Television (Levy)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 23rd March 1970.

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Photo of Mr Russell Johnston Mr Russell Johnston , Inverness 12:00 am, 23rd March 1970

I have not had an opportunity to see what was on. I am not quite sure what the hon. Gentleman would regard as the peak hour, which covers a fair range of time. I would not like to comment on that matter.

Despite the fact that smaller companies show an interest in international matters outwith their local borders, it is nevertheless true that they are capable of the sort of commitment to an area that the B.B.C., for all its regionalisation, is not capable of. The Grampian area for the B.B.C. is a segment of a region, and the B.B.C. is, therefore, not likely to have the same involvement in it. Equally, S.T.V. has been considerably relieved under the Order, and we know, whatever remarks may have been made at one time or another by Lord Thomson in another place, that a series of dramatic programmes, including a dramatic projection of the Scottish Office, had to be postponed, together with several other programmes, on account of the financial crisis.

I go all the way with the hon. Member for Putney. We are likely to decide tonight to relieve the companies of £6 million, and the Minister, therefore, has a clear responsibility to do what he can to ensure that this money is used for maintaining programme standards rather than—as the hon. Member for Woolwich, East suspected—for increasing the profits for the shareholders. As the hon. Member for Woolwich, East has said, there is evidence that if television companies are under financial pressure programmes tend to suffer. While I agree that the Minister has done the right thing, and while I enter the caveats I have made, it is important that the Minister should say what he seeks to do to ensure than the television companies maintain standards in return for the concessions he has given.