CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

DCMS – TELEVISION DRAMA (IMPARTIALITY) – 25 March 2002

Dr Julian Lewis: If she [Tessa Jowell] will make a statement on the requirement of broadcasting legislation that television drama based on recent historical events should be treated with due impartiality?

[Dr Kim Howells: The BBC, under the BBC Charter and Agreement, and other broadcasters under the Broadcasting Act 1996, are required to preserve due impartiality as respects matters of political or industrial controversy or those relating to current public policy. Those general requirements would apply, if relevant, to drama based on recent historical events.]

[SUPPLEMENTARY:] I thank the Minister for that excellent reply, which is absolutely right. Will he join me in giving a pat on the back to the BBC for its decision, at last, to broadcast "The Falklands Play" by the distinguished playwright, Ian Curteis, on the 20th anniversary of the Falklands crisis, both on BBC Radio 4 and on the new BBC 4 digital television channel?

Does the hon. Gentleman recall the contrast when 15 years ago the same play was shelved by the bosses at the BBC because it presented the then Prime Minister [Margaret Thatcher] in what they regarded as too favourable a light? Does he agree that when the play is broadcast on the new digital channel, and if it is well received, it would make amends if it were at last to be broadcast on BBC 1?

[Dr Howells: I believe that the right authorities for deciding what should be shown on television are the television companies and the owners. The House would be a very poor place in which to make decisions on what should or should not be on television. I am glad that the play is to be shown. I understand that a radio version is to be broadcast. I hope that there will be a good and fulsome debate on the play, which will provoke further discussion on that type of controversial drama. I am entirely in favour of it.]

[NOTE: Following the success of “The Falklands Play” on digital television and BBC Radio, it was duly rebroadcast on BBC2 TV.]