British Broadcasting Corporation (Finances)

Oral Answers to Questions — Posts and Telecommunications – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 23rd November 1970.

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Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Fife West 12:00 am, 23rd November 1970

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications if he will make a statement on the finances of the British Broadcasting Corporation, in view of the recent announcement of substantial deficits in the Corporation's accounts.

Photo of Mr Christopher Chataway Mr Christopher Chataway , Chichester

I am considering the representations which the B.B.C. has made to me about its financial prospects. I have not yet reached any conclusions but will make a statement as soon as practicable.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Fife West

Does not the B.B.C. attribute part of this deficit to the fact that licence evasion is still rampant, despite the very welcome measures that the Minister himself has taken? What further steps does he mean to take in this direction? If they do not meet the problem, will he consider smypathetically a B.B.C. request for increasing the licence fee?

Photo of Mr Christopher Chataway Mr Christopher Chataway , Chichester

I will certainly consider representations which have been made to me by the B.B.C. The hon. Gentleman, who takes a great interest in these matters, will know that it has been possible over the last two years to halve the number of licence evaders; and by a number of measures I am determined to reduce that number further.

Photo of Mr John Gorst Mr John Gorst , Hendon North

Before any additional responsibilities are given to the B.B.C., will the Minister ensure that it discharges its responsibilities more impartially and effectively?

Photo of Mr Phillip Whitehead Mr Phillip Whitehead , Derby North

On a point of order—

Photo of Mr Andrew Faulds Mr Andrew Faulds , Smethwick

On a point of order—

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

Order. One point of order at a time, please. Mr. Whitehead.

Photo of Mr Phillip Whitehead Mr Phillip Whitehead , Derby North

I apologise for my inexperience in the House, Mr. Speaker. Is it not usual for an hon. Member to declare an interest when he asks a question?

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

I dealt with that point of order last week. The answer is that it is not.

Photo of Mr Christopher Chataway Mr Christopher Chataway , Chichester

Matters of programme content are for the B.B.C.

Photo of Mr Ivor Richard Mr Ivor Richard , Barons Court

If the BBC. has substantial deficits, is it not important that steps should be taken to deal with them early rather than late? We on this side would view with a great deal of concern a situation in which the deficits were allowed to continue and the fact of those deficits was used, as most hon. Members opposite seem to be using it, as an argument in favour of commercial broadcasting and against public service broadcasting?

Photo of Mr Christopher Chataway Mr Christopher Chataway , Chichester

It is a pity that the concern of hon. Members opposite did not lead them to take a little action before the General Election, when they were urging new services upon the B.B.C. but not providing the B.B.C. with the money to carry out those services.