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

Suffering from Wind

Sir Arthur Elton has written a paper entitled “The Film as Source Material for History” and this is shortly to be published by The Association of Special Libraries and Information Bureaux. In this paper, Sir Arthur declares that “Buried casually in the world’s newsreels is the atmosphere and detail, the gesture, habit and behaviour, the shape and feeling that can illuminiate history as it has never been illuminated before.” According to The Times, Sir Arthur’s paper reveals a concern that, “certain large opportunities lying within the grasp of historians might be exploited but are in fact wasted and even partially destroyed.”

Sir Arthur is particularly exercised by the fact that often it is only the finished, edited, material that is preserved, not all the material which led to that point. There’s a reasonably long section here, headed Television Archives, which I shall quote in full. It’s unclear from how much of this is in The Times’s own words and how much lifted from Sir Arthur’s paper.

The chief obstacle to the development film history in Britain is a lack of awareness of its possibilities, not only in the universities but also in some national organizations handling film. Of these, BBC Television, declares Sir Arthur Elton, is perhaps the worse offender. The cardinal weaknes here is that BBC librarians have no opportunity to examine incoming material until it has been edited.

The other great national archive of recent history, the Central Office of Information, has done little to make the public ware of the importance of its collection; but an undermanned library department, actively supported by the director of the films division, is slowing bringing its stores into order.

The Grigg Committee, appointed in 1952, recommended that the British Film Institute should act as agent for the Public Record Office and acquire all Government films destined for permanent preservation, with the exception of those within the sphere of interest of the Imperial War Museum (which houses a collection dating back to 1919). This would make the institute the most important historical film archive in Britain.

Sir Arthur’s interest seems to be confined to factual film, material gathered for news / newsreels, and does not – based on this précis in The Times – seem to be considering that material shot on location for fictional purposes which may still provide a record of particular places or events.

Mr Charles Orr Stanley, chairman of the Pye radio and television firm made an interesting speak in Birmingham yesterday and some of this is reported verbatim in the Daily Express:

Those of us who have been identified with the fight for a second TV service still believe that the standard of the new programmes ought to be considerably better than that of the existing programme.

We felt a new approach was called for, bringing more vitality and speed to the entertainment.

If there is one thing that will kill commercial television it is if we accept the standard and the approach of the programmes we have seen in the last couple of weeks.

There is enough originality and enough entertainment genius in this country to give us something very much better.

Practically all the features worth looking at have been imported from the U.S.

This is surely a challenge to the artists of this country, and it must be economically quite wrong to spend dollars on this sort of entertainment.

The present method of injecting disjointed plugs at all sorts of times and places will give way to common-sense advertising where the advertiser is identified with the programme.

I am convinced that the present method of injecting disjointed plugs at all sorts of times and places will give way to common-sense advertising where the advertiser is identified with the programme.

Only two days earlier, his company was advertising in the Daily Express with the line “The new programmes really make viewing worthwhile – this is the right time to go in for TV.” I don’t know, the things they say…

Some potential entrepreneurial goings on highlighted by this classified advertisement in The Times.

1955-10-12 Times ad

Perhaps someone with similar get up and go could come to the aid of people whose television reception is affected by this year’s winter gales. Norman Kettlewell, fire chief at West Hartlepool, is quoted in the Daily Mirror: “At one time last winter our men were fully occupied for two days repairing TV aerials. It will not happen again. The public will have to pay private firms to do the work.”

Meanwhile, the Daily Express carries a number of TV snippets. Margaret Lockwood “sat rather dumpily in front of the camera” in her profile last night; in the French film “Edward and Caroline” which was on ITV last night (though it had previously been offered to the BBC) too many of the sub-titles were lost; Philip Mackie’s television play The Whole Truth has just opened as a stage play at the Aldwych Theatre. Apparently the ending has changed as people thought the TV dénouement to be poor, but the newspaper’s reviewer thinks the new ending is no better although The Guardian’s reviewer doesn’t have the same criticism.

There’s some excellent news for advertising agency G. Street and Co reported in The Guardian: they have won first prize for film advertising at the International Advertising Film Festival of Monte Carlo. And who has helped them win? None other than Harry Corbett and Sooty who have apparently “done 26 film strips for Oxo” with six of them forming the winning Monte Carlo entry. John Fitzgerald, the producer, explained, “We insisted on preserving the integrity of Corbett’s own television personality; we would never put anything on air which is pure sell”.

That’s all for today. Bye-bye everyone, bye-bye.

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