Examination of Witness (Questions 500
MONDAY 17 JUNE 2002
500. What we have protected ourselves from in
this country is the distortion of the political process by the
horrendous cost of advertising on television that I believe has
corrupted the American process and, therefore, when you suggest
we get on this slope, I think it is a very slippery slope indeed.
(Professor Barendt) I do not think it is as slippery
as you imagine. I agree with your fear of the domination of politics
by ultra rich, and maybe ultra right wing, groups but I think
reasonable rules can be formulated to allow some political advertising.
Remember, the price of advertising on radio would not be extortionate.
I think one might distinguish here between radio and television.
Chairman: Lastly, Lord Pilkington?
Lord Pilkington of Oxenford
501. I feel like a student in a seminar at Cambridge
forty years ago in this situation! It is a soft ball to you, Professor.
You have expressed concerns about the Secretary of State having
powers to avoid mentioning a particular matter in broadcasting,
a sort of reserve power. Would you want, which I am sure you would
if the use of any direction like this would stop something being
broadcast, to have some form of Parliamentary scrutiny?
(Professor Barendt) I certainly would. I would have
thought that was the very minimum. I would much prefer that it
was confined to national security or public safety grounds. What
I think the Committee should urge the government to do is to think
again about a power which the last time it was used, as I think
we all know, was the so-called broadcasting ban on the supporters
of terrorist organisations in Northern Ireland. I am afraid that
was regarded as widely wrong and it was withdrawn by the government
two or three years later; it served no apparent purpose and it
was, in my view, a clear infringement of freedom of expression
which should not be countenanced in a liberal society.
502. Could I again say how very grateful I amI
cannot speak for the Committeefor your eloquence and expertise
but could you write some of it down for our feeble legislative
(Professor Barendt) You are far too modest.
Chairman: It is our way of getting very inexpensive
advice! Thank you, Professor.