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Television Programmes (Hanging Scenes)

Volume 656: debated on Tuesday 27 March 1962

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asked the Postmaster-General if he is aware that during the past eighteen months three boys have been found dead from hanging after watching television programmes about crime, including hanging scenes; and if he will exercise his powers under Section 15 (4) of the Licence and Agreement of the British Broadcasting Corporation and under Section 9 (2) of the Television Act, 1954, to ensure that programmes which include hanging scenes shall not be broadcase in future.

I am aware of the three unfortunate cases which occurred in 1960 and 1961. Since that time the broadcasting authorities have been even more vigilant in matters of this kind, and I do not consider I should be justified in taking the action the hon. Gentleman suggests.

Is not the Postmaster-General aware that a fourth case occurred very recently—since I put down this Question—of a boy found dead from hanging after watching hanging scenes on television? Does he not think that he should use his powers of direction to prevent similiar human tragedies from occurring?

I am not aware of the fourth case to which the hon. Gentleman refers, but I shall certainly seek to trace it. I should be very happy to discuss the matter with the hon. Gentleman.

Is not the Postmaster-General aware that the I.T.A. is obliged to set up three television advisory committees, the first of which deals with the content of advertisements. According to the OFFICIAL REPORT, what the right hon. Gentleman said last Tuesday shows that he is not aware of that one. The second is a committee to advise on religious content, and the third advises on the welfare of young children. Would not that latter committee be the appropriate one for the right hon. Gentleman to ask to keep a continuing interest in this particular aspect of broadcasting?

The hon. Gentleman is wrong; I made it quite clear last week that there is no advisory committee on programme content. Having said that, I deplore, of course, as much as does any other hon. Member, these tragedies when they occur if it can be shown that there has been a demonstrable link with a television programme. But I am really satisfied that the two bodies—the B.B.C. and the I.T.A.—have this kind of thing very much in mind.