On a point of order. Would you be kind enough, Mr. Speaker, to inform the House, for the record, whether the Amendment standing in my name has been selected?
[That this House, in censuring Her Majesty's Government for its persistent failure to adopt a constructive broadcasting policy, calculated to eliminate the violation of international agreements reserving certain wavelengths for necessary purposes and to eliminate the violation of private property in the form of artists' copyright, declines now to give a second reading to a kill-joy Bill which will deprive millions of people (including tens of thousands of the constituents of the hon. Member for Ilford, North, many of whom have made urgent representations to him about this) of the sound of music they love and can at present get only from pirate radio stations, and a Bill which is, moreover, purely defeatist and which makes no provision for legitimate local broadcasting stations in such a way as to satisfy the popular demand for light music without taking a penny more out of the pockets of a people already over-controlled and over-taxed by a disgraced Government.]
I apologise to the hon. Member and the House for not announcing my selection at once. His Amendment has not been selected. Of the Amendments standing on the Order Paper, I have selected the one in the name of the hon. Member for Howden (Mr. Bryan).
[That this House declines to give a Second Reading to the Bill until the Government has put into effect a comprehensive broadcasting policy which takes account of the proved desire of millions of people to enjoy the choice of a wide variety of radio programmes, the interests of artists and copyright holders, and of Great Britain's international obligations.]
I propose, first, to say why the Bill is necessary and, in so doing, I shall describe the way in which it came to take the form in which it is placed before the House. Secondly, I shall describe the provisions of the Bill and, thirdly, I shall deal with the Opposition Amendment in the way in which it ought to be dealt with—namely, by showing that it is a piece of cynical and rather arrogant nonsense.
The purpose of the Bill is to put an end to broadcasting from the pirate stations which have appeared around our shores in increasing numbers during the past three years. I use the term "pirate" broadcasting because it conveys vividly what these broadcasters are. They operate outside the law—or so they believe—and they "pirate" wavelengths which have been assigned by Governments to legitimate broadcasting authorities.
Since the radio frequency spectrum is an extremely valuable and limited international commodity, and since radio transmissions in one country can affect radio reception in another, there must be international regulation of the way in which wavelengths are used. If international regulations are essential in any sphere, they are certainly essential in this. The specialised agency of the United Nations which is responsible for this is the International Telecommunication Union. The Union is virtually a worldwide organisation and the Radio Regulations annexed to the International Tele-communication Convention make quite clear, beyond any doubt, that pirate broadcasting has no standing internationally and that all the contracting Governments have an obligation to one another to put it down.
One regulation lays down that no transmitting station may be established or operated by a private person or by any enterprise without a licence issued by the Government of the country to which the station in question is subject. Another regulation expressly prohibits the establishment and use of broadcasting stations on board ships, aircraft or any other floating or airborne objects on or over the high seas. At its last major radio conference, in 1959—at which the Conservative Government were represented —the International Telecommunication Union urged Governments to take the necessary action to prevent or suspend such operations.
Pirate broadcasters deliberately put themselves outside these controls and seize any wavelengths which best suit their purpose, whatever the effect their transmissions may have on the radio services of other countries. They do this, moreover, in the complacent knowledge that no country—and least of all this country—would dream of interfering with a ship on the high seas.
In 1962, when it was seen that pirate broadcasting stations around the coasts of North-West Europe were circumventing the international regulations with impunity by operating outside the jurisdiction of member countries, the International Telecommunication Union collaborated with the Council of Europe in drafting the European Agreement, with which the House is familiar and in the negotiation in which the hon. Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby) played a not insubstantial part. It was published in 1965 as a White Paper, Cmnd. 2616, and is available in the Vote Office.
It will be apparent from the dates that I have mentioned that the Government's concern to preserve law and order in the use of radio frequencies does not represent a new departure in policy nor, in this field, have we hesitated to build on the foundations laid by our Conservative predecessors. I will read part of the preamble to the European Agreement—which, I repeat, was drafted when a Conservative Government were in office and with their full knowledge and co-operation:
Considering that the aim of the Council of Europe is to achieve a greater unity between its Members;
Considering that the Radio Regulations annexed to the International Telecommunication Convention prohibit the establishment and use of broadcasting stations on board ships, aircraft or any other floating or airborne objects outside national territories;
Considering also the desirability of providing for the possibility of preventing the establishment and use of broadcasting stations on objects affixed to or supported by the bed of the sea outside national territories;
Considering the desirability of European collaboration in this matter…
and it goes on to enumerate the 13 regulations.
The object of the European Agreement was to go further than simply laying down a set of principles. It is a specific instrument. It was judged essential that participating countries should accept an obligation to take positive and concerted action against the pirates on common lines and in a manner which would be consonant with the legal system of each country.
This is what the European Agreement provides for. It lays on the contracting parties an obligation to make punishable as offences not merely the establishment or operation of pirate stations on their own ships, or by their own nationals on any ship, but acts of collaboration knowingly performed. And the Agreement spells out what are to be regarded as acts of collaboration. In broad terms, these are the provision of equipment, supplies, programme material and advertising for such stations. In other words, the Council of Europe came to the conclusion that pirate broadcasting on the high seas could be stopped—and could be stopped without the use of strong—arm action—if enough countries agreed among themselves to enact legislation to deprive the pirates of the supply of things they need to keep going.
The United Kingdom participated in the drafting of the European Agreement and we signed it on 22nd January, 1965, the day it was opened for signature. Eleven other European countries have also signed and eventually all member countries of the International Telecommunication Union will be invited to join in.
This Bill not only responds to the recommendations of a specialised agency of the United Nations, but it is also a direct consequence of an international undertaking given by this country in Strasbourg, an undertaking which our European neighbours are looking to us to implement, since many of them are suffering from the radio disturbance caused by pirate broadcasting stations for which they regard us as responsible and which they consider we have tolerated for far too long.
It will be apparent from the time-scale of the events which I have described in this brief survey that the intentions of the Government differ in no way from those of the last Conservative Administration—and had the fortunes of war, so to speak, turned out differently, a Conservative Postmaster-General would have been introducing almost precisely the same Bill today.
Twelve countries have signed the agreement. We are the third country to enact legislation, but, of course, we are the chief offender. It will also be clear that the prevention of pirate broadcasting is not an objective of this country alone. It is shared by every country which is party to the international radio regulations, and that means virtually every country in the world.
If hon. Members opposite oppose the Bill tonight, they will do precisely what they did in the case of Rhodesia. They will be opposing world opinion on a matter of this kind. This is a universal convention. Every country has an obligation to apply it. If hon. Members opposite oppose the Bill tonight, they are opposing that universal agreement.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman accept that many of the countries which have been signatories to that agreement have permitted their own State and private broadcasting companies massively to increase their frequencies, without international agreement?
I have read Mr. Gorst's pamphlet as well. However, I do not think that Mr. Gorst has all the facts quite right.
I have mentioned that our European neighbours are anxious to see us complete this legislation as soon as possible. I have no doubt that many of the people who enjoy the broadcasts by the pirate stations have no idea that they are getting their pleasure at the expense of other people abroad who are being deprived by these transmissions of their own domestic broadcasting services.
I have received complaints from many European countries about this. I would draw the attention of the House particularly to the extreme patience which has been shown by the Italian Government and the Italian broadcasting authorities towards the severe interference which no less than three of the pirate stations have been causing to the Italian broadcasting services. These are services which are operated by the Italian authorities in full accord with the international agreement and regulations. We in this House have a duty to fulfil towards our Italian and other friends in Europe, to ensure that this unwarrantable nuisance which is being perpetrated in waters round our coasts is removed as soon as possible. I hope that the House will ensure that that is made possible.
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would not want to mislead the House or the public. It would be fair for him to make it clear that no one on this side will be invited to vote against the Bill. We shall be voting for a reasoned Amendment, for the exact reason that the right hon. Gentleman has explained.
I shall be reading the whole Amendment, and I will deal with it in a moment.
I have also made clear in the House in the past that interference caused by the pirate stations is not confined to broadcasting services. One of the big defects of these stations is that they are not engineered to the same degree of perfection as the broadcasting stations of the legitimate broadcasting organisations here and elsewhere in Europe. It is not just that the licences of the authorised organisations specify tight technical requirements. They have their reputations to consider, and seek themselves to maintain the highest technical standards in the interests of good broadcasting.
The pirates, on the other hand, have no such obligations, and their transmissions frequently spill over into neighbouring frequencies such as those used by ships and coastguard stations. Recently, I had a very strong complaint from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution that its services had suffered.
I repeat again that a vote for the Amendment tonight is a vote to retain this hazard to shipping.
These are not the only reasons why the Bill is necessary. There are many con- straints to which broadcasters operating within the rule of law are subject. They have to observe the general body of the law in such matters as contracts, libel, copyright, taxation, contracts and conditions of employment, the whole body of company law, and hosts of other matters.
The pirates operating outside territorial limits give themselves scope for avoiding these obligations, particularly in the matter of copyright. By depriving copyright holders of the protection which the law normally provides for them, the pirates are able to obtain at trifling cost the material to fill their programmes. To me, it is inconceivable that any hon. Member would wish to allow the law to be flouted in this way.
I believe that every hon. Member has received a letter from Sir Alan Herbert——
The hon. Gentleman will find the answer to that question in the letter to which I have just referred, but my hon. Friend will deal with this in detail tonight.
This is what Sir Alan Herbert says in his letter:
The plain fact is that their (the pirates) sole interest is to make as much money as they can for themselves. They could not attract a pennyworth of income without using the property of creative artists and other copyright owners. This they do without permission, and, in most cases, without even token payment. In most fields such practices lead quickly to heavy penalties. As yet, in the sphere of offshore radio, they do not. Hence the Bill, which must surely receive the support of all who feel that making free with other people's property without their leave is an activity which is neither romantic nor amusing, and should no longer be tolerated.
In its circular to every hon. Member, the British Copyright Council itself said:
The real case against the pirate radios is that they have placed themselves, or endeavoured to place themselves, outside the law in order to be able to take the legal property of copyright owners without permission, and to avoid the obligations and conditions to which copyright users, and in particular the B.B.C., who operate under the law, are subject. They accordingly are correctly designated as pirates, and their motives, like those of all pirates, are personal gain at the expense of law abiders.
It is to maintain that state of affairs that hon. Members opposite will oppose this Bill tonight.
Is the right hon. Gentleman being fair to the procedures of Parliament when he suggests that the first line of our reasoned Amendment means that we decline to give support to all the points that he has raised so far, when the whole matter was first started by a Conservative Administration? The reasoned Amendment is the only way open to this side of the House to let it be known that the Government are dealing with one matter, but at the same time creating other anomalies which are far worse.
I will deal with "until" in a moment.
I now turn to the Bill itself. At the outset, I wish to make clear that it not only fulfils our obligations under the Council of Europe Agreement, which relates to the prevention of broadcasting from ships and aircraft on the high seas. It is also designed to enable the Government to deal effectively with any pirate broadcasting stations within our territorial limits, whether they are on ships, aircraft or other floating or airborne objects, or on structures such as abandoned forts in the Thames Estuary.
Clauses 1 and 2 of the Bill make all such broadcasting unlawful. Clause 1 also makes unlawful broadcasting from United Kingdom registered ships and aircraft anywhere in the world outside our territorial waters. The two Clauses lay down primarily that it is the owner and master of the ship or aircraft and everyone operating or participating in the operation of the station who are guilty of an offence. In practice, such persons are normally the agents or servants of the companies on land, and these Clauses make clear that this legislation is also aimed directly at the broadcasting organisers on shore, by making it an offence to procure such broadcasts.
Clauses 1 and 2, then, relate to broadcasting in situations over which the Government clearly must have full legal control, namely, broadcasting by anyone, British or otherwise, in our own territory or territorial waters, and by anyone anywhere in the world in our own ships and aircraft, wherever they may be.
Obviously, we cannot legislate directly against broadcasting on the high seas in circumstances which would be outside the jurisdiction of our courts. Nor can other countries. It would not be consonant with international law in its present state. This, of course, was foreseen by the Council of Europe when the European Agreement was being drawn up, but the agreement provides that each signatory nation will take powers to deal with its own nationals if they operate broadcasting stations in any ships or aircraft on or over the high seas, regardless of registration or place of registration.
This we do in Clause 3 as regards United Kingdom nationals who operate broadcasting apparatus, or who participate in this, on or over the high seas, from any ship or aircraft which is not registered in the United Kingdom. Indeed, we have gone further and made it an offence for any such person to operate broadcasting apparatus on a structure erected in the high seas. As there are one or two of these structures around our coasts outside our territorial waters, this is a necessary precaution. As in Clauses 1 and 2, we make it an offence also for anyone in the United Kingdom, whatever his nationality, to arrange for broadcasting to take place in any such ship, aircraft, structure or other object on or over the high seas, and I hope that everybody is aware of this.
We now come to Clauses 4 and 5, which deal with what the European Agreement terms "acts of collaboration" knowingly performed, and these Clauses are the teeth of the Bill. They are intended to make it so difficult for the pirate broadcasters to obtain supplies of all things they require from land, including their advertising revenue, that they will be unable to continue.
Clause 4 makes it an offence for people to facilitate the establishment or operation of pirate broadcasting stations by furnishing ships or aircraft, providing apparatus, supplies and materials, transporting goods and persons to and from the stations, repairing or maintaining the wireless appartus and engaging staff to serve on the stations. Of course we have to be reasonable about this. It would obviously be wrong to pursue someone who may have indirectly and quite unwittingly helped the pirates in one way or another, and we have been careful to ensure that this Clause, and Clause 5 as well, is aimed only against people who are clearly, directly, and knowingly doing things in furtherance of a pirate broadcasting enterprise and may be reasonably supposed to know what they are about.
The sort of people we have in mind here are those who regularly provision the stations, or keep them supplied with oil for their generators, or carry to and fro by tenders. As in the earlier Clauses, it will also be an offence for anyone in this country to arrange for any of these things to be done by anybody abroad. I hope that this, too, is clearly understood.
The complementary prohibitions, that is to say of acts relating to the programmes themselves, are dealt with in Clause 5. This makes it an offence to supply programme material to be broadcast by the stations, to participate in the broadcasts, to advertise by means of them, either directly or by arranging sponsored programmes, or to issue any publicity about them. The pirates are, of course, in this business for money. To reduce the possibility of their obtaining it from advertising services abroad we here again make it an offence for anyone in this country to arrange for any of the acts described in the Clause about which I have been talking to be done by anybody abroad.
In creating these new offences so as to bring to an end pirate broadcasting around our shores, we do not overlook that situations could arise in which humanitarian consideration must take precedence. If a pirate broadcasting ship was in distress, or one of the disc-jockeys was ill, and a lifeboat or a doctor went out, it would obviously be wrong for the coxswain or other boatman to be penalised for helping to save lives. Clause 7 ensures that this shall not happen. Similarly, with journeys for official purposes, no one will be penalised.
Otherwise provision is made—in Clause 6—for offences to be prosecuted summarily or on indictment, and, in view of the variety of places in which offences under the Bill might be committed, and the procedural difficulties which could arise from this, provision is made for proceedings to be taken anywhere within the United Kingdom.
In Clause 8 provision is made for the Government to authorise by licence what is otherwise forbidden under other provisions of the Bill. The House will recall that the Bill relates to United Kingdom territorial waters as well as to the high seas and, without the saving in Clause 8, the Government could not, for example, authorise the siting of a broadcasting station within territorial waters even if circumstances arose in which that was clearly a suitable place to put a station.
I do not think that the remaining Clauses call for any special mention by me. I believe that I have said sufficient to show how necessary the Bill is. I would only remind the House that the Bill represents our share in a series of interlocking legislative enactments in different countries. Some countries—the Scandinavian countries and Belgium—have already enacted legislation, but, as I said before in reply to an hon. Gentleman opposite, we are by far the worst offender. It is our turn now, and I have every reason to believe that others will follow.
A great many ingenious arguments have been advanced by the pirates and their supporters to suggest that the pirates, far from being suppressed, should be actively encouraged. Concepts like "freedom of speech" and "human rights" have been invoked. I have no doubt that today we shall hear a good deal about freedom of speech and human rights and I am going to resist the temptation to answer those arguments in advance.
I have tried to demonstrate that what the Government are striving for in presenting the Bill is the preservation of broadcasting itself. We must work within the framework of international regulation in the use of radio. If we do not, there will be chaos. If everyone with some cash at his disposal who wanted to set up a broadcasting station were able to do so without restraint as to wavelength and power, broadcasting as we know it would eventually become impossible. Clearly we must not allow this to happen. We all know that we are living in an age when law and order needs reinforcing, and it is on that basis that I commend the Bill to the House.
The Opposition Amendment says:
That this House declines to give a Second Reading to the Bill until the Government has put into effect a comprehensive broadcasting policy which takes account of the proved desire of millions of people to enjoy the choice of a wide variety of radio programmes,"—
I hope that the House will note the next part—
the interests of artists and copyright holders, and of Great Britain's international obligations.
If hon. Gentlemen cheer that, they will cheer anything.
In other words, the Opposition wish to gain some imagined popularity, and heaven knows they need it, by opposing world opinion, as they did recently over Rhodesia—I have said it before and I shall say it over and over again—by putting themselves on the side of law-lessness, and by saying that this country will not honour its international obligations. They then have the effrontery to say that this Government are not providing a greater choice in radio programmes.
But perhaps the most astounding piece of nonsense is the final line, which accuses the Government of ignoring the interests of artists and copyright holders, and of ignoring Great Britain's international obligation.—[HON. MEMBERS: "It does not say that."] Of course it does. I do not understand the meaning of English words if it does not say that. Hon. Gentlemen opposite know full well that the whole purpose of the Bill is, among other things, to reassert the interests of artists and copyright holders who have been trampled underfoot by the pirates. One of the purposes of the Bill is to honour our international obligations. One wonders just how low the Conservative Party can get in order to retrieve their electoral fortunes. They can call black white if they wish to do so.
Listening to pirates does not alter my argument. That has nothing to do with it. Let me deal with these points in detail.
At the moment, radio listeners in Britain have a choice of three programmes which we inherited from the previous Government—the Home Service, the Light Programme, and the Third Network. This year we will provide a fourth choice before the end of the summer. It will be a popular music programme for the greater part of the population, and we will provide a fifth choice for millions of listeners in nine selected areas, leading eventually to a national system of local radio. Perhaps when he makes his speech the hon. Gentleman will tell the House what his Government did in 13 years about local radio. Will he tell us what they did about local radio to provide a non-stop music programme all day? We are providing these things this year.
I want to say a few words about the Government's plan for a popular music programme. My colleagues and I are in no doubt that there is a wide demand for continuous light music and that it would be right to meet this demand. If there is a considerable demand of this kind it should be met. I do not think that it is a demand for non-stop pop. Clearly the housewife who is at home during the day—and some still are—likes to hear something like "We'll gather lilacs" and that sort of nostalgic music. She likes a rather different kind of light music.
It is easy to pose as a public benefactor, as the pirates do, and attempt to meet this need by appropriating wave-lengths which have been allocated to some other country, but when, in order to meet the demand for continuous popular music, it is necessary to use a wavelength already allocated to one of our own three services, the reality of the problem becomes clear. That is my problem. A fourth choice of this kind cannot be provided in this country without some disturbance to an already existing programme. My problem was to balance the gain to some people against the loss to other people. I admit that quite clearly.
I came to the conclusion that this balance could best be struck by broadcasting the popular music programme on 247 metres, which is used in some parts of the country to supplement the long-wave transmission of the Light Programme. The Light Programme on long-wave reaches the overwhelming majority of listeners. Moreover, virtually the whole country can now get it on v.h.f., and portable v.h.f. sets are on the market at low prices. I saw one this week selling for less than £7. Some listeners-I do not want to minimise this—will not be able to receive the Light Programme as well as they do at present. A small number will not be able to receive it at all unless they have a v.h.f. set.
On the other hand—and this is what we have to balance—a great many people will be able to get the new music programme. The B.B.C. put the eventual figure at 80 per cent. So, as the White Paper puts it, on an overall appraisal the provision of a popular music programme on 247 metres will provide an extension of choice for listeners.
If the hon. Member wants those figures my hon. Friend will supply them at the end of the debate.
I now want to say a few words about the second way in which the Government will increase the choice of listeners. The experiment in communal local radio marks what will, I believe, prove to be an entirely new dimension in sound broadcasting in this country.
In considering this matter I started from the premise that if these communal stations were to be worth the use of the resources which they involve they must be genuinely local. By this I do not mean merely that a large number of stations would each serve a small area, each putting out essentially the same kind of programme, whether networked or recorded. This would be a particularly inefficient and wasteful way of doing what could be much more easily done by transmitting on a regional or national basis. And it would not be local radio in what to me is its only meaningful sense, namely, a service such that the output of each station would be of particular interest and value to the locality it served.
The Government's objective is that a local radio station should help a community to express its own distinctive character and interests. It must stand against the pressure towards conformity. Within its own community it must work to revive and strengthen the sense of communal identity. A proper pride of place should be the dynamic and objective of local radio.
Local radio can contribute greatly to the life of the community; most certainly in entertainment—and I hope that it will do much to sustain and improve locally generated entertainment—but also on the educational, cultural and social levels. In moving towards what will be an entirely now conception of broadcasting for this country it seemed right to me to start with a fairly large-scale pilot scheme and to derive from this the experience which will be essential before informed decisions can be taken on the establishment of a permanent and general service, which it is the Government's intention to create.
The Government have therefore decided on an experiment with nine stations which will be chosen to give the widest range of information. They will, I hope, include a community which has within its boundaries a rural element. I hope to choose the first three stations within the next week or so—and I have had a great many applications from cities throughout the country, in most cases agreeing to provide all the money necessary. The others will follow early in 1968. I hope that by the beginning of 1969——
The right hon. Gentleman has said that various cities are prepared to meet the whole cost of these schemes. Will this money come from the ratepayers? How will they meet it?
if a local authority contributes, of course it will be from the rate fund—but we have laid it down that it must be for services rendered, for educational broadcasting or something of that kind. There is no direct subvention from the rates, as the White Paper makes clear.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that if, for example, a local chamber of commerce agrees to support one of these schemes it is bound to be a sponsor, in the sense that it will be sponsoring the thing that the chamber of commerce represents? Is the Minister offering a sponsoring system which we outlawed completely in the Television Act?
Sponsoring, in the sense that that we understand it, is, as the hon. Member knows, forbidden in the B.B.C. Charter. This represents the essential cleavage between the Conservative Party and the Labour Party. The Conservative Party believes—and I do not object to it; it is a sincerely-held belief—that all human needs can be met, and all entertainment and services and goods can be provided, as a by-product of the search for profit. We take the view that there is a better way of doing it. We agree that the search for profits may provide some of the things that we need, but I believe that it is not the way in which to provide local radio. We recognise that this is one of the great high-water marks between the Labour Party and the Tory Party.
I hope to choose the first three stations within the next week or so and the remaining six early in 1968. I hope that by the beginning of 1969 we will have been able to appraise the results of the experiment and reach conclusions as to the form that a permanent service should take.
We have asked the B.B.C. to undertake this experiment and the two main factors entering into this decision were, first, the Government's determination to maintain——
If I said that, I was wrong. I am hoping to announce the first three stations very soon. I do not know whether it will be as soon as next week, but it will be before very long. I shall announce the others as soon as possible —certainly long before next year.
Two main factors entered into our decision to ask the B.B.C. to undertake the experiment. The first was the Government's determination to maintain the public service principle in broadcasting. The second was that it would plainly be out of the question to consider establishing a new broadcasting service for this limited experiment. I stress again that it is an experiment with which we are immediately concerned, although it is a very big one, which will affect millions of people. The White Paper makes it plain beyond doubt that the choice of the B.B.C. to carry out this experiment implies no commitment that it should provide a permanent service if it were decided at the end of the experiment to authorise one. I reaffirm that.
The Government had to consider whether the B.B.C., as a national body, would be unsuited to the task because of the risk of over-centralisation and "London bias". It is to counter this risk that we are setting up for each station a local broadcasting council. It will be the council's main task to safeguard and guarantee the distinctive local quality of its station; to ensure its pride of place. The B.B.C. has assured me that it will do everything it can to ensure that the councils can fulfil this task. I shall select the councils myself for the experimental stations, and I shall take a great deal of trouble to ensure that they are as broadly representative as possible of the community they serve. I would emphasise particularly that I wish the youth of the community to play a full part in these stations.
Finally, on the financing of local radio, I would remind hon. Members that the White Paper's records that, since the essential purpose is to give expression to local aspirations and interests, it seems right that its income should derive from local sources. It would be unjust to place the burden on listeners generally, for example in rural areas, for a new amenity which would not be generally available. If a community has a station, that community, in some way or other, must pay for it——
Would my right hon. Friend be prepared at some time to reconsider this principle, which has been put forward by the Government? On this basis, B.B.C.2 would never have been put into operation, as many people cannot receive it. I believe that it is an erroneous principle.
It is a matter of opinion. I do not think that it is erroneous. I should hate to impose another 7s. 6d. on the licence fee for people who live in rural areas for a radio service for people in the towns. As to my hon. Friend's other point, although everybody may not have B.B.C.2 at the moment, they will get it eventually——
Perhaps I might be allowed to point out that my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mr. Rowland) speaks for himself and not for all of us on this side of the House.
That shows what an evocative theme broadcasting is.
It is a complete misunderstanding of the position to say that the financial basis is uncertain. Careful inquiries which I made before deciding on the experiment suggested that local contributions would be a real possibility. There is no doubt, from inquiries conducted by the B.B.C. since the publication of the White Paper, that the stations will be largely financed from local sources. Just what the income will be in practice can be determined only from experiment. All the signs are, however, that there will be no lack of applications from towns and cities to be among the nine which will take part in the experiment.
I have given the reasons for the Bill and have described why it is in this form. I have outlined its provisions and I have elaborated the two proposals for additional listener choice put forward in the White Paper. Let me summarise. The pirate stations operate outside the law, some, as our prosecutions have shown, in clear breach of the law. They steal wavelengths allocated by international agreement to other countries. Their operation is forbidden by the regulations of the I.T.U., a specialist agency of the United Nations. This country has given a specific undertaking at Strasbourg to close them down. They are a nuisance to listeners in a number of other Euro- pean countries. They impair ship-to-shore radio links. They steal the copyright of the records they play.
It is beyond my comprehension how any self-respecting Member of this House, which has for so long been dedicated to the rule of law, can vote against the Bill. The reasons given for refusing the Bill a Second Reading, as set out in the Amendment, are cynical in the extreme. Since I took up this office last July I have announced a fourth radio service and a substantial beginning to local sound radio, both to start this year. This morning, I announced the biggest advance in British televison since it began and a solution to the main outstanding broadcasting problem.
This Government's record on broadcasting stands up against the record of Conservative Governments during 13 years in office. I leave it to the House to judge, but I hope that the not insubstantial number of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite who are dedicated to the maintenance of law and order and the honouring of international obligations will hesitate a great deal before going into the Division Lobby against the Bill.
I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:
this House declines to give a Second Reading to the Bill until the Government has put into effect a comprehensive broadcasting policy which takes account of the proved desire of millions of people to enjoy the choice of a wide variety of radio programmes, the interests of artists and copyright holders, and of Great Britain's international obligations.
The Postmaster-General has explained with some relish the plans by which he means to sink the pirates. He seems less conscious of the fact that he is at the same time and at one blow depriving 20 million unoffending people in England and Wales, and especially in Scotland, of a programme they enjoy, and still less conscious of the responsibility for this, which lies fairly and squarely on his shoulders and those of his predecessor.
We are not in favour of the breaking of international agreements, nor do we believe that the most sensible place from which to broadcast a radio programme is a small boat in the North Sea. But when, for purely electoral reasons, the pirate radio system has had over two and a half years to build up a huge audience, which is now to be left high and dry with no reasonable replacement, we have the right to protest on their behalf.
I am astonished that the Postmaster-General is so foolhardy as to take this high moral line in his presentation of the Bill. If he were obsessed less by the sins of the pirates and more with the wants of the listeners, we should have a happier listening public. Who is he to point the finger? He used the word "cynical". For two and a half years now we have had sanctimonious little lectures from him and his predecessor about the evils of pirates. Time and again, the warnings have come down from on high.
We have been told that no honest and self-respecting Government could tolerate these outlaws, that they must be expunged very soon, that this was a squalid picture, of which none of us should be proud. Yet nothing happened and the audience and the pirates grew. We suggested, perhaps unworthily, that the Government were waiting until after the election, but we were told that the only reason was the impossibility of fitting this great Measure into the Parliamentary programme.
Hundreds of Bills were pushed through the machine, but still there was no room for this massive reform. We imagined that for some reason it must be necessitating some enormous, 100-Clause Bill—but now the great moment has arrived, and what do we see? A little 7-page affair for which we were offered half a day for the Second Reading debate. This is what could not be fitted into the programme over all these years. This is the great Bill for which no time could be found before the election—and the Government hoped to polish it off in half a day.
This high and mighty line must be stopped. From your place of vantage, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you could never have seen such humbug. The ex-Chief Whip has worked so long close to the Prime Minister that he has picked up some of his tricks. This holier-than-thou attitude breeds arrogance and arrogance breds ignorance.
Because the pirates were beneath the contempt of the Postmaster-General and his predecessor, he could not bring himself even to talk to them, to warn them personally that he meant business. This applies especially to his predecessor. If he had done so, he would have realised that it was the fact that the Government appeared to be making no provision for an alternative which made them doubt his sincerity and they multiplied. He would communicate only by lofty Press hand-outs of speeches at trade lunches. So the numbers grew, from two to ten, despite the warnings, which shows how sincere they thought he was. If he had talked to them, he might have found some of the reason for their success—for he cannot deny that they have been a success.
However, to the right hon. Gentleman it is not only the pirates who are untouchable—anything commercial is absolute anathema to him. He said that a commercial programme is the by-product of the search for profits. I suppose that someone making exports comes into the same category. This is a fantastic comparison. So, believe it or not, he has not even been to see the one and only legal commercial station in action in Britain. He apparently knows it all; there is nothing he can learn from that station or the man who runs it, Mr. Mayer, who has had more experience in these matters over 20 years than anyone else in England——
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman in full spate, but I pointed out before that I spent a whole afternoon with Mr. Myer discussing his station with him. I have also read his pamphlet.
This I was aware of. I will come a little later to what I mean by "visit".
I must confess that I have met most of the pirates and I have spent a couple of days studying Radio Manx in the Isle of Man. The Postmaster-General may think that I have thus forfeited a chance of joining him in Heaven, but I have at least learned a lot from these visits and I tremble at the unthought-out uninformed and unprepared scurry into radio policy now being contemplated. I say "unprepared", because when the right hon. Gentleman took over the reins of radio policy he found that his predecessor had left him no horse. It was all unprepared. We contend that the absence from the Bill of any adequate provision for a replacement of the programmes that it kills is a grave defect. We hope to introduce a new Clause at a later stage to remedy this. Much of what I shall now say has such a Clause in view. I think that what I shall say will be constructive.
We keep being told that it is impossible exactly to replace the pirate programmes. We know this, but I believe that, if we approach the problem taking serious notice of the lessons to be learned from the experience of the pirates, Radio Manx and foreign stations, the result could be more rewarding and acceptable to the public than anything we have yet heard from the off-shore stations.
To me, the first lesson of the pirate experience is not that people want an all-day pop programme. It is far less conclusive than that. Radio Caroline concentrates on pop, Radio London on the Top 40, Radio 390 on what it calls "sweet music", Radio Manx on a totally different sort of local programme. All are successful. At the same time, their success has not seriously interfered with B.B.C. listening numbers. So I think it can be said that we have learned for certain that people want a wider choice in addition to the B.B.C.
The signs are that the addition is wanted in the commercial type of programme. I say no more than that. A Gallup survey recently asked the following question:
The Government proposes to allow non-commercial interests to set up local radio stations which will not take advertising. Do you think that this is a right decision or should local radio stations be allowed to accept advertising to pay the costs?
The answer showed that 62 per cent. were in favour of accepting advertising, 22 per cent. against, and 16 per cent. did not know. So, as surveys go, it is a very heavy majority in favour of commercial local radio.
Does the hon. Gentleman imagine that the people who have answered this questionnaire have the remotest idea of the extent to which advertising increasingly encroaches upon listening time, as it does in the United States, Australia, and so on?
I would certainly assume that if we had commercial radio some sort of regulations would be laid down as for commercial television. There would certainly be a limit. I think that it is six minutes in the hour on television. We certainly would do the same for commercial radio, so I do not think that point arises.
As to what is commercial radio, it is difficult to define the exact difference in tone and approach between a commercial radio programme and a B.B.C. programme. All I can say is that when the B.B.C. tries to imitate the commercials it is rather like the Postmaster-General and me going to a teen-age dance. We should either be too merry or too dull. We should not get it quite right. The B.B.C. does not quite get the tone the whole time.
Commercial programmes succeed also in achieving an audience participation which the B.B.C. can never quite manage. They seem to talk with the listeners rather than to them. I asked one of the more successful commercial producers what guided him in formulating his policy. He answered, quite seriously, "I assume that everybody is lonely". We may smile at that fairly simple guide, but in a modern community more and more people are lonely. Chapel Street, Rochdale, Oldham, Halifax, whatever we may like to call it, may have been a slum and unhealthy, but it was never lonely. Now its inhabitants are spread out in tower flats or housing estates. I think that experience shows that there is a demand for that kind of programme, when a person can switch on at any moment and know that he will hear a friendly, cheerful and preferably local and familiar voice.
I bring all this forward because I think this is exactly what is not being prepared at the moment. Regarding the B.B.C. 247 programme, in "B.B.C. Record" No. 48 we read this:
Now, there is to be only this one network of continuous popular music, and it is obvious that no single taste can be met in it at the same time. So what we are aiming at is a good, lively mixture, with special times of the day regularly earmarked for particular attention to such well-defined sections of the audience as the pop-lovers.
This will not add much to what we have already got on the B.B.C. The commercial programmes have shown the need
for a continuously acceptable programme rather than one divided into feature periods.
If it can be said that there is a definite and a proved need for a wide choice, I submit that local sound broadcasting is the only way to supply it. The B.B.C. can supply a vertical choice, but what people want is a horizontal choice. In other words, a play on one service and a symphony concert on the other gives no choice during the time of these broadcasts to those who want to listen to a sports broadcast, light music, or records.
The only way to get a wide horizontal choice is by local radio. This is what we propose on a far wider scale than I believe will ever be got or even than the Government have in mind. A large town like Leeds or Manchester could sustain six or seven programmes. We cannot tell exactly how many programmes until we try and discover exactly what they want. I stress that we cannot do this except by trial. Pilkington and other worthy bodies have forecast no demand for this and no demand for that in the broadcasting field and have often been wildly out.
Believe it or not, in New York there is a commercial station which broadcasts nothing all day but news and is successful Who on earth would have forecast that? But apparently it is wanted. We shall not discover what is wanted here until we experiment.
I think I have already given sufficient evidence that the public would prefer local radio run by commercial companies to the B.B.C. This is right in logic as well as in public preference. If one is trying to get a variety of choice, it follows that the programmes should come from a variety of sources. In any case, is it not time that the B.B.C. monopoly in broadcasting was broken? The case against monopoly in broadcasting is as strong as it ever was, and the B.B.C. is so firmly, and rightly firmly, established in the life of the country that it surely should not fear this sort of competition, if indeed it is competition.
In paragraphs 33 and 34 of the White Paper on Broadcasting, Cmnd. 3169, the Postmaster-General gives us the astonishing message that
the provision of a service genuinely 'local' in character … would prove incompatible with
the commercial objectives of companies engaging in local sound broadcasting".
What could be less local than the B.B.C. and a station manned by B.B.C. personnel? What could be more local than a station advertising the wares of the local grocer, the local fishmonger and butcher, where the listener buys his or her daily wants, and manned by local people? If this is all too lowly and if it sounds rather below what the Postmaster-General thinks the people ought to have, I would advise him to go hand in hand with the man who wrote those words to the Isle of Man—this is where I come back to the Isle of Man—and meet the people there and see whether Radio Manx in fact provides
a service genuinely 'local' in character.
It is really part of the community—one comes away with that view—and a part which it would not be without.
On the question of copyright and records—I hope that the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. O'Malley) will have a chance of speaking in the debate, because we shall be interested in what he has to say, especially on what I am about to say—obviously in any local radio station the record is an important raw material. What used to be second-best to the real thing is now an improvement on reality. In the making of a record an orchestra will play the piece a dozen times and the best of each playing will combine to make the record. So in the end the record in itself is a synthesis. It is the performance that never was. It is better than reality. Not only does it provide quality but it has flexibility and cheapness. I do not say that it is the key, but it is, therefore, a very important raw material.
On the other hand, one has to recognise that, as things are now, the record is the enemy of the Musicians' Union, and with just reason. History so far has shown that the more music is played by mechanical means the less work there is for musicians, the faster their numbers drop and the fewer opportunities they have. It is not surprising in these circumstances that the Musicians' Union insists on a limitation, through the record companies, of the playing of records, and the B.B.C. comes up against the great difficulty of "needle" time.
Against that, it is essential, if local sound broadcasting is to be developed,
that records be more readily available. How can we reconcile the position of musicians threatened with dwindling numbers and dwindling opportunities and the position of radio programme maker, who are hamstrung by shortage of records? In the B.B.C. publication, under the heading, "Why no continuous pop?", this problem is discussed in question and answer form. The question is put:
Could not the B.B.C. compensate the musical profession in some other way?
Answer: Not on its present income. The B.B.C. is already by far the biggest employer of musicians in this country".
Everyone in the House will agree that the Corporation's policy towards the live playing of music has been both admirable and generous. The answer in the pamphlet goes on:
Neither the B.B.C. nor the union wants to see any feather-bedding in music. Both believe in keeping the musicians playing. The B.B.C. already pays £2 million a year to professional musicians in fees, and only last year it set up a special training orchestra to provide trained players for the future".
Is there not the germ of a solution there?—" Not at its present income". With more money, some arrangement could be made. In the case of commercial local sound broadcasting, why could not a proportion of the profits be subtracted in the form of a levy or, perhaps, could there not be a levy imposed in relation to" needle "time and estimated audience? From this source a fund could be built up, and this fund could be run by the union or the union could have a big hand in running it, the proceeds being used for the benefit of musicians. That is what I should like to see. With the development of local radio, the fund could approach the £2 million which the B.B.C. pays in fees, and what it spends on a training orchestra. It could, perhaps, subsidise civic orchestras, or another academy of music.
That would be, at least, a constructive approach, and it would provide an entirely new outlook for musicians. A scheme which would actually increase the number of opportunities for musicians ought, surely, to be acceptable to them. I very much hope that the Assistant Postmaster-General will make some comment on this suggestion. If we accept the present deadlock, we accept a situation in which we are the only country, or one of the few countries, whose people are not allowed to listen to records on the radio even if they are willing to pay for them.
The proposal which my hon. Friend has made should be examined in all seriousness with a view to helping musicians, but I understood him to say that he thought that the B.B.C. was generous in the amount of use it made of British music. If he looks at the percentages, he will find that the proportion of British popular music played as compared with foreign importations is very low. For example, the cheque which has to be sent to America for the use of American music is very different from the cheque which America sends to us.
I was referring to the use which the B.B.C. makes of musicians playing music live; in other words, its employment of actual players.
A word now about international agreements on wavelengths. According to the White Paper, the local radio experiment envisaged will use v.h.f. Only a small proportion of the population have v.h.f. sets. As the only point in having a v.h.f. set so far is to have better reception as opposed to extra choice of programmes, one assumes that that minority comes from the better-off section of the population. I imagine also that statistics exist to show that this is not the section which listens most to the radio. Therefore, any hope that an experiment in that way will be representative is doomed before it starts.
How can one assess the success or failure of an experimental station heard by only a small percentage of listeners, and that percentage a false sample of the natural audience? Why is it impossible to use medium wavelengths by day, when their capacity for interference is very much less than it is by night?
The use of medium wavelengths is controlled by the Copenhagen Agreement. Nevertheless, over 50 per cent.—I am not sure of the exact figure—of stations in Europe are using medium wavelengths or wavelengths not allotted to them under the Agreement. They are not all breaking the law. It is perfectly possible to come to an agreement with the official holders of wavelengths on a non-interference basis. In other words, it would be possible for a local radio station here in England working on low strength to reach an agreement with a distant foreign station to use its allotted wavelength on a non-interference basis.
I have here the European Broadcasting Union list of stations dated November 1966. A large number of the stations listed are marked with the letter B. As I understand it, this indicates that there is a bilateral agreement on the use of a wavelength by more than one station.
For some reason or other, Britain has never taken advantage of this possibility. Why? The Post Office has always taken the line that daytime only use of a medium wavelength is of little or no value. Experience in the Isle of Man and abroad has shown that this is just not so. Daytime is peak time for local radio. If any local broadcasting is to get off the ground, it is almost essential that it be heard at some time of the day by the majority of the listening audience. Only hearing the programme on their present sets will persuade people then to buy v.h.f. sets.
My hon. Friend will not overlook the importance of providing a service for car radio listeners. A very large number of people now use their car radios in daylight hours, yet, apparently, they are to be denied any chance of listening to local radio, unless they alter their sets or buy new ones.
Perhaps the Assistant Postmaster-General will deal with that point also.
The B.B.C.'s Radio 247 and the local radio experiment are the Postmaster-General's alternatives to the pirates. I have already said something about Radio 247. The experiment is much harder to discuss because, despite what the right hon. Gentleman has said today, it is much harder to take it seriously. So much so that people who know about broadcasting are sincerely asking whether the experiment is designed to ensure that there is no demand. First, as I have said, it will be heard by a minute and untypical sample of listeners. Second, the arrangements for finance as laid down in the White Paper—we shall see what happens in fact—are really no more than a joke. Indeed, the Postmaster-General was so worried that people were laughing at paragraph 41 of the White Paper that he stressed at the radio industry lunch that it was not meant to be funny.
Before composing that paragraph, the right hon. Gentleman said, he made a serious research to confirm that, say, the art associations would subscril4e to local radio. May we be told how much he expects the art associations to subscribe towards the £1 million or whatever it is that the experiment will cost? They are almost always in the red themselves. What is suggested? Are they to run flag days, or how are they to raise the money?
What about the Council of Churches. What did it promise? These things cannot just be put in a White Paper unless there is something behind them. What about our old yet unborn friend the open university, the Prime Minister's "old flame"? Has she got a private income that we know nothing about? Will she pay for it, too?
When this matter was gone into seriously in the area where I live, not far from York, the various people concerned with these organisations were asked what proportion they might subscribe. Mr. Roy Howell, York City Treasurer said:
I don't know how on earth we could get the revenue to do this. A local authority derives its incomes from three sources—charge on rates, Government grants and charges for services provided. The Government has said local radio stations should not be financed out of rates, they are cutting down on grants rather than increasing them and there is no practical means of assessing the use of such a service, so how could one determine a charge?
Mr. D. M. Allen, Bursar of York University. said:
… on the question of finding money for it, we should find it very, very difficult.
The Secretary of York Chamber of Trade and Commerce, Mr. G. Goodall, said:
I don't think the idea will find too much favour with the Chamber of Trade and Commerce. Traders are not likely to dip into their pockets unless they see some benefit."—
again, the awful question of profits! Then there was the Bishop of Selby, Chairman of York Council of Churches, who said:
Whether the York Council of Churches could produce any money, that I don't know,
because we don't have any. We don't have any funds, except the bare minimum for running our three or four meetings a year.
Therefore, if one is to take the paragraph seriously, one is also obliged to ask the Postmaster-General to comment on the sentence:
There are also in local life various other bodies which might well be prepared to make financial contributions to the costs of the station in consideration of the general promotion through its programme of its objectives.
To me, that is straight sponsorship, but I shall not develop that point further, because it will no doubt be answered; it has been raised already. Sponsorship is, as the Postmaster-General says, absolutely against the rules, against the Charter.
I hope that my hon. Friend will press the point of sponsorship. I cannot really imagine that if a local authority is providing money—it does not matter where it gets it from—there will be legitimate editorial freedom for those running the local radio stations to criticise the local authority. Of course there will not.
I do not think that the point could be better put.
It is quite obvious who will finance the experiment. Despite the sentence in paragraph 41 precluding the use of rates to pay for local radio, Sir Hugh Carleton ireene summoned to his meeting to discuss the future of the local radio experiment, not the art associations and not the Council of Churches, but the Association of Municipal Corporations. The yield of a ld. rate in Bristol or Manchester is quite enough to pay for a station. A big corporation does not mind risking that to show that it is a go-ahead authority. It will take charge and one will hear no more about art associations or the Council of Churches or anything else.
The brief we have all received from the B.B.C. says:
In order to get the experiment off the ground, the B.B.C. is prepared to provide the capital costs of the nine stations and also the running costs for 1967/68, though it would hope that a large part of this expenditure would actually be reimbursed. For 1968/69, however, local authorities will be expected to meet the running costs very substantially, if not in full.
The experiment will, in fact, be a B.B.C.-local authority tandem, and the B.B.C. monopoly will be strengthened by the fact that no municipality will want a
rival station, and for many years to come we shall be condemned to one local radio station in each big city. I have considerable respect for the B.B.C., and certainly for its leading personalities. I have a respect for the Post Office and its highly competent technical staff. Nobody can deny that. But when their interests both happen to coincide with the restrictive instincts of a Socialist Government, that is the time when the consumer—in this case the listener—should beware.
The restriction of the use of records, one of the main stumbling blocks to the development of local radio, is—subconsciously, maybe—not entirely unwelcome to the B.B.C., for the same reason that the high cost of a nuclear bomb is not entirely unwelcome to Russia and America. As a monopoly, it cannot look forward with great joy to the days when any little station can use any record, because that would make possible a proliferation of stations with a capacity for pretty good entertainment, and threaten its monopoly.
Therefore, that coincides with the Socialist instinct to keep radio in fewer, and therefore more controllable, hands. I am convinced that the Government have not the will to come to terms with the Musicians' Union to end the deadlock, which is uniquely and ridiculously confined to Great Britain.
Is the hon. Gentleman afraid that the B.B.C. will control local radio or does he think, with his hon. Friend, that the local corporations will control it? What precisely is he worrying about, and why does he think that record programmes are peculiarly suitable for local radio?
I described it as a tandem, and the hon. Member can decide what that means. I said the two of them together.
On wavelengths, I am not convinced that the B.B.C., the Post Office and the Government want a greater availability of medium wavelengths; hence the apparent nil effort to negotiate bilateral non-interference agreements. I do not impute malice, but think that this is inborn in the Corporation. The resistance to changes beneficial to the listener is probably more inborn than calculated, but one cannot help noticing that a lot of things not wanted by the B.B.C. are allegedly
impossible. We were told in the Corporation's last annual report that
… it would be impossible for the B.B.C. to give up a whole network of this kind of entertainment without depriving many listeners having other tastes.
But under certain pressures it found that it could lose a wavelength, and that problem has been overcome.
All this leads me to believe that in Britain we need a Postmaster-General who is the champion of the listener and the viewer, who will protect him from built-in, institutional, political, probably Luddite, restrictions; a P.M.G. who will say to the Musicians' Union, "Use your power for the positive progressive benefit of your members. I will use my power for the benefit of the listener. But for the Lord's sake don't let either of us use our power just to stop things happening." We need a P.M.G. who will recognise that people—not just teen-agers, but a large range of the population—want more choice, and that the cheapness and ease of commercial finance of radio makes that possible, if he really wants it to be possible.
Instead, we have a Postmaster-General who tells us that the Bill, which deprives 20 million listeners of their habitual entertainment, has nothing whatever to do with any alternative arrangement that may be arranged in the White Paper. He boasts that he does not mind if there is an alternative to the pirate programme. The thousands of letters he has received, and which we have all received, appear to mean nothing to him.
To judge from what he has said, he just does not understand why commercial radio programmes have any appeal. He has been so blinkered in the past by his pathetic mistrust of all things commercial that he has decided in advance of any experiment that of all the English-speaking countries, the British people alone are to he saved from the contamination of the programmes they want by a Minister who presumes to know what is best for them.
I would just like to finish.
Let him have his experiment, but let him not rig it in favour of the B.B.C. Let it be an honest trial of all the possibilities. Let him be big enough to face the possibility that he may be wrong. Then let him sink his kill-joy prejudices and have the courage to accept the result.
Will the hon. Gentleman answer my question? We are starting Radio 247 and local radio, giving colour to all the three television services, and going to the 625-line system. Will he tell us what his Government did in 13 years?
One of the things we did was to introduce Independent Television. Would the Postmaster-General like to tell us what he thinks the present licence fee would be if the same amount of television were provided by yet another B.B.C.?
The hon. Gentleman says that the last Government increased listener-viewer choice by one service. We are increasing it by three services after only a few months in office.
I was hoping to hear from the hon. Member for Howden (Mr. Bryan) something about his attitude to the pirate radio stations. I shall not talk about my attitude to commercial radio in the sense in which he used the word, for I want to refer back to what my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General said about the dangers and dissatisfactions that pirate radio stations cause on radio wavelengths throughout the world. It is no good the Opposition putting down an Amendment if they do not accept at the same time the urgent need for the Bill in the context of our commercial life—and I repeat that I do not mean commerce in the sense used by the hon. Gentleman.
I want to talk about the damage and dangers that exist if these stations are allowed to remain any longer than is eminently necessary. The Post Office throughout this whole difficult period has had to work against a background of having no legal means of stopping these pirate stations, and that is what the Bill is about. The Opposition say that they will vote against the Second Reading. I hope that they will listen to what I have to say about the dangers which exist from pirate radio stations.
There are about 12 coast radio stations, run by the Post Office. If the hon. Member for Howden has spent time visiting Radio Manx he might have spared time to visit one of these Post Office coast radio stations. These stations also watch on the wavebands owned and used by the world for the protection of life at sea—the distress service, as it is called.
The main factor is that the pirate radio stations, particularly those near the mouth of the Thames—although those near other large ports do the same sort of damage—have, since their inception, caused interference to the radio service. There could well be a time when they could cause interference at the very time that a ship is in distress and has to depend on getting its message through. Fortunately, this has not happened up to now. Let us hope that it will not, but every moment that these pirate stations are allowed to go on we risk such a situation, and this is what the Bill is designed to stop.
If hon. Members opposite think that only a few ships come out with radio distress signals over a period, I will give them the figures relating to these 12 Post Office coast radio stations between March, 1965, and March, 1967, the last period for which we have comprehensive figures. Altogether, 85 ships sent out S.O.S. messages and 171 sent out urgency messages. The latter message is sent out at the stage when a ship is not sinking but is in danger. Thus, 256 ships were in some kind of danger in the area. I am referring here to deep-sea vessels, but about 190 inshore vessels sent out these two types of signal in the same year. Thus, a total of 446 ships were negotiating with and talking to our radio stations in this country through urgency or distress messages needing urgent attention. Any one of these could have been jammed by interference from these pirate radio stations.
In addition, in the same period, 301 ships' messages were intercepted at these stations from the Continent and other countries. Thus a total of nearly 750 ships in the area sent out messages and many of these could have been jammed by the use of radio channels by pirate radio stations. I am not overstating the case. These are the figures and they show the dangers if we do not support the Bill.
I am saying that it could have happened. In that one year, 750 ships could have had their transmissions jammed by pirate radio stations. I know that it did not happen but I say, "Thank goodness that it did not". The danger exists because of the way in which radio wavelengths are being used —perhaps in the way that the hon. Gentleman likes.
Let us not forget also that lifeboats when they put to sea need to keep some sort of contact with the shore. It so happens that they can contact helicopters in distress, working by means of v.h.f., which is not interfered with. But life-boats used the ordinary frequencies 133 times in this period and coastguards complain—my sources, which are very good, can be checked—that they and lifeboats have difficulty from time to time in talking on their internationally agreed radio bands because of interference from nearby radio stations.
It is because we have been extremely fortunate. The equipment on the pirate stations is not so up to date or so highly specialised that it may not at any time get what is called spurious transmissions in certain bands. It is purely fortuitous that it has not yet happened.
I did not know that. But the whole radio spectrum and equipment used by the stations could cause interference. That it has not happened in a distress call is fortunate for us but it could happen at any time.
In addition, any ship at sea is entitled to get through by radio, either by radio telephone or by morse working, to the shore, often to discuss with the owner its movements, and here there have been many instances of jamming and interference. Ships, when they have been two or three miles from the pirate stations, have complained to the Post Office stations that they were having to shift frequencies because of interference. It happened today.
We must also remember that there is nothing to stop, internationally, a ship which needs urgent assistance from using its normal commercial channels to get it. If there is something wrong with the equipment on the main distress channels. the ship is at liberty to use the commercial channel to get the necessary assistance. This is highlighted when I say that the interference on these commercial channels is present today.
I want to turn now to the fact that not only are we damaging and taking chances with our own ships but the international bands I have been talking about are truly international. Any ship of any nationality can use them in any language. We are here not just making a decision to do with British shipping. Our decision will also affect shipping and the lives of people from all over the world. In these circumstances, the Opposition should not oppose the Bill lightly and they should be reminded of the dangers we face. The term "radio pirate" is a pirate term in the lowest sense of the word. He is not the swashbuckling type of pirate that everyone thinks he is, but a dangerous criminal who takes no personal risk of any kind himself. There is, however, risk to the many thousands of people who use our ships both as passengers and crew. We have to consider that when we are dealing with the Bill.
The hon. Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Dobson) has given us some interesting examples about safety at sea. I noticed that the Postmaster-General did not on this occasion pray in aid anything to do with safety at sea. Obviously, it is an argument which could not have weighed very heavily with the Government when they decided to introduce the Bill.
The Postmaster-General says that it did, in which case it is extra-ordinary, if this terrible and appalling risk of life and safety at sea has gone on all these years, that the Government, who said as long ago as November, 1964, that they would legislate, have allowed this terrible danger to go on for two-and-half years without doing something about it. That is the answer to the hon. Member for Bristol, North-East. Rather than criticise hon. Members on this side of the House, he should criticise his own right hon. Friends. If they believe in this great risk to life at sea, they should have legislated a great deal earlier.
I do not pretend to be an expert on broadcasting policy. I represent, as the House will have seen from the Amendment in my name, probably a minority point of view in the House, but although it may be a minority point of view in the House, I think that it represents the majority view in the country, and it certainly is the majority view of my constituents.
I oppose the Bill, largely for the excellent reasons given by my hon. Friend the Member for Howden (Mr. Bryan). I should like to tell the House briefly and in as good tempered a way as I can muster that I consider the Government's attitude to be unreasonable, dictatorial, killjoy Socialist pettifogging, repressive nonsense. The House will therefore be able to determine my attitude towards the Bill.
The Postmaster-General made one very significant remark in the course of his speech. He sneered at the Conservative Party's record in introducing independent television, and he rather prided himself on his own meagre record of broadcasting achievement as weighed against the great advantages resulting from the introduction of independent television. What is so extraordinary is that the party opposite, which fought so hard and long against independent television, has done absolutely nothing about it. I cannot understand why hon. Gentlemen opposite have not continued to oppose it.
Would the hon. Gentleman tell us what the Conservative Party did to increase listener or viewer choice between 1952. when it introduced independent television, and 1964?
The introduction of independent television in 1955 doubled overnight the viewing possibilities for people in this country. The Conservative Government did more than this Government have done. They have not even scratched the surface. The Government have done one thing of which I approve, however, and with which I will deal a little later.
Many thousands of my constituents and others want to go on listening to these radio stations, and they are horrified that their entertainment will be taken away before an adequate alternative is provided. I resent the sort of high-minded stuff from the Postmaster-General which I have been compelled to listen to this afternoon. Many intellectuals despise the programmes put out by pirate radio stations but they do not have to listen if they do not want to. I listen to pirate stations on occasion. I enjoy some of their programmes, but not all.
The best thing that the Postmaster-General has done—or it may have been his predecessor—has been to introduce the Music Programme on the B.B.C., and also to begin stereo broadcasting on it. That programme caters extremely well for minority tastes and I hope that it will be expanded a great deal further. But those who enjoy the Music Programme are entitled to enjoy pop radio if they wish. I would like to go on enjoying pop radio, and so would my constituents.
I concede that there is a case against pirate radio stations. Those which lie in territorial waters are not affected by the Bill and the Government could have prosecuted them a good deal earlier if they had wished, but for some extraordinary reason they decided not to do so. Why they did not do so when they were accusing them of causing all this appalling trouble, I cannot imagine. Perhaps we shall be told.
The Minister of Technology breathed a great deal of sound and fury against the pirates, but he handled them with kid gloves. The Postmaster-General, with his experience of whipping in hon. Members opposite, has brought a heavier-handed approach to the matter.
I agree that the pirates are irritating and annoying, and are breaking international agreements. I concede that. Has the Postmaster-General made representation to those other countries which are also breaking international agreements in the use of wavelengths? I understand that the Voice of America frequently breaks international agreements in this matter. What action has been taken against those countries? What representations have been made about Albania? I know that we do not have diplomatic relations with that country, but what representations have been made about Radio Albania by our colleagues in the Council of Europe?
I am prepared to go so far as to concede that it is impossible for the pirate stations to last for ever, and that for practical and legal reasons some action must be taken. But so often we have from the Socialist Government the stick and not the carrot, and that is what they are providing today. Do we seriously imagine that if the United States of America or Canada were ringed with pirate radio stations, those stations would stay in business long? They would go out of business in a flash, because there is sufficient competition from the commercial radio stations which provide the service which people wish to listen to.
It is, however, untenable that the pirate radio stations should multiply in the future. Hon. Members opposite produced no evidence to show that they cause a danger to shipping. The weakest point in the position of radio stations is their behaviour in regard to copyright. I have no financial or personal interest in commercial radio, but if I had been advising the pirate radio stations, I would have advised them to pay for the copyright. I agree that some do.
Does not evidence point to the fact that while some pirate radio stations are paying some copyright, they are paying nothing like the amount they should? Radio 390, about which the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) has some knowledge, in 1965 paid not one penny, and only a little in 1966.
I have said that the copyright position was unsatisfactory.
It is very sad indeed that the Government should have allowed the situation to occur where, when this great new market has been provided, when this great new interest for many thousands and millions of people has been created in the country, they propose to do away with the pirate radio stations and not replace them with anything adequate.
Hon. Members may say that it is unfair to judge in advance but, from what I have heard, I do not think it is likely that the B.B.C. Radio 247 will provide the same sort of service which people have at the moment. It would have been a far better alternative, as my hon. Friend the Member for Howden pointed out, to have had some form of private local commercial radio, not the sort of experiment on v.h.f. which the Government are introducing. If one wanted to kill off an experiment, I would have thought that the Government were setting about it in the right way. The experiment will have to be financed largely out of the rates, and ratepayers will pay for a service which many of them will not be able to get, because very few people own v.h.f. sets. The experiment may cost as much as £1 million a year, but perhaps we can be told exactly what the figure is to be.
There is no doubt that with all their faults the pirates have tapped a new market and have enormously increased the number of people in this country who listen to radio programmes. I have heard the programme in New York which broadcasts nothing but news all day long. Such a programme might have a chance of success in this country. Certainly it is a very good programme in New York. People want a continuously acceptable programme which they can switch on and listen to.
I am also opposed to monopolies wherever they occur, public monopolies or private monopolies. I think that the B.B.C.'s monopoly in sound ought to be fought as it has been fought in vision. The breaking of the monopoly of the B.B.C. in vision has done nothing but good.
It was with great interest that I heard the hon. Gentleman say that he was opposed to monopoly. Can I take it from that that he is fundamentally opposed to the monopoly on independent television in respect of advertising and that his opposition would lead him in the direction of breaking that monopoly?
I am not sure that I correctly understand what the hon. Gentleman is asking, but if he is arguing that there should be still further competition on independent television, I would not oppose him. Indeed, I would actively welcome that.
One great market which the pirates have tapped, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, North (Sir Ian Orr-Ewing) said, has been that of people listening to radios in their cars. Very few people will be able to listen to these nine experimental local radio stations on their car radios; or can the Assistant Postmaster-General tell us whether it is likely that we shall be able to have car radios capable of receiving v.h.f. transmissions? If they exist now, they do so in very small numbers.
But not from the local stations which will be on v.h.f. I cannot get it on my car radio. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman is more fortunate than I am.
I recognise that in the end the pirates ought to go, but I oppose the implementation of the Bill now, because the Government should first have provided an adequate alternative. The alternative which they are suggesting is not much good. Instead of getting an adequate local service, for which they would not have to pay because it would have been commercially based, the ratepayers will have to pay. I consider that the Bill will deprive many of my constituents of a great deal of pleasure. They are rightly angry at this deprivation of their pleasure. The consumer, in this case the listener, comes first. Because that is my attitude, I shall have the very greatest possible pleasure in voting for the Amendment tonight.
There is a parallel between this debate and that on the Press last Wednesday in terms of the interaction of Government legislation and the valid choice of consumers. I strongly support the Bill which will seek to put the pirate radio stations Out of business. Like the Postmaster-General, I find it incredible that the Conservative Party, which at one time had claims to represent law and stability in society, should have tended to open the way to equivocating on this narrow issue of whether this country should uphold internationally binding commitments and pursue the policy which right hon. Gentlemen opposite themselves once agreed, although they no longer do so. That is terribly sad.
Hon. Members opposite have said that before the pirates go out of business, there should be an alternative which is acceptable to the mass of the people. I agree that the pirate have shown that, with its monopoly in sound broadcasting, the B.B.C. has not provided programmes which have appealed to a significant proportion of the listening audience and they have shown that there is a group of people not sufficiently satisfied with the programmes provided by the B.B.C.
I have often wondered what was meant by the phrase "public service broadcasting". I know that it has connotations of social responsibility and connotations of maintaining adequate choice and adequate balance. The difficulty of a definition of "public service broadcasting" which includes minority appeal broadcasting and excludes the choice of the majority of the people who are levied to provide it is not adequate in the global sense of "responsibility" or of the meaning of "public service".
Having said that, I welcome my right hon. Friend's introduction of the experiment of local radio stations, although I have some doubts about it, particularly about the financing. Many of us are quite clear in our opposition to the pirates and clear in our wholehearted support of the Government tonight, but we have doubts about the nature of the experiment and the nature of the suggested alternative. I have difficulty in understanding clearly from paragraph 41 of the White Paper from where the funds will he available to provide a valid experi- ment. The difficulty is that many of the organisations which are listed are not famous for their riches and some who might be attracted into local radio and make it meaningful would find it difficult to participate because sponsorship might be inherent in their participation. For instance, the Automobile Association is a clear example of an organisation which could have a strong local appeal, because it could provide local programmes geared to local traffic conditions, but, because of the conditions laid down in the White Paper, it might have difficulties about sponsorship.
I have some sympathy with the view of the hon. Member for Howden (Mr. Bryan) who said that to have a variety of choice one ought to have a variety of sources providing choice. But this is based on the assumption that if there is a variety of sources, one can have a variety of choices. However, that does not always work out. The hon. Gentleman quoted Manx Radio and I agree that there is a qualitative difference between that and other stations, but certainly in Australia and in some parts of the United States the hon. Gentleman will find that, although there is a wide variety of local stations, that does not guarantee choice.
The Conservative Party is extremely muddled on this subject and the muddle stems from the Conservative Party conference and the speech of the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) which showed clearly that the Conservative idea of local radio consisted largely of six or seven radio stations purveying different tunes at the same time, but otherwise offering no choice. That seems to be the extent of their thinking on local radio.
Would not my hon. Friend agree that the Conservative Party is not muddled on this issue but has deliberately decided on the policy of introducing commercial radio to this country?
To some extent, I subscribe to that view. I hope that a Conservative Front Bench spokesman will make several narrow points in the debate and tell us what the Conservatives would do about the alternative to the pirates and perhaps agree that this debate is taking place on a nonsense and that we should not be debating the wide range of broadcasting policy, but discussing whether it is not illegal and, in a sense, immoral and certainly dangerous for the pirates to continue. That hon. Members opposite are prepared to debate wider questions on this narrow Bill is a reflection of their muddled thinking and dubiety on this matter.
Some of us had hoped that in his review of the alternatives to the pirates the Postmaster-General would consider a national public service and certainly local radio services outside the scope of the B.B.C. I want to be quite clear about this. Many of us would not like the authority and power of the B.B.C. to be diminished in any way and we would not like anything to be taken from the B.B.C. except its monopoly in sound broadcasting. I fail to see how the power and strength of the BB.C., which lie in objectivity, its fertility of ideas and its technical application, can be equated in any sense with its monopoly position, or be said to be derived from it. I am glad that my right hon. Friend has left the door open and has indicated that, although the B.B.C. will supervise this experiment, there is no guarantee, and nor should it be implied, that the B.B.C. will necessarily get the final authority over the local radio stations which may emerge as a result of the experiment.
Another important point is that the fact that the B.B.C. is controlling the experiment and the nature of the financing of the experiment must have some strong effect on its conclusions and results. I cannot see why, if the Postmaster-General wants to keep this door open and to leave himself with the options of providing a service perhaps outside the B.B.C., he does not allow a matched sample of local radio stations, provided equally by the B.B.C. and some other body; perhaps financed differently or with different terms of reference. This would enable more meaningful conclusions to be drawn.
In this experiment the results may be prejudiced by the form in which it is carried out, by the financing of it and by the choice of the organisation. I cannot see the value of excluding in the experimental stages another possibility, which in the White Paper, the Postmaster-General claimed that he would like to see. Eventually we may have to come to this sort of experiment.
The hon. Gentleman anticipates. I want to indicate what some of us feel should be considered as a alternative to the B.B.C. for sound broadcasting. It is an authority which would derive some of its income from advertising revenue, but which would not necessarily have the same structure as local commercial radio stations in other parts of the world, and certainly not the same structure as the pirates. I believe that the Postmaster-General would agree that what determines the product of a radio station, or any means of communication, is its capitalisation, the control over it, the rules within which it works.
I do not call them restrictions—this is an emotive expression. Any organisation has to have rules. The source of financing of that means of communication is less important. I know that in the past with independent television we have seen vast fortunes made, sometimes with an absence of a variety of programmes from the different sources. We have seen matching this pursuing of the mass audience across the whole evening, programmes reflecting in many ways the lowest common denominator of taste, instead of programmes tending to aggregate audiences, programmes going right across the board. We have seen what some of us would consider was an unhappy situation developing with independent television but this does not necessarily exclude for all time the possibility of local radio being financed through commercial sources within the proper context.
The Postmaster-General does himself a disservice if he closes these options now. I am not advocating this dogmatically; I am saying that it is something which we have still to consider, and that there are other matters to be looked at, another area to explore. I hope that the Government will remain flexible on this point and initiate experiments of this sort, to see if this is a valid possibility.
Is my hon. Friend meaning that there will be any alteration, in his view, in the main sound programmes of B.B.C., the Light Programme, for example, as one of the means of financing this?
No. My basic view is that people in broadcasting and in the Press should be enthusiastic about what they do. I would never support any situation in which the B.B.C. was compelled to do something that it did not want to do, such as taking advertising revenue. I do not want to diminish the power of the B.B.C. All that I am saying is that some of us do not have this pathological antipathy towards commercial revenue as a means of providing some form of local radio.
Many of us are sceptical when we look at paragraph 41. I defy any hon. Member on this side of the House to tell me where the money comes from, in terms of flesh and blood and hard cash. Is it coming from the rates? I do not have the same obsession about keeping rates down as hon. Members opposite. Rates are used for many purposes in the community, to raise the level of that community, and if local radio has something to say to the community it is valid that it should receive a subvention from the rates.
To take the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop). I do not see a situation in which the B.B.C.'s authority or control over the form of revenue which it decides upon should in any way be diminished. It is a great source of sadness to me that this debate should occur tonight, because it is tragic that the Conservative Party has sunk so far as to oppose the Bill. I know that it has argued that it has a reasoned Amendment, but that Amendment rejects a Second Reading for a Bill which honours international commitments and adds to the safety of shipping and traffic in our coastal waters.
The party opposite is most equivocal in this situation and it must answer this question at some point in the debate. By taking an equivocal attitude toward the pirates is it saying that it accepts that the pirates steal wavelengths, other people's property in terms of the rights of musicians and technicians? If it accepts that this is wrong would it have introduced a Bill to stop it; or, if it does not, is it saying that one should, when one sees a burglar entering one's house, give licence to /that burglar and elevate him legislatively? It is sad that it has expressed such muddled thinking on this issue by seeking to oppose the Bill. I hope that many will retrieve their political reputations by abstaining from voting tonight.
I have listened with great interest to what the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Ryan) had to say, and I warmly agree with him that variety is lacking and could be lacking in any future B.B.C. programmes produced as an alternative to commercial radio. This has been one of the arguments used by the young who have been to see their Members of Parliament on both sides of the House. They have said that the pirates provide not only variety but flexibility. It is true that this Bill will affect millions of listeners throughout the country. We have all received letters and deputations about this, and, no matter what may be their political allegiance, our debate will have a bearing upon the views of the young. I was interested in the way in which the Postmaster-General introduced the Bill.
I thought how absolutely "not with it" he was. If only he would get in touch with the young and hear what they have to say about commercial radio and these off-shore radio stations, he would appreciate why the alternatives that we are putting forward in our reasoned Amendment should be adhered to and thought about. The Bill is before the House simply because the Government have lamentably failed to provide an alternative. As time goes on, and since they came into power, the radio pirates, so-called, have taken advantage of the situation and set up business, and we cannot blame them for that.
The hon. Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Dobson) drew attention to the dangers. The obvious reason why there have been no accidents is that the people in charge of the stations are responsible people and they make quite certain that whatever frequency they use, it is not being used by any local shipping, aircraft and the like. I hold no brief whatever for commercial radio as such, and hope that the Government will have second thoughts and accept this reasoned Amendment. If ever there was a case of cutting off one's nose to spite one's face for ideological motives, this is it. In essence, the Government propose to close down a service which has grown up in response to a public demand, which is not immoral or in any way unsavoury.
At the beginning of his speech the hon. Gentleman said that it was important that we should think of the impression which the House gave to the young. Surely it is extremely important that one impression which we should give is that we do not bow to every wave of letters which come to us and that we stand out for that which is honest? Hon. Members opposite have admitted that it is basically dishonest that proper copyright is not being paid.
I do not accept that. We have to listen to what the young require. I am happy in my mind that until a proper alternative is created, young people should profit by commercial radio.
It might be helpful to return to first principles and ask why the pirate radio stations were set up in the first place. The owners of these stations do not invest millions of pounds in equipment merely to keep the electronics industry happy. The advertisers using the stations, which include some of our largest and most successful companies, do not allocate money from their advertising budgets as part of a rash philanthropic gesture or to cock a snook at the Government. The owners of the stations and the advertisers on the programmes are spending their money to meet a demand which has never even been satisfied and, one might almost say, which has never even been recognised by the State monopoly broad-casting service.
This is not a new phenomenon. Radio Luxembourg, which is providing similar programmes to those of the pirates from foreign soil, has been popular for decades, as have, to a lesser extent, a number of other Continental stations. Even the American Forces Network has had its devoted coterie of listeners ever since the war, because it provides the sort of programmes at times when people want them, and the B.B.C. will not.
Because the pirates are an undoubted success, we have seen in recent years a very large increase in numbers of stations around our coastline, and this has undoubtedly caused problems. The growing problem of interference with ship-shore radio traffic is real, as is the interference which the pirates cause to certain continental stations. The 1948 Copenhagen plan, which allocates frequencies, is ignored by more than 50 per cent. of long- and medium-wave broad-casting stations in Europe.
But I am well aware that two wrongs do not make a right, and this is no excuse or reason for the pirates to plant the plan with impunity. If on technical grounds this was the main case against the pirates and there was no feasible alternative, then most reasonable people would support the Bill. However, the Government are well aware—if they are not, there are plenty of skilled broadcasting engineers to tell them—that there is a workable, viable alternative which would satisfy the public, the operators, the advertisers, and even the Government if they were not so hidebound by their devotion to rigid State monopolies and to which the merest whiff of commerce or competition is anathema.
Commercial stations could come ashore and be licensed for a trial period if need be. There should be safeguards as to their ownership, programme content and the technical features of their transmitters, but this should present no difficulty since the system already works well in practice with the commercial television companies.
The problems of interference can be overcome in several ways: first, by using directional aerials so that a whole region or other transmitters are not swamped. This is frequently done by commercial stations in the United States and works very effectively. Transmitters in the eastern half of this country could be beamed westwards with virtually no interference with the Continent. It has been estimated that up to 12 medium low-power stations could be operated on the same frequency in the United Kingdom quite satisfactorily. Secondly, due to variations in radio reception between day and night, it is possible to allow many more medium low-power stations to operate on the Copenhagen frequencies during the day. These stations could then switch to V.H.F. transmissions at night.
Thirdly, public authorities, the police and public services, could have a fresh look at their use of wavelengths, particularly on the v.h.f. bands. Perhaps the Minister would confirm or deny that public authorities occupy no less than 64 per cent. of the available space in the v.h.f. bands. This is a very high proportion.
Therefore, by a constructive approach to the problems of air space, it should be possible to ensure that virtually all the country could be covered by an alternative competitive commercial radio system, local in character, which would not cause national or international interference. Such a system would be a logical and legal extension of the present pirates. It would prevent the absurdity of unsuitable vessels being dotted around our shores providing hazards to their operators and other shipping. It would provide competition, which I think is very healthy, to the B.B.C. at no cost to the taxpayer or licence payer. Heaven knows we hear enough about the shaky state of the B.B.C.'s finances. Most important of all, it would give the people of this country something that many of them really want and like. In a very real sense it can be of benefit to the teenagers, housewives or motorists. They would be able legally to exercise their choice between the B.B.C., foreign stations like Luxembourg and their local commercial stations. Is this so very wrong?
This problem has been with us for several years. I have studied the 1966 Labour Party election manifesto, but I can find nothing in it about behaving in this killjoy manner. Page 10 of the manifesto referred to "waging a vigorous antimonopoly policy." I do not see how that lines up with the Bill. It is symptomatic of this killjoy Government that once more the gentleman in Whitehall knows best.
Whether it is in broadcasting, education, transport or steel, the Government's aim is to eliminate competition, restrict choice and to revert to the Freudian streak which regards anything remotely commercial or profitable as downright immoral. But the longer term implications behind the Bill—and how the Minister must wish that he could get his hands on Radio Luxembourg—are that monopoly of broadcasting is evil in its restriction of freedom, is inefficient in its failure to exploit new skills and resources, is costly in its administrative bureaucracy and runs the real danger of largely failing to provide what the customer really wants.
Over 20 years ago a former Director-General of the B.B.C., Sir Frederick Ogilvy, said in a letter to The Times:
Monopoly of broadcasting is inevitably a negation of freedom, no matter how efficiently it is run, or how wise and kindly the Board or Committees in charge of it. It denies freedom of choice to listeners. It denies freedom of employment to speakers, musicians, writers, actors and all who seek their chance on the air. The dangers of monopoly have long been recognised in the film industry and the Press, and the theatre, and active steps have been taken to prevent it. In tolerating monopoly of broadcasting we are alone among the democratic countries of the world.
That was dated 26th June, 1946.
It is for these reasons that the Government's whole policy is ill considered and dangerous and why I shall vote against the Bill.
We have listened to a most extraordinary and, I should have thought, muddled speech from the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. Cordle). I find it quite incredible that the hon. Gentleman should, apparently, go so far as to advocate the continuance of the pirate stations. If his speech meant anything, that is what it meant, subject only to the question of safety at sea and one or two other small matters. He believes that the Bill should be turned down. Other hon. Members opposite are trying their own kind of political game and exercise, but the hon. Gentleman is entirely opposed to the Bill and wants the pirate stations to continue, in spite of the clear declaration by my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General about the international engagements to which we are committed. I find this a fantastic situation.
What is more, not long ago, during the last debate on broadcasting policy, the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) said quite clearly that the pirate stations were derogatory to government. I agree with him absolutely. But to the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members opposite this does not matter one little bit. The engagements which have been entered into by Her Majesty's Government, with, we understood, the approbation and support of the Opposition, are now to be cast aside. This does not matter, but the commercial interests which lie behind hon. and right hon. Members opposite do matter. All kinds of international engagements can be brushed aside and the wider public interest equally brushed aside in order that another commercial lobby shall establish its will.
I made clear in my opening remarks that I hold no brief for the pirates. I went on to say that a reasoned Amendment is what we require. I referred, I think twice, to the alternatives of which we on this side of the House are in favour.
I have no intention of withdrawing what I said. I made no imputation against an individual hon. Member. I made clear that the whole Opposition was clearly influenced by commercial lobby activity in this way as has previously been the case. This matter has been fully documented and a great deal of research has been done into the way in which advertising on television was introduced to the country. One should not blind one's eyes to it. I should have thought hon. Members opposite would have welcomed the imputation, if that is what they regarded it as being. There can surely be no doubt about the influences which have been at work. I think it highly discreditable when this Bill lays down the means by which pirate stations should be abolished, to spread propaganda for this particular lobby.
Before my right hon. Friend leaves the speech of the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. Cordle), will he notice that the hon. Member said that musicians should have freedom of choice of employment? Will he tell the hon. Member, who does not seem to know much about the subject, that there is no employment of musicians by the pirate radio stations?
This has been clear. Very naturally the Musicians' Union, which represent professional musicians in this country, has felt deeply about it. If the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch does not pay any regard to international engagements, perhaps he will pay some regard to the question of copyright and other issues which have been so vigorously stressed.
I never heard a more inaccurate statement in this House. There is not a word of truth in that. It is absolutely untrue. [HON. MEMBERS: "With-draw.-] The Musicians' Union, as is well known, has been campaigning continuously without any let up at all against the pirate radio stations. It has been making very clear to hon. Members and everyone how completely on principle and in every detail it is opposed to these stations.
The copyright has been satisfied so far as the union is concerned. I was in touch with one particular offshore station and heard from it that that was the case.
It is clear from where the hon. Member gets his information. It is from a group of people whose record has been not particularly attractive I should have thought from the kind of publicity they attracted in the country and in some of the cases involved. They are the very people from whom the hon. Member takes his information. He said in his interruption that he understood that the Musicians' Union was satisfied with the position. Has he taken the trouble to inquire of the Musicians' Union? Has he written a letter or telephoned to the union, or taken any measure to find out? I invite him to reply.
I understand from the Musicians' Union that every hon. Member has had a letter from the union. I have had one and every hon. Member I have spoken to on the subject has had one. Perhaps the letter received by the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. Cordle) went into the wastepaper basket.
It is quite shocking that hon. Members should make statements which are absolutely inaccurate and so well known to be inaccurate. This casts doubt on everything else the hon. Member has said. I was amazed when the hon. Member said that the B.B.C. fails to provide what the public want. Inquiries show that during the period when the pirate stations have been most active the main listening public has still been listening to the Light Programme of the B.B.C. The percentage of those listening to B.B.C. programmes has been roughly 69 per cent., whereas those listening to the pirate stations have comprised in the region of 16 per cent. These are the kind of figures which give an accurate impression of the situation.
The rather amazing fact is that the size of the listening public for the B.B.C. Light Programme has increased while the pirate radio stations have been in operation. If there is to be any suggestion of any action which would reduce the services of the B.B.C., we would not merely be causing inconvenience to some who want to continue a pop programme but more than inconvienence—a real loss —to very large numbers of the population including many older people as well as younger people.
The right hon. Gentleman has questioned the source of the information obtained by my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. Cordle). Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House where he got the information about 69 per cent.?
There is no secrecy about this. Unlike other items of information, this has been published by the B.B.C. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Certainly, and it is not challenged at all. It was published two or three months ago and it was not challenged by anyone.
The hon. Gentleman has spoken about inaccuracy, but that is grievously inaccurate. This was challenged particularly by the N.O.P., and demolished. He should not be so ready to challenge the statements of my hon. Friend if he makes such inaccurate statements.
It was accurate in the sense that the B.B.C. published the findings of an independent survey which, I suggest, represents a broadly accurate picture of the situation. I agree that different views are held. I am merely saying that the information was provided; and I do not accept that this argument has been shot down. It is utterly wrong for the impression to be given that the pirates have captured anything but a very small part of the audience of the B.B.C. The overwhelming majority of the public wants to listen to the B.B.C's sound programmes.
It is extraordinary that any hon. Gentleman opposite should criticise the B.B.C. for denying freedom of speech. We gather, from some of the criticisms voiced by hon. Gentlemen opposite at Question Time, that the B.B.C. allows too much freedom of speech. To be fair, some of my hon. Friends also have complained that the B.B.C., far from being an old aunty, allows too much freedom of speech.
Can the hon. Gentleman recall a time when the B.B.C. has put on a programme revealing the weakness of the monopoly position of the B.B.C.? Is not that a denial of free speech? Should not the other side be allowed to state its case?
Is my hon. Friend aware that I.T.A. and the other commercial television stations have never been known to allow a discussion of the influence of advertising on commercial television?
If I continually give way this speech will not be my own. I must get on, for many hon. Members wish to contribute to the discussion.
The Bill gives the Government authority to make the pirates illegal. I agree, therefore, that one must consider what, if anything, is needed to replace the pirates when they have gone. One must be careful, when considering this matter, to discover what additional demand, if any, exists. That such a demand does exist has still to be proven. Hon. Gentlemen opposite want to ensure that if the pirate stations are closed down—and from their remarks it would seem that they not only do not want them to be closed down but want the present situation to prevail—their place is taken by commercial stations financed by advertising.
This is an important issue. One reason why so many people are opposed to this proposal is because they fear that the real attraction for the advertisers would be a national sound programme. The possibility of getting large sums of money out of local radio stations on v.h.f. appears highly unrealistic. It is almost certain, therefore, that whereas the first stage of the campaign of the commercial interests and advertisers is concerned with local stations, the objective will be to attempt to take from the B.B.C. one of its national sound wavelengths. That would be attractive to the advertisers, although it would inevitably lead to the destruction of programme choice as we know it today for the vast majority of people in Britain.
It must be remembered that such a state of affairs would not only be far more costly for the B.B.C. in its attempts to carry on such stations as were allowed to it, but that additional capital expenditure would be involved that could not be contemplated now. More important, the quality of programmes made available by the B.B.C. would inevitably be depressed. The range of opportunity for "live" musicians, which should be encouraged, would be lessened and there would be an increased amount of "needle time". This is one of the major reasons why so many people are opposed to methods which may, at first sight, seem attractive for the financing of local stations. We need not go into this issue in great detail now, but it must be borne in mind.
The offer of the B.B.C. to ensure that the needs and demands of the public are, as far as possible, fully met, is a reasonable one. It involves wider opportunity for hearing popular music. I am not simply referring to pop music, as it is now regarded, but to a wide range of choice of light music of all types on 247 metres.
It is important to note that the B.B.C. is not contemplating replacing the pirates by a completely equivalent programme. That is not the proposal and it could not be the case for copyright and other reasons. The Musicians' Union would not agree to that amount of recorded music being broadcast. The B.B.C. has a greater understanding of the public's needs and demands. It appreciates that a wide range of light music is required by people of all ages. That demand will be met in the somewhat extended service which the B.B.C. will make available while, at the same time, the opportunity will be retained, for those who do not necessarily want to tune in to light music, to have varied programmes such as those now broadcast on the light programme on the 1500-meter band. Only by ensuring that the B.B.C. can carry out its proposed changes will we be certain that not just one group of people in the community has its needs and demands met but that the broadcasting interests of the nation as a whole are satisfied.
While I understand that some of my hon. Friends think that local broadcasting stations might be run on a different basis, I suggest that the proposals in the White Paper offer an encouraging opportunity for a realistic experiment to be carried out. I see no reason why those who wish to carry out that experiment—and there are many—should be denied the opportunity of doing so. If, after the experience of that work, it is felt that something more should be done, then that will be the moment to do it.
I still find it difficult to understand why hon. Gentlemen opposite who, when their party was in office, did much of the preliminary work to achieve the international agreement to which my right hon. Friend referred, are now attempting to tear it up.
I deprecate some of the remarks which the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop) made when he suggested that the whole of the Opposition are motivated by commercial interests. The House must remember that when we had our great arguments on the Bill setting up the I.T.A. in 1964, the electorate had decided that it did not want the hon. Gentleman, and he was not here. It was far from obvious then that many Members of the Conservative Party in this House were motivated by anything other than an interest in service for the consumer. As the hon. Gentleman was not here at the time, I invite him to read some of those debates, after which I am sure that he will seek to apologise for those very ungenerous comments, not only to this side of the House but to the House as a whole.
As the Postmaster-General said, when we were in office we began the task of dealing with what is obviously a situation which cannot he tolerated for much longer. However, it was obvious that if we took steps to bring in legislation of our own without agreement with other European nations, it could easily have been abortive, because the offending vessels could have received their servicing from other European countries.
It was for that reason that we asked the Council of Europe seriously to consider drafting an agreement which each of the nations of Europe would ratify and agree to bring in their own domestic legislation to make sure that all pirate radio ships were denied supplies, services and ad- vertisements and, as a result, would die. The agreement was signed in January, 1965, when the present Government were in office. It is now a long time since 1965, when all the signatory nations agreed solemnly that, at the earliest possible moment, they would bring in their own domestic legislation to carry out the terms of that agreement.
Since then, Denmark and Sweden have taken the necessary legislative action. Holland is dealing with it by a more summary type of action. We are the only signatory subject to the problem which still has no domestic legislation. This Bill is late, and it should be given every possible support, even if I castigate the Postmaster-General for being late in bringing it forward.
It may be asked if there is any truth in the statements that the pirate radios are satisfying a need. With the large audiences that they have, obviously they are satisfying a need, but they are doing it by breaching internationally agreed wavelengths, denying proper payment to artists, and infringing copyright. None of us can give any serious support to that.
By their very nature, no control can be exercised over them. There have been certain ad hoc arrangements made whereby one or two stations have tried to make sure that they pay certain copyright fees. However, at present, those affected, be they artists or owners of copyright, have no recourse to the courts to claim their just rights against the pirates. The fact that they operate virtually on 100 per cent. "needle" time results in an intolerable situation which should be ended as soon as possible.
The hon. Member for South Shields referred to some B.B.C. programmes, and there are hon. Members on both sides of the House who are concerned with the standard of certain of them. In such cases, at least we have a voice in the matter. We can complain to the Postmaster-General if we believe that there is a bad content in a B.B.C. or an I.T.A. programme. We can take the matter up with him and hope that he or the authorities will take the necessary action.
Whatever we may feel about the programmes of the pirates, we have no say in what shall be the content of their programmes. Some time ago, it was announced that Screaming Lord Sutch planned to give readings from pornographic novels. In present circumstances, there was nothing that this House or anyone else could have done to prevent it. That is another reason why we should take action as soon as possible to deal with the pirates.
May I correct the hon. Gentleman on one point? It is generally thought that performers receive some kind of payment when a record is broadcast. That is not the case, whether the record is broadcast by the B.B.C. or by anyone else. In the present state of the law, the performer gets nothing at all.
I am sorry if I gave the House the wrong impression. I accept that while top musical artists can come to an arrangement with their record companies to receive royalties for records which are played, the musicians who provide the backing to a record are paid only for the time spent making the recording and for rehearsal time.
The important point to bear in mind is that these stations can have up to 100 per cent. of "needle" time, which means that the musician suffers twice in that he receives no additional payment when a record is played and, because it is played, he is not called upon to produce live music.
There are those who believe that there ought to be some change in agreements between the Musicians' Union and the various broadcasting authorities. However, we should not concern ourselves with that today, because the Musicians' Union and the various authorities are in contact with one another and can discuss any changes which should take place. There is no way in which these bodies can have any contact with or control over those who operate pirate stations.
Another matter about which there has been a great deal of argument is the suggestion that the pirates steal wavelengths which have been allocated to others. But it is not just a question of stealing wavelengths. Unless they have skilled engineers and reasonably good equipment, there is a danger of "wandering", creating harmonics and so interfering with other wavelengths some distance away from their own positions.
It is important to realise that this is an ever-present danger. I think that all of us in this House would be very sorry if we heard that there had been an interference in air control or in shipping which had led to the loss of life. It is only because the equipment would appear to be fairly new, and because these stations have reasonably good engineers, that this sort of thing has not happened, but this should not take our eyes off the fact that it is possible for this sort of thing to happen at any time. While they remain illegal organisations, there is no way in which we can require them to employ engineers of a certain standard. We just have to hope that they will use the right type of equipment, and employ the right type of engineers.
My hon. Friends have put down an Amendment with which I have a certain amount of sympathy. The difficulty is that if we face the facts, we realise that there can never be an exact alternative to the pirate stations. It is because they are pirates, and are able to break the law and to break agreements, or not even to enter into them, that they can put on the type of programmes which they provide.
We are in some difficulty about the availability of wavelengths, Until recently the B.B.C. always maintained that it was impossible to put on any sort of programme other than those which it was providing because of a shortage of wavelengths. Suddenly the B.B.C. found it possible to put out a programme of popular music on 247 metres. In other words, the B.B.C. was able to shuffle the wavelengths about in such a way that it was able to provide a different service from those which it gave us before.
The pirate stations have acted as a lever. They have caused the B.B.C. to ask itself why it was losing listeners, and whether the type of programme which it was putting over was providing a wide enough choice, and also whether it was putting out the type of programme which its listeners wanted to hear. This is one of the problems of every monopoly. A monopoly fails to realise that changes occur in the requirements and needs of its customers. It is usually very slow to change its attitudes and its ways, and at least the pirates have been instrumental in causing the B.B.C. to pull up its socks and to provide a programme to which no doubt many people will never listen but which is, nevertheless, in part an alternative to the programmes provided by the pirates.
The fact that there is a shortage of medium wavelength bands means that any further services must be provided on v.h.f. The B.B.C. says—I do not know on what evidence—that one home in three in this country has a radio set capable of receiving v.h.f. This may be so. If it is, obviously we have a real nucleus for the test local radio stations, but I doubt whether many of the transistors which youngsters take down to the beach, or many car radios, are capable of receiving v.h.f. The important thing is to publicise this, and I was happy to hear the Postmaster-General say that it is now possible to produce transistor radios capable of receiving v.h.f. at a price which most people will regard as reasonable. This will give them a much wider choice of programmes in the future.
With regard to car radios, does not the hon. Gentleman think that most motorists will be travelling outside their own communities, and that the programme which will meet their needs is the national music programme? I imagine that this programme which will be picked up on most car radios.
Obviously this is one of the programmes which motorists will want to receive, but I think we are losing sight of the fact that people want a wider choice of programmes than they have ever had before. This is what they are looking for, and when one travels in a car in an area where these pirates can be heard, it is amazing just how much chaps twiddle the dial to find out which programme is on which station, merely because they want the widest possible choice.
The fact that the Government have taken so long to bring this Bill to the House suggests that they were—and still are—worried lest it was an unpopular Measure. My postbag—and I suppose this is true of many hon. Members—suggests that if it is, it will be because so many people were dissatisfied with the services they got before the pirates came in.
I am therefore worried about paragraph 34 of the White Paper. It gives the game away completely by pointing out that it
is not a question of wavelengths or any of these other things which concern the Government. Referring to the Pilkington Committee, the White Paper says:
that is the Government—
consider that this objective would prove incompatible with the commercial objectives of companies engaging in local sound broadcasting; and that, in the result, the former would be likely to suffer.
This is bigotry at its worst, because the assumption is that none of the requirements would, or could, be met by a commercially operated station, and yet the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Ryan) put forward a suggestion which was about half way between the two, between the true commercial station and the B.B.C.
I know that the hon. Gentleman has advanced this view before, but it was the hon. Member for Uxbridge who earlier today put forward the same sort of view. He took the view that it does not matter how a service is financed; it is how it is controlled that really matters. This is a point on view which is nowhere near the view expressed in the White Paper, and I therefore ask the Government to make certain that there is as wide a choice as possible, because this is really what is needed.
The suggestion in the White Paper that the B.B.C. should go round with a hat—this is really what it amounts to—to pay for local broadcasting services is, I believe, a bad way of dealing with a completely new service. It is obvious that it will end up with a charge being made upon the rates, and the question will then arise whether, in accepting this sort of money, the B.B.C. can carry out the terms of its Charter, which lays down strict rules against sponsorship of any description.
Having said all that, I must say that I do not believe that I would be justified in taking a step which would in any way suggest that I oppose the provisions of the Bill.
I am very happy to follow the hon. Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby), who has made a courageous and well-informed contribution to the debate—I hope that this will not embarrass him—which has been a credit to the House. There are a few points on which I shall venture to disagree with him, but his general approach is one which it would have been helpful to have had from the Opposition Front Bench. One can understand a certain amount of confusion among hon. Members opposite who are not so close to the problem as is the hon. Member for Totnes. The Opposition Front Bench told its back benches, simultaneously, on the one hand that the Government were wrong not to introduce this Measure earlier, and, on the other—in the terms of the Motion—that the Bill should be put off indefinitely. This is an awkward situation for hon. Members opposite to face, and so far the hon. Member for Totnes is the only one who has.
What do the Opposition want? Do they want the Government to act in this matter, or do they not? I suspect that their position is the same as it was in 1964, before they lost office, when they said that they were going to do something about the pirates but put off action indefinitely. Nothing would have been done until the pirates were so firmly established that it would have been much more difficult to handle the situation. I agree that the Government have been tardy in this respect, but at least they have now reformed and are coming up to scratch. It would have become the hon. Member for Howden (Mr. Bryan) to recognise this fact and not try to face both ways, which has only resulted in confusing his hon. Friends.
The background of some—not all—of these pirate stations is very dubious. For example, although Radio 390 is now operated by a company which is as respectable as any company can be which operates outside the law and breaks it as well, the background behind the company, in the days before the present "respectable" owners took over, was one of violence on at least two occasions. The case in which that violence culminated in homicide represents the tip of a big iceberg.
We could examine more than one pirate station and find a background which is a bit smelly. This is not so in every case, but in a reasonable number of cases anyone who examines the situation feels that he is entering an area in which there is the dank stench of gangsterism. Therefore, the pirates must go, and I hope that when it comes to the question hon. Members opposite will conclude that they are on the side of law and order and that a number of them at least will demonstrate that fact in the Lobbies tonight.
There are two evils to be fought in the world of information and entertainment. One is monopoly and the other is commercialism. I believe that monopoly is as bad as commercialism, which I do not think can be mitigated. If only one newspaper were left it would be little consolation that it was a Government newspaper, or was run under licence by a non-profit-distributing trust. In this world choice and variety are vital, and the B.B.C. monopoly of sound radio is bad in itself. Even though the Corporation does its best to reduce the evil consequences of monopoly in respect of the listener, it does not succeed in the case of the broadcaster.
The man who has done more than anything to preserve the monopoly situation of the B.B.C. is my right hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton). I am sorry that he is not here. I can only assume that he is determined that future broadcasters shall be as miserably underpaid as he was, during the years when he was the chief adviser to our people on most social questions in the "Can I Help You?" series of broadcasts—a duty which he discharged admirably every week for a fee so wretched that if he had had no other source of income he himself would nearly have been eligible for National Assistance. If he were here now I doubt whether he would deny that.
That is what happens if an employer is in a monopoly position in a field in which the product is not a material necessity, like coal or steel, but an ephemeral article like a piece of information, the expression of opinion, or the sound of music. What is it that has moved my right hon. Friend and, still more strangely, the Musicians' Union into the position of cherishing and defending the monster which keeps them manacled in a position of semi-starvation? Is it that they are afraid—that they have decided to prefer the devil they know? The documents circulated by the Musicians' Union makes the mistake of thinking that the cause it serves is advanced by saying that there are Members on this side of the House who are in favour of coxmmercial radio. I believe that to be quite untrue. I do not think that any of my hon. Friends is in favour of commercial radio.
I stand corrected. I should have recalled that my hon. Friend occupies a distinguished solus position among hon. Members on this side of the House.
What some of us sought to do was to argue the case for the acceptance of advertising revenue by a competing public service corporation. This was the last thing that the commercial radio lobby wanted. They knew, even if the Musicians' Union did not, that this would have created a situation in sound radio that would have killed their hopes of gaining control of sound radio stone dead. The chance has gone, and it is a pity, but before we leave this matter and consider what is now proposed I want to make the point that all Socialists should know that what determines the nature of an organisation is not the source of its revenue but who owns it.
The source of revenue of coal and steel organisations is and will be the same before and after nationalisation. This is not what the struggle is about; it is on the question of who owns what. If Socialists do not know that, I can tell them that capitalists do.
It it not really a question of who has influence on what? If we have a public service broadcast which puts on advertising—which I would call a form of commercial radio—all the experience that we have leads us to believe that the commercial interests paying for the advertising will expect—and would certainly get, in the medium term—a large amount of influence on the content and type of service provided by that public service.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. O'Malley) that everything depends upon the nature of the body which controls the organisation. I.T.V. is influenced by the advertisers, and the control is imperfect, but if the organisation were a completely public service run by people with no connection with advertising interests, there is no reason to suppose that it would be influenced by advertisers. This would have been an interesting experiment and I am sorry that we will not be carrying it out.
I am grateful for that small support, but I think that that matter is a very minor one. If my argument depended on that, it would not stand up very well. There are more powerful arguments in my favour.
As for the argument that those who wanted to kill the pirates this way chose to support breaking the B.B.C.'s monopoly in the belief that it would somehow be more popular, this is a contemptible proposition which does not do credit to those who make it. This Bill will be unpopular with some people, but the unpopularity has been over-estimated. I believe that people basically understand that the law is being broken and evaded and that the Government have determined that it shall be upheld. We must give the lead. We can argue about what should replace the pirates, but there is no difference of opinion on this side at all about the question that they should go.
Ever since I first spoke on this subject in the House, I have taken the view that the pirates must go. We cannot countenance lawlessness in these islands or off their shores without conceding a victory to gangsterism. If such a victory were gained in one area, the standing of our country as a place where the law means something would be damaged, and criminals would rejoice.
Therefore, I congratulate the Government on the Bill. I believe that it will do the job and it is the duty of all of us to see that it is enforced speedily and effectively. What, then, will happen? The White Paper talks of a fourth television service in a negative sense, of colour television much more positively, of a new music programme to be broadcast on 247 metres, and of local sound radio. What form will this take?
The B.B.C. seem to have no doubt that they will not only conduct the experiment but will inherit it. If they do it will be local broadcasting in name only. However, when my right hon. Friend appoints the local broadcasting councils, I hope he will choose people who will not be content to be mere stooges of the Corporation but will assert to the full the rights accorded them in the White Paper. The local broadcasting councils are not to be only advisory bodies but full participators in programming and finance.
Local professional musicians are also referred to and I hope that local professional actors and journalists will also be employed. There is a place for amateurs—a separate and entirely different rôle—but a firm foundation of professionalism in local radio is absolutely essential if it is to establish itself as a popular service.
As has been said, the White Paper is vague about sources of revenue. Universities, chambers of trade and commerce are mentioned, as well as church councils and arts associations, but the latter are hardly sources of revenue. Presumably Government and local government departments will contribute. How will they do so? Will they pay for the time which they occupy? Will there be short information announcements, or is there here the beginnings of an interesting distinction between information for the public good and advertisement for private profit?
If there is, it will be fascinating to see how it develops. Is it possible that the local stations are to accept information for the public use and receive payment for it, while they are to refuse some advertising for profit? I certainly hope so. It is time that the Government discriminated against the worst manifestations of the profit motive. It will be interesting to see what results.
I congratulate the Government on the Bill and the White Paper. There is enough hope in it to make it desirable that I should not proceed with the printing of the Broadcasting Enabling Bill which the House gave me leave to introduce earlier this Session, and I shall ask leave to withdraw it. I am sorry that we did not see fit to break the B.B.C.'s radio monopoly by frontal assault, but I hope that we shall do it by guerrilla activity all over the country.
These new stations must not be allowed to become mere relays of the B.B.C. They must initiate new and alternative programmes and should be required to transmit a proper proportion of material especially made for broadcasting, and their fees ought certainly to be no smaller than those paid by the B.B.C. Above all, control should remain firmly in the hands of representative local people.
In his appointments, I hope that my right hon. Friend will be firm in keeping out all advertising, gramophone and foreign interests. On the other hand, I hope that local authorities, local newspapers and other local interests will be fully represented——
I see no reason why a rate content should not be included, but, as this development proceeds, if we establish the local authorities in it and lay down that it will be possible in the latter stage for these organisations to accept useful and informative local advertising, I see no reason why they should not make a contribution to the rates, far from being a charge on them.
The chairman of each local council should be able to stand up to the B.B.C. and anybody else and be ready to fight for the proposition that local radio has a civic rôle—that of enriching the local community life.
I hope that the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) will forgive me if I do not comment on his various arguments, with many of which I entirely agree. I would prefer to come at once to the Postmaster-General's extraordinary speech. The wildest assertions were hurled across the Chamber, including the idea that if anyone ventured to criticise the Government's policy in this matter, he would be lending succour and support to Mr. Ian Smith in Rhodesia.
It is remarkable that the right hon. Gentleman, who has spent so much of his political career in the Opposition, should so rapidly have forgotten what opposition is about. I assure him that my party have some grave misgivings about the Government's record in this sphere. We intend to express them in the only possible way open to us—in the Lobby. It is true that my party are not always given a choice of exactly what we vote on, and sometimes we have to choose an Amendment which we do not entirely support or to be considered in support of Government policies which again we do not support. We nevertheless think that much has been done which is wrong. We also think that as an opposition party we have not only a right but also a duty to point to it.
As there has been so much of the holier-than-thou type of statement going about the Chamber, let me hasten to join in and call the Postmaster-General's attention to the fact that it is now nearly three years since my hon. Friend the Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) sought leave under the Ten-Minute Rule to introduce a Bill asking the then Conservative Government to do most of the things which are envisaged in the Bill. My hon. Friend asked, too, as the Postmaster-General will recall, that there should be immediate provision for alternative services. This was nearly three years ago.
If the Conservative Government had acted, or if the Labour Government, who have held office for more than two years since then, had acted, we should have been in a very different position today, because we should have been able to offer to the public viable and acceptable alternatives immediately which would have done a great deal to encourage public acceptance of the closure of the pirate radio stations. It is my personal view that the first pirate radio station which opened up should have been immediately closed. It could have been immediately closed. Had it been immediately closed, we might have been in a different position from that which we are now in.
Almost every hon. Member who has spoken has allowed the hon. Gentleman to interrupt him. I want to proceed with my own argument rather than with the hon. Gentleman's. If he will listen to my speech, he will realise why I believe that the only course open to my hon. Friends and I is to vote against the Government on this issue. It is nevertheless important, in view of the situation in which my hon. Friends and I are placed with regard to the possible alternatives, that I make our point of view absolutely clear. I hope to do that as briefly as possible. I shall be able to do it even more briefly if the hon. Gentleman ceases to interrupt.
We recognise the need for action. We fully agree that international agreements cannot be abrogated in this wholly unsatisfactory way and that the pirate stations must be closed. We accept this. We think that it should have happened earlier. We agree that air space in terms of frequencies, wave bands, and so on, must be rationed. There cannot be utter chaos on the air. It has to be controlled. It has to be organised. It has to be organised on an international basis. We cannot continue with an arrangement which results in interference in one country or in another. We must have solid, concrete international arrangements, properly operated.
I agree entirely with those who have adduced the argument concerning interference with shipping. I am personally aware of the importance of this, having some years ago spent some months as a wireless operator on a trawler. I know how much ships must depend on their radio and I know that they are now being interfered with. Another important object of interference which has not been referred to is in the field of radio astronomy. This is a field in which this country leads the world. There are dangers that interference is arising from pirate stations.
I accept, too, the arguments advanced in many places that steps must be taken to protect legitimate interests of copyright, rights of certain occupations, and so on. However, I do not regard it as part of my duty as a Member of the House to seek to maintain the sale of gramophone records at some fixed predetermined level, but I think that this is something that has to be looked at. There is a further need for control, which again has not been underlined, arising from the political use of these stations. Indeed, there has already been some political use. I think that the use by individual companies which put out messages saying, "Please write to your Member of Parliament about this issue", is a political use. It is an understandable political use, but it is a use by the station to apply political pressure to protect its own interests.
We do not need to look very far before we can see other political uses which could be extremely undesirable. There are many political movements which might take charge of one of these stations and which could influence public opinion in the most undesirable way. It is possible even that my hon. Friends in the Liberal Party could get hold of a station; indeed there is no end to the sort of political uses to which the stations could be put. This is quite an important reason for the Government stepping in and saying that there must be proper control under some properly constituted body.
Having said all that, I must say that I believe that the Government clearly have a duty at the time that they are doing this to satisfy a perfectly legitimate and reasonable demand for a fair amount of pop music, a demand which has been amply evidenced over the years. As I said earlier, had steps been taken at the right time we might well have been in a position to do this simultaneously. We ought to have been in a position to do it simultaneously.
In considering how to meet this demand, we ought to think for a moment before we go too far in the protection of various individual interests, whether it be owners of copyright or whether it be artists or other performers.
I should like to consider for a few moments the general question of the development of artistic media or media concerning entertainment. Its history is significant. Every time there has been a new development there have always been claims that it would fatally affect some other existing media. For example, when films first came in it was claimed that they would destroy the theatre. They did not destroy the theatre. They forced the theatre to re-examine itself and its rôle and possibly to present itself in a new way. The theatre has not yet com- pleted this function, I suggest. Nevertheless, the film industry has emerged as a new medium which has enriched our lives in many ways and which has found its place in the entertainment and artistic world generally.
The same argument arose over the recording of music. It was claimed that this would kill live music stone dead. It did not kill live music stone dead. Moreover, it acted very much as a stimulant to orchestral music. It has been proved over the years that the sale of recorded classical music has done a great deal to assist the interests of live classical music.
When television first came in, it was said that it would destroy radio. It did not destroy radio. Once again, it forced radio to re-examine its purpose and its methods of working so that it tended to fulfil a new rôle. I believe that radio now fulfils a very vital and very important rôle alongside television.
It would be folly to suggest that pop music ranks with these various media and that it should be given corresponding thought or a corresponding place. Nevertheless, I believe that the emergence of a demand for continuous popular music should be recognised and that we would be wise to understand that it will, if we allow it to develop in a controlled and sensible way, soon find its proper place within these various other media and will not remain the terrible threat, either to artists or to gramophone records or to the other specialised interests which are now so concerned, that it is believed to be.
To save the representation of the views of the musicians from falling on one pair of shoulders only, may I say that my own view is that the hon. Gentleman is right up to this point. What I think he has failed to take into consideration is that, when automation proceeds to the point of the total replacement of the human personality, when the human personality is not even there, this is a situation in which the organisations who represent that person, whether he be musician or actor, must take very grave note of what is happening.
I take that point and I am sympathetic to it. All I am saying is that we must look ahead, not back, and we must be prepared to make certain concessions. I think that the musicians should be prepared to make concessions, too, and, if they make concessions, they may well find in the end that they are to their benefit.
When considering how this demand is to be met, we ought to consider the question of choice and whether we really can offer a choice. One of my main criticisms of the Government's proposals in the White Paper is that they offer virtually no choice. I do not suggest that one can have a multiplicity, an endless number of radio stations broadcasting popular music continuously, and I do not say even that it is possible to have one station broadcasting popular music continuously. What I do say is that it is possible to have more than one station broadcasting popular music at least for reasonable periods, which would give listeners some sort of choice.
Competition is beneficial. A lot has been said about the introduction of independent television. We are not here thinking of the advertising side or matters of that kind. I myself regret that it has been found necessary to finance independent television out of advertising. I confess that I cannot think immediately of an acceptable alternative, but I should like to think that there was some other way of doing it. Having said that, however, I am certain that the effect of independent television on the B.B.C. has been wholly good. The Corporation's news coverage has improved beyond all recognition and its sports coverage has improved considerably. There has been mutual benefit. Each has benefited from the existence of the other.
In thinking of radio in new terms, let us think in new terms of competition. We are not yet doing that. The Postmaster-General's proposals consist very much of his scheme for local radio, and this seems to be a wholly separate subject. I cannot envisage it being possible for local radio stations of the kind envisaged to satisfy the demand about which we are talking. First, I think it unlikely that there will be a wide enough spread of local stations. Second, it will be totally beyond the financial range of small local radio stations to provide this kind of service. I accept some of the arguments advanced about local radio, and I am delighted that the Postmaster-General is to introduce his experiment. I wish these developments all possible good fortune, but it is folly to pretend that they will be the replacement for the pirate radio stations. They will not. They will be very welcome, but they will be something very different. Therefore, in terms of the alternative, we have to think of the single channel which, the Postmaster-General told us, will broadcast a great deal more popular music than hitherto. I cannot regard this as offering the sort of choice we want.
I accept that we cannot go on offering choice after choice. There comes a point at which there are too many channels, whether in television or radio, so that the element of competition begins to undermine itself. Indeed, I doubt that this country can produce the necessary talent and resources to mount more than a certain number of stations. In television, for example, I should hate to approach the situation in New York where, on any one of 19 different stations now, at any time of the day, one can have the choice of 19 different old films. This is what happens when there is a multiplicity of choice.
There is, nevertheless, a field for choice in sound radio. I should like to see the introduction of something genuinely independent, perhaps mounted by a consortium of interested parties operating in some way, perhaps financed in part by advertising. I am not terrified by the bogy of advertising, though I regret that it seems to be the only way. I follow the hon. Member opposite who suggested that advertising could be used in such a way as not to have any influence over programme content. There is no evidence that advertising has had any influence whatever on the programme content of independent television. For example, when I was doing some programmes on health education and I followed an advertisement about a hair restorer which, so it was promised, could grow hair on a billiard ball, I was allowed to come on immediately afterwards and say not that it was no good at all but that I had never actually seen a hairy billiard ball. There has been no criticism of the people who appear on independent television regularly and criticise the advertisements. I am sure that the two, programme content and finance, can be kept separate. We need some sort of independent corporation on the lines of the Independent Television Authority to preserve balance, in terms of political presentation and so forth and to see that advertisers do not exert any direct influence. I believe that the Postmaster-General could have seized this opportunity to provide something different and to introduce a competitive element in sound radio.
I have no experience of what goes on in Japan, and I am not altogether sure that what happens there would necessarily suit us, but I am glad to have the hon. Gentleman's corroboration that it is possible to have a competitive solution of that kind.
Whoever has been responsible—I am proud that my party is not, though I think it regrettable in many ways that it did not have responsibility—the wrong things have been done over a long period. No action was taken to start with. No action was taken at an early enough stage to provide satisfactory alternatives which would have made it very easy to deal with the whole problem. As a consequence, the Postmaster-General now has to ask the House to do something which will be extremely unpopular, because a lot of other things were not done first.
The responsibility is not the right hon. Gentleman's. His predecessor tended to adopt an ostrich-like posture towards pop music. He felt that it was somehow faintly distasteful and he would rather not notice that it was going on. Had he converted his distaste into action and done something about it earlier, we should have been in a very much better position today.
The present Government are very much at fault for the way in which they have handled the matter. Because they are at fault, my hon. Friends and I will have to show our dissatisfaction in the Lobby. We agree that suppression has to take place, but we consider that the whole business has been handled very badly. For this reason, we have no alternative but to vote against the Government tonight.
I share with the hon. Member for Cheadle (Dr. Winstanley) the sentiment that the Government have taken too long to deal with this matter. The Bill is long overdue. It is, in fact, the first stage in three connected battles in the contest between public service broadcasting and commercial radio. The first is to put the pirates out of business. The second is to sustain public service broadcasting within our shores against commercial radio. The third is to make sure that public service broadcasting has a viable form of finance.
The Government have shilly-shallied in dealing with the pirates, and to this extent they have made dealing with them more difficult. This episode has had its note of hilarity for those of us who have followed the subject closely over the last 18 months. We saw the Ministry of Defence embarrassed to find that it was the legal owner of forts in the Thames Estuary. The Ministry has actually said that it dare not atempt to remove the pirate radio operators from disused Army forts, and in one remarkable statement we were told that the Ministry of Defence was reluctant to be mixed up in anything which would involve the use of force. If the Ministry of Defence is reluctant to be involved in the use of force, I do not know why we spend £2,000 million a year on it.
Various hon. Members, including the Postmaster-General himself, have dealt with the main formal points and reasons why the Bill is necessary. Basically, the pirates are operating a system of theft on the high seas and also, within our territorial waters, theft of other people's work. They are conducting an illegal operation.
It is significant that the only responsible speech from the other side of the House, in my opinion—I except that of the hon. Member for Cheadle from that censure—came from the one hon. Member opposite who has had actual responsibility for dealing with the matter, the hon. Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby), who was Assistant Postmaster-General when it first came up. It is obvious that power had its influence on him, but I think that it will be a long time before it has an influence on the shadow spokesman on the subject, the hon. Member for Howden (Mr. Bryan).
In a letter to The Times in January, 1966, Sir Alan Herbert summed up the position very well, and in fact nearly all the arguments are in his letter. I wish to quote one succinct paragraph, which says:
No doubt the illicit offerings are 'popular'; but anyone who kept a tavern open without a licence day and night and dispensed stolen beer free would be 'popular'. He would not be allowed to continue for long.
My complaint is that in this instance he has been allowed to continue a bit too long.
What is the general problem we face on the subject, other than the formal objections of copyright law, international wavelengths and so on? I think that it is an amalgamation of various things: first, that radio is a very cheap medium of communication and therefore one that people can enter without too much capital; secondly, that we have the best broadcasting system in the world, television and radio, and one of the reasons why our radio broadcasting system is the best is that it has been closely regulated by a monopoly.
We take too much for granted the standard of British broadcasting, and when the example of other English-speaking countries is cited and it is said that we are the only one without commercial radio, the moral I draw, going to the United States, Australia, or Canada, which I have also visited, is that they have commercial radio and in many cases wish that they did not.
Broadcasting is basically about programmes, not about advertising; and it is not about the doctrines of monopoly either, may I say to some of my hon. Friends as well as to hon. Members opposite. It matters not a fig whether or not it is a monopoly, whether or not profits are made. What matters are the programmes.
But experience seems to show that allowing profit to be involved in broadcasting, breaking monopolies, tends to produce a lower level of programme overall. There is a Gresham's Law in broadcasting and if one allows the bad to come in, as I believe that the pirate radios are bad in standards of taste and values, it gradually drives out the good. Anybody who has studied the American system well known that the problem is that there is an inexorable non-stop appeal towards the lowest common denominator, partly because of the economics—the cheapest thing to do is to put on gramophone records—and partly to get for the advertiser the largest number of listeners over a period of 24 hours.
When people ask that we should have an experiment on what to do about radio, the answer is that we have had an experiment among countries all round the world, and we can learn lessons from them. Choices must be made on radio. Many hon. Members, particularly hon. Members opposite, believe that the need to make a choice can be escaped by resting on market forces, allowing the market basically to determine what is broadcast; what I have previously called a kind of "cultural Powellism".
That is a tenable position, though it produces broadcasting which I do not regard as acceptable. Alternatively, one can consciously decide that one will try to decide what system will produce the best broadcasting in total—balanced broadcasting, balanced in two senses: first, that the programme producer puts out a variety of programmes, and secondly, that of the six or eight strongest signals one receives on one's radio, five, six or seven are not broadly similar pop music stations.
It is very unfashionable in public life and in the House today to make value judgments, partly, I think, because politicians are frightened of making them. The hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. Cordle) almost admitted that he was frightened of appearing to be somewhat "square". Why an hon. Member for Bournemouth should be so worried about that, I do not know, but that was the impression I got.
I find it depressing today that people who should and often do know better are fleeing before the wind of pop, and often—not always—because they sniff a smell of easy money. It is like well-trained architects capable of appreciating good architecture knowingly building jerrybuilt houses for people who know no better. What depresses me about the kind of cultural problem we have is that one could end up with a sort of split society with impoverished programmes —in other words, pop programmes, poor news services—just headlines—for the ill-educated masses while people like us, Members of Parliament, the intelligentsia, can opt out by listening to the B.B.C. and better broadcasting. That is an offensive way of organising our society.
What we have operating outside the House is a squalid pressure group, squalid because it is dressed up under the principle of free choice. I make no allegations about what there is operating inside the House, because, so far as I know, there is no evidence on that. Perhaps we should wait for work of the research workers, as there was after the television operation. The squalid pressure group is appealing to a low level of taste and at the same time hoping to make a commercial killing.
What is the free choice being advanced by some people outside and inside the House? The other night I listened to the pirates. I decided that I would see what choice was open to me, and I started with Britain Radio, which claims to be the somewhat better station. I exempt Radio 390, which is on its own. On Britain Radio—355 metres—I heard a song called "Where My Little Girl is Smiling". I turned to Radio London, where I heard, "Baby, I Kinda Need Your Love All the Time". When I switched to Caroline South it was "Let me Cry On Your Shoulder". Back to Britain Radio, where I heard, "It Takes Two, Baby". On to Radio London again to hear, "Hey There Georgie Girl", and then to Caroline South again, where I heard, "Please Release Me and Let Me Love Again", followed by, "I Know I'm Losing You". Back to London to hear, "I've Been a Bad, Bad Boy". By this time I began to think that perhaps I had been.
When I described, in a letter to The Times, the choice the pirates offer as a bogus choice of "broadly similar tunes of audible wallpaper", the hon. Member for Howden (Mr. Bryan), who speaks for his party on this subject, wrote back a letter saying that I assumed "an attitude both ignorant and superior". I thought that a little hard.
The problem of choice is not only a shortage of talent. With too many stations, with all the talent in the world, market forces will produce lower and lower standards of broadcasting in the Gresham's Law sense. That is one reason why American broadcasting is so abominable.
It surprises me that with this banal choice somebody like Mrs. Mary Whitehouse does not belabour the producers of those broadcasts, why they do not suffer her censure, and why only the occasional weaknesses of a public service broadcast excite her attention.
I do not think that it is desirable to have a replica—legal or illegal, offshore or onshore—of the kind of broadcasting choice which we have seen in the United States over so many years. The pirate stations are Trojan horses—one might call them Trojan seahorses—for commercial radio in this country. To some extent they are operating with the explicit, and in many ways implicit, support of the Conservative Party. It is regrettable that the shadow spokesman should have seen fit to visit a pirate station operating illegally. I also have my doubts about defending them in the courts, though I know that lawyers may dispute my judgment on that.
But the success—if it be success—of the pirates should not be allowed to dictate the future of radio broadcasting in this country and I am glad to say that the Government are making sure that it will not. But, of course, we have had great battles to fight, for instance to avoid confusion between pop radio and the market for it, and the possibilities of local radio. We have heard that some hon. Members of weaker heart have had to resist the pressures which have come from the petitions organised by the pirate stations. For myself, I would take the same view as a former Tory Prime Minister—that I would take as much notice of my valet, if I had one, as of petitions organised by the pirate stations.
Would the hon. Gentleman wish to censor gramophone records sold in shops? Some people want to listen to pop tunes, about which he is being rather grand, and to other kinds of music which the hon. Member may feel inappropriate.
I am talking about the valuable commodities which are broadcasting wavelengths and channels and what should be done to them. I do not believe that they should be filled up by a homogeneous programming of rather low cultural quality, but I am not suggesting that people should not go to gramophone shops and buy records if they want to. That is a different matter.
Of course, censorship in the sense that every broadcast involves a decision and choice. That is the essence of it. That is why I believe that the B.B.C. on the whole has done a good job, for it exercises decisions on the whole correctly and makes the right kind of choices. Hon. Members opposite may not wish to have to face up to making that kind of decision.
May I now turn to the details of the Bill?
A minor detail about the Bill is whether Clause I would cover communications satellites. It has been put to me and I promised that I would raise it in the debate. I want also to ask about the efficacy of the Bill in general in terms of doing the job that it is intended to do —to put the pirates out of action. Under Clauses 4(3) and 5(3), what if procuring does take place outside the United Kingdom? It is not clear whether it will be illegal actually to go outside the United Kingdom and procure someone to commit an illegal act.
In Clause 5(3,e) there is reference to advertising. Does it rule out international advertising? Suppose there is an international company which has a British subsidiary and an office in New York outside the scope of the European Convention. What is the situation if the New York office or the New York parent decides to place advertising on a pirate station which is clearly of benefit to the United Kingdom subsidiary, without the United Kingdom subsidiary itself placing the advertising or being charged for the account? I would like an assurance that this could not be a loophole in the Bill.
I am delighted to have the hon. Gentleman's assurance. Some pirates who have come to this building have suggested that they will be able to get enough international advertising to survive. [An HON. MEMBER: "That is whistling in the dark."] I believe that they are whistling in the dark, but I want to ensure that it is very dark, indeed.
I should also like an answer about the position of the Isle of Man. Extension of the Bill to the Isle of Man is to be by Order in Council. Radio Caroline North lies about 3½ miles off the Isle of Man. Would it be covered only after the Order in Council was made? If that is so, when will the Order in Council be brought in? Again, when will the Bill be brought into operation? This in turn leads to another question. When will the B.B.C.'s popular music service come on the air? Everyone agrees that it is desirable, perhaps even essential, that it should be brought on the air before the pirates are finally off the air.
When we pass the Bill, do we then automatically ratify the European Convention? We should then become the third State to do so, in which case the Convention will become totally operative. Are we then in a position to stop anyone in Holland, for instance, from supplying pirates?
I welcome the Bill and the White Paper that goes with it because it is decided that pop should be national and not local and that we should have a local radio experiment before committing ourselves to a long term system of broadcasting on a local basis. I have doubts about the financing of local radio. I would still prefer an increase in the licence fee. Radio is cheap. It need not be an exorbitant increase.
I do not believe that the B.B.C. wishes this experiment to fail, as some people have suggested. The only people with a vested interest in failure will be the advertising industry, because it will be able to say that advertising is the only way to finance it if we cannot increase the licence fee and other systems of financing fail. It is not a principle—it does not justify the title—to say that one cannot have a licence fee for local radio because some areas may not get local radio. On that basis, the present experiment would stand condemned because the two-thirds of listeners who do not have v.h.f. could be said to be subsidising the one-third of listeners who have. In the same way, those who only receive B.B.C.1 subsidise those who get B.B.C.2. I do not mind that either.
The most cheering event today was when my right hon. Friend indicated that there is a divide between the parties on whether programmes or profits should be the main motivating force of broadcasting. As he is not here now, I will not remind him of by how narrow a margin the Government remained on the path of virtue in this matter, but by this Bill he has taken a major step in maintaining the public service system; and I hope that, in the years ahead, he will go on to strengthen it.
The hon. Member for Meriden (Mr. Rowland) speaks with knowledge of the subject and I enjoyed part of his speech, although I cannot say that I entirely agreed with it. I enjoyed his description of going up and down the dial on his radio and I wonder how long he went up and down it in order to hear and be able to name the tunes he did. Nevertheless, it made a good story. But I question the phrase he used, "the smell of easy money". Even when talking of possible commercial radio, I do not think that one is thinking of easy money in that sense.
To my mind his suggestion went back to the days of the first big independent television companies which, after having enormous initial losses, made a great deal of money. Not all television companies did so. There was my own solitary attempt to get an interest in a commercial television company. That company was the 15th station and the last to obtain a contract from the I.T..A. Fortunately my company was unsuccessful in getting a contract and the successful applicant went bankrupt within two years. So there was not all that amount of money to be made in every case.
I shall be brief as I know that many hon. Members wish to speak, and I know that the hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Mapp) is hoping to disagree with his hon. Friend the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins).
I find this a depressing Bill. That is not surprising, because it comes from a depressing Government. The Postmaster- General seems to have adopted an extraordinarily Scrooge-like attitude to the subject. I hoped that when he became Postmaster-General he would get things moving, because nothing much happened during the term of office of the previous Postmaster-General.
The hon. Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Dobson) earlier this afternoon made a perfectly fair point about radio pirates interfering with messages from ships in distress, and I take that point. But surely if that is the case, and it may well be, why did not the Government bring in the Bill much sooner? Why has there been this long delay between last July, when the Bill was first published, and the Second Reading which is now being debated?
A lot has been said about the effect on the B.B.C. of the pirate radio stations over the past two or three years. There is no doubt that they have had a tremendous effect on the B.B.C. just as, as the hon. Member for Cheadle (Dr. Winstanley) said earlier, the independent television companies have had an effect on B.B.C. television. This is borne out in a speech last month by Mr. Gillard, B.B.C. Director of Sound Broadcasting, who said:
People want more music in their everyday life and quite reasonably they look to radio to supply a good deal of it. Step by step the B.B.C. sound programmes have been doing their best to meet this trend.
Steps have been taken very slowly, but I believe they would have been even slower had it not been for the pirate radio stations providing intense competition during these past years.
To do away with the one without replacing it with another immediately is very bad policy. We criticise the Bill because the Government are doing one thing without doing any constructive work on the other side. Since the Postmaster-General insists that there is no connection between this Bill and the White Paper, one can only assume that they are quite separate efforts.
Let us look for a moment at the White Paper. What do we find? We find that we are to have this Radio 247. The fact that it will be called by that name surely suggests that it will not be unconnected with the kind of programmes
which the pirate stations have been providing. The White Paper says:
In the Government's view the provision of a popular music programme on the medium wavelength 247 metres would on an overall appraisal provide an extension of choice to the listener.
That is not a very exciting phrase. All it means is that the B.B.C. will provide music for most of the day but not between the hours of 7.30 and 10.30. I cannot quite follow the significance of that threehour gap. I am sure that many people travelling in their cars would like to have music during those hours. What shall we have in its place?
I particularly question the Postmaster-General on the matter of local radio stations. Why this delay? He said this afternoon that he is hoping to announce in the next week to two where the first three stations will be. There seems no reason why he could not have given us this information during this debate. It would have been helpful to know where they all are. Why not tell us where the nine stations will be? Is it possible that the reason he cannot do so is because he has fallen down so completely on this fantastic way of financing them?
Other hon. Members have referred to the particular paragraph in the White Paper and I made no apology for returning to it. Who is to pay for them? There has been the suggestion that chambers of commerce will pay, but that it not what they are there for. I was on the council of one for some years and I cannot see where the money will come from. It is not their job to pay.
As for the suggestion that it might come on next year's rates, that is absolutely abhorrent. I agree with the remarks of the eminently wise Birmingham council, who are wise in many other ways not relevant to this debate, who called this scheme "a dead duck".
Let me also mention the question of the local Press, which is a very important aspect. Last week we had a general debate on the Press. It is important to remember that, while advertising could be taken away from local papers, if local commercial stations were allowed, the advertising revenue could be of great benefit to local papers provided they could have an interest in the stations themselves.
We know only too well that local newspapers are feeling the squeeze very much at the moment—I do not mean purely the economic squeeze imposed by the Government, but a squeeze in general. Local newspapers might well be given in this way a new extension of their profitability. They are about to be involved, for instance, in expenditure on new types of presses and so on, which will be inevitable in the next few years. I should like to see local newspapers benefiting from being able to have an interest in the stations. On the other hand, I want to see these stations taking advertising because that is the only way they will make, not vast sums which hon. Gentlemen hinted at, but normal profits to enable them to continue in business.
Another point about local papers which must be considered carefully is that they will meet competition from local stations in the editorial sense. Local stations will be able to broadcast local news, particularly local sports news which at the moment local people read in their evening and weekly newspapers. That is why they buy them. A lot of this news will be covered in the local broadcasting stations, whichever form they take, whether it be the kind the Postmaster-General wants or the kind I should like to see. It would be of essential benefit to the local Press if they could participate in this way.
Basically where the Bill falls down is that it is taking away, and in so doing leaving a great gap, something which the public has learned to like. Whether it is right that they should do this is another matter, but to take this away without replacing it with anything else is a very retrograde step.
I am sorry that the Postmaster-General was so personal in his remarks. This is an important subject, and to bring Rhodesia into it was complete nonsense.
I was not surprised to find that on the same page of the B.B.C. pamphlet from which I quoted Mr. Gillard's article there is a reference to the "Alice in Wonderland" programme. The Postmaster-General, in bringing in the Bill and separating it from the White Paper, is behaving just like the March Hare who said to Alice, "Have some wine?" Alice replied, "I do not see any wine", to which the March Hare replied, "Well there isn't any wine."
The Postmaster-General has taken something away and there is nothing in its place. That is why I am absolutely confident that our Amendment is right, and I hope that the Government will take heed of it and accept it in the spirit that it is moved.
I am completely in agreement with the Bill but I consider that it is an orphan. I want to say one or two things that may not commend themselves to this side of the House, but sooner or later we must look at the problem.
I heard the contribution of the Liberal Member for Cheadle (Dr. Winstanley). I happen to be his constituent these days. I can say that, apart from his last few words, I agreed with practically every word he said. If I might venture to say to him in passing, an area where the Liberals might take over one of the pop radio stations would be perhaps in the Orkney and Shetland Islands, where they already have an interest.
I regard the Bill, very long delayed, as a response by the stick-in-the-mud established B.B.C. institution to the innovator. I see it equally as the reaction of the slow process of government to the disruptive entrepreneur—and the radio pirates are entrepreneurs and we must be factual in examining what they do. It is the reaction of law and order to an enterprising, albeit illegal form of off-shore broadcasting and it has taken the B.B.C. and the Government a very long time to deal with this daring competitor. But it had to come and we have a short sledgehammer Bill to do it.
In a way, I regret that the Bill is likely to have an effect months before the alternative services are available to that vast new younger generation which some of us have to try to understand properly. I would like the operation of the Bill to begin no sooner than when the B.B.C. is able to put the new services into being, although I have no wish to connive at irregularities or illegality in any way.
But I want to ask my hon. Friends to consider how this position has come about. My hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mr. Rowland) seemed to take the attitude, "The B.B.C. knows best". I have long since left that opinion. I generally prefer its programmes, because that is my way of life and I suppose that it is the way of life of a majority of people in this country. But that is no reason why the B.B.C., in its old-fashioned, enclosed monastic attitude, should tell the rest of the country, half of which prefers some other form of entertainment and which insists on its kind of entertainment, that the B.B.C.'s opinion is preferable. We have now reached the position when half a dozen entertainers, perhaps with doubtful backgrounds, have captured 16 per cent. of the listening public within three years, and if I were one of them I would not regard that as failure, but as a major step forward.
I beg my colleagues to decide whether the old-fashioned form of financing of the B.B.C. will meet the requirements of the future in the light of modern practice. Last week in the debate on the Press we took cognisance of the fact that there is a new power in the land. That power is advertising and nearly all our problems have arisen since advertising reached up the mountains of power. That is illustrated by the fact that £590 million a year is now devoted to advertising as a whole. The amount spent in television advertising each year has increased from £11 million in 1956 to £72 million in 1960 to £106 million now.
There is no wonder that the B.B.C. and the Press are facing a challenge, because these barons in advertising are now in a position seriously to damage both the B.B.C. and the newspapers and to damage some newspapers almost beyond repair. The B.B.C.'s major competitor has a buoyant rising revenue and the B.B.C. has a static revenue, and yet the House and the public in general are asking the B.B.C., as the White Paper does, to develop its services.
I agree that its services should be developed, but let us be frank in facing the implications. How can we continue to ask for increased services from the B.B.C. when at one and the same time we deny ourselves a proper examination of the B.B.C.'s financial fabric? The preceding Government evaded the issue right up to 1964, although it had become ripe for decision by then. Of course hon. Members opposite have a lobby in the background and it was exhibited today when even their Front Bench spokesman made the position quite clear—they want broadcasting to be broken up for profit.
But what is wrong with advertising? I have never listened to Radio Caroline, because I am not interested, but what is wrong with advertising on television and what would be wrong with advertising on sound radio is the present standard of advertising. Do we take exception to a reasonable advertisement which appears in The Times, The Guardian, Tribune, Church News, or in my telephone book where at least my undertaker's name appears? Of course we do not take exception to advertising which is civilised.
We take exception to the uncivilised sort of advertising which may enter our homes. All that stands in the way of the advance of broadcasting as a whole is the need to interpose a body between the I.T.V. and the B.B.C. on the one hand and the advertisers on the other, a body which in a detached way can decide on standards and on taste and, as long as advertising can enter our dining rooms, its timing in programmes. We need such a body between the vehicle and the consumer, a body which can provide civilised standards.
We will then be able to say that the B.B.C.'s Charter is not sacrosanct, although it was right for the period when it was introduced. I agree with the hon. Member for Cheadle and I regret that commercial television was ever introduced, but we have to live with it. My difficulty is that the B.B.C. is constantly shutting its eyes to developments and it takes an intellectual attitude to the rest of the country which is not justified. If the B.B.C.'s board room were changed—and such a change is overdue, for much of its thinking is outdated—the B.B.C. could begin to become a part of the world in which we live and in which we have advertising whether we like it or not and it could begin to accept the implications of life in a modern world and consider at the same time how to civilise this revenue producer when it goes into people's homes.
This would not be impossible. We have heard about examples from New York and so on and when I was in Jamaica I heard and saw such examples, but there is no precedent for having an independent body interposed between the man who wants to buy the time and the vehicle distributing it. My right hon. Friend must appreciate that there was a great deal of difficulty about increasing the licence fee and that it was increased against public resistance. I ask hon. Members to consider how many of our constituents, no doubt for all sorts of proletarian reasons, prefer I.T.A. More than half of them take its programmes in preference.
The hon. Gentleman's views on advertising and mine are very nearly similar. Can he tell me why, on the one hand, I am regarded for some unknown reason as being in a lobby, while he is not? Secondly, does he not agree that there is a system, although not identical with that which he described, for I.T.A.? Does he not think that the standard of advertising on I.T.A. is satisfactory?
I would not at this moment say "Yes" to the standard of advertising on I.T.V.; I would say "No" to a great deal of it, for reasons which I would go into privately with the hon. Gentleman. But I will not now take up the time of the House. If I gather from the Front Bench that it is now prepared to consider a similar financial structure for I.T.V. and B.B.C. which will incorporate a civilised element of advertising, then I can see a way forward and I hope that the Minister can.
Otherwise the Government may have deferred an increase in the licence fee, which should be more than it is. A reappraisal of the whole position would show, perhaps, that the £85 million now turned over to commercial advertising on television would expand under the conditions that I have postulated, to about £120 million in a matter of three or four years. There would be a great influx of regional advertising, which in itself, would make it more tolerable than the detergent and other advertising that one gets on a national basis. Both channels should have their basic revenue in this way. Then I would accept that maybe £1 or £2, up to 50s., would be charged for a common licence, shared equitably between the partners, the publicly owned company and the private one, private if necessary on a share basis, but both operating with the same financial structure.
The Government have not been adding up the sums. When the other side of the House was in power it was more guilty than us of this. For a year or two my Government were faced with intolerable problems, but the time is overdue when we should put aside some of our dogmas and look at this realistically. I postulate this problem, particularly to my own colleagues. Where one has a public utility in direct competition with private enterprise for the same commodity or service the ultimate result always has been, and always will be, that the utility will generally be in the red, not for the reasons adduced by hon. Gentlemen opposite, namely, that private enterprise is more efficient, but because this House constantly imposes statutory limitations upon the public utility, precludes it from being enterprising and looks at it scathingly if it makes a wrong decision. On the other hand, private enterprise invariably attacks selectively, in the chosen or populous areas and has a buoyant set of conditions with normally good management.
That is one of the problems facing nearly all of the nationalised industries producing in competition with private enterprise, often under unfair and inequitable conditions, I agree. If we return to the basic elements of what constitutes the real case, then we shall begin to put our house in order. In particular, I beg my side of the House to reappraise the position of the B.B.C. and I.T.V., taking into account the unfortunate position that people have willingly become criminal in order to spotlight a contradiction in our law. It is of no value to our people, to the Government, or to my party to defer a decision for two or three years when, electorily, it might have very unhappy results.
Many of us have enjoyed the speech of the hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Mapp), who has his feet very much more firmly on the ground in this matter than many of his hon. Friends. One of the points that have been brought out most forcibly in this debate is that the B.B.C. is not very well served in the House by its apologists who tend to be of the pre-1955 vintage, and who adopt the attitude which the hon. Gentleman condemned, that the B.B.C. knows best. That is not really serving the Corporation, for which many of us in this House have a great admiration. However it has its defects.
Nor is it serving the B.B.C. to stick one's head in the sand, as I believe the hon. Members for Meriden (Mr. Rowland) and South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop) have done. It is perfectly clear that the pirates have brought a new challenge and a breath of fresh air to broadcasting in Britain. The figures speak for themselves. I admit that I quote the pirates' statistics which tell that 18 million to 20 million people a week listen to them. Others may disagree, but there is nevertheless a substantial body and my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North (Mr. Henry Clark) told me that he had received a petition from his constituency, signed by 700 people who listened to Radio Scotland——
I would rather not give way, because there are other hon. Members waiting to enter the debate. I would also draw the attention of the House to figures in a National Opinion Poll, published some time ago, showing that 34 per cent. of the public thought that the pirates ought to be banned, 51 per cent. thought that they ought to continue, and 15 per cent. were in the "don't know" category. On these figures, which cover a wider sample than any of the private polls conducted by the B.B.C., it would appear that the public feels, rightly or wrongly that the pirates are providing a useful service.
Although I do not necessarily argue that the pirates have proved that there is a desire for local sound radio, they have proved that the public wants something more than the B.B.C. The hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Ryan), in a very interesting speech reinforced this point. It is not necessary, in conducting his experiment, for the Postmaster-General to say that one alternative is the B.B.C. and the other is commercial body. There are other alternatives, of the kind mentioned by the hon. Gentleman, and I regret very much that we will have a onehorse race, an experiment with one runner.
It would have been much better to have said that there would be a couple of private enterprise stations, several run by local authorities in conjunction with the B.B.C., and perhaps a self-financing public group of the type proposed by the hon. Gentleman taking advertising on a uniform basis. There are many permutations of this and the right hon. Gentleman is, I think, open to condemnation in shutting his eyes to the great opportunities presented. I believe that the pirates in their present form cannot continue for ever.
But our main criticism is of the alternative which the right hon. Gentleman has put forward. I thought it distinctly unreasonable of him to adopt the kind of Chief Whip tactics with which he began the debate. He was a Chief Whip for too long, if I may say so with the greatest respect. To adopt the attitude that anyone who opposed the Bill was disloyal to the country, was bringing the House into degradation and should be sent to the Tower of London was distinctly disingenuous of him.
I have been through the Bill quite carefully. I hope that the Postmaster-General will have the services of one of the Law Officers in the Committee as a number of very complicated legal points are involved. I hope that we shall not have a situation in which points arise which neither he nor the Assistant Postmaster-General, for reasons which I understand, will be able to answer. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will note that.
Is the Bill entirely effective? The hon. Member for Meriden wondered what would be the position of advertising if subsidiaries abroad were at arm's length. It would be interesting to know the answer. Of the leaders of three of the main pirate stations, Ronan O'Rahilly of Radio Caroline, is a Republic of Ireland citizen, Philip Berch of Radio London has dual American and British citizenship and William Vick of Radio Britain has American citizenship. Has the Postmaster-General power in the Bill to stop a ship operating with a foreign crew and accepting foreign advertising? On my reading of the Bill, he has not. I accept that there is probably not enough advertising for more than one pirate ship or so to operate. But it is possible for several of the pirate ships to combine and co-ordinate in different parts of the United Kingdom and to use purely advertising from abroad. The Postmaster-General will find himself a laughing stock if a coach and horses can be driven through the Bill.
I understand that. But these are very ingenious people. They have some of the best legal advice probably in the Western Hemisphere. They set up a very complicated structure initially and I do not think that they will be chased off by a few shouts from the Postmaster-General. They will be looking for loopholes in the Bill. Is it not possible that they will operate completely outside the United Kingdom with foreign ships and foreign advertising? The Bill will not touch them.
I come to the question of Radio 247. The B.B.C. has put out a circular saying that 80 per cent. of the country will be able to get Radio 247. Today the Postmaster-General said that 80 per cent. of the country would "eventually" be able to get Radio 247. My information is that the wavelength used covers only about 55 to 60 per cent. of the population, leaving gaps in large urban areas in the Midlands and West. Surely this is not altogether satisfactory.
It appears that the station will shut down from 7.30 to 10 o'clock in the evening merely because of competition from television. This seems to be quite extraordinary and an entirely negative attitude. We have not had an explanation of it. If the station starts with this kind of attitude it is defeated before it begins, if it says that it cannot stand the competition of television. We have not heard very much detail about how much extra the 247 programme will cost the B.B.C. I understand that there is very severe interference at the moment from Radio Albania. A number of problems about Radio 247 have not been adequately dealt with and I hope the Assistant Postmaster-General will deal with them.
My next point concerns the experiment in local sound radio. It has been said that about one in three of the population has v.h.f. radio. The Gallup Poll for the Monthly Purchasers Index shows that only 11 per cent. of the population have v.h.f. radios. I should have thought this was more in conformity with the true figure. I have a certain suspicion whether it is accurate to say that one in three of the population has v.h.f. radio.
I take the difference, but I still have considerable doubt about whether the figure is correct.
The main point on the local sound radio experiment is finance. This has not been cleared up properly. There were immensely vague and woolly phrases in the White Paper. The Postmaster-General's speech today did not give us much more information. He was good enough to give way to me and I asked whether rates would be used. The White Paper said that they would not, and the right hon. Gentleman said that it would be possible to make specific contributions from rates. I am a little worried about this, because we shall reach the situation in which the hat is passed round and when it is found that there is not much money in it local authorities will have to supply the bulk of the running costs. They will find that they cannot do it by a general grant from the rates generally and they will be encouraged by the Postmaster-General to fiddle it—for example if they put on a programme about drains, the sanitary department might put in a little bit of money. If they put on a programme on health matters, the health department might put in a little bit of money. If they put on a programme on education, the education department might put in a little bit of money. This is exactly the same as if the money were coming from the rates. The method of financing the situation has not been made clear.
A great opportunity has been missed by the Postmaster-General, partly on grounds of sheer obstinacy and partly on grounds of political and anti-commercial prejudice. I listened to the speeches of my hon. Friend the Member for Howden and the Postmaster-General. I could not help noticing the tremendous difference between them. My hon. Friend had studied the matter carefully. He said that he did not accept the pirates, but he had gone to see them. He studied the Isle of Man station in depth. He had got the feel of the subject. The right hon. Gentleman's speech was essentially negative. He had made up his mind before he began. We are, therefore, right to press our Amendment in the Lobby.
The hon. Member for Howden (Mr. Bryan) began the debate from the Opposition benches today by saying that my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General had adopted a high moral tone. I think he did, and I respected that. No one listening to the debate could accuse hon. Members opposite of adopting a high moral tone in this discussion. What seemed disgraceful about most of the contributions from hon. Members opposite is that speaker after speaker, with a few exceptions, has said, that they oppose the existence of the pirates and recognise that they are illegal, that they are not paying their proper dues in terms of copyright, that they are a danger to shipping and that they are using unauthorised wavelengths, but they oppose the Bill which would get rid of precisely those people who are acting illegally.
The position of the Tories, I understand from a recent article in The Times, is to agree that the pirates are acting illegally, yet the hon. Member for Howden accused the Postmaster-General of not going to see the pirates. I regard people who commit illegal acts as disreputable. It is rather disgraceful that the hon. Member should himself have been in contact with some pirate radio stations, one of which I understand was Radio Scarborough. The fact that one of the people concerned with its operation happens to be an ex-Tory Member of Parliament does not make the matter better but worse.
The hon. Member for Howden implied that the Musiciains' Union, to which I belong as an ex-dance band leader and a musician over a number of years, was tending to act in a Luddite fashion. The hon. Member for Cheadle (Dr. Winstanley) from the Liberal benches spoke about needle time and the need for that to be looked at. What none of these hon. Members said was that only two years ago the Musicians' Union agreed to an increase in needle time for the B.B.C. from 28 to 75 hours a week, which by any standards is a considerable increase.
The hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) complained, as other hon. Members have, of paying for local radio through the rates. The implication in the arguments used this afternoon is quite clear. It is that if one has commercial radio, national or local, people are not paying for it, but it is cheaper to pay through the rates or through central government taxation than through advertising. A letter sent from the head office of the Musicians' Union to all branches a few weeks ago stated:
The income of the I.T.V. companies from advertisers totals more than one hundred million pounds a year. The advertisers do not pay out of their own pockets! The purchaser of the advertised commodities pays indirectly by tolerating a little extra on the price or by accepting 'a little less in the packet'. The average family contributes in this way about £8 a year to commercial T.V., which provides one channel. We pay a licence fee of £5 a year for the B.B.C., which gives us two T.V. channels and three sound broadcasting channels. As 'Punch' put it very well recently: 'We are incredibly stupid in money matters. We would rather give Lord Thompson a licence to print his own money—at our expense of course—than cough up a fee payable directly to the B.B.C. We regard services as 'free' if we pay for them twice over by indirect means.
That is a really pathetic argument. If we ask people whether they would like to pay by means of a £5 or £6 licence fee or by advertisements I wonder how they would reply. It is not only we who say that this should not be paid through the rates. The Government White Paper has laid down that it should not be paid through the rates.
I know what the Government White Paper says and what has been said by the Postmaster-General this afternoon about how local authorities can help officially. If we in this House are to any degree the custodians of the national interest and of the interests of the people we try to represent, it is our job to see that they get the service as cheaply as possible and do not have to enter the most expensive market.
I think the hon. Member has got his arithmetic wrong or the person who wrote the letter has got it wrong, because on a quick calculation I find that it works out at £2 a year payment by each person for I.T.V., which is a lot different from £8.
Is it not true that that apart from paying £8 a head if we exclude those who do not have television it is likely that twice as much would be paid for I.T.V. as for B.B.C.?
My hon. Friend may well be right. We have heard many contradictory suggestions this afternoon. I believe the figure I quoted on this narrow issue is correct, and that at this stage I had better not go further than that.
The hon. Member for Howden mentioned that I am a member of the Musicians' Union. I know that I am echoing the official policy of that union and that I am reflecting the views of the vast majority of its members throughout the country when I say that we are opposed to the pirate stations. We support this Bill and we are opposed to the pirate stations because they are unauthorised and unlawful. We accept all the objections to them which have been put in terms of unauthorised use of wavelengths, danger to shipping and so on, but our principal objection is that they are commercial. We should be quite clear that there is a wide gulf between the position of my union and myself and hon. Members opposite. The pirates have worse characteristics in many ways than other forms of commercial radio might have.
I want to address myself in the few moments I have left to explaining my opposition and the opposition of the Musicians' Union to commercial radio. Wherever we see commercial radio operating throughout the world we see virtually unrestricted needle time and the use of gramophone records. It is interesting to note that when the Manx Radio case came before the Performing Right Tribunal, Manx Radio's case was that its economic viability depended on having an unrestricted right to broadcast recorded copyright music and if it could not do that it could not appeal to the advertisers it required. Further, it wanted the use of records from Phonographic Performance Ltd. on the cheap. If some pirates pay some small contributions to the Performing Rights Society my information is that none of them is making any contribution to Phonographic Performance Ltd.
The opposition of the Musicians' Union to the pirates and to the policies of hon. Gentlemen opposite in this matter is based on the fact that the pirates represent a commercial undertaking and that the propositions being put forward by the Conservative Party are for commercial radio to be established on land. I am opposed to the introduction of commercial radio into this country and I am delighted that the Government have seen fit to bring forward the proposals in the Bill.
Had the Government brought forward proposals for a national network of commercial radio, the B.B.C. would certainly have lost one of its wavelengths. The hon. Member for Howden spoke about commercial-type radio and it was clear what he has in mind and what the commercial radio operators mean. They mean the very large use of recorded music. If we had a national programme run by a commercial network, there would be not only a duplication of the resources of the B.B.C.—at a time when our national resources are scarce and are needed for other desirable activities—but the B.B.C. would come under pressure to break the needle time agreement in order to compete with the commercial network. It would also mean that since the B.B.C. had lost a channel, there would be a further reduction of employment for live musicians on the channel which the B.B.C. had lost and on which employment for "live" musicians had been provided.
The hon. Member for Howden asked a number of questions and referred to me. I will try to answer them. He said he understood that the Musicians' Union was opposed to any further use of gramophone records on sound radio in Britain. One reason for that is that very few musicians earn their living from recordings. One of the major problems in the music profession—and I am speaking not only with the interests of the profession in mind but also from the point of view of the national interest—is that throughout the post-war years, when I was working in the profession, there were clear signs that employment for musicians was narrowing.
If we are to have first-class session and star musicians we can get them only by having a broad base of employment through which they can gain experience. They used to gain this experience by working the music halls, which are closed, and the dance halls, which are no longer doing the business they used to do. That experience enabled the best musicians to get to the top.
In my part of the world, in which I used to employ a number of musicians, it has been evident that young brass men, wind and string players and other musicians are not coming forward. One sees the same old faces. The youngsters are not taking their place. The main reason for this is that the base of employment has narrowed in recent years.
If we were to have the unrestricted use of gramophone records we would have even further restriction in the amount of employment available for live musicians, not only in broadcasting but in other media. Eventually the standard of playing, even at the top—the musicians who do what is known in the business as the cream of the work—would fall and, as a result, the standard of recordings would fall.
For this reason the Musicians' Union is opposed to any further extension of needle time. We are not the only people opposed to such an extension. This is probably one of the few industries or professions in which both the people employing the capital in the industry and those working in it are in complete agreement. Sir Joseph Lockwood, Chairman of E.M.I., gave an interview to a reporter of the Sun on 29th October and the report stated:
Sir Joseph Lockwood … told me last night that he would refuse point-blank to allow his records to be played all day long by any commercial radio station, whether State-sponsored or not … Sir Joseph said, 'I would be appalled at the idea of records being played all day long by a legal radio station … I agree more or less with the Musicians' Union on this.'
The Musicians' Union and I believe that, in the interests of the union and the
public generally, there should be substantial employment opportunities for live performances by musicians both on national networks and in local radio. We should not get them if we had commercial radio, but we can get it if we adopt the public service principle, where there is not the pressure of advertising interests wanting to use gramophone records on the cheap. That is why they are attractive. They are very cheap to use.
The hon. Member for Howden pointed out the advantages of records. They are cheap, he said, and they are better. Some are different, but he will admit that great orchestras like the Northern Dance Orchestra put up first-class performances on the air.
He said that gramophone records are cheaper, and he asked if the interests of "these people" —presumably he meant the commercial interests—who want to use this cheap form cannot be reconciled with the interests of the Musicians' Union and, I would add, the national interests, in keeping a viable music profession by the giving of some kind of levy or dole.
In his words, that would mean a new outlook for musicians. I do not know if the hon. Gentleman is aware of it, but there is something like that already. The Musicians' Union receives some payments from Phonographic Performance Limited, and uses them to make substantial grants to assist cultural and musical projects of all kinds.
However, we do not want levies. We want live employment. Why not use the money for live performances? Why should musicians accept a small part of the total saving made by using records? In addition, the B.B.C. will want to cut down still further on the number of live performances to be able to compete with commercial interests.
The hon. Gentleman says, "We will give the union money so that its people can have money handed out and can work." But where are they to work? I am thinking about some of the young local pop groups in my area who never get a chance on commercial radio in the system which exists. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman's proposal will do anything to help the problem.
I approve of the Bill. It can lead to improvements for the employment of musicians in broadcasting. There is plenty of room for improvement. I hope that we shall get something from local radio as well as from the national network. The Government have delayed long enough on this, and I am pleased that the Bill is having a Second Reading tonight.
I want to begin by congratulating the Postmaster-General on a competent piece of news management in announcing today his very welcome decision about colour television. No doubt he hopes that tomorrow's newspapers will carry headlines about that and not about this Bill.
Those hon. Members opposite who oppose the Bill have remained silent. We know that there have been those who have expressed opposition to it outside the House, but they have kept very quiet today. Perhaps they will make a stand in the Division Lobby. If they do not, they will have some explaining to do to their constituents.
I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) has not taken part in the debate. Last September in the Sunday Telegraph under the headline:
Manny Shinwell: prop of the pop pirates",
Speaking to tens of thousands of cheering teenagers at a beauty contest in his constituency last Monday, Shinwell proclaimed: 'If we had been living in the 17th and 18th centuries the people who run these stations would have been sailing the high seas with Francis Drake. But I will see they get a fair crack of the whip'.
Even though the right hon. Gentleman moderated his enthusiasm later, it is a pity that he has not turned his unrivalled buccaneering talents on the Postmaster-General who, with all respect to him, would not have been sailing the high seas in the days of Sir Francis Drake, but would have been staying at home perhaps stamping out the theatre and other sinful pleasures.
For one who so ostentatiously seeks to clothe himself in morality, the Postmaster-General is sometimes a bit free with his language. He was more careful today, but in spite of what he has said in the past the offshore ships operating outside territorial waters are not unlawful. No doubt different considerations apply to many of the forts, but the offshore ships are not unlawful, and the Postmaster-General might have watched his language.
The right hon. Gentleman always makes much of the interference with other stations overseas which the pirates are said to cause, but, as Professor Alan Day has pointed out:
The criticism in terms of interference on the ether and unauthorised use of wavelengths has, in fact, been grossly exaggerated. In some circumstances almost any medium wave station can interfere with other broadcasts, and the evidence that the pirates are worse sinners than many other stations is remarkably thin.
On the other hand, there is very considerable foreign interference with British broadcasting. As has been said, foreign interference has reduced the night-time medium wave coverage of the B.B.C.'s Home Service, which in daylight is 97 per cent., to 63 per cent., and recently there has been bad interference on the Light Programme from Albania.
It is a remarkable fact that the Postmaster-General, admittedly egged on by the hon. Member for Meriden (Mr. Rowland), seems to be much more concerned with whether Radio London interferes with a few worthy Yugoslays trying to listen to Radio Zagreb on a Saturday night in Munich, than he is with foreign interference with British broadcasting.
The hon. Member for Meriden asked:
Would my right hon. Friend say why he thinks that some hon. Gentlemen opposite are so concerned about interference by Radio Albania and are so little concerned with interference caused by pirate stations about which nine European stations have complaints?
The right answer to that was, "Of course understand. That is what everybody should be concerned about", instead of which the right hon. Gentleman agreed with his hon. Friend and said:
The Devil himself knoweth not the mind of the party opposite."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th December, 1966; Vol. 737, c. 1328.]
The issue here is not one of legality or morality, but freedom of choice or
restrictive practices. The pirates have broken into certain well entrenched restrictive practices. They have annoyed the Musicians' Union by playing gramophone records. The Musicians' Union has an interest here, but that interest should not be allowed to override the interests of the public. The Musicians' Union can be safeguarded in the way suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Howden (Mr. Bryan) this afternoon, and we believe that the interests of the listeners should come first.
I hope, therefore, that tonight the Assistant Postmaster-General will tell us what is the Government's attitude to this restriction. Do they intend to let the union stop listeners hearing the gramophone records which they want to hear for an indefinite future? What action are the Government taking on this matter? After the last debate the hon. Gentleman very courteously sent us letters answering our questions, for which we were all grateful, but that does not help other hon. Members in the House, and I shall therefore be grateful if tonight he will answer our questions in debate.
The unions are not the only people who pine for protection. Big business does, too. The large recording companies also object to these records being played. In fact, the leading pirates have agreed to make payments to the Performing Right Society, which looks after the rights of authors and composers, and have offered to make payments to Phonographic Performance Ltd., which represents the large record companies and which refuses to talk to the pirates. British copyright law is highly unusual in allowing record manufacturers to restrict the playing of records. That is another restrictive practice. The big manufacturers, in effect, say that the pirates are robbing them by playing their records without permission, thus depressing their sales.
There has been a decline in the sale of gramophone records, but there has also been a decline in the consumption of alcohol, cigarettes, motor cars and motor cycles, and I do not see how the pirates can be responsible for that. The economic situation, the end of the Beatle boom, and the fact that L.P.s are now very much cheaper than they were in relation to singles, are far more plausible reasons for a decline in sales than any activities by the pop pirates.
Furthermore, E.M.I. pays more than £200,000 a year to have its records played on Radio Luxembourg. Surely that company does not believe in robbing itself. All record companies send their new releases to the pirate radios. E.M.I., for instance, is therefore in the position of saying, "It is not fair that you should just rob Decca; you must rob me, too". It is certainly a very odd form of robbery when the victims all queue up to be robbed.
The real grievance of the record companies may be that the pirates have given great opportunities for new small record companies—opportunities which they did not have before because the big companies have had virtually all the needle time on both the B.B.C. and Radio Luxembourg.
The third powerful interest that the pirates have offended is the B.B.C.—naturally anxious to preserve its monopoly, and naturally resentful of a practical demonstration that many people prefer programmes other than its own.
So here we have the Government defending the restrictive practices of the trade unions and of big business, and defending the restrictive monopoly of the B.B.C. Not surprisingly, the Government replacement for the pirates is just what those three organisations would wish.
The hon. Member says that the Government have defended big business. Is he defending the illegal action of illegal stations operating against conventions to which his own party subscribed when in power?
If the hon. Member had been here throughout the debate he would have heard the point of view of this side of the House. If he remains until the end of my speech he will hear my view.
I was not suggesting that the hon. Member had not spent his day very profitably for the country. I was merely saying that he had not been here.
The Postmaster-General's solution is not what the public would want, and that is why we oppose it. We believe in freedom of choice for the listener, and, therefore, that commercial radio should be brought ashore. The Postmaster-General talks, instead, about public service principles. I have some scepticism as to what that means, as does the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Ryan), from what he said earlier this afternoon.
The hon. Member talks about commercial radio being brought ashore. Does he mean that the pirates now operating the offshore stations should be allowed franchises ashore, or does he mean something else?
I mean that an authority should be set up from which all sorts of people would no doubt try to gain franchises.
So far as I can make out, the nebulous phrase "public service principles", which puzzles the hon. Member for Uxbridge, means that the public should be made to pay for a service which some of them do not want and that they should be deprived of a service for which they do not have to pay and which many of them do want. In the pursuit of these principles the Government's proposed alternatives take two forms, both in varying degrees inadequate.
As the Daily Mirror pointed out in a leading article called "It's Still Auntie B.B.C.":
Only the bigwigs at Broadcasting House are likely to be satisfied with the Government's long-awaited White Paper on the future of radio and television.
The B.B.C. has agreed with the Government to have a more or less continuous music programme on 247, but it has a mysterious hiatus, from 7.30 p.m. to 10 p.m., as my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) pointed out.
But when Radio Manx applied to the Performing Right Tribunal, the B.B.C. characteristically opposed the extension of needle time partly on the grounds that more popular music would tend to lower public taste, as against the balanced programmes which they were producing. Here we have the B.B.C. all set to lower public taste by producing an entirely unbalanced programme. This is the pattern of the B.B.C. They say that they will not give the public what they want, until somebody else does and then they say, "We are a public service and a monopoly; if the public wants this rubbish, it is we who should give it to them." And holding their noses, they then give it to them——
We had some difficulty earlier about where the hon. Gentleman got his information from. I am sure that not even the Postmaster-General would say that Radio 247 will be a balanced programme.
The major absurdity of the Government's alternative is in the so-called experiment in so-called local radio, which has been riddled with bullets by my right hon. Friend the Member for How-den and the rest of my hon. Friends and ridiculed in the Press. The Economist described the proposal as "appalling" and the Daily Mirror said that the Government showed that they were still in the cat's whisker and earphone stage.
It is not surprising that the Postmaster-General should have come up with the wrong answer. He seems to have excluded the relevant evidence from his consideration. In his White Paper he said that the provision of a service genuinely local in character
… would prove incompatible with the commercial objectives of companies engaging in local sound broadcasting;
The right hon. Gentleman should not put into an official paper a statement which is demonstrably untrue, as that statement is.
No doubt it would have been too much to expect the right hon. Gentleman to buccaneer off to Australia or Canada or America to study local broadcasting there, but he might have been expected, on a fine day, to get to the Isle of Man. He said that he knows about the Isle of Man, in which case he will know that there is a commercial radio station there which is working successfully and fulfilling all the requirements of local loyalty and patriotism—yet he failed to mention it in the White Paper.
I hope that the Assistant Postmaster-General will tell us why the White Paper treated that station as if it did not exist. I hope that we shall have an explanation of the indefensible omission from the White Paper. Radio Manx has shown the way for local radio in this country—except that there the Press does not take part and I believe that it should in the rest of the country. However, such evidence as there is indicates that Radio Manx is more popular than the pirates or the B.B.C. in the Isle of Man and that it is a genuinely community station.
The first requirement for such a station is that the community should listen to it, which it what the hon. Member for Meriden seemed to forget. He made an eloquent defence of the B.B.C.'s monopoly, but what it amounted to was that people should not be allowed to listen to what they want. He accuses us, in effect of cultural freedom. What he puts forward is cultural dictatorship. He said that tastes would be lowered because people would be given what they want. That attitude is repuguant to us. The trouble with the sort of programmes which he would like and which he admires is that people simply would not listen to them, whereas commercial radio, under a sort of I.T.A. control, would give people what they want, would create an audience, and therefore would create a community station.
I ask the hon. Gentleman to go the United States and keep his ears open. If he did, I wonder if he would not then agree with me that, if there is a multiplicity of commercially-owned stations, there is gradually a low level of programming which is remarkably similar one station with another. The British system of broadcasting is well regarded because it has a great degree of diversity, professionally well done.
I have been to the United States of America. I did to some extent keep my ears open and it struck me that the local radio there was an extremely beneficent institution. I would very much welcome it here. The advertising is part of the service. It is part of the localism. The local retailer on radio can compete with the chains, which he cannot do on television. People want to know where the local bargains are. It is surely ridiculous that, if a British businessman wants to advertise on the wireless, he will, after the passage of the Bill, have to use a foreign station. By what species of logic can it be argued that it is right to have commercial radio outside this country and a B.B.C. monopoly here? Why on earth should Radio Luxembourg be privileged and protected in this way? Whether or not we go into the Common Market, British businessmen will want to advertise in Europe. They will not be able to on a British station. They will have to use a French station. I do not know whether the Postmaster-General thinks that is desirable. I cannot believe that he does.
We believe, therefore, that the Government's proposals are absurd. There is a three-to-one majority in this country in favour of commercial radio, and we believe that that majority is right.
Last year the Postmaster-General said:
Pirates on these stations present a very squalid picture of which I hope no one in any part of the House is proud.
Let us see how squalid that picture is. First, these stations have an audience of between 10 million and 20 million. Evidently, those people do not think the pirates squalid, and I assume that the right hon. Gentleman did not mean to include the audience in his somewhat sweeping condemnation.
Secondly, the pirate stations are supported by some of the most respectable and respected firms in the country: Cadburys, Frys, Rowntrees—great Quaker firms. Are they squalid? Heinzes, Kelloggs, B.P.—51 per cent. owned by the Government. Is that squalid?
I will not give way. The Citrus Board of Israel, Lever Bros., Penguin Books, I.C.I.—are they squalid? The Daily Mail, the Daily Express— [Interruption.]—All right. If the hon. Gentleman thinks that they are squalid, what about the Daily Mirror, with its director of the Bank of England? Dr. Barnardo's Homes and Oxfam—are they squalid? Does the right hon. Gentleman really think that these organisations are either squalid or would support anything that was squalid?
Nor, indeed, have the programmes that these pirates have put out been squalid. Indeed, I think that there are some people who think that any squalor there has been on the air has been put out, not by the pirate radios, but by the B.B.C. Pirates have provided, if the Postmaster-General will pardon the expression, a public service. Now, instead of that public service, he proposes to give them something that the public does not want.
The right hon. Gentleman has suggested that the choice tonight is between legality and illegality, between morality and immorality. In fact, the choice is between none of these. It is between deciding the future of broadcasting according to the wants of the public and deciding it according to the sterile restrictionist prejudices of the Labour Government, between giving the listener what he wants and giving the three powerful interests, the B.B.C., the Musicians' Union and the record companies what it suits them to have.
We know whose side we are on—the listener's. The Government are on the side of the restrictive pressure groups. No matter how much moralistic cant the right hon. Gentleman pours over the Government's decision, the result is clear. The Postmaster-General has abandoned the listener all the way down the line and caved in to the special interests.
It scarcely becomes the right hon. Gentleman to preach legality or morality or to talk about international agreements. The Government have been in office for two and a half years, and only now have they let their morality get the better of them. The Labour Government made no mention of this Bill in their election manifesto. Neither the present Postmaster-General nor his predecessor mentioned the pirates in his election address. Evidently, they did not think it opportune to confide their concern for legality to their voters. For two and a half years, therefore, the Government's attitude has, in practice, been the same as that enjoined in the Opposition's Amendment. They have delayed dealing with the pirates until they had an alternative. The only difference is that the alternative they have now produced is utterly unacceptable.
The Government are in no position to prate about legality or morality. Their record is appalling. We have heard a lot about international agreements. They broke eight international agreements in their first two weeks of office.
The trouble with the Postmaster-General is that he still has the attitude of a Labour Chief Whip. He thinks that he can dragoon the people of this county as he used to dragoon hon. Members opposite in the last Parliament and as they are being dragooned tonight. He is trying to treat the public not as Lobby fodder but as listening fodder. He will not succeed, and it is wrong that he should try.
Because we believe in the freedom of the British people to choose what they want, and because we deplore the monopoly restrictionism which is being imposed upon them by the Postmaster-General, we oppose the Bill tonight.
The speech of the hon. Member for Norfolk, Central (Mr. Ian Gilmour) was a good knock-about effort. When he says, as another hon. Member did earlier, that we made no provision in our election manifesto for this Bill, I remind him—I am not sure whether he was in the House at the time—that at the General Election of 1955 the Tory Government did not mention in their election manifesto the 1957 Rent Act, which brought great oppression to many people in this country.
Hon. Members who have been here during the debate will agree that we have had a full and valuable discussion of the issues raised by the Bill. Before turning to the Bill itself, I shall deal with some of the criticisms of the Government's proposals in relation to plans for a national popular music programme and for local sound broadcasting.
The view advanced by hon. Members opposite comes down to this: the programmes put out by the pirate stations are popular; the stations ought, therefore, to be allowed to continue until a substitute has been provided in duly licensed form on land, that the substitute should take the form of stations operated by commercial companies drawing their income from advertising, and that the Government's proposals for additional sound broadcast programmes do not, in their opinion, adequately fill the gap that the disappearance of the pirates will leave. The Government fully accept that there is a demand for a more or less continuous programme of light music, and the B.B.C. plans to provide that later in the year.
What we cannot accept is that because of those demands, which we in no way underestimate, we should be prepared to disregard our obligations to preserve law and order in the use of wavelengths, and our obligation to our neighbours in Europe to rid their broadcasting services of the nuisance which has been created on our doorstep. Nor can we accept that those obligations should be thrust on one side until we might find them more convenient to honour.
The hon. Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby), who has had a close working knowledge of the problem and its implications, generously recognised the nature of the Government's responsibilities. As my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General has said, it was under the Conservative Government that this country quite properly accepted the obligations of the international Radio Regulations, and began to play a leading part in the preparation of the European Agreement, to give effect to which the present Bill has been brought before the House.
It is no new thing for the actions of hon. Members opposite to speak less loudly than their words in matters of this kind, and then to sink to a whisper when principle comes into conflict with private gain. The picture they have tried to draw is of a spoil-sport Government determined for doctrinaire reasons to put a stop to something which is both harmless and universally popular. That just does not wash. The Government's plans make clear their concern that theie should be a continuing development of sound broadcasting to meet the widening and changing tastes of all sections of the community.
When one looks at the matter more closely, is it the case that the activities of the pirate stations are universally popular? The hon. Member for Norfolk, Central and other hon. Members opposite tried to suggest that, and to say how popular those programmes are. They are not popular, to put it mildly, with the composers and performers whose works they steal. The promoters of the pirate stations have done their best to blur that point. They have claimed that they make copyright payments.
The truth of the matter is set out in a statement by the British Copyright Council, which many hon. Members have seen and from which they have quoted. The last paragraph of that statement says that:
… the Performing Right Society has informed the offshore broacasters that it will not consider itself inhibited by acceptance of these payments from continuing its opposition of principle to the pirates because, among other reasons, no sum, however large, could compensate copyright owners for the defiance and undermining of those laws under the protection of which they can pursue their creative work.
Moreover, the pirate stations are not popular with our neighbours in Europe who, because of them, are unable to hear their own broadcasting services. The backers of the pirate stations have tried in the course of the debate to bring forward arguments to dispute those propositions. Significantly, their arguments are put forward on a serious of alternative grounds, which I will mention in the ascending order of their irresponsibility. The first is that pirate stations do not cause serious interference to continental broadcasting. The second is that, if they do, they are far from being the only broacasting stations in Europe operating outside the framework of the Copenhagen plan. The third is that it does not matter much anyway, since they only bring a little more chaos to broadcasting bands which are already over-full.
It is difficult to take this argument seriously. It does not require a very sophisticated calculation by radio engineers to show that stations operating with the power and on the wavelength used by the pirates are bround to interfere with broadcasting in other parts of Europe. The fact that they do so is attested by the strong representations we have received from Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Hungary, the Irish Republic, Italy, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland and Yugoslavia. I would only add that the representations would have been a good deal stronger if it were not for the fairness and restraint shown by other Governments who have recognised that we have no present legal powers to deal with stations on the high seas.
The argument that there are many other broadcasting stations in Europe for which there was no provision in the Copenhagen plan ignores a point of fundamental importance. The additional stations on land have been authorised by sovereign States which control in detail the technical conditions under which the stations operate, and the countries affected by the transmissions from these stations have the possibility of making representations to the Governments controlling the stations and ensuring adjustments as necessary.
The pirates, on the other hand, are unauthorised and beyond control. They have seized frequencies regardless of the consequences on the European countries affected and which have no means of redress. The argument that because there is already difficulty in the medium-wave broadcasting bands and that we should, therefore, feel free to make a contribution to turning this state of affairs into chaos is one that, in a spirit of charity, I will refrain from dissecting.
Hon. Members opposite have argued that all these difficulties would disappear if the pirates were allowed to come ashore and continue their activities as properly licensed stations in this country. To that I reply, first, that the problems of interference to broadcasting services on the Continent would be in no way abated by bringing the pirates ashore and, secondly, that the Government are determined, as my right hon. Friend said and the White Paper makes clear, to uphold the principle of public service broadcasting.
Other hon. Members have suggested that the new popular music programme will be so B.B.C. in style that some other replacement for the pirates whose broadcasting has given pleasure to so many will have to be found. I do not see why that need be so. There are many audiences for popular music. There are many kinds of popular music. It would be wrong to turn the popular music programme into an exclusive service which catered only for one audience and provided only a limited range of popular music.
Popular music, as I understand it, is not only the current top twenty. Of course, the latest hits must always have their place but so must other popular music. There are many different tastes in popular music and the new programme must do its best to cater for as many of them as possible.
I will come to that point, but I must carry on with my speech. I have to try to answer the very wide range of questions which hon. Gentlemen have asked.
It has also been argued that a single popular music programme, whatever its merits, will not provide the same variety and range of choice that the pirate stations, collectively, provide now. I remind the House that the wavelengths allocated to this country under international agreement are sufficient for the three existing B.B.C. services and the new music programme. Those who enjoy light music have no cause for complaint if one of the four services is devoted almost exclusively to meeting their needs. The greater range of choice offered by the pirate stations is only possible, of course, because they are pirating other countries' wavelengths.
More generally, it has been claimed that the Government are wrong in continuing the B.B.C.'s monopoly of sound broadcasting. I recognise that there is room for more than one view on this question of monopoly, and at this late hour, I would not wish to embark on a philosophical discussion of its pros and cons. I would only remind the House of some severely practical considerations.
The B.B.C. has a chain of transmitters which, at trifling capital cost, can be adapted to the purposes of the new music programme. No other body could provide the service so cheaply or so quickly. Regarding local sound broadcasting, there will be general agreement that we could not seriously contemplate setting up a new broadcasting authority for the purposes of an experiment on the limited scale that the Government are proposing.
Hon. Members on both sides of the House have expressed the view that it would have been better for these new developments in sound broadcasting to be financed by advertising rather than from licence-fee revenue. As the White Paper makes plain, the Government are not opposed in principle to advertising as a means of financing broadcasting under public ownership, although I remind hon. Members that broadcasting, however it is financed, has ultimately to be paid for, in one way or another, by the listening and viewing public. It would help to put this question in perspective if I mentioned a few facts and figures for which hon. Members have asked.
The capital cost of the new music programme will, as I have said, be small, and the running costs will increase B.B.C. expenditure by only about £200,000 a year. The capital cost of the nine stations in the local radio experiment will be about £300,000 and the running costs about £500,000 a year. The cost to the B.B.C. will be less than this, because it will be offset by contributions from local sources, and the indications are that these will be substantial.
The running costs will be met from local sources. The Government recognise that if a permanent and general service of local radio were authorised, much greater expenditure would be involved. As the White Paper makes clear, the method of financing permanent services is one of the matters on which the Government would wish to take a view at the end of the experiment if local sources of finance proved to be insufficient.
The B.B.C. says that in order to get the experiment off the ground it is prepared to provide the capital cost of the nine stations and also the running costs of 1967–68, and goes on to say that it is hoped that next year the councils will pay.
The response has been very good and I have nothing further to add.
Hon. Members on both sides of the House have argued that the nine-station experiment should not be confined to the B.B.C. and that commercial companies should be allowed to participate, or that the service should be entrusted to some new public authority. I ask them to keep in mind the fact that we are discussing—and I reiterate that we are discussing—an experiment. There is no commitment to a general and permanent service. We on this side of the House have high expectations of a local radio service properly organised and run on the public service principle, but it is right to put expectation to the test before committing the country to a full-scale service.
That is why there is to be an experiment, an experiment to establish the basis on which a local service of high quality can be maintained month in and month out. After all, one does not set up a new organisation for the purposes of an experiment and the obvious course is to entrust the experiment to the one existing organisation which, under the terms of the franchise, can take it on. I reiterate that it is an experiment and the Government's position about what happens at the end of the experiment is entirely reserved.
Some hon. Members were concerned about the proposals in the White Paper for financing local radio. These are not so difficult to understand, but they seem to have led to some misunderstanding. The White Paper starts from the proposition that, given the essentially local objectives of the service, it seems right that its income should derive as far as possible from local sources and not from a general licence fee. There is no need to put too absolute a construction on this. I would have thought that there was a self-evident case for looking for local financial support. The response so far to the Government scheme suggests that we shall not be looking in vain for it and that the difficulty will not be to find localities which are willing to make a financial contribution, but to make a choice among those which have offered to meet the whole or a great proportion of the cost of the experiment. Nevertheless, it would be a complete misunderstanding to suppose that the experiment or stations will go only to those places which promise the greatest financial support. The prospect of local financial support will, of course, be an important factor, but the governing consideration will be the need to obtain the widest range of experience and information from the experiment.
Sponsorship is expressly precluded by the terms of the B.B.C. licence and agreement. The idea is that a local authority would contribute to the extent that services for which it is responsible can properly command its support. There are a number of ways in which services provided by local authorities will be furthered by local radio run on public service lines. These services are, of course, in part paid for out of the rates and it follows that contributions to the stations in respect of these services would form part of an authority's expenditure on them. In short, the contribution would not be in respect of the stations as such, but in respect of the various services which the station would promote. After all, local authorities pay for advertisements in the local Press, but by no stretch of the imagination could that be called a subvention to the newspaper.
The hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) sought to show that the new music programme will leave large areas of the Midlands uncovered. On my information, that is not the case. It is true that the Midlands is not covered by the 247 metre transmission of the Light Programme but the B.B.C. will be bringing into operation a reserve transmitter at Droitwich, which will give adequate coverage throughout the Midlands.
The hon. Member for Cheadle (Dr. Winstanley), in a very interesting speech effectively catalogued the reasons why pirate broadcasting must be stopped. It was a comprehensive catalogue and I thank him for it. During the course of his speech he went on to argue, somewhat surprisingly, that in spite of the need for the Bill, he would feel impelled to vote against it. He was reluctant to face the logical conclusion of the facts that he had set out. He said that there would still not be as much choice of programme as he would like, but he omitted to suggest how the area of choice might be extended. He seemed to argue that there would be more choice if the additional stations were financed commercially than if they were not. With respect, I think that the opposite would be the case. For a given number of stations one must get a wider variety of programmes if the stations are not preoccupied with audience ratings.
I have given way to the hon. and learned Gentleman, like many others, who have never sought to interest themselves in this debate. I have endeavoured to concentrate upon answering those points most relevant to the issues before us. Many hon. Members have expressed views about who should and who should not be allowed to run broadcasting stations. Important as this is, it does not undermine the principles of this Bill. We will have to see how the proposals work out in practice, but the plain fact remains that this legislation is necessary.
The adventurers operating broadcasting stations around our coast are doing so in defiance of international agreements. It ought not to be forgotten by Members of this House that after 60 years of fruitful international co-operation in the use
of the frequency spectrum for the common good the nations of the world, and this country in particular, are faced for the first time, with the need to demonstrate by means of legislation, that restraints on the use of radio frequencies which have to be observed on land must also be observed at sea. This is a matter of international concern, and the need to take action is self-evident whatever the pattern of broadcasting in the country.
This Bill will stop the pirates broadcasting around our shores. [HON. MEMBERS: "Will it?"] It will be quite wrong for the House to regard it as just a repressive measure. It is basically constructive and it will help restore the rule of law and enable us to honour our obligations to other European countries. It is for these reasons that I commend the Bill to the House.
|Division No. 271.]||AYES||[9.30 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Carter-Jones, Lewis||Ennals, David|
|Albu, Austen||Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Ensor, David|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Chapman, Donald||Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)|
|Alldritt, Walter||Coe, Denis||Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'ham, Yardley)|
|Allen, Scholefield||Coleman, Donald||Faulds, Andrew|
|Anderson, Donald||Concannon, J. D.||Fernyhough, E.|
|Archer, Peter||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Crawshaw, Richard||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)|
|Ashley, Jack||Cronin, John||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Floud, Bernard|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Foley, Maurice|
|Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice||Dalyell, Tam||Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich)|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Darling, Rt. Hn. George||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)|
|Barnett, Joel||Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)||Ford, Ben|
|Baxter, William||Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Forrester, John|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hn. F. J.||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Fowler, Gerry|
|Bence, Cyril||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Freeson, Reginald|
|Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)||Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Galpern, Sir Myer|
|Ridwell, Sydney||Davies, Robert (Cambridge)||Gardner, Tony|
|Binns, John||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Garrett, W. E.|
|Bishop, E. S.||Delargy, Hugh||Ginsburg, David|
|Blackburn, F.||Dell, Edmund||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Dempsey, James||Gourley, Harry|
|Boardman, H.||Dewar, Donald||Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)|
|Booth, Albert||Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony|
|Boston, Terence||Dickens, James||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Dobson, Ray||Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)|
|Boyden, James||Doig, Peter||Griffiths, Will (Exchange)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Donnelly, Desmond||Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.|
|Bradley, Tom||Driberg, Tom||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Dunnett, Jack||Hamling, William|
|Brooks, Edwin||Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Harper, Joseph|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Proven)||Eadie, Alex||Hart, Mrs. Judith|
|Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W)||Edelman, Maurice||Haseldine, Norman|
|Buchan, Norman||Edwards, Rt. Hn. Ness (Caerphilly)||Hattersley, Roy|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Henig, Stanley|
|Cant, R. B.||Ellis, John||Hazell, Bert|
|Carmichael, Neil||English, Michael||Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret|
|Hooley, Frank||Mapp, Charles||Ross, Rt. Hn. William|
|Horner, John||Marquand, David||Rowland, Christopher (Meriden)|
|Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Mason, Roy||Rowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)|
|Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)||Mayhew, Christopher||Ryan, John|
|Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)||Mellish, Robert||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)|
|Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Mikardo, Ian||Sheldon, Robert|
|Howie, W.||Millan, Bruce||Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.|
|Hoy, James||Miller, Dr. M. S.||Shore, Peter (Stepney)|
|Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)|
|Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.)||Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Moonman, Eric||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Hunter, Adam||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)||Morris, John (Aberavon)||Slater, Joseph|
|Janner, Sir Barnett||Moyle, Roland||Small, William|
|Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Snow, Julian|
|Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Murray, Albert||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Newens, Stan||Steele,Thomas(Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, s.)||Stonehouse, John|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Norwood, Christopher||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Oakes, Gordon||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley|
|Kelley, Richard||Ogden, Eric||Swain, Thomas|
|Kenyon, Clifford||O'Malley, Brian||Swingler, Stephen|
|Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)||Oram, Albert E.||Symonds, J. B.|
|Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||Orme, Stanley||Taverns, Dick|
|Kerr, Russell (Feltham)||Oswald, Thomas||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)||Thornton, Ernest|
|Ledger, Ron||Owen, Will (Morpeth)||Tinn, James|
|Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Padley, Walter||Tomney, Frank|
|Lee, John (Reading)||Page, Derek (King's Lynn)||Tuck, Raphael|
|Lestor, Miss Joan||Palmer, Arthur||Urwin, T. W.|
|Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Varley, Eric G.|
|Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Park, Trevor||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Lewis, Ron. (Carlisle)||Parker, John (Dagenham)||Walder, Brian (All Saints)|
|Lipton, Marcus||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Lomas, Kenneth||Pavitt, Laurence||Wallace, George|
|Loughlin, Charles||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)|
|Luard, Evan||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred||Weitzman, David|
|Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Pentland, Norman||Wellbeloved, James|
|Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|McBride, Neil||Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)||Whitaker, Ben|
|McCann, John||Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.||Whitlock, William|
|MacColl, James||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)||Wigg, Rt. Hn. George|
|MacDermot, Niall||Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Macdonald, A. H.||Probert, Arthur||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|McGuire, Michael||Randall, Harry||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Rankin, John||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)|
|Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Redhead, Edward||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Mackie, John||Reynolds, G. W.||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Maclennan, Robert||Rhodes, Geoffrey||Winnick, David|
|MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)||Richard, Ivor||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|McNamara, J. Kevin||Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)||Woof, Robert|
|MacPherson, Malcolm||Robertson, John (Paisley)||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)||Yates, Victor|
|Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Roebuck, Roy||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mallalieu,J.P.W.(Huddersfield,E.)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Mr. Charles Grey and|
|Manuel, Archie||Rose, Paul||Mr. George Lawson.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Corfield, F. V.|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Braine, Bernard||Costain, A. P.|
|Astor, John||Brewis, John||Craddock, Sir Beresford (Shelthorne)|
|Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)||Brinton, Sir Tatton||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Sir Oliver|
|Awdry, Daniel||Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Crouch, David|
|Baker, W. H. K.||Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Cunningham, Sir Knox|
|Balniel, Lord||Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Currie, G. B. H.|
|Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Bryan, Paul||Dalkeith, Earl of|
|Batsford, Brian||Buchanan-Smith, Alick(Angus,N&M)||Dance, James|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Buck, Antony (Colchester)||Davidson, James (Aberdeenshire, W.)|
|Bell, Ronald||Bullus, Sir Eric||d'Avigdor-Goldamid, Sir Henry|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gas. & Fhm)||Burden, F. A.||Dean, Paul (Somerset, N.)|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Campbell, Gordon||Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)|
|Bessell, Peter||Carlisle, Mark||Digby, Simon Wingfield|
|Biffen, John||Cary, Sir Robert||Dodds-Parker, Douglas|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Chanson, H. P. G.||Doughty, Charles|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Clark, Henry||du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward|
|Blaker, Peter||Cooke, Robert||Eden, Sir John|
|Body, Richard||Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Cordle, John||Errington, Sir Eric|
|Eyre, Reginald||Kirk, Peter||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Fisher, Nigel||Kitson, Timothy||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|Foster, Sir John||Lambton, Viscount||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
|Galbraith, Hn. T. G.||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Giles, Rear-Adm. Morgan||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield)||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)||Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey|
|Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Longden, Gilbert||Roots, William|
|Glyn, Sir Richard||Loveys, W. H.||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Godhart, Philip||Lubbock, Eric||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Goodhew, Victor||McAddan, Sir Stephen||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Gower, Raymond||MacArthur, Ian||Scott, Nicholas|
|Grant, Anthony||Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross & Crom'ty)||Sharples, Richard|
|Grant-Ferris, R.||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||McMaster, Stanley||Smith, John|
|Grieve, Percy||Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)||Stainton, Keith|
|Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Maginnis, John E.||Stodart, Anthony|
|Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Marten, Neil||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M. (Ripon)|
|Gurden, Harold||Maude, Angus||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Tapsell, Peter|
|Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Taylor,Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart)|
|Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere||Miscampbell, Norman||Temple, John M.|
|Harvie Anderson, Miss||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Hastings, Stephen||Monro, Hector||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Hawkins, Paul||More, Jasper||Tilney, John|
|Hay, John||Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Heseltine, Michael||Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Higgins, Terence L.||Murton, Oscar||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)|
|Hiley, Joseph||Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Walker, Peter (Worcester)|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir John||Nott, John||Walters, Dennis|
|Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin||Onslow, Cranley||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Hooson, Emlyn||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Hornby, Richard||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)||Webster, David|
|Howell, David (Guildford)||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Hunt, John||Page, John (Harrow, W.)||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Hutchison, Michael Clark||Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Peel, John||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Percival, Ian||Winstanley, Dr. M. P.|
|Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Peyton, John||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard|
|Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Pink, R. Bonner||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Jopling, Michael||Pounder, Rafton||Wylie, N. R.|
|Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch||Younger, Hn. George|
|Kaberry, Sir Donald||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Kershaw, Anthony||Prior, J. M. L.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Kimball, Marcus||Quennell, Miss J. M.||Mr. Francis Pym and|
|Mr. R. W. Elliott.|