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Television (X Certificate Films)

Volume 959: debated on Thursday 30 November 1978

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will seek to introduce legislation to prohibit the exhibition on television of films certified in the X category as unsuit- able for exhibition to persons under the age of 18 years in cinemas.

No, Sir. Legislation of the kind my hon. Friend envisages would conflict with the Government's declared policy that the provision and content of programmes should be the responsibility of the broadcasting authorities.

What is the sense of prohibiting the showing of X films to teenagers under 18 in cinemas yet allowing them to see the same films on television in their homes? Is she aware that it is no answer to say that these films are not screened until 10.30 p.m. because, as she knows, kids of 17 do not go to bed at 10.30 p.m.? If my hon. Friend will not go all the way with me, will she at least adopt the recommendations of paragraphs 104 and 116 of the Annan report, rather than treat us to the unconvincing explanation in paragraph 106 of the White Paper?

I am sure that my hon. Friend and the House would not want to interfere with the content of programmes. I am sure that they would not wish to see legislation which provided for Government intervention, which is what my hon. Friend is asking for. On the other hand, the White Paper recognises that the IBA and the BBC have a responsibility for programme standards. We are suggesting a broadcasting complaints commission and more accountability, via such organisations, to the public.

Will the hon. Lady discuss with the broadcasting authorities the possibility of giving some protection and guidance to parents and children by reproducing the rating given to a film by the British Board of Film Censors in the radio and television periodicals and in newspaper summaries of programmes?

No doubt the hon. Gentleman will bring that very good suggestion to the notice of the BBC and the IBA. I hope that other hon. Members with similar suggestions will do the same.

Will my hon. Friend resist any suggestion that what we can watch on television should be geared to the needs of 12-year-olds? Will she make it clear that the Government will not force all of us to watch"Blue Peter " all night just because some people do not send their kids to bed at the right time?

This discussion illustrates that there is a variety of opinion and taste among hon. Members as to what they want to see. It is up to the IBA and the BBC to decide what it is best to do, in the light of recommendations.