HL Deb 31 July 1963 vol 252 cc1249-50WA

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will call the attention of the B.B.C. to the duty laid upon the Independent Television Authority by subsection 1(a) of Clause 2 of the Television Bill, with a view to ensuring that a similar duty is carried out by the B.B.C.; whether Her Majesty's Government consider the broadcasting services to Scotland, and particularly the programme "Panorama", satisfactory; whether any defects are due to a bad channel; and if so, what action is being taken to improve the service.


As I explained on July 9 during the Second Reading of the Television Bill, Clause 2 of the Bill describes the purpose of the Independent Television Authority's services in the same way as those of the B.B.C. are described in its Charter: that is, as a means of disseminating information, education and entertainment. This description has appeared in the Charter since January 1, 1937; and I would not have thought, therefore, that it was necessary to draw the Corporation's attention to the duty now expressly laid upon the Authority.

So far as the noble Earl's reference to the B.B.C.'s services to Scotland relates to the content of programmes, I should remind him that the broadcasting authorities are independent in making programmes. He will, however, recall that the Government has proposed an important extension of the powers and duties of the National Broadcasting Councils for Scotland and Wales: namely, that each Council should exercise the same powers in relation to the content of the television services as they do already for sound. This means that the National Broadcasting Council for Scotland would exercise general control of the policy and content of television programmes provided primarily for reception in Scotland—much as the Council already control the Home sound service in Scotland. The noble Earl may recall too that my right honourable friend, the Postmaster General, has just authorised the B.B.C. to install an additional Band III transmitter at their Sandale Fell station so as to enable South-West Scotland to receive the television programmes transmitted in Scotland while continuing to receive those available on the B.B.C. English network.

As to reception of the B.B.C.'s services generally in Scotland, I would remind the noble Earl that the Corporation have been authorised to build no less than 14 television and 13 V.H.F. sound satellite stations in Scotland. When these are all in service—the Corporation hope this will be by the end of next year—B.B.C. television and the three V.H.F. sound services will be receivable by 97.5 per cent. of people in Scotland.