§ 3.53 p.m.
§ LORD TEYNHAM rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are now prepared to consider the establishing of a commercial sound broadcasting station on similar lines to the Independent Television organization; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this Motion to-day I should like, in the first place, to make it perfectly clear that I consider that the British Broadcasting Corporation are doing a first-class job, and I do not in any way mean to suggest that this is not so. On the other hand, I do suggest that many listeners would like to have a station from which first-class music and popular music could always be obtained at any time of the day. It is, of course, an expensive business to command first-class musical performances, and I suggest that it is not within the capacity of the B.B.C. to extend their sound broadcasts to such services at the present 989 time, owing to the tremendous expense they have in television.
§ I think that we have all realised the beneficial effects of Independent Television, and I propose to-day that an independent commercial sound broadcasting organisation should be established, which would obtain its revenue through properly controlled advertising on somewhat similar lines to that which is already carried out by the Independent Television organisation. It has been argued in the past that, as the B.B.C. already provide three separate national sound programmes, and some local variations, no further programme is necessary. On the contrary, I would say that there is a great field for another programme. I have little doubt that a commercial sound broadcasting station would be able to cover a vast field of music and opera and popular music, which would be welcomed by a large number of listeners and would be of great benefit not only to the musical world—but to the musicians of this country, many of whom have great difficulty in finding work at the present time.
§ If the B.B.C. were to embark on a station devoted entirely to music, I say that it would be extremely expensive for them to put on the air such a programme without the assistance of advertising, and I do not think we should want them to have that. My small daughter, aged four, frequently twiddles the knobs and says, "Too much talk and no music." Incidentally, the housewife is far too busy with her chores to look at television. What she wants to have is music while she works. Surely it is not too much to ask Her Majesty's Government to provide the entertainment that people want.
§ During the debate in 1952 on the Government White Paper which put forward proposals about an independent broadcasting system, it was suggested in some quarters that we might get very poor material from a commercial broadcast. What about Radio Luxembourg? Has anyone been upset by any broadcast from that station? I think it is true to say that 60 per cent. of the sound broadcast time of the B.B.C. is devoted to speech and only about 40 per cent. to music. On the other hand, Radio Luxembourg devotes a much larger percentage of time to musical items, which 990 I am sure is one of the reasons for the great popularity of that station. Before the war we also had Radio Normandie, which was run by an all-British company and British staff. Its broadcasts were spread over some 13 hours a day and in fact originated the Forces' Programme which was later copied by the B.B.C. As in the case of Radio Luxembourg, a large percentage of the broadcasting time was devoted to music—I believe, as high as 92 per cent. Again, I am sure that that was one of the reasons for the popularity of that station.
§ Then, what about advertising? I think I am correct in saying that only approximately 6 per cent. of the programme time of Radio Luxembourg is devoted to advertisements. With this small percentage of advertising time they are able to provide a first-class musical programme. Surely it would be better for British firms to send their advertising through a British commercial station rather than through a foreign one, as is being done now. During the present month a well-known brand of British cigarettes, some chemical manufactures and cosmetics have been advertised through Radio Luxembourg. Why cannot British firms have the same facilities from an English station. I suggest that we should do all we can to assist our manufacturers to build up their business and to expand the wealth of the country by permitting them to advertise through every medium that is available to them. It is being done on television. Why not on sound broadcasting? The present system of exclusion of sound broadcasting is completely illogical, and I think that something should be done about it.
§ I would point out that one of the advantages of sound broadcasting is that it is of great assistance to our export drives. In the case of commercial television, as your Lordships will know, the range of a station is only about 60 to 80 miles; but with sound broadcasting it is extended to well over 1,000 miles, and would cover all Europe. It has been said in some quarters that the whole question of broadcasting and television has become a political matter. I do not believe that this really is the case to-day.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, would the noble Lord forgive my asking a question on this important point? What frequency is he proposing to use for this 1,000-mile broadcast?
My Lords, the question of the frequency to be used has been put to me. That is a technical matter, which I think will be dealt with later on in the debate to-day As I said, I do not believe that it is such a difficult question as some people make out. But I do suggest that we should all study the wishes of the people and give them what they want.
May I remind your Lordships that at the time when proposals were put forward in your Lordships' House for the establishment of an independent television organisation, there were many queries as to why sound broadcasting had been excluded. Her Majesty's Government argued that, as television was of recent growth, it was reasonable to choose this field for an experiment in the departure from monopoly. I suggest that we have now carried out this experiment successfully and that we are now ready to move into the field of sound broadcasting. Your Lordships will remember that during the debate on the White Paper, on May 22, 1952, in answer to questions, the noble Viscount, Lord Simonds, who was then Lord Chancellor, said that we must "go by stages". He also said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 176; col. 1447]:I personally also hope that in time it will lead to sponsored radio.I would also remind your Lordships that the Broadcasting Committee of 1947, under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, recommended that the Government should reserve power to license approved organisations for sound broadcasting. May I read paragraph 7 of the Memorandum containing the views of Her Majesty's Government on the Report of the Broadcasting Committee (Command Paper 8291)? It says:The Government have noted the recommendation that they should expressly reserve power after consultation with the B.B.C. to license public authorities or approved organisations to maintain and conduct local stations for sound broadcasting. The Postmaster General already possesses the power under statute to licence other broadcasting stations, but the question of using it as is contemplated by the Committee depends on the future of Very High Frequency broadcasting.At that time, of course, it was recognised that it was a matter which depended upon the future of V.H.F. broadcasting; and that is now an 992 accomplished fact. Taking all these matters into consideration, my Lords, I earnestly suggest to Her Majesty's Government that they should take steps to establish a commercial independent sound broadcasting organisation which might well be devoted entirely to music and musical items. I beg to move for Papers.
§ 4.2 p.m.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I should start by declaring an interest. I occasionally appear on the B.B.C., and I hope that all noble Lords who have connections—business or broadcasting—with commercial or State radio will declare their interest; and I hope, in the course of my speech, to explain my reasons for saying this. Perhaps I must also apologise to your Lordships in advance if some of the things I shall say are a little rougher than one is accustomed to in debates in Parliament. I feel that we are witnessing (and I wrote these words before I saw this statement in The Times to-day) the first shot in a new campaign to extend the range of advertising and commercial interests into that section of our radio services which hitherto—and I believe that most of us are thankful for it—have been free of pressures of that kind.
I do not believe that there is any important issue of freedom involved in the continuation of the State monopoly in broadcasting. This was a matter which was very thoroughly examined at the time of the Beveridge Inquiry, and, as your Lordships will know, the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, is as passionate a supporter of freedom as is to be found anywhere. Yet he and a majority of his Committee came down against any system which allowed the introduction of advertising interests into this field. Her Majesty's Government, by some curious chance (and I doubt whether the Government themselves know how they came to do it), have allowed commercialism into our television services. The so-called B.B.C. "monopoly" is broken, and we now have what is freely described, and was recently freely described in this House, as a commercial monopoly.
We have now lost the first real chance, at least in television, of having proper alternative programmes. It seems to me 993 that the suggestion that the commercialisers should invade sound has no justification on the classic ground given in the Press, of "breaking the monopoly" of the B.B.C. We do have a reasonable choice of programmes; we do have from the B.B.C. more good music—and I do not know what the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, means when he talks about music. I do not know what particular type of programmes he wants us to listen to from Radio Luxembourg. If the disc-jockeys of Radio Luxembourg are the people who would give us the kind of programmes I suspect would come out of this service, then I can only say that I pray Her Majesty's Government will firmly resist this type of suggestion. In fact, the B.B.C. have, of course, always set their sights high in the matter of music. They have given popular programmes, and "Music While You Work". The noble Lord, Lord Teynham, asks for "Music While You Work", but he is already getting that from the B.B.C. if he wants to listen to it.
My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Lord for one moment—and I thank him for giving way—may I say that he would not find a single professional musician in this country to agree with him about this question of the quality of music.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I do not know what particular advice the noble Lord has on this matter. I know many professional musicians and many who listen to music; and I am quite prepared to say with absolute conviction—and the noble Lord and I must disagree on this—that the B.B.C. are giving infinitely better music than we could possibly have hoped for if the radio services of this country had been run in the American manner, motivated by commercial advertising pressures. I do not suppose I can list many of the programmes, but it so happens that at week-ends I have frequently listened to recordings that have been made over the B.B.C. from Glyndebourne. I do not know whether the noble Lord dismisses Glyndebourne as not good music, but if so I must disagree with him.
In fact, it is very difficult to judge what we should get from this proposed commercial sound broadcasting organisation. Should we look at America, or would that be unfair? We were told 994 before that it was unfair to look at America. Or must we look at British commercial television for our standards? I personally regard this as a further step in the direction of the admass world to which I am sure most of your Lordships are as unutterably opposed as I am. We have plenty of advertisements, and the case for more advertisements has never been made out. The truth of the matter is that the pressure is coming because there is big money involved—and the money is very big. We know the figures of those who have taken the risk—and they are to be congratulated on their courage—in going into commercial television. But, my goodness! they have had their rewards. Now there are other pickings to be had.
I am told that those gentlemen who are involved in the commercial television world have open minds as to whether they wish the next wavelength to be given to them or would prefer to keep this monopoly position. But those of us who have followed this situation have known for quite a while that the next step would be the opening of sound radio to profit-making of the kind we have seen in commercial television. We have wondered when it would come, and in what form. We wonder, also, who are behind it. Are they those gentlemen who said that a licence to televise is "a licence to print one's own money?" That was said by a man well known in the newspaper world. Is there to be a further extension of the control and influence of certain newspaper owners—not merely throughout the newspaper world but now into television and sound radio? And what is the object of it all?
I do not know that there is really any more demand now than there was originally for commercial television. I believe that Her Majesty's Government found themselves tricked into the position of introducing commercial television. They were tricked by a very determined group—the very determined group to whom I noticed The Times referred. I would remind your Lordships of what I said once before, as the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, said to me at the time of the introduction of commercial television, that never in his public life had he seen the type of pressure being brought through Parliament in this particular matter.
995 The suggestion that we should follow the example set by the Independent Television Authority does not excite me very much. I have watched a great many commercial programmes. I have seen the advertising and the rather depressing repetitive quality, the easy approach to life, suggesting that if only one will buy this or that, life will be so much happier and better and one's ills will go—a covering up of the realities of life. We know that the I.T.A. are not particularly responsive to the wishes of Parliament, because the Public Accounts Committee have recently expressed themselves very strongly on the subject—the fact that the I.T.A. have refused their advice with regard to the licensing of a new commercial television station. I believe that this is a very dangerous force, a force which we should be well advised to resist right from the beginning.
I would only say this, first, to the noble Lord, Lord Teynham. I believe that there are many things which ought to be done in this country, which ought to have priorities, and I should hope that he would devote his energies to ensuring that the roads of this country are improved before we have a commercial sound system. This is a matter of priorities, and the resources that are involved are the kind that are important and can be used in other ways. We do not expect to get to-day any very clear statement of Government policy: we know that the Government will have to make up their minds in the future, and therefore it would not be fair to expect the Government spokesman to give us a clear view. But I hope they will take note of the fact, as will those who are supporting this, that they will meet with the most embittered opposition in this country. It will come not only from the Labour Party Benches; it will come from noble Lords on the Government side of the House, and on the Liberal Benches, and the Cross Benches; from the educationists and the Churches, and all those who oppose commercial television to-day.
We shall see a great campaign. The Popular Television Association recently revived some of its members, no doubt retired, as we know, with useful positions in television. There are, however, a lot more pickings to be had, and this is a development in this country which 996 I hope we shall resist, bearing in mind the words of Ed Murrow, speaking in America (and nobody knows better than he does about what has happened there) when he said:If there are any historians about fifty or one hundred years from now, and there should be preserved kinescopes for one week of all three networks"—that is the American competition—they will find there recorded in black and white or colour, evidence of decadence, escapism and insulation from the realities of the world in which we live.The more this sort of thing develops, the more the public service and the public duty idea in radio will decrease. So I beg the Government, and I beg those who are supporting what is, we know, to be the beginning of a campaign, to stop before they take this matter further along the dangerous road.
§ 4.13 p.m.
§ LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has asked speakers to declare what interest they may have. I should accordingly like to say that I have broadcast on the B.B.C. on very rare occasions and I am a member of the General Advisory Council. I am still, as I expressed in the last debate we had in your Lordships' House on the subject of television, an unrepentant believer in public service broadcasting. The commercial cohorts, having breached the walls of television, are now laying siege to the citadel of sound. I do not intend to rehearse again all the arguments in favour of public service broadcasting; they are well known to your Lordships. Suffice it to say that I feel that at a time when so many vital social problems are facing us it would be a disaster to allow a service such as sound broadcasting, which is the one that remains to us, to fall entirely into the hands of commercial interests.
The most plausible argument by those who wish to introduce it, it seems to me, is that as we already have commercial television, why not commercial sound broadcasting? I would suggest that the situation between the two is completely different at present, and the same principles do not apply. In the first place, when commercial television was introduced, television was comparatively new, and the B.B.C. were putting out only one programme. Moreover, television is an extremely expensive 997 affair; therefore there were powerful arguments in favour of introducing competition and alternative programmes paid for from advertising revenue. That situation does not exist in sound broadcasting at the moment. We already have alternative programmes. We have four programmes provided by the B.B.C.: The Home Service, The Light Programme, the Third Programme and Network Three. There is Radio Luxembourg, as has already been mentioned, and a host of overseas stations that anybody can receive on very small receiving sets, and these are all available and all competitive.
Moreover, the B.B.C. programmes are extremely carefully planned to dovetail in with one another and to provide a true alternative programme, so that those who wish to listen to sports commentaries can do so, while others, such as my noble friend Lord Teynham, who want to listen to music can do so. I think that a great many of us do not really know the alternative programmes that are available because we have all too little time to listen, except possibly on unfortunate occasions when we may be laid up in bed or caught in a traffic jam in Oxford Street. But a really thorough study of these programmes is remarkable in showing the alternatives that exist. As to the cost, this is quite negligible: it is £1 per annum for a sound receiving licence, the equivalent of about 4½d. a week, and I suggest that that is not excessive for the four programmes provided.
My noble friend Lord Teynham seemed to suggest that the B.B.C. were inhibited in their sound programmes by the expense of television; but the £1 licence fee paid for sound is devoted entirely to sound programmes, and the expense of television does not affect it. Moreover, as television popularity has increased, it has given the opportunity for sound broadcasting to cater for minority needs, and this opportunity has been fully grasped. The Third Programme exists Ito satisfy the tastes of those who have enjoyed a good general education and wish a slightly higher intellectual programme; and Network Three has recently come into existence to cater for specialist minority needs. Very high frequency programmes have, not only brought better listening 998 conditions but have enabled the B.B.C. to produce programmes of more regional interest.
No one realises better than the B.B.C. themselves that further developments on these lines are perfectly possible and, indeed, desirable, and I hope will follow. While not a matter for increasing the licence fee, it would be of great benefit were the B.B.C. to receive the whole of their licence fee. At the moment, the Treasury still take 7½ per cent. from the licence fee. I noticed in an article in the Television Mail recently that Mr. Norman Collins suggested that in order to get more money from licensing fees the B.B.C. would require not to pay the Post Office the cost of collecting this fee. But that is not so. The fact is that, quite apart from the cost of collection, there is still a 7½ per cent. deduction made by the Treasury for no justifiable reason.
In thirty-two years of broadcasting, the B.B.C. have established a reputation which is the envy of the world. Their influence has played a great part not only in the Commonwealh but in sound broadcasting all over the world; and their overseas broadcasts enjoy a reputation which no other broadcasting service does. I would suggest that the introduction of commercial broadcasting in this country would go some way towards weakening the influence of the B.B.C. overseas. What is the real reason for commercial sound broadcasting? Like the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, I fear that it is really the reason of commercial profit. But advertisements on sound broadcasting are very much less attractive than they are on television; and it would seem to me, for that reason, that the programmes would have to play down all the more to the lowest common denominator. I am afraid that the musical programmes envisaged by the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, would turn into a kind of continuous juke-box—which, after all, can be received from Radio Luxembourg if anybody wants it.
My Lords, I do not wish to decry commercial methods but I would suggest that they axe more applicable to commerce than to broadcasting. There are certain institutions of which we should be proud, and I consider that the B.B.C. is one of them. If we are to introduce commercialism into everything, we may find advocates for an alternative 999 House of Lords: and if Mr. Bevan had his way, no doubt we should find broadcasts from an alternative Chamber such as "Teynham's Top Twenty", "Musical Motions", "The Bob Boothby Show", "What's My Party Line?", "Emergency Regulations Ten"—and I have no doubt that a leading part would be played by a close harmony group, "The Whistling Whips."
Also, my Lords, as has been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, there are technical problems to be solved. On which frequencies will this commercial service operate? The medium-wave frequencies are more than overcrowded already, and I fear that, as has already been suggested outside this House, envious eyes are being cast on the frequencies of the Third Programme and Network Three. I fear that it would be a most retrograde step if the B.B.C. were to be prevented from doing what it is so anxiously trying to do now—catering for minority tastes. I should like to qualify my use of the word "minority", when one realises that the average audience for some of these specialist programmes is something like 50,000 people. Although this may seem a small figure compared with the millions that may listen to the general programmes, yet it is a very large audience if you compare it with the audience for the spoken word in schools, lecture rooms or music halls.
The fact is that commercial television is here to stay, but I hope that Her Majesty's Government will give no encouragement to those who wish to introduce sound commercial broadcasting. I would quote a sentence from the findings of the Committee presided over by the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge:The achievement of broadcasting in Britain is something of which any country might be proud".I hope we shall do nothing to endanger that.
§ 4.24 p.m.
§ LORD STRANG
My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, I have to declare an interest to the extent that I have broadcast over the B.B.C. sound programmes and I have appeared on B.B.C. television; but, to redress the balance, let me add that I have also appeared on Independent Television.
1000 When some years ago there was pressure from private interests in favour of commercial television, and when the Government decided to introduce legislation to provide an independent television service, one of the arguments was that there ought to be some element of competition. It was thought wrong that, in this new and expanding medium, the B.B.C. should be the monopoly. On one point there was general agreement, I think; there was agreement that two networks were desirable. There was a difference of opinion as to whether the new network should be organised on a commercial basis or not. It is no good going back on that point now: the decision has been taken, and it is not likely to be reversed. In fact, television has proved to be a rapidly and vastly expanding medium, and there has proved to be room for both the B.B.C. and Independent Television. It could be argued, and has been argued—I will not discuss the validity of the argument, but it has been argued—that both services have benefited from competition. Indeed, there is a case for a third network, and on that point, no doubt, the Government will sooner or later take their decision as to how that network should be used.
Now as the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, has said, the situation in regard to sound broadcasting is very different. In the first place, it is not an expanding service in point of view of numbers of listeners. It had probably reached its peak by the time television was introduced. Secondly, unlike television, it is not a new service. The B.B.C. have been working on these lines for 36 years. They have produced a comprehensive service which appeals to all kinds of audiences. It appeals to all kinds of tastes, and it is addressed to minorities as well as to majorities. It enjoys a deserved world-wide renown. It is second to none. There is nothing else like it in the world. It is one of the most valued of our national possessions.
Although competition from television—from both B.B.C. television and Independent Television—has had its effect upon the numbers of listeners to sound broadcasting, the B.B.C. still have a very wide sound broadcasting audience. Their programmes are still heard by about 20 million people. It is on that audience that private interests are now casting covetous eyes. It is not a new audience, 1001 and it is not an expanding audience: it is an established audience built up over the years by the skill and the public spirit of the B.B.C. staff. And although it has been much reduced by the introduction of television, it still is a considerable audience. It is listened-in to in the mornings, when there is no television to look at; it is listened-in to by people who have portable radio sets; it is used by people who have radios in their cars; it is used at times when one can listen but cannot look—for instance, by housewives in the mornings and people in factories.
I believe it is true to say that even if there were a television set in every home there would still be a considerable body of sound listeners. There would not be the present 20 million: there would probably be many fewer than that, but still a considerable audience. It could be argued, and it was argued, that in the case of television there was a need for a second network, and there may well be a need for a third network; but that is not the case in sound broadcasting. Not only is there no need for a second domestic network; I doubt whether there is room for one. We have already got enough competition from Radio Luxembourg. No doubt if there were an independent sound broadcasting station it would attract a part of the B.B.C. audience, and might well attract a great part of it—indeed, it would not pay its way if it did not do that. And it could be established relatively cheaply. The noble Lord, Lord Teynham, said that it is expensive, and, of course, it is; but it is much less expensive to establish a sound broadcasting system than it is to establish a television system. I take it that those who wish to establish a sound broadcasting system would be able to draw on the funds provided by Independent Television; that I do not know, but I imagine that it would be so.
If this second domestic sound broadcasting system were set up, I do not see how it could fail to cripple the B.B.C. It would probably have to annex one or more of the B.B.C.'s wavelengths, and with the reduced audience the B.B.C. would be left with, the balance of the comprehensive and varied programmes which the B.B.C. now provides would certainly be destroyed. I emphasise that point, because in its sound programmes the B.B.C. recognises and tries to fulfil 1002 several kinds of responsibility as a public service. I need not enlarge on that. I would only say that a former Director-General of the B.B.C. has spoken of the wide range of duties which the B.B.C. believes itself to be called upon to fulfil: for example, in the fields of politics, of culture, of education and, indeed, even of morals. In all these the B.B.C. is not standing still but is constantly trying to improve its sound programmes.
Briefly, then, my point is this. There was an argument for competition in the new and expanding field of television. I can see no good sense, and I can see the probability of great harm, in introducing further domestic competition where the field of operations, as in sound broadcasting, is more likely to be not expanding but static for a time, in point of numbers, and, indeed, in the longer term, to be a contracting one, so far as numbers go. The only result would be, for the sake of private profit, to disrupt a public service which is the admiration of the world. For that reason I am opposed to the project which the noble Lord has sponsored and I trust that the Government will not give it any encouragement.
§ 4.33 p.m.
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, I rise to support my noble friend Lord Teynham, although perhaps not for quite the same reasons as he put forward. My interest in the matter, which I must declare, is that I hold and have paid for a licence which entitles me to look at television or to listen to sound broadcasting. My other interest is purely as a member of the general public. It seemed to me that in the case of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and my noble friend Lord Aberdare, they answered strongly a speech which my noble friend Lord Teynham did not make: they thought he was going to make it. If I heard my noble friend Lord Teynham aright, what he in fact said was this: there is a large public demand (and I will deal with that in a moment) during most of the day and some hours of the evening for a continuous music programme, and it is not the function of the B.B.C. to provide such a programme, because they have to deal, as the noble Lord, Lord Strang, said, with every kind of listener, which, in my view, they do most admirably. 1003 But there is the question of this programme which my noble friend Lord Teynham says—and I agree—is required. I will deal also in a moment with the question of the numbers listening to it.
If the B.B.C. cannot provide this programme, and if it would be expensive to produce, then, if there is a real public demand, it can be produced only by advertising. In my view, advertising on sound broadcasts is much less objectionable than advertising on television. If one listens to Radio Luxembourg, which I do sometimes, particularly when I have not gone to sleep and want to be soothed into sleep, one does not really notice the advertisements, which come in between the items. You do not get, as you do on I.T.V. sometimes, a play interrupted by advertising, thus spoiling the play. I do not really believe that on a purely music programme such as Radio Luxembourg, and such as my noble friend is suggesting, with occasional advertisements coming in for 6 per cent. of the time, the terrors raised by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, would sap our moral fibre very much; nor do I believe that such a programme could conceivably have any political influence.
Then comes the question of what is the market for this programme; how many people are going to listen. I think it is a little unfair to take just the B.B.C. figures and say, as the noble Lord, Lord Strang, does, that it is a static or contracting number of listeners, because there are all the people who listen to Radio Luxembourg—and, incidentally, you do not get very good reception of that station in certain parts of the country. It has recently been announced in America that more and more people are buying sound broadcasting machines because they are getting "fed up" with television, and that may well happen here.
As to the types of music and the necessity for this programme, I differ somewhat from my noble friend Lord Teynham. In my view, you cannot, when you are dealing with the public, talk about good and bad music. You can, I think, talk about music well written and well performed, whether you like the music or you do not. There is such a thing as very good jazz music. It does not mean much to me, although 1004 there are a number of fine instrumentalists; and this is an important part of music. Some of your Lordships might say that it is not good music, but I do not think that we have the right to say that. It seems to me that there are two types of music on sound broadcasting: one is music which is not only heard but which, if you are going to appreciate it, has to be listened to; and there is the other kind of music which really you have not got to listen to, but which you can hear—what is sometimes described as music with a tune, or music with a single rhythm. For this type of music there is an enormous demand. I will come to the type of music with a tune—background music, I will call it—in a moment.
I differ from my noble friend Lord Teynham, in that he thinks that if there were a commercial all-music programme a lot more of the more serious kind of music would be played. Frankly, I do not think it would. I think there would be more and more of the background music, as we get on Radio Luxembourg. The effect, I believe, would be that, as is the case with I.T.V.—that has improved the B.B.C.'s television broadcasts enormously, in my view—the B.B.C., even on its Light Programme, would have to pay less attention to some of the very indifferent light music they put out (some is good, but some is very indifferent; and there I agree with my noble friend Lord Som̃ers) and would produce the music that is better written or better played, if I may so term it. That, I think, is the effect that it would have on the B.B.C.
With regard to background music I believe it to be important, and I think we are only now beginning to realise its importance. It has been found that this background music, for instance, in certain classes of work in factories, improves production, and the worker at the end of the day is less tired. There is not the slightest doubt that a large number of listeners to this sort of background music during the hours of daylight are women doing their ordinary household duties in their own homes. They cannot look at television while they are doing that, and they do not want to listen to the rather more difficult music. They want a background music which takes away much of the boredom and much of the loneliness.
1005 I believe we have still to learn a good deal more about the effects of this rhythmic background music. I do not want noble Lords to think that I am making any comparison between ladies doing their housework and what I am now going to say. It has now been found that in milking cows, which are kept under what is called the zero grazing system—which means that the cows are kept enclosed and the food is brought to them instead of their being turned out to graze—the milk production, if suitable music is played, goes up. Noble Lords may laugh, but the curious thing is that the cows are very touchy about their music. If you play the right sort of music, such as the Blue Danube, played softly, milk production goes up, but if you have a different kind of music, such as modern jazz played loudly, milk production goes down. The soft, rhythmic background music is unconsciously of greater importance in modern times than we have hitherto thought. I believe it is necessary to have a programme on sound broadcasting to which people can turn whenever they want. With the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, I doubt whether the B.B.C. would, or could, or even should, provide such a programme. I believe the programme is necessary and, quite frankly, I see no other answer to it except commercial broadcasting.
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, in reply to the request of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, I cannot declare a financial interest or a broadcaster's interest, but I think I should declare a family interest, in so far as a cousin of mine is managing director of Radio Luxembourg (London), Limited. I should like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Teynham upon moving this Motion with a view to obtaining the Government's opinion on this question of a new medium for advertising, namely, commercial sound broadcasts. With the advent of frequency modulated V.H.F. radio and commercial television, a logical development seems to me to be the introduction of commercial sound broadcasts, with a view to a greater programme diversity. It would also introduce, I think, a necessary element of competition between two forms of advertising over the air. This view would seem to me to be in keeping with a state- 1006 ment that was made in the 1953 White Paper (Cmnd. 9005)—namely, thatcompetition should be in the best interests of viewers, writers, artistes and technicians.I too have been studying the 1949 Report of the Broadcasting Committee, under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, and several White Papers on this matter. With a view to supporting arguments I may put forward, I would crave your Lordships' indulgence if I quote one or two extracts as I go along from such Reports or White Papers. Paragraph 360 in the 1949 Report stresses, very rightly, the difference between commercial advertisement and sponsored programmes, and goes on to mention spot announcements which are not concerned in any way with the contents of the programme, and also the controlled sale of air time; the control remaining with the station. Similarly, the 1953 White Paper, under the heading, "Standard of Programme", states thatthe Government has decided as a basic principle that there should be no 'sponsoring' and that the responsibility for what goes out on the air shall rest upon the operator of the station and not on the advertiser.It is therefore my intention to refer strictly to commercial advertisements by means of sound broadcasting.
At the outset, I think one should bear in mind a statement which appeared in the 1951 White Paper (Cmnd. 8291). That said:They"—that is the Government—feel that the recommendation … that the V.H.F. system should also be used to secure diversity and independence of programmes … is one requiring further examination as the possibilities of the system emerge.From the technical aspect, what emerges, I think, is that V.H.F. sound broadcasts are of the highest quality indeed. In fact, one has only to switch from B.B.C., amplitude modulated sound broadcasts on medium waves to frequency modulated sound broadcasts to note the differences. I should therefore like to add that I find myself in complete agreement with the recommendations and conclusions of the Second Report of the 1952 Television Advisory Committee, as mentioned in paragraphs 3 and 6. But the terms of reference of this Committee did not extend beyond a study of the question in relation to V.H.F. broadcasts for the 1007 B.B.C., and competitive television services. No mention was made of competitive radio services.
I apologise if I weary your Lordships with one or two technical details, but there is a question which I should like to ask the noble Lord who will be replying, and that is why I should like to give this technical information. At the moment, Band II in Europe covers from 87.5 to 100 megacycles: the bandwidth 87.5–88 megacycles being allocated to essential civil communication services, including ambulances; the bandwidth 88–95 megacycles being allocated to the three B.B.C. programmes, and the bandwidth 95–100 megacycles being allocated to police and fire-fighting mobile services. I should therefore like to take this opportunity to ask the Minister whether representations could be made by Her Majesty's Government for this band to extend to 108 megacycles per second, as in the United States of America.
To substantiate my remarks, I should like to remind your Lordships of some remarks that were made by Mr. C. O. Stanley, a member of the 1952 Committee and a member of the Radio Industry Council, who stressed the handicap of having only 7 megacycles available for sound broadcasts in this country whilst the United States have 20 megacycles available. The primary question, as I see it, is whether Her Majesty's Government are prepared to take steps to have the decisions that were reached at the Atlantic City Conference in 1947 altered, or whether it is a technical feasibility to add a further programme in the 7 megacycle band, bearing in mind that the B.B.C.'s recommendation is that there should be a channel spacing of 200 kilocycles.
I should now like to turn to an important aspect, the second aspect, and that is the question of quality of programme. I would add how much I am in agreement with the last objective mentioned in the conclusion of the 1953 White Paper (Cmnd. 9005), that ofsafeguarding this medium of information and entertainment from the risk of abuse or lowering of standards.In the course of the debate noble Lords have mentioned Radio Luxembourg. I would mention that I have with me a copy of their Regulations and Station 1008 Policy Governing English Language Broadcasts from Radio Luxembourg. I do not propose to read any of those regulations, and I would add that in those regulations I certainly would not agree with the term "sponsor"; nor do I agree with the statement to the effect that only three hours need elapse between two performances of the same musical item. However, maximum wordage within a programme is very rightly stressed—and I think that point was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Derwent. One phrase in the Station Regulations, and it is a very short one, reads as follows:It is necessary, however, to understand thoroughly the requirements of the Radio Luxembourg audience in Britain to devise effective programmes.That statement leads me to comment that possibly this station at times does over-emphasise what the company deem to be the requirement of teenagers. Here I should like to assure my noble friend Lord Aberdare that when an artiste records at the London studios of Radio Luxembourg the music is not fed into juke boxes but recorded on tape.
§ LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, I was not suggesting that it was fed into juke boxes. I said it was a juke-box type of music.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, I regret that statement even more, if I may say so. I think that Gallup Poll figures are interesting in this respect—not in regard to juke box music but on the whole question of sound audience. If I may, I should just like to mention one or two figures, and before I do I should like to advise noble Lords that the term "adult" refers to listeners of 16 and above. During the past summer the estimated average for this country and Northern Ireland, spread over a seven-day period, was the following for adult audiences, and this is a daily figure: Radio Luxembourg, 3,900,000 listeners; B.B.C. Home Service, 4,530,000; B.B.C. Light programme, 9,060,000. Percentagewise out of the total adult population, those figures represent respectively 9.6, 11.1 and 22.2 per cent. of the total adult population of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which the Gallup Poll takes as 40¾ million persons.
1009 That brings me to my final point, and here I should like to recall Mr. Selwyn Lloyd's words in the 1949 Report, at page 201:If V.H.F. transmissions were to be undertaken it would probably be possible to give the majority of listeners a further choice of at least 4 local programmes".Bearing in mind the dual need, compliance with audience requirements and continuation of high standards, I would ask Her Majesty's Government whether serious consideration could be given to authorising the B.B.C. to initiate commercial broadcasts—and, I would add, on a limited scale at the outset. Under Clause 3 of the November, 1946, Licence and Agreement the B.B.C. were empowered to broadcast a commercial advertisement with the consent in writing of the Postmaster General. Clause 3(k) of the 1952 Charter authorises the Corporation to provide concerts and other entertainments with the prior approval of the Postmaster General; that is, in cases where a charge is made for admission. There would seem to be a similarity between those two clauses, in so far as the programmes would have to have public appeal. I should therefore like to ask Her Majesty's Government to consider initially commercial sound broadcasts on the lines of the new Zealand Broadcasting Service, with the Corporation controlling two sections, one section operating as at present and the new section operating new commercial V.H.F. stations. This arrangement would maintain a high standard during the early stages or trial period, after which powers could be sought for the setting up of an independent authority whose task would be to take on that responsibility.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, I shall be very brief, but I should first like to thank my noble friend Lord Teynham for bringing up this Motion. In obedience to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, who has asked us to declare an interest, I declare mine. The only interest that I can declare is that once If was asked to appear on B.B.C. television and was confronted, to my horror, by two suffragettes; so I had rather a stormy passage and I was paid £12, which I think was rather underpayment. I have the highest regard for 1010 the B.B.C. and I think they do a wonderful job and give the public a fine and impartial service. But, with the best will in the world, I believe that there are certain gaps that they cannot cover. For instance, in the regions of this country there are items of local news and various local matters that the B.B.C. cannot cover as a great national institution. They simply have not the time and it is not their job.
A little competition does no harm to any organisation. But I was rather surprised to hear my noble friend Lord Aberdare say that if we had commercial sound broadcasting it would take us into the realm of the juke box. I understood my noble friend Lord Teynham to say that the object of having a commercial sound broadcasting station was to have high-class music. Surely, if the Government granted a licence for such a station they could embody in the licence certain terms that would prevent juke-box music. I quite agree that there are some advertisers whose public might not like to listen to good music. But I think it was rather unfair of my noble friend to say that it would mean jukebox music.
§ LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, may I interrupt? All I meant to say was that advertisements on sound broadcasting are not so attractive as on television. It would be necessary to appeal to people who like that sort of music, and so it would be of the type we now know on Radio Luxembourg. That is the type of programme we should have to get if the advertisers were going to advertise.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
We have heard that in Radio Luxembourg only 6 per cent. of the programme time is taken up by advertising; and I cannot call that a very vulgar display. I think some noble Lord said that advertising on television is more objectionable because you see the advertisements. I quite agree. I think it is highly objectionable sometimes. But I understand that of the 26 million people who can view television the majority switch on to the independent companies for three-quarters of the time. The surprising point about it is that during peak viewing periods nearly one-third of the B.B.C. programmes are in the light entertainment category, whereas I.T.V. have only 18 1011 per cent. in the light category. That rather shows that I.T.V. are not so juke box inclined as people seem to think.
I believe we shall have a reaction from television. We have reactions from all sorts of things in this country if people get too much of something. I think they will get tired of this incessant flickering screen that hurts the eyes and is extremely distracting. If you want to hear good music, the best place to hear it is in the dark. Nobody wants to look at an orchestra on a television screen. I think there is a great demand for a sound broadcasting station transmitting music the whole day through. We have to remember that it would be of great benefit to musicians. It would give employment; and firms who want to advertise on this basis would not have to go abroad. I think it is absurd that companies anxious to advertise on sound radio should have to go abroad.
The trouble is that most people have said what I was going to say, which is often the trouble when one speaks last in a debate. I will not say anything more, but I should like to remind your Lordships, as my noble friend, Lord Teynham, reminded you, that the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Simonds, said, when Lord Chancellor in May, 1952, in answer to a question on broadcasting, "We must go by stages, but I personally hope that in time it will lead to sponsored radio". I hope that the Government have now decided that the time has come to have sponsored sound radio. I agree that it should be under an extremely tight licence. I do not want to have a juke-box radio programme; that would be absolutely deplorable. But I should think that a special kind of licence could be devised. I support my noble friend's Motion.
§ 5.8 p.m.
§ LORD TAYLOR
My Lords, I did not intend to intervene this afternoon and I do so for one reason only: that I am the only member of the Beveridge Committee who happens to be here. My noble friend Lord Beveridge had to go away earlier and I must refute what Lord Teynham quoted as being in the Broadcasting Committee Report of 1949. I should perhaps say that my interest is precisely the same as that of the noble Lord, Lord Strang: that is to say, I 1012 have appeared on both systems; very rarely on one, fairly rarely on the other. The point which I am afraid misled the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, was where the Beveridge Committee was discussing the question of local broadcasting with V.H.F. The point was made by the Committee that the one failure of broadcasting was to provide something like a local newspaper in each little area where there would be irradiated for five miles around the local news. This was what the discussion was about, from which he, I am afraid, tore a bit out of context when he quoted.
In connection with this, the Beveridge Committee said: "Here is a chance to use V.H.F. intelligently". It has a very short range and is blocked by any solid body it comes across, and unless it is used from an enormously high tower it has no distant spread. The Committee said: "Why should not the B.B.C. set up local stations to do a little local broadcasting in each area like the local newspaper; and, if the B.B.C. does not do it, as a second alternative only it might be considered by a local authority, a university or any other specially formed voluntary agency which would do this special local voluntary broadcasting". That was no case whatsoever for this commercial, sponsored radio programme which is going on all the time giving out music.
I do not know what noble Lords are complaining about. I have here this week's Radio Times. In the Light Programme we have this: 6.33 a.m. "Morning Music". At 8 a.m. there is Victor Silvester's "Memories for You". At 9 o'clock there is "Housewife's Choice". Then, at 9.55, there is a break for Prayer for five minutes, which I suppose would be equivalent to the advertising period. At 10 a.m. there is the B.B.C. Theatre Organ with Michael O'Duffy. At 10.30 there is "Music While You Work". Then there is a short story. Then next is the Tottenham Citadel Salvation Army Band. "Turntable", which is entirely musical, is the next item. Then comes "Mid-day Music Hall", followed by "Go Man, Go" which is a short story. Then there is a little break for "Listen with Mother". Next there is "Old Wine in New Bottles", which is old tunes in new settings. Then there is "Music While 1013 You Work"; followed by "Record Rendezvous"—virtually continuous music.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, if the noble Lord will forgive me for interrupting, I could tell him the exact percentage of music in the B.B.C. programmes. I understand it is 40 per cent. of the whole programme.
§ LORD TAYLOR
The noble Viscount has got it wrong. All he needs to do is to take the Radio Times and he will find that the 40 per cent. is an average of the whole of the B.B.C. output. There is a complete outflow of music during the day-time, at any rate on the Light Programme, and I think that this suggestion is complete and gigantic nonsense, "cooked up" for commercial reasons, and the sooner we put a stop to it, the better.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
I thought the noble Lord was talking about the whole output of the B.B.C. That is what I presumed he meant.
§ LORD TAYLOR
I can assure the noble Viscount that I meant the output from the Light Programme, which is surely the programme to be compared in this country with the juke box radio programme which comes from Radio Luxembourg. It is time that we took a strong moral stand and said that there are some things in this world which are good and some which are bad, that commercial radio is bad, and that we must, on straight and strong moral grounds, stop it.
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, do I understand the noble Lord rightly that if any advertiser in this country wishes to advertise by means of sound broadcasting he should do so by means of Radio Luxembourg?
§ LORD TAYLOR
Yes, I have not the slightest objection to that. We cannot stop Radio Luxembourg. I do not think it does a great deal of harm because not many people listen to it.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ LORD AIREDALE
My Lords, if the commercial radio stations advocated by the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, were really going to bring us, all day and 1014 every day, lovely music, I do not suppose many people in this country would object to it—they would probably he very pleased. But what I, unfortunately, can foresee coming from such a commercial radio station is a certain amount of good music, a great deal of very poor music indeed, and a great number of programmes depicting horror, sensationalism and things of that kind—people being murdered, robbed, divorced, and hit on the head; more and more fervent evangelists; more and more of these odious quiz programmes—
§ LORD DERWENT
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but you really cannot do these programmes to music.
§ LORD AIREDALE
—where people get £5 for being able to spell "pencil" or recognising "Yes, we have no bananas"; more and more of the horrible canned applause which has not been earned by the entertainer—all the things which the B.B.C. does not do, or certainly does not do to the extent that it is done on commercial radio stations. And all this interspersed every quarter of an hour all day long by high pressure salesmen whom you certainly would not let into your house if they were to knock upon the door. I really think that we are safer and better off in the hands of the B.B.C.
§ 5.16 p.m.
§ LORD GREENHILL
My Lords, from what I have heard of the contributions to this debate—I think I have heard nearly all of them—the feeling I have is that there is one thing which has not been sufficiently emphasised. We can agree that there may be criticism of what is provided by the B.B.C. We may also agree that there may be criticism of what is provided by the Independent Television operators. What I think we are overlooking here is that, no matter what improvement, or lack of improvement, there may be in the new kind of sound radio which is being advocated by the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, the whole emphasis will be centred upon making money out of a population whom these people, by implication, hold in contempt.
What is really concerning me here is that, under the pretext of giving the people what they want, these independent providers of either radio or television are reducing the level of taste of 1015 the whole of our population. What we are trying to do by our State provision is to recognise that there is a good deal of room for improvement in the tastes of our people, by experiment, by attempts to provide a little of something better than they are accustomed to, by trying in some way or other to make people appreciate that there are things a little higher than what they have been accustomed to—trying in that way to raise the whole level and tone of appreciation of our people. But here we have a group of people with one aim only—namely, the lining of their own pockets—prepared to do almost anything, however low, in order that they may derive profits from the operation of their activities. I hope that the repercussions of the objections which have been voiced in this House to-day will make those who are trying to push this project hesitate before they arouse a real public outcry against their nefarious intentions.
§ LORD GREENHILL
I gave ample consideration to what the noble Lord has said, and I disagree with him entirely.
§ LORD DERWENT
When the noble Lord spoke of people having no interest except that of money, I hope that he did not mean me to be included.
§ 5.19 p.m.
§ THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF TRANSPORT (LORD CHESHAM)
My Lords, I suppose that I, too, should adopt the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and declare at once that I have no interest in this matter whatsoever. The noble Lord, Lord Teynham, phrased his Motion, I thought, in very specific terms, and we have had many different aspects and some most interesting comments upon his suggestion. Indeed, some of the arguments, including that of the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, ring a bell—they have a very familiar ring to those who listened or took part in the debate on the broadcasting White Papers of 1952 and 1953, and in the television debate of 1954.
1016 I am afraid that I must disappoint my noble friend Lord Teynham and others who ask now for pronouncements about the future pattern of sound broadcasting in this country, and for commitments about what will or will not be considered in future. I can only say that I should certainly think that a long-term look would be required, because if the suggestion of the noble Lord were to be considered it would greatly affect the future functioning of the B.B.C. whose licence, after all, does not expire until 1962, as also it would affect the Independent Television Authority, whose term, as your Lordships are well aware, continues until 1964. As the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, correctly surmised, therefore, I cannot anticipate to-day the arrangements that we shall no doubt require for a review of the whole field in due course.
There are a certain number of things I can say, and perhaps I had better start with a matter referred to by the noble Lords, Lord Teynham and Lord Massereene and Ferrard. That was the comment made by the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Simonds, when he was Lord Chancellor in 1952. He spoke, as we know, of proceeding by stages and expressed a personal hope that in time there would be sponsored radio. At that time the noble Viscount said "sponsored": probably he might have said "commercial" had he been speaking now. We have been told, and I do not think I need set it all out, that the decision to permit the element of competition in the field of television was because that was in an earlier stage of expansion and it was felt that the time was ripe for an experiment in that field in a departure from monopoly in broadcasting; and particularly (and this has been quoted before), because of the help that would be given to viewers, writers, artistes and technicians, and the vitality that would be injected, as well as helping the country to produce programmes for overseas markets. I think it may be claimed that this has been so.
There is, however, another side of the picture which has not been so strongly stressed, and it was another Lord Chancellor (and I am now speaking of our present one) who said, when he was asked in another place why there should be competition only in the television field at that time, that we had the choice of 1017 the three B.B.C. programmes, with the various regional variations, and that listeners could also turn to foreign stations if they wished. In short, diversity of programmes was already with us; and, as my noble friend Lord Aberdare pointed out, it continues to be with us.
The noble Lord, Lord Teynham, stressed in his speech, and was backed up by the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, that we should have plenty of music. In fact, he would like to have music all day long. He quoted the figure of 40 per cent. of the total which is also in the minds of other noble Lords. I think that that is a little low, however, and I am advised that the proportion is nearer 50 per cent. I will now give your Lordships some figures which I have taken from the B.B.C. Report for 1958–59. From London stations, 6,768 hours of music were broadcast during the year. I have the breakdown of those figures, and in giving it I should like to emphasise, as I do not wish to be known as a "square," that these figures are a matter of fact and not of opinion or comment. There were 2,131 hours given to serious music. 3,349 hours to light music and 1,288 hours to dance music. This is the overall output of all the sound programmes; and as the Corporation seek to give a choice, the chances of finding music at any given moment are quite high.
If there is any doubt about quality one can read, on page 44 of that Report, names like Glyndebourne, the Edinburgh Festival, the Royal Festival Hall, Promenade Concerts, and also concerts from Boston by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and from New York, Paris, Geneva and other places. I also noted that some 29 operas had been broadcast. I can understand and acknowledge that a music lover is quite insatiable, but I feel it would be quite wrong to fail to acknowledge that the music provided by the B.B.C. is on a very generous basis.
Rather on the same lines as the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, I have been doing a little mathematics as well, and I have noted the programmes on three days taken at random. On Monday of next week there is no music between 11.20 and 11.30 (which, of course, is only ten minutes), between 1.45 and 3 o'clock (which is one and a quarter hours), or between 6.45 and 7 p.m., which is another quarter of an hour. I do not think 1018 that state of affairs could give rise to much complaint. On Tuesday there is an even lesser period without music, from 11.20 to 11.30 and from 1.45 to 3.0. On Saturday of next week the periods without music are from 1.0 to 1.10, from 5.0 to 6.0 and from 7.15 to 7.30. Those are the only periods on those three days when no music is available, and I feel there is not very much to complain of there. That does give a full freedom of choice. I am, of course, most impressed with the knowledge of my noble friend Lord Derwent in agricultural matters, and quite agree with him that the type of music broadcast is most important. I believe it is well known that cows prefer Viennese waltzes but I would draw his attention to the fact that music is not a wholehearted benefit. The noble Lord will remember the number of valuable rams that were lost when somebody played the record, "There'll never be another You".
It has been stressed that we now need more programmes specially designed for local communities; that the B.B.C. are increasingly hard put to it to finance their existing services, and that, therefore, such local material should be financed through advertisements. We are working up to a situation where there are conflicting claims, both as to the type of programme to which people want to listen and for the few frequencies which, as I shall come to show, might be available. I will come back a little later to the suggestion in the Beveridge Report, mentioned by the noble Lords, Lord Teynham and Lord Taylor, which introduces yet another type of claim. Before doing so I hope I may be allowed to survey, as quickly as I can, the existing set-up on our sound services, including the technical background which is, I think, a matter of great importance.
Though I shall be dealing with the B.B.C. perhaps I had better digress for a moment and deal with the query of the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, about the possibility of allowing the B.B.C. to be the initiating agent, as it were, in the matter of a commercial programme, with possibly some form of public corporation to follow on. One would have to decide first whether there should be a commercial sound programme at all and who should eventually be responsible for it. That is as I understand the noble Lord's 1019 question. As regards the B.B.C. I can only confirm that it is laid down in their Licence and Agreement that they shall not take commercial advertisements without the consent of the Postmaster General. We know that, but even if my right honourable friend were to be pressed to give permission, I do not know that the Corporation would change their view, which up to now, I think, has been that they do not wish to take advertisements anyway. The attitude of Her Majesty's Government in the matter was stated at the time of the 1952 White Paper. It was that:Her Majesty's Government would be most unwilling to see any change in the policy of the B.B.C. themselves towards sponsoring or accepting advertisements.I know of no change in that attitude to-day.
Perhaps I may come back to the constitutional position of the B.B.C., because it is sometimes not very well understood—and here I quote again from the White Paper:The successive licences granted to the B.B.C. have not of themselves established the Corporation as the sole authority for all broadcasting in the United Kingdom. The Corporation have, in fact, enjoyed an exclusive privilege because successive Governments have decided that, although the Postmaster General is empowered by Statute to license any number of persons to operate broadcasting stations, he should not license anyone other than the B.B.C.That is the present position, and because that is the present position the long and medium wavelengths that are available to this country have been allocated for the use of the B.B.C. They have been deployed to provide the Home, the Light and Third (including Network Three) programmes and the European services. They could not be deployed to provide any additional service of local broadcasting. There are already some 800 medium wave broadcasting stations operating in Europe. Eight hundred is about twice the number provided for under the Copenhagen Plan, which shared out the wavelengths all round in 1948. And it has had a further effect, my Lords. Because of this severe overcrowding of the available frequency space, interference from the Continental stations, as I think many of your Lordships know, has meant a steady deterioration in medium wave reception in many areas of the country.
1020 My Lords, it was pointed out by the Television Advisory Committee that the only means of overcoming these difficulties, arising both from the shortage of the medium wavelengths and from increasing interference from other countries, is the development of V.H.F. sound broadcasting. Without it the B.B.C. would have had difficulty in providing adequate national sound broadcasting services throughout the country—in providing services of good quality. Now, I am glad to say, some 96.4 per cent. coverage of the population has been achieved by the existing services, and the B.B.C. are going on progressively to extend that coverage. There are perhaps some 2 million V.H.F. sets already in use, and it is estimated that some 31 million people, about 60 per cent. of the population, will be listening to V.H.F., or may be listening to V.H.F., sound services by the end of 1965.
It is perfectly clear, therefore, that to fulfil their obligation to provide adequate national broadcasting services the B.B.C. will have to employ their present ration of long and medium wavelengths for many years to come, until the great majority of people possess V.H.F. sets. It may be—we cannot tell because these things have not yet happened and so it cannot be assumed definitely—that we shall have for all time the one long and the 13 medium wavelengths at present allocated to us. In the future we shall become increasingly dependent on V.H.F., and since that is so I must just spend a minute considering the number of frequencies available in the V.H.F. band allocated.
My noble friend Lord Merrivale told us that this is known as Band II, and the range is 87.5 to 100 megacycles. He told us, too, that V.H.F. broadcasting in this country is confined to the 88 to 95 megacycle range, with one or two small exceptions which I need not mention. The range of 95 to 100 megacycles is used for police and fire mobile radio services and civil defence services. That range is now almost fully occupied, and the Home Office are, in fact, in some difficulty in planning the band so as to meet all the requirements made on it; so there is nothing to spare there. If it were to be made available for broadcasting, then the services I mentioned would all have to be cleared off it and 1021 would have to be accommodated somewhere else. But I am advised that there is nowhere else; there is no alternative frequency that could be made available for them, and any quite simple changes of frequency would involve the Home Office in considerable expense and some operating difficulty. The range 87.5 to 88 megacycles presents difficulties because that is pretty well full up with the land mobile services and the county ambulance services.
But, my Lords, there is at present an International Radio Conference taking place at Geneva, where they are discussing frequency allocation, particularly the very high frequencies; and that, perhaps, is the answer to my noble friend Lord Merrivale, who suggested an extension to 108 megacycles. Proposals have been made at that conference, I know, to extend the band to 104 megacycles for broadcasting, but for the reasons I have just been talking about I should be wrong to hold out any hope that we could extend in this country in the band between 100 and 108 megacycles. The point which the noble Lord may wish to remember is that the standard V.H.F. receivers now are in the range from 87.5 to 100 megacycles, so an extension beyond that would not help very many people.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? Does he say that all V.H.F. sets are now in a range which goes up only to 100 megacycles? I thought it was 108.
§ LORD CHESHAM
My Lords, I am informed that that is the case in the majority of instances: I did not say all, or I did not mean to say all.
The only thing left to look at is the existing range of 88 to 95 megacycles and, as I have said, the B.B.C. have not finished expanding their national network in this range. There just would not be room in it for a complete new sound programme for national coverage. The best that can be said is that by a careful deployment of frequencies there might be room for a number of very low-powered local stations with very restricted coverage in addition to the national network. It has been suggested that these should be the stations that might be operated on a commercial basis. But I believe also that the B.B.C. visualise 1022 the possibility of some more stations for local broadcasting. If there were to be a change at all, as I said, the development of the V.H.F. services comes within the terms of reference of the Television Advisory Committee, who have so far been kept fully informed and have agreed the plans for the extension of the B.B.C. V.H.F. services; and I think that if there should be any new development in this line the Postmaster-General would expect to have some advice from them about it. Apart from that, we have, I think, to make up our minds on what services we want or what services we need.
The question immediately arises of how far we should want to develop community programmes or purely music services, or whatever it may be, bearing in mind the very limited number of frequencies that are available. We must therefore be sure about the type of service we want to hear. The B.B.C. have always placed considerable emphasis on the valuable contribution of all their regions to their services, and with the extension of their V.H.F. network they have been able to introduce in particular areas a service of local news and information which is usually called area broadcasting. This will interest my noble friend Lord Merrivale. The Corporation's 1958–59 Report draws attention, On page 9, to this development, where they say that new area services of this kind were in that year introduced in Cumberland. Westmorland, the Isle of Man, Northumberland and Durham. I feel that the B.B.C.'s sound regions have been at times a little played down this afternoon. They have always had the task of serving their own local audiences with broadcasts which reflect their special interest; and, of course, each region has its own Advisory Council for the purpose.
My Lords, if there were to be some form of community broadcasting in addition to our present services, the question would still remain as to whether the operation of those services should be in the hands of the Corporation or of some other operators, subject to whatever safeguards might be thought desirable. The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, told us a little about the Beveridge Committee, which was set up in 1949, and what it had in mind as to experimental local stations, possibly controlled by universities, local authorities, or public service 1023 organisations. I should like to quote what they said, if I may take the point a little further:Where this course appears preferable to establishment of a local station by the Corporation, the Government should be prepared, after consultation with the Corporation, to license an approved public authority or voluntary organisation to establish a local station.That, I think, is correct. As the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, said, the Government at the time reserved their position on that recommendation, noting it, in particular, as something which would depend very much on the future of V.H.F. broadcasting. My Lords, no such stations have so far been authorised, for the reasons that I have just been discussing.
It has been suggested, too, that commercial operation would relieve the B.B.C. of the financial burden of providing the local stations that people might want. It has been said that, with the growing interest in television and the increasing number of licence holders who pay primarily for the use of their television sets, the sound service would be hard put to it to pay its way. I think there cannot be many homes in this country that do not at some time or other have their sound sets switched on. I have some figures from the last B.B.C. Listening Trends report, which said that on a typical day some 19¼ million people listened at some time during the day—and that compares rather interestingly with the 19½ million who look at television every day, although I quite agree that they probably look at television for a longer period than the 19¼ million listen to sound broadcasting. The average appears to be about 5¾ hours per week.
The size of audiences for various sound programmes continues to be quite staggering. According to the reports, programmes like "Hancock's Half Hour" and "Take it from Here" have audiences of some 10 million, and "Family Favourites" 12 million. "The Archers" and "Any Questions" both collect about 6 million more apiece. Clearly, diversity in sound broadcasting continues to be a great attraction to the community; and, naturally, sound is able to provide services much more cheaply. In 1958–59, the average cost of an hour of sound broadcasting was £553, 1024 as against the £3,773 per hour for television. Surely the position really is that if we want first-class national sound services, then it is up to the community to support them, as apparently it does.
My Lord, I have tried to sketch a full and accurate background against which the Motion of my noble friend, Lord Teynham, must be considered. It will have done good, I think, that this matter has been well discussed, particularly in view of the great interest in it that was shown by the Press this morning. If I have been unduly long, I am sorry, but I thought it worth while to cover the subject. It has been particularly good to have heard the variation of opinions, and to know exactly what they are. If I have brought no particular cheer or comfort to my noble friend—who I trust does not wish to press his Motion—neither, I think, have I said anything to bring great disquiet or otherwise to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton. That being so, I think I must now put into practice my precept on what to do when one has no more to say.
§ 5.45 p.m.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, who has replied on behalf of Her Majesty's Government. I cannot say that he has been very helpful—sitting on the fence, perhaps—and I am sure that he will not mind if I say that I should like to return to the battle in the near future. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, who spoke about disc jockeys. His mind seemed to run more on the wrongs supposedly done by disc jockeys than anything else. Perhaps occasionally they fall off their horses, but, on the whole I think you will find that they are very good men indeed. I was rather surprised that he had so much objection to private profit. He seemed to think there was something wrong in profits being earned. I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, that the B.B.C. provides all the musical programmes required by the public. We have had trotted out the same arguments as we had during the debates on the Independent Television Bill when it was going through this House.
The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, said that I misquoted the White Paper. I want to assure him that I did nothing 1025 of the kind. What I did was to use the argument in paragraph 7, which indicated that it was not possible to have these other stations until high frequency was available. High frequency was not available then as it is now.
I beg to differ. Perhaps we had better agree to differ. However, once again I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, for deal- 1026 ing with all these arguments. I do not propose to press the matter this evening, and I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.