§ 3.38 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, may I first of all thank the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chesham, for the clarity and ability with which he has explained the provisions of this Bill? It was not an easy task, because the Bill is full of technical details and complications. I sympathise with the noble Lord in the task he had to discharge, but he did it very well indeed and we are indebted to him for leading 1312 us to a better understanding of the provisions of this not unimportant measure. What I say will be said for myself. This is a subject on which everybody is an expert, as everybody is on traffic, which is another branch of the noble Lord's business. To expect uniformity of opinion in any political Party on this subject is expecting too much.
My own mind goes back to the great debate which took place in your Lordships' House some years ago, when I sat on the steps of the Throne. The noble Viscount the Leader of the House took a prominent part in opposing commercial television, and I thoroughly agreed with his views at that time. It was a great debate in which individual views were expressed all over the House. That is inevitable on a subject of this kind. Therefore, though I will try to pursue the general views of my colleagues so far as I can, it may well be that I shall not entirely succeed, and if any of my noble friends on this side want to disagree with me subsequently, they are, of course, at liberty to do so.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
I am not encouraging them; but if they do, I shall have no grievance.
One of the things I have to complain about is the lateness with which legislation is reaching this House. It is the "July heap" all over again. My recollection is that, under the Labour Government, we treated the House of Lords better in this respect. We brought a lot of legislation into this House, and we tried to arrange things so that legislation would not be congested into a heap in the month of July when your Lordships would have to rush it unduly.
I would remind the noble Lord that the Town and Country Planning Bill and the electricity nationalisation Bill, both major Bills, were going through this House at the same moment under the Labour Government.
§ A NOBLE LORD: It did.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My noble friend the doctor says it is a physical impossibility. I should think it was difficult to get them through at the same moment. However, the Town and County Planning Bill was so difficult to understand—I think only my noble friend Lord Silkin could follow it—and it bemused people on both sides of the House, so that I doubt whether that took a great deal of time. However, I am grateful to the noble Lord for trying to assist me again, which he has done in recent weeks on more than one occasion. But, as I say, here we are with the "July heap" of legislation, which is another sign of bad Parliamentary management on the part of the Leader of the other place, Mr. Macleod. That we are getting accustomed to, and in due course the House of Commons will find out.
For myself, I am still a strong general supporter of the Pilkington Report. I believe it was a good Report: it was well written and well presented. It did not deserve the denunciation, in shockingly unmeasured terms, heaped upon it by interested quarters outside Parliament, and let me say, inside Parliament as well, where we certainly had our share of interested parties participating, not only in the other place, where the advertising lobby achieved one of the most marvellous successes ever by pressure groups, but in this House where there were a number of noble Lords with direct interest in television. If my memory serves me correctly, one noble Lord who had been in the House for fourteen years made his maiden speech in support of commercial television, in which he had an interest. The trouble was that one could not get up and attack it, because it was a maiden speech. I have no doubt that interests will be heard again, and so long as they declare themselves that is permitted in our Parliamentary system. As I say, substantially I prefer the Pilkington Report, including the I.T.A. running the advertising side and shaping the programmes. But there were divisions of opinion in my Party as well as among others on that subject, and it has not been done.
1314 Having said that, I must say that, in general, in all the circumstances and having regard to the terrific pressures which have been brought to bear on the Government, this Bill is pretty good. It is a pretty good Bill, subject to those reservations, which are important reservations of substance. Therefore, the Government might have been much worse; and, indeed, I think that this time they have turned out to be better on television than they were on the previous occasion and in respect of the previous Bill. That is not to say that we are entirely satisfied with the Bill, or that there will not be Amendments submitted to it at the appropriate stages of our consideration.
I am glad that the powers of the Independent Television Authority have been increased. I think the trouble before was partly that their powers were inadequate, and partly that the Authority were perhaps a little nervous of exercising properly the powers they had. I am not going to make any malicious accusations against them if they were somewhat nervous; it was a new thing, and they probably thought it right to run it on a loose rein. But I think it was too loose a rein, and they did not fully use the powers as they might have done. However, that is a matter of judgment. Now considerable additional powers are being conferred upon the Independent Television Authority. With these additional powers, they will have the other problem to consider at this stage. They will have to consider making adequate, proper and reasonable use of these powers. On the other hand, with some of these powers it may still be right to run it on a fairly loose rein, so that they do not impose overmuch democracy in the running of Independent Television. Some of the powers must be firmly administered; some may have to be administered with a little more looseness in order that enterprise and go-ahead policies may survive and not be strangled at birth.
The danger for us, I think, is of going radio and television mad. The national resources at the disposal of the community—not entirely the Government and the State; but they must have a hand it it—are limited. After all, television was a luxury. It is now generally 1315 regarded as a necessity, and I do not complain. But for some people, including interests, not only in the television game itself, but on the manufacturing side—the technological side of television—and I think in some of the arts, who virtually make a living out of television, and who are of course entitled within reason to further their own interests, it almost seems that you cannot have too much television; that you cannot use enough of the national resources for television and sound broadcasting, and that the expenditure is worth while. But this is something which in itself is not directly productive, except in so far as films made for television may be exported and, therefore, a contributor to the balance of payments. But this is not one of the fundamental necessities of life, although socially we may regard it as such. I am getting rather cross, in a way, that we in Parliament, who deal with public opinion outside, and expound it, almost feel that the more television channels we can have, the better; and the more of national resources and technical skill, which is considerable, that is spent upon television, the better.
I enjoy television with anybody else; in fact, sometimes I see more of it than is good for my homework and reading. One of the troubles of television is that it is the enemy of reading; you look at it instead of reading a good book. That is a pity. I blame myself; but I cannot help it; I have the weaknesses of others. I am not always looking at television, but sometimes I look at it more than I ought to. But we should not squander too much of the national resources upon something which is merely a useful industry and service and which gives a great deal of pleasure to many people—and heaven forbid that I should try to stop them from getting that pleasure!
But there are two channels already, B.B.C. and I.T.V. I look at both of them according to what is on. It is not a bad choice between those two; you can pretty well get what you want. I admit that sometimes when I want to to look at "Perry Mason" (of whom I am very fond, and I should be brokenhearted if he ever lost a case), "77 Sunset Strip" starts on I.T.V. in front of 1316 "Perry Mason" and overlaps it a bit. However, I became such an expert on "Perry Mason" that I found I could let "77 Sunset Strip" overlap it by ten minutes or so, and nevertheless pick up the "Perry Mason" plot and story and go happily through with it. This is a complication, but it is unavoidable. This is part of the competitive system which the Government deliberately approved and brought in, and we have to put up with some inconvenience.
Is it not enough to have two channels? I am not even sure that we need an additional B.B.C. channel. If we are to have an additional channel I prefer the B.B.C. to have it, and up to now they have. That was another act of freedom on the part of the Government, though I am not sure that they ought to have given anybody an additional channel. I cannot see the need for an additional commercial channel unless it be the theory that we are thereby going to break the monopoly. But the previous Act of Parliament was going to break the monopoly—that was the argument. But they have not done it, and they were silly people to think they could. You cannot have half-a-dozen companies side by side with each other sending out stuff for the London region or for the North-West or Birmingham. Within those territories there is almost bound to be a monopoly, although you can give it to one company on certain days, and to another company on other days. Therefore, the Government have got what they planned for, but what they said they were not planning for.
The only possible advantage of a second commercial channel might be that, by competition, it would help to reduce the advertising rates, or cater for the small advertiser and the shorter advertisement. If that were successful, the company might have a financial problem in paying its way. I myself do not believe in any additional channels at all for anybody. In our economic situation it is waste of national resources. That is my personal opinion.
Then there is the question whether there should be a special channel for education. I think the responsibility for the educational aspects of television should be a responsibility imposed and recognised to be upon the B.B.C. and the companies, to be mixed up with the various programmes. I think all-day, or 1317 substantially all-day, educational television would let the long-haired people run too free. As your Lordships may know, I have my troubles over some of them already, and I am in a bit of trouble since I made that observation. I think it might be dull, whereas if you persuade the average viewer of television to keep on with the educational feature for a limited period, you will have done something for the cause of education. But I do not believe that many people, or enough people, would watch the educational channel if it were educational and nothing else. This is a matter upon which the views of educationists might well differ.
Similarly with sound radio, I do not believe there is an essential need for local radio stations all over the country giving local news. After all, there are local newspapers, and those poor things will not get much chance of getting hold of the local radio station—in any case, they ought not to. These stations ought to be run by the B.B.C. In my experience, local news circulates very effectively by word of mouth. I think it would be a needless expenditure of national resources, labour, material and so on, and I do not believe it is needed. We get on both the B.B.C. radio and television regional news which is effectively done, and the news thereby given is enough to cover the point. Of course, if the local news is important enough it may become national news.
The 625-line system is worth adopting, if the cost to the consumer is not excessive. The same remark applies to colour television, though there are some people in films who prefer a black and white to a colour film. I must say I am rather attracted to the colour film, if it is well done. Here, again, is a fair point for argument whether the lineage should be put right, as I am inclined to think it should. Whether colour should come is a little more disputable. It is a balance between what we can afford by way of allocation of national resources. So I ask the question whether we are going T.V. and radio mad. I think there is a little danger to that end.
There is the question of pay or toll television, on which I find it difficult to make up my mind, although again the question of the use of resources comes in. The film and cinema industries themselves 1318 are divided. The cinematograph exhibitors and the theatres appear to be opposed to it, presumably upon the ground that it would compete with the live theatre on the one hand and the cinema on the other. I understand their point of view, and I am not out of sympathy with it. I had better declare my interest as President of the British Board of Film Censors, because I shall have to go into this field more than once. The makers of films, as a whole, favour pay and toll television on the ground that it would increase the use of their films. They would receive revenue which would assist in the export trade of films. These are two perfectly legitimate points of view which must be kept in mind. I think the real balancing factor for Her Majesty's Government is whether it would be wise to use up the national resources in that respect.
The interesting thing about our television arrangements is that the B.B.C. draws its authority from the Royal Charter. Independent Television draws it from Act of Parliament, and some people interested in commercial television have said that they think this is unfair, because it ties the I.T.A. and the companies rather severely and leaves the B.B.C. much greater freedom. But in principle I think this distinction is right. The British Broadcasting Corporation are a public corporation. There is no nonsense about it—they are a public service. They are not profit-making, and the surpluses they make are put back into the business. They are well trusted and well-established. I would not tie them up with a lot of fettering interferences. If they get too far out of step, no doubt the Postmaster General can use his influence and talk to them appropriately. But I should not like him to try to exercise meticulous control over either.
I think it is right that the B.B.C. should be floated by Royal Charter. The companies and the I.T.A. are another matter. Here you have the commercial element strongly intruded; the great advertising industry, who know how to look after themselves—my goodness they do! They understand Parliamentary pressure grouping—they are experts at it. The Conservative Party are rather afraid of Government to commercial television on them. The original surrender of the original Bill (a surrender which I 1319 believe was against the general run of public opinion) was one of the outstanding cases of a Parliamentary pressure group. I said to a Conservative friend of mine in another place at the time, "I doubt whether there were more than twenty of your chaps who wanted this". He said, "Twenty?—you're wrong. Twelve". I think he was right. These were clever lads, nearly all of them making money out of the advertising business. Nearly all of them wanted commercial television so that they could make more money.
If our late colleague Lord Crookshank, who was then Mr. Crookshank and Leader of the House of Commons, had stood firm—and I have had experience of standing firm in another place in that capacity—he could have got away with it as easy as anything, if he had said: "No, we are not going to bother with this. We are going to stick to the public service." But he gave way, partly, no doubt, because of Mr. Selwyn Lloyd, who was a minority of one in the Committee of Inquiry into the B.B.C. The Government surrendered, and we got landed with commercial television which, on the whole, I am sorry about, though, as I shall show, I do not argue that it has been entirely bad, or that its record is by any means entirely bad. But the distinction between an Act of Parliament in this case and a Royal Charter in the case of the B.B.C. is absolutely right and I hope it will not be departed from. It is one of the prices you pay for a private monopoly: that there has to be more control exercised over it and more regulations. In the case of a public concern some are wanted, but not so much. So this is right. Again, of course, the advertising lobby were in on that point.
Now I come to an unpleasant, personal point to which I must make reference. Under this Bill there is a provision whereby the Postmaster General can appoint members of the Board of the Independent Television Authority, and there is a distinction between the Chairman, Deputy Chairman and the other members of the Authority. Of course, he had somewhat similar powers under the previous legislation. I admit I am a puritan in public administration, and always have been. I am anxious to keep 1320 it upright; and not only for it to be upright but for it to look upright and clean. I think this appointment of Lord Hill of Luton as Chairman of the Independent Television Authority is—I cannot say less—a public scandal. When boards were being set up for publicly-owned industries we were "chivvied" by Conservative Party members in another place about "jobs for the boys", merely because some Labour people got through. It was not true. But must we have an embargo on Labour people sitting on public boards? My Left-wingers claimed that too many Tories got through, and I said: "Are we going to have an embargo on Tories on boards? We cannot do it. That is taking political discrimination too far." But we were charged with "jobs for the boys." It was not true; it was unjust. But if there was ever a "job for a boy", it is this one!
Dr. Hill, as he was, originally achieved fame as the "Radio Doctor". Let me say that I do not know anything about his medical qualifications—and I am not the only one in that respect; I do not know anything about medicine. I liked listening to him when I was sleeping at the Home Office at night, when the bombs were falling, and I used to listen regularly to "Lift Up Your Hearts" and the "Radio Doctor". They both cheered me up round about eight o'clock in the morning. So I had no prejudice against him as a radio man until he got into politics, and then he delivered one very clever speech. Ultimately they realised it was too clever, and they never used him again, or not much. So he has had that experience. In the Government he was the Minister in charge of Government information services, which can be run as an information service or run as propaganda, which it ought not to be. He had a lot to do with publicity for the Conservative Government. Is that his qualification for this job? He became Minister of Housing and Local Government for a time and was in charge of the Bill we were dealing with yesterday, but I do not hold that against him. He was only the caretaker of the Bill; I know those who were responsible. Then he got sacked. Mind you, that is not conclusive that he was incompetent, because the Prime Minister never gave his reasons in his explanation for the slaughter of his nearest and dearest colleagues.
1321 I ask myself—and I cannot answer it, and I ought not to answer it—did the Prime Minister say: "Never mind, Charles; in due course I'll take care of you"? I do not know. It would not be right for me to ask it; but I cannot help asking myself. It is a Party appointment on a job where that kind of suspicion ought not to exist, but is bound to exist. I do not say that no politician should ever be considered for a post of this kind; it depends on the politician. There is a lot to be said for its not being a politician. But this is bad. This was a job, and clearly is a job, for which it is not good for the reputation of our country or the uprightness of our public administration that this kind of appointment should take place.
And how was it announced? Another deliberate and successful attempt to dodge Parliament. They have not succeeded entirely, as your Lordships can hear from what I am saying, and I have no doubt that ways and means will be found in another place whereby it can be ventilated. It ought to have been on a Question for Oral Answer or ought to have been done by Parliamentary statement at the end of Questions. That was the decent, upright way to do it; and the more suspicion, maybe, you have on you for what you have done, the more you should pay respect for Parliamentary opportunities to shoot supplementary questions. No, this was deliberately arranged—as something else was recently which does not come to mind at the moment—by a Question for Written Answer; a method of evading effective Parliamentary accountability. The whole thing smells from beginning to end. It is shameful. This ought not to have been done in itself, and the method of doing it was atrocious. As I said earlier, I am sorry to have to say these things, but I regard it, and we all regard it on this side, as our public duty that this should be said. And I hope that Her Majesty's Government will take account of what has been said.
My Lords, in television there are problems, problems that I meet in my other capacity. They are largely the problems of violence and sex, and it is not much good thinking that these are simple things to solve on television or on films. It is partly a question of how it is done; partly a question of the context; and 1322 partly a question of the general nature of the picture and the presentation of the movements, whether they are provocative or not. Some people would like to exclude every bit of them, which I do not think is practicable without destroying the performance and general run of the story. But obviously care needs to be exercised about it, otherwise people would run away with violence and sex, to the disadvantage of the community. I notice in the Bill that codes are to be prepared; and both the B.B.C. and the I.T.V. have done so: and good luck to them! But a code is a difficult thing to frame and it is difficult to lay down that when it has been framed there will be no exceptions to it.
The British Board of Film Censors had a problem before I went there. They had a rule which forbade all nudity. It is different now. Some nudity can be beautiful and not provocative in the sexual sense. However, they had a rule of "None", and they were on the safe side. Then a more enterprising maker of films went to the cost of making enough films to submit them to the local licensing authorities who have a power to override the British Board of Film Censors, as I think is right they should be able to do. The British like an appeal, and it is about the best system we can find. However, believe it or not, 90 per cent. of these respectable local authorities passed the nudist film. I would not believe it, but they tell me it is true. I am not grumbling at them and not judging them at all. What could the British Board of Film Censors do after that? They had to give way; and since then we have handled the matter to the best of our ability to prevent the sexually provocative element from emerging improperly on to the film. But this exists within television as well as film.
The other point is brutality. Here I am going to be careful, because I know my noble friend Lady Summerskill has strong opinions about it. Let me say straight away, by way of extenuation, that I share substantially her views about boxing. I think she is right. Now the B.B.C. and I.T.V. have the problem, should they show boxing, and I dare say that, on balance, my noble friend would prefer that they did not. There is a real difficulty. A large part of the public 1323 —they may or may not be the nicest people—like looking at boxing shows. They are not all men; some are women, though probably most are men. The problem for the B.B.C. and the I.T.V., therefore, is: should they show it or not? I looked at one the other night; I happened to blunder into it. My friend Henry Cooper, who is a very nice chap and a former constituent of mine at South Lewisham, was doing well, and then got knocked about with eye-trouble and was knocked out. It was not a pleasant sight—I entirely agree. On the other hand, there is a considerable public demand for boxing. It is like the circulation of a newspaper, which has a considerable interest in catering for its readers. I do not see how we can rule it out, or expect the broadcasting people to rule it out. But I say that only to present their problem to the House. I come back to the point that, fundamentally, on boxing I should be happy, with my noble friend, if it were abolished. I do not think it is nice.
I come to the question of competition between the B.B.C. and I.T.V. I think it was wasteful; I think it was unnecessary. But I must admit that it has done some good. It has probably stimulated the B.B.C., though they might have stimulated themselves without this outside stimulation. But there is no doubt that the B.B.C. is more lively. On some things it is so lively that the I.T.V. sometimes complain that the B.B.C. gets in front of them. That is naughty of them, because they wanted competition and they have got it; and the B.B.C. is a pretty effective competitor. It is a little difficult to judge which service has got the more viewers or listeners. They both do the measuring for themselves and have different systems. I think the B.B.C. viewing public has increased very much, and the B.B.C. is an effective competitor to I.T.V. So I concede that on the face of it, some good has been done; and I am glad that the B.B.C. is keeping its end up. The I.T.V. have done some good things. I have seen some good programmes. I think "Coronation Street" is a very good one; even though it has lasted a long time it still has a very big following.
Independent Television News, I think, is substantially as good as the B.B.C. 1324 News; and the B.B.C. is as good as I.T.A. They are both very good. The documentaries are very good. One thing I was worried about was that in a programme called "This Week" they had a man walking round New York City interviewing people to find out whether they would support going to war—it was implied in a preventive sense—against the Communist countries, or one of them, and in nearly every case the answer was to the effect, "Yes". I know the United States pretty well; I know that in two world wars they were not in a hurry to come into them. It is true that their isolationism has gone, but I do not believe that that proportion of Americans, even in New York City, take the view suggested by that programme: that they were rather thirsting to go to war. I thought it was naughty, and I told somebody so; he said, "You could be right, but in these matters we are in the hands of the producers"—which shows that they have got to be careful about the people they employ.
I think it is right that the levy system should be introduced: it is right in principle. It is true that the companies started with very considerable risk to their money; and, indeed, at the beginning, some lost money. But soon afterwards they were making too much, until Mr. Roy Thomson said they were printing their own banknotes in any quantities they wanted. Profits, of course, were much too high, and they must have known that that would meet a bit of trouble later. Therefore, I think that in principle the levy is right. I am a little worried as to whether it is entirely just as between one company and another. I am told that there are two companies, A.B.C. and A.T.V., who have, not only studios but main centres in two cities of the country. I think they circle around London and Manchester and Birmingham or something like that. I am told that their profits will be much more heavily hit than those of the other companies which have one place—Granada, for instance. I am not arguing for the rejection or extension of the levy, because I do not know enough about it. But this point, I feel, should be looked at, if the Government would be good enough to do so, as a matter of equity between the various companies.
1325 There is another and possibly related problem, and that is whether the existing company areas are right. Grampian must be a difficult one; East Anglia, I gather, is a difficult one, and the one in the West of England or Western Wales (I forget which) may be a difficult one. It may be that the reorganisation of areas is worth considering. I should like to see justice done as between one concern and another; and if the Government come to the conclusion that justice is not being done, and that equity is not being served between the two, there might be some change.
I believe that the Government are right to give the I.T.A. greater control of network. In that respect, the big companies have undoubtedly had too much power and the smaller concerns not enough say. I must say there is one which amuses me. In London we have Associated Rediffusion which always starts its programmes with the words: "Associated Rediffusion—London's television". It is ten to one that the previous programme was announced as, "Granada, from the North". It may be six to one that the one following will be labelled, "Granada, from the North". I am not complaining about Granada, which is a very good and successful company, run, I think, by a member of the Labour Party, which may be the reason it is successful. It is a good company as these companies go. But it is a little ridiculous to describe this other company as "London's television". Anyway, we can see how the networking goes, and I hope that improvements will be made.
My Lords, the Bill, is a materially better Bill than we feared and might have expected. I can only hope that on its passage, with such improvements as we and another place may make between us, it will be helpful to the cause of television and will do good and improve the services of these great undertakings.
§ 4.18 p.m.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
My Lords, in declaring a personal interest as a director of Scottish Television, I had some doubt as to whether or not I should speak to your Lordships to-day. But I felt that the House would continue, as it has in the past, to accept that it is competent for a noble Lord to speak on a subject in which he has an interest, 1326 without thought of self-interest and entirely objectively, in an effort to make some contribution on a subject on which he has some particular knowledge. Indeed, my Lords, if ever we were, by custom, to debar, because of a special interest, those who have knowledge from taking part in your Lordships' debates, I believe the House would be the loser. That is, of course, a generalisation, and not intended to suggest that my words have any particular merit.
At the outset of my remarks I must express my regret that the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, chose to make a most bitter personal attack upon the ability and character of the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, the noble Lord will not overlook the fact that I also, and equally emphatically, condemned Her Majesty's Government for what they have done.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
Certainly. The noble Lord said—I took down his words—that he regretted that he felt it his public duty to make a protest about that. I have been in your Lordships' House for only some eighteen years, but I do not think I have ever heard a more unjustified personal attack upon a noble Lord who is not here. No doubt the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, had informed Lord Hill of Luton that he was going to make that attack.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
There was no point in informing the noble Lord. He will not be here until to-morrow.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
I think it would have been better, then, had the noble Lord deferred his attack until such a time as Lord Hill of Luton could have been here and, if necessary, defended himself. I say no more, except to leave it to the general feeling of the House as to whether those remarks, in an otherwise most interesting speech, were either up to the standard of your Lordships' debates or the standard which we expect from the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord, to say that I did not hear any attack by my noble friend 1327 upon the character of Lord Hill of Luton? I heard him attack the appointment made by a Conservative Government to this obviously important position of Chairman of I.T.A., and say that the employment which he had as a Minister in the past and the propaganda he had had to make in the past, showed him to be unfitted, from my point of view, to be head of this organisation. As the Chairman of Independent Television he will be known from the beginning to the end of his office, to be anti-Labour, anti-Socialist; and nobody holding our views will have a reasonably fair chance of being properly heard.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, did, in effect, retail a most disparaging account of the ministerial career of Lord Hill of Luton, based upon the views which Lord Morrison of Lambeth himself holds; and certainly, I think that, when it is read in Hansard to-morrow, we shall see that my description of it as an unwarranted personal attack upon the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, is fully justified.
This Bill has been described by the Government spokesman as "a dull Bill." It has been described by the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, as "a pretty good Bill." I would describe it as a Bill of lost opportunity—lost opportunity to put forward a broad policy which would, I believe, be of benefit to this country. The particular loss is the opportunity to meet the main criticism of the Pilkington Report on programme quality, and the ineffective use of a powerful medium. Instead, we have a Bill which, in achieving one of its rightful purposes, milking off excess profits, will have two results. The first will be the encouragement of a competitive race between the B.B.C. and the Independent Television for mass audiences, at the expense of serious presentation. The second effect will be that, because of the levy (I do not dispute the need to milk off excess profits; but one can advance criticisms as to the method by which it is being done), there will be less to spend on more items, with the result that the balance of what I call serious programmes will suffer.
Let us look for a moment at what will happen. The B.B.C. are to have an un- 1328 restricted second channel. There is no question of that new channel being confined to what I call serious balanced programmes. By alternating popular appeal and balance for every hour of the day, the B.B.C. can present to Independent Television a competitive position which can be met only by Independent Television's making a greater mass appeal, or endeavouring to do so. I do not dispute that the profits of the Independent Television Company have been excessive, but so, for many, were the losses at the outset, and the risks taken at the outset. By all means reduce the profits, but not to such an extent as to force Independent Television to seek popular appeal at the cost of the serious. Independent Television achievements in the serious field have been considerable. There has been a booklet prepared by the Independent Television Authority, called Facts and Figures: January to March, 1963, which shows, taken over two weeks, that what I call serious programmes have since 1956 risen in time from 9 hours, 44 minutes, to 23 hours, 13 minutes, in a week. I think that Independent Television can well hold up their head, when compared with the B.B.C., as regards serious programmes.
This is the lost opportunity of which I spoke, because it means that we are going to be behind many other countries. Take a country like Japan, which can afford two completely educational channels. I wonder whether the noble Earl who is to reply would appreciate the sort of instruction that one can get on the Japanese channels. One can learn to draw, to play golf, how to be an accountant; and there are many other lines of instruction. The noble Earl could take extramural classes; he could work for a degree. That is what Japan does. Here, we have the depressing thought that the main effect of the proposals in this Bill, in respect of the levy in its present form, will be that television companies in the United Kingdom will have to spend less on programmes because of the need to produce more without spending so much.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, would the noble Lord repeat that proposition? I did not quite follow it.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
Certainly. The main effect of this levy 1329 in its present form will be that Television Companies, United Kingdom, will have to spend less on programmes because of the need to produce more without spending so much. That is the truth.
There was a proposal put to the Authority about a year ago, to milk off this excessive profit—probably some £10 million—and to set up a channel for education: a balanced channel, which could show Shakespeare, ballet or extramural courses, and sports instruction. That would have answered the main Pilkington criticism which I mentioned at the beginning of my remarks, as to the inadequacy of the present programme. But now we have a dreary little Bill, with a financial purpose to be achieved by wrongly devised methods. I find the Government's attitude a little pathetic in its narrow outlook on this subject of tremendous importance. Why did the Government not come forward as real visionaries, with an inspired plan for television in Britain, covering three or four channels; and financing the scheme from the surplus profits they are about to take, instead of proceeding in a way which must, in the long run, harm and not benefit the viewing public. I regret that the Government have lost this opportunity of doing something really worth while.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ LORD FRANCIS-WILLIAMS
My Lords, I should, I think, at the beginning declare an interest, indeed several interests. I was for some time a member of the Board of Governors of the B.B.C.; I have appeared on television programmes fairly consistently on both the B.B.C. and commercial television; I am deputy-chairman and the founder of a small independent television firm producing television films, Television Reporters International; and I am, finally, a member of the council and a member of the board and the committee of management of the Society of Authors, whose members as writers, dramatists, and so on, are, of course, very much involved in television in many aspects.
Having declared those interests, I should like to say at the very beginning, as an extremely interested person, that I welcome this Bill in many, and indeed most, of its aspects. I think it is a much better Bill than we might have anticipated, and in many ways a much 1330 better Bill than it was when it started out on its progress in another place. It represents an attempt by the Government to meet the dilemma in which they found themselves placed as a result of being pushed into commercial television without, I think, due thought as to what it all involved; with the result that it enabled the formation of some television companies which had a licence to print money and others, like Welsh Television, which have turned out to have a licence to lose money—because there was not any due regard paid to the distribution of the regions and the size of the smaller companies in order to make all of them viable.
Now the Government, after thinking first in terms of a profits tax and abandoning it, as I understand, because they considered that it would be difficult to check on the profit returns given them—I would not necessarily have thought it was, but they know their friends better than I do—have moved over to the levy. And I think that, on the whole, the levy, although it raises some difficulties, is probably a good solution of this problem. But, of course, it raises a number of problems. As my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth said, it tends to discriminate between some among the the major four companies, between those who have one centre and those who have two centres. It was argued in another place, and rejected, that because of this the levy should be separated, so to speak, in conditions where one company had to operate from two centres, and such a company should be levied on its operations in each centre separately.
I can see the difficulty in that, but I hope that, in looking at this problem, since one wants equity between the companies concerned, the Authority, on the advice of the Government, will, under their power in this clause to vary the contributions paid by the companies, consider the desirability of taking more fully into account the different circumstances of the various companies when considering the level of contributions. I very much hope that we shall be able to consider the whole problem of how far the actual operational areas of the various companies need redefinition before the time comes to issue new contracts. I think that perhaps some of the major companies are too big, and that some of the smaller companies are too 1331 small, and that their present areas are, in fact, incapable of ever reaching a fully economic basis.
All this, of course, as the Bill is at present drafted, lays an enormous amount of responsibility on the Independent Television Authority. Perhaps that is right; but those who soldiered on in another place trying to get improvements in the Bill and who were met by the response that this would be looked after by the Authority, were proceeding in a happy innocence which we can no longer share. They did not, as my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth has already said, know who the Chairman of the Authority was to be. I, with Lord Morrison of Lambeth, regard this as a regrettable appointment, because (I think I am correct in saying this) it is the first time in the history of broadcasting in this country, whether in regard to the B.B.C. or commercial television, that the Chairman appointed has been a Party political man. The whole attempt, whether by Labour or Conservative Governments, in the past has been to pick for the chairmanship, whether of the B.B.C. or of the I.T.A., persons of independent public standing and experience who were not identified closely with any political Party or with any particular commercial interest, and who could be expected on their record to look to their responsibilities on the basis of the public interest. A good deal of what this Bill says and does has to be looked at in the light of this appointment, because it places such very great authority in the hands of the I.T.A.
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Lord, I am very much interested in what he says, but is he not wrong when he says that there is no precedent? Am I not right in thinking that the Labour Administration appointed the late Lord Simon of Wythenshawe to the chairmanship of the B.B.C. within days of his joining the Labour Party?
§ LORD FRANCIS-WILLIAMS
That is perfectly true. In fact, it would be impossible in an adult community to appoint anybody of intelligence who had not certain political leanings or views. But Lord Simon of Wythenshawe had not been an active participating Party propagandist in any sense whatever. He 1332 was appointed because he had a great deal of experience in many fields, and the actual members of the Board, like myself when I was a member of the Board of Governors, have always been drawn from many walks of life and from all political Parties, and quite properly so. I think the tradition has been that the Chairmen of these Boards should, so far as possible—you cannot find political neuters lying about, and they would probably not be very acceptable if you could—not be known to be heavily committed in the way that the new occupant of this chair is.
As I was saying, it seems to me that we have to look at this Bill a good deal because of the immense amount of authority that is placed in it and in the hands of the Chairman. I sometimes have a feeling that the Postmaster General, in leading his troops up this Bill, cast himself in the rôle, or has been cast in the rôle, of the Grand Old Duke of York, who led his men to the top of the hill and then led them down again. We may find that, because of the composition of the Board, much of the heavy weight that is put in this Bill upon that Authority is not completely justified. We are welcoming Lord Hill of Luton in this House to-morrow, and I do not in any way underestimate the influence of your Lordships' House upon its Members. It may well be that, in the course of his membership of this House, the Hill will become a rocky mountain, which in future can be scaled only by those who bear the device "Public interest before profit". It is possible—all things are possible. But we cannot legislate for miracles. We must look at the Bill and the authority that is given to the I.T.A., and consider how far that ought to be permissive and how far they ought to be required to carry out certain measures to ensure good television. I hope we shall be able to do that at the appropriate time.
Now I come to the question of the whole relationship of the companies as it is at present and as it will be under this Bill. Your Lordships will recall that the networking system was originally set up by the Authority as is stated in the Pilkington Report, in the belief that it would promote competition between the programme companies. The Pilkington 1333 Committee went on to add in paragraph 539:Drawing our attention to this, the Authority added that it had miscalculated the amount of competition likely to be generated.Indeed, so far from generating competition, on the whole the networking system has blanketed and prevented competition. Each major company, under this system, has affiliates. Each of the smaller companies is offered programmes, usually at a very small rate; but whether they take those programmes or do not take them they have to pay a proportion of their advertising revenue to the major company of which they are an affiliate. This has meant that the price actually charged for programmes has become relatively unimportant in the network system, because it is the portion of the advertising revenue which is important. This, in turn, has meant that it is practically impossible, except in exceptional circumstances, for many of the regional companies, who are often capable of providing, and of thinking of, good programmes—which although regionally based should have a network possibility, and would probably acquire a wide public interest—to get their programmes networked.
There was the comparatively recent case of the film produced by, I think, the T.W.W. on the life of Lloyd George to coincide with an important date, which they had enormous difficulty in getting anybody else to take. There is another one where either T.W.W. or Welsh prepared a film on Dylan Thomas, a poet of whom different judgments are possible, but who was a substantial and interesting literary figure; and they again find it impossible to get it networked. Recently I was up in the Lake District, and the chairman of Border Television kindly invited me to go along and see their studios; and very excellent they are. This is a small company. It certainly is not in a position to make large profits; it does well if it can just manage to pay its way. But it is doing an excellent job for its own region in terms of good television.
They told me that they had been examining the possibility of two series which I feel sure will appeal to those of your Lordships who remember either your own childhoods or your children's childhoods. They wanted to see whether 1334 it was possible to produce a series of children's programmes based on the famous Beatrix Potter stories, which, as your Lordships know, are laid in the Lake District. They also thought it might be possible to produce a series for older children based on the excellent Arthur Ransome books, again taking the Lake District as their background. They told me that they found it was impossible to proceed with these two, as it seemed to me, excellent ideas, because of the difficulty of getting them networked, the difficulty of being able to ensure that they would be able to get a reasonable contribution to their costs from a networking system.
May I, with your Lordships' agreement, refer somewhat more specifically to a matter which concerns one of my own interests more directly: that of the small group which I mentioned earlier, of which I was one of the founders, Television Reporters International? That was established by a group of commentators who appeared regularly on the B.B.C. and on commercial television, and who wished to form an independent group because they thought a good deal could be done in the way of new experimental television in the documentary and current affairs field, and also because they wanted to try to develop the overseas market. In developing the overseas market, I am glad to say that this group has been enormously successful already. Its productions are being shown in some 19 countries abroad. It was discussed with the B.B.C., because many of us worked with the B.B.C., and we received a great deal of encouragement from the higher echelons of the B.B.C., although, naturally enough, there was some anxiety in some of the lower echelons of the B.B.C.
We are making films for the B.B.C. and—I am glad to be able to say this, because it is a company which is often criticised and which I have myself frequently criticised and shall no doubt criticise again—we were approached by Associated Television. We came to an arrangement to make a number of current affairs documentary films for them, with the greatest assistance and help from them. They hoped and expected that they would be able to network those programmes as they had, as members of a networking committee, been able to network other programmes which they had 1335 either made themselves or bought from abroad.
Shortly before the first of the films made by this group was available—and I should here, perhaps, say that because I unfortunately found myself struck down by a coronary earlier this year, I have taken no part in the making of any of these films to which I am referring, or, indeed, in the affairs of the company over that period—A.T.V. suddenly found themselves faced with an absolute ban by two of the networking companies, Granada and A.R., who said that in no circumstances would they ever show any films made by this independent company. Now they had not seen the films: they were not judging them on merit of quality in any way at all. They were simply determined that no independent, experimental group should have any chance of going on their screens.
When I myself was away recuperating abroad in the sun from my illness, I was much uplifted to get hold of a copy of the Sunday Telegraph and to find that its excellent television critic had made a special journey to the Midlands in order to see the first of the films produced by Television Reporters International; and in commending it, I am glad to say, most highly, he said:I hope this will shame A.R. and Granada into putting it on to their screens.But I must tell your Lordships that such shame as there may be seems not to have produced any such result. Indeed, they now go even further. About two weeks ago I was approached by one of the producers of a programme on A.R. called "Decision" and asked by the senior producer if I would be willing to appear in this programme. I said I was very busy and that I did not feel I had the time. He insisted. He said, "We want you particularly, because of the kind of experience you have had on this subject; and we want you to take a key part in it". So, eventually, under pressure, I agreed. Then, when we asked that an attribution like the attribution given to masses of people on television should be given—that it should be stated at the end or the beginning of the programme that I was a member of this group of Television Reporters International—the producer had to come back and say he was extremely 1336 sorry but he had had orders from his management that in no circumstances could this terrible name be mentioned in any way on their screens.
I suggest to your Lordships—and I hope that this is a matter which can be considered by the Authority—that where you get this tight kind of monopolistic control then you get a system which is detrimental to the values of good television and to that kind of experimentation which is so essential.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
My Lords, I wonder whether I might interrupt the noble Lord for one moment. I may say immediately that I am a director of Associated Rediffusion, so I declare my interest in this subject. Of course, I have not the slightest objection that the noble Lord opposite should tell his side of the story about Television Reporters International, or should make any complaints that he thinks fit. On the other hand, I should not like your Lordships to believe that my company did not have extremely good reasons for taking a certain course, which I do not think was exactly the course which the noble Lord described. It was not a case of "monopolistic control". That was not the approach at all; and I hope your Lordships will not think there is only one side to this story.
§ LORD FRANCIS-WILLIAMS
I am very glad indeed to hear that from a director of Associated Rediffusion. I only regret that, if they have other reasons, they have not, as I understand it, put them forward, either to Television Reporters International or, indeed, to Associated Television.
§ LORD FRANCIS-WILLIAMS
I do not wish to pursue this matter, although I think it raises an important point of principle, not affecting only this group to which I belong—because, as I said, we are in the fortunate position of having found some nineteen countries abroad which are, I could almost say, passionately anxious to have the current affairs and documentary films that we are producing.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord how he can possibly 1337 expect any fairness or justice from these companies when he realises the "racket" which was gone through when they were formed? We knew about things of this sort in the debate when the service was started. He must expect this sort of attitude from the characters who form the directorates of these companies. Very largely—Lord Bessborough and Lord Derby—they were "front men" for a small group running this thing through Parliament; and they made very handsome financial benefits as a result. This was only to be expected.
THE EARL OF BESSBOROUGH
My Lords, in reply to what has just been said, may I, as a director, say that that is not the case?
§ LORD OGMORE
Can the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, deny that he was a "front man"? Can he deny that he has made a tremendous and handsome profit out of being concerned with commercial television? Can Lord Derby do the same? I consider that they played a most ignoble part in deceiving Parliament at that time, as to what was going on behind our backs.
THE EARL OF BESSBOROUGH
I did not make tremendous profits, my Lords, on this. I do not know about the noble Earl, Lord Derby, but when I entered this company I did so entirely out of my own free will; and it lost very considerable sums of money over the first, nearly two years.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
My Lords, I should just like to remind your Lordships that the noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams, has the Floor of the House, and I do not think it is quite seemly that he should be interrupted by these personal wrangles.
§ LORD FRANCIS-WILLIAMS
My Lords, let us move on to another area of consideration. I think that all Members of your Lordships' House, together with everybody interested in television, will be much and deeply concerned with the quality of programmes; and to some extent, although not absolutely and entirely, quality is linked to cost, particulary in the case of television films, which are more costly to produce than many studio productions. Here, I think, it will be within your Lordships' knowledge—certainly of those Members who 1338 read the newspapers, or have read the debates in another place—that there is a good deal of anxiety, and I believe well justified anxiety, among the great body of trade unions and associations which make up those who work in television that the result of the levy as it at present stands, unless other measures of a kind are taken, will be that there will be a great temptation on the part of many of the companies to cut their production costs in order to increase their net revenues. Some of them, no doubt, will regret this temptation; some of them may even try to resist it; some of them may possibly welcome it. I think it would be a very serious matter if there were to be a reduction in the cost of television productions and television films which would lead to considerable redundancy and unemployment in the industry.
I am not a member of any of the unions or associations which are linked together in the Radio and Television Safeguards Committee, which is particularly concerned with this aspect of the Bill. Indeed, in so far as the small company of which I am a member is concerned in the hiring of television crews, I may be said at times to be on the other side of the table, although I prefer to think of us all sitting together around one table trying to solve common problems. But, although I am not a member, I have worked with members of these television unions and associations on many programmes over the years and in many countries in the world. And I want to say, from a deep experience, that to most of them television is not simply a means of earning a living: it is something in which they believe; to which they are dedicated. They are concerned to make the best kind of television they can. When they express, as they do unanimously express, a deep anxiety, then I believe that that anxiety ought to be taken into account.
It has been suggested—and this was debated in another place—that this difficulty might be overcome by taking into account programme costs, as certified by the Authority, before making the levy. It has been argued that there is a good deal of administrative difficulty in the way of this; although I would point out to your Lordships that something fairly comparable to this is done for quota reasons in the case of British films, where 1339 the Board of Trade requires Form "C" to be filled up which sets out in detail the labour costs involved in those films. It might well be conceivable that that form could, in some shape, be used to deal with this problem. If for administrative or other reasons that is found difficult or impossible, then I earnestly suggest to your Lordships that when we come to discuss this Bill in greater detail we should give the strongest possible powers to the Authority to insist that there is adequate expenditure on programming by the companies concerned, and that they are now allowed to cut their programme costs and film-making costs below an adequate level in order to meet what they regard as the challenge or the difficulties of the levy. This should be regarded as one of the essential responsibilities of the Authority.
As I said at the beginning, I welcome this Bill in many of its aspects. I welcome the removal of the clause which puts the commercial companies at a disadvantage compared with the B.B.C. in the production of satirical and similar programmes. I think we can do with more competition in satire. The difficulty with some satirical programmes is not that they have been satirical, but that they tended to become small boys throwing mud. I want more competition which will bring about a more adult end. Let us have satire which will be like champagne and not like fizzy lemonade laced with vinegar. We want more competition all round. I hope that, in coming to look at this Bill in detail, we may be able to propose, and will propose Amendments which will be directed towards that end, and that in doing so we shall not meet with resistance from the Government but have its help and co-operation in trying to achieve what we all want—namely, that this Bill shall make possible the development of more, better and more varied television.
§ 5.4 p.m.
My Lords, I am sure it will come as a relief to you, in view of recent exchanges, to know that I have no interests whatsoever in television; and in view of this Bill I am delighted to say I do not own a single share in it—because they have gone down by half. Nevertheless, I feel that there are certain views that I should like to put to your 1340 Lordships. I see that the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, has come back into the Chamber. I am glad this has happened, because I was about to make some observations on his speech. I will try to speak without any prejudice and look at the problems of this industry objectively. I always regard the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, as one of the most attractive speakers in this House. He is fine until one or two things happen. Eventually Party politics always get the better of him and he finds it difficult to take an objective view. He is apt to give moral lectures and he is at his worst in a circus. I think the noble Lord always makes a most attractive speech. I liked the first part of his speech; later he slipped a bit. Nevertheless, I believe in independent television, and I believe in the noble Lord.
When the Government introduced independent television a few years back they did so, I believe, to give effect to a principle which I think is very important: that television was the most powerful medium in existence for influencing public opinion, and they thought that it was wrong that this should be the sole monopoly of anybody, even of so responsible and so fuddy-duddy an institution as the B.B.C. I think they were absolutely right. I still believe that it is the maintenance of this fundamental principle which ought to form the background to any approach we make to the problem of independent television to-day. As all your Lordships know, since its inception Independent Television has come in for some pretty rough criticism culminating in the strictures of the Pilkington Report. I must say, to be fair, that I think some of the criticisms were absolutely justified. Equally, I think that some of them were quite unmerited; and most of them emanated from those who fundamentally, like the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, prefer state controlled monopoly; they do not like private enterprise, they like nationalisation. They do not believe in competition. I do not blame them; that is their political belief. These are the people, basically, who have been opposed to this thing all along. Therefore, they miss no opportunity of flinging mud at it.
However, there were grave faults in the past, and I think it is high time to 1341 have a general review of the existing system. I do not think you can blame anybody for the mistakes. I do not think that anybody knew when it started how it would work out, but after nine years we see the mistakes more clearly. We should now try to take steps to put them right, and this Bill is trying to do that. Much more important than putting right mistakes of the past, however, is to make really imaginative and energetic plans for the future. I should say the main purpose of this Bill is to correct the weaknesses of the existing structure. But you cannot consider the existing structure except in the context of the future development of television as a whole.
I should like to deal briefly with the main grounds upon which Independent Television has been criticised. They are that it produces too many inferior programmes; the content of the programmes, I am told, is trivial and ill-balanced; and, I think, there is too much crime and violence and inadequate provision for minorities. On these grounds the Pilkington Committee suggested that the whole thing should be wound up and replaced by another public corporation. I think it is fair to say that there are far too many inferior programmes, but we should not forget the good things that Independent Television has done. It has led the field in school broadcasting and religious broadcasting, and has encouraged the B.B.C. in a number of ways, although I think that probably, so far as inferior programmes are concerned, the B.B.C. themselves are not entirely without guilt.
In general, I think we can agree that a lot of the programmes are not as they should be, and I think there is far too much portrayal of crime and inadequate minority provision. I do not believe that the right way to cure this is to set up another public corporation. I do not think that anybody, after the events of recent weeks, could pretend that everything emanating from certain sections of the popular Press is exactly edifying. But I have not heard it suggested in your Lordships' House, or anywhere else, that this should be a justification for nationalisation of the Press. Therefore I am glad to pay what compliments I can to the Government; they have resisted pressure put on them to nationalise independent television— 1342 although they have done their best to go a long way towards it to-day in Clauses 4 to 7 of this Bill.
Part of the trouble about programmes lies in the fact of the "peak period". The majority of viewers tend to look at television between the limited hours of 6 and 10 o'clock in the evening. That being the case, there is inevitably a tendency for the supposed taste of the majority to take precedence. With only one channel, it is genuinely difficult to produce a balanced programme. That is the argument that was put forward by the B.B.C. for having a second channel. I never quite understood why that argument is good for the B.B.C. but apparently bad for I.T.A. Perhaps my noble friend who is going to reply will tell me just why that is. Equally, I think it is fair to say that in their great efforts to provide a service for the majority, both Independent Television and the B.B.C. have underestimated the public taste. I hope, like all noble Lords, that we may see a higher standard in future. In any case, Clauses 2 and 3 of this Bill give the Authority ample power to see that that is brought about.
The other main criticism is that the independent television companies have made inordinate profits from what, after all, is a Government concession. It should be pointed out that they made heavy losses in the first years, although they have made large profits recently. I think we should all agree that this concession has turned out much more valuable than was originally anticipated by the Government. I do not blame them for that. Nobody could tell what this was going to be worth. On the other hand, it is right for the companies to pay a fair price for the concession they are getting. I do not think that anybody would dispute that, but I think that when considering what is a fair price, we have to consider one or two other factors.
First of all, if we are going to regard television in general as a growth industry, it is important that it should be allowed to build up adequate reserves for expansion and research in what is becoming an increasingly technical industry. It should have something left for additional expenditure for the improvement of programmes. And it should be sufficiently profitable to be able to attract money 1343 from the investing public. Finally, in any consideration of the whole of this problem, one must not forget that profits may not necessarily be maintained at the present level. There are some indications that while profit remains reasonably steady, costs are mounting fairly rapidly. And this situation might be accentuated by the introduction of a second channel on the B.B.C.
I think we ought also to consider the reason for the large profits that have been made. It does not take a genius to think of the reason, because it is quite simple—namely, because these companies were given a complete monopoly in the areas in which they operate. I am interested in this only because I do not believe in monopoly and have never believed that these companies should have had complete monopolies in their areas. I think that the simplest way of correcting these large profits is the introduction of genuine competition in the areas. I believe that this would be healthy in every way, and particularly welcome to advertisers, who at present are at the mercy of the television companies. I believe that competition would reduce advertising charges and revenue and, what is equally important if you believe in the small man, it would give opportunities to small advertisers, who on account of expense are completely shut out at the moment. A great many of them would like to get in.
I think that the Government made a great mistake in not allocating a second channel to Independent Television. That seems to me the obvious thing to do. But, if we are not going to reduce profits by competition, what is the best way of doing this? I should think that the simplest way of producing the result would be a straightforward increase in rental paid to the Authority, based on past profitability. I believe that discriminatory taxation of individual industries is always undesirable and should always be avoided, if humanly possible. However, if Her Majesty's Government are determined to impose this kind of taxation, then, for my own part, I prefer a tax on profits to a levy on advertising revenue—for this simple reason. One presumes that the justification for any tax is the profitability of the concession received. The only way that the value 1344 of the concession can be properly assessed, as any accountant will tell your Lordships, is in relation to profitability. The levy on turnover is inequitable in half a dozen different ways. It works unfairly between companies, some of which work in one area and some in two places, with two lots of offices and studios. On top of this, there is no fixed relationship between turnover and profits. If overheads continue to increase faster than the turnover, companies have to pay greater taxation from steadily declining profits. In that event, there is a tendency to spend less on programmes.
All noble Lords have been saying that the one thing we want is an improvement in the standard of programmes, and yet the effect of this tax might be exactly the reverse. What happens, then, if there is a decline in the standard of programmes, is that that in its turn makes it more difficult for the companies to sell time to advertisers; and so we get, just as in the cinema industry with entertainments tax, a declining spiral of turnover and profits. For a great industry, that is a very serious thing. The levy will hit the Big Four hardest and will take 45 per cent. of their existing profits. They are the basis of the whole industry. In that respect, I frankly think that the Government have swung from one extreme to the other. Initially they allowed the companies to make too much money; now they punish them far too severely.
I do not wish to make any comments on Clause 4, which has already been discussed, but I should like to say a word in passing on the effect of all this upon investors. I know that that is a dirty word to noble Lords opposite, though I dare say some of them have some investments—I should be very surprised if they had not. But I am not talking about big investors, the "boys" who put big money in this industry in the first place.
And got out—I am grateful to the noble Lord. It may be within the knowledge of your Lordships that a great many people have bought television shares on the Stock Exchange during the past two years. These people have lost a great deal of their capital. I am sure I shall be told, as we are told by all Governments—it does not seem 1345 to make any difference what they are—that that is just too bad. The policy of all Governments is that if you make a capital gain, you are a wicked fellow, a dirty profiteer. If you lose, then you are an unlucky fellow, or a poor fool, but you do not deserve much sympathy. I do not think that people who have lost money on television shares will get much sympathy, either from the Government or from anybody else.
I do not believe that in future it is going to be nearly so easy for television companies to raise equity capital in the City of London. If a growth industry, under successive Governments with different theories, is going to be exposed to discriminatory taxation, the effect of which is going to be unpredictable but certainly disastrous, the ordinary investor cannot be expected to put much money in it. And that, for a growing and important industry, is a grave misfortune. That is one of the effects of this Bill.
I want to end by echoing what my noble friend has said, and say that I am not happy about this Bill or about Government policy in general. Let us not forget that television was invented in this country. It is still in its infancy. I believe it has an enormous potential in many fields—entertainment, education and information, not to mention the whole area of general communications in industry and elsewhere. And let us not forget that the television industry is closely tied up with the whole of the electronics industry. My noble friend referred to Japan, where they have seven channels, and about 60 per cent. of it is educational. Japan is a country not much larger than our own, and it is no accident that Japan has the most thriving and progressive electronics industry in the world. You cannot knock out the one without seriously damaging the other. Therefore, we who invented this thing are in danger of losing our place in the world.
I believe that if our potential in this field is to be realised, we must give encouragement to those who have the courage and enterprise to try to develop it. The keynote ought to be expansion, and not restriction. I do not think development can be left entirely to the B.B.C., if only because of the fact that they have not the financial resources. 1346 We must remember that, whatever we do, other countries will expand. Here we are, with Japan having seven channels, and we are just embarking on a third programme and a cautious experiment in pay television. Is this really good enough? There is nothing in the Bill or in the Government's policy that I can see that gives the smallest encouragement to anybody to embark on television. The emphasis is on restriction, and not expansion; the stick and not the carrot.
I think we have to rectify the defects of the past. Of course we must have better programmes; and of course people will have to pay a fair price for the concession. But I think it would be foolish to kill the industry in the process. There are too many instances in the past of a British invention which has been developed and exploited at more speed by other nations, to our infinite loss and their great gain. Are we making the same mistake again?
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ LORD ARCHIBALD
My Lords, like other speakers in the debate, I have to start by declaring an interest. I am not myself a producer of films, but I am Chairman of the Federation of British Film Makers and some of my members are interested in the production of television films. That is the extent of my modest interest. I do not propose to detain your Lordships for long, because a great deal of what I intended to say has been said already much more effectively by my noble friend Lord Francis-Williams; but I should like to touch on two points. They may be regarded by some of your Lordships as more in the nature of Committee points, but I feel that it is necessary in the course of this debate to set the background for them.
When we were debating the Pilkington Committee Report I suggested that there should be set up in television a quota for British television films. At a late stage when this Bill was before another place, an Amendment was moved to provide for such a quota—and, because of the misunderstanding shown in the other place at that time, I should like to make it quite clear that this question of a quota has nothing whatever to do with the showing of old cinematograph films on television. One Member in another place said that if a 1347 quota meant simply that the old American films on our television screens were going to be replaced by old British films, he did not see that it would necessarily be a great improvement. So may I make it quite clear that I am not talking about old cinematograph films? In fact, I would add that in my view it is, and always has been, a great mistake on the part of both the B.B.C. and the television programme contractors to give so much time to showing old cinematograph films. Their job should be the development of the appropriate type of entertainment for the new medium which they have in their hands. They are, I think, to a great extent, setting back their own possibilities when they become parasitical on another industry and show material that was not designed for their medium.
Again, by way of background, it will be within the knowledge of your Lordships that both the B.B.C. and commercial television work on the basis that not more than some 14 or 15 per cent. of their programme material should be foreign material. But those of your Lordships who, apart from looking at television, look at the programmes of television companies, will, I think, accept that of that 14 or 15 per cent. of foreign material a very high proportion indeed consists of American T.V. film series: "Sunset Strip", "Laramie", "Wagon Train", "Bonanza", and so on—I should weary your Lordships if I gave the whole catalogue. We feel, both on the trade union and on the producers' side of the industry in this country, that there is a strong case for requiring both the B.B.C. and commercial television to replace part of that great flow of American television series with British television films. It was suggested, quite modestly, that we might follow the pattern of the cinematograph industry and have, as it were, a quota within a quota, and that 30 per cent. of films shown on T.V. should be of British T.V. film series. I am now rather surprised at our moderation, and I do not see why 50 per cent. of the T.V. films shown on British T.V. screens should not be British T.V. films and not foreign films.
It has been the policy of successive Governments to support the British film production industry by means of a quota, and I submit to your Lordships that there is no reason why this Government 1348 and successive Governments should not support a potentially important British industry, the industry of producing T.V. films, in the same way as cinematograph films have been supported in the past. I would remind your Lordships in this connection that, of all the material produced for television, probably the most exportable is the T.V. series; and therefore support for the making of such series in this country would provide us with a very possible export, not only as a means of making a small contribution to our balance of payments, but also as a means of showing British products on the television screens of the world.
Linked with this matter is the question of the levy. I agree with previous speakers that one of the effects of the levy may be to discourage the making of British T.V. films, because they are one of the more expensive methods of providing programmes. But I am concerned about the effects of the levy, not only with regard to T.V. films, but with regard to T.V. programmes in general. The noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, suggested that the programme companies, following the application of the levy, would tend to cut down their expenditure on serious programmes. I wish that I felt that that was the only probable consequence of the levy. What I fear is that they will tend to cut down their expenditure on programmes in general, and that we shall see a cheapening and worsening of programmes because of the way in which this levy is to operate.
It has been suggested (and my noble friend Lord Francis-Williams touched on this) that before the application of the levy there should be an allowance for programme production costs. I can see that that may be too wide in its application, and that it might be possible to inflate production costs. But I think my noble friend got to the heart of the matter when he suggested a parallel with the Form C in the British cinematograph film industry. Form C applies to labour costs only, and no British cinematograph film can be registered as British quota until the producer has completed Form C, had it duly audited and certified, and presented it to the Board of Trade, where it comes under close scrutiny, and where, if necessary, items may be challenged. It is such an exact and exacting form 1349 that its equivalent, applied to T.V. programmes, could, I think, be a most effective yardstick and a method which would not permit of any evasion or avoidance.
I recognise that the adoption of such a scheme would mean a higher rate of levy; but if the levy were applied after deduction of the labour costs in programmes, then I think we should have a reasonable guarantee that the levy would not lead to the cheapening of programmes and a general reduction in quality. I hope that, when we come to the Committee stage of this Bill, we may be able to look at these matters. I hope that they will be looked at without rigidity from either side of the House, and that the House on this occasion may apply its collective mind to improving this Bill, so that it will become an effective instrument in improving the future of television in this country, from whatever quarter it may come.
§ 5.33 p.m.
THE EARL OF BESSBOROUGH
My Lords, in rising to speak on this occasion and on this subject, it is perhaps not necessary for me to declare an interest since the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has kindly done this for me. But I am a director of A.T.V. and I am very proud of it. Your Lordships probably know, from various articles which have appeared in the Press over the last months, that generally speaking I have been much disturbed recently about the Government's policy in regard to the development of radio and television. I have become even more so since making recent visits to the United States and to Japan as well as to Australia. I will not discuss radio in what I have to say, since it does not come within the scope of this Bill to which we are to give a Second Reading, but I hope that on another occasion your Lordships will have an opportunity of discussing a Bill for independent radio. The rest of the English-speaking world, including all the English-speaking members of the British Commonwealth, have it, and I cannot for the life of me understand why we have not yet got it here. Its introduction—and I think this is most important—would certainly consolidate and multiply Commonwealth relations and contacts. However, radio is not the subject of this Bill, and I must accept that.
1350 I will confine my remarks therefore to television, and in doing so I must say that I am perturbed when I look abroad. In the United States, every main centre now has at least three or four commercial programmes, or what I might term general television services serving the community, as well as at least one, and now in many main areas two, wholly educational channels. In Japan, as we have heard from the noble Lords, Lord Balfour of Inchrye and Lord Lloyd, there are now six networks covering the whole country, with a seventh coming up. Four of these are capable of transmitting in colour. There is one general service, the N.H.K., which is rather like the B.B.C. in this country, and financed out of licence money.
In addition, there are the four commercial services, all of which, as the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, has said, show a large proportion of educational programmes. Then there is the one wholly educational network for kindergartens, primary schools, secondary schools and general adult education. There is also the seventh channel, which is now to be devoted entirely to industrial training, and which will be financed by a consortium of Japanese industry. This situation and these networks have kept industry in Japan alive, with the result that that country has been able, with a very strong home market, to develop an equally strong export market, not only for transmitters, but for virtually every kind of electronic apparatus. This has proved to be a great benefit to the Japanese economy. Why should the British economy be denied such benefits?
In Australia there are at present in every area three channels, one national non-commercial service, which is the A.B.C., and two commercial programmes. Now a third commercial station is to be licensed in the main areas. So Australia will have three commercial programmes to choose from and one national A.B.C. channel, making four in all. Ultimately, I understand, the A.B.C. may itself have a second channel, which will make five. In Canada, as your Lordships know, the pattern is somewhat similar, with the additional factor that in some of the main areas the Canadian services are in competition with American stations across the border. At any rate, many Canadians—I think it might be true to say most 1351 Canadians—now have up to four or five different programmes to choose from.
What is the position in this country as we know it? Here, as a result of programming competition between only two networks, we have two services which certainly have their merits—I do not deny that—but which do not begin to cover the wide range of requirements which are regarded as essential in Japan, the United States, the two members of the Commonwealth which I have mentioned, to say nothing of Latin America or the United Arab Republic. The Bill which we are now considering does not, in my view, go very far to remedy the situation. Instead of agreeing that television should develop in a natural and healthy manner, the Government have decided that, for the moment, only the B.B.C. should have a second service—which will, I understand, be a purely general service, and not mainly educational: and again the Postmaster General has said that there is to be no second commercial service until 1966. Why not? As yet, there are no plans for a wholly educational service, yet other countries have two. And we have no regular colour service, and as yet no pay T.V., which has been in operation in Canada and the United States for years.
This is frustrating and inhibiting in a country which has, as the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, has said, in the past, been the pioneer in this field, and at a time when unemployment figures are higher than we should like. To restrain artificially a medium and an industry which is so very capable of expansion seems to me complete folly. I must say that I agree very much with my right honourable friend who spoke on the Report stage in another place. I am not certain whether I am allowed to mention his name, but he is a former Chancellor of the Exchequer. I was certainly interested in the speech which he made.
Here you have an industry which does not require the importation of raw materials from abroad; an industry which can develop under its own steam, if I may put it like that, and, through the broadcasting networks and its ancillary industries, provide employment for thousands more people. I cannot see why the Government, who have in their White Paper, in fact, agreed to an ulti 1352 mate pattern of six television programmes, should not give the go-ahead signal for the expansion of the medium in all directions, and not only to the B.B.C. Are the Government trying to turn us in this context into an underdeveloped country? Having spent six weeks in America and the Far East, I viewed my return to this country with some despondency, whatever the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, may say. I regret that his attitude was somewhat negative in this matter, and I am not expecting him to agree with what I say, but I have been fighting this battle for some years now—in fact since 1958.
As your Lordships know, my own company has said, in no uncertain terms every year, that there should be a second commercial channel in the main areas if there is to be reasonable competition between the existing companies, and I have repeated that in your Lordships' House on many occasions. But, rather than allowing the profits of the existing companies to be reduced by healthy competition between them, the Government decided to introduce what I can only describe as wholly inequitable and discriminatory taxation on companies, at least one of the most important of which is a wholly unwilling monopolist. This levy—call it "additional payments" if you like—on turnover (mark you, on turnover, not on profits) is, in my view, negative and retrogressive. Surely a Conservative Government should encourage private enterprise and initiative to enlarge and expand rather than curtail its activities.
The Government do not seem to have been concerned about allowing the medium to develop fully in the many different ways it has done overseas. Instead, as we know, they referred to the Pilkington Committee certain matters of a technical character on which a highly qualified television advisory committee had already given its reasoned recommendations. For over two years this froze the expansion which we should desire, while other countries forged ahead. But even after Pilkington had reported there was only a green light, shall I say, to the B.B.C., a flickering amber for the I.T.A. and a "No thoroughfare" sign for everyone else.
I recognise that with the change-over from 405 to 625 lines and the duplication 1353 of existing services in the ultra high frequencies it could not be possible immediately to have the full range of six networks in this country. It would be possible to have four—two B.B.C. and two I.T.A. Moreover, I understand that it would also be possible to license educational stations in certain areas where a V.H.F. channel on 405 lines, or, perhaps better still, an ultra high frequency channel on 625 lines was available. I believe this is a possibility in certain areas, particularly in Ulster, and that there are plans for an educational television station to be run there by Queen's University in Belfast. I should be sorry to see these facilities wasted. For this reason I would strongly support any Amendment to the Bill which might be proposed which extended the powers of the Authority to license bodies other than the commercial companies to transmit programmes of an educational character.
It is little consolation to learn that the first European educational television station will soon be on the air on the Continent and not in this country. This station will be under the control of Aachen University and will be financed partly by the O.E.C.D. and partly by the German Lander. I have expressed views elsewhere about the numerous educational programmes which are televised in America, Japan and even Egypt, as well as the different possible methods of financing such services, and I will not repeat them here. However—and here is a little ray of hope—I was glad to read in the speech by my right honourable friend the Postmaster General in another place towards the end of the Report stage of the Bill that he at least agrees that educational television should be further developed within the existing structure of broadcasting. This is certainly a step, if only a small one, in the right direction. So, too, is the Cambridge University experiment which will take place in the autumn, when dawn lessons will be transmitted over the I.T.V. network, and with the aid of closed circuit or microwave programmes will be relayed from Cambridge to surrounding schools and directly to London to the Imperial College of Science. I am sure your Lordships will welcome these steps by the Ulster and Cambridge Committees, to say nothing of a certain development in Glasgow. But these are only the 1354 beginning and I think we should go much further.
I do not propose to comment in detail on certain clauses of the Bill which has now been passed by another place. I accept a large part of it. But I should perhaps say here that I would support an Amendment in respect of Clause 4 concerning the plenary powers of the Authority in regard to networking, and also to Clause 7 in regard to the levy. Even if Clause 7 does not put the larger producing companies altogether out of business, it may well involve them, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Archibald, has suggested, in cuts in their production. I think, therefore, like the noble Lords, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, Lord Francis-Williams and Lord Archibald, that there should be an Amendment to this clause relating particularly to companies transmitting in two regions. Their overheads are certainly greater than those of companies which operate in only one area, and I think that for them there should be separate returns in respect of each area and that their advertising revenue should be taxed separately and not aggregated, as will be the case if the present clause is adopted by your Lordships.
I would also support an Amendment to Clause 13, concerning the introduction of the second commercial service. Personally, I do not feel that the Postmaster General has given a sufficiently positive assurance about this second service, for which contracts should, in my view, be placed no later than midsummer next year. I really cannot accept the reasoning which permits, for the present, only one channel to commercial networks, when the advertisers state that a second channel in the main areas would certainly be a viable proposition now, and when this would permit a greater expansion in the industry and increased employment. I think that Independent Television should be given the same chance as the B.B.C.
Finally, may I say that I welcome the appointment of the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, as Chairman of the Independent Television Authority. I am certain that he will pursue his task as objectively as the Director-General, Sir Robert Fraser, has done, who, I believe it is well known, had certain leanings towards the Left at one time and wrote 1355 some first-class leading articles in the Daily Herald. I hope, therefore, that the Chairman and the Director-General together will herald a new era in the full and imaginative development of a medium which is perhaps, or which can be, the most enlightening at present in the hands of man. It is sad, indeed, that this country, which was the pioneer, should now be content to remain in this connection the least developed country within the English-speaking world, let alone in comparison with Japan, Latin America and Egypt.
§ 5.52 p.m.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
My Lords, I must apologise to your Lordships for not having given notice of my intention to speak. I consequently will do so only briefly this afternoon. I have already declared my interest to your Lordships in this matter, and I think it is well known. Nevertheless, I should like to say a few words, mostly on points which have arisen out of the debate in your Lordships' House this afternoon.
First, I should like to echo what my noble friend Lord Bessborough said about the appointment of my noble friend Lord Hill of Luton as the new Chairman of the Independent Television Authority. I think that most people who know about the workings of Independent Television and the extraordinarily successful day-to-day relationship which has continued now for a long time between the programme contractors and the Authority on all sorts of complicated affairs, all of which have been resolved without any disagreement at all, on the whole, will find it very difficult to take seriously the remarks of noble Lords opposite about what the new Chairman would do. I think it can be little more than a debating point. In any case, those who consider that the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, would have bias, have still to contend with the programme contractors themselves, and, perhaps above all, the clause in the Bill as it is now written and that which was contained in the Television Act, 1954, which ensures that programmes shall have a proper balance. I do not think that the criticisms of the noble Lord who has just taken up this post can be accepted seriously at all.
Nevertheless, I did detect in one thing the noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams, 1356 said something which really alarms me, and indeed it is something which appears from the Bill itself. This Bill seems to me to be negative and restrictive, and if there is any industry to which that is the wrong approach it is the television industry. You cannot make good programmes, you cannot encourage creative people to put forward original and imaginative and enterprising ideas, by laying down codes and rules and restrictions and regulations and things of that nature which will keep them all the time looking over their shoulder to see whether, by one iota, they have strayed from the true path laid down. That is not the way to do it.
Nor is it the correct way to improve the quality of programmes or the order in which they come, or the time at which they are shown, by laying down in the Bill restrictions which mean that a programme becomes completely inflexible. This is not a thing the B.B.C. suffer from. Indeed, they are most astute in changing scheduling around in order to get the best effect out of the programme. Yet this is a flexibility which, it appears to me, is going to be denied to Independent Television. I cannot believe that that sort of restriction is likely to make for good television. I was very glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, say how careful one must be about codes of this nature and how difficult he found it in the film world to make them work satisfactorily.
If the Bill is a wasted opportunity in this respect, I believe it could also be said to be a wasted opportunity, and, as my noble friend Lord Bessborough said, a negative and retrogressive step when it comes to the levy. I do not want your Lordships to mistake what I say. The company of which I am a director has never—and I do not believe any of the other companies have ever—denied the right of the Government to take as much of their profits as they reasonably thought fit. It is not a complaint against that that I am wishing to put to your Lordships this afternoon. Nevertheless, my noble friend Lord Lloyd said it was right to take these excessive profits, if there be such, and it seems to me Parliament has done so. But one has still to think what to do with them and who should have them. At any rate, one idea which does not seem to have been canvassed on the subject in this Bill is one 1357 in which I think your Lordships might be interested. After all, as this levy or additional payment is now framed, the money simply goes to the Exchequer, who, perhaps of all people, are the least entitled to have it. Surely the argument behind the taking of these excessive profits is that the medium of public entertainment has been farmed out to various commercial undertakings who have made too much money out of it. Surely, the people who ought to have the extra money made out of this medium are the people who watch television.
This arises in this context. I am afraid I disagree with my noble friend Lord Bessborough about the need to have a second commercial channel now. I believe there are far too many transitional things going on, too much of an upheaval, with the changeover in the line standard and the introduction of the new U.H.F. service, for this to be the right moment to devote resources to this particular project, although the time will in due course come. What has happened is that in this upheaval Her Majesty's Government have sanctioned a second B.B.C. channel and nobody knows how it is going to be paid for; because either the money must come from some outside sources or the B.B.C. will not be able to do it at all. The B.B.C. will not take the money from the Exchequer, and I am sure they are right in refusing to do so. But where else can it come from, except from a rise in the licence fee? Surely, it would have been possible to use the extra money taken from the programme contractors in order to help pay, perhaps at any rate temporarily, for the third programme.
It was suggested that the programme contractors should share this programme with the B.B.C. and that they should pay for it, and it should either be with, or possibly if it was thought right, without advertising. That would have taken care of the extra profit. This would have given a third programme without any cost to the Exchequer or to the public or to the B.B.C.; but nobody seems to have thought of that one. It seems to me very strange that the opportunity presented by this Bill has been missed, so that all this money is merely drained back into the great anonymous mass of the Exchequer and there should be no benefit to the viewing public at all.
1358 There is one final point I should like to raise, and I am sorry the noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams, is not in his place, because it relates to the point he raised about Television Reporters International. If I remember rightly, he told your Lordships that when this body of, I think, very distinguished commentators on current affairs and international problems produced their programmes they received an absolute bar from two of the "Big Four" companies, including my own. This is not so. I have hastily refreshed my memory with a view of the letters concerned. The situation was that a number of programmes were put forward. Some of them were documentary programmes, of great interest no doubt; others were programmes that were clearly of a current affairs nature. Of course, the programmes had not been seen; it was merely the titles that were put forward. So far as the documentaries were concerned, my company said that so long as they could see them sufficiently long in advance to make sure what was in them, there was no reason why they should not be fitted into the schedules from Lord Bessborough's company and be put on to the screen in the London area.
So far as current affairs programmes were concerned, however, it was more difficult. It was, I think, unprecedented that any current affairs programme which did not originate in some organisation, either of a Government nature or under a provision like the Television Act which makes it responsible to Government, should be sought to be put on the air by an independent television company. I am not criticising in the least the personalities involved in Television Reporters International. Nevertheless, this was a private enterprise, and, as your Lordships will know, my company, at any rate, has a high reputation in the world of current affairs and documentary programmes. It is extremely jealous to see that it sticks to the letter of the law about a balance in programmes; and the facts of the matter are that it was not possible to see the programme sufficiently far in advance to see what current affairs policy was concerned, and whether this programme could, in fact, be acceptable to our company.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
Associated-Rediffusion. I did declare my interest earlier, but perhaps the noble Lord was not here. It was not possible to see this programme sufficiently early to be able to make one of our own to take its place if it was not suitable. I greatly doubt whether your Lordships will consider that to be an absolute bar on these programmes. There is no absolute bar now on the documentary programmes, and I think that perhaps noble Lords opposite, and indeed all noble Lords, will be interested in that particular point.
Finally, may I say this to the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, who I believe said one other thing about my company when, momentarily, I was out of the Chamber? He said that it is not a television company which is properly for London. I think that, again, one or two points should be put on the opposite side. In fact Associated-Rediffusion does a number of programmes as local programmes for the London area; and, incidentally, it takes some of its local programmes from Anglia and from Southern Television as well. The noble Lord, I think, discounts the difficulty of dealing with the network situation at all. This is practically essential if you are to have good programmes all over the country. Nevertheless, there is some sense in what the noble Lord said, that some of the programmes come from other parts of the country and from other large contributors.
My final words are about this network problem. I am sure that it should be revised so that some of the smaller companies can get into the network, which of course will make London less of London. Perhaps the noble Lord will not object to that. Indeed, it is also fair to remember that, as it is, some of the companies have not a bad record in this respect. My noble friend Lord Townshend would be able to tell your Lordships, if he were here, of the Anglia plays which are put out during the Associated-Rediffusion "Play Hour". Their turn comes once in every four times. These plays are made in our studios and are deserving of the acclaim that they have received. There are many other instances where networking has not been quite contrary to the interests of the smaller companies, as some of your 1360 Lordships may have thought from what has been said here to-day. I hope that something can be arranged by which the network will be thrown open to worthy programmes—they must be worthy programmes—from the smaller companies, and that thereby television will be enriched.
I hope that your Lordships will forgive me for putting these points. They are small ones, but perhaps it is indicative of the fact that it is possible, even when inside an industry, to think constructively about television: not to be obsessed with making money, but to try to look forward a little—maybe not always in agreement with other members of the same industry, but nevertheless to have honest and sincere views about it. I hope that your Lordships will feel that the picture of Independent Television is not quite so black as might be thought.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, the Government have had a rather rough time of it again. They are going to have a rough time to-morrow also from their own supporters. "Pathetic"—I think that is what the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, said. "Restrictive", "narrow", "unimaginative", "uncreative", were other expressions used. Except that I am quite sure that the noble Earl who is to reply is unmoved by this, I should be quite worried about the Government, and it would obviously be unfortunate if the only support for this Bill came from the Opposition. Perhaps it would be kind if I were to attack the Bill violently, too. But I think it is a little unfortunate—I cast absolutely no reflection on any noble Lords concerned—that there has not been a single speaker from the Back Benches except the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, who is free and disinterested in this matter. He is merely concerned, I think, with the successor of the Popular Television Association, and there is no financial interest.
It is a little unfortunate when we get into this inter-company wrangle. We really have had an inter-company wrangle, and it is a good reflection of the Government's policy. It is useful that I have the composition of the Independent Television Authority and can see which particular Peer has supported which particular interest, and which he sincerely represents. I do not impute 1361 that their views are other than their considered views in the public interest, but there are different views from different companies. There are views which are in favour of educational television; there are those much more strongly in favour of retaining the present monopoly and perhaps letting the B.B.C. have their other channel, but not of letting other commercial people come in. In fact, I believe there are thirteen Peers and three Peeresses who are television directors, which shows that Peers are still a popular commodity on the company market. I notice that the smaller companies have more imposing boards than the bigger ones; they certainly have more letters, more Peers and even a few Peeresses.
However, I reckon that the defenders of commercial television were rather on the defensive and, I would almost say, rather too much on the defensive. I could have hoped that at this stage we were really advancing a little from the earlier controversies. No doubt there will be many points on which we shall wrangle, and there will be certain basic differences in view. No doubt the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, will be quite convinced that the Opposition are only waiting to nationalise the commercial television industry. Of course, this is the last thing that any Government would attempt to do, and the Government are not attempting to do that either, although the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, seemed to think that they were. They are trying to regulate an industry which, it is agreed on all sides, should be regulated.
My Lords, if the noble Lord will forgive me for intervening, he is rather misquoting what I said. I never said the Government were going to nationalise it. I said that I had every suspicion that the noble Lord might, in an unguarded moment, wish to do it; but I did not suspect the Government of doing it. I think the noble Lord has rather misquoted me.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I do not know whether any member of the Government—certainly it would not be so if I were the member—would have an unguarded moment for long. But I can assure the noble Lord that I think it is in the interests of us all to take some of the main aspects of this controversy out of the Party political arena. This, I think, 1362 is one of the achievements of the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, as Leader of the House. As my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth said, I think it is a great pity that the Government did not take his advice several years ago and refrain from introducing commercial television at all. But we have got it. We acknowledge that it has its virtues. We also clearly acknowledge, whether we accept the whole of Pilkington or not that there is a lot wrong with it and that certain changes, some of which have been strongly supported by the contractors themselves, are now to take place. I should have thought that this Bill, of which we shall have a number of criticisms (and we will not let the Government off too lightly), gives us a reasonable approach to the problem.
It is against this background that I should again like to return to the question of the appointment of Lord Hill of Luton as Chairman of the I.T.A. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, got unnecessarily worked up by the remarks of my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth. I listened very carefully to his remarks, and he at no time reflected on Lord Hill of Luton's character. The only possible reflection was a remark about his qualifications as a doctor, but my noble friend admitted that he did not really know about that, and I do not think that anyone seriously took this as a reflection on the noble Lord's character.
I remember a few years ago, when the Government first came into office, a proposal being made that the governors of the B.B.C. should no longer be appointed by the Government, but should be appointed by a commission which was to consist, I think, of the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Leader of the Opposition, the Lord Chief Justice and, for all I know, the Lord Chancellor, because it was thought so important that they should be in every way non-political. The appointment of Chairman of the I.T.A. is clearly a very critical appointment. There are certain appointments for which active Party politicians are unsuitable. One such is that of Speaker of the House of Commons: the House takes a very careful view as to whom it appoints. I cannot see Lord Hill of Luton being an obvious candidate for that sort of 1363 post. It seems an absolutely lunatic move. If one wants to keep I.T.A. out of politics, why appoint as its Chairman one of the most active and, at times, I would almost use the word virulent, Party politicians? He never minced his words; he used very strong, and at times offensive, language. Undoubtedly he would try to be impartial, and I am sure will do his best; but this appointment seems to me to be crazy and, I feel, exposes this Government to serious criticism about "jobs for the boys"—a cry which we heard so often when the Labour Party were in power. I can only say that I regret it.
The noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye also said that he thought it was unfortunate my noble friend should raise the matter to-day. But when else could he have raised it? This is the first opportunity since the announcement was made, and it is the fault of the Government that they failed to make this announcement before the completion of the Bill in another place. They were frequently pressed. I suspect that the Postmaster General would have liked to do so. I suspect that the reason it was not done was because, in fact, there was opposition within the Government to such a controversial appointment.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
My Lords, may I say this to the noble Lord? Surely it would have been possible to inform Lord Hill of Luton beforehand that he was going to be criticised in his absence. Alternatively, it would have been possible to delay making an attack on Lord Hill of Luton until he had taken his seat. If an Unstarred Question had then been put down, everything the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth has said to-day could have been said in front of Lord Hill of Luton.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
The noble Lord has missed the point. This is an action by the Government. The noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, is not in any position to stand up and defend himself in this matter. As Chairman of the I.T.A., he clearly cannot defend his own appointment. The advantage of having him present while a perfectly proper criticism of Government action is made seems to be completely misplaced. I do not know what the noble Lord means about this, 1364 but surely it is the fault of the Government for not allowing it to be discussed at the time and in the place where it should have been discussed; that is during the proceedings on the Bill in another place.
I should like to turn to a number of the points that have been made. I was interested in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd. He is a most vigorous and, I have said, disinterested defender. I have a certain sympathy with those who criticise the particular method that has been used for taking the surplus out of this particular industry, but I think that the Government—any Government—would be in a very difficult position. It is agreed on all sides that these excessive profits come, so to speak, from the public domain and the creation of a monopoly situation in that domain. It may be that if there were two or three commercial channels—which God forbid!—these profits would be relatively small. I agree that a special tax on a special industry can be objectionable, but I do not see any other satisfactory alternative. There is the same sort of objection in regard to a profits tax or an excess profits tax, in that they have peculiar effects.
It seems that in this matter the Government have taken the only opening possible to them. They have adopted a turnover tax, but they have also taken power to have regard to the profit situation of particular companies. It seems to me that they have gone as far as they possibly can go, and many people consider that the Government have arrived at about the right answer. This is not to suggest that, from a purist point of view, from the standpoint of a company's finance and from the point of view of the City, there are not objections to this type of measure; but we are faced by an exceptional situation, and in the circumstances I would therefore defend the turnover tax. I recognise that it creates special problems for particular companies—and my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth mentioned one example which, on the face of it, sounds as if it is rather inequitable. I must say that I personally do not weep many tears over that particular company.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
That would be the one with which the noble Earl, 1365 Lord Bessborough, is connected (or is it Viscount Colville of Culross?)—Associated-Rediffusion?
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
There were two companies which I thought might suffer—one was A.T.V.; the other was A.B.C.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
They are, of course, not the only companies with a special problem. As the Minister said in another place, Southern Television also operate from more than one centre. So do some of the Northern companies; and, indeed, the larger provincial companies are liable to have studios in London.
I should like to support the views of my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth that there is a case, perhaps, for looking again at boundaries. I realise that this is going to be a very difficult technical job with the licences about to be renewed and with the switch to 625 lines coming in due course; but it seems as if the I.T.A. are open to criticism for creating certain companies which have been found to be not very viable. There is the special problem of Anglia Television on which there is a dispute as to the actual figures. If we accept the Postmaster General's figures it seems to me that Anglia Televison, which it is generally acknowledged produces very good programmes, are going to be all right, but if they can overthrow the Minister's figures then perhaps they are not going to be all right. It seems to me that there may be scope for this discretion which the Government suggest should be exercised in regard to the position of particular companies. I would warn the House, as I am sure the Government would, against taking too much account of hard cases, because everybody is liable to have a hard case. And when it comes to enforcing this particular levy, one must stick to the broad pattern.
The noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, who I do not think really need be quite as gloomy as he was, seemed to think that we were an undeveloped country, judged by the number of television channels. That seems to me to be a fairly arbitrary test to apply to the state of civilisation in a particular country, or to its degree of progression. I know that this would be the American kind of standard, and obviously the number of washing machines and television channels 1366 is an indication, but I am rather worried that we are getting our priorities completely wrong in this.
While I would now support in principle—and this shows just how far I have come in regard to commercial television—the idea of a second commercial channel, I would oppose it strongly at the moment. It seems to me that there are other matters and other industries which must have more priority. I am interested in the argument, and it seems to me the only valid argument, that this is a growth industry which is important to our export trade. It seems to me that this argument can be justified only if a case can be made that the introduction of this extra channel will make a great difference to our exports; because on all other grounds there are more pressing needs, both socially and industrially, and we might well regret the expansion that we have already had in television at the expense of other activities.
This brings me to the point about educational television. This is a matter which has been the subject of considerable controversy, and supporters of a separate educational channel are again to be found in both political Parties. My own view is that, with the way television has developed in this country, it is far better that the responsibility should continue to rest both with the B.B.C. and with the I.T.A. I shall not deal with some of the points, the rather boasting points, which the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, made about I.T.V. being first in the field. It was a rather curious race which they won, and which led to a good deal of ill feeling among those who were involved in it on the commercial television side. But it seems to me that this is a responsibility which is now properly accepted by the I.T.A. and by the programme contractors.
We shall have a number of points to make in Committee, and we shall have to deal with some of the aspects of the Bill which we do not like very much. If the contractors are so worried about their profits, I think it might be as well if they contrived to keep those profits more within the industry. We shall in fact move to limit investment by programme contractors in industries which have no connection with, or are not conducive to, good broadcasting. I hope that the Government will be sympathetic to an Amendment of this kind. It seems 1367 to me to be quite undesirable that an industry like this should branch out into too many fields, any more than one would like newspapers to be involved in too wide a use of their resources in other industries. That will be a Committee point, and we shall try to do something to discourage money earned in this field from being siphoned off into bowling alleys.
There is quite a lot that could be said as to the administration of the I.T.A. in the future. But there is one particular point which would remove a bone of contention among the proponents both of the B.B.C. and of commercial television. It is desirable that the I.T.A., as well as carrying out the audience research, which I am glad to see they are going to be required to do under the Bill, should also publish the findings. On the one hand, we have these statements about TAM ratings, which of course are based on households; and then the B.B.C. figures, which at the present moment are based on very careful audience research, suggesting that the audiences of the B.B.C. and of I.T.V. are running about 50–50. This is something that the commercial television people will not accept, because they are using a different type of measure. It really would be helpful if we could get these figures squared, and then perhaps people would stop worrying about them. I strongly approve of the view expressed by, I think, Mr. Kenneth Adams, that the B.B.C. should in future pay a little less attention to counting heads. This is one of the bad effects which has sprung from the introduction of commercial television.
We are also concerned with the points, made by my noble friends Lord Francis-Williams and Lord Archibald, on the need to protect the British film industry and those who work within commercial television. I am wondering whether it would be possible to give the I.T.A., or indeed the Postmaster General, power to establish that in relation to profits not less than a certain amount, which could be at their discretion, must be spent on programmes. This is not an easy thing to do, but since these companies are clearly going to have to reveal their trading accounts and their activities in very great detail to the I.T.A., it seems to me there is no reason why they should not keep an eye on that side of it. That 1368 would remove the anxieties that have been expressed so movingly by supporters of commercial television, that the effect of this levy will be to lower broadcasting standards.
I do not think we need develop very much more of this Bill to-day. We shall certainly do our best from the Opposition side to expedite it reasonably, but we hope that the Government will also consider the Amendments which we shall put down as put forward very seriously. I think that this is an extremely difficult field in which to legislate. I rather agree with my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth and those who expressed doubts about the effectiveness of codes. I know that I am one of those who in the past have pressed for codes, but this is because one thought they were desirable. But in the last resort we are wanting the most responsible attitude possible from those who are responsible for running the industry.
We are quite prepared to see commercial television put on equal terms with the B.B.C., although I think it is rather unfortunate that the phrase which apparently creates this equality is thatno longer are they debarred from broadcasting any offensive representation or reference to a living person".As a test of equality, it seems a rather strange one. But I will not argue that, for fear that I shall be accused of being opposed to satire on the B.B.C. I may say, in passing, that I think we were beginning to get a bit too much of it.
I would say to noble Lords who are suspicious both of the Government's intention and of the Opposition's intention, that, most reluctantly, I have come to accept the fact that commercial television is here to stay. We want to see it successful. We want to see it reasonably regulated. We think that the extra powers that are given to the I.T.A., though nothing like so far-reaching as I should have liked to take them, will go a long way to achieving that end. Those producers in commercial television to whom I have spoken are not particularly worried about the Bill. No doubt some are worried, but I think there is a fair chance that what is now being proposed will be workable, and will produce some of the improvements in commercial television which the Pilkington Report made clear were so abundantly necessary.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
My Lords, if I may be allowed to say so, I thought that my noble friend Lord Chesham, in introducing the Bill, gave an exceptionally clear and capable explanation of it, and a very full one too, which has perhaps helped your Lordships in the course of the debate. I should also like to thank all other noble Lords for the various criticisms and suggestions which they have made—some criticisms of the Bill for doing what it does and some for not doing what it does not. The only feature of the debate which I am bound to say I did regret, although I do not want to pursue it, was the references that were made to Lord Hill of Luton. I entirely accept what the noble Lord has just said, that there was not intended to be any reflection on the character of Lord Hill of Luton. I quite accept that; but I thought there was a suggestion that it was an unworthy example of what is sometimes called "jobs for the boys".
I do not want to pursue that. All I would say is that there are several examples—in fact, many examples—of appointments to public boards and corporations of gentlemen who have a Party background: not only the late Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, who was referred to, but Lord Douglas of Kirtleside; and the noble Lord, Lord Robens, who was lately appointed by the present Government to the chairmanship of the National Coal Board has not got exactly an impartial political record in Party politics. All these gentlemen have, I think, entirely divested themselves of their political associations, and have carried out their duties as they ought to do.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, would the noble Earl not agree that television is in a somewhat special category, and ordinary commercial productive undertakings in another?
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
No, my Lords, I do not think I would agree with that. I think that is a rather far-fetched and belated distinction which the noble Lord is trying to make. But I would say no more than this: that all these other gentlemen whom I have mentioned have carried out their work impartially in the national interest, and I am quite sure that Lord Hill of Luton, who has 1370 equally divested himself of all Party associations, as he stated in a letter to the Postmaster General, will do the same.
I do not think that there has been very much uniformity about the criticisms which have been made. They have been very varied and have not fallen into Party divisions at all. The Government will, of course, consider, as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, asked us to do, with great attention, any improvements in the Bill which he or any other of your Lordships wants us to consider; but, although various matters have been referred to in general, they have not been fully specified yet in our discussion. There are a great many aspects of this Bill which might have been discussed and which have not been. Those of which I have taken notes as the ones I thought most of your Lordships seemed to be interested in were the levy and its effect, the question of the second programme and the question of education; and several of your Lordships, particularly the noble Lords, Lord Morrison of Lambeth and Lord Francis-Williams (and the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, also referred to it), asked whether I could say anything about the removal of possible unfairness between one company and another. The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, had two companies in mind which he mentioned again, I think, in his interruption just now.
My Lords, I must be careful what I say about this, and I think all I can tell the noble Lord is, first, what can be done under the Bill, and, next, what the Postmaster General has actually said, The noble Lord is aware that in Clause 7 of the Bill there are two levies which are mentioned, (a) and (b). My Lords, levy (b) is the tax on net advertising receipts, and levy (a) is the payments representing what appear to the Authority to be the appropriate contributions of the respective programme contractors towards meeting the expenses of I.T.A. The noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams, suggested—I think he suggested this particularly—that the I.T.A. might use the head rentals (that is, the (a) rentals; that part of the rentals which they fix to meet their own operating costs) in order to go some way towards achieving equity and equalising the value of the different contracts. My right honourable friend the Postmaster General, in his remarks on 1371 Report in another place, has already said, that the I.T.A. do intend to use the (a) rentals in this way, and the Government have said that they agreed with this policy. It is also for the I.T.A. to decide first of all what the areas for the various contracts ought to be, and to advertise them. It is not a question which the Government can decide on their own; but we hope that the I.T.A. will do this.
The noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams, and, I think I am right in saying, the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, also, referred to the difficulty of some of the smaller regional companies in getting programmes, even good programmes, into the network. We have provided for this in the Bill by placing on the I.T.A. the duty to secure a wide sharing of programmes of merit—that is in Clause 2—and giving them the power, in Clause 3, to give directions as to the inclusion of a particular item in the programme schedules.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, not only for the general support, I think I can claim, which he has given to the Bill, but also for his support of the levy, which I know is a matter that has caused a great deal of anxiety among many of your Lordships. The argument has been that the levy will have the effect of reducing the quality of the programmes, and it has also been suggested that it will deter people from taking part in television. I do not know that one can prove or disprove that by figures. I should have thought it was rather difficult to stop people from taking part in television: there is such a rush to be in on it now. It was not so, one must in fairness add, when Independent Television first started, and the first big companies lost a lot of money; but since then, I think it is fairly widely agreed, the receipts of advertising from the Independent Television companies have been of such a size that a levy of the amount proposed by this Bill is not going to have a very serious deterrent effect. It is a levy, not on the turnover but only on the net advertising receipts.
While we appreciate the concern which has been expressed and this apprehension regarding the levy, I think one must remember that the companies will be competing with the B.B.C. for an audience, and that, in the long run, the better the programmes they produce the better 1372 audience they will get, and the more they will earn. I think that the operation of Clause 7 will leave the companies with adequate resources to provide programmes of a high standard. There is a provision in Clause 2 of the Bill which places a duty on the I.T.A. to see that programmes do maintain a high general standard, particularly in respect of their content, quality, proper balance and wide range of subject. I understand it is estimated that the profits of the companies after this levy will still be of such an order as to allow full ability to provide programmes of the highest order.
Conflicting views have been expressed by various of your Lordships about the desirability or otherwise of having a second programme a little more quickly or a little more slowly. This Bill, of course, is not concerned with the B.B.C.'s second programme; but as we know that is intended to be authorised, and it is also intended there shall be in course of time a second I.T.V. programme, some of your Lordships have argued very forcibly that the one ought not to come before the other, and that the I.T.V. second programme should have been authorised immediately. Our view is that the Authority will need to get through any reorganisation and streamlining of procedure first before it can turn its attention to another programme; and I think that was the view taken by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, in his speech.
It is because of this that the Postmaster General has stated that the Government would hope to issue a licence for the second I.T.A. programme during 1965 unless it seemed financial obstacles were insurmountable, which he thought was unlikely. That would mean that this I.T.A. second programme could be on the air during 1966, and my right honourable friend stressed that when this second programme came it must be a success, not only for those who ran the service but also for those who watched. Some of your Lordships have suggested that if a second Independent Television programme started later than the second B.B.C. programme it might be at some disadvantage because the loyalities of audiences would already have been switched to the B.B.C.'s second programme. But I do not think I could accept that. It shows some lack of faith in a service which has shown that 1373 it can hold its own with the B.B.C. in attracting audiences, although it started a long time later than the B.B.C.
I should have thought that an equally good case could be made out for a later start on the ground that, by the time the B.B.C. second service has got going, the audiences will already have equipped themselves with a substantial number of the ultra-high frequency sets which will be necessary to receive it. I do not think it can be said that Independent Television is being held back in technical progress and research. It will play a full part in developing the new ultra-high frequency network in those of its existing stations which have been agreed on as suitable for this purpose. And all those technical questions in relation to the new second programmes are being studied now by my right honourable friend's Television Advisory Committee.
The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, and others of your Lordships said a good deal about education; and that is a subject which I think is very important in relation to television. It is also a rather difficult one. I am not quite sure whether the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, has made up his mind whether it would be better to have educational programmes sandwiched in between others. I think he said that if there were exclusively educational programmes, people might think they were too dull to listen to. That is a point to be discussed. We shall all agree that we should like more educational services to be performed by television. It is a field in which developments are only just beginning. Both the B.B.C. and I.T.A. have mounted an experimental series of programmes, and both, have appointed Advisory Committees. Noble Lords will have read both the White Papers: they both refer to it. In the second one, paragraphs 43 and 44, the Government accept a formula defining educational broadcasting for adults on the basis of which specific proposals for educational hours of television broadcasting have been made; and we do attach the greatest importance to these developments. We believe that something really valuable can come out of them.
As the Bill stands, the I.T.A. would be restricted to obtaining such programmes from the existing contractors 1374 who would not be able to put on a complete series in peak hours. Some of your Lordships might think that, in any real experiment, separate additional educational programmes should be transmitted, perhaps being obtained direct from educational sources. That is a question we should like to consider, and I think that at this stage, all I ought to say is that if a suitable Amendment about this were to be tabled at Committee stage we would carefully consider it.
When we discussed the Pilkington Report last year there was a very strong clash of opinion. It seems to me that it is becoming a little milder. Some of your Lordships thought that the Pilkington Report made the most monstrous suggestions which were not at all justified; others thought that it was a magnificent document and that they were right in all the condemnations they made of I.T.V. The Government took the view, on the whole, that they were grateful for the Pilkington Report and, in fact, accepted many of its recommendations. As for its strictures, we did not disagree with all of them, and we thought perhaps the B.B.C. ought not to be entirely immune from strictures of that kind.
I think what has impressed me about this debate is that so many of your Lordships are looking forward to the future rather than back to the past controversies. The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, told us how opposed he had been in 1954 to having any I.T.V. at all. So, of course, as your Lordships have been reminded again and again, was my noble friend the Leader of the House who was then a private Member. And so was I, who was not then a Member of this House at all. I do not think that any of your Lordships would hold now that we should not have I.T.V. We are all thinking, not whether to have it but what is the best use that can be made of it; and we have many different angles of approach to it according to our dispositions, perhaps, and our prejudices.
My noble friend, Lord Lloyd, although he made some strong criticisms about the effects that he thinks may result from our policy said a great deal with which agree. He thought that there was too much crime, too much violence and too much triviality. And he thought also 1375 that the B.B.C. was not without guilt. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, made some remarks at the end of his speech about having too much satire; and the noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams, described it in the phrase "fizzy lemonade laced with vinegar". I like to hear people in Parliament, and especially in this House, criticising both the B.B.C. and I.T.V. After all, they criticise us a great deal, and they themselves, of course, are willing to receive, and pay attention to, criticism. But the people who write to them to say whether or not they like their programmes, are not necessarily, I always feel, the people who are the best advisers, because the possession of good taste and good judgment does not always go with the itch for writing letters. So it is a good thing that we should hear this kind of Parliamentary criticism.
The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, went so far as to say that he thought we were going television mad; indeed, I think that he went further than that, and said that we were television mad. But he said he would not complain about it. I often do complain about it, but nobody ever pays the slightest attention to my complaints; and I do not suppose they would pay attention to those of the noble Lord, either. Certainly I am not going to air them in your Lordships' House. I think that we are 1376 all agreed that, broadly, our present system of arranging these things must go on. I believe that your Lordships are broadly agreed that this Bill, although there may be many respects in which your Lordships would like to alter or improve it, does give effect to the majority view among all Parties. And we are all united in our hope that in course of time the I.T.V., as well as the B.B.C. services may improve, both in the entertainment and, let me add, the education of our people.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.