Orders of the Day — Broadcasting Policy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd March 1966.

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Photo of Mr Charles Mapp Mr Charles Mapp , Oldham East 12:00 am, 3rd March 1966

I am reassured, because I was being rather conservative. What are the pragmatic reasons before us? We cannot continue indefinitely the contradictory forms of financing the two bodies. The methods of finance do not compare one with the other. Sooner or later it will be realised that we must be consistent. The sooner this is realised the better. There is a new monopoly in the advertising world. I am sure that the Tories will not be enthusiastic in ensuring that no further monopolies are created, so even from that angle it is advisable that the monopoly be broken.

Now that we have reached a plateau of licences we must realise the inescapable fact that the B.B.C's. finances are unable to grow with the economy. Equally, it must be recognised that the competing service, being financially hitched to one of the most prosperous parts of the economy, is self-financing and, as the expenditure is under the same control, is bound to be profitable and viable.

My personally chosen service—the B.B.C.—will be constantly in a financial crisis for two reasons. First, the number of licences has reached saturation point. Secondly, whenever the House, I often think unwisely, sets up a State organisation, it proceeds to trammel it with every kind of inhibiting instrument to prevent it doing this, that or the other. Some part of the rigid management and organisation structure of the B.B.C. is due to the House having inhibited the Corporation, instead of allowing the normal flexible arrangements which exist in the competing service. The crisis point is here, and before long the next Labour Government must face it.

I ask the Minister a very straightforward question. I want him to answer it so that during the election this matter can be considered pragmatically. I said that the licence might cost £7 or £8. Hon. Members of the House are sophisticated. If we are frank with ourselves, we will admit that we are not always fully representative of the ordinary folk who are our constituents. Is it not fair to consider this problem from the point of view of the family man earning from £12 to £20 a week?

Apart from moralising, I am unable to convince many of my constituents of the equity of their paying the B.B.C. licence fee because many of the people to whom I talk spend two-thirds of their time watching I.T.V. and one-third of their time, or less, watching news and sporting and national events on the B.B.C. Their question: Why should we have to pay an additional £2, thus bringing the licence up to £7, when we choose either not to watch the B.B.C. service, or to watch it minimally?—is unanswerable in logic. Our job as Members of Parliament, if we come down to moralising, is to deal with such things as licentiousness and not the question of choice.