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British Newspapers (Overseas Distribution)

Volume 446: debated on Wednesday 28 January 1948

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has considered taking advantage of the decline in passenger air traffic to spread a knowledge of the workings of British democracy and public opinion, by arranging for the despatch of newspapers in bulk by air to countries not already so supplied in which their sale is permitted.

It is the established policy of His Majesty's Government to encourage in every possible way the distribution of British newspapers abroad, and in November last a total of nearly 42,000 newspapers was sent daily by air to 14 European countries. In the remaining countries in Europe, circumstances have made ordinary commercial sale impossible.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider publishing in the OFFICIAL REPORT a list of the countries in which airborne British newspapers are on sale?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that only two of our newspapers have airmail editions, and that therefore the British newspapers which go abroad give a very one-sided idea of what is going on in this country?

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the needs of the Far East in this connection? Is he aware that from Suez onwards to Japan and Korea there is practically no efficient news service, and that the interests of our country are suffering a great deal as a result? I am casting no reflection upon our information officers in these areas, who are doing their best under difficult conditions.

We have always been aware of the difficulties of Far-Eastern distribution. They are of a technical kind, and are very difficult to overcome. As my hon. Friend knows, we have an efficient information service in the Far East, which does work out of all proportion to its budget.

In addition to publishing the list of countries, as he undertook to do, will my right hon. Friend also be good enough to publish the list of newspapers, and the approximate quantities involved?

I do not know whether I am entitled to give the quantities, but I can see no objection to giving the newspapers.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that some British Colonies are the worst served in this respect, particularly Cyprus, where no British papers can be bought?