House of Commons Proceedings (Broadcasting)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 26th November 1975.

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Photo of Mr James Wellbeloved Mr James Wellbeloved , Bexley Erith and Crayford 12:00 am, 26th November 1975

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to bring to your attention a matter of serious importance to the House. At 9.10 p.m. yesterday evening, Thames Television put out a light entertainment programme called "The Nearly Man", during the course of which an extract from the tape of the experimental broadcasting of the proceedings of Parliament was used. The extract was from the proceedings recorded on 10th June and may be found in Hansard. The actual words used in the programme were he knows that not a scintilla of a new policy emerged from the Opposition Front Bench on that occasion."—[Official Report, 10th June 1975; Vol. 893, c. 239.] That was the voice of the Prime Minister, and then, Mr. Speaker, your voice came over naming an hon. Member to put a further supplementary question.

The experiment was authorised by the House subject to rules laid down by the Broadcasting Sub-Committee of the Services Committee. Paragraph 6 of the Committee's Second Report in the 1974–75 Session said: There would be one recorded soundtrack, a master tape of the proceedings of the House which will be taken by the BBC as a feed from the existing Tannoy installation and made available without reservation to the IBA under arrangements already agreed between the two authorities. It is this master tape which will be the source of all broadcasts, whether live or edited, and your Committee accept that this signal will be available for transmission during the period of the experiment on all broadcasting frequencies. Your Committee recommend that the master tape should be retained by the House and be available for whatever future use the House may think fit and that copyright in it should belong to the House. That raises two important questions. In the broadcast last night there has been a clear breach of the rules laid down by the House. First, the signal was clearly used outside the period of the experiment of broadcasting our proceedings and, secondly, it was used contrary to the requirement that an extract should be available only on the express wish of the House on future occasions. The rules were accepted by the BBC and the IBA, and in this case it would appear that the IBA has been in breach of the rules.

The situation is even more serious because the very spirit of the understanding between the broadcasting authorities, the Sub-Committee and this House has been breached. During the proceedings of the Sub-Committee my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) asked the joint representatives of the BBC and IBA about the circumstances in which they would use extracts of our proceedings, and the gentleman giving evidence said: We would be quite ready to say to you and in public that the material would be used in news and information programmes and in current affairs programmes. He specifically gave an undertaking that no extract would be used in any light entertainment programmes.

The use of this extract illustrates the difficulties confronting the House in relation to the sound broadcasting of our proceedings. If this irresponsible use of an extract is a demonstration of the use to which material may be put, it can be clearly seen that it adds to the problems confronting Parliament in trying, in good faith, to reach agreement with the broadcasting authorities on the future broadcasting of our proceedings.

I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to consider this matter and perhaps draw it to the attention of the Select Committee and particularly the Broadcasting Sub-Committee so that this regrettable incident may be investigated and serious consideration may be given to ensuring that watertight rules are laid down should the House agree to the permanent broadcasting of its proceedings.

Photo of Mr Phillip Whitehead Mr Phillip Whitehead , Derby North

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. As the hon. Member who asked the question of the broadcasting representatives which elicited the reply that they would restrict extracts to news, current affairs and educational programmes, may I say that, although that was the reply given by the BBC representative, it was my impression that the IBA representative concurred. Granada Television, as the transmitting company in this case, has both ignored paragraph 6 of the Sub-Committee's Report and been extremely foolish in using an extract from your words, Mr. Speaker, in calling my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved).

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

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I did not see this programme last night, but if it will help you and the House I shall have the matter investigated and find a way of reporting back.

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

This is a serious matter and I am grateful to the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) for raising it. It is an important matter from the point of view of the House.