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Broadcasting

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th May 1965.

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Photo of Mr William Shepherd Mr William Shepherd , Cheadle 12:00 am, 13th May 1965

After discussing the complaints I had received, the Director-General said, "Let us forget the past and will you tell me what was wrong with that programme?" He was referring to "That Was The Week That Was". I then gave an example to him of what I considered to be objectionable in the programme. Lance Percival was dressed up as Father Christmas and was singing a song about children. He referred to children in the song as "little bleeders". I said to the Director-General, "First, as one who is engaged in the entertainment business, 'little horrors' would have been artistically a better phrase to have used and, secondly, many parents would not wish to have children referred to as 'little bleeders' on television, especially when children were present, as they were likely to be."

I invite the Committee to consider the Director-General's reply. He said, "You know, I have children, but it has never occurred to me to think that there was anything objectionable in children being referred to as 'little bleeders'." [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] There may be—clearly there are—people who also take that view. It explains the difficulty of getting better standards on the B.B.C. if a man at the top of the B.B.C. for administrative purposes takes that attitude of mind. I do not believe that it is an attitude which should be allowed to prevail and I agree with the Postmaster-General that we may have to consider alternative means of supervising television. Immediately, I think that the right hon. Gentleman's task is to strengthen the Board of the B.B.C. If one has an immensely strong director and a not so strong board, the great danger is that the director will have all his own way and the board's position will be eroded.

What I have said about the treatment by the B.B.C. of certain material in no way detracts from my admiration for the Corporation as a whole. I regard the decline of the past few years as regrettable and I hope that it will not be allowed to damage the reputation of the Corporation permanently. Neither do I wish it to be felt that I am opposed to adult treatment of subjects by the B.B.C. or to any reasonable presentation of life. What I object to is the gratuitous bad taste to which we have been consistently subjected by the B.B.C. I hope that the Committee will make it clear that while it wants no prudish attitude, it does want an attitude which is consistent with the good name of this country.