§ 61 and 70. Sir L. Heald
asked the Postmaster-General (1) whether he will exercise his powers under Sections 18(3) and 18(5)(a) of the Television Act, 1964, to require the Independent Television Authority to refrain from broadcasting any matter, and from adopting or using any technical measures or processes, which may involve the manipulation of recorded television interviews;
§ (2) whether he is aware of the growing public concern about the methods and processes used in the preparation of pre-recorded television programmes; and whether he will exercise his power to direct television authorities to refrain from broadcasting any recorded discussions in the absence of proper safeguards against manipulation.
§ 64 and 71. Mr. Deedes
asked the Postmaster-General (1) whether he will exercise his powers under Section 18(5)(a) of the Television Act, 1964, to require the Independent Television Authority to cease the practice of recording, arranging and cutting interviews in public affairs programmes;
§ (2) whether he will use his powers under the Licence and Agreement to require the British Broadcasting Corporation to refrain from using recorded, cut and edited interviews in public affairs programmes without appropriate safeguards.
§ Sir L. Heald
Is not the right hon. Gentleman prepared to take any steps to protect the public from the distortion and deception complained of in recent recorded programmes? Is the explanation that he is too frightened of the television tycoons?
§ Mr. Benn
I think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman's last comment was unnecessary. No Government have intervened in programme content of the B.B.C. and the I.T.A., and it is quite right that they should not do so. The point raised by the right hon. and learned Gentleman is very important, 399 because the danger of distortion through improper editing is certainly there. But highly distinguished men and women are appointed to look after these matters, and it is not for me to intervene.
§ Mr. Deedes
While fully accepting the right hon. Gentleman's dictum that these matters should not be subject to political interference, may I ask whether he does not admit that certain techniques are involved which should be carefully watched and that for these he does have a degree of responsibility?
§ Mr. Benn
Ultimately, this depends upon the integrity and the knowledge of the producers who edit. Without editing, it would be impossible for many of the programmes to be shown, and these are highly complex matters. I am sure that a wide public debate is very valuable but ultimately the decision ought to rest with the Boards of Governors.
§ Dame Irene Ward
In view of this very important matter, which has aroused considerable and wide anxiety, is it not possible for the right hon. Gentleman, in the national interest, at least to initiate a conference with the Boards of Governors and really get down to the bottom of what did happen?
§ Mr. Benn
The hon. Lady is inviting me to join her down a very slippery slope, if she will not misunderstand me. If a Minister initiates a conference with the Governors about programme content, then at the end of that conference some action by a political Minister might be called for and that really would not be right.
§ Mr. Evelyn King
Would not the right hon. Gentleman avoid the political difficulties involved if he brought television within the aegis of the Press Council?
§ Mr. Raphael Tuck
Is it not a fact that the action complained of by the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) is pursued on a large scale by Tory newspapers?
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I hear a duet which I gather is in harmony. I think that the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) had better make it solo.
§ Sir L. Heald
In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, Mr. Speaker, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.