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Mr. Thompson: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, and I quite understand why there was some delay in his giving way. I appreciate the fact that he has given way, because he is making an important point. Does he agree that the cause of what he describes is that the BBC has it in mind that, for some reason or another, it has to compete with commercial television? My opinion is that it should not have even to think about competition. Is that not the problem?

Mr. Gale: Journalists and programme makers are competitive by nature; never mind that they are competing with the commercial services: they are competing with each other. Journalists are as good as their last story, or as their last programme in radio or television. If journalists are not as good, there are a lot of keen young men and women coming right up behind them who want their jobs.

If one wants to make a name for oneself, one has to blaze a trail, and be sensational. That is part of the problem, and that is why I opposed televising the House. What we often have is "Match of the Day", with edited highlights. Almost everything is taken out, and we are just left with the sexy bits. It gets worse than that.

Mr. Mark Fisher (Stoke-on-Trent, Central): Will the hon. Gentleman reconsider his criticism of the standards in BBC journalism and in broadcasting journalism generally? He will surely accept that, as a generalisation of the way in which BBC journalists work, what he has said is a gross distortion of standards. If he wishes to make that claim, which may occasionally be true, he should cite examples and be specific. He must recognise that what he said, which was a generalisation, was appalling, and an unjustifiable slur on the quality of radio and television journalists.

Mr. Gale: That is an excellent soundbite, and I am sure that it will be used on "Today in Parliament" and "Yesterday in Parliament", because the BBC will like it. Unfortunately, it is not the truth. The truth is--the

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hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) knows it--that he stands like a moth in front of a candle on College green, he has a television camera pointed at him, he records a three-minute interview, and eight seconds is used. That eight seconds is taken totally out of context and without qualification. It may or may not reflect what he said or intended to say, and he knows that as well as I do.

The hon. Gentleman wants chapter and verse; I will give him chapter and verse. Three weeks ago, I conducted an interview for the BBC with one of its own people. That interview was sanitised, criticisms of the BBC were taken out of it, and the last question and answer were hacked off completely. It was an interview recorded as live. The convention is that, if one records that way, the piece is broadcast in exactly the form in which it was recorded, without editing.

Mr. Kaufman: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Gale: No, I will not.

The agreement was--[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central asked for an example, and I am giving him one.

The agreement was that the piece was recorded as live and would be broadcast as such. Not only was the piece sanitised, and not only was the end cut off, the front cut off and a bit taken out of the middle, but my final question was removed from the end of the interview and inserted in front of a question to which it did not relate in the middle of the interview.

I respectfully suggest that that is dishonest broadcasting. It will not surprise the hon. Gentleman to know that I have made a complaint to the Director-General of the BBC; I made it immediately. What may surprise him--it surprises me--is that I am still waiting for a reply.

Mr. Kaufman: The hon. Gentleman declared his interest at the beginning, and said that he was an experienced broadcaster. Frankly, I am astonished that he was fool enough to submit himself to such treatment, which is habitual to the BBC which, if it records anything, has a great tendency never to broadcast it intact, but to chop it about to suit itself. That is why some of us will never do any recorded work for the BBC.

Mr. Gale: I agree with much of what the righthon. Gentleman says. We all know that we do recorded interviews. Increasingly, people in industry, people in the trade unions and people in this House say exactly what the right hon. Gentleman has said--it is a sad comment. They say, "I dare not allow this to be recorded. I will only do it live."

We tend to find that programme makers--this is not a party political comment, for heaven's sake--are interested fundamentally in controversy, because that is what makes good broadcasting. The dishonesty creeps in when the fixer rings somebody up and says, "Will you take part in this?" One says yes, but one is not told the context in which one will be interviewed or details of the person or people who will suddenly be sprung on one.

What I say to the House--and, more particularly, to the BBC--is this. I have worked for the BBC; I spent many happy years working for an organisation for which I still

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have tremendous admiration. I have already said that the British Broadcasting Corporation is a benchmark for editorial integrity and quality throughout the world.

I want Auntie to remain that way, and that is why I believe that the editor-in-chief--the Director-General of the BBC, John Birt--must address his editorial standards now, before the cancer takes root too deeply to be rooted out. With the advent of digital editing, it is technically possible literally to make anybody say anything. We have to know that the public service broadcaster in the United Kingdom is above and beyond any form of possible reproach.

I touch fleetingly on the word in the charter that nobody has yet mentioned--"research". We should pay tribute to the immense research work that BBC technicians have done in the past, and are doing now. Way back in the mists of time, there was the radiophonic workshop and all that. Coming to the present day, the BBC was first with digital audio broadcasting. It is pursuing, and will pursue, the broadcast of digital terrestrial television. It is pursuing multi-media services, including educational CD-ROMs.I could go on, but I do not need to. We should not overlook the immense value, not just to the corporation, but to the country, of the BBC's research and research engineers.

Again, I touch fleetingly--not because I do not value it highly, but precisely for the reverse reason--on local radio. Somewhere in the documents, there is a reference to the BBC providing a number of "local sound services", and that is it--it is kicked into touch. However, for many people in this country, BBC local radio provides a genuine public service alternative to commercial radio stations.

Commercial radio stations do a first-rate job in the context for which they were created, but BBC speech-based local radio is undervalued and underfunded. It has always been, and still is, the training ground for many of the BBC's best reporters. It is where they cut their teeth and make their mistakes. We all know that from personal experience. That is where I cut my teeth and made my mistakes, and I was shouted at by people like me for doing so. I believe that we should all value that service highly. I say to the BBC management: "I do not believe that management values the service highly enough."

Radio 4 long wave has been mentioned in this debate. I understand the predilections of those who prefer normal programming to cricket, but I do not share them. The charter clearly separates the home service's broadcasts to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Channel islands and the Isle of Man, the territorial waters, ships and aircraft, and the World Service's broadcasting to the Commonwealth and to other countries.

Radio 4 long wave is a home service, and is intended for home consumption. There is no question about that. However, there is a large expatriate community and an increasingly large number of business travellers and tourists throughout the European Union who rely heavily on Radio 4's long wave broadcasts to keep in daily touch with home, with their bases and businesses. The BBC has fought that battle once and lost, and I hope that it will not fight it again. It would be very unwise to remove or tamper with that service.

Regional broadcasting has been mentioned in the debate. Some hon. Members here tonight have heard my views in the BBC General Advisory Council. I have

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nothing whatever against regional broadcasting. The BBC has excellent network production centres in Manchester, Newcastle, Birmingham, Bristol, Belfast and north of the border, which have established reputations for specific services.

For example, I doubt whether there is a broadcasting organisation in the word that is capable of producing the type of natural history programmes that have come, and continue to come, out of Bristol. It makes eminent sense to keep that programming there. However, I cannot understand the burning desire to pick up a team of actors and take them from Shepherd's Bush--where they have probably been rehearsing anyway--up to Glasgow, Manchester or Birmingham, or down to Bristol, simply to make something in a studio there and pretend that it is a local production. That is not what regional broadcasting is about.

Mr. Maxton: I specifically asked John Birt, when he recently appeared before the Select Committee, whether that simply meant uprooting people from London and taking them into the regions. He assured me that it did not, and that regional production in Glasgow meant using actors and staff from Glasgow to make a production that would then be shown on the network television.

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