Lords Amendment: In page 20, line 25, at end insert:
Provision of experimental educational service outside programme contracts
4.—(1) In section 2(2), at the end of paragraph (b) there shall be inserted the words
(c) with the consent of the Postmaster General, arrange for the provision, otherwise than by programme contractors, of educational broadcasting services of an experimental nature to be broadcast in addition to educational programmes provided for the purpose of the public service referred to in section 2(1)(a) of the Television Act 1963 by programme contractors,'.
(2) So much of section 4(6) as prohibits the inclusion in programmes (other than advertisements) broadcast by the Authority of anything which could reasonably be supposed to have been included therein in return for payment or other valuable consideration to the Authority shall not apply to any programme so broadcast in an educational service provided under section 2(2)(c).
§ Mr. Bevins
I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.
I believe that the purpose of this Amendment is reasonably well known both to my hon. Friends and to right hon. and hon. Members opposite. Shortly, it is to enable the Authority, if at any time it is so decided, itself to experiment in educational television. It in no sense frustrates the British Broadcasting Corporation from doing likewise. It simply gives the Authority power to do so if it be so decided in the future.
§ Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)
Whether we regard this as an exception or as a rule will accord with our views on another place, but I feel that I should say that this is an instance in which bicameral legislation proves itself. This is a matter which we discussed consistently in our consideration of the Bill. We were not able to get an Amendment, and we are greatly obliged to Lord Eccles for proposing this Amendment in another place.
I think that it is the desire of hon. Members on both sides of the House that the I.T.A. should not be discouraged from conducting experiments in educational broadcasting. I hope that the Amendment will prove an encouragement to the I.T.A. and that the right hon. Gentleman himself will encourage the I.T.A. in this matter. There is great scope for experiment here. Proposals have been made, for instance, by the Queen's University of Belfast. There is an opportunity here, and I hope that it will be taken. We are greatly obliged to Lord Eccles for the initiative which he showed, and I hope that there will be a profitable outcome in educational television.
§ Mr. Mason
I support my hon. Friend in welcoming the Amendment. The Postmaster-General ought to do his utmost to encourage independent television to start experimenting with educational programmes. A great deal can be done during the day to provide classical educational programmes for primary, junior and senior schools. Indeed, there is a fortune to be made by the script writer and film producer who can produce the material for these three types of schools, as text-books have been produced in the past, which can be used year 357 after year for each succeeding stream of pupils going through the schools.
I hope that there will be experiments also not only in educational broadcasting strictly so called but in programmes for minority audiences. For instance, deaf children and deaf adults are not well catered for by television, and both the I.T.A. and the B.B.C. could do more. The experiments they have tried so far have been rather amateurish and childish. I feel that a lot more could be done for the minority audience of deaf people, and I hope that this Amendment will give the opportunity.
The Postmaster-General has, no doubt, been worrying a good deal about the introduction of pay television. Here again, a lot can be done. Pay television could meet the needs of a lot of minority audiences, whether by teaching people to play the guitar, teaching them to play bridge, teaching them languages, or whatever it might be. If independent television began to satisfy minorities by putting out suitable programmes, there would be no need to begin the spread of pay television. I hope that work will be undertaken in educational broadcasting and in instructional programmes as well.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
Like my hon. Friends, I welcome the intention behind this proposal. I think that is an exceptional break through. There are considerable periods during the day when television could be used for this purpose. However, it is a break through in a new way. It gives the Authority, outside the programme contractors, power to make this provision. How will it do this? Will it produce the educational programme, or will it contract with some public body or private corporation to produce the programme?
I should like to know what will come within this sphere. In the way that the Amendment is drafted, there is no limit on what can be done. There is no fixed time, and, in that sense, it is an open-ended provision. The authority may use all the time when programme contractors are not using the transmitting instruments for these educational experiments, which may grow.
With my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason), I should like some 358 clarification of what will be in these educational programmes. If the Authority does not undertake the work itself but engages outside bodies to do it, may we know whether they will be profit-making bodies or corporations? Will the educational films produced for prestige purposes by the Steel Company of Wales, I.C.I., Lever Bros., Wimpey and the oil companies be pushed in as part of the educational programme for which the Authority can make a charge to the corporation which produced the film?
What I am afraid of is that the excellent intention behind the experiment may eventually drift into a bit of underhanded sponsored television. That is the sort of thing which we must guard against. In Committee upstairs, I sought to warn some of my hon. Friends not to get sponsored television in under the umbrella of educational television. I should like to hear the Postmaster-General's views on these points. In general, I welcome the intention. All I hope is that we shall guard against the perhaps remote possibilities which I have mentioned.
§ Mr. Bevins
With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, may I add a few words in reply to what has been said.
The purpose of the Amendment is to make sure that, if it were decided in future that there should be an experiment in educational television, the Authority is not precluded from taking part in it. The Amendment says that the Authority may,with the consent of the Postmaster-General, arrange for the provisionof these programmes other than by the existing or future programme contractors.
The right hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) asked who would arrange these programmes. They would, no doubt, be arranged by the Authority in collaboration with the educational authorities of various kinds—the schools, perhaps the local authorities, perhaps the universities, perhaps the W.E.A. I should have thought that it was most unlikely that it would collaborate with profit-making bodies. It is desirable that the wording of the Amendment should be as wide as possible to allow educational programmes in their widest sense to be disseminated.
359 May I say how grateful I am to the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) for what he said. We are indebted to Lord Eccles for moving this Amendment in another place. It has the enthusiastic support of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education and, I believe, of hon. Members on both sides. We must be venturesome and forward-looking in this matter.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Subsequent Lords Amendments agreed to.