HC Deb 18 December 1980 vol 996 c534
2. Mr. Dormand

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he next proposes to meet the chairman of the British Broadcasting Corporation to discuss the expansion of the local radio station network.

16. Mr. Whitehead

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has now received the report of his Department's working party on local radio.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Leon Brittan)

My right hon. Friend meets the chairman of the BBC regularly. As regards the expansion of the local radio network, he has now received the Home Office working party's third report, which contains comprehensive proposals for the further development of BBC and independent local radio. Comments on the report are being invited by 30 April 1981. My right hon. Friend will reach a decision on its proposals in the light of those comments and after further consultation with the BBC and the IBA.

Mr. Dormand

Is the Minister aware that when my hon. Friends and I recently met the director-general and the chairman of the BBC governors about the financial difficulties facing local radio they told us that it was the responsibility of the Home Secretary, but that when we question the Home Secretary on this matter in the House he tells us that it is the responsibility of the BBC governors? Is he aware that such buck-passing is leading to a deterioration of local radio, in spite of the splendid and dedicated efforts of the station staffs? Will he, therefore, consider changing the format of the BBC budget and specifying the amount which is allocated to local radio? Finally, will he confirm his commitment to the development of local radio?

Mr. Brittan

I think that it would be a mistake to do that, because as soon as one starts specifying in that way what the BBC must provide in the way of services one immediately detracts from the independence of the BBC. There has been no buck-passing. The division of responsibilities is quite clear. As far as money is concerned, the BBC decides how it wishes to spend it. With regard to the extension of stations, the procedure to be adopted is as I outlined in my initial answer.

Dr. Summerskill

Does not the hon. and learned Gentleman agree that while the expansion of local radio may be very desirable in rural areas, in view of the great financial difficulties now facing the BBC and the cuts which it has already had to impose it would be preferable for it to concentrate on expanding its national networks and on giving the best possible service nationally?

Mr. Brittan

I would not necessarily agree with that point of view.

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