suppose, will be some of the more esoteric programmes, and I wonder whether these are always suitable for the medium to-day. There is no longer the need, or the audience (which anyway was always small) for the kind of talk which, at best, was often little more than a rehash of existing material or, at worst, was pretentious, superficial and inaccurate; a kind of coffee table programme. I hope that we shall not see any more of the type of programme that seems to be put on mainly for the pleasure of the producer rather than for the listener. As I think the noble Lord, Lord Annan, said, "dons for dons".

What justification was there for taking up valuable broadcasting time on the Third at the expense of, say, some serious music, to put on a ridiculous programme like "Brian Howard—Portrait of a Failure". For any noble Lord interested I can commend its reprinting in the Listener of January 18, 1968, as I believe it is an example of the kind of programme that the Third really should not attempt to do. I think its only justification was that it produced some rather amusing and searing lampoons in the weeklies.

However, I concede that, on the whole, the Third does a good job—although it has suffered; has been the victim of its own ivory tower. What we need now is to get away from the whole conception and term "the Third Programme" and the rarified image that it conjures up. There is evidence that listeners are deterred by it, and that programmes repeated on Radio 4 usually attract higher audiences. There does not seem to be any logic behind the apportioning of programmes between Radio 3 and the so-called Third Programme. The theory is, I suppose, that at some magic hour in the early evening the programme becomes more civilised and altogether more worthy of intellectual attention. And yet, even a random check of programmes this week reveals a very arbitrary allocation between the two on the same evening. For example, to-day you have Prokofiev on Radio 3; you have Shostakovich on the Third. On February 27 there is Bach on Radio 3 and Bartok on the Third. I cannot understand why these musicians are apportioned in this way. I think there is every advantage in doing away with a programme of this kind which has been known as the Third, which has little meaning to-day, and streamlining the whole thing into Radio 3 in the way proposed by the B.B.C. I think the B.B.C. has shown imagination, courage and a sense of realism, and we should be deeply grateful to it. I feel sure that as we go forward into the 'seventies, and indeed into the 'eighties, the B.B.C. will maintain its highest traditions.

6.11 p.m.


My Lords, I must first apologise to the noble Lord who moved this Motion for the fact that I was not able to be here to hear what I understand was a most interesting and impressive speech. I was engaged at the monthly meeting of the Arts Council and have, through their courtesy, been enabled to come here to participate in a debate in which I can venture to say they are much concerned.

Perhaps I might start by saying how sad it is that we should see the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, in a captive state unable to participate this evening. I think it is an unfortunate rule—though I can see the arguments both ways— that prevents him from answering back. I know nobody better equipped to answer back, and that such a doughty fighter should be confined to one of the corners and see us all boxing on his behalf is a rather sad thing. It reminds me a little of the condition of the criminal law some time in the 1900s when it was not open to a defendant to enter the witness box. That state was reformed rapidly, but it must have been particularly frustrating to a defendant when he felt, as I am sure the noble Lord feels in this matter, that he was entitled to an honourable acquittal.

I must say that to some extent I feel about this debate as the noble Lord. Lord Annan, feels. I do not for a moment agree with the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, that this is a fuss about nothing. I think this is a fuss about very important things. I should not have agreed for one moment with the foreign visitor who said how deplorable it was that we were concentrating our efforts and our newsprint on discussing this matter, and not confining them to discussion of foreign affairs. There is, I think, one practical point: in the discussion of foreign affairs we can do nothing effective or useful; in this matter we can do things that are both effective and useful. The preservation of what we all regard with pride and with justification as the greatest broadcasting service in the world is not a matter of small importance. But that does not mean that, because there has been a fuss about it, it may not have been an inordinate fuss, and I do not think the B.B.C. realised quite what it was taking on in this matter.

The noble Lord, Lord Annan, said that dons have no trade unions. The last weeks have demonstrated how well they can do without trade unions, because what I do not think the B.B.C. realised was that this was a controversy which it could not really hope to win. The only people passionately, vehemently concerned about the Third Programme were people of the type who have, properly, having regard to their vehemence and their passion, been writing letters to The Times. The rest of mankind is undoubtedly wholly apathetic: he does not enter the controversy at all. The unfortunate B.B.C., charged with the duty of conducting the radio and television services of the country with one hand, and endeavouring to write a stream of letters to The Times with the other, has been under an impossible disadvantage. Every letter from a High Table at a Cambridge college, and occasionally an Oxford college, has emerged immaculate, every word chased with venom, every word carefully chosen, in a fashion calculated to demolish any institution. The finest brains in the country have felt legitimate resentment that something they are concerned about is imperilled, and the unfortunate B.B.C. has stood alone, exercising such efforts as it could find time for in after-hours, to deal with an attack of unequalled ferocity, and a ferocity that I cannot recollect at any time in my own recollection of previous events in this country.

My Lords, I think it is a bit much. I do not think the B.B.C. was wise to do away with the Third Programme. I think the Corporation was unwise, because I do not think it realised to what extent the Third Programme represented the concentration and focus of the loyalty and dedication of a great number of people. As the noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams, so admirably put it, a great number of people felt for the Third Programme, particularly for its producers, a sense of religious concentra- tion and dedication. I think that the B.B.C., in its top management, has failed to some extent to appreciate the force of this feeling and is, in consequence, faced with the situation that now prevails.

At the same time, I believe that the nature of the situation can be greatly exaggerated. I do not see it as a whole-sale and widespread mutiny from top to bottom of the organisation. Anyone who has dealt over the years with creative people and with broadcasters knows the muttering that has gone on always about the B.B.C. and about the top control of the B.B.C. This is no novelty. I am very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams, brought into the open the observations that have been made, and the alleged suspicions about the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, and the change of control, because in my view much of this fuss is due to suspicions—and I venture to say baseless suspicions.

It is not my function to seek to defend the noble Lord, Lord Hill, but I think we ought to be extremely fair-minded in this matter and ask: on what evidence are these suspicions supported and sustained? The first suspicion that was aired about the noble Lord when he went to the B.B.C. was that he was going to impose a form of censorship. That I heard, and there was great apprehension about it. Everyone suspected that he would exercise some sort of control and that he had been sent there for that purpose. My Lords, there is not a jot or tittle of evidence anywhere to support that belief since his accession to power.

The second suspicion is that, for some reason or other, Lord Hill and a few others under his control are exercising an undue influence in programme shaping and have decided that they will make them more popular and will damage their cultural content. It would of course be iniquitous if anyone had formed any such notion. The pride of the B.B.C. is the cultural content of the programmes. It has recognised, as few other organisations have recognised, that a subsidised body has a duty to minorities, and over the years it has discharged that duty in exemplary fashion. But I do not see any evidence to support a suggestion that there has been a deliberate change of policy. I know of no evidence to support the suggestion that the noble Lord is intervening more than his predecessors did in programme planning; and I know of no evidence to the contrary. There is just no evidence. In these circumstances, to bring in a verdict of "guilty" on the basis of suspicion and speculation aroused in newspapers is wrong.

May I say that The Times has rendered a great service by opening its columns to this debate? No one can pretend that there is not a slightly tendentious note in some of its comments— as when, for instance, it remarked this morning that the additional music that was being provided in the three specimen programmes that it instanced would have been described by Sir Thomas Beecham —of all people—as having a "lollipop" quality. There was no-one who had a more selective view of music than Sir Thomas Beecham. It would be nonsense to take as the criterion for determining the full range of the programmes his assessment of what music was wholly suitable.

One has only to look at these three specimen programmes to see that no conclusion can be drawn from them at all. I could argue, having studied them quite carefully this morning over my boiled egg, that there was an enormous increase in the poetry content, for the reason that in the three programmes with which they were compared there was no poetry at all. In the three days' programmes instanced in The Times there was half-an-hour of poetry. One could draw any conclusion one was minded to come to, according to one's previous predispositions in this matter. That was perfectly clear.

Another fact is clear, if one goes to the trouble, as I have gone to the trouble, to talk to the top people at the B.B.C. concerned with this matter—not, I hasten to add, to the noble Lord, Lord Hill, with whom I have not exchanged a single word on this subject. I have taken the trouble to telephone, for instance, Sir William Glock, whose contribution to the music of this country has been epochal. It is quite impossible to exaggerate the importance that that solitary figure has had in the growth of, and interest in, music in this country. Are we to believe that he would remain at his post if he had for one moment a suspicion that everything that he had worked for over the years was being wantonly destroyed by some machinations at the top? I, for one, do not believe it. I do not believe that Mr. Newby, or any one of the dozens of people whom I have known, who have been friends of mine for years at the B.B.C., and who remain dedicated to their work at the moment, entertains the slightest suspicion that there is a determined intention on somebody's part to destroy the cultural content of the programmes.

If I may say so in the presence of the noble Lord, Lord Hill, I think the public relations have been deplorable; but I am not sure that, on the whole, the B.B.C. ought to devote too much time to public relations. It is entitled to be judged by the results. We have not seen the results. What we have seen is a most unholy clamour before anyone has felt the slightest prick. If I may say so, the intellectual revolution is one of the most surprising manifestations, because a band of intellectual insurrectionists are rioting in the streets to preserve the Bastille. This is indeed an historic moment and one to which we are entitled to draw attention!

I should like to take a little of your Lordships' time to give you the benefit of my own sleuthing in the B.B.C. At the Arts Council we are naturally concerned with a number of things, and one is the musical content of the programmes. Now, unanswerably, there is to be more music. The Times says that some of it is "lollipop music", but certain it is that it is music of the type that we regard as serious and classical music that is fit for performance, and is performed, in the major concert halls in the country. There is to be more of that. No one can complain about that. The B.B.C. had in mind the dissolution of a number of orchestras because of the quite unnecessary financial stringency to which it was exposed. I do not wish to say anything critical about the Government on this subject, but it seems to me very odd that we have to maintain these great services on the chance result of the collection of a revenue from licences. I hope that one day we shall have the sense to realise that these bodies should be financed according to their needs and not according to the accident of what some particular method of revenue garnering provides.

But, be that as it may, we at the Arts Council—and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Hill, will not mind my divulging these facts, because I think they are of some interest in this discussion—when the intention was first mooted to dissolve the various orchestras, sent him a telegram. We could not have been treated with greater consideration and courtesy. We were invited to early meetings and we discussed the matter very fully with the B.B.C. As a result of our interventions, perhaps, or perhaps to a greater extent as a result of the intervention of the Musicians' Union, means have, I think, been found for ensuring that no orchestras will be dispersed or dissolved. Because the notion that you can dissolve an orchestra is, if I may venture to say so, a very far-going and drastic one. Once you have dissolved an institution of that kind, it cannot be reassembled. The B.B.C. accepted this; and I am very happy to say that, as a result of that discussion, we have, with the willing and prompt co-operation of the noble Lord and of Mr. Curran, established a committee for future co-operation between the Arts Council and the B.B.C. When matters about which we are concerned arise in future, there is a standing committee now established to which they can be referred and which will meet once or twice a year to discuss them, automatcally and ad hoc as the occasion requires.

It is quite wrong, in my experience, to suggest that representations were not willingly received or that the B.B.C. was stone deaf on this subject. It was not the case at all. Its treatment of the producers, its refusal apparently to allow Lord Hill to see the producers, was, if I may venture to say so, a mistake. In dealing with creative people one must recognise that they have special responses and special reflexes. They need to be satisfied that their views are being taken into account; and I think that much of this trouble is due to the fact that they entertain this sort of suspicion without having carried out the investigations that some of us have bothered to carry out to see whether any evidence exists to support it.

The second matter with which we are concerned is drama. Apparently there is to be a modest reduction in the drama schedules. There is to be a 50-hour reduction over a 1,400-hour in all schedule throughout the year. That is so small as to be, not totally unimportant but certainly not sufficiently important to arouse the fuss and bother that has been aroused about it. And, as I think was remarked by the noble Lord, Lord Annan, it could certainly have been carried out without anyone noticing it if it had taken place in the ordinary programme scheduling.

The third matter, about which I venture to think I am in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, is the situation in relation to the contributions of writers and literary people in the whole field of sound broadcasting so far as the Third Programme is concerned. It is difficult to assess what the immediate consequences will be. I understand that the B.B.C. Is not expecting any appreciable reduction in the employment of these people. It would be deplorable if there were. Writers in this country are so disgracefully rewarded that any reduction in the avenues from which they can secure employment and payment would be deplorable in the extreme. But there is no evidence that that is going to happen; and, if I may say so, if this is the one matter about which we are legitimately concerned, it is sensible in the extreme to wait and see what happens before we start abusing everyone within sight.

Mr. Curran gave me an assurance this morning, which he was prepared to repeat to me personally, as the Chairman of the Arts Council, that if after a relevant period of time it was observed that there had been a reduction in this sort of employment, he would immediately review the situation, and review it in conjunction with us. I think that is reassuring. My experience is that one does not have to say to the B.B.C, "We do not believe what you have said". I think the B.B.C. is an organisation which, on its record, is worthy of being trusted. I do not think it has done anything to justify the loss of that particular reputation.

I should like to conclude by saying only this. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, has rendered a great service by enabling us to discuss in the open matters which have been the subject of mutterings and whispers. It is right— and I hope the noble Lord, Lord Hill, will not have been embarrassed by what I have said—that we should refer to these suspicions and that they should be allayed by public statement and public denial. If we examine what the B.B.C. is doing, there appears to be no justification for the suspicions. There is justification for a statement that, in their public relations, they have been a little inept. There is justification for a statement that, on the face of it, there may be some reductions in relation to the use of literary persons and authors. That should be carefully watched and certainly prevented if it does arise.

Whether or not it is wise to have destroyed this very great programme I have my doubts and my misgivings. But we are in the 1970s. It must be left to the people who have the control of the conduct of these organisations to decide, after serious deliberation and after consultation with everyone concerned, what it is best to do. That I should have done something else, that I think it wrong to have desroyed the Third Programme, is, I think, largely irrelevant. What is important is whether, following what they do and after our having given it a fair test, we have grounds for holding the doubts and suspicions which have up to now been aired.

There is one final observation I should like to make, because I believe it with great vehemence. I think that, through no fault of the noble Lord, Lord Hill, through no fault of Mr. Curran, through no fault of anyone in charge of that organisation, it has become top-heavy and unwieldy. 1 think the organisation is too large to be handled by any single administration. This is a matter which this Government or some subsequent Government will have to look into very carefully. I think that, when we come to look at it, we shall see that it may not be right to have television, broadcasting and all these multifarious and multiple operations, conducted under a single control. This is a matter which needs to be looked at very carefully. But I hope that the result of this very calm and objective debate—which has, if I may say so, as always, had the feature of debates in this House of reducing things into perspective and into proportion— will be to remove much of the unjust accusations which have been levelled, while leaving us still very watchful and very vigilant about the future.

6.30 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to direct my remarks primarily to regional broadcasting, but before doing so I must thank my noble friend Lord Gladwyn for moving this Motion and providing the House with the opportunity for an extremely interesting and valuable debate. He has certainly chosen a very topical subject and, as was to be expected, the discussion has been mainly on the Third Programme.

On the subject of the Third Programme I do not for one moment wish to go over all the ground covered by my noble friend, but in spite of some of the observations of the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, I still think that there axe some flaws in the arguments that have been put forward for the discontinuance of the Third Programme and in favour of the principle of the specialised network. For example, it is contended that a high-quality programme will reach a larger audience on Radio 4. I have no doubt that that is so; but one of the functions of the B.B.C, in fact one of its great merits, is that it acts in a pioneering role and it would seem to me that a third programme—not necessarily the Third Programme that we have had in recent years but a third programme —is well suited for this particular task. If a piece of music or a talk is a success on the Third and is repeated on Radio 4, it may well be that more will hear it on Radio 4. That is all to the good. But I should like to see a relationship between Radio 3—or the Third Programme, if we are allowed to continue to use those words—similar to that relationship between B.B.C.2 and B.B.C.1. There have been some splendid programmes put out for the first time on B.B.C.2 and later seen on B.B.C.1. I am not sure that this will be practicable under the new plan so far as sound radio is concerned.

I am sure that the controversy that has been raging goes very much wider than a concern over the future of the Third Programme. I believe that the protests over the Third Programme represents only the tip of the iceberg. I do not think that the protests of the staff can be explained away as merely the objections to change by people who are to be affected by that change. The letters that have been written to The Times and elsewhere seem to me to represent a spontaneous outbrust of concern. Rightly or wrongly, there is a general uneasiness about the future of the B.B.C. Many of those who have devoted years of their lives to working for the B.B.C. regard it as a great public service with a very fine tradition; and there is this feeling of uncertainty about the future.

My Lords, as the debate is not limited to the subject of the Third Programme, I should like to turn for a few moments to another casualty; namely, the dismantling of regional broadcasting—I am speaking, of course, about England and, in particular, about the Northern Region of which I have some slight knowledge. The relevant sentence in Broadcasting in the 'Seventies is: With the establishment of local radio, we believe that the present regional and area radio programmes would be progessively superseded. I fear that that may prove to be a retro-grade step. From the talks which I have had with some representatives of the staff in the Northern Region I am convinced that the fears of the staff in the North of England have not yet been allayed. 1 am not suggesting that the old boundaries should be kept as they are for all time. Obviously there must be change.

So far as B.B.C. television is concerned, the North is to be split up into three areas centred on Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle. That seems to be a reasonable and sensible arrangement so long as there are facilities to enable genuine regional work to be carried out. But even there the extent to which these television centres will be used for genuine regional work is in doubt. Even the Manchester centre could prove to be mainly a studio of convenience for London producers. 1 keep hearing the complaint that talent is already being drained away from the Regions and that the existing vehicle for finding and encouraging more talent is to disappear. This obviously, if it be true, is contrary to the policy of developing regional talent and regional experience.

I am not wishing to belittle local radio. I am anxious to encourage local radio. I think there is a need for it. But we have to recognise that those responsible for it have very limited resources. On Saturday, I listened to "Any Questions". It is a very popular programme—and incidentally it is a development of regional broadcasting. But I noted the extraordinary ignorance of the team about Broadcasting in the 'Seventies. I am sure that if the noble Baroness, Lady Stocks, had been on the team they would have been very much better informed. Even when the plan had been outlined they appeared to be under the impression that an increase in local radio stations is synonymous with the development of regionalism; but unfortunately that is not so. Local radio, as noble Lords are aware, mainly deals with recorded music and local news and, of course, is handicapped by lack of adequate finance. Furthermore, some parts of the country —such parts as Northumberland, where it may take quite a long time for new local radio stations to reach them—will lose regional broadcasting. For example, the farming areas will not get the early morning weather forecast or the regional news bulletin. They will be worse off.

Again, I fear that local radio will not have the resources to sponsor important concerts and to bring out promising new playwrights or musicians. As to what will happen if the B.B.C. has to compete with commercial radio, I do not know. I am not at all enthusiastic about the introduction of commercial radio. But if it is to come and it is not under the umbrella of the B.B.C, then the B.B.C. must be in a position not to be compelled to lower its standards-It has been said that there are too many criticisms and that few have put forward constructive alternatives. I do not think that that is altogether fair, but I should like to suggest that a solution lies in maintaining a regional structure and linking it more closely with local radio. I think that working together regional and local radio could produce a viable set-up. I have read an interesting article on this subject by Mr. Randal Herley of Manchester, but at this hour I think it would be discourteous to your Lordships to go into the subject in detail. But I think there is a possible way ahead if there were closer links between regional structure and local radio stations, and I hope that it is not too late to consider an advance along these lines.

This brings me to the question of what is to be done. If the criticisms that have been made are valid—and I am not referring only to my own criticisms—what can be done about them? Is it too late? The Director-General in The Times on Monday said, in effect—and I hope that this is a fair summary—" The debate about the programme structure is now over. We have heard the arguments of certain members of the staff. We disagree with them. That is the end of the matter." And in the letter to which several references have been made, which appeared in The Times of February 20, Sir Hugh Greene said in effect—again I am summarising—" Wait and see. If next autumn serious damage is done, is seen to be done, to radio, then protests will carry conviction ". It seems to me that that may well be too late. In any case, I find it a little difficult to reconcile the words of the Director-General and the advice of Sir Hugh Greene.

I believe that the answer may well be two-fold. The long-term is the appointment of a Royal Commission. It may be that a Joint Select Committee would be preferred. I come down on the side of a Royal Commission, but clearly that will take time. In the short-term it is important, I think, that those responsible for the B.B.C. should listen carefully to criticism, particularly constructive criticism. After all, if this is a public service discussion should be welcomed. I was encouraged by a remark of the noble Baroness, Lady Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, at the conclusion of her speech about listening to what is said in this debate. I hope that at the end of this debate it will not be said by those responsible for the B.B.C. that before the debate ever started the real debate was already over, and that was the end of the matter.

6.41 p.m.


My Lords, like everyone else, I want to thank the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, for having given us the opportunity to discuss this subject. I wish also to pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Ardwick for his very rousing speech. I would have said, in the conventional way, that I hope we shall hear more from him; but I can tell your Lordships from experience of my noble friend that there is no question about it that we shall.

My Lords, I am in some embarrassment in this situation. Like my noble friend, Lord Francis-Williams, I think my first experience of broadcasting was somewhere about 1928. I have been feeling like an old veteran in some of the debates we had on the dissolution of the Territorial Army and the disappearance of noble regiments; but in fact I was one of Reith's early "grenadiers". We are in some difficulty—those of us who have had considerable involvement in radio and television on the practical level and a great deal of educational training from the B.B.C. in the professionalism of broadcasting, both in terms of radio and television. We are, perhaps, very sensitive; even more sensitive (if I may say so in the absence of Lord Annan) than the dons. We are not quite so articulate. We do not rush into the papers. But many of us have lived and worked with people who are now, as they say, against the terms of their contract, coming out in public protest. To me their action is more significant than that of the dons— far more significant.

These people, my Lords, most of whom I know—and my noble friend Lord Francis-Williams knows them, too, as do many other noble Lords—are men of great rectitude, with a great deal of constructive imagination; men of whom it may perhaps be said that they have given their lives to this medium. They are people who are fighting, as I would fight, a rearguard action for sound radio. I am not going to get involved in an argument about the schedules or what is being done with sound radio in the reshaping, but I think we are all sensitive to the fact that in the general attitude of the B.B.C. a great deal more attention is paid to television, in which people like myself probably earn a great deal more than in sound radio. But I think that if we are not careful we shall find ourselves in grave danger. In fact, this is behind the whole of this crisis of confidence: the feeling of people who have an awareness and a genuine dedication to the sound medium that their world of sound is being shaken.

They are also very sensitive because people are not going into sound radio, or are being deliberately redirected from sound radio to television because that is the great expanding enterprise. That is not true. The most exciting days I have ever had in my life in broadcasting were in sound radio and not television. Think of how evocative sound radio is, compared with vision. Television tells you exactly what you have to look at. It says, "This is what you are seeing; this is Mr. Pickwick"—as some producer has made him and not as someone you imagine. But sound has an enormous capacity to be evocative; to ring the bells of imagination and to stimulate thinking.

We are promised four channels in sound. My noble friend Lord Strabolgi said that we ought to put it all in a self-service tray and say, "What do you want?". But that is not what we are talking about. This is not just stream-lining in terms of convenience for listeners. We are talking about something which is part of the noble tradition of British broadcasting. This is something which is essential and important. We are not thinking of it as something which is merely a convenience for listeners. Do not think, my Lords, that I want to inconvenience listeners—not at all—but, as my noble friend, Lady Stocks, pointed out, the B.B.C., beyond all other broadcasting systems of the world, has educated or involved people in exciting ideas and in interests that they never knew they had. That has happened because people have eavesdropped on programmes, like the housewife who could not get across the room fast enough to switch off the programme for schools and found she was actually interested in mathematics. People from all over the place have heard something, and said, "Goodness! The Third Programme"—or what is now to be Radio 4—" had an interesting programme: I heard it on my car radio." This kind of involvement, of getting people involved and stimulating them and making them think, is far more concerned with sound radio than with television.

When we lament the passing of the Third Programme it is rather like lamenting the passing of the gold sovereign. That was true currency. That we got away with pound notes later on and that we are to have a decimal currency does not alter the fact that the sovereign was the currency. We travelled the world on the credit of the Third Programme. If you wanted to make a real impression at UNESCO, or somewhere like that, you needed only to quote the Third Programme. Surely that is the great contribution, apart from its other great services, which the B.B.C. rendered. It is the fact that it kept the Free World together during the war; but this was one of its great cultural contributions, and therefore we are sad about it. I think we should not only treat it with proper respect and lament it; we should retain it. It is the "sovereign". My noble friend Lord Fiske is going to give us the decimal pound, but he will never get rid of the guinea in professional terms. The Third Programme is the "sovereign" or the "guinea" of professional radio.

Like my noble friend Lord Francis-Williams, I would say that it is a mistake, which many people make, to think of the Third Programme as an exercise in high quality, simply of don talking to don, as somebody has said. Not only do Third Programme items get into the Listener, and get repeated in other programmes, but the number of requests that contributors receive for articles based on their talks on the Third Programme shows that this programme, a programme of this quality, has not simply a donnish interest but a far-spread interest all the way through society. I think it is a great mistake to look simply at the figures and to say, "Only 50,000 people listen to the Third Programme. This is a very limited area; why do we not go out into the open spaces of ' pop' music?" I am not trying to stop anybody doing that, but I think that the point of reference on which to start is the Third Programme and its quality, which we want not only to preserve but to encourage and develop.

I lament the fact that this situation has arisen. It is not merely an embarrassment to find oneself involved on both sides of the table, but there is also the fact that this is a conflict which ought never to have arisen. The noble Lord, Lord Goodman, has said that it was a fault in public relations. With respect to the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, it is a catastrophic failure in public relations. It is worse: it is a failure in personal industrial relations, which has seriously shaken the fabric of the B.B.C. We cannot get away from this. We cannot say that the B.B.C. producers are a lot of prima donnas. We do not have 130 prima donnas in the B.B.C. producers. They are hard-working people, who are creative and encourage creation; and once we have taken from them the sense that they are creative people who are to be encouraged and who must encourage other people, we have killed practically their life's work.

It is here that I feel that the lack of consultation, and the bringing in, as we always see done, of the inevitable McKinseys, the people who were going to look at the system purely in terms of cost-efficiency, are intolerable in an organisation which depends on creative people. We have seen this happen so often. Those responsible for the organisation say: "We have got too big. We must look at ourselves again. We are costing too much money and indulging too many people in too many different ways. Let us bring in an objective outsider." My Lords, there is no such thing as an objective outsider in a creative enterprise, because it simply kills the essence of creation. I say this with a great depth of feeling.

What is happening in the B.B.C. happened in an institution with which 1 was intimately connected, the News Chronicle. That newspaper, which had some of the quality and integrity of the B.B.C, died of too much inspection. Everybody came in and pulled up the potatoes to see whether they were growing, and all the potatoes died. But that newspaper could have been saved if the owners had listened to their own professionals; not to individuals making their own cases for their own particular interests, but to the men who made the name on which that paper stood. We knew what was wrong with the paper and how it could be improved. We were not trying to tell the directors, any more than the staff of the B.B.C. are seeking to tell the Chairman and Governors of the B.B.C, how their business should be run. But we were saying, with as much sincerity and integrity as the staff of the B.B.C. are doing to-day:" This is the character of the paper you ought to be producing. This is the paper we want to work on". If we do not get the people in the B.B.C. to work for the higher purposes in the B.B.C, they are going to say, "Sorry; we are not going into the 'seventies with the B.B.C".

6.55 p.m.


My Lords, we are nearing the end of an interesting debate and I will be brief, because I think that almost everything that can be said has been said by previous speakers. We are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, for introducing this debate on the problem of the Third Programme and I agree with what he said in his introductory speech. We have in this country the best broadcasting system in the world. I am extremely sorry, whether McKinsey has said it or not, that by this kind of decision the Third Programme has to go. 1 imagine that it is too late now to make any plea before April to get this unfortunate decision rescinded.

I should like to join in the congratulations to my noble friend Lord Ardwick on his interesting maiden speech, in which he gave us the benefit of his great experience. He said that he thought commercial radio would inevitably come in this country. I hope not. I often wonder how the decisions are taken in this great and august body, the B.B.C, and by whom they are taken. I also wonder whether the debates in another place and in your Lordships' House, and also the Questions put from time to time achieve anything. The noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, the Chairman of the B.B.C. has attended this debate and listened to the speeches, but what about the top brass in the B.B.C? Do they read and study what is said in Parliament, which may or may not reflect public opinion?

The Government of the day have always refused to interfere in the day-to-day administration and policy direction of the B.B.C. It would be interesting if my noble friend the Leader of the House could tell us, when he comes to reply, how this decision was finally arrived at and whether there was the fullest consultation with the Minister responsible. The noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, in his interesting speech, referred to the problem of finance and of public demand, but I ask, as other noble Lords have asked: is the fading out of the Third Programme really going to solve the problem of public demand (or whatever it may be) and the overall problem of finance? There can be no doubt that the great growth of this enormous organisation, with all its power, has brought problems, with maybe even bigger problems around the corner, which the B.B.C. and the Government of the day will have to face.

One of the problems I see is this so-called gap between public opinion, between viewers and listeners, and the B.B.C. and the Government, and whether or not it will become wider. Whether we get commercial local wireless or not— which has been referred to in many speeches to-day—we have to realise that, for good or ill, the B.B.C. is a growing power of entertainment and education. It is now so powerful, penetrating almost every home in the land, that one often asks oneself whether in fact it is in some respects becoming more powerful than Government. Can the relationship between Ministers, the Government, the B.B.C. and the I.T.V. be left as it is, or are we going to see big changes coming in the future? I believe that this problem will have to be solved, and if the gap between the public, the Government, the B.B.C. and I.T.V. becomes too wide, I do not rule it out as a possibility that the Government may have to consider whether there should be local area boards and a central council, elected by popular vote, to whom the B.B.C. regional and central organisations will be responsible. I put this forward as a matter which has been mooted in various directions.

The problems of this organisation, as everybody realises, are enormous. The problems of violence, sex and crime are worrying many people. But they are here, and we cannot blink the fact. There is a tug of war on, for instance, "The World at One" between those who see the hand of the establishment and those who suspect the permissive society. Who in the future, with the growth of this great medium, is going to hold the balance? Have we the right machinery and the right method of doing it at the present time? In my opinion, public opinion is going to take a hand in this as never before. For this reason, with the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, I hope that this debate will bear some fruit.

7.2 p.m.


My Lords, at this late hour I will not detain your Lordships for long, because, as the noble Lord who has just sat down said, most of the points that are to be made have already been made. I should like to emphasise three points only which in my opinion have not come out clearly and which I think ought to be brought out. The first is that we have had, instead of consensus, confusion; and this confusion will have to be cleared up. I believe that a Royal Commission should be appointed, with rather wide powers, to consider whether the decision-making machinery of the B.B.C. ought not to be now separated, radio from television. When the B.B.C. structure was created, obviously there was no idea that it would develop as it has developed, and I am certain that an expert Commission ought to look into this situation to see whether the communication organisation is in fact standing up to the present requirements.

It is obvious that in this debate the confusion has come out, and I fear that my noble friend Lady Llewelyn-Davies, despite her valiant efforts, has not been able to clear up these matters. It is partly due to the fact that the Corporation's policy has changed as a result of certain pressures, and partly due to the fact of what one commentator called the specialisation of language—an expression which reminds me of a famous dictum (I think by Churchill) of a "terminological inexactitude". I know that my noble friends are all extremely, if not over-assiduously, mindful—attentive if not anxious—on behalf of bureaucracy. Nevertheless, I earnestly ask them that they should consider the possibility of appointing an expert Royal Commission —if such is possible—to go into these matters, and especially to see whether the radio ought not now to be separated from television.

My second point is that the growing tendency of the Corporation seems to have been to adjust the supply of all four channels to demand, however it was estimated. I humbly submit to your Lordships that demand is not always right. Some supply ought to be adjusted to demand—in fact, most supply. But should all supply be adjusted to demand? Should there not be a frontier of advance in taste and knowledge? Should not what my noble friends Lady Stocks and Lord Ritchie-Calder called attention to, a sort of infiltration., play some part? I remember that during the war many people who did not know Beethoven from an apple attended concerts, yet in the end they wanted more Beethoven, as one had springing up all sorts of orchestras and other institutions.

It is most interesting that we have had lately several debates, both in this House and in the other place, about the secondary social consequences of supplying demand in the cheapest way. It is called pollution. When you supply demand in the cheapest way, without any attention to what happens socially, that causes the devaluation of the environment which we have been witnessing. I am not saying that the Corporation is necessarily wrong —I do not know. But I should like to be assured by more than letters to The Times. It seems to me that if there is to be an investigation, that investigation should not be on a cost-efficiency basis, but on a cost-culture basis.

Before sitting down 1 should like to make one other more general point. The British political genius which has contributed so much of the social engineering structure to modern States has evolved a system of putting certain jobs into Commission. The Lord High Treasurer was put into Commission, and the Lord High Admiral was put into Commission. The overly powerful subjects were reduced by putting them into Commission. I fear that since the late-lamented Lord Morrison mistook the best organisation of public activity, and entrusted it to irresponsible, or at any rate unaccountable, Boards, we have had various experiences which do not bear out his optimism. We have created power centres which are more and more concentrated, and especially so because the Corporations have only very few full-time members, and sometimes only one who has then to transmit decisions to a chief executive, whom he appoints and who is accountable only to him.

The late Lord Morrison made several mistakes, and this was probably the most important mistake of all. He entrusted the supply of various things, such as steel, culture and coal to these Boards. I think the tendency of the British economy to function less than perfectly is to some extent attributable to the fact that these very great, powerful Corporations have no immediate watch-dog. I humbly submit to the powers-that-be that they ought to consider the formation of a Joint Committee of the Lords and the Commons which could have a valid dialogue, fortified by experts from these various Corporations, of which the B.B.C. is only one. It seems to me that what has come out of this debate is that these corporate structures can be improved, and should be improved.

7.11 p.m.


My Lords, I have a particular interest in the subject of to-day's debate since I was on the staff of sound radio until late 1967, and many of the people who have been protesting in recent months about the proposed changes in B.B.C. radio are my ex-colleagues and my friends. A number of noble Lords who have spoken to-day have been surprised and perhaps rather put out by what they feel is an over-reaction by these 130-odd producers and senior programme makers who have pro-tested about what is to happen. It would seem that the merits of the issue about which changes are right and which are wrong are really debatable. There is no clear right or wrong about whether there should be generic planning or non-generic planning. Is it possible for anyone to say with such vehemence that this is the right choice to make, and that is the wrong?

I should like at the beginning of my remarks to give some idea of what I feel is the reason behind the strong and vehement reaction that has come to Broadcasting House in the past few weeks. I think it boils down to a complete breakdown in communications between the programme makers and the administrators—the directors who run the British Broadcasting Corporation. Sir Hugh Greene rather over-stated the case in a letter when he said that he and his fellow Governors were being called "bloody liars" by his staff. There is something in this. The staff are not calling the Governors "bloody liars", but they are mistrustful of the Governors and the Board of Management. They feel that they look at the function of B.B.C. radio broadcasting from two different points of view. They feel that there may be a dichotomy between the administrator, whose job it is to forward politically the purposes and merits and the aims of broadcasting, and the programme maker, whose job it is, in a rather narrower sense, to produce the best programmes possible by his own subjective judgment. That is where the confusion arises. There is also a feeling among many producers that the B.B.C. management has been badly shaken by the events of the past weeks and has in a sense been thrown into confusion. They find this very worrying.

I should like to give a few examples. One rather important point concerns the matter of consultation, which is another vital complaint. Yesterday I talked to a senior member of the B.B.C. who was empowered to speak for the management, and he told me that there had been full consultation with the staff since Broadcasting in the 'Seventies appeared last July. He said that in his and the Corporation's view consultation had been carried out in a proper way and there were no real regrets about the way it had been done. He felt that it had been carried out in a correct and sufficient manner. Against this I have heard from another member of the B.B.C., and also privately from producers who have been told by senior members of the B.B.C, that they conceded that their management made certain errors last autumn, that their communications broke down and that they did not get their points of view across to the staff. There was not sufficient consultation, and they admitted that an error was made. If the management are prepared to make this admission, it seems to me important that they should say so publicly, and not say in public what they are denying in private. I will leave that and hope that the B.B.C. management will read these words and either reject what I have said or accept it.

As certain noble Lords have said to-day, it is true that the service as planned will on the face of it be no worse than the Third Programme material which is put out at the moment. There will be little reduction in Third Programme type material when the new schedules come into operation in April. It is also con-ceded by all members of the staff at the B.B.C.—or almost all of them—that the merits of the issue of whether the programme should be reshuffled under the present scheme are thoroughly debatable. Some have one view and some another, and there is no clear decision about which is right and which is wrong. The problem stems from the lack of trust that now exists between the staff and the management.

What happens when the new schedules have been in operation for a few weeks or months, when the fuss, which is now on the front pages of newspapers and is receiving the attention of Parliament, has died down? It is very unusual for a subject such as sound broadcasting to be debated so widely in Parliament and the Press, and this will not continue; it will soon die down. It may also happen that the injection of Third Programme-type material into the new Radio Three and the new Radio Four will have a bad effect on audience figures. The management do not admit that this objection will have a bad effect on audience figures, but it could have such an effect. What will happen then? It is very easy, by a purely administrative decision, to reduce the amount of Third Programme-type material which will be broadcast—very gradually, by "salami" tactics. One could reduce the number of hours of Third Programme-type material on Radio Three from 8 hours to 7½ hours, and I doubt if such a decision would merit even a small paragraph in the newspapers. That is the fear which many programme makers have at the moment, in their present state of mistrust of their bosses.

I should like to say a few words about this Third Programme which we have been debating with some heat this afternoon, and why it is important, because there are some noble Lords who do not feel that it is as important as some would like to make cut. The Third Programme is particularly important because it is the only possible place for unknown talent to emerge. An unknown dramatist or composer will have great difficulty in placing his work outside the B.B.C. Third Programme. If an unknown dramatist sends a play to a theatre manager it will probably not even be read. If he sends it to television it may be read, but it very seldom happens that a piece of drama or a piece of music sent out of the blue is accepted. The B.B.C. radio, and the Third Programme in particular, is the only organisation I am aware of which gives a fair hearing and fair consideration to new and unknown works of music and drama which are sent to it. A large number of talented writers and composers started their creative careers through the Third Programme. I could mention the well-known names of the pre-war and war-time era, Dylan Thomas, Louis Macneice.

The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, mentioned the "talks" element in the Third Programme, which is very important. In drama there are now very well-known playwrights who started their career through the Third Programme: Pinter, Samuel Beckett, Ionescu. The works of these authors were performed on the Third Programme when their names were not known at all. Tom Stoppard, whose play is now running at the National Theatre, had his play accepted originally by the Third Programme. One might with justification assume that, had it not been for the Third Programme, many of those people would not have achieved the success they have. And I hope no one here would deny that, if the Third Programme output were ended (I am not so much worried about the name of the Third Programme, but if the actual programmes were brought to a halt for any reason), or were reduced to the extent that its service was brought in only on sufferance, then our cultural life would suffer immeasurably. I should like to think that there is something the Government could do about this.

Of course there is very little that the Government could do about the actual content of programmes, but there is something they can do on a completely different matter which was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, in his opening speech. I refer to the matter of money. I do not know whether noble Lords are aware of the conditions under which sound radio producers work at the moment. I am sure that much of their discontent stems from these conditions. They have to record and produce plays and documentaries in studios which were equipped twenty-five years ago; they have to use equipment which is war-time, just post-war, or even pre-war. For their sound effects they have to use gramophone records of 78 r.p.m., records which are almost all prewar. That type of gramophone record is not even made any more. I am told that the move away from 78 r.p.m. gramophone records for sound effects is being made now, belatedly, only because no factory in this country can be found to renew them.

A few days ago I was speaking to a producer who told me that he had just spent a whole afternoon working on a tape which he had recorded, using a sound effects disc which was so bad that it was full of clicks. He had to snip out these clicks one by one from the tape with a pair of scissors and it had taken hours to do. He felt that he could have spent his time in some better way. At the same time, these producers have to find writers who will contribute to their programmes, and I can assure your Lordships that it is not easy to find writers who will contribute at the kind of fees the B.B.C. sound services are able to afford at the moment. They are very low in comparison with television, journalism, and almost any other medium.

This straitened state of radio finances is in contrast to the state of television finances in the B.B.C. and in the I.T.A. While television has been quite properly asked to make important technical advances, and has had money pumped into it to further important technical ends, such as the change in the number of lines from 405 to 625 and more recently and more importantly the change to colour, radio has had its technical advance severely curtailed by lack of funds. I am here referring particularly to the introduction of stereo broadcasting, which is probably the only important technical improvement which can be brought into radio, as we know radio at the moment, and which has been developed very slowly indeed, in spite of the fact that its development is a much cheaper undertaking than the introduction of any technical improvement in television. I am told that there is very little prospect at the moment—there is a quotation in Broadcasting in the 'Seventies to this effect—of stereo broadcasting being extended to cover the main networks that the B.B.C. put out, and very little chance of its being extended to cover the bulk of this country.

The noble Baroness, Lady Llewelyn-Davies, in her speech earlier this afternoon, in answering the point of the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, said something which Government spokesmen say very often: that of course they are always being asked for money and it is their job to choose whom they give money to; no one is ever satisfied; the choice is a choice which Government have to make and really one cannot complain if one's own pet project is not chosen. I do not think this is quite good enough, and I will say why. Many of the technical changes which the B.B.C. have brought in in recent years, and which have cost the B.B.C. huge sums of money, were ordered or agreed to by the Government beforehand. The B.B.C. was promised, either by a formal pledge or by an understanding, that it would receive proper finance for these improvements. On at least two occasions these promises have not been fulfilled, and it is here that the Government—I do not mean necessarily the present Government, because on one occasion the matter concerned the past Government—have been particularly guilty.

I appreciate that any Government are in difficulty over any matter concerning the B.B.C. because on one day one wants the Government to intervene to improve certain things one may disagree with about the B.B.C.; on another occasion one may resent very strongly interference by the Government in the independent B.B.C, which is keen to preserve its independence. Most of us accept that the B.B.C. must remain independent and must not be subject to too much interference, let alone censorship, by the Government of the day. But, whatever happens, the Government have a responsibility to preserve standards of broadcasting. I am hoping that the Government will remember that they have this responsibility, and that, if things should take a turn for the bad in the next few months, they will use the powers they have. These powers are the appointment of governors, the control of licence fees and the renewal of the B.B.C. Charter.

I hope that the Government will give very serious consideration to the proposal suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Balogh, that there should be some kind of an inquiry into the whole realm of our future broadcasting policy. Are we on the right track in this matter? There are many people, and perhaps the bulk of the B.B.C.s staff, who feel that we are not on the right track, that the Government should take a further look at the situation, and that if Parliament is to make decisions and to consult, it is as well that it should have the best possible advice. To get the best possible advice a Royal Commission would seem to be a good idea. Therefore, I hope that the Government will consider what they can do in this situation and that they will not allow the erosion and the debasement of our broadcasting service, which many of us feel is not only the best in the world but also the cheapest.

7.30 p.m.


My Lords, I must first apologise to some noble Lords — the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester and my noble friend Lord Ardwick—that I was not able to hear their speeches. It was partly due to pressure from the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, knowing that I had engagements, that I broke the rule which I always try to apply, that if one is winding up or opening a debate one should try to hear every speech, or at least part of it. One of the ill-results of this was that 1 missed a maiden speech which, from all accounts, was quite outstanding.



It is extremely difficult to recognise somebody when he disguises himself under even an appropriate name, which it certainly is in the case of my noble friend Lord Ardwick. I have admired him, as John Beavan, and he is, in my view, one of the greatest journalists. I say that having particularly in mind his London column in the Guardian. And he has not disappointed your Lordships this afternoon in the quality and interest of his speech.

My Lords, I approached this debate with a rather sinking heart. I was appalled at the conflict that appeared to be breaking out between producers and the management of the B.B.C. It was something I personally felt very deeply. Rather like the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, although he is a good deal more recent, I am a former sound producer from the B.B.C, from the great days before the war, when among our talks producers were people like Guy Burgess. I cannot even remember what the programmes were called—whether they were the national or the regional or what they were. But one thing I do remember, and I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill, is not here, because when he referred to the importance of the B.B.C.'s being independent of Government I remembered that when I was a talks producer in Northern Ireland the Northern Ireland Government actually protested about certain programmes which were characterised as disloyal In fact one of the troubles was that a Roman Catholic took part in them. But I realised that to-day, under the influence of the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill, and others, things there are improving.

Having heard the debate I have come to the conclusion that in fact it is a good thing not only that there has been this debate but that the whole controversy has taken place. I think the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, can feel that what we have done to-day is to provide a forum for discussion in which a great deal of independent view has been expressed. I have in mind particularly the really notable speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, and the noble Lord, Lord Annan, which put so much of this controversy into perspective. I do not share the views of those who say (and I have in mind my noble friend Lord Balogh, who made an interesting speech) that this should now lead to a high-level Government inquiry. If we believe in participation, if we believe in public con-troversy—and this has been conducted in a uniquely public way—then there is a moral to be drawn from this. The moral is that we have to live with it and not immediately start rushing around and trying to find out from Government, or anywhere else, what is wrong. There may be quite a lot wrong—I am not dealing with that—but it should be possible to discuss these things so that at the end of the day we all benefit from it.

When I hear the cry of lack of consultation I remember some of my own experiences in the field of consultation in industry, in which it was always those who were most consulted (and sometimes for the first time) who invariably complained of a complete lack of consultation. We find as a Government that whenever we give the Opposition some information which they never gave us they always complain that we have not given them enough. On the other hand, it is obvious that what has been said has led to a clearing of the air. From the Government point of view it would be wrong for us to pass judgment on many of the issues. Of one thing, however, I am convinced; and that is the complete sincerity of the main parties in this argument, whether it be the B.B.C. management, the Governors or the producers who have been critical. There is no doubt that what comes through is a great deal of sincerity. What I find a little disturbing is the extent of some of the unfairness, and indeed some of the ignorance of the facts.

I am a little surprised at The Times. I interrupted the noble Earl, Lord Bess-borough, when he referred to the very interesting comparison of the programmes that appeared in The Times to-day. It says: during the whole of this period of discussion many arguments have been frustrated by the lack of any full programme schedules.… To-day, for the first time anywhere, The Times publishes full schedules for a sample period. But of course, the reason the schedules had not been published before is that none of the newspapers actually took up the information that the B.B.C. issued in a hand-out. There were sample programmes, admittedly only for the evening, and they were published in the Listener. In such controversies it is always disturbing to see either unfairness or ignorance of the facts. In this morning's issue of The Times there were published the schedules of Radio 3 programmes for three days in April last year and for the corresponding three days this year. It is a fact that this information could have been given earlier in the public Press, but they chose not to do it.

It is curious, too, that The Times, if it really wanted to be fair, did not publish comparable information about Radio 4, because the case put forward by the B.B.C. has always been that some of the high-quality speech content of the Third Programme would be moved to Radio 4. The most significant defect is that it really makes no sense, as I think my noble friend Lord Strabolgi and others have said, to draw conclusions from a comparison of a particular period of three days in one year with another. One could produce some extraordinary evidence about the vast increase in the amount of poetry that is going to be put out. This is the aspect of the controversy that I regret most.

My Lords, generally I believe that this controversy has served a useful purpose. Although it is not for me to adopt a partisan position in this matter I feel bound to draw attention to certain of the facts because some quite extraordinary assumptions have been made about the destruction of the high quality for which the B.B.C. is famous. I think it should be remembered that the B.B.C. has always been under criticism. I remember that before the war, in Reithian days, it was constantly under criticism for one thing or another, such as the dullness of the Sunday programmes, and, of course, occasionally for intellectual arrogance. I will admit to the charge. There are certain programmes—some very curious second-rate poetry and music programmes—that I confess I put on to satisfy myself; I am rather ashamed, but I had the opportunity and I did it. I used to have special readings of The Rose and the Ring at nine o'clock in the morning because I liked The Rose and the Ring. In passing, may I say that the greatest crime which has been committed by the B.B.C., a crime which I know my noble friend Lord Llewelyn-Davies feels equally, is the fact that "The Clangers" are coming to an end on television, and any noble Lord who has seen "The Clangers" will know that this is the finest expression of television. Noble Lords who have not seen it will not appreciate it, and now they will not have the chance unless the B.B.C. bring it back.

In Broadcasting in the 'Seventies, the B.B.C. said—and either they are "bloody liars" or they are not, to use the words that have been referred to— The B.B.C. unhesitatingly accept, arising from the fact that they are a public service, that this implies a responsibility to provide a comprehensive service meeting the needs of minorities as well as majorities. It may be that there have been straws in the wind, tendencies, which make people doubtful. They go on: We are offering a service which will cater for at least as broad a range of listeners as at present, spanning the generations and the cultures. I am inclined to think that if there was back-sliding on the part of the B.B.C.— and there are undoubtedly a number of people who are convinced that this is so, although as my noble friend Lord Goodman made clear, this accusation is anything but proven—the B.B.C. management would not get away with it now. I should have thought that their willingness to consult—as an example, the consultation with the Arts Council—had shown very clearly that they are immensely susceptible to influence and to opinion. The rather striking thing is the really severe lack of interest on the part of the general public at large. It is only the most interested—I hesitate to say it —élite who have been most concerned about this.


My Lords, can my noble friend give any evidence of the extraordinary statement that nobody but a very tiny minority have taken an interest? I do not think there is any evidence for that.


My Lords, one of the most striking things is that nobody has given any evidence in the other direction, but there is evidence in the shape of the mail that has come to the B.B.C. and elsewhere. I have not seen this. I have seen the correspondence in The Times. I have seen awfully little in the other newspapers. It may well be that my noble friend Lord Balogh, with his close touch with the public, perhaps much closer than mine, is able to say that my statement is inaccurate, but I am reasonably certain that it is accurate. I do not know that many noble Lords who have taken part and have studied this would challenge it.

But that is not the major point. The point of real importance is whether the B.B.C. is doing something, or attempting to do something, that it ought not to do. The chief argument has revolved around the Third Programme. A number of people see the Third Programme as exemplifying excellence in broadcasting. They see what they call its demise as an act of philistinism, and they see it, too, rather startlingly, as a departure from Reithian principle. But of course Lord Reith loathed the Third Programme, condemned it and in fact called it a disaster. We run into slight difficulties with this sort of thing. There are noble Lords who criticise the Third Programme. But the question is a very technical one. I should have thought that the evidence given—I will give some figures—is that for the most part the kind of programmes that are going to be put out, whether in terms of music or literature, discussion or poetry or art or whatever it is, are likely to be of the same order one way and another as now.

The really important point, which has not I think been stressed enough in the debate, is whether the new type of scheduling is going to introduce a rigidity which will impose an undesirable discipline upon the producer. That is the important point. Those of us who have experienced it know the unsatisfactory way in which one has sometimes had to fit a particular programme which one thinks important into a programme schedule and will be aware that a further rigidity would be bad for broadcasting. It is not, I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, that I do not think the B.B.C. will continue to provide some of these long programmes he has spoken about, and I would ask him equally for evidence of that. Some of them go on half way through the night, where in any case scheduling does not arise. It is where the scheduling becomes too tightly organised, with the result that certain programmes are put in in a way in which they suffer, that I think is the important point. It is one of the accusations of the critics, and I have no doubt that the B.B.C. will take this very much into account.

I think enough noble Lords have spoken about whether we should doubt the Governors' intentions. In the past the criticism of the Governors always was that they exercised no real influence over the management. Now they are criticised—without any real evidence—of exercising too much. I would like to pay tribute again to the noble Lord, Lord Hill, for the patience with which he has sat here. I do not propose at this moment to start discussing the Addison Rules which are the rules of the House. It is up to noble Lords if they wish to alter those rules. But I can say there are powerful arguments for them and I could have seen difficulty if the noble Lord, Lord Hill, had had, so to speak, to reply to the debate. I can only say that I think he has not had too bad a time of it today, and we admire his patience and his willingness to listen to criticism. I must say that in the past we never regarded him as a very silent individual, but he now gives an image of strong silence. Certainly I feel that some unworthy things have been said about him —not in this House.

Let us look at some of the figures that are available. We are told that there will be more music on the new Radio 3 than there is at present on the Third Programme, and that the spoken word content of the Third Programme displaced by this additional music will largely find its place in the new Radio 4. Instead of the present 25 hours on sound there will now be 24. What we are really saying—and this is I think what the noble Lord, Lord Balogh, and others were saying—is that we really have no confidence in the constitutional frame-work within which the B.B.C. has been operating for several decades. I do not propose to pursue further an argument with the noble Lord, Lord Balogh, in regard to my late friend, Herbert Morrison, and the policy that he followed. But of one thing I am certain: the importance of preserving both radio programmes and television programmes from direct Government or Parliamentary interference. We can discuss them. We can take the opportunity we have had in this debate. I do not doubt that this debate will be studied with enormous care. In fact, I sometimes think that the only people who read Hansard are those who do not belong to the House of Lords. I find that outsiders have read and closely studied the speeches. I have no doubt that this debate will be very closely studied.

One important theme raised by the noble Lord, Lord Wade, related to regional broadcasting. First of all, as we know, the three national regions will remain. It has been said that an ability to speak with a separate and different voice from that of London will be much reduced. Let us face it: despite the quality and the commitment of their predecessors, the existing English regions are geographically pretty meaningless.

I sometimes listen to broadcasts in a region extending from Land's End to Brighton, from the Midlands, an enormous area, and from the Northern region. What is now proposed is not only local stations. I will not go into the technicalities, but many of us have been strongly in favour of real local broadcasting, related to the community and serving that community in a meaningful way. Not only will those stations continue, but there is now to be a different type of area which will produce programmes relevant to the particular area. The existing regions are essentially of an engineer's construction, but regional production of television and radio for the national networks is to be increased. This will provide for an increase in production away from London.

It is interesting that the three main network production centres will produce as much as they are now contributing to the networks. In total there will be eight English regional T.V. areas, instead of the three present ones.


My Lords, would the noble Lord agree that it would be a good thing to make the sound radio system correspond to the T.V. system, in having eight networks?


My Lords, of course I cannot express a definite opinion on any technical questions of that kind. I do not doubt that everything the noble Lord has said will be noted. I am merely meeting the important point that the noble Lord, Lord Wade, made. It may be that there is some answer, but in what I have said I can only give the facts as I have been able to obtain them. In addition, there is to be provided an experimental budget to enable regions to do experimental broadcasting, or at least to plan it and then if it is good enough, it will be broadcast.

Within this large structure it is most important to get the right sort of administrative arrangements. I feel that it is absolute folly to talk about "the interests of freedom" for producers, which I regard as of paramount importance. In my day every producer found that the talks executive was the enemy because he would never provide enough money to enable the producer to obtain the speaker he wanted to put on. But it makes sense if the management experts look at the organisation. If their recommendations are destructive of good broadcasting, it is not necessary to accept them. There has been criticism of the B.B.C. from some people who claim that it is too large and too bureaucratic; yet when the B.B.C. has tried to investigate and to bring in management experts it is again accused of being bureaucratic. I think it is only right that this sort of inquiry should take place. I will not comment further on whether management consultants are effective or not. I think if I may put it in this way, that we have all had experience of them. Certainly many of them have rendered good service.

My Lords, I do not want to prolong this discussion much further. I do not propose to answer at length the noble Lord, Lord Denham. The affection we all hold for him is sometimes weakened by, as the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, said, this ghastly idea of commercial sound radio. I feel that the Tory Party in opposition commit themselves to the most horrifying projects. I have many reasons for not wanting to see a Tory Government again; but certainly cue of the worst things they could do would be to inflict commercial sound radio on us. It is a million times worse than any of the criticisms that have been levelled in this present debate at the freedom of producers, and so on. What would happen if there were to be commercial sound radio? What would happen to the local newspapers in the face of every inquiry recommending against this? Yet the Conservative Party go on. Even their Leader in another place uttered some rather cryptic remarks, which I do not altogether understand but which seemed to suggest that the role of the B.B.C. was to cater for minorities. I must not quote him, but I think noble Lords will have taken the point.

On the financial side, let me say this. The revenue of the B.B.C. has increased to £95 million. It has more than doubled in the last few years. The Government have taken active steps, which their predecessors did not take, to reduce the amount of evasion. In 1966, there were over 2 million evaders. The number is down to-day to slightly more than 1 million, and revenue has increased. I will not list the measures the Government have taken in this matter. Noble Lords should remember that there have been big campaigns, and there has been striking action to encourage people to pay up. A sort of accelerator has been created in the shape of the new colour television licence which should greatly increase revenue.

I accept what noble Lords have said and, because I have said it often, I am bound to say that Governments (this is a discreet phrase) are apt to be a little cowardly on the subject of licence fees. But there are arguments in favour of a certain financial discipline. I was going to return to the noble Lord, Lord Balogh, but he seems to have gone—I do not know whether he heard some of the earlier speeches.

I think I have answered some of the main points. I am conscious that a number of most interesting points have been made by noble Lords, but I do not think that they are of necessity, or even particularly, for the Government to answer. Certainly they will be carefully studied. Certainly they will influence Government thinking, in so far as it is right for Government to take a view on these matters—and, like any other citizen, we are bound to have a view. There will be a public inquiry into the B.B.C. —I think it will have to take place by 1976. The previous Government rightly decided that there should be a period, under the new dispensation which they set up, in which these great organisations, whether they are commercial radio or B.B.C. television, should be allowed to run with a reasonable prospect of stability. They are not going to be subjected to a major investigation. Therefore, speaking personally (I cannot be certain as to what the Government may do if the pressure grows) I should greatly regret any form of a public inquiry now.

The controversy has gone on. I think it has been valuable. The new programmes will be introduced. They have already been heavily modified as a result of consultation, adequate or inadequate as it may have been. It has been made clear, as my noble friend Lady Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe said, that if, after a fair trial—say twelve months—the new scheme is not thought to be working well, then the B.B.C. intends to think again about it; and it will of course listen to criticism and make the necessary adjustments. I hope and believe this to be so, because I am sure that B.B.C. producers, as a whole, are dedicated and committed people to their medium—indeed they would not have fought this controversy as strongly as they have done if they were not so. But I believe that they will now be able to make great sense out of the B.B.C. proposals. If they cannot, then of course it is always possible to think again. And I hope that it will be in this spirit that we shall now proceed to watch the introduction of the new programmes.

8.1 p.m.


My Lords, first of all I should like to associate myself with the noble Lord the Leader of the House in what he said about his regrettable absence during the brilliant maiden speech, as I hear it described, of the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, and the speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester. I likewise was absent for, I am afraid, an inescapable reason. Otherwise I should have greatly enjoyed the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, which I hear was quite exceptional in every way.

In making just a few observations—I promise for not more than five minutes— at the end of this debate, which has been extremely interesting and also. I think, extremely profitable, I should like to give your Lordships my own impressions of the debate. The first is that I think there was a general impression among your Lordships that there is something rotten, if not in the state of the B.B.C, at any rate in the state of the relationship between the leadership and a great part of the staff. I hope and believe that, as a result of all the discussion on the Floor of this House, this will be made better in the months to come.

The second impression I have is that perhaps some of the difficulty with the staff was a result of employing a business efficiency firm. I quite understand the desirability of employing that firm for certain business reasons, but I think that quite a number of your Lordships feel, in common with me, that it is wrong in principle to apply business efficiency principles in the realm of culture as a whole. I think that a great many people, and a great many of your Lordships, would agree with that, and I hope the B.B.C. will take that moral to heart.

The third impression I have is that there is widespread apprehension—at any rate in this House and, I think, in certain sections of the country—lest the present Radio 3 should be whittled down, and all resemblance to the old Third Programme should, over the course of the next year or two, virtually disappear.


My Lords, I wonder whether I might interrupt the noble Lord at this point? It is courteous of him to give way. My interruption is really to enable me to deal with the point which the noble Lord, Lord Balogh, asked me to produce evidence on. Of the 26 million people who listen to radio each week, under 250 have written to the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, and under 1,000 to the B.B.C.


My Lords, I doubt whether that affects my general point. In relation to the point about the possible weakening of the Third Programme, or Radio 3 in the years to come, may I say that I recognise that the noble Lord the Leader of the House, himself an expert on the subject, has said that he has certain fears about whether the effect of streaming may not have a limiting and restricting effect, particularly, I should have thought, on the present Radio 3. That is a point I made in my speech. I am very glad that the noble Lord the Leader of the House appreciated it, and I hope that the B.B.C. itself will take this possibility into consideration when they are planning their programmes for the future.

The fourth impression I have is one of the enormous weight, if I may properly so describe it, of the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, in these affairs. He has only to throw it in one direction or the other and everybody succumbs. Apparently it was he who immediately took up the cudgels on behalf of the orchestra, and the B.B.C, in spite of the vast cost involved, immediately gave way. For all I know it may well have been he who induced them to increase the amount of talk on Radio 3 from that originally proposed in Broadcasting in the 'Seventies. I hope he did. I think it only remains for him, as he indicated perhaps in his own speech, to throw his weight increasingly on behalf of the "writers" as he called them—to which I suppose he would also add the unknown dramatists, and even perhaps the under-paid young dons who might figure on the programme—and see that they get more of a showing than is now likely to be the case, and that the programme over the months is perhaps expanded accordingly. I hope he will.

The next impression I have is that there was a considerable feeling among many of your Lordships that the moment has now come when there should be some kind of independent investigation into the affairs of the B.B.C. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, is very much against that. Your Lordships heard what he said. However, I believe that there are a number of really outstanding points of principle, the first of which is the possibility of separating the administration of sound radio from television. Many noble Lords have put that for- ward as a real possibility and a desirable thing to aim at. If that is so, it gives rise to immense possibilities, and therefore I should have thought that not only should it have been discussed inside the B.B.C. itself, but is a matter which Parliament should have a view on. The second point is the whole question of money, of financing; whether it is indeed right to depend entirely on the licence fee and, if so. whether it should be put up by, for instance, another 5s., and whether it really would be a disaster for many old people. After all, many old people cannot afford the present fee. There are always some people who will be hit by any increase. Costs have gone up so enormously over the last few years because of inflation that the fee is bound to go up a little even to keen where we are. In fact, broadcasting will go right back unless it is put up some-how. But if that is not desirable, then surely other ways of raising the money can be considered. That might be a matter for a Select Committee.

Finally, there is the whole question of regions, how they should be organised. Surely that: is a matter for independent organisation. I believe that the conception of the Third Programme really should be committed to a Joint Select Committee of both Houses. That is my suggestion: it has not been accepted. I realise that perhaps eventually the Government will come round to it; let us hope they will. In the meantime, I trust that this debate has not been in any way counter-productive. No terrible things have been said; no one has been unjustly impeached or condemned. No doubt everybody has acted from the best of motives, and one can only hope that the B.B.C., under its present Chairman, will go from strength to strenth. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.