HL Deb 09 November 1978 vol 396 cc416-7

3.10 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have any plans to increase the volume of BBC broadcasts in the Bulgarian language.


My Lords, at the present time there are no plans to increase the hours of transmission of the BBC's Bulgarian vernacular service.


I am grateful to the Minister for that reply, my Lords. Nevertheless, does he not feel that the BBC's distribution of hours should be carefully and continuously watched and tailored to meet events as they occur throughout the world? Does he not feel, for example, that, in view of recent events in London, BBC broadcasts in the Bulgarian language should perhaps be increased, and that, in view of even more recent events in Iran, broadcasts in Persian should be increased? Will he arrange for the BBC to be given sufficient finance to mount such increased broadcasts?


My Lords, the noble Lord will recall that paragraph 62 of the White Paper on the United Kingdom's overseas representation provided that all vernacular services should be brought under review. That is being done, the BBC participating in a consultative basis. When that review has been completed—and it will no doubt include all the countries and their vernaculars, as they are called, which the noble Lord mentioned—recommendations will be put forward and Ministers will consider them. I cannot, of course, anticipate those recommendations or decisions.

As to the extent of our broadcasting in the Bulgarian language, that is at the rate of one and three quarter hours daily on the BBC's East European Service on short wave. The question whether it should be increased or reduced or remain about the same is, as I said, for the review body which is now meeting.


My Lords, while my noble friend is investigating the possibility of more broadcasts in the Bulgarian language, may I ask whether he, having been brought up in the vernacular of a Welsh school, as I was, could ask the BBC to broadcast more often in English that is clear, distinguishable and not plum-nosed?


My Lords, coming from Wales, I am always in favour of the best diction in English, especially as practised by my noble friend Lord Davies.


Reverting to the main Question, may I ask whether the broadcasts to Bulgaria are audible in that country, or are they jammed so they cannot be heard?


I have no evidence of jamming, my Lords. I believe they are properly received in that sense. I understand that audibility is fairly good during the day, but less so in the early morning and early evening. However, it is hoped that it will be improved as a result of the BBC's forthcoming new capital investment programme, amounting to about £20 million, which is one of the better results of the CPRS review.