§ 2.55 p.m.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL AND MINISTER FOR SCIENCE (VISCOUNT HAILSHAM) rose to move to resolve, That this House approves the Memorandum on the Report of the Committee on Broadcasting, 1960 (Cmnd. 1770). The noble Lord said: My Lords, ever since the publication of the Pilkington Report, it has been obvious that we must have a debate upon it, and ever since the Government brought out their White Paper—with what, I hope, will be considered commendable promptitude—it has been obvious to me, and I hope to others, that I must move a Motion upon it asking the House to give general approval 606 to the contents of the White Paper. None the less, I must express my gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, who is to follow me, for allowing my own Motion on the White Paper to have precedence of his Motion on the Pilkington Report.
§ In moving this Motion, I do so in no spirit of political dogmatism or aggressiveness; rather the reverse. I do not ask noble Lords to mortgage their consciences in any way by tying themselves in advance to every detailed proposal contained in the White Paper. Still less is it in my mind to divert the House from what I hope will be the widest, liveliest and friendliest debate on the whole wide range of the subjects covered by the Pilkington Report. Rather I would ask the House to endorse the general approach which the Government have taken towards what, as we have all learned at some time or another, is apt to be a thorny and controversial as well as a technical and complex subject. The details I will leave to my noble friend Lord St. Oswald and to my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack, Who, by winding up the debate tomorrow, will be making his first important contribution to your Lordships' debates.
§ The general thesis which I wish to advance is that the time has come to move away from the possibly somewhat superficial and academic generalising about paternalism, commercialism, monopoly and free enterprise which have dominated discussion of this subject so long, and to move towards a return to an agreed broadcasting policy based upon technical necessity and practical politics.
§ My Lords, the shrill cries of almost hysterical lamentation and rage which arose on the lips, not always entirely disinterested, of certain newspapers and certain magnates on the publication of the Pilkington Report were surely both undignified and out of place. I doubt whether they furthered the case which they were designed to support; nor did the strange action—out of character in the scion of a famous Quaker House—of Mr. Cadbury in burning the Report in effigy. For my part, I found the Report excellent but not always convincing reading, and I consider the personal attacks on the members of the 607 Committee, who, to my mind, have performed an arduous public service of great importance, were in extremely bad taste and quite uncalled for. The fact that the Report is so controversial is a fact which I welcome, since it provokes interest, but it has the disadvantage of meaning that we cannot implement it all without further discussion. Moreover, it is fair to say that even since the publication of the Report events like the television exchange through Telstar and other developments in the international and technical field constantly remind us that the subject is simply not one that will ever stand still at all at this stage of its development.
§ But the fact is that seven years ago we took an important departure of policy in establishing a second channel of television broadcasting financed by advertising. My noble and learned friend, Lord Kilmuir, in a debate some weeks ago, in which I remained, I hope, discreetly silent, said that he was unrepentant about the part he played in that decision. I, too, am somewhat unrepentant. Obviously, one has learned, and I hope forgotten, something in the last seven or eight years. I still think I had something to say which was worth saying, and I was, I think, at that time probably the only Member of your Lordships' House—I certainly am not now, but I think I was then—who had made for upwards of seven years a useful side income by professional broadcasting in both media. I see a smile upon Lord Francis-Williams' face.
§ But the fact is that we cannot put the clock back; there I start. Nor can we leave things exactly as they are: and there I go on. We had better take a long, calm look at the situation which has been brought about, take the urgent decisions which are necessary in the light of technical requirements, with all their important political and practical corollaries, and decide at leisure our future course in the light of experience and of existing facts and of our interests, moral, aesthetic and commercial, and of the practical possibilities, and, above all, in the light of a rapidly developing and changing public opinion.
§ Of course, in such an assessment commercial interests cannot be allowed to dictate policy. But by the like token we 608 must be careful not to assume that commercial interests, simply because they are commercial, or even because they sometimes become hysterical when they are criticised, are bad. We must deal with commercial television as a fact, with the authorities and with the companies as established entities, with programmes as supplying entertainment and much else to millions to their satisfaction, all entitled to respect and consideration but, from Parliament, surely never deference or submissiveness. We must accept the inviolability in our discussions of the matter of no vested interests, and above all we must take our decisions on a calm understanding of the essential characteristics of this medium, of which we now all have a good deal more practical experience than seven years ago, and not on the mythology, political or otherwise, to which we happen to be adherents.
§ I think people should not underestimate the popularity of the commercial programmes, as at times I was tempted to think that the Committee had done. But I beg my friends also not to ignore on the other side or to dismiss as contemptible or ridiculous the genuinely popular basis of the serious moral unease reflected on almost every page of the Report. It happens that I agreed with the noble Baroness who wrote in the Press this week about the absence of scientifically acquired evidence, for which I myself must hold the Committee responsible. But, weighing that absence in the same way as the noble Baroness does, I think we should also admit that the bodies who did give evidence to the Committee and whose evidence they accepted form a formidable mass of responsible and organised public opinion, which neither the companies nor political Parties can afford to dismiss.
§ On sound and on its one television channel the British Broadcasting Corporation has survived in competition with the commercial broadcasts, and I am glad to think that it has received such a good report from the Committee, although, I am not sure I am one of those who would go the whole way with them in seeming to exonerate the B.B.C. from all criticism. The B.B.C. is a national institution of which we are all, I hope, justly proud. The I.T.A. and the programme companies got a basting 609 from the Committee which they may or may not have deserved. But here again I would venture to think that there is no practical politician who believes that they can now be destroyed, or that we can now afford to disclaim revenue from advertisements as the main source of revenue from some of our T.V. channel broadcasts, at least until there are more than four channels altogether.
§ This is the thesis of the White Paper which after discussion I ask your Lordships to approve. Some decisions are urgent and cannot be delayed, even though they necessarily involve, as they do, controversial corollaries, like that to allot forthwith a second television channel to the British Broadcasting Corporation while not immediately allotting one to the Independent Television Authority. Other decisions will be better delayed for an airing in the light of public opinion as it develops and further consideration of possible alternatives. If I begin with one or two theoretical considerations, I hope that I may be acquitted of being dogmatic in the sense which I have deprecated. It seems to me that both extreme theoretical cases have been in danger of overstatement. If therefore I re-state my own position in relatively moderate terms I hope that I may be forgiven.
§ Despite a belief in freedom, which I suppose every Member of this House will share, I also think that no responsible Government can wholly wash its hands of anything touching our standards of taste and behaviour. The Puritans may have been wrong, or perhaps they were right, to forbid bear-baiting for the sake of the baiters rather than the bear, but it is not mere puritanism to assert that the state of public morals and the standards of taste in public entertainment can never be a matter of indifference to patriotic men and women and are not necessarily adequately catered for by purely commercial considerations. We can surely all agree that since the Church won her first victories in the blood and sand of the Coliseum it has been impossible since then to assume a purely cynical attitude to the business of amusement.
But surely we must also be on our guard against the opposite danger of paternalism. Prohibition and censorship can be, as we have often discovered 610 in the Christian centuries, as demoralising as surfeit. And if commercial considerations are admittedly inadequate as a criterion of public interests, those who seek to equate the pursuit of profit with the worship of evil are often better friends to the Devil than the porno-grapher or pimp. If we cannot pass by undismayed by the spectacle of violence, vulgarity and triviality in art, there is also, surely, great unwisdom in trying to shackle human nature to an unnatural asceticism. The truth, my Lords, is surely that in matters of this kind there is somewhere a balance to be struck.
§ This balance must surely be influenced, and to some extent even dictated, by the nature of the medium itself. As President Kennedy recently remarked, mythology is a worse enemy to sound policy than the lie. In the anatomy of mythology the false analogy has surely always played a dominant part. A broadcast service is not a newspaper; it is not a book, and it is not a stage play. Analogies drawn from any of these are therefore completely misleading. Like drama, a broadcast service is displayed in time more conspicuously than in space; like the Press, it demands a wide range of different kinds of items, none of which everybody uses; as it were, a city page, a sports page, news items, literary features, instruction, entertainment, a children's hour, items of religion, philosophy and science.
§ But unlike any of the media based on the printing press, there is a strict limit in broadcasting to the variety of choice. We cannot multiply programmes as we multiply books. This limit is imposed not by Government but by the facts of life, the existence of a limited number of bands and frequencies upon which programmes can be shown or heard. In Northern Europe, which suffers more than North America, or perhaps the Middle East, from the Curse of Babel, there are also limits imposed by the numbers of human languages in which the different programmes are put forth. It follows from this that broadcasting is in its nature essentially more monopolistic than drama or the printing press. This is what lends the danger of paternalism to public service broadcasting. But it is this, too, which creates the danger of an incautious franchise offered to purely commercial interests.611
§ One of the things which may be clearer with experience, as the Committee point out, is surely that people who view or listen to programmes often do so with different degrees of enthusiasm. It follows that the knob—that instrument which turns on and turns off—is an important but not necessarily a conclusive guide to popularity. It can be like an election by proportional representation, in which no one is given either a first or a second preference vote. The T.A.M. rating can be, and I am inclined sometimes to think is, a melancholy record of third and fourth preferences, the maximum number of viewers who can be induced not to turn off, the highest common factor of endurance without enthusiasm. It needs to be supplemented, and it is fair to say that in the case both of the B.B.C. and of the Independent networks it is supplemented by listener and viewer research, and by a wide range of experimental programmes to discover the real nature of public taste, and even to create tastes not previously enjoyed. Although this is sometimes overlooked, nothing is more remarkable in the Pilkington Report than the unanimity of Commercial and B.B.C. producers on both these points.
§ Surely the contrast between highbrow and lowbrow can be a misleading one. In my experience, most highbrows like lowbrow entertainment. All lowbrows are also members of minorities of one sort and another, and minorities are entitled to be catered for. Stamp collecting and pigeon fancying are not particularly highbrow activities, but it would be a poorer society, surely, which had no innocent minority hobbies and poor broadcasiting which did not cater for them—and that, as the Conservative Political Centre Group pointed out to the Committee, not always at inconvenient hours.
§ It is the finance of broadcasting which has always presented the most considerable difficulty. Leaving aside for a moment pay T.V. (as something not yet proved but which your Lordships will wish to discuss to-day), you cannot buy a broadcast programme as yon buy a book or a newspaper. It is of its nature something essentially, as the Americans say, for free. You turn on your switch 612 and you get what is going. Yet broadcasting is surely one of the most expensive of human activities. Let anyone who doubts this visit the new B.B.C. centre at Shepherd's Bush or the Independent Television studios, say at Bore-ham Wood. Surely we have imagination enough to see that the technological marvels implicit in sound and vision, and now in colour, are not going to be cheap, and in practice they must be financed by licence or by advertising. Both are public services but, being differently financed, their characteristics are different.
§ Perhaps I should be unjust or trespassing too much on your Lordships' time if I characterised these dangers at greater length, but if both systems have, as they certainly have, their advantages and their disadvantages, it may be that with typical British pragmatism we have been wise to opt for both. If so, it is surely also practical wisdom to try to ensure that we do not suffer unduly from the shortcomings of either. So my object in speaking to-day at this length is not to reopen old controversies or to start a new one, but rather to try to give a fresh lead, to indicate a course upon which sensible men can agree, a course dictated not by mythology or doctrinal considerations, but by the logic of the present situation and by the technical requirements of the case. This is the course favoured by the White Paper, which is designed to select from the Report points for decision, whether or not controversial, which will not brook delay, and to leave others for further consideration, for what I think the late Lord Salisbury, the Prime Minister, used to call "the open air cure"—that is, the cure of public opinion.
§ The key decision which is urgent, and but for the Committee I would have said overdue, is the necessity to adopt the standard of 625-line definition as against the 405-line definition or any other alternative system. This is a matter involving complex technical and practical arguments, but I hope the House will be satisfied that the course of action which these dictate is ultimately simple. We must act, we must act now, and the logic of our acting involves, I believe, two consequences. The first of these is to ensure that the existing services on 405 lines continue for a sufficient period so as not to deprive existing set owners 613 of what they have; and the second is the provision of a new service, which should be obtained on 625 lines, in order to provide an incentive for the acquisition of sets on the new line standard. Incidentally, one hopes that this will stimulate an improvement in the radio industry and retail trade.
§ If these conditions are observed, it seems to me inevitable that the new service should be provided by the B.B.C., if there is to be only one new service for the time being. The Government have again and again gone on record as assuring the future of the Corporation, and to refuse this would, in my judgment at least, be regarded in many quarters as a deliberate decision to undermine it. Apart from that, for reasons which I will try to elaborate when I discuss the future of the Independent network, if a service is to be provided at once, as it must be if the decision to change from 625 lines is to be effective, it would seem that the B.B.C. is the only body fully competent to do it, and to provide properly complementary programmes. If these two requirements, both of which are recommendations of the Report, are to be compiled with, and a licence to proceed with colour also to be accorded, a more leisurely approach to the fourth channel is clearly indicated.
§ I have already suggested that there are matters which deserve further consideration. It is not to condemn the Report as so many critics have too hastily done, that I think this is so. Many who accept the diagnosis of the Committee will dispute the remedies that they prescribe. Some who do not dispute the animadversions on the programme companies are not wholly uncritical of the B.B.C. as well. Others who do not criticise the programme companies may have feelings of considerable disquiet at the fecklessness and general amateurishness of the evidence said to have been produced on behalf of the I.T.A., although it is fair to say that Sir Ivone Kirkpatrick, in what I thought was a most convincing letter, has complained that in this he has been misrepresented. Still more those who generally support the continuance of the present arrangements must recognise that the days of almost unlimited profits must come to an end.614
§ The first franchise of the programme companies was obtained in circumstances which, however strange they may now appear, were genuinely thought to include the risk of loss. Indeed, actually in the first months a loss was incurred. It was therefore, I should have thought, reasonable that when their speculation turned lout well they should be allowed to have the advantage of their bargain, although I myself was always a little doubtful of the doctrine of the I.T.A. that it was impossible to ask of them that they should pay economic rents. The new franchise, however, is not being negotiated in the same circumstances. The business of the companies is essentially a near monopoly; they cannot be permitted to take advantage of this in order, to use a phrase, to print money.
Some of us, moreover, have been distinctly disturbed at the extent to which their tie-up arrangements have been permitted to defeat the object of the Act in encouraging competition. Whatever the framers of the Act of 1954 intended they surely did not intend to set up a commercial monopoly. Yet this is perilously near what the programme companies by their interlocking arrangements have appeared to achieve. It is not enough, surely, to say that competition is possible only with two I.T.A. programmes in each area. I refer particularly to pages 158 and 159 of the Report which have not, so far as I know, been challenged. There the Committee say, after describing the networking arrangements:
In this way, the same programme items can be seen all over the country simultaneously; and for the most part, they are. In effect, independent television provides, for most of the time, a national programme.
Then, after some further words, the Committee went on:
Drawing our attention to this the Authority added that it had miscalculated the amount of competition likely to be generated. In fact, the four main companies, for all practical purposes, arrange the provision of programme items for the network among themselves.
Then it goes on to set out What they are. Then, after saying that the Authority has prescribed that not less than 15 per cent. of the time should in due course be originated by each company, major or regional, the Committee say:
The balance, about 80 per cent., of permitted broadcasting time is shared by agreement between the four major companies. Each supplies programme items to fill its share of the time. What particular 'time slots' each
is to occupy, and with what programme items—that is to say, the overall programme planning—is arranged by the four major companies. Each of them produces a fixed amount of programme material for the network and there is at any one time only one programme available for showing on the network. … Each minor company is 'affiliated' to a major company. The major company acts for all four major companies in booking its affiliates' requests for networked programme items. An affiliate company pays only its own major company for the supply of network programmes. Each of the four major companies takes a fixed proportion of the sum total of all the monies paid to all of them by the affiliates. Under the agreements the minor companies, with one exception, are not bound to take the network programmes. In practice, they almost invariably do.
§ My Lords, it may be that the nature of the medium is such as to create, or at least to encourage, this effect. But, if so, surely it should be recognised that if, in their own interest, the programme companies do not to some extent mitigate it and limit their profits, the days of their empire may be numbered. At all events, they should accept it as unlikely, I think—and I say this with the best will in the world—that Parliament will entitle them to enjoy their present margins or extend a near monopoly over the fourth channel. At the same time, the White Paper makes it clear that the Government consider any fourth channel should belong to the independent network and not to the B.B.C. But even though it belongs to the independent network, the existing companies cannot be allowed a prescriptive right to carve up the new cake among themselves.
§ Of course, if the Government believed that the reorganisation of the I.T.A. recommended by the Committee represented an acceptable solution of our difficulties, it would be easy to announce an early decision on this point; though if I did so, I doubt if it would command ready acceptance with either Parliament or the viewer. But, as I have said, it does not require a supporter of the status quo to have a considerable number of reservations about the practicability, or even the desirability, of the solution the Committee propose. They appear to have come to their conclusions with not, perhaps, adequate argument and to have supported them with evidence—and here I agree with the noble Baroness who wrote to The Times the other day—not all of which is scientifically based.616
§ I myself would ask some of the following questions. As a body, the I.T.A. comes rather worse off from the criticisims of the Committee than the programme companies. Can the I.T.A. be made to bear the additional weight the Committee thrust upon it? Even if it can, is the creation of a public corporation, with all the powers suggested by the Committee, desirable? Is it possible to buy and plan programmes without producing them? Is it intrinsically acceptable for a public corporation to sell advertising time? If it is, as the Committee claim, the pressure of the desire for mass audiences to support advertisements which sometimes produces bad programmes, will these motives operate less on the I.T.A. if it plans programmes and sells advertising time than they are said to do on the programme companies? If the Treasury is to be the eminence grise of independent television—pocketing the surplus, as the Committee suggest that it should—would it be content to remain a sleeping partner, or will it bring pressure to bear on the Authority to cheapen its programmes financially or culturally and so to extend its audience? Can the existing programme companies continue to exist, or will they be deprived of all incentive, if they become mere producers of programmes without the chance of selling advertising? And what sort of programmes will they produce if the whole programme service is to be planned by another body, namely the Authority?
§ The Report indicates that some at least of the trouble of which it complains was due to a failure by the I.T.A. to use adequately the powers it already has, or to be given adequate powers to fulfil the rest of its functions. Can it be that reforms here would suffice without the organic reconstruction favoured by the Committee, for the reasons they give? Above all, it seems to me that the Committee fail to grapple with the really radical question of the price the I.T.A. is to pay for programmes if it is to buy them. If cost-plus is to be the basis, we may expect to see lavishness and extravagance. If quality is the basis, it is difficult to see how cost is to be related to profit. If popularity is the basis, we are back to square one. I was not myself convinced that the Committee had fairly dealt with the suggestion that the I.T.A. might have a programme-planning function without disturbing the present duty 617 of the companies to sell advertising time. I should like at least to see the answers to some of these questions discussed at greater length by the public, or considered by public opinion, before I was ready to endorse the Committee's solution.
§ But, my Lords, if, on the other hand, you cannot endorse the Committee's answer without a good deal further thought, you are left with the necessity of providing an arrangement for the fourth channel and terms for the continuance of the second different both from the status quo—which I reject, for the reasons given—and from the Committee's Report. Such a solution cannot be improvised, and should not be attempted, in my opinion, without some effort to test and consult public opinion. The attribution to the B.B.C. of the third channel may it is said cost a licence fee of £6 if it is financed in that way. Is it conceivable that licences could be made to finance a fourth channel when advertisement revenue could admittedly do so? I would think manifestly not. What experiments, if any—by wire or otherwise—can be made in "pay T.V."? Certainly the arguments against it by the Committee differ, both in quality and nature, from those against the programme companies. All this, I think, must be elucidated and must take time. In the meantime the urgent decisions cannot be allowed to wait.
§ My Lords, there are many other items in the White Paper which I have not mentioned, not because they are not all interesting and important, and not because your Lordships will not wish to spend some time discussing them; but because it is upon the issues which I have discussed that the ultimate verdict on the White Paper will depend. What I have said has been intended as a plea from one who took a strong and controversial part in the debates of 1954, and who has not, as I have said, repented of the stand he took then, to adopt now a robust and realistic attitude in the light of the present situation. The White Paper is not a compromise between two irreconcilable points of view. It is not a dither based on irresolution. It is a positive lead for a solution based on solid technical necessities. My Lords, it is a plea for the abandonment of doctrinaire or extreme positions, and for the pursuit of ends generally agreed upon 618 present economic and political realities. My Lords, I beg to move.
§ Moved to resolve, That this House approves the Memorandum on the Report of the Committee on Broadcasting, 1960(Cmnd. 1770).—(Viscount Hailsham.)
§ 3.31 p.m.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, my first pleasant duty is to congratulate the noble and learned Viscount the Leader of the House on having survived the storm. I often quarrel with him, but I think we have a sneaking regard for each other, though we do not often show it in this Chamber. But he is a lucky man to have survived this cataclysm, the great storm; and I think he knows that himself, for I have never seen a boy upon the burning deck looking more contented with life than he was this afternoon, and not worried too much about the burning of the ship. Anyway, we are glad to see him here and we have been very pleased to listen to the able speech that he has made. It is a different speech from the one he made some years ago, which I listened to sitting on the steps of the Throne, as I was not eligible to sit anywhere else here. I liked that speech very much: it was after my own heart. If, this afternoon, he has delivered a much more moderate one, with balances and inhibitions of some sort, because he has to think about his colleagues in the Government as well as himself, I am not going to criticise him or pull his leg about that.
When he made the earlier speech he was a Back-Bench Conservative Peer and, therefore, in a position of freedom, especially in this House. He is now a member of the Government, and he has to live with the rest of them. Moreover, as a Minister he may have come up against some additional facts which might have modified his opinion; and I do not complain about that at all. For myself, I have been fortunate. I do not think I have ever had to say as a Minister, something that undid something I had said in Opposition. But that was because I was always very careful what I said in Opposition. However, we are glad to see the noble and learned Viscount here, and to hear the other speech which he has now made.
619 I do not think it would be quite accurate to say that the Pilkington Committee exonerated the B.B.C. from all criticism. There are a number of criticisms of the B.B.C. in the Report, which I have very carefully read. It took a long time to read, because I was interrupted by television which, unfortunately, is the enemy of reading. But there it was. They are critical of the B.B.C. on a number of points. They are more critical of the I.T.A. and the commercial companies, I agree. Personally, I think their criticism has been justified, hut I do not think it is fair to assume, as the noble and learned Viscount did—not as much as some of the newspapers have—that they were wholly uncritical of the B.B.C.
The noble and learned Viscount is doubtful about the new proposal for the I.T.A., and that I will come to later on; and he is doubtful whether a public corporation can, in principle, he allowed to sell advertising time. Well, I do not like it. I never did like it. But, on the other hand, if the advertising revenue is there and if it is excessive for one of the channels or one of the systems, I do not think it is wholly illegitimate that some of it should go somewhere else, nor do I think it Wholly illegitimate that some of it should go into the pockets of the Authority rather than the programme companies; and, certainly the Authority would not have any conscientious feelings about advertising revenue, because they have defended it, as probably it was their duty to do.
My Lords, I hate to say this, but I do not take quite the same view of concurrence with a letter in The Times by my noble and very able friend Baroness Wootton of Abinger. There was a statement in the letter thatIn reaching their conclusions the Committee appeared to have leaned heavily on the opinions expressed by such bodies as the Association of Municipal Corporations, the Workers' Educational Association and the Trades Union Congress.I think that is not fair to those bodies. After all, what one wants is the best judgment on this subject from a cross-section of the community, and we have cross-sections of the community in those organisations, and, indeed, in others. I would not write down the Association of Municipal Corporations, the Workers' Educational Association or the Trades 620 Union Congress as people who are not competent to express an opinion which will at any rate be given public consideration.
It is true that the Committee did not go in for an elaborate business of scientific examination and listening research. I have read the various documents about the number of listeners on the B.B.C. and I.TV. and the more I read them the more I am uncertain as to who is teling the truth and who is not. They may be trying to tell the truth, but I do not think they always succeed. I have read both the I.T.A. and the B.B.C. cases, and I am not disposed to accept either of them as final. Indeed, the B.B.C. say that the method is different and that these things are somewhat unreliable. So I do not think it would have been useful if the Committee had gone in for a further lot of elaborate calculations, or if they had appointed a team of university ladies and gentlemen to go out on research and find out what the common people were thinking. That was done by the London School of Economics in relation to London government—not quite to that extent—and I must say I think they produced wrong and inaccurate conclusions. So I do not think that that is necessarily the best way to do it, and I speak as one who looks at a fair amount of television—more than I ought to—both B.B.C. and I.T.A., and therefore I have not become entirely prejudiced about it.
I agree with the noble and learned Viscount that on the reception of the Pilkington Report, about which to some extent there was evidently intelligent anticipation, some of the Press—this will not stop newspapers to-morrow saying, "Morrison attacks the Press" as if I had attacked the lot of them; there is a hit of trade organisation about newspapers—gave a shocking exhibition. The Daily Telegraph has no money in television, so far as I know, and they were critical of the Pilkington Report as they were entitled to be. The Guardian, on the other hand, has some money, not a great deal, in television in East Anglia, and the Guardian, by and large, backed the Report. They were two good examples, I think, and they were quite entitled to express their view.
The Times at the beginning had a curious leader. I am a great admirer of 621 leaders in The Times, and of the newspaper, but I really thought it was a curious leader, and I could not make head or tail of it until I got to the last paragraph. But somebody said to me, "That leader was written by two men, one in favour of the Pilkington Report and one against it. Sir William Haley, who is a very good friend of mine, wrote the last paragraph, which on balance could be interpreted with sufficient good will to be favourable to the Pilkington Report." My Lords, that may well be an inaccurate description of what happened. I wonder whether The Times newspaper staff is not split down the middle, pro and anti, and that was the best solution to keep peace in the household. That is all right. I have no complaint about that. The Economist has been anti-Pilkington, and has gone in for some of this naughty propagandist language by persistently calling the B.B.C. "Auntie". I really do not know why. I do not think that is an accurate description, but that is one of these terms of abuse or implied abuse. Probably the Economist, which is an intellectual paper and afraid of being so thought, considered it had better jump off that fence and talk about "Auntie". So that was that.
Then there was the Director-General of the I.T.A., who is also a friend of mine. I approved his appointment to run the Central Office of Information and he did it well. He is a very able man. But a Director-General is in a position of trust, of responsibility, and ought to have a fairly good judicial sense when proceeding with his work. Apparently, he went to a Labour Party meeting and talked about the people who support Pilkington, or the Pilkington Committee itself, "catering for an élite class". That is language that ought not to come from a Director-General of an organisation like this. Goodness knows! I do not belong to an élite class. I was born and reared with the working class, I still think of myself as working class, and I am very proud. I had no education but at an elementary school. I do not belong to the élite class. If I may say so, a little restraint in those quarters, a little less willingness to jump to the defence of the programme companies, would be acceptable. Having said that, I add that the Director- 622 General is a good friend of mine, and I would not hurt him for the world.
Then, the Daily Herald, I think, opposed commercial television when it began but it is now part of the Mirror group and, therefore, is partly dependent, I suppose, on the money from the extensive investments of the Mirror group in television. They have come down against the Pilkington Report, but bad the decency to say at an early part of their leading article, "We, as part of the Mirror group, have a financial interest in this business". I think most of the papers did, but not all of them with the prominence that the Daily Herald employed. I was disappointed, but being a student of the materialist conception of history as promulgated by Karl Marx, I quite understand how the transformation has occurred.
Then it had a report of a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party. I cannot speak as to its accuracy, because I was not at the meeting; I was attending a Joint Select Committee of the Lords and Commons on the future of some of your Lordships and others. The Daily Herald reporter, the political correspondent, was not at the meeting either, but that did not stop him from coming out with a firm report of what happened. I have asked some Members of Parliament who wore there what they thought of it, and they said it was biased and inaccurate. That is a pity, because the Daily Herald is my first official newspaper. I am very loyal to it; and I am sorry if that is the case. The Express newspapers, by the way, the Beaverbrook newspapers, are supporting Pilkington: and, as I often disagree with them, I am very happy to agree with them on this occasion.
The big interests, the tycoons, some of the millionaires, came out with their opinions on the very day that the Report was published, when they could not have read it. Look at the time it has taken me to read it. But that did not stop them from declaring what their opinions were. There was Sir Robert Renwick. I used to have a lot of quarrels with an ancestor of his about London electricity supply. He was on the commercial side then. Sir Robert Renwick, of Associated Television, according to the Daily Express, called 623 the Report, "biased, outrageous, deplorable". That is a nice quasi-judicial view on the part of a programme company leader. Lord Derby, of Television Wales and West, said, "unworkable, unjust". Mr. Peter Cadbury, of Westward T.V., called it "Virtual nationalisation of I.T.V.". That good old word "nationalisation" has done service to both Parties in the past, but why it should be dragged into this arena of controversy I do not know, because the issue does not really arise. Mr. Roy Thomson, of the Thomson Newspapers, who more or less owns Scottish Television, expressed "amazement and disgust". I have summarised those views, but I could have read them at greater length with much greater effect. And so it goes on.
Then there was, by the way, Mr. John Spencer Wills, the Chairman of Associated Rediffusion. He said—and this is supposed to be a fair summary of the Pilkington Report, and is in quotes; he does not claim more, but he does claim it is a fair summary:
that is, the Pilkington Committee—find the B.B.C. beyond reproach. Their ideals are lofty and so are their programmes. We find independent T.V. 'guilty'. 'Guilty' of what? 'Guilty' of being successful.My Lords, anybody who has read the Pilkington Committee Report would not agree that that is a fair summary.
Finally, with regret and with real sorrow, I come to the Daily Mirror. It is a great newspaper. I would say that, of all the popular newspapers, it carries more influence with the public in politics than does any other newspaper. I do not want to prejudice your Lordships, but it played a material part, for which I shall be eternally grateful, in helping the Labour Party to win the General Election of 1945. It has helped us on other occasions, too, and I am and will remain grateful to them. I have been friends with the Daily Mirror ever since—noble Lords laugh, tout may I finish—ever since I was invited (as the politicians politely say, tout "ordered" is the proper word) to give them a severe warning that if they did not improve their conduct in the war we would suppress them. I carried out my duties. I did that because that was the only way 624 of preventing the Government from suppressing the newspaper, which I did not want to happen and did not like. I met Mr. Bartholomew, whom I liked, and read him a "curtain" lecture—and we have been good friends ever since. It is a good way to make friends. I was lucky to make friends with them: it was only by letting them know through somebody afterwards that I was the man who saved the paper.
So I have no prejudice against the Daily Mirror. I think it is a great newspaper, and an extraordinary achievement. But this really was naughty. On June 28, it came out with headlines:T.V.—Pilkington tells the public to go to hell.Now that is the limit. It is very, very bad. They say that Pilkington wants an Uncle I.T.A. to keep up sides with Auntie B.B.C. This is all cheap stuff, and it is not worthy of journalism, especially when the newspaper has a substantial material interest in commercial television, which somewhere or another they admitted. But there it is, and I think it is a very great pity that it should have been so.
I have watched both television programmes, more than I ought, as I say, because it is the enemy of reading, and if I believe in anything it is in reading—besides, it keeps me up too late looking at those very doubtful crime stories at the end of the I.T.V. programme. But there are good things on both of them. There are amusing, cheerful, educational things on B.B.C. and some, in varying degrees, on I.T.A. For example, "Steptoe & Son" of B.B.C. is a first-class affair, I think. I like "No Hiding Place" on I.T.V. This is probably because I am the son of a policeman and an ex-Home Secretary. It is well done. The Metropolitan Police come out of it very well. Other people may have different opinions. I gather the noble Viscount has, and I am not a bit surprised. I like "Z Cars", as well. That is a totally different programme, and here you get the ordinary, common-or-garden policeman doing his job in a patrol car or on the streets. They are both good. See how impartial I am. "Maigret" I like. That is a B.B.C. programme. It is very, very good. "Perry Mason" I adore, especially the court scenes. "Coronation Street", on 625 I.T.V., I like very much, except that perhaps twice a weak is a bit too often, and perhaps it has overrun its welcome and they had better think of something else; but it is very, very good. And it is Lancashire, and I married a Lancashire woman. She thinks two days a week is too much, but I like it.
"This Week" I think is good, but not as good as "Panorama". I think I.T.V. did a very good job in the interview with Mr. Menzies, the Prime Minister of Australia. It was very useful, and it showed Mr. Menzies much more open-minded about us and the Common Market than he had been before. It is true that the credit belongs to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, because they made the recording; nevertheless, I.T.A. used it, and I think it was to their credit. Sometimes I believe they are a little wrong in timing. "Sunset Strip", which I look at, has a certain amount of violence in it, and I think 7.30 in the evening is a little early; and other such programmes exist also. But these are examples. I think "Dixon of Dock Green" was very good; "Tonight" is good, as is "Panorama"; Fyfe Robertson, the Scot, I think is good; and the B.B.C. did a good job on the Congo and the Swedish ballet.
Many noble Lords may disagree with me about these things, and if I mention them it is only to show that I am capable of looking at both channels and forming an objective judgment as to the merits of the individual items on both of them. But, having said that, I think, as I feared at the beginning, that the introduction of the commercial element—the advertising element—into television was bound somewhat to deteriorate the standard of television, and I consider it has done that. My Lords, it must do so, because the commercial interests concerned are bound to seek the maxi mum of viewers irrespective of merits, and especially the maximum of viewers at the peak hours. It is like the problem of circulation of a newspaper. The Times has a much smaller newspaper circulation than either the Daily Mirror or the Daily Express, but then it is written for a different public. The popular touches in the others are inevitable in the circumstances of the case, and I am not complaining about them.
626 To bring this element into commercial television, however, inevitably tends to lower the standard, because of the chase for viewers at any cost. I think that is a pity. It is a pity for the I.T.A., but it has also been a pity for the B.B.C. I admit that the competition may have improved, and probably did improve somewhat, the efficiency and the standards of the B.B.C. television service. That improvement may have come in any case, but competition has probably had some effect. On the other hand, if the B.B.C. slips up now and again and begins to descend towards the level of I.T.V., that also is because of the competition; they want to retain their numbers of listeners as well. So I think, in principle, the commercial element was, and is, wrong; but it is now there.
Moreover, I think it has been inflationary both in the use of materials and of labour, by way of inciting the public to spend more money on things that either they could not afford or that they did not need. And the curious thing is this. I do not want to attack Mr. Selwyn Lloyd—the poor man has had a rough deal lately—but he was the minority of one on the Beveridge Committee who recommended commercial television. He probably did not know that he would become Chancellor of the Exchequer and a fighter against inflation some years afterwards, but the Report which he made was an incitement to inflation through the effect of commercial television.
Now I come to the rival detergents. That really is a joke. Each tries to make out that it is whiter than the rest, and some of them are made by the same firm. There is, moreover, a degree of violence and triviality which is not too good. Each man, of course, must have his own choice, but I think that the B.B.C. maintains, on balance, a higher standard than commercial television. With regard to political broadcasting, one of the troubles with the I.T.A. is that when you go to do a political broadcast the chances are—it is not always the case—that you will find half a dozen other politicians, or even more, on the same programme. You are all competing for time over a limited period, and if you get about two sentences in you are lucky. If noble Lords do not believe me, I invite them to consult Lady Violet Bonham 627 Carter, who had the same experience as I and was very cross about it. That is an occasion when I sympathise with her.
The Pilkington Committee was appointed by the Government, who I am inclined to think made a reasonable choice of people who were not too specialist one way or the other. The Report was unanimous. I do not say that all Reports which are unanimous should be accepted, but it is a point which the Government have argued in other connections. There is quality in the Report. I thought it was pretty well written. There is some repetition and one considerable misprint, but, as a whole, I thought it was fairly written. It is not violent and it is not hysterical. It deserves fair consideration.
On the question of hours, I do not think that this business ought to run for too many hours of the day. In the United States one can see it at almost any hour of the day or night, on goodness knows how many programmes, and the programmes are nearly all as bad, in the main, as each other. It is not good for people to stay up too late at night, or to be distracted from their work in the daytime by looking at television—or even by listening to sound broadcasting. I am not sure that the B.B.C. should get this other time extension. I admit that people on night shift are worthy of consideration, but so are the people who are asleep in bed and who are wakened by these instruments. It is a difficult point, but I do not think that hours should be unduly extended. Too much television may be dangerous for self-education, and it can give us a superficial education. That is a point which has to be kept in mind.
There are two views about subscription television, and I have not finally made up my mind. In the cinema industry, where I declare such interest as I have as President of the British Board of Film Censors, there is a division of opinion. The exhibitors and the legitimate stage theatre people, on the one hand, tend not to like it; they are apprehensive that it will take away their audiences. I think the film makers tend to like it, because it may give an extended market for British films. But I am not sure that it is good to have this slot business, and to add to the 628 enticement always to stay at home. It is a good thing now and again for families to get out of their homes and see the wider world outside. I am not sure that subscription television is a wise thing, apart from the question of resources again. A considerable amount of labour and materials will be involved in this business, and that has to be taken into account from the point of view both of the right use of the nation's resources and of the inflationary effect.
I agree with the proposal that there should be no special educational channel. The element of education must be fairly based on the principle that the television people themselves must provide that; and I think that an educational channel alone, segregated from the others, would not be particularly successful. We are against bringing the commercial element into sound broadcasting. There is enough trouble where it is, and it would be a waste of resources, too. I am not even sure about local broadcasting. There is regional broadcasting now, and I am not sure that "local" is worth the resources involved. I think local broadcasting would be a complicated thing to handle; but there may be some of my noble friends who do not fully take the view which I have on this matter, and, indeed, possibly on some other matters. The third channel is now committed to the B.B.C. I doubt whether there ought to be a fourth channel at all. We are in danger of going television mad, of thinking that television can have anything it wants—but not the building of schools. That is a nasty contrast. There has to be some limit to the amount of resources squandered, or spent, on television and broadcasting. I do not think there should be a fourth channel at all, and if there is to be one, I certainly think it ought not to be commercial.
On the financing of all this, there are difficulties about part of the earnings of commercial television going outside the I.T.A., but I think that it could be done, either by reducing the profits, which is not an easy thing to do and would be letting the advertisers off, or by paying the surplus into a pool under the control of trustees, some from the B.B.C. and some from I.T.A., together with some good citizens from outside. I put this forward for the consideration of the Government. I do not like the 629 idea of the money going to the Treasury, because you really cannot trust the Treasury with money—they will take it. Look at the great Road Fund, which was begun with a flourish of trumpets by Lloyd George and put into the General Exchequer Account by a subsequent Conservative Chancellor, and a subsequent Labour Chancellor followed suit. So that if I am a little suspicious of Her Majesty's Treasury, perhaps I may be forgiven. I would sooner it went into a pool controlled by trustees who would regulate the use of the money, some of which could be used by the B.B.C. possibly to save them, or to help save them, from putting the licence fee up, though I must say that £6 a year, fourpence a day, for all we get on sound and vision is really not an excessive charge to make.
I like the Pilkington Committee's proposals about altering the functions and authority of the programme companies. I think that Parliament has not given the Authority enough power to control the companies, though the Authority is also open to the criticism that they have not used their powers enough. But I think that we are up against a real difficulty in finding a way effectively to control the companies as they stand. With a reservation that I will indicate, I like this idea of making the Authority the recipient of the advertising money, of making them the people who order the programmes and approve them, while the companies go on making the programmes. This would get a better balance in television, freed to that extent from the commercial advertising element. But I have the reservation that if it is proved that it is impracticable, then we must think again about it and come to whatever conclusion we think right in the light of the argument.
The Government have reserved a number of matters for later decision, but this would have been a more convenient debate if they had been able to pronounce upon all the recommendations of the Pilkington Committee. I appreciate the difficulties. No doubt they have views on various matters that do not altogether agree with the Committee's recommendations, but they will have to be agreed or overruled in the end. We must all be free to make our own judgment on the Second White Paper when it appears. I can only hope that 630 the Government will come to conclusions on the issues which are left over which we can welcome, and I hope that the noble Viscount the Leader of the House will use his influence in that way.
This Report is a valuable one, as was the earlier Report issued under the name of the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge. We are indebted to both Committees for the great labours they have engaged in and for the general ability of their Reports. I think it is a good thing that this debate should take place and that the matter should be debated in another place, while the country is debating the matter for itself meantime.
§ 4.6 p.m.
§ LORD BEVERIDGE
My Lords, it would be quite wrong for anyone speaking here as I do to-day not to say a word of great thankfulness to both the previous speakers, with both of whom I agree heartily on some points, perhaps more in number upon the points made by the second speaker, but most heartily on one point made by the opening speaker, to which I shall refer almost at the end of what I have to say.
As soon as the Pilkington Report on Broadcasting was published, I received from many sources requests for my views upon it, for publication in the Press and elsewhere. I suppose that those requests came to me because of my chairmanship of the Broadcasting Committee of 1949–50, whose Report reached the Government in 1951. I hope that I may be allowed to say just a few words about the gist of that Report and the points in it which seem to me still to be important. There are only two that I shall trouble to mention. The Report of my Committee, as your Lordships know, was unanimous, except for one member, who became a Conservative Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer and who in due course, in 1954, secured the passage of the Television Act, on his lines rather than those proposed by the rest of my Committee. I say nothing against him for that. I think that a person is bound to carry out his ideas if he has the power to do so.
The problems that the Television Act raised and the management of television between the Report of 1951 and the Pilkington Report of 1962 have been 631 the subject of repeated discussions in your Lordships' House; several of them have been on the Motion of the noble Earl, Lord Lucan—those on the Television Bill and so on. Having regard to that and to my desire always if possible to debate in this House, I have felt it best to reserve my opinion upon the Pilkington Report until this debate. There was a possibility of a change of views on some things that I said in 1951.
The two main conclusions of my Committee were, first, the continuance of the monopoly of the B.B.C. both for sound and vision; and, secondly, the financing of all broadcasting by licence fees, with any help that the Government might give, but not by any form of sponsoring by commercial companies. Let me say a word on each of those important decisions. Both were rejected by the Government who received the Report and who preferred, as they were entitled to, the opinions of one member of the Committee to those of nine others. What do I think of these two main conclusions on monopoly and commercial advertising after ten years? Well, I have changed my mind on monopoly, and I am against it. On the other hand, I feel more strongly than ever the objections to a commercial sponsoring of what goes out on the either. There were many witnesses who had strong objections to monopoly for the B.B.C. and they included nearly all the Liberal parties that came to see me. I have not been converted by the Liberal parties, although I happen to speak from these Benches; I have been converted by other considerations. I was persuaded to that, among other things, by two witnesses, Sir Geoffrey Crowther and Sir Robert Watson Watt, who came and put their views before us. My Committee resisted both of these, and as a friendly Chairman I felt bound to go with both of them.
To-day I acept the objections to monopoly less as a Liberal than because of the growing importance of broadcasting among our people to-day and its immense technical advancement. I think it is necessary to have more than one independent body to consider who should broadcast. I find myself to-day, rather happily, in substantial accordance 632 with what was said to me by Sir Geoffrey Crowther then, in spite of anything that he may be saying now about my Committee or me in letters to The Times.
I agree with him when he describes broadcasting authorities, as he did in the Economist of June 30, 1962, as "a University in the Air"—a means of communicating interesting and important facts to listeners. I also agree with what he said more than ten years ago, that no university should have a monopoly of teaching. I have never been in favour of monopolies in universities. I do not wish to abandon any of the universities to Which I belong, but if any of the universities that I know (it might even be Balliol) were to take to receiving money from businessmen seeking to increase their sales, to promote the kind of teaching that they want, in order to get the maximum audience, and the maximum number of advertisers and recipients of advertising, then I think I should go to another college for most of my time, rather than to that one.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, I do not want to interrupt, but surely the noble Lord's own college, Balliol, has just set up some Chair of Business Management. What is the purpose of that Chair?
§ LORD BEVERIDGE
If I may continue with Sir Geoffrey Crowther, who I hope is still my friend, I have been happy to-day to agree with him against monopoly. I am even happier to believe myself in agreement with him in continuing against commercial sponsoring of what is put over the air for the entertainment or instruction of the viewers. He himself had a means of financing the various authorities by money provided out of the licences or by the State divided equally between the different bodies. He never suggested—and I do not see how he could—commercial sponsoring as a means of providing finance for any of the authorities that he wished to see put up. He wanted them all financed in the same way.
633 The Economist, in its leading article on June 30, described television properly organised asa University in the Air … for those who have been squeezed out of the standard educational system;and not only that, but also asa means of providing many more people with the minimum skills, e.g. in languages, that this country is going to need as part of Europe and the world at large.I want to emphasise that, because it is the thought of the supreme importance of what can be communicated over the ether by the right choice of subject that is one of the points I want to emphasise most in what I say to-day.
As one to whom the word "university" means the best of everything as a means to understanding the world and our place in it, I accept Sir Geoffrey Crowther's words for good broadcasting and have no objection to having more than one university. I must leave it to them to take the advice of businessmen as to exactly what they should teach and whom they should teach, because that will attract more and more students. I do not believe that the business of a university, whether on the air or elsewhere, is essentially to bring more and more students to its business by telling them what will make them happy or amused. Its business is to tell them what will make them better citizens, and happier citizens in the process of being better citizens.
I have not watched television very often. I did make a study both of the B.B.C. and I.T.V. television before I spoke in this House five and a half years ago in the debate on the Motion of the noble Earl, Lord Lucan. I am bound to say that I saw (I am not going to say from which authority I saw it) a good many things as beautiful and thought-raising as any one could desire. I saw other pictures so disgusting to decent minds, so corrupting to clean minds, that they were a disgrace to the inventors. I will not say from which authority the pictures came, though I would tell anyone who had the interest to know. Let us keep such pictures out of every television. For the B.B.C., that means what my Committee proposed most strongly—a public representation service, criticising what they were doing, entitled to 634 criticise, entitled to comment and to advise them, so long as they were a monopoly. Also, unless there is State aid as a share in education, it means an end to sponsoring by commercial companies. I say, "an end to commercial sponsoring". Let me say that that does not mean in any way an end to all advertisement broadcasting of goods for sale.
In addition to the six members of my Committee who used the strongest possible language, covering 20 printed pages, condemning commercial sponsoring, there were ten pages written by the two lady members and myself saying that we saw no objection—in fact, we saw advantage—in the B.B.C., or whatever other authority controls television or broadcasting, setting aside a limited time of, say, seven or ten minutes in an hour for advertisement, exactly as The Times and other newspapers set aside columns for advertisement. We saw no objection to that, with one condition. Of course, the obvious condition was that putting in an advertisement should not depend upon being allowed to tell the leader writer or the newspaper reporter what he ought to say. In other words, it would mean nothing in the nature of sponsoring. We were against sponsoring all through. So one may say that nine members of my Committee were as strongly, and rightly, against sponsoring for commercial reasons, or by people interested mainly in commerce, as they were, I think wrongly, against competition.
I have tried to-day to draw morals from the past of what should and should not be done about broadcasting by sound and vision in future. I think the first thing to be done is to realise the supreme importance of broadcasting as an influence upon the minds and opinions of our citizens. Natural scientists—and I am sorry the Minister of Power is not here—are perpetually posing our Governments with new problems. We all know that they have posed the Whole world with a new problem about war. They have made it necessary to abolish war before it manages to abolish us. They are going to do very much the same thing about the means of communication through the air and the ether. They are making these means infinitely more powerful, more varied 635 and influential—more effective for good and, it may be, more effective for bad.
I have spoken till this moment from the standpoint of the Broadcasting Committee of 1950. Assuming that commercial sponsoring is ruled out, as we tried to rule it out then, I see no harm at all in entrusting television, with its growing importance, to more than one authority. What we have before us now is the Report of the Pilkington Committee, and I should think that possibly the argument which has led that Committee to limit further facilities for television and broadcasting to the B.B.C is partly due to its fear that sponsoring might continue as the source of harmful television. With that judgment the attitude of that Committee is intelligible. But I hope that this Government, as all of us, recognise the change which natural science has made, and is making, in the arts of communication by broadcasting.
Let me end by saying that I have no cut and dried solution to this new problem which has been made for us by natural science. If we treat television as a university in the air, cutting out money that may come through commercial broadcasting, or limiting such money to harmless advertisement, without influencing the content of what is broadcast, we then face very serious problems of management, finance, of the constitution of the broadcasting and televising authority, and the way in which their expenses can be met. On the question of expense, can old people afford to pay more in licence fees? If they cannot, can the State contribute more to better standards of citizen life? One or other thing must be done. I am afraid we come back once more to the problem caused by the endless fall in the value of money, and by endless inflation. I do not know how these problems will be solved, but here it is that I agree so completely with the most important words used by the opening speaker, that further thought on many points is essential; and as the Leader of this House is also the Minister for Science I hope he will find a way to effect these thoughts. I fear that my only positive conclusion is for a fresh and full inquiry as to what is needed to deal with broadcasting on three assumptions: of more 636 than one authority; of no commercial sponsoring—I do not mean no advertising—and of adequate help from the Government.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, I hope I may be forgiven for intervening for just one minute. Since I made my speech I have seen the Director-General of the Independent Television Authority and he assures me that he did not use the words "class elite" in connection with the Pilkington Report and that he was wrongly reported. I read the report in a newspaper and quoted it in good faith. But he immediately wrote to Sir Harry Pilkington assuring him that he had not said this about the Pilkington Report, and Sir Harry sent a friendly reply in which he himself said he could not believe Sir Robert Fraser would have said it. I think it only fair to Sir Robert Fraser that, having made this statement based on a report in a newspaper, I should put it right for the record.
§ 4.32 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF CHICHESTER
My Lords, I also should like to refer to what the noble Lord has just said about our appreciation of the chance of speaking on this subject—and of listening to a very large part of it, to judge by the long list of speakers this afternoon—both on the Pilkington Report and on the White Paper which is the Government's first response to it. I speak with some diffidence because, perhaps like many of your Lordships, I am a very infrequent viewer myself and therefore I have no particular personal interest to declare in the matter; but I fear very much for the public interest: a fear which has been expressed by others.
It is remarkable how the Report of this Committee has aroused such intense interest and even feelings—sometimes more heat than light—not only from those mainly involved but also from the general public who are the viewers. I suppose that that in a sense is not surprising, because it is dealing with what might be considered a most sacred part of a person's life, his free time and how he spends it. Most people, whatever we think of others, would judge themselves quite capable of choosing their occupations and following their own personal tastes in a sensible way. Anything which threatens to interfere with 637 their own choice is bound to make for trouble. Moreover, in this instance we are touching upon something else, upon something of a democratic principle. If we were living under a dictatorship or a properly paternal Government there would be no issue of this sort as to what the public should have: they would have what they were given. But we are living in a democracy in which our conception is that citizens are free to choose for themselves, so far as it is possible, in their own right, and have the opportunity of coming to maturity by responsible choice.
That being so, a very acute question in any kind of direction that we give to them is how we ought to balance what is desirable, or even what is true, with what they want or what they think they want. Of course, that problem operates in other levels, too. It operates in politics and perhaps to some extent in religion; but I think that in matters of leisure, in that area of freedom where people give up themselves and expend their time as they like, it is a more crucial issue to them than elsewhere. Therefore any attempt to touch that or affect it is treading on very delicate ground, which the Committee have done.
No doubt the Committee, as some of your Lordships have already pointed out, laid themselves open to some very obvious criticism, and more than criticism, not only by the recommendation which is made but by its assumption of the present situation. There is too much black and white about it. It is very unfortunate, but it has conveyed the impression of widely condemning Independent Television to the extent of ignoring its very real achievements. Certainly in religious broadcasting, to take one instance, that condemnation is not justified. I know that the most reverend Primate, the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, who would very much have liked to be present in this debate, would have said, had he been here, how much, in his experience, as, in a smaller degree, in ours, it has been true that the handling of big events and occasions has been done with more freshness, independence and originality by Independent Television than by the perhaps rather more stilted approach of the B.B.C. There is no particular quarrel, therefore, as this Report might suggest, on that 638 score. Indeed I hope that the somewhat small proposals about the extension of advisory committees, which the Government have already endorsed, will in fact come about. But this is just one instance of the way in which, somehow, Independent Television in this Report seems to have come out all black and the B.B.C. all white.
There is obvious value in competition. Sometimes it is a case, and we know of such, where bad currency drives out good; but it is not always so. There is need for the stimulus of alternatives and of different minds, without which any monopoly would lose its enterprise. We have been entertained this afternoon to some of the personal preferences of the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, and as I heard some of the characters and programmes I realised how illiterate I was myself in this matter. We could go on debating personal tastes, and it is dangerous when we start talking about them, as the Report must, and trying, it seems, to establish certain canons of taste. After all, what may seem at first very vulgar, crude and common may, in fact, have far greater integrity about it than quite a lot which is dressed up in more respectable, and even in more moral, garb.
The evidence which the Committee had before them—and, I would maintain, very weighing evidence—seems to have led them to far too sweeping condemnation, which has taken away, alas! some of the value of the real criticisms they are making. Even so, it has hardly justified the kind of reception which the Report has had in so many quarters. It has tempted some people to see the Report as a threat to set up some kind of Puritan revival, clamping down on the legitimate amusements of the people and wishing to institute some kind of censorship, bent on improving and educating us. I do not think anybody who has studied the Report really endorses that, and, equally, I do not think that the bonfires and the fires of Smithfield which have been lighted against it in disapproval have generally done any harm except to those who lit them.
We have been asked to consider the practical politics of developments as we see them lying ahead. I am not 639 very qualified to speak on many of the practical issues, but one ought to be grateful especially to this Report for the way in which it has presented two main consideration underlying any decision that we might make. The first of these has already been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, when he quoted the Committee's statement that they considered broadcasting the main factor in influencing the standards and morals of our society. That is very difficult to prove, all the more so because we are not thinking of what is happening at present but of what is likely to happen, of tendencies that will develop in the future. And some people may be very sceptical about the real power of television. All of us, I suppose, are being subjected daily to a variety of impressions and experiences which pass us by completely; and even children, impressionable though they are, seem to be capable of very strong immunity to much that they see or hear, though one can never say when either the cumulative weight of suggestion that they are receiving or some sudden individual impression may leave some lasting mark upon their minds.
Nevertheless, in spite of the disclaimers that some I.T.A. speakers have made to the Report, we cannot leave our minds open on this question of whether or not it has a great influence. I hope that we shall come down strongly in agreement with the Committee, that in fact it does exercise a very great influence indeed, and one which is quite different in kind from, for instance, other forms of entertainment. About most of those, the theatre, the public show, the cinema, there is something more deliberate and chosen; we get up and go to them. Television brings things to us in an intimate and off-hand way.
The first Lord Baldwin, who was himself a very great exponent, I think, of the art of broadcasting, said more than once that before he started a broadcast he used to try to fix in his own mind a picture of a man and his wife sitting quietly at the fireside. That was the note, the point to which he addressed his remarks, and perhaps in part the secret of his success. To-day he would no doubt add a number of children who would be sitting, though not all viewing. 640 So television is making a much more personal approach, something that is carried out over a long and regular period throughout the year, something with its own domestic appeal, and with a wider effect because so many millions of other people, as we know, are sharing in this same activity—if one can call it an activity. All this, I think, fully justifies the Committee's estimate of the importance of television and the consequent responsibility on those who are going to put on the programmes.
If this is true, then we should be grateful to the Committee for the way they have tried to help to exercise some critical judgment about what is going on. It is something that ought periodicallly to be reviewed. We are having the world brought to the world in television. It may be an over-simplification, as they point out, to suggest that it is in fact reflecting the world quite so simply as that. Everybody claims to see the world as it really is, but in fact all the time we are inevitably selecting, consciously or otherwise, according to our own tastes and our own interests. It would be impossible to do otherwise, just as it would be impossible for any artist to put everything he sees into a picture. Therefore, it is right to contend that those responsible for broadcasting should bear their responsibility in this selection, and cannot divest themselves of that responsibility. They cannot be neutral in their presentation: they must be exercising a discrimination which has in mind not only the immediate but the total effect upon the viewer.
I think this is very important, because there is a very common idea that realism means chiefly the portrayal of the sordid and the unpleasant. These things do exist; there are plenty of episodes in which sex and violence are involved. But to suggest that these predominate in the community over the immense amount of good, sound, healthy behaviour is to present a not realistic picture of the community—though it might lead to that if such programmes went on long enough. Many programmes seem to suffer from this kind of false realism, but it seems a much graver charge that they might suffer from triviality, because triviality is a very difficult thing to assess. It has nothing to do with the type of programme; it concerns 641 rather its presentation, and it might apply to any programme and at any level.
If the criticism the Committee has levelled is true, it is a very serious indictment altogether. The effect of the trivial upon the viewer in the long run will be very hard to detect. It will not debauch him; it will not encourage him in vicious habits. But ultimately, if there is much that is trivial, it will lead to impoverishment of character far more difficult to alter than particular vices. It would lead to a society which might be outwardly affluent but was fundamentally insincere and shallow, in which nothing mattered very much—rather like the Athens which was the centre of ancient culture and which in the time of St. Paul had degenerated into a city in which they spent their time on nothing else than either telling or hearing some new thing. The Report may over-paint this picture, but it has to assess not only the situation but what it is likely to lead to, and it seems quite unfair to condemn it as being restrictive or kill-joy or Pharisaic. It is in fact pressing for what we all want and that is the widest possible choice in order that the interests of viewers, the minorities as well as the majorities, should be extended. It is surely right in maintaining that this can best be done not by separate categories of programmes but over the whole field. We do not want to be divided into high, middle and low brow people. We do not want particularly to be educated in a conscious sense. Therefore, we do not want a separate and specialised educational service. I am glad to see that the Government rejects this. Most of us do not like that process of being educated, although we should like to think that there is educative profit in a wide variety of programmes. But if we are to ensure the great potential value of this medium, then I for one am bound to fee! something of the same doubt precisely where the Committee feels doubt, namely, where the authority must rest in the overall selection and control of what is on the air. The Government, we are grateful to know, has already accepted the main proposal that the second programme should be entrusted to the B.B.C. I hope it will consider further in such ways as it can the introduction through that same body 642 of local sound broadcasting. It is a little non-committal on this, although the case is very carefully reasoned out in the Report and I should have thought that anything which is likely to lead to stimulus of local community interest in an age of centralisation is very worthwhile pursuing. I think the B.B.C. are experimenting in this field in a way which I hope they will be encouraged to pursue.
But I suppose the nub of this whole question as it has been already pinpointed is other developments in the future beyond the B.B.C. channel, and there many us must share the doubt of the Committee whether the system of independent television as it is at present constituted can reassure us that these developments will be healthy. I suppose that in the end it is a matter for the judgment of each of us whether the present method by which the time and programmes are chosen can fail to be influenced adversely by the prospects of financial incentives in selling time. We all know what happens to the artist who begins to think too much of his public and too little of his art.
It is not a question here of impugning the motives of those at present responsible. The influence that is exercised by the advertiser and his demands, or by the quest for popular approval or box office returns, may be exerted much more unconsciously than that. Yet, my Lords, I cannot but think that if we are to safeguard the future of this public service we must consider sympathetically the lines represented in the Report for the transference of the initiative primarily to the authority or to an authority. As the Lord President has indicated in a most hopeful introduction, it is quite natural that the Government should hesitate about their own decision, and to leave some time for further appraisal in this matter. There are great questions of practicality: there are doubts as to whether it will work. But I hope that, when the decision comes—and I hope, too, that no minds have been closed already—it will not be affected either by a reluctance to make a drastic change for fear of the way it involves concerns or individuals, or by the suggestion that such a change might in some way be undemocratic or an interference with the proper interests of people. It is not interference: it is 643 the proper provision and protection of the people that is involved in this. For their real freedom can be menaced by other pressures than autocratic Government or controlling authority—other pressures which may be much more insidious because they are hidden persuaders. I am sure that at the heart of this Report, and of those who would support it, is this genuine hope that what is done may be protecting and advancing the general interests of the viewing public in a way which we cannot be satisfied will be afforded by a continuance of the present system.
§ 4.53 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
My Lords, I realise that it is remiss of me to have left it until now to speak in your Lordships' House. I have little excuse, except that perhaps Lancashire is a large county and often a demanding one. It is, I believe, not unknown to your Lordships that I am chairman of, and a shareholder in, a television company. I am neither contrite nor repentant, and I believe to-day that larger issues than profits are at stake. If I thought that I.T.V. had failed or had a damaging effect on our way of life, I should not be here this afternoon.
Perhaps too much has already been said about the Pilkington Report, but there are certain aspects of it to which I should like to draw your Lordships' attention, as they are of special relevance. The Pilkington Committee came to the conclusion that the B.B.C. has a sound and responsible attitude in its belief that television is a main factor in moulding society. The Committee felt that the I.T.A. was irresponsible in its view that this was not so. The Chairman of the I.T.A., in his evidence to the Committee, claimed that it had influence, but was not a main factor. The Pilkington Committee, to justify their somewhat intolerant attitude about something of which none of us can be sure, distorted his evidence, as he pointed out in a letter to The Times. This theme abounds throughout the Report—condemnation for one and praise for the other. What is frightening is that only 15,000 copies of this Report have been sold. Everyone has read of the condemnation of I.T.V., but so few know of the paucity of evidence which caused these conclusions.
644 I should like to give your Lordships a few examples. Evidence was taken from the Viewers' and Listeners' Association, one must presume in support of the views of Pilkington. But in 1949 the predecessor of this organisation, the Listeners' Association, gave this evidence before the Beveridge Committee:It is beyond question that since 1935 when one of the founders of the Listeners' Association began to take notes, the British Broadcasting Corporation has pursued a consistent policy of advocating and advertising Communism and of trying to disrupt the life of the country, spread discontent, and discredit our British traditions.I mention this only to show how careful any Government Committee or Commission should be in taking evidence from volunteers, whose views are so often at variance with those of ordinary people.
A paragraph of the Report refers to evidence by Dr. Himmelweit and Professor Eysenck. I should like to quote that evidence:Dr. Himmelweit told us that all the evidence so far provided by detailed researches suggested that values were acquired, that a view of life was picked up, by children watching television. Professor Eysenck told us there were good theoretical grounds for supposing that moral standards could be affected by television, and that these grounds were largely supported by experimental and clinical evidence.The evidence of those two people inevitably carries a great weight, and so it should; but it seems that the Pilkington Committee conceive from this something much stronger than the real views of Dr. Himmelweit. I should like now to quote from that person's evidence to the Nuffield Foundation in Television and the Child:There was a small but consistent influence of television on the way children thought about jobs, job values, success and social surroundings. Television tended to make no impact where the child would turn for information to his immediate environment, parents and friends.These are only two quotations from a great deal of evidence. I certainly admit that throughout the evidence Dr. Himmelweit did say there was an influence, but this was not stressed to the extent it was by Pilkington.
Now I turn to the question of violence and triviality. Here the Committee made great play. They praised the B.B.C. for its code of violence, published in full. They condemned the I.T.A. for saying it believed in viewing programmes and 645 judging for itself. This, I believe, is the normal method used both in the cinema and in the theatrical world. I should like just to quote from that code:Brutality: the most difficult category. Brutality is not the same thing as violence. Violence is not the same thing as combat. Yet because combat, which is healthy, and brutality, which is not, both contain violence, they tend to become identified. Over-emphasis in picture and sound is one key. Long-shot renders many affrays and battles inoffensive; close-up make the same incidents inadmissible.Then for adults, it says:If we expose viewers to shock, or indeed to fear, we must be absolutely certain in advance that our reasons are good and proper ones. They may well be, but justification by hindsight is not acceptable.I believe, quite honestly, that both these bodies were entitled to their views as to which was the best way of dealing with violence. One thing I should like to say about violence in television programmes. In nearly every programme that deals with Westerns and crime on both the B.B.C. and Independent Television, right is right; the crook or the outlaw is always a crook or an outlaw. I must confess that all my life I have enjoyed Westerns and crime series; but I remember that before the war there were a number of gangster films of which I -missed none, starring people like James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson. In these films the heroes were always the gangsters. Admittedly they died in the end, but they died a martyr's death. I cannot really believe that television is the cause of, and reason for, the increase in juvenile delinquency. Surely when the villain is the hero it has much more effect on a child's mind than where the marshal, or the policeman, or the "private eye" is the hero.
The Pilkington Committee are not consistent. Professor Hoggart was one of the main witnesses in the Lady Chatterley's Lover case. Apparently you may read, but not see. I cannot help feeling that the findings of Pilkington were to some extent preconceived, and perhaps the evidence turned to support this view. It is interesting to note that no major television critic was called before them to give evidence. One can also see throughout the Report a clear clash of personalities with the Independent Television Authority. I admit I have had my disagreements with the 646 Authority, but I believe, in all sincerity, that the Authority have discharged their duties conscientiously and with a sense of responsibility, and nothing can justify the statement that theservice falls short of what a good public service of broadcasting should be".I believe the Report to be most ungenerous, and to some extent ungracious, to the achievements of I.T.V. Even if there are too many Westerns and crime series, what of I.T.V.'s contributions in the way of drama, religious and school broadcasts, news, sport, items of local and topical interest? Indeed, in many of these fields it is I.T.V. which has been the leader and the B.B.C. which has followed.
Of course, to a great extent television is a medium of entertainment. I agree that that entertainment should be balanced, but, surely, in our homes the type of entertainment we want is that which is light and gay. Undoubtedly the viewers seem to think so. I can quote the fact that in my own company's area sets have increased from 190.000 to 800,000. Is it just possible that it was the B.B.C. who had fallen a long way short of what a good television service should be? In the 340 pages of this Report nothing is said of the regional companies' contributions. I can speak only of one, and I would crave your Lordships' indulgence, if I may, to refer to that one, but I believe that what I say is true of all the others.
I believe we have integrated ourselves into the way of life in our area. We give a complete service in Welsh, which is considered superior and is, on the whole, preferred to that of the B.B.C. We are lucky in having the advice of eminent Welshmen, and I will quote only the Director of Education of the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, who said thatthe contributions of T.W.W. in the field of Welsh programmes are widely appreciated.In the educational service we serve 500 schools, and issue weekly 10,000 comprehensive teachers' notes; we lend sets to schools for them to make up their minds whether they wish to avail themselves of this service. We hope and believe we support all that is best in the area. I would quote the chairman of the Bath Festival, who said:Without the financial and working support of T.W.W., the Bath Festival could not be presented on the scale it has achieved.647 We have tried in this way to support, as I have said, everything that is best.
We had demonstrations in colour television at the Royal Welsh Show last year and at the Bath and West this year. On both occasions the Shows attributed their vastly increased attendance to this fact. We ran a two-day course for junior clergy in post-ordination training, and were lucky enough to get this comment from the Bishop of Bristol: that there was afrank, honest partnership between television and the Church".Our programmes cover a wide range of subjects from regional news and documentaries to talent shows. How else can the young be encouraged? Serious programmes take 50 per cent. of studio capacity, and they always attained far higher audiences than the B.B.C. programme shown at the same time. I would pay tribute to the personnel who work, in the Independent Television studios. They have a great loyalty, they are well aware of the importance of this medium and have shown throughout a great sense of responsibility. In many ways one would like to see those same loyalties and that same sense of responsibility spread throughout many other industries,
I am not going to pretend that I.T.V. is perfect. It is a young industry and is still growing. There is much, I believe, that can be done in the future. Personally, I should like to see a close liaison with the B.B.C. We may be competitive, but our income is derived from different sources. By doing this one might get much more balanced programmes. I should like to see a longer contract, or, if you prefer, a yearly one—it has the same effect. The uncertainty of the future has been a great disadvantage under which I.T.V. has laboured. As a result, we have mot been able to draw many university students into the industry. We are sadly lacking in apprenticeships and training schemes, and equally this has had a great effect on long-term programmes. After all, the days of universal broadcasting from space cannot be so far distant. I should like also to see the regional companies taking a greater share of the network, and I believe that a stronger Authority could be beneficial to the industry. I am glad about the 648 acceptance of the recommendations in regard to 625 lines and colour. I hope that the B.B.C. will be able to produce this third programme. I have reservations, however, and it may well be that the "jam" will have to be spread even wider than it is. Let us face it: at the present moment the whole entertainment world is in fact engaged in the two networks. I believe that it might be beneficial to have four channels: two commercial, and two B.B.C.
§ 5.8 p.m.
§ LORD MACDONALD OF GWAENYSGOR
My Lords, it has been my pleasure to listen to a good number of maiden speeches, but this is the most unusual one I have ever listened to. I have a great regard for the noble Earl's family; I spent many a pleasant hour with his grandfather at Knowsley Hall. I feel the noble Earl would have been well advised not to be so controversial on this occasion. This question will come before this House later on in a different form, and I think he could then have made the controversial speech which he has made to-day. It is not customary to reply to maiden speeches, and I shall leave it at that, and extend the usual congratulations to the noble Earl.
I should like to make a reference to the fact that I was closely associated with the B.B.C. for eight years, five of which were during the existence of the I.T.V. I have many times been asked, "Why have there been so many changes since I.T.V. came into existence?" I would inform your Lordships that I do not know of any changes we made because of the existence of I.T.V., except two, which I personally deeply regretted. One was to take television to the dogs; the other was to give starting-prices at horse races. They may have been because of what I.T.V. was doing, but I personally was very unhappy when those decisions were made. Apart from those decisions, I do not know of any other, except decisions which were delayed for further consideration, and it may be that the I.T.V. got in during that period of delay. From the suggestion the noble Lord made, that the I.T.V. were more in contact with the people than the B.B.C, it is obvious he does not know much about the B.B.C.'s activities.
I looked up the debate held ten years ago, in 1952, which was referred to by 649 the noble Viscount the Leader of the House in his opening speech. During that debate many speeches were made by very prominent Members of this House. I was rather surprised to see that three of them have passed on—Waverley, Halifax, and one other whose name I do not remember. But those three were stalwarts for the retention of the B.B.C. and not for the establishment of I.T.V.
I rise to-day mainly to deal with the Welsh aspect of this question. We have here a practical aspect. The matter is raised by the Government in their White Paper. In this White Paper they refer to the recommendations they can accept, and to the recommendations they are not able to accept. I want to refer to one on which we in Wales put great weight; it may be that the people of England Will not, but we do. I do hope that when the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor comes to reply he will have a reply which will satisfy Wales on this issue. It was suggested by the Beveridge Committee years ago that members of the National Broadcasting Council should be individuals who would have full regard to the distinctive culture, interests and tastes of our people in that country. It is now recommended by the Pilkington Committee that the chairman should be a Welsh-speaking individual.
The Government, for some reason or another, have found themselves unable to accept that recommendation. I have tried to find out what could be the reason. The reason given was exactly what I thought it would be—namely, that you limit your choice. You cut out a good number of people in Wales who could not be considered because of that provision. The other reason put forward was that to name one essential was never wise. I agree that the Welsh Nationalist Party may have pressed this question of Welshmen a bit too far, but if ever there was a case—and I hope the noble Viscount the Leader of the House, in consultation with the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, will be able to clear this up—Where the chairman ought to be a Welsh-speaking individual, it is this one.
The organisations involved in broadcasting are very largely cultural and literary in Wales, more so than in 650 England. The people who are members of them are usually Welsh-speaking Welshmen. When they are discussing Welsh problems regarding the B.B.C., they like to be able to do it in Welsh. As regard the limitations, when you say that the chairman must be Welsh-speaking you still have half a million people to choose from. During my eight years in the B.B.C. as a Governor and a National Governor for Wales, I had to meet every type of person in various parts of the country and on many occasions they were monoglots. In a sense we have 100,000 monoglots in Wales. In other cases, though not monoglots, they much prefer to talk in the Welsh language. The fact that I could do both helped me immensely, and I am quite sure that no man or woman who is not able to speak both languages could do this job as it ought to be done. The chairman of the B.B.C. is a different thing from the chairman of any other organisation in Wales.
I appreciate very much indeed the statement in the same paragraph that a specific reference will be made in the Charter to the Welsh language. I do so because it indicates that the Government are fully aware of the importance of the Welsh language in Wales. It is no use those who are not Welsh decrying this and saying that it is a paltry consideration. We are Welsh. We are a small people. We have our own language. We have struggled hard to get it, especially some of us who have had to come outside of Wales. We have our language, and what we want is that that language should be respected in appointments of this kind. We are not asking for it regardless of capacity. We do not want a third-rate Welshman appointed simply because he can speak Welsh, against a first-rate Welshman who cannot speak Welsh. But we want a Welshman in the chair, to contact all the people in Wales in their own native language. I do hope the noble Viscount the Leader of the House will help us in discussions between now and the next stage.
On the same page of the White Paper there is a matter which rather disturbed me. Paragraph 13 reads as follows:The Committee recommend an important constitutional innovation in relation to television; namely that the B.B.C.'s National Broadcasting Councils for Scotland and Wales 651 (and for Northern Ireland if one is set up) should exercise the same powers in relation to the content of television services as they already do for sound.That is not quite the same wording as is in the original Charter, regarding the then powers of the Councils regarding sound. I do not know, but I rather think there is a mistake here. There is certainly a mistake of some kind. Here are the words in the original Charter:Each National Broadcasting Council shall be charged with the functions following …"—the first sentence is enough—the function of controlling the policy and the content …".That is an important question. Why has the policy been kept out of this one? The policy is vitally important to us. For instance, it is policy to opt out of a certain national programme. Are we to understand that it will be decided in London whether Scotland or Wales shall opt out of certain programmes? I can only believe that there is a mistake here. I cannot believe that there is any limitation intended, if they have the same powers as they had over sound. It must be policy and content, and not content without policy. I should like that looked into.
Another matter I want to mention, which has not been raised by the Government themselves in their White Paper, is that of the minority political Parties on television or broadcasting. Since 1954 we have had almost continuous meetings with the Leaders of all the Parties, Conservative, Labour and Liberal, to discuss the question: should the minority Parties be allowed any broadcasting time at all? The first thing we met was that the Charter did not give the power to do so. We were able to satisfy the legal people that the Charter gave the power to the Welsh Council and the Scottish Council if they desired to arrange political speeches for minority Parties. We were advised by a joint meeting not to proceed, but the Council got their teeth into this and decided that they would proceed and would arrange political broadcasting for minority Parties in Wales. Thereupon Dr. Hill—the then Postmaster-General—on instructions from the Government, put on a ban, gave a direction, and it was not allowed. That direction still exists. I understand now—I hope this 652 is true—that the Conservative Party are feeling a little easier on this, but they are not prepared to express their agreement, without the Labour Party's doing the same thing.
I have not consulted the Labour Party at all on this. They will decide later. What I would say to the Government is that, since it is recommended by the Pilkington Committee, they themselves should accept that recommendation with regard to the minority Parties. The Welsh Nationalist Party are a "pain in the neck" to most of us, but they are there. They are working very hard to gain strength, and we do not want to feel at all responsible for doing anything that looks in the least like deliberately trying to prevent them. I do not think that, even if they get a broadcast weekly, it will make any difference to the results, but I should like this freedom for the Nationalist Party in Wales, or any Party in Wales who satisfy the conditions—and the conditions laid down are stringent conditions, as the noble Lord will see later. My appeal is this: that if the Conservative Party are prepared to agree (I know the Liberal Party are, and I hope I can manage to persuade my own Party to agree), we should not prevent this minority Party, just because they are a minority Party, from having some broadcasts on the air. It need not be many, but there should be some recognition that they are a political Party in Wales.
There is one other matter I want to refer to, and that is finance. During my eight years as a Governor of the B.B.C. I felt that the method of providing finance outlined in the Charter was a sound method. During my visits to a number of countries overseas, I found that we stood pre-eminent in broadcasting throughout the whole world, partly because we were financed in this way. I earnestly hope there will be no change in the method of financing. I am quite certain that it is the best method. It is the method which causes the least trouble and the least concern and anxiety to Wales.
As regards Wales, I see that the noble Earl, Lord Derby, is here. As he indicated to us, he is the Chairman of T.W.W. in South Wales. Let me say, quite frankly, that the coming into existence of Independent Television did make 653 an improvement for Wales, in this sense: that they put on programmes in the Welsh language. The B.B.C. were then putting on programmes, and we almost doubled the number of programmes in the Welsh language because of I.T.V. Therefore, we feel a little indebted to them. But they did something else for us, in the early days especially. Had it not been for the turnover of our staff from the B.B.C. to the new organisation, I do not think they would have manned that organisation. We had scores, if not hundreds, of changes among our staff at the B.B.C., who for various reasons (I need not name them) went to join the I.T.V.
Now I enjoy the I.T.V.'s programmes, and I listen in. There are some good Welsh programmes. From that angle, we benefited. That is another reason, any Lords, why the Chairman should know something about the Welsh. We are now going to get from the B.B.C. at least double the amount of Welsh language broadcasting. We ought not to leave the Chairman in the position of having to ask somebody else when a complaint comes in regarding a Welsh broadcast or Welsh item of any kind. In such an event the Chairman has to go cap in hand to ask exactly what happened, what was said. Surely, therefore he is the link between Cardiff and London, and the link between Cardiff and the rest of Wales. I hope that my points will be considered.
As regards the general question of what broadcasting is for, what I like about the Pilkington Report—and I am not surprised that it is there—is the moral tone. Finance is important, very important, but financial considerations must never take precedence over moral considerations. If they do, whatever financial benefits may be derived, it will ultimately spell disaster. From my own point of view, I am satisfied that we can organise a type of broadcasting that will make the Churches better Churches, the schools better schools, and will help those thousands of tired, underpaid teachers to do their jobs. We have our differences, but the right organisation of broadcasting can do a lot, and I am satisfied that the future of Great Britain is linked up vary much indeed with the future of broadcasting.
§ 5.25 p.m.
My Lords, I should dike to begin by welcoming my noble friend Lord Derby and congratulating him on his maiden speech, and I am bound to say that I was rather sorry he received such a Chilly reception from the noble Lord opposite. After all, we in this House pride ourselves on being able to produce people who, on many subjects, know what they are talking about—and the noble Earl certainly knows what he is talking about so far as Independent Television is concerned. I think we are lucky to have him express expert views in this House, and I, for one, am not too worried if the noble Earl may have appeared slightly controversial.
The noble Viscount the Leader of the House said he felt that, in considering this matter, we ought all to try to keep calm; to get rid of as many prejudices as possible, and to look at the matter objectively and fairly, with a view to obtaining the best broadcasting system we can. In what I thought, if I may respectfully say so, was an admirable speech, I felt that that was very good advice, and I am quite sure that the Government are wise at this stage to take only the immediate decisions, the necessary decisions, first, and to give themselves time to think about what is not only a very complicated and difficult matter, but also a very important one.
A certain amount has been said about the importance of television, and I should like just to touch for a moment on that. Obviously, it is possible to hold a number of different views upon the impact and importance of this medium, and I must confess that I thought the thing was very well put in a letter from Sir Ivone Kirkpatrick to The Times the other day. In this letter he said:… it is, broadly speaking, possible to take up three positions: 1. That television will 'mould' society. 2. That, while television will exercise its own positive influence, society will be influenced as well by other factors, for example, by education, the family, religion, leadership, and the other means of mass communication. 3. That the influence of television is negligible.He went on to say that, for his part, he accepted the second of those definitions, and that he thought the Pilkington Committee accepted the first—and incidentally, they accused him of accepting the 655 third. Finally, at the end of his letter, he made what I thought was a very wise remark when he wrote:In short, to overestimate the influence of television is no less dangerous than to make the mistake of underestimating it".That is the first thing I think one should bear in mind when trying to consider this matter objectively. I myself think, if I may say so, that the Pilkington Committee have fallen into the first error; and I agree with Sir Ivone Kirkpatrick in thinking that the second position is about right.
I agree with many other speakers, who have said that when one studies the Report, on the whole one cannot avoid the impression that the B.B.C. is all white and Independent Television is all black. Of course, when you actually look at the evidence, a lot of it is very confusing and very difficult to assess. To begin with, I think it is quite impossible to look at it statistically. In the first place, the statistics used by the Pilkington Committee and, for example, the statistics provided in an interesting booklet produced the other day by the I.T.A., are on entirely different bases for different periods. Therefore, I do not think one gets very far in judging the balance of programmes or anything else statistically.
There are one or two things that emerge from the I.T.A. pamphlet which interest me. So far as serious programmes are concerned, they try to classify the "Top twenty". I agree that this would be their assessment, and the B.B.C. would probably have another one. But I.T.V. reckon—I am only saying how difficult it is, but I think it is interesting—that on a T.A.M. basis, of the top twenty most popular serious programmes no fewer then 16 were produced by I.T.V. I do not know about that; but I do not believe, from my own experience of viewing, that either the B.B.C. is as perfect as portrayed in the Report or that I.T.V. is nearly as bad. I think it is a pity that more was not said—other noble Lords have referred to this—about the positive contributions in pioneering various programmes, such as religious broadcasting, and so on. I think Independent Television has un-doubtedy put new life into broadcasting, 656 although I should be the first to admit that it suffers from many imperfections.
The Committee drew attention to things which have been discussed by various noble Lords, and for the sake of brevity I do not want to go into them in great detail: for example, that there was too much violence, too much appeal to mass audiences in the peak period, and so on. I consider there is a great deal in that. I think there is too much violence. When you come to the peak period and mass audiences, I think you run into a very definite difficulty, and I should have thought that this was something which applied to the B.B.C. as much as I.T.V. At that time of day you would obviously try to balance your programmes as well as you could, and you would obviously try not to have them all of one kind. At the present moment, on one set of statistics, it would appear that of that type of programme at that time, the B.B.C. have about 36 per cent. serious programmes and I.T.V. about 30 per cent. There is not very much difference; but there are rather more serious programmes on the B.B.C.
It seems to me that at times you have to try—and whether or not it is the B.B.C., it must be their function—to entertain or instruct or educate or inform as many people as possible. Therefore, your main programmes at the peak hours will always suffer from the defect of their being unable to satisfy minorities. There is a lack of balance as long as you have only one channel, and I should have thought that was unavoidable. Therefore, I think there is a very strong case for a second channel deliberately designed to cater for minorities. To me, one of the most maddening things about television is that generally, if you switch on, let us say, to the I.T.A. and find there is a late show, and you do not feel in the mood for a late show, you switch over to the B.B.C. and get something almost identical. I have given up bothering now. I think there is a great lack of liaison between the B.B.C. and the I.T.V., and that that is unnecessary. I should have thought that you could compete without having the two services exactly the same.
Another point I find rather confusing in the Pilkington Report is the question of who really said what. Here is the 657 chairman of the Independent Television Authority, a public servant of very great distinction, who says quite definitely that what the Report says he said was not, in point of fact, what he did say. Then I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to a letter written to The Times by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn. He said something which rather interested me. He said that the Director-General of the B.B.C., who appeared in mantles of mysterious white before the Committee, subsequently had an interview (and I thought he rather blotted his book) with Mr. Henry Fairley, of the Queen. Having said all the "white" things to the Committee, the Director-General said in the interview, according to the report quoted by Lord Gladwyn:I think television increases people's interests … but I do not think there is any evidence that it seriously affects their opinions or attitudes … it does not determine how, or even what, they will think.Then, for good measure—I am still quoting Lord Gladwyn—the Director added:I think too much fuss is made about the influence of violence and sex in programmes.The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, ended his letter by saying:What puzzles me is how television can be a main factor in influencing the attitudes of society, if it cannot be said to affect those attitudes seriously.Now, my Lords, I think that things of this sort are great defects in the Report, because we are not left with any clear picture of the facts. But my own feeling is, and always has been, that there is a good deal of lack of balance, a good deal of bad programming and inferior stuff, which has to be put right. How it should be put right I should like to deal with later on, if I may. I am sure that a constant and continuous effort has to be made to try to improve the general standard of programmes.
May I pass on now to one other point, the question of the money motive. The Committee said, in effect—and it was for this reason, incidentally, that they condoned pay television—that it was virtually impossible to produce a decent programme so long as there was any question of money. Well honestly, my Lords, I am sorry, but I do not think that is a terrible proposition. T think it may be more difficult, because profit motives, or any other motive except the 658 pure goodness of the programme, perhaps make it more difficult; but I do not think it is impossible. Consider the cinema, the Press, and other people, who, after all, have to entertain, instruct and inform the public and who depend on advertisements or on mass audiences for their success. I know we are told television is quite different from all these things but I do not accept that it is impossible. I think it is possible, although it is more difficult.
Equally, there is one other general attitude of the Committee which I find very difficult to accept. They seem to think, per contra, that the moment you have a public corporation, everything is going to be all right; that you take six men out of business, put them into a public corporation, and immediately they become different people; that these men lose all their human failings; they become wise, progressive, energetic, and so on. Now, I am not a great lover of public corporations—because they are answerable to nobody; they cannot be questioned in either House—but I think that, just as private enterprise might suffer from veniality and stupidity, public corporations suffer from bureacracy and lack of enterprise. The solution of the Committee, in order to put the defects right, is to create what amounts to another B.B.C. and have two State monopolies in complete control of this medium. To me, that is totally unacceptable. It is not what I personally believe in. I do not think it is what I mean by freedom, and I cannot see that that can be the solution.
Again, I find it perplexing, because when one looks at the Committee's observations on the Press one finds that they point to the dangers of too much power in too few hands. That is indeed the reason for the recommendation that nobody in the Press may hold more than a certain proportion of the shares in any television company. Yet their main recommendation puts more power in fewer hands than anything I have heard of for a very long time. My Lords, I do not believe that that is a solution which most of us would like.
Therefore, my Lords, what is to be done? I think it is very difficult to say without a great deal of further consideration. I believe that if you are going to criticise the Authority, you must 659 criticise them on the ground that they have very ample powers to improve standards, to act as the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, acts on the British Board of Film Censors. They have considerable powers, and I think they can be reasonably criticised for not having used the powers which they have. But I cannot see that the fact that possibly the system has been imperfectly used is a reason for throwing it out. The answer is to use it properly. Therefore, my view is that the question of standards can be dealt with by a strong Authority.
As regards the future in general, I am sure that there must be another channel. The Government proposed to give it to the B.B.C., initially I think on technical grounds. My feeling is that this is such an enormous field, the opportunities are so vast, and there are so many matters that I have not time to mention, such as what can be done in education, and elsewhere—there is the whole question of pay television, which I believe has very great possibilities—that there is plenty of room for both organisations. If television is to be developed on the right lines in this country, we need the best brains that can be provided, both by Independent Television and by the B.B.C. I have always believed that both should exist and develop alongside each other. Again, I do not believe that any programme can be fully representative unless it has a channel for minorities. The only thing on which I should like an assurance from the Government is that, in giving the first channel to the B.B.C., this will not preclude the possibility of giving another channel to Independent Television.
Finally, I would ask the noble Lord who is going to reply for the Government on question of finance. The Government say—rather airily, I think—that they will provide the cash for this second channel. But I wonder how they are going to do it. If the B.B.C. are to have these new facilities, the deficit will be of the order of £43 million. I suppose that sum can be found in two ways—either by increasing the licence fee to £6. though I am not sure that that is a course which would commend itself to your Lordships; I am pretty certain it would not commend itself to the public and therefore not to the Government either——
My Lords, I have obtained this information not from official sources but from unofficial sources. There is actually an official document on this, which I have seen, but I do not have it with me. My information is that this sum covers the whole thing, both capital and income over the period of the development of these services.
It has been suggested that a lot of this money could come from Independent Television; and undoubtedly, as the noble Viscount the Leader of the House has said, Independent Television could reasonably be expected to pay a good deal more for their concessions in future. I think that that would be fair and right. But, even if we were to take the whole of their profits, which I am informed at present moment amount to approximately £28 million a year—they pay £13 million in tax—we should still be left with a deficit of £30 million for the B.B.C. I think it would be helpful to your Lordships if, some time before the end of the debate, the Government could give us some information on this point. I am sorry for detaining your Lordships for so long. That is all I wish to say.
§ 5.44 p.m.
§ BARONESS BURTON OF COVENTRY
My Lords, it is never easy to decide whether or not to take part in a debate such as this. Of course, we are privileged here because in another place, the power of decision does not rest with the Back Benches. One waits a long time, and often one is not called at all. Obviously, in a debate like this, one can rush in without much thought and talk about specific likes and dislikes in particular programmes. Equally obviously, one can pontificate about what people should or should not see. Or, finally, one can be so reasonable and see all sides to such an extent that nothing gets done. In short, one can make a contribution that is worth little because one skates on the surface or one can say nothing because it is all too difficult.
"Who am I to decide what people should see?" By that question, one abdicates responsibility. But, of course, somebody has to accept responsibility. 661 And I think it must be the Government of the day, basing its decisions upon discussion in both Houses of Parliament, which, I should hope, would reflect public opinion in the country. Everyone agrees that listeners and viewers are the most important people; because, after all, it is for them that these services are provided. I should like to see any Government taking such decisions on a free vote in both Houses, though as a politician I appreciate the difficulties of that, because I know that the Government have to get their business. Nevertheless, I believe hat this should be a non-Party decision. To my mind, the potential of television is so vast that I feel it to be a matter of moral, civic and national concern. I am quite convinced that there are many, in all political Parties and in none, who agree on the fundamental issues, just as I realise that there are differences in all Parties, and, if one hears correctly, in the Cabinet itself—possibly even within the new Cabinet.
So, if one does not wish to be called a busybody, or to be accused of being motivated by a determination to give people what is good for them rather than what they want, where does one start, as a Back-Bencher, in a debate such as this? First of all, one admits a real urge to speak, which, although I am a newcomer. I feel is the real basis for speaking in your Lordships' House, anyway. Secondly, I think one just hopes that the small contribution made will measure up to the tolerance that your Lordships always give to somebody who honestly feels that he has something to say.
I am not starting to-day with the popular Aunt Sally "Should people just be left to choose for themselves?", but with something which I think is far more fundamental, if less popular: what are the purposes of broadcasting? I feel that if we, Parliament and the Government, are to accept responsibility for this medium of communication, and if our voices and votes are to decide its development, we should say how we visualise its development in a modern society. The B.B.C.'s Charter defines these purposes as "the dissemination of information, education and entertainment". The Television Act refers to them as "entertainment, instruction and 662 information". But the Pilkington Committee, as your Lordships know, state that neither the B.B.C. nor the I.T.A. attach any significance to the difference in wording or to the difference in the order in which these are printed. The Report of the Pilkington Committee is concerned with the three sound programmes and one television programme of the B.B.C. and with the one television programme of Independent Television.
Here, if I may, I should like to make a point which I think is important—that is, that it is the listeners and viewers for whom the services are provided, and they are interested primarily in what is offered to them, not in how or by whom it is produced. Speaking generally and without clothing anyone in garments that are "whiter than white," I believe that there is satisfaction with the sound programmes of the B.B.C. They command the respect, the confidence and the approval of most people in this country—and indeed elsewhere; but I do not believe this to be true of television. If television is to fulfil its agreed purposes of giving information, entertainment and education, what must be included? Here I would make two points which I think will command universal agreement. First, there must be a wide range of programmes so balanced that people have a reasonable choice when they are able to watch. We cannot dismiss the evidence from a widely varied selection of people who said that the range of programmes is not sufficiently wide, and that within this range the emphasis is wrong.
Another point that I was glad to note (and I was also particularly glad to see that it did not spring from any peculiarity of mine) was the repeated evidence that many items are shown only at inconvenient times. It was argued to the Committee over and over again that the whole range of programming should be shown during the hours when most people were able to watch television; that is to say, during the peak hours. I should like to put forward to your Lordships the thought that, even if the total output of a given channel does offer a wide enough apparent choice of subject matter, the effective choice (and I underline the word "effective") is largely limited to 663 what is shown when people are free to choose.
Here I would quote from an impeccable source—namely, the Independent Group of Conservatives, which I think the noble Viscount mentioned in his opening speech. I want to quote them verbatim, because I think what they said is so good; and I am sure the noble Viscount will approve. They said:Catering for minorities does not mean always putting on minority taste programmes at times when the average viewer has not arrived home from work or is in bed.I am sure the noble Viscount will agree that even the Opposition could not have put it better than that. This question of balance is obviously something that is very difficult to define, because, equally obviously, all we who listen and watch judge this for ourselves, and we are apt to believe that our own idea is right. But many people feel that this "lack of balance" is a valid criticism of television; and they believe that this valid criticism applies more to the Independent Authority's programmes than to those of the B.B.C. Considering all this I would suggest that where there is a failure to realise the special value of peak-viewing hours for the purposes of the public service of television there is lack of balance.
What evidence is there in this respect, as distinct from personal opinion? This brings me to the question of freedom of choice. The Report states that the policy of the B.B.C. is to devote about one-third of its peak-viewing hours to serious programmes. We know that if drama were included (and drama is difficult to classify) it would come to about one half. That given by I.T.V. is less, both throughout the day and during peak-viewing hours. I listened with interest to the noble Lord who preceded me, and he mentioned the I.T.A. production "Facts and Figures". I could not agree with him more that one can prove almost anything with their facts and figures. But I am sure that the noble Lord, in reading those, will have also read the leader in last night's Evening Standard. If not, I would recommend him to do so.
It is not my purpose to enter into the dog fight between the Evening Standard 664 and the I.T.A., but they take different points of view. The Evening Standard said (it is of interest if it is correct; and I have no reason to think it is not) that the facts produced in "Facts and Figures" were entirely different from the facts which the Independent Television Authority presented to the Pilkington Committee when they were asked for them. This is a completely new version. I will leave it there, because I do not know which is true. I think there is not as wide and effective a freedom of choice on I.T.V. as on the B.B.C. I believe that I.T.V. has underestimated the public and has put on too many of its serious programmes late at night; and I still think so, even though I have read the remarks of Sir Robert Fraser on this aspect.
That is what I believe—and it is easy to have beliefs—but what evidence is there? Hare I would quote even more impeccable evidence than the Independent Group of Conservatives and cite the programme companies themselves. The Report says, in paragraph 194:All the main companies agreed that they had a responsibility for leading public taste, and that this implied a responsibility to cater for 'minority' as well as 'majority' tastes. But whereas the Authority thought that the service had catered sufficiently for minorities, the companies on the whole did not.The programme companies advanced two main reasons for this, one of which was mentioned by the noble Lord who preceded me—namely, that there was not enough room to do this in a single programme—and I should like to come back to that at the end. The second reason they gave was that… since Independent Television derived its revenue from advertising, it was bound to seek the largest audiences.There are four programme companies here—this is not my opinion. The Report goes on:Anglia Television said that independent television must be concerned to hold the maximum audience; Associated Rediffusion said that it was inevitable that it should serve the majority; for Scottish Television, Mr. Thomson said that, because advertisers paid for viewers, 'it is inevitable in the system that you should be reaching generally for a maximum'.For Southern Television, Mr. Dowson told the Committee thatthe commercial element prevented the showing of minority programmes at peak hours".665 I think that such evidence is quite irrefutable, and I believe it supports the contention that under a system of commercial television, which has the selling of advertising space as priority No. 1, a truly balanced programme, with real and effective freedom of choice for the viewer, is not possible. However much they want it, it just is not possible. Therefore, I agree that the Authority itself should sell the advertising time.
That brings me, my Lords, I think logically, to advertising. I am no opponent of advertising. I think it is like everything else: some of it is good and some is bad. We shall probably not get a better definition of advertising than that given recently by the United States Supreme Court, which said:Advertising as a whole must not create a misleading impression even though every statement separately considered is literally truthful.I am being very careful about my references to-day, and I can now take a recent speech of the Board of Trade spokesman (who has now been elevated to be Minister of Pensions and National Insurance) in another place, Mr. Niall Macpherson. Speaking at the Advertising Association Conference at Eastbourne in May last, he said—and with this I come to an end of my quotations:As people become more and more aware of advertising, they are becoming more and more conscious and critical of the content of advertising. That may mean that it will become easier to bring a product to the attention of the public than it was. It certainly means that more people are more intolerant of what the Bible calls 'vain repetition', particularly on television, and expects to be given more information in advertisements. In other words, the public will tend to expect higher and higher standards of advertising—not merely more elegant or compelling copy, but more informative and unquestionably truthful.For some time in another place I tried hard to get the onus of proof put on the advertiser, which is where I think it belongs. I do not propose to develop that theme to-day, but I hope that when the Lord President has been able to "chase up" for us that elusive date of the publication of the Molony Report we may have an opportunity of looking into this.
In the Financial Times yesterday, as no doubt he saw, we seemed to get—I do not know whether it was a leak, or some information, or whether it 666 means that I can put down another Question—a statement that the Report of the Molony Committee was expected to be published before the end of the month for the economic debate in another place in order that the Prime Minister might include consumer protection in his remarks. If the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, had been here at this moment, I should have liked to say to him that when the Prime Minister does that, I personally shall regard it as an entirely interesting theft of clothing. I am glad that the White Paper we are discussing to-day accepted the recommendation that advertising magazines should be abolished, although I would be perfectly happy for them to remain in advertising time. It seems to me quite incredible, looking at those advertising magazines, that they could have been anywhere but in advertising time. People may like them or not, but that anyone could believe that they were dispassionate advice to the consumer I think is stretching it a little.
I want to say a word about profits. Obviously the rates charged in advertising are very important in this question of profits. Many advertisers say that the rates charged are too high, but that they have accepted these in order to get their products shown to the mass audiences quoted to them by the programme companies. However, a new problem has arisen here, or perhaps I should say it has received prominence recently. While it may be possible to find out how many sets are switched on for a given programme, what guarantee has the advertiser that the family stay in front of their set when his precious advertisement for which he has paid comes on? I would say, none at all. I am going to put on my spectacles to read this letter, because it is too good to misread. I want to quote only two or three sentences from a letter in the Daily Herald of July 10. It says:Nobody I know agrees with the Labour M.P.s who consider that six minutes of T.V. advertising an hour is too much. The breaks are most useful for talk, serving drinks, making up the fire and so on, and with the sound turned off they do not bother anybody.But, seriously, this question of advertising as a whole is important, and very important for reputable advertisers. As we know, each company is responsible for its own advertisements, but the 667 story-boards or scripts of all advertisements are scrutinised by the Advertising Copy Committee which has been set up by the Independent Television Companies' Association. The Authority is not represented on this, but its Advertising Control Officer is in frequent touch with both the companies and with the copy committee. I feel this is not enough, and I agree with the recommendation that the Authority should assume effective control of the work of the copy committee. I think delegation of this is an abdication of responsibility.
The Motion before us to-day asks us to approve the White Paper. I feel able to support this, being an optimist, in the hope of better things to come. In short, I think it not unreasonable to delay action on some of the main aspects until public opinion has made itself heard. But I should like to raise something here. I do not know whether I am raising a red herring, but I should be glad if the noble Lord who is to reply to the debate could give me a comment here. I think it was partially answered by the noble Viscount who opened the debate, but I should like this point cleared up. Paragraph 49 of the White Paper tells tells us that the B.B.C.'s second channel should be started in London by mid-1964. In paragraph 81 we read:The Government considers there will be scope at a later stage for a second I.T.A. programme.Going back to July 5, I glanced through my papers hurriedly, because I had not time to finish them, and saw something which gave me rather a shock. I got the impression from those papers that I was reading something which was not in the White Paper. I took the papers with me, and on the next day I read them on the train and I found I was not mistaken. I found that practically all the papers I saw, from the reputable to the disreputable, all said one thing in common: the I.T.A. might well start its second channel simultaneously with the B.B.C.'s. As so many of the papers said the same thing, I should be glad to know from the noble Lord when he replies Whether this was a mistake which was common to all the Press—Which I hope it was—or whether it was a leak. If it was a mistake— 668 and it would seem to be from what the noble Viscount said in opening the de-batel—obviously we can leave it there. But if paragraph 81 means that a second channel for I.T.A. is to open simultaneously with the B.B.C's, then I would remind the Government of the U.S. Supreme Court comment thatadvertising as a whole must not create a false impression even though every statement separately considered is literally truthful.I would suggest that what goes for advertising should go for the Government White Paper.
I know that one of the reasons advanced by the programme companies for insufficient balance in programmes was that there was not enough room within one single channel, and the noble Lord who preceded me also made that statement. That I just do not accept under present conditions. I believe that a second commercial channel, if it were like the present one, dependent on attracting a mass audience, would merely be repetitive. I believe that we should get imitation rather than diversity. So I trust that we shall be told by the Government that the I.T.A. second channel is not to come into operation at the same time as the B.B.C.'s.
So, three main personal conclusions after all this, and then a brief summing-up of what I think should be done. These are personal conclusions reached after as honest a study of the facts, the evidence and the personal opinions as I can make. First, I believe that the B.B.C. have a traditional idea of public service, and it seems to me that this remains their essential consideration. Secondly, I do not believe that the I.T.A. have this same attitude. I have looked many times at the letter to The Times of July 12 by Sir Ivone Kirkpatrick. I have it here. I have read conflicting statements in the papers, but the impression that I gain, whether it is a right point of view or not, is that the I.T.A. do not have this same attitude. On these two conclusions I support the tradition of public service. The third conclusion I reached is this, and I feel very strongly about it. I think there is something inherently wrong in a system which makes the sale of advertising time the main purpose of the television programme contractors. I am quite convinced that however much they wish to 669 put on a more balanced programme in the peak hours, as shown by the programme companies themselves, they cannot do it if their first priority is to attract a mass audience.
Now about the three things I believe should be done. I believe that the I.T.A. should sell advertising time and assume effective control of the work of the copy committee. Secondly, I believe that the Authority, as does the B.B.C., must take more responsibility for programme planning, but I want longer to consider how this should best be done, because I think the selling of advertising time may be the real foundation-stone here. I believe that if we deal with the selling of advertising time, other changes may follow. The third point—and I am glad the White Paper accepts this—is that I believe the B.B.C. second channel should start as soon as possible. That brings me to the question of paying for it. I am probably going to tread on a lot of toes here, but we do not come primarily to your Lordships' House to avoid people's toes. Public opinion, I think, believes that the profits of Independent Television are too large, and that indeed in the immortal phrase which I think will never die, there has been a licence to print money. Therefore, I suggest as an ordinary viewer, that it is just plain common sense that this profit should benefit television development as a whole. I see no reason against it. If people do see reasons against it, I am sure the public will not.
Nobody believes to-day that they pay a licence for the B.B.C. programmes and that they get I.T.V. for nothing. That will not work any longer. If the Authority sells the advertising time, what should they do with what they decide is surplus revenue? Should it go to the Exchequer? I do not think so. I have memories in another place of trying very hard to get out of the Exchequer for sports development some part of the taxation paid in from the football pools, and, quite apart from any other merits of the case, I was told it was not fiscal policy to earmark particular sections of the revenue for particular purposes. So I vote the Exchequer out. I do not mind what you call it, but I really cannot see why we could not have, as my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth mentioned, a fund for research and development in television which should be set 670 up by the Government, possibly with public trustees.
On this financial aspect, I noted a report in The Times on July 12 in which Sir Harry Pilkington said that if the B.B.C. were to get the money needed to finance their new developments, there were three choices: first, a Government grant, which he thought would not be welcomed by the B.B.C. because it would be seen as a threat to their independence; secondly, advertising, which he thought was out of the question; thirdly, an increase in the licence fee, which his Committee felt was the best solution in the circumstances. But, my Lords, as everyone agrees that the listeners and viewers are the most important people to be considered in all this, I can see no earthly reason why they should not benent from the surplus revenue arising out of television services instead of paying an increased licence fee. Finally, what the public wants and what it has the right to get is the freedom to choose from the widest possible range of programme matter. That I believe is our responsibility.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ LORD FORBES
My Lords, I too, should like to add my congratulations to the noble Earl who made such an excellent and well-informed maiden speech; and also to declare an interest as I am a director of a television company. Perhaps it might interest your Lordships to know that this company made a loss last year. I will quickly say that I hope it was not through inefficiency but rather because it is the youngest company to go on the air. At the outset let me say that, in general, I welcome the Government's White Paper on Broadcasting because it gives an outline to some of the future technical requirements such as 625-line definition and colour. It is information which is so necessary for the advancement of this young industry which has a great power to influence. Here, my Lords, let me just digress for a moment to say that with the advent of inter-continental television, through such a medium as Telstar, let us hope that people of different races, creeds and colour will learn to understand each other better so that the present tension between East and West can be lowered. If this could be so, then television will have passed over even its most ardent critics.
671 I am glad to see in paragraph 11 of the White Paper that Her Majesty's Government still have an open mind regarding the implementation of policy; in fact, they have gone so far as to say that ideas may emerge in Parliamentary debates. To-day television—that means of information and entertainment—is on the threshold of enormous expansion and opportunity; so, at all costs, this must not be curbed. It is of vital importance that decisions taken now by Her Majesty's Government should be the right ones, as undoubtedly they will affect the future of television over the next ten or twenty years.
Her Majesty's Government have invited ideas and criticisms and I am going to confine my remarks to Independent Television and, in particular, to Independent Television regional programme companies, some of which, unlike their bigger and elder brothers the network companies, are operating on fairly slender margins. For this reason I think it only right that Her Majesty's Government should be aware that, while they have the power to legislate for the advancement of television, one false step might unwitting sink some of the regional companies. First of all, Her Majesty's Government must be conversant with the full and correct facts concerning regional companies, and the best way to do this is for the Government to have talks with the Independent Television Authority and the programme companies, because if Her Majesty's Government were to rely solely on the Pilkington Report they would find that the Committee dismisses in a somewhat airy fashion the programming efforts of the regional companies. This the Committee have done on opinion rather than fact. The facts are that regional companies of Independent Television produce more programmes than the B.B.C. regions do. This achievement by the Independent Television regional companies in a comparatively short space of time is, I believe, noteworthy. Also, in some instances regional Independent Television programmes of a serious nature have attained almost equal ratings, based on the number of viewers, with very popular light entertainment programmes, such as "Perry Mason", put on by the B.B.C. Surely, therefore, there is no doubt that the 672 regional Independent Television companies are serving their regions.
However, as the Pilkington Report appears to have failed to take account of the problems of regional Independent Television companies, especially the small companies, I think it is only right at this stage that Her Majesty's Government should be made aware of the possible legislative waves that could swamp the small regional companies. First of all, it cannot be too strongly stressed that some of the regional companies, although covering a small population of viewers, have very large areas to cover, and this fact must be reflected elsewhere because a small population not only produces a small revenue, but a large area entails large expenses.
I should now like to turn to a specific point made in the Government White Paper. It is evident that the Government wish that the B.B.C. should have, without delay, a second service and probably, if I read correctly between the lines, this will be followed by a second service for Independent Television. This second service may raise great problems for the Independent Television regional companies, especially the smaller ones now operating on slender margins. For instance, a second service for the B.B.C. would mean that with two programmes the B.B.C. would be able to put on a popular programme showing on one or other of its services every viewing hour of the day. With that they would be bound to take away some viewers from the Independent Television Service, unless of course the B.B.C.'s second service is completely different from the other service—perhaps something like the sound Third Programme.
If small regional companies are to survive much thought will have to be given to this problem. Its solution does not appear to lie in giving Independent Television another service, as this would mean a further carving up of the already small slices of cake for the small stations unless, of course, the second service is to be like the Third Programme, or is operated by the existing regional companies. As Independent Television companies are largely dependent for revenue on viewers one solution might be to give Independent Television regional companies more equitable areas of population. Another possible solution might be 673 not to have more than two competing services—just the present B.B.C. and Independent Television services—in areas of small population, on the grounds that these areas are, anyway, covered by a comparatively small Press and that the population just would not justify an increased television service. However, I maintain that this is a dangerous policy, as why should the outlying parts of our country have an inferior service compared to the highly populated industrial areas of the country? My Lords, it is exactly this attitude which has been responsible for much of the depopulation of our rural areas.
I believe that the present policy of the Independent Television Authority, in setting up a decentralised service with regional companies, having control largely in the hands of independent and influential local people who are closely connected with the communities they serve, has been most successful, and infinitely preferable to an almighty Independent Television Authority having arms in each region while its head and body and also the ability to control the purse strings remain in Brampton Road. If proof of this statement is required, it comes from the fact that already an independent television decentralised service has done more for the regions than the B.B.C. centralised controlling body with regional arms. I do not want to give an impression that the B.B.C. provides an inferior service to Independent Television's; this is not so. I merely use some facts concerning the B.B.C. to illustrate my point that the regional independent television companies can give, and justifiably so, a good account of themselves.
I believe it would be in the interests of the viewing public if the independence and financing of the regional companies could be strengthened so that instead of running a risk of getting swamped by the network companies they could in fact produce more programmes which could be seen on the network. This, I am sure, would foe highly desirable. Of course, it must be appreciated that although regional companies may wish to produce more and more programmes of a, high standard, anything they achieve must foe limited by their franchise. The present structure of regional independent television, established and guided by the Independent Television Authority, has 674 provided without doubt a service of local programming which hitherto did not exist, and this record of performance has been achieved by the regional companies which are financially independent and free to extend the scope of their activities without central budgetary control.
In all this the Independent Television Authority have vested a high degree of autonomy in regional companies, and the relationship between the authorities and the companies has been, as it should be, one of effective control without dictation. Perhaps there are some who would prefer more effective control. Nevertheless, however, the Independent Television Authority's great contribution in establishing policy and guiding development appears to have been overlooked by the Pilkington Committee.
I hope I have made my point clear. To sum up it is this: Her Majesty's Government must ensure that, whatever steps they take over the future of independent television, regional companies remain economically viable entities and so have the resources and freedom to continue to develop their service for the community. There are probably few who realise that regional television companies are about the last bastion of local public expression left in certain areas of our country. Today even the Press is largely controlled from outwith the areas it serves. Regional television companies must not only remain but flourish. They must first and foremost serve their own areas, then make their contribution to the whole country and later help to pierce the dark horizons of the world. Finally, my Lords, I must make an apology, as I have to leave immediately to catch a plane to return North of the Border.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF IDDESLEIGH
My Lords, I will express my point of view by saying that we are promised three and are threatened with four channels of television. That brings me immediately to a small point of which I am anxious to dispose, a point which may seem of some, though admittedly secondary, importance to your Lordships. It concerns aerials. Already the skyline of our houses and terraces is disfigured by a proliferation of miscellaneous ironmongery. Nor is the 675 æsthetic angle the only one that concerns me. I am a landlord, though now in a very small way indeed, and when I see my tenants affixing at present two and shall in future see them affixing three or four aerials to one of my chimneys, the liveliest apprehensions are excited in my breast. I wonder whether—and this is a subject on which I have already dared to communicate with the Post Office—some consideration might be given to that. Could the trade be induced to provide more efficient internal aerials. Could advice on the positioning of aerials on houses be provided by architects and designers, subject of course to the permission of scientists. So much for that small point.
I now come to the White Paper. I am glad that Her Majesty's Government are holding conversations both with the B.B.C. and with Independent Television on the subject of violence. In this matter I would venture to follow a train of thought arising from a remark made by Sir Robert Fraser in a speech on that subject which is quoted briefly in the Pilkington Report. Sir Robert points out that the Greek dramatists were accustomed to handle successfully themes of the utmost violence and horror? But let us go on from there. The Greek taste, far stronger than any code of violence that we would devise to-day, completely forbade the exhibition of violence of any kind upon their stage. We do not follow Antigone to her tomb, Clytemnestra to her bathroom or Medea to her nursery. And yet is there a greater moment in any drama in the world than that in the Medea when we hear the child crying from within the house, "I am afraid of mother. She has a sword"? Would it not be well that radio dramatists be compelled to take a course in Greek drama in order that they may learn the technique of suggesting, without presenting visually, scenes of horror?
§ THE EARL OF IDDESLEIGH
There are many admirable translations in English, as those who are not so intimately connected with the University of Oxford as is the noble Earl are very well aware.
676 Her Majesty's Government are also to discuss the subject of triviality in programmes. There, I am afraid, I do not think they are going to get very far. The real reason why a great number of programmes are exceedingly trivial is a direct consequence of the colossally long hours during which the public thinks it has a right to television entertainment. As a result of the creation of Independent Television, and exacerbated by Her Majesty's Government's most regrettable decision to abolish the silent hour in the afternoon, an immense amount of hours are tyrannising over the producers. They have to be filled somehow and there is not enough good stuff to fill them.
Our situation is that we are transferred to the artistic sphere with which we were only too lamentably familiar after the war, of too many dramatists chasing too few plots, and compelled to find their plots in the eccentricities of morbid psychology; too many comedians chasing too few jokes, and sometimes finding them in places which I personally—but I am an old-fashioned man—rather deplore, and too many panels chasing too few reliable television personalities. So far as I can see, it is impossible to avoid triviality while the tyrannous hours and unforgiving minutes exercise so great an influence.
Despite this, I do not feel that I am being inconsistent in welcoming Her Majesty's Government's just and proper decision to give the B.B.C. a second service. We are well aware that the British Broadcasting Corporation have been devoting a great deal of skilled and anxious thought to the preparation of this service. May I in the first place set the mind of the noble Lord, Lord Forbes, at rest if he is going to read Hansard in connection with this debate. I have forgotten his name, but the spokesman for the B.B.C., in a speech delivered in Bristol, specifically disavowed any intention to turn the second service into a Third Programme type of service. I am sure that the B.B.C. would be ill-advised to rob the existing service of television of any of its best and more cultured features. It will, however, be a cultured type of programme calculated to appeal to educated minorities. After all, in these days of general education, with so many of our young people 677 attending grammar schools and universities, education has ceased to be in a minority position; or, at any rate, it is tending to be less of a minority prerogative than it was.
I personally look forward intensely to the B.B.C.'s second service, and I could suggest, though it is quite useless to do so, a good many features which I should be glad to see on it. But my particular purpose in speaking this afternoon is to hope that ample space will be given on that programme to music. By "music" I mean what Mr. Khrushchev calls "good music" and which other people, rather unfortunately I think, describe as "serious music". What a putting-off sort of word that is; and what an inaccurate one! I am not prepared to discuss the seriousness of Figaro; but let there be plenty of music.
I must here be prepared to answer objections. I shall be told that the place for the music lover is the sound service. I, and I am sure others, too, are grateful indeed to the British Broadcasting Corporation for the amount of good music which they provide for us. But I do not feel that I am excessively greedy in demanding a key place for music on television also. In the first place, I would point out that in 1960, or so we are told, only one household in five possessed a very-high-frequency receiver. Of course, in the evenings it is perfectly impossible to listen to music with any delight unless you have very-high-frequency equipment. In the second place, we ask, not unreasonably, for the pleasure of seeing the orchestra. Seeing the orchestra on television has a most definite educational effect. By allowing the orchestra to be seen, and with the B.B.C.'s interesting technique of pointing the camera at the groups of instruments which are important at a particular moment in the performance of the symphony to be followed, many people learn to appreciate the subtleties of orchestration.
I am now going to be accused of wanting to raise people's cultural standards. I tremble at the accusation! But let me put it like this. I have had very great enjoyment at listening to music. I am an average, good-natured man. I believe that many other people could learn to enjoy the pleasures that mean 678 so much to me. After all, few people are tone deaf, but there are a lot of deaf adders who shut their ears and will not hear the voice of the charmer. A little education in music and a little gentle lift—the B.B.C. understand well that technique—will open the door to the delights which they ought to want. After all, people naturally like music; we all like it when we are young, because we dance to it. I wholly commend the young lady who a few years ago announced that her tastes in music were Bach and boogie-woogie—both nice things in their way, and particularly both of them appeal to young people. That young lady is now a little older, and I believe that boogie-woogie has gone out of fashion. I hope that she is now enjoying Bach and Beethoven, Beethoven and Brahms, Brahms and Benjamin Britten.
There is also the question of our desire to see ballet and to enjoy opera. It is not easy to transfer an opera directly to the small screen. I do not think the technique of so transferring opera is fully understood; but I would call attention to a remarkable event in musical history which occurred last Thursday, when the B.B.C. presented an opera which they had especially commissioned for television. The opera was by a talented musician, Miss Phyllis Tate. To my thinking it was a great success, and I trust that that experiment will be fruitfully continued.
The second B.B.C. television service has a difficult task before it. There will be much experiment. Undoubtedly, there will be many failures, as there must be in any worthwhile, long-continued enterprise, I would plead that the task of the B.B.C.'s second service should not be made more difficult by competition from a second I.T.V. service, at any rate until it has established itself. I am doubtful whether there is any need at all for a second I.T.V. service. We have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Forbes, that the independent companies dread the establishment of such a service in which their capacities would be swamped. I do not know that there is any strong demand by the public for this fourth television service, and I am very doubtful whether the independent television companies, even the large ones, have any strong reason—other than 679 the eternal "Jonesmanship" which permeates all endeavours—to want it either. I therefore ask that the B.B.C.'s interesting and vital experiment should be allowed to establish itself.
If we can afford a fourth service—and I never really know whether the economists are tolling me we are as poor as churchmice or as rich as Croesus—but if we can afford a fourth service, I would ask Her Majesty's Government to give serious consideration to the claims of stereophonic sound. To me, one of the greatest disappointments of the Pilking-ton Report—which in general I admire very much.—was their casual and uninteresting mention, tucked away in paragraph 799, I think it was, of stereophonic developments. Stereophony will, of course, mean an enormous increase in pleasure to those who listen to music, but it will also be of substantial help to the televised drama, and even to panel programmes; it will make them very much more lively and pleasant to hear.
My Lords, the Pilkington Committee, having taken evidence from the B.B.C., seem to regard this as a very distant and not very interesting development which they intended to relegate to the relatively distant future. They pointed out, however, that it depended on more research and on the evolution by the industry of what is called "a compatible receiver": that is to say, a monophonic receiver so designed as to be able to receive stereophonic sound. Research depends on a little money and a lot of enthusiasm, and a mechanical invention depends, I have always found, on the urgency of the demand for it. I believe that, granted a little endowment for research and a certain amount of enthusiasm from the public, stereophonic sound could come within a period of ten or twelve years, the period which we are now considering. I would ask Her Majesty's Government, in considering the allocation of radio frequencies, to remember the claims which stereophony may make in the not too distant future. My Lords, I do not know to what extent patriotic considerations ought to come into these artistic matters, but I am very proud of my country's achievement in the sphere of broadcasting and television. Incidentally, the Third Programme is the envy, admiration and 680 model of all European broadcasting, and I would be very proud indeed if Great Britain could take the lead in the development of stereophonic sound, which has to me a very great importance indeed.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ LORD FRASER OF LONSDALE
My Lords, I think it is right that we should pay our tribute to the Pilkington Committee and to its members for a public task well done over a long period of time; and if I criticise them, as I shall, that is not to say I do not appreciate their earnest, and, as I know from experience, tedious labours. I also would like, if I may, to thank the Leader of the House, Viscount Hailsham, and Lord Morrison of Lambeth, who is leading the Opposition today, for their contributions to this debate, which set the tone for a free, frank and friendly discussion of this important matter.
I myself think the Pilkington Committee's Report was pedantic and unrealistic. I think it might almost be called pompous and a little "upstage" as if they were setting themselves above the people. I am bound to say that the same thought influenced my mind when I listened to speeches from some quarters of the House when it was suggested that to give the people what they want must be to give a lot of fools something that is nauseating. I do not take so dim a view of the people. The Pilkington Committee base their severe criticisms of I.T.V. upon the assumption that the public interest, as intended by Parliament, has not bean served. So I ask myself: what did Parliament mean should be done? I was in the Parliament, in another place, which passed the Television Act, and I had something to do with the Committees which sat behind the scenes before that Bill came to fruition, and I think that I can make as good a guess as most people as to what Parliament at that time intended—and by "Parliament", I mean the majority of Parliament who carried the Bill. I think Parliament intended to use a new channel in the ether for the advertising of manufactures in Britain—mainly manufactures, at any rate—and thereby pay for a new entertainment for the people: to join entertainment and advertising together rather as the large-circulation newspapers do.
681 I do not think it is realistic to try to separate out the purpose of providing broadcasting to the people—as if it were the mission of some church or some philosopher or theologian—from the purpose of providing an advertising programme. I think that Parliament consciously, by a majority vote, in a long and exhausting debate in both Houses, did in fact determine to set up television supported by advertising, and for the purpose of advertising. I will come back to this theme, but for the moment I want to make an observation on the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, which I myself appreciated very much as I am sure did other noble Lords.
The noble Lady said that the programme produced by the I.T.V. was unbalanced because it did not contain within itself so much of the more serious matter that she would like to have heard or seen—so much of what might be called "Third Programme stuff". But Parliament did not intend—at least I do not think Parliament intended as I listened to the debate—that the I.T.V. itself should be balanced in the sense that the B.B.C. is balanced. I think it intended that the I.T.V. should, along with the B.B.C. and its Third Programme, produce a balance for the people. Therefore the assumption all the way along was that this new television system, to be provided by and financed by advertisers, should be primarily an advertising programme; that it should be a majority programme, not ignoring minorities but catering for the majority. I cannot help thinking it has carried out what it was supposed to do and has done it well, and the criticism of the Pilkington Committee in this connection is rather like re-debating the Second Reading of seven years ago. Indeed, I would say that, if the advertising programme of the I.T.V. had been a failure or a near-failure, Pilkington would have been glad and would not have had to write these strictures. But it has been a success. Let us now rejoice about its success and examine it.
First of all, I affirm that success is indivisible. You cannot say: "We have a most successful business but, unhappily, it does not make a profit and so we are going into liquidation." That is not good sense. A most successful business 682 makes something that the public want, or provides something that the public buy, or renders service that the public need, and makes a profit. It is noteworthy that most businesses which do not make a profit go into liquidation, or have to be nationalised. May I then examine, without any passion but coolly, what are the advantages of making a profit? First of all, if you make a profit you pay a lot of high taxation. Now that, surely, is a good thing for the nation. Then in this particular sphere you have the incentive, driving you forward more strongly than most other incentives drive men forward, to do something quickly and to do it well, and to hire the greatest skill and mobilise it and arrange it so that it delivers the goods. This is the most notable example, how in seven years we have covered the land with an entirely new method in the dissemination of speech and pictures, how we have rendered very great service to the community; and I want most briefly to list these services.
There is, first, the profit made by the programme companies, which has paid high taxation. There is, secondly, the fact, which cannot be denied by anybody and which is, indeed, praised by the Pilkington Committee, that this network of dissemination has been created in a short time, with remarkably good administration, executive work and technique. Good as the B.B.C. was, and I as an "old love" of the B.B.C. and one-time Governor of it would be the first to praise it, it cannot be denied that it woke up quite a bit when this rival came into the field. It became more amenable to public criticism, more sensitive of the public taste. It was compelled to pay its script writers, its producers and all its technicians more, lest they should be stolen away by this new rival. It therefore got keener and better service, and it did in fact produce in its own programmes, both sound and television, a better service the moment it was subject to competition. That is not surprising. I am one of those people who believe that that is exactly what competition does, and that is exactly the reason why competition is desirable.
Then, my Lords, it created a boom in the light electrical engineering industry and we manufactured vast 683 numbers of receiving apparatus, considerable numbers of transmitting apparatus, and the aerials which my noble friend Lord Iddesleigh dislikes so much. There I would say, in parenthesis, that I think the trade should do something to try to get all these signals into one aerial, to remove the horror of the thousands of aerials that are to be seen defiling our rooftops. But to come back to the theme, there was a great incentive to the manufacturing industry, the light electrical engineering industry, to make sets. Almost every house in Britain has a television. That has meant a lot of wealth, a lot of employment, a lot of taxation, a lot of good money for the scientists, developers, and executives. Surely, that is a good thing.
I would say, in passing, that, in general, profits have this result. It is all very well to say that you can accept other incentives such as public service, love of country or religious excitement, and there are no doubt minority groups among whom these incentives prevail to a high degree. But for the ordinary run of mankind, the profit motive to get on and do a bit better is the motive that produces the most immediate response. We all have our prejudices. I suspect, from reading the Pilkington Committee Report, that they might find their prejudices were very much the same as those of the noble Lords opposite, against profits in general.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord, to whom I am listening with great interest? Why should it be supposed that Sir Harry Pilkington, who is the chairman of one of the largest and most distinguished private businesses in the world, would be opposed to profits?
§ LORD FRASER OF LONSDALE
By their lights so shall ye know them. I can only say that in reading these strictures of his unanimous Committee upon the I.T.V. I could not help thinking, perhaps wrongly, that the profits I.T.V. had made had excited their envy and jealousy, as I suspect they have excited the envy and jealousy of noble Lords opposite.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, perhaps I might ask the noble Lord a question about that. The noble Lord is presenting an interesting argu- 684 ment for profits, but what many people feel is that the profits in this industry have been altogether excessive. Perhaps the noble Lord would say a word about that.
§ LORD FRASER OF LONSDALE
Yes, my Lords. I am grateful to the noble Earl for giving me that opportunity. Whereas I think some people have a prejudice against profits, and therefore would look at this I.T.V. development over seven years with a jaundiced eye, I have a prejudice in favour of profits and I would rejoice, because of the good that it has done to the country, some of which I have enumerated in detail—and I do not want to make my speech too long by elaborating it. I think it has positive and very great advantages. Moreover, there is nothing out of the way about a new industry, or a new public service, or a new design of this kind making great profits. I suppose great profits were made by Lord Northcliffe, by Lord Beaverbrook, by those who started the popular newspaper. Why not, then, by those who start popular television? It does not seem to me wrong. There is this prejudice, which I think has entered into some of our thinking in the matter, and I venture to rebut it.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? Is not the difference between Lord Northcliffe and Lord Beaverbrook, and I.T.V. and these other contractors, that in the latter case the contractors were given monopolies? They were given captive audiences in various parts of the country, and, so far as I am aware, neither Lord Beaverbrook nor Lord Northcliffe ever had captive audiences.
§ LORD FRASER OF LONSDALE
Of course, my Lords, this licence to print money is just a caption. It is a number of words that have no meaning. But, as regards the monopoly question, it is a fair point which the noble Lord has made, and later I am going to suggest that we take this into account. It is true. Nevertheless, let us rejoice that this experiment, started by Parliament's initiative seven years ago, has been a success. Let us not be so cross because 685 they have made so much money: let us be glad. That is the point I am making, and I beg leave to let it stand on its merits or fall on its demerits. I would say, do not Jet us destroy this creature which has done us so much good. Let us rather revise it, review it; but, above all, do not let us destroy it.
There is another advantage which it has provided for us, and that is in the field of exports. It is not unimportant that we have been able to export, not only receiving apparatus and transmitting apparatus, but also scripts and ideas. It is not unimportant that we have been able to bring into this field a number of bright, young, clever people who would not have entered it but for the high rates of pay which I.T.V. started paying and which the B.B.C. did not think of paying beforehand. All that, surely, is a good thing. It is not unimportant that (the actors and actresses have now two people at least to employ them, instead of only the one. They were much at a disadvantage when they had only the one. All this was in the minds of those who favoured and supported the breaking of the B.B.C.'s monopoly seven years ago, and I was one of them.
Now it is said that, by way of remedying the so-called iniquity of this position, I.T.V. should itself start selling advertisements. My Lords, I do not think that is practicable. The aversion to the selling of advertisements by a public corporation is obvious in the manner and behaviour of the B.B.C. From my own knowledge of their behaviour and working when I was a Governor, and afterwards, I ventured to invite them to sell advertisements years and years ago, but they would not; nor do I think that, if they had, they would have done it successfully. I do not for one moment suppose that I.T.V., with a new term of reference not to be popular but to be only serious, to behave only in a minatory manner, would successfully sell advertisements. Then there would not be the money, and then, my Lords, there would not be I.T.V. in the sense that we have it now—good, widespread, growing, vigorous. It would not be there to take the money, and there is no other way in which money can be had—at least, no other way in which it can be had so easily. I therefore deplore the suggestion that the dealing 686 out of the advertisements and the outlining of the advertising programmes should be invested in the central authority, the I.T.V. I do not think that is the kind of organisation, or that we could create an organisation, that could undertake the task. Indeed, I say it is only the fact of these commercial companies selling this advertising for the highest price they could get to approach the largest number they could reach which made the large sums of money, and obviously we need the large sums of money.
Now when I listened to my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth—and he and I have been political friends for some forty years—and to the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, I bethought me of an old soldier's song. I will forbear to quote some of the verses to your Lordships, but one of the verses is perhaps relevant. The theme of the story was that of some parents who lived in the country and whose daughter went to London to earn her living as an actress. It was feared by her parents that some of her activities might have been of a very doubtful character, because she made money so quickly. The verse that I want to call to your Lordships' attention says this:But her poor misguided parents, in the village where they live,Though they drink the wine she sends them, yet they never can forgive.My Lords, that, as I see it, is exactly where the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, and, with respect, the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, stand or sit. They want to take this money and give it to the honest, pure, untainted B.B.C. They do not mind the source from which it comes. At the same time, they say, "Let us make the I.T.V. so dull and so unpopular, and let it appeal to so many minorities, that the great mass of the people stop listening to it, so that there will not be any money." This is both hypocritical and nonsense, it seems to me, and they have not a leg to stand on in this proposal.
Now, my Lords, I venture to declare an interest (not an interest in TV. or in radio, or in radio manufacturing, but in some of the companies which advertise on T.V.; and, in particular, in a pharmaceutical company) because I want to call attention to a recommendation which is made by the Government 687 in paragraph 66 of the White Paper, where they suggest that medical advertisements should be referred to a panel of medical consultants. None of us wishes that the public should be misled about medical advertisements, about invitations to self-medication, but may I take just a minute of your Lordships' time to say that quite an important element in the advertising on I.T.V. is these very advertisements of branded medicines which have a public appeal and which are sold direct to the patient and not through the doctor? I declare an interest as being a director of one of the largest of these manufacturing firms, and the first point I want to make is that if these companies did not provide simple ways of curing a headache or a bellyache, then the doctors' consulting rooms would be so full of people inviting them to give them prescriptions that they could not do their work. They are overworked now, but then they would have 40, 50 or 100 people a day coming in.
It is therefore a public service which is rendered when these well-established, well-known household remedies are brought to people's notice and people are told where they can get them and what they will do. There may be a danger here, and I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, and others, if they are going to speak on this matter now or at any other time, will tell us of it—the danger that you can run into this or that disease which a doctor might have investigated or diagnosed. I am well aware of that; but the fact remains that the great mass of the people must be served or they must go on with their headaches or their bellyaches.
Now this trade is not composed of a small number of irresponsible quacks: it is composed of some very fine and well-known firms. Their names I will not mention for obvious reasons, but they are well-known and well-respected, and their goods are bought by millions of people with respect and with results. They spend hundreds of thousands of pounds a year on research and development, and they have made their own contribution towards both the ethical and the advertised brands of pharma- 688 ceutical products with which we are familiar. Moreover, they have medical men in their employment; and, as a group of employers, they band together and subscribe to an advertising convention, upon which the British code of standards is itself based, which requires a high standard of veracity and accuracy in their advertising. I ask simply that, if it is to be suggested that these advertisements alone are to be subject to some special panel, then a representative of the trade, which is the Proprietary Association of Great Britain, should be joined with this panel—not necessarily more than one of them, but at least one, to sit with the doctors, in order to tell them what is going on in the trade, and to win their confidence, as I am sure he would. I just ask whether that can be taken into account.
Finally on this little subject, I would say that the Pilkington Committee do not pick out, nor has anyone else picked out, so far as I know, these particular advertisements for criticism, and yet they are the ones which are picked out in the White Paper for this special treatment. I have no objection to the treatment, except that it is partial treatment; but if the trade itself was allowed to consult with the Ministry of Health about this, perhaps the Government could accept a P.A.G.B. trade representative on their panel of medical consultants.
Now I come to my praise for some of the practical recommendations in the Pilkington Report. First of all, the proposal to increase the lineage, or the lines in the picture, is an obvious one. That proposal has been made by many of us before, and it is a pity that we did not do it ten years ago, as I ventured to recommend to Lord Beveridge's Committee. Colour: I approve of that. The proposal that the B.B.C. should have the new U.H.F. channel: I approve of that, but I really do not see why the fourth channel should be kept waiting for some years, as the Pilkington Committee suggest, until the I.T.A. has revised and reformed itself. I do not think that the I.T.A. need this revising and reforming, at least, not very much; and if we are going to wait until a new system of running the I.T.A. has been established, we shall have to wait for years for the fourth channel. 689 Why not let us have it now, right away, along with the new B.B.C. channel? It is my guess that we shall find it is the independents who will get their fourth channel going sooner than the Corporation do. At least, there will be strong competition between the two to get it going, and perhaps we shall not have to wait until 1964. I would not suggest that the fourth channel be given to the same operators as the present commercial companies, but to another group, so that we should have yet more competition, which I believe would be a good thing.
I come now to the noble Lord's question about too big profits. As I have said, I think profits axe a good thing, but there are certain cases in which profits can take advantage of a situation, such as a monopoly situation. I do not think anyone is to blame for the fact that this has happened in this case, because, as the Lord President reminded us in his opening speech, when a few people put their money into this thing—and I was not one of them—they might have made a loss, but in fact they made a booming profit. If there is now the opportunity to revise the Charter or the licences, it would be open to Her Majesty's Government to say, "We shall now charge you a substantial rent". There are many precedents for this. There is one at the place where I live, in Regent's Park. There is only one lake there, so it has a monopoly value; and there is only one group of tennis courts. It is the custom for the Office of Works to let out this lake and the tennis courts to an entrepreneur; they let them out on a rental basis, plus a share of the profits. Maybe he pays £1,000 a year rent and pays 10 per cent. of the profits—whatever they may be; but I see no reason why we should not do that, and thereby make this extremely valuable monopoly of advantage to the promoters, and make the enterprising ones pay something to the community as well. Nor, indeed, do I see any reason why the B.B.C. should not have some of it. It could be regarded by the advertisement channels as being a bit of compensation to the B.B.C. themselves for not going in for advertising. There would be some equity about that which I do not think we should ignore.
On the subject of channels and U.H.F., there was a time when we thought that 690 there was no room in Europe for more than two or three hundred middle-range channels and one or two long-range ones. Then the scientists brought us in touch with higher frequencies or shorter wavelengths, and we found that there was more room; and as we went down in the spectrum, we found we could transmit T.V., V.H.F. (very high frequency) and now U.H.F. (ultra high frequency). I am sure the scientists will go on finding more ways in which we can transmit. After all, if you can transmit to "Telstar" or to the moon, it is not a lot to ask that you should transmit a little further in Britain.
Then we are offered pay television. I will not go into this in any detail, except to say, with some little vanity, perhaps, that I also recommended this to the Beveridge Committee in my evidence ten years ago; but they ignored it, as the Pilkington Committee are hedging about it now. My Lords, we ought not to ignore these new channels, these new methods. We ought not to say that this must be a stereotyped public service run by one or two stereotyped corporations. Let us praise God that we have the B.B.C., with its public service tradition and its stereotyped methods, and that we have this other, more venturesome, free enterprise taking advantage of every situation it can, serving the multitude; to some extent, if you like, ignoring the minorities. I do not mind that. I suppose the Daily Mail ignores the minorities and leaves them to The Times. And why not? Do not let us close down on these great technical advances, but let us take every advantage of them. If we do not do so, and if we do not do so by advertising, then we are going to deprive our people of an enormous advantage, which I think they have enjoyed in the last seven years, and which I think they can enjoy in the future. Let us be forward-looking and optimistic, and say that there is great merit in variety, and great merit in letting enterprising people try all sorts of ways of making money, making profits, providing wealth, employment and taxation. That is surely the way to a better time for our people than the way of restriction and control.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ LORD GRANTCHESTER
My Lords, in view of the number of speakers still 691 to come, I will try to be very brief. This may make my remarks a little disjointed, but no doubt that will be forgiven in the interests of brevity. My Lords, I am sure that Liberals do not wish to make this important subject a matter of Party controversy. The inter-Party discussions which are promised in the last paragraph of the White Paper on Party Political Broadcasting should help to keep Party considerations out of the other matters to be decided. In my opinion, the Government are wise to take only limited decisions—the limited decisions indicated in the White Paper—and to reserve for longer consideration some of the more difficult matters raised by the Pilkington Report, more especially in the light of current developments which the Pilkington Committee apparently did not foresee. Personally, I see no reason to quarrel with the proposals contained in the White Paper, so far as they go; but I should like to see included in the preliminary decisions a few suggestions which I should like to make.
The first relates to sound broadcasting, dealt with in paragraphs 20 and 21 of the White Paper. I should like to get rid of the widespread inference that the Third Programme is intended for a peculiar set of highbrows and that the light programme is intended for mass appeal. I should like the channels of the B.B.C. renamed I, II and II, and the Third Programme should be II and not III. I should like these three programmes presented as alternatives between which, from day to day, listeners would be invited to make a choice. In order to help this choice I should like to see more detailed information about the programmes published in the daily newspapers, even if the B.B.C. have to pay for the extra space needed to get this.
The second suggestion is designed to emphasise the responsibility of the B.B.C. to licence-holders, whose payments keep them going. I should like the licence holders treated as shareholders, with votes each year for a proportion of governors or directors retiring or standing for election. I should like to see licence-holders receive every year a report from their directors. With the report, voting papers could be delivered by the Posit Office, stamp-free as also the 692 returned voting paper. This is all I would say on the preliminary decisions, and I now turn for a few minutes to the wider questions raised in the Pilkington Report.
I agree with all that is said in the Report on arrogance—the arrogance involved in thinking that anybody knows what is best for others or what others desire. I am prepared to take my stand, as the Committee do, on the simple duty of providing a maximum choice of alternatives for viewers. This would include some more adventurous experiments, I hope. But I would strongly dissent from the method by which the Committee suggest this can be achieved. I think that their proposals for reconstituting the I.T.A. are impracticable, even if they were desirable, which I should question. And, so far, no one except the noble Lord who has just sat down seems to have counted with the possibility of killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. After all the Exchequer is the biggest recipient of those profits which are so often mentioned. I would also point out that there are several other bidders for advertising revenue, and it may be that the speech which we have heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, will give some advertisers cause to think again.
To stress the need for strengthening the influence of I.T.A. is quite another matter. I think that this involves widening the field of competition in available programmes. I am sorry that the Committee relied so much upon "volunteered" evidence, which is purposeful, if not propagandist, apparently without a thorough independent check. Rather like the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, as a democrat I cannot accept the assumption that because a programme appeals to a majority of listeners it is necessarily bad or trivial.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, will the noble Lord allow me to interrupt? Who has ever suggested—either in the Pilkington Report or elsewhere—that a programme which appeals to a majority of listeners is necessarily bad?
§ LORD SHACKLETON
Would the noble Lord then quote the particular passage, because in fact they say exactly the opposite. I should like to know what he is referring to.
§ LORD GRANTCHESTER
My Lords, it is quite clear, I think, from the Pilkington Report that they consider that any programme which is based on an appeal to the majority cannot be of the standard or fulfil the purpose which they lay down for good television.
§ LORD GRANTCHESTER
My Lords, nor do I consider that what I or others may term triviality, which, after all, involves personal taste, the greatest of offences. History is full of examples of harm done by the well-meaning and the busybody. I have also learned that we tend to overrate ourselves as guardians of moral standards or the providers of what is good for the young or for the majority. It is better to express simply our personal preferences through our behaviour. I have often been surprised to find that what I thought might have a bad effect either had no effect at all or had quite a different effect from what I anticipated. All the same, I dislike very much some programmes. I find young people to-day eager to know more, and I am sure that much that is useful and educative can be produced in an interesting and attractive way. Nor do I think that all programmes are suitable for general transmission. Some may be suitable for specially interested groups but may be in bad taste in a general programme. In this matter I consider the B.B.C. more guilty than I.T.A. But with a second channel it should be possible to remedy this fault.
I am a little surprised at the vehemence of the attack of the Committee on the I.T.A. and the programme companies. Never having appeared either for the B.B.C. or I.T.A. perhaps I can say this. The programme companies must be judged to some extent by the qualities of the performers they put on. A great deal of attention has been given by them to serious questions, to serious inquiries, and I find among their speakers such upholders of high standards as the directors of a number of county education authorities; educationists in many 694 varied fields; prominent leaders of the Churches; many Members of your Lordships' House, including our noble and teamed Leader and my noble friend Lord Beveridge; many Members of another place, of all three Parties, among them several of those who are the leaders of their Parties. Surely the Committee's condemnation should have been qualified, if only to exempt such dedicated servants of the public from their strictures?
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ LORD FERRIER
My Lords, as it is so late, I will, like the last speaker, be brief. I would ask your Lordships' indulgence if I have put together a speech which inevitably has come together as the debate went along. I will begin, as so many Lords have done, by welcoming the Committee's Report. I feel that, whether or not it is pompous, as perhaps it may be, it is certainly not arrogant; and we can I think, say that its integrity is absolutely outstanding, and the matter which it has put before the public is a good subject for your Lordships, as it were, to bite on. The White Paper also gladdened my heart, for reasons which I will mention as I go along. But I do feel, the matter being so complex and important, that it is quite right for the Governmentto avoid precipitate decisionon matters which can wait. At the same time, everyone welcomes the technical decisions (by which I mean the electrical and mechanical decisions) in regard to wavelengths. In that respect, I agree fully with my noble friend Lord Fraser of Lonsdale.
I turn to the White Paper, and my only comment on the early pages is on the matter of the fees for the Chairmen and Governnors or members of the Boards. Particularly with regard to the Chairmen, these fees seem to be on the low side, in the light of the responsibilities and the burdens which are even now laid upon them, and which will be increasingly onerous as broadcasting develops, as I am sure it will. As a Scotsman, I welcome the extension of the powers of the National Broadcasting Council for Scotland in relation to television, and the recommendation regarding an Advisory Committee on Scientific Problems. While the Government 695 reserve their position in regard to other committees, I feel it is fair, as it were, to utter a warning that a multiplicity of committees (I am sure that the noble Lord who is to reply would be the first to appreciate this) may result in executive functions being bogged down.
It is clear to me, as I think it is to all noble Lords, that there is no need for an additional sound broadcasting service. But, at the same time, I welcome the extension of the hours of sound broadcasting. In this respect, I would suggest that consideration be given to the idea of putting on "Yesterday in Parliament", or some such programme, which now comes on at 8.45 a.m., earlier. The time of 8.45 a.m. is too late for the average man or woman who goes out to work. It is worth remembering that this item, the review of Parliament's affairs, which is a duty of the B.B.C., is of increasing interest to listeners the further one gets from the cities with their evening papers and up-to-date morning editions of newspapers. It should also be appreciated that an earlier programme overnight must inevitably be incomplete, yet at 10.45 p.m. many working folk are abed.
To turn now to television, I confess that I do not often look at commercial television. My own set in Scotland does not take it; and in London, frankly, I find that I do not like it. I feel that, compared to the B.B.C., its quality is low, and I hate the interruptions for advertisements, which antagonise me to all the products which they advertise. Nevertheless, it is fair to appreciate what my noble friend Lord Fraser of Lonsdale has said: that it does provide a service which is appreciated by many people; and when we come to the matter of triviality and violence, I will mention it again. Other noble Lords have mentioned the fact that we are still on the threshold of television development, and I certainly believe that to be the case. For this reason, no time should be lost in pressing on with the South West Scotland service, so that that area can come within the scope of Scottish television.
As for colour television, what delights lie in store for us when this becomes available on our screens! It is almost difficult to remember what it meant when black and white film was replaced by 696 colour, and colour television is something to which I greatly look forward—roll on the day! Did the noble Viscount wish to say something?
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I was only going to say that it is far too expensive for me, at any rate at present.
§ LORD FERRIER
Presumably, there will be the third channel which I hope will be introduced without delay and will be used as a basis for experimentation. I agree with other noble Lords who have spoken in favour of the fourth channel being pressed forward, so long as the technical difficulties, which I imagine exist, can be overcome; and I also deduce from what has been said that this fourth channel may well be given (and I think wisely) to a commercial organisation.
As for violence and triviality, I must say that I was brought up on the motto:Never, never, let your gunPointed be at anyone.It horrifies me to see the extent to which little people in wide hats point their guns to-day. But there is nothing that can be done about this unless some sort of educative influence be brought to bear, so far as the young are concerned. As for triviality, let us not be too ready to make up our minds as to what is trivial. I personally regard "Compact" as rather trivial, although none of my family would miss it for anything; but none of them would join me in listening to "Grand Hotel" on Sunday evenings; and, of course, the young members of the family listen to jazz, which neither my wife nor I can take—I think that is the word.
§ LORD FERRIER
That is correct: we do not "dig" jazz.
On the subject of advertising, I should like to develop a matter which was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Fraser of Lonsdale: he told me that he was very sorry he had to go, and I said I would bring it up. I refer to paragraph 266 of the Report, which says:The British Medical Association proposed that advertisements on television for drugs, medicinal treatments and preparations should 697 be prohibited. As this ideal was not likely to be achieved soon, the Association advocated, as a second best, the setting up of a committee to preview all such advertisements.I have some doubt as to whether "ideal" is quite the right word there, as I think my noble friend Lord Fraser of Lonsdale would have agreed had he been in the Chamber. I turn from there to the White Paper, where the last sentence of paragraph 66 says:In this context the Government has in mind a statutory requirement that all medical advertisements should be referred to a panel of medical consultants to be appointed by the I.T.A. after consultation with professional organisations accepted as appropriate by the Postmaster General.In view of the fact—and this is little understood, I believe—that no medicine which is prescribable under the National Health Service is ever advertised to the public, either on television or in any other way, it is worth thinking over what the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, said. He suggested that self-medication products were medicaments which warranted the introduction of a member of the P.A.G.B. in the panel to which the Government refer in the White Paper. Whether that be wise or not, I am not at the moment able to state.
Your Lordships may not be aware that I am chairman of a group of pharmaceutical companies, but our manufactures are entirely ethical—in other words, they are never advertised to the public. I would repeat that no product which is prescribed on the National Health Service is so advertised. Nevertheless, I feel it would be worth considering Whether certainly a representative of the pharmaceutical industry, perhaps with the addition of the representative to whom the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, referred, should be included in a medical panel. It is worth mentioning that this industry, which is at the moment the subject of a series of what are, in my judgment, quite unreasonable attacks, is the industry which in this country employs a higher percentage of graduates than any other. This matter is of importance, I believe, in considering the value of the products which they place at the disposal of the public.
To turn again to the White Paper, I should like to refer your Lordships to Part III. I am not so happy about this problem of monopolies and of the mono- 698 polistic control which may develop if more and more channels are placed in the hands of the B.B.C.—and in this respect I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge. It is not only the possible monopoly of Press and television but also the monopoly even of sound that I dread. I am consequently glad to see that in paragraph 76 the Government have set out their intentionto take cognisance of public reaction before reaching a decision.Opposed to sponsorship as one may be, as I am in principle, I would rather have sponsorship to a very great degree in almost any form if that is the price that may have to be paid for avoiding a monopoly.
In this respect, I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, said in his speech. When one comes to the question of programmes, I also agree with what the noble Lord said about the importance of co-ordinating programmes if they are not to be a monopoly, and I would seek some study of this point which I think was also mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, in her attractive speech. Monday's "Panorama" programme was a clear indication of how heavily the mighty can fall; nevertheless, I am a staunch supporter of the B.B.C., as I feel everyone must be who has had the experience of listening and viewing in other countries.
I myself believe that, given proper safeguards, local stations might—and I repeat "might"—be a remedy for protection from monopolistic control, which might even extend to indoctrination or widespread sensationalism. I hope that one of the matters to which the Government will give close regard will be this problem of local stations. The noble Lord, Lord Forbes, referred particularly to the problem which I see I have noted here, and I feel that to deny the availability of local stations to the public will be a heavy responsibility as time goes on, particularly in a sparsely populated area, which probably means agricultural areas. Theirs is the chief need for local broadcasting, and I trust that this will come and not be long delayed. So far as pay television is concerned, I also believe that that will come, and that nothing will stop it. Within its own proper sphere it is a 699 proposition which should be taken seriously in hand.
If the coming of the I.T.V. has contributed something of value to television and enlivened the B.B.C., it has in some respects lowered its standards. That is my own view, certainly as regards sensationalism. Imitation is not altogether beneficial. Here again, I would mention the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, that this imitation has led to similar programmes being given at similar listening hours. To my mind, as the number of channels increase the need of inter-channel advice of coming programmes needs watching. It is all very well having to scan the newspapers, but this question of giving details of programmes on other channels is something which, in my belief, should be made almost obligatory.
I look forward to the rest of this interesting debate and rejoice that, after making up their mind firmly on the strictly technical decisions about channels, the Government will be wise and take careful soundings as they pick their course forward. But let them travel as fast as they can. I look forward ultimately to advances such as the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, envisaged when he sat down.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ LORD ARCHIBALD
My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord who has just spoken that we have had an extremely interesting debate, and I think all the main broad general recommendations have been fully discussed and no doubt will be further discussed. I do not intend to deal with what might be called the principal points, either in the Pilkington Report or in the White Paper, but with perhaps two of the minor points. Before I go on to that, I would just say, in passing, that my general impression is that the B.B.C. is not quite as good as the Pilkington Report would represent it to be, nor is the I.T.A. quite as bad as the Pilkington Report suggests. On the other hand, I would qualify that by saying that I think that the best of the B.B.C. is better than the best of the I.T.A., and that the worst of the B.B.C. is not as bad as the worst of I.T.A.
Before I go on to the two points with which I want to deal, I feel that I must declare an interest. I am the Chair- 700 man of the Federation of British Film Makers, which was one of the many bodies which submitted evidence to the Pilkington Committee. There is the British Film Producers' Association, which also made representations. I think I could say that, broadly, the positions of the two film producers' associations are almost identical and that although the evidence varied slightly it was substantially in agreement. But, of course, I do not to-night speak either for the Federation or for the Association; I speak only for myself. I hope that when they read in the OFFICIAL REPORT what I have said they will agree with me; but I take the risk that they may not. But I am more hopeful that the writers, actors, technicians and studio workers generally will agree with what I am going to say.
Of the two points about which I want to speak, on one of them the White Paper is silent, but I have not noticed this afternoon that the absence of anything in the White Paper has precluded noble Lords from speaking on such topics, and therefore I do not feel I should be any more restricted. That matter is of a quota for television films. I am not referring here to the generally old cinema films which we see from time to time on television. From my point of view I do not want to see them on television at all; I feel that, in that respect, television is just borrowing from another medium and ought to be producing its own material suited for its own medium. Nor am I referring to the live programmes which, for purposes of convenience in presentation, may be recorded either on tape or on film. What I am referring to are the films which are usually series of 13, 26 or 39 episodes, which are made specifically for television. Noble Lords, even if they have not seen these series, will no doubt recognise them by name—series such as "Wagon Train", "77 Sunset Strip", "Laramie", "Bonanza" and so on, which, I believe, are very popular.
These T.V. film series are mainly, almost exclusively, made in America. As a matter of fact, at present the making of T.V. films in Hollywood is a much more important business than the making of cinema films, much to the regret of cinemas all over the world who are now short of their proper product. 701 With the enormous market for television films in the U.S.A. these films can easily recoup their costs in their domestic market and, as a result of their having recouped their costs, can be sold over here at very low prices. In fact, it could be said that it is a form of dumping so far as this market is concerned. The prices for these T.V. film series are so low that there is no possibility of British producers of T.V. films being able to make films at these prices. I doubt whether the prices which are available for specific T.V. films in the British market would represent much more than about one-sixth of the cost of making these films, and, as noble Lords will recognise, British producers could not hope to recoup the difference between one-sixth and six-sixths of their costs in overseas markets.
The two film producers' associations and, I believe, the film workers' organisations, submitted to the Pilkington Committee proposals for a T.V. film quota. These proposals are set out in paragraphs 332, 333 and 334, of the Pilkington Report, and I will not weary your Lordships by reading what the Pilkington Report says about them. In the subsequent paragraphs, the Committee, while sympathising with the proposal, proceed summarily to reject it. But I am bound to say that I think the Pilkington Committee rejected the proposal for a quota on rather flimsy grounds. For example, the Report says:Public criticism of foreign material, as distinct from criticism by professionally interested groups, was not so much addressed to the quantity of it shown, as to its quality.If that means anything, it surely is that there is no public demand for British T.V. films; but if the viewing public is denied the opportunity of seeing what good entertainment British T.V. films could be and how high their technical quality could be, then how can there be a demand for British T.V. films? There have been no opportunities for seeing how good they can be. In the same paragraph we are treated to the very well-worn cliché thatin principle, art should have no frontiers".I do not quarrel with that, but I do suggest to your Lordships that the traffic across the frontier should not be oneway traffic; and it is now exactly that so far as T.V. films are concerned.
Noble Lords, or perhaps I should say 702 noble Lords of my own generation, may recall that the Imperial Conference of 1926 placed on record its view that the maintenance of an effective British film production industry was very important in the Imperial, or, as we should now say, in the Commonwealth interest. As a result of that, the Cinematographic Films Act, 1927, was passed and the quota requirements of that Act have been strengthened and maintained by subsequent legislation until to-day. I am submitting to your Lordships that the position of British T.V. film production to-day is strictly comparable with that of cinema films in 1927 and needs the same kind of help. Imported material shown on television in this country accounts for somewhere about 14 per cent. so far as the B.B.C. is concerned, and I believe the Commercial T.V. proportion is about the same. It may well be said that if foreign material is limited to about 14 per cent. there is nothing seriously wrong with that. But from the point of view of the British producers, writers, technicians, and others, who want to be making T.V. films, it is very serious that the bulk of the 14 per cent. of foreign material is made up of foreign T.V. films. I believe that of the 14 per cent. about 10 per cent. comprises in effect American T.V. films. As a result of that, obviously British producers of T.V. films or would-be producers of T.V. films are subjected to a fiercer competition than are the producers of any other type of T.V. material.
For those reasons, and one that I shall come to later, I believe that a quota for British T.V. films is necessary and justified and that that quota might well be the same as for British cinema films: of the order of 30 per cent. To that I would add just one qualification. I think that if the Government on reconsideration were to agree that there should be such a quota, that quota should apply equally to peak hours and off-peak hours. If we do not have that, then we would have an encouragement to the production of quota "quickies" to be shown in the off-peak hours.
I said I had an additional reason, and that is in relation to exports. Since the end of the war the export of British cinema films has enormously developed and revenues from the overseas markets have become substantial and important. I do not regard this as being important 703 from the point of view of revenue only but also from the point of view that a British product is being shown on the cinema screens throughout the world, and I think that is very well worth while. Now television is expanding all over the world, and I should have thought that this House and Her Majesty's Government would regard it as important that British T.V. films should also be shown on the world's T.V. screens as British cinema films are being shown on the world's cinema screens, and not least of all on the screens, television and cinema of the Commonwealth countries. Let us show the world by this means the art and skill of British producers, writers, actors and technicians. I hope, therefore, that Her Majesty's Government will give proper thought to the proposals for a British T.V. film quota, and not accept the abrupt rejection by the Pilkington Committee.
I would add just one point on that, that the proposal for a quota for British T.V. films in relation to T.V. films in general need not necessarily be a matter for legislation. It could be a matter for administrative action; it could be a matter for agreement between the Government and the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. I am not suggesting that future legislation should be cluttered up with such detailed proposals. It could be done, I think, quite simply by agreement with the B.B.C. and I.T.A.
The second point with which I want to deal is with regard to subscription T.V. or, as it is more commonly known, pay T.V. On this I am glad to see in the White Paper that the Government reserve their decision. But I am sorry to see that they seem to think that a service provided by wire would be more likely to be possible. I personally am not interested in, nor do I hold a brief for, any particular system of transmission. But I fear that a wire service would be confined to the heavily populated areas of the country, and that the more remote and thinly populated areas, where in fact it would possibly be of the greatest value, would be denied such a service. I think the Pilkington Committee is wrong on its two main points on this subject: first, on its view, in paragraph 1001 on page 27:If it were commercially successful, it would certainly and significantly reduce the value to viewers of the present services.704 Surely that is a terribly unimaginative approach. I should think there is not a noble Lord in this House who could not suggest types of programme which would be suitable for pay T.V. and which are not shown either by the B.B.C. or commercial television. It may be they are not shown because they are too expensive, or it may be because they are too long and would not fit into the pattern of the programmes, or for some other reason; but I am sure we could all suggest many types of programme which would be possible on pay T.V. and certainly have not in the past been shown on either B.B.C. or commercial T.V.
In the field that I know most about I know that there are many film producers who would welcome an opportunity of making big films for pay T.V. When I say "big films" I mean, for this country, films in the region of, say, £200,000 to £250,000 cost. Those are obviously quite out of range of free T.V. until they become so old they are almost museum pieces. If new films made specially for T.V. were put on you would have this position: if only one million sets were tuned in to them at, let us say, 5s. a time (which is a very small price for a family, as against the price they would pay in going to the cinema or theatre) it would produce £250,000. From the Pilkington Report I see that for some T.V. programmes the audiences number as much as 18 million, and 12 million is relatively common. On that basis there is no reason to believe that paying audiences for a sufficiently good programme would not be available at the rate of well over one million for specially made films and many other types of programme.
I should say at this stage that I am not unmindful of the bad effect that that might well have on the cinemas of this country. But we must keep in mind that very many cinemas have closed in recent years and that closures are, unfortunately, still going on. In fact, it is prophesied by some of the experts that within a few years there will be only 1,000 to 1,500 cinemas functioning in this country. Obviously, in view of that, film producers must look forward and seek out an alternative outlet for their product, and pay T.V. is possibly the one outlet which they could find. It offers the producers the possibility of 705 getting back their lost patrons and showing them films in their homes instead of in the cinemas.
Leaving films aside for the moment, let us look at other alternative programmes. I am sure we all welcome recent announcements which indicate that we are going to have a National Theatre. That National Theatre, of course, will be situated in London. Could it not be made more truly national if, for example, its first nights were transmitted by pay T.V. throughout the country so that those who cannot come to London would have the opportunity of enjoying them? And the revenues would provide a great opportunity for the National Theatre to put on greater and more ambitious programmes and to relieve those who otherwise would have to subsidise the National Theatre. Similarly, one can go on and multiply examples: gala performances at Covent Garden, important new productions at Stratford-on-Avon, and so on. That is why I said earlier that I thought that the Pilkington Committee's suggestion that pay T.V. would rob the existing programmes of important material, is so wrong. There are so many types of programme which would be available for pay-T.V. but which are not now available that it could be a new and exciting service to the Community.
I should, however, like to make two qualifications about pay-T.V. I think it is important that the most stringent precautions should be taken to avoid the creation of a monopoly. As I said earlier, I have no interest in any particular system of transmission; but whatever system may eventually be decided on, I would suggest that the owners of that system should not be the programme contractors but should be paid simply—I do not mind if they are paid generously—for providing the system of transmission.
I think that the programme authority should be a public corporation like the B.B.C., charged with selecting from the material offered to it, or the material which it may seek out, or the material which it may commission, a balanced programme and a good programme for the viewers. When I say "a balanced programme and a good programme", I mean that there would be some pro- 706 grammes which would have a majority appeal and some which would naturally and properly have a minority appeal. I think that the financial basis should be that from the fees paid by the viewers the owners of the transmission system should be paid their proper remuneration; the programme authority (which I envisage as a non-profit-making authority) would have a percentage to cover its costs and any development work that it might want to do, and the net remaining receipts should go to the provider, the producer of the programme. In other words, I want to see it set up so that the creative people get the benefits, and not the middlemen or the owners of the machinery. With safeguards such as that, I see no reason why pay-T.V. should not be a valuable addition to television, and at least I think, despite the Pilkington rejection of it, that it should be given a trial, possibly only on a small geographical basis.
§ 8.13 p.m.
§ LORD AUCKLAND
My Lords, few Royal Commissions, at least in recent years, have caused such controversy as the Commission on Broadcasting and Television, whose Report is the subject of to-day's important debate. One thing is quite certain—and having listened for some hours to most of the speeches I have been pleased to see it—that this is no matter for political controversy. The Report is most comprehensive. The members of the Commission travelled far and wide; they went to Canada and the United States, and collected a great deal of evidence. Of course criticism of a Report such as this is unavoidable; indeed, any Royal Commission can be criticised. But I feel that we should look at the Report and the Government White Paper dealing with it, from a much broader angle.
I am a television viewer. I watch television fairly frequently, and I enjoy watching it. I enjoy watching B.B.C. Television, and at times I enjoy watching the Independent Television Authority, or Channel 9, or whatever is the appropriate channel. Programmes such as "Panorama", "No Hiding Place", "Music in Camera", "Probation Officer"—I have been quite impartial in the programmes which I have quoted—attract a wide audience, and I think rightly so; because in my opinion 707 at any rate, they are good programmes in their varying spheres. I think that the standard of light variety and comedy programmes on both channels is, on the whole, not high. There are exceptions. Moreover, of course, this is a matter of personal taste. The Commission were appointed by the Government presumably because of the large amount of criticism received from numerous bodies regarding television in this country. The members of the Commission spent two years, or just about two years, on their job. I should now like to examine some of the criticisms which have been made against the Pilkington Report.
One criticism heard is that the man in the street was not represented on the Commission, and that there was nobody from the world of light entertainment. To some extent that is a valid criticism. But, of course, the man in the street has a job of work to do, and few ordinary television viewers can spare two years to sit on a Royal Commission. One fine artiste in the world of serious and light entertainment, Miss Joyce Grenfell, sat on the Commission; and so did a footballer of world-wide repute, Mr. Billy Wright. I do not think that by any stretch of the imagination one could call those worthy people highbrow.
Nevertheless, a curious article appeared in the Sunday Times dated July 1, written by a Mr. Maurice Wiggin, who is the television critic of that paper. I should like to quote briefly one or two extracts from this article. The first says this:But I honestly doubt if the members of that bizarre tribunal really noticed how insufferably arrogant their conclusions were. The dual nature of the co-opted committee men is something to wonder at. Put three easygoing Englishmen round a table and call them a committee and they instantly start putting on the committee face and start behaving like different people.Just what that means I am honestly at a loss to know. I do not quite see that the tribunal which was set up is in any way bizarre or, to give it a more simple translation, peculiar. All the members of this Commission are, in their own sphere, brilliant people. They are not Greek scholars; they are not what one might call working men, employed in industry, or in the coal mines, or something like that. That is typical of the sort of criticism which has been made 708 against this Report from what I would describe as many uninformed centres.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, I think the noble Lord is saying some very valuable things, and I am sure I agree with him about the merits of the Committee. But is it not rather hard on Miss Joyce Grenfell to say she cannot in any circumstances be regarded as highbrow? Is not the noble Lord himself falling into the error of using "highbrow" as a bad word?
§ LORD AUCKLAND
My Lords, Miss Joyce Grenfell, so far as I am aware, is a most talented artiste in the serious theatre and in what one might call the revue type of show. So she is what I would call versatile, and, for that reason, was a very valuable member of this Committee.
My Lords, the TV Times of about ten days ago went still further. It was, of course, natural that they should criticise this Report: they are entitled so to do; and it is hardly surprising that they had some hard things to say. But the editor of this magazine—which is a very good magazine, with some very interesting articles, quite apart from its catalogue of the programmes—said, and I quote:What the Pilkington Committee wants is the nationalisation of I.T.V.He went on:The Report is automaticaly suspect because common sense alone dictates that nothing could be as perfect as Pilkington says the B.B.C. is, and nothing could be as imperfect as Pilkington says I.T.V. is.With respect to the editor of this magazine I can only presume that he has not read the Report fully, because, having read it as fully as I have been able to do in the time allotted to me, I saw no mention of the word "nationalisation" and no mention of the fact that I.T.V. should be put into any form of shackles. Certain recommendations have been made as to the future of the Authority, and whether or not these are acceptable is a matter of opinion. Since I myself have no business or financial interest in either channel, I should be the last person to delve, at this late hour, into the structure of the Independent Television Authority.
If I may now turn to one or two specific points in the Government White Paper, I would say at the outset that I think it is an extremely good White 709 Paper, produced, as it was, in such a shout time after the publication of the Report. First of all, in regard to advertising, I was rather sorry to see that the White Paper recommends the ending of the advertising magazines. Presumably, they mean programmes such as "Jim's Inn", and I think another is called "Shoppers' Guide". My Lords, I would far rather see a drastic cutting of those most aggravating advertisements which appear during the programmes themselves. For example, in a programme such as "No Hiding Place", Which lasts for, I think, 45 minutes, there are three "natural breaks", as they are called. I personally find, as do a lot of other people, that these breaks completely destroy the continuity of the programme. I should have thought that it would be much better to have these short advertising magazines, such as "Jim's Inn", Which are in far better taste than these very trivial (and I think the word is used there in its correct sense) advertisements for certain brands of toothpaste, washing powders and other commodities. In any case, as has already been said, many of these washing powders are made by the same firm.
There may be administrative difficulties in this matter, but it does seem that these could be considered and any decrease in the time allotted to these "natural breaks" would be welcomed by many people in this country. A leader in this morning's Daily Mail urged us in this House not to attack advertising. I am the last person to attack it if it is carried on in the proper manner, and I am the last person to attack the Independent Television Authority for putting on advertising. Some of it is quite sound; but some of it is also trite in the extreme.
One point which I see is not mentioned in the White Paper is this question of quiz games. It seems to me an intolerable situation that in a programme such as "Beat the Clock" somebody can earn £500 for diving through some hoops, or something of the sort. I am not saying that the things which people are called upon to do are always easy, but it is interesting to note that the compere of the show often helps these people, or tries to help them, to that end. My Lords, I consider that the Government ought to make it a directive to the Authority to have an inquiry into 710 these quiz programmes. I am not saying that no prizes should be given, but in these days many young people, in particular, do not realise the value of money when they see these very large sums of money being "dished out" week by week in these various programmes.
My Lords, I am glad to see colour television is mentioned in the White Paper, and I think that its introduction will be very much welcomed. But the cost, as I understand it, will be high, and I hope that the Government will lose no time in looking at the future financial construction of the B.B.C. when a third channel is allocated. I think that the allocation of a third channel to the B.B.C. should be made without delay, if that can possibly be done. I personally see no reason why the Independent Television Authority should not have another channel in due course, but I feel that the B.B.C., which is an old-established Corporation and has given service now for many years, should be given priority.
My Lords, it is interesting to note that criticism of the Pilkington Report is now dying down. More and more people are, I think, realising that the Report is worth while. Not everybody agrees with it. There are items in it with which I disagree, and I would be the last person to criticise those who run the Independent Television Authority, whether it is the central body or the regions; they put on some very good programmes. But I think it important that it should be realised that the Report has been carefully prepared, it has been comprehensively prepared, and the very last thing it seeks to do is to attack either the B.B.C. or Independent Television out of hand. The White Paper largely vindicates the Report, and I hope that this House will accept it.
§ 8.32 p.m.
§ LORD FOLEY
My Lords, I should like to say right away how happy I am to be able to take part in this debate on a subject that interests me greatly. If I may, I would for a few moments tell your Lordships about my own personal connection in the past with the entertainment industry, the television and radio industries. This is not from any desire to try to impress your Lordships that I 711 am an expert on this particular subject. On the contrary, it is to justify to myself my intervention in this debate.
In 1953 I had a company producing commercial radio programmes for Radio Luxembourg. This was a very interesting experience for me—it lasted some four years until the advent of commercial television, when of necessity many of one's clients deserted and used their, advertising allowance for commercial television—'because it enabled me to study closely the problems connected with the production of radio programmes, the question of the integration of radio programmes and advertising as such, and the needs of big public companies who wished to advertise their goods in the best possible way through the medium of radio. Subsequently, I went to America, where I appeared personally as a performer playing the piano and speaking on American television; and I also was able to watch American television quite a lot. So in this respect I feel I have some small advantage.
I think it is very important that we realise we are all after the same thing. Every Member of your Lordships' House, myself included, the Pilkington Committee, and, indeed, everyone else, only wants us in this country to have the best possible television service. It is purely on the way this should be achieved that we perhaps differ. I think we cannot proceed satisfactorily along these lines, unless we do so in a spirit of constructive criticism—not destructive criticism, but constructive criticism. In other words, I think it is useless for the purpose of this debate to say how well the B.B.C. or how well the I.T.V. have done. We take it for granted that they have done very well. We know there are men of immense talent in both camps. But I think there is need of improvement in our television programmes.
There seems to me to be too much violence, too much lack of planning, and certain other undesirable elements, which have been touched on so heavily by your Lordships this afternoon that it is not for me in any way to continue to enlarge these points at this late hour. But against that, of course, the best programmes of both I.T.V. and B.B.C. are, I think, very fine indeed. None of your 712 Lordships, I feel sure, who watched Wimbledon or the Open Golf Championships, as I did last week, can fail to realise what a magnificent entertainment television in its best form can provide. It is quite wonderful to bring into the lives of elderly people, invalids, perhaps people recovering from accidents, this marvellous entertainment. I am sure it is vitally important that we see that television grows and progresses in the best possible way.
As I said, the Pilkington Committee obviously had this very much in mind, and it is only on the way that this can best be done that I differ from them: and I do differ from them, because I have always been a great protagonist of commercial television. I was a vice-president of an association called the Popular Television Association, which, as your Lordships well know, was a pressure group, so-called, formed to try to have commercial television accepted in this House. I well remember taking the chair at some very amusing and entertaining public meetings in various parts of the country. At that time I had certain views, which I did, in fact, express in your Lordships' House, and nothing that has happened since that time has caused me to alter those views.
I believe that when commercial television was introduced into this country a great opportunity was lost, because I feel, as I have always felt, that we should have had fully-sponsored television in this country, as in America, and I believe so to this day. This is really where I think the trouble has arisen: not from going too far but from not going far enough. It works in a different way. A company wishes to advertise its goods. To-day one feels that that company is not really terribly interested in the standard of a programme, because it has no say about where its commercial is going to come. They could not care less, so long as their commercial appears on the screen. But in America, where big companies spend vast sums, taking great care over their programmes so that the image of their company shall in no way be tarnished, the standard seems to me to be far higher.
One noble Lord said—and I think it was an interesting remark—that the best commercial television was not as good 713 as the best of the B.B.C., and the worst of commercial television was worse than the worst of the B.B.C. I must, unhesitatingly though rather reluctantly, unhappily though in no way unpatriotically, state that, having watched television both here and in the United States of America, the best of American television is far superior to either. I feel that this is possibly because American television is sponsored, and companies have the right to identify themselves and to take a personal interest in the programmes with which their product is associated.
At the risk of detaining your Lordships—I know it is a late hour—I should like for a moment to go over the major reason why this particular idea was shelved by Her Majesty's Government at the time. I think it was felt very strongly in this House, and in another place, as well as in many other quarters, that if this were to take place companies would tend to lean towards a very undesirable type of programme. They would go for the programme that was most commercial, and they would tend always to plump for the programme that would pull in the greatest number of listeners, which would be wrong. But I do not think it would have worked in that way. I do not think it works in that way in America; in fact, I am sure it does not. I feel that the sort of companies who would have the amount of money available to spend on commercial television—and, remember, they would be responsible for the cost of the programme as well—would certainly not wish to be associated with anything which would in any way lower the tone of their own particular company. I do not think it works that way in America. I think that this is where we in this country have gone wrong, and I think that this is where we have gone wrong from the point of view of the profit question.
It seems to me that in this country to-day we have given to certain people a licence to print money (as the saying goes) owing to a technical situation presented to them on a plate. They can hardly fail to go wrong. I may be naïve enough to believe that it is very fine to make big profits provided they are made by the people who have the talent and the ability and are prepared to work hard in order to make them, but I am not so sure that that can really be said 714 about the big television companies in this country to-day. Certainly in the highly competitive jungle of American fully-sponsored television the greatest profits are made by those who have the greatest ability. When a company goes to an advertising agency in America, there may be six or seven programme companies all competing to provide the programme, and the one who produces the best will finally be allowed to produce the programme associated with that company's goods. I think this is a very good thing.
My Lords, I am aware that this is a very unpopular point of view. I feel that I am very much swimming against the stream. This is a view which, I know, is not held either by Her Majesty's Government or, indeed, by the Opposition. I feel that, although Her Majesty's Government are wrong in this, the Opposition are even more wrong, because I feel that they really do not want commercial television in any form. It is hard to state these views, swimming so very much against the tide. I feel rather like the gentleman of the famous saying, "Everyone is out of step except our Willie". Nevertheless, I think it is only right and fair that someone who feels something strongly, even though it may be contrary to public feeling and even though it is unpopular, should get up and say it, provided he feels it really strongly and from a point of view which is in no way insincere.
I am also very sorry, my Lords, not to see any possibility of introducing commercial radio in this country. I do not think it would have been a bad thing: it would have been a very good thing. It would have induced a new force, a new life, into the entertainment industry. After all, up to the time of the advent of commercial television an enormous number of people listened to Radio Luxembourg. The figures were quite startling; and it must be borne in mind that this was despite the fact that, owing to the allocation of wavelengths years ago, the reception of Radio Luxembourg in the southern part of England was extremely poor. Yet, notwithstanding that, many hundreds of thousands of people listened to Radio Luxembourg, and thus took, away from the B.B.C. a very great part of its listening figures. I feel that great attention should be given to sound radio: it is coming back 715 in a big way in America. There, you can listen to the wireless in a motor car or while you are working, and you can listen without the strain associated with television, which by its very medium requires far greater concentration. I repeat, my Lords, that I know these views are probably unpopular, and they have been decided against, anyway; but it is secure in the knowledge, in my own mind, that perhaps I am right and everybody else is wrong that I have ventured to detain your Lordships to-night.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ LORD CROFT
My Lords, I should like first to congratulate the Government on this White Paper, as much for the recommendations which they have accepted as for those which have been wisely reserved for further consideration following public debate. Most welcome is the decision contained in paragraph 39, authorising the B.B.C. to put out a second programme in the London area by mid-1954, such programme to be extended as soon as possible to the rest of the country. Here is a great chance for the B.B.C. to exploit to the full the educational and informative possibilities of the medium, and to provide features of interest to a wider variety of viewer.
In this connection, may I quote an extract from a letter from Sir Robert Matthew, President of the Royal Institute of British Architects, in The Times of July 11, which stated:A good deal of the public and private vandalism from which we now suffer is the direct result of our failure to educate or interest children and adults alike in the appearance and efficiency of our physical surroundings, yet neither the B.B.C. nor the I.T.A. has any advisory committees or councils concerned with the visual arts, architecture or the environment".Sir Robert Matthew goes on to recommend that the additional channel gives an opportunity to remedy this situation. If the B.B.C. uses the new programme to cater for minority interests, it will fulfil a real need, but it is to be hoped that it will not be tempted to use the new programme to compete with the existing Independent Television service.
Also particularly welcome is the decision contained in paragraph 37 of Part II, authorising additional hours for the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. for the purpose 716 of adult education. Furthermore, I am sure there are many noble Lords who would agree with the observations in paragraph 75 of Part III, in relation to local sound broadcasting, that as yet there has been little evidence of any general public demand for this. It seems good sense that the development of local sound broadcasting should be delayed until some of the more pressing commitments of the B.B.C. have been fulfilled.
Although a strong supporter of the Pilkington Report I am not blind to its defects: for instance, the too great disregard shown in the Report for the factor of public appreciation, together with the inadequacy of statistical information as to the contents of the two programmes, as was noted in yesterday's letter to The Times from the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger. On the other hand, I cannot agree with the view that the Committee had leaned too heavily on the views of such representative bodies as the T.U.C. and the Workers' Educational Association. The list of organisations and individuals which gave evidence is most impressive, covering as it does almost every aspect of our national life.
Another criticism of the Report is that although the question of competition is dealt with and the fact that the B.B.C. have lowered their standards in some measure in order to compete with I.T.V. is clearly brought out, not nearly enough is said about the beneficial effect on the B.B.C.'s serious programmes of the competition from I.T.V. And yet, when ail is said that can be said against the paternalistic attitude of the Committee, the fact remains that the Committee's analysis of the purposes of broadcastng is lucid and penetrating, and there are many thoughtful people who can agree with their verdict, expressed on page 68, that the service of I.T.V. falls well short of what a good public service of broadcasting should be. Clearly, it might be difficult for the Government, in the face of the Report, to authorise a second I.T.V. programme unless and until the organic weakness detected by the Committee in the constitution of Independent Television is corrected. To launch a second I.T.A. programme of the same mixture as before might well endanger development of television in this country by lowering unduly the average 717 standard of programmes. Fortunately, paragraph 81 indicates that no second I.T.A. service will be launched until a decision has been made on the proposed reform of the I.T.A.
The Committee have though out and recommended a careful scheme for the reform of the I.T.A. which, if implemented, would go a long way to removing the defects of the present system. One would imagine that a properly reorganised I.T.A. would make substantial profits from the sale of advertising time, especially as the profits made by the programme companies now are said to be phenomenal. Obviously the scheme will need intensive examination by Government experts, and in the meantime there would appear to be no great hurry to come to a decision. I hope the Government will find it possible to implement the proposals which have been put forward by the Committee as to the structural and financial reorganisation of the I.T.A., but if it is found not to be practicable, to devise some other system of control which will meet the criticisms of the Committee.
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ LORD MONTAGU OF BEAULIEU
My Lords, it is only to be expected that most speakers in your Lordships' House this afternoon have dealt with the question of television. I should like to concentrate for a few moments on the question of the future of sound broadcasting. One disappointment that I found in the Pilkington Report was the fact that there was little realisation of the tremendous and dramatic change the whole emphasis on sound broadcasting has taken since television came upon us. There also seems to be very little looking forward as to what the future of sound broadcasting will be in the next ten years or so. The situation Which we all knew before the war has dramatically vanished, and I think a great deal of hard thinking has to go into what the pattern of sound broadcasting is to be in the future.
Sound radio has still extremely important functions to perform, but I feel that as time goes on it will inevitably became more specialised. Entertainment in the general sense, sport, even politics and current affairs, must inevitably go, most importantly, to television. But sound radio will always 718 remain supreme in one thing; and that is music. I do not think any of us get very much "kick" out of looking at a symphony orchestra on television; our eyes wander and we just listen to the sound.
§ LORD MONTAGU OF BEAULIEU
Well, anyway, music is one of the best things that sound radio can provide. Also there are talks for minority interests, and there are the reports from your Lordships' House.
I am delighted to see the suggestion in the Pilkington Report that B.B.C.'s Network Three should now operate all day, and should concentrate mostly on classical music. I feel that the ideal situation would be if one could turn on the radio at any time of the day and hear music on one station or another. It would not matter whether it was light or classical music, but it would be an excellent thing if one could be sure of getting music. At the moment one cannot. These music stations in America, which were pioneered there many years ago, have been a tremendous success. They were sponsored in the first degree not by commercial radio, but by universities and the New York Times. Therefore, I welcome this suggestion, and I hope that the B.B.C. will push ahead and set up a really good music station. They might, indeed, recapture some of their audience from Radio Luxembourg.
I am afraid that I cannot agree with the remarks of my noble friend Lord Foley about commercial sound radio. Although I was a supporter of commercial television, I must say that my experience of commercial radio is one which leads me never to want commercial radio in this country. In fact, if commercial radio is to come to this country, it should have come many years ago when sound radio was at its peak; but now I think it is far too late. The B.B.C., it has always been accepted, are in fact doing a very good job.
I must disagree with the Pilkington Commission on the fact that they turned down the suggestion for a special Director-General for sound radio. I feel that if sound radio is really to develop and progress, it will need its own Director-General. It had its own Director-General in the days when sound 719 radio was not very big, and now, with the enormous responsibilities of television as well, it would seem that having somebody fairly high-powered in charge of sound radio would be a good idea.
My second point, a brief one, is just to refer to the evidence given by the Automobile Association with regard to special broadcasting for motorists. If ever there was a perfect job for sound radio to do, surely it is to broadcast information about the roads in this country. It seems to be a recognised fact that we need weather broadcasts, and that shipping needs its own forecasts. But what about the eight million vehicles going about on our roads to-day? I see that the Pilkington Committee have urged experiments to be carried out, but I would ask Her Majesty's Government, if possible, to say that they recognise the need, and that the experiment is merely to find out the best means. It would seem that until V.H.F. coverage is complete, and, most important, we have V.H.F. radios in our cars, this would have to be done on the medium wavelength. This information must go out over wavelengths on which motorists are usually listening. It would seem to be very easy to do it in the same way as regional weather forecasts, which come in at the end of the National weather forecast, at certain times.
In conclusion, my Lords, I should like to summarise these two points: that I feel we badly need good music stations in this country, and that the B.B.C. are the best people to provide them; and I would urge the B.B.C. to carry out experiments with regard to co-operating with the motoring organisations to give proper information about the roads of this country.
§ 8.59 p.m.
My Lords, looking round the House I am reminded of that rather lovely old hymn:Oh happy band of warriors, marching through the night".As it is a question of how many of the "happy pilgrims" are really happy, I will keep my remarks very short. I speak as a viewer who has no financial interest in any television company. There can be no doubt that a third channel is needed to widen the range of tele-720 vision, which is one of the most powerful media in this country and very soon may be in the world's communication system. This world is a very complex place to the man in the street, and especially to youth, who, by lack of knowledge and a great deal of frustration, feel that the future is so uncertain that they must live for the present, even if that present is a violent and delinquent one. Surely a knowledge of the world at large and its problems can be explained by television, since the eye is far more receptive than the ear. If more time were given to interesting and instructive programmes than to the Westerns, violent crime and outworn plays, which in many cases have no message and no ending, a great deal of good would ensue. It is to this purpose that I would devote a third channel.
We have so many fascinating things happening in the world to-day—the story of Laos, the struggle between India and China, the history of Formosa and Malaysia, the Common Prayer Book; and the problems of the future, the Common Market, the new Africa and Telstar. I feel convinced that the young want to understand the problems of the world. They are becoming far more discriminating in their choice of programmes. I am not asking that a third channel should be solely devoted to education, but I am asking that discussions on topics of international and national interest should be allocated more time. I think that we shall all agree that it is exasperating when a fascinating discussion is terminated by the words "That is all we have time for. We will now return you to the studio". A third channel would assist the planning of these discussions to a very great degree and also the provision of concerts and music of all kinds. There would always be two other programmes to turn to, if a viewer was not happy with the one which he had tuned into. This channel should also facilitate the extension of religious history, and for this reason I would endorse the recommendation of the White Paper that each channel should have its own religious advisory committee.
I could range far more widely over the possibilities of television, but I must now turn to the third channel and to whom it should be allotted. As my noble Leader to-day has indicated, the 721 Government intend to give the third channel to the B.B.C., and I fully endorse this decision. A great deal of money has flowed into commercial television, and I, for one, feel that this has not been reflected in the excellence of the programmes. The Pilkington Report was undoubtedly too critical of commercial television, and there is certainly room for improvement, both in B.B.C. and in I.T.V.; but in my opinion the B.B.C. has proved itself to be more responsible and should hence be entrusted with the third channel.
It has been canvassed in some places that this channel should be the joint responsibility of the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. I am convinced that this would not work. The enmity between the two which now exists would make it impossible to plan successfully a new channel of the standard which we all want. I cannot see how the two can remain in competition on two channels and at the same time work in harness acceptably on a third channel.
If the allocation of the third channel is agreed to, as I hope it will be, we must now consider how it should be paid for, as it would be impossible to finance the new programme on the existing revenue. To my mind it would be disastrous if any Government subsidy were given directly to the B.B.C. as this would be to a degree nationalising broadcasting. This would be a dangerous precedent. Independence of speech on the air is of vital importance, and any financial or other link with the Government of the day would undoubtedly be resented by the people of this country. I feel sure that neither the B.B.C. nor the public would consider financing a third channel by an extension of advertising, and this leaves the two recommendations of the Pilkington Report; namely, an increase of licence fee and a right to borrow with the approval of the Postmaster General.
The White Paper makes the rather nebulous statement that the Government accept responsibility to see that the B.B.C. can secure sufficient income to finance adequate services, but I understand that they do not accept fully that the licence fee of £6 wild be appropriate at this time. At the present time, the B.B.C. get £3 of the £4 licence fee, the 722 other £1 going to the Government. I realise that £6 a year, although a very reasonable sum for so much entertainment, would hit some people rather hard; and, if this fee of £6 is unacceptable, I would suggest that the licence should be increased by 10s., and that the whole amount of £4 10s. should be given to the B.B.C. which, with the borrowing power indicated, would tide them over for the time being. Then maybe, at a later stage, it might be found possible to raise this figure to £6, which would be by far the more satisfactory method, since it would ensure a definite income, independently of any Government influence, sufficient to finance the third Channel.
We must move with the times and bring colour into our television, as it has been introduced into photography. It will be expensive at the start, but I believe that methods will be found to bring down the price of the new sets. We must also move to 625 lines in our new field, if only for the reason that the export of sets must meet the demand. I am a little worried about the future of pay television. It appears to me that if this were a great success, it might involve cornering the market in some programmes of national interest. I doubt whether anyone would pay 10s to see an exclusive of a world title fight, but they might do to watch the Grand National, to the exclusion of all others. I know that Her Majesty's Government have not made any decision on this question. So far as the future is concerned, I trust that any extension will be left in the hands of the B.B.C. who have handled the two services so ably, and I hope that any new local services will go to them.
Finally, there is at the moment a great deal of futility in both B.B.C. and I.T.V., but I think that, on the whole, with the new channel, with colour and with careful discrimination in programmes, we shall have a first-class television in future. As I have already stated, I believe that the B.B.C. have proved that they should have the third channel. I urge that it should be financed by income from licences, as opposed to Government subsidy or profits from I.T.A., and I believe that this channel should be introduced, together with colour, at the earliest possible moment.
§ 9.9 p.m.
§ LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, nobody can say that we do not cater for minority audiences in this House, but perhaps unfortunately we do not have an alternative programme. I should like to begin my few remarks by declaring a personal though not a financial interest, as a member of the B.B.C.'s General Advisory Council. The B.B.C. have been treated extremely generously in this Report and I am delighted that the Government have acted so swiftly and accepted so many of the Pilkington Committee's recommendations, so far as the B.B.C. are concerned, and particularly the recommendation that a second television channel should be allocated to the B.B.C.
As a Welshman, I should also like to say how pleased I am that the Government have seen fit to authorise the B.B.C. to go ahead as soon as possible with the provision of a new transmitter, using the hitherto unallocated frequencies in Band III to enable a distinctively Welsh service to be provided for South Wales. We in Wales have rankled for a long time at being coupled with the West of England, and it will be satisfactory to all of us to know that we shall eventually have our own service. I think it is also highly satisfactory that the National Broadcasting Council for Wales will exercise the same powers in relation to television as they do at present for sound broadcasting.
Like my noble friend Lord Grenfell, who has just spoken, I should like to draw particular attention to paragraph 59 of the White Paper, in which the Government accept responsibility to see that the B.B.C. receive sufficient income to finance their future services. Like my noble friend, I believe it is quite vital to the future development of the B.B.C, if they are to remain as effective as they have always been in the past, to be completely independent of Government finance. It has been one of their great strengths in the past, and I see no reason to suppose that it would not pay to retain this system of licence-fee finance in the future. I think it is unfortunate, when costs are going up and programmes are being increased, that maybe this licence fee will have to be increased also, but I feel it is vital if we are to maintain a really indepen-724 dent B.B.C. It is not only vital for our own domestic services, but also particularly important for the B.B.C.'s external services because, although these are financed by grant in aid, yet the very fact that the B.B.C.'s programme side is independent of Government finance in this country gives them an independent viewpoint which is most valuable. Also of recent years, the B.B.C. have made considerable progress in the selling of their television programmes to the United States, and I feel that, were there to be Government finance involved, these programmes might not be so readily saleable.
In the further remarks that I have to make I should like to devote myself to the Pilkington Committee's recommendation No. 43, the most controversial one, on the constitution and organisation of Independent Television; and I would stress that anything I say now is in no way the policy of the B.B.C., or in fact any concern of theirs, but is purely my personal opinion. I personally feel that this recommendation has a great deal to commend it, and I hope that the Government will give it the most serious consideration before they come to any final conclusion on the future of Independent Television. The issue has been clouded somewhat by the fact that the Committee's Report in general has perhaps been a little too kind to the B.B.C and a little too critical of commercial television. This has caused some violent reactions, which perhaps have done the B.B.C.'s case no particular good. I feel that there have been faults on both sides, and there have also been significant achievements on both sides.
I should certainly be the last to criticise some of Independent Television's excellent programmes. But what I am critical of is the present organisation of Independent Television and the consequences that this has on the planning of programmes. It has been said that a broadcasting system controlled by a public authority tends to give audiences what it thinks is good for them, while the commercial system gives them what they want. I do not really believe this to be so; and I do not believe that anybody who carefully considers the B.B.C.'s sound services can really maintain that they are directed at giving the listener what is good for him. There are 725 many examples of programmes, such as "Housewives' Choice", "Music While You Work", "Workers' Playtime", "The Dales", "The Archers", and others, which are directed at a majority audience and are put on for the pleasure of those who like to listen to them.
But even at peak hours other programmes are broadcast which cater for the interests of so-called minorities—although these minorities may often number several millions of people. I believe that under this system there is a great deal more freedom to experiment, freedom to appeal to the better tastes among the mass audience and to develop new qualities in broadcasting. The B.B.C. maintain a highly organised and efficient audience research organisation, which provides figures not only of the number of people who listen to programmes, but also of their reactions to the quality of the programmes; and a programme that is not successful from an audience research point of view is very soon taken off the air.
The B.B.C. have benefited in certain respects from the competition of commercial television, and I should certainly never suggest that they should be allowed again to enjoy a position of monopoly in television. But I feel that that competition would be fairer and more nearly competition between like and like, and would therefore lead to a higher quality of programme, if the I.T.A. were reorganised, as suggested by the Pilkington Committee. The very fact that a newly constituted I.T.A. as suggested by them would depend for their finance on advertisers would ensure that, although they were a statutory authority, they would still have to keep a keen eye on the popularity of their programmes. But at the same time they would not have to seek a maximum profit for their shareholders, as the independent companies have to do at the present moment.
My noble and learned friend the Leader of the House posed certain questions which had to be answered before he could finally accept the Pilkington Committee's suggestion for the reorganisation of I.T.A., the first of which was: could the I.T.A. undertake these new responsibilities, in view of the fact that they had been fairly heavily criticised for their rôle in the past in the Com- 726 mittee's Report? I feel that the answer to this particular question—or, if not the answer, at least a gloss on the answer—is that, as constituted at present, they have really had a pretty impossible task to perform. They have had to be a kind of censor and a negative force, and, at the same time, to work through the good will of the programme companies, and I think they have had almost too difficult a task to accomplish satisfactorily.
It is really for this reason that I do not think it is sufficient merely to strengthen the hand of the I.T.A. What is required is positive planning by a new I.T.A. for high quality programmes, with the programme companies concentrating on what I consider should be their proper function—namely, the production of programmes. I believe that this reorganisation would have practical benefits when the time comes to allocate the second commercial channel, as the I.T.A. would then be in a position to plan two complementary programmes, just as the B.B.C. will be in a position to do when they have their second channel. The companies themselves would be left with the task of producing programmes for the I.T.A. Why should this worry them if, indeed, their primary objective is to produce good television programmes? They would have no less opportunity than they have at present, and all the popular programmes that they produce now could continue. If, in fact, they are moire (interested in the sale of advertising space and the maximising of profit from advertising, then I can understand their violent reactions.
It would seem to me that under a re-organised system there would be very little practical difficulty from their point of view. They would exist somewhat as independent film companies exist at the present moment with the I.T.A., in the position of the cinema owner. I believe that this would be a development much to be welcomed by a great many creative producers and writers at present working in Independent Television, who would have far greater freedom to produce programmes of the highest possible quality, without being inhibited by the need to appeal always to the maximum audience at peak viewing times.
To sum up, I believe that a network providing competition for the B.B.C. in television is an excellent thing. It seems 727 to me only practical that it should be financed by advertising and, indeed, it thereby gives a valuable additional outlet, of which I entirely approve, to the advertising industry. It also seems to me right, as it seemed right to the Government in their original conception of I.T.V., to separate the advertisement content of the service from the programme content. Up to a point this has been accomplished, but not fully, as the companies are still sufficiently sensitive to advertising requirements, and plan their programmes basically from this standpoint. The Pilkington Committee's recommendation takes the principle of the separation of programme planning and advertising to its logical conclusion: one central controlling body, the I.T.A., should handle the programme planning and advertising, and the independent companies should produce the programmes. That seems to me a right, logical and fair basis for the future of commercial television, and I would urge that this particular recommendation of the Committee is given the most careful consideration before any final decision is arrived at.
§ 9.22 p.m.
§ LORD FRANCIS-WILLIAMS
My Lords, I well remember a year or two back in Boston being taken by the editor of the Christian Science Monitor to see a wonderful globe of the world which they had just erected in their front hall. It was, they said, the biggest globe in the world, much bigger than anything the New York Times had. Unfortunately, it was so big that you could not stand back and look at it, so they had to cut a sort of bridge through it, through which you walked to see the world. It was wonderful in conception and design, but only notionally resembled the real world. The editor said to me: "Do you not think it is wonderful? It was made for us by Pilkingtons." I am bound to say that, as I read the Pilkington Report, I again and again felt that, although admirable in design, it was often sadly out of touch with the geography of real life.
I always find it very difficult to disagree with my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth, although we have disagreed from time to time. On this, I find myself a little in disagreement with him, in that I believe this Report 728 puts far too much weight on secondhand evidence, and has made too little attempt to try to find out what the ordinary viewer wants, what the ordinary viewer thinks of what he is getting, and what kind of programme he ought to be able to have when he turns his switch. On the basis of this largely second-hand evidence, they have built up a picture of television, and particularly, of course, of commercial television, compounded of, to too great an extent altogether, violence, triviality, and what it calls callous behaviour to others. It sounds rather like a quiet week-end at Admiralty House.
I myself have been broadcasting in sound for about 35 years, and appearing upon the screens of the perhaps unfortunate people of this country fairly regularly for a period of about 15 years. Occasionally in the past I have been invited to stay with the Leader of your Lordships' House, the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, and very pleasant indeed it was. As your Lordships will understand from the company I kept, in the main the kind of programmes I have appeared in have been those the Pilkington Committee say they like. Indeed, I think I could almost say, with my hand on my heart, that never, at any rate on television, have I ever done anything of which the Pilkington Committee would not approve. But I am bound to say that although I suppose I can regard myself in these terms as one of the "good boys", I felt a certain shiver running down my spine as I read the Report.
It so happened that on the night the Report came out I was going down to Lime Grove. I rather expected to find the lights blazing, the champagne flowing, and all the staff trying on their glass halos. But, on the contrary, I found, particularly among some of the brighter, more creative producers and the younger people on the B.B.C., an air of despondency and gloom. And understandably so, I think, because in some measure, although not entirely so, the Pilkington Report has fastened upon the B.B.C. an image of smug goodness, of being the perfect establishment organisation which does only what the right people think right, which it is desirable it should break away from and which, indeed, I think, under its latest Director General, 729 it has been breaking away from. But I found many of the younger producers in the B.B.C. very conscious that this picture which was being created would inevitably tend to strengthen those elements of inertia which exist in all large organisations, and make it more difficult, perhaps, for them to make that breakthrough through top echelons of administration which are necessary if creative television is to prosper.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I wonder whether my noble friend would allow me to interrupt? I thought he said that the depression among the producers in the B.B.C. when he went down to broadcast that night was the night the Pilkington Report was published. I wonder how they had had time to read the Report and get so depressed.
§ LORD FRANCIS-WILLIAMS
I am sure my noble friend is well aware that those who are concerned in public affairs and in journalism have developed over the years the habit of very quick reading of documents and of getting out the main parts of them.
§ LORD FRANCIS-WILLIAMS
Let me say at once that I believe that in the main the Government White Paper is right at this stage: that it does propose the things that are necessary and immediate, and that in that range of things on the whole, with perhaps some reservations, it takes the right decisions; and certainly in my view it is entirely right that the B.B.C. should have the third channel, because the B.B.C., with all its defects—and it has defects, as all human institutions have—is undoubtedly a broadcasting organisation in many ways, indeed in most ways, without parallel anywhere else in the world, and an institution of which not only those within the B.B.C. but the country as a whole has a right to be proud. It is therefore right that it should be given this new channel in order to enable it to expand and develop new ideas and new techniques and break through a little from the restrictions which sheer lack of space in trying to produce programmes which will appeal to many elements in a diverse population have imposed upon it in the past.
730 But, of course, many of the most controversial issues which are raised by the Pilkington Report remain, and quite properly remain, for further consideration and for further decision in a later White Paper. In considering those, we have to consider, and as the Pilkington Committee do consider, what are the purposes of broadcasting. The Pilkington Committee themselves say, although they admit there is no real evidence to support this, that the presumption must be that television is, and will be, a main factor in influencing the values and moral standards of our society. Is that entirely true? And is the complementary of the principle which they lay down the belief that in many ways so far television, and particularly Independent Television, is having a deleterious effect on the moral fibre of the nation? Is that true? And is it true that there is disquiet and dissatisfaction—to use their own phrase—in the public about it? They have quoted a great many valuable and important authorities for this belief. They did not, unfortunately—and I share the view of the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, on this point—seek to get and to examine as many first-hand sources as perhaps they ought to have done.
It is interesting that the Sunday Times— and I may well understand that your Lordships will tend to think that this is a suspect witness in such a matter, since it is a member of the Thomson Group, which is very heavily involved in Scottish television—made a survey, and although, as I say, it might on the face of it be regarded as a suspect witness, that survey made by their scientific survey organisation does, in fact, measure up to all the requirements that are normally called for in those opinion surveys which have become so regular a feature of our life. It is a small sample of a thousand—as your Lordships will know, samples often are as small—but a sample weighted to give, so far as possible, an accurate cross section of the society.
They specifically asked this question:Are you yourself worried and dissatisfied with television programmes as a whole?The result was that 81 per cent. said 731 they were not and only 18 per cent. said they were. They also asked:Do you think that television has any effect, either good or bad, on the morals of people like yourself?In this case the answer was that 85 per cent. said, "No, it has no effect", and only 14 per cent. said it had. Of course, it may well be the case that the British public are being demoralised without appreciating it; but I must say that in my own experience so far, I have grown to develop a very healthy respect for the common sense of the ordinary people of this country and for their ability to withstand influences of all kinds and from all sorts of sources to try to demoralise them.
As I said earlier, I have spent a good deal of the last fifteen years on television screens, and one the results of appearing on a television screen is, as your Lordships may know, that it leads to all sorts of people regularly coming up to you in the street, in bars, in restaurants, on trains or wherever you may be. They come up and hail you by your Christian name; and if, as I am, you are not very good on faces, it is often a little awkward because you are not quite sure whether it is an old school friend whom you ought to ask home for dinner or somebody who does not like the way you smoke your pipe on a certain television programme. The result is that over the course of the years an immense number of perfectly ordinary viewers have come up and talked to me and have told me what they think about television; not only about my programmes—and I would not dream of boring your Lordships with them—but about television as a whole.
I believe that, although obviously television, like a great many of the social forces and entertainment forces of modern life, is bound to have an effect in creating a general pattern of attitudes, it is a great and in many ways a fundamental error to believe that television has the kind of effect and influence that makes people believe that what it says and the standards which it establishes are right and must be accepted because they come to them in this particular way. On the contrary, I believe that one of the interesting and fascinating things about 732 television is that it has much less of that kind of influence, that kind of determining, imposing itself upon the minds and character and emotions of its viewers, than has radio or a speech on a public platform; because those who appear on television, and the scenes that appear on television, are taken in and become a part of the ordinary family circle. I have again and again been conscious, as television viewers have come up and talked to me, that the attitude in which I am regarded as somebody who appears on that screen is very much the same as that in which they regard a neighbour who drops in and sometimes talks sense and sometimes talks nonsense, and Whom they take for what he is without putting him up on any pinnacle or regarding anything that he says and does as necessarily having an impact or having to be taken with an exceptional seriousness.
Does this belief lead, therefore, to the view that there is nothing wrong with television at all? Certainly not, in my view. I believe that there is a good deal wrong with television, but in many ways for different reasons (although some of them are the same) from those given by the Pilkington Committee. I believe that the failures of television are not that it is setting before the people moral standards which are leading them in the wrong direction, but that it is too often failing to take the opportunity to do what should be the real function of television: that is, to open all kinds of new windows on the world; to stimulate imagination and mind, and to give people a sense of a widening relationship with the people of their own country and of other countries in the world.
Of course there is a good deal wrong with television. Mr. Roy Thomson, that Canadian who so often speaks profound truths, often without apparently always realising what he is saying, is quoted in a recent book as saying, "There must be something very wrong with this country if I can make money in it so easily". And certainly I think it is the case that there has been something wrong with commercial television that so many people have been able to make money in it so very easily.
But what I suggest has in many ways been wrong with those who have organised and controlled commercial television 733 is not their cupidity, which on the whole one would have expected, but their sheer lack, in many instances, of ordinary common sense, even by their own commercial standards. They have made their profits out of advertising. Let us be quite plain about advertising. There is nothing wrong with advertising, kept within proper bounds. The whole history of the freedom of the Press in this country began to be possible when the newspapers were able to draw on advertising revenue and break free from the patronage and bribery of Governments and great interested groups. But surely the whole lesson of the development of advertising in the Press—the commercial lesson which commercial television has completely ignored—is that there is not one public, one mass public, but a great number of publics. What is probably the most prosperous newspaper in this country, the Daily Telegraph, has built up its prosperity by a recognition, not only the editorial but the advertising recognition, of the existence of a public which, on the whole, commercial television has ignored.
I think that what one needs to appreciate is that what is sometimes regarded as the commercial case against programmes of a fairly minority interest, in this period of time, when the breakdown of publics and of the buying habite of publics has been put on so scientific a level, is complete nonsense. I was recently having dinner with one of the heads of the commercial companies who was trying to interest me in appearing in certain programmes which he had in mind filling some "prestige slots" as he described it. But what did not seem to occur to him was that those "prestige slots", which he regarded as something that had to be done, that you had to pay to do in order to keep your face clean, could be perfectly commercially viable if the television companies would break away from this old-fashioned habit of thinking that only one public exists.
In this situation are the Pilkington answers the right ones? Is their proposal that the I.T.A. should plan programmes, and to some extent produce them, the correct answer? I am bound to say that, while this idea is obviously worth considering, there seem to me to be grave practical difficulties about it. I do not believe it is possible to produce 734 good television programmes if those Who plan them are divorced from those who are busy on the actual creative work of producing them. I believe that good programmes arise from the constant clash and interchange of ideas between administrators and the producers, and often from the conflict between them. But clearly, I believe, it is desirable that the I.T.A. should on past experience be given much more power to lay down the general pattern of programmes, the general balance of programmes, and some sanctions to see that that is carried out.
Is the Committee's second proposal, that the I.T.A. should become responsible for the selling of advertising, the existing commercial companies becoming merely production contractors to it, also feasible? Manifestly there are very strong grounds for liking the idea, if possible, of removing from the actual business of thinking and creating programmes the direct incentive to produce those that will bring in the largest advertisement revenue, even if there could be some shifting, because it would enable the companies to understand that they need not always produce a main programme to get a reasonable advertising revenue. I think that has to be considered. I think again that it may be found very difficult indeed. It envisages so complete a change and reorganisation in the structure of the I.T.A., which is not only to become a producing and planning organisation but also a commercial organisation for the selling of advertising, that I doubt whether that organisation as it is could be transformed to do that.
However, what I think we ought to bear in mind is that the commercial companies are operating in air which does not belong to them, from transmitters which also do not belong to them, and which have been provided by public money; that it might be worth while considering whether they ought not to be regarded as agents rather than as principals; whether it might not be possible to consider leaving to them the actual selling of advertising space, but letting them do so only as agents, taking a commission on what they do; and that the I.T.A. should have behind it the sanction that if the programme 735 companies, in order to sell more advertising and therefore increase their commissions, upset the balance of the programmes laid down by the Authority, then their commission would toe withheld from them on those programmes which overstepped the mark and ran contrary to the balance. By some such development one might be able to secure the necessary balance between the incentive upon which commercial television, rightly or wrongly, has been built up and which now exists, and the need for a national publicly-controlled Authority, with the necessary sanctions to ensure that what it says is carried out.
Certainly my complaints, in so far as they are complaints, against the Pilkington Report are that its approach and its remedies are too often negative rather than positive. I believe it to be far too negative in its approach to pay television. I believe that there is quite a possibility that an experiment with pay television would show that it could become an instrument not for providing mass programmes (because I do not believe it to be the case that a mass public which is used to getting its television free, would ever want to put money in it), but for providing programmes for a minority, although often a substantial minority, audience. Certainly, in all our approach to this problem, what we need to do is to search over the period which remains before the final decisions have to be taken, for methods and means Which will free the enormous creative energy which I believe exists among television producers and television people of all kinds, and to ensure that the people of this country are offered the greatest possible variety of programmes, and then leave them to judge those programmes for themselves.
§ 9.55 p.m.
My Lords, it must have been a foregone conclusion, before the Pilkington Report ever came to light, that it was bound to be immensely controversial; past history of the subject, both sound and television, made that a certainty. And when it was published, in that respect one was not disappointed. But whatever one's view may be—whether there is controversy, one agreeing with something and others disagreeing; clearly this is 736 so from reading the Press and from listening to the many interesting speeches in your Lordships' House today—it seems to me that there are certain points of more or less general agreement.
I think it is as well to bear this in mind in considering the more controversial matters. First, it seems to me that there is complete agreement that, Whatever their faults or their good points, the Pilkington Committee have done a remarkable job. They tackled an extremely difficult problem and they have provided us with something really worth while to get hold of and to consider. I join with other noble Lords who express extreme gratitude to Sir Harry Pilkington and the members of his Committee for the immense amount of work they put in. The second point that I think is rather interesting is that there seems to have been almost complete agreement, if only by lack of reference to them, on the more technical points included in the Committee's Report. Not much has been said today about this, but such references as there have been seem to have been almost entirely fully in agreement.
There follows a further point. I think I am right in saying—it is my inference—that the Report certainly suggests that the B.B.C. should continue as what one might call the leading partner in the broadcasting field. Looking at the Government White Paper, although it does not say as much in so many words, I infer from it that it really supports that view itself. It may be that when the Government spokesmen come to wind up they will be able to be a little more categorical on that point. But that seems to me to be the case, bearing in mind particularly that in the White Paper, while deferring certain recommendations, gives the B.B.C. certain additional responsibilities to carry out.
That brings me to the question that many noble Lords, and the noble Baroness opposite also, raised—namely, that of how these additional responsibilities are going to be financed. I want to say a few words about that. I do so conscious of the fact that it is late and that many other noble Lords have referred to this subject. But to my mind it is so important—and it is sometimes not realised how fundamental it is—that 737 I want to add one or two words in regard to it. The noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, introduced it first of all. I was glad that he did so because for five years I had the privilege of serving as a colleague of his on the Board of Governors of the B.B.C. and I came to recognise his wise and great qualities.
From paragraph 59 of the White Paper it is clear that the Government accept responsibility for seeing that the B.B.C. can secure sufficient income to finance adequate services. As other noble Lords have said, it does not go further than that. It does not go on to say how the money is to be provided: whether it is to be by the existing method of licences, or whether it is to be supplemented to a greater or less extent by some other method.
My Lords, the point I want to make is that this is no minor matter. It is not just a matter of how the money is to be found: it goes far deeper than that. The Committee discuss this point at considerable length in their Report. In paragraph 492 and subsequent paragraphs they discuss the various ways in which money could be raised for the B.B.C. They mention the licence fees; they mention some form of advertisement; they mention a measure of Government subvention out of public funds. It is not merely a matter of administrative convenience or neatness whether one way or another should be used. The Committee argue this matter at considerable length and while I do not want to take up your Lordships' time in going through their various arguments, there are one or two points that I should like to underline. I say "underline" because I know that one or two other noble Lords have dealt with these points. However, it may be useful if my noble friends on the front bench know that a number of us have raised these points, and I hope that they will realise how important they are.
If it is agreed that the responsibility of the B.B.C. is to do the best they can for as wide a cross-section of the population as possible, then, to my mind, certain essentials stand out. The first is that the B.B.C. must be entirely independent to pursue that objective without being beholden in any way to any outside influences—influences which, in one way 738 or other, either might be prejudiced, or might be thought to be so. The second is that if the first essential is true, then the B.B.C. must also be in a position to be able to plan ahead, not merely one year ahead but many years ahead, and to be absolutely sure of the exact income it is going to get each year—at any rate, to be in a position to make a reasonable calculation as to what income it can rely upon. It is in the light of those two criteria that I think this question of income must be judged.
I personally do not see how the Corporation could be sure of preserving its real independence if it were to be dependent upon the Government of the day for any part of its money; and that would be even more true if it derived any of its money from advertising and had to consider whether it was keeping its advertising clients happy. It may be that some of my friends who are connected with Independent Television will say that I am wrong in this, and that the influence from advertising clients is much less than one thinks. However, I am unconverted to that point of view. It seems to me that any form of Government subvention to make up the funds of the B.B.C. to what they should be if the licence income does not reach the right level would be dangerous in the extreme. It is true, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, mentioned, that the overseas services are financed by grant in aid; but I am sure he would agree with me that in this context, if we are considering the home programmes, that argument, if it were to be used as an argument (my noble friend did not use it as such) would be completely irrelevant.
I should like in this context to quote from the Committee's Report as to the conclusion which they reached. In paragraph 526 they were very pronounced on this point. They said:We reiterate our conviction that it is an essential feature of the constitution of the B.B.C. that it is financed solely from licence revenue, and we recommend that this be continued.They go on to say:We believe that the public services of broadcasting in this country would suffer if the B.B.C. were financed, in whole or in part, by any other means.That could not have been put more clearly, and I very much hope that at 739 some stage before the end of this debate the Front Bench speakers will be able to tell us whether or not they agree with that point of view, because it is fundamental.
Before I leave this subject of finance, I should like to say a word about the size of the licence fee. In paragraph 497 of the Report there is a most interesting little table of the comparative sizes of licence fees of other European broadcasting companies. I find this table most interesting because it shows that, even including the £1 Excise licence, the £4 we have to pay for the combined licence in this country is right at the bottom of the list. In other words, the British viewer and listener is getting extraordinarily good value. I think it is something on which the B.B.C. deserves a certain amount of congratulation, although I readily admit there are probably more reasons than one, such as, among others, density of population, that may contribute to this good position.
The Report suggests, of course, that there might be an increase to £6. Various noble Lords have mentioned this proposal, and in some cases suggested that £6 would be unreasonably high for a licence. But, my Lords, would it be unreasonably high? Having regard to the 1960–61 comparative table of European licences, it would still be substantially below the middle section of the table of licences. Fourpence a day, as noble Lords have mentioned, is less than the cost of two cigarettes a day; it does not seem very much. Whatever the figure is—and no one, I suppose, speaking in a debate like this, can judge what the right figure should be, because it is a matter needing careful calculation—I should very much hope that the precedent (though I admit that it is not being used at the present time) of allowing Treasury retentions from the licence fee will not be returned to, because this seems to me a dangerous precedent. The last retention was in 1960–61, when it was 5 per cent.; but only a few years before that the amount was substantially more. The reason I object to the Treasury retention is not merely that I want it to be reasonable for the B.B.C. to have that money, but because here is a sum of money which is rather like a Government subvention. 740 It is at the will of the Government of the day whether or not that retention is paid over. There again the same argument applies as I put forward when I was objecting to Government subventions at all.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves that point, I am very interested in his argument. I should like to ask him whether he has looked at the totals the Government have taken in this way. According to the figures I have, they came to £95 million over the last fourteen years, and in fact £13 million in the last year. I was wondering whether he was aware of the size of these figures.
Yes, indeed. I am grateful to the noble Lord for mentioning the figures. They emphasise the point I am making, because they are very substantial. I did say, I admit, that it was not merely for the sake of getting more money. That is important. But where there are these very large sums of money which can be withheld by the Government of the day, if they do not like what the B.B.C. is doing, it adds strongly to the argument that I have just been making. I am grateful to the noble Lord.
The last point I want to make, on the question of the licence, is about the excise duty, because I am quite sure that the average person who buys a combined licence thinks he is buying a £4 licence; he does not recognise that he is buying a £3 licence and paying £1 tax. While that is a minor point, and while I admit that the position is dearly laid out on the licence itself, yet the overall figure influences the thinking of people when they buy their licence as to the value they receive from the broadcasting services. So I would say that if the new licence is to be £6 (or whatever it is) when the time comes to put it up I hope the Government will not automatically make it £7 by adding £1 excise duty. If it is necessary, as I realise it may be, to raise the £14 million revenue which is collected from this excise duty, I hope some other way will be found to raise it. I would merely comment on that, and I am not arguing that broadcasting is not a suitable subject for taxation; that is quite a different matter. I am 741 merely arguing that I do not like the excise duty on the licence.
Very briefly, I now want to turn to one completely different subject altogether, which I do not think has been mentioned at all in the debate to-day. Reference to it begins at paragraph 276 of the Report, where the Committee discuss religious broadcasting and the Central Religious Advisory Committee. It is quite clear from that particular chapter that, although the Committee recognise that the decision as to which churches should be included in the "main stream" (as it is referred to in the Report) of the Christian tradition of the country must remain a matter, not for the Government of the day but for the corporations, they go on quite specifically to say that they hope this concept of the main stream will be interpreted as liberally as possible. I was a little disappointed, therefore, that in the White Paper—the subject is raised in paragraph 16—the Government do not deal with it at all, except to say that the Committee recommended that more lay members should be included on the Advisory Committee.
They do not say whether or not they agreed with that recommendation, and I very much hope that, perhaps during the debate, they will be able to say whether they agree with this suggestion for greater liberalisation in the subject of the main stream. One realises that this is rather difficult, delicate ground, because it may be asking quite a lot of any Government to express a view which might be expressing religious opinion. Nevertheless it is the responsibility of the broadcasting corporation to cater for all shades of religious opinion, just as it is the responsibility of the corporation to cater for all shades of secular opinion.
Before I leave that point I should like merely to quote from paragraph 283 of the Report. I think it is interesting that the Committee says that:It is inherent in the 'main stream' concept that the stream can be widened: the development of religious thought in the United Kingdom shows that some churches which are to-day among those which 'represent the main stream of the Christian tradition in the country' were not so long ago barely tolerated, if not actually proscribed.I come to my final point, my Lords, and I shall take only a moment. When 742 I last addressed your Lordships on the subject of broadcasting I was urging that colour television should be introduced very much sooner, but I got no change then. I should, therefore, like to say how very glad I am that at long last those who have been working tremendously hard, in research and other fields, to perfect a system of colour television will in the comparatively near future have an opportunity of showing the public what they have achieved.
§ 10.16 p.m.
§ LORD COLERAINE
My Lords, I am most obliged to the noble Earl, Lord Longford, for allowing me to intervene for a few moments before he replies for the Opposition. I will seek to repay him for his courtesy, and your Lordships for your indulgence, if you will give it to me, by being as brief as I possibly can. I think I can honestly say that, like any other responsible citizen, I have a genuine interest in the quality of broadcasting programmes, and I realise the immense potentiality, for good or ill, of broadcasting and television. But I must now disclose not one interest but two separate and private commercial interests in the matters which we are discussing today. In the first place, I am a shareholder in a programme company. I hope the noble Earl will think less ill of me when I tell him that, so far, it has not made any profits; I cannot see any reason why it should make any profits; I hope that it will make profits, and that, even if it should make those excessive profits of which we have heard so much this evening, I should bear even that with such fortitude as I could command.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord why he has decided to invest in this extraordinary company?
§ LORD COLERAINE
Just a belief in the profit-making system, my Lords.
My second interest, which is directly conflicting with the first, is that in another capacity I am an advertiser on television in a fairly considerable way. As a shareholder, I should like the advertising rates to be as high as possible. As an advertiser I want them to be as low as possible. I do quite honestly believe that television advertising is effective. I can never quite see why, but I 743 am sure it is effective. I think that, in general, it is beneficial to the national economy, but it is extremely expensive, and I hold that it is unnecessarily expensive.
The noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams, in his speech just now, said that there must be something wrong with commercial television that allowed it to make so much money so easily. I think he is right; there is something wrong with it. But I think it is easy enough to see what it is that is wrong. It is that commercial television is a monopoly. If competition were introduced, then profits would not be excessive, and advertising rates would tend to come down, instead of all the time going up. Therefore, I should hope that the fourth television channel, the second commercial television channel, would come into effect sooner rather than later. I know that the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh who made what I thought was such a fascinating speech this afternoon, will not agree with that. But I think he can console himself with the fact that neither he nor I would have to watch this extra television programme unless we wanted to do so.
There is another way in which competition could be introduced and these excessive profits reduced—that is, if the B.B.C would itself take advertisements. I know that the B.B.C. is very shy of this. It is not shy of advertising: a good deal of time of the B.B.C, both on television and on radio, is taken up with advertising the B.B.C. It is not shy of advertising; and, after all, there is nothing particularly disreputable in advertising. The Times is respectable, and it takes advertisements; the Guardian is respectable, and it takes advertisements; the Dail Herald, too, I think, takes advertisements when it can get them. I really cannot see why the B.B.C. is so very mealy-mouthed about advertisements; and if it did have advertisements it would do a very great deal to break down this monopoly and reduce these excessive profits, of which there is so much complaint.
The second point I want to raise, my Lords, is that which was raised by my noble friend Lord Fraser of Lonsdale in relation to paragraph 66 of the White Paper, where it is said: 744… the Government has in mind a statutory requirement that all medical advertisements should be referred to a panel of medical consultants …I have, not exactly the same but similar interests to my noble friend in this matter, and what I should like to put to the Government is this: that they should be very careful before they give effect to this proposal, and that, if they do give effect to it, they should consider, as my noble friend Lord Ferrier said earlier, making some appointments to this Committee of people who are familiar with the industries concerned.
My noble friend Lord Fraser of Lonsdale pointed out that the Pilkington Committee had not in fact made this recommendation, but I think it is worth looking at what the Committee actually said on this subject. In paragraph 266 the Committee said:The British Medical Association proposed that advertisements on television for drugs, medicinal treatments and preparations should be prohibited. As this ideal was not likely to be achieved soon, the Association advocated, as a second best, the setting up of a Committee to preview all such advertisements.I would suggest to the Government that to establish a Committee which is, presumably, to take a fair and objective view, the members of which are serving on the Committee only because they believe there is no such thing as an objective view and that there should be no advertisements at all, is not likely to produce a very fair or a very satisfactory result.
What I find difficult to understand is why the Government have in this matter gone beyond their attitude at the end of last year, because Mr. Niall Macpherson, then Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, speaking in another place on December 15, 1961, explained that there were statutory prohibitions on advertising matter. He explained that there were certain gaps in those prohibitions but he went on to say [OFFICIAL REPORT (Commons) vol. 651, col. 876]:The manufacturers, together with the newspaper, periodical and advertising interests, have subscribed to a voluntary code of standards by which they can regulate advertisements outside the statutory limitations.He went on:The code is such that its observance already eliminates all but the occasional unsuitable advertisement.745 My Lords, if that was Government policy last December, I do not see why it should not be Government policy in July; and if that was a reasonable approach then I would humbly suggest to the Government that it is still a reasonable approach today. I therefore hope that they will go very carefully into this question of a medical panel, and that they will take the industries concerned into consultation before they make up their minds finally.
§ 10.25 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, I am sure that the time will never come when an intervention by the noble Lord, Lord Coleraine, even after 10 o'clock, will not be welcome in your Lordships' House. I was seeking to find a point of agreement with him, and I can at least agree that the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, made a fascinating speech—so there at least we are at one. A friend said to me a little earlier (it may have been some hours earlier; I have lost track of time; but someone said to me a little while ago) that a bell ought to be rung if anybody made a new point in this debate. I do not think many bells will be rung during my oration: the ground has been very fully covered.
The noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, if I may say so, was at his best. Of course, we do not know what kind of battle is being waged in the Cabinet. Obviously, the situation there is pretty fluid. He may have knocked out some opponents last week, and he may have to deal with a different lot today. But we understand that he is fighting the good fight for the B.B.C., and will continue to do so. Some years ago, at the end of that great debate of November, 1953, he concluded as follows: [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 184, col. 525]:In the B.B.C., and in television, above all things, we have an instrument which will enable democracy to win that race in a canter. Must we abandon that weapon, or at least half of it, to the shifting chances and changes of commercial advantage?He says today that he stands where he stood, and I only hope that he will prevail. I should have thought his task would grow weaker if he becomes, with the passage of time, the most senior member of the Administration. But, at 746 any rate, I wish him all the luck in his adventures.
I know that for the most part the 23 speakers or so will not wish me to comment on their speeches. There were many speeches (if I may put it in this way) from the Benches opposite which were very acceptable to us, and we on this side felt strongly and powerfully represented, as always, by the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, supplemented by the noble Lord, Lord Archibald, and the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry. I hope that I shall not be thought to be patronising if I say to the noble Baroness that I felt that her speech was a model. If any visitors were to be brought in to hear a speech in the House of Lords during the course of a long debate, I should hope they would hear a speech of that kind. The noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams, has set me rather a task by way of comment. It would be impossible to regard his performance as representing the views of his colleagues. But it was once said of Keynes by Sir Winston Churchill that he was a man of clairvoyant intelligence not overburdened by undue bias. I hope the noble Lord will accept the total compliment, or any part of it which he finds appropriate.
My Lords, this has been a formidable debate, and I am glad to think that we are to hear two more Ministers, both of whom have recently received, and earned, promotion, besides, of course, our own champion, the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and others. We all feel (and I feel as strongly as any) that the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, has thoroughly earned his position in this House by his great courtesy and by great energy, and quite as much eloquence as most of us can command—indeed, more than most of us have at our disposal. We wish him all success, tonight and always.
It is for me a special privilege, if I may be allowed to do so, to welcome the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor. Of course, we all have a feeling, a quite unusual feeling, of warmth for his predecessor, but if he had to leave the Woolsack then who better to take his place than my old friend, the eldest friend I possess in this House except for 747 the noble Lord, Lord Moyne—and, with his many gifts, including his eleven children, I do not believe that he would be a competitor for the position of Lord Chancellor. So I am very glad that the office should have fallen to the noble and learned Lord. I am glad, too, that someone in what I would call the prime of life should have received promotion, someone in the middle or even late fifties. There is a sort of cult being made now of men of 45. The idea is that any big job should be given to a man of 45. You cannot get anything after you are 45 until you are 90. Some of us will never see 45, or even 50, again; some will have to wait a few years before we reach the Russell level or become octogenarians. It is the middle phase which seems to be denuding us, these days, of that sort of position. I was hoping to sec someone of my own particular period receiving such an elevation. My Lords, I must curtail my remarks.
I agree with the main conclusions of the Pilkington Report, the two main practical conclusions. One is that the next channel should go to the B.B.C., and that has already been accepted. I also agree that the I.T.A. should be fundamentally reorganised on the lines suggested in the Pilkington Report. I agree with that without reservations. But I am aware that it is possible to criticise this Report in a way that is cogent. One cannot ignore letters, such as that of Baroness Wootton of Abinger to The Times. I do not want to seem to argue that there is something infallible about the Pilkington Report. For example—and this was a point mentioned delicately, but I think clearly, by the right reverend Prelate—the Report hardly gives credit to the I.T.A. or to the Independent Television for what they have accomplished in the field of religion. There is no doubt, in my opinion, that there is far more religion today on television, and there is a much more imaginative presentation of it, than there would be if the B.B.C. monopoly had continued. That, I think, is really beyond argument.
If one compares the two, I think one must admit that the I.T.A. have achieved more in this direction in the last few years than the B.B.C. It would be 748 wrong to say that the Pilkington Report altogether obscures this fact. On page 88 of the Report, for example, it is pointed out that the B.B.C. allot to religion about one and a half hours per week, and Independent Television about two and a half hours. Both figures seem to have been increased recently, but it was mentioned very much in passing. It has not, I think, been referred to to-day, for example. Again, the Report says that the religious programmes put on by some of the programmes on Independent Television are to be particularly commended. One can read into that an admission (if that is the right word) that Independent Television has achieved certain things in that direction which have been beyond the powers of the B.B.C. But one's superiority has not been stressed, as I think the right reverend Prelate will agree; and the fact that it has not been stressed and the fact that it exists without being stressed creates, I think, a rather painful impression.
I must take one other example of seeming unfairness. I refer to the treatment of the evidence of Sir Ivone Kirkpatrick, and it may be others will feel that the same can be said of other evidence. Those of us who admire that great public servant may feel a certain counter-bias in Sir Ivone's favour and I think we must discount that. But if we have read The Times of last Thursday—and this was mentioned by the noble Viscount in his opening—we shall be aware that Sir Ivone considers that the position taken up by the I.T.A. is seriously misrepresented in the Report. I, and perhaps most of us here, am not in a position to judge that matter, except to say that we should suppose that Sir Ivone would hardly written in that way if it were incorrect. But would it not have been much better, either to have refrained from quoting so selectively from a famous public servant or to have published all the evidence?—and I will raise that one point with the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, when he replies. When will all the evidence be available? I cannot feel that this is a satisfactory precedent, that one should select certain passages from the testimony of a great public servant, and then without, presumably, showing it to him announce that that represents his view. I cannot 749 recollect a case of that kind where the evidence as a whole was not published, though others may think of such a case.
There is, to my mind, a more serious argumentative weakness in the Report to which I must allude. The Pilkington Committee clearly imagine that they have given a lucid account of the purposes that a television service should perform. For example, they say on page 46 thatthe B.B.C.'s stated views on the purposes which the service should fulfil accord with those we have formulated earlier in the Report.Some of your Lordships may have undergone my experience. When I got to that point I thought I must have missed something in the Report, and I turned back to see what the formulation was. Well, I defy anybody to discover in the Report a clear formulation of the purposes of broadcasting. I think that the Committee explain merely that one must not simply give the public what it wants, and equally one must not simply give the public what one thinks is good for it. The answer lies somewhere between. But if anyone can tell me where you will find a clear statement of the purposes of broadcasting, then my education will have been improved. Perhaps the nearest one can come to that is an assertion that television does affect, and must inevitably affect, our moral and cultural standards very considerably, and therefore must aim, partly at least, at a deliberate improvement of those standards. Now those are my words, and not the words of the Report; but that, I take it, to be in fact the meaning, and, if so, I certainly agree with it.
I cannot pretend that I am altogether surprised at a certain "wooziness" in these crucial sections. In an earlier debate in this House I once ventured to accuse the B.B.C. of rather ludicrous ambiguities in their use of the words "Christian values", and I was a little surprised to find that on this occasion the matter had not been much more clarified. I am afraid the explanation is fairly obvious: that the Committee as a whole—and I am afraid this may be true of the B.B.C.—While, of course, people of impeccable virtue, have not found it possible to propound a consistent moral philosophy. That may be in inevitable difficulty. Perhaps one should not expect a moral philosophy from a Com- 750 mittee which is a collective body. On the other hand, I have a shrewd suspicion, though without much proof to justify it, that if Sir Harry Pilkington, a deacon of his Church, which does not happen to be mine, had stated his own views——
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
He is a deacon. I am not quite sure what that signifies, but I read in the paper that he was a deacon, and I derive great consolation from the fact. I feel sure that if he had stated his views, speaking as a deacon, we should have got something a great deal clearer and healthier. Yet, when all is said and done, and one has played a few dialectical tricks—and a bit of that sort of thing is inevitable—there is a sentence on page 46 which goes to the heart of the matter. They say this:The Corporation's traditional idea of public service remains an essential consideration in the formulation of policy.I know that is the cardinal thought in the mind of the noble Baroness. It seems to me that, whether we are to think of the service provided as finally one of entertainment, or of information, or of education, or of elevation—which surely comes into it—the Corporation set out to aim directly at the public good. That is their accepted purpose, even if they are not very clear in working that purpose out. That is their object: to aim at the public good. The Pilkington Report therefore sides with them, perhaps not always fairly in every part of the argumentation, but it sides with the B.B.C. rightly, as I think. It puts them on a higher plane than the programme campaniles because the B.B.C. are aiming directly at the public good. That is my own understanding of the Report, and that is why I am, in spite of any little criticisms, a Pilkington man.
What about I.T.A., the Authority as distinct from the companies? Certainly no one who knows the gentleman concerned would treat the Board of the I.T.A. as less public-spirited in a personal way than the Governor of the B.B.C. It has been said that the teams could be changed without anyone on the staff knowing that there had been an alteration. I am not sure whether that is a compliment to either body, but 751 that has been said. There may be some truth in it or may not; I do not know. But one can understand what is intended.
But let us clear away any misunderstanding that may have arisen between Sir Harry and Sir Ivone and ignore any differences of opinion about the actual effect—and it can only be estimated—of television on public morals, and we are left with a stark contrast of principles. The primary urge behind the companies producing the programmes is clearly that of making profits. Now I am in business. We have beard the profit motive glorified today and I am not saying anything against it. I gather that the noble Lord, Lord Coleraine, approaches companies with certain higher considerations in mind and treats any profits as a bonus, hardly to be expected in this world of woe. At any rate, that is what the companies are there for.
I do not want to seem to argue that entertainment or culture which aims directly at the public good is always better than that in which the profit motive is powerful. I think that would be taking up a very extreme Socialist position, certainly further to the Left than any position I should assume; but I am submitting—and this in a sense is my main point—that in the case of television, with children and young people comprising so large a portion of the audience, the functions of entertainment and, in the broad sense, education are inextricably mixed up (I include moral education under this heading) and one cannot separate the two. Therefore the requirement of the public service element is immensely strengthened by that simple and ineluctable fact.
If one accepts this principle, it could apply in a 100 or 200 different ways, but I side myself overwhelmingly with the Pilkington Report in what seems to me to be the fundamental conclusion. I mean the conclusion that the whole of our television, and not just the B.B.C., must be governed far more than it has been in the last few years by those who have at once the will and the constitutional position to enforce an underlying standard of a conscious search for the public good. That certainly seems to be in line with what is said by others, 752 but that, as I see it, is the fundamental Pilkington point of view. One either accepts it or one does not. It is a free country and of course one can do either.
In a speech on television last year in your Lordships' House I went at great length into an attempted comparison between the times allotted to so-called serious programmes by the B.B.C. and by the I.T.A. respectively. I concluded, and I submitted to your Lordships, that, roughly speaking, the B.B.C. gave three times as many hours as did the I.T.A. to serious programmes during the crucial periods, though I realise that that kind of conclusion must be subject to many qualifications and some uncertainties. That, in effect, is the conclusion which the House may or may not accept, of the Pilkington Report:It is evident that the time devoted by independent television to serious programmes is much less than that devoted to them by the B.B.C., both throughout the day and during the peak viewing period.In the tables shown, they suggest that the B.B.C. are giving about two and a half times as much to serious programmes as the I.T.A.
In an interesting document published by the Independent Television on June 29, of which we have not heard much today and Which perhaps will quickly become forgotten, an attempt is made to portray a very different relationship. On this up-to-date Independent Television showing, the B.B.C. is represented as still ahead, but the difference is much less than it was When I spoke last year and very much less than the difference portrayed in the Pilkington Report. The B.B.C., on their side, have hit back, as one might say, and perhaps my noble friend Lord Shackleton may say a word about that tomorrow. According to this latest figure, the B.B.C. appear to be giving about twice as much time to serious programmes during the crucial hours. I know that there can be some argument as to what are the crucial hours.
I cannot resist the conclusion that Independent Television have probably improved the amount of time that they are giving and, if so, I would only express my pleasure and offer congratulations. But I still conclude, although all these things are undoubtedly subject to argument, that, judged by this all important 753 yardstick, the general record of the B.B.C. has been much superior; and there I side once again with the Piikington Report. I agree with my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth that one cannot set aside the evidence which was offered to the Pilkington Committee in favour of the B.B.C., but I wonder What television would have been like without the I.T.A. I myself welcome the fact that an element of competition has been introduced, but if we admit that a heavy responsibility for the future moral impact of television falls on those responsible, they in their turn must be given a position sufficiently strong to enable the public interest to prevail.
The particular method adopted by the Pilkington Committee is not, of course, the only one conceivable—I mean, the suggestion that the Authority should sell advertisements and plan programmes. We could go further if you like in the direction, of making it a public service, as they have done in Ireland. I know that they are getting on well there, although the service is still very young. There the public authority actually collect advertisements and either produce programmes or buy them from outside. I am not suggesting that we do that here. I myself favour the Pilkington solution. We are left finally with the question of whether the application of their principles is a workable one. I would end with a quotation from the Sunday Telegraph, which no one will doubt is a first-class Conservative paper. We are told by my noble friend Lord Francis-Williams that the Daily Telegraph—and presumably the Sunday Telegraph—know many things which are hidden from others. Mr. Philip Purser, their esteemed television correspondent, wrote in an article on July 1I do not see why the Pilkington proposal should not eventually prove perfectly feasible. It seems to me, for all its priggish tone"—those are his words, of course—that the Pilkington proposal might at last elevate the creative people above the moneybags and, by encouraging competition to produce better television rather than sell more advertising time, might usher in a genuine contest of talents.That is an expert view. I am not keeping the House longer. I realise that noble Lords feel deeply about this question 754 and have taken great trouble to prepare their speeches, and now we are looking to the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, to wind up for the Government.
§ 10.48 p.m.
THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FOOD (LORD ST. OSWALD)
My Lords, in the course of this debate, in which I have heard every speech, and very nearly every word, the Pilkington Committee's Report has been both praised and disparaged with considerable spirit. The study of that praise and disparagement will vastly assist the Government to reach decisions, accelerated decisions, which could not fairly and wisely be made at this precise stage. To say that is not to undervalue the work of the Committee. Even the unstinted efforts of eleven thoughtful people condensed into 340 pages could hardly be expected to provide the absolute and infallible answer to all the questions involved: questions and answers which matter deeply to millions of individuals, many of them still unborn.
The Committee have been widely and deservedly praised for their courage—there has been nothing equivocal in their strictures or their conclusions. They have provided something for Parliament and public opinion to bite on, to masticate and to digest. Neither smirking nor gnashing of teeth will help to prove its nutritional value. Some of the recommendations are simple enough to agree upon and to accept at the outset. They include extended hours in the B.B.C.'s Third Programme and Network Three and the Light Programme. They include also the introduction of the 625-line standard and colour television. And since a number of noble Lords have put questions on the White Paper, I will do my best to answer them.
The noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, asked me about the timing of the B.B.C.'s second programme and a possible second I.T.A. programme. I am advised that the actual timing is now being studied by the Post Office, in consultation with the broadcasting authorities. The ultra-high-frequency network to be set up must be an integrated one which will cater for all 755 the programmes likely to be needed, and it will make use of both the existing B.B.C. and I.T.A. stations, whichever are best sited for its requirements. The Government agree that the radio industry will need to know quickly about the possibilities, and the industry will be invited to join the various Working Parties to be set up on these technical matters.
The noble Baroness also asked me about confusing reports in the Press, and I will try to explain the position quite briefly. The present Television Act and the present I.T.V. set-up do not expire before July, 1964. Clearly, no second programme could start before then. No one can say at present what the timetable would be. But it may be that the Press were thinking of the setting up of the ultra high frequency network which might well be a combined B.B.C.-I.T.A. effort. The I.T.A. first programme may need to go out on ultra high frequency on 625 lines, and this may be about when the first B.B.C. programmes goes out on ultra high frequency on 625 lines. This will not necessarily be at the same time as the B.B.C. second programme. But since we are assuming that whatever new organisation for I.T.V. is to be adopted will be brought into being by means of the new Act, there would seem to be no overriding reason why a second I.T.A. programme should not start at any time after the new Act has come into force, always assuming, as I repeat, that we then have an I.T.A. set-up which Parliament has agreed as being a satisfactory one.
The noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, asked me about stereophonic sound. Nothing in the Government's proposals prejudices future development of stereophony, but this is a long-term development, and a regular service must await the development of internationally agreed standards as a first step. Meanwhile, the B.B.C. will continue to experiment with the system, but it will not be a workable proposition until it is possible to put out a stereophonic service using one frequency or wavelength and not two, as is necessary at present for such a development.
What has been emphasised frequently in this Report and echoed in the White 756 Paper is the public's right to choose, so far as possible, what they want to watch at any given hour. This was stressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, in her closing words when she used the phrase "the greatest possible choice". There is one possible contribution to that end, which I think I should mention. Some noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Archibald and also the noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams, have already pressed the advantages of a pay-television service. It has already been explained in the White Paper, in paragraph 85, that if an I.T.A. as well as a B.B.C. second service is authorised, and if provision is to be made for a changeover to 625 lines, there will be no room for pay-television over the air on any general scale for some time to come. There is, however, pay-television by wire. Some have visualised many programme channels in such a grid giving a great variety of services.
So far as a national wire grid is concerned, the cost of connecting up every home looks at the moment to be prohibitively expensive. It would, of course, become progressively more so as one needed to wire up smaller towns and villages, and it would in any case remain necessary to maintain a nation-wide broadcast system to cater for non-wired households. I am informed that wave-guide techniques are in the very early stage of development and that their use in long-distance links will not be a proposition for the next ten years, at the very least. Technically pay-television presents no insurmountable problems. But there is the question of economic viability which can only be tested in practice. The Pilkington Committee cite various disadvantages which they think would flow from it, such as impoverishment of the existing broadcasting services, or a pay-television service dominated by commercial ideas and limited to those who can afford it. But, upon this point, I think that few would wish to stop the selling of fur coats and refrigerators merely because some cannot afford them. Pay-television could naturally be visualised only as an extra service, not as a basic service; but everyone will also get the B.B.C. and I.T.A.
As to the type of service pay-televisiion might give, there might be, as 757 the noble Lord, Lord Archibald, said, a large number of films specially produced for pay-television, and that would seem a good thing for the film industry; and the B.B.C. and I.T.A. do not put out any new films. As to taking material away from the broadcasting authorities, I should have thought there must be a controlling authority to supervise any pay-television operation and say what material could be put out. It has been suggested to me that one benefit might be the uninterrupted viewing of a particular football match, or of some other spectacle, such as the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, giving his political views, which under present limited television time has to be interrupted in order to show a different feature or figure that somebody else is waiting to see. It would, in fact, enlarge the choice which is what we are after. I find it a little hard to equate the complaint of the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, on that particular score with his opposition to the fourth channel. No doubt I am rather obtuse, but he was complaining that there was not enough space on the air, so to speak, and he also objected to the idea of, or, at any rate, said there was no need for, a fourth channel. I personally think there are possibilities—tantalising possibilities—in pay-television as an extra service, but as yet the Government have taken no decision.
Several of your Lordships have, understandably, dwelt on the Committee's charge of unnatural violence in television programmes, and especially the effect on children. This seems to me so far the gravest of the charges affecting the decisions we make, not for our own generation but for the generation which follows that I ask to be forgiven if I, in turn, dwell on it at some small length and question the accuracy of some of the more overwhelming implications in this context.
The doubts in my own mind have been planted not from any consistent viewing of my own, as even during the weeks that I have had to prepare myself for this debate I have found it distressingly hard to set aside enough time to watch the screen for long periods. Indeed I was filled with envy at the ability of the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, and my noble friend Lord Auckland to 758 reel off whole catalogues of television features with which they were familiar. I am only happy to find that the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, and I share a delight in Maigret and Perry Mason, though it is several months since I have seen either programme. The members of the Pilkington Committee suffered from the same handicap, as the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, pointed out in her letter to The Times, which has been mentioned. Being busy people they had to depend upon bodies and individuals who, in most cases at least, had made a more methodical study of television programmes with their own aching eyes.
Last week-end I sat for two hours in a working men's club among some of my Yorkshire neighbours and questioned them on this matter of television's effect on their children. Most of them, I found, answered rather as the questionnaire of the noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams, was answered. They were able to report very little violently wrong with television programmes; in fact they unanimously resented the suggestion that they would allow their children to watch programmes, which, to quote the Report:encouraged anti-social, callous and even vicious attitudes of behaviour among children.So vehement were they that I studied more carefully the wording of the Report. In fact, they were a good deal more vehement than the noble Earl, Lord Derby, in his critical but, I thought, reasonably restrained maiden speech, in which he gave us an inside view of the way in which the programme companies approach their task and something of their efforts to maintain programme standards.
To return to the Report, disquiet at the portrayal of violence has been expressed in the Report on three main grounds. The first was that scenes of violence frightened small children, that small children were disturbed by any programmes which suggested a threat to the world which they knew and in which they felt secure: and that the most cruel threat was violence. Rightly, I hope, I take this to be restricted, by its reference to "a world which they knew and in which they felt secure" to one category of programme dealing with the everyday life of a British family or 759 community in which children play a part and where that familiar life is distorted or undermined by unnatural and violent events. This was the first ground, and suffering, as I do, from the same occupational handicap as the Pilkington Committee, I had no experience whatever of such programmes in my limited viewing, but I sought first-hand evidence from those of my neighbours who, together with their children, do watch with some regularity. None of them could produce an example, or at any rate recognise an example falling within this category, so I had drawn blank here.
The second ground was that such programmes might lead children to dangerous and even disastrous experiment. Naturally we should do anything to avoid this, but research so far has not established any such cause-and-effect sequence in any instance. I find it very hard to comprehend how the code of behaviour in a Western, watched by English children, can suggest a threat to the world which they know and in which they feel secure. I should have thought that in so far as it was able to frighten them at all, it might have made them very grateful to be living in Bishop's Stortford in 1962 instead of Dodge City in the roaring sixties of a century before!
The third ground for anxiety among those who criticised violence in their evidence to the Committee was that it encouraged anti-social, callous and even vicious attitudes of behaviour among children. These are stern and disturbing strictures, passed upon an industry, and a Government Authority, by thoughtful bodies, interviewed by a Committee of distinguished ladies and gentlemen who in turn have passed them on to us.
They are bound to command attention. But it is not enough that they should impress your Lordships' House, they must impress the country, and the people who spend more time viewing than most of your Lordships have time to spend. And I feel that those people will demand more specific foundations for those strictures than there has been space for, even in this long Report.
By questions in both Houses, articles in the Press and submissions to the 760 Pilkington Committee, it has been made clear that anxiety does exist but to what extent it may be a fear of the unknown (that is to say the unknown effect) rather than the observed, is something which must be carefully gauged before drastic action is taken.
I think we must accept that we in Parliament, are liable to offend a great number of parents if we try to tell them, without quoting chapter and verse, that they have been allowing their children to watch programmes which will encourage anti-social, callous and vicious attitudes of behaviour among them. I think we are liable to offend a number of children as well.
I think it is perhaps only right to rebut the implication that the Independent Television Authority itself would have permitted programmes of this damaging nature to go out repeatedly and unchecked. While recognising that the danger may exist, it is serving no useful purpose that I can see to exaggerate it in our minds, and act upon an exaggeration, if it exists, however conscientious that exaggeration may be. However exhaustive and tireless the researches of this Committee have been, other thinkers of equal humanity have come up with different answers as to what is likely to frighten a child. The noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, quoted the remark made in an interview by Mr. Hugh Carleton Greene, the Director-General of the B.B.C. in which he said that, generally speaking, he did not think television had anything like the effect it was said to have even on children—and that comes from a very authoritative source. I can quote with equal confidence a passage which might have been made as an answer to some of the charges against television in our day.All this kind of talk is based on that complete forgetting of what a child is like which has been the firm foundation of so many educational schemes. If you kept bogies and goblins away from children, they would make them up for themselves. One small child in the dark can invent more hells than Swedenborg. One small child can imagine monsters too big and black to get into any picture, and give them names too unearthly and cacophonous to have occurred in the cries of any lunatic. The child, to begin with, commonly likes horrors, and he continues to indulge in them even when he does not like them. The fear does not come from fairy tales: the fear comes from the universe of the soul".761 Those wards were not written as a defence of television programmes either B.B.C. or I.T.V. They were written by G. K. Chesterton fan 1906. I was a child when I read them for the first time, and I remember congratulating him, mentally, on being so fight. And I believe that if he were writing in the 1960s instead of in 1906 he might well say "The fear does not come from the television screen: the fear comes from the universe of the soul".
In any case I doubt if he could have found anything on any television screen, at whatever hour of viewing, so testing to the imagination as the Grimm's fairy tale of "The Boy Who could not Shudder" with its detail of the man's legs which fell down the chimney by themselves and walked about the room until they were rejoined by the severed head and body which fell down the chimney after them. That is the reading that we were reared on, my Lords, and if it encouraged anti-social, callous and Vicious attitudes of behaviour among us, most of us, at least, have managed to overcome those attitudes in course of time.
I agree with those who argue that the content of television programmes is not the main problem. What must be decided, in the light of the Report and its reception, is whether improvement in balance and treatment can be best ensured by a statutory code replacing that drawn up already by the B.B.C. for themselves, and the planning practice and checks of I.T.V., or whether these two existing methods can be sufficiently strengthened. Noble Lords will remember that the O'Conor Report on Children and Television did not support the proposals for a written code of television conduct by itself. It preferred to rely upon the development within the television organisation of a climate of opinion in which it would become inevitable, in producing programmes, to consider the special needs of the family audience. It considered that this new attitude must be established by unequivocal directive from the top in each case; that is to say, the top of each authority. Of one thing I am completely persuaded—that is, it is very hard indeed to identify what is good for the public and what the public would like if they could get it. This is a very 762 elusive element, and if the noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams, with all his experience of this medium, finds it difficult to recognise, then I think we need have no shyness in admitting a similar inability.
I will touch shortly upon a few of the other matters raised in debate. The noble Lord, Lord Archibald, asked me about television film quotas. That is really a question which the broadcasters must ask themselves. They must ask themselves what programmes they want to show. Television films are part of the material on offer. The Government would think that, as suggested by Lord Archibald, discussion between the B.B.C. and I.T.A. and the film producers would be the best course to take. The noble Lord, Lord Auckland asked about quiz games, and this is one of the matters of detail which the Government will discuss with the I.T.A. and the B.B.C. Various noble Lords, Lord Lloyd, Lord Grenfell and Lord Rochdale, asked about the provisions for financing the new B.B.C. channel, and I fear that, despite Lord Rochdale's thoughtful cogitations, all I can say is that this matter is still under consideration. At this point there is absolutely nothing more to say. The noble Lord, Lord Foley spoke up very fully in favour of sponsored programmes, and although, as he said, he was swimming against the general stream, his argument will be studied as carefully as any, as will the plea of the noble Lord, Lord Croft for an advisory council for the visual arts.
Other noble Lords, especially the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, and the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Chichester, have urged that the Pilkington Committee's recommendation for a change in the structure of Independent Television should be adopted. My noble Leader, Lord Hailsham, has discussed this matter. I would only repeat that the Government do not think the Committee have demonstrated convincingly reasons for such a drastic change of structure or that it would leave intact all that was good in the distinctive personality of television. It is for this reason that the Government have decided to postpone judgment until they have had the opportunity to consider the matter 763 further in the light of all the various opinions expressed and suggestions made.
The noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, made a plea that the B.B.C. National Governor for Wales should be Welsh-speaking. This is a matter which has been discussed before, and paragraph 9 of the White Paper says that the Government do not propose to make it an absolute requirement. Her Majesty's Government cannot go beyond that paragraph 9. In case it is of any comfort to the noble Lord, I can tell him that Mrs. Rachel Jones, the present B.B.C. Governor for Wales, who was not a Welsh speaker when appointed, although she had some knowledge of Welsh, has since improved that knowledge of the language to the point where she is able to make public speeches in Welsh.
The noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, also asked me about the wording of paragraph 13 of the White Paper. My Lords, I can give him comfort on that. The reference was certainly intended to indicate that the National Broadcasting Councils should have the same rights and duties in television as in sound. There was no intention to qualify the matter. The passage in the Charter will, in fact, state that the National Broadcasting Councils will exercise controlwith full regard to the distinctive culture, language interests and tastes of our people in that country.The noble Lord, Lord Coleraine, asked about medical advertisements. Paragraph 66 of the White Paper makes it clear that the panel of medical consultants will be appointed after consultation with the professional organisations concerned. So there is no fear that it will not have knowledge of the industries concerned. In any event, all medical advertisements are now referred by Independent Television to such a panel. The Government suggestion is that this practice should be given statutory recognition.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves that point, do I understand him to say there is a special professional medical panel that passes all medical advertisements?
LORD ST. OSWALD
I am not certain of the actual form of the panel, but there is a panel of some kind which is consulted now as a matter of course, and the Government's proposal is to make that consultation statutory.
The noble Earl, Lord Longford, asked me about the publication of the evidence, and I have to tell him that it is not the intention to publish the oral evidence. Some of the written evidence will be published, probably at the end of this month. There is, in fact, I understand, too much to publish it all, and about the same proportion will be published as was published in the case of the Beveridge Report. It will include all the main I.T.A. submissions.
LORD ST. OSWALD
I understand so. I will look into it, if the noble Earl wishes, but that is my understanding at the moment: that only part of the written evidence, and none of the oral evidence, will be published.
The noble Earl, Lord Longford, referred to the two rival sets of figures for programmes, and certainly there will be no Judgment of Solomon by me on that subject this evening. Perhaps I should say to him simply that the Pilkington Committee was set up in 1960 and it was therefore reasonable that it should examine the performance of the two broadcasting organisations before and around that time. If there has been any improvement in either the balance or the amount of crime and violence in programmes since that time, whether due to the advent of the Committee or not, I am sure that all concerned, and in particular the noble Lord himself, will welcome it and hope that the improvement will be sustained.
My Lords, we have reached half-time; two-thirds of the way through this debate. By the size and tone of the debate I feel that your Lordships have, in fact, paid a considerable compliment to the Pilkington Report. Without such a Report there could not be such a debate. Both are essential stages in seeking the answer to which we are exerting our minds and consciences, and for which we shall all carry a share of responsi- 765 bility, when our eyes are too dim to watch the screen with any comfort. While they are still reasonably bright we must use them to look ahead and find the right answer for others to enjoy and, I hope, to commend.
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend, Lord Shepherd, I beg to move that this debate be now adjourned.
§ Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.—(The Earl of Lucan.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.