Eastern Europe (Broadcasting)

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th March 1972.

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Photo of Mr Tufton Beamish Mr Tufton Beamish , Lewes 12:00 am, 27th March 1972

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will propose to the Council of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation that responsibility for the control, contents, co-ordination and finances of broadcasting to the Union of Soviet Social Republics and the other member countries of the Warsaw blocshould become a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation responsibility.

Photo of Mr Joseph Godber Mr Joseph Godber , Grantham

No, Sir. Her Majesty's Government prefer to rely on our present arrangements.

Photo of Mr Tufton Beamish Mr Tufton Beamish , Lewes

My right hon. Friend will have guessed that the Question arose out of the threat to close Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty. Can he confirm that both these stations have been temporarily reprieved, at any rate until June? Does he agree with the widely held view that the more the truth is propagated behind the Iron Curtain, the better will be the prospect for genuine détente?

Photo of Mr Joseph Godber Mr Joseph Godber , Grantham

I can confirm the matter in the first part of my hon. and gallant Friend's supplementary question, and I agree entirely with his second statement. In regard to those two stations, however, one should make clear that it is by no means certain that they will not continue. Their future is at present under active consideration in the United States, and until the position is clear it would be premature for us to consider what might happen thereafter.

Photo of Sir Douglas Dodds-Parker Sir Douglas Dodds-Parker , Cheltenham

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will consult other European countries to see whether programmes of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty could be supported by contributions in kind from Western Europe, such as relaying the British Broadcasting Corporation news in English.

Photo of Mr Joseph Godber Mr Joseph Godber , Grantham

No formal consultations have taken place, but I am aware of the interest in a number of European countries in the future of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty. Their programmes have for many years been complemented by broadcasts from other Western European stations, including of course the British Broadcasting Corporation, which makes a valuable contribution.

Photo of Sir Douglas Dodds-Parker Sir Douglas Dodds-Parker , Cheltenham

Is my right hon. Friend aware that B.B.C. broadcasts in English over the last 40 years or so have been widely valued in Eastern Europe and beyond because of the growing use of the English language? Will he keep in contact with European countries and members of the Council of Europe which are most anxious that this service should be maintained?

Photo of Mr Joseph Godber Mr Joseph Godber , Grantham

I agree with my hon. Friend. It is significant that the B.B.C.'s world service in English is specifically beamed to Eastern Europe daily for 16¾ hours, so that it provides a very full service in that way in addition to the service it provides in the countries' own languages.

Photo of Mr John Wilkinson Mr John Wilkinson , Bradford West

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the crucial factor is that the services should be in the hands of people of the countries concerned and that broadcasts should be by nationals, some of whom are known to their countrymen? Will he draw the attention of the American Government to Her Majesty's Government's desire for such broadcasts to be continued beyond June?

Photo of Mr Joseph Godber Mr Joseph Godber , Grantham

It is difficult for me to agree with my hon. Friend, having just agreed with my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Dodds-Parker) who made a precisely different point on this. There is much to be said for both, and that is why we provide both. We are providing not only the 16¾ hours a day in English but also 143 hours a week in Eastern European languages. This is a considerable provision. As regards the other two stations to which my hon. Friend referred and which were referred to on an earlier Question, I hope that they will be maintained in some form.