Independent Television Authority (Licences)

Oral Answers to Questions — Wireless and Television – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th July 1967.

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Photo of Mr Christopher Rowland Mr Christopher Rowland , Meriden 12:00 am, 13th July 1967

asked the Postmaster-General if he will introduce legislation to require the Independent Television Authority to publish the proposals presented to the Authority by successful applicants for television licences, and resumes of subsequent evidence secured from such applicants when presenting their applications to the Authority.

Photo of Mr Terence Boston Mr Terence Boston , Faversham

asked the Postmaster-General (1) if he will introduce legislation to compel the Independent Television Authority to publish its reasons for refusing to renew, renewing, granting, or withholding a licence;

(2) if he will introduce legislation to compel the Independent Television Authority to hold formal hearings before refusing to renew, renewing, granting or withholding a licence; and to publish afterwards the proceedings at those hearings.

Photo of Mr Edward Short Mr Edward Short , Newcastle upon Tyne Central

I would refer my hon. Friends to my speech in the debate of 28th June. Given the present system which Parliament has charged the I.T.A. to administer, I think it better that it should be left as free as it would wish from obligations which might inhibit it in choosing the companies it considers will produce the best service of television.

Photo of Mr Christopher Rowland Mr Christopher Rowland , Meriden

Is my right hon. Friend aware that he did not deal with these points in the speech to which he referred? While agreeing that there is much to be said for these hearings being in private, may I ask him whether it would not be desirable, in terms of the promises of greater regional identification and higher artistic and cultural standards made by successful applicants, that these promises should be made known to the public so that they may judge the performance of these successful applicants in years to come? Should not people in the Midlands know what A.T.V. promised about the closer identification of the Midlands in programmes and—

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. No hon. Gentleman has a prescriptive right to ask long supplementaries.

Photo of Mr Edward Short Mr Edward Short , Newcastle upon Tyne Central

The fact that a given company gets a contract indicates that it made a better bid than anyone else; and it must live up to it. All the matters mentioned in these Questions must be looked at when we start looking at the whole broadcasting system.

Photo of Mr Terence Boston Mr Terence Boston , Faversham

While appreciating what my right hon. Friend said in the debate to which he referred, may I ask him to appreciate that there is considerable disquiet about the apparently arbitrary way in which the I.T.A. made its decision about T.W.W.? Is it not extraordinary that 10 years' work could be thrown over on the basis of a couple of applications and a couple of 40-minute interviews? Does not the Postmaster-General feel that he Chairman of I.T.A. should exert rather less secrecy in these matters?

Photo of Mr Edward Short Mr Edward Short , Newcastle upon Tyne Central

No, Sir. We must be fair to I.T.A. in these matters. Without saying whether or not one supports the present system, the fact remains that Parliament created the system and that I.T.A. must work it.

Photo of Mr Paul Bryan Mr Paul Bryan , Howden

While I see the difficulty of publishing résumes of the oral evidence given to the I.T.A., could not the right hon. Gentleman, without legislation, simply ask I.T.A. now to publish the applications of the successful companies?

Photo of Mr Edward Short Mr Edward Short , Newcastle upon Tyne Central

No, Sir. I do not think that I would have any right to do that. I have no doubt that Lord Hill will read these Questions and Answers. I feel that we should not inhibit the I.T.A. from selecting the company which it believes can produce the best television; and that is the object of the whole exercise.

Photo of Mr Arthur Palmer Mr Arthur Palmer , Bristol Central

Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that these Questions are of great interest to us in Bristol, where we are subject to a violent change in the regime? Is he aware that some of us are nervous because Bristol is a very English city and can come under too much Welsh cultural domination? What has my right hon. Friend to say on this issue?

Photo of Mr Edward Short Mr Edward Short , Newcastle upon Tyne Central

The possibility of a change when contracts are reallocated is inherent in the system. Until the system is changed, the possibility of a company being changed at the end of the period remains.

Photo of Mr John Ellis Mr John Ellis , Bristol North West

Would my right hon. Friend consider having some arrangement whereby, perhaps halfway through the licensing period, there was a public inquiry so that ordinary people could make their views known before momentous decisions of this kind are taken?

Photo of Mr Edward Short Mr Edward Short , Newcastle upon Tyne Central

No, Sir. So much is involved in mounting a programme of this kind that if a contract is given for five years, that contract should run for five years.