Local Radio

Oral Answers to Questions — Posts and Telecommunications – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 15th February 1971.

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Photo of Mr William Molloy Mr William Molloy , Ealing North 12:00 am, 15th February 1971

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications if he will make a further statement on local radio.

Photo of Mr William Molloy Mr William Molloy , Ealing North

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications if he will make a further statement regarding his proposals for local radio.

Photo of Mr Arthur Blenkinsop Mr Arthur Blenkinsop , South Shields

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications whether he will make a further statement about the future of the British Broadcasting Corporation local radio service.

Photo of Mr Stratton Mills Mr Stratton Mills , Belfast North

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications if he will now make a statement on his proposals for commercial radio.

Photo of Mr Phillip Whitehead Mr Phillip Whitehead , Derby North

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications whether he will now make a statement about the future of local radio stations.

Photo of Mr Jack Dormand Mr Jack Dormand , Easington

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications if he will make a further statement concerning his policy for local radio.

Photo of Mr Christopher Chataway Mr Christopher Chataway , Chichester

I cannot anticipate the White Paper, which the Government will be publishing as soon as possible.

Photo of Mr William Molloy Mr William Molloy , Ealing North

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a number of promises have emanated from the Government Front Bench but none have so far been honoured? Does he appreciate that only last Thursday the Leader of the House promised my hon. Friend the Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard) that a statement on local radio would be made in the very near future? Can the Minister at least give us a glimmer of comfort and, if he cannot say the month in which it will be made, perhaps he will tell us which year?

Photo of Mr Christopher Chataway Mr Christopher Chataway , Chichester

I am almost overcome by the enthusiasm shown by hon. Gentlemen for an alternative service. I share their eagerness to introduce competition into radio and I can assure them it will not be delayed a moment longer than is necessary. I said that the White Paper would be published early this year, and it will be.

Photo of Mr Arthur Blenkinsop Mr Arthur Blenkinsop , South Shields

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware of the damaging effect that the delay has and the very great concern that is felt particularly about the development of welfare and other services, which can be held up? Does he appreciate that we do not want more commercialism?

Photo of Mr Christopher Chataway Mr Christopher Chataway , Chichester

I am not quite sure to what welfare services the hon. Member is referring.

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler , Nottingham South

Would my right hon. Friend not agree that the introduction of commercial radio could considerably increase the opportunities of work for journalists and that this might be a factor of some importance? Would he bear in mind the need to introduce some kind of commercial radio news programme on the lines of I.T.N.?

Photo of Mr Christopher Chataway Mr Christopher Chataway , Chichester

I agree with my hon. Friend. That would be an extremely desirable feature of the new service. I agree with him, too, that the new service is bound to employ a large number of journalists.

Photo of Mr Ivor Richard Mr Ivor Richard , Barons Court

The Minister will be aware that this is a subject creating a great deal of discussion and interest not only on both sides of the House but in many areas outside of it. Would he give an assurance that the Government will take no firm decisions on this matter until after the House has had an opportunity of discussing the White Paper?

Photo of Mr Christopher Chataway Mr Christopher Chataway , Chichester

Yes. The White Paper will contain the Government's proposals. If in the light of the discussion which takes place thereafter it seems that some of those proposals can be improved upon, they will be so improved before legislation is introduced.

Photo of Mr David Stoddart Mr David Stoddart , Swindon

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications what representation he has received from the Wiltshire Branch County Executive Committee of the National Farmers' Union concerning the future of the British Broadcasting Corporation's local radio; and what was the nature of his reply.

Photo of Mr Christopher Chataway Mr Christopher Chataway , Chichester

The Committee has written to me to express its concern for the future of B.B.C. local radio. I will be replying when the postal services are returned to normal and I will send the hon. Member a copy of my reply.

Photo of Mr David Stoddart Mr David Stoddart , Swindon

I thank the Minister for that reply. I hope that when he sends his answer he will bear in mind the very strong views put to him by the National Farmers' Union that the B.B.C. local radio supplies excellent services to the rural community, particularly those in agriculture, which, in its view, commercial radio cannot supply.

Photo of Mr Christopher Chataway Mr Christopher Chataway , Chichester

I will bear those views in mind, together with the many other representations made to me.

Photo of Mr Ivor Richard Mr Ivor Richard , Barons Court

When the right hon. Gentleman writes to the N.F.U. branch in Swindon, will he take the opportunity of going a little further than he went in answer to my supplementary question earlier today? He indicated—and we were very thankful for it—that the proposals in the White Paper were not necessarily the Government's last word on this issue. Would the right hon. Gentleman therefore consider publishing not a White Paper but a Green Paper so that a general discussion can take place and can be seen to take place?

Photo of Mr Christopher Chataway Mr Christopher Chataway , Chichester

I do not attach quite as much significance to colours as perhaps the hon. Gentleman does, but the proposals which the Government put forward will be proposals and I have no doubt that they will lead to a lively debate and, I hope, general approbation.

Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman , Manchester Ardwick

In considering the future of local radio in Wiltshire or elsewhere, will the right hon. Gentleman take into account that allegations of corruption against the B.B.C., which I trust he is taking seriously, will be as nothing to the scope for corruption which there will be if he introduces commercial radio?

Photo of Mr Christopher Chataway Mr Christopher Chataway , Chichester

I see no reason to expect that commercial radio will be more corrupt than commercial television or organs of the commercial Press such as the New Statesman for which the hon. Gentleman writes.