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Pirate Radio Stations

Volume 728: debated on Wednesday 18 May 1966

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asked the Postmaster-General what action he is taking about pirate radio stations broadcasting to the United Kingdom.


asked the Postmaster-General how many radio ships are broadcasting programmes to Great Britain; what information he has as to the numbers listening to these programmes; and what is his policy with regard to these transmitter ships.


asked the Postmaster-General what action he is taking about pirate radio stations; and if he will make a statement.


asked the Postmaster-General whether he will now make a statement on pirate radio stations.


asked the Postmaster-General what steps he is taking to deal with the problem of pirate radio stations.

At present there are four pirate stations broadcasting from ships to this country: I have no official figures about the size of audiences.

The Government intend legislation as soon as the timetable permits and are considering how the demand for more popular broadcast music can more rationally be met.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that this has been going on for a very long time and that legislation could easily have been introduced before if he had had his heart in it? Could he not be just a little more forthcoming about this and say whether he really means to stop them, or whether they are to go on indefinitely under a kind of truce?

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that our intentions are to fulfil our international requirements in this matter and I am as keen as he is to get this put right.

Will this legislation be designed, whilst dealing with wavelengths, and so on, to meet the demand for this popular type of programme which we are told is listened to by a very large section—perhaps one-quarter—of the adult population?

No, the legislation and the demand are two quite different things. The legislation is to deal with the problem of unauthorised broadcasting. The demand for popular music is in this sense not a local one but a national one and must be seen in the context of the review.

What urgent action does my right hon. Friend intend to take with regard to a new and extremely sinister development on which I have written to him? I hold in my hand a notice that announces the setting up of a political station called "Radio Freedom" which is due to open in August and which will pump political propaganda into this country.

I think the whole House will agree that as this type of development takes place it will indicate the dangers of unregulated radio.

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that on 8th December last he urged the pirates to stop broadcasting or he would prosecute them under the existing law? Is he convinced that he has this power? If so, why has he not carried out this assurance to Parliament?

I have dealt with this. It is a matter of jurisdiction. It has not been possible to proceed in this way. In any case, it would have dealt with only a very small number of those concerned.

Would the Postmaster-General accept that the longer he delays action the harder it will be to take when the time comes and that what would have been possible a year ago will be very difficult in the months ahead?

Yes, I recognise this. The interference by these stations in Europe is creating mounting difficulties, and this is an international obligation. It is a matter of the timetable.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the musical profession and the record manufacturers are thoroughly dissatisfied at the prevarication of the Government on this? Although I believe that my right hon. Friend really wants to deal with this problem, may I ask him to try to bring more pressure to bear within the Government to get early legislation to deal with these pirates?

There is no difference of opinion as to the necessity for this. As I told my hon. Friend before, it is a question of the timetable.

Will the Postmaster-General take note that there is considerable feeling in all parts of the House about the urgency of this matter? Will he accept it from us that we will support him in any endeavour to get some of his colleagues to drop some of the more useless pieces of legislation in favour of this one?

As often with the right hon. and learned Gentleman, part of his intervention was very helpful and I shall take it back to my colleagues.