Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Bill be recommitted to a Committee of the whole House in respect of the Amendments to Clause 7, page 7, line 8, column 1, line 12, column 1, line 13, column 2, line 16, column 1, line 17, column 2, and page 10, line 1, standing on the Notice Paper in the name of Mr. Reginald Bevins.—[Mr. Bevins.]
I think that it would be for the convenience of the Committee if, with this Amendment, we discussed the Amendments in page 7, line 12, column 1, leave out "eight" and insert "six".
In line 17, at end insert:
2. If the advertising receipts for the 12-month accounting period do not exceed two-and-a-half million pounds no payments shall be due from the programme contractor for the accounting period; and where those advertising receipts exceed two-and-a-half million pounds, the amount of the additional pay-
ments for the 12-month accounting period shall not exceed 100 per cent of the excess.
Yes, Sir William. I am grateful to you for suggesting that we deal with all the Amendments to Clause 7 together. I do not propose at this stage to make any observations on the Amendments in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, Central (Mr. Ian Gilmour). I should prefer—so, too, would my hon. Friend—to hear the case for those Amendments deployed before addressing the Committee upon them.
I do not think that I need detain the Committee with a long history of what has become the best-known Clause in the Bill, best known presumably because, unlike most of the other Clauses, it deals primarily not with television, but with money. Already, very many words—far too many, in all probability—have been expended on this Clause—on Second Reading, in the Standing Committee, in the Press, forecasts, letters and a spate of hand-outs of all conceivable kinds.
There is, therefore, no reason why there should be any dubiety in any hon. Member's mind as to what the Government are seeking to do. We are seeking to correct a weakness in the 1954 Act, a weakness which manifested itself only some years after the event. This was the absence of any provision for economic rentals bearing a proper relationship to the value of the public concession enjoyed by the programme contractors.
The first point I should like to emphasise is that there is no dispute about this on either side of the Committee. We are all agreed—certainly, so far I have not heard a single dissentient—that the new contracts which are to be let as from July, 1964, must provide for rentals which will enable the taxpayer rightly to share in the prosperity of independent television.
What all the fuss has been about is the way in which this ought to be done. I have tabled these Amendments in deference to what the Government consider were well-founded arguments and views expressed in Standing Committee B. This is not the occasion for me to explain why the basis of the levy was changed from profits to advertising revenue. That has already been thrashed out very exhaustively upstairs, and I hope that the change in the basis is now at least generally accepted as being right.
That aside, the only changes that I am proposing in Clause 7 are those now contained in these Amendments, both of which I foreshadowed during consideration of the Bill in Standing Committee. The first change is the proposal that the additional payments to be made by the programme contractors should be levied on their net advertising receipts—that is, after the deduction of advertising agents'commissions—instead of upon gross advertising receipts. The second change is the proposal that the free slice, as it is now known, should be increased from £1¼ million to £1½ million.
I am proposing the change from gross receipts to net in the light of the arguments which were advanced by hon. Members in Committee and, indeed, by both the programme contractors and the advertising world. The argument of the contractors was based partly on the fact that, in practice, they do not receive these commissions and probably to some extent in the hope that the Government might consent to retain the same scale of levy as for gross receipts and so to reduce the amount received by means of the levy. The second argument alone would not have convinced me, because in fixing the scale of the levy I had already taken into account the agents' commissions of 15 per cent.
The advertising agents, on the other hand, actively disliked the inclusion of their commissions in the receipts on which the levy was to be paid, because they felt it might endanger the traditional structure of their profession. I think that it was in their minds that to avoid part of the levy the programme contractors might conceivably be tempted to work out with the advertisers a new method of payment to the agents and one on which the levy would not bite. The Government have no wish whatever to disturb existing practices and procedures in the advertising world by reason of the purely incidental feature of the Government's proposals for the levy. We have, therefore, decided to exclude the agents' commissions and to make corresponding adjustments in the pitch of the scale.
The Government have also decided to meet the point of view which was widely expressed by hon. Members in Standing Committee that the regional companies ought to be given more encouragement to produce programmes. This will be done by increasing the amount of the free slice from £1¼ million to £1½ million. The practical effect of this is to increase the exempted amount in the early stage, not by £¼ million but by £½ million, because if the scale had been adjusted to produce exactly the same amount after excluding the agents' commissions as it would have done before the free slice would have been reduced to £1 million.
The effect of these two changes taken together is that the scale now proposed based on net advertising receipts will exempt the first £1½ million; the next £6 million will be subject to levy at 25 per cent. and the balance at 45 per cent. Naturally, the increase in the amount of the free slice will work to the advantage of all the companies, whatever their circumstances and whatever their size, but, in proportion, it is bound to confer the greatest benefit on the smaller companies not already exempted by the original free slice, and the middle group of companies will be assisted to a greater extent than the larger companies.
What matters is the effect which the new scale of levy will have after July, 1964, when it starts to operate. On the basis of estimates of advertising expenditure furnished to the Government by the advertising profession, the levy ought to produce about £17 million in additional payments in the first full year. Assuming that costs, one way or another, are then about £3½ million higher than they were in 1962–63, the companies should be left with profits before tax of about £15¼ million.
This figure allows for net advertising receipts of £70·6 million, income from programme sales, and so forth, of £8·2 million, costs including the Authority's rentals of £46·6 million—that, by the way, is an increase of £3½ million on 1962–63—and a levy of £17 million, leaving a balance of £15·2 million before the incidence of normal taxation.
I think that I should be out of order if, at this point, I were to deal with matters which are extraneous to the Amendments, but not to the Clause itself, such as the operation of the flexibility provision in general and its application to individual companies, but there are three suggestions which arise from the Amendments which I should take this opportunity of refuting.
The first suggestion is that the Clause, even as amended, will mean that the companies will in future suffer a licence to lose money. If any company really believes this—as far as I know there is only one candidate in this category—then I say that nobody is obliged to contract after 1964 if it does not wish to do so. But the truth of the matter is that this is not to happen. A collective profit before tax of more than £15 million is a very fair return on any view, either in relation to turnover or to the capital employed.
The notion that the Government, my hon. Friend the Assistant Postmaster-General or myself, have the smallest wish to destroy independent television is an utter absurdity, and this Clause, as amended, offers every encouragement to the companies as a whole to carry on while, at the same time, protects the interests of the taxpayer. Neither side of this Committee has the slightest wish to jeopardise the future of commercial television, and, indeed, we shall see that that does not happen.
The second criticism is that, because the top rate of levy is as high as 45 per cent. on net receipts, the larger companies will have no incentive to seek additional revenue in excess of £6 million because they would have to pay 45 per cent. on the excess of £6 million advertising revenue. But, on the contrary, they will have every incentive to receive advertising revenue of more than £6 million. After all, on the first £1½ million, they will pay nothing. On the next £6 million they will pay 25 per cent., and it is in that category that programme costs in reality apply because no company in this country, large or small, spends more than £8 million a year on programmes.
On the band which is subject to levy at the rate of 45 per cent., the fact is that the margin of profit is at its very maximum—at a level of 55 per cent. I confess that I could hardly believe my eyes when I read the argument that a commercial company will avoid or shy away from increased revenue because before tax it will be left with only 55 per cent. of its income.
The third suggestion is that the new scale will so harshly affect the big four companies that the small companies which lean so heavily on the big four for network programmes will be put in peril. This has been very assiduously put about in some quarters. I must say that I find it a very odd argument, because it assumes that the big four will no longer be able to produce enough network programmes for sale. I think that this is palpably untrue, because they will still have the resources to do so, and, moreover, since the revenue will not apply to income from the sale of programmes the incentive to produce programmes and to sell them will be greater rather than less than it is at present.
This is also an odd argument I think because, of course, the small regional companies will be a good deal better off, not worse off, than they are at present, and if, as the Government hope, these proposals tempt the smaller regional companies to produce more television and encourage them to get at least some programmes on the network under the new arrangements which transfer networking control to the Authority, so much the better, for this could well lead to more genuine competition between the companies and programmes of a more genuinely national character.
I can see from what the right hon. Gentleman has said what the revenue position will be concerning the programme companies. Can the right hon. Gentleman say what the position will be concerning the national Exchequer?
The approximate change as between the proposals which were previously before the Committee and the position if these Amendments are accepted will be a fall in Exchequer revenue of about £1½ million.
The object of the Amendments tabled by my hon. Friends and myself is to help any company which obtains an advertising revenue of rather more than £1½ million. Their effect is to leave the free slice, the £1½ million, where it is, but to free any company from the liability to start paying at £1½ million unless its advertising receipts exceed £2½ million; and then to overcome the difficulty, a theoretical difficulty at present, that the first £1 in revenue over £2½ million would otherwise be inordinately expensive in that it would make the company liable to pay the levy on the £1 million between £1½ million and £2½ million, they provide that no company shall pay more in levy than the amount by which its advertising receipts exceed £2½ million.
Therefore, this cushions the shock which would otherwise be felt at the £2½ million figure without in any way affecting the larger companies.
As I have indicated, this is an academic point, because at present no company earns an advertising revenue of £2½ million. They all earn a good deal more or a good deal less. The nearest company to this figure is Anglia Television, which hopes to obtain in 1964 an advertising revenue of about £2½ million.
That includes the notional figure for the advertisers' commission, which is not included in the figures for 1964. As I say, Anglia Television hopes to obtain an advertising revenue of about £2 million.
These Amendments have a regional flavour. They are tabled to deal, in the first instance, with Anglia Television's special case, but I do not think that any apology is needed for that because it is generally agreed on both sides of the Committee that Anglia Television has a good record. Secondly, both the opponents and the detractors of commercial television can agree that regional television has been one indisputably valuable outcome of the introduction of commercial television. Thirdly, some of the existing frontiers of the big four stations are decidedly unnatural and are, therefore, unlikely to be immutable, so that other companies will be likely to find themselves in future in the position that Anglia is in today. These Amendments, therefore, involve the future of regional television, and because they involve that principle, they are, and will be, supported by hon. Members who have nothing to do with the territory served by Anglia.
I understand, of course, my right hon. Friend's inhibitions about this. Almost any dividing line is likely to entail injustice to those who are just one side or the other of it. I hope to be able to show the Committee that these Amendments would remove a serious injustice without adding further difficulties and without costing the Exchequer a significant sum; and that there is a strong case for adding a safety net of £2½ million to the dividing line of £1½ million.
Anglia hopes to have advertising revenue in 1964 of £2 million and it hopes to make a gross profit of about £¼million on which, if the Bill is not amended, it would have to pay a levy of about £125,000, so that its profit would be reduced to a similar figure, and only a slight worsening in the terms of trade, therefore, an increase of costs or a fall in advertising revenue would drive it into the "red".
The levy therefore strikes Anglia to a unique degree. The smaller companies are safely ensconced in the free slice. The larger companies in the second division, in which Anglia is usually placed, although it is much smaller than Scottish, Southern, Tyne-Tees and T.W.W., will all have a revenue in 1964 of probably nearly £3½ million or £4 million and a profit, after payment of the levy, of about £800,000 or more. Their profit will be rather more than six times as much as that of Anglia.
For the small companies, the levy is merely a shot fired across their bows a safe distance in front. For the larger companies, it is a direct hit, but only in the case of Anglia is it a direct hit amidships right on the waterline. Since Anglia stands for the things that my right hon. Friend this afternoon said he wanted to encourage—more regional programmes, for example—he is in the position, if I may move my guns from sea to land, of the artillery who, during the First World War, notoriously spent their time shelling their own side. If these Amendments are passed, they would raise the sights of my right hon. Friend's guns so that he would be saved from that frustrating and embarrassing activity.
This is not to suggest that my right hon. Friend is against the big four, but merely that the object of the Clause is to siphon off large profits—and only the big companies make large profits. In Anglia's case, there are no large profits to be siphoned off. I hope, therefore, that the Committee will agree that these Amendments do not discriminate in favour of Anglia. They would remove a manifest although unintended discrimination against Anglia and they would do that without in any way either helping or hurting the larger companies.
We are not solely concerned with a heavy fiscal blow at Anglia. As it happens, Anglia has produced for its size probably more and better programmes than any other company. It has produced a number of good and successful plays. It is now pioneering the idea of a "dawn university", a series of university lectures at breakfast time. I do not know how much that idea appeals to the Committee. More important, it has produced a great deal of regional programme material. It produces something like eight times as much as does the B.B.C. It produces about 36 hours a month, whereas my latest figure for the B.B.C. is about 4½ hours a month.
Similarly, concerning Anglia, the allegation in paragraph 187 of the Pilkington Report that the I.T.A. devotes far less time to serious programmes than does the B.B.C. is quite untrue. The B.B.C. produces about 17 hours; Anglia produces rather over 16½ hours. Therefore, as to serious programmes, they are running neck and neck, and in regional content Anglia is miles ahead, an achievement for which, if these Amendments are not passed, instead of being rewarded Anglia will be uniquely penalised.
It is no good pretending that this very good programme policy of Anglia will continue if it has to pay the levy. Elementary business prudence would demand that it cuts down its ambitious programming policy. It would have to cut down on serious and regional programmes and rely to a much greater extent than it has done on the big four for its programmes. So if these Amendments are not enacted, a heavy blow will be levelled not only against Anglia television and against East Anglia as a whole, which would be strongly and rightly resented, but also against the principle of regional television.
My right hon. Friend would be saying, in effect, that if any company manages to emerge from the state in which it is very little better than a conduit pipe for the programmes of the big four, it will be smartly returned to that condition, from which it is seeking to evolve, by the operation of my right hon. Friend's levy. He would be perpetuating the programme competition of the big four which was necessary at the start but which other parts of the Bill seek to loosen.
I cannot believe that my right hon. Friend wants to do that. Indeed, he indicated this afternoon that he did not. In Standing Committee, he said:
It has always been my view that too much in the television of this country is London based, produced in London, set in London and designed primarily to appeal to the London and Home County audience."—[Official Report, Standing Committee B, 7th May, 1963; c. 911–2.]
My right hon. Friend went on to discuss how to encourage production of more regional material, in which Anglia television is pre-eminent. It seems plain, therefore, that these Amendments are in accordance with my right hon. Friend's natural inclinations, of which I am very glad, since if passed they would remove an anomalous and unnecessary bar to the development of regional broadcasting.
It seems that in the years ahead, we will have a development of regional broadcasting in the sense that there will be more stations corresponding to recognisable regions. There is not much point, however, in having more regional stations if they are to be prevented by my right hon. Friend's levy from producing more good and regional programmes. His attitude to these Amendments will, therefore, show whether he and the Government think that the maintenance and encouragement of more and better regional broadcasting is more or less important than dogged adherence to a fixed scale of taxation.
There is even more at stake than that, because, in the years ahead, the administration of the country will almost certainly be far more regionally based, with a much more regional tinge than now, with less centralisation and more regionalism, and it is right that television should precede or be parallel with this development. If, however, my right hon. Friend opposes the Amendments, he will be putting himself not only on the wrong side of the argument about regional television, but also on the wrong side of the argument about the future administration of the country. He would be voting against the 1970s. I am sure that he does not want to do any of these things and I hope that he will come down gracefully on the right side of this argument.
Would my hon. Friend not agree that he now, and I later, will be accused of special pleading when we refer to special cases and point out that to produce golden eggs one must not kill the goose from the word "go"?
The hon. Member for Norfolk, Central (Mr. Ian Gilmour) cannot possibly chastise the Postmaster-General with the views he expressed. It would be worth the hon. Member's while to study a later Amendment standing in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) about the amalgamation of small companies, for that might answer some of his queries.
The Postmaster-General has consistently tried to explain in detail the concern he has for the future of the regional companies and that the sliding scale has been designed with them in mind. It is tragic that although nearly all the organisations within independent television are opposed to the Clause and the levy, they do realise fully that when it is imposed one block of them may suffer at the hands of the other.
I have in mind the trade unions in the industry—which are concerned about the big four directors, the major profiteers of A.R., A.T.V., A.B.C. and Granada—and the directors themselves, who are afraid that they may have in their hands some profitless companies. There is, therefore, the fear of unemployment, on the one hand, and the fear of companies not making handsome profits, on the other. We should recognise the concern of the trade unions and record our sympathy and understanding for their views.
We as legislators have been placed in a difficult position. The House of Commons has witnessed a sickening growth of colossal profits over the last three or four years by these companies, particularly the big four, while, at the same time, they have been charged with bowing to the devil of sex and crime, too many repeat programmes and an undue percentage of cheap American films. The Postmaster-General himself has been disgusted with this development, Pilkington protested against it and, after all this, the public expects hon. Members and the Act to protect them.
No Government could renew the Charter without demanding and fully expecting a great deal better from independent television, particularly from the directors of the big four. Much of this contentious Clause 7 would not have been necessary had they given us higher standards. Had they ploughed more money back into the industry, given the British film industry a greater boost, encouraged more drama and live programmes on independent television their profits would not have been so high, but the fist of the Postmaster-General would not have been needed with such force in Clause 7.
Despite all this, we still have in the Committee, notably among hon. Members opposite, a lobby who are anxious to retain this measure of profiteering. Hon. Members should unanimously be demanding that this medium should be increasingly used to raise moral and cultural standards. The history of the Clause is showing and has shown Parliament in its worst light. It has shown not hidden persuaders, as it did in 1953, but those who have been openly contesting the Postmaster-General, nearly all of whom have interests in television, either manufacturers, shareholders, or in advertising.
The Postmaster-General, some months ago, in the original Bill, proposed a Profits Tax. Later, because of advice he received from the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his advisers, he changed it to a G.A.R. levy, as it has become known. The Postmaster-General spelt out his reasons for doing this in great detail and it is for this reason that I cannot understand why hon. Members opposite have been contesting this matter so strongly.
To begin with, the Postmaster-General wanted to abolish the Television Advertisements Duty. This was hurting the smaller companies. He wanted, as the alternative, something to be done at source. He discovered, however, that had the alternative been allowed to go through, this form of Profits Tax would have been open to a great deal of evasion. By this means he would have lost T.A.D. and have got little back in return. He pointed out how many otherenterprises—bowling alleys, restaurants, and so on—were attached to these companies so that there could be a shifting of prices and, of course, profits. He pointed out the simpler scheme and how it would stop evasion. He also said that it was right in principle.
Considering how the advertising monopoly has arisen by the use of a publicly developed and owned asset—the frequency spectrum is such—it is right in principle that such people should not have the right to exploit this medium for their own commercial ends. This belief joins most of my hon. Friends with the Postmaster-General against those who have been contesting the sliding scale. Since the Postmaster-General announced his change of mind he has suffered a great deal at the hands of his inquisitors. Pressure has been mounted by the big four and every hon. Member of the Committee upstairs has been swamped with material from them in an effort to get us to oppose the Postmaster-General.
How nauseating it has been to watch the various operations. A cabal in the Committee has arisen through hon. Members opposite, nearly all of whom have interests in television. They have been pursuing the Postmaster-General relentlessly.
This point has already been dealt with. The matter of whether or not my hon. Friends have interests to declare has been gone into. When hon. Members spoke they were scrupulous to declare any interests they had. I am a paid-up member of the Society of Authors, Playwrights and Composers Incorporated, paying £4 a year. Is it right, therefore, that these charges should be renewed when they have already been proved to be groundless?
I do not wish to bore the Committee by pointing out the interests of hon. Members opposite. If they refer to the Official Report of our Committee proceedings they will see that hon. Members opposite were warned by me that if they did not declare their interests I would consider it my public duty to do it for them.
It so happened that those hon. Members opposite with strong interests in Associated Rediffusion, the manufacturers of television sets, and so on, had a person who was relatively disinterested in these matters to head their Amendments. The hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. David James) had fewer interests to declare than those who were supporting him on the Notice Paper.
The Postmaster-General, throughout this insidious campaign behind the scenes and in Committee, has leaned over backwards to be fair to the little companies. He allowed, first, a free slice of the £1¼ million and for the sliding scale to be designed to take far more profit from the richer companies. This was done, as the Postmaster-General tried to point out in the Standing Committee and in the moving of his Amendment today, to try to assist the smaller companies so that they should not be squeezed out of existence. Again, to be fair, he introduced an escape Clause whereby, if any of the smaller companies suffered in the future because of the imposition of Clause 7, he would have the power to modify the levy. He has already stated that these companies will have the right to produce films, home-produced programmes for export abroad, and not be subject to the levy at all.
In spite of all this, the profiteer lobbies in the Standing Committee still voted against the right hon. Gentleman. We know now that they have broadened their ranks, because since the Standing Committee ended its proceedings they have brought in one whom we might describe as the "Old Father Time" of independent television—the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd), who is with us today. I understand that he is being brought in to assist his hon. Friends in their demands.
On the very first morning the Standing Committee sat, the Postmaster-General, to get the Committee stage finished as quickly as possible and the Bill enacted at the earliest possible moment, asked us to sit three times per week. We wasted a whole morning arguing about that, and the Motion was eventually withdrawn. Three weeks later, he successfully moved the Motion, and we had three sittings per week. This Measure left the Standing Committee seven weeks ago. Why has there been all this delay before reaching Report and Third Reading? Is it because he has been subject to a great deal of pressure from the chattering hon. Member who remains in his seat on the opposite bench, and his hon. Friends—
We have to talk on the Clause in general, Sir William, because the sliding scale is the guts of the Clause, and it should be put on record how the Postmaster-General has suffered. If one looks at him now and sees the changing colour of his hair, one feels that had we delayed these proceedings a further week he would have been the best detergent advertisement there could be—because of the pressure in the background.
I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman because, in spite of all this, he has introduced a sliding scale which gives the smaller companies a bigger slice—from £1¼ million to £1½ million—and squeezes the big four for a little more, but as we have had to wait seven weeks for this, one has to ask whether there may not have been a quid pro quooffered by him. Has the right hon. Gentleman offered independent television a second channel? We may be told later when we discuss the operative Amendment, but I have my suspicions.
The Postmaster-General has granted a bigger free slice, has changed the sliding scale, which will hurt the big four a little more. I know that the 15 per cent, agent's commission is in that, too, and explains part of it, but has he made a deal behind the scenes? Have those who have pressed him had a quid pro quoin the form of the possibility of a second independent television channel? Is that why hon. Members opposite are now relatively quiet?
I welcome the right hon. Gentleman's general approach to this matter. As I have said, this readjustment again indicates his desire to allow independent television to flourish in all areas, particularly in the North, and not necessarily to flow wholly from the South. We all recognise that commercial television is here to stay, but we want to see it flourishing in all regions, and not just in the South.
The fears in the minds of the trade unions about the dangers of this levy are quite real. There is a tendency for those fears to be exaggerated, but they are worthy of examination. First, the cost of making films to produce a long film series—good films—may need an investment of anything up to £1 million and, as we know, the return from the investment is very slow. There is, therefore, a danger that some of the big companies may cut back in this realm. It may also affect their export earnings and, in turn, because they have poor and cheaper films, cuts in the good-quality ones they produce—occasionally—which may also affect their sales of advertising.
Secondly, if cheaper and less interesting productions come on the screens, the audience rating may also drop, and the I.T.A. once again become the poor cousin of the B.B.C. That, in turn, may allow the B.B.C. to drop back into its lethargic and less adventurous approach in these productions. There, again, there is danger.
Thirdly, all the trade unions in the industry are concerned lest there be a cut-back in programme content. The artistes, the creators, the script writers, musicians and technicians are afraid that if there is such a cut-back unemployment may start to grow.
It is not necessary to exaggerate these fears, but they do exist, and some of them are quite real. The Postmaster-General, therefore, must consider how he can ensure that the present rates of investment may be maintained. This escape clause for the modification of the levy as a last resort can help the smaller companies if they get into difficulties, but the trade unions themselves could at this stage of the Bill be much more helpful by providing evidence, if there is any, of any cut-backs that may take place.
They should let hon. Members know of any laying-off of musicians, the cutting back in drama programmes, and similar matters, so that hon. Members can bring these things to the attention of the Postmaster-General, and so act as the watchdog of the trade unions in the industry. I remember the right hon. Gentleman saying in the Standing Committee that it would be premature to say that all these things would happen when Clause 7 eventually became operative. It is right to voice the fears of the trade unions, but, in general, I agree that it is a little premature.
The big four, particularly, have built their empires, and will fight to maintain them. Their audience rating will determine their rates for advertisements, so they will be a little wary and chary about lowering programme standards. Some of the smaller companies are amalgamating, and it would be a good thing for television if there were more and better com- petition within independent television as well. They will, therefore, make more strenuous efforts to compete with the B.B.C. for their own lives' sake, so that their programmes do not worsen and their advertisement rates drop.
I only hope that worsened programmes and the cut-back in programme content of which the trade unions talk will not come about. It is my view that when this sliding scale becomes operative, independent television will still fight with the B.B.C. to get the best audience ratings, and it may be that we shall get better, not worse, programmes, when the Clause is in operation.
I wish, in broad and general terms, to support my right hon. Friend's proposals. I do not pretend that his methods are necessarily the best because, to serve the public interest in its best sense, there should apply in the allocation of contracts for television programmes the system that would obtain in almost every other similar circumstance. In each period a tender should be made for the service, and the contract should be allocated to the company that could prove, first, that it gave the highest tender—in the interests of the taxpayer—and secondly, was able to fulfil the contract into which it was required to enter.
This ostensibly is the proper way in which contracts of this kind should be allocated but clearly, because of the massive investments required and the many other factors to be considered, it is impossible for us to insist that there should be this open tender at each period of renewal. Therefore, we are forced to accept the second best. We ought to have the best, which is the highest return for the taxpayer, but we cannot secure it. I therefore accept my right hon. Friend's view that we should have a system which insists upon the taxpayer receiving something for the concession given to these companies.
This concession bestows upon them a monopoly position and the taxpayer has an entitlement, even if the company is losing money, to receive a return for granting this exclusive position. That there will be a reduction in the amount payable to the Exchequer does not worry me. I want to see a specific return to the taxpayer for the concession granted to these companies. My right hon. Friend's proposal is second best only to putting the matter out to open tender on each occasion.
As to the suggestion that the unions are worried, I would say that it is about time that the unions in the entertainment industry were worried. So far, they do not appear to have displayed much intelligent interest in their industry. If they are now becoming concerned I am very grateful. I have been disappointed, like many other members of the public, with what independent television has done in terms of programme standards, though I would not suggest for a moment that it has done as badly as Sir Harry Pilkington suggests.
It has done badly because too much money has been made too easily. There are two ways of getting bad programmes or a bad anything in business. The first is to have competition so cut-throat, or economic conditions so perverse, that one cannot do a good job. The other is to have so much easy money that one does not care a tinker's cuss whether it is good or bad, because the customer has to have it. We have suffered in the past few years not from the former, but from the latter situation. I am convinced that had the road been much harder for these companies the programmes would have been much better.
In discussing these Amendments we must be concerned whether with this duty the companies will not be able to do a job which is satisfactory from the point of view of the public and of viewers generally. I should have thought that if one can run a business which is a monopoly and at the end of the year have 15 per cent. profit on turnover one is doing extremely well. I am in business and I do not have anything like that figure at the end of the year. If I did I should be very pleased. I cannot understand the moaning and groaning about a position where one has a monopoly and at the end of the day the prospect of 15 per cent. profit on turnover. Many people in business would be happy to have that situation.
I share the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Norfok, Central (Mr. Ian Gilmour) about Anglia. As a small unit it has done a great deal of good work. If we could help it in any way I should be glad. Whilst the duty will have some effect on companies like Anglia, I think that my right hon. Friend's proposal will be designed to give the taxpayer his entitlement and to give the companies which enjoy a monopoly position a reasonable profit and the ability to serve the company with good programmes.
I hope, therefore, that the Committee will agree wholeheartedly with my right hon. Friend.
I welcome what the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Shepherd) has been saying. I wish that he had been a member of the Standing Committee. One of the troubles there was that the sort of sentiment which he has been expressing was expressed from the Government side only by the Postmaster-General and the Assistant Postmaster-General. All the remaining hon. Members on the Government benches were opposed to the sensible line taken by the Postmaster-General.
Broadly, I accept the hon. Member's intervention. There were one or two exceptions, but I think that the hon. Member will agree that most hon. Members opposite or—and I would go any length to placate the hon. Member—the consistently vocal Members were opposed to the right hon. Gentleman and that the sort of thing which has been said this afternoon was said from the back benches only on the Opposition side of the Committee.
I do not want to speak at length on the broad proposals. I simply wish to speak about Anglia Television. I do so because I raised the matter in the first place in Standing Committee and I want to express my thanks to the Postmaster-General that he has taken some steps in his Amendments to meet the sort of case which I put upstairs on behalf of that company.
I also want to ask some questions, because we are faced with a difficult problem in choosing between the right hon. Gentleman's version of help for Anglia and that of the hon. Member for Norfolk, Central (Mr. Ian Gilmour). I should like to know what the right hon. Gentleman's figures involve. We cannot make up our minds between these two ways of assisting Anglia until we know the right hon. Gentleman's version of the new figures which will now be involved, following his own Amendments.
In Committee upstairs, on Anglia's provisional figures, I took a profit of roughly £300,000 on which it would lose about £200,000 in the new duty. Faced with a bad year, this might mean that the company would be near to extinction. When the Postmaster-General replied, he took a quite opposite point of view. He said, in column 815, that the profit would be reduced only from £274,000 to about £214,000, a drop of £60,000. We now have the new position that Anglia is putting out figures to show that its profit is likely to be about £250,000. The hon. Member for Norfolk, Central and I have received figures from Anglia and the hon. Member has said that on that profit the levy would be about £125,000. We are, therefore, faced with continually conflicting sets of figures.
If it is true that on a profit of about £250,000 Anglia will still be paying half of it in tax then clearly the Postmaster-General has not gone far enough, but if the right hon. Gentleman sticks to his original figures given in Committee upstairs, and which, presumably, must be better now since he has improved the position by Amendments tabled today, the company will be paying only about £60,000 out of something under £300,000. Clearly, therefore, we must support the right hon. Gentleman against his hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, Central, because the right hon. Gentleman's proposals today are quite adequate for Anglia.
It is true, as the hon. Member for Cheadle has said, that the company is being given a monopoly concession like everybody else, it must be willing to pay something. We must not be continually trimming the tax position under the Bill to exempt Anglia all the time. At some time it must pay its rent for the concession which it is being given. I am willing to vote for a reduction only if the proportion taken from its profits is unfair. Therefore, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to give us his version of Anglia Television's new figures before we make up our minds between the two Amendments.
I should like to make one further point concerning Anglia Television. The point of the hon. Member for Norfolk, Central, with which I have some sympathy, for I raised it in Standing Committee in the first place, is not a very good one. If we write into the Bill special concessions for Anglia Television around the £2½ million mark, what happens when the figure begins to reach £2½ million with costs following quickly behind as they now are when the figure is £2 million and the costs amount to £1·75 million? When we get beyond £2½ million as is suggested in the Amendment which the hon. Member is asking us to support, the Government will come back again saying "There is another very small profit margin" and asking us to pay 50 per cent. in tax, for the Amendment says that up to 50 per cent. in excess over £2½ million can be paid.
The figure of £1½ million is crucial in the production of regional programmes. It will be a long time, probably as long as this Measure lasts, before Anglia advertising revenue of £2 million reaches £2½ million. Therefore, the point is rather academic.
When we write figures like this into the Bill they will stand for five or six years. Costs will rise without any increase in the income. The falling value of the £ will bring the problem before us again within a year or two, and we shall be back again with the problem of a company on the borderline of the first bite of tax.
I think that possibly the proposals of the Postmaster-General, provided he shows that the figures are not too bad so far as the burden on Anglia Television is concerned, are more practical.
In Standing Committee, the right hon. Gentleman made what amounted almost to an aside, about the future contracts. On 7th May, he said:
The circumstances…vary…But that does not mean to say that the Authority may not, before those contracts are given out, take certain steps to seek to even out the nature of these differences between contracts, especially as far as they affect the Big Four."—[Official Report, Standing Committee B, 7th May, 1963; c. 911.]
I think what he was referring to was the particular problem of A.T.V. with its split franchise—
—I see the right hon. Gentleman nodding—between London and the Midlands, involving it in excessive overheads. This can make its tax position unfortunate in special circumstances. Is this the clear intention? Is it intended to review the franchise in this manner so as to take away one of the big complaints against the functioning of Clause 7? If so, another part of the case against the right hon. Gentleman's general position falls to the ground immediately.
I conclude by making two general points. I hope that we shall come to the end of the continual "belly-ache" by Mr. Norman Collins and his friends. They really have become intolerable. I shall say the same thing to the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. David James) if he continues with these complaints today. To say that there is great cause for complaint when £16 million, £17 million or £18 million will be left as profit for the big four is a misuse of words.
It is scandalous to go so far as Mr. Collins went in saying:
The levy on turnover which the new Television Bill proposes is sufficient not merely to reduce the profits of some companies to the level of those of a depressed industry, but to put others, large as well as small, out of business.
This is an attempt to build up a lobby against the Bill by sheer misrepresentation—I should like to use a stronger word—of the true position. There is no chance under the general proposals, particularly with the Amendments tabled by the right hon. Gentleman today, that companies "large as well as small", to use Mr. Collins' words, are in danger of being put out of business. I noted with amusement that the Beaverbrook newspapers offered to take over A.T.V. if Mr. Collins thought it was such a bad bet for the future. When we see this sort of thing going on, one can only laugh at the antics of Mr. Norman Collins and his friends. They have done the whole thing much too proud in recent weeks.
My final point is one which I have made twice before, and I hope that I shall be forgiven for repeating it. I plead with all Members that we shall keep our eyes on this levy, on the £15 million or so that is received from it, because the grave danger will be that the Government will have a vested interest in high profits from advertising revenue because of the Exchequer return involved. We shall start off with a permanent tax on television, just as we started with the Road Fund, and something which begins with a particular revenue-raising purpose will become a general revenue-raising instrument.
We must stop this happening if we can. It means that the interests of the viewers in having less advertising time will automatically be opposed by the Government, who will want plenty of advertising time on television in order to get plenty of revenue for the national Exchequer. The viewers come first in this matter, not the Exchequer. I want less advertising if it is compatible with reasonable profits. The viewers should be studied first.
Are not the hon. Gentleman's two points mutually exclusive? First, he attacks Mr. Norman Collins for saying that the industry would be in peril. Then he says that he would keep a most careful eye on the advertising revenue because the industry would be in peril, and the viewers should come first.
No, I did not say the industry would be in peril. I said the viewers would be in peril, which is very different from the position of the programme companies. The danger is that the viewers will have too much advertising in order that the Government can milk the advertising revenue. The two items that I was talking of are not antithetical at all.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for meeting this special case concerning Anglia Television. If he can satisfy me on the figures relating to Anglia Television, in the Amendments that he has introduced, I shall certainly support his Amendments as opposed to those of the hon. Member for Norfolk, Central.
I support the Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, Central (Mr. Ian Gilmour). In doing this, lest the hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) should think that I have some vested interest in Anglia Television, so far as I know none of the shareholders, none of the directors, nor I have ever seen Anglia Television, and, so far as I know, neither have any of my constituents.
When the effect of this levy as affecting Anglia Television was brought to my attention, I considered that this company had been so unfairly treated that I gave full support to the Amendment put down by my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, Central. I disagree with the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman), who said that he would be happy provided that the proportion of the profits that the levy took from this company was not too high. Surely what counts is not the proportion of the profits taken by the levy, but the net profits which are left in relation to capital invested or the turnover of the company.
If one examines the matter on the only figures which have been provided to me and which the hon. Member for Northfield quoted—the estimates for 1964–65—one finds that the estimated profits, before the levy, amount to £250,000 on a turnover of £2 million. This gives a relationship of profit to turnover of about 12½ per cent. If the levy were applied as originally stated, it would leave a profit related to turnover of 6½ per cent. Compared with the profits of any other companies in the same division, this is so absurdly low as to warrant special attention.
By the Amendments, it is proposed to create a situation so that, should Anglia Television tend to grow in size and reach the level of the other companies in the second division, it would have the same tax imposed and be appropriately penalised. I hope, therefore, that my right hon. Friend, who has been very considerate in his attention to the problems of the smaller companies throughout the Bill and has taken such an interest in the problems of the regional companies, will, as he promised at the outset today, pay particular attention to the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, Central and accept his Amendments.
I associate myself with the Amendments presented by the hon. Member for Norfolk, Central (Mr. Ian Gilmour). I shall not embark upon any of the wider considerations which have been raised in the debate except to say that I agree very much with my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman) when he says that the first consideration must be the interests of the viewer. We should be concerned here with the viewers much more than with the Exchequer.
It is, no doubt, important that we should avoid profiteering, and profiteering especially when it arises from statutory monopolies, but it is still more important, when we are dealing with a medium of information and entertainment, that we should have the widest possible variety of choice. This is one reason why I attach great importance to the future of Anglia Television. The other reason, of course, is that I have the privilege of representing an East Anglian constituency.
I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Norfolk, Central when he speaks of the quality of the programmes which have been put out by the Anglia company and of the contribution which those programmes have made to the community life of Norfolk and Suffolk. One of the most valuable developments we can have in television is the development of local interests and, I add, the appeal to local patriotism.
The Postmaster-General will, no doubt, make his own comments on the figures which have been supplied by the Anglia company to those of us concerned. They are somewhat alarming figures. They show that, if the proposals now contained in Clause 7 or any similar proposals go through, the company will be operating on a very narrow margin indeed. It would take only some deterioration in the terms of trade in East Anglia for the company really to be in danger and, if it were in danger, or if for any reason in the next few years it had to cease operations, there would be a very real loss to all the communities concerned.
It is not enough for the Government to refer to subsection (6) and to say that the Postmaster-General has this rather remarkable power of increasing or reducing the rates by Statutory Instrument. For one thing, it seems a rather extreme case of delegated legislation, but we will let that pass. It is not enough to say that the Postmaster-General can use his power to redress the situation if this should become necessary, for, of course, what a company in this position must do is plan ahead, prepare its programmes and employ its staff, and none of these things can it do if it has no assurance for the future.
I hope, therefore, that the Committee and the Government will be prepared to accept the Amendments put forward by the hon. Gentleman.
I think that it was the hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) who called me "Old Father Time", or something like that, and suggested that I came here to defend or assist some sort of lobby. This is not so. I do declare an interest. As is well known, I have a financial interest in the company which owns part of Southern Television. I have a further interest by reason of my connection with the Beveridge Report. However, I think that the Committee will find, when I express my views on a certain matter later in the Bill, that they run contrary to those of three of the four big companies concerned in this matter.
I do not propose to argue very much about the method adopted in Clause 7. I found myself in much agreement with my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Mr. Shepherd) when he spoke about it earlier, and I think that it would have been better to adopt the tender method rather than a levy. However, I recognise that we must accept this method now as it is and make the best of it. I agree very much also with the views of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman)—perhaps it may be thought wrong or disloyal of me to say this, having once been Chancellor of the Exchequer—when he says that the views of the Exchequer should not be taken into account too much. The position of the viewer should be paramount in this matter.
I put a specific question to my right hon. Friend which, again, arises out of something said by the hon. Member for Northfield. I think that this method of arranging the levy is bound to lead to inequalities. Can the Postmaster-General assure us that there will be the widest possible latitude left to the Authority to adjust the differences so that this method of levy will be equitable as between the various companies? I hope that he will be able to give a clear and specific assurance on that point. It would reconcile me to some extent to this method of raising the money.
As regards Anglia Television, I have considerable sympathy with what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, Central (Mr. Ian Gilmour), but I think that this is largely a matter of figures. If the figures which have been given are to be accepted, I hope that my right hon. Friend will find it possible to give way on the Amendment.
I am very pleased to see the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd), an ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, returning to what was his first love, and I am gratified to hear the rather refreshing point of view which he expressed on this occasion.
We have had a good deal of discussion on this matter. This is, I think, the fourth shot we have had at trying to find the right standard to apply in order to evaluate a public monopoly. It will be remembered that the Postmaster-General said in his Bill originally that, in order to assess the value, he would tax the gross profits. Eventually, in Committee, he came to the conclusion that one could not assess the value of this monopoly by that method and he then adopted a scheme for a levy on total advertising revenue. Later, he came to the conclusion that that was not the right way. He was pressed still further, and he said that not only would he refund or cancel the Television Advertisements Duty but he would impose the levy not on gross advertising revenue but on net revenue. Then he altered the free slice, as it is called, from £1¼ million to £1½ million. All the time, there has been this retreat from the original arrangement whereby an adequate return would be obtained for the State from these people who had a licence to print money.
Some of these changes may have been due to pressure. Some, undoubtedly, were due to argument and representations made to the Postmaster-General. But, in his new method, the right hon. Gentleman has listened to the Committee in so far as he has, as it were, tempered the wind to the shorn lamb and so far as concessions are being made to the smaller companies at the expense of the bigger companies.
My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman) reminded us that there were foretold all sorts of dire consequences for commercial television as a result of the Postmaster-General's activities. First, we were told that some companies would gobankrupt. It seems to me that, in tackling this problem, we are dealing with the consequences of extremely bad planning in the structure of commercial television. We have had a number of rich areas given to a couple of powerful companies. Then there are a smaller number of middle areas, and then, again, the second division or third division areas, of which Anglia is at the top. I will deal with this question of special pleading for Anglia later in my speech.
In view of all the information and the propaganda to which we have been subjected, it is just as well to see what the Financial Times argues would be the consequence of what the Postmaster-General was going to do when he was going to make the levy on the gross advertising revenue. This is what it said:
If advertising receipts in that year"—
are £74 million (after commissions) against the present £60 million or so (with £6 million…coming from…Television Advertising Duty) and the levy raises the intended £16 million—£17 million, this leaves between £57 million—£58 million. If programme costs, now around £36 million, are £40 million (which could be on the conservative side) there would be profits for the whole industry of as much as £17 million or more.
These are not the figures of the big four, of the tycoons, who talk about £11 million. They are not the figures of the Postmaster-General. These are the relatively independent figures given not by the Daily Herald or by a Labour newspaper but by the Financial Times after a thorough investigation. What the country has to ask itself is whether the amount that is going to be taken from the commercial companies is an adequate return for the possession of a public monopoly. That is what we ought to ask ourselves. Now the Postmaster-General has changed the formula. Instead of £17 million he has now retreated, and, as I understand it, what is left is £15¼ million.
To refer to the question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Northfield, I should like to know whether in the negotiating of these fresh contracts, with which this proposal deals, there is going to be a reorganisation of boundaries so that each company can be viable instead of having to make special pleas for special interests, such as we have heard today, and which will enable all the companies to be viable and maintain a greater variety in the commercial television of this country. But apparently the Postmaster-General has not that in mind because he is going to provide for flexibility in order to save the small boys from drowning.
It seems to me that in all this structural mass of commercial television we have had to have a formula of this sort in order to try to take from the big boys and, at the same time, keep the small boys alive.
Let me deal with Anglia. I was rather astonished to hear the figures quoted by the hon. Gentleman from that area and to hear him say that the company was going to be left with 6½ per cent. Is a public monoply to be given to a private company for exploitation, and is it not only to get that concession but have we also to guarantee it against loss as well? Is that the idea?
What I said was that on the present figures as estimated, the return to Anglia on turnover, if the present levy were applied, would be 6½ per cent, before tax. This is, of course, on the estimated figures. This would mean that any variation in costs of operation or declining revenue would mean that the company would make a loss. I was not asking for a guaranteed 6½ per cent. I was saying that on the present figures the company was getting 6½ per cent. while others were getting 40 or 50 per cent.
That was a very interesting question to which I should like to have given the answer, but perhaps there will be another opportunity
We have had a lot of figures thrown at us. Anglia is the top of the third division in population coverage. Are we to be told that a monopoly in the hands of the company covering 2,600,000 is not a viable area? After all, this is commercial television; it is not B.B.C. I said in Standing Committee that people cannot be expected to wear their best clothes all the week and someone else be expected to pay for them. When one mixes with some of the commercial television people and hears the views they express about the running of Anglia—whether it is a contribution to Manchester Guardian prestige or not, I do not know—they appear to be very dubious views about the businesslike way in which Anglia is being run It is tending to wear a top hat on a corduroy trousers' income. That is the view expressed.
I put it seriously that here is a population coverage of 2,600,000 which we are being told is not viable.
Of course, a number of the big companies resent the smaller companies coming into the network. It appears that these are the people to whom the right hon. Gentleman has been listening. The point which my right hon. Friend was making this afternoon was that he wants to encourage programmes to come from companies other than the big four. This is what Anglia has been doing up to now and what my Amendment seeks to perpetuate, and this is what I understand the right hon. Gentleman objects to.
The hon. Gentleman is entirely misrepresenting my point of view. What I want are viable companies all over the country which are able to make their contribution to the network. What we have now are companies which have not the resources to make a contribution to the network because the I.T.A. has given all the fat areas of the country to the big four tycoons, and we may as well face it. Commercial television in this country is in the hands of four companies. That is the position, and I want to destroy that situation. What I do not want to do is to keep that position and subsidise the smaller companies. I would rather see Anglia get a bigger population cover- age than it now has so as to enable it to do its job. That is the only way to deal with the position without asking the Postmaster-General to put his hand into the public purse in order to enable the smaller companies to maintain cleaner faces.
I would remind the Committee of calculations given to us by the Postmaster-General—and I do not question his good faith. The right hon. Gentleman said:
On the best calculations that I have been able to make, I expect if it is able to recoup T.A.D. our levy would only reduce the profits in 1962 by about £60,000, from about £274,000 to £214,000, so I do not really think that the picture for Anglia is as gloomy as some may suppose."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B, 30th April, 1963; c. 815.]
Quite frankly, in view of some of the good work which Anglia is doing on the programme side, I do not think that it is doing itself any credit at all or is being done any credit by the special pleading which took place upstairs in Committee and which is taking place in this Committee today.
I ask the Postmaster-General to deal, when he replies, with the question of the value of the commissions. Under his Amendments he proposes to allow commissions on advertising up to 15 per cent. Do I take it that 15 per cent. is the normal charge, and that this is not only to be the maximum but the minimum, and that by every 1 per cent. by which the advertising revenue is decreased by the commission he will lose money? My information is that 15 per cent. is an abnormal commission, that there are many advertisements placed with programme contractors at the moment at lower than a 15 per cent. rate, and yet the right hon. Gentleman is providing 15 per cent. in one of his Amendments. This is a loss of revenue which is a gratuitous present to interested parties. I hope, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman will explain very clearly to us this 15 per cent. which is the new minimum.
The other point is about flexibility. The right hon. Gentleman retains unto himself the power to alter the scales either in special cases or generally. I should like to know, even when he alters these scales and rates of levy in special cases, whether he is to seek the authority of the House so to do, or whether this will be done by private pressure behind the scenes. Will it be that an accountant will bring forward the accounts and say, "We are in a bad way this year" and that the Postmaster-General or the I.T.A. will say, "Very well, we will reduce your rent, or cut the advertisement levy"? Will that be done behind the back of Parliament? On that we require a very specific assurance.
Those are the points which seemed to me to be new compared with those we raised in Committee upstairs, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will let us have answers to them.
When I was thinking over this series of Amendments I thought that the debate would be concentrated on the relative merits of these figures, compared with the figures as they were when the Bill left the Standing Committee—the £1¼ million and the £1½ million, the£8 million and the £6 million, the 22½ per cent. and the 25 per cent, and the 40 per cent. and the 45 per cent. It seems to me that if I were to deal with the debate as it has been going I should have to deal with it as if it were a Second Reading debate. I am rather surprised that it has taken this course this afternoon, because I think that we may have anticipated a very useful debate on other aspects of the Bill by introducing them at this stage. I suppose I shall be bound to comment on some of the things which have been said, although it was not my original intention so to do.
We are all agreed, I think, that this Clause 7 has had an eventful life, to say the least of it, and I should imagine that it has provided the Postmaster-General with a pretty rough battlefield; but I think that some of the combatants have fallen. After reading all the papers, after getting all the documents from all sorts of quarters about how all these big companies and others were going into bankruptcy and were going to be destroyed one after another, and after hearing, as we were told, that they had friends in this Committee who shared those views, I anticipated that they would be on the attack here this afternoon.
I have not noticed that up to now, and I have reached this conclusion, that in their heart of hearts all the people who have been arguing to that effect know very well that the Postmaster-General in these particular Amendments has come very near to a fair and equitable situation. I do not think there is any doubt about that at all. I think I am entitled to assume, in the absence of criticism of a contrary character, that the bulk of members of this Committee must really be sharing the view of the Postmaster-General that this is a fair conclusion to a very long drawn out effort in the Standing Committee.
I have been very interested in this debate today, and I think I ought to put the position which I have tried to take up, and which most of my hon. Friends behind me have taken up, consistently in relation to this Clause. We have been concerned in the first place that this country should get something back, something tangible and substantial, from these companies in respect of the most valuable concession which has been given to them. I do not share the views of some of the people that the only people who have got to be considered in this case are the viewers. I think that the viewers must be considered, but I think that for this valuable concession, this national asset, the nation as a nation, through the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is entitled to have a fair slice of this cake in order to develop scientific and technological research and all the rest so as to provide this country with the very best possible television service.
We are entitled to have that, and I was glad to hear the Postmaster-General say this afternoon that in his opinion one of the charges should be reasonable rentals, economic rentals, to flow to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. We believe that fundamentally. We believe that this is a big and valuable concession and that these companies should be making a substantial contribution because of that concession.
Having said that, however, I want to say something else we believe in. We want to ensure that the resources of the companies are adequate to meet the new requirements and the new demands which will be made upon them as the service develops, as research develops, and as the very costly installations and instruments are introduced into the service. We want to ensure that they have reasonable resources in order to deal with the obligations and the duties which the Committee is imposing upon them. I am going to say this to the trade unions concerned in the industry, and to the programme companies, that in my submission, which I think is shared by most of my hon. Friends behind me, the levy proposed here is such as to allow them to have sufficient resources not only to do the things which they are doing now and have been doing up to now but to do infinitely more. What we are providing them with now gives more reason, even than we had in the past, for ensuring that these people carry out fully their obligations and duties to the nation and that there will be no possibility of a recurrence of a Pilkington Committee Report which shows that they have fallen down on the job of providing the best television service it is possible for them to provide.
I am going to say another thing. We are not against reasonable profits. We have not in Standing Committee argued against reasonable profits. However, it is very difficult to reconcile some of the figures which have been floating about. I asked the hon. Gentleman whether, in the light of what he was saying, 6½ per cent. profit on turnover was not reasonably adequate. I should think that he would say that it was. His difficulty was that if the circumstances changed and profits were likely to fall below 6½ per cent., there would be difficulties for the companies.
I think that 6½ per cent.—which is gross before tax—is somewhat low for what must by its very nature be a somewhat speculative industry, but the point I should like to make and on which I would be grateful if the hon. Gentleman would comment is that it must be wrong for five companies to be treated in the same way by a particular levy, four of them being left with a profit of 20 per cent. to 25 per cent. on turnover and the other with 6½ per cent. If the hon. Gentleman thinks that 6½per cent. is the correct figure, why did he not produce an Amendment to reduce it for all of them to 6½ per cent.?
I could turn that the other way and ask the hon. Member why he did not do so. He had the same opportunity. I agree with him that the profits which have accrued to some of the four companies in the past have been so fantastic that they have constituted a national scandal. Anything we can do to ensure that we shall not have a repetition of that will be in the interests not only of the nation but of these companies. I think that the hon. Member and I are on fairly level pegging here. We agree that there should be a reasonable amount of profit.
I want to declare, as I did in Standing Committee, that we have now accepted that independent television is an integral part of the country's televising services. Whether we believed that in the beginning is beside the point. We now accept it as an integral part of our television services, but that means that we also accept the related responsibility of making sure that only the best standards and the best conduct and the best application of resources are adopted.
Above everything else, we mean to ensure that the smaller companies get a better deal than they have had in the past. All along I have felt that even the figure of £1¼ million was too near the bone for some of the small companies. The sum of £1½ million may not be enough, but I am prepared to say that as a start, anyway, it should be an encouragement to the small companies.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) and my hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) have long held the view that the main problem is the distribution of the companies, the location of their spheres of influence. I doubt whether we can make the necessary changes under this series of Amendments, but this is a matter to be seriously considered in future if we are not to have a repetition of the Anglia situation. But there is something in the argument of my right hon. Friend that one should not dress above one's station in the world of today.
If, as the hon. Member says, there were a redistribution of stations to avoid a repetition of what has happened to Anglia, we should be ensuring that a number of other stations got into the position of Anglia. That is the point which I tried to make plain in my Amendment—if there is a redistribution of stations, as we think there may be, there may be other stations in exactly the same position as Anglia.
I have no doubt at all about that, but the only Amendment here deals with Anglia. There does not seem to be much point in the argument if it does not. I have a great deal of sympathy with the argument, but despite that, there is something in the argument that one cannot go about in a top hat and frock coat if one does not have the resources to go with them, and we also have to be careful about that.
I want more money to go into the small companies, because I am a great believer in the regional influence of these companies on the life of the nation. They ought to be entitled to do two things. They ought to have sufficient resources of their own to make it less necessary for them to lean on the four big companies as much as in the past. The tragedy of independent television is that four companies which ought to be acting as agents have been acting as dictators. That is the main thing which has come out of the Pilkington Report. One of the main duties which we are trying to impose on the Authority in the Bill is that it must become the master of its own house and not a sub-agent of the four big companies as in the past few years. Secondly, the additional resources being placed at the disposal of the smaller companies should enable them to produce better programmes for themselves and they ought to make their programmes appeal not only to their own regions, but to the nation as a whole by being of sufficiently high value.
Therefore, I think that the Postmaster-General's approach to the problem of how to finance the independent television companies is quite right. I have studied the figures he quoted. As I understand them, in 1964, or whenever these proposals are introduced, independent television is likely to receive a return of £15,200,000. Is there any hon. Member who would now like to stand up and say that £15,200,000 is not an adequate return on turnover? I give that opportunity to any Member who feels so. My own view is that it is a handsome return and on that score there is no suggestion that the Postmaster-General's action will cripple or weaken, let alone destroy, any of the companies, notably the big four.
Much has been said about Mr. Norman Collins. If any one man ought to be ashamed of his mathematical miscalculations, it is this fellow. He has confused and conflicted all the issues. I have never been able to understand his mathematics. I go further—they were never expected to be understood. They were intended to confuse and mislead, and they misled some hon. Members opposite—or did they?
I congratulate the Postmaster-General. I do not like congratulating Ministers opposite because they are having an awful time just now and anything said by any of us might be used to their detriment, but I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not mind if I say that in all these negotiations and discussions, even when we have not been given what we considered to be valid points, we have never challenged his accuracy, his honesty or his integrity.
I think that the smaller companies ought to do very nicely. I think that the companies like Anglia and the others in what I call Division II—not the big battalions nor the small ones—will have their interests looked after by the flexibility which this Clause provides. I want to choose my words very carefully. I want this flexibility to be controlled because we do not want people running in every two or three minutes saying that the situation has changed. If the situation changes and it is necessary to have a review of the position, we want it to be a careful one, and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will carry it out in accordance with the promise that he has made.
Some of us have been very badly misrepresented in regard to our approach to this question of extravagant spending by some of these companies. A tremendous amount of money has been spent without the goods produced being of a standard to justify that expenditure. I shall not attempt to justify that expenditure, even for the sake of the workers in this industry, because we have a responsibility to workers in other industries who have to pay for what is produced by independent television. It may be said that independent television is provided free but, in the long run, in fact one pays through the money paid to actors.
To the representatives of the trade unions who claim that the big companies in particular will produce inferior programmes and make use of more mechanical programmes instead of live ones, I say that it is up to the trade unions as much as it is up to us in this Committee to make sure that this kind of thing does not happen. We are now putting the Independent Television Authority in a position to say to a large or small company which does not produce programmes of a high standard that it will not renew that company's contract, and I feel sure that after July, 1964, none of these people will be queueing up to give up their contracts because they are bankrupt or insolvent. This claim is a big bluff, and I hope that the workers in the industry will join us in keeping an eye on the situation. If there is any evidence of inferior programmes being produced, the House of Commons will have to re-establish its authority and see that the Authority uses its powers to do the right thing.
In Standing Committee I took the view that if somebody does not get any money, if he does not handle the lolly, he should not be taxed on it. Taking that view, I could not understand why, if this commission was not received by the companies, they should be expected to pay a levy on it. My difficulty about the commission to be levied has arisen because of the conflict of evidence on this point. My right hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly said that some people say that it is 10 per cent. Some people put it as high as 20 per cent., while others put it at 15 per cent. My estimate is similar to that made by the right hon. Gentleman. I think that it is about 15 per cent, and I take it that that is the maximum figure which the right hon. Gentleman proposes in these Amendments.
Many other points have been raised, and I should dearly like to follow them, but time is moving on and I conclude by saying that we support the reasonable proposals which the right hon. Gentleman has brought to the Committee.
I should like first to thank my hon. Friends and certain hon. Gentlemen opposite for the useful and helpful contributions which they have made to the discussion on these Amendments. I refer in particular to the helpful speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Mr. Shepherd).
I turn without further ado to the question of Anglia Television. I do not attempt to conceal from the Committee that I find this a difficult question. A few days ago I told my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, Central (Mr. Ian Gilmour) that I proposed to listen to what was said in this debate before finally making up my mind on this question; and I can no longer sit on the fence.
There are, I think, two sides to this question, which is very finely balanced. First, there is no doubt that the circumstances of Anglia are unusual. They are unusual in the sense that under the levy a company with an advertising revenue of less than £1½ million will pay no levy at all. There are four companies at the moment which will not pay a brass farthing in levy. With one exception, all the other companies are likely to have revenues of nearly £4 million or more in 1964. I estimate the lowest at about £3¾ million, and the highest at about £14 million.
The one exceptional case which falls into the category of being neither a small company paying no levy, nor a big company paying quite a substantial amount, is Anglia, which is in a peculiar position, and of course the levy will bite on the financial affairs of this company. It is in this peculiar position partly because its costs are not very substantially less than those of the medium-sized companies like Scottish Television, Tyne-Tees, and the rest. On the other hand, its revenue is nothing like as large as some of the medium-sized companies.
To that extent, therefore, it is true that Anglia falls between two stools. It is also true that Anglia's performance in the production of things like serious drama has been extremely good, and has been better than that of most of the regional companies. The company deserves good marks for this. It is indeed an extremely good television contractor.
When one comes to the practical question pinpointed by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman), "How is Anglia likely to fare under the Government's proposals?". I think that we have to consider the position as it is likely to exist in 1964–65, the first year of the levy. It is true, as has been said, that on Anglia's own admission—which I accept as having been provided in good faith—its estimated revenue is £2 million, spending is £l¾ million, leaving a gross profit of £¼ million on which the levy would be £125,000, leaving a profit after levy of £125,000 which I think represents a return on turnover of only 6½ per cent. Although I do not quarrel with or doubt the good faith in which these figures have been supplied, I do not accept them as being very good forecasts.
I do not disagree with any of these detailed figures except the figure of estimated advertising revenue. I must say to the Committee that the estimate of the Government is that the advertising revenue in 1964–65 is much more likely to be about £2·2 million than £2 million, and if that turns out to be the case the profit of Anglia, after the payment of the levy, would be about £278,000, representing a return on turnover of approximately 15 per cent. or 16 per cent.
I think that I ought to make it clear to the Committee that the Government's estimate of Anglia's net increased advertising revenue takes account of two factors. First, it assumes, as the Government have been assuming throughout, that T.A.D. will be recouped; and, secondly, it assumes that if the general margin of increase in advertising revenue is as predicted the advertising revenue will affect Anglia as well as the other companies.
I cannot speak for recent months, but the last information that I had was that Anglia were pretty confident that advertising revenue would take a reasonably good course in the near future. I dislike legislating for a special case which—
I should like to point out to my right hon. Friend that the Anglia estimated figures take this increase into account. The estimated advertising revenue in 1963 is only £1,800,000. My right hon. Friend is putting it up pretty substantially, something like 20 per cent. for 1964–65, if he puts it at £2,200,000.
I do not agree with my hon. Friend. We are now talking of the financial year 1964–65. It is perfectly true that none of these contracts, even if we look at them within the categories of big, medium and small are precisely alike or for that matter, equal in value. I reiterate that Anglia is undoubtedly a special case but it is not the only special case which the Committee and the House of Commons may have to look at in our final consideration of the Bill.
I think that it is important that we should adopt, as far as we can, a consistent line in cases which prove to be of an unusual character. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) asked me whether it was the intention that there should be some, or a good deal perhaps, of financial latitude exercised by the Authority in dealing with new contracts. I hope that I may be permitted at a later stage in our proceedings, either tonight or later this week, to say something in detail on what the Authority and the Government have in mind on that question. When one considers that Anglia is at present—I am dealing now only with that case—paying the Authority a rental of about £200,000 a year, it may well be that if the forecast of Anglia Television proves to be more accurate than I think it will be—if it proves to be right and I prove to be wrong—it may well be that it is here that there might be scope to alleviate its circumstances.
This is a strange argument. These services are let out on an economic basis provided for under the original Act. The right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) will remember that the Authority has to recover the costs and the annual charge must be enough to pay for the running costs and refunding the loan. That is provided for in the original Act. Now we are told that there is to be a departure from that principle because the rental at present provides only for the running costs of the Authority. There is no element of the charge for the use of a monopoly. It is this Bill that is giving the right to impose a levy as a charge for the use of a monopoly. I should like to know if the right hon. Gentleman is departing from the original purpose of the rental for the use of apparatus provided by the Authority.
My right hon. Friend has no intention himself nor has the Authority of taking any course of action which would be outside the legal provisions of the Television Act as amended by this Bill. If the right hon. Gentleman will be patient I shall be very happy to explain what I have been saying in rather obscure language in very simple language at a later stage of our proceedings. I apologise to my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, Central if I have to disappoint him, but I have given this matter my most careful consideration and I think that this is the right course in the circumstances.
If I were satisfied that the figures supplied by Anglia for 1964–65 were likely to prove true, then certainly my disposition would have been to accept the proposal.
In page 10, line 1, leave out from "agent" to end of line 6 and insert:
the amount of any receipt by the programme contractor which represents a payment by the advertiser from which the advertising agent has deducted any amount by way of commission shall be the amount of the payment by the advertiser after the deduction of the commission, so, however, that if the amount so deducted exceeds fifteen per cent. of the payment by the advertiser, the amount of the receipt shall be the amount of that payment less fifteen per cent.
(12) The contracts between the Authority and the various programme contractors shall include such terms as are in the opinion of the Authority necessary or expedient to ensure that, except for deduction of commission by persons acting as advertising agents, the amount of the advertising receipts of a programme contractor is not reduced under arrangements by which any part of the consideration for the insertion of advertisements in programmes provided by the programme contractor is receivable by any person other than the programme contractor, whether that other person is under the control of the programme contractor or not".—[Mr. Bevins.]
In negotiating contracts to replace their contracts with programme contractors which are due to expire on 29th July 1964, the Authority shall do all they can to secure that Wales and Monmouthshire are constituted one programme area, and that Scotland is constituted one programme area.—(Mr. Ness Edwards.)
Yes, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.
The new Clause deals with a subject which has caused a great deal of disappointment, hardship and confusion. It will be understood that we are committed to going over to a system of 625 lines in Band IV and V, and that this transference will occur during the period of these contracts. As these contracts will be let for a period to be covered by this great technical change-over, the Clause proposes to give the Authority power so to order the contracts as to provide for greater viability among contractors and, at the same time, to see that contracts are let in what might be described as more natural areas.
The Clause provides that the Authority will do all it can to secure that Wales and Monmouthshire and Scotland are constituted as indivdual programme areas. In that way people of a like provincial or national character will be catered for by the same station, so that the regional contribution will not be split into two but will cover the whole area.
The way in which the Authority has gone about its task of allocating areas for commercial television has resulted in a great deal of confusion—a great deal of profit on the one hand and a nearness to bankruptcy on the other—among contractors. This confusion can be explained in terms of population coverage. In the London area the contractor has a population coverage of nearly 13 million; in the Midlands area he has one of 8·85 million and in the Manchester area one of 12½ million. The figure for Scottish Television is 3·98 million, TWW, which covers part of Wales and part of the West Country, caters for a population of 329 million, and Southern Television, another artificially cut out piece of the United Kingdom, for a population of 4·27 million.
Below that we come to the extremely difficult allocations which are not viable. The first we heard of was Anglia Television, with a coverage of 2·55 million. Then there was Ulster, with only 1·36 million; South-West—which is also on the verge of bankruptcy—with 1·6 million; the Borders, at Carlisle, with only 0·48 million; north-east Scotland, with 1·42 million; Wales, West and North, with only 1·04 million, and Channel Islands, with only 0·1 million. As a result of this distribution of areas there has been a complete inability on the part of the seven smaller companies to serve the regions in which they function and to make the contributions which they ought to make, while, at the same time, being able to operate as viable economic units.
To the extent that we have these small areas we are bound to have very large areas—large population coverages—to the extent that only four companies cover a vast proportion of our population. They are the people who have a licence to produce money, while there are six other companies which cannot hope to live except through subsidisation by the national network—the four big companies.
The new Clause seeks to ensure that, in negotiating these new contracts, the I.T.A. will have regard, first, to viability and, secondly, to continuous ethical qualities, and that the programme contract will cover the whole area, to the extent that there are identifiable provincial areas.
It suggests that Wales should be treated as a unit. It was a piece of foolishness to give a contract to Wales, West and North, because it was never viable. The Authority was told beforehand that it would not be viable and that it would reach a state of bankruptcy, besides being incapable of serving the purposes which it was intended to serve. We suggested that the matter should have been dealt with quite differently. A separate contract should never have been given for such a small population coverage.
Scotland is in precisely the same position. The sensible thing would have been to treat Scotland as a whole. The licence which Mr. Roy Thompson has to print money could then have been used to cover the whole of Scotland, providing it with a viable programme and having adequate resources to ensure good television and, if necessary, to make a contribution to the United Kingdom network.
It would be equally sensible that Wales should be covered by one network. It might be argued that a television contract confined to the boundaries of Wales would not be viable. I do not know the number of homes in the whole of Wales. But the advice I have had leads me to believe that it would be necessary to examine whether any supporting fringe population should be included to make such a system viable. It has been suggested that the West of England contract should be taken away from the South-West and instead of it being Television West and Wales it should be "Television West", taking over Westward Hoe and going right down to the toe of Cornwall. That would be the natural thing to have happened when the Independent Television Authority was set up, and the transmitter at Wenvoe by being given a rather more precise directional transmission could have served Wales instead of to the South. This is something which requires examination.
I appreciate that there are technical difficulties in the South and round the Bristol Channel and that there are "mush" areas associated with Granada and W.W.N. But we ask that the Authority should approach the problem in this way and give to what would be described by my hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) as an area with a national boundary its own basic commercial television service, no matter how it might have to be supported by the addition of some fringe element to make it viable.
In opposing the Motion moved by the right hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards)—for in effect that is what is achieved by the proposed new Clause on the Notice Paper in my name—I have to repeat a declaration of the rather tenuous interest which I have in the television industry. Some six or seven years ago, when the shares of T.W.W. were brought on the market, my firm acted as brokers. But I wish to emphasise that I have no financial or other interest in the concern whatsoever.
I welcome this opportunity to discuss the proposed new Clause because I believe that this is a matter of prime importance to the commercial television viewers in Wales. In ventilating various viewpoints on the subject, we may find some solution to the difficult situation which has arisen following the virtual failure of Wales West and the North, our newest company. As hon. Members will know, we have at present two companies operating in Wales. One of them is particularly strong. The other is very weak. I fear that the effect of the proposals in the new Clause would be to leave us with two "lame ducks", two weak companies, rather than one strong and one weak as at present.
In Wales we have had the rather salutary experience of seeing Wales West and the North, our newest television company, reach a state of near bankruptcy within 12 or 15 months. It lost £160,000 in the first period of operation. Varied reasons have been given for this apparent failure, some official and some unofficial. The most logical—it was suggested by the right hon. Member for Caerphilly—is the area contracted by W.W.N. was not a viable proposition. But when consider- ing that point we must also consider that the company acquired its contract in the face of considerable competition from other syndicates willing to undertake the contract.
I would go further than the right hon. Member for Caerphilly and suggest that the whole of Wales, even with its viewing population of 2½ million—unfortunately this population is spread thinly in some areas and thickly in others—is not a viable proposition. If that is the case under present circumstances, I do not see how it can possibly become a viable proposition with the new television levy included. Critics of my proposed new Clause may well argue that if the B.B.C. can provide an all-Welsh service why cannot commercial television do the same?
I think that the B.B.C. is well able to cope with the situation, because it is prepared and able to gain on the English "swings" what it may lose on the Welsh "roundabouts". Commercial television has to make ends meet while operating in a much smaller area and with a smaller viewing population figure. These difficulties are best summed up in the words of the commercial television contractor who, hearing the powerful pleas from the thinly populated areas and viewing the lovely hills and vales of Mid-Wales, said, ruefully, "You cannot sell Daz to sheep". That just about sums up the situation. Unless we can provide the thinly populated areas with a service which is paid for by the revenue from the more thickly populated areas, the proposition becomes a very difficult one.
To judge the merit of my suggestion, that Wales and the West of England—the whole of Wales and that portion of the West of England at present looked after by T.W.W.—should form a single contractual area, it is necessary to consider what is required of the commercial television service in those two areas. Primarily it must cater for three sections of the public, the English-speaking and bilingual majority in Wales; the interests of the Welsh speaking minority—which I understand amounts to about 750,000 people—and, thirdly, the specialist nature of the West Country, reflecting, of course, the distinctive history and heritage of that part of Great Britain.
Secondly, the commercial television service must provide occasional programmes of good quality for the whole network. Thirdly, it must provide a suitable service as an alternative to the B.B.C. in Wales. These are heavy and expensive responsibilities and only a company catering for a highly populated area could afford the luxury of providing minority programme interests.
I believe it to be possible for one company to satisfy these various requirements by providing separate transmissions of good and appropriate programmes suitable to individual tastes in the various areas. This might be made more practical if Channel 7, which I understand is available, were available in the future. They would also require the use of the three transmitters which, I understand, are now let to Wales West and the North, and which, ironically, are used at present only for the transmission of Welsh programmes provided by the other service, T.W.W.
If my suggestion is adopted it will, of course, be for the Independent Television Authority to decide which company is to obtain the contract, and also to ensure, by making very definite conditions, that the special requirements of the three sections to which I have referred are suitably looked after. On the one hand we have T.W.W., the older-established company, which already has excellent equipment, specialised knowledge and proved ability and the ability to make profits while operating both in Wales and the West of England. On the other hand, we have, unfortunately, Wales West and the North, which is approaching bankruptcy and has had to cease all production from its studios in Cardiff. It involves, incidentally, the investment of many small investors, 900, many of whom are situated in Wales.
Bearing in mind all this and that a strong Welsh service can come only from a company which has financial stability and resources, the best possible solution to what admittedly is a very difficult problem is some amalgamation, some association, of the interests of the two companies, T.W.W. and W.W.N. I think that would provide a solution to a very difficult problem. It would avoid the duplication of heavy equipment costs and, incidentally, it might provide some hope that those many small investors in W.W.N. could recoup at least some of their investment in future. On those grounds I oppose this new Clause, and I hope that the suggestion I have made will receive the sympathetic consideration of hon. Members on both sides.
I shall have something to say later about the new Clause in the name of the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Box) and what he said in support of it and in opposition to the new Clause the Second Reading of which has been moved by my right hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards).
We started our proceedings this afternoon with what I thought an exceptionally useful and inspiring debate on the whole question of regional provincial contributions in Britain to the variety of television in this country. What we are about now when we consider the position in Wales is related to what we said earlier this afternoon. I remind the House that the Pilkington Report had very much to say about the need to encourage the peripheral areas, particularly national communities such as those of Wales and Scotland, to mobilise their talent and resources in culture and entertainment so as to enable them to make their proper contributions to the British system of television.
During the Second Reading debate and throughout our Committee discussions upstairs we had from both sides of the House views expressed in support of this. Particularly, the Postmaster-General, who is a very proud Lancastrian, made what I thought a fine speech in Committee in favour of this regional encouragement and development. If this is true of the rôle of the traditional English provinces—and I certainly agree that it is—how much more true is it that a distinctive national community such as Wales, with its own culture and language, its own way of life, attitude and temperament, should be enabled to express itself coherently and contribute its best to the British scene?
So far, however, Wales has been denied the means of expressing itself as a community in the sphere of television. It is true that the Government have at last agreed that the B.B.C. should be enabled to establish a unified television service and programme for Wales as a whole and we look forward very much in Wales to that becoming a fact early in 1964. What this Clause asks is that the same policy should be followed in regard to commercial television.
What is the present position regarding commercial television in Wales? For the purpose of commercial T.V., Wales, as my right hon. Friend told us, was cut up into bits and pieces, the most populous areas being tacked on to parts of England with which they have little social or cultural affinity. For instance, the populous parts of North Wales, Deeside and Wrexham, were attached to the Granada empire operating from Manchester, as if that were not large enough already. The even more populous south, Glamorgan, Monmouth and the industrial conurbations spreading from Newport to Swansea, were attached to the West of England. That created a territorial and cultural absurdity which has paid vast dividends, but which many of us think is culturally bankrupt.
The rest of Wales with parts taken away from the rural, sparsely-populated rim of the country, the parts which the tycoons of Manchester and T.W.W. did not want, were rented, as the hon. Member for Cardiff, North reminded us, to a company which, of course, very soon ran into difficulties. I hold no particular brief for the company concerned, but it is well to understand why it has found itself unable to finance or originate programmes on its own account and is now completely at the mercy of the network—the very condition against which the Pilkington Report warned us and against which hon. Members on both sides of the House have protested in our discussions.
This company attempted the impossible. All the populous areas having been attached to the West of England or Manchester, it was left with the rural, sparsely-populated districts. On paper, but only on paper, W.W.N. was given a territory which had a population of a little over 1 million. Actually, because of the overbearing signal strength of adjacent programmes and also because of overlap and "mush", it was not given a population of 1 million. In fact, it had something under 400,000. The set count, which was supposed to be 260,000 in this area, turned out—for a variety of reasons which the company could not be expected to anticipate—to be rather less than 100,000.
The remarkable thing is that, despite all those disadvantages and discouragements, the new company, in its first few months of operation, produced indigenous programmes in both languages which compare very favourably indeed with programmes similarly produced by its neighbours. But in commercial television good programmes are not enough. One must have the population, otherwise one has few advertisers, and those few are unable to pay more than very low rates. That has happened in this case. T.W.W., having attached the "fat" of South Wales to the West of England, is having the best of both worlds. T.W.W. has been getting £160 for 15 seconds of advertising. W.W.N., the rural company, could charge only one-tenth of this, £16. The reason that one company could charge £160 was that within its area were included 1½ million Welsh people who ought to have been in the area of the other company.
What has been the result in terms of programmes and service? T.W.W., with an area extending from Swansea almost to Southampton, has within it two utterly different communities, the West of England and South Wales. The programmes are, therefore, the result of a marriage of incompatibles. Neither community is properly served. There is a hotch-potch of a programme which is uneasily trying to deal with the local interests and needs of two fundamentally different communities. From time to time in the same horizontal programme—there is only one channel—the company is boring and irritating one community after another. The postbag of the company proves this, because it is receiving complaints from the West of England that there is too much Welsh content and complaints from Wales that there is too much about Dartmoor and the West of England.
A famous region such as the West of England, with its rich history and literary tradition, is as much entitled as is Wales to proper treatment through this medium, and in making this plea for fair treatment for Wales I am equally making a plea for proper treatment for the West of England. The suggestion that we can create a monster area stretching practically from Southampton to Holy-head and within that area, through the medium of one centralised company, provide proper programmes for the communities involved is quite absurd.
We have heard that the Welsh language is still spoken by 750,000 of our compatriots. It has a living literature and it is the basis of much of our distinctive crafts, arts and music. But all that T.W.W. is doing in Welsh language programmes is to put over a very few either in the afternoon or in the very late evening, after 11 p.m., when Welsh people, like everybody else, are either at work or have gone to bed. That is not the way to use this marvellous medium to inspire local initiative and to mobilise the talents of a nation so that it can contribute to the common treasury of British culture.
There are two solutions. The interim solution is to enable the peripheral company, W.W.N., to broadcast side by side with T.W.W. in South-East Wales and to delete the Granada overlap in North-East Wales. That is an interim compromise. But the real solution, which was clearly and cogently put forward by my right hon. Friend in moving the new Clause, is to rearrange the programme areas so that Wales is constituted as a unit. That is the natural, reasonable and just thing to do. It has been done by the B.B.C., and our new Clause provides that it ought to be done by the I.T.A. If it is right for the one, then it is right for the other.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, North said that irrespective of whether this is right or desirable, he doubts whether it is practicable, and he doubts whether Wales would be a viable unit. He is the spokesman this evening for T.W.W., which has a population of 3·29 million and a set count of over 650,000. This company last year paid a dividend of 95 per cent. The population of Wales is 2·7 million, not very much less than the population of the area which he is representing, in which the company last year paid this fabulous dividend.
Does the hon. Member say that 27 million as a population base is not enough to sustain a commercial television programme? If he says that—and I took him to say it throughout his speech—why is it that Ulster T.V., with a population of less than half that of Wales, is not only paying its way satisfactorily, but is even producing original programmes of first-class standard, some of which—good luck to them—are already seeping into the network? If 2·7 million is too little, according to his calculation, to sustain a viable commercial programme, why is it that a company of which we hear so much, Anglia, is able to operate quite well, to pay its way and to produce original programmes which cost a lot, including good drama?
The answer is that in the 2½ million viewing population of Wales there is a Welsh-speaking population of 750,000. The B.B.C., with its special arrangements, can lose money in providing a suitable programme. The hon. Member would not suggest that that is a commercial proposition. Does he not agree that the best way to provide a good all-round service for the Welsh-speaking and non-Welsh-speaking in Wales and the West of England is through having a financially strong company?
The hon. Member has not answered my question. If Ulster T.V. is viable on a population base of 13 million, why could not a Welsh T.V. service be viable with double that population? In commercial television population is what counts—the number of sets; that is what attracts the advertisers and that is what enables the contractor to set the rate.
It is not good enough for the hon. Member, especially as a representative of the capital city of Wales, to come to the House to decry the possibility of a commercial television service in Wales when we know that two-thirds of a province—Ulster—is doing quite well and making a contribution to the British system, and that Anglia, with a slightly smaller population, is also successful and is producing its own original drama which is being seen by viewers all over the country.
It will not do to say that all things are possible except in Wales, and the hon. Member is not doing his country and mine a service when he twists the facts and figures which are staring him in the face in order to try to prove that in Wales "it is different". The service can be provided quite well in Wales if we are given the opportunity, and the opportunity should be given by creating a territorial unit by and large, as my right hon. Friend said, inclusive of Wales. Thus, a new company—I do not say any of the existing companies—should be assembled, if possible, and put to work not to seek fantastic dividends, but to give a service through this medium on a commercial level to the people of Wales, and to enable them, in turn, to serve the larger interests of British television.
It would be a healthy thing to join Westward and the West of England proper and set up a proper service for people in the West of England. It is time they had one. It is time their programme was not interrupted by occasional items about Wales in the news and Welsh local discussions. Equally, it is time that the programme going to Wales was not interrupted by local features emanating from the West of England.
I want to put some questions to the Postmaster-General. First, for the period starting 29th July, 1964, will there be contracts based on the re-zoned areas? Secondly, if so, will Wales be substantially or actually constituted as a unit for this purpose? Thirdly, if not, for how long does the right hon. Gentleman think that the present situation in Wales will last? The present situation is one of chaos and incoherence, with the most populous part of Wales a milch cow for the West of England.
I can tell the right hon. Gentleman this. Informed opinion and public opinion in Wales resents the way we are being treated. We had to fight for years to get a B.B.C. service for Wales. How long have we to fight to get proper treatment on this score also? The right hon. Gentleman has often said that he believes in the regional and local contribution. I appeal to him to use Wales as an example of what a local contribution can be at its best.
I find myself in a somewhat strange position this evening in supporting the new Clause in the names of the right hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) and the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) and in almost total disagreement with my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Box), who I often find a charming and persuasive debater but with whom I cannot in any way agree at this time.
I think that I was born either in his constituency, or in a neighbouring constituency, but I have never lived in Wales, though I have a number of connections with it. I have been there often, to both North and South Wales. I represent a constituency in Bristol which receives the programmes of the company which has been much under discussion, though I live elsewhere and never see its programmes. Although I have sometimes broadcast on it, I have never seen myself projected.
A good deal of partisan nonsense has been talked about this from both sides of the House. I can understand the Welsh Members being very keen to put their point of view across. I can also understand that my hon. Friend wishes to have a strong company to broadcast to Wales. I think that he destroyed his case in giving his three points. He said that the objects of this company should be, first, to provide programmes for the whole Welsh interest; secondly, for the Welsh-speaking minority; and then, rather as an afterthought, his third point was to provide programmes for those people in the West Country whom he mentioned as having some special culture of their own.
Indeed they have. It has always seemed to me to be utterly wrong that the City of Bristol, which I regard as being the capital of the West Country, with its interests down almost to Land's End, or as near to the Royal Duchy of Cornwall as we are allowed to go, and also down into Somerset and Wiltshire, should be tied to South Wales, which is utterly different in character. On the other hand, it seems to be true that we should not have seen television in this part of the country if this company had not been called into operation at the time it was. It has done an extremely good job within the limits of what it has been allowed to do.
I think that when the new contracts are let there is a very good case indeed for some realignment of boundaries. The idea of the whole of the Welsh nation being given one company to deal with its affairs, even if it is necessary to drag in a little fringe area in order to make it viable, would be worth exploring. I cannot bear to think of the idea that Bristol should remain for ever tied to South Wales, even though we are to have a grand new road across the Severn. We are quite different from them. We are not very interested in hearing the Welsh language. If our interests in Somersetshire and Gloucestershire are properly looked after and programmes broadcast in the local language of Somersetshire and Gloucestershire, the Welsh will not look at them very much. They will not understand a word of them.
We have these special interests. We want to see in these small companies a little more local interest and more local programmes. They must, therefore, be of a very local character. We should like to see Wales made a viable entity and the West of England, possibly the whole of the West of England, made into another. There are very special difficulties about the company called Westward. It will find itself in these difficulties largely because T.W.W. covers an area which is allegedly West ward's but where it has no powers.
Can my hon. Friend assure us that, if we lop off an area at present accommodated by T.W.W.—the Bristolarea—and put it on to the Westward company, that, in turn, will become a profitable concern? My theory is that, if we lop the profitable areas away, we will have the same situation in the West of England as we are finding with Wales West and the North, where they have had the opportunity but have failed to provide the service or make any money out of it.
I have much sympathy with the hon. Gentleman, but he knows that we get into great difficulties if we have an intervention upon an intervention. I think that we must restrain ourselves.
Perhaps I may continue, Mr. Speaker, and inspire a further intervention during the course of my speech, because I know that the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) is very anxious to be helpful in this.
I realise that there are dangers in messing about with the boundaries. We know that some programme companies are very profitable and some are not. On the other hand, we should not leave ourselves stuck with areas which are, for one reason or another, unacceptable. When the new contracts are let would be an opportunity for looking at this question again.
My hon. Friend suggested that a combination of the Bristol end of T.W.W. and Westward might not be viable. In the present circumstances Westward finds itself hardly in a viable condition. Therefore, surely it is entitled to a little more populace to give it a better chance. I think that the time will come—I am sure my right hon. Friend has these problems very much in mind—when something should be done about this difficulty, and I hope that he will be able to say something helpful, even though he may wish to reject all the Amendments.
I offer my thanks to my right hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) and my hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) for the case they have deployed. Those hon. Members who have listened to the arguments from both sides will agree that they proved their case, but the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Box) has not proved his case. I am speaking as a Welsh Member. Does the hon. Member for Cardiff, North realise what he is saying? It may be true that he believes in commercial television. I do not, but he does. What he is saying to Wales is this, "You can never have commercial television for your country". In other words, he is saying to the Welsh people, "The only service you can have for Wales is that provided by a public authority—the B.B.C."
I hope that this will be noted. It was my view when this matter was under discussion many years ago, but now the hon. Member says that the only way by which we can have a service for Wales is by linking it up with something else, otherwise commercially it is not viable. If it is possible for Ulster, with its population, to have a commercially viable station, I should have thought that Wales, with an even larger population, could have an equally viable one.
I support the Clause moved by my right hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly, because everyone in Wales, whether or not he or she speaks Welsh, wants to preserve the Welsh language. That is common ground between all parties and people in the country. Hon. Members who represent English and Scottish constituencies will, I am sure, agree with this view. I remember a time when I tried to discover how many hon. Members spoke their native tongues. I found that only two hon. Members spoke the Scottish language while 40 spoke Welsh. The Irish have made a big attempt to resurrect their Erse language. We all realise that if one of these languages dies it is impossible to recover it.
We want to preserve the Welsh language, which is now spoken by about ¾ million people. The Minister of Education has accepted a bilingual policy. This was begun, only in recent years, by Mr. George Tomlinson and today where a local education authority thinks that there area sufficient number of Welsh-speaking parents who would like their children to be taught in Welsh up to the age of 11, such teaching in the native tongue may be undertaken.
The Pilkington Report described television as the most pervasive influence in our modern life. Indeed, it is the most decisive. It will set many things, including our standards, for good or ill. Television is an influence in our homes. We do not yet realise just how deep an influence it has. It can be a friend or an enemy of Wales. It can help to preserve the Welsh language or it can kill it. We hope at present to sustain the Welsh language and the number of those who speak it. We are fighting a tough battle.
I hope that the Postmaster-General will accept my right hon. Friend's new Clause and that when the new boundaries are allocated and contracts negotiated he will treat Wales, for the purposes of commercial television, as one programme area with one commercial company. If he does that and a new company appears in 1964 to operate commercial television in Wales—and for all these remarks Monmouthshire is included—we will be able to begin a new chapter in the history of Wales.
Already much has been agreed. In 1964 there will be a separate Welsh service over the B.B.C. That is an important step forward. I remember when a similar request was made for a Welsh programme on sound radio. In the end we got that programme and next year we shall have a separate television service for Wales from the B.B.C.
If the right hon. Gentleman accepts my right hon. Friend's new Clause there will be one programme area for commercial television for the whole of Wales. I have a suggestion to make in the event of this happening, but, before doing so, I wish to pay tribute to the B.B.C., for the people of Wales and those who care for its language and culture—both of which are dependent on its language—owe a debt of gratitude to the B.B.C, I listened to a programme yesterday concerning someone who has made a valuable contribution in broadcasting towards the future of Wales. He is retiring soon and we all know him as Sam Jones.
The suggestion I have is this. Will it be possible, if the new Clause is accepted and we get one commercial company for Wales in 1964, for the Welsh programme company and the B.B.C. either to work or get together? I hope that the Postmaster-General will, if he has the power, include in the contract of the new company an obligation on them to help to preserve and maintain the Welsh language. After all, why should he not do this? If the Minister of Education can oblige local education authorities to go in for Welsh language teaching, why not commercial television, which has a wide influence on children in many ways, an influence which competes with the headmaster?
If this can be done, I ask the B.B.C. and the new Welsh commercial company to agree together to transmit their Welsh programmes at different times of the day. At present the B.B.C.'s daily feature in Welsh is transmitted at 1 p.m.; that is, unless there happens to be something like a Test Match, when it is shoved backwards, as it was today. On such occasions the Welsh feature must take second place.
I, too, enjoy Test Matches and seeing the West Indians play. My remarks also apply to the other companies. T.W.W. put out their Welsh news at a certain time. I merely mention these facts to illustrate the times at which programmes are transmitted. W.W.N, failed, and, presumably, something will have to be done about that. Many people ventured their money—people I know—and many of them had other than commercial motives in mind when they made their investments. They have lost their money. For this reason, I say that something must be done.
Is it not possible, if there are two services in Wales, for them to agree not to overlap their Welsh programmes? Could they not agree to transmit them at different times? This would increase the amount of viewing time available for those wishing to view purely Welsh programmes while not affecting the alternative programmes spoken in English. No one would be denied watching other programmes, and those who do not speak and understand Welsh would be able, if the transmissions were staggered, to switch over to English-speaking programmes.
I hope that the Postmaster-General will agree to accept my right hon. Friend's Clause and my suggestion for urging the two organisations, if we have two, to stagger their Welsh-speaking programmes in this way. Power to do this is already contained in the B.B.C. Charter. In any case, we in the House of Commons decide what that Charter should be. Commercial television is, fortunately—whether or not we agree with the medium—under our control. Since it is already the policy of the Government, the Minister of Education—and I trust that the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs has been consulted on this score—to desire to maintain the Welsh language, we have an obligation to ensure that the legislation we are now passing makes a contribution towards preserving it and does not become its enemy.
I plead with those who are and will be responsible both for the new company's Welsh programme and that transmitted by the B.B.C. to agree on the timing of their programmes in Welsh so that their programmes will not overlap and compete with each other in the Welsh language. I hope that the Postmaster-General will fully consider this matter, will accept my right hon. Friend's Clause and reject that of the hon. Member for Cardiff, North.
I would remind the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) that we said in the second White Paper on Broadcasting—issued, perhaps, a year ago—that the Government had told the two broadcasting authorities that they should co-operate as far as possible in respect of programmes where competition is inappropriate, namely, educational programmes, and religious and Welsh and other language programmes. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that the two authorities have every intention of carrying that co-operation to success.
I have listened to the views expressed on both sides of the House on television for Wales generally. I was not surprised one bit that the views have not been altogether in harmony with each other, but I shall certainly take an early opportunity to convey them to the Authority. Meanwhile, it would be quite wrong for the House to suppose that the Government have been indifferent to, or idle about, the claims of Wales for television services. In fact, on the whole, the Government have been rather liberal-minded in their attitude to television services for Wales.
An example of that attitude is the Government's decision, taken some time ago without any hesitation, to make sure that the Principality should enjoy a self-contained Welsh television service, and that service will, as the right hon. Gentleman rightly said, be in full operation by 1964. That will be a very real advance in the Welsh service, but it is not quite appropriate then to say, by inference, that if the B.B.C. can do this for the Principality as a whole commercial television should do it as well. Complicating factors are involved.
The B.B.C. lives on the basis of licence revenue. A commercial television company lives on the basis of advertising revenue, and if that advertising revenue is inadequate to sustain it the company goes to the wall. We have seen recently what can happen when indifferent judgment leads to the creation of a company, and the giving of a contract to a company, in circumstances that do not allow the companies affairs to be financially successful.
When representations were made to me and to my right hon. Friend the present Home Secretary, when he was Minister for Welsh Affairs, we were both deeply sympathetic to the needs of the Welsh people, and especially to the views of members of the Welsh universities and educational establishments who emphasised, at very natural length, that Wales should have more language programmes and should enjoy more distinctively Welsh cultural programmes. After a good deal of consideration, we decided to give our moral backing to the Authority in giving out this contract.
The hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) suggested in the Standing Committee that the solution to these difficulties probably lay in allocating the V.H.F. Channel 7 so that the Wales West and North Company could operate in the south as well as in the north and in the west. That has been mentioned to me informally by the acting chairman of the Authority, and the Authority is at present considering that matter—and, into the bargain, is considering the whole question of the future pattern of contracts in Wales.
I want to tread carefully here. The position is not as simple as some hon. Members may suppose. It seems quite conceivable that if we were to say that the company in North Wales and the west is not viable at present, the way to make it viable is to allow it to operate in the more prosperous, or more thickly-populated, areas of South Wales, and that would do the trick.
I am not sure that it necessarily would. It could well happen that the company might not succeed in increasing its advertising revenue substantially. It might very easily happen that its costs, and especially its programme costs, would rise substantially because, if it were in competition in South Wales with T.W.W., one could hardly reasonably expect T.W.W. to supply programmes to a company that was in competition with it. We therefore have to tread this path rather carefully.
It has always been the situation that the allocation of contracts is a matter essentially for the Authority and not for the Government, and it is undesirable to lay down in a Bill hard-and-fast provisions of this kind. I do not for a moment say that I disagree with the right hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards), but this is not my responsibility, and it would be wrong to fetter in advance of the date the circumstances, and the judgment, of the I.T.A.
It is quite true that Wales, like Scotland, is a separate nation and presents a special case for consideration but, with the advent of U.H.F. transmissions, the difficulties that have arisen in the past, particularly in Wales, where T.W.W. covers South Wales and part of the south-west of England, might be more easily overcome, but all sorts of considerations arise here, and we must leave it to the Authority to determine how they should be dealt with when the time comes.
I add that I have, of course, taken the opportunity of seeking the views of the Authority on this new Clause, and the form of words suggested. The Authority has indicated to me, quite naturally, that there are also the technical facts of life and that, on the present V.H.F. arrangements, the South Wales station must also cover Bristol and several parts of England to the south of the Bristol Channel. The Authority has had to resort to the compromise of one mixed company; T.W.W. which can fully implement its obligations to its Welsh audiences and its West Country audiences.
The more I think of an all-Welsh television service the more I realise this is a difficult problem, the solution of which, must depend on technical factors undetermined as yet. These factors limit what the Authority can do in future and, as must always be the case with a self-supporting service, there are considerations of the financial possibilities of an all-Welsh service. The Authority concludes that in view of all the uncertainties existing about the future it would not wish to have its right to decide on what seems to be the most appropriate contracting arrangements for Wales circumscribed by the obligation that this Amendment would impose.
With respect, I think that in the circumstances now existing that is a perfectly understandable view for the Authority to take, but, having said that, I would add that what has been said today will be helpful both to the Authority and to me. When the time conies for the making of decisions, I shall certaintly not feel in any way inhibited from talking with the Authority, informally or otherwise, in order to see that the best and most sensible course is pursued.
I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.
I am sure the House will recognise that this proposal is very much a second best. We had hoped to make more constructive proposals for a National Television Council, but we recognise that that would go beyond the scope of the Bill. We have felt nevertheless that we ought to make the proposals as far as the Bill allowed us to make them. We recognise that in doing this we are going against the Pilkington Committee which examined representations made to it suggesting that an approach of this kind should be made to the problem. The Pilkington Committee rejected those representations.
I do not wish to pursue that matter very far, but I should like to say why we, in turn, reject the conclusions of the Pilkington Committee. The Committee said, in short, that if we had any such body as is proposed in this new Clause it would reduce the status of the public corporation and would raise doubts as to where the responsibility lay. I feel that both of these conclusions are irrelevant to the proposal which we are now discussing.
I do not think that any machinery to allow representations to be effectively considered in this way derogates from the status of the public corporation. One of the disappointing things over the past years has been lack of originality and initiative by the Government in considering consumer representation in connection with public corporations. This was one of the areas in which one would have expected action from the present Administration. It has been disappointing that we have had none.
I submit that to allow for representation and the consideration of the point of view of the consumer in no way derogates from the status of the corporation and in no way allows dubiety about where responsibility lies. All this is very relevant to the Pilkington Report. That Committee, by its very nature, allowed a large number of representative bodies to make representations which considerably affected the Committee in some of its conclusions. I am certain that the Postmaster-General realises that it would have been far better for everyone concerned if those representations could have been made before that Committee was first assembled, and could have been considered by the Authority. This is why we propose that the right hon. Gentleman should have powers to establish a general advisory committee and that committee should be allowed to report to the House.
It is important to recall that this was proposed to the Pilkington Committee by the Radio and Television Safeguards Committee, because that Committee represents those who are engaged in the industry. This means, therefore, that a proposal of the kind made in the new Clause would not cause difficulty with those employed in the industry. On the contrary, they welcome it.
An announcement was made today about the Press Council and I noticed that Mr. George Murray also supported the initiative which we are taking here. When he addressed a conference in the spring he suggested that there should be some committee with power to deal with complaints against radio and television on some such lines as the Press Council. It is opportune that we should be discussing this proposal today because the Press is in a position not dissimilar from that of television. The Press recognises that some such machinery as this would be of advantage to it. In the same way, it would be of advantage to television.
I am one of those who take the view that we have to be realistic about the responsibilities of the House. This proposal would provide admirable machinery to enable the House to discharge its responsibilities. I think that we all recognise today that many of the present difficulties are caused because people feel that they must make representations to Members of Parliament. Hon. Members send the representations on to the Postmaster-General, who acts as a postbox, and they go on to the Authority and then are probably lost. These representations are far too diverse and scattered. They would not all be complaints. There are many matters which a committee of the kind we propose would consider quite apart from complaints. The committee would consider constructive matters affecting television and it would be far better that they should be considered by a body like this and then by Parliament after receiving that body's report.
This is an important proposal and, as I have said, it is significant that the Press should be announcing today the steps which it is taking. Television should run in line with the Press. It is important that the responsibility which the Authority has recognised it owes to the public should be given an effective form so that representation can be made and be properly considered while at the same time the ultimate authority of the House is recognised. Representations and proposals would be considered by this proposed committee which would also consider what action the Authority had taken and then would report to the House, so that we here, if we so wished, could consider the matter further. In this way there would be some proper accountability.
This is a problem which affects all national corporations and which applies equally to the B.B.C. It is only because of the difficulty of framing a new Clause which does not go outside the purpose of the Bill that we are limited in this approach and in trying to solve this perplexing problem of providing for orderly consideration of complaints and proposals coming from the consuming public. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate the importance of this and of at any rate making a beginning by accepting the new Clause.
I should like to support my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) and to emphasise what he has said about the accountability of the various State corporations, including I.T.A. We have the very paradoxical situation that it is sometimes more difficult to raise matters of public concern, and more difficult for a Member of Parliament to raise them when he is dealing with State corporations than when he is dealing with private industry. With the exception of the right hon. Gentleman's Department, where he is still subject to Parliamentary Question, we are often in considerable difficulty in bringing matters to the attention of the various State corporations.
I should be out of order if I went into details about the difficulties which hon. Members have faced, for example, with the British Transport Commission, but it will be within the recollection of the Postmaster-General that in the case of the I.T.A., and in connection with abuses by advertisers in particular, it has often been necessary for Members of Parliament to employ all kinds of devious means to get their Questions past the Table. They have sometimes also had to stretch the rules of order by asking supplementary questions quite wide of the original context of the Question to put the point to the Postmaster-General.
There have been cases when back benchers have had to wage campaigns about a category of advertisement, or about a particular advertisement. The Postmaster-General may remember the campaigns about some toothpaste advertising some months ago. These campaigns have been necessary before I.T.A. has taken action. This is an unsatisfactory situation, and it would be a very substantial improvement if the Postmaster-General would agree to set up an advisory committee of the kind suggested by this Clause, to which body representations could be made not only about the contents of television advertising but about programmes. From time to time, at Question Time and on other occasions in the House, comments have been made about television programmes and points raised by consumers have been drawn to the attention of the House. All this could be dealt with much more satisfactorily by an advisory committee of the kind suggested.
I support my hon. Friend in his plea that if a body of this sort were set up, the consumer should be adequately represented on it. At a later stage I understand that we are to have an opportunity of discussing consumer representation on a committee dealing specifically with advertising. I am a little pessimistic about the possibility of the voice of the consumer being heard effectively by I.T.A. and really producing results while we have the present structure, when in effect the finances of the programmes are derived exclusively from advertising, when the programme contractor is dependent on the advertiser and his main motive is to produce a programme which will get a high T.A.M. rating, thus resulting in a satisfactorily profitable advertising revenue.
The hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Shepherd) discussed the possibility of improving programmes, and I thought to myself: This is all very fine, but it is not much more than pious wishful thinking when we have the main structure of the industry as it now is, and where, obviously, there is very little motive in the minds of the programme contractors except to get a high T.A.M. rating which is sometimes achieved by exhibiting the least common denominator programme in order to get the highest amount of advertising revenue. In this situation it is more important than ever that there should be an effective watchdog body on which consumers are represented to keep an eye on the standards of programmes as well as the other matters that I have mentioned.
I urge that a council of the kind suggested in the Clause should be set up and should lay copies of its report before Parliament, because it is unsatisfactory that we should not be given a regular and statutory right to discuss the affairs of the commercial television industry once a year in this House.
For those reasons, I support the Clause.
I wonder whether my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) correctly interpreted the Pilkington Committee's Report. He said that the Pilkington Committee was not in favour of some such general
advisory council. In paragraph 640, the Committee definitely said:
We are surprised that the Authority has not appointed a General Advisory Council.
Towards the end of the paragraph, referring to the B.B.C.'s General Advisory Council, the Report says:
We now recommend that the Authority be required to appoint a similar body.
I do not know what my hon. Friend meant when he said that the Pilkington Committee was not in favour of a body such as is proposed in the Clause. I should have thought that the paragraph from which I have just quoted gave a general impression that the Pilkington Committee would, at any rate, be sympathetic to such a body, if no more.
I was dealing with the part of the Pilkington Report which deals with the proposals made by the Radio and Television Safeguards Committee. I was making proposals in the context in which we made our original proposals, which would have gone beyond the scope of the Bill, indicating that although we were limited by the Bill, we wished to establish a committee which would have powers as full as this Bill would grant to such a committee.
I hope I may take it that my hon. Friend would agree that the Pilkington Report, in the paragraph which I have quoted, would at least be thoroughly sympathetic to the sort of body which he is proposing. I will not read any more from that paragraph. It is a very strongly worded part of the Report, and I hope that we may call it in aid of our proposed Clause, instead of thinking that we have any reason to apologise for introducing it in spite of the Pilkington Report.
The reason that I particularly support the Clause is this. I do not intend to rehearse all the complaints that I have made about this Authority over the years, but I say once again that the task of making complaints about this body is difficult when there is no body to which one can go as a court of appeal, and there is no one with any influence on the Independent Television Authority whom one can win over to one's side.
When I have had to make representations they have always been courteously received. I could never grumble on that score. Indeed, the Chairman and the Director-General have been willing to see Members of Parliament about their complaints. But if they turn one down, there is very little more that one can do. There is no body to which one can turn and to which one can make the request, "Will you support me against the I.T.A. as a more vocal expression of general viewer interest?"
This is made worse for two reasons. First, it is impossible to guarantee that every year without fail we shall have in the House of Commons an inquest on the last year's working of I.T.A. We cannot guarantee that a day will be set aside every year for this purpose. We have never had such a debate since 1954. We have never been able to air our views here.
The other reason which makes it the more urgent to appoint such a body as is proposed in the Clause is that if one looks at the work of the Pilkington Committee one realises the abuses which can creep into this business and which need public attention. I want to take a specific example of the sort of thing which such an advisory committee could have stopped long before it reached the proportions that are revealed in the Pilkington Report.
There was a lot of complaint about the way in which violence was presented on television. The Pilkington Committee examined this question and the point of view taken by the Authority. It was quite incredible. According to the Pilkington Committee, the Authority had never got beyond the point of thinking that because violence occurred in the classics, in Greek plays and in Shakespeare, therefore the kind of violence presented on independent television was justified.
This is not what I say. It is what the Pilkington Committee said. I will read from paragraph 170:
The Authority's view seems to be that since violence appears in great art (the classical Greek drama, Elizabethan drama, the novel) and is acceptable there, so must it be acceptable in the Westerns and crime serials an television".
The Pilkington Committee had to spend considerable time pointing out to Sir Robert Fraser and the public in general that the criterion was not just the amount of violence connected with a subject. It said:
The test was not, therefore, whether a play or story contained violence; it was rather its values—the moral values implicit in its presentation.
It had to take the Authority publicly to task on an issue as simple as that.
If we had had the sort of general advisory committee which is proposed here, it would have been the arena in which that clash of view about the presentation of violence could have been hammered out years ago, where the Authority could have been taken beyond its simple acceptance of a rather naïve approach to the presentation of violence on television, and by which we should probably have got the abuse cleared up and out of the way long before the Pilkington Committee sat. That is the sort of thing one has in mind. Again and again, throughout the hearings of the Pilkington Committee, it was clear that a general advisory committee could help in that way.
There is, and necessarily will be, a certain amount of difference of opinion about the way an Authority like this works. It is much better not to let the criticism be bottled up, not to let it reach the point of having to break out here or in new Pilkington committees. It is far better to have the subject continually watched. There is nothing for the Authority to be afraid of in having a watchdog at its side. Other bodies have them. Let there be this watchdog which can generally consider all these matters and advise as time goes on.
I strongly support the new Clause. I was extremely surprised to find that the Pilkington Committee, in its Report, rather discouraged the idea of a consumers' council. I agree that that, of course, is a bigger proposition, but I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman) is quite right when he says that, in the mind of the Pilkington Committee, there was the thought that it would probably be better to debate these matters fully each year on a report.
In paragraph 427 of its Report, the Pilkington Committee said:
Yet the fact that the proposal has been made emphasises the need for each of the two broadcasting authorities to use all the means at its disposal to answer for the conduct of its services. Each should welcome
and, indeed, invite criticism, the more so since (as we have noted each is exempt from the commercial consequences of a failure to realise the purposes of broadcasting…More particularly, the broadcasting authorities' annual reports made to the Postmaster-General and presented to Parliament should be the occasion for an explanation of policy and for a revealing examination of criticisms.
That has not been accepted by the Postmaster-General. We cannot discuss individual criticisms, and we are in the difficulty of trying to raise matters by Parliamentary Question. This is by no means easy. I admit that I have myself put Questions to the Postmaster-General, having got them beyond the Table, and, no doubt, he will say that, for instance, I have been able to voice my criticisms about violence in "Oliver Twist" on television and other matters. But is this really satisfactory or scientific?
I think that the Postmaster-General admitted in Committee that he could not watch television very often and he had to rely upon other people. We ought to have a better system than that or the mere possibility of trying, in an indirect and difficult way, to raise criticisms by Questions in the House. We need a more scientific method of determining what is good and what is bad in television broadcasting.
Clause 2 provides that the Authority shall
draw up, and from time to time review, a code giving guidance as to the rules to be observed in regard to the showing of violence, particularly when large numbers of children and young persons may be expected to be watching the programmes.
The B.B.C. has a code for violence, as is fully reported by the Pilkington Committee. It is a long and detailed code, but any producer, even with such a code, could introduce any amount of violence if he wanted it, provided that he could prove that it was necessary to the main theme or essential to the purpose of his production. There is a good deal of dissatisfaction today even where there is a code of practice because we have not yet found the right method of assessing what is good and what is bad and of assessing properly what people think.
The Viewers' and Listeners' Association, which gave evidence to the Pilkington Committee, published a very interesting pamphlet in which it argued that, after a careful study of a large number of films of violence, crime, comedy, and so forth, it was able to assess what it regarded as good and as bad. It paid particular attention to Western films. But its conclusion—I think that it could come to no other conclusion—was that there should be some body which could study the effect of television programmes and advise the Postmaster-General.
I am not suggesting, and I do not think that anyone is suggesting, that there should be a committee which interferes with the broadcasting authorities. It should be a committee able to study these questions and report to the Postmaster-General upon the working of the Bill. There will have to be some very careful study of how matters proceed, even if the Bill becomes law with all the safeguards which we want. The B.B.C. has its code, and, by jingo, it is subject to a good deal of criticism as a broadcasting authority. If we started talking about what should be done with, for instance, "That Was The Week That Was", we should run into considerable difficulties. The committee which we propose should be an advisory body, in the main representing consumer interests throughout the country, representing parents, representing those who understand what is dangerous or harmful to children, and so on.
I remind the House of what the new Clause says—that the
council so appointed shall make to the Postmaster General each year a report of its proceedings and as soon as may be after receiving any such report, the Postmaster General shall lay copies of the report before Parliament.
I know that the right hon. Gentleman will seriously consider the feeling of dissatisfaction there is among many people, and the fact that there is a good deal of feeling that all is not right with the broadcasting services, and that the Bill will not make them any better unless there be some greater safeguard. People feel that a great deal of moral and spiritual damage is done by these bodies, and will be done unless there is a greater study, and a greater advisory power available to advise the Postmaster-General. I know that he is sensitive to criticism which is made about this service, and I am certain that as Minister he would do what he could to repair any damage he thought might have been done. I am certain of that.
Therefore, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will favourably consider the establishment of some kind of advisory body, even if not in this form, a body which the general public can feel is outside the broadcasting authorities and studying these things, and to which those who feel dissatisfied can write, a body which they can approach to state their views, and through which the Postmaster-General may get a more scientific analysis of the feelings of the people and also an assessment of the damage which is likely to be caused.
I did not hear all but I heard most of the horn. Gentleman's speech and I heard it with some sympathy. We have in the newspaper industry a Press Council and we welcome the announcement which has been made today about that, for the old Press Council was a useless body; perhaps this new one will be effective.
I do not think, however, that the television industry is really on all fours with the newspaper industry. After all, one has commercial control by the Independent Television Authority, and control by the British Broadcasting Corporation, and Parliament has its own ways of expressing its views to both those authorities. The Press to some extent is uncontrolled. Small people have very little chance to make their views known to the Press. They can write to a paper, but that does not do much good.
The broadcasting world is not on all fours with the Press, and I do not think the sort of council suggested for broadcasting would do much good. I think that it would be just another body, a rather vague body, without very much power.
I will not detain the House for more than a few moments, but it is perhaps only right that I should deal with one or two of the points which have been raised.
I thought that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Swindon (Mr. F. Noel-Baker) was feeling a little sorry for himself about Parliamentary Questions. I should have thought, despite the many formidable difficulties about asking Questions in this Chamber, that most hon. Members were conspicuously successful in asking them. Sometimes difficulty arises when it comes to giving an answer.
I agree entirely with my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke) that the position of television and the Press Council is rather different, in the sense that it is generally possible for a Member somehow or another to ask a Parliamentary Question or to write to the Postmaster-General if he has a particular complaint. To my knowledge many Members do this, such as the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman), about the I.T.A. and the B.B.C. from time to time. Apart from the differences between the Press and television, I see some very real practical difficulties to which I will refer in a moment.
However, on the point made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northfield, I hate to cross swords with him, and I am not complaining about his quotation from the Pilkington Committee, but I would read out what actually was said by the Committee in paragraph 169. Referring to Sir Robert Fraser, the Director-General of the I.T.A., the Committee said:
He cited, in particular, the epics and drama of classical Greece, and Shakespearean tragedies and histories. The test was not, therefore, whether a play or story contained violence; it was rather its values—the moral values implicit in its presentation. Particular classes of programme must not therefore be dismissed en bloc; each programme must be examined on its merits and one must ask if there was humanity in it.
Those were the words attributed to Sir Robert Fraser. Then the Pilkington Committee construed those remarks to mean this:
The Authority's view seems to be that since violence appears in great art (the classical Greek drama, Elizabethan drama, the novel) and is acceptable there, so must it be as acceptable in the Westerns and crime serials on television.
Sir Robert Fraser did not say anything of the sort, nor did he imply anything of the kind. That was a really shocking misconstruction of what Sir Robert said.
Coming on to this question of violence, we have written into this Bill, with the approval of both sides of the House, a provision that the Authority shall improvise a code covering violence, especially for programmes which are seen by young children. I am bound to say that if we had a consumers council or the sort of advisory council referred to in the new Clause, I really do not see what that council could do which the Authority itself cannot do.
The hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. V. Yates) has spoken about a body such as this deciding, presumably after a lot of monitoring or a good deal of research, what the effects of television are and particularly what the effects of violence are, but, with great respect, who are these people to make these decisions? How do they decide? Having decided, they come to the Postmaster-General with conclusions which may be wholly baseless, and then invite me, as Postmaster-General, to go to the Authority and tell the Authority, in effect, that its policy with regard to violence, or whatever it may be, is wrong.
Surely, on that argument, all the advisory bodies which advise different Government Departments already would be done away with. Does the right hon. Gentleman not know that for years the Minister of Pensions has had an advisory council and that most of his legislation in the past has been based on its advice?
I do not dissent from that for one moment. Indeed, I agree with it, and it is, of course, the case that the B.B.C. has a general advisory council. It is also the case that we have written into the Bill a provision allowing the Authority to appoint a general advisory council.
Perhaps I did not put it very happily before, but what I am trying to say is this. I do not want, as Postmaster-General, to appoint a council with I do not know what terms of reference but, presumably, with power on its own initiative to put reports to the Postmaster-general, the Postmaster-General in turn to discuss its reports and recommendations with the Authority, and for those reports to be debated annually in Parliament. I feel strongly that if we were to have a system of that sort it would certainly detract from the responsibility of the Authority and I should become an active intervener in the affairs of Independent Television. I really do not think that would be right. This is an entirely separate proposition from a general advisory committee.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) was perfectly right when he said earlier that the Pilkington Committee came down against the idea of a broadcasting consumers' council, and if the hon. Gentleman would care to look at paragraph 426 he would see the reasons which influenced the Pilkington Committee in that direction.
While there may be and probably is a good case for a general advisory council to the Authority, I do not think that there is a strong case for having a body of that sort advising the Postmaster-General and he in turn taking certain action vis-à-visthe Authority. I realise that both the hon. Member and other hon. Members opposite are most keen to have an opportunity not only of asking Parliamentary Questions and that sort of thing, but also of debating the state of television more regularly. I undertook in Standing Committee to discuss this with the Leader of the House. We have started those discussions, but I am not yet in a position to say anything definite to hon. Members opposite. Directly I am, I will communicate with the hon. Member.
The right hon. Gentleman has made the most important statement that he sees merit in a general advisory council advising the I.T.A. rather than himself. There are arguments both ways, but, having made this important statement, can he say whether he is in a position to say that he will proceed with the idea of setting up a general advisory council to advise the I.T.A.?
There is a provision in the Bill which allows the Authority, if it so desires, to set up such a committee. My understanding is that so far no decision has been taken, but my surmise is that a decision will be taken one way or the other—and I hope one way—within about a month or so.
We have not had a satisfactory reply from the Postmaster-General, and I should only like to emphasise some of the ways in which it was unsatisfactory.
We do not dispute that hon. Members could ask Parliamentary Questions. We are saying that there are many things for which Parliamentary Questions are not appropriate. It would be far better if we knew that these matters were first considered by such a council which felt that they were matters which ought to be discussed on the Floor of the House. That would be much better than the present provision.
I emphatically agree that there is not an exact parallel with the Press, but we have to take note of what the Press is doing in similar circumstances. The Press has recently been the subject of much criticism and it is not surprising in the light of those criticisms that it should have taken a decision about the Press Council. When criticisms are made, it is far better to provide the forum where they can be discussed. Criticisms which are wounding and perhaps unjustified might be lost in such procedures, but those with point are more likely to be constructively considered than when they are made outside.
The Postmaster-General asked what such a body could do that the Authority could not do. The answer to that rhetorical question is the Pilkington Report. There has been a great change in commercial television since the Pilkington Report. I am not casting reflections on the Authority, but we have to come to conclusions, and the conclusion which I have reached is that there was no machinery outside the Authority properly to inform it about the effect of its judgments on the programmes which it provided. I do not want to wait for another Pilkington Report and I should like the Government to learn the salutary lesson.
We leave the membership of the Council entirely in the hands of the Postmaster-General. I should like to
When the right hon. Gentleman shows a certain allergy towards such an advisory committee I remind him that almost every Department shows a similar allergy. But we have to recognise that we have considerably extended the scope of public responsibility and we must not lose any opportunity for providing for a democratic check. While I emphasise the difference from the Press, I would say that such a body might not be more democratic than the Press, for we can set up public authorities as divorced from public opinion as any private institution might be. I am very conscious of this, and I am trying to provide a proper means of communication. In the light of what was said in the Pilkington Report and what has happened subsequently, there is an overwhelming case for providing machinery such as this to enable representations to be made and calmly considered and effectively dealt with.
The right hon. Gentleman said that discussions with the Leader of the House were proceeding, but I do not think that that will meet the problem. Unless the right hon. Gentleman is able to give us an absolute assurance that he will accept the new Clause or its principle, I must advise my hon. Friends to divide the House in its support.
|Division No. 141.]||AYES||[7.57 p.m.|
|Ainsley, William||Callaghan, James||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Carmichael, Neil||Forman, J. C.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Castle, Mrs. Barbara||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)|
|Awbery, Stan (Bristol, Central)||Chapman, Donald||Galpern, Sir Myer|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Collick, Percy||Gourlay, Harry|
|Baird, John||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)|
|Barnett, Guy||Dalyell, Tam||Griffiths, W. (Exchange)|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Gunter, Ray|
|Bence, Cyril||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)|
|Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Deer, George||Hamilton, William (West Fife)|
|Benson, Sir George||Donnelly, Desmond||Hannan, William|
|Blackburn, F.||Duffy, A. E. P.||Harper, Joseph|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W.(Leics, S.W.)||Edelman, Maurice||Hart, Mrs. Judith|
|Bowles, Frank||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Hayman, F. H.|
|Boyden, James||Edwards, Walter (Stepney)||Healey, Denis|
|Bradley, Tom||Evans, Albert||Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur(Rwly Regis)|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Fernyhough, E.||Herbison, Miss Margaret|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Finch, Harold||Hill, J. (Midlothian)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Fitch, Alan||Hilton, A. V.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Foot, Dingle (Ipswich)||Holman, Percy|
|Houghton, Douglas||Milne, Edward||Small, William|
|Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Mitchison, G. R.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Moody, A. S.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Moyle, Arthur||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Hunter, A. E.||Neal, Harold||Steele, Thomas|
|Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Hynd, John (Attercliffe)||O'Malley, B. K.||Stones, William|
|Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Oswald, Thomas||Swain, Thomas|
|Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Padley, W. E.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas||Paget, R. T.||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Parker, John||Thornton, Ernest|
|Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Parkin, B. T.||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Kelley, Richard||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Tomney, Frank|
|Kenyon, Clifford||Pentland, Norman||Wade, Donald|
|Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Prentice, R. E.||Warbey, William|
|King, Dr. Horace||Probert, Arthur||Watkins, Tudor|
|Lawson, George||Proctor, W. T.||Weitzman, David|
|Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Rankin, John||Whitlock, William|
|Lipton, Marcus||Redhead, E. C.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Loughlin, Charles||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Wiliey, Frederick|
|Lubbock, Eric||Robertson, John (Paisley)||Williams, LI. (Abertillery)|
|McBride, N.||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|MacDermot, Niall||Rodgers, W. T. (Stockton)||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|McKay, John (Wallsend)||Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Royle, Charles (Salford, West)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Short, Edward||Woof, Robert|
|Mallalieu, J.P.W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Manuel, Archie||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Zilliacus, K.|
|Mapp, Charles||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Mason, Roy||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Millan, Bruce||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)||Mr. Charles A. Howell and Mr. Grey.|
|Ashton, Sir Hubert||Farey-Jones, F. W.||Leavey, J. A.|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Farr, John||Leburn, Gilmour|
|Awdry, Daniel (Chippenham)||Fell, Anthony||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Balniel, Lord||Finlay, Graeme||Lilley, F. J. P.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Lindsay, Sir Martin|
|Barter, John||Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Linstead, Sir Hugh|
|Batsford, Brian||Freeth, Denzil||Litchfield, Capt. John|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey(Sut'nC'dfield)|
|Bell, Ronald||Gammans, Lady||Loveya, Walter H.|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm)||Gardner, Edward||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn|
|Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald||George, Sir John (Pollok)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Biffen, John||Gibson-Watt, David||McAdden, Sir Stephen|
|Bingham, R. M.||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, Central)||MacArthur, Ian|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Glover, Sir Douglas||McLaren, Martin|
|Bishop, F. P.||Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Godber, Rt. Hon. J. B.||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Gower, Raymond||Maddan, Martin|
|Box, Donald||Green, Alan||Maitland, Sir John|
|Boyle, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Gresham Cooke, R.||Marshall, Sir Douglas|
|Braine, Bernard||Gurden, Harold||Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)|
|Brewis, John||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Mawby, Ray|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.|
|Bryan, Paul||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Mills, Stratton|
|Bullard, Denys||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Burden, F. A.||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||More, Jasper (Ludlow)|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Nabarro, Sir Gerald|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Hirst, Geoffrey||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey|
|Chataway, Christopher||Hobson, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Oakshott, Sir Hendrie|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, s.)||Holland, Philip||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence(Portsmth, W.)||Hollingworth, John||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Cleaver, Leonard||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P.||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)|
|Cooke, Robert||Howard, John (Southampton, Test)||Page, John (Harrow, West)|
|Cooper, A. E.||Hughes-Young, Michael||Page, Graham (Crosby)|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Hulbert, Sir Norman||Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)|
|Corfield, F. V.||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Coulson, Michael||Iremonger, T. L.||Peel, John|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Percival, Ian|
|Critchley, Julian||James, David||Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Pilkington, Sir Richard|
|Curran, Charles||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Pitman, Sir James|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Pott, Percivall|
|Deedes, Rt. Hon. W. F.||Jones, Arthur (Northants,S.)||Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Jones, Rt. Hn. Aubrey (Hall Green)||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.||Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho|
|Drayson,G. B.||Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Proudfoot, Wilfred|
|du Cann, Edward||Kershaw, Anthony||Quennell, Miss J, M.|
|Eden, Sir John||Lambton, Viscount||Rawlinson, Sir Peter|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Leather, Sir Edwin||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin|
|Rees-Davies, W. R.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm||Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis|
|Renton, Rt. Hon. David||Storey, Sir Samuel||Wakefield, Sir Wavell|
|Ridsdale, Julian||Studholme, Sir Henry||Walker, Peter|
|Robson Brown, Sir William||Talbot, John E.||Wall, Patrick|
|Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)||Whitelaw, William|
|Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Russell, Ronald||Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|St. Clair, M.||Temple, John M.||Wise, A. R.|
|Scott-Hopkins, James||Thompson, Sir Kenneth (Walton)||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Sharples, Richard||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Shaw, M.||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)||Woollam, John|
|Shepherd, William||Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon||Worsley, Marcus|
|Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Smithers, Peter||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Smyth, Rt. Hon. Brig. Sir John||van Straubenzee, W. R.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Speir, Rupert||Vane, W. M. F.||Mr. Rees and|
|Stodart, J. A.||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Mr. Pym.|
I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.
The purpose of this new Clause is to provide a quota of 30 per cent. for British films. The quota may appear rather low, but it is a figure which we propose on advice. We purposely put it on the low side, hoping that this would make it more attractive to the Government.
There is no dispute about the principle here. It is laid down in the original Act that a proper proportion of recorded and other matters of British origin and British performance should be included in programmes. We raised the general question of the quota during our discussions in Standing Committee. We suggested a quota of 90 per cent., but we acknowledged at the same time the good record of both the B.B.C. and the I.T.V. in this connection. We acknowledged that they could claim quotas of 86 and 85 per cent.
It was clear from our discussions on the general issue that this was particularly important with regard to films, and that is why we are returning to the issue by way of this new Clause. The Assistant Postmaster-General relied on the argument that this affected only old films, and he seemed to be not very interested in whether the old films were American or British. We do not accept that, but I think I said then that even if we were considering old films we should see that a proper proportion of them were British.
What we are trying to cover here are films specially made for television, and feature films. I do not want to deploy the argument at length, because this matter was fully discussed in Standing Committee. I merely wish to emphasise two essential points in the argument. During our Committee proceedings a good deal was said about exports. In many cases exports depend on having a good home market. If we wish to promote the export of British films for television—which, I think, we all ought to do—we ought to do all that we can to safeguard the home market for these films.
This is a very good argument in support of the Clause. I think that we should take every opportunity that we can to export British films which may be used in television, particularly in many of the newly emergent countries of the Commonwealth, but to do this we must support the industry in every way that we can.
We are dealing here only with films, and the hon. Gentleman can come to his own conclusion. We are suggesting a quota of 30 per cent. I gave some illustrative figures, taken from the T.V. Times and the Radio Times, of the impact of American films on particular peak viewing hours. The fact that we are here suggesting a figure of 30 per cent. shows that this is where the imported material is predominant.
The second major argument, which we advanced in Committee and which I emphasise again, is that we are particularly concerned—it is no good disguising the fact—with competition in American films. If we are thinking about American films, we have to remember that we have such an infinitesimal share of the American market that we cannot seriously prejudice British films if we apply a quota here. We have to recognise the special circumstances in which we are acting, the disadvantage which films made in this country for the purpose of television suffer against the imported American film which has the advantage of an enormously large home market before it is offered here.
In these circumstances, I hope that this approach will be accepted by the Government. I hope that I have made it quite clear that I recognise what has been done generally in safeguarding material of British origin and British performance, but I think that we also recognise that this is a matter in which there are other difficulties facing the film industry and the need for special protection for it. There are precedents for it, and I hope that the Assistant Postmaster-General will expedite our proceedings by saying that he finds this approach acceptable. I am open to persuasion about the precise quota that we have suggested. If we can improve upon it, let us improve upon it, but I have taken a figure which I thought would enable him to accept at least the principle.
I dislike, in matters of this kind, to be a sort of little Englander, or to take too parochial a view. My general predeliction is for the free movement certainly of goods and materials and ideas too across frontiers. But I must confess a deal of sympathy what with the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) has said.
I appreciate that this is not an easy matter to implement. He quite rightly pointed out that the record of both the television groupings, the B.B.C. and the independent television companies, has been extremely good in regard to the whole of the material which they show on television, and he quoted the very high percentages. As he said, these high percentages were mentioned previously in Committee. The question that I asked him—I do not know if he took my point exactly—was: did he know, because I do not know, what is the exact comparable figure for films alone? He quite rightly pointed out that 86 per cent. was the figure of all material of British origin which is shown. He knows that the figure for films alone is very different.
With regard to the problem of ensuring that a reasonable proportion of films of British origin should be shown, I hope that my hon. Friend will take the point made by the hon. Gentleman that the principle is not at issue. The wording of the original Bill shows what was the intention of the House at that time. I recognise that there are some difficulties in fixing an exact proportion. On the other hand, I should like a basic figure below which we shall not fall—a basic minimum—and I wonder whether the figure chosen by the hon. Gentleman is the most desirable one.
I am rather surprised at his modesty in assessing this figure at that level. I would have thought that the least we should hope for would be 50 per cent. I feel that if we are not to exceed 50 per cent. we shall be doing rather badly. Some American friends of mine told me recently that although while in London they had seen some quite good films, they also saw some films rarely seen in the United States of a very low and of a poor standard. They told me that they saw a lot of American television in many parts of the United States and they thought that we were getting some of the poorer stuff.
I do not know whether that is true, but I quote it because it seems material to the argument. I hope that my hon. Friend will accept the fact that the House intended that there should be a reasonable proportion and will not deem it unreasonable that we should ensure that we have a basic minimum figure. I think that the hon. Gentleman has set the figure at slightly too low a level for us to be able to succeed in this important facet.
In the cinema also, as is well known, we have had to impose some such restriction as this for reasons mentioned by the hon. Gentleman—the effectiveness of our own industry and the desirability of a good domestic market—to ensure that we shall have a basis on which to try to export our own products. I hope that there will at least be an acknowledgment from my hon. Friend of the desirability of some such basic figure and a slightly higher one than the hon. Gentleman has suggested.
I support the new Clause moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) and press upon the Assistant Postmaster-General the urgent necessity for something to be done in this respect, that there should be a recognised minimum of British films made and produced solely for British television. We are asking that it should be 30 per cent. The hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) need not be ashamed of being a little Englander. It is about time that hon. Members pressed upon the Postmaster-General that more should be done to encourage the British film industry—and the big four particularly with independent television—to do a little more than they have done hitherto.
As I said on the contentious Clause 7, if the big four which have the money and which are making the vast profits had poured a little back into programme content and higher standards and had encouraged the British film industry to make more home produced films for British television their profits would not have been as big and Clause 7 would not have been as bad. So the Postmaster-General must recognise that this is not a demand from one side of the House, but from many hon. Members, that more should be done.
I blame some of the independent television companies that we have not made as much progress in this respect as we should have done. There are far too many cheap, American imported films coming in. First, they are cheap in type, their make-up and their content, and, secondly, we have to see the same kind of film, not the same film itself, time and time again, with the same plot embodied in it, whether of the Perry Mason character or the Cheyenne type. Above all, we have not only to suffer that, but at weekends with A.B.C. television I notice that there are at least five hours of repeat programmes that have been shown many times before, and, for the most part, many months before. Not only are we having this weekend viewing of cheap imported American films which are bad in content; we are having to see them over again.
It is about time that we gave the British film industry a boost. The big four should be encouraged to do this, if the Postmaster-General will not meet our demand to see that this provision is inserted in the Bill. The industry would then have a great boost. This would also go a good way towards safeguarding the jobs of the British film technicians and also the jobs of some of those in television, including creative artistes. We should try to limit by Statute the import of American films for television.
We should see that more films are made in this country. We want British history, tinged with drama and excitement. Let us make our people more accustomed to what has happened in our history, instead of showing them how the West was won in the United States. We ask that a minimum of 30 per cent. should be inserted in the Bill. If the Assistant Postmaster-General will not accept the Clause as it stands, I hope that he will be sympathetic to our demands and try to do something, first, to limit the import of this cheap American stuff, and, secondly, to give our own film industry a boost.
I sympathise with the purpose of the new Clause. I support my hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) in his view that we ought to have more British film material on television. I suspect of that of the 14 per cent. of foreign material, film material ranks high, for obvious reasons. But implementation of this proposal would be extremely difficult. If the hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) will summon up some courage he may be able to do something to help the industry to help itself. He did not have much courage when he spoke earlier this afternoon.
I can tell the House what the basic difficulty is in producing films for British television. The simple economics of the matter are that if a company wants to produce a fairly ordinary, run-of-the-mill, half-hour series, it will cost about £10,000 a time. If it sells that series over the network it will realise about £2,500. That means that it will be about £7,500 or £8,000 down over every half-hour series it makes. This is not a very attractive proposition, in commercial terms.
I do not ask the House to accept this as gospel, but I believe it to be true that only one series made in this country has made money, and that is the one we have all heard of, about Robin Hood and his merry men. We have to face the problem not of trying to enforce a statutory minimum, in terms of a quota, but of making this wretched business pay. We cannot enforce a statutory minimum upon exhibitors or television companies if it costs between £8,000 and £10,000 to produce something for which there is a return of only £2,000.
This is where the hon. Member for Barnsley can help. One of the basic difficulties now facing British television producers and the whole of our film industry is the grossly unreasonable attitude of the unions. A short time ago, despite the poverty of work in this field, we lost an excellent series to be produced by M.G.M. They wanted to produce the series here, but the unions put up a series of impossible demands. [Hon. Members: "Which unions?"] Equity, supported by the A.C.T.T., which is a very bad union.
They demanded that exactly the same salary should be paid to British artistes as was paid to artistes in the United States, and that the same re-run arrangements which obtain in the United States should apply here, although they normally do not. As a result of these impossible demands that film series is now being made in France. We have lost this business—which we could not afford to lose —because of the impossible attitude of the unions.
It will probably be made in English, besides French and Dutch. I am not sure what the arrangements will be, but I can tell the hon. Member that they are flexible. The point is that this film, which M.G.M. intended making in this country, was driven out by the impossible demands of the union. If what the hon. Member for Barnsley wants, and what I want, is to be achieved, namely, more British films made for television purposes, he must do something to contain the inordinate demands of these unions.
I go further than that, and say that if something is not done there will be a real breakdown in film production generally. Film producers will not take the risk, inherent in the existing situation, of spending great sums of money which they cannot get back very readily now, because there is a great line up of films waiting for exhibition. They will not continue to operate under conditions in which they are harried by one irrational demand after another made by trade unions in the film industry.
The hon. Member for Barnsley knows me well enough to know that I am not an enemy of the trade unions; I am a supporter of them. But I am disappointed to see that in this industry the most impossible conditions are being laid down by the trade unions, and that if they are allowed to continue to adopt this attitude they will damage the industry in which they work. I want to see a situation in which more British television films are made, but this will never come about when we have a situation in which only £2,500 is recoverable out of £10,000 spent in the production of a half-hour series.
The only way in which we can bring about this situation is to co-operate with other countries, so that we can have co-operation with the Americans and others. But if hon. Members opposite want to see better conditions brought about they must try to persuade the trade unions that they must not stand in the way of British film production, but must be more reasonable.
I shall intervene only briefly, because I believe that I am the only Member present tonight who has written scripts for television films. Therefore, I should immediately declare an interest.
I have the greatest sympathy for the proposal of my hon. Friend. At the same time, I can see certain dangers in it. Obviously, one of the reasons why so many cheap and nasty American films are shown on British television is that they can be imported very cheaply. They are old films. I am astonished at the patience of the British viewing public, night after night, and especially on Sundays, in being prepared to see these extraordinary, old-fashioned films.
They are old-fashioned not merely in technique, but in their presentation of what purports to be contemporary work, and it says a great deal not so much for the intelligence of the views as for the hypnotic effect of the "goggle-box" that they are prepared to look at the images passing in front of their eyes night after night merely because they are images and irrespective of their content.
If we are to produce adequate films for television, merely to lay down a quota to which television companies will have to adhere will not do the trick. First, there must be a lively and active industry which is prepared not simply to try to compete in terms of comparable wages for technicians, performers and writers but is prepared to recognise that television is now an international industry and trade. All over the world countries which now have their own television networks are more than eager—they are yearning—to have films of high quality which we are capable of producing. As they command the market and because they have this backlog of cheap films the Americans can export their products all over the world.
As I see it, the future of the television industry does not lie in some sort of national restrictive practice in which we impose a quota which will result simply in the exclusion of the exports of other countries. That is to go the wrong way about it. I think it absolutely necessary that we should so develop our own television film industry that we are capable of capturing the markets of the world.
Not long ago I was in Japan, and on the many television networks—at least half a dozen—night after night there were American films which had been exported to Japan and dubbed in Japanese dialogue. They were being successfully played to the Japanese television viewers. I see no reason why British television film industry—if I may so call it, though it is not a specific industry but a branch of television—should not try to capture this market both for the commercial interests of Britain and because, as a by-product of such commercial activity, we should be able to develop and raise our own standards of production for the domestic market. I see this as a great opportunity.
I am not wholly appraised of what is meant in the Clause by showing British television films. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) will be able to enlighten me about what is meant by a film. Does it mean something which has been filmed in the conventional way by the cinematograph industry? Does it mean something which has been tele-recorded, or something which is put on tape, which is the modern technique of recording television as distinct from the old method of using physical film?
Built into the whole of television is this modern technique of tape recording. I think that most television plays, and I have written a number of plays for television, are automatically recorded on tape whether they are performed live in the studio or pre-recorded. The great advantage about tapes is that they are capable of being circulated throughout the world.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) that the quality of the imported old American films has been low and I believe that the public has been stupefied by the marvellous fact that these are films which can be shown on television. It is an appalling criticism of the patience of the British public that it has been able to put up with such rubbish for so long. The moving of this Clause is salutary, because it means that we shall take another look at what is shown on television and see what can be done.
I ought perhaps to tell the hon. Gentleman that nowadays the difference between plays and films—the old-fashioned "movie" as the Americans call them—has been completely blurred. In other words, play and film are completely the same thing. Pre recorded television nowadays, whether called a play or a film, is precisely the same artistic, and virtually the same economic, activity. There is a producer who has a director who assembles a cast and produces a half-hour or an hour play. I say that so far from the cost running into about £10,000, judging from my own observation the cost of production is considerably less—
If the hon. Gentleman will allow me to conclude—and when he says that the company receives £2,000 for a network show, he is leaving out of account all the advertising advantages which the company receives for its production in the form of advertisement revenue.
The hon. Gentleman persists in his error. I tried to make clear in my previous intervention that I was not referring to individual plays which are produced and which may be tele-recorded, as I well know. I was referring to a film series which, I can assure the hon. Gentleman, cannot be produced for less than about £10,000 per half hour.
I leave the House to judge on this mattter. But from my own observation—if I may call it in aid again—I say that even with a series, the technique of production is almost exactly the same as with the production of a single play. There is a director who composes the cast. He has a script, supplied by a very much underpaid script writer—I can say that with certainty—and, finally, the thing is run off as a series.
I believe—I revert to my original point—that we are now in a period in the development of the television industry in the production either of single plays or films or a series of films, when the real challenge is not the national one of whether a play, a film or a series can be produced economically compared with the American industry on purely domestic terms. I believe that there is an international challenge and an opportunity. If we start to impose quotas on overseas material, America, Japan, France, Italy, Germany and all the other countries in the world concerned with television, will impose reprisal quotas. That would be bad for the television industry, and especially bad for our country. I am opposed to artistic restriction, and even to the kind of commercial restriction which may restrain the energies of those engaged in the television industry, so I fear that I am unable to support the Motion.
Does the hon. Gentleman envisage that in future a good many of such films made in this country may be made by companies which are not television companies, but companies specialising in the production of such films? Is not he limiting his argument when he speaks of "television companies"?
I wish to intervene only briefly to cover one simple point. As has been said by the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey), the B.B.C. and the Independent Television Authority rightly recognised their public duty to take 86 per cent. or 87 per cent. of their overall products from Britain. As has been said, much of American production is of an incredibly low standard, but there is a very high standard of American educational films which we have not had an opportunity of seeing in this country, and from which we would all benefit immensely.
As we have 13 per cent. or 14 per cent. of the total intake by the B.B.C. and the Independent Television Authority from overseas, the natural reaction of both those bodies is to concentrate more on the popular mass audience type of programmes. It would be helpful to the country as a whole and to our benefit if the B.B.C. and I.T.A. did not take too rigid a view and, perhaps, excluded from these calculations altogether the educational type of film, which I think it would be a benefit to be shown in this manner.
The hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) had a little fun at my expense at the beginning of this debate by suggesting that in Standing Committee I discarded the whole of his arguments on the basis of saying that this matter affected only old films. If he rereads what I said in Committee, he will see that that was far from the truth. I was replying to the late Sir Leslie Plummer, whom we all miss. He said that he raised the point because he had had a surfeit of old American films on television. I said that if the result of altering the amount of films shown meant ending the showing of American old films and bringing in British old films that would not help anyone much, particularly the film industry in this country.
A number of hon. Members have asked what the position is at present. My hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) was particularly concerned about this. I can report that the I.T.A. states that about five hours a week of British television films are shown on Independent Television compared with a weekly average of eight hours of American television films. The British share on Independent Television, therefore, is nearly 40 per cent. The B.B.C. stated that for the quarter, October to December, 1962, 93½ hours of television film was shown, or rather more than seven hours a week, made up of American 65 per cent., other foreign films 1 per cent., and British 34 per cent. This is a point which must be made and repeated.
There is a point which comes very seriously into our consideration. The Corporation states that this could give an unbalanced picture because certain types of programme, if American in origin, are imported on television film, but, if produced in this country, they are more likely to be transmitted live or electronically recorded. This brings me to the point raised by the hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman), who asked, "What are films?" This is important in our deliberations. I consider that films in this respect would be actual films which were produced as films, not those produced by electronic devices on tape, such as are used for recording programmes by the different programme companies. There is this basic difference between the two. The point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Mr. Shepherd) of the series produced on film and then sold to programme companies refers to those which are usually films as opposed to the normal programme which is pre recorded on tape.
The difficulty here—again I agree with the hon. Member for Coventry, North—is that this sort of attitude certainly cannot be sufficient if we are to attain our objective of building up the output of first-class British films and finding markets for them not only in this country on Independent Television, but throughout the world—I repeat what I said in Standing Committee—trying to export the British way of life. It is important that people in Japan and other parts of the world should be able to see what Britain is doing and what Britain stands for as well as seeing "Laramie" and other American productions.
Here is a matter in which a rigid British quota could bring all sorts of problems. The Pilkington Committee argued against the imposition of quotas and in favour of flexibility. The Government have not proposed any change to Section 3(1,d) of the principal Act. We resisted in Committee an Amendment to impose a 90 per cent. British quota on television programmes as a whole. The flow of programme material between countries is important, and not least to British producers. There is a real danger that the imposition of specific quotas will invite counter measures in the way of restrictions on the use of British material in other countries.
The I.T.A., with the B.B.C, has managed to achieve a creditably high proportion of British material in the total programme output. This being so, the sensible course is not to hamstring the Authority in the exercise of its responsibilities for the content and balance of programmes by imposing a specific and selective quota of this kind, with a proviso giving it a let-out but which is likely to lead to endless bickering and argument The onus of proof would be put on the Authority to show why it had not selected certain films and why the contractors—not the Authority itself—could not afford them.
That would be an impossible position. In any event, television films in series are not available as a whole series. A pilot film is made, and if this finds favour with a prospective purchaser, the series and contract are made. How, then, does one determine whether films are "available"? Should a prospective series come into this? Even a pilot film will cost a considerable amount.
On the question of costs, programmes which are filmed are far more expensive than programmes which are recorded or live. The effect of the proposed Clause might simply be the disappearance of filmed material from the television screen. A quota applied specifically to films is in any case arbitrary. A similar programme may be filmed or electronically recorded, depending upon technical and other considerations.
However, my right hon. Friend has taken note of what was said in Standing Committee and has already written to the I.T.A. and also to the B.B.C. Drawing attention to this and to the representations which he has had from the Federation of British Film Makers, and asking them to bear in mind, in so far as television films are used in their services, the possibility of assisting the British television film industry.
I believe that the hon. Member has performed a service in again drawing our attention, and the attention of all those outside who are involved in this great industry, to this important matter. As the hon. Member for Coventry, North pointed out, this needs a dynamic approach by everyone concerned. Because we have already achieved more than the level which the hon. Member has set, and because of what I have said, I ask him whether he will withdraw the new Clause.
I agree with the Assistant Postmaster-General wholly on two mat- ters—first, how much we miss Sir Leslie Plummer, who was always a delight in a discussion such as that which we have had, and, secondly, in his statement that I over-simplified the case which he put in Standing Committee.
I appreciate a good deal of what the hon. Member said. I do not accept the figures—I say this in no derogatory sense—about the proportion of British films, but perhaps that illustrates the difficulty of the subject which we are discussing. I am certainly convinced by what he said that we ought to be more ambitious. May I point out to my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman) that there is a real distinction between tape and films, and the difference in cost is a factor which affects our discussions. My hon. Friend is an artist and would sympathise with the Pilkington Committee's Report on this subject. But I do not accept the view of that Report that one can airily say that art has no frontier and that we should take no action. Perhaps we are considering not unfair competition but unequal competition. We should be realistic about it.
Having said that, I much appreciate what the Assistant Postmaster-General said. I am glad to note that our discussions in Standing Committee have had an effect, and I hope that the contributions made from both sides of the House today will help him in the representations which he makes to the Authority and, in turn, will help the Authority. In view of what he said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.
I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.
Sir Robert, you have given the Clause an ominous number—new Clause 7. I hope that we shall not have the same dissension about the Clause as we had on Clause 7 of the Bill. I hope, too, that we shall not need to spend as long on it.
Hon. Members will see that the Clause stands in my name only. This is not because it lacks support. It is because I have not in any way lobbied the Clause. In a Bill which has seen so much lobbying it is remarkable to find a Clause which has not been lobbied. Indeed, I have not even tried to persuade my right hon. Friend to accept it. The Clause will stand or fall, as it should, on its own merits.
The Clause represents a new thought. The House has not discussed this prob- lem before. It represents progressive thought. It is an attempt to use common sense now so that we may avoid future difficulties. All I ask is that both sides of the House should listen to the argument and not be prejudiced one way or the other. The Clause represents principles in which I firmly believe. It does not set out to achieve a minor change. It represents a major alteration. It is almost worthy of a Bill itself.
I have no interest to declare. I am not engaged in any way in commercial television, nor in printing—I say this as it affects this Clause specifically—in magazines. I do not think that I have any great personal friends in any of those ventures. I know that the Clause has incurred a little displeasure since I tabled it.
In effect, the Clause follows the policy and principles outlined in the main Bill. It is no more and no less than that. I am surprised that, when the Bill was drafted, some thought was not devoted to this thought of mine. It is consequential on the Bill.
Put briefly, the Bill sets out to evoke stricter supervision of programmes and programme planning. For the first time, the I.T.A. is given direct authority for the planning of programmes. Secondly, the Bill supervises for the first time in greater measure the profits which flow from commercial television. That is exactly what the new Clause would do as regards commercial television magazines. The Clause would bring to an end the monopoly which now exists in the programme magazines of commercial television. The magazines are fairly well known. They are the T.V. Times, the Viewer, the Television Weekly, the Television Post, Look Westward and Wales, West and North T.V. The main magazine—we all know this—is the T.V. Times, which is owned almost in a complete monopoly by Associated Rediffusion
I make not the slightest criticism of Associated Rediffiusion for this position, because it could not avoid it. The position of monopoly which arises has merely dropped into Associated Rediffusion's lap as careful businessmen in the new field of commercial television purely as a result of legislation. I am not criticising the monopoly which has been created. It is interesting when dealing with a monopoly of this type to realise that the profit from the monopoly is not the brainchild of this one company. It was thrust on it. It is more of a monopoly than normal because of the copyright which exists in the programmes.
I hope that the House will forgive me for one or two minutes if I briefly describe the Clause, because it is a new subject on the Notice Paper, Subsection (1) of my proposed Clause would give the I.T.A. power to appoint a publisher—and in this connection the whole sphere of printing and publishing would be left in the hands of private enterprise—who would be responsible for the publication of a weekly magazine for sale to the public in which details of all commercial television programmes would be included.
Subsection (2) would compel programme contractors to give all the necessary information to the publisher about the programmes to be transmitted by them. This is by no means new, for the contractors are doing this already. The other programme contractors are giving to Associated Rediffusion all the details required for inclusion in the T.V. Times. Thus, there is no hardship or compulsion of a political nature involved here.
Subsection (3) of the Clause would ensure that contractors were paid for the right to use the information supplied, just as they are at present. There is no difficulty about this, because the precedent has been set by the present methods. Subsection (4) gives the Authority the right to control the editorial policy of the magazine. This is one of the principles involved in my new Clause and I welcome the inclusion of words giving the Authority this right.
Television, commercial and otherwise, is concerned with moral standards and education. If we are to improve our programmes in the way we all wish, as foreshadowed by the Pilkington Report and as the public require, the I.T.A, must be given the tools to do the job. One cannot have higher standards and greater emphasis on programmes which provide those standards unless the I.T.A. has control over the editorial policy of the magazine.
I must make it clear that this is not Government control of a new type. There is no reason why anyone should object to what I suggest because in many other walks of life a similar control or inspection is permissible. The Minister of Education has laid down certain principles. Her Majesty's inspectors of education have the right to enter all private schools to ensure that Government policy is being fulfilled. The same applies in private hospitals.
The Bill, in Clause 2—and I would be grateful if the Postmaster-General would tell me how the duty contained in that Clause on the Authority can be carried out unless the Authority has the responsibility I wish to give it for the sort of national magazine I am suggesting—states:
(c) to secure a wide showing for programmes of merit.
That is an important thought and an equally important part of a new duty being placed on the Authority.
Unless the Authority controls the publication of this information, how can it ensure that the programmes are of merit and suitable for the tastes of the public? Subsection (4) of my Clause states:
(b) the publisher shall not be, or have any financial interest in, any programme contractor…
Subsection (5) of the Clause is important because it carries out the profit supervision being exercised under the Bill. This subsection lays it down that the profits of the new publication shall be put to meeting
…the expenses incurred or to be incurred by the Authority…
in connection with this part of the Bill, plus any further payments according to the profit which the publisher may make.
We were taught a lesson some years ago when we granted commercial television licences without this saving clause. Never again must public concessions be given to private firms thereby creating a monopoly, without the precaution of "vetting" from time to time the profits being made. How much happier would the whole sphere of television be, both in its effects on the companies and on the country, if we had thought of this when commercial television came into being.
Those are the important details of the new Clause. There would be one national magazine, with area editions, and it is important to note that the Clause would make no difference at all to the comments, articles and details published by the Press. My purpose is to assist in the formation of higher standards of programme and higher commercial television standing, and I think that it helps in this respect—
I understand the whole idea of the hon. Gentleman's Clause is that private monopoly should be limited, and the hon. Gentleman has described—improperly, perhaps—a number of papers concerned with the advertising of programmes as regional private monopolies. Is it his purpose now to establish a single national monopoly in the hands of an individual capitalist who will have the sole ownership of the only paper concerned with advertising television programmes?
I must be explaining the Clause very badly if the hon. Gentleman has come to that conclusion. My whole argument is that we have already created these monopolies almost exactly in the way enunciated by the hon. Gentleman. We have no powers whatever to direct the editorial policies of those magazines into the channels we wish to see them in order to supply these more enlightened programmes, nor have we any power over the profits made.
Where a private enterprise monopoly has been created by legislation we should exercise this financial control which the Bill seeks to create over commercial television generally, and this side-line of the magazine—
It will be the sole magazine with the right to announce commercial television programmes. I will deal further with the hon. Gentleman's point in a moment. We would have the B.B.C., with its two programmes and the Radio Times,and the one mass-circulated national magazine, with area editions, for commercial television. There is no opportunity for the successful launching of another commercial television magazine, and that will be one of the problems facing those who accept the responsibility, if the Govern- ment decide that they should all have it, of establishing another commercial television line.
I should like to give the House a few figures. In 1955, the Radio Times had a circulation of 8,800,000. There were then 14 million radio sets and 4½ million radio and television sets. Between 1952 and 1962, the number of television sets grew from 4½ million to nearly 14 million, but the circulation of the Radio Times fell from 8,800,000 to 5½ million in 1962
There was then in being the T.V. Times and others in the commercial field with a circulation of 4 million. That surely suggests that as the channels increase the value of a programme paper giving details of one channel falls. Let hon. Members therefore imagine the problem which would confront a third paper in a monopoly situation where the reins are so tightly held and there is copyright in programmes. It is doubtful whether such a paper would ever succeed. If the Government agree to the request, which is made mainly from these benches, for another channel for commercial television it is doubtful whether sufficient circulation could be achieved to sustain a magazine in the monopoly situation which now exists.
Another point which is worth bearing in mind is that instead of creating a monopoly I wish to destroy one. I wish also to destroy another monopoly in that all the magazines, except the Radio Times and the T.V. Times, are owned by the King group. Mr. Roy Thomson said some time ago that it is now impossible to launch a new mass magazine. We are not to see a new national paper launched, for the same reason, and the position in the magazine world is ossified. Here is a chance, with this Clause, of launching a national magazine into competition in the magazine world.
If such a magazine were launched on this scale we should have the opportunity not only of fulfilling the virtues of the Bill, but also of seeing a magazine of some standard established. I shall not engage in lengthy criticism of the T.V. Times and similar papers, but not even their best friends would suggest that they are magazines of high literary reputation. If the Clause were accepted there would be a chance of a new magazine entering this monopolistically controlled world and of fulfilling in addition to the functions of the Bill the other functions which I have mentioned. I hope that the House will accept the new Clause.
The hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Tiley), in introducing the new Clause, has outlined the monopoly position which exists whereby Associated Rediffusion publishes the T.V. Timesand there are the other regional papers which are incidental and have relatively no circulation. The Postmaster-General should give sympathetic consideration to the arguments of the hon. Member. There is no more opportune time than now to do so. The right hon. Gentleman has plenty of time to invite the necessary tendering before July 1964 and to consider change.
The hon. Member has said that the new Clause is in line with the general purpose of the Bill. On the basis of the Exchequer receiving a levy from the programme contractors, would it not also seem right either to impose a levy on the present Associated Rediffusion publishers, because of their existing monopoly position, or alternatively to consider sympathetically the hon. Member's point that an outside publisher should be appointed who would pay a rent for the publishing concession he received? It is stressed in subsection (5) of the proposed new Clause that a nominal rent should be paid to the Authority by the new and outside publisher, and secondly that from time to time additional payments should be fixed
as will adequately reflect the value of the public concession which the publisher enjoys.
What the hon. Gentleman is trying to do is to take away the private monopoly position of Associated Rediffusion, to allow some non-interested publisher, away from television altogether, to be able to publish this national Television Times, who in turn will pay a rent to the Authority and will from time to time make an additional payment in lieu of the public concession that he is enjoying. That seems to me to be generally in line with what the Postmaster-General has been doing in Clause 7 of the Bill, which is the "guts" of the Bill anyway.
I support in great measure what the hon. Gentleman seeks to do. It is taking the matter out of the hands of a private monopoly within the television industry and which is enjoyed by one of the big four, giving it to some person with no interest in the television industry and asking him to pay a rent according to how he enjoys the public concession. I hope the Postmaster-General will consider this Clause sympathetically.
I hear my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Mr. Hirst) saying "Hear, hear". Perhaps he has not considered some of the advantages to be gained from some sort of change in the status of the magazine or magazines which publish these programmes. In the present circumstances we are told—and my hon. Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Sir W. Wakefield), who is a director of a company, will correct me if I am wrong—that Associated Rediffusion controls the biggest, indeed the only really important, magazine giving programme details.
If, when we come to the question of a second commercial channel and, as many of us hope, we see a completely new lot of companies competing with the existing companies—perhaps another big four in the distant future—will those companies be obliged to have their programme details published in this magazine owned by one of their competitors? The present situation may be all right with the existing companies, but, looking into the future, there will be some difficulty.
I do not like the way in which my hon. Friend's proposed Clause is drafted and I cannot support it in its present form. There is, however, a way which occurs to me of solving our problems. I suggest that the programme companies should be obliged to supply their programme details to the I.T.A. sufficiently far in advance, and also notify changes as they occur. That material would be available, just as HANSARD is available as a record of the proceedings of the House of Commons.
Then anybody could come forward and take in those details, compile a magazine of television programmes and see whether he could make a commercial go of it. In that way the existing monopoly would be destroyed and we could let private enterprise have a free run. As things are at present, it is like having the Parliamentary proceedings reported in only one daily newspaper, such as the Daily Telegraph, and goodness know where we would be if that situation existed. The I.T.A. could be furnished with the details, the programme companies being obliged to send them in, and there they would be for anybody to take and make good use of. This would solve many of our problems.
I have a great deal of sympathy with the intentions of the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Tiley), and I can understand the drift of his argument on the new Clause. We have created a monopoly on top of a monopoly. As a result of the second monopoly, for which no rent is paid to the State but which is a consequence of the first monopoly conceded by the State, the people who publish T.V. Timesare able to make a very fat profit out of it. This is equally true of some of the other journals, which are extremely profitable enterprises, a source of profit never intended when we passed the first Television Act.
We must bear in mind that 80 per cent. of the programmes of all the commercial companies in the country will, under the Bill, be determined by the Authority. The Authority will now decide what goes into the network, and, as the network provides at least 80 per cent, of the programmes—in many areas 90 per cent., and in some areas 92 per cent.—the main bulk of the country's programmes will be in the hands not of the individual programme contractors but of the I.T.A. presiding over the network committee.
Therefore, the contents of the programme magazines will be determined not by the contractors, but by the I.T.A. In this sense, there is a case for the I.T.A. itself—this is where I differ from the hon. Gentleman—taking over the publication of a programme journal covering the whole country, with the advantage coming to the Authority and, indirectly, to the Exchequer.
But I go further. I look at it from the standpoint of the viewer. Why should the viewer have to buy two journals to know what is being made available for him, through the exercise of powers granted by Parliament? Why should not we have co-operation in this matter between the I.T.A. and the B.B.C.? In other parts of the Bill, we have imposed co-operation between the I.T.A. and the B.B.C.
I do not mind who runs it. For goodness' sake, let us try to be tidy in our organisation and not wasteful. Let us try to get the best advantage for the nation rather than for individual exploiters. In my view, the viewer ought to be able to buy one journal in which he can find information about the commercial programmes available to him and the B.B.C. programmes. That would be the tidiest way of doing the job. Neither of the journals is there to publish opinions. Their main function is to publicise programmes.
I hope that the Postmaster-General, in considering this matter and the injunction he has laid upon the I.T.A. and, as he will do, upon the B.B.C., to co-operate in exploiting their physical assets, will go a step further and ask for an exploration of the possibility of one programme journal being published to cover both commercial and public television programmes for the whole country.
I do not go quite so far as my right hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards), but I think that there is an unanswerable case, if one publication is to have access to all the programme schedules, perhaps with local editions catering for programme contracting companies in different areas, to put it in the hands of the Independent Television Authority itself rather than have another concession to another private publisher, the Authority appointing a competent editor and staff to run the magazine.
It seems to me that if the programme contractors were to be required to furnish programme schedules in the way suggested the magazine using them would inevitably put out of business any other publication publishing only part of the programme schedules. The T.V. Timeswould disappear, and this would not be any great loss either to the viewing public or anyone else. One would again, be left with a monopoly situation. If we were to be left with a monopoly situation it would be better and simpler that the publication covering the independent television programmes should be in the hands of the I.T.A. and edited by a member of that staff.
I am very grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Tiley) for confining the length of his new Clause 7 to a much smaller piece of paper than my Clause 7 and I am also grateful to him for refraining from lobbying me on his new Clause 7. My hon. Friend and I so often agree that I dislike very much on this occasion to have to disagree with him. I hope that he will forgive me.
My hon. Friend asked me one pointed question, namely, how, in the absence of a change of this sort, it would be possible for the Authority to secure a wide showing of programmes of merit. I think that that arises quite independently from Clauses 3 and 4 of the Bill and I do not think that it is necessary for the I.T.A. to take the new powers in this Clause in order to make sure that we have a wide showing of worthwhile television programmes.
I take as the starting point of what I want to say the fact that television programmes are different in every part of the country; not different at all times, but every programme is different at some time during the week. Therefore, there must be separate publications.
At present, there are about 14 separate publications and whatever we decide to do or not to do the idea of ever having a composite publication for commercial television is completely unrealistic. At present, we have separate journals in the form of the T.V. Timesfor London, for the Midlands, Northern, Anglia, Southern, the Border and Grampian, and, in addition, there are, as my hon. Friend knows, three journals run by the Dickens Press for Scottish Television, Tyne/Tees and Westward. Finally, there is a separate journal for Ulster Television.
I agree entirely with my hon. Friend in one respect. He argued that his proposed reform was consistent with the main theme of the Bill, and in theory I agree that it is. It is compatible with the principal theme of the Bill that the Authority itself should assume a more commanding position in the affairs of commercial television, and I think one may fairly add too, that, for various reasons, which it is not necessary to enter into at this time of the evening, possibly the Authority has not quite projected its personality to the public as it might have done over the last few years. It is conceivable—I concede this to my hon Friend—that control of the T.V. Times, however many editions, would possibly help the I.T.A. in this.
Having said that I ought to add, I think, that since I have been in my present office I have never had any criticisms as such from Members of Parliament or the public of the T.V. Times. It is quite true, of course, that the Radio Timeshas a greater sale than the T.V. Times. This is partly due to the publications run by the Dickens Press, and also in part due to the fact that the number of people who can receive B.B.C. television only is greater than the number of people who can receive commercial television.
If the Government were to accept the new Clause, it goes without saying that it would be bitterly resented by certain interests with financial interests in the T.V. Times, as is perfectly natural. But there are two reasons why the Government do not feel able to recommend the new Clause to the House, and I must be candid.
First, several hon. Members opposite have suggested that the Authority itself ought to undertake this responsibility. That, of course, is not in the mind of my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West. Whether it were done by the Authority taking over responsibility itself, or on the basis of the new Clause, does not matter a great deal, except from the point of view of ideology.
What matters from the Government's point of view is that the Independent Television Authority has an enormous amount of work on its shoulders now. It has to draft new contracts with entirely new provisions for 14 or 15 companies; it has to decide which companies those contracts are to be given; it has to assume the control of networking for the first time in its history; it has to secure balance in programming and it has to undertake reforms in advertising. Heaven forbid that we should clutter up the Authority with further burdens of this kind at the present stage.
Surely the right hon. Gentleman is not using that as an argument. The I.T.A. should have been doing its job previously. In the Bill we are asking for the first time that it gets on with die job. This would not be an additional burden, because the Clause suggests that this task should be done by an outside publisher and that the I.T.A. would get the rent for it and that later the additional payments which would come in lieu of the concession would go to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Of course I was using it as an argument. I do not know what the hon. Gentleman thinks I was using it as if not as an argument. It is an argument that in the circumstances in which the Authority is at present operating there are things even more important than assuming responsibility for the T.V. Times—networking and things of that kind—which ought to come first and engage the full and undivided attention of the Authority.
The second reason why I do not take kindly to my hon. Friend's suggestion is very simple and it is that in fixing the scale of the levy we rightly took into account—
I have been trying to follow the right hon. Gentleman's argument. Although I would not go so far as my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason), and say there is nothing in it, if it is impossible for it to be done now, if it is inopportune to do it now, if the Authority is too busy now, will not the right hon. Gentleman accept the suggestion in principle, when we will allow him to introduce it when the Authority is less busy?
The hon. Member is not usually so impatient. I am usually the one who is impatient. I was coming to that.
I was saying that in fixing the scale of the levy the Government took into account the value of the whole of the commercial television concessions to the companies, and that that clearly involved the money currently being made out of the T.V. Times which, after all, is derived from the concession. If a company were to be deprived of the profits accruing from this venture, it would be necessary in fairness to adjust the scale of the levy. We certainly do not want to do that after what we have been through during the last few months.
My own view about the suggestion of the hon. Member for Openshaw is that, in principle, there may be something to be said for the proposal embodied in the new Clause. I think that this proposal requires an enormous amount of thought and examination before any hard decision is taken about it and if my hon. Friend would be so kind as for the time being to withdraw his new Clause, I would undertake to have further conversations with the Authority in the future.
I beg to move, in page 1, line 12, after "education", to insert "instruction".
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will accept the Amendment, but I do not propose to press this to a Division, if he does not because I do not think that the inclusion of this word would materially affect the provisions of the Clause, although I think it would be an advantage to make the Amendment.
The Clause at present provides that it shall be the duty of the Authority
to provide the television broadcasting services as a public service for disseminating information, education and entertainment…
We suggest that it should also provide instruction, for this reason. There has been a good deal of discussion over the past few months about the rôle which television might play as an aid to education in the sense of instruction, and we
would like this to be made clear in the Bill.
Reference has already been made to the proposed Anglia series to be called "Dawn University", and we appreciate what was done in Ulster in the programme "Midnight Oil". Ulster is at the moment most anxious to have an education channel which would be used primarily for the purpose of instruction. I had the privilege of meeting Sir Robert Fraser to discuss this matter, and I was very much impressed by the interest which he and his colleagues showed in it. I met some members of the Authority who showed a great interest in the possibility of using television for instructional purposes as a direct aid to the educational services.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will accept the Amendment, because it would make it quite clear that, as with defining the duty of the Authority afresh in the present Bill, it is the intention to encourage it in its present endeavours and to make it quite clear that if it feels it right and proper to provide services for instruction it should do so.
The hon. Member for Sunderland, North has referred to two programmes which are along the lines of his Amendment, and one naturally hopes that there will be a continuation and extension of these activities, but the purpose of the words "information, education and entertainment" was to place the description of the objects of the I.T.A. services on the same footing as that of the B.B.C., as set out in the Preamble to the Corporation's Charter.
In the principal Act, the only reference to the objectives of the I.T.A. service is in paragraph 2 of the Second Schedule where the I.T.A. programmes are referred to as
a medium of entertainment, instruction and information
No significance really attaches to that choice of words.
The hon. Gentleman suggested that the insertion of the word "instruction" would give a specific lead to a teaching service, but the words "information and education" are sufficiently embracing to cover instruction. Indeed, the Authority already does what the hon. Gentleman wants in the context of schools broadcasting and in such programmes as French language instruction. In our opinion nothing would be gained by the addition of this word, but this short debate will obviously give more publicity to what we should like to see happen in the future.
Before my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) withdraws the Amendment, may I ask him whether he saw the excellent article in The Times which referred to what is being done in Italy and the great tributes paid by the Italian people to the facilities provided in the way suggested by my hon. Friend?
Like my hon. Friend, I have seen that and many excellent articles. I am glad that this is being seriously considered by those responsible for television. I would be quite prepared, if I had the opportunity, to suggest that the duties of the B.B.C. might be defined in some more embracing manner, but, as the Assistant Postmaster-General said, its attention will be called to the short debate that we have had on this point. I hope that the Authority will be encouraged to pursue the inquiries it is holding into the possibility of educational television in the direct sense of a teaching service, and that soon we shall have some experiment along those lines. We should then be better able to evaluate the service television might render to education. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
I beg to move, in page 2, line 7, to leave out "merit" and to insert "artistic merit and serious purpose".
This is a point that we have discussed previously. We have tried to improve the definition. We recognise that it was difficult to do this, but we are now making proposals in the light of the discussions that we have had on the Bill.
We have in mind that there is some real anxiety, which we ought to recognise, particularly in the minds of producers and others directly responsible for programmes. We have further Amendments, which we shall reach in due course, centring on this point. There is some apprehension that there might be a tendency to economise at the expanse of the better programmes. We thought that we ought to take the opportunity to make it quite clear that we regard it as the duty of the Authority to see that this should not happen.
We thought that a possible way of doing this would be to widen the definition of "merit". There may be programmes of merit defined in isolation which would not cover the point that we have in mind. We suggest that instead of "merit" it might be better to have the wider definition "artistic merit and serious purpose". If we place the responsibility and duty on the Authority to see that there is a wide showing of such programmes, this would go some way to allay the fears of those who believe that there is a possibility that there might be a deterioration of programmes.
I am very dubious about the Amendment of my hon. Friend. It seems to me that far from widening the definition of "merit" he has, on the contrary, restricted it. Who, for example, is to decide what is "artistic merit"? Who is to decide what is "serious purpose"? All these are matters of judgment, and I should have thought that the term "merit" being comprehensive conveys the general intention of those who are presenting the Bill. But it seems to me that the Clause itself—in seeking to secure a wide showing of programmes of merit—is in itself somewhat redundant. Surely the assumption in the whole purpose of the Bill is that the object of the I.T.A. will be to produce programems which will be of value to those who will ultimately see them.
In recent times we have seen how, in the matter of artistic definition, it is possible for a coterie to impose its judgments merely because they are fashionable and are associated with a group of critics who at any given time have a dominance by association with, or by a collectivity of interest with, certain leading critical newspapers. We have seen, too, in matters of censorship—especially in the case of Lady Chatterley's Lover—how all of a sudden a whole new class of censors is brought into being. In the matter of Lady Chatterley's Loverthese censors were really speaking for the defence. In other words, we have a whole group of people conjured up and claiming to be experts in the matter of artistic judgment.
It is my submission that while, in matters of criticism, it is at times possible for certain people to establish standards of value, there is absolutely no guarantee that these standards will be of any permanence. Once we introduce, in a statutory form, a term like "artistic merit", we are demanding that there should be people who will be able to establish certain standards of artistic merit, and who will be capable of being referred to, and called as witnesses, in connection with the Clause. If we accept the Amendment the definition of "merit" will be narrowed not only unduly but unworkably. I could not support a phrase of that kind.
As for the question of "serious purpose", who will decide what that means? Presumably, in any programme of entertainment—in any artistic production—there is an underlying assumption that the person who is creating the programme does it either for money or because he has a serious purpose. Generally speaking, whether he does it for money or for art, I assume that his purpose is serious.
If we accept that "serious purpose" in the positive sense is meaningless, we can proceed to the counterpart: if a person were to present a satirical programme, would it be regarded, ipso facto, as not being of a serious purpose? Might not the effect of the introduction of the term "serious purpose" be to drive any form of social satire, or criticism in the form of comedy, from the screens?
Taking the Amendment all in all, it seems to me that on the one hand it shrinks the interpretation of the term "merit" and adds nothing of any constructive value to the serious purpose which we enjoin on the Authority. All in all, so far from reinforcing the term "merit", it dilutes it, to the detriment to the purpose of the Bill.
I am sorry to hear the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman). We spent a long time in Committee trying to establish that it is important to write into the Bill a positive duty upon the Authority to set up rather better standards than those which have been prevalent in the past. I am sorry that when we seek to insert words to carry into effect our wishes my hon. Friend should oppose them. Hon. Members on both sides worked hard in Committee, and there was no real division on this matter.
I tried to introduce certain words in Committee, which I admit I pinched from Pilkington. The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mr. Johnson-Smith) can screw up his face, but at least I had a try in Committee. He sat there and said nothing. I say that this attempt goes some way towards meeting the point of view expressed by Pilkington and others.
My hon. Friend asked whether the phrase "serious purpose" might prevent the showing of satirical programmes. I do not see why it should. Apparently my hon. Friend has not read that part of the Clause to which the Amendment applies. It enjoins the Authority to give wide publicity and a wide showing to programmes of serious purpose. It does not stop the Authority showing any other programme. It merely provides that in this field, where there might be a tendency to be too restrictive, and not to have a sufficient sense of adventure in putting on these programmes, the Authority has a special duty to do so.
It is a positive enforcement, it is not a negative prevention of any programme, and I am sorry that my hon. Friend made that point. I do not think that there is much in the other point he made about artistic merit. Whether merit or artistic merit, it implies the same thing. Finally, my hon. Friend asked who is to make all these decisions. We setup the I.T.A. to make all the decisions. That is what the phrases already in the Bill are all about. Already the Bill states that the programmes to be shown by the Authority are to
maintain a high general standard in all respects, and in particular in respect of their content and quality, and a proper balance and wide range in their subject-matter…
We set the Authority precisely this sort of instruction and we are making sure about
cases where the Authority may be tempted not to have that kind of policy.
My hon. Friend is defining artistic interests and calling in aid the I.T.A. as being a qualified body to decide what is artistic merit. Is he now saying that the I.T.A. is capable of exercising, if not a censorship, at least a decisive voice in determining what is artistic merit?
Of course not. There is nothing negative about this Amendment. It is not telling the Authority to select a pattern of artistic merit and enforce it upon us. But in its selection it has a special duty to watch out for items of artistic merit and make sure that they do not have too restrictive a showing. That is all we seek to do by this Amendment, and my hon. Friend is exaggerating.
We were, I think, all impressed with some of the remarks made by Mr. Carleton Greene when he tried to broach the idea of the B.B.C. Giving the Sixth Bishop Bell Memorial Lecture, he said:
As you will have understood, much of what we do is 'educative' rather than 'educational' in the narrowest sense: it is a by-product of entertainment and information. But we do not for a moment accept the proposition that in the conscious pursuit of either educative or educational aims we are ramming—or should be ramming—anything down anyone's throat. We do, however, believe that the great majority of people have, at any rate potentially, a real and active interest in the world they live in, and a capacity for enjoying arts and skills, and ways of thinking and looking at the world from which they may have been shut off by the merest accidents of birth and education; for, after all, it must be remembered that 90 per cent. of our present population left school before they were fifteen.
"Hear, hear", a thousand times! This is the sort of spirit we want behind our television programmes: not ramming anything down anybody's throat but opening new worlds of experience. That is what the Amendment tries to do, and I am sorry that my hon. Friend did not agree with it.
I am not without sympathy for the point of view expressed by the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) and his hon. Friends. But I do not wish to debate the definite meaning of the words "artistic merit"; nor, for that matter, the meaning of the words "serious purpose".
I wish to tell the House that, as drafted, the Bill requires the Authority to secure a wide showing for programmes of merit; that is to say, programmes that are worth while, because they are serious or informative, or it could be simply because they happen to be good television. I should have thought that "programmes of merit" is the widest possible expression. Once we start adding to the expression, no matter what words are used, the House must necessarily qualify and narrow the wording in the Bill. There can be no question about that.
As drafted, the subsection leaves to the Authority the function of determining what is merit without any qualifications. I think it better that that should be so.
I heard what the Minister said and, of course, I shall pay attention to what my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman) said, but I found it difficult to follow his argument. I emphasised that this Amendment was suggested because some anxiety has been expressed by producers. They thought it might be possible to use words more emphatic than "merit" to strengthen their hands in providing better programmes. This was the major reason why we sought to extend the definition of "merit".
All that my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North said about subjective decision depending on the words that we are proposing would depend also on "merit". If we applied merit it would be subjective. What we have to have in mind the whole time is why this provision appears in the Bill. We know that it appears in the Bill for two reasons. One was the argument which ran through the Pilkington Report, that there was too much that was trivial on television. So the Government said, "We will make it the duty of the Authority to provide programmes of merit."
The other argument is different. It is that the Authority should provide programmes for minority interests. I think that there is something in the argument that merit by itself does not carry us much further in this direction. We might have programmes of merit which would not meet the point, made repeatedly in the Pilkington Report, that one has to make provision for some minority interests. Again, the definition was inadequate to indicate those meritorious minority interests which ought to be catered for and a duty placed on the Authority to provide such programmes.
I appreciate that this brief discussion has illustrated the difficulties—we had some difficulties in Standing Committee—about the definition.
For these reasons, having ventilated this matter, I am quite willing to hope that in another place they may pay attention to our proceedings and do better than we have been able to do. Meanwhile, I settle for the original proposal that we should ask for programmes of merit, and, in view of that, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
I beg to move, in page 2, line 7, at the end to insert:
Without prejudice to die provisions of the principal Act, the Authority may in pursuance of their duty under this section (themselves arrange for the provision of (other than by programme contractors) or, if need be, themselves provide programmes or parts of programmes to be broadcast by the Authority.
I should think that on the law of averages it is about time the Postmaster-General said "Yes" to something. I have an idea that I shall be dealing with something now which everyone will understand. There is no question of any adjudication on merit—[Interruption.] This is a straightforward proposal to everyone except the hon. Member for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies), who can make everything intricate. We are getting down to this matter at a very late hour. I am sorry about that, because it is important. In the interests of brevity, I confine myself to asking the Assistant Postmaster-General to consider a few points which I shall put to him.
Those of us who have read the Pilkington Report will remember that the Committee wanted an entirely new structure in which the Authority would be responsible for the programmes. It would let them out to the companies, and the companies could opt for some other programmes if they so desired. Pilkington said that the Authority should be in a position to make and produce its own programmes. We have been unable, for one reason or another, to go all the way with Pilkington on this important issue.
In the Bill there is a tendency to go to the other extreme and to make no provision whatever for the Authority to produce its own programmes. We feel that there must be a halfway house which will commend itself to the Minister and the House. That is the purpose of this Amendment. What we provide is that the Authority should have the power to produce some programmes if it thinks that there is a need for it to do so.
Much has been said in Committee and in correspondence to the effect that in certain events some of these programme companies may fall down on their job if they are not given certain rates. It may, therefore be necessary for some reserve power to be given to the Authority to make it possible for it to maintain the highest standard of programmes. Under the Bill the Authority has no such power. We want to give it. If, on the other hand, all or some of the programme companies are not as co-operative as the Authority wishes, our Amendment would provide the Authority with a method of dealing with the problem.
I think that the situation is obvious. We want to give the Authority a little more power in a direction which could make it more influential with the programme companies and which would be of considerable benefit to television.
It is conceivable, and listening to some of the things which Mr. Norman Collins and some of his colleagues have said recently it seems almost probable, that some companies may find themselves in such great difficulties over the next few months, particularly when they face the competition of the second B.B.C. channel, that they are unable to carry on.
In that event, what would be the position as the Bill stands about the provision of programmes by somebody else? Suppose that Mr. Collins' arguments are proved to be correct and one of the smaller companies, or perhaps his own company, packs up under the terrible extortion which is to be introduced by the Postmaster-General. Is there any machinery by which the programmes could be provided for commercial television? Is the Authority empowered to provide programmes in such circumstances or would the Postmaster-General have to send for Mr. Carleton Greene and ask the B.B.C. to come to the rescue?
The hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. F. Noel-Baker) has raised a number of hypothetical questions and has had a little fun at the expense of Mr. Norman Collins. Many exaggerated statements have been made, but all I can do is to repeat what my right hon. Friend has said all the way through—that from the best information that we can get the things that Mr. Norman Collins says are likely to happen will not, in fact, happen. In any case, there is an opportunity for any programme contractor next year, before the levy comes into operation, to decide whether to relinquish his right to operate the franchise in future. This problem would not, therefore, arise.
The hon. Member for Manchester, Openshaw (Mr. W. R. Williams) reminded us that the Pilkington Committee suggested that we should be drastic with the I.T.A., that the Authority should be the producers of programmes and that the contractors should act as contractors and supply the Authority with programmes. The Government took the view that this was a recommendation which we should not carry out and that we should continue with the I.T.A. as the controlling authority and the programme contractors carrying out the day-to-day duties.
Under Clause 2 the Authority has the following duties:
The contract with the programme contractors will be designed to ensure that the latter will provide the necessary programmes to enable the Authority to meet these requirements.
As I was saying, the Amendment implies that the companies might not produce what was necessary. In that event, the Authority under the Amendment would have the power—a permissive one—to step in and itself arrange for the provision or itself provide programmes to meet the requirements of the Clause.
With regard to balance, under Section 2(2, a) of the original Act the Authority already has the power to arrange for the inclusion in the programmes of items of particular classes which in its opinion are necessary for securing a proper balance in the subject matter of the programmes and which cannot, or cannot as suitably, be provided by programme contractors.
Thus, the Amendment is hardly necessary on this count, although the 1954 provision does not cover the Authority itself providing programmes. It is unlikely, however, that the Authority would itself need to enter into the programme production field, and if it had to obtain programmes from other sources it would no doubt specify its requirements and ensure that the programmes came up to its specification.
I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman could deal with two circumstances in which the powers we seek to provide for the Authority might be very relevant and important. First, he will appreciate that in the present atmosphere there is a good deal of dissatisfaction about networking and some apprehension felt by some of the regional companies. Those companies would be much more satisfied if they knew that, if necessary, the Authority could intervene and provide them with alternative programmes or assist them in playing a part in getting into the network in one form or another.
Secondly, there is also some apprehension—I have expressed this on a previous Amendment—by producers. Some producers feel that there should be some support from the Authority towards programmes which would benefit research in production and originality in production. For these two reasons, there is a good deal of topicality in the Amendment and, if it were accepted by the Government, it would allay the fears of some regional companies and some producers.
We have paid particular attention to the networking point in the Bill to try to make certain that the I.T.A. has full powers to call for the networking of programmes of merit, wherever they are produced within the programme companies. It is specifically designed to give the small programme companies producing a programme of merit the opportunity to go on to the network where the I.T.A. can bring this about. It is a power which the I.T.A. will have in the future. It will have the right to demand that a particular programme produced even by the smallest programme contractor, if it is a programme of merit, shall have networking opportunities. Therefore, this problem is already covered in the Bill.
As to producers, I do not think we should make the position any better by specifically writing in a power for the Authority to produce programmes when we know full well that the object of the exercise is that the Authority should not surround itself with all the equipment which would be necessary if it was to be a producer in its own right. We have tried to give the I.T.A. sufficient power to ensure that it can call on those capable of performing the job if it is thought that the task is not being performed.
This reserve power under Section 2(2,b)) of the 1954 Act, as amended by the Bill, enables the Authority to arrange
…for the provision…or, if need be. themselves provide, programmes or parts of programmes so far as may be necessary by reason of any temporary lack of suitable persons able and willing to become or continue as programme contractors on suitable terms and to perform their obligations as such, or by reason of any interval between the expiration or termination of one contract with a programme contractor and the commencement of another contract with that or another programme contractor.
I should have thought, therefore, that sufficient power already exists for the Authority to take appropriate action. I do not believe that it needs to be strengthened by this sort of Amendment, although one is, naturally, impressed by the arguments that have been adduced and, obviously, we expect the I.T.A. to take full note of them.
It is interesting to note that the Assistant Postmaster-General considers that there is something in our arguments. Unfortunately, he does not say anything more than that. All we are asking is for permissive powers for the Authority to deal with certain eventualities. We know that these would not be used very often. However, we want the Authority to have these powers should certain eventualities take place. Being dissatis-
|Division No. 142.]||AYES||[10.7 p.m.|
|Ainsley, William||Hayman, F. H.||Proctor, W. T.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Healey, Denis||Pursey, Cmdr, Harry|
|Awbery Stan (Bristol, Central)||Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur(RwlyRegis)||Rankin, John|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Herbison, Miss Margaret||Redhead, E. C.|
|Baird, John||Hill, J. (Midlothian)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Barnett, Guy||Hilton, A. V.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Houghton, Douglas||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Bence, Cyril||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Rodgers, W. T. (Stockton)|
|Blackburn, F.||Hunter, A. E.||Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Hynd, H, (Accrington)||Short, Edward|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics.S.W.)||Hynd, John (Attercliffe)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Bowles, Frank||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Bradley, Tom||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Small, William|
|Callaghan, James||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Kelley, Richard||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Chapman, Donald||Kenyon, Clifford||Steele, Thomas|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||King, Dr. Horace||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Dalyell, Tarn||Lawson, George||Stones, William|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Swingler, Stephen|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Deer, George||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Dodds, Norman||Loughlin, Charles||Thornton, Ernest|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Lubbock, Eric||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Edelman, Maurice||McBride, N.||Tomney, Frank|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||MacDermot, Niall||Wade, Donald|
|Edwards, Walter (Stepney)||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Watkins, Tudor|
|Evans, Albert||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Weitzman, David|
|Fernyhough, E.||Manuel, Archie||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Finch, Harold||Mapp, Charles||Whitlock, William|
|Fitch, Alan||Mason, Roy||Wigg, George|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Millan, Bruce||Wilkine, W. A.|
|Forman, J. C.||Milne, Edward||Willey, Frederick|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Mitchison, G. R.||Williams LI. (Abertillery)|
|Calpern, Sir Myer||Neal, Harold||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Gourlay, Harry||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Grey, Charles||O'Malley, B. K.||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Griffiths, Rt Hon. James (Llanelly)||Oram, A. E.||Woof, Robert|
|Griffiths, W. (Exchange)||Padley, W. E.||Yates, victor (Ladywood)|
|Cunter, Ray||Parker, John|
|Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Parkin, B. T.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hannan, William||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Mr. Charles A. Howell and|
|Harper, Joseph||Pentland, Norman||Mr. Ifor Davies.|
|Hart, Mrs. Judith||Probert, Arthur|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington S.)||Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.|
|Ashton, Sir Hubert||Bryan, Paul||Doughty, Charles|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Bullard, Denys||Drayson, G. B.|
|Awdry, Daniel (Chippenham)||Burden,F. A.||Eden, John|
|Barlow, Sir John||Chataway, Christopher||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)|
|Barter, John||Chichester-Clark, R.||Emery, Peter|
|Batsford, Brian||Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Farr, John|
|Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Fell, Anthony|
|Biffen, John||Cleaver, Leonard||Finlay, Graeme|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Cooke, Robert||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles|
|Bingham, R. M.||Cooper, A. E.||Fraser,Rt.Hn.Hugh(Stafford&Stone)|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)|
|Bishop, F. P.||Corfield, F. V.||Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Coulson, Michael||George, Sir John (Pollok)|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Craddock, SirBeresford (Spelthorne)||Gibson-Watt, David|
|Box, Donald||Critchley, Julian||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, Central)|
|Boyle, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver||Glover, Sir Douglas|
|Braine, Bernard||Curran, Charles||Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)|
|Brewis, John||Currie, G. B. H.||Gower, Raymond|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col.Sir Walter||Deedes, Rt. Hon. W. F.||Grant-Ferris, R.|
|Brooman-White, R.||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Green, Alan|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Sharples, Richard|
|Gurden, Harold||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)||Shaw, M.|
|Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Maddan, Martin||Shepherd, William|
|Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)|
|Harvie Anderson, Miss||Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)||Smithers, Peter|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Mawby, Ray||Smyth, Rt. Hon. Brig. Sir John|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Speir, Rupert|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Mills, Stratton||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Hobson, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Miscampbell, Norman||Stodart, J. A.|
|Holland, Philip||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|Hollingworth, John||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Storey, Sir Samuel|
|Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P.||Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Howard, John (Southampton, Test)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Talbot, John E.|
|Hughes-Young, Michael||Orr-Ewing, Sir Charles||Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)|
|Hulbert, Sir Norman||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)||Taylor,Frank(M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Temple, John M.|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Page, John (Harrow, West)||Thompson, Sir Kenneth (Walton)|
|James, David||Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, w.)|
|Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Percival, Ian||Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth||Turner, Colin|
|Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Pilkington, Sir Richard||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Pott, Percivall||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Jones, Rt. Hn. Aubrey (Hall Green)||Prior, J. M. L.||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Kaberry, Sir Donald||Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Proudfoot, Wilfred||Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis|
|Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Pym, Francis||Wakefield, Sir Wavell|
|Leavey, J. A.||Quennell, Miss J. M.||Walker, Peter|
|Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Rawlinson, Sir Peter||Wall, Patrick|
|Lilley, F. J. P.||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin||Whitelaw, William|
|Lindsay, Sir Martin||Rees, Hugh||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Linstead, Sir Hugh||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Litchfield, Capt. John||Renton, Rt. Hon. David||Wise, A. R.|
|Longden, Gilbert||Ridley, Hon. Nicholas||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Loveys, Walter H.||Ridsdale, Julian||Woollam, John|
|Lucas, Sir Jocelyn||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Ronner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|MacArthur, Ian||Russell, Ronald||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|McLaren, Martin||St. Clair, M.||Mr. Peel and|
|McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia||Scott-Hopkins, James||Mr. Gordon Campbell.|
I beg to move, in page 2, line 19, at the end to insert:
(3) The Authority may, in the discharge of their general responsibility for programmes other than advertisements, impose requirements as to standards and practice for such programmes which go beyond, or relate to matters not covered by, the provisions of the code; and the methods of control exercisable by the Authority for the purpose of securing that the provisions of the code are observed, and for the purpose of securing compliance with such requirements which go beyond, or relate to matters not covered by, the code, shall include a power to give directions to a programme contractor (or any other person providing such programmes) imposing prohibitions or restrictions as respects items of a specified class or description or as respects a particular item.
The Amendment is consequential upon my right hon. Friend's acceptance in principle of an Amendment submitted by the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey). That Amendment was felt to be defective in that it did not say to whom directions were to be given, nor did it make clear whether the directions were to be for the purpose of reinforcing the code or for covering matter not in the code.
This Amendment makes provision for (i) requirements as to programme stan- dards or practice to be imposed upon the programme company, or anybody else providing programmes, which go beyond the code or relate to matters not covered by the code. It also provides for directions to the I.T.A. to secure compliance with the provisions of the code and the requirements mentioned in (i). It does not confer on the I.T.A. power to give positive direction requiring anything to be included in a specific programme, that is the I.T.A. is not given power to intervene in production.
The effect of the Amendment will be that there will be a code which will give guidance on various matters, including violence, backed by powers to the Authority to secure observance of the code, to extend the code to a new matter, to impose requirements as regards a new matter, and to give directions banning or restricting the showing of particular items or items of a particular class.
I beg to move, in page 3, line 9, to leave out from "if" to "as" in line 12 and to insert:
they think fit to do so in view of any change of circumstances occurring after a programme schedule has been approved by them, permit the programme contractor to make such alterations in that programme schedule".
The Amendment derives from an undertaking which I gave in Standing Committee on 26th March. I then referred to an Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey), which he withdrew, to seek an explanation of certain words which had been used. We have tried, but it has not been found practicable, to specify the precise circumstances which might require a change in programme arrangements to be made at short notice, but the Amendment makes clear that the power to approve changes can be exercised only if circumstances have changed since the programme schedule was approved.
I hope that the Amendment commends itself to the hon. Member.
I beg to move, in page 4, line 22, to leave out subsection (1) and to insert:
(1) Schedule (Rules as to advertisements) to this Act (which reproduces, with additions and amendments, the rules regarding the broadcasting of advertisements contained in Schedule 2 to the principal Act) shall have effect in substitution for the said Schedule 2; and accordingly in section 4 of the principal Act (which relates to advertisements) any reference to the said Schedule 2 shall be construed as a reference to Schedule (Rules as to advertisements) to this Act.
During the Committee stage Amendments which proposed that Schedule 1 of the Bill and the Second Schedule to the Act should be combined were rejected because the drafting was faulty. The principle behind the Amendments, however, was accepted.
This Amendment to Clause 5 provides for the combining of the two Schedules and includes a consequential provision for the interpretation of Section 4 of the principal Act. The effect of the Amendment will be to carry the Second Schedule of the Act into Schedule 1 of the Bill, with the amendments and additions made by the original Schedule 1 of the Bill as amended in Committee.
The purpose of the combined Schedules is to simplify working from the Acts. There is no change in the provisions on advertisements as agreed in the Standing Committee. Clause 11 was amended in Committee to ensure that the I.T.A.'s contracts would include provisions for securing compliance with both the Acts.
I beg to move, in page 4, line 33, at the end to insert:
(c) to secure that the proportion of recorded and other matter of British origin and British performance in the advertisements broadcast by the Authority shall not be less than 90 per cent.
This is returning to a point that we have already discussed this afternoon and to a point which we discussed in Standing Committee, and that is to ensure that a proper proportion of the material shall be of British origin. We have discussed programmes, and we feel that we ought to make express provision for advertisements also.
I realise in anticipation that there will be an answer to our specific proposal of 90 per cent.—that it would be unrealistic to make this provision as we have not made it in the case of the programmes. But the point of substance is that we feel there should be a similar provision affecting advertisements as that affecting programmes.
This point is made with particular force at the moment because we are disturbed about it. There is some evidence that some of these advertisements are being made abroad. Without entering into any controversial matter with the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Shepherd), I am sure that he will accept in principle that this practice is undesirable, and it would be better to make the point here. We feel that there is a danger that more of these advertisements may be made abroad and it would be as well to take this opportunity to provide that advertisements shall be in the same position as programmes.
I should like to say a word or two in support of the idea behind this Amendment, although per haps for different reasons from those mentioned by the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey).
It is important that we should deal with this matter from the point of view of the question of quality. We see quite enough imported material in the programmes, and when we look at our television sets nowadays I have a suspicion that some products are being advertised with advertisement material that is imported with the products. I have noticed some advertisements which appeared to be almost exactly American in character, very careless, slipshod sort of stuff such as I have seen on American commercial television. Although I may be wrong there, I should be very worried if this were to become a growing practice. Advertisements ought to be made here. After all, it is the British public at which the producers are aiming their products. I cannot see why we should be assailed by sales talk of a foreign kind.
I support what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) and by the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke), who offers support from an unexpected quarter, which is none the less welcome to us on these benches. I attach even greater importance to this Amendment than I did to the new Clause dealing with the foreign content of programmes. Indeed, I was not over-enthusiastic about that new Clause because I looked forward to the growing internationalisation of television programmes with the extension of pooling arrangements like that operated by Eurovision now.
Advertisements come within an entirely different category. I speak conscious of the fact that I am closely associated with a consumers' body, the Advertising Inquiry Council, which takes a great interest in these matters. That Council, in common with a growing section of the public, has become concerned at the "Americanisation" of advertising techniques and the use of American copy, and it would be very alarmed by the possible extension of the use of American commercial advertising on British commercial television.
I very much hope that the Postmaster-General will give us an effective assurance that the commercial television screen in this country will be protected against the inroads of foreign advertising techniques, particularly the techniques which we associate with the United States.
There is one thing which bothers me a little about the Amendment, namely, the possibility of retaliation. It would be a serious matter if other countries, because of the Amendment, retaliated against us. We want to do everything we can to export our goods and, with the exporting of our goods, perhaps the appropriate advertisements to be shown in other countries, where that is possible. I fear that we might unduly restrict our producers, exporters and publicity people in their efforts to get our goods advertised on other stations if the Amendment were adopted. I quite understand what is said by hon. Members in support of the Amendment, but I ask them to bear in mind that there could be retaliation which might adversely affect us in this country. I should like the Postmaster-General to give us his views on this particular question. Has he consulted the Board of Trade or other people who are, very rightly, concerned in expanding our exports and in using in every way possible our commercial television activities in this country to that end? Has he anything to tell the House about it?
The hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) is mistaken in attributing to me the remarks which he did. I got into trouble through having some remarks wrongly attributed to me last week, and I do not want a repetition.
I regard the point of the Amendment as somewhat unreal. The people who undertake television advertising in this country spend quite a lot of money on it. The impact of the advertisement is of very short duration. Therefore, it is immensely important that it should be directed precisely to the market at which it is aimed. In these circumstances, it is highly unlikely that anyone would save money to any material extent by using imported advertising material. Therefore, while I should like to see British advertising material used 100 per cent. on our television screens, I feel that there is no real danger of a substantial amount being imported.
I can quite understand the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) pursuing this matter throughout all the productions of independent television, but, as hon. Gentlemen have suggested, there are a number of points which one must seriously consider. The most important thing is to get this into perspective. Of the more than 7,000 advertisements re- ceived in the course of a year only about 100 have been made abroad. Many of those are of the cartoon variety and originated in Europe. Of course, the dubbing and editing of the advertisements create work in this country. In fact—and this is the reply to my hon. Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Sir W. Wakefield)—more British commercials are exhibited abroad than are brought in from abroad for exhibition here, and that is an important point and one probably not very well known.
It is a matter which the Authority watches very carefully. It would be wrong to write in hard and fast proportions in this matter. We are not living in a world of our own, and, as has been said before, exports are vital. A good way to sell exports is to advertise in foreign countries. Some countries have already shown that they resent quotas in respect of television programmes and have drawn attention to the need to liberalise thought and to exchange materials. We cannot afford to run the risk of hampering trade development in future markets that we cannot necessarily foresee at the moment by inviting a retaliatory ban on our own advertisements.
This is a matter which must be left to the discretion of the Authority, which has already shown that it is conscious of the need to watch the position carefully and will certainly take note of what has been said in the debate on this subject. It has in any case a duty under Section 3(1d) of the principal Act to ensure that a proper proportion of recorded and other matter included in programmes is of British origin and of British performance. This of course applies to advertisements just as much as to programme items. Again, therefore I would ask the hon. Gentleman whether he would think about withdrawing his Amendment.
I am obliged to the Assistant Postmaster-General. To the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cheadle (Mr. Shepherd), I would say that I thought he was saying that for the reasons he gave work such as this was to be imported, but if I misunderstood him I apologise. To the Assistant Postmaster-General I must say that I indicated that, in view of the fact that our Amendment for making a similar provision for programmes was withdrawn, we should be obliged to take similar action in this case, but I am obliged to him for the information that the Authority does have this under review, and that it does pay attention to our debates. That probably is where it ought to be left. It is probably a matter which ought to be left to the discretion of the Authority, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
I beg to move, in page 5, line 20, at the end to insert:
(6) In exercising its powers under this section it shall be the duty of the Authority to keep under constant review the amount of time given to advertising, and to seek to reduce it to a minimum that is consistent with the proper performance by the programme contractors of their duties under this Act and the principal Act.
This Amendment asks the Government to do what I asked them to do through an Amendment I moved in Standing Committee and withdrew. I again ask the Government to face absolutely squarely—and squarely for the first time, I think—the issue of the instruction to the Authority about the amount of advertising which it is to allow in every hour. The amount of advertising per hour has been steadily reduced, as I said in Committee, from eight and a quarter—or whatever it was—to seven, to an average of six minutes per hour. There is no instruction, either in the principal Act or in the Bill, by which that decision to reduce the amount of advertising from eight to seven to six minutes in the hour could possibly have been taken. The only instruction in the original Act is the instruction that the amount of advertising should not be so great as to detract from the value of the programmes as a medium of entertainment and so on.
No one could pretend, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not try, that in reducing from eight to seven to six the Authority was suddenly becoming aware that eight minutes of advertising was detracting, as compared first with seven minutes and then with six. That could not have been the main consideration which moved the Authority. These downward steps of one minute could not have been taken in any one year because it was found that the earlier amount of advertising was detracting from the value of the programmes.
Clearly, what has happened in recent years has been that the Authority has made a more commonsense approach—that there should not be more advertising than really necessary. It should not go so far at the one extreme as to be a bonanza of advertising and detract from the value of the programmes and should move steadily downwards consistently with the Authority's other general duties. I am arguing that we should give that legislative force.
In Standing Committee, I approached this subject from another angle. I confess that I approached it too negatively. My hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) was right when in summing up our long debate he said that the trouble with my Amendment was that it was too negative. I then talked about the nuisance to viewers caused by advertising and my hon. Friend pointed out that that was too negative and that the word "nuisance" had a strict legal connotation which it would be difficult to interpret. I also talked about reducing the amount of advertising until it was only enough to ensure reasonable profits for the programme contractors and hon. Members opposite asked what I meant by reasonable profits—I still maintain that I can answer that, but I shall not press it.
I have now tried to approach the general idea in a more positive fashion. Let us face the issue positively and squarely and clearly say that we cannot allow the Authority to go on without a clear instruction about what is in our minds. We are all happily tolerating the fact that advertising is coming down by one minute an hour, but there is no legislative force to that either in the Act or in the Bill.
My Amendment simply says that it shall be the duty of the Authority in using its powers about the amount of advertising to keep it constantly under review, the plea made by the Pilkington Committee. In paragraph 228 of its Report, the Pilkington Committee said that the Authority should, in particular, keep the maximum under review
to see if it can be further reduced.
In paragraph 273 it went further and said that the amount should not be increased. Many would like to see it less,
and we hope that it will be still further reduced. Are not we all hoping that if, consistent with its general duties, it proves possible, the I.T.A. will cut this down to five minutes? This would be all the more power to its elbow, and we ought to give it a general duty in this matter instead of leaving it without any justification to act.
I said in Committee upstairs, and I repeat it now, that it is improper to envisage profits on this scale of £20 million to £30 million per annum from this medium for the contractors. This has been called a licence to print money. That is just what it is, and it is no answer to say that the Government are to have half of this by the introduction of a levy. To say that is merely to say that the viewer is watching television for the convenience of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and this is not good enough. It means that the viewer is not being put first when this matter is under consideration.
The original justification for the introduction of commercial television was not to provide viewers with a channel which would provide as much advertising as advertisers could get away with. The idea was to have a channel with the minimum amount of advertising necessary to enable it to pay its way and avoid any increased payment by the viewers. The only justification for allowing advertising was that it would allow the medium to pay its way without increasing the licence fee.
Let us stick to that. Let us keep it down to the minimum consistent with the performance by the Authority of its duties, and consistent with the idea that was put forward in this House when commercial television was originally proposed.