HC Deb 03 June 1986 vol 98 cc520-1W
Mr. Tony Banks

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when arrangements were made between his Department and the British Broadcasting Corporation in respect of news in times of national crisis; what were the terms of the arrangement; what arrangements exist with other broadcasting authorities; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Giles Shaw

In 1962 the BBC and the Government of that time reached an agreement about the handling of news and other information in a time of war emergency. The agreement applied only to the BBC because of the small size of the commercial broadasting sector at that time. Under the terms of the agreement the BBC restated that the corporation preserved its independence and the right to reach its own judgment on whether any particular item of news, or any other information, might if broadcast be prejudicial to the national interest. The BBC agreed that it would not reject any authoritative request purely on the ground that other broadcasters and publishers, whether at home or abroad, might not accept it; and the board of mangement of the corporation gave a formal assurance that it would act in these conditions with a full sense of responsiblitly and in close consultation with Her Majesty's Government.

Since 1980 the Government have been reviewing all emergency plans, many of which had remained unchanged since the early 1960s with a view to bringing them up to date with modern circumstances. The arrangements described above have never been used and their continued relevance is being considered as part of the development of Government policy towards all parts of the media in time of war along the lines described in the Government's response to the Beach report (Cmnd. 9499, April 1985).