§ 3.1 p.m.
BARONESS LLEWELYN-DAVIES OF HASTOE rose to draw attention to the White Paper, An Alternative Service of Radio Broadcasting (Cmnd. 4636); and to move for Papers. The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I think it rather serious that a White Paper on such an important matter as this should have had such a very bad reception. The Times has said that it was a " muddled explanation of a bad policy " and continued,
It is ironic that the Government should insist on so undesirable a waste of money.
The Financial Times described it as
Only the vague outline of a plan.
The Observer said,
It bears all the marks of an uneasy compromise.
The Guardian, in greater detail, said:
There is a fair dash of humbug in the White Paper's title.… The B.B.C. already provides a range of alternatives in radio that the commercial stations will not even try to match. They will be in it for the money, as everyone knows, and in the carve-up between God and Mammon the responsibility to God is left with the B.B.C.
§ The House will be well aware that there is a great difference of approach between noble Lords on this side and noble Lords opposite, to this whole question of broadcasting. The Labour Party has always believed that broadcasting should be a public service, whereas the Party opposite has always itched to take the whole thing into the market place. No one can ever forget Lord Thomson's gleeful description of commercial television as, " a licence to print money ". To be fair to noble Lords opposite, I think that lesson has been partially learned by them, and of course not all members of the Party opposite have always been in favour of commercial radio.
The Conservative Political Centre published a report in 1960 which said:
We consider that the strong case for maintaining and extending commercial television does not apply to sound broadcasting, and our report rejects the suggestion that this should be
developed, either nationally or locally, on a commercial basis.
This report was signed by a group of Conservatives, including Sir Peter Rawlinson, Mr. Geoffrey Johnson-Smith, Mr. Dennis Walters and the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir of Belhelvic. They had been preceded by the noble and learned Lord who now sits on the Woolsack, who said that he thought,
Commercial broadcasting is to be condemned because it distorts the purpose of broadcasting by reason of the fundamental purpose for which the vehicle is used—not broadcasting for its sake but its use as a medium in which advertisements can live.
§ So we have two distinguished Members of Her Majesty's Government in this House and the Under-Secretary of State for Defence and the Attorney General in another place who at any rate have taken different views from those expressed in the White Paper.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, perhaps as the noble Baroness has referred to me, she will do me the honour of admitting that in that very speech she has quoted I made it absolutely plain that, should commercial television be accepted, it was inevitable that some form of commercial broadcasting on sound radio would follow and with VHF techniques, sound radio would cause all parties to make a complete revision of their then thoughts.
§ BARONESS LLEWELYN-DAVIES OF HASTOE
My Lords, [ think the whole House will agree that when the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor condemns something he usually does so very thoroughly.
This is a very complicated question. I want to be as brief as I can because of the prodigious labours in which the House is so frequently engaged at the moment. I shall not state our well-known principles once again. What I want to do is to examine the White Paper so that the House may consider some of the details and, above all, so that I may have some clarification and reassurance from the noble Viscount upon some of the points of which I have given him notice. If I bring in any fresh material perhaps the noble Lord. Lord Denham, who is to reply to the debate, can refer to them later.
One of the things in which we on this side of the House find some satisfaction 454 is that the commercial radio services were to be entrusted to the I.T.A. although it is now fairly clear that commercial interests and many Conservative Members in another place are not nearly so pleased about that. But we now find that there are great uncertainties about how the I.T.A. will actually function in its new role. At the moment, of course, it cannot function at all because under Section 2(5) of the Television Act it is specifically precluded from having anything to do with radio. That means that we have to wait for legislation.
I have seen that someone has said that in the meantime there will be a great gap here, but that at any rate the noble Lord, Lord Aylestone, can at least think about it in his bath. We wish him luck in that. But there are same very real dangers in this delay to which I shall refer later. Apart from the fact that the I.T.A. cannot go into sound broadcasting at the moment, if we look at Section 4 of the Act we set that the functions of the I.B.A. are similar to those of I.T.A. in appointing companies, providing programmes and supervising programme standards. These are very important matters.
But how exactly will I.B.A. do this? It will be very difficult in local radio. For instance, at the moment I.T.A.controls the standard of television broadcasting by the scheduling process, by asking questions about future programmes and approving schedules in advance. In local radio that would be particularly difficult. Local radio, by its very nature, must be of a more instant character..I do not see how local radio can hive any schedules at all. One cannot schedule the remarks of a disc jockey. I sho ild think the House will want more reassurance about the kind of control that can be exercised over the standard of programmes.
Again, your Lordships will want to be sure that local commercia! broadcasting stations do not turn into a man. a boy and a dog, with a set o:' gramophone records. We are not sure from the White Paper exactly what standards are being laid down. On the whole question of control one of the most important things of all is that of sponsorship of programmes. The White Paper says that the income for the new stations will be derived from spot advertising. We very 455 much welcome that statement, but noble Lords will know that everywhere commercial interests are already preparing very careful plans for what they call " patrons " who will provide and prepare the programmes. " Sponsors " having become almost a dirty word, we have this new word, " patrons ".
§ BARONESS LLEWELYN-DAVIES OF HASTOE
Yes, like patrials, as my noble friend Lord Shackleton, reminds me. That will amount to the same thing as sponsorship, with all the disadvantages we have seen in Australia, America and elsewhere. The House will want to be quite certain that the Government will not allow this to happen.
What about control of contracts? The I.T.A. are responsible for the contracts, and we on this side welcome very much the new three year rolling contract principle. We hope that by these methods we shall avoid the almost tragic happenings of London Weekend Television. That side of it we welcome. But here again, the powers of the I.T.A. are vague in the extreme. How will the contracts be allocated? Will they go out to public tender? Will the I.T.A. give its reasons in public for choosing particular companies? All these things are of particular importance, and we do not want to see the sort of mistakes that happened over television happening with radio. Here again, we get no guidance from the White Paper. Equally, it talks about " the wide diversity of ownership ". Can they be foreign owners? Can the I.T.A. companies own radio companies? Again, there is absolutely no guidance in the White Paper, and this is the sort of thing that we should know before embarking upon such an important departure from our usual traditions of radio.
There are many points on which the House, and I am sure people on all sides, feel great anxiety. I will not go into them in too much detail, but many noble Lords have frequently expressed their grave anxiety about the position of local newspapers, which form such a lively and magnificent tradition in our national life. Here the White Paper said: 456There is no evidence that local and commercial radio will necessarily be damaging to local newspapers.That may be thought to be a little cautious, but I think it is rightly cautious. And I am not sure that we should agree with it. Again, the White Paper laid it down thatlocal newspapers with a circulation that is significant in relation to the population of the station's transmission area will have the right to acquire an interest in it ".In some areas there are two, and in some there are even three, local papers. Will they all be able to participate? Will some be left out? Who is to decide that question? And what does the word " significant " mean? Again, we have no guidance. It is again left to the I.B.A. to decide, and without, so far as we can see, any guidelines for its decision at all.
Noble Lords will have noticed that many of the local newspapers are in fact owned by the large chains of the Press conglomerations. Is it desirable that the Press Lords should have yet another piece of control over the mass media of this country? I think that is something that noble Lords will want to consider very carefully indeed. Again, there is no guidance to the new I.B.A. in Section 12, which says that excessive profits must not be allowed to result from the exploitation of a scarce national asset. We agree about that; it is a very laudable sentiment. But what is " excessive "? Is the I.B.A. to decide this, or will the Government decide it? Again, what are the guidelines on which the I.B.A. could decide, if it had to?
Perhaps the most disappointing section of all is the one that deals with news. We are told in the White Paper that there is to be a choice between the I.T.N. being the main body, or a new and separate independent radio news; or that there should be two competing stations in London local radio, one for news and one for music. In a report of the Beaverbrook Seminar on Commercial Radio it was suggested that the Minister for Posts and Telecommunications favours the latter solution. This is a great disappointment. There is no question but that the Independent Television News is one of the best things to come out of television. Indeed, the Prime Minister, Mr. Heath, himself described it as one 457 of the best programmes in any Western country. So perhaps he can use his influence with his honourable friends on this question when it comes to be decided.
I have one final point of detail. The Government have said " No " to a national commercial service. But in Section 8 they say stations will be linked by a network in order to exchange news, music and other programmes. Is not this almost the same thing? What does this network mean? What does it consist of? The White Paper goes on to say that it is not envisaged that local stations should switch over to a sustaining service for any significant periods. Once again one must ask: what is " significant "? This is really important, because this again may be a way in which, in the future, patronage or sponsorship might be slipped in.
I think I have said enough to show the House that this is an imprecise, muddled and indeed a wishy-washy document. There are all sorts of other things we could ask, such as: how will the money be raised to start the service? Will it be a national loan? If so, how long will the companies be given in which to repay it? It is not like the old palrny days of television.
I will not weary the House by asking for more detailed information, but there are two more matters that I should like to deal with before I sit down. The first is the:important question of needle time. Noble Lords will know that this means how much time can be given to the playing of gramophone records; and we know that there are strong unions, like the Musicians' Union, who are deeply concerned with this matter. There is no hint in the White Paper that the problem of needle time even exists. The B.B.C. are able to deal with this satisfactorily, because they can offer to the Musicians' Union and others a great deal of employment for " live '" musicians on their national networks. So the question of needle time for the B.B.C. local stations is not so serious. But for comercial radio one cannot see how they can possibly satisfy needs on that question. Here again, one can see this whole problem of sponsorship and patronage coining in, because that is a possible way that I am sure the commercial interests see of satisfying the question of needle time.
458 Noble Lords opposite make great play of their devotion to the pinciple of competition, and they give that as one of their reasons for starting commercial radio. But it is not as simple as it looks. It is rather like George Orwell's famous phrase that:Some … are more equal than others.Competition is good for some people, but not for others. Noble Lords will know that the 20 B.B.C. local stations go out on V.H.F. frequency. This is particularly suitable for local stations, and it is a frequency which has no interference from foreign stations, as medium wave does. But, unfortunately, there are very few V.H.F. radios in the country. So it is essential for local stations to be backed up by medium wave broadcasts.
One of the things that we on this side of the House welcomed particularly when we had the statement on the White Paper was the fact that the B.B.C. would be given medium wave support, bat we now find, according to a statement by the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, that the B.B.C. are not to be given medium wave support until commercial radio is in action. As I said earlier, we know that this is going to take a long time. First, there is to be legislation. Then the programmes have to be set up, contracts have to be devised and all the rest of it. It will probably tike about three years. In the meantime, is the B.B.C. to wait before it gets medium wave support, which is available now? If it were to be so, this would be very wrong.
Noble Lords will know that in the original plans for the B.B.C., 40 local radio stations were planned, bat on this basis the B.B.C. revised its whole approach to local and regional broadcasting. It went ahead with the first 20 stations despite protests. For instance, Mr. Paul Bryan, M.P., said:It is against our policy for the B B.C. to run local stationsand specifically warned people against working for the B.B.C., saying, " they would do so at their own risk ". I am quoting from the Sheffield Morning Telegraph. We must indeed congratulate the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications for restraining some of his wilder colleagues and for confirming the B.B.C. in its 20 stations. But, nevertheless, as 459 a result of the Government's determination to proceed with commercial radio, the B.B.C.'s future plans are shattered. They would have had medium wave backing because the regional stations would have stopped broadcasting on these waves and the whole of this country would have had a full network coverage with a local alternative. Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales would have had regional radio. Noble Lords know that now we are stuck with only 20 stations; therefore a substantial proportion of the population will not be able to get B.B.C. local radio at all but commercial radio will have a monopoly in arrangements.
I do not think the country realises that the whole of Scotland and Wales will not have B.B.C. local radio and will be handed over lo commercial local radio. The Government made great play in the White Paper of the necessity for the B.B.C. to cater for minorities and to provide the public service element. Now Scotland and Wales will have to do without the better elements of local radio. It is enough to make Scottish nationalists turn in their graves, and I am sure that there will be a lot of Welsh imprecations in this subject. In other words, a sizeable minority will be without B.B.C. radio and, indeed, without local radio at all. I think the House will want to know that the door is not closed to the B.B.C. having the 20 further stations originally planned for it with suitable financial arangements.
It would be unworthy for Her Majesty's Government to withhold the medium wave from the B.B.C. at the present time. I should not like to suggest that they wish commercial radio to build up large audiences before the B.B.C. can have the medium wave support. We should like assurances that the B.B.C. will have their medium wave soon.
One suspects Her Majesty's Government want the B.B.C. to do the dull, worthy and necessary things and commercial radio to do the popular and glamorous things, and to provide the profitable icing on the cake. I hope this is not so, but of one thing I am certain; that is, that the poor, deluded youngsters who thought that the Conservative Government would give them dashing piratical stations on 460 shore will find all they get is a hardheaded big business conception of radio for captive housewives and middle-aged businessmen in cars. We think that these proposals are imprecise, unnecessary and may lead to a serious decline in the standards of British broadcasting.. I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.25 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT NORWICH
My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, has described this White Paper as imprecise, muddled and wishy-washy. I entirely agree with her that it is all those things. It is something else that worries me a great deal more: it strikes me as being most remarkably disingenuous. I read it through with mounting incredulity, amounting almost to horror.
First of all, it accepts this decision to establish 60 local broadcasting stations as a fait accompli, a decision which apparently is already taken and is based if we are to believe paragraph 1 of the document on one of the most shatteringly false premises. It leaves one gasping. It says:The case which is now largely accepted for competition in television is no less strong in radio.My Lords, the situation now as to the problem of whether or not we ought to have competition between the B.B.C. and commercial radio, is in no way similar to that which existed in 1954, at the time of the establishment of commercial television. Then there was one television channel only; viewers had no alternative at all. Now there are three national radio stations, one regional station Radio 4, plus 20 local stations, and we have also three television channels. This is not counting all the pirate radio stations and Radio Luxembourg and the other stations to which people can listen although we have only one pair of ears.
The same paragraph says:It is now generally accepted as desirable, moreover, that there should be more than one source of programmes, particularly in news and current affairs.There is more than one source of programmes. In 1954 there was not. We had only the B.B.C. Now broadcasting audiences have two: there is the B.B.C. and there is Independent Television News. If they want an alternative there is Independent Television News. Why do we have to have a third?
461 The paragraph then says:The widespread ownership of television sets in the United Kingdom, and the intensive use made of them are evidence of the success of the system in meeting the demands of viewers.You might as well say that the widespread use of kitchens in this country marks the success of the system and shows that English food is everywhere delicious. It does not mean that the television service is good. I happen to think that it is good. But it is not good because we have introduced commercial television. It is good because we have two extremely good and one occasionally moderately good television service, but not for any other reason.
We then come to paragraph 2 which talks about wide consultations. It seems to me already that paragraph 2 is tending to protest a little too much. But there again it says:There has been great divergence in the opinions expressed.I bet there has! But all we are told about the results of these opinions is that there is a consensus (with which I am glad to know the Government warmly associate themselves) that radio financial advertisements must offer a truly public service. I should hope so! It would be funny if they said they should not offer a truly public service. But what it does not say, and what is surely much more to the point is whether all these people, all these experts and trade associations and newspaper interests—whoever they were; we were never told exactly who they were—had thought it was a good thing to have commercial radio at all. This has never been mentioned. Assuming that they have got to have it, it is not surprising that they should say it is not a truly public service. But once again I think the White Paper is extremely disingenuous and has avoided the principal issue. There is in this dreadful paragraph 1 only one sentence, it seems to me, with which it is possible to agree; namely, that there aremajor advantages in the existence of more than one source of employment".This will indeed give a great many more " jobs for the boys "—and with the present unemployment figures this may be a good 'thing. But at what a price!
I have said that we now have seven legitimate things we can watch or listen to, plus Heaven knows how many 462 illegitimate ones. Quite apart from that, we read in paragraph 12 of the White Paper that radio frequencies are a scarce national asset. We have to seek more by the terms of the Copenhagen Convention. We also hear that there is no guarantee of having them after 1976. If it is going to take three years for many of these things to be established in the first place, it seems to me that it is not going to leave very long. We hear that London is going to have more than one frequency. For seven possibilities your Lordships can read. eight.
When we get to paragraph 9 we find something which is particularly frightening—the task before the I.B.A. stations. They must compete with Radio 1 and Radio 2. Should they not alio compete with Radio 3, and Radio 4? Are they going to concentrate only on the bottom level? Are they going to give more " pop " which already Radio 1 gives us from morning until nig it, to say nothing of Radio Luxembourg, Radio Caroline, Radio Ermyntrude, and all the other radio stations that probably exist in the Channel and elsewhere? It is a way to make money, but -why should a way to make money be given the sanction of Her Majesty's Government and a White Paper be issued upon it?
We then go on to paragraph 16, and here I agree most strongly with what the noble Baroness said about local newspapers. The paragraph says:Such evidence as there is does not suggest either that the impact of independent radio will necessarily be damaging to local newspapers.That is really not good enough. The White Paper goes on to say that the local press and television companies can make a valuable contribution to the operation of an independent radio service. Well, thanks very much! Has anybody thought whether the independent radio service is going to make a valuable contribution to the local press" This is something about which I should like to hear a little more. We are then told that local newspapers, with circulations which are significant in relation to the population of the transmission area, will have the right to acquire an interest in the radio station. I wonder whether the local station will have a right to acquire an interest in the local newspaper. That would also seem to be rather a. good idea if the local station is not going to try to 463 " clobber " the newspapers into the ground, which otherwise it will unquestionably do.
On the matter of competition, there is this idea that it is going to be healthy for the B.B.C. to have more competition. Of course competition is healthy: speaking from these Benches one could hardly say otherwise, and I believe it from the bottom of my heart. Something else I believe from first-hand experience is that in my admittedly limited experience in the B.B.C., in sound broadcasting and television, the competition inside the B.B.C. between one station and another is absolutely cut-throat. I remember that on a programme in which I was involved on B.B.C.2 we discovered that at the same time on B.B.C.1 they were showing The Lady Vanishes. We were all in total despair and could not speak to each other for three days. There is quite enough competition there; one does not need any more.
Finally, there is another important point: advertising has to be paid for, and it will have to be paid for by people who can afford to pay for it. Those people are going to be the big shopkeepers, the chain stores, the supermarkets. It is yet another blow, on top of S.E.T. and the rest, against the small shopkeeper, who is not going to be able to afford to advertise his goods. Once again, more strength to the strong, more might to the right. Even the mighty has to reclaim on his advertising somewhere. What is he going to do? He is going to pass the charges on to the consumer, inevitably. We are all going to have to pay more for a so-called service which seems to be to be absolutely nothing of the kind, which is only going to duplicate services which are already in existence and are being dealt with very much better by companies which have experience of dealing with it, are trained to do it, and who have devoted in many cases fifty or even a hundred years to doing it extremely well. Proliferation of this kind seems pointless, sterile and, ultimately, cheapening, and I should like to think that anybody who has anything to do with passing the legislation which will enable this foul measure to go through will think very hard before he pursues it.
§ 3.36 p.m.
§ THE PAYMASTER GENERAL (VISCOUNT ECCLES)
My Lords, first it was the mass media, then pornography, then Robert Owen, who would have had a radio station of his own, and now commercial radio. It is interesting, when your Lordships' House is somewhat dizzy with the Industrial Relations Bill, that to regain our normal health we should choose a group of subjects connected With the communications industry. I can say for the Government that we are grateful that on this particular half-holiday the Opposition have allotted their needle time to our White Paper on commercial radio. I am sure I speak for all your Lordships in congratulating the noble Baroness, Lady Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, on her interesting speech, which raised a great many points that will certainly require to be taken up in the debate.
The noble Baroness reminded us that my noble friend, Lady Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, and my honourable friend, Mr. Geoffrey Johnson Smith (I think she said ten years ago) put their names to a document which condemned commercial radio. The noble Baroness who sits beside me on the Front Bench, and my honourable friend, were very young then; they were full of interesting ideas; they were eager and wise enough to profit by experience. Now the noble Baroness opposite is in their position and she will have the chance through many decades to enchant those of us who are left on this side of the House, and our successors, as she did to-day. Can we really doubt that she is also capable of changing her lively mind?
Of the two questions before us, whether we want local radio, and if we do, who should provide it, I think that there is a large measure of agreement on the first, but on the second there is no such agreement. Are we for or against commercial broadcasting? In my opinion, that is not an issue to be decided on some dogmatic position: whether we think nationalisation is always better or always worse than private enterprise. On the contrary, how local radio is run should emerge out of a consideration of the service at which we are aiming. This is the approach which I shall adopt and, indeed, which I must adopt, because, 465 unlike many of your Lordships, I do not have any expert knowledge of broadcasting. I shall have to leave to the experts the technical points, such as those unneighbourly frequencies which jostle each other in such a rude way.
It is extremely important, particularly following the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, that we should ask ourselves this: what is the difference between radio and television which is all-important for the planning of local radio? Surely it is not that these two channels of communication appeal to different people, but that radio pulls in the audiences by day while television is watched by far more people in the evening, or at night. That that is so has not much to do with the poor reception of M.F. after dark. In any case, in time that could be overcome by V.H.F. The peculiar character of radio is far more significant. During the day most people —even most old people—are busy doing something or other. They are using only part of their brains—earning their living, moving about the house or driving somewhere in their car. Whatever they are doing, it is seldom that they can spare their eyes to watch the screen. By contrast, they are often very glad to listen while they get on with their job or their journey.
This is a vital consideration for local radio. It means that the service should be related to what we are doing during the day, with particular reference to the circumstances, the geographical position, the social mix of the area concerned. While we are at work we may like to be entertained by music, a comedian or a short sketch. But the informative broadcasts which we care to listen to are more acceptable when they relate to our personal environment, our plans for ourselves and our families. In so far as local radio can meet those needs, it is moving away from competition with the national programmes.
Its special attraction should be to broadcast programmes aimed at the life of a community which has a sense of its own identity. I should like to look a little closer at what is wanted by listeners during the day when they are most often thinking about their life realistically, and not day-dreaming. As I go round the country inquiring about the arts, libraries and adult education, 466 I find everywhere a demand for more cultural experiences which the local people have chosen for themselves—something that has grown out of the place where they live and in which more of them can take some part.
Regionalism expresses a deep desire to be more certain where you belong; who you are and who are your friends and neighbours. The technological revolution has damaged the roots of local communities. Mass consumption goods, national advertisements, national news and national personalities, and the ease with which everyone rushes away in one direction or another from his home—all these tend to take away the pith and essence of the character of a place and its inhabitants. My Lords, a protest is welling up against this loss of identity. Should we regard that protest as an unprofitable attempt to put the clock back or should we encourage it as something healthy and good?
Some advanced thinkers are busy telling us that only barbarians fee passionately about the parish in which they were born: much better to become citizens of the world, unrestricted by ties of family and home. I cannot believe this advice will help us towards a better society. I sometimes try to imagine what it would have been like to be born in a test-tube and to have had no roots in Wiltshire, and I do not like the idea at all. The smaller the world becomes, the more one feels the need for a base from which to carry one's own identity on expeditions far and near. I heard Sir Winston Churchill say that a base is a place from which troops can sally forth to meet the enemy and that it is no good having a base unless the people are well disposed towards each other and towards your military presence. Now if, as we on this side very much hope, we are g Ding into the Common Market, we shall add a dimension to the area in which we have special obligations and interests but, all the more, we shall need a home base in this country where we can count on our neighbours sharing with us our way of life.
Therefore I am a champion of an instrument like local radio, which can do much to illustrate and to enliven the character of the places in which we have made our homes. Supposing a local 467 radio station were to devote some five hours a day to broadcasts aimed directly at involving people in its area, the variety of the material it might use would be enormous. Apart from the obvious facts and comments about what is going on there and nowhere else, there are —as the Americans have discovered in their local radio—particular services which are much wanted by special groups of listeners. If I might give you just one example: in and around a large city, the state of the traffic morning and evening is of such interest to commuters that one New York station attracts enough advertising to make a profit out of continuous traffic reports gathered from a helicopter overhead. I do not know if such a service is wanted for London, Manchester or the Midlands; but it is certainly a fact that if one looks for them—I know this from the realm of cultural activities—in each town and local area there are a number of specialist groups which one has never thought of, and all of them would be glad to have more regular information and comment about their particular interests.
Now, national programmes cannot afford to particularise in this way. They must deal with the highest common factors in the whole population—death and disaster, for example. The result is national programmes, whether they realise it or not, must first invent and then mould the " average citizen ". This invention and this conditioning oversimplify our human nature and, I suspect, are doing it considerable damage.
At this point I should like to say something about advertisements on radio. The usual argument in their favour is that they pay for the service. I will come back to that in a moment, but surely if one wants fully to represent life in a town or a country district one cannot leave out the local markets—where can you get this or that article, and at what price? Most people think about spending their money some time during the day and, if they are to become attracted to the local radio, would it not be a good thing to include shopping? We are very often told how hard it is for a small firm to break into the national market, and one hopes that local radio advertising will help the small manufacturer or shop, which can do a good job in a limited 468 area provided that its publicity costs are not too great.
Of course, it is right to see that the advertisers do not control the programmes; and the White Paper makes it clear that this will not happen. I am able to give an assurance to the noble Baroness that my right honourable friend is quite determined to see that it does not happen. He believes that although the techniques of control may well differ from the control of television advertisements, the I.B.A., as it will be called, has the experience to work out and operate a system of control applied after, and not before, the programmes are produced. The noble Baroness rightly said that this was a great problem; but the instrument in the hands of the I.B.A. is that three-year rolling programme, which I was glad to see received a favourable mention. If you study how it will work, you will see that there really is a grip on the parties who have the contracts to make them maintain the standards set by the I.B.A. I think the operation of these contracts is going to be one of the most interesting features of the whole plan.
I understand that in the United States there has been a move lately to advertise on radio rather than on television. When television first arrived, the American advertisers switched to the screen. Now they are finding that the customer who listens to the description of an article often takes in the details more easily than when the advertisement is seen on the screen. I am sure your Lordships will not be surprised at that. When a politician appears on television, all set to make a speech, can we help remarking how fat he is getting, how long he is growing his side whiskers, what an ugly tie he has chosen and why cannot he keep his hands still? And we more or less forget to listen to what the right honourable gentleman is saying.
§ VISCOUNT ECCLES
Had we seen as well as heard Sir Winston Churchill's war-time broadcasts during the war I wonder whether we should have taken in the phrases and the message in quite the same way. Anyway, it is possible that 469 commercial radio may knock television advertising to a small extent, but it may also increase the total volume of advertising and greatly improve the descriptions of the articles for sale. On balance, I do not think that this kind of competition can do other than good. Advertisements would also have the advantage of paying for the service without having to raise the licence fee. If the licence were raised for this purpose—and as I understand it the B.B.C. said that to raise their 20 stations to 40 would cost 5s. on the fee and we are now talking about 60 new stations—there would be an outcry from those who could not receive the local service on their sets: and there would be a lot of them.
On this side of the House we think that another strong argument against paying for local radio out of centrally collected funds is that where the money comes from there inevitably will be the final control. Such an organisation from which the local stations would get their finance would have to be in London, and it is an illusion, held by some very respectable people, that London can ever be wholly sympathetic with the regions. Those who live and work in this city cannot know what all the various regions are interested in because they do not talk the same language. That naturally does not worry the Londoners very much, but the regions are often acutely aware of the failure in communications. I have had this lesson drummed into me since I became responsible for the arts. Artistic activities planned, produced and packaged in London are often--nearly always, I hope—acceptable in the regions, but it is certain that they do not entirely satisfy them or make the best use of the growing points to be found outside the Metropolis. If there is virtue in having a considerable number of local education authorities, public library authorities and regional arts associations, all of which derive part of their income from the place where they operate, there must also be a virtue in having a number of local radio stations where the initiative is largely in the hands of the community concerned.
The noble Baroness raised the question, the noble Viscount followed her, and there is a very interesting passage about this subject in the Pilkington Report. Will local commercial radio damage the 470 national Press? Will it knock a nail into the coffin of the widely-appreciated provincial papers? This seems to me a very difficult question to answer. Obviously the cost of printing, on hundreds of tons of imported newsprint and than, as the papers come off the machines, manhandling them to an enormous number of separate outlets is becoming nearly suicidal. If the news can be disseminated earlier and cheaper over the air then I suppose we must welcome it. Democracy depends on the electorate knowing more and thinking more.
On the other hand, it seems safe to predict that the better informed the public are the more they will want the dailies and weeklies to provide then with a whole variety of information. forecast statistics, comments and so on which they could never get on radio and television. For example, the correspondence columns in the local provincial papers seem to me an admirable outlet for conflicts of opinion in those areas and one would not want to see them disappear. The extraordinary expansion in the use of our public libraries and of the readership there of books of reference are journals is a proof that reading is increasing with education. Here I must say to the noble Viscount. Lord Norwich, that I see tremendous opportunities for the local Press and the local radio to support etch other. Of course, I am hound to think first of the area in which I am directly concerned, but the radio could, for example, advertise the artistic events in the neighbourhood and tell its listeners that if they want to see a picture of the actor or actress who is coming to their theatre, or if they want to know more about the author of the play or the composer of the music, they can find it all in the local paper.
I think there is a two-way operation there of intense interest, but what no one can say is how much advertising on local radio will take from the Press or from television or from both, because we do not know what effect local radio will have on the total spent on advertisements. The best estimate which the Government have obtained is that when all 60 local stations are in full operation they may net £10 million a year advertising revenue. £10 million has to be seen against he £535 million which is the total spent in the last year on all kinds of advertising, of 471 which the Press received £225 million. I do not put much weight on these figures, because what matters is the amount, if any, that is diverted from a particular newspaper which is already in financial trouble. That fear exists, and the White Paper very wisely makes provision for newspapers to insure against it by taking shares in local radio stations. I think that with imagination this linkup could be of real value to both.
How much ought we to worry about competition between the local commercial stations and the B.B.C.? I am sure the B.B.C. will continue to put on many of the best national radio programmes that you can hear anywhere in the world. To give the local listener a choice between these programmes and broadcasts aimed at his community must be a civilised thing to do. My right honourable friend the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, who has much more practical experience in this field than I shall ever have, is strongly of the opinion that the British public ought to have more than one national news service, and I was very glad that the noble Baroness touched on this matter. I realise from my own experience how easily we get used to the pattern and choice of news that comes to us on radio, year in and year out, from a single source. Here may I say to the noble Viscount that it is in the morning when you want the radio news. You do not get television news at exactly the same time. I often think that because the B.B.C. radio news suits me so well and suits other more or less educated middle-class listeners, it must mean that it does not suit the much larger part of the population who do not have the same vocabulary or the same interests as, say, the Members of both Houses of Parliament.
§ LORD DAVIES OF LEEK
My Lords, I do not think the noble Viscount should get away with that. That is an absolutely absurd statement. I hope to heaven, with this Conservative Party, with its wonderful ideas about education, that after a few years of Conservative Government we shall see a highly intelligent proletariat that is higher even than the Party opposite.
§ VISCOUNT ECCLES
My Lords, at the risk of a slight diversion, I should like to answer the noble Lord at once, because he has raised an important point. I have 472 to draw again on my experience of the Arts. What I find is that one cannot jump at one bound from the admirable working-class culture, if he will allow me to use that phrase, to the sophisticated culture of London. The only way in which we can hope, as I do and as he does, that we can raise the whole cultural level of this country is by rather gradual steps. If the noble Lord thinks that the programmes now put out really are such as will connect with the level of culture of, say, 80 per cent. of the people, all I can say is that I am doubtful. I think that a great many of the words that come over wash over them and they really do not listen. I want to make experiments in the cultural field in what one might describe as a middle range of activities, in between the ordinary " pop " music, or whatever it is that spreads right across the country and the more sophisticated programmes. It is in this field that I am looking to local radio to make experiments.
§ LORD DAVIES OF LEEK
My Lords, I hope the noble Viscount did not think that I thought he was an educational troglodyte. I know the contribution he has made as Minister of Education. But I did not want him to get away completely with that statement.
§ VISCOUNT ECCLES
My Lords, I never get away with anything—the noble Lord need not worry.
Returning, then, to this case for a second national news service, I suppose that any such service has to select a few items of news out of the vast amount that is coming in day after day. Anyone who listens to " Today in Parliament " must feel both admiration for the way in which so much is compressed into so short a time and regret that so many interesting speeches are not quoted at all. A second report on, say, " Today in Parliament ", and on many other important events, might, it seems to me, just like a second newspaper, complement the report which we would read for preference. My right honourable friend asked me particularly to seek the advice of the House on those methods which are put forward in a tentative manner in the White Paper for collecting the national news to be used on local radio; and I know that he will listen with great attention to whatever your Lordships care to say.
473 One of the questions we all have at the back of our minds is: will more radio services mean worse? What happens to the quality? I do not think it lies in the mouth of the Party opposite to argue in that direction. They are always telling us that more does not mean worse in education; and I personally think it is a risk which a democracy ought to take, even though the mass media grow so fast that we must expect and put up with the growing pains. The advent of Independent Television produced a few horrors and it resulted in both networks using the inheritance factor for all it was worth. But, on balance, the public is better served now that it was before.
The competition is not going to be so severe in these limited areas; by definition it is not, because they are not national. I dare say that sixty commercial radio stations will produce programmes which many of us here will switch off at once. If this happens, the interesting question is: will the B.B.C. follow suit, in order to keep the ratings or, as I said before, the financial base of the licence? This does not arise in this case. There is no question, if the B.B.C.—as I am sure they will wish to do--maintain their standard on their twenty or more local radio stations, that they will undermine their financial base, which was their one great argument for imitating the success of Independent Television.
§ LORD DOUGLASS OF CLEVELAND
My Lords, I was most interested to hear the noble Viscount say that we would switch off commercial radio. I should not have dared to suggest this, although I personally should have done it. Is not our purpose in receiving news to receive it objectively? Must it be biased by the quality of marmalade or of some other product that is being produced, perhaps cornflakes, and the interest they have these days? Are we to have art objective news or are we to have a biased news? Surely the noble Viscount is admitting that the news would be biased when he says that at least some of us would switch off immediately—as indeed I am sure he, with his intellectual ability, would very soon do if we get some of the advertisements we have now and the bias of the news in that particular connection.
§ VISCOUNT ECCLES
My Lords, I have great respect for the noble Lord and I 474 know he has worked very hard on the Industrial Relations Bill. That is the only reason I can think of why he has said what he has just said. Does he really think that the I.T.A. News is far worse than the B.B.C. News. If he has read the White Paper (I do not know whether he has). and remembers it, he will know that there is provision that tie advertising on local radio is to be only spot advertising and the advertisers will have nothing whatever to dc with the news service, as on television advertising. If the noble Lord is going to rise again, will he be good enough to say whether he thinks that Independent Televisison News is a miserable service?
§ LORD DOUGLASS OF CLEVELAND
My Lords, I would not say the Independent Television is a miserable service at all. But I would not deny that it was a biased service and—
§ LORD DOUGLASS OF CLEVELAND
Noble Lords may say "No ", but I have a right to my opinion. And, indeed, the Conservatives are biased in n ost things they are doing at the present time. Surely they are biased on the Industrial Relations Bill. I have not mentioned that Bill: it was the noble Viscount who mentioned it, and it is a recognition of his own bias that this springs immediately to his mind. This had not occurred to me. What had occurred to me is that if somebody is paying the piper he calls the.cune; and if somebody is making good profits out of advertisements on television there is bound to be a bias in the news provided. The only question I am asking:s whether the noble Viscount is suppoting that bias.
§ VISCOUNT ECCLES
My Lords, I think that the noble Lord, on reflection, and when he talks to his noble friends on that side of the House—and he was not here when they praised I.T.V. News —will wish he had not said what he has just said.
I must conclude—and I apologise for detaining the House so long. The noble Baroness raised a number of very interesting points, including the negotiations over needle time and the back-up of M.F. to which my noble friend Lord Denham will wish to refer. I have confined myself 475 to what appears to be the central issue: do we wish to invigorate the life of local communities? Is there something about bigness which diminishes the security and satisfaction of the individual? I do not believe that any man is an island to himself. He finds himself in a community with his fellows, but it must not he too large a community or he may lose his sense of personal identity. Local radio can help to form the communities in which we can give of our best to our friends and neighbours; and for this reason I hope that your Lordships will approve the proposals in the White Paper and use your influence to make them a success.
§ 4.9 p.m.
§ LORD ARDWICK
My Lords, perhaps I ought to start by saying that I work for a newspaper group which has an interest in commercial television and may well extend it to commercial radio. But the interest I have is merely that of an employee and not of a shareholder. That having been said, I should like to congratulate the Minister on his White Paper. It is true that my noble friend and many other people have criticised it for its vagueness, but I should prefer to praise it for its flexibility.
The Authority to supervise commercial radio has not yet been formed, so I think it is wiser not to present a cut and dried plan. What we have, in effect, is almost a White Paper with green edges, or almost a Green Paper. I am no enthusiast for commercial radio—no more enthusiastic than is my noble friend. In fact I do not know any enthusiast for commercial radio, except for the commercial radio lobby and a few people who believe that there ought to be a profit-making motive in everything. Indeed, I thought the noble Viscount made out a splendid case for local radio but he did not sound as though he were prepared to go to the stake for local commercial radio. I thought that at best he showed for it, if I may use a phrase of Ronald Firbank, a mere " brackish enthusiasm ". But if we are to have commercial radio I think the ideas in the White Paper point to a civilised way of achieving it and of avoiding the banalities that some of us have had to suffer in countries where there is little else.
476 The emphasis in the White Paper is quite rightly on quality, but we have to face what quality means in this context. The local commercial station simply has to go for a maximum audience. It will not be able to live without a sizeable audience, and so the programmes must be popular; but just as there can be bad popular programmes, so there can be good ones, too, and the difference depends more on skill and taste than it does on resources. But if the prospective commercial operators were not brave men the prospects for commercial radio in Britain might appear to be extremely daunting.
The problems are: powerful competition from the B.B.C., shortage of frequencies, restrictions on the use of records and a long tradition of high programme standards. We have had 50 years of broadcasting by the B.B.C., a body which succeeds at one and the same time in being high-minded and a pretty sharp operator. I think it is the best combination of lofty idealism and shrewd practicality that we have seen in this country since they co-existed in the personality of Mr. Gladstone. The B.B.C., like Gladstone, always has an ace up its sleeve, and the conviction that God has put it there.
Commercial radio will have to compete, of course, with the extremely popular programmes and the high-rating personalities presented by the B.B.C., though I have no doubt that in time commercial radio will discover some " village " Jimmy Young with dauntless zest, or some currently " mute inglorous " Jimmy Savile, and bring them into the local limelight. Furthermore, local commercial radio will find itself operating in 20 remunerative areas in competition with the local B.B.C. radio, and that 20 may in time, I hope, become 40—I do not think, alas, that the noble Viscount was able to us anything about that possibility this afternoon. I hope too that the B.B.C. will be allowed to give local stations medium wave backing as soon as it is technically possible. If I were going to be the operator of a commercial station I should want that to happen because I think one has to start by creating an audience for local radio, and the better your wavelength the bigger that audience will be. As people get into the habit of listening to local radio, they will 477 be more easily available for local commercial radio when it comes along.
In my view, the B.B.C. has nothing at all to fear from commercial radio, except perhaps its failure in this form, which could create a new and critical situation which might lead people to take another look at the B.B.C. itself. I think the B.B.C. at this moment can afford to give commercial radio a beckoning smile such as Cassius Clay would give to the local boys if he set himself up in a boxing booth to take on all-comers.
The White Paper stresses one vital fact. If commercial radio is to succeed it must not only compete with the B.B.C. but will also have to attract listeners who are now deaf to the charms of radio. The peak listening hours are between 7 and 9 o'clock in the morning, over which period six million people tune to Radios 1 and 2, and about 2½ million to Radio 4. In addition, there arc 100,000 remarkable people who like to start the day with classical music—only 100,000—on Radio 3. At lunch time the audience is slightly smaller. In mid-morning there are about six million listeners and in the afternoon three million, and between 6 p.m. and 11 p.m., when television is in full and awful blast, the radio audience slumps to just over a million.
Thus in a city of a million people, which would be a sizeable area for a local station, the total B.B.C. listening audience over the best period at present will be only in the region of 150,000. I should not like to speculate upon the inroads commercial radio could make on that audience which is spread over all the B.B.C. programmes. But however successful, it would not be enough. It will be absolutely essential to increase the total size of the audience. If a station is to succeed this will require lively programming and the evolution of a powerful and unique personality. We saw how Radio Caroline could build up this new audience. But as my noble friend pointed out, the Caroline solution will not be available to commercial operators. They will have to work within the law of copyright and the protective prohibitions—and the rightly protective prohibitions—of the Musicians' Union. Many tears will be shed over needle time, and a few coarse oaths may be uttered, too. What I am chiefly concerned about is the quality of the new programmes, and I would remind 478 you, my Lords, of the gloss put on the famous words of C. P. Scott by the Spectator review—Comment is free, but news is damnably expensive!I welcome the proposal in the White Paper to put commercial radio in the hands of the Independent Television Authority, which is to be renamed. And of the various proposals for the supply of national and international news, the one which strikes me as the most practicable and economical is that the I.T.N. should take it over. News is a very sensitive subject, particularly on radio, and it requires the most expert handling. The I.T.N.—if I may say this to my noble friend Lord Douglass of Cleveland—has established a golden record for integrity, liveliness and the clever use of limited resources. I am sure that both television and radio would gain from an extension of its services.
The White Paper suggest; that the local stations should not take the national bulletins as a package, as the television stations do, but should use them at their discretion. I wonder whether the Minister has really thought sufficiently about that? It means that every local station must h the experienced editors, capable of making judgments on national and international news. And good editors, even in these rather hard days in Fleet Street, are not exactly cheap. But even if this discretion is not to be exercised, good editors will still be needed to see that the local news is adequate, accurate and fairly balanced. This is not a task that can be entrusted to managers, announcers or disc jockeys. And one editor in a local station is rot enough to cover that station morning, noon and night. He has to have days off and he has to have holidays. Perhaps the only way that would be reasonably economical would be to find experienced journalists who are also capable of managerial and announcing duties.
But there is a further problem, and that is, what is to be the source of supply of local news? Can the local stations afford to carry two or three reporters in addition to their editors? It may be that the only practical alternative is to use a service from the local newspaper. And we should then be in the position of some American towns where the local 479: news on radio and in print comes from one monopoly source. I think that the dangers would be partly overcome if each radio station had an experienced editor who was totally independent of the local newspaper and could order material from them and see to it that the material was adequate and properly balanced. I think also that it is a helpful fact that most local newspapers in this country feel that they have an obligation, as the local monopoly they often are, to present the community news fairly.
If I seem to have put a lot of emphasis on this subject it is because the White Paper too is emphatic on the question of news. It speaks of the necessity ofhigh standards not least in the provision of news and news commentary programmes, which are necesarily a larger ingredient in radio even than in television ".And indeed, later on, the White Paper visualises a national and international service which will stand comparison with that of the B.B.C. itself. It is a tall order and a costly one, but it has to be emphasised because often radio entrepreneurs who come from show business are insensitive to the quality of a news service, but supersensitive to its alarming cost.
Commercial radio may, as the White Paper suggests, attract very substantial incomes in great conurbations. But it may also attract pretty substantial costs. I foresee no bonanza. It will be nothing like the early years of commercial television in good Lord Thomson's golden days, if I may speak thus affectionately of the noble Lord. The White Paper says that:excessive profits must not be allowed from the exploitation of radio frequencies which are a scarce national asset ".If I may use a phrase I have often heard on the lips of the same noble Lord, " I should live so long!".
§ 4.23 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF COVENTRY
My Lords, at the outset I should like to say that I find myself in considerable sympathy with the noble Baroness who initiated this debate and the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, in expressing considerable concern and worry about much that is in this White Paper. But 480 before I come on to that I should like to crave your Lordships' attention for a few minutes to the history of the past fifty years. At the outset in the 1920s, when radio sound broadcasting became a technological possibility, the first reaction to the opportunities presented by it was, of course, to turn it over to commercial interests. Many applications were received, and it was generally felt that this country might follow the path which had already been taken and which has been consistently taken by the United States, namely, that of making radio an adjunct of business and seeing it as an opportunity for the advertising of those wares which the commercial world produces. But as it happened, and as we all know, this apparently obvious course was not followed.
Instead there was set up an authority, first the British Broadcasting Company and subsequently the British Broadcasting Corporation, dedicated to and based upon the principle of public service broadcasting, which, of course, in essence is a system of broadcasting which, financed by public funds in the form of individual licences, first for listeners and now for viewers, is based upon the principle that broadcasting service shall stand apart from and above considerations of gain, but shall instead be devoted to the duty of making available to all sections of the public, minority as well as majority, the best which broadcasting has to offer in the dissemination of news, entertainment and education. Now this principle of public service has been a creation of this country and it has been exported from this country, imitated abroad, and has resulted in something which I feel your Lordships will recognise to be the case, the finest system of public broadcasting in existence—that provided by the B.B.C. Therefore, whatever may be the outcome of the measure now before us, it is surely in the wider interests of this nation that we shall safeguard the excellence that we already have.
Nevertheless, I am not sufficiently naive as not to recognise that since the advent of commercial television there have not come certain advantages. Competition is often, though not always, healthy, and it is almost certainly true that as a result of competition both agencies of television have been stimulated—or at least in the early years I am 481 not quite so sure whether it is true of the latter years—and have certainly achieved a greater flexibility and reaction to the stimuli of current events. But we must not too readily assume that such advantages are necessarily going to arise from the proposal now before us. It is at this point that I should like to pose two basic questions. The first, what is the purpose of the proposal now before us; and secondly, what is the end product of it going to be?
What is the purpose? Is the purpose, as the White Paper states,to combine popular programming with fostering a greater public awareness of local affairs and involvement in the local community"?Or is it to be only a further electronic extension of the marketing of goods and thereby the enrichment of certain private pockets? This is a blunt question but it is one which must be faced and answered. The programmes will need, as the White Paper states, to maintain a wide appeal. But it will be much to be regretted, I would suggest, if the proposal, made elsewhere in this White Paper were to be followed: to wit, that the B.B.C. should be encouraged to concern itself' at peak listening hours with minority interests, and that after many years of successful programming for majority interests, leaving the field of majority interests to commercial enterprise.
Which brings me to the second basic question I wish to raise: what is to be the end product of the operation of the proposal now before us? According to the White Paper itself:It will lead to the creation of a new listening public, a deepening of the sense of community in involvement, and the serving in sound broadcasting terms of recognisable communities "—whatever that may mean. Those are high ideals indeed. But what security have we in believing that they will indeed be the end product? Could it not be that we should have instead a vast development of " pop " music, if this proves feasible and financially advantageous, programmes which appeal to the lowest common denominator?
It is with those two basic questions in mind, which, as you will see, arise out of deep concern for the cultural health of our people, that I now proceed to ask certain further and specific questions and to suggest specific replies. The first 482 question I would ask is this. If there is indeed value in diversified sound broadcasting over and above the very considerable diversity which we already have, will there be some responsible authority to direct local commercial radii stations? We are told in the White Paper that this will be in the hands of an Independent Broadcasting Authority. We must see to it, then, that this Authority is armed with sufficient powers—and with the will to exercise them—to carry out its task, and steps should be taken to ensure that local radio should be primarily concerned to serve the local community in the whole of its life. My only question here is as to whether the B.B.C. local radio is not already doing this.
I come to the second specific question which concerns advertising, about which we have been hearing a great deal in these past minutes. Can we be sure that if the proposals in the White Paper are adopted advertising will not be totally uncontrolled? There are some forms of advertising that are clearly harmful, and the type of moral code which is imposed on advertising in commercial television should also be used in comercial radio. This advertising should be non-political and certainly non-religious. It should also be under some kind of central control, rather than he controlled locally. With this in mind I should say that advertising should not be—and I hope it will not be—in the form of sponsoring programmes, but should bo rather in the form of " spot " advertisements between programmes. The revenue from those advertisements should be used for the production of programmes and the advertisers should not in any way exercise control over the content of the programmes themselves.
My third specific question is as to where ultimate responsibility should lie for the production of local programmes. This is obviously a very difficult question. I wish to say where I am sure it should not lie, and that is with purely commercial interests. Therefore I make the strongest possible plea for the creation in every area where commercial sound radio is established of a consultative committee, formed from responsible and commercially uninvolved elements in the local population, and this committee should in the last resort have a power of veto. I realise that this is a hard proposition, 483 but I ask your Lordships bluntly: what is the alternative? I can suggest what the alternative might well be. It might well be that flow of trivia which reaches one's ears when one listens, for example, to sound radio across nearly all the length and breadth of the United States. This is no longer a medium to be taken seriously there. It is not regarded as of any value to the cultural life of the community. It is merely an extension of the market place, and I hope that we do not want that here.
Until now I have deliberately refrained from any mention of religious broadcasting, but, obviously, your Lordships might well expect a Bishop to refer to this element of the matter. I hope that the policy which has hitherto been followed by the B.B.C. would also be followed by local commercial radio should it come to pass; namely, that a religious advisory committee should be formed on an ecumenical basis in every area, so that a strong link could be formed between station managers and local church leaders, as is already the case with local B.B.C. radio. Obviously, the greatly increased number of religious programmes would be more than the I.T.A.'s religious advisory panel could cope with, and probably some new arrangement would need to be reached.
As I end this speech I should not like it to be thought that I am in any way against creative or inevitable progress, and if there is a large majority of people who believe that all that is contained in this proposal will enhance the social and cultural life of this country, then I should be behind it. But as a Church leader, I am bound to ask myself, as I study this White Paper, those blunt and, I hope pertinent questions that I have put before your Lordships. I will repeat them. What is the purpose, and what is to be the end product of this document? I am bound to say that I have misgivings on both points. However, already, in radio terms, " this isle is full of voices ". We surely should not contemplate adding to their number unless we are very sure of the necessity and very confident of the results.
§ LORD ARDWICK
My Lords, before the right reverend Prelate sits down, may I ask him whether he believes at all in popular broadcasting, such as already exists on Radios 1 and 2?
THE LORD BISHOP OF COVENTRY
My Lords, I listen very considerably and, certainly, of the two news programmes I am a more frequent listener to the commercial news than I am to the other.
§ LORD ARDWICK
I am sorry, my Lords, but I do not quite understand. What commercial news? There is no commercial news on radio to-day. There are popular programmes, Radios 1 and 2, which largely consist of ephemeral material, and I am asking the right reverend Prelate whether he deplores those, because he seems to be deploring everything which is fun and which is ephemeral in broadcasting.
THE LORD BISHOP OF COVENTRY
My Lords, I am certainly not doing so, and if I gave that impression I am very sorry. I listen to those programmes very frequently. I would not say that they are all totally without value—very far from it.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ LORD SELSDON
My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, I, too, welcome the proposals outlined in the White Paper. Before making my own very modest contribution to this interesting debate I feel that I should perhaps declare an interest, since the group with whom I am connected has certain investments in the advertising business, although that is not my particular function. I also have a slight personal interest, which goes back to my grandfather in the 1920s and early 1930s, when he had some connection with the launching of television in this country. Some of the remarks which the right reverend Prelate made at the start of his speech seemed very reminiscent of those which my grandfather made at that time. Views have changed since then, and there has been quite a great deal of development.
I, for one, wholeheartedly support the principles which lie behind the White Paper. Like Other noble Lords, I believe that local radio and, in particular, competing services can, and in the case of the B.B.C. already do, make a substantial contribution to local community life. This is something which often tends to be overlooked in the high-speed world of mass media communication on an international scale. I am not qualified to talk at any length about the social benefits which I 485 believe local radio can, and will, offer. I intend to concentrate purely upon certain practical commercial aspects, and I base my remarks on the question of the financial viability of local commercial radio stations.
Essentially, we are told, there will be one type of revenue with which to finance the 60 stations envisaged for the I.B.A. The source of revenue is spot advertising from local and national advertisers. It is upon the amount and growth of this revenue that the success of local commercial radio will depend, as will the quality. I am a little concerned about the aura of vagueness which seems to hang over the question of finance. The White Paper states in paragraph 12:Equally, the financial arrangements must be such as to attract broadcasters of ability, to support programmes of quality and to ensure that they are available as widely and as quickly as possible.We are faced with the usual roundabout which starts up every time a matter of this sort is raised. In this instance, we have three factors—revenue, quality and audience. Sufficient revenue will produce quality, quality will attract audience, the right audience will attract more revenue and so on. But if the revenue is insufficient then no amount of optimism or enthusiasm will ensure success.
I should like to ask the Government whether at this stage they are prepared to stick their necks out and provide an estimate of how much revenue they anticipate will be generated. In paragraph 12, the White Paper also states:Estimates of potential revenue are certain to vary widely.I wonder whether your Lordships are aware of how wide these estimates do vary. This point was particularly drummed home to me prior to this debate, when I made some inquiries among national advertisers, advertising agencies and would-be applicants for contracts. The optimists suggested £30 million to £50 million a year. The realists—and I am hesitant to call them pessimists—settled for £6 million to £9 million a year. My own inclination is to pay more attention to those who already spend substantial sums of money on national advertising and to those who advise them.
If one considers their views and the view of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, who estimate the revenue at 486 £8 million a year, and if one allows for a little optimism in the case of potential revenue from purely local businesses, then I suggest that a figure of around £10 million a year would be a reasonable yardstick—or seeing that the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, has come in, perhaps I should say " metre stick ".
I hope that I am not being too laborious or pedantic in pursuing this argument still further. My next question is: How many stations will £10 million a year support to give the right standard that we are all seeking? Certainly it would not support 60 station: providing programmes of sufficient quality. A number of around 30 would seem more appropriate. I should aim in Year One for 30 stations covering all the large conurbations and selected major towns of a population of 200,000 or so. With proper programming and co-ordination and the correct allocation of contracts, I believe that £10 million could be generated. At least half of this would come from the national advertiser; and the remainder from local traders many of whom might be advertising for the first time in any media. We have to look at another factor relating to costs. The introduction of a competitive service to B.B.C. local radio will put up prices for entertainers. It may even increase the cost to the B.B.C. because there will be bargaining for the best local talent.
I should like to look at the two different sources of revenue. First, the national advertiser. The national advertiser, and the advertising agencies in particular, had hoped for a national commercial channel. This, they felt, would be more likely to attract revenue. I respect their views but feel that the Government have made the right decision in giving priority to local stations. I support the view in paragraph (2) that there will be no place for a system of broadcasting which does little more than offer a mere vehicle for advertisements. One should not ignore the significance of these large national advertisers. They must if possible, without destroying any of the basic principles, be offered some form of networking or central booking for spot advertising. Without: this, the administrative costs could be so high as to reduce substantially the attractiveness of local radio. For example, the cost per thousand listeners could be up to 487 25p. On the other hand, it might not be economic for a national advertiser.
Secondly, I should like to take issue with the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich. Let us consider the local trader. I believe the Government's proposals offer a real attraction. The Liberal Benches always stick up for the rights of the individual. I have a great feeling for local traders who have often been squeezed out of business by people who can put large sums into their advertising budgets and who can introduce products which can swamp competition. I think that for the first time the local trader will have a new, reasonably-priced tool with which to pit himself in his own local area against the large national competitor. In many cases, he will be advertising for the first time, and he will need support and encouragement. It is his advertisement which will help provide the local character needed to inform the community.
Here I support the view of my noble friend, Lord Eccles. We want these local advertisements to help the housewife to buy goods more cheaply. There are hundreds of arguments pro and anti the advertising lobbies which one would like to make; but I think that the local stations will be sufficiently well organised for full use to be made of the immediacy of communication which this medium can offer. There have been many cases around the world where local traders, after their initial suspicion of commercial radio, have found that it can actively help them in certain immediate situations. For example, there are people who have products which they would like to sell locally when the temperature drops—it might be paraffin for heating. They can put in bookings for commercials at a moment's notice when the temperature drops. Perhaps a fishmonger might find on a Friday afternoon that he has over-ordered skate and wants to offload it quickly; if you have the immediacy this can help. There are other examples which can prove the point.
But I think that it is the quality and content of the programmes which is likely to cause most comment. What we are seeking is the right balance of quality and content that will attract the optimum audience and have the necessary level of revenue. I do not think this is going to 488 be a large money-making operation. What we want is the necessary level of revenue to ensure the right quality which will not drag the whole thing down and perhaps drag down the B.B.C. with it. Exactly what this balance would be I should hate to say. There are those who say that sizeable audiences will be attracted only by the predominance of pop " music with nationally known disc jockeys. This may be true; but it would largely defeat the local community benefits we all seek.
Here I should like to make a point to the right reverend Prelate. One of the most popular programmes on B.B.C. local radio is " Dial a Hymn " in the Leeds area. This has a very high rating; the listeners simply dial into a central point which is near the main square in Leeds. They virtually lean out of the window and ask the Salvation Army to play the hymn over the microphone. This is an economic and popular programme.
But we do not want to prevent the local community benefits we are seeking. We may have to increase needle time but the B.B.C. ceiling is 7½ hours a day; they have an hour's needle time, half an hour of which they can put on at any time, the other half an hour must be used when there is needle time on competing stations. At the moment, this seems to be enough for them. I hope that we shall end up with the right combination of national interest programmes and minority interest programmes which are important to local communities. But I believe that local commercial radio will need some form of national sustaining service, certainly in the early days and probably on a permanent basis, if it is to have a chance of profitable survival.
This leads me to the question of quality. How do we determine the level of quality? There are those who say that you must have the same quality which people have come to expect from other media. But on a local level, where you have minority programmes, the sort of precision-like quality of the major national programmes is not important, for it can be substituted by local interests. The main point we have raised is the question of contracts. I hope the Government will shortly expand on the requirements they are seeking from the programme contractors. I believe that the 489 right contractors will contribute greatly to the success. They have not only to look at it from the commercial point of view but also we want them to encourage the view (supported by the Liberals) of the local trader. We want them to introduce him to the advantages of idle station. That is a professional and skilled job.
Finally, I have a few simple questions. How much revenue do they expect to get? How many stations do they expect to open, and when? What are they going to do about needle time? What are the hours of broadcasting and how do they feel about a sustaining service? What are their criteria for selecting programme contractors? I support the White Paper. I feel that 'this is such a difficult subject that only fairly general coments would be relevant art this stage. I hope that, shortly, 'the Government will be a lot more specific than they have been up to now.
§ 4.48 p.m.
My Lords, nine years ago the Pilkington Committee in its Report said that the overwhelming mass of disinterested opinion was against the provision of a service of local sound broadcasting financed from advertising revenue. Nine years later, a Conservative Government authorises 60 stations for this very purpose, for local sound broadcasting financed from advertising revenue. What has happened is that the advertising lobby has won again and has 60 more outlets for pushing its clients' goods. This is of special benefit to big firms with large advertising budgets and aggressive selling campaigns, quite apart from the small man to whom the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, and the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, have referred. I am not opposed to advertising. Advertising has a very important place in modern life. But it must be kept in its place; and local sound radio, to my mind, is not its place.
To its credit, advertising has helped to establish a free Press in Britain, independent of Party subsidies or bribes such as are found in less fortunate countries. But advertisers have never regarded maintaining a free Press as their primary objective. Their primary objective is to sell more goods. As new technological developments occurred, such as radio and television, the advertisers found that they could reach wider 490 audiences more cheaply, and with greater impact, than through the printed word. Advertising agencies began transferring their clients' advertisement expenditure to the new mass media. Faced with rising costs and falling revenue many newspapers have closed down. In 1954 the advertising lobby got commercial television through and it has now succeeded in getting local commercial radio through.
My Lords, the B.B.C. pioneered local sound radio, and is now being allowed by a generous Government to keep the existing 20 non-commercial stations it has creased. But a request for a further 20 non-commercial stations has been blocked. At the same time commercial radio has been granted 60 new stations, and the only thing for which we may be grateful is that no commercial national service is to be allowed. Why am I opposed to commercial radio, and, for that matter, to commercial television? Because it allows increased pressure on the public to buy more goods. In the United States, where radio and television is almost entirely commercial, the economy is now based on consumption. There is a continuous barrage on radio, television and in the Press to buy, buy, buy! Buying is a patriotic duty: if you do not buy more, the economy will collapse. In this country our patriotic duty is quite different; it is not to buy, buy, buy—that increases imports and leads to an adverse balance of trade. The duty here is to save, save, save, and reduce creeping inflation. Our patriotic duty is to invest, invest, invest and step up exports and so reduce the adverse 'balance of trade even more. Giving facilities for 60 local commercial radio stations to promote more buying of goods locally runs quite contrary to his basic aim. I find it very hard to understand how the Government can countenance that.
The accumulation of goods by itself is a mixed blessing. In America, where I have just spent three months teaching, there are large pockets of poverty nevertheless, it is one of the richest: communities in the world. Yet many Americans are profoundly unhappy. Too many of them are involved in the rat race " to get more money in order to pay instalments on goods they cannot afford and do not really need. There is constant 491 pressure on everyone by advertisers to " keep up with the Joneses." America was built up by free enterprise, but many Americans are beginning to realise that free enterprise is not an answer to everything. The public health services for the average family are ruinously expensive. Public transportation is facing a complete breakdown. I was giving a seminar on comparative Welfare States, taking New Zealand, Sweden, Britain, and even Israel, as models; and just when more and more Americans are interested in strengthening the public sector, in Britain the Conservative Government decided to weaken it.
Local commercial sound broadcasting stems from the Bow Group pamphlet of 1962 which attacked the B.B.C. monopoly. My Lords, monopoly is always dangerous; competition keeps any organisation on its toes. The I.T.A. keeps the B.B.C. television on its toes, but at a cost. As was said by the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, with two rival television services there is increased competition for performers and T.V. rights and prices go up. Secondy, competition by the B.B.C. with the I.T.A. for ratings—the B.B.C. try now to keep 50-50—has led to a reduction in the intellectual level of the B.B.C. programmes. B.B.C. television operates under distinct disadvantages in its battle with the I.T.A. for ratings. The I.T.A. can alter its charges for spot advertisements as it likes, but the B.B.C. is dependent on licence fees and those are fixed by the Government. It is quite correct in principle that, with a national monopoly, Government must control output, which really means the hours of broadcasting and the price paid for it—that is, licence fees. But the Government take noncommercial factors into consideration; for example, the effect on the cost of living of raising the licence fee and the political unpopularity of a decision on a matter in which 95 per cent. of the population—that is the percentage which has television sets—is involved. Ultimately, of course, the Government agree to raise the licence fee, but it is always raised by too little and the action is taken too late.
Now we get the Government White Paper An Alternative Service of Radio 492 Broadcasting which was presented to your Lordships' House on March 29 this year. Then the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Denham, said:…it would not be possible for the B.B.C. to run more than 20 local stations without putting up the licence fee."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29/3/71; col. 1102.]May I point out, my Lords—this is my last point—that there is another way. It is by discovering the hundreds of thousands of unlicensed viewers and getting them to pay up. The B.B.C. was well aware of this evasion for years before it became a public issue. That nothing was done for so long is, I submit, a public scandal. That is partly owing to the responsibility for collecting licence fees being divided between the B.B.C. and the G.P.O. The G.P.O. collects the fee and charges 6 per cent. for its trouble. The G.P.O. is also responsible for detecting unlicensed viewers, but the Post Office is hampered by lack of staff. As 94 per cent. of the revenue from licences goes to the B.B.C. I cannot see that there is any great inducement to the Post Office to find the staff. Nor has the Post Office yet agreed to computerise licensing; detection would be much easier if they had a register of licences on computer tape. Here again the Post Office is dragging its feet.
I could understand the B.B.C. relying on the Post Office to collect fees as long as the Post Office was a Government Department. But it is no longer a Government Department; it is a statutory corporation, just like the B.B.C. I fail to understand why one Government Corporation should continue to collect fees for another Government Corporation. Why not transfer the whole business of licensing television from the Post Office to the B.B.C. itself? This is already done in Japan which is also an industrialised country and where there is an even bigger population than in Britain. The B.B.C. would be far more interested than the G.P.O. in detecting unlicensed viewers, as it is the B.B.C. that needs the money. Once the B.B.C obtained direct access to the source of additional licence revenue, without raising the level of the licence fee, it could well afford to run 20 non-commercial local stations, in addition to the 20 already in operation. 493 My Lords, I am not feeling very well. If I may, I will sit down.
§ 5.00 p.m.
§ LORD FRASER OF LONSDALE
My Lords, I am sorry for the noble Viscount's last words. The noble Viscount, Lord Norwich--and if I understood him aright Lord Samuel—both made the point that great manufacturers buy listening time and advertise expensively to the detriment of small people. And the Liberals, being in favour of small people, do not like this. May I just remind them that many things that are advertised are manufactured articles or commodities used in the home, which are sold in the retail shop. Therefore the advertisement of them brings local sales, which can well be buoyed up and emphasised by local radio. So it seems to me that their argument falls somewhat to the ground.
I thought the noble Baroness's speech one of the best I have heard in this House —a charming voice and manner, and matter very well disposed. Much of it I would not agree with; nevertheless it was a very good speech. In particular, I thought the noble Baroness made the error or misjudgment of attributing to all of us on this side of the House bad motives. She almost said that we were interested only in the money that is going to accrue to some operators who may be friends of ours. She did not quite say that, but that is what she implied. This is wholly false, at any rate so far as I and many of my noble friends are concerned. For 50 years, I have been more interested than most people in radio and signalling and communications, starting in the Army and then in the early days of broadcasting. Indeed, I went to open the very first local broadcasting station—in Leeds some 47 years ago, before the B.B.C. came into existence. Nevertheless, I want to affirm, since many people know of my lifelong interest, that I have no commercial interest whatever in advertising, in broadcasting or in the operation of stations affected by this White Paper.
I welcome very much the emphatic statement in the White Paper that radio, the spoken word, has its importance and that possibly it may even be growing in importance. There was a time when some of us feared, and many thought, that television would displace radio and the spoken word and perhaps knock it out. Indeed, for a time it did just that and 494 the B.B.C., finding that television cost anything from five to ten times as much per hour as the spoken word, perhaps more, had to devote more and more to television and less and less to tae spoken word.
It is worth remembering that there are nearly 200,000 people who cannot see television. There are another 200,000 or 300,000 who do not like to look at it because they do not see well and it hurts their eyes; and there are quite a lot of people who cannot afford a set or the licence fee. Therefore there is a substantial remaining audience for the spoken word, quite apart from those who prefer it because of its restful nature and the fact that it can be assimilated with less strain and effort. For all these reasons, I welcome the spread of any medium which will give us more of the spoken word.
One way of doing it is by local broadcasting, but before turning to that I should like to say a word about competition. Many thought that competition by television supported by advertisements would be bad for B.B.C. television. They have proved to be wrong. In the main, it was good for B.B.C. television. Of course, for a time there was competition to retain listenership and perhaps some lowering of standards in certain aspects, but not particularly in television. To keep the mass of listenership, the B.B.C. has got one station devoted almost entirely to " pop ", another way of keeping their ears glued to that awful noise. But competition in television helped the B.B.C. in two ways. First, it gave alternative employment to script writers, performers, engineers and producers, who previously had only one source of employment, with which they could not argue or quarrel. Another thing was that the liveliness of the new advertising television undoubtedly increased the liveliness of B.B.C. television, which had got into a rut. I do not blame them for that. It is inevitable, if there is no competition whatever, that one gets into a rut.
Let me take advertisements. It is said that the advertisements thermselves are anathema to people of culture and sensibility. I quite agree that an advertisement in the middle of Elijah or a concert would be objectionable to most people, but an advertisement interrupting " pop " is surely an enormous.advantage. 495 I think that three or four minutes an hour in the middle of " pop " or of half-hour or quarter-hour programmes does not hurt anybody. Nobody wants to sit for three hours on end and listen to everything. We do not do it in the theatre and nobody wants to do it at home. If anyone wants to know what to do when advertisements come on, I can suggest one or two useful things.
I think that advertising also has a positive advantage, which I want to mention briefly. People are interested in their health, their clothes and home chores in washing powder, if you like —their motor cars and their furnishings. They like to be told what the latest things are—especially those who are sedentary and old and unable to see, because they cannot go out and see for themselves so easily. Therefore, to bring advertisements into their homes for three, four or five minutes in an hour is no bad thing. It is a positively good thing.
The noble Lord who sat down last said that one of the disadvantages of advertising was that it made people buy more. I did follow his argument a little, but I think that the more we can buy, the more variety we are enabled to choose from, the better for all of us and the richer our homes will be. So I am in favour of advertising. If we are to have local radio and advertising, how best to do it? I notice that it is to be spot advertising only, with no sponsorship. Even the noble Baroness who initiated this debate said that she thought " sponsorship " had become almost a dirty word. I think those were her words. I wonder why. If there is no objection, as I argue, to three, four, or five minutes of advertising in an hour, what objection can there be to an announcement at the beginning of a half-hour programme, and possibly another at the end, saying, " This programme comes to you by the courtesy of the Ford Motor Company "? Surely there can be no objection. What is the matter with sponsorship? An interruption by a noble Lord opposite who thought that news would be paid for by advertising was too irrelevant to be worth mentioning. News, of course, is entirely separate. I should have thought sponsorship not objectionable and it should be admitted.
§ LORD DOUGLASS OF CLEVELAND
May I interrupt the noble Lord? I did not mention the Ford Motor Company, but as the Minister concerned with the economy of the country is concerned about what the Ford Motor Company has done, ought we not all to be concerned about that?
§ LORD FRASER OF LONSDALE
I do not follow the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Douglass. I mentioned the Ford Company because it was the first name which came to my mind. I rather wish I had said B.M.C. or Leyland, because I like that better. I have said that advertisements improve programmes. If we are to have local stations, should they be B.B.C. local stations or commercial radio local stations? I think they should be commercial. The B.B.C. are already short of money to give us a proper sound service. They will not admit that they are short of money, I suppose, although they must be holding themselves in because they know that they are obviously short of money. They cannot expect the Government to raise the licence fee very severely in any appreciably short time.
On top of running television in competition with commercial television, the B.B.C. have Radio 1, 2, 3 and 4, and now 20 local stations with very little money coming from any quarter. I agree that some money comes from local authorities, but that is very little. Therefore, the B.B.C. are giving us a worse and potentially much worse service nationally in order to sustain 20 local stations. I should have thought that there was a very strong case for letting local stations fend for themselves by accepting advertising, subject, of course, to the proper controls.
I have one other observation about the speech of the noble Baroness. I thought she suffered all through from timidity—not in addressing us, for she was as bold as brass in addressing us, but timidity of outlook. She was almost conservative in outlook, afraid to launch into anything new, afraid that the Government Department concerned, of which the Labour Party's former Chief Whip happens to be the chairman, must make mistakes in drawing up rules for the new service. Why should they necessarily make mistakes? We did not make many mistakes over television when advertising was 497 brought into it, so why should we make mistakes now? The noble Baroness was afraid of something new, and as I say was conservative with a small " c ".
It was suggested that advertising on radio would ruin local newspapers. May I venture very briefly to tell the House of an experience I had when I was a member of the first committee of Government origin, on this subject. It was the Crawford Committee in 1925, set up by Lord Selsdon's grandfather—I believe he was then Postmaster General. The Committee was set up for the purpose of deciding whether the B.B. Company should go on as a company or he converted into the B.B. Corporation as a national corporation. I am the only surviving member of that committee. It was we who recommended to Parliament that the B.B.C. should be set up in the pattern in which it has survived to this day.
I remember the gramophone record people coming to us and saying that if we did this or that, " You will ruin our trade. We shall never sell any more gramophone records because you will be playing them every day and night." I remember the piano people, some of them in my constituency of North St. Pancras, those who made pedals and little bits and pieces for pianos, saying, " You will ruin our trade. No more pianos will be bought." But more pianos have been bought. because people hear pianos played on radio and television. When Maple's set up in Tottenham Court Road, along came Heal's next door. It was said that they would ruin Maple's; but not at all, this advertised Tottenham Court Road as a good shopping area.
The advertising campaign, " Eat more fruit " helps all who sell fruit. The more advertising there is the more goods are sold. If at first there is some falling off in the revenue of some local newspapers I do not think that will be so eventually; there will be more advertising and the newspapers will have an opportunity of taking part in the equity. I notice it is said that great profits must not be made. Why not? They can be taxed. Surely great profits are great incentives and we should all be the richer in this land if we all made greater profits. There are to be 60 of these stations and that is a good thing. Some 20 B.B.C. stations are to be 498 left in being. What a waste of money. We do not need 80, but I think we need 60. It is a waste of money to run 20 stations out of the mean licence fee which in itself is not enough, and it is a waste of wavelengths which are in short supply in Europe generally and in Eritain in particular. Above all, it is a waste of the B.B.C'.'s money which would be far better spent on national programmes.
So while welcoming the White Paper and wishing good luck to this new set of stations to grow up in our midst, while assuming that they will operate well and in the very best British traditions, I say to the Government that they should think again about keeping the 20 local stations in existence. They should fade them out or even hand them over for a consideration to the commercial chaps because that would save a waste of material and a waste of time and would reduce the service to a reasonable size welcome the White Paper and wish the new service good luck.
§ 5.19 p.m.
§ LORD RITCHIE-CALDER
My Lords, I apologise to my nobl friends Lady Llewelyn-Davies and Lord Norwich for not being present when they made their speeches. I gathered from the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, that the noble Baroness made a speech which was exactly of the kind we would expect from her. I applaud those things which she was criticised for saying. I say to my noble friend Lord Norwich that I happened to be in Norwich doing a public service to-day and for that reason I was late arriving. I also apologise to the House if I repeat anything which was said while I was not present.
I want to be quite clear. I do not think anyone in this House doubts is where I stand politically, but in this case I am not defending a public ownership as such. Certainly I am not against local radio. I am on record a long time age on the Beveridge Committee—pre-Pilk ingtonwhen I went before the Committee to defend the use of VHF for what I called parish pump radio, because I could see enormous advantages in promotng local public affairs through local radio. I am not defending, either, the B.B.C. monopoly. As one who took part in the debate in your Lordships' House on the B.B.C. 499 and Broadcasting in the 'Seventies, when I among others was severely critical of what they were doing with the monopoly, I am not on this occasion going to say that everything in the B.B.C. is lovely.
Two things I want to deal with quite explicitly. In spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Fraser said about the threat to local newspapers, I am quite impenitently convinced that in fact we are going to kill local newspapers. Let us be quite clear about this. This time next year I will have been actively engaged as a participator or an operator in the mass media—a horrible phrase. I have been concerned in all the mass media, and shall still be if the B.B.C., commercial television and all the other people I am going to criticise do not cut off a source of income. I am still actively engaged in the medium.
The first of the two things I am concerned about is what is going to happen to the local newspapers? Secondly—and I think this is something again which, so far as I know has been under-estimated in this debate—the threat to the quality of output. In both cases I speak directly from personal experience. I was a victim of the circumstances which are going to happen to local newspers—what happened to the great newspaper on which I was employed, the News Chronicle. It is no good saying that the local newspapers will be able to buy their way and acquire a share of the equity of these commercial stations, because we know from experience that you can buy your way into commercial television and the paper buying its way in dies in the process. There is no question about that. You do not get both the swings and the roundabouts.
I was impressed by Lord Selsdon's presentation, both by the interesting things he said and his attitude in general to this problem. The thing which impressed me particularly was that he came out with what he regarded—and what others no doubt regard—as a fair figure of £10 million to be acquired from this service. I wonder what £10 million represents in terms of the survival of local newspapers. There is a finite amount of money available for advertising, even if we take Lord Fraser's advice and generate more advertising. Here, in the regrettable absence of my noble 500 friend Lord Samuel I follow him. What we are doing is to persuade people to want things that they never knew they needed. That is not necessarily a healthy thing, except for the people who are selling these goods. But in the case of what is available at some point advertising revenue is finite. Therefore what you are asking for locally is going to be the sharing between the local newspaper s —which I regard to-day as indispensable in terms of British journalism—and local commercial radio.
We are watching the fading out of the great national newspapers. More and more are going to die—and I predict that with no satisfaction. This is also going to happen to local newspapers, which really and truly are indispensable. First of all, you have a much more concentrated reading public who extend their reading over a week in the case of the local weekly; but you also have the local concern which is heightened by the fact that it is local interest. The quality of local newspapers and responsibility of local pressmen in all my experience, going up and down the country as someone who is now at the interviewee " end, is in my opinion higher than the behaviour of some of my distinguished colleagues when I am interviewed for the national newspapers. It is no good saying that local newspapers are going to buy their way, because I do not believe it will work out that way. In the sharing out of the advertising the local newspapers are going to go short and they are not going to survive. An example one can give (I am sorry to repeat it) is the fate of the News Chronicle which, with a circulation of 1¼million, was murdered. It was caught in the advertising dilemma. It was not a prestige paper like the Guardian or The Times., and therefore it did not get the prestige advertising. It was not a mass circulation paper like the Daily Mirror or the Daily Express, and it did not get the advertising supporting the brand products promoted on T.V.
§ LORD FRASER OF LONSDALE
If I may put a quite friendly question to the noble Lord, the News Chronicle died long before television advertising was thought of, did it not?
§ LORD RITCHIE-CALDER
My Lords, what happened was that when the share out came the companies who wanted to build the reputation of their companies went into what they regarded as the Prestige Press, and those who wanted to support their products which they were advertising on television supported them in the mass circulation Press. So, between the two, the News Chronicle fell. The company in fact had acquired interests in a television company, but that did not help us.
I now come to the question of quality. It has been my personal, actual and observed experience that the kind of thing we are talking about now, which we call " competition ", in point of fact is not necessarily a healthy.thing. It is not necessarily a factor in increasing the quality of output. It is not even a question of raising the sights of the people engaged in it, because what you find is Gresham's Law of Journalism or mass communications, and that is that the bad programmes drive out the good. We see outstanding programmes of course, but if you take the whole average of television the level is lower than it was when the B.B.C. was a monopoly. I am not talking in exaggerated terms about the B.B.C. as a monopoly. What I say is that the B.B.C. as a monopoly was building up, perhaps by default, a captive audience— people trying to recover their money on the hire-purchase of the T.V. But they were building up a quality and building up a staff of producers people who produced me and many other noble Lords in this House—a technical staff and so on. Suddenly you spread that buildup over a large number of production companies and the level of quality drops. I am not saying that it has not risen in terms of production and technical efficiency. What it has not done is to lift the public taste, which fell at that moment, back to the level, the plateau, as it were, which the B.B.C. had produced.
The competition in this case in my opinion will be entirely spurious. It will help to employ a few of my fellow journalists, and so on, who will lose their jobs in consequence of this business, but it will be nothing more than a vehicle for the marketing of goods. This will 502 be inescapable, otherwise commercial radio would not justify itself.
Therefore, according to the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, you have £10 million, or whatever the figure may be] do not mind what it is and you start to divide that and disperse it over 60 stations, in localities where you have different levels of approach and different degrees of access, to a listening public, and you will get exactly what my noble friend Lord Samuel talked about, the absymal insult to human intelligence which is American radio. If you spend 24 hours listening to American radio (and I had to do it the other day) you will know what I am talking about. I am speaking with all sincerity, not from a political standpoint, but I hope with some authority t as practitioner, and as one who hay a very genuine concern with the values involved.
This was why so many of us rose in our rage when we were arguing a year ago about Broadcasting in the 'Seventies. We were criticising the B.B.C. then, and most of us realised and we still think this— that what the B.B.C. was doing in the liquidation of the Third Programme was a betrayal of the values of the standards which we were trying to set in this country. On that occasion, when some of us were very forthright, we promised to have another look at what happened at the B.B.C. as a result of the abolition of the Third Programme. We said we would do it in three or five months, but something intervened and the people who were initially in a position to refer to the Government of the day with regard to this matter found that the Government had changed. We ought to get back to thinking in terms of what has happened to the quality and nature of the B.B.C. in the meantime as a result of Broadcasting in the 'Seventies, and not be deceived by the fact that the outcry of the staff at that time appears to be muted. It has not been muted, it has been stifled.
In the matter of Boardcasting in the 'Seventies, or this White Paper, my concern is the serious impeachment and impairment of the quality of broadcasting. I am full of profound misgivings that whatever we are doing in terms of this White Paper is going to lower the standards. Do not tell me that that is what the public wants. The public will appreciate what is best if we offer them 503 better than they are getting now. Therefore let us be clear on what we are doing. This is another inroad into the quality that we boast about. I travel the world boasting, and nobody ever questions or doubts what I am boasting about, because the quality of our mass media in terms of radio and television is respected. Do not let us sell out on it.
§ 5.34 p.m.
§ LORD FERRIER
My Lords, I did not put my name down to speak, but there are two points which have occurred to me, in listening to every speech, which I believe your Lordships would like me to mention. Before I come to them I should like to associate myself with every word said by my noble friend Lord Fraser of Lonsdale. I agree with what he said from beginning to end: from his compliments to the noble Baroness, on her attractive and competent speech, to his strictures and the remarks with which he closed: namely, that he supported this White Paper; that we should not be afraid of such developments; that we have to cut our coat according to our cloth and give it a fair wind. I believe he will agree with me that in doing so there are all sorts of complexities ahead, great difficulties to overcome, many of which noble Lords opposite, and my noble friend on this side, Lord Selsdon, have pointed out. But in saying that, one can agree that, even to the extent of cutting out some of the B.B.C. local stations in order to save money, it is important that we make this scheme work.
The first point I want to refer to is national defence. This is a view that I have held for many years, and is my analysis. It is important, in the interests of national defence, that there should be spread throughout the country independent, small and well-dispersed broadcasting stations. This scheme meets that need. I will not go on with that theme, but in my view this is a valid reason why we should not rely only on large, centralised broadcasting arrangements which can be easily interfered with.
My next point has not so far been mentioned, and that is the broadcasting of matters regarding government. I use the word " government " especially, thinking particularly of what the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, said; namely, the 504 difficulties which present themselves to local newspapers. I sometimes think that local newspapers—indeed many newspapers—if they are in difficulties may well have themselves to blame. I am not sure that people as a whole are so interested now as they used to be in the " to-ings " and " fro-ings " of pop stars. I believe that they would like to hear more of the serious matters that go through the minds of people who are in charge of government, both local and Parliamentary. I sometimes think that if it were not for the B.B.C.'s programmes, " Today in Parliament ", and " Yesterday in Parliament ", there would be an abysmal ignorance up and down the country as to what goes on in the Palace of Westminster. 1 suggest that in their thinking in regard to local radio stations Government should apply their minds to the questiton of a licence or franchise including an obligation to report government matters, whether local or Parliamentary.
I believe I am right in saying that " Today in Parliament " was introduced by the B.B.C. before it was ever laid down in the Corporation's Charter. It is in its present Charter because it happens to be a development from the original arrangement whereby the B.B.C. introduced it. It might well be that their television programmes could include something of the same sort—I mean objective reporting of Parliament; none of this processed stuff which you get in some of the other programmes, in which an entrepreneur presents Parliamentary news.
Arising out of that I found that local newspapers are very willing and ready to report matters of interest from Parliament and the like, but they cannot afford to subscribe to the news agencies which provide them with the information they want. I do not know how that problem is going to be overcome. I suggest that in the thinking of Government in regard to a franchise under this White Paper there should be some obligation on broadcasters to deal with more serious matters. I go further than that: it may well be that reporting matters of this nature to thinking people may be an attraction to the programme itself. When the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, says that local papers are dying on their feet, I ask: are they giving their consumers what 505 they want? Are they serving their advertisers best in not giving the consumers some more serious fare? Those are the two points I wish to make, and I would repeat what the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, said when he commented that he hoped that this White Paper would be given a fair wind.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ LORD DENHAM
My Lords, in introducing this debate, the noble Baroness, Lady Llewelyn-Davies, accused the White Paper of being vague, of offering no guidance, of being imprecise, muddled and wishy-washy. and, for good measure, the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, described it as disingenuous. But a White Paper such as this is designed as a talking point, and such it has certainly proved this afternoon—an outline of Her Majesty's Government's future policy. Many of the details have yet to be decided, as, for instance, which of the three alternatives should he chosen for the news services, to what extent are small stations to be linked as a joint operation, in exactly what way should advertisements be controlled? When my right honourable friend has to take decisions on the final form of his commercial radio proposals, the views which your Lordships have put forward will be of great value to him, although of course I cannot promise that he will agree with them all.
I think it has proved to be common ground that more local radio stations than are at present run by the B.B.C. are desirable. Where we differ is as to how and by whom such radio stations should be run. My noble friends and I believe that they should be financed commercially. Obviously, to have come to such a conclusion one must have weighed the pros against the cons. The principal advantage is self-evident: that it will provide an extension of local broadcasting without either a larger licensing fee or the curtailment of existing broadcasting standards. The second advantage, which will not be so readily acceptable, is that commercial radio will provide B.B.C. Radio with the same kind of healthy competition as I.T.V. provided for B.B.C. Television. The right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Coventry said: " The Isle is full of voices ". I rather wish he had completed the quotation, because I believe the rest is equally 506 apposite—" sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hunt not ".
A number of disadvantages have been suggested by noble Lords, and in speaking of them I will try to answer as many questions as I can. Noble Lords have questioned the value of competition. They say that the effect of competition between the B.B.C. and the I.B.A., by tending to drive each to try to win the ratings race by concentrating on subject matter of the widest appeal, will result in the choice to the listener being, if anything reduced. But Her Majesty's Government feel that the listener should have the right to choose between different sources of sound radio programmes, as he has on Television, This will be particularly valuable regarding news and news commentary, where there can be a choice of different: editorial patterns.
Experience in television has shown that competition can have a stimulating effect on the quality of programmes. A choice of employer—and this point was made by my noble friend, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale—would not only ensure a fairer deal for those who work on radio; this must be to the ultimate benefit of the listener too. The right man,will have a better chance of getting the right job, and the listener will therefore have a better chance of benefiting from his work. I will not deny that sometimes similar programmes appear on competing channels on television. But the same could be said of different B.B.C. Radio programmes before streaming. Even now there are frequently times of the day when you can get only music on all of the four programmes. So on an overall view the balance of advantage lies with competition. Furthermore, while B.B.C. local programmes provide only six to eight hours of original local material (the balance of 12 hours being supplied from national programmes) the entire length of the commercial local programmes (probably some 16 hours) will provide a fifth radio alternative.
This brings me to the question and this was very much in the mind of the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick—why the B.B.C. should not have additional local stations rather than that they should be handed over to a new commercial set-up. Each B.B.C. local radio station costs approximately £100,000 a year to run. Each additional station can serve only a 507 decreasing number of people. The B.B.C. simply could not take on any more local stations if the licence fee is to be kept down to £7, rather than the £7.50 it asked for, when the increase takes effect on July 1.
§ LORD ARDWICK
My Lords, is the noble Lord saying that it is now a matter of decided policy that the B.B.C. will not be allowed to fulfil its ambition of an extra 20 stations, or is this still an open question?
§ LORD DENHAM
In matters of government a question is always open. It may be that my right honourable friend will be swayed by the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, but I certainly cannot promise on his behalf. Certainly the Government have no plans in mind at the moment to give any extra local stations to the B.B.C. Even without more local stations, the B.B.C. cannot make full use of their national programmes. Radios 1 and 2, which between them cater for 80 per cent. of the listening public, are merged for 72 hours a week. It would cost a further £500,000 to run them as two separate day-long programmes. Surely, if more money were available this should be the first priority.
My Lords, it is often contended, as it has been this afternoon, that advertisements are likely at worst to degrade and at best to distract from the material among which they appear. But advertising has not tended to degrade commercial television. The content of the advertisements is carefully controlled by the I.T.A., and in the same way the new I.B.A. will have full control of the content of advertisements on commercial radio. It may be that a different medium will call for different methods of control. A sound-only tape can be prepared very much more quickly, and it would be a pity to lose the advantages that this might offer. It is possible that a form of post hoc control would be acceptable in this case. The station manager would use his judgment as to whether an advertisement conformed to the standards set by the I.B.A., and the I.B.A. would have the responsibility of ensuring that his judgment was right. However, what your Lordships have said on this subject will be carefully considered by my right 508 honourable friend, and perhaps it will set your Lordships' minds at rest, except that of the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, if I say that although there would be real advantages in allowing sponsored programmes on radio, my right honourable friend feels that they would interfere with the freedom of editorial control; and only spot advertising, as on television, will be allowed.
As to the question of advertisements being distracting, certainly on television I do not find them to be so. Perhaps the very opposite is true—indeed, when watching B.B.C. Television I sorely miss the natural breaks: they give an ideal opportunity to fetch a cup of coffee, to make a telephone call or to let the dogout, without missing any of the programme. Television advertisements themselves have, in fact, developed into something of a new art form, and I hope that someone, somewhere, is preserving the best of them for the interest and amusement of posterity, and even for their historical value.
Even those who are most indignant about the idea of advertisements being allowed to contaminate radio hold up their hands in horror lest their health-giving influence should be denied to newspapers. There is a sincerely-felt fear (and this was most strongly expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder) that commercial radio might siphon off so much of the advertising revenue from the Press, both national and local, as to endanger in certain cases their continued existence, so that the public, instead of gaining from this new medium, would be a net loser. I believe this fear to be overrated. Her Majesty's Government felt that the national commercial radio system might have presented an unacceptable risk to the national Press, but we are confident that the system of local stations envisaged will not have a significant effect on it. The effect on local newspapers may perhaps be slightly greater, but we feel that it will not be damaging. Advertising revenue for commercial radio is not expected to exceed £10 million, and I confirm this figure to my noble friend Lord Selsdon. This compares with a lotal advertising revenue in this country of £530 million, of which some £225 million goes to the Press. Commercial radio would take two or three years to build up to its maximum 509 potential, and in the meantime the advertising expenditure would probably have grown in line with the gross national product by more than that amount each year. Gross advertising revenue of newspapers, both national and local, tends to improve significantly faster than that of other media.
Furthermore, we believe that commercial radio is likely to draw as much as a third of its revenue from sources such as local small businesses which at the moment make little use of advertising. There are other sources possibly which may help local newspapers, such as cross advertising referred to by my noble friend Lord Eccles. Local papers may even find an advantage in advertising themselves on local radio in the same way that the national Press from time to time advertises particular features on television. Where a local newspaper is good, it will be read and where it is read it will attract advertising revenue. There may be cases where local papers that have grown lazy through virtual monopoly will have to improve in order to survive, and that may not be a bad thing. As a last resort, there is a safeguard mentioned in the White Paper which gives local newspapers with a significant circulation—and it will be left to the in the last resort, to decide what is meant in each case by " significant "—a right to acquire an interest in their local stations.
Noble Lords are worried, and rightly so, about negotiations with Phonographic Performance Limited and the Musicians' Union over needle-time. Indeed, when I repeated in this House my right honourable friend's statement which introduced the White Paper on March 29, the noble Baroness., Lady Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, suggested that needle-time should have been agreed before the White Paper was published. This was clearly impracticable. It is impossible to negotiate over hypothetical suppositions and, equally, negotiations cannot begin until it is apparent what is the appropriate body to negotiate on behalf of local interests, and this will depend on the Bill which sets up local radio.
§ BARONESS LLEWELYN-DAVIES OF HASTOIE
My Lords, I think the Government are going to be in some difficulty if, having set up local radio, they find they cannot get the needle-time.
§ LORD DENHAM
That is a fence that I hope Her Majesty's Government will not have to jump. I agree with the noble Lords that it might be difficult for each station to negotiate separately, and I imagine that negotiations would be conducted either by the I.B.A., on behalf of programme companies, or by a representative body of the stations, rather on the lines of I.T.C.A.—the Independent Television Companies' Association.
It has been suggested that commercial radio will not pay. I think that Lord Ardwick, and to a certain extent my noble friend Lord Selsdon, took this view. Clearly, this will be a matter for commercial judgment from the programme companies. It has also been suggested that it might pay too well and I think the noble Baroness, Lady Llewelyn Davies, felt this. But the White Paper makes it clear that Her Majesty's Government will ensure that no company makes excessive profit.
There are one or two other objections to this White Paper that have been put to me during the course of the debate. The first is the suggestion that in Scotland and Wales commercial local:.radio will have a monopoly. But, of course in Scotland and Wales, there wil1 still be the B.B.C. regional variations. Noble Lords have asked that I should give an undertaking that B.B.C. local radio should have their medium wave back-up without waiting for commercial radio. I cannot. I am afraid, give this undertaking. We must wait for a comprehensive plan embracing both, and it would be wasteful to do it in any other way. I realise the difficulties about V.H.F., but, if radio is to be expanded very much, we must make more use of V.H.F. Clearly, at at the moment there is a vicious spiral: demand, supply, and expense. Until more people want the sets, more sets will not be made. Until more sets are made, they will not become cheap to buy. It is our contention that the commercial local radio supporting B.B.C. local radio will make a move at least to break this vicious spiral.
My Lords, I have tried to deal with many of the doubts that have been expressed by noble Lords in this debate, but I cannot rid myself of the thought that the primary motivation behind those who opposed this White Paper is the awful feeling that commercial radio will give 511 the listening public the kind of programme they want, rather than the programmes put out by a paternalistic establishment, which gives what it thinks is good for them. I believe it to be true that commercial radio will provide the public with what they want. It took the "pirates" to show the B.B.C. that there was a need, or at any rate a massive demand, for non-stop "pop". When majority tastes change, when the number of records sold is no longer an active indicator of what people want to hear on their wireless, commercial radio may well be in a position to assess the fact sooner than the B.B.C. But what I cannot accept is the implication that what the public wants is necessarily of poor quality. There is good and bad at both ends of the scale, and all down the scale, from education to entertainment, highbrow to lowbrow, Third Programme to "pop". The public will not accept poor "pop" any more than they will accept bad Beethoven. There are some who say that the principal task of radio must be to educate rather than entertain. To a certain extent these two are indivisible. You cannot educate without entertaining, and you cannot entertain without quality which is of itself educational. To-day's "pop" is very often to-morrow's culture. This has been so from the Border Ballads through folk songs to music hall and the National Theatre's planned and very sadly postponed production of Guys and Dolls, with the noble Lord, Lord Olivier, playing Nathan Detroit. In so far as they are divisible—the man home at his own fireside after a busy day at the office desk or factory bench, the woman marooned by her children in a multistorey block of flats—these do not want primarily to be educated: they want to be entertained. My Lords, what is wrong with that?
§ 5.58 p.m.
§ BARONESS LLEWELYN-DAVIES OF HASTOE
My Lords, I rise to reply to this debate. My noble friend the Leader of the Opposition decided that he himself would not speak to-day since the House is rather exhausted by the pressure of the business which the Government have given us. I will try to be as brief as I can, but there are some points to which I am sure the House would wish me to reply.
512 If I may begin with the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, we very much enjoyed his stroll down the leafy lanes of localities. It seems rather surprising that, if the Government were so tremendously keen on local radio, as he told us at some length, the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications should first have tried to introduce a national network and was in fact defeated. But we agree with him about the desirability of local radio though we differ about the kind of local radio. Then again, the noble Viscount, fresh from urging schoolchildren not to buy ice cream because they could not then afford to go to the museums to see the national treasures, made the most astonishing suggestion about the kind of News we are going to get. The noble Lord, Lord Denham, if I may say so, was rather interesting on the subject of what kind of News is proposed, although he did not allay some of my fears. But the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, actually proposes that commercial radio should produce a different kind of News suitable for simple minds with small vocabularies, a lower standard of news for the ill-educated working-class. It is one of the most astonishing remarks I have heard since I have been in your Lordships' House.
If I may turn to one or two of the other contributions, I am sure that everybody would very much want to wish the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, a very quick recovery. He has asked me to tell the House that he is very sorry that he could not stay to hear the debate out. He is feeling better, but he has gone home. I thought his speech was excellent. Indeed, I agreed with all of it, as I did with much of what my noble friend Lord Ardwick said. I am sorry that I did not hear much of the speech of the right reverend Prelate, but I particularly agreed with his point about preserving the excellence of what we already have. That is of paramount importance. I very much hope that the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, was satisfied by the answers he received from his noble friend Lord Denham. I must say that if I had been he, I should not have been.
The noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, paid me a very charming compliment and then went on, first, to say that I suspected him of evil motives; secondly, to call me as bold as brass; thirdly, 513 to say that I was timid, and, worst of all, to say that I was conservative. I think that that is attributing funny motives to me, and I would assure him that of course none of us attribute evil motives either to him or to any noble Lords opposite. He spoke about good " pop " and bad " pop ", as indeed did the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich. A terrible lot of snobbery is talked about " pop ". As a matter of fact, I think the " pop " on the B.B.C. is largely very bad. The one thing that might really convert me to commercial radio would be if I thought we shall get first-class " pop ". But we shall not; it will be aimed at the same poor old captive housewife—described so movingly by the noble Lord, Lord Denham.
Lord Denham said that this was not really a White Paper; it was a " talking " paper. My noble friend Lord Ardwick described it as a Green Paper. I think it is a true blue Conservative paper. It bears all the hall-marks and all the faults of the rather shallow thinking noble Lords opposite have put into this extremely important subject. The noble Lord, Lord Denham, spoke about healthy competition. How can you have healthy competition when in so many large areas of the country there will in fact be a monopoly of commercial local radio?
§ LORD DENHAM
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Baroness, but there will not, be a monopoly because commercial radio will also have the B.B.C. national programmes to compete with.
§ BARONESS LLEWELYN-DAVIES OF HASTOE
Certainly, my Lords, but it will not have B.B.C. local radio, which it would have had if the noble Lord's Government had not "axed" them as one of their first actions when they came to power. I am quite sure that the House will be very disappointed in the reply of the noble Lord, Lord Denham, about the B.B.C.—both about its further twenty stations and, above all, about the support of medium wave. I thought his answer, if he will forgive me for saying so, was most unconvincing and shows that the 514 Government have not taken the point; and worse, shows that they intend to be unfair in their approach to the B.B.C. on this whole question. I give notice to noble Lords opposite that they have not heard the last of this by a long chalk.
As to the noble Lord's remarks about local newspapers, his only cure for their troubles appeared to be that they and commercial radio should take in each other's dirty washing, which did not seem to me to be much of a solution 1. About control, again I am afraid I found the noble Lord's replies rather unconvincing. I am quite sure that the I.T.A. will not be able to carry out the tasks that are being put on them when they become the I.B.A. unless they receive much clearer guidance from the Government about what is significant and about all the other factors.
However, I think the noble Lord finally gave himself away, if I may put it that way, when he said that commercial radio will give people the king of thing they want. There was a remark in the Pilkington Report which was illuminating on this. Pilkington said:Those who say they will give the public what it wants begin by underestimating public taste and end by debauching it.My Lords, it is because we think that that is the approach of noble Lords opposite that we feel such disquiet about this whole question. Instead of tinkering about with White Papers about local commercial radio, the Government ought to be putting their mind to the fascinating technical possibilities that are around us now. They should be putting their minds to cassettes, to satellite broadcasting, to " piped " television, to the electronic video recording—the so-called memory bank. All these things are going to make an explosion in communications. But, instead of paying attention to those matters, the Government tinker around with something unworthy of them and of the country. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.