§ 3.24 p.m.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY UNDERSECRETARY of STATE, HOME OFFICE (Lord Belstead)
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
§ Moved, that the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Belstead.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The LORD ABERDARE in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1 agreed to.396
Lord DONALDSON of KINGS-BRIDGE moved Amendment No. 1:
After Clause 1, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Public Inquiry Board
§ .—(1) Within one year from the passing of this Act the Secretary of State shall appoint a Public Inquiry Board for Broadcasting consisting of not more than fifteen persons, including a Chairman and Vice-Chairman and with terms of reference to enable this Board to keep under review the performance and problems of the public broadcasting organisations (including that of contractors appointed to any public franchise in broadcasting) as well as all developments in matters related to the supply of information and entertainment through the use of a television or radio receiver.
§ (2) It shall be the duty of the Board appointed in accordance with subsection (1) above to make an annual report to the Secretary of State concerning the performance of the Fourth Channel subsidiary of the Authority, having particular regard to the definitions of its functions set out in sections 3 and 4 of this Act.
§ (3) The expenses of the Board shall be paid jointly by the Authority and the BBC.").
§ The noble Lord said: This is the most important amendment we shall be moving from these Benches now that the Government have had the wisdom and courage to reverse their decision on the Welsh language question, on which I congratulate them with great relief. The pressures of threatened suicide must never be given way to as such, for that would mean that any man brave enough could achieve his objective by courage alone, and, though many good men have courage, many bad men have, too. But I am glad that the arguments, apart from threats, were strong enough to persuade the Government to change their mind, and here I must pay a special tribute to my noble friend Lord Cledwyn, without whose intervention things might have turned out somewhat differently.
§ This first amendment is designed to do two things. It is rather a complicated argument, and I shall speak longer on this than on other amendments. I say that so that noble Lords will not become too depressed. In our Second Reading debate it was made very clear, especially by my noble friend Lord Willis and the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, that the communications industry is on the verge of major technological changes which may make this Bill out of date long before its 15 years are up. I will not go through all the possible developments, which were so vividly described to us, but, to take just 397 one, suppose video cassettes became as cheap as books (which, alas!, are no longer very cheap), then people would build up their own libraries and cease to be dependent on what was provided for them.
§ Further, if it were possible to obtain, as I believe in due course it probably will be, from the service the showing of a particular programme on demand, the same would be true for everyone, not only those well enough off to build up their own libraries. Again, if local authorities or commercial firms started video cassette lending libraries, which they have already in sound cassettes, the same would apply and would greatly intensify the most urgent and difficult questions of copyright and royalties which are already worrying the industry. This is but one of the changes which may take place, and I think almost certainly will take place, within the 15 years at which we are looking.
§ Some of them will surely make our present arrangements totally inappropriate. In particular, the development of television broadcasting from satellites will have no respect for national boundaries, and large parts of Britain could well come within the footprints of the reception areas of television satellites from other countries which are already in the planning stage. This means that our own national standards for broadcasting services could be eroded by competition from programme services which pay no regard to the provisions of this Bill or any other Act of Parliament.
Who, therefore, is going to recommend changes to meet the new situation as it arises? The Home Secretary, in my opinion, has far too much on his plate to be expected to react quickly and constructively to new situations of this kind. The broadcasting authorities are too much involved to be able to give sound advice, as they will be struggling for survival in the new conditions. The noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, in his interesting book on the subject, says:
No chairman of a public authority can afford not to be an interventionist today".
In other words, the chairmen and their colleagues will be much too busy fighting their own corner to give the Home Secretary the calm and constructive advice he will need. Here the Annan Report
gave us a lead which I am hoping the Government will in some form or another follow up and use towards the objectives of this amendment. Its recommendation No. 6, for a public inquiry board, should be looked at again, not, I think, in as complicated a manner as is discussed in chapter 6 of the report, but in regard to the proposal that there should be a board to carry out hearings and inquiries and prepare its own reports and recommendations at the request of the Home Secretary and that a periodical report should be prepared for presentation to Parliament.
§ The Annan Report thought that such a board should take a general view of broadcast services in the public interest and should look at the social implications of the problems dealt with by the Telecommunications Advisory Committee and maintain liaison with that body, and that it should look at all proposals for new broadcasting services such as satellite services. If a body of this kind is to be set up, surely it should be set up fairly soon after the fourth channel opens and should add to its duties the job of watching the progress of the new channel very carefully. It should make periodical reports on how effectively it is in fact responding to the very general but not at all ambiguous demands listed in Clause 3 of the Bill.
§ We have had many representations from quarters interested in education, not least the Open University, asking for some outside body to advise and criticise the quality and the quantity of the educational material put out by the new channel. We have had many representations, too, from those in favour of the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Ritchie-Calder, which Dame Judith Hart moved so strongly in another place, propounding that the issue of world development and international interdependence should have a fair share of time on the new channel. If we were to have an independent body as visualised by the Annan Committee and recommended in this amendment, the ideal way to deal with both these points would be for the new body to appoint expert sub-committees to monitor progress on both those fronts, and indeed on any others.
§ I do not believe you can tell programme makers what to do. If they are any good 399 they will do what they want to do. But I do think we should watch carefully what they do, and if it falls short of the clear general intentions expressed in Section 3 and elsewhere in the main Act they should be warned, and if necessary changed. The Home Secretary cannot possibly monitor these things himself. Anyway, it would be much more satisfactory to have an outside opinion. We shall be told, of course, that the IBA can do it, but as it is directly responsible, through its subsidiary for what is done and the standards that are maintained that would simply be making it judge in its own courts, and would be quite unsatisfactory from the point of view of the viewer. This amendment, if carried, would deal with the very wide point of technological progress and the changes required to meet it, which, of course, applies to the BBC as well as to the ITV, and it could also deal with monitoring and keeping up to scratch the more serious parts of the new channel's programmes.
§ I do not expect the Government to say yes to this, just like that, but I do hope they will take it away and look very carefully at it and at least come back with their own version of what is required. The point, which I cannot make too strongly, is that there are only two ways of dealing with very general intentions: either you keep the intentions in the Act very general and check that they are properly carried out or you write in a lot of detailed instructions, which in my opinion will be self-defeating because it will spoil the programmers' feeling of freedom.
§ The Open University have asked for an independent continuing education advisory panel. The Independent Filmmakers' Association have proposed something on similar lines in the form of an independent programme foundation. I believe that my solution is simpler and better than either of these; but I do wish to impress most strongly on the Government that in my opinion something along these lines must be done if the intentions so clearly but so generally expressed in Clause 3 of the Bill are to be carried out. I beg to move.
§ Lord HILL of LUTON
I wholly agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, said about the vast tech- 400 nological developments which are imminent and the profound changes they will compel in the structure of broadcasting in this country. But when I study his amendment I see that the proposed board isto keep under review the performance and problems of the public broadcasting organisations (including that of contractors appointed to any public franchise in broadcasting) as well as all developments in matters related to the supply of information and entertainment through the use of a television or radio receiver".The word "scientific" or "technological" does not appear here. As I see it, this is a form of permanent inquiry into the structure and development of broadcasting, and I want to direct my mind to that aspect of it.
Obviously there needs to be periodical scrutiny of the whole area of broadcasting. We have had our Beveridge and our Pilkington and, latest and best of all, Annan. They are necessary, provided they are not too frequently undertaken. That is the problem to which I want to address my mind in a moment. It is right, too, that the annual reports of the broadcasting bodies should be debated in Parliament, which they very rarely are. But the effect of an unending Annan, if I may be permitted the expression, or a permanent Pilkington, would, I think, be in many ways disastrous. The effect of these proper periodic investigations on the broadcasting organisations and the diversion of effort involved as well as the apprehensions that may be aroused, particularly on the part of the creative staff, are, for a while, as I have seen, really quite traumatic.
I went to the chair of Independent Television immediately after Pilkington. I saw the effect of the Pilkington recommendations. The Independent Television Authority could hardly believe that the BBC was all white and they were all black. But over and above that there was a real sense of loss of morale, due to the prolonged nature of the inquiry and the vast amount of evidence that had to be collected and presented. It is quite a painful phase—a necessary phase but a painful phase—for broadcasting organisations.
This is to be, in some respects anyway, a permanent inquiry. Take the case of Independent Television. The Home Secretary appoints the members of the Authority, of the IBA. Under this pro- 401 posal, the Home Secretary appoints a Committee of Inquiry to watch the IBA, and indefinitely. How can that be an advance or to the advantage of broadcasters or, more important, of broadcasting? The roots can be taken up too often. I do hope that this proposal will be rejected.
I do not think one need say more, except to emphasise from personal experience what harm is done—no, "harm" is too strong a word, "damage" is too strong a word—what diversion of effort and danger to morale, and particularly in creative people are caused as an inevitable part of an inquiry phase. That is no argument against an inquiry phase but, my goodness, it is an argument against a permanent committee of authority, appointed by the Secretary of State to watch over others who are appointed by the Secretary of State, or by the Queen on the advice of the Government.
This really does not make sense. There is nothing in this amendment to suggest that this body, which would need to be scientific in character, will be able to assess the modern technological developments. There is nothing in the wording to suggest that it is to deal with technological development. But there is a good deal in the wording to suggest that it is to be kind of permanent inquiry.
I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, has spoken as he has, for it enables me to cut short my remarks and merely to agree strongly with what he has said. With the noble Lord. Lord Hill of Luton, I agree with Lord Donaldson that the technological developments which are on the horizon and are perhaps close—and about which the noble Lord, Lord Willis, warned us so graphically at Second Reading, as did the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr—are matters of the utmost significance and matters which clearly will have to be kept under the closest possible scrutiny of Parliament during the coming years. If it is thought that some kind of review body, inquiry, committee, or what-have-you, to watch over those kinds of technological developments is necessary in order to feed information to Parliament for the scrutiny it will have to carry out, that is one thing. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, has said, if we are to set up yet another body to scrutinise the 402 efforts over the performance (and "performance" is the word used) of those providing television and radio—and we have the governors of the BBC and the IBA; and they are charged with that very job—one wonders whether we then have to set up another committee to watch over the committee that is watching them. I share Lord Hill's view that these technological developments are of the utmost importance and that Parliament will have to keep a close scrutiny over them; and that may mean that another body is needed to watch over those; but I do not think we need go so far as to have another body to watch over anything that anybody is doing in this field.
§ Lord ANNAN
May f draw attention to the fact that the body being proposed in this amendment is a very different thing from the public inquiry board which was put forward in the report? The public inquiry board was something which went round hearing the complaints or suggestions of the public and it considered matters which the Secretary of State had referred to that board. That is an extremely important proviso. If you have a body which, as has been said, can range over the whole of broadcasting, then you have a broadcasting council; and a broadcasting council is one of the things which in the report, with varying degrees of vehemence, and some were not very vehement, we were against.
I quote from one passage:Most of all, we feared the existence of a body set up by the Secretary of State but free to range at will over broadcasting and publicly giving him advice whether or not he had asked for it, inflicting pressure upon him to adopt this or that course of action and duplicating the work of those in his department whose duty it is to advise him. At best, it will be a perpetual fidget and at worst an incubus hovering over all aspects of broadcastingI believe that this is really the danger we face if this amendment is accepted in its present form.
§ Lord HARMAR-NICHOLLS
I hope that the Committee will turn down this amendment flat. I should like to warn the Committee against the tactical skill of the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, in the way he presented the amendment. It was very effective. He started by saying something which cannot be denied; that is, that over the years we have discovered that great technological changes are likely 403 to take place and that new things will be wanted. Having stated that, which is absolutely right and which we must accept, he ties on to that a solution which is likely to make it almost impossible for the speedy application of any new ideas which may come forward. I do not think that we ought to allow ourselves to be blinded by the putting of a proposition which cannot be denied and then tying on to that something which opens up a great deal of argument. He went on to say that the authority could not do the job that this suggested committee would do. He said that the authority would be too busy. I do not think one ought to accept that. I think that those were his words. He is saying that the authority will be too busy to do the main job that it was set up to do, because—
§ Lord DONALDSON of KINGS-BRIDGE
With respect, I think that the noble Lord has confused one or two different things that I said. I said that the IBA was directly responsible for the standards of the fourth channel and therefore was the wrong body to say whether those were being maintained successfully. I also said that the BBC and the IBA authorities were not the right people to look at the future because they would be too busy trying to keep up with it.
§ Lord HARMAR-NICHOLLS
I accept that. I had mistaken the BBC and the others for the IBA. Then I had it in mind to go on to say, as the noble Lord had quoted the Annan Report as possible support for what he is asking us to do, that there is no need to have comment from the monkey when the organ-grinder, in the shape of the noble Lord, Lord Annan, has explained exactly what the Annan Report said. They said that they did not envisage a permanent watchdog breathing down the neck of the people who would have a difficult job to do in any case.
The main reason we must turn down the amendment is that put forward by Lord Hill of Luton; it would be bound to affect the morale of the people to whom, under this Bill, we are giving a great task if they felt that they had this permanent quango—for that is what it is; and I had thought that we had got to the stage where we wanted to reduce the quangos—with 404 a specific instruction (if you like) to find fault and to find something that ought to bring about criticism.
I am tired of seeing state money used to set up bodies of people to seek out complaints. I was disturbed when the previous Government issued a pamphlet telling people how to complain about the police and another about how to complain against the town clerk. I believe that unless we are satisfied that the people who are going to form the IBA, with the powers we are giving them, have the qualities of impartiality and of objectivity to run the show in the way it ought to be run and to take into account new ideas that come forward, then we ought to start by having new people forming the authority. We have confidence in them and I do not believe that the amendment could help them to do their job. I believe it would hinder them and for that reason I hope your Lordships will not go any further with this amendment today.
Like all the previous speakers, except one, I agree that this amendment should be resisted with all the energy that Her Majesty's Government can muster. I believe that it is a good example of typical Socialist arrogance to believe that 15 people could monitor the performance of the expert broadcasting authorities better than the 50 million people of this country with their eminent good sense and extreme vigilance to ensure that the broadcasting services that they get, both from the independent companies and the BBC are maintained at their present high standards.
Lord De La WARR
I am sorry to extend this debate for the noble Lord seems to be having quite a pasting from this side, but, for similar reasons to those of the noble Lords, Lord Hill of Luton and Lord Harmar-Nicholls, I strongly oppose this amendment. There is one particular bit of it to which I should like to draw attention, and that is the last line in the first paragraph where it says:… as well as all developments in matters relating to the supply of information and entertainment through the use of a television or radio receiver".I think there is something very important here. We all know that the television receiver is a cathode ray tube which is capable of receiving impulses in all sorts 405 of ways, not only over the air. In the noble Lord's very words, if we get a massive use of radio discs we shall have the equivalent of a book. To suggest in a broadcasting Bill that there should be a quango inquiring into how people bought the equivalent of a book is to me a monstrous intrusion into the whole principle of liberty. Over the last 30 years one of the major technological developments has been the ability to produce cheaply books in paperback form, so that the whole nation's reading has changed. The implication that Lord Donaldson is making here is, in my opinion, that we should have had a quango looking into how the development of reading went. I hope that at least he will be able to agree this and perhaps put it to bed on behalf of his side: that he really wants to inquire into how people use a television receiver when it is being used in a non-broadcasting way, because that has nothing to do with broadcasting whatsoever.
§ Lord AYLESTONE
Unquestionably within the next 15 years there will be considerable changes in the transmission of programmes. There is no doubt about that. However, who better to monitor them and to report on them to both Houses of Parliament, if necessary, than the BBC and IBA? Both of them have highly developed technical departments, probably the best in the country in this field. Therefore, in my view it is quite unnecessary to set up yet another body to report on what the BBC and IBA are already doing. The fact that they do it annually is often missed, the fault is that both Houses of Parliament never debate them.
My main concern about this proposal from my noble friend on the Front Bench is that if this public inquiry board is required to report annually on the work of the IBA as far as the fourth channel is concerned, and on the work of the BBC and IBA on technical matters, then who, in conscience, will report upon the work of the public inquiry body? I think this is quite unnecessary. If there is really no confidence whatever in the BBC board of governors, or in members of the IBA, then it is a matter for the Government of the day to replace them. But it is quite unnecessary to set up another body.
§ Lord BELSTEAD
I am not going to criticise the wording of the amendment 406 of the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, because that has been done by those who are very much better qualified to do so than I. Indeed, I think two useful points come out of the moving of this amendment. If I may just add to the words of the noble Lord, Lord Annan, the first is that, if I remember rightly, the noble Lord on Second Reading, in referring to the recommendation in his report for a public inquiry board, commended the way in which the BBC and IBA had acted on the related proposal in his report that those authorities should themselves hold public hearings. Both authorities have held and are continuing to hold meetings at which members of the public can express their views on the service which they provide. Speaking for the Government, we believe that this kind of direct contact between broadcasters and the public is very valuable and is perhaps a better way forward so far as looking at the performance of the authorities is concerned.
The other point which occurs to me and which I think comes out of this amendment—and I say this although the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, said he knew I would say it—is that so far as the question of the performance of the IBA's fourth channel subsidiary is concerned, there is a clear duty in Clause 7 laid on the authorities to report to Parliament on the operations of the fourth channel generally, on its output in relation to independent television and specifically to describe how they discharge their duty under Sections 3(1)(c) and 4(3)(b).
I do take seriously what the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, said in his remarks about the satellites and cassettes. However, quite apart from the observations which were passed on that by my noble friend Lord de la Warr, and the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, it was not very long in the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson's, remarks before we had left satellites and cassettes and were moving on to other things. So far as satellites are concerned, may I say that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary takes the problems which were outlined on Second Reading in your Lordships' House, of technological changes in broadcasting, so seriously that there is an internal study seeking information from a wide range of interests, including some from abroad, on the ques- 407 tion of satellites. I know that the Home Secretary very much hopes to be able to produce a discussion paper about this at the turn of the year.
As I say, it was not very long before the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, had left satellites and cassettes and was on to programme content, education and world development. I felt, as I think other noble Lords perhaps felt, that we were getting into the country of the "jabberwock" of the media which would be wide-ranging, as the noble Lord, Lord Annan, put it.
I must end by saying that I share the view of the previous Government of which the noble Lord was a Minister. They, in their White Paper on broadcasting, also rejected the idea of a public inquiry board for broadcasting. The Government consider, as paragraph 74 of the previous Government's White Paper said, that to establish any such body would constitute either a return to monopoly control of broadcasting or a separation of the final responsibility for providing a broadcasting service from the final responsibility for what is broadcast on that service. In either case, there would be a threat to the independence of the broadcasters. The White Paper went on to say that the Government believe that the broadcasters would be more accountable to the public if they could discuss their services directly with members of the public. I believe that paragraph 74 of the 1978 White Paper put it very neatly and I hope that your Lordships will agree.
§ Lord DONALDSON of KINGS-BRIDGE
I did not expect to have a great victory with this amendment and I am not at all surprised at what has been said. It was basically an attempt to put before the Committee two problems towards which nothing that anybody has said today has gone any way to solve. This amendment, although it may be subject to a number of problems, would have a solution to those two things, both very important.
The first is the point raised by my noble friends Lord Willis and Lord De La Warr, of future technological developments. I feel very strongly that this should not just be left. If the kind of solution I put forward is unacceptable, I 408 should like to hear another one. Could we have a joint committee of the BBC and ITV advising the Home Secretary? Something should be going on about this. It is happening very fast; it is no good just trying to laugh it off. That is the first point.
The second point is this. I was very anxious to find some way of monitoring the very difficult intentions of Clause 3 in this Bill to see how they were carried out because so many people wanted different things done and wanted to put a number of things into the Bill which I think are better not put in. That has been rejected too. Very well; I think that very likely my plan was cobbled up rather ill. However, I should like to know how we are going to have an independent appreciation of the standard and level of education, the standard and level of the international affairs, on which we have a further amendment later on from the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder.
I think the whole point of the fourth channel is that Clause 3 should be carried out. The clause is so general that it could be carried out well or badly without anybody having any notice either way. I feel that both these things want dealing with. I will not press this amendment to a Division because it is not that sort of amendment. I hope that I have made clear that there are two important problems which the amendment was trying to solve and nobody has suggested a better solution. I daresay there are better solutions and I hope that we shall get some. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 2 [Preliminary]:
§ 4 p.m.
Lord BELSTEAD moved Amendment No. 2:
Page 2, line 14, after ("shall (") insert ("subject to section 7A and").
§ The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I will speak to several amendments which are related to it. At the end of what I have to say I will briefly run through them giving their effect. The Committee will appreciate that this is a paving amendment for the 409 other amendments to which I have referred. These amendments fulfil the Government's undertaking to revert to what is known as the single-channel solution for Welsh language television programmes. I need not go over the arguments for a two-channel solution today. Different opinions can be held in good faith and sincerity about what is better for the Welsh language or for broadcasting.
§ I was grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, for the words he spoke at the beginning of this Committee stage. I should like to pay tribute to the deputation led by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, who urged my right honourable friends the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Wales to consider allowing Welsh language television programmes to be broadcast on a single channel from the start of the fourth channel service, with the possibility of subsequently reverting to the two-channel solution. My right honourable friends reflected on that discussion and came to the conclusion that they should accept the single channel proposition that was put to them with the option of returning to our original proposals should they later prove to be thought preferable in the interests of the Welsh language and of viewers in Wales generally. The proposals which we shall be discussing today accordingly provide for the single channel solution. I am sure that the Committee will be anxious that they should be given every chance to work. I am confident that we can look to the BBC, the IBA and the IBA's Welsh contractor, whoever that may be in 1982, to play their full part.
§ The amendments are designed to reflect the fact that there will be a new authority to run the fourth channel in Wales, but it will not itself be a programme making body. While some programmes will come from independent producers, the bulk of the programmes will be made by the BBC and the IBA's Welsh contractor. That has always been recognised and is indeed the only way to secure the increase in Welsh language programmes which we hope to see when the channel starts.
§ The Welsh fourth channel authority will consist of a chairman and four members to be appointed by my right 410 honourable friend the Home Secretary after consultation with my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Wales. The Welsh authority will have a clear responsibility for scheduling the whole of the programme service on the fourth channel in Wales. But, at the same time, it is possible to recognise the interests and responsibilities of the BBC and the IBA in relation to broadcasting in Wales generally. It would be open to my right honourable friend, for instance, to appoint the BBC Governor for Wales or the IBA Member for Wales to the new authority. He could also appoint a person from the board of the IBA's fourth channel subsidiary. My right honourable friend intends to discuss this with the BBC and the IBA as he is inclined to think that there would be advantage in some cross-membership of this kind.
§ The Government have said on many occasions that they hope that there will be between 20 and 22 hours a week of Welsh language programmes by the time the fourth channel in Wales starts to transmit. It expects 10 hours of these programmes from the BBC, at least seven hours from the IBA's Welsh contractor and the balance from either the IBA's Welsh contractor or from independent producers. Both the BBC and the IBA are working towards attaining these objectives. The precise arrangements for the scheduling of the Welsh language programmes will be a matter for the Welsh authority. I might however make it clear that the arrangements proposed in the Bill would not rule out the possibility of blocks of programmes from different sources, including the solution proposed in the Siberry Report.
§ Within this flexibility, however, the Welsh authority will be expected to provide the bulk of programmes at peak times in the Welsh language. But all the programmes then will not necessarily be in the Welsh language. In particular, it will be right to schedule some Welsh language programmes at times more suitable to the nature of their content. For example, children's programmes will be more appropriate in the afternoons; and obviously there will be a demand for outside broadcasts which go out at the time when the event is happening. I have already indicated that the English language 411 programmes around Welsh language programmes will normally be the output of the United Kingdom fourth channel.
§ The IBA's Welsh contractor will have the right to sell advertisements for transmitting on the fourth channel in Wales. Control of the advertisements will rest with the IBA. Such advertisements will not however be permitted during BBC programmes. They can, however, be transmitted before or after the BBC programmes if the Corporation consents. The Corporation has indicated that it will be willing to agree to this so long as there is a sufficient interval, which may be brief—for example, a presentation item about the programme or programmes that are to follow—to ensure the clear separation of the BBC programmes from the advertising material. The Welsh Authority will not make its own programmes. Whether it should have its own facilities for continuity and presentation, or those of the BBC and the IBA's Welsh contractor could be made available, remains to be investigated in detail. Nevertheless, the Government hope that arrangements can be made so that the Welsh authority itself is not expensive to run.
§ The Committee will be concerned to know how the Welsh fourth channel service will be funded. First, the BBC will provide it with programmes free of charge. The cost of these programmes will be taken into account in assessing the level of the television licence fees as has been the case in the past. Second, the IBA will pay to the Welsh authority sums sufficient to cover the remainder of its reasonable expenses. These will be essentially the cost of Welsh language programmes from the IBA's Welsh contractor and from independent producers of English language programmes to complete the service and of the necessary administration. The IBA will raise the sums they pay over to the Welsh authority by way of contributions from the ITV contractors. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary is enabled to have regard to the increased cost of the fourth channel in Wales when setting the rates of the levy.
§ The total sum to be paid over by the IBA to meet the reasonable outgoings of the Welsh authority will be agreed between the IBA and the Welsh authority. There is, however, provision for the 412 Home Secretary to arbitrate if such agreement is not forthcoming.
§ The IBA will transmit the service put together by the Welsh authority. Wales has already been given priority in their fourth channel engineering plans so that the expected coverage by the end of 1982, when it is hoped to start the service, and which is the earliest possible date, will be 90 per cent. coverage in Wales as opposed to 80 per cent. in other parts of the United Kingdom. The IBA's present plans for the extension of fourth channel coverage nationally will continue to increase the coverage in Wales as well as elsewhere. It is nevertheless recognised that there will remain problems about reaching all communities in hilly areas, and this must apply to Wales as well as to other parts of the United Kingdom.
§ As I have indicated, there is provision in the amendments for reversion to what is called the two-channel solution. Such a decision would clearly only be taken after the most careful consideration.
§ It could be implemented only by an Affirmative Resolution of both Houses of Parliament, so it would have to have the agreement of the Government and Parliament as a whole. I am sure that there would have to be a fair period of trial, of the order of perhaps three years, before such serious consideration could be given to changing the arrangements. We would all have to be satisfied that there was widespread demand for a change, and that such a change would be in the interests of Wales as a whole and of the Welsh language.
§ The provision that we propose would enable my right honourable friend to make an order, subject as I have said, to Affirmative Resolution, to re-establish the provisions in the Bill as presently drafted, and those further amendments which he had undertaken to make before deciding to revert to the single channel solution, which would require the BBC and the IBA to consult about progamme content to ensure that there was a unified service of Welsh language programmes albeit on two channels, and provide for the establishment of a Welsh language television committee.
§ If your Lordships will bear with me for just two more minutes, may I, in con- 413 clusion, draw the attention of the Committee to the precise provisions which I am commending to the House to give effect to the policy which I have outlined? First, the existing fourth channel provisions will be applied only to England, Scotland and Northern Ireland and this is the effect of the particular amendment that I am now moving.
§ New Clauses 7A and 7B—that is, Amendments Nos. 19 and 20—and the schedule entitled Provisions as to the Welsh Fourth Channel Authority, provide for the fourth channel to be run in Wales by the Welsh fourth channel authority and make the necessary provisions to set up the authority. They are modelled on those in the Independent Broadcasting Authority Act 1973, which covers the IBA.
§ New Clauses 7C and 7F—that is, Amendments Nos. 21 and 24—and the Schedule entitled Modifications of main Act etc. in relation to Fourth Channel in Wales, set out the Welsh authority's functions and its statutory obligations. The general provisions as to the content and quality of programmes are again modelled on those relating to the IBA. It is, however, in these provisions that the details of their obligations regarding Welsh language broadcasts, to which I have referred, are set out. Provisions for the sources of programmes, which are to be the BBC, the IBA's Welsh contractor and independent producers, and for advertisements, are in New Clauses 7D and 7E—that is, Amendments Nos. 22 and 23.
§ New Clause 7G—that is, Amendment No. 25—allows the Welsh authority to set up advisory bodies, but makes it clear that it may use the relevant existing bodies of the IBA. and BBC when those authorities consent. New Clause 7H—that is, Amendment No. 26—deals with the IBA's funding of the Welsh authority and also requires the Welsh authority to make an annual report to the Home Secretary which is to be laid before Parliament.
§ New Clause 71 enables the Home Secretary to have regard to the increased cost of the fourth channel in Wales when setting the rates of the levy. That is Amendment No. 27. The new clause to follow Clause 15 allows the Welsh 414 programmes to come within the scope of the Broadcasting Complaints Commission. Finally, the new clause to follow Clause 19 makes provision for reversion to the two-channel solution by order, subject to Affirmative Resolution.
§ As we come to each of those amendments, I shall do my best to answer questions or points put forward by your Lordships. But I thought it might be for the Committee's convenience if, at the risk of going on too long, I ran through the consequential clauses in moving, as I do now, Amendment No. 2. I beg to move.
§ 4.14 p.m.
§ Lord CLEDWYN of PENRHOS
I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord the Minister of State for the way in which he has introduced the Government's new proposals. During the Second Reading debate on 24th July, I indicated my very deep concern about the possible course of events in Wales if this Bill was passed without amendment. I shall not repeat what I said then, for the scene has changed and the mood is very different in Wales. This is because the Government, after careful consideration and after listening to representations from a wide range of people, have decided to revert to their original policy; that is, to broadcast Welsh language television programmes on a single channel.
I am grateful to the noble Lord for the references that he has made to the deputation which visited the Home Office. With the Archbishop of Wales and Sir Goronwy Daniel, I met the Home Secretary on 10th September, when, as the noble Lord recalls, we had a very full discussion covering all the implications of what had become a most sensitive issue in Wales. I am grateful to the Home Secretary for that opportunity, for the hearing he gave us and, most of all, for his courage and wisdom in changing the policy.
It was not an easy decision. It is never easy for Governments to change policies. But it was the right decision in all the circumstances, and it is well to bear in mind that the new policy has behind it the authority of a number of independent inquiries going back over a period of years and culminating in the Annan Report. This morning, I received 415 a copy of the Archbishop of Wales' diocesan letter for the month of October and I think I should quote what he wrote on this subject, as he was a member of the deputation to which I referred. This is what he had to say:Despite much that has been said to the contrary, the Government has consistently acted honourably and in good faith. They believed sincerely that to split Welsh programmes between two channels would give a better service than to confine them to the fourth channel as had been intended when they came to power. Eventually, while still believing that their proposal was right for television, they decided that in the context of the whole situation in Wales, and to avoid giving grounds for further acts of lawlessness, it was right to revert to the fourth channel solution.Dr. Gwynfor Evans is a man for whom there is considerable respect and affection across party lines. He now bears immense responsibility to do his utmost to rid our land of the atmosphere of violent confrontation that his avowed intention to fast to death did much to encourage. He should recognise that the Government acted not in response to threats, but as a very constructive contribution to preventing a progressive decline into anarchy. What we have seen is a victory for Mr. Whitelaw and Mr. Edwards quite as much as for Dr. Evans. I believe that this is recognised by all of us who hold the middle ground and will have no truck with violence or any form of action that threatens democratic and constitutional Government".That was the view of the Archbishop; it reflects moderate and majority opinion in Wales, and it is in response to that opinion that the Government have acted.
The Committee is grateful to the noble Lord for the way in which he had explained the new proposals. Perhaps he will be good enough to enlarge on a few points which I have to raise, and I shall be brief. I welcome the new Fourth Channel Authority and I think that it has adequate powers. It is important that it should be efficient and streamlined, that it should not overlap the duties of the existing authorities and that duplication is avoided. A good deal of very careful planning will be needed and I think the noble Lord has indicated that the Government have this very much in mind.
Can one assume that the final outcome will be block programmes from the BBC and ITV respectively? There will be a need to watch the balance and quality very carefully from the outset. As to the composition of the authority, I welcome the noble Lord's suggestion that the representatives of the IBA in Wales—that is, the chairmen of the respective 416 Welsh authorities—may be enlisted on to the new authority. There is a great deal to be said for that, because it would ensure the necessary co-operation between the two authorities in Wales.
On Clause 7C(2), I have the feeling that professionals should be empowered to locate programmes and to adjust them in the appropriate way. When we talk about programmes in the Welsh language from 6.30 to 10 o'clock—that is, peak viewing time—we should not overlook the fact that one of the most important components in Welsh language broadcasting at the present time is children's programmes, which take place between about 4.30 and 5.30. That must be taken into account by those who plan the new programmes.
Again Clause 7D(2) needs further explanation. That subsection does not seem to me to be as clear as it might be. Clause 7E refers to advertising during Welsh language programmes. One assumes that these advertisements do not necessarily have to be in Welsh in order to make up the 22 or 25 hours, as the case may be. Both Welsh and English speaking people would regard English advertisements as acceptable in the circumstances.
Can the noble Lord indicate who is to have editorial responsibility for the programmes—that is, the day-to-day responsibility for content, accuracy, quality and good taste? I do not think that this is necessarily a matter for the new authority; they would be too remote for that purpose. It would be helpful if we knew who is to be responsible in practice.
The Minister has indicated the number of hours which the Government have in mind; namely, 22 hours. I should have thought that this could be treated with a certain amount of flexibility. When she made a speech recently in Cardiff, Lady Plowden indicated that she thought there should be 25 hours, and I think that the Crawford Committee mentioned a similar time. I do not think that the Annan Committee made any reference to a specific number of hours. We should not be tied down too tightly but should deal with this as we proceed. If there are programmes of a high standard and if there is a growing demand for them, then we should aim for the longer rather than the shorter period.
417 I am grateful to the noble Lord for what he said in clarification on the question of costs. I understand that the levy paid by the IBA to the Treasury is in the region of £68 million. The figure could be more than that. But is it the case that it is a percentage of that which would be paid towards sustaining the Welsh Authority so far as the IBA is concerned?
There is a question about Clause 7C(3). The effect of this, if I read it aright, would be that in the absence of a Welsh language programme the Welsh channel would receive the programmes being broadcast on the fourth channel at that time. This might not work effectively in practice. That is to say, the break might occur in the middle of a programme. Let us assume that a ballet or Hamlet was being performed, which might take two or more hours. You could not cut into the middle of that and insert it into the Welsh fourth channel. It seems to me that it would be better if the Welsh authority could if necessary choose from other suitable fourth channel programmes already recorded. At least it would be prudent for the Bill to provide for this to be done.
It is clear that there are numerous points still to be determined. I wonder whether the Minister might consider publishing a short explanatory memorandum in due course—after all, the details have been worked out—so that we are in no doubt in Wales as to the arrangements which are in train. I hope that the new authority and its objectives will be given a fair wind. I have no doubt that with co-operation and goodwill on all sides this can be attained.
May I once again express my personal appreciation of Mr. Whitelaw's decision and also express the hope that over the next three years the new channel will achieve its purpose and that the undoubted gifts of young Welsh men and women will be fully used to ensure its success?
§ 4.23 p.m.
§ Lord HOOSON
I should like to add to what my noble friend Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos has said and thank the noble Lord the Minister of State for his explanation of the amendments. I should also like to congratulate the Government, and 418 Mr. Whitelaw in particular, for taking what was, I think, a very wise, sensible and courageous step. The Government have lost nothing by going back to their manifesto and taking out what was in the gracious Speech. I am very glad that they had the courage to do so.
I think that all Members of this Committee would like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos for the part which he played. In my experience, as I said at Second Reading, there is nobody closer to the heart of Welsh moderate and enlightened opinion than my noble friend. He behaved in this whole matter as a great servant of Wales would behave, and the whole country is grateful to him.
Let me also say how very much I agree with what the Archbishop of Wales wrote in his pastoral letter. I think it is very important that that viewpoint should be got across. It is so important to acknowledge that the Government were not bowing to a threat so much as bowing to the overwhelming enlightened opinion of Wales.
I do not wish to add to the questions which my noble friend Lord Cledwyn has asked the Minister of State. Obviously they are questions which need to be asked and I hope that the Minister of State can to a degree deal with them today. May I also commend the suggestion made by my noble friend that the Government should issue a memorandum on the matter which we shall have time to digest?
Altogether, I think that this has been a commendable parliamentary exercise. I think that the Government now are on the right road in Wales. There is a great opportunity for those who love the Welsh language to make sure that we have adequate and good programmes on the fourth channel. Above all, the programmes in Wales, as everywhere else, will depend, in the end, upon funding, and I hope that the Government will make sure that there is adequate funding to ensure that the quality of the programmes which go out on Welsh television rivals that of those which go out in English.
§ Lord HARMAR-NICHOLLS
May I address a quick word to the noble Lord in the Chair? This is the most confusing Committee stage that I ever remember 419 sitting in on. Are we discussing the amendment of Lord Belstead, the one next on the list?
§ Lord HARMAR-NICHOLLS
It is delightful to hear the congratulations and I am more than pleased to know that all the noble Lords who come from Wales are very happy about what my Government have done. That gives me great joy. But until I read in detail tomorrow what my noble friend has said, I shall not know to which clauses noble Lords have referred. Does it mean that noble Lords will make further speeches when they get to the clauses, or can we have identified the clauses to which their comments have been directed?
§ Lord BELSTEAD
It may be for the convenience of the Committee if I repeat—I am afraid I did not make myself clear—that I am moving Amendment No. 2; but I was speaking, I think with the agreement of the Committee, to a list of amendments which I went through at the end of my speech. Then I added that as we came to each of those amendments I would, if there were questions which were put at that moment, do my best to answer them. But first I am going to have to answer questions on this amendment.
§ Lord HARMAR-NICHOLLS
Yes, I understood that, but I am making a protest, in the friendliest way, and suggesting that it is not a bad thing to keep to the normal procedure in a Committee stage when we are looking at the dotting of the i's and the crossing of the t's. For the last half hour we have obviously not been doing that, and I am confused.
§ Lord GIBSON-WATT
My noble friend must realise that when we are dealing with Celtic affairs we move in rather a mysterious way!May I begin by saying to your Lordships that the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, has made a characteristic and generous speech which I certainly very much welcome. I, too, congratulate him for the part which he and his two other colleagues have played in their approach to the Secretary of State. Lord Cledwyn was also generous enough to say that there were many others who 420 went to the Home Secretary and to the Secretary of State in order to achieve what has been achieved.
The controversy which has raged in Wales has greatly increased over the summer months since the Second Reading debate, which I was unable to attend but in which the noble Lord spoke. There were some who believed that the Government's original intention—or, shall I say, their second intention—was the right one. I am not here this afternoon to argue that; it has already been discussed and the argument has been taken against it.
The real argument, and the one which I think moderate opinion in Wales took on board and could not stop, was the fact that the Government, having put it in their manifesto, were not carrying out what they had promised to do. I think that was the real argument. The fact is that there is an enormous body of moderate opinion throughout Wales, much of it from people who are not Welsh speaking, who have a tremendous admiration for the beauty and value of the Welsh language, not only to the Welsh people but to the world in general. I consider myself as one of those because I did not have the benefit of being brought up in a household which spoke Welsh. There are many who feel this.
I very much welcome the fact that the Archbishop of Wales has made this appeal to certain elements in Wales and I very much hope that this will be the beginning of a realisation of what the Government have in fact done for the Welsh language. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Wales made a speech in North Wales not many months ago. I forget whether it was at Llangefni or Llanrwst—somewhere in an important part of Wales—and in that speech he itemised the actual things that this Government have already done to help the Welsh language. That is not to say that other Governments have not done it, but I believe that those who, wishing to encourage the Welsh language, sometimes step beyond the boundaries of law and commonsense should realise just how much the rest of the country is trying to help in this important and valuable sphere.
It was an impressive list in the speech of the Secretary of State of what has really been done. In our view, above all the Welsh language must not be a divisive 421 element in our society. Wales as a whole is a happy country; a country which is not only welcoming and hospitable but where the people are able to live together and understand each other's problems. Perhaps for that reason the underlying importance of this decision by the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State is that they have gone back on their original intention and it is greatly to their credit that they have done so. Therefore, I very much hope that your Lordships will support the Secretary of State in this.
§ 4.33 p.m.
§ Lord ELWYN-JONES
It is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Gibson-Watt, whose work as a Minister of State for Wales left him a respected figure in Wales itself, if he will permit me to say so. I have very great pleasure in echoing the speeches that have been made already by my noble friend Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos and by the noble Lord, Lord Hooson; and I am glad that tribute has already been paid to the initiative of my noble friend Lord Cledwyn, whose voice is so enormously respected in Wales and whose moderation in this matter really was an important factor in achieving the ultimate result.
The Government are to be congratulated, of course, on their change of course, but I think it is only right that we should bear in mind that had there not been a change of decision there would have been a great sense of betrayal in Wales. The feeling for the Welsh language and the need for its preservation is felt very deeply indeed and it is good to feel now that we are on a steady and constructive course.
I share the admiration which has been expressed for the speech of the Archbishop of Wales. It would be appalling if the issue of language had led to a course of violence and undemocratic conduct in a country and among a people which has been dedicated to the cause of democracy. Heaven knows!Wales and its people have appalling burdens to carry now and that the problems of facing those grave economic anxieties in Wales should be bedevilled by violence on a different issue would indeed have been deplorable for Wales itself. There is no purpose in re-opening old sores and old issues and I join in the gratitude which we all feel that good sense has prevailed, and I thank the Government 422 for echoing it now in the proposals contained in this Bill.
§ Lord TAYLOR of GRYFE
As a Scot I am sorry to intervene in what is a Welsh affair, but I have some responsibility as a director of an independent television company and I declare an interest. I was interested in the reference to the funding of the programme and I wondered whether the noble Lord would tell us a little more about the calculations that were made on the cost of the programme and on the funding. So far as I could gather there were to be three sources of funding: one is the advertising revenue, and since this is a minority programme it is unlikely to attract mass advertising revenue. To that extent the Welsh programme will sustain a continuing and quite substantial deficit. If I understand the Minister aright, this deficit will be met from two sources: first, the BBC will provide programmes free and any additional cost incurred by the BBC as a result of that activity may be recovered in an adjustment of the licence fee.
Secondly, the IBA companies will provide their programmes to the new station and the costs involved in the provision of those programmes may be allowed for by an adjustment in the levy. If that were so, then the Exchequer would be paying for the adjustment since 80 per cent. of the profits of the IBA companies are passed to the Exchequer. What I should like to ask is what kind of calculations were made by the Government on the costs of the programme? I know that the relative allocation of costs between the BBC and the IBA will depend entirely on how many programmes are taken from each source, but I wondered whether the Minister could give us some indication of what the additional cost to the BBC might be, what the additional loss of revenue to the Exchequer might be through reducing the IBA contribution of levy, and also what is the anticipated total cost of the scheme.
§ Lord PARRY
The noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, is as sensitive to this occasion as one earlier speaker was insensitive. There is no need for him to apologise to the Committee of this House for speaking in the way he did at this moment because there is a sense in which we are talking not about Welsh affairs but 423 about British parliamentary democracy. What has been achieved has been a triumph for British parliamentary democracy, achieved through Members of this House and I give credit (as do others) to my noble friend Lord Cledwyn and those who work with him, as I do to the Ministers who have listened to the various representations which have been made.
It is absolutely essential that people should feel from their various points of view in our democracy that they can be represented and can be heard and that they can affect policy decisions. There are people who will be divorced from the good feeling in this Committee at this time; we have had evidence of that already within the Committee. There are people in Wales who will be divorced from the good feeling which has been engendered by the result achieved, but there are also a great many people who have nothing but good feeling for the language of Wales, as they have for Wales and the Welsh people. There are in Wales a great many people who are as I am, the only Welshman yet to speak in this debate, I think, who is cymro di-gyntraeg—a Welshman without Welsh—speaking for the vast majority of Welsh people who speak English but who have a great deal of affection and regard for the language.
I was able to speak in this House in an earlier debate on the Annan Report and I hope noble Lords will forgive me for referring to the remarks that I made then. I said:My plea today is that the Government should now take urgent action. The hour is late and if there is much more delay the effort to establish a viable television service for Wales in which the Welsh language is given a chance to survive may be too late to be effective".I would go so far as to suggest that the fourth channel be allocated to Wales almost as a feasibility study for its general allocation.
I am not going to trespass on the Committee or indeed upon the House any further than to say that what has been achieved has made sure at least that the Welsh language will be given an opportunity of being heard exclusively by those who are able to benefit from it and, at the same time, has not denied totally to others, who love Welsh and who love to speak for Wales in English, an opportunity to hear something of it, too. I wish the Govern- 424 ment well in their attempt to set up this channel, and I hope that it will be proved in the course of it that we have done something that is good not simply for Wales but something which is good for democracy.
§ Lord SWANSEA
If I may put in a very brief word here, as another Welshman, I should like to support what my noble friend Lord Gibson-Watt has said and congratulate the Government on this eleventh hour change of heart, which will be very warmly welcomed throughout Wales. Like my noble friend, I have lived in Wales all my life, in an area where Welsh is not very widely spoken. I have never had the need to learn it myself, but that does not mean that I have any the less regard for it as an ancient language, the language, so they say, spoken by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and one which has a wealth of ancient literature and is well worth preserving from the cultural point of view, however much one may doubt its practical value in the world today. Nevertheless, I should like to welcome the Government's move in this matter.
I should just like to add one more point. There are parts of Wales where the existing television programmes are only very badly received, particularly where I live in a very narrow, twisty part of the Wye Valley. Television signals cannot go round corners, and watching my television is rather like looking through a snowstorm. If anything can be done to improve the quality of the transmission of the present programmes that will be welcomed no less than the introduction of the Welsh Channel.
§ Lord DAVIES of LEEK
I will not take more than a minute, but as one who has had scores and scores of letters from all over Wales, and being another Welshman, the best I can say is thank you to the Government now in power for what they have done, and thank all those people who through their efforts made this result possible. To put it in Welsh, I will say simply diolch yn fawr i chwi— thank you very much.
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ Lord BELSTEAD
As I said when I first addressed your Lordships on Amendment No. 2, to which, I repeat, a whole 425 list of other amendments are consequential, there are different opinions which can be held in good faith and sincerity about the best course for the Welsh language and broadcasting when one is talking about them together. I was grateful to my noble friend Lord Gibson-Watt for what he said in this general respect. But it is not, I think, too much to say that but for the advice which was given by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, and his distinguished colleagues to my two right honourable friends I might not have been moving these amendments today. Despite views which are sometimes to be heard expressed to the contrary, I think Members of your Lordships' House still have some service to give to the country, and I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, for what he has both done and said.
The noble Lord asked me about block programming for the BBC and the IBA and whether the Siberry solution would be the solution. I sought to say in my opening words that it certainly could be the solution, but it would be a matter for the Welsh fourth channel authority. It might be for the convenience of the Committee if I say that the Welsh authority is responsible under the succeeding amendments, if your Lordships agree, for the service on the fourth channel in Wales. They must, therefore, have overall editorial control. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, quite rightly perceived, that is not quite the whole of the story. Having accepted, for instance, a BBC programme, because the BBC makes and supervises programmes the corporation would have responsibility for its programme under its charter. A Welsh contractor's or independent producer's programme would, of course, be wholly a matter for the new Welsh authority. When the new Welsh authority transmits the United Kingdom fourth channel—that is to say, outside Welsh language programming—then the IBA will be supervising that programme elsewhere in the United Kingdom and must have some responsibility for what is going out on that programme in Wales in the sense that originally they agreed that tha programme should go out at all. But the Welsh fourth channel authority determines, under these amendments, what programmes go out and when, and it 426 clearly has overall responsibility for the quality and contents of its service.
The noble Lord asked me about the new Clause 7D, particularly Amendment No. 2, and spoke for a few moments about the number of hours that there might be of Welsh language television. I remember that in the previous Government's White Paper the recommendation which they were aiming at was some 20 hours, and this of course was because of the constriction of costs. We have mentioned 22 hours. What I must say today is that that will be the target for when the new Welsh authority starts its operations.
That leads me straight into the point which the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, made, together with Lord Cledwyn, about the funding of the Welsh channel. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary, after consultation with my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, will be discussing the details of the financing of the fourth channel with the IBA, but the provision in new Clause 71 would enable my right honourable friend to have regard to any increased costs when setting the rates of the levy. May I just add to that that of course the assessments which were made in the previous Government's White Paper, and which were made on the assumption of an open broadcasting authority, talked of some £20 million being needed in capital and recurrent costs to get the channel going. I think I can say quite definitely that the costs are going to be a great deal brighter than that because of the way in which it is being set up. But as it is only very recently that we have decided that this is the right policy to follow we really must have time. What I should like to say to the Committee this afternoon is that if the Committee will agree to the succeeding amendments, and believe that the structure is right, then I think the costs can be met.
May I just add, in case the noble Lord thinks I am being utterly evasive, there are obviously variables so far as costs are concerned and therefore uncertainties. For instance, we do not know what the costs will be for repeat showings of English language programmes. This will depend to what extent the Welsh fourth channel authority can use simultaneous broadcasts for the fourth channel in Wales where they 427 want to use English language programmes. It is much more expensive if you cannot use it simultaneously and have to get a repeat running. Although we intend the Welsh fourth channel to be run inexpensively, it is not possible to say how inexpensively. It is not yet possible to forecast the revenue from advertising which the Welsh contractor will obtain. It is, therefore, for these reasons that I must rest today, if the Committee will allow me to do so, on saying that the provision in new Clause 71 will enable my right honourable friend to have regard to any increased costs when setting the rates of the levy. These matters must now be urgently discussed with the Independent Broadcasting Authority. As best I can, I have answered the questions put to me, but of course these questions can arise again, if your Lordships wish, on the succeeding amendments.
§ Lord RAGLAN
Can the Minister tell me what arrangements will be made for those of us who live in Wales, but who do not speak Welsh and who will not have the benefit of the choice of a fourth channel or a second ITV channel which people in England will have?
§ Lord BELSTEAD
The hours of Welsh language programming have been discussed in the exchanges which have taken place in the last few minutes. I think that it is fairly clear from what has been said by the IBA over the past months, and also in another place, what will be the totality of the hours of the new fourth channel. That means that there will be both Welsh language programming on the new fourth channel as well as English programming. But I must repeat in response to the noble Lord, Lord Raglan—because it is important that I should do so—that it will be a matter, of course, for the new Welsh fourth channel authority, but if it sees fit to do so the bulk of the programming at peak times on the new fourth channel in Wales, will be in Welsh.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 3 [Nature of the Fourth Channel, and its relation to ITV]:428
§ 4.52 p.m.
Lord DONALDSON of KINGS-BRIDGE moved Amendment No. 3:
Page 3, line 8, at end insert ("and in particular programmes of international news and of world current affairs").
The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 3. Anticipating correctly that my first amendment would not be acceptable to the Committee, I thought it as well to put down this amendment. Under Clause 3 of the Bill certain instructions are given, one of which is that there should be a reasonable amount of educational matter. If we are to give any instructions I think that we must give more than just the one. Therefore, I have suggested that we should add to Clause 3:
and in particular programmes of international news and of world current affairs".
That is a milder version of the amendment which my noble friend Lord Hatch of Lusby will move later as regards which I differ with him over not its intention, but its method. I do not believe that it is correct to tell programme-makers what time they must put programmes on. I think that his amendment is probably too detailed, but we can discuss that later. However, I think that my amendment at least would be a reasonable provision to insert.
§ The most that we can do in a Bill is to ask for attention to be given to a particular point. What I am asking here is that special attention should be paid to the discussion of international news and world affairs and that there should be continuity of information on this channel instead of sporadic reporting of events, which is what we get generally with the ITN news. I think that that is a perfectly clear proposition. I would rather have had no further instructions added to Clause 3, but as the monitoring has been rejected I believe that it would be wise to include this provision. With that brief introduction, I beg to move.
I am sorry to take issue very briefly yet again with the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kings-bridge, especially on a matter on which I think we are substantially in agreement. I certainly share his view that the fourth channel should carry an adequate supply of programmes dealing with matters like international news and world current 429 affairs, and that those should be effectively, properly and adequately covered. However, if one looks at the actual effect of his amendment and at the clause of the Bill which it proposes to amend, one sees that the effect of adding those words to Clause 3(1)(a) of the Bill seems to imply that these matters—international news and world current affairs—are not generally catered for by ITV.
I have risen because I honestly believe that independent television can be criticised on many scores and in many areas, but I personally think that it is utterly clear—indeed this was a point made very strongly by the noble Lord, Lord Annan, and his committee—that in this particular field independent television has performed admirably. So, while I share the aims of the noble Lord in seeing to it that these matters are effectively covered—although I am not entirely sure that it is necessary that directions of this kind should be enshrined in a statute; I think one can have assurances that they will, in fact, be done—I would hesitate to insert an amendment which would appear to acquiesce to the suggestion that these matters (international news and world current affairs) are matters which have not been generally catered for by independent television. I think that that is an unwarranted calumny on independent television which has performed extremely well in that particular area, whatever it may have done in others.
§ Lord BELSTEAD
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley. In reply to the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, I must say that the Government would, of course, welcome the showing of programmes of international news and world current affairs on the new service to be established. We welcome such programmes now but, as the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, has said, ITN serves independent television very well indeed. I think that for that reason alone there is a question mark—if I may put it that way—over the amendment.
However, there is a further question mark, and to my mind it is as follows: the Annan Committee in paragraph 15.18 of its report said:We see the Fourth Channel as a challenge to broadcasters. Surely they will not be incapable of creating programmes of a different and intriguing kind".The difficulty is that, with the best will in the world, if one packs Clause 3 with 430 too many desirable things, then the fourth channel broadcasters will be left in a situation where they cannot think of programmes of a different and intriguing kind because their work will have been entirely done for them.
I wish that I could accept the amendment. I should like to do so, not only because I feel that self-evidently it seems sensible, but because the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, has been extremely abstemious in what he has attempted to insert in Clause 3. But, for the two reasons which I have given—and particularly for the second—I cannot see how, once we insert this amendment into Clause 3, we could have an argument against inserting a whole lot of other apparently very desirable things into Clause 3 which should be left, in the Government's view, to the discretion of the broadcasters who will be running the fourth channel.
§ Lord DONALDSON of KINGS-BRIDGE
I am not very happy with the noble Lord's reply. I must confess that I was rather shaken by the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, because, of course, there was no intention of making the point which I think can be thought to be made here. I shall withdraw the amendment, but I shall put it down again at the next stage if the amendment of my noble friend Lord Hatch is not accepted. Of course, if it were accepted it would cover this matter. Therefore, I beg to leave withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 4.59 p.m.
§ Lord FERRIER moved Amendment No. 4:
Page 3, line 12, at end insert—
("( ) to provide an impartial account day by day prepared by professional reporters of the proceedings in both Houses of the United Kingdom Parliament.").
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 4. In recommending this amendment to your Lordships I shall not repeat what I said in the Second Reading debate outlining the object which I seek to attain and declaring my intention at that time to put down this amendment. But, as your Lordships will realise, its wording is identical with the obligation 431 on BBC radio which is enshrined in its licensing agreement.
On Second Reading my noble friend the Minister, in winding up the debate on 24th July, indicated that the Government did not then agree with the idea which I put forward. However, he said:
But this is a matter to which we not only should, but I expect shall, return at the next stage of the Bill".—[Official Report, 24/7/80; col. 619.]
So here we are. I hope that this debate will enable my noble friend the Minister to reverse his first impression and accept this amendment. It is right in the mainstream of the Bill and it is very much an isolated and somewhat fundamental proposal, except that in fact it fits in with what is outlined in the memorandum and in Clause 3 (1)(a).
§ However, I shall be brief because I am eating to hear the speeches of the noble Lords from other Benches who have added their names to mine on the Marshalled List. What is more, there may be other Peers on all sides of the Committee who may wish to contribute to the debate. Therefore, I think that a short credo is all that your Lordships need expect from me to sketch in, as it were, the background of the matter I have in mind.
§ I believe in parliamentary democracy. I believe that our British system is without compare. I believe that part of this system is that the people should be kept regularly informed of the parliamentary process, come wind, come weather, if our form of democracy is to be sustained. Indeed, this essential element is one which as time has gone by the so-called newspapers—and I refer to the so-called newspapers with, of course, the exception of a few that publish any parliamentary reports—are no longer willing or able to sustain the reports which I think the people are entitled to expect.
I believe that television will be, if it is not already, the principal medium of information, whereby the people can hear of their "Par-li-a-ment". As Alistair Cooke once said:
Television is today the conscience of the civilised world.
I believe that the BBC's existing radio process under Clause 13(2) of their licence is becoming inadequate for its purpose despite its intrinsic excellence. It is
inadequate due to broadcasts being made at hours which cater for a mainly white-collar audience. I believe that it is not proper to leave entirely to the judgment of any television authority or individual the decision as to when or whether a parliamentary report shall he communicated to the public. Therefore, it is necessary that the obligation to do so on television must be statutory. As has been found in the USA, I believe that a commercial television franchise is rendered more acceptable and useful to listeners, in terms of the economics of their programme, when the service includes manifestly impartial reports of the proceedings of the legislature.
§ Having urged for many years that the reporting of Parliament should be enhanced, it seems to me that this Bill is, as it were, the "Open Sesame" to establishing the principle embodied in the amendment. I believe that we must put a foot in that door lest, by passing the Bill as it stands, the door be closed, perhaps for ever. In saying that, it may be that another channel might be the right route to establish it. However that may be, I maintain that it is the principle that counts. Let us hear what other suggestions arise from the debate before we think of dividing. However, I believe that we should take this opportunity to ensure that our parliamentary system, in all its aspects, is in tune with unfolding technical developments of the day. I beg to move.
§ Lord HILL of LUTON
In supporting the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, I think it would be useful to say that this may not be the service that is ideal for this purpose. Some might argue that breakfast television might be the right service, and so on. However, I think that its significance is to activate discussion and decision on the issue of the televising of Parliament, and that must take place in the first instance in the other place along the corridor. This question has gone to sleep for too long.
My attitude is a simple one. After many hesitations, years ago Parliament determined the question of the publicity to be afforded to its proceedings. It is not so long ago since Charles Dickens, as a parliamentary reporter, was forbidden from using a pencil and paper. He had to go out and recall as best he could what he had heard, and make his report for 433 his paper without the aid of a shorthand note. Let us face it, the House of Commons has been reluctant; it almost succeeded in deciding on the televising of its proceedings on one occasion. I remember when I went to the Post Office in 1955 that I found—with agreement between the parties—the 14-day rule; it meant that for a fortnight before Parliament had put down the Second Reading of a Bill, the broadcasting bodies were not allowed to mention the subject. That was only in 1955.
There is great reluctance, but nevertheless the basic principle remains that the public are entitled to know what goes on in Parliament. That issue has been settled, and the public are entitled to have that information brought to them by the major medium of communication. It began with print; it has moved to sound, which has been a great success. It began in a voluntary way. "Today in Parliament" and "Yesterday in Parliament" are now broadcast by virtue of a direction. We cannot deny to the people of this country the use of the medium which is their principal means of communication It is ducking the issue to avoid the use of television for this purpose. Of course it will mean new techniques; of course it will have to be done properly and with discretion. I think that Parliament fears that some of the more extrovert of its Members would seek to nobble the programme. But I think it must be done, and I think that we should use this Bill in order to persuade Parliament to re-open the subject.
I should like to add this last footnote, treading very delicately. As I read in my newspapers, certain constitutional changes are under discussion. One of them affects this House. I make no reference to the issue of whether this House should go or stay, but if the people of this country are to be required to determine that issue, they ought to know about the work it does and how it does it. This is a matter of some urgency because under the present system of general elections, of voting against a Government rather than for the manifesto of the Opposition, before very long the people of this country might be confronted with this issue. Let them know; they have a right to know. They have a right to know what goes on along the corridor. If that means changes of attitude, less cosiness, less of a club 434 atmosphere, so be it. But the public are entitled to know what goes on, and they are entitled that the medium of their choice—the best medium for the purpose—should be used.
I think that by this perhaps ingenious method we should seek to get this issue discussed and determined by the other place. I hope that in some way the Minister will be able to suggest—either by the acceptance of this amendment or otherwise—that along the corridor they can be persuaded to look at this matter again, and not just sweep it on one side as if it did not involve a real issue of public importance.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Baroness TRUMPINGTON
I fully agree with what the noble Lord has just said. He mentioned breakfast television. In case there is any misunderstanding, I have been advised that I must declare that I am chairman of Daytime Television, which is a group seeking the breakfast television franchise, for which I shall be receiving a fee, but it has nothing to do with anything I shall be talking about, if I am allowed. I have been told that I can speak.
I entirely agree with the noble Lord's views on this particular amendment. Is the Committee aware that there are as many deaf in this country as there are Welsh? They are not able to listen to local radio. By televising the proceedings in Parliament with a strip running along or by lip reading, they will be kept in day to day touch with what is going on as much as any other people.
As in the previous amendment, I believe that it is important to remind oneself that this amendment in no way provides for the televising of the proceedings of Parliament. It has nothing whatever to do with it. It provides solely for there to be "an impartial account day by day". It may also be felt that this amendment is not necessary because of the provision in Clause 3(1)(a), which contains not a bad definition of an account of Parliament—namely:matter calculated to appeal to tastes and interests not generally catered for …".However, I entirely agree with the spirit of this amendment and with the important points that the noble Lord, 435 Lord Hill of Luton, made so eloquently, in that it will be, fundamentally, a paving piece of legislation to ensure that the country thinks again about the important question of the televising of the proceedings of Parliament.
§ Lord FERRIER
I thank my noble friend on this side of the Committee, but there were two more names put to the amendment from the other side of the Committee who have not spoken.
§ Lord AYLESTONE
If this amendment is carried, obviously it is an instruction to the broadcasting authority to provide an impartial account day by day by professional reporters of the proceedings in both Houses of Parliament. That is a complete departure from anything that has happened since broadcasting began in this country. No Government has ever sought by statute to interfere with programme content. I do not think that this amendment has anything to do with the televising of Parliament.
I am quite sure that if there is anything worth reporting any day, whether it be in parliamentary Questions or in a debate in the House, then it is picked up by both broadcasting authorities. For example, on that day in three or four years' time when a thousand new Peers arrive, it will have the main headlines in both the BBC and the IBA news. This in instructing the broadcasting authorities what their programmes should contain is a complete departure from past practice. They will certainly pick up anything really worth reporting.
§ Lord HILL of LUTON
Has the noble Lord forgotten that it is an instruction to the BBC to broadcast a summary of the proceedings of Parliament? That is an illustration of Government instruction, and this is an illustration of a proposed Government instruction.
§ Lord AYLESTONE
I had not forgotten the point that my noble friend Lord Hill has raised, but there is no reason why we should impose it on the IBA because the BBC have it. In fact, I should be interested to know the listening figures for the daily report on Parliament on the BBC.
§ Lord RITCHIE-CALDER
I want to support the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, on this. As he pointed out, this is keeping the doors open. It is important, when we initiate a new service, that we emphasise and make quite clear that we want to make the proceedings of Parliament clearly understood by the people in this country. I mean clearly and physically understood. The noble Lord, Lord Hill, himself suggested that this will require a new expertise and better methods of presentation, but technically there is no doubt that this is part of what could be the innovative process of the fourth channel.
As the fourth signatory to the noble Lord's amendment, and in order to make it utterly clear that this is an ecumenical exercise coming from all parts of your Lordships' Committee, perhaps I may make my position clear. I certainly share the view expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Aylestone, that, in general, if one gives broadcasters or people the responsibility for looking after programmes and providing programmes, they ought not to be hedged around with instructions and restrictions and one thing and another. In general, we have to trust the broadcasters. If, at the end of the day, we find that we cannot trust them, then we get rid of them and get some others we can trust.
But I honestly believe that, as the noble Lord, Lord Hill, has said, this is a rather different matter. It is a matter upon which there is already a precedent for an instruction, as the noble Lord said, with regard to the BBC. I also believe it is a matter which perhaps requires new thought and the development of new expertise and perhaps new techniques in order to give a day-to-day coverage on television such as is outlined in the noble Lord's amendment. Perhaps this might be done by using excerpts from the present radio recordings along with still pictures, or whatever.
I am under no illusion that there is at present an immense demand for programmes about Parliament. I am not suggesting that these are immediately going to be the top of the pops. But I genuinely believe that if on television there is presented with professional expertise and an enlightened and stimulating manner of presentation a regular supply 437 of programmes about Parliament, there will rapidly be created a substantial demand. I personally believe that the interest in Parliament is much greater than many people believe. I believe that, if we do once provide the supply, and so long as that supply is effectively provided in an imaginative way, the demand will very soon follow. That demand would be for the good of broadcasting, for the good of the new channel and ultimately for the profound good of Parliament itself.
§ Lord PONSONBY of SHULBREDE
I have a great deal of sympathy with Lord Ferrier in his amendment. As other noble Lords have said, this would impose a statutory obligation on the fourth channel to report daily on Parliament. One of the problems with the present reporting of Parliament is that the present services achieve only a superficial level of reporting and tend to centre on the highlights of particular contests which take place in Parliament. My fear is that if the amendment is accepted in the terms in which it is written, it will in fact lead to repeats of the present form of reporting of Parliament. I do not think that it would entirely achieve the objectives which Lord Ferrier has set out in his amendment.
§ Lord FERRIER
May I interrupt the noble Lord for a moment? Does he refer to the radio reporting of "Yesterday" and " Today in Parliatnent," as being inadequate, or to the general manner in which Parliament is reported outside that?
§ Lord PONSONBY of SHULBREDE
I was thinking particularly of the programmes to which the noble Lord was referring. There is, of course, an additional reporting to that. I was adding that I thought that if the amendment were accepted as it stood that we could, in fact, see a repeat of the present forms of reporting. My feeling is that this is something we would want very much from the fourth channel—that it should innovate and experiment with forms of reporting our proceedings. But if one proposed to tie it down in the terms of the amendment, one might not achieve the objective which the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, seeks, and the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, made a useful contribution showing why the fourth 438 channel should devote a great deal of time and energy to this subject.
§ Lord BELSTEAD
We have some pleasant surprises in your Lordships' House. Earlier the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, referred to the day when he went to the Post Office. If I were to say, "I am going to the post office" one would assume I was going down the road to buy some stamps or post a letter. Of course the noble Lord, in a long and distinguished career, was referring to the day when he became Postmaster General and added that important office to the many others he has filled and the experience he therefore has of broadcasting matters generally. Therefore, even though his name is down to the amendment, I take seriously a short remark he made, namely that it is possible that the amendment, however much sympathy one may have with it, is perhaps not directed to the right television channel, a matter to which I shall return shortly.
My noble friend Lord Ferrier of course has an interest and concern for the proper reporting of the proceedings of this House and another place which was reflected admirably in his speech. I say straight away that I think it is right that we should all be concerned that our debates in this Chamber are fairly and fully reported to the public. The amendment is in the same terms as those laid on the BBC in its licence and agreement. The obligation on the BBC is that,The Corporation shall broadcast an impartial account day by day prepared by professional reporters of the proceedings in both Houses of Parliament".But that is where the analogy ceases. The obligation on the BBC does not specify whether the account should be broadcast on television or radio, and it certainly does not require that the BBC should make it appear on any particular one of the BBC's two television and four national radio channels. So in applying a requirement in the terms of the amendment to the fourth channel, my noble friend and the signatories to the amendment would be laying a much more rigorous obligation on the IBA than on the BBC. I say "rigorous" because it is giving the IBA no flexibility to decide, were it agreed that such an account should be provided, on which service the parliamentary report should go out. The noble Lord, Lord 439 Ponsonby, helpfully said, "Let us just hesitate before we agree to this"; and that is the first reason why we should hesitate before agreeing to the amendment.
My second reason is that implicit in Clause 3 is that it is for the IBA and the fourth channel board, which will be set up, to determine the detailed content of the channel's schedules, and they certainly will take account of what is being said in this Committee today and the claims which are being urged on behalf of particular subjects of interest. But I would have doubts about the wording of the amendment: a day by day report of our proceedings, a television version of the BBC's "Today in Parliament" or "Yesterday in Parliament". I find it rather difficult to envisage the form which the programme would take; a report of our words but, apparently, not of our televised speech is to be made available to the programme makers. It would not be, to use the jargon, a talking heads programme but a sort of talking stills programme, and the programme planners of the new fourth channel, which will go out only in the evenings to begin with, must have regard to the likely demand for a particular sort of programme and its place in a service which, while catering for new and different interests, must nevertheless attain financial viability.
Having said that, I would say that the IBA have, however, let the cat out of the bag to some extent and shown that of course they have considerable sympathy with what my noble friend is saying. Clause 7 requires the IBA to report in particular on programmes containing news or news features, and the IBA have already indicated that their plans for the channel include programmes providing background information on matters of public interest. But I repeat that it is a very specific duty that is being suggested—day by day reporting—in a slightly difficult way, in the way I suggested, so that is my second ground for not liking the amendment, certainly as worded. My noble friend may also be interested to note that one of the objectives of the secondary rental for local radio sound broadcasting has been support for parliamentary broadcasting. I slip that in to show that the IBA cannot be held up as being unsympathetic to the cairns for reporting the proceedings of Parliament.
440 My third point is that surely it should be for the fourth channel board to decide how this should be done. We are talking of a new television channel which is, at any rate to start with, to be broadcast only in the evenings. For legislation to force that particular TV channel and no other to carry a day by day account of parliamentary proceedings, before Parliament has taken any decision concerning televising its proceedings, I think appears premature. I recognise the force of a great deal of what my noble friend said and I acknowledge his close interest in this matter, but I believe the amendment tries to go too fast and too far this afternoon.
§ 5.27 p.m.
§ Lord FERRIER
After a rather desultory debate noble Lords will forgive me if I try to tie matters together. One is the question of it having nothing to do with televising the proceedings; the noble Lord, Lord Aylestone, mentioned that, but of course I said several times on Second Reading that it has nothing whatever to do with that. That is another matter altogether. My noble friend Lord Belstead put his finger on it in that something has to be done. As the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, and others who have put their names to and supported the amendment have said, one of the problems is that in order to get it done it must be statutory, and if one applies one's mind to it from the point of view of economics, it is possible that a commercial channel must have a statutory obligation if it is to broadcast parliamentary proceedings regularly.
"Regularly" is the important word, and let us remember that there are in the Bill provisions for contracting; there is no reason why, whichever channel decides to do it on television, it could not contract with the BBC to lift the excellent material which they produce in their radio record of Parliament and put it on television. Admittedly, it would not be what the broadcasters call "a talking head", but it would be possible. It must be statutory but, as I said, perhaps it could be on another channel. Perhaps we can establish that it is the principle that matters. Is television, the box, the main means of communication today or is it not? If it is, then Parliament ought to be reported on it. May I beg leave to withdraw the 441 Amendment so that we shall have time to consider the matter. I am told that another noble Lord wishes to speak—
§ Lord DAVIES of LEEK
Before the amendment is withdrawn I should like to ask the Minister about the finance relating to this matter. Why not, before making a decision, have consultation pending the enactment of the Bill, involving the panel that has been appointed, with responsible people such as the chairman Mr. Edmund Dell, Sir Richard Attenborough and others? I think that before the matter is brushed aside we should have a tentative answer to the effect that this proposal will be discussed.
Then comes the issue of Channel 4 finance. I think that democracy is worth keeping alive. If the public are not listening, we can gradually educate them to listen, especially in the case of this House. I shall not go into the party politics of this. Does the country want a bi-cameral system of Government? What is the work that is done at the present moment? Before the Government sweep this matter aside—I do not intend that in a derogatory fashion so far as the Minister is concerned; he is an able and kindly gentleman—I want this Chamber to be told, "Look, we shall discuss this with people from the authority to see what they can do", and so by the Report stage there will be given a constructive answer from people who are in the know.
Under the terms of this new ITV contract from January 1982 companies will be required to pay a total of some £70 million a year, at January 1980 prices, to the IBA as subscriptions to finance the Channel 4 company. Will this, as a result of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, he imposing new burdens of finance? Whatever party was in power, would the Government consider that this proposal was worth keeping alive for initiating a new kind of government in a world in which at present democracy is under the sword of Damocles?—and it is not a hawser that the sword is held by. Consequently, before the noble Lord withdraws the amendment, I should like some kind of answer to the questions that I have put. Does not the noble Lord think it worthwhile to hold back the matter a little in 442 order to get some advice from the authority?
§ Lord BELSTEAD
If my noble friend Lord Ferrier will allow me to say so, if it is his intention to withdraw the amendment, that would, as the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, has advised, give a chance for those in broadcasting to look at such a proposal to see whether it would affect the financial viability of the fourth channel. Once again it would give broadcasters a chance—because it would be for them to decide—to consider whether, for instance, as the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, suggested, something such as breakfast time television, if it comes to pass, would be the medium by which the objective of my noble friend Lord Ferrier can best be achieved. Therefore, I should not in any way wish to stand in the way of my noble friend withdrawing his amendment.
§ Lord HILL of LUTON
Will the Minister comment on the following point? Clearly the first step in the progress towards the televising of Parliament must be a Resolution by the other House. It is as simple as that; it must start there. Can not the Minister offer some hope that in so far as he is able he will secure that this matter is discussed in the other House, no doubt on a free vote, as it was last time? That is all that is being asked. Of course we know that this amendment is not the appropriate vehicle for raising this issue. We use this amendment to raise a general issue, and textual criticism of the amendment seems to me to be irrelevant. It is a question of the contemplation of a principle. Cannot the Minister offer to pass to his colleagues responsible the suggestion that this matter should be discussed on the Floor of the House of Commons? That must be the starting point—not discussions about its cost with the IBA or the companies. Parliament must decide, and the House of Commons must be the first to do it. All I am seeking is that there should be arranged a discussion so that the House of Commons can look again at this question and decide it one way or another.
§ Lord BELSTEAD
If my noble friend will allow me to intervene once again, may I say that the noble Lord invites me to arrange for this matter to be discussed on the Floor of the House of Commons. 443 If a hereditary Peer was to suggest, or indeed to do more than suggest, that something be discussed on the Floor of the House of Commons probably that particular Peer, quickly followed by your Lordships' House, would very rapidly disappear from view. What I can say to the noble Lord is that before today's debate I drew to the attention of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary the fact that the debate was to be held, and I can assure your Lordships' Committee that afterwards I shall draw to my right honourable friend's attention what has actually been said. In addition, the broadcasting authorities will also be reading carefully what has been said. I should not want to go beyond what I sought to say just now in answer to the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek.
§ Lord NOEL-BAKER
I did not put my name to this amendment, though if it were to be voted on now, I should in fact vote for it. This is a matter on which for many years in another place I have reflected without reaching a firm view. However, I have found the arguments put forward in your Lordships' Chamber this afternoon extremely persuasive—most of all the masterly statement by the mover of the amendment in favour of what he proposed, as well as the other speeches from those who have high personal authority in the matter.
I was trying to make a modest proposal. I had found the observations made in opposition to the amendment by my noble friend on the Opposition Front Bench and by the Minister to have some substance, but not enough to justify the rejection of the amendment, and I have wondered whether my noble friend on the Front Bench, the Minister, the mover of the amendment, and other noble Lords with special experience might not together consider this matter and offer a new amendment which could be adopted without objection on bureaucratic or other grounds from the Government—an amendment which could be presented on Report. I hope that that might be done.
§ Lord BROOKES
Having listened carefully to the speeches of many noble Lords this afternoon one has the feeling—I say this with respect—that there is a lack of realism in the approach to this matter. The measure of disenchantment with politics and Parliament that pervades our country today and which is of course widely encouraged by many undesirable organisations, will not be affected, nor improved, nor removed by compressed, superficial, compelled presentation of minuscule highlights of sensational utterances in this Chamber or perhaps in the other House where at times they are more likely to occur.
That our nation stands in need of being able truly to appreciate the blessings of democracy and the dedication of the best of its politicians and of the quality, the intellect, the integrity, and the pursuit of balance that characterises this Chamber and that we stand as a nation in need of a greater and more widespread knowledge of all of that is beyond question. However, we might render that need a disservice if we sought to compel superficial, sensational compression. Under such circumstances of superficiality and compression how can one possibly convey the sequential logic of debate that emerges here and the sensibility and conclusions that emerge? I think it is beyond sensible inclusion in any present channel. It also has no commercial mileage. But if in the message which is conveyed to the Minister in the other House, if one might be bold enough to suggest that democracy might be well served by a channel devoted to the presentation of the work of both Houses over substantial periods of time, without any commercial considerations influencing such an approach, then democracy might indeed benefit. We do not want, in 25 years' time, to be left with the question, "Do politicians prostitute democracy or does democracy prostitute politicians?" Your Lordships' House, properly presented, would speak well for itself.
§ Lord FERRIER
I have tried your Lordships' patience long enough, but I was in the middle of a speech when the noble Lord, Lord Davies, interrupted me. He raised the question of finance. Of course, a whole lot of things have got to be considered here, but your Lordships will be interested to know that the 445 chairman of the IBA suggested to me in a letter that this might be something which would fit in with the proposed breakfast television. My idea about television at breakfast is that it is the most ghastly proposition, but the fact remains that there appears to be a demand for it and this might be the place for it. In the light of what the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, said—I greatly appreciated his speech—I think this ought to be thought over again. At the same time, I feel that if I were to divide the Committee the amendment might be defeated. All the advice seems to be that this matter might be taken back and thought over again. I shall guarantee to do anything I can to help with that. Perhaps my noble friend would like to think of an amendment for another stage. If that is agreeable to your Lordships, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Lord PONSONBY of SHULBREDE moved Amendment No. 5:
Page 3, line 14, at end insert—
("and to make such special arrangements for the production and transmission of such programmes as it thinks fit.").
The noble Lord said: This clause which we are now discussing is one of the most important clauses of the Bill because it states how and why the fourth channel shall be different. It states in particular that the duty of the authority shall be:
… to ensure that the programmes contain a suitable proportion of matter calculated to appeal to tastes and interests not generally catered for by ITV";
… to ensure that a suitable proportion of the programmes are of an educational nature" and
… to encourage innovation and experiment in the form and content of programmes".
One wonders exactly what
to encourage innovation and experiment in the form … of programmes
means. I wonder whether, when he comes to reply, the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, can elaborate on what he means by this and what he means by "experiment". Does he accept that "encourage" means something quite different from toleration and innovation; that is, that "to encourage" clearly implies an obligation upon the fourth channel company to foster, seek out and actively
promote the confidence, creativity and position of independent production, and innovation and experimental television? If this clause is to be taken seriously, it must mean that the Government want to see some part of the fourth's channel's output make a genuine break with the existing traditions of ITV and BBC and to bring forward new and untried ideas and forms of broadcasting. To achieve this might well require the establishment of a structure which itself breaks new ground, which is capable of encouraging innovation and experiment.
§ In this context, proposals have already been made for an independent programme foundation, and I believe that the noble Lord believes there would be nothing to prevent the IBA and its subsidiary adopting this kind of approach to the problem. The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that the IBA makes such special arrangement as it thinks necessary to encourage innovation and experiment. It does not seek in any way to tie the authority's hands or anyone's hands with any particular form of arrangement. I hope that the noble Lord will be able to accept the amendment in this form. I beg to move.
§ Lord BELSTEAD
I do not think I can accept the amendment, not because I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, but because I genuinely believe it is not necessary. The noble Lord first asked me whether I could explain what is meant by the encouragement of innovation and experiment. My answer to that is that one needs to look a couple of lines further down to see that there is the general responsibility placed upon the fourth channel to have a distinctive character of its own. It is within that general responsibility that there are the specific responsibilities of encouraging innovation and experiment to have a special leaning towards education, because Clause 3(1)(b) adds to the educational provision of the 1973 Act. The other specific responsibility which comes within the general responsibility of a distinctive character is ensuring that there is:a suitable proportion of matter calculated to appeal to tastes and interests …".If the noble Lord asked me whether, in all that verbiage, I could not give him a concrete example of what I mean by innovation and experiment, I would say 447 that, although we have not come to it yet, let us just glance forward to Clause 4(3)(b) where we see a responsibility, a duty, laid upon the IBA to see that in the fourth channel there will be special opportunities for independent producers.
So far as the amendment is concerned, the Bill, taken with the 1973 Act, gives the IBA, and through it the fourth channel board, all the powers it needs to make appropriate arrangements for the production and transmission of innovatory and experimental programmes, and, indeed, of any other kind of programme on the channel. I do not know what particular arrangements the noble Lord actually had in mind, but, if I may cite just one example, there would be nothing to prevent the IBA arranging for the simultaneous transmission on an ILR station or stations of, say, the sound track of an opera which was being shown on the fourth channel. The IBA has all the powers it needs, and for that reason I think the amendment is unnecessary.
May I just add that, so far as the transmission of programmes is concerned, many Members of the Committee may have read the January 1980 copy of the publication, Independent Broadcasting, which on page 16 sets out very clearly the engineering plans for the fourth channel and shows that from the outset—in other words, from November 1982, if the plans go ahead, as we all hope they will—the fourth channel will be available to over 80 per cent. of the population of the United Kingdom, with more transmitters to be added in the following year. According to Clause 3, those transmitters will be devoted to, among other things, encouraging innovation and experiment in order to give the fourth channel a distinctive character.
§ Lord PONSONBY of SHULBREDE
I thank the noble Lord for his reply. He is quite right in saying that the addition of the words in my amendment would not give any more powers or authority to the fourth channel than are proposed at present. The purpose of the amendment was to make certain that some specific structure was established, but I entirely accept the noble Lord's remark that for the structure to be established it is not necessary to have the amendment. The remarks that I have made and the remarks 448 which the noble Lord has made will of course be read by the authority and the fourth channel company, and I hope that they may indeed feel that it would be right to establish some form of structure. With those remarks, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 5.51 p.m.
§ Lord HATCH of LUSBY moved Amendment No. 6:
Page 3, line 14, at end insert—
("(d) to ensure that a substantial and regular proportion of programmes, transmitted at broadcasting times equally favourable with other programmes, shall deal with the issues of world development and international interdependence.").
§ The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment on behalf of my noble friends and myself I must, not for the first time and probably not for the last, disagree with the Front Bench speaker from this side of the Committee. When he opened the first debate of this Committee stage he said that he considered that the first amendment was the most important to be moved from this side. I beg to disagree with him. I believe that this amendment is in a different dimension from any other amendment on the Marshalled List so far as this Committee is concerned—and this is by no means false pride. I believe that it is no exaggeration to say that this amendment is directly connected, not just with the content of television over the next few years but, indeed, with whether there will be any television; whether there will be any of the common amenities which we take for granted today.
§ With your Lordships' permission, I will try and sketch very briefly the context in which this Bill is being discussed in Committee, because it is providing for a public service which is of crucial importance in the information service and in the education of the people of this country. Surely it is unarguable that the central issue of our generation is the simple fact that, on the one hand, in the industrial nations of the world, including our own, there are 20 million people today—a number rapidly rising—who are unemployed; whose skills, whose labour and whose contribution to the community have been frozen: whereas, on the other hand, in the other part of the world, the non-industrial developing 449 world, there are 15 million children under the age of five dying every year because of the lack of the basic necessities of life. We must put these two issues together, because they lie at the roots of the economic, the social and the moral sensibilities of our generation.
§ In this country, whatever the policies of either Government, and taking the policies of the present Government at their face value whether one agrees with them or not, I think it is universally accepted that the future of the country depends upon us selling our goods abroad; and this Government have pledged themselves, have committed themselves, to the market economy. But I am sure the Minister will agree that at least a half of the market of this world, of the human race, is today closed; so if one is to use any common sense and look to the future for the next generation, for economic revival in this country, that is where we have to look. Already, 28 per cent. of the exports of this country go to the developing world. They provide a million jobs in this country. They provide us with a £6 billion surplus per year in manufacturing goods alone. That is not enough. It is exceeded by the average in the EEC, by the North Americans and by the Japanese, and despite all our long historic connection with the developing world we are not doing as well as many of our principal competitors who did not have that historic advantage.
§ What I am suggesting is that it is ordinary common sense, whatever one's political ideology, to look at the relationship, at the interdependence, between the future economic health of the 55 million people of Britain and the 2 billion people living in poverty in the developing world. That is the economic future, and I am suggesting that, again irrespective of what Government are in office, we have a parliamentary responsibility to bring this stark fact to the attention of the people of Britain—because no Government can carry out a policy that can lead to the revival of the economy of Britain without public opinion behind it.
§ Let me draw to your Lordships' attention the survey that was done for the Ministry of Overseas Development two years ago and called the Schlackman Report. I have questioned a number of Ministers on the Front Bench opposite 450 as to whether they have read the Schlackman Report, and I have never yet had an answer. In brief, the Schlackman Report finds that about two-thirds of the people of this country are, in general terms, parochially-minded and introverted—that is, until they are given the facts. What is most important and most relevant to what I am saying this afternoon and to the consideration of this Committee is that once those people who were polled by the Schlackman organisation were given the information about things like aid, exports and the relationship between the economy of this country and the economy of the developing world, their opinions changed. They had not been given the information; and again I suggest that it is a parliamentary responsibility to give information.
§ I do not think any Member of your Lordships' House would suggest that our responsibility is simply to follow public opinion at the lowest common denominator. We have a responsibility to provide information, and to provide the raw material of discussion and argument. In this connection it is generally accepted today that television has a crucial part to play. Only last night a professional television presenter was telling us that it is now accepted in the television world that more than half the British public get their basic information on the conditions of the world and, indeed, on the conditions of this country, not from the newspapers, not from reading books but from television. Therefore, this Committee has a crucial task to perform in the way in which it introduces this new channel. That is on the practical side. It is an essential element of industrial revival in this country that public opinion is led and given the information on which to base the relationship and the application of the interdependence between the developed and the developing world which was so well spelt out in the Brandt Commission Report.
§ But I would be failing in my duty if I simply depended upon the practical side. I think it would be generally accepted by the experience of Members of this House that there is a moral issue here, too, and a moral issue particularly felt among the young people of this country; that there is a moral, a spiritual attraction among a very large section of young people of this country, again, once they are given 451 the information, once they are given the lead, to serve in organisations like VSO and OXFAM and so on. That is not dead, but too often if has been overlaid, it has been pushed aside, it has not been encouraged. After all, when we are gone the new generation are going to depend for the peace of the world, for the understanding of different cultures for, harmony between different communities, for friendship across ethnic boundaries, on knowledge, on understanding, a great deal of which will have to be presented by television.
§ I want to turn finally to what I believe is likely to be the answer to the Minister and the Government. I believe that the Minister will agree, basically, with what I have said so far, but I think he will probably say, as was said in another place, that this is covered within the Bill, under Clause 3(1)(b) the clause which lays down that there shall be a suitable proportion of programmes of an educational nature. That is not good enough. It is not good enough to talk simply about "progammes of an educational nature", because surely we would all agree that this is almost certain to be interpreted in conventional terms. "Educational nature" can mean, usually means, a form of schools broadcasting, adult education broadcasting, Open University, and so on. The existing three channels have not provided anything like the guidance, the stimulation, the imagination that I have been suggesting is essential for the future of broadcasting and televising in this country.
It is three years now since the Department of Education and Science produced a Green Paper called Education in Schools, dated July 1977, which said:
… nor are our young people sufficiently aware of the international interdependance of modern countries"—
I stress "interdependence", because that is in our amendment—
Many of our pressing problems can only be solved internationally, so our children need to be educated in international understanding as well".
That exhortation has not been carried out, and it certainly has not been carried out by the existing channels. A survey was done just last year of all the educational programmes by all the channels in this country and it was found that of the several hundred hours of educational
broadcasting in 1978–79 only 1.5 per cent. dealt with world development, so we are starting from a base which is negligible. It is for that reason that we are suggesting that the new channel should start in new directions and that when there are written into the Bill for the new channel the words "initiative" and "innovation" they should mean something specific; and we are suggesting that the specific subject that is the body of our amendment is an essential element in the work of the new fourth channel.
§ There was, I am sure the Minister is aware, an organisation set up last year, the Fourth Channel Development Education Group, which has professionals on it, which is preparing material and which will submit its material to the new authority. The appointment of Jeremy Isaacs is encouraging, and the words he has spoken, "I am not going for the ratings", are, again, an encouraging sign. It may be that we are only addressing ourselves to a minority at the moment, although I would suggest that if the Minister looks at the 53 organisations that are associated with the Fourth Channel Development Education Group he will see that they cover a very wide spectrum of our society. I am not going to read them into the record; that was done in another place. I am sure he knows them, and will agree that this is probably not 50 per cent. of our population but a very large percentage of the conscious people of this country. So we cannot be satisfied with this phrase "of an educational nature." In the past it has not provided what is crucial to the future information services on the public service of this country.
§ The second objection that I believe the Minister is likely to make—and I can see his reason for making it—is that if he approves, accepts, one special interest, then he will have a list of other special interests pressing on him. I would simply say to him that I believe this subject not only includes all other special interests but transcends them, and that to include in this Bill the amendment that we are proposing is a recognition that in our new television channel there will be new windows opened on to subjects on which the survival of the human race depends. That is not a special interest: that is a universal interest.453
§ I hope the Minister will be able to accept this amendment. There was in the other place quite a positive response from the Minister who replied to the debate. I hope that in answering this debate the Minister will not content himself with saying, "Yes, this will be listened to by the broadcasting authorities and no doubt they will take account of it." I hope he will say, "I join with you in expressing the conviction that this subject should play a relevant and an important part in the work of the new channel; that it should be given a place in the planning of that channel which will bring it to the attention not of those who are listening or watching between 11 and 12 at night, but to the mass audience who are listening and watching at the peak hours".
§ Baroness GAITSKELL
I should like to support my noble friend in his amendment, and I will do so in two or three sentences, no more, because he has said it all and there is very little to add. There is no doubt that this amendment would be not only useful but a complete transformation of information to this country about the Third World and even about such associations as the United Nations, which has existed for so long and of which there is massive ignorance. We need the educational function of this amendment and I hope that the Government will accept it.
As we have seen latterly, the independent companies and the BBC have had enormous success in their pleas about the terrible conditions of famine that exist today in the southern hemisphere. It seems to me that they could have as much success with information and education, handled in the proper way, as they have had with the programmes which have moved us so much and which have been, I believe, so very successful.
§ 6.10 p.m.
The Lord Bishop of NEWCASTLE
I want to support the powerful speech made by the noble Lord who moved the amendment. Although the noble Baroness has said that there is nothing more to be said, I hope that your Lordships will forgive me if I make one or two points which have not been made and which might underwrite the case. Just over two years ago I was at a Lambeth Conference which, some noble Lords will know, is a gathering 454 of over 400 Anglian bishops from all over the world and which normally takes place every 10 years. It was my first, and I remember it vividly for the dramatic way in which it brought home to me something of what it means to belong to the family of mankind. Not only was this obvious as one watched, for instance, the processions of bishops and saw that there were, now for instance, more African bishops than there were English bishops, but it also came home to me in a number of more personal ways. In a bus I sat next to a Tanzanian bishop who told me of how difficult it was for his country to grow economically while more developed countries and multinational firms have control over almost all the stages of production and distribution which follow the actual growth of coffee. The same point came through from a Sri Lankan bishop about tea and by a West Indian bishop about sugar—and one could go on.
I mention this for two reasons. The first is that I personally was experiencing development education. Let us give this rather broad, abstract phrase some heart. What had been for me largely theory before—and, I admit, rather hazy theory at times—now came home in a much more direct and vivid way. At the same time, this was not propaganda in the usual sense of the word. It was simply facts coming from men whose people and families suffered directly as a consequence of those facts; and they impinged upon me strongly. I believe that the same kind of impact can be made through the medium of good broadcasting and good television, in particular; and it must be said (as it has been said already) that the existing coverage of these issues is by and large woefully small and even the good programmes which are made never come on the air. This is partly for the reason that these programmes at present do not attract large audiences and, in a sense, there is a vicious circle and they will not do so until we get the chance to enlarge the audience to respond. Yet the will to make them is there, and I am sure that the skill and imagination is there if we can ensure some regular broadcasting time which will make the effort and expense justified.
The second reason for starting with this apparently remote subject of bishops is that the Christian Churches form a rather special kind of multinational, of which bishops are often the spokesmen. The 455 unity of mankind is a felt reality for me as a consequence of my responsibility for and involvement in a world-wide Church. I think it may not be widely known that in June 1979 almost all the diocesan bishops of the Church of England, together with their Anglican colleagues in Wales and Scotland who happened to be meeting with us at the time, sent a letter to the Minister of Overseas Development expressing serious alarm ifthere was any attempt to reduce the development education fund created by the previous Administration".We went on to say that many education projects depended on this fund and that without continuity of these enterpriseswe shall not be able to break out from a limited circle and with wider support for policies and attitudes vital for the peace of the world and the future of mankind".We did not use that kind of language lightly. We were speaking from within a world-wide community which is acutely aware of the urgency of these issues, as other Churches, I know, are also well aware.
Well, that appeal failed and the fund is no more. Here, in this amendment, we have a remarkable opportunity to make good the loss without recourse to Government funds and, I should have thought, in a highly effective way. This fourth channel is already committed to an educational bias by the terms of this main clause. It is there. This amendment therefore will strengthen it at a fundamental point: education for the survival of mankind and the creation of a truly international community in which extremes of poverty and wealth will be overcome before it is too late. I believe that I speak for many Christians and Christian leaders in saying, as the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, has said, that this is a moral issue which surely deserves and requires resolute and regular attention quickly of the kind that he has proposed.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ Lord RITCHIE-CALDER
I want strongly to support this amendment and to support my noble friend Lord Hatch of Lusby. I am glad to follow the right reverend Prelate and his appeal for the moral attitude which should be brought to this amendment. I think that what the 456 noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby has said is manifestly true: that there is no future for this country—I repeat, no future for this country—unless we come to terms with the realities of the wider world. We depend on the wider world for our economic survival, and the wider world considerably depends upon us for what we can contribute to the general advancement of the economic health of mankind.
We must instruct people in the real nature of things; and the awful situation we are looking at at this moment is the result of the failure of people, including politicians, to recognise the basic truth. Some of us have been struggling for years—and I have devoted most of my adult life to this very question—to make people aware of the issues outside this country and the repercussions upon us. We have tried to do this, many of us, with greater or less success; but we know that the progress we have made can be consolidated only if we are listened to by the present generation. There are people who are suffering now—and I am speaking of the unemployed in this country and the suffering elsewhere—as a result of our not being listened to. If we cannot now consolidate this we will have failed in our whole purpose.
In terms of informing people on these issues it may be said that this is a dull subject; but it is not so. It is a serious subject in all its implications although it is not necessarily something which is not going to interest and (if you want to use the word) entertain people. "Entertain" is a word I always find difficult to use in this context but education does in a very quick process become entertainment. I commend to your Lordships the kind of thing which many of us years ago, in the 1930s, when we were trying to get biology into schools and on to the newsreels, found was a great struggle: to make people believe that botany and zoology were tremendously fascinating and amusing subjects. Look at the work of the noble Lord, Lord Buxton, and his series on "Survival". Look at David Attenborough. All this excitement has now been brought into people's homes as a result of something which was written off or regarded as not even a subject to be contemplated for schools except as a discipline.
457 Here we are talking about an enormous opportunity. People who are supporting this movement within the television and broadcasting world, many of whom are and will be helping, I hope, to create the new channel and other new developments, are on our side because they want to do it. They want us to give them the reinforcement to enable them to do it well. It is not money, it is the encouragement, the assurance that behind them is the belief of this Parliament, this House that they can achieve their purpose through this kind of expertise. It is essential, it is inescapable. I sound as though I am exaggerating an amendment to a clause in a Bill, but I believe that without it we are pulling out the plug of our civilisation.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Lord HARMAR-NICHOLLS
It would be a very inhuman person who did not share the high-minded points of view which have been put on record in support of this amendment. The general desire to make it a better world is, of course, shared by anyone who has any standards at all. The recognition that to help the world, those with must help those without, goes without saying. To try and make those who are numbered among the "withs" understand the real necessities of those without is absolutely right in order to get the enthusiasm and will to get on with it. So I do not think anyone would dissociate themselves from the words of the mover of this amendment and of those who have supported it.
However, I wonder whether the actual effect of their amendment to this Bill is likely to achieve what they want. Indeed, I recognised and felt instinctively that there was a great danger in the tone of several of the speeches I have heard in support of the amendment for this reason. The whole inference behind most of the speeches was that enlightening the world, letting people know what is necessary and what contribution they ought to make is not already being done. I heard the suggestion that the BBC, the existing ITV and, I suppose, if you go farther, radio and magazines, do not do it.
I doubt whether there is a country in the world where all the problems which need to be expanded for good reasons in the future are put in front of people. But they are put in front of people from 458 all sorts of sources, independent sources, not one élite source which must be looked upon as being the only one that ought to be accepted. It is the very variety of the information that gets to us, whether we hear it on the BBC or not. I believe the documentaries, information and education programmes we get on the BBC are superb. The educational programmes and documentaries we get on ITV are excellent. I believe the choice of magazines, hooks and contributions leaves none of us in any doubt. If there is any doubt, we take the trouble to know what should be expected of us and what the general position is.
Mention was made by the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, of the Brandt Report. It is the present system that allowed the Brandt investigations to take place and the coverage that has been given to the recommendations they made about the 2,000 million extra population who must be fed in future has been very well served. So I was a little disturbed in the way this amendment has been presented as suggesting that all the other sources were not doing their job of trying to achieve this aim and not doing it very well indeed.
The noble Lord, Lord Hatch, very properly anticipated what could be the answer my noble friend will give from the Front Bench, that already in Clause 3 the power, and indeed the instructions, are given in the form of education and a general dissemination of views, to get over exactly what they want. But the danger of this, if I may say so with great respect to those noble Lords who have made excellent speeches in support of the amendment, is that the way they presented this amendment carries real dangers in this sense: Are they suggesting that this particular channel we are now setting up is the one that must be accepted as the true voice as to what is really happening and what ought to be done? The manner in which they presented this in a way undermines the appeal of all the other sources.
There was just an element of criticism in the right reverend Prelate's comment, a passing reference to the multinationals who bring employment and quite a bit of prosperity to many of the countries we want to help. With the greatest respect, I doubt whether the Church with all its organisations has done more 459 to bring the sort of education we are asking for to the people of the world than the multinationals have in the sense that they use their money in their reports and in various ways. That helps very much indeed.
I am merely saying that our information and the guidance to do what the noble Lords have said ought to be done must not give the appearance of coming only from one elite source. In the process of pressing for this channel to play its part—and of course we must do that—I hope they do; I hope they will use the powers given them under Clause 3 to add to all the other channels of information that are given to us, but not to give the impression that just because it will come over one channel, just because we put extra words in the Bill, that has a greater standing and appeal.
I remember, some years ago, when we were entertaining the president of France in the Royal Gallery adjacent to this Chamber, I had played a little part in the organisation of the hospitality being given to the president. I remember saying to the aide of the president of France on that occasion, "I suppose we ought to apologise for receiving your president in a room wihch is dominated by two murals which show the defeats that we inflicted on your great country—the Battle of Trafalgar and the Battle of Waterloo." His answer to me was amusing but salutary, "Don't bother about that. If you read French history, we won both of those battles."
What I am wanting to say is that to suggest that there is any one source, any one elite channel which can give a true report to help form opinion and to encourage help, denying the great contribution made by the others is a great mistake. While I hope that under Clause 3 what is asked to be done will in fact be done to a great extent, I would not like an addition to be made which will cause it to look as though that will have an élite and special contribution which downgrades the great contribution made by the other sources.
§ Lord KILMARNOCK
I wonder whether the Cross-Benches might have a tiny bite at the cherry. I do not wish to detain the Committee, but it seems to me 460 that it is possibly relevant to mention that some Members of your Lordships' House were receiving evidence on one of your Lordships' European sub-committees this morning from the ODA. We had before us a paper from the Overseas Development Institute and one of the things they point out in their paper is the following. They say:A small but significant casualty of the change of direction in aid policy has been the official Development Education Fund. Set up in late 1976 to ' promote public understanding in the United Kingdom of the issues affecting the economic and social development of the least developed countries, both inside and outside such countries, and of their consequences for the United Kingdom ', the Fund had, by mid-1979, committed £1 million for spending via the formal education sector and the voluntary agencies, in an attempt to raise public awareness about the key issues such as global inter-dependence. Now the Fund is to be wound up and the public programme of development education identified as a pressing need in a recent Government survey of public attitudes to the Third World is to be abandoned".That Government survey took place in 1978 before the entry into power of the present Administration. But I do not think that events in the world have changed all that much since 1978 or that the urgency is any the less. It struck me that the right reverend Prelate made a very good point when he was talking about development education. It is a nasty phrase but he tried to put some flesh on it. He made a good point when he indicated that here was an opportunity for a responsible channel—after all, we are setting up a new fourth channel, a responsible channel—to make a contribution to this really burning issue at no expense to central Government funds. That seems to be an extraordinarily important point.
Whether the amendment has it quite right I am not sure:a substantial and regular proportion of programmes".That may be too sweeping. It is in the Bill that it is incumbent upon the new channel to devote some if its time to education and possibly 5 per cent. of that educational time might be devoted to development education. That would be increasing the 1½ per cent., which was the figure mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Hatch. That is something which could possibly be discussed further at a later stage, if the Government would give a little sympathetic green light towards this rather important line of thinking.
§ 6.32 p.m.
§ Lord SOPER
I strongly desire to support this amendment. I will not delay the Committee by any large comments on the comparative benefactions of multinational organisations and the Christian church, though I would have thought that there was a perceptible difference between compassion and self-interest, even when it is enlightened. What strikes me about this particular discussion is that we may be in danger of confusing education with the proliferation of facts, whereas education surely must consist in the discriminatory way in which we examine what the facts are, what they divulge and what lies behind them. It is for that reason that I cordially support my noble friend Lord Hatch in his assertion that to consider as an educational requirement the Third World in its developing or undeveloped nature and the interrelationship of various communities in a global context has a priority that is incapable of being challenged today.
If education is to do more than dazzle those who are confronted with facts, and enlighten those who can examine those facts in a suitable context, then this is an admirable addition to the effectiveness of this particular channel. I am not unaccustomed to listening to people talking about what they assume to be facts. One of the alarming situations that I find today is that so many people are bemused by the multiplicity of so-called facts and they increasingly turn away from them into a kind of intellectual fascism precisely because they cannot see the relevance of these facts to any possible ways in which they can properly react to them. It is that which linked with the maybe terminal condition of our present society encourages me to put into this particular Bill the requirement that education must in these days concern itself with fundamental issues. And of all the fundamental issues there can be none so important and so lethal or possible of dire results than that which results from a coming together of people in a world which is now the size but not the quality of a neighbourhood, the coming together of people with varying degrees of educational facilities and aspirations. These are matters which seem to me of such imperative requirement that to say that education is sufficient in itself to provide the basis upon which this channel will effectively do its work 462 misses the point. Unless one prescribes that that education must be a concern in depth with the meaning of the many facts which are presented to us, then I for one do not believe that it would be education at all.
One final word before I sit down, it is a moral issue and I join with others who seem to feel as I did now that even the very paucity of true concepts of meaning have induced among a great many people today a sense of compassion, pity and revolt against brutality, and the inadequacies of sustenance for so many people on this planet. To take charge of that would be a tremendous vocation for this particular channel. If it is required of the channel that the educational facilities should be seen within that context, then I believe that this channel will do a work which has hitherto not been done but is of tremendous importance. We have not very much time to begin to do it.
I anticipate that when the Minister comes to reply to the debate he will not only rest, as has been suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, on the fact that there is a general educational provision already in the Bill, but he may say—as has been said in connection with earlier amendments—that it is wrong to write into the Bill specific instructions to the authority about the educational programme to be provided by the fourth channel. Let me confess that I have a considerable sympathy with that point of view, as a general statement.
I suggest that it is always desirable when making a general proposition to consider whether there are not special exceptions. I recognise that when one steps onto that path one is liable to open the door to everyone who believes that his particular cause is a special case. Despite that, I have no hesitation in stating my belief that development education is a special case deserving of specific inclusion in the Bill.
Briefly, I should like to say why. First, it is my conviction that it is literally the case that the future of civilisation depends on a widespread public and international public understanding of the crucial problems of world poverty and all the related problems—some of which have been spelled out by my noble friend 463 Lord Hatch. Anyone who has read the Brandt Report must realise that that critical situation in world affairs has at this moment of time been reached. That being the situation, it is overwhelmingly in the public interest in my belief that all resources have to be mobilised to the objective of overcoming that world situation. Of course, in the context of this Bill those resources include particularly the modern, powerful resources of television. They cannot be neglected. That resource must be harnessed to this overwhelming cause.
It may be said that if it is left to the authority all will be well, that the subject being of this paramount importance will not be neglected and that in existing programmes there are already admirable items covering this theme. However, I suggest to the House that our experience so far is that of all the existing television programmes—although they are excellent in many ways—they merely present a graphic presentation of the horrors of world poverty in a way which arouses the charitable impulses of the viewers. However, they fail to lead the public mind beyond that point, and they fail to suggest or educate people to find the more deep-seated solutions that are needed. I say that because charity is not the answer to the question of world poverty and its associated problems. There is a danger that, unless we adopt this amendment or something like it, the situation will remain that people will be induced by what they see on the television screen to make a charitable response to the problems that are depicted there, but they will not go beyond that to a real understanding of what is needed.
It is of paramount importance in the present world situation that there should be a much more widespread understanding of the interdependence of the needs of the poverty-stricken countries and of our developed part of the world. As we said in debates on the Brandt Report, we sink or swim together now. It is not a case of their problems and our problems. We are all interdependent, one with the other. Therefore, this problem that is being discussed tonight is one which is far more deep-seated than can be coped with by any charity, important though charity is in this connection.
464 That will not be understood if TV programmes merely conform to the guidelines which are already written into the Bill; that is, a general injunction to have regard to education in general. What is needed is a specific reference to the need for an educational process in respect of the problems of world under-development and, as I have said, that can be brought about only if the Committee accepts this amendment, or if it is agreed that something similar to it can be brought forward at a later stage.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ Lord BELSTEAD
I wonder whether I may just give the view of the Government at this stage of your Lordships' discussion, and then noble Lords whom we want to hear could, perhaps, tailor their remarks to what, very briefly, in only a minute or two, I shall seek to put to the Committee. The noble Lord, Lord Hatch, and the two noble Lords who, with him, have put their names down to this amendment, have made a very powerful case for the claims of world development, international news and current affairs to be dealt with by the media. But it is a separate matter to require the IBA to ensure that such programmes are shown in substantial quantities and on a regular basis—a matter to which the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, referred.
The problem which has to be faced in looking at the lines of the legislation is that there is a multiplicity of demand for time on the fourth channel. There are—as we are confident will happen—the offerings which will come from independent producers, and music and the arts. But although I took to heart the words of the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, when he adjured us and the people of this country not to be parochial in our outlook, there is the old expression that charity begins at home.
There are the problems in this country of ethnic minorities, of delinquency and of vandalism, all of which will jostle for a place in the time of this channel, not to mention all the various and different kinds of education—adult education, vocational education and other forms of education—which are, it is true, given a special emphasis by being repeated in this piece of legislation, when education is already mentioned in the 1973 Act. In 465 each instance—and your Lordships could, I am sure, mention many others—there are strong arguments in favour of a programme of that kind having place on the channel.
But I am sure your Lordships can imagine the problems that would arise if specific statutory provision, particularly on a substantial basis, were made for all contingencies. To put it bluntly, the job of the fourth channel schedulers would become absolutely impossible. I really think we must go for the wording of Clause 3, which your Lordships may have overlooked a little, and which determines that the fourth channel shall be of a distinctive kind.
The other point which nobody has mentioned this evening, and which I feel constrained to mention, is that at the head of the Independent Broadcasting Authority we have a very remarkable chairman. Someone with the enterprise and the intense interest in all forms of education of Lady Plowden will clearly make the best possible use of the wording of Clause 3, as will the IBA generally and, of course, the fourth channel board who will be responsible for the channel.
Finally, I would just add that I gather that those who have been campaigning for development education programmes on the fourth channel have already received a sympathetic hearing from the authority's education department and I trust that this will prove to be the seed for a fruitful relationship. The Government, indeed, welcome moves of that kind, but I am saying this evening: Do not, for goodness sake, write into the legislation this particular wording. If we start writing in the claim of one cause for a substantial proportion of the fourth channel, albeit that it is very deserving indeed, then there is no way in which one can argue that there will not be substantial claims for other forms of programming. That throws us back, once again, on to what has always been the accepted wisdom in broadcasting in this country; that it should, within the general guidelines, be left to the programmers, the broadcasters, to decide exactly what their programmes should he.
§ Lord HATCH of LUSBY
Before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask him one specific question which arises from the questions that I was asking earlier? Does 466 he consider that the case for development education is unique in the likely clamour for time on the fourth channel?
§ Lord BELSTEAD
I have answered that already in two ways. One is that it is not unique in the sense that although, as is clear from the speeches made this evening, the claim is very strong, there will be other extremely strong claims. Therefore, one should be thrown back upon the accepted wisdom in broadcasting, which is to set the guidelines. Here those guidelines are very strong. There are three specific recommendations in Clause 3(1)(a), (b) and (c), ending up with the general responsibility that the fourth channel shall be of a distinctive kind. Then, taking into account, as the programmers will, what has been said in the Committee tonight, one has simply to leave it to the people who are making up the programmes to decide what appears at a particular time on any channel.
§ 6.48 p.m.
§ Lord HOUGHTON of SOWERBY
I have listened to the noble Lord the Minister with great care. May I, with great respect, offer him just a word of advice to begin with? Those who say that charity begins at home are very frequently not charitable even at home, and it is dangerous to use that cliché as any justification for an inward-looking approach.
Very briefly, I should like to give three reasons why this amendment should go into the Bill. First, there are times when Parliament should define its intention and assert its right for that intention to be carried out, and I believe that this is such an occasion. I ask your Lordships to bear in mind, also, that, for constitutional reasons, we have no charter for the Independent Broadcasting Authority. Therefore, what we have to say to the IBA has to be said in the statute; otherwise it might be more convenient to write some of our requirements in a different form, in a different way. But here we are. The 1973 Act had to specify in the statute what Parliament required the then Independent Television Authority to do, and I think we have to do that now.
The second reason for putting this into the Bill is the disturbing tendency today in this country to go separatist, inward- 467 looking and nationalist. I am alarmed at what I have heard at party political conferences and elsewhere regarding the desire of many people in this country to withdraw from international relationships, to attend to our own worries and not to be too concerned about those of others. This is a dangerous tendency. Our interdependence on not only European but other countries throughout the world, is surely a primary condition of our role in the world.
The third reason is that we have in our Parliament an all-party group, known as the British Parliamentary Group for Population and Development. In my capacity as chairman of that group I have spoken on more than one occasion in your Lordships' House. The British Group has been the leader of this great parliamentary movement throughout the world. At the conference held in Colombo last year well over 50 parliamentary groups were represented. This is a very import role for the British Parliament to be playing in the world of today. It would, I think, be symbolic and valuable if the British Parliament wrote into a Bill dealing with the new broadcasting channel its intention that our position in the world, the problems of population and development which have been fully explained by other noble Lords in the debate, should be put at the forefront of our thoughts when we come to define the purposes of another channel.
Bear in mind also this channel is to be a distinctive channel. There is reference in the Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill to the fourth channel having a distinctive character of its own. So we are debating now how distinctive it shall be and how clearly defined its distinction shall be. I certainly hope we find that this important matter deserves this special place in our legislative intentions.
The noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, said how very desirable this was. He made no complaint at all about the importance of the matter and its urgency, but he asked whether this amendment would achieve what it sets out to do. This is arguable, I know, but if you assert your desire to see this attended to by putting it in the statute I think you are more likely to achieve your purpose than if you rely upon it being dealt with by less specific 468 means. I do not deny for a single moment that we have a most valuable chairman of the authority in the noble Lord, Lord Thomson. This is undoubtedly a great comfort to many noble Lords, but we cannot rely, with great respect, on the personality or knowledge of a particular chairman for the direction of broadcasting policy over a long period of years. After all, the Independent Television Act of 1973 is already seven years old and various changes have to be made in the direction of an authority of that kind.
Finally, I am very doubtful, I must confess, as to whether our expectations, our hopes of this channel are going to be fulfilled unless we are very determined about it. This is to be a commercially financed channel. The words "the financial viability of the channel" were mentioned only a few moments ago. We have to bear in mind that it will rest upon advertising revenue. It can be said: do not do anything which is going to stop the goose which wants to lay its golden eggs. But this is going to be the dilemma of the fourth channel: how to lay the golden eggs and fulfil the expectations which are noble in phraseology and intention in the Bill itself.
This is why I think it is better not to have the channel at all than to have one which frustrates all the hopes and expectations that we had of it. Therefore I believe that we have to be quite specific about our intentions. Whether in these particular words or in something similar again is a matter, probably, for consideration, but for myself I think this is the moment and the issue upon which Parliament should assert its will and its intentions.
§ 6.57 p.m.
§ Viscount ECCLES
I promise to be brief. In the 1944 Education Act there is but one subject which it is a statutory obligation to teach. That is religion. Whether or not your Lordships think that that provision in the 1944 Act has been well observed I have not the time to go into and will leave to your Lordships, but it is certainly not true that by putting a subject on the statute book you necessarily get it well taught.
On this point, I also feel very deeply about the Brandt Report and about the 469 necessity for the British people, particularly young people, to grow up with a sense of interdependence. But every time you put something into a curriculum you have to leave something else out, and it is extremely important in education not to put in things which are fashionable and thereby neglect things which are basic. Having listened to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Soper, for instance, I am wondering whether the basic requirement in education through this channel ought not really to be morals—whether the reason that we do not take enough care about people overseas is because here in this country we are not behaving as we ought.
What is the most important subject? It might well be said to be industrial relations, or it might well be said to be inflation. Your Lordships can think of great problems at the root of our social life which, if one were laying down a statutory curriculum for Channel 4, would have greater claims, I think, than the very important subject of talking about the Third World. I do not think we shall do the Third World any good, or more good than we are doing them now, unless we can get our own education at home right—which it is not at the present time. If I were the Minister in charge of this, I should argue very strongly against putting one subject into this clause as a statutory obligation when I knew in my heart of hearts that there were many other things in this country of at least equal importance.
§ Lord PARRY
The amendment reads:… to ensure that a substantial and regular proportion of programmes, transmitted at broad-casting times equally favourable with other programmes"—not more favourable than—…. shall deal with the issues of world development and international interdependence".It is not simply a question of the Third World.
It is an obligation under the United Nations charter that signatory members should teach to the children of their nations the foundation freedoms of the United Nations. That has never been done in Great Britain by any of our Governments since we signed the charter.
I am asking that we accept that the Minister is a diligent Minister and that 470 he has been persuasive in speaking to the Committee. It might well be that he has given a sufficient assurance to my noble friends, although I cannot speak for them, to enable them to accept his assurance to bring this back on Report. But that is for them to decide.
I believe it is essential that this Committee should recognise that the people who have expressed in this debate the concerns that they have are not seeking to foist upon the people of this country a form of education which might repel them; that they are not seeking in any way to divert the new channel from its duties. In fact they are only asking it to live up to some of the best of the programmes. If the Minister does not want to write that into the Bill, that is fine, but let us not underestimate the view that we are increasingly coming to and which has already been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, that there is an increasing concentration upon national identity and that the core of that restatement of national identity is something that we all wish to see move out into a statement of international solidarity. I believe quite honestly that the Churches—and speaking as a Welshman, even 400 Anglican Bishops—in fact generate a better sort of spirit than Esso or BP, or whatever the multinational might be.
At this stage I should like to say that I believe they are joined by other organisations and that I have been asked to speak just for the Council of Churches for Wales and for its world development committee because they too would wish to be associated with what has been said in the debate. If the Government interpret that and pass it on to the new channel, then we may have achieved something.
§ Lord DONALDSON of KINGS-BRIDGE
The intense interest and passion with which this amendment has been debated, particularly from this side of the Committee, will, I believe, have the kind of effect which my noble friend wanted to produce on the people who are responsible for the fourth channel. If I were a director of the fourth channel I should insist on something of this kind, but I am unable to support the amendment as it stands because I believe passionately that the glory of our broadcasting system is that it is independent of 471 government and I do not want to see our telling them what to do, although I believe it would be a very good thing indeed if they did it.
§ Lord TAYLOR of GRYFE
As the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kings-bridge has said, the significance of this debate is that it reflects the depth of feeling on this matter and I am quite sure that the new authorities responsible for the fourth channel will take heed of that depth of feeling, even if this amendment is defeated or withdrawn. It is on record that this Committee feels strongly on this particular issue and they would be failing in their duty if they did not pay heed to that.
If this amendment is pressed to a division I shall support it in the Lobby. I am a director of a television company and when I became a director I became very conscious of my responsibilities. The responsibilities were not only to the shareholders. Every night I had some responsibility for programmes that were entering the homes of two or three million people and influencing attitudes. Those who doubt the impact of television on the attitudes and the thinking of people should reflect for a moment on the very large sums that are spent by the advertisers in order to influence people in their habits and in their judgments.
The noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, has said that the present agencies are catering for the kind of concern that has been expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, but those of us who are in independent television recognise that in order to keep the company going and in order to finance the fourth channel we have to attract advertising revenue and therefore our programme must be something quite distinct from the projected fourth programme. It must be a reasonably popular programme and to some extent the BBC is caught up in the same battle for ratings as the measure of their performance.
When I was considering this Bill I tabled an amendment to the effect that the fourth channel should be postponed for five years. That amendment has since been withdrawn but I tabled it because I was not sure that a fourth channel was necessary at this stage, for a 472 variety of reasons. But the more I considered it the more I recognised that the fourth channel would provide us with a first-class opportunity of doing something that is not dependent upon popular ratings.
It has been said that we must not interfere with programme planning and we must not direct the programmers as to what they should do. But we already do that. In the statutes governing television, BBC and ITV, we already lay down that there shall be so many hours of religious broadcasting. That exists in the present statute, so we already direct the programme planners and programme makers.
It would be quite wrong for Parliament to dictate the programme schedule. We are hoping that the fourth channel will give rise to imaginative and exciting programmes and it would be totally wrong of Parliament to decide the entire scheduling of programmes on the fourth channel. I think we have to ask ourselves, however, whether the fourth channel does not provide a unique opportunity for influencing attitudes—I do not say that in any party sense—and in developing sensitivity on an issue which is of overwhelming importance.
So I hope that this amendment will be pressed to a Division and carried, but if it is not carried at least the programme planners and the programme makers will have heard the voice of this Committee. The fourth channel provides an opportunity for proclaiming the truth about our international interdependence, and I hope we shall take that opportunity.
§ Lord SANDYS
I wonder whether it may be your Lordships' wish to conclude the debate at this stage because my noble friend the Chief Whip suggested to your Lordships that we should have the dinner break at approximately 7 o'clock. I do not wish in any way to inhibit debate or to suggest that we should break at this point but it seems appropriate that at this point the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, should conclude his remarks.
§ Lord DONALDSON of KINGS-BRIDGE
We have at least two speakers on this side of the Committee who wish to speak and I think it is quite improper that they should not be given the opportunity to do so.
§ Lord NOEL-BAKER
I had a singularly beautiful speech that I hoped to make on this amendment. I shall not make it. I want first to say that it seemed to me with all respect that the observations made by the Minister in opposition to the amendment proved the case for its adoption. In effect he was saying that there are so many things to be dealt with that this matter of world development will certainly be pushed out and I believe that it will be pushed out unless this amendment is carried.
I would add that I desire to intervene at the request of the eminent Director-General of Oxfam, my friend Mr. Brian Walker. Ten days ago I had a conversation with Mr. William Yates of Oxfam who is at this moment in Cambodia administering the £6 million which he has himself raised this year for relief in that unhappy country. They were both extremely anxious that this amendment should be carried because they are convinced, as my noble friend has argued, that charity cannot do this job. Charity is doing a marvellous job and Oxfam is a great British institution. But the world has got to change course; there has to be a recognition that the twin evils of the arms race and world poverty, hunger, illiteracy and preventable disease, have got to be dealt with together, and there is no other way by which that can be accomplished than by a change of opinion, by the recognition of the basic facts of the situation, which our people do not yet understand.
§ Lord PITT of HAMPSTEAD
I shall not delay the Committee very long, but I was so disappointed at the speech of the Minister that I felt I had to intervene. We discussed the Brandt Report some time ago and the majority of us said that the Government would not be able to do what is required unless it could carry public opinion. It is quite clear that public opinion does not yet understand the issues. We have been told how well television has been doing in the international sphere. As I talk to people I find very few people understand what has happened in UNCTAD and even fewer understand anything about the Lomé Convention and its importance to us. Therefore I am not in agreement that so far we have been well served by the existing channels. What the existing 474 channels have done is to react to events; they are very good at that. What they have not been good at is educating people so that they understand what lies behind events.
I am a doctor. I believe that treatment and prevention are both important and that of the two prevention is the more important. Our young people respond magnificently whenever there is a disaster anywhere. But in fact the things we talk about, the agreement between developed and developing countries, the understanding of interdependence are in fact the prophylactic, but they do not understand that; they only know when a disaster takes place. What we have to do is to explain to them how we can, by organising affairs within the world, prevent these disasters taking place. That is what the education is all about, and I cannot agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, that this educational world development is just another subject. It is the subject of survival.
The Minister talked about ethnic minorities. If he understood the problem he would appreciate that the people of this country have to understand interdependence if we are going to have the sort of world we are talking about, in fact if we are going to have the sort of country we are talking about in which people of different ethnic races can live together in equality and friendship. The two subjects are tied up, because the world is divided between rich and poor, between black and white, and the rich are white and the poor are black. You are not solving the problem by dealing with the question of black and white relationships in Britain. It is a much bigger problem; it is a world problem. This question of interdependence is of the utmost importance and, in terms of survival—I use the word advisedly, taking it from the Brandt Report—it is of the utmost importance to all of us. Therefore, I hope we shall have this amendment on the statute book, because we need to give direction to this new channel.
§ Lord HATCH of LUSBY
There is a certain irony in being asked to conclude this debate so that we can go and have dinner. However, I do thank those who have taken part in it. Very briefly I would simply say to the noble Lord, 475 Lord Harmar-Nicholls, that he did misunderstand the intention of this amendment. There was no question of confining this subject to the fourth channel. In fact we hope it will be taken up by the fourth channel. Fifty-three organisations already support this fourth channel group and want to work with it. So there would be a spin-off and we hope there would be a spin-off and a bouncing back on to the other channels. There is no question of confining ourselves to the fourth channel.
May I say to the Minister that he did make one confusion which I want to put straight before we finish here? We are not talking here about international news and current affairs; these are two very different things. There is a reasonable amount of international news and current affairs, taken sometimes in 30 seconds, and it is often very dangerous. We are talking about something much more fundamental, as has been made clear by every speaker in the debate.
I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Taylor of Gryfe for answering the point about direction and I will not go any further on this. May I just conclude by saying—and I say this particularly to the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, and to the Minister—will you please consider the case that has been made tonight that this subject is unique, in the sense that it embraces every facet of human endeavour and human activity, and it is unique in the sense that the future of the human race may very well depend on it? This can be said of nothing else.
So, after consulting with my noble friends whose names are also upon this amendment, we have decided to ask the leave of the Committee to withdraw the amendment, on the understanding that we will study the words of the Minister and will consider whether we ought to come back at Report stage. We would very much welcome suggestions from the Minister and from Members on the other side of the Committee who seemed to be concerned that this amendment might not succeed in doing what we wish to do; we would like suggestions to be made before Report stage as to how this crucial, vital subject for human survival can be included in this Bill. We shall welcome discussions on that basis before we have 476 to take Report stage in this House. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Lord SANDYS
As it was arranged through the usual channels that we should break for 40 minutes and it was originally intended that we should do so at seven o'clock, I suggest that the time most appropriate for us to return would now be eight o'clock.
§ House resumed.
§ [The Sitting was suspended from 7.19 to 8 p.m.]
§ House again in Committee on Clause 3.
§ The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN of COMMITTEES (Lord Jacques)
The next amendment is No. 7. If this amendment is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 8.
Lord BELSTEAD moved Amendment No. 7:
Page 4, line 5, leave out subsections (5) and (6).
§ The noble Lord said: This amendment is consequential on Clause 2 which I moved earlier which concerns Welsh language television. I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ On Question, Whether Clause 3, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?
§ Lord DONALDSON of KINGS-BRIDGE
I am not entirely happy with the discussion that we have had on Clause 3. One or two of the points which I made as regards my first amendment—which although it was an amendment to Clause 1 was about Clause 3—have not really been met. Nothing has been set up to deal with the monitoring of the performance of the fourth channel in the very general and difficult to define rules laid down under Clause 3. I wish to give notice that, not only shall I move on Report the Amendment No. 3 which I withdrew because I thought that it was possibly in the wrong place, but—as my first amendment has not been accepted—I shall wish to consult with the Open University as to whether we ought not to have an amendment suggesting some- 477 thing in the nature of the continuous educational body which it is anxious to have set up to ensure that the educational performance of Channel 4 is adequate. I simply wanted to give notice of those two facts to the Minister, otherwise we are content.
§ Lord BELSTEAD
I should like to make a few comments in reply to the first point which the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, has made. The noble Lord contends that there is no monitoring of the way in which Clause 3 will work. However, if he will allow me to say so, if we look ahead to Clause 7 we find specific legislative duties laid upon the Independent Broadcasting Authority to include reports about the way in which the fourth channel is operating, in its annual report. If the noble Lord were to say to me—as he would have every right to do— "Ah, but this is a hit like being judge and jury in your own cause because it is the IBA that is reporting on the working of the fourth channel", there are two points that should be made. First, the subsidiary, which also we have yet to come to, is actually going to be the body which will gather the material together and make up the working of the channel and therefore it will be a report on how the subsidiary is operating. Secondly, we must not forget that the IBA report is laid before Parliament. As regards the matters raised about the Open University, I shall wait to see whether the noble Lord wishes to put down any amendments at the next stage of the Bill.
§ Lord DONALDSON of KINGS-BRIDGE
I should like to say in reply to the points made by the noble Lord that I think that one amendment that might be suitable would be to demand that the reports of the IBA, and indeed of the BBC, are debated annually in Parliament. That might possibly cover my point.
§ Clause 3, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 4 [Provision of programmes (other than advertisements) for the Fourth Channel]:
§ 8.5 p.m.
Lord PONSONBY of SHULBREDE moved Amendment No. 9:
Page 4, line 37, at end insert (" and in particular such powers as are required for the acquisition of and trading in copyrights, subsidiary rights and options of properties in programmes including the copyright of its own programme schedules.").
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 9. We now come to Clause 4, which deals with the powers of the subsidiary. This amendment has been placed on the Order Paper to express the opinion that the subsidiary should be given all powers in its articles of association which will allow it to trade effectively and so to sustain its independence.
§ The question of rights in programmes and properties is of paramount importance in this area. The fourth channel will be entirely a shop window for the products of producers from whom the fourth channel buys programmes and to whom the fourth channel will pay a transmission fee as agreed in the contract. The value of such products will be established through their publication, as in other areas such as the theatre, books, films and so on, and one can only guess at the value of a particular product before it is shown and has been seen by the public and assessed by the critics. Channel 4 should therefore be able to have an interest—albeit a small interest in most cases—in any future commercial success which a programme attracts as a result of its showing on the fourth channel. That, indeed, could be something which is of considerable importance or minuscule importance, depending on the success of a particular programme.
§ If one were the publisher of a book one would share in the income of any film rights, television rights or serial rights which that book attracted. As the publisher of a television programme, the fourth channel board should also be permitted to contract for programme supply and to ensure that it shares in the transmission rights subsequently sold anywhere in the world or even indeed to ITV 1 or the BBC within the United Kingdom. The effect of that will be to produce an additional, if small, income for the board of the channel, which it will certainly need with its limited budget.
§ The chief executive of Channel 4 should have the powers to purchase original rights in properties and also be able to commission them or be able to 479 sell the rights to an ITV company for production. In that way he will be able to obtain productions on his own initiative and not have to rely solely on the general mixture of different programmes which are likely to be offered to him.
§ Also, as regards the question of the programme schedules of the fourth channel, the board should hold their copyright. The importance of that is that it will have to negotiate with a programme magazine to publish those programme schedules and as it will be acting from an ownership position it can obtain either a share of the profit or a royalty payment in return. Again, of course, that will provide additional income for the company.
§ As I said when moving the amendment, it has been tabled in order to express the opinion that the articles of association of the company should expressly include the items detailed in the amendment. I think that it would be only right that such items should be included in the company's articles of association. I beg to move.
§ Lord BELSTEAD
The Independent Broadcasting Authority is a regulating authority, and in this Bill we have sought to try to distance it from the obtaining and assembling of programme material by requiring the authority to set up a subsidiary for that purpose and to devolve on the subsidiary such other activities as seem appropriate to achieve this. Where I very much agree with the views which have just been expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, and which prompt the amendment is in the fact that it is difficult to envisage how the subsidiary could operate within its terms of reference without the powers to enter into contracts with suppliers of programmes, and such contracts will undoubtedly involve the acquisition of rights of one kind and another in a programme. This is exactly what the subsidiary undoubtedly will do. It will have a separate corporate identity and will be expected to conduct its affairs in a businesslike and commercial manner. I think that this can be taken to include turning to account such rights and options in programmes as it may acquire.
On the question of copyright in programme schedules, it is my understanding 480 that as the compiler of the schedules the subsidiary will be entitled to copyright in them. However, I believe that the authority intends that the copyright should be assigned to Independent Television publications in order that the fourth channel programme schedules may be published in the TV Times alongside the ITV programme schedules, obviating the need for yet another programme journal. Therefore, I think that the objectives of this amendment are shared by the Independent Broadcasting Authority and that the subsidiary will have the powers which the amendment seeks, and will use them.
§ Lord PONSONBY of SHULBREDE
May I thank the noble Lord for his remarks and for his almost 100 per cent. assurance that, in fact, these rights will be in the articles of association of the company. Indeed, the intention of the amendment was to put down a marker to make certain that that was so. Having achieved that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Lord HOOSON
Perhaps I could say that these next amendments relating to Wales in the names of my three noble friends and myself will not of course be moved in the light of the amendments already approved by the Committee.
§ [Amendment No. 10 not moved.]
§ Clause 4 agreed to.
§ 8.13 p.m.
Lord DONALDSON of KINGS-BRIDGE moved Amendment No. 11:
After Clause 4, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Independence requirement for ITN
§ .—(1) As from 1st January 1982, for the purpose of providing a television news service for ITV and the Fourth Channel and for such other purposes as is deemed fit, the Authority shall require its ITV contractors to expand the Board of Directors of Independent Television News Limited in consultation with the Authority so as to include a majority representation on that Board, of persons other than direct representatives of ITV contractors.
§ (2) The Authority shall have powers to require Independent Television News Limited to be funded by subscription from such ITV contractors and from such Fourth Channel subsidiaries as are considered to be appropriate.
§ (3) The appointment of a Chairman and a Deputy Chairman of the Board shall be subject to the approval of the Authority.").481
§ The noble Lord said: This amendment is very much a probing amendment. wish to make it clear at the beginning that I think ITN has worked extremely well under the present arrangements, and I am not casting aspersions on the contractors, who are in fact its owners. The authority has always made it clear that the fourth channel news will be provided by ITN and if breakfast TV is introduced—and we have a representative of it in the Committee, whom we are glad to see—then ITN will service that too. In these circumstances, is it any longer acceptable for ITN to remain a wholly-owned subsidiary company of the ITV contractors? I repeat, there is no suggestion that anything wrong has happened yet; it has not. The present system has worked well, bin surely it is becoming illogical.
§ The new licence period gives us a chance to ensure that its board reflects its expanded role, which is almost that of a TV news trust with its work for the contractors, its work for the fourth channel and its work, if breakfast TV comes in, for breakfast television as well. Would it not be better and more logical if the chairman of ITN was responsible only to his own expanded board without the duality of interest inherent in the present set-up?
§ I take it that if there is no change and my suggestion is rejected, Channel 4 will be represented on the ITN Board. I should be grateful if the Minister would confirm this; and I think that the same applies to breakfast television, if it gets off the ground, although the Minister is not used to answering hypothetical questions so I shall not press it. However, I must say that I should also like to see what we used to call a consumer representative.
§ The IBA is moving, rightly in my opinion, towards more direct consultations with the public. I should like to see the public interest represented on the board in this all-important area of TV information. This amendment is not trying to get at anybody; it is simply wondering whether the present set-up does not need modification, if not now, then perhaps in the near future. I beg to move.
§ Lord BELSTEAD
I think it is valuable that the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, has 482 expressed—as he did in generous terms—appreciation of the way in which Independent Television News has served Independent Television over the years. If I remember rightly, the same point was made in the Annan Commission Report, which spoke about the lively and professional presentation of news by ITN. I think that they and the noble Lord were right to speak in those terms.
However, in view of the reason for the amendment, as explained by the noble Lord in his remarks, I wonder whether it would be helpful if, for a moment, I looked at exactly what the representation is on Independent Television News. The case for the amendment includes concern that ITN is jointly owned by all the ITV companies and controlled by a board of directors representing them. Yes, that is absolutely true, but the Independent Broadcasting Authority of course has a hand in ITN, and we find the IBA's Director-General normally attending ITN board meetings.
§ Lord BELSTEAD
He is normally an attender of the meetings on, I gather, a regular basis. Without advice I cannot tell the noble Lord whether, in fact, he is a member of the board.
§ Lord BELSTEAD
I shall try to satisfy the noble Lord on that particular point. In addition to that, the appointment of the editor of ITN has to be approved by the IBA, so there is a little more to it, if I may put it that way, than perhaps appears at first sight. I believe that the success of ITN lies in its professionalism. Perhaps I may come to the members of its board because it may have seemed that I was sounding slighting towards them. They are professional broadcasters with an interest in making the service as good as possible, and it is open to argument whether the same motivation would necessarily exist in an expanded board, the majority of whose members were not representatives of programme contractors. However, I realise that that is open to argument. What is not, I think, open to 483 argument is that the key figure in any news organisation is really more the editor than the chairman or deputy chairman of the board, and the appointment of the editor of ITN has, as I said, to be approved by the authority.
If the noble Lord will forgive me, it sounded a little bit of a non sequitur when he said, quite rightly, that this has been a success story. I think that perhaps I would call it a winning team; I think that ITN can be called that. Therefore, perhaps it might be a good idea to change it. Some people might say that of your Lordships' House—sometimes they do—but I am sure that the noble Lord would be the first to pick that argument to pieces; and so I try, if I may, to pick this argument to pieces.
I think that support by subscription from the contracting companies, with their representation on the board with, incidentally, the IBA's Director-General present as an observer (the noble Lord was quite right), is appropriate in the particular circumstances of the fourth channel.
The reasons for distancing the fourth channel from the programme contractors do not actually apply when one is talking about ITN. The precise relationship between ITN and the fourth channel subsidiary is going to be a matter for the IBA to consider in due course. The IBA has already indicated in its proposals for the fourth channel that ITN will be providing the fourth channel with news bulletins, summaries, and also with programmes providing background information on matters of public interest. I have no doubt, therefore, that there will be a close working relationship. But I am putting it to the Committee that I think it should be left to the parties concerned to determine, in the light of experience, precisely what that relationship should be. There is certainly no agreement or understanding at the moment that the subsidiary would be represented directly on the board.
I hope that what I have said may have been of some interest in adding a little to what certainly I knew, before I was advised on it, about the workings of ITN. I hope even more that the noble Lord will feel, as a result of his probing amendment, 484 that it should be left as a probe and that ITN in this form can continue to serve not only the ITV service but also the new fourth channel, when it is set up, as effectively as it has served independent television in the past.
§ Lord DONALDSON of KINGS-BRIDGE
I am most grateful to the noble Lord. It has been a helpful discussion and I know more than I did, as he has modestly said he does. I should like to put on record that, on the face of it, I think the fourth channel should have a position on the board. I should like that simply to be in the record of our discussion. I do not press it any further than that. I should like to see the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, on it, if her "breakfast" comes off. If ITN is going to provide news for other than the channels it does at the moment, those other channels should be represented; but I put this idea forward simply for discussion and I hope that the people who are concerned with this will take notice of what we have said. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Lord DRUMALBYN
I am not certain what the noble Lord means by the fourth channel being represented on the board. Does he mean that the subsidiary company which gathers the programme together should be represented on the board?
§ Lord DONALDSON of KINGS-BRIDGE
That is exactly what I mean. The subsidiary company is the body chiefly responsible for programming the fourth channel. It is therefore responsible for what news the fourth channel puts forth. It may have ideas about what it wants, and I think that it ought to have more than a purely commercial relationship with the body which produces the news. In other words, I think there should be a representative of the fourth channel subsidiary on the board.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 5 [Advertisements on the Fourth Channel]:
§ 8.23 p.m.
Lord DRUMALBYN moved Amendment No. 12:
Page 5, line 19, after ("contractor") insert ("or by him together with others").
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 12. May I suggest that, with your Lordships' agreement, Amendments Nos. 13, 15, 16, 47, 63, 64 and 68 be discussed with this amendment? For ease of reference, that means all the amendments standing in my name in the rest of the Marshalled List. My noble friend has been good enough to discuss these matters with me beforehand. The purpose of these amendments is to seek to mitigate the possible effect of what appears to be a structural weakness in the proposals contained in the Bill for financing the fourth channel. The point about taking all the amendments together is that they really all form a part of the same series. They all deal basically with the same problem.
§ In the Second Reading debate on the Bill I suggested that it would have been far better if the authority had been allowed to set up a second subsidiary to sell air time and to collect advertisement revenue for the fourth channel. My noble friend the Minister, however, quite properly asked where the money would then come from to finance the setting up of the infrastructure required to enable the fourth channel programmes to be broadcast, and indeed for the thing to get off the ground at all. There is of course an obvious answer to that which was presumably ruled out by the Government from the start because of the present economic situation. I imagine that the authority would have had to borrow the money either from the Government or in the open market.
§ In the light of our discussions, and having been convinced, although I did not take that view myself, that from the Government point of view such amendments—quite simple amendments would have enabled this to be done—would have been in the nature of wrecking amendments in the sense that had we gone ahead with them and had they been carried they would have frustrated the whole exercise, in the present circumstances there would not have been a fourth channel at all—which might have been to the liking of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, who I see is not in his place at the present time.
§ That being so, we have to consider what should be done if the plan contained in the Bill fails to work. In a word, we 486 have to wait and see whether the plan does work, and if it does not it would be necessary to start all over again, or else to put provisions into the Bill which would enable the authority itself to rectify the situation without the need for further legislation. In the Committee stage in the House of Commons the Minister of State dealt with the possibility of what he called a breakdown in the running of the fourth channel. He said he thought that that was unlikely because the television programme contractors would have a vested interest in selling advertisements for the Fourth Channel, if only to recover their investment in the infrastructure and also the so-called annual extra subscription that they will be expected to make.
If I may quote, he said at column 331 of the seventh Sitting of the Committee stage in the House of Commons:
Therefore, if the contractors genuinely cannot sell the advertisements it will not be for want of trying but only because something has gone seriously wrong with the structure. We shall then need to reconsider the matter on a much broader basis".
I take that to mean that they would have to revise the entire structure and that in turn would almost certainly, I should have thought, mean legislation.
§ There is also another reason for taking some precautionary measures. The advertisers and the advertising agencies consider that the monopoly position that the television programme contractors enjoy each in their own areas has led to serious malpractices in the sale of air time, and they do not relish the prospect of the monopoly being further extended to cover the fourth channel.
What can be done if these malpractices are not altered? First of all there is, I think it is, the Watson amendment in Clause 7(2)(d), which requires the authority to give a general account of
any complaints received by the Authority about those arrangements"—
that is, arrangements with respect to the broadcasting of advertisements—
or about the conduct of TV programme contractors in connection with the sale of advertising time in those services respectively; and, (ii) the action taken by the Authority in relation to those complaints".
I shall revert shortly to the action taken.
§ As my noble friend said on Second Reading, it is true that the authority has 487 already established a liaison committee involving the Incorportaed Society of British Advertisers and the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, the advertising agencies as well as the contractors. This can certainly help, but it seems that it can help only as a kind of conciliation body. However, if the TV contractors were to indulge in unfair monopoly practices in the sale of advertising time and decline to desist, it appears that there is no enforcement action the authority could take about it, at least until the contracts came to be renewed; perhaps I should say until they came to an end, because they are not necessarily renewed. That is in effect how I read the remarks made by the Minister of State at columns 362–3 in Committee in another place.
§ There appear to be two possible remedies. One would be to refer the matter to the Office of Fair Trading, which, if it was thought fit, under the Competition Act 1980 could investigate and publish a report and make a reference to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, and the Commission could then investigate and make a report to the Secretary of State. Alternatively—this is the second method—the Secretary of State (being the Secretary of State for Trade under the Competition Act) could himself cause the matter to be referred as a possible abuse of a monopoly situation to the Commission.
§ Your Lordships will note how invidious it would be to the Authority, which is supposed to exercise supervision, if such matters were referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, and it might also be invidious for the Home Secretary. The Committee will also note that such references tend to take a considerable time. I am bound to point out that it is highly questionable whether it is right and proper to extend the television contractors' monopoly of selling air time in their own areas to the fourth channel when these practices, of which advertisers and advertising agencies complain so much, are known to exist and have apparently never been impartially examined, despite the efforts of the advertising interests.
§ The least, I suggest, we can ask for is that the new contracts about to be entered into should explicitly bar those 488 practices which the authority, after examination, considers objectionable, but it is surely better to provide means to deal with this under the Bill, and so I come to the proposals in the amendments. The object of Amendments Nos. 63, 64 and 68—I do not apologise for starting at the end because it is easier to explain them logically in that way—which affect Clauses 23 and 28 of the Bill are complementary to one another. They are to remove the requirement in Clause 5 as drafted that television programme contractors must be given a monopoly as of right in the sale of advertising time on the fourth channel, and to deter them from extending to this channel practices in which they engage on ITV and which are widely, perhaps universally, regarded by advertisers and advertising agencies as amounting to an abuse of their monopoly position.
Earl DE LA WARR
We would be very much helped if my noble friend could be more specific about the nature of the "malpractices".
§ Lord DRUMALBYN
Willingly, and I have with me a paper which lists them. Just to give some of the headings, they are the collaborative fixing of rates between television contractors; the ITCA, which is the Independent Television Contractors Association, and its Cancellation Committee; package selling, which I understand is to enhance the price of the cheaper spots and possibly slightly to decrease the price of the more expensive ones; the deliberate under-selling of air time; the London Weekend gold star rate; double standards on special programmes; preempt rate cards, which is a quite astonishing practice by which it seems the television contractors cannot be held to an agreement as to the price they make if somebody comes along and is willing to pay a better price. I do not think I need go through them all and my noble friend will see the kind of practices there are.
Earl DE LA WARR
They are practices, but are we not getting a little emotive if we call them malpractices?
§ Lord DRUMALBYN
They are malpractices in the eyes of one side of those who make the agreements, and as they are fairly universal, there is reason to 489 suppose there is some basis for this judgment. One of the troubles is that anyone who engages in a monopoly as a rule thinks he is acting perfectly fairly, but the fact that it is a monopoly often means that he is in reality acting unfairly, and that is why there is a restriction on monopoly.
To deal first with the second point, I submit that the Committee would do well to accept it even if my noble friend does not feel able to accept the amendments to Clause 5. In other words, the three amendments should stand and we should vote on them, if necessary, if that is the way the debate goes. Amendments Nos. 63, 64 and 68 would insert two new clauses after Clause 23 and one after Clause 28. They would specifically impose a duty on the authority to ensure that there is a term in every contract for the provision of advertisements broadcasts on the fourth channel requiring the contractor not to engage in any anti-competition practice within the meaning of Section 2(1) of the Competition Act 1980, which is in line with and consequent upon a EEC directive. It follows that if the authority in its supervisory role finds that this term is not being observed, it will be entitled to revoke the contract, and that is quite a serious remedy. One safeguard there is that the programme contractor has to be in breach of the contract at least three times as set out in Section 13(2) of the IBA Act 1973. The amendments are not intended to require the procedures for the control of anticompetitive practices to be followed right through as laid down in Sections 3 to 10 of the Competition Act. They merely bring the banning of anti-competitive practices as defined in the Act into the list of things that the authority must ensure are included in every contract with programme contractors. In other words, the beauty of this is that once it is adjudged that there has been a breach, then it is open to the authority to set aside the contract.
It may be thought that the banning of anti-competitive practices should apply equally to the sale of air time on ITV I as well as on the fourth channel. There is much to be said for that. However, this Bill is primarily about the proposed fourth channel, and we are considering in this series of amendments how to avoid a breakdown in the proposed arrangements 490 and what steps to take if they should break down. The arrangements could break down for various reasons, notably, if the programme contractors were unable to obtain sufficient revenue for the fourth channel to be run successfully, or if complaints about the ways in which they sought to obtain revenue were upheld.
This brings me to the amendments to Clause 5. The objects of the amendments to Clause 5 are as follows. Instead of obliging the authority, as in the clause as drafted, to frame the contracts with television contractors in such a way as to give them the right in their own areas to provide advertisements for inclusion on the fourth channel, they enable them to do so if they so choose, but they also allow them to give that right either to the contractor alone, or to enable him to share that right with others.
This would permit the authority, if it so decided, to establish a degree of competition in the provision of advertisements from the start, but would not require them to do so. They would be able to insist on the right being shared if a contractor abused his monopoly, or if any contractor was failing to promote the sale of air time on the fourth channel as actively as on his own channel. It could well be, for instance, that in a period or seasons when supply of air time exceeded demand it would suit him better to sell air time on ITV 1, where his main interest lies, rather than on the fourth programme.
There are a number of ways in which the risks of exploitation of monopoly could be diminished. The Director of the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers has written a letter to my noble friend in which he has set out some of these ways. I think perhaps it would be better to leave that for the moment, but I can assure the Committee that these details have been sent to my noble friend, and I am quite certain that he has considered them. I cannot understand why my noble friend thinks that any of them could reduce the advertising revenue from the fourth channel. The total subscription could no doubt he shared. Their object would be to increase the revenue, not reduce it, because they would I believe enhance the selling effort and make it more reliable, more responsive to the needs of advertisers and therefore more attractive to them. I suggest that it is worthwhile to give this a 491 trial from the outset, rather than waiting to see whether things go wrong.
Lastly, the new clause to be inserted after Clause 21—which appears in Amendment No. 47—would give the Secretary of State power, after consulting the authority, to make an order conferring the right to provide advertisements for inclusion in the fourth channel programmes on what are described as "persons suitable for the purpose", other than programme contractors or persons connected with programme contractors. This is really intended as a follow-up to an adverse report relating to the sale of air time from the Monopolies Commission, should the Secretary of State decide to go through the procedure laid down in Section 11 of the Competition Act.
My noble friend is well aware that it is by no means certain that the Bill as drafted fully complies with EEC requirements on competition. I understand that the Competition Act was designed partly to bring United Kingdom law and practice into line with the Treaty of Rome and the EEC directive, and I think in particular Article 86 of the Treaty of Rome. I believe that the Government will be on much safer ground if they expressly apply the Competition Act to this Bill. Indeed, I go so far as to say that it is their duty in setting up the system under the 1973 Act to ensure that the EEC directive can he, and will be, enforced. I beg to move.
§ 8.45 p.m.
Earl DE LA WARR
I do not want to propose any particular solution, but I feel it necessary to say—and I shall be rather blunt about this—that my noble friend appears to have sucked in everything that he has been told by the Incorporated Society of Advertisers, and possibly has paid too little attention to the point of view of the contractors. There appears to me in what he said to be an assumption that the contractors are people who are likely to commit malpractices. He accuses them of acting as monopolies. Probably he does not pay enough attention to the fact that television advertising is in severe competition with all kinds of other advertising. He recited a number of what he called malpractices, and I think he said that one of the things was collaborative rate fixing, by which I take it he means that those who are advertising in 492 Yorkshire fix their rates with those who are advertising in London. Of course, that is a monopoly practice, but it is in no sense an abuse. So I should like to put it to noble Lords that—
§ Lord DRUMALBYN
I do not think that that is what is meant. It would of course be impossible for all areas to have the same rates because the number of viewers in the different areas vary very much and the programmes are divided into various types with different rates applying to them. In fact the price on the rate cards is seldom the price that has to be paid—
§ Lord DRUMALBYN
Yes, certainly, though it may take a little time. Programme companies operate a system of collaboration when fixing air time rates. Draft rate cards are circulated between the principle programme companies for their own internal information before they are announced to the advertising agencies. It is not known whether copies of such communications are furnished to the Office of Fair Trading in compliance with the provisions of the Restrictive Trade Practices Act. The ISBA submits that this is an anti-competitive practice.
Earl DE LA WARR
I am obliged to my noble friend for that information. I do not think I want to enlarge on what I have said, other than to try to suggest to your Lordships' Committee that you have had from my noble friend a picture which, despite the best will in the world, is somewhat distorted, as between the attitudes of the advertisers and the practices of the contractors, which to my certain knowledge are not the fearsome practices that have been suggested by my noble friend.
§ Baroness MACLEOD of BORVE
May I intervene very briefly. Unfortunately I was not able to take part in the Second Reading of the Bill, although I was particularly interested in it, having been for five years a member of the Independent Broadcasting Authority up until about four years ago. I should like to say a word in support of my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn. As I see it, this Bill is aimed at 493 striking new ground and giving more opportunities, via the fourth channel, to cater for tastes and interests not adequately provided for by the existing ITV service. It should contain a suitable proportion of educational programmes, should encourage innovation and experiment, and should include a substantial proportion of programmes from independent producers. I am well aware, having read the Bill and having listened to the debate today, that this Bill is imaginative and far-reaching in its conception. It is intended to bring new people into all branches of television. So why does the Bill lay down that the present monopoly for advertisers should still be thought to be necessary?
It is said that there would be insufficient revenue to support the fourth channel. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Perhaps it is difficult at this stage to forecast with complete accuracy what would be the outcome, but suffice it to say that it is certainly within my knowledge and that of other Members of the Committee that there is extreme eagerness by the present ITV contractors to obtain air time sales franchise for the fourth channel; so therefore they obviously expect to make a profit, despite the fact that according to subsection (3)(a) of this clause all advertisers have to be told in advance of the nature of the programme, which of course is the current procedure. In common with industry and advertising, and like my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn, I think that with the creation of this new channel it would be in the important interests of competition, allied with complementarity, that the monopoly of advertising should be broken.
§ Lord BELSTEAD
I have listened very closely to what my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn has said this evening; indeed, my noble friend has spoken to me and to the Home Office about this Bill before it came into Committee. All I can really say, first of all, is that I remain unconvinced by the arguments. I owe it to my noble friend Lady Macleod as well to explain why I remain unconvinced. It is not that I am simply taking up a prepared position. Having listened to my noble friend's speech, I can say that the reason is that I did not hear anything my noble friend said which would make me believe that the competitive sale of advertising between two commercial channels 494 would do other than lead to competition for audience ratings, to the eventual detriment of our whole television system.
My noble friend Lady Macleod read out the objectives of the channel. They are not actually going to be easy to achieve. They are ideals in a competitive world. But what I still feel in my own mind is that, without any criticism of advertisers, of advertising agencies, or, indeed, of the television contractors, there is almost bound to be a ratings war if one has the competitive sale of advertising on each of the different channels. It has been suggested that the dangers which I am putting forward to the Committee would not arise provided the sale of advertising was in some way separated from the provision of programmes. But presumably it would be inherent in any arrangement for competitive selling of fourth channel advertising that the advertising revenue earned provided the channel's budget—that that is what it was there to do. In those circumstances, how could the programme makers be uninfluenced by calculations of the likely effect of their output on revenue and thus on their budget? My noble friend has said that these amendments are intended to introduce flexibility.
§ Lord DRUMALBYN
I do not quite see how what my noble friend has just said is relevant to this argument. We are talking about the fourth channel, where there is only one set of programmes. There is no competition there. The competition would be between two sets of bodies serving the advertising agencies and the advertisers in the provision of air time within a particular area. That is where the competition would lie. The suggestion is that the advertisers and advertising agencies are not adequately served—in fact, they are rather dictated to by the TV contractors at the present time—and that if there were competition for the fourth channel there would be competition in service.
§ Lord BELSTEAD
That may be so, but if there were competition for the fourth channel it would not be possible for there not to be competition to see how to maximise the revenues from advertising between the two channels, and inevitably one would have a ratings war. The Government think that this 495 is in contradistinction to the arrangement which is in the Bill at the moment, which enables the fourth channel to be financed by advertising on both the channels. I admit immediately that in this world practically nothing is black and white; there are always shades of what is right and wrong. Of course, the contractors are going to do the best they can for their budgets in selling their advertising space on the fourth channel, but I think that that pales into insignificance, so far as programme content is concerned, compared to what would happen if one simply had competitive advertising on both channels.
In putting forward his case, my noble friend very reasonably said that the first clutch of amendments—those are the first five amendments; certainly the first four amendments—are really permissive. They give the right to sell advertising to be shared. It is true that that is the case and that the first lot of amendments do not necessarily require the involvement of other than programme contractors in the selling of advertising. Nevertheless, I think that they would strike at the roots of the policy which I have just tried to explain and which we believe is preferable.
What would what my noble friend is suggesting do to the programme contractors? Those bidding for contracts have made their calculations about the viability of their proposals on the assumption that they can receive some income from the sale of advertising on the fourth channel, which, incidentally, is being set up by those contractors; otherwise it cannot exist at all. A provision such as is proposed would introduce uncertainty now, and the IBA, under this first lot of amendments, would be empowered for all time to change the whole basis of the financing of Independent Television at any time. In a way, a sword of Damocles would affect business judgment and would lead to a sensible reluctance to devote the maximum to programme production in favour of defensive husbandry of resources in case the sword dropped.
Incidentally, sandwiched in between the two lots of amendments is Amendment No. 47. That would produce in even starker form a danger which would occur, for there the Secretary of State, simply 496 by order, could alter the arrangements for selling advertising on the fourth channel. I am sorry, but I do not think that that would really be good for business confidence.
My noble friend has put down a second lot of amendments—that is, Amendments Nos. 63, 64 and 68. May I say here that I have taken on board, and indeed have done so for many months, that there are apprehensions in the advertising world about practices which are held or alleged to be objectionable which have been carried on by programme companies. But, as my noble friend very fairly pointed out, an advertising liaison committee has been specifically set up by the Independent Broadcasting Authority, chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth, on which both the advertisers and the advertising agencies are represented, together with the programme companies; and, although it is true that this committee has no power of direction, it can provide the authority with very useful information as to advertisers' opinions.
In addition to that, an amendment was incorporated in this Bill in another place which will require the authority to include in their annual report to Parliament a general account of any complaints they have received about the arrangements for broadcasting advertisements or about the conduct of the ITV companies, and of any action which the authority has taken in relation to those complaints, so that Parliament can know how the sale of advertising on the fourth channel is working out.
§ Lord BELSTEAD
Let me just finish, if I may. For myself, I do not think that we can go any further than this in broadcasting legislation. My noble friend says, "What action?". I am sorry to be negative, but I do not think we can create the sanctions which my noble friend wants in Amendments Nos. 63 and 64. Those amendments talk about the Competition Act. The provisions of the Competition Act referred to by my noble friend set out the criteria for establishing what is an anti-competitive practice. A determination of whether a practice is anti-competitive remains within the competence of the Director General 497 of Fair Trading and I do not believe that it should be for the IBA to purport to make a determination of that kind.
A practice cannot be said to be anticompetitive until it has been so determined. This is not to say that complaints and allegations of this kind should not be fully examined and, if necessary, other action taken on them; but this task is one for the Office of Fair Trading, which is entitled to look at any trading practice which restricts, distorts or prevents competition in the course of business, and its powers in this regard have been enlarged by the Competition Act. This would appear to be a more appropriate way of pursuing complaints about commercial trading practices than this Bill, which is concerned basically with the philosophy of broadcasting. If I may gently say so, I think that there is a danger of losing sight of the main purpose of television, or indeed of other public service broadcasting, which is to entertain, educate and inform the public; and, although advertising revenue is central to the financing of the independent sector, the needs of the advertisers are not paramount in this particular case.
So, if I may, I return to say this, finally. I know that this set of amendments derives from a reluctance to continue the same system of selling advertising time on Independent Television, and this, essentially, represents a monopoly. I do not like a monopoly, and nor do the Government, any more than anyone else, but it is because of this, because we think that this is the better way forward, that the IBA have set up the advertising liaison committee. This is not just a declaration of intent: it is a committee which is already in being, bringing together the advertisers, the ITV companies and the IBA. Let us give this machinery a chance to work, and let Parliament see, through the machinery which is provided under Clause 7, which we have not yet got to, whether that machinery is working. I think this is the better of two difficult ways forward. I would not for one moment set myself up as suggesting that I or the Government have the absolutely right answer and that my noble friend is absolutely wrong. It is not like that at all. But I believe that the dangers which could flow so far as the real objectives of this Bill are concerned from the competitive sale of advertising are so 498 great that I must resist the amendments which my noble friend is putting forward.
§ Lord DONALDSON of KINGS-BRIDGE
It is a rare privilege for me to be able to support this Government, but I am able to do so tonight. It has also been a great pleasure to us on this side of the Committee to hear the kind of normal boardroom capitalist argument going on between two groups of people who are all making a great deal of money out of television. I have no objection to that at all. We stand absolutely on what is in the Bill, which is that the fourth channel, in order to keep its independence, should be given a fixed sum which is not dependent on advertisers, on contractors or on anybody else. I think the noble Lord has replied extremely well in a difficult situation, with all his noble friends against him, and I am very happy to support him.
§ Lord DRUMALBYN
Perhaps I may at least comment on some of the things that my noble friend has said. First of all, perhaps I could comment on one point that the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, has made. He talked about an argument between two groups, all making a great deal of money out of advertising. That is not so. It is an argument between a group which is making a great deal of money out of it and a group which is paying a great deal of money.
§ Lord DRUMALBYN
It is important for the argument, because obviously the advertisers need to advertise and they come along to obtain air space or air time, or whatever you like to call it. What we are really arguing here is that, look at it how you like, the programme contracting companies are in business, and they are trading in air time or air space. It is up to whichever regulating authority has the responsibility to see that the balance between these two is fairly held. Of course the needs of the advertisers are not paramount. I am sorry if I gave the impression they were. All I was asking was for a fair deal between the two sides.
It is only reasonable that the needs of the advertisers should be duly considered. 499 What I am asking is that they should be duly considered. It appears that they have not been duly considered. If, as I think, these are malpractices, and if it is decided that they are malpractices, is it not right that those who are guilty of them should be brought to book? This is what I am asking for; and the easiest way to do that is to take away the licence, to end the contact, at least in part. I suppose it would be possible for the authority to do this, but surely that is right.
My noble friend again rehearsed the two ways in which investigation should be done: first of all, through the complaints commission and, secondly—I forget what it was.
§ Lord DRUMALBYN
Oh yes; parliamentary scrutiny. But, in that, the authority is making a general report on the treatment of complaints that the authority has received. What I asked my noble friend in the course of his remarks, and I hope he will forgive me for interrupting him, is: what action can the authority take? He has left us entirely in the air. There is no action for the authority to take in the case of abuses. I have given in my amendments examples of what could be done, and I still think that these courses should be taken, quite independently of the question of whether there should be competition in the sale of air time. This, of course, is what we are talking about primarily, but I am bound to say that I think my noble friend was arguing the case as I presented it in the last stage, on Second Reading, when we were talking about the setting up of a separate subsidiary company to collect the advertising revenue, rather than allowing the present ITV programme companies to do it.
This is not the point here at all. In so far as there is competition in any way here, there is no possibility of that competition in any way influencing the programmes; none whatsoever. If he looks at it carefully he will find that is so. The money is going to be collected, even under my amendment, either by the programme contractor or by the programme contractor in conjunction with 500 other persons. Neither the programme contractor nor the other persons can in any way influence the content of the programmes of the fourth channel; it is not possible. So I fail to see at all what the objection to this is.
I do not want to batter my head against a brick wall—I do not think it would do either it or the Committee much good—and I doubt whether I shall bring back the first set of amendments at the next stage, although I have the right to do so; but I am pretty certain that I shall be putting down the other amendments again, because I think they are necessary, and I hope very much that my noble friend will take seriously this business of looking into these complaints and have something to say to us about it when we come to the next stage of the Bill. It really is not satisfactory that these complaints from one side should be certainly based on evidence and very strongly felt and yet there seems to be nothing to be done about it at the moment except through the present liaison committee, where it is not unreasonable to think there will at the moment be deadlock simply because there is no means of enforcing these contracts. I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 12.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 13 not moved.]
§ 9.13 p.m.
Lord PONSONBY of SHULBREDE moved Amendment No. 14:
Page 5, line 23, after ("Authority") insert ("and on such terms and conditions for an advertising rate card as are approved by the Authority").
§ The noble Lord said: This amendment also concerns the question of advertising on the fourth channel. As we have already said, the method of financing the fourth channel as a distinctive service is one which we on this side very much commend and one which my noble friend Lord Donaldson has just spoken to. The proposal is, of course, that the authority will fix a subscription at a suitable level, to be paid by each contractor it appoints to the ITV franchises. In return, the contractor will receive the benefits of a further public franchise, the sale of advertising time on the fourth channel; and we have of course been discussing this for the last half hour 501 or so. This does two things: it extends the monopoly of the contractors in the sale of available advertising time on television, and also it allows each contractor to sell advertising time on his channel in order to recover the cost of its subscription to the programme budget of the new board.
§ This amendment asks that the rate card for the fourth channel should be subject to the prior approval of the authority. There are good reasons for this. There is the general reason, that in extending the monopoly which arises out of the grant of a public franchise, Parliament should ensure that the monopoly is not abused; and the best way to curb abuse is to ensure that our statutory authority has power, if it so wishes, to redress any such matters.
§ The contractors, first and foremost, will be interested in getting the highest possible income from their own ITV franchise and they may neglect the special marketing style and effort needed to sell adequate advertising on a very different sort of television service, a minority audience as against the mass audience. It could be that after a while they could turn to the fourth channel and say, "You are not following a programme policy which the advertiser will support". If this should happen it could be because of the way in which they attempt to sell the advertising—either because of its cost or because they are giving that second place to their efforts to sell ITV on their own channel. It is important therefore that the authority should hold the initiative to be able to put right such a situation. Under this amendment, they would have that initiative.
§ There is also the public purse to be protected, in that there is a Treasury levy on independent television profits. In the first place, the amount paid to the Treasury levy will be affected by the payment by the contractor of his fourth channel advertising subscription. His costs will have gone up and his profits will be smaller so that the Treasury levy will be smaller; that is, until Channel 4 gets on the air and starts to generate extra income for the ITV contractors and, therefore, extra income for the Treasury levy. When that happens there should be an increase in overall advertising revenue by the two services existing under the IBA and an increase in the amount of Treasury levy 502 paid. This will depend upon the type of advertising rate card issued for fourth channel advertising sales.
§ It could be that the internal accounting of some contractors would be best served by the selling of fourth channel advertising at too cheap a rate, or conversely, at too expensive a rate. In other words, the policy would be to bolster up the income for their own ITV service at the expense of arriving at the true values of fourth channel advertising. This is a hypothetical argument and no doubt the authority will be keeping an eye on this sort of situation. But what is the good of having powers to keep its attention on these matters without also having power to take the initiative in order to adjust the matter both in the interests of the advertisers, perhaps, and perhaps in the interest of the public purse?
§ The principle behind the amendment is that the authority needs to have an extra tooth. It needs to have a stronger measure of control over the advertising rate card for the fourth channel in the interest of the programme control of that channel, in the interest of ensuring that everybody gets fair play and of making sure that the initial losses to the Treasury levy are recovered in the course of the actual broadcasting by the fourth channel. The authority should be given this power; for without it they can only ask for something to be done. With the power, their arguments are reinforced with the type of statutory authority we are giving them in all other areas for the operation of the fourth channel. This amendment seeks to give this additional power to the authority, a power which could prove useful to the authority. On the other hand, it could be a power which the authority perhaps never finds it necessary to exercise at all. I beg to move.
Earl DE LA WARR
When I read this amendment I did not like it at all. Now that it has been so well explained by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, I cannot say I like it any better; but I do not dislike it more. It seems to be based on the assumption that the contractors are really going to do their best, if they need to, to "jip" the fourth channel people to their own benefit. It appears that there is an assumption that this is what is likely; so this is what we had better guard against.
503 First, let me say I think this is precious near to being an affront to the commercial probity of the contractors. Secondly, surely it is folly to start to bring the authority right into the commercial calculation that companies have to make in setting their rate cards. Rate cards are normally set on the basis of viewers, there are very complex arrangements by which the audience is measured and "mille" rate is the name of the game. This is the way that advertising is sold and rate cards are constructed.
For goodness' sake, do not let us bring the broadcasting authority, admirable as it may be, into the business side of things, because it is something they are not organised to do. They do not know anything about it, and it is very much better left to the companies themselves to do on the assumption which we must surely make that the contractors, having put their money into the fourth channel, will seek to recover it and in terms of ordinary, commercial fairness, not only to the fourth channel but to themselves, seek to sell the time that surrounds these programmes in an equitable and good commercial way.
So I deplore, first, the basic assumption and then the mechanics that are being produced to deal with the assumption which is false by the way because the mechanics are not efficient. They are introducing into the normal run of business, by people who know how to do these things, interference which cannot but make for a great deal of inefficiency.
§ Lord TAYLOR of GRYFE
I should like to support the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, and to say that those of us who have had experience of submitting rate cards to price commissions and other bodies realise all the bureaucratic interference with the market which was so frustrating and unfair to television companies.
I would think that to bring the IBA, which has immense supervisory powers over the companies, into fixing their commercial rate card is quite beyond the responsibilities that we would normally assume for the IBA. If, as the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, assumes, the television companies are inclined to fiddle their rate cards in order to show a greater 504 profit to their companies, knowing full well that 80 per cent. of that profit goes to the Government, I do not think that is a fair assumption. I think the advertising world pay the rate card which the market demands and they look at the ratings of the programmes and decide that if there is a certain number of people doing the programme the rate card is consequently adjusted. Therefore, it is not really in the hands of the IBA, the ITV companies; the advertising industry tells you how much the market is and whether, if your rate card is too high, as suggested by Lord Ponsonby, there might be adjustments of your rate card in the normal commercial station.
Then there are other forms of advertising. You can buy Press advertising, you can buy other forms of advertising, it is a competitive market and the rate card is related to that market. So I would suggest that to bring the IBA into this area of commercial operations is unwise and I do not think they are equipped to do it. We must not minimise the responsibilities of the IBA, who have a tremendous supervisory authority over the independent companies, to see that there are no improper practices commercially or in programmes.
§ 9.25 p.m.
§ Lord DRUMALBYN
I find myself a little in favour with almost everything that has been said, but not wholly in favour of anything. I am bound to welcome the agreement of the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, that the authority should be able to do something; but I am not certain that it would be right to act upon the rate card, for the reasons given both by my noble friend Lord De La Warr and the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe. I expressed the view that the authority should have some enforcement powers. However, can it really be on the rate card? I sense some connection with the Price Commission here. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby—perhaps even in spite of himself—is psychologically drawn back to the days of the Price Commission and the kind of controls that were exercised then.
I agree that the rate card is not a good thing to try to control, simply because, as has been said, there has to be flexibility 505 in negotiation. What I disagree with is that negotiations should be so uneven as between one party and another. I do not know how to exercise control over this, I think that the authority can do it, but the real trouble—the crunch—will come when the authority does not get its way in trying to hold the balance fairly. We shall simply have to see.
I think that my noble friend Lord De La Warr aptly described what goes on. The rate card is there really very largely as a basis of argument. Circumstances are changing all the time; supply and demand is changing all the time; there is change in relation to the importance of what is being shown in the programme immediately preceding or succeeding. It is a very flexible affair. I am bound to say that while I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, and I congratulate him on recognising that some powers have to be exercised, I do not think that he has chosen the right way to do it.
§ Lord BELSTEAD
I will add little to what has been said because those who have spoken have first hand knowledge of what they are talking about, and it would be better if I maintained a modest brevity—not total silence—and say that I do not want not to be able to return a good turn. The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, was good enough to support the case which the Government have been making out consistently against competitive advertising and I find myself now unable to agree with his noble friend on this amendment. It really will not do.
Once again, it is one of these situations where we do not live in a perfect world—it is an imperfect world—and possibly all the answers which are put forward are not going to achieve the best solution. For all the reasons which have been put on both sides of the Committee, the Government cannot support this amendment.
§ Lord PONSONBY of SHULBREDE
May I thank all contributors to this debate. As the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, has said, this is not a perfect world. If it was an ideal world, this particular amendment would be quite unnecessary. The noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, with his very great experience in this field, has made a number of useful points. However, the problem is that this is not an ideal world and therefore some of the 506 factors which I have mentioned which could happen, might happen. We do not know how the various ITV companies will decide to market Channel 4 advertising. I can say to the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, that I did not at all feel any pull of the Price Commission. I just felt that here was a problem and that there should be a reserve power to deal with it if it arose. But it might not arise. In view of the remarks which have been made, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendments Nos. 15 and 16 not moved.]
§ Clause 5 agreed to.
§ Clause 6 agreed to.
§ Clause 7 [Content of annual reports]:
§ 9.31 p.m.
Lord PONSONBY of SHULBREDE moved Amendment No. 17:
Page 7, line 15, leave out ("general") and insert ("detailed").
§ The noble Lord said: With this amendment, I shall speak to Amendment No. 18. Earlier amendments which we discussed dealt with monitoring the output, and with various ways of trying to ensure that we achieve a distinctive approach with the fourth channel. This amendment is concerned with the report which is to be issued.
§ In the clause as it stands, there is a requirement for a general report to be issued and for a general assessment of how the objectives of the fourth channel have been met. This amendment seeks to ensure that we go slightly further than that, and have a detailed report of how the channel has succeeded in meeting its objectives. In a sense, this will be another form of monitoring, but it will be monitoring after the event rather than before it.
§ In order to ensure that the fourth channel is kept on its feet, the authority should be required to say how they have discharged their functions. If this amendment is not accepted, the danger is that the authority will deal in a very general way with how they have tried to meet their objectives. I hope that this amendment is one which will be acceptable. I beg to move.
§ Lord BELSTEAD
I am sorry to appear unhelpful but there is a genuine difficulty here, if we say that a report shall be detailed and details are then left out of the report. It occurs to me—perhaps 507 I should reveal to the Committee that it has not occurred to my advisers, but I have conjured it up out of my own head since dinner—that the authority could then be held to be in contravention of its legislative duty. I have to say to the Committee that that consideration is something which has occurred to me. But this is a serious point and it is a reason why it is of some danger to put in the word "detailed". However, if it looked as if the IBA's report contained insufficient detail, which I regard as unlikely, then, in any event, the Home Secretary has power under Section 31(4) of the 1973 Act to direct that more details be given. It is worth adding that I said I see it as being unlikely. I see it as being unlikely on the experience of previous IBA reports, which I think are in sufficient detail.
§ Lord PONSONBY of SHULBREDE
May I thank the noble Lord for his remarks which have led me to see how I could achieve my objectives with a slightly different amendment at Report stage. Therefore I beg to withdraw the amendment as it stands.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 18 not moved.]
§ Clause 7 agreed to.
§ 9.36 p.m.
Lord BELSTEAD moved Amendment No. 19:
After Clause 7, insert the following new clause:
§ ("The Fourth Channel in Wales
§ PART IIA
§ THE FOURTH CHANNEL IN WALES
§ 7A.—(1) The programmes (other than advertisements) broadcast on the Fourth Channel in Wales shall be provided by the Welsh Fourth Channel Authority established by this Part; and accordingly sections 3(1) to (3), 4(1) to (3) and 7 shall not apply in relation to the broadcasting by the IBA of television programmes, whether on ITV or otherwise, for reception in Wales.
§ (2) In this Part "the Fourth Channel in Wales" means the Fourth Channel so far as it consists of programmes (other than advertisements) broadcast for reception in Wales.
§ (3) Section 2(3) shall apply to this Part as well as to Part II.").
§ The noble Lord said: This amendment is consequential on Amendment No. 2 which gives effect to the Government's policy for Welsh language television. The next eight amendments which I shall move as the Lord Chairman calls them one by one are also all consequential on Amendment No. 2. I beg to move.508
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN of COMMITTEES (Lord Segal)
With the leave of the Committee I propose to take Amendments Nos. 20 to 27 seriatim.
Lord BELSTEAD moved Amendment Nos. 20 to 27 en bloc:
After Clause 7, insert the following new clause:
§ ("The Welsh Fourth Channel Authority
§ "7B.—(1) There shall be an authority to be called the Welsh Fourth Channel Authority (in this Act referred to as "the Welsh Authority") which shall consist of—
- (a) a Chairman appointed by the Secretary of State; and
- (b) four other members so appointed.
§ (2) The Welsh Authority, unless previously dissolved, shall cease to function if and when the IBA cease to function under main section 2(1).
§ (3) It is hereby declared that the Welsh Authority are not to be treated for the purposes of the enactments and rules of law relating to the privileges of the Crown as a body exercising functions on behalf of the Crown.
§ (4) Schedule (Provisions as to the Welsh Fourth Channel Authority) shall have effect with respect to the Welsh Authority.").
§ After Clause 7, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Function, powers and duties of Welsh Authority
§ 7C.—(1) The function of the Welsh Authority shall be—
- (a) to provide television programmes (other than advertisements) of high quality for broadcasting by the IBA on the Fourth Channel in Wales; and
- (b) to provide the IBA with programme schedules for those programmes;
§ (2) A substantial proportion of the programmes included in the programme schedules provided by the Welsh Authority shall be in Welsh; and the programme schedules shall be drawn up so as to secure that the programmes broadcast on the Fourth Channel in Wales between the hours of 6.30 p.m. and 10.00 p.m. consist mainly of programmes in Welsh.
§ (3) Subject to subsection (2), the programme schedules provided by the Welsh Authority shall be drawn up with a view to securing that, for any period allocated to the broadcasting of a programme not in Welsh, the programme broadcast is normally the same as the programme (or one of the programmes) broadcast on the Fourth Channel in that period for reception otherwise than in Wales.
§ (4) It shall be the duty of the Welsh Authority—
- (a) to discharge their function as described in subsection (1) so as to secure that the Fourth Channel in Wales is a public service for disseminating information, education and entertainment; and
- (b) to ensure—
- (i) that the programmes provided by them maintain a high general standard in all respects, and in particular in respect of their content and quality; and
- (ii) that the programmes in Welsh so provided maintain a proper balance and wide range in their subject-matter,
§ (5) The Welsh Authority shall, subject to the provisions of this and the main Act so far as they apply in relation to the Fourth Channel in Wales, have power to do all such things as are in their opinion necessary for, or conducive to, the proper discharge of their function as described in subsection (1).").
§ After Clause 7 insert the following new clause:
§ ("Sources of programmes (other than advertisements) in Welsh.
§ "7D.—(1) It shall be the duty of the BBC to supply to the Welsh Authority a proportion of the television programmes in Welsh which that Authority need for compliance with section 7C(2), and to do so in a way which meets the reasonable requirements of that Authority.
§ (2) The aggregate duration of the television programmes in Welsh supplied by the BBC under subsection (1) for inclusion in the Welsh Authority's programme schedules for any period shall be not less than the aggregate duration of the television programmes in Welsh which, if this Part had not come into force, would have been broadcast by the BBC in that period for reception in Wales.
§ (3) The contract between the IBA and the TV programme contractor whose duty it is to provide programmes for broadcasting on ITV for reception in Wales shall contain all such provisions as the IBA think necessary or expedient to ensure that, while the IBA are providing both ITV and the Fourth Channel in Wales, the programme contractor is under a duty to supply to the Welsh Authority (on commercial terms) a reasonable proportion of the television programmes in Welsh which the Welsh Authority need for compliance with section 7C(2), and to do so in a way which meets the reasonable requirements of the Welsh Authority.
§ (4) Nothing in this section shall be taken to preclude the Welsh Authority from obtaining television programmes in Welsh from sources other than the BBC and the TV programme contractor referred to in subsection (3).")
§ After Clause 7, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Advertisements on the Fourth Channel in Wales.
§ "7E.—(1) The programme schedules provided by the Welsh Authority under section 7C(1) shall include periods available for the broadcasting of advertisements; and it shall be the duty of the Welsh Authority to provide those programme schedules far enough in advance to enable the IBA to operate the arrangements required by section 5(3)(a).
§ (2) In any programme schedule so provided, no period available for the broadcasting of advertisements shall be located in any break in or, without the consent of the BBC, at the beginning or end of any programme supplied or to be supplied to the Welsh Authority by the BBC.")510
§ After Clause 7 insert the following new clause:
§ ("Modification of certain provisions relating to the IBA.
§ "7F.—(1) The provisions mentioned in subsection (2) shall, in their operation in relation to the Fourth Channel in Wales, have effect subject to the modifications specified in Schedule (Modifications of main Act etc. in relation to Fourth Channel in Wales) (being modifications for substituting the Welsh Authority for the IBA in those provisions and for other purposes arising out of the special arrangements for that Channel); but nothing in this section or that Schedule affects those provisions in their operation in relation to the Fourth Channel so far as it consists of advertisements broadcast for reception in Wales.
§ (2) Those provisions are—
- (a) main section 2(1) and (2) (function and duties of IBA);
- (b) main section 4 (general provisions as to content of programmes);
- (c) main section 5 (code for programmes other than advertisements);
- (d) main section 7 (programme prizes);
- (e) main section 33 (audience research);
- (f) section 2 of the Independent Broad-casting Authority Act 1978 (exclusion of main section 4(2) and (5) as respects proceedings in Parliament etc.).
§ (3) So long as the Fourth Channel is being provided in Wales, so much of main section 4(1)(d) as relates to cases where another language as well as English is in common use among persons served by the station or stations in question, shall, in the case of programmes broadcast on ITV for reception in Wales, apply only to languages other than Welsh.
§ (4) Main section 23 (prevention of exclusive arrangements for broadcasting national events) shall have effect as if after "the British Broadcasting Corporation" there were inserted "and to the Welsh Fourth Channel Authority".")
§ After Clause 7, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Advisory bodies
§ 7G.—(1) The Welsh Authority may appoint, or arrange for the assistance of, advisory bodies to give advice to that Authority on such matters as that Authority may determine; and a general advisory council may be appointed under this section.
§ (2) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1), the Welsh Authority shall in particular appoint, or arrange for the assistance of, committees of the kinds mentioned in paragraphs (a) and (c) of main section 10(2) respectively (committees to advise in the fields of religion and education).
§ (3) The advisory bodies for whose assistance the Welsh Authority may arrange under this section include—
- (a) any general advisory council appointed by the IBA under main section 10(1);
- (b) the advisory committee for Wales so appointed under main section 10A;
- (c) any advisory committee whose function is to give to the IBA such advice as is mentioned in the said paragraph (a) or (c);
- (d) the Broadcasting Council for Wales appointed by the BBC; and
- (e) any other advisory council or committee appointed by the BBC;
§ After Clause 7, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Provisions as to finances of Welsh Authority, accounts, audit and reports
§ 7H.—(1) For each financial year ending after the commencement of this section the IBA shall pay to the Welsh Authority such sum or sums as may be agreed between them to be appropriate for enabling the Welsh Authority to meet their reasonable outgoings or, in default of such agreement, such sum or sums as the Secretary of State may determine to be appropriate for that purpose.
§ (2) All sums paid by the IBA to the Welsh Authority in pursuance of subsection (1) shall be treated for the purposes of main section 25(2) (duty of IBA as to amount of their revenues) as sums properly chargeable to revenue account in respect of the branch of their undertaking which consists of the provision of television broadcasting services.
§ (3) Main section 31 (accounts, audit and reports) shall apply in relation to the Welsh Authority as it applies in relation to the IBA.").
§ After Clause 7, insert the following new clause:
§ ("71. In deciding from time to time whether to make any, and if so what, use of his power under subsection (6) of main section 26 to amend by order subsections (3) and (4) of that section (rates of additional payments) the Secretary of State may have regard to any increase in the aggregate amount of the payments to be made by programme contractors under the head described in subsection (1)(a) of that section (contribution towards expenses of IBA) which is attributable to the provisions of this Part.").
§ Baroness WHITE
I realise that these matters have been dealt with very expeditiously. Nevertheless, when one considers the interest and emotion aroused in the Principality, we should at least draw attention to the fact that there are two Welsh persons present and that we very much welcome this group of amendments.
§ Lord ELWYN-JONES
If my noble friend will permit me, she would have heard an accolade at the beginning of the debate to various people, including even the Government, about this matter, and in particular to my noble friend Lord Cledwyn. We missed the presence of my noble friend. We are delighted to have it now.
§ Lord DONALDSON of KINGS-BRIDGE
May I ask a very brief question about Amendment No. 26? One of the things in which we are very interested is where the money is to come from. I do not entirely understand Amendment No. 512 26, which I think is trying to tell me. I do not know whether the noble Lord can explain it in two sentences. If his explanation will take more than that I would rather leave it to another day.
§ Lord BELSTEAD
I cannot do it in two sentences, I am afraid, but this requires the IBA to pay to the Welsh authority for each financial year appropriate sums to enable that authority to meet their reasonable outgoings. The sums are to be agreed between the two authorities, but in the absence of agreement the Committee will notice that there is provision in this new clause for the Secretary of State, in practice the Home Secretary, to determine what sums are appropriate by a form of arbitration by the Home Secretary. That is the essence of the new clause.
§ Lord DONALDSON of KINGS-BRIDGE
I do not want to prolong this, but does it mean that if more money were wanted than they agreed it would come off the levy, and therefore, in a sense, from the Government? That is where I want to see it come from.
§ Lord BELSTEAD
Perhaps for the record I should repeat words which I spoke earlier today when I said that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, after consultation with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, will be discussing the details of the financing of the Welsh fourth channel with the IBA and that the provision in new Clause 71 would enable him to have regard to any increased costs when setting the rates of the levy. Beyond that I cannot go this evening.
§ On Question, amendments agreed to.
§ Clause 8 [The Broadcasting Complaints Commission]:
§ 9.40 p.m.
Lord DONALDSON of KINGS-BRIDGE moved Amendment No. 28:
Page 7, line 44, leave out ("three") and insert ("five").
§ The noble Lord said: We are now on the complaints commission and the thing that leaves me feeling very unhappy is 513 having only three members on it, of whom I am sure at least two would be lawyers. I think it is very important that this should be taken out of the arid hands of the law and although there must be a lawyer there—and I could choose one or two very good ones—I think there should be other people as well. I see that in the next amendment the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, is suggesting that the experts in programme building should not be excluded, and I agree with that. I should like to propose now that there should be five and not three members on the complaints commission, which would give the IBA the opportunity to broaden the body of decision-makers on this very difficult and rather important point.
§ It seems to me that this is really the first amendment we have had today which without difficulty the Government could and should accept, and I hope very much that they will accept it. I could speak to it at length but I do not think it is necessary because the desirability of having a few other people besides the "three wise men" is perfectly clear to anybody and I should have thought that this could be granted to us. I beg to move.
§ Lord ELWYN-JONES
I am sorry that my noble friend took unseemly advantage of the opportunity to have a swipe at the lawyers. What have they done to offend him in this undeserved way? Apart from that temporary aberration on the part of my noble friend I think his suggestion is very sound. Three are not really enough to determine this difficult issue of fact and consideration and I should have thought that five was about right, without prejudice to who they should be.
§ Lord BELSTEAD
I agree with the noble and learned Lord. I cannot for one moment understand what possessed the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, to speak in that way of the law. The tones of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, are as crisp and sweet as the Cox's Orange Pippins which he loves so well. Having said that, I do not think that I agree with either the noble and learned Lord or the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson.
I think there is a genuine difficulty here and of course I will have a look at it and will ask the department to look at it before we come to the next stage of the Bill, but I cannot give a commitment, 514 for this reason: there really is a genuine attempt in this part of the Bill—of course this is subject to what your Lordships are going to say in the next few minutes about this part of the Bill and to what Parliament is going to say ultimately—to keep the procedures as simple and informal as possible. With that in mind we thought that perhaps three—and incidentally it is "not less than three"; there can of course be four or five but not less than three—would be a reasonable minimum. It happens to be the same number as the BBC's existing Programmes Complaints Commission. It was on that basis and with those thoughts in mind that we went for that particular number.
I repeat, I shall certainly have it looked at closely again before the next stage of the Bill, but I cannot give any commitment that I shall be able to give satisfaction on this.
§ Lord DONALDSON of KINGS-BRIDGE
It is true that it says "Not less than three". I should like to have "Not less than five", but perhaps we may discuss it further. In the meantime I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 9.44 p.m.
Lord WINSTANLEY moved Amendment No. 29:
Page 7, line 45, at end insert ("at least one of whom shall have had substantial professional experience in the field of radio and/or television programme production.").
§ The noble Lord said: I think that the purpose of this amendment is quite clear. It is to ensure that among the "three wise men"—as it is now apparently to be, rather than five—at least one should have had substantial professional experience in the field of radio and/or television programme production. At present, as the Bill stands there are a number of constraints which make absolutely sure that none of the complaints commissioners are members of any of the bodies likely to be complained about, and indeed there are various restrictions laid to make it clear that they cannot be persons holding office in various ways connected with the presentation of programmes.
§ I have accepted, and do accept, that it is wise, perhaps necessary, to have some reasonably open avenue through which complaints can be directed by people 515 who feel a need to complain to somebody other than the people complained about; in other words, there must be an independent element. That I entirely accept. But this is a very onerous job which we will be giving to these commissioners. The whole purpose of the complaints procedure as outlined in the Bill is not to deal with matters of taste—although that is dealt with in other amendments; it is in reality to ensure fairness and to protect individuals from intrusions into privacy and matters of that kind.
§ I am bound to say that perhaps at the end of the day we will all realise that it is quite impossible to make broadcasting and television wholly fair, just as the press is not wholly fair, politics is not wholly fair, nor is football, indeed nor is life itself. But I think what we have to ensure, if we cannot guarantee absolute fairness for every individual citizen, is at least to do our best to guarantee that proper practices have been followed. I have no wish to hedge in those who have the onerous responsibility of preparing and presenting television programmes with a whole lot of rules and edicts and restrictions, codes of practice and things of that kind. I think once we embark on that course we are in very great difficulties.
§ At the end of the day, as I said in an earlier debate in your Lordships' Committee, one has to trust the broadcasters, and then if we find that they do not do the job as we would like the only thing we can do is get rid of them and have some other people and see whether they are more trustworthy. What I am saying is that we cannot devise a whole set of rules which people have to keep which would absolutely guarantee that nobody would be offended or upset or injured or damaged by what happens to be presented on television.
§ As I have implied, I think it is true inevitably that if television is to do its proper job, often an investigative job, often directing public attention to matters of immense importance, from time to time the broadcasting authorities will come into conflict with the rights and interests of individuals. I have said before that I think in matters of privacy perhaps we ought to have written into a Bill of Rights entrenched clauses to safeguard the privacy of the individual, just as I also think perhaps in a Bill of Rights we ought to 516 have a right to information written into our statute somewhere.
§ Here in relation to broadcasting we are picking out one aspect of life and endeavouring to deal with the question of intrusion into privacy with regard to that one particular activity; namely, broadcasting. Perhaps we should do the same with regard to the press. Perhaps we should do the same with regard to computers, perhaps we should do the same even with regard to the police. But I nevertheless accept that with a medium as powerful and as intrusive and as important as television broadcasting it is necessary that there should be an avenue of complaint down which complaints can be channelled to people other than those complained about. My concern is to make absolutely sure that the commissioners in doing their job properly and investigating complaints are not going to conduct themselves in such a way as to virtually bring normal broadcasting practice grinding to a halt. I am bound to say that it is a highly intricate professional business. There are many practices about which I, as a person concerned with broadcasting over very many years in a practical sense both on the production side and the presentation side of programmes, am not wholly happy. But I do not think that we can introduce codes of practice which will necessarily make everything plain sailing.
§ Perhaps I may give one or two examples. The situation has changed a little recently, but as regards the practice of filming interviews your Lordships will, I am sure, be aware that in general, as a natural economy, one camera tends to be used. An interview is filmed and the interviewee is very carefully filmed while answering a whole series of questions. When the interviewee has finally departed the same camera is used to shoot the interviewer recording what are called "reverses"—in other words, he repeats the same questions so that there are then pictures of him putting those questions which can be cut into the final film.
§ I have never yet met or encountered an interviewer who could be wholly relied upon to resist the temptation to improve his question marginally when he put it the second time. It is a fact that occasionally the marginal alteration of a particular question will possibly marginally alter its sense and might, in other words, 517 marginally have extracted or elicited a somewhat different answer. That is an area over which one must watch rather carefully.
§ Another area is the general area of cutting. I once had an opportunity of sitting in on an interview with a candidate for Parliament for another place, a chap called Arthur Fox who was the proprietor of a well known strip club in Manchester. In order to satisfy the Representation of the People Act, when television decided that it had to do an interview with the various candidates it clearly had to give the same time to this particular candidate. I happened to be present when he was interviewed. The interview went on for about a quarter of an hour. He was asked many interesting questions about politics and gave many interesting answers about his campaign and the type of things that he would like to do. But when I saw the programme actually presented later, all that remained of that particular interview—and remember that he was given precisely the same amount of time on the air as the other candidates—were his answers about how his political career, if elected, would influence the conduct of his strip shows in Manchester and various matters of that kind.
§ If commissioners were to be in a position to investigate complaints of that kind retrospectively—and let us be clear that that is all they are doing, they are not exerting a scrutiny over programmes before the act; they are looking at complaints afterwards—one cannot have a requirement that all the material that is discarded on the floor of the cutting room should be preserved in perpetuity in case the commissioners would wish to look at it to see if a proper selection has later been made.
§ I have outlined one or two of the type of examples from which justifiable complaints can arise, to show the extreme complexity of the job which has to be done by the people who, under this Bill when it becomes an Act, will ultimately have a very serious and important responsibility. I do not believe that it is possible for that responsibility to be effectively discharged in the interests both of safeguarding the rights of viewers and of ensuring that the production and presentation of television is not impeded—I do not think that is possible unless there is a fair degree of knowledge and expertise about the actual 518 professional technique involved in television production and presentation.
§ I am not saying that necessarily the words that I have on the Order Paper should be enshrined in the ultimate Act. But I should like an assurance from the noble Lord who is to reply that, in making appointments to these very important and onerous offices, care will be taken to see that we have not only people of standing and of public esteem who can be relied upon to be fair and to understand the law and to understand whether there are other courses of action which an aggrieved citizen can take through the common law, but that we make absolutely sure that that body of three men—which I now understand must be the minimum—should at least contain one who understands television production and presentation at the sharp end. If there is not that kind of knowledge and expertise, either it will not work in the interests of the viewer who is complaining, or it will not work in the interests of those who have the responsibility of presenting programmes. It will merely cause difficulties and we shall feel that we have created something which is causing trouble rather than getting rid of trouble. I beg to move.
§ Lord DONALDSON of KINGS-BRIDGE
I support this in general, but if we increase the number of people, it would not be necessary to specify who they were, which is probably the better way.
§ Lord BELSTEAD
I quite understand the reason which has prompted this amendment and, indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, has made it crystal clear in what he has said. The Government have a good deal of sympathy with the amendment because as the commission is dealing with complaints about broadcast programmes, it should include a member who has practical experience of programme production and who can bring his insight of the broadcasting world to the commission's deliberations. However, it may be difficult to tie, in the way that the wording of the amendment would like to do, the Secretary of State to his choice of members, as the amendment proposes. I think that he could be left free to make his choice of members.
The noble Lord asked me for an assurance, and I should like to give an assurance that experience of the broadcasting scene 519 can certainly be expected to be among the matters taken into account when members are selected. I should like to add one point. I am a little concerned by the final words of the amendment, which call for someone who has had:substantial professional experience in the field or radio and/or television programme production".I am concerned with the last two words. It is my understanding that in the field of radio and television there will be some interests which would welcome the setting up of a complaints commission and there will be some who would not. We might find that there were strong reactions from some people working in the media to this particular wording, which says that some-one must be appointed who has knowledge of "programme production" in particular. I simply say that in order to try still to steer the Committee away from actually putting these words into the Bill. As regards the intention, I hope that the modified assurance which I have given to the noble Lord may be acceptable to him.
§ Lord ELWYN-JONES
Will the noble Lord also bear in mind that this is not only an intention to improve the competence and efficiency of the complaints body, but, in fairness to those who are engaged in the profession, it is only right that there should be someone from the profession on this body. One can think of comparable bodies, such as the Press Council and the disciplinary bodies of the professions. It is always right that there should be members of the profession who sit as part of them.
§ Lord BELSTEAD
I take very seriously what the noble and learned Lord has said. What I called the "modified assurance", which I gave, was that the broadcasting scene may be expected to be among the matters taken into account when members are selected. What I was trying to say, which perhaps I did not put very clearly, was that my understanding of radio and television is that there are many different skills represented in the media and when one then starts putting into legislative form who, representing the media, should be on the complaints commission, I think that one starts running into difficulties. Therefore, I repeat that I hope that my modified assurance may be acceptable to the noble Lord who has moved the amendment.
I am most grateful to the noble Lord for the assurance that he has given, an assurance that he has given twice. I am reminded of the words of Lewis Carroll in the Hunting of the Shark:What I say three times is true".But at least we have heard it twice, that there is a clear and earnest intention to do something of this kind. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating, but I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, for the very clear assurance that he has given that the substance of my amendment will be heeded by the Government and that it will be met in the appointment of the commissioners at the end of the day. With those words, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.521
§ 10 p.m.
Lord HOOSON moved Amendment No. 30:
Page 8, line 4, leave out from ("Authority") to end of line 10.
The noble Lord said: I beg leave to move Amendment No. 30, which is standing in my name. The effect of this amendment would be to delete from this Bill that subsection which effectively prevents the Secretary of State from appointing anybody to the Broadcasting Complaints Commission who has any existing link with television. I go much further than my noble friend Lord Winstanley's amendment because it seems to me that Clause 8(2)(b) would effectively prevent what my noble friend was aiming to achieve by his amendment, because by that subsection the Secretary of State cannot appoint anybody who is concerned with—and one looks at how wide the words are—or has
an interest in, the preparation or provision of programmes for broadcasting by the BBC or the Authority (including, in the case of the Authority, programmes consisting of advertisements)".
§ The most that the Secretary of State could do under this is to appoint somebody who in the past has had some experience of broadcasting but who has no present connection. It seems to me, and I hope that the Committee will bear with me for a little on this point, that this particular part of the Bill which sets up the Broadcasting Complaints Commission has had very little attention either in this House or in the other House. In fact, the right honourable gentleman the Minister of State in the other House, Mr. Leon Brittan, commented on the fact that when these clauses were being considered in the other place he had received no representations whatsoever from broadcasters about these provisions, and yet now there is very great concern about them. We are setting up a body which is going to have an important effect not only on ITV but on the BBC as well. It is in fact going to lay down over the years the ethical and practical standards for the profession of broadcasting and televising, and yet we are going to exclude deliberately from appointment to the commission anybody with any existing connection with the profession.522
§ What other profession in our country has a disciplinary committee of this nature? Every profession in the country, including my own, the Bar, has an immediate impact on the public. The medical profession do; the advertisers do; the accountants do. It is arguable that television has a greater impact on the public than any other profession, and yet here we are setting up a body to lay down the ethical and practical standards to be achieved by the broadcasters without including on that body anybody who has any existing connection with the profession. It seems to me to be entirely wrong in principle.
There may be a good case for allowing a majority of the members of the commission to be lay people, but it is interesting to look at what the Annan Report suggested about the qualifications necessary for the tribunal. They are to be
skilled in the assessment of evidence and knowledge about broadcasting".
Of course, there is a case for having somebody, perhaps a lawyer, as chairman, somebody skilled in the assessment of evidence, but surely he has to be guided by people who are also equally skilled in broadcasting. I do not go very much further than my noble friend Lord Winstanley. I do not think it is possible for this complaints commission to have the confidence of the television industry if it is not represented on it. As a member of the Bar I would be horrified if my professional conduct was to be judged by a body which did not include any of my contemporaries and included nobody who was in practice or with any present connection with the practice of law. It seems absurd and therefore the whole matter should be re-thought.
§ The Committee will forgive me because I have other amendments down to this part of the Bill which are related to what I am saying about this amendment. I hope the Government will re-think this whole matter, because the great danger with an appointed body of this kind excluding any present practitioners of broadcasting for the purposes of hearing complaints is that there will be a tendency for the Government to say, "We will appoint people we can trust and be happy 523 with their judgment of what is fair and just and so on". In five years time they will come up for reappointment. Let us say that at that time the pet or favourite of the then Government is Mr. Tony Benn, who happens to be Home Secretary. He would then appoint the replacements. In both cases it could be argued that they would be political appointments. Their view of what was fair and just in any given situation might differ considerably. And if there were no representative of broadcasters on the complaints commission, the situation could be very difficult, and if the commission did not enjoy the confidence of the profession, life would be made very difficult indeed.
§ It occurred to me that the clause might have been inserted because of a possible conflict of interest; say, if one or two members of the commission had considerable knowledge of broadcasting and of the pressures described by my noble friend Lord Winstanley and they or their company were directly or indirectly involved in a complaint. Surely that could be dealt with by having an alternate to sit, so that such a conflict of interest could easily be resolved. There seems to be no case whatever for excluding altogether practising members of the profession whose standards will be set by this commission.
§ Lord STRABOLGI
I support what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, and what was said on a previous amendment by the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley. This gives me the opportunity to ask the Government what type of people they will invite to be members of this commission. We have heard a lot about the Three Wise Men. Of all the modern clichés, that is the one I dislike the most. It assumes that someone who is eminent in one sphere has a monopoly of wisdom in another. The Press Council, for example, has experience of press work, and I hope that when the members of this commission are chosen they may be eminent, but they will at least have their feet on the ground and have some experience of television and of how the ordinary viewer watches and the interest he takes.
524 I am sure my noble and learned friend on the Front Bench will allow me to say that I hope those appointed to this commission will not be like Lord Justice Darling who, I remember, when a boy was an eminent judge who used to pride himself on never knowing anything about the modern world. He had never heard of a film star and had taken no interest in anything in which most ordinary people were interested. I therefore hope that when the people are chosen for this commission they may be eminent, they may be wise and they may be three, but they will also have their feet on the ground.
§ Lord AUCKLAND
I suggest that we need also be concerned with the question of the viewer. This is a very technical amendment and I realise I am speaking among a plethora of noble Lords who have interests, financial or otherwise, in the television and broadcasting world. I certainly think that there is a case for the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, although the word "production" covers an extremely wide area. Are we dealing with the production of a drama, or a feature programme or a variety programme, or what? I rather wonder—and I throw this out as a complete greenhorn, as one who has viewed television frequently but who has not served on any authority—whether the person to be appointed should not be someone who has recently retired from the television scene, rather than someone currently involved in programmes that undoubtedly are becoming more and more controversial. Though normally I like to see small boards or companies, since we are going into something very new, like other noble Lords I am a little concerned as to whether three is the right number. These people will have to investigate a large number of complaints, presumably by way of statutory notice, if the BBC is any guideline. There is I believe on Sunday mornings a certain programme that deals with complaints from radio listeners, and I believe that there is one that deals with television complaints.
While I think it is essential to have someone who has had considerable experi- 525 ence of working executively within the television and radio sphere, I also believe that among the three wise men, or women, to be impartial—or whatever the number—there should perhaps be representation from the viewers as well. By doing that one would achieve a much more satisfactory result.
§ Lord DONALDSON of KINGS-BRIDGE
I support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Hooson. I think that his argument was incontrovertible. It follows upon my amendment, which I withdrew, and upon the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, which was also withdrawn. I hope that now that we have had three amendments all vaguely concerned with the same subject, the Government may for the first time in a long sitting find themselves able to say that they do not totally disagree with every single thing that any of us say.
§ Lord BELSTEAD
I do not totally disagree with all that has been said on this amendment. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, made a very strong case for this. I do not think that I need say to the Committee that the obvious difficulty that was in the minds of those who were preparing the Bill was the conflict of interest that there could be. This is why the provision was put in. It is a conflict of interest that, to a member of the general public, could show a member of the complaints commission who was actually working in the media as being a prejudiced party when hearing a complaint. The noble Lord said, quite understandably, that we could get round that by having some more people on the commission and seeing that the member of the commission who would be looked upon as being prejudiced simply did not sit that day. Of course that is a way out, but I have been at pains to try to point out that the idea is to try to keep the commission small and informal.
I should like to point out one other thing. Looking ahead to Clause 12, the sanction that is at the disposal of the complaints commission is that the broadcasting body by which the relevant programme was broadcast shall be required by directions to publishin any manner specified in the directions, and within such period as may be so specified, a summary of the complaint…526 That is the sanction, and I think that that is another reason that has persuaded the Government that subsection (2)(b) on page 8 should be drafted in the way that it has been.
If a broadcasting body—we are talking about the BBC or the IBA or the Welsh Fourth Channel Authority—has got to suffer the sanction, then self-evidently it does not seem unreasonable that one should draft that a person who appears to be concerned with any of those broadcasting authorities should not be a member of the commission. Therefore it is not quite so straightforwardly a matter of plain right and wrong as has been represented to me today.
I do not want to mislead the Committee or to waste time. Certainly I will look at it again, but I go out of my way to say that I give no commitment at all on this. Indeed, before I listened to the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, I was rather surprised that the amendment was down. It has always seemed to me that it was self evident that one should not have someone who has an interest looking into matters of complaint. Having listened to the debate, I must say that I still lean in that direction.
§ Lord DONALDSON of KINGS-BRIDGE
This is something which happens every day. If somebody has an interest and is on a committee he does not sit when his interest is being discussed. There is no problem of any kind here.
§ Lord BELSTEAD
There is no problem if we accede to what the noble Lord has said and make the size of the commission larger. But there are reasons for not doing that, as I have already explained.
§ Lord HOOSON
I am obliged to the noble Lord for his comments and I am grateful that he is going to look at the matter again. It needs to be looked at again. Let me emphasise this point. In a way, every professional body has a vested interest in the complaint before it. It is very important that this commission has not only the confidence of the public but also the confidence of the television industry. That is why it is essential that 527 one or two eminent practitioners in the arts of broadcasting or television should be on the complaints commission. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ On Question, Whether Clause 8 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ Lord DONALDSON of KINGS-BRIDGE
There is an amendment put down by the noble Lord, Lord Hooson—No. 39. Before we come to that, which I do not think we shall tonight, I should like to say that my belief is that the existing complaints procedures should be maintained—that the person who wishes to make a complaint against the BBC or one of the companies should always be able to apply first to them, and only if he gets no satisfaction should the much more elaborate statutory procedure be introduced. I do not know whether any pronouncement has been made upon this. I do not think it is clear whether or not the BBC or the other companies are keeping their existing procedures. I do not need to have an answer now, but we shall want to know before we get to Amendment No. 39.
§ Clause 8 agreed to.
§ Clause 9 [Function of the Commission]:
§ 10.19 p.m.
Lord HOOSON moved Amendment No. 31:
Page 8, line 19 leave out ("unjust or") and insert ("grossly").
§ The noble Lord said: The effect of this amendment would be to remove the words "unjust or" and substitute the word "grossly", so that what would be investigated under Clause 9(1)(a) would be grossly unfair treatment in a television programme. The object of this amendment is to give some greater definition to the vague notion of fairness, sufficient to found a complaint. As my noble friend Lord Winstanley has pointed out, because of the nature of the beast in television one often feels there has been unfairness. There is not a single politician in the land who has not been subjected to what he or she considers to be unfair treatment at the hands of a television interviewer. The example has already 528 been given of something cut short or something added to a question, the inability to give one time to develop an argument or an argument cut short so that it gives a distorted view. All this is unfair; but it is in the very nature of the beast to be unfair.
§ It is of interest to note, if one looks at Clause 9(1)(b), the words "unwarranted infringement of privacy". I think I am right in saying that when this Bill was introduced in another place the words were "infringement of privacy", and it was by amendment in the other place that the word "unwarranted" was added. That therefore qualified "infringement". and I think it is necessary to have a word to qualify "unfair". The best word I can think of is "'grossly' unfair". For example, was the film "Death of a Princess" fair to Saudi Arabia? It depends upon one's political viewpoint, I think, whether one considers it was fair or unfair. Was Granada fair to British Steel? Was the Sunday Times fair to the Distillers Company? All these questions really give scope for political value judgments in deciding whether or not a programme is fair.
§ I think what would be helpful to the commissioners would be to prevent them from being placed in an impossible position, and the yardstick of "gross unfairness" is, I think, a more definite one. For example, on the question of fairness, I think I am right in saying that the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary said in your Lordships' House that he thought that the programme "Death of a Princess" was unfair to Saudi Arabia, whereas another noble Lord on the same side of your Lordships' House who was connected with television gave the opposite view and said that it was not unfair. This shows the great difficulty; and I think that these complaints should be reserved for bad cases. What we are concerned with is to improve the standards of television, and "gross unfairness" is sufficient in this context. I beg to move.
§ Lord ELWYN-JONES
I am not sure I entirely agree with the noble Lord about this. After all, what is intended is to protect the individual from being subjected to "unjust or unfair treatment". I am rather surprised that the noble Lord, distinguished silk as he is, has removed 529 "unjust" altogether. I should have thought "unjust" would be very capable of analysis and consideration. If the noble Lord had said "unjust or grossly unfair treatment", that might possibly have been more acceptable; but I do not see anything oppressive in the broadcasting authority or programme director having to face an allegation that they have treated an individual citizen unjustly or unfairly. I think that if they have done they ought to be called to account and the matter should be clarified. So, while I would be willing to look at the idea of "unjust or grossly unfair", to eliminate "unjust" altogether I find very unjust indeed!Let it be borne in mind that there is a provision in Clause 10(4)(c) that the commission shall not entertain a complaint if it appears to them that the complaint is frivolous, so there i3 some protection there if the range of complaints is thought to go too far. I do not think this amendment will do as it stands.
§ Lord BELSTEAD
I do not think I would add anything on the merits of the amendment to what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, has said. What I would just add is that, so far as the insertion of "unwarranted" in paragraph (b) is concerned, that was done for rather different reasons and has a different effect from the qualifying word which the noble Lord is seeking to put into this particular subsection.
§ Lord HOOSON
If I may reply to the point made by my noble and learned friend Lord Elwyn-Jones, in this context, surely, the word "unjust" is entirely subjective. It adds nothing to what would be the words "grossly unfair". What we are concerned to avoid, surely, is gross distortion; the distortion that, when one looks at it, one is bound to say, "This is grossly unfair". That is all one is concerned with, surely, in this particular context. I do not think the word "unjust", adds anything to it. But, in the circumstances, I do not press the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 10.26 p.m.
§ Lord NUGENT of GUILDFORD moved Amendment No. 32:530
Page 8, line 24, at end insert—
(" (c) programme content transmitted by any broadcasting body with respect to—
§ The noble Lord said: This amendment seeks to widen the grounds on which complaints may be made to the statutory commission, and it will cover roughly similar ground to that which was set out in the IBA Act of 1973, Section (4). It stipulates that nothing is included in the programmes which offends against good taste or decency or is likely to encourage or incite to crime or to lead to disorder or to be offensive to public feeling. I make this point because naturally one proceeds in this area of any kind of statutory inhibition for the BBC with the very greatest reluctance and care, but there is this precedent that the IBA has been governed by that particular consideration which our amendment broadly covers. In fact, of course, the BBC has never been subjected to any statutory obligation of this kind. I imagine it simply was not thought necessary—certainly not in the early days. One thinks of Lord Reith and the sort of standards he maintained, but there is on the record the letter written in 1964 by Lord Normanbrook when he was chairman which did give a very broad undertaking covering this field, and I would think that the spirit of that undertaking has been well maintained for very many years. Unhappily, however, in recent years it certainly has not been, and there has been a downward trend.
§ Many noble Lords will have received the reports of the monitoring groups of the National Viewers' and Listeners' Association. I have some copies here. They make it all too plain that there is this regrettable downward trend. I should myself like to thank Mrs. Mary Whitehouse—
§ Lord NUGENT of GUILDFORD
—for her courage and assiduity in monitoring these programmes so that they are brought to public attention and we are aware of just what is happening, because most of us, of course, select the programmes we want to see and probably do not see these 531 particular programmes. I do not propose to strain the patience or the sense of decency of noble Lords at this time of night by reading out a sample of these particular programmes, but they are fairly unpleasant and I certainly can inform your Lordships that they include frequent instances of sadistic violence, foul language, sexual acts, natural and unnatural, and blasphemy, mostly appearing in programmes this year, some in 1978 and 1979 and, of course, mostly being shown at times when young people might see them.
I do believe that such programmes are positively harmful in the family circle, where most of them will land up, because the television is turned on and the family sit and watch it. This is undoubtedly damaging and dangerous to children and young people and I think it is also objectionable to the majority of parent viewers.
The BBC's internal complaints procedure really does not seem to be adequate to deal with this particular problem, and that is the justification for this amendment, which would give this outside body power to consider complaints in this field. The fact is that the BBC is far the most powerful and universal influence in the whole of our national life. It comes into every home; it is a national trend-setter.
In moving this amendment, I am very conscious of the recommendations of the Annan Report; indeed, the brilliant report which Lord Annan produced has carried much authority with everybody. I am aware that he does specifically advise against a statutory power to control the content of programmes. I recognise the cogency of this advice and that an objection on this ground can be made to this amendment. But I would remind your Lordships that the Annan Report said this as well in paragraph 16.36:In the view of most of us, the concern which people express about certain topics is justified and the broadcasters have failed to consider seriously enough the objections raised to certain programmes.And it is these particular programmes that he and his committee were talking about.
That was three and a half years ago. I myself would express the judgment that 532 during those three and a half years the downward trend has proceeded fast. So, although I would support the independence of the BBC and would not wish in any way to weaken it, if my noble friend Lord Belstead relies on the position that the BBC's independence should be maintained and that it should not be shackled in a matter of taste on the lines that the Annan Report recommended, I must say to him that he really has an obligation to answer this case of the downward course in matters of decency and morality which the BBC programmes are tending to take. The fact is that the traditional role of the BBC in our homes is that of a friend whom we welcome, trust and like. Thus, it is all the more necessary that my noble friend should take the necessary power to safeguard that position and that relationship. It is for that reason that this amendment is put down. I beg to move.
§ 10.33 p.m.
§ Lord HILL of LUTON
It would be idle to deny that there is a problem of the kind described by my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford. The first question which arises in my mind on this specific proposal about complaints in relation to taste—if I may use that word to cover all the kinds of criticism that Lord Nugent referred to—is whether the complaints commission is the right body to which to refer such complaints. I think the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, quoted from the Annan Report. I will quote just a little more extensively:The two types of complaint are different in kind. Complaints about the programmes, general or individual, are matters for the authorities. The question of misrepresentation of interviews is quasi-judicial and needs in our view to be dealt with by those skilled in the assessment of evidence and knowledge about broadcasting".I will not go over the ground or the recent discussions, but it is essential, with or without the expert views—a case for which has been urged—to examine the evidence with a capacity for the judgment of validity of evidence and so on. Is that the body to which to refer questions of taste?—and, as I say, I use the term to cover the whole gamut of complaints to which the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, referred. Is it the body? I submit that it is not. I submit that it would harm the work of the complaints commission and, I would frankly admit, it would add 533 vastly to the number of complaints that it had to deal with.
Secondly, there arises the question which has worried me over a number of years with both bodies: can a committee judge on such issues of taste? Does it make sense to appoint a body of persons to judge questions of taste, as Lord Nugent defined them? I have thought a good deal about this. The standards of taste under many headings have changed enormously within the lifetime of your Lordships and are still changing fast. My generation, those who are nearer 80 than 70, have standards that were acquired in the past and find it a matter of the greatest difficulty to adjust either to modern music or to modern standards of taste.
How swiftly things have changed. That Pygmalion sentence, "Not bloody likely", really shocked the people of this country. Yet when Shirley Williams uses that same word in a speech, we are not surprised, we are not critical—perhaps a bit surprised, but not critical. Some of us felt it was a most appropriate word to use in the circumstances.
Things have changed in relation to sex, in the attitude to matrimony, in a host of other ways. In that changing world, how do you appoint a body to name standards by which to judge complaints? With the best will in the world, how do you do it? If you appoint a body of young persons, they will reject most of the complaints. If you appoint a body of the average age of this House, they will find something of substance in most of those complaints.
I think it is exceedingly difficult. Of course, one could deal with it, or broadcasting bodies could deal with it, by previewing the programmes largely concerned. That would destroy the creative instinct that often brings its troubles, and often brings almost its misdemeanours, but it is absolutely essential to the health of broadcasting. So to my mind this cannot be done. You cannot devise standards of taste in this swiftly changing world that will meet the criticisms.
There is another point. Vulgarity beautifully done is, let us face it, a source of some delight. Frankie Howerd on his way to the Forum said some very naughty things, but my wife, who is very old-fashioned, roared her head off. 534 It is all too fluid, too fluent, too uncertain and too changing an arena to have a committee with an agenda, minutes and formal decisions on matters of taste.
I am not denying for one moment the number of things on television that I intensely dislike on grounds of taste; I confess I do the old-fashioned thing and turn the blessed thing off. But that is not regarded now as an act of which a human being is capable. So I would say to your Lordships, let us not deny the reality of the offence that is caused to many people. Let us not assume a remedy that will interfere with the creative capacity, the creative instincts, the creative feelings of those who make broadcast programmes. There are errors but I confess I would rather live with those errors and use the switch and do my best to adapt myself to the changing standards of this world, than have another committee to determine in rigid resolutions its views on standards and complaints of taste.
I do not believe in my bones that that will work; but I do not for one moment deny that the adventurous, creative maker of programmes often chances his arm, often slips it just a little further forward in what he regards as the extent of freedom. But a complaints committee? No. And please not a committee of any kind, for taste is the judgment of the individual based on his traditions, his outlook and interests, but not a matter to be determined—however wise the committee—by a committee created by Government.
I do not think that this matter can be handled except by those who are responsible for the programmes. It must be so. My noble friend Lord Nugent read out from the Television Act telling us that the care of this subject was referred to the Authority. It also stands referred to the governors—imperfect creatures though they are. That is the best that we can do. In this world of freedom of thinking and development in broadcasting unfortunately we have to take a chance.
§ 10.41 p.m.
§ Viscount MASSEREENE and FERRARD
Would the noble Lord who has just sat down agree that while, as he says, the producer or writer chances his arm, it is not always to increase the 535 artistic talent of the production? It is owing to the ratings battle between the various television companies to have the greatest audience. It is extraordinary when one thinks that since the excellent Annan Report, which I think was published about three years ago, which as we all know deplored a lot of the violence, blasphemy and obscenity on television, the obscenity, blasphemy and violence appears to have increased. We always hear the excuse: "Oh it is artistic!You have to do it because it is life". But that is a complete con. So much of art today apart from the written word, if you take painting and sculpture, is a complete confidence trick. It is not art at all.
I will quote an example of a brilliant production, "I Claudius". Caligula was with his sister, who was pregnant, and the television production went into the most repulsive and abhorrent scenes. They were not even historically correct; they were not even correct according to the book. Does the noble Lord really think that was adding to the artistic element of the production? It horrified people. If the noble Lord thinks that scenes such as that add to the artistic side of the production, I cannot follow his line of reasoning. I am sure many others cannot. I wholeheartedly support the amendment and I hope that eventually—probably not today—there will be some statutory duty on the television companies, and on the BBC, to remain within the bounds of some decency.
§ Lord BELSTEAD
There is a statutory duty on the IBA, and my noble friend Lord Nugent very fairly reminded us of it. It is incorporated in Section 4(1)(a) of the Independent Broadcasting Act of 1973: good taste, decency, crime, disorder, offence to public feeling. These must not be transgressed. Also, another section of the Act, Section 5, refers to violence, and the IBA must have a code. The BBC, though not subject to statutory requirements, acknowledges similar obligations in what is known as the Normanbrook letter. I say for a second time this evening that we do not live in a perfect world.
I am sure that my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard has reasons which he can think of in programme content which prompt him to say that broad- 536 casters diverge from these responsibilities. But what this amendment would be doing is casting the commission in the role of reviewing decisions taken by the broadcasting authorities on matters of programme content, for which Parliament has made them responsible. I am sorry, but I think that that would be very regrettable.
It may be argued—and I have to face this—that in proposing the establishment of a Broadcasting Complaints Commission, the Government are superimposing a review body upon them and that there is really no reason not to widen its powers in the manner proposed by my noble friend and the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury. But there is a clear distinction between the kind of complaints which we propose the commission should deal with—that is, in regard to unfairness—and general complaints on matters of taste and standards. Just for the record, I repeat what was very fairly said by my noble friend Lord Nugent, that, of course, the Annan Committee took this view as well.
But may I go on to other ground which I do not think has been mentioned tonight, even in the very interesting speech of the noble Lord, Lord Hill. In practice, it is arguable that to extend the jurisdiction of the commission in this way could have a reverse effect from that desired by my noble friend. The responsibility for the programme content would become diffused. Even allowing for the statutory duty of the IBA and the similar obligations on the BBC, would it not, at least, be possible that, perhaps subconsciously, those authorities would leave it to the commission to determine programme standards, if they were given such a statutory role?
How might this develop? Could some programmes perhaps test the limits of what might be acceptable, by broadcasting material which was even more offensive to many of us, and then wait and see how the commission reacted? Do not let us forget that the commission would act only after the programme had been transmitted. They would be able to do nothing to set standards beforehand. While I would not wish to imply that the broadcasting authorities would allow this to develop, it is fair to say that to weaken their present responsibilities, by imposing a further review body to arbi- 537 trate on the fundamental question of programme content, would leave them in a position where their ability to control their respective programme-makers would be open to the argument that it should be the commission and not the broadcasting authorities which would exercise the final judgment. I really put this forward as a serious argument on a matter on which I feel as strongly as my noble friend Lord Nugent.
My noble friend has said that the Government should think further about this. But, with respect—and I am not seeking to be impertinent to my noble friend—I think that he needs to think further, also, as I am sure he will, about the speech which was made by the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton. Would the complaints commission really be the right body to give directions on programme taste? Can you get a body so to adjudicate? The differences of opinion which were expressed in the debate in this House on the report last year of the Williams Committee on obscenity showed that you cannot simply get value judgments on matters of taste which are all agreed in the way that this amendment is seeking to do.
So I would just say that the question of programme content is a very tough nut indeed. At first sight, it looks attractive to go down the road down which we are being invited to go in this amendment. Of course, I will most certainly draw the Home Secretary's attention to what has been said on this amendment; indeed, I warned him that this debate would be taking place today. But I believe, as things stand at the moment and having listened to this debate, that to go down this road will not be profitable, and that it is through reference to the duties laid upon broadcasters that we shall retain standards—and let us try to improve them—in programme content.
§ The Earl of LAUDERDALE
Before my noble friend sits down, can he say whether we improve standards by confusing taste with morals?
§ Lord BELSTEAD
I was not under the impression that in the speech I have just made I have confused taste with morals.
§ Baroness TRUMPINGTON
May I just ask my noble friend the Minister what 538 he regards as being the role of the consultative councils appointed by both the BBC and the IBA? Surely they are set up to react to public opinion. Could the noble Lord answer that?
§ Lord BELSTEAD
The Annan Report dealt with the role of the consultative councils and registered in the report different points of view which other bodies had of the advisory councils. I think that that bears re-reading. But broadly speaking, I would agree with what my noble friend has said: that the advisory council have themselves got a valuable role to play in bringing to the attention of the broadcasting authorities what representatives of the general public on those broadcasting councils actually think.
§ Lord FERRIER
The noble Lord said that we could leave it to the broadcasting authorities, and we left it to them, but the fact is that these obscenities and violent things go on. And there it is. I should be unhappy if the Bill were to leave this House without something of the nature of my noble friend's amendment in it. Leaving aside the disgusting sexual filth and the other things mentioned in the amendment, what about violence? This is something which, as a grandfather, worries me. One of my grandchildren said to me the other day, "What defeats me, grandpa, is that these people seem to think we go around all the time hitting somebody. We do not". One only has to look at the trailers of forthcoming programmes. The one thing you see is somebody bashing somebody else about. Is there nothing else in a forthcoming programme but the violence that they show us? I strongly support the amendment proposed by my noble friend.
The Earl of HALSBURY
I believe that nobody else has indicated their wish to participate in the debate, so with the permission of the Committee I should like to wind up on what I hope will be a helpful note. I do not wish to divide the Committee at this late hour of the night on this issue. I know that many noble Lords feel very strongly on the point, as I do, and that a number of them have not been able to stop up so late as this but have had to go home; so if I do not divide the Committee on this issue tonight I must reserve the right to bring it forward again on Report, with the consent 539 of my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford, hopefully having been given reason to suppose that the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, who speaks for the Government might be willing to listen to private representations with a view to seeing whether we can come to an accommodation with one another on the points involved.
Just to sum up, they seem to be these; namely, that the BBC is in quite flagrant breach of the undertakings in the Norman-brook letter. What are we going to do about it? No Government of any complexion that I can remember since I took my seat has learned to discriminate between delegation and abdication. They set up public bodies and give them responsibilities in certain fields, but they never call them to account and ask them to give an account of their stewardship. And when they are in flagrant breach of their stewardship, nothing is done about it. There has been a succession of failures by successive chairmen to give a lead to their boards of governors. There have been successive failures of chairmen and boards of governors to discipline the Director-General. There have been successive failures of Directors-General to discipline their staff. Nobody ever gets the sack, ever. And it is about time that somebody was told, "Next time you do it, boy, you're out". That is what is necessary.
We must not confuse freedom of speech with licence for bad language. Speech in your Lordships' House is free. I may say whatever I please, provided I express myself in parliamentary language. I am not free to indulge in the language which the BBC bombards us with on some of its programmes, which the more gently reared bargees of my youth would never have used in mixed company. Why should the consumer, the person who pays for it all, in the sphere of broadcasting be the only person who is not allowed to register a formal complaint? In gas, we have the Gas Consultative Council. In electricity, we have a consultative council. In almost every public service in the country we have a consultative council which allows the consumer, who pays for the service, to lay his complaints before a body having statutory status, which the supplying board cannot ignore. That mechanism is 540 totally lacking in the case of the BBC and this amendment would restore it.
§ Lord DONALDSON of KINGS-BRIDGE
Will the noble Earl allow me to intervene very briefly? This is not the case. There is a complaints procedure: one can complain to the BBC about things one does not like.
§ Lord PARRY
Since the noble Earl has been interrupted perhaps I may make a point. Will he accept that the General Advisory Council of the Independent Broadcasting Authority at national level in the case of the individual nations within Britain and at British level in the case of the General Advisory Council, does not simply monitor complaints but sees programmes in advance, quarter by quarter, and is able to keep a running check on what goes on? It also has debates continually with production staff and generally monitors the progress of the programmes.
The Earl of HALSBURY
It does not work, so let us try something else. My noble friend Lord Hill of Luton was chairman of the board of governors for substantially longer than I was a member of the board of governors, but I was a member rather before he became chairman. I remember the traditions set by Lord Reith and maintained by myself and people like Thelma Cazalet—a pair of hawks, if ever there were a pair—and we would not have allowed Hugh Carleton Greene to get away with the bawdry on the BBC which he admitted he enjoyed. He told me so, face to face; he enjoyed dirty jokes and did not see why not. That was the beginning of the corruption. We are not talking about matters of taste; 541 de gustibus non disputanclum. This is not a matter of taste; we are talking of nasty smells, and if your Lordships can turn to any human culture and give me an illustration of a human culture where the smell of raw sewage was a matter of contemporary taste, as opposed to just a nasty smell, I should be most glad of that contribution to my education.
The problem is that the BBC is running along in an entirely undisciplined way. I believe the reason is that they are short of funds and they can buy cheap American films for showing over here, and the usage of bad language in America is quite different from the usage over here. Many words that are not acceptable in mixed company in Britain are commonplace words in the United States and I do not see why we should have depraved American usages of our beloved mother tongue thrust at us through "the box" night after night.
I believe that I am speaking for my noble friend as well as for myself in saying 542 that I am quite content to withdraw the amendment which stands in our name for this evening, reserving the right to bring it forward again on Report, in the hope that the noble Lord will have had a closer look by then at the way in which the BBC recently has told people that if they want to make a complaint to the chairman or board of governors they must do it through the secretary, who will be the judge of whether the board or the chairman receive it or not. That is not good enough. But subject to that, on behalf of my noble friend and myself I beg leave to withdraw the amendment that stands in our joint names.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 9 agreed to.
§ House resumed.
§ House adjourned at eleven o'clock.