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

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Doubling Up

The Guardian reports the words of Mr E. T. Bryant, the borough librarian of Widnes who has written in his annual report that television is by no means, “the menace that some librarians suggest” but equally that “it is only a half-truth to claim that it stimulates reading.” He noted a surge of interest, after the television dramatisation, for George Orwell’s 1984 but tempered this information with the fact that it did not appear to tempt any Widnes readers to investigate any of Orwell’s other works. (more…)

Extra P.T.

The Guardian reports that the Conservative government has again raised Purchase Tax. Of particular interest here are the items which already attract a tax of 50%: radio and television sets, gramophones and records, cameras and films – as well as cars, electric and gas fires, washing machines, vacuum cleaners and refrigerators. The tax on these items will rise to 60%. Eek! (more…)

A Model of Decorum

The infamous 14-day rule which applies to broadcasters but not newspapers when discussing parliamentary business was once again championed by Sir Anthony Eden, the Prime Minister. Mr Jo Grimond, Liberal MP for Orkney and Zetland asked Sir Anthony if “he thought that a practice… which limited free speech and was clearly unworkable really added to the prestige of parliament.”

Some Labour Party members including Manny Shinwell and Clement Davies were not so sure about it, but all defences by Sir Anthony Eden of the indefensible provoked cheers from the Tory back-benchers. The Labour leadership were more circumspect, but they too seem to believe in the rule.

Sir Robert Fraser, the director of the ITA said yesterday that there are now between 450,000 and 500,000 homes which can receive independent television programmes. They’ll have to switch over if they want to see the Budget speech, though. That’s only being carried by BBC Television.

Under the heading Practise of Law “Farcical” and the lurid sub-heading Fines on ProstitutesThe Guardian‘s London Staff report on the annual meeting of the Public Morality Council. The Council’s secretary, George Tomlinson, declared that nudity (and the semblance of nudity) on stage, the way the law deals with prostitutes were the chief moral dangers facing the public and the increase in convictions for homosexual offences was most alarming.

Mr Tomlinson said that the Council had received complaints about some BBC radio and television programmes but that so far “commercial television has been conducting itself very decorously.”

And finally, news in the Mirror that a TV star was found in a dogs’ home becomes clear once the star is revealed as a mongrel dog called Penny who has already started to appear in Barbie, an Associated-Rediffusion children’s serial about a teen violinist played by Marcia Manolescue. TV producer Hazel Wilkinson is quoted as saying, “I was going to find a home for her when the series ended, but now Penny seems to have found a home with me.” Aaah.

Bashing the Bishop

Tomorrow’s budget has prompted a steep rise in sales of television sets and “not necessarily the cheapest models” according to a Times correspondent in Birmingham.

Blame for some of this is laid at the door of commercial television by Dr Geoffrey Fisher, the Archbishop of Canterbury, whose words are reported in the Daily Express. Dr Fisher, whose son is a television producer for the BBC, does not have a television but is concerned that “many millions of pounds” have been spent to give Britain commercial television.. He said, “It is disturbing that this outpouring of capital should come just when the Government is doing all it can to intensify ‘restraint of capital expenditure.'”. The purpose of ITV advertisements, he says, “is of course to persuade people to spend more and buy more goods. But this comes just a time when the Chancellor of the Exchequer is saying ‘We have been using up too much at home.'” Dr Fisher will soon be seen at Lambeth Palace in the BBC series At Home.

It’s an interesting point, but one wonders how much of it’s true or whether Dr Fisher is talking nonsense. How much extra spending it actually does generate? Presumably commercials for toothpaste, washing powder and the like don’t increase overall sales volume so much as result in a switch from the unadvertised brand X to the advertised brand Y. No doubt there are figures for all this somewhere or other. I’d be interested in seeing them.

Meanwhile there’s news that the BBC and the ITA may be co-operating on the use of the Crystal Palace site as a home for both of their transmitting stations. The London County Council has given the ITA approval in principle, as has the Postmaster-General.

The ITA are currently broadcasting from a temporary station at Beaulieu Heights (which The Times‘ radio correspondent has rendered phonetically as “Beulah Heights”) but this was always intended to be a temporary home. The main tower is already strong enough to carry the additional load, but the makers will be examining the topmost parallel section in case it needs strengthening. This will delay completion by some months but a temporary mast – the one which was previously in Glencairn, Northern Ireland, until rendered redundant by the new the Divis station – will shortly be erected.

Elsewhere, The Guardian brings the news that the British Dental Association is concerned by the claims being made in some toothpaste advertisements. Whether these concerns are solely related to television advertising isn’t clear but this is certainly part of it and the statement was made on the recommendation of the Association’s representative on the body within the Independent Television Authority responsible for scrutinising advertisements submitted for television.

In just under a month’s time the BBC will transmit their first live broadcast from Northern Ireland where Lord Brookeborough, the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, will be shown in his room in Stormont being questioned by journalists. This to take place on 17 November.



Relay Running

Monday is quiet but Clifford Davis weighs in with an interesting story in the Daily Mirror. He writes that “Commercial television’s top shows are now reaching a new audience of more than 2,000,000 – on SOUND radio.”

He goes on to explain that the Rediffusion Group, which holds half the shares in ITV company Associated-Rediffusion, is relaying, via its cable service, the sound of the programmes and their advertisements to its listeners all over the country and cites Bristol, Swansea, Tyneside and Nottingham in particular.

Davis quotes a Rediffusion spokesman who said, “We are licensed to pick up and relay to our subscribers any authorised broadcast. We put out Radio Luxembourg, which we pick up from the continent and relay again, so there is no reason why we should not put out commercial television as well.” Of course BBC radio programmes are also relayed in this fashion, but BBC television shows? It doesn’t say.

Davis notes that a big audience is expected for the Daily Mirror Disc Festival which will be televised on ITV in November. What a coincidence!

If anyone wasn’t already aware, you can now see why the company was called Rediffusion.

Trouble at Mill

In today’s Observer Maurice Richardson echoes Bernard Levin’s views about the Norman Dodds news-film. Richardson found “Summer in Normandy” “very moderate” and turned instead to the BBC’s Animal Vegetable Mineral which he describes as “so consistently viewable”.

Patrick McGoohan’s portrayal of the “go-getting Seth Makepeace, stealing the secret of Crompton’s spinning jenny, and troops firing on Luddite mill-workers, was a really efficient production, better than anything we have seen for some weeks.” That was part one of “The Makepeace Story” being shown as part of Sunday Night Theatre in case you’d forgotten.

Richardson finds much to enjoy in The Adventures of Robin Hood – where “Friar Tuck” was “a most vigorous piece of characterisation despite the O’Cedar mop wig.” He also seems to like The Adventures of the Scarlet Pimpernel but baulks at the bowdlerisation which has changed “this demmed (or damned)” to “that cursed”.

As for three different petrol commercials: Esso’s is “desperately depressing”; BP’s use of Terry-Thomas makes him feel that “Terry-Thomas is advising me to fill my lighter, rather than my tank”; while Shell “continues to dominate with its excellent, sponsored, historical-topographical Betjeman films.”

No Marks for TV

The Times notes that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be making a budget broadcast at 9pm next Wednesday, with Mr Gaitskell replying for the Opposition at the same time on Thursday. The piece says that the broadcast will be made simultaneously on the Home Service and on television – but does that mean just BBC Television? Or will those in London and the Home Counties have a choice? We will see.

Of a tangential interest here is the news that the Board of Trade hopes to start publication of what The Times calls “the first of the proposed index numbers of the trade” by the end of the year. Thereafter index fixtures for hire purchase sales and hire purchase debt should be published monthly thereafter. This sounds straightforward but for the comment that after some time “it may be that an actual official estimate of the total hire purchase debts outstanding may be published.” So what’s this index? Not sure, to be honest.

The same paper mentions an article in The Banker earlier in the year which put total hire purchase debts at between £356m and £456m with radios, television sets and other household appliances contributing between £75m and £95m to that total.

The Daily Mirror includes a piece which leans towards the notion that anyone with a television set is either rich beyond the dreams of avarice or a frivolous spendthrift. A clerk, on £8-10s a week (£442 a year), got into debt and stole from his employers to fund his racy lifestyle which, it seems, consisted of buying a television set on hire-purchase.  The magistrate, Mr Leslie Marks, himself on £2,500 a year, is quoted as saying, “It seems to me that people, whether they have the money or not, must have a television set or motor-car. I personally have not got a television set.”

Will this just get worse as more can receive? The Guardian reports on BBC plans for a new television and VHF radio transmitter at Barren Fell in Caldbeck, Cumberland.

The same newspaper carries an advertisement which lists a number of northern stockists of Kenrick’s “Shepherd” castors which are “so kind to carpets” and have been “demonstrated on Commercial TV”.

Today’s the day that Bernard Levin comments in The Guardian on the week’s viewing on ITV and the programmes he has watched this week, he says, “could be put together to form a valuable and instructive course on how not to run a television service.”

First of these was Wednesday’s Cavalcade of Sport wherein Kent Walton was tasked with interviewing the boxer Yolande Pompey who Levin describes as “a thoughtful and intelligent young man whose courteous, alert and soft-spoken manner marked him out as a man of interest”. So worth listening to, it seems, providing… I’ll let Bernard Levin continue in his own words:

But would Mr Walton let Mr Pompey get a word in edgeways? Not on your life. He asked strings of idiotic questions that could only be answered with a “Yes.” He made terrible jokes and shrieked with laughter at them himself. He interrupted almost everything that Mr Pompey tried to say, be bounced up and down in sheer joy at his own cleverness… in short he made himself a perishing nuisance.

The brief Assignment Unknown which preceded Cavalcade took us to Tokyo and Korea but unfortunately showed the British soldiers there “doing the same things as their comrades on Salisbury Plain” while Thursday’s Playhouse production “Summer in Normandy” was just “a bad play, badly acted.”

The only programme coming in for praise was the five-minute news-film shown at the end of the 10 p.m. news broadcast on Thursday. Here Norman Dodds M.P. was talking to the men he had accused of slacking on a job in the road outside his home. Levin calls the people “real and recognisable” and describes them as “an intelligent man… a less intelligent man, and a still less intelligent man, and a member of Parliament. And the first three were very angry with the last and let him know in their several ways.” And the participants “looked at each other and did not spend time gawping at the camera.” Says Levin: “For five minutes the screen looked in on life and the screen came alive with an immediacy and a degree of reality that for the rest of the week was never even suggested.”

Along with Visitor of the Day and the Epilogue, the news is broadcast from Associated-Rediffusion’s Television House, the corridors of which are mostly lit by candles and hurricane lamps because the electricians there are still on strike. However, the strike only affects office and ‘house’ lighting so they can still illuminate Christopher Chataway in the newsroom.



Oh! In Colour

The Guardian, Daily Express and Daily Mirror all report on an altercation at Manvers Main Colliery near Mexborough yesterday where an ITV unit were attempting to film Allan Dyer, a miner who has been send to Coventry by his colleagues for working during an unofficial strike. The miners who were waiting to start the afternoon shift began to chant (more…)