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Television Programmes (Crime)

Volume 656: debated on Thursday 29 March 1962

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what discussions he has had with the British Broadcasting Corporation and the independent Television Authority regarding the impact of television on crime; and if he will make a statement.

The Independent Television Authority has undertaken to finance an inquiry into the impact of television on the young, with particular reference to its effect on the incidence of delinquency. My Department has had useful discussions with the British Broadcasting Corporation and the Independent Television Authority about the form which such an inquiry might take, and a conference of experts will be held shortly to consider the lines which should be followed.

Whilst thanking the Minister for that statement, which will be received with much satisfaction throughout the country, may I ask whether, pending this inquiry, in view of the widespread anxiety over this, he will consult the Postmaster-General with a view to a reduction of these violent scenes which have created such anxiety?

We are in constant touch and I certainly will communicate again with my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General and with the authorities concerned. I think that on the whole they have shown a responsible attitude. I am equally sure that the exchange of views expressed in the House only recently on a particular matter which caused considerable offence has in its own way also had an effect.

When the inquiry is set up, could my right hon. Friend ask its members to study some means for the Corporation and the Authority to have a form of self-censorship by having an identity mark on plays and films which they feel are not suitable to show to children?

The trouble is the timing. There is an idea that children go to bed at a certain hour and after that hour certain things can be shown. It is difficult to guarantee this, as is done in the case of films, but I will certainly bear that in mind and put it to the authorities concerned.

While I strongly approve of the right hon. Gentleman's action and that by the I.T.A. and B.B.C., may I ask him to ensure that what emerges from these considerations is a code of conduct and not a form of censorship?

I do not think that we are looking for a form of censorship. We are looking for self-restraint in the conduct of these matters.

In thanking my right hon. Friend, may I ask whether I am to understand that the inquiry will be, so to speak, under the guidance of the Home Office, with the I.T.A. and B.B.C. participating? How long will it be before the inquiry is started? What kind of personnel does my right hon. Friend intend to invite to sit on the inquiry?

This is why we have called together a body of experts. We think that a broad-ranging inquiry might be ineffective. We are having the matter expertly examined, and I shall then have to call in outside people to conduct the research necessary to make it a success.

Will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that in any terms of reference not only crime is looked into but also the whole way of life which is depicted on television? Will the inquiry include advertisements as well as programmes?

As far as I have seen it, the idea is to include only programmes. In reply to the other suggestion made by the hon. Lady, I do not think that we shall limit this inquiry to crime.


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress he has made in his study of the connection between the presentation of the techniques of organised crime on television and the rise in organised crime within the Metropolitan Police district.

If any particular case arose in which it seemed to the police that undesirable information was given on a television programme about the technique of crime, this would be taken up with those concerned with the particular programme. But no special study of the kind suggested by the hon. Member is in train.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the techniques of organised crime are illustrated almost literally night after night on television? If he wants an example, there was a programme called "The Avengers" on 23rd December which gave a detailed description of organised arson. Is it not the case that in the competitive scramble for mass audiences I.T.V. has become a school of crime more pernicious than in Fagin's day?

If the hon. Gentleman will let me have the information to which he refers. I will take it up with the Authority.