Television Violence

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd December 1987.

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Photo of Mr Nicholas Baker Mr Nicholas Baker , North Dorset 12:00 am, 3rd December 1987

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement about his recent discussions with members of the broadcasting authorities to discuss violence in television.

Photo of Mr Timothy Renton Mr Timothy Renton , Mid Sussex

At a meeting on 29 September the chairmen of the BBC and the IBA made it clear to my right hon. Friend that the broadcasting authorities share the public concern on this issue and are taking further action to tighten up the enforcement of programme standards. This includes, a more selective approach to material produced abroad and improved arrangements for checking and reviewing programmes.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Baker Mr Nicholas Baker , North Dorset

Will my hon. Friend state from the Dispatch Box the absolutely unequivocal truth about the connection between what people see on television and how they behave, because that is now clearly established? Is my hon. Friend aware that many of the violent television programmes are of foreign, and in particular United States, origin? Will he bring that fact to the attention of the IBA and the BBC?

Photo of Mr Timothy Renton Mr Timothy Renton , Mid Sussex

Personally, I have a good deal of sympathy with my hon. Friend's point. It was for that reason that my right hon. Friend recently announced the setting up of the Broadcasting Standards Council. It will not be a regulatory body, but it could conduct research into precisely that point — the connection between violence shown on the television screen and violence in the real world outside.

Photo of Mr Dennis Turner Mr Dennis Turner , Wolverhampton South East

In the Chancellor's Autumn Statement: he said that there would be substantial additional resources for the police. I wonder whether the Home Secretary could tell me when we may see—

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. Is the hon. Gentleman asking about the broadcasting authorities, which is the subject of Question 5?

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Substitute Member)

When my hon. Friend met the broadcasting authorities, was he able to suggest to them that if the proceedings of this House were to be televised, those who are charged with the duty of curbing violence on television would face an even more impossible task than that which they so manifestly fail to carry out already?

Photo of Mr Timothy Renton Mr Timothy Renton , Mid Sussex

I admire my hon. Friend's ingenuity. He is an expert on broadcasting, and doubtless he will make that point in any future debate on televising the proceedings of the House.

Photo of Mr Robin Corbett Mr Robin Corbett Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I suspect that the House will want to take this matter more seriously than does the hon. Member for Thanet, North (Mr. Gale). Does the Minister agree that it would be quite proper to request the BBC to change its decision to start showing the three-part series "The Marksman", which was withdrawn immediately after the violence at Hungerford? The pain and distress that would be caused by that film, which I understand concerns a character who goes round blowing people apart in order to get what he considers to be vengeance, would hit immediately those families in Hungerford and elsewhere who have been involved in shooting incidents.

Photo of Mr Timothy Renton Mr Timothy Renton , Mid Sussex

I understand very clearly what the hon. Gentleman is saying. He will appreciate that it is not the job of Ministers to second-guess the decisions of the broadcasting authorities with regard to the interpretation of their statutory obligations regarding programming, but I have no doubt that the broadcasting authorities will bear very carefully in mind the points that the hon. Gentleman has just made.