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British Broadcasting Corporation Education Service

Volume 982: debated on Wednesday 2 April 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when next he intends to meet the Broadcasting Council for Scotland to discuss the British Broadcasting Corporation Education Service.

I have no plans at present to discuss this matter with the Council.

When the Minister meets the Broadcasting Council, will he discuss the serious effect on Scottish education that the proposal to eliminate the broadcasting service will have, particularly in rural areas? We welcome his statement today that he has asked the BBC to reconsider, but that is not good enough. The service is used by the education authorities in Scotland. Therefore will the Minister now announce a grant to the BBC from the Scottish Education Department so that the services can be continued?

My right hon. Friend has already tabled a reply to a parliamentary question regarding the granting of funds to the BBC. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is aware that this is very much a matter for the BBC and I regret that its assessment of its priorities should have this result.

When he next meets the council, will my hon. Friend give some attention to the growing concern in Scotland about the way in which the BBC spends the finances it has? Radio Scotland leaves much to be desired and some of these funds would be better channelled towards the education service.

I can only repeat that I hope these views are being expressed strongly to the BBC.

Cannot the Minister for Education give an explanation to the House as to why he has not sought a meeting with the BBC on educational programmes? Is it that he has no interest in the subject of education? Would it not be disastrous for Scottish school children if they receive their learning partly through programmes which are brought from England and have no respect for Scotland's traditional interests, language and literature?

Both my right hon. Friend and I have had separate meetings with the BBC on these matters.

Are we to take it from the Minister's first reply that in his view the BBC's priorities are wrong and that he would like the Scottish Schools Broadcasting Service to be saved at the expense of something else? If so, would he say what that something else is? Does he not agree that it is useless to say that the BBC will reconsider unless one is prepared to give the Corporation the wherewithal to do it?

I am saying that this is essentially a matter for the BBC and my right hon. Friend has no basis on which he can intervene. As regards the BBC's priorities I am making it as clear as I can that I should have thought that there are other areas where savings might have been made before educational broadcasting and the orchestra became involved.

When my hon. Friend meets the Council will he draw to its attention not only the miserably low figures for Radio Scotland but also the fact that the staff levels of BBC Scotland have been increased by 35 per cent. in the past seven years? Would not both these areas be better suited to cuts than the education service or the Scottish Symphony Orchestra.

Judging by the correspondence columns of the Scotsman over the past year many suggestions were made as to where the BBC in Scotland might make savings before this item was talked about. Now that these matters are under consideration as proposed cuts, it is obvious that the majority opinion in Scotland would like educational broadcasting and the Scottish Symphony Orchestra to be saved.

Is not the Minister aware that these cuts in school broadcasting will be an absolute disgrace? The Secretary of State is the custodian of Scottish education and he cannot simply wring his hands and say how unfortunate all this is. We want some practical help from the Government. They have the power to give some financial assistance and the sums involved as regards school broadcasting are small. We want some initiative from the Government and so far we have had nothing from them.

It is essentially a matter for the BBC, but the crisis would not have arisen if the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues had raised the BBC licence fee earlier, when he was in office.