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

So. Farewell Then…

ITV, four days to goThe Observer’s Comment column is guarded on the eventual effects of commercial television. On the one hand, “Already the good effects of competition are to be seen in the more lively and alert programmes of the BBC.” On the other hand, “… it would be unwise to judge the result of the experiment too early. At first the new service has everything to gain by giving no offence to those critics who fear that commercialisation in this medium will lead to vulgarisation. The real test… will come as the pressure grows to subordinate other considerations to the necessity of providing large audiences for the advertiser who will be paying this piper.”

Writing, for what is apparently the last time, in The Observer, Alan Brien begins by, ahem, observing that “Even as recently as 1939 it would have been slightly ridiculous for anyone to become famous by being what is called on television ‘a well-known personality’” But then in 1939, television was restricted to a small number of viewers in the London area – even after the war in the first year of the resumption of service there were only 15,000 television licenses.

Continuing, he mentions the BBC’s “prodigies of embarrassment” This is Your Life and Place the Face but finds that “the spoon has grated rather excruciatingly along the bottom of the barrel” this week with Is This Your Problem?, a programme “which brings the agony column into the drawing-room.” Because we all watch television in our drawing-rooms, don’t we?

While many commentators are fearing the quality of the commercials, Brien saw several previews last week and he says, “I much prefer them to a programme like Is This Your Problem?“. He does feel that “the slogan that one greets with dignified apathy on the boardings becomes rather unnerving when pronounced in squeaky little-girl tones on a screen” but “on the other hand, the twenty-six three-minute films for Shell, made with John Betjeman, were so beautifully composed and modestly spoken that I should not have been reluctant to see any of them again.”

Maurice Richardson takes over from Brien next week. I shall miss him – his writing style was striking and entertaining and in a style quite different to most other reviewers.

Pendennis writes about the various players in the independent television game, but most summarises information already out there, and indeed here. One thing I didn’t know was that in a brief sporting career, ITN’s Aidan Crawley had been an excellent cricketer, having scored more than 5000 first class runs in 87 matches, with a top score of 204 and an average of 37.5. Despite references to the great and the good at the BBC, Associated Broadcasting, Associated Rediffusion, Associated British and Independent Television News there’s not a single mention of Granada.

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