The world of British television off and on the screen, as it was sixty years ago.

Disgusted of Tonbridge

ITV, six days to do

Under the heading “Effect of Television on Family Life”, there’s a short report in The Times on the Institute of Housing conference which opened yesterday in Hastings. Mrs Joan Burke of Tonbridge did not welcome the spread of the small screen and, “said that she did not think television was a blessing” and was “a dreadful thing for the child.” She admitted, “My own son is fast becoming a moron. He does not read a book or do anything but sits like a codfish in front of the television set.” She adds, “I am sending my son to a boarding school where there is not one.” Do codfish sit? Keep reading…

A Mrs Taylor of Wilmslow, a housing manager for the local urban district council, found that television was sometimes beneficial and that if it “is going to help unsatisfactory families along the road of life, then I say let them have it.”

The Guardian also reports from the conference and, in addition, quotes a Mr R. C. Wofindon, the Deputy Medical Officer of Health for Bristol who had observed “the value of television for keeping people out of mischief” and “when stuck for something to say at a discussion on how £20,000 might best be spent on preventing juvenile delinquency in Bristol, he had suggested that all the money should be spent on television sets.”

The Liberal Party leader Mr Clement Davies has changed his mind on the 14-day rule, according to The Times, and is now against it and has asked the Prime Minister to reconsider the matter which I’m sure will make a difference.

There’s good and bad news for Associated-Rediffusion. According to The Guardian, electricians at Television House have gone on strike. The paper doesn’t explain the nature of the dispute but does mention that the strikers are employed by the contractors working on the building and not by A-R directly.

The Times has the better news: costing £650,000, A-R’s Wembley studio “has been transformed into a television centre, fully equipped and ready for the opening of the independent television service next Thursday”. It says that “The work, which included the installation of nearly 20 miles of cable, was carried out by Marconi’s Wireless Telegraph Co Ltd.”

The Guardian notes “an American slickness” at Wembley and explains that the cause of the high degree of automation “is that the commercial television contractor, unlike the BBC, cannot allow his programmes to overrun their time by more than five seconds.” It quotes Mr Roland Gillett, A-R’s controller of programmes, who said, “If we did overrun we should have a howl of protest from our advertisers. Remember they are paying £1,000 a minute for the air, and they want every second of it.”

In the only bit of programme news, The Times reports that Robert Urquhart and Philip Stainton are to be the main players in Mr Maypole, the first of the plays which Mr Henry Sherek is to present on the BBC. The Guardian, on the other hand, notes that the Royal Automobile Club is to present a fortnightly motoring magazine on A-R called The World on Wheels.

Cyril Aynsley writes an extended piece in the Daily Express about last night’s BBC programme Is This Your Problem? The rather specialist nature of the situation of last night’s subject suggests the answer to that question will be “no”. The specific situation under discussion was that of an unmarried mother with a two-year-old boy whose father was a married man with a wife and three children. Now, the father has suggested the woman, who the programme called by an alias – Margaret Burns – give up her son so that he can be brought up in the father’s own home.After the presenter, actress Edana Romney, had introduced and explained the problem it was up to a panel of men to question and comment. The barrister, Edgar Lustgarten asked “Do you really feel that if it was in the best interests of everybody you would return him to his father?” Obivously here, I’m quoting Cyril quoting Edgar so I don’t know if this is accurate, but it’s an in interestingly inaccurate use of the word “return” by Lustgarten if this is indeed what he said. “A famous doctor” said “the father had sacrificed his claim to the boy and the mother should keep him”; Mr J. F. Wolfenden, Chancellor of Reading University, said “if he stayed with her it could mean he would never have a father”; the Reverend Leslie Weatherhead of the City Temple, said “We are leaving out the wife of the boy’s father. His very presence would remind her of unhappiness.”

Cyril ends the piece by writing, “So came an end to a programme produced sympathetically and so warmly that no exception could be taken to its personal nature, but which will cause much discussion.” No exception? Well, the Daily Mirror’s TV critic thought it “a cheap, shoddy, shameful business”.

In the Daily Mirror, Clifford Davis gets most of a page to write about “the show business bombshell known as commercial television” which he says, “will jolt viewers from their armchairs like a sock on the jaw” and which will make the BBC’s programmes “look like a visual version of the Third Programme”.

Of some of the American imports such as Dragnet and I Love Lucy Davis observes that they, “have all the lush trimmings and polish of a Hollywood first feature film”. By contrast, “others, like the Robin Hood series being filmed at Walton-on-Thames, will appear juvenile by British standards.” Davis points that the the series has been shown to an adult audience in America but will be “screened on Sunday afternoons for children” here.

The reason that Dragnet has found its way onto our television screens via commercial television is interesting, and not entirely unexpected: money. But perhaps not in quite the way any of us might imagine. Because commercial television is only being broadcast in London and parts of the south east of England at the moment, Associated-Rediffusion has secured the series for £750 an episode. The BBC had offered twice that “for its network of thirteen stations covering the whole country” – and was rejected. Interesting.

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