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

Television Entirely to Blame I

The Times and The Guardian both report the views of Mr Justice Wallington who complained about omissions from a legal document. His Lordship said yesterday that, “people were more concerned with getting to their television sets than with doing their work correctly.” He went on, “In the case of females, they are more concerned with powdering their noses so that they may leave at 5 o’clock precisely that they are in putting such matters right.”

“It is the same with language,” he continued, “We talk of people ‘turning up’ instead of ‘attending’. Such phrases are getting into current use.”

He concluded, “If we could only get rid of these slack methods in living our lives and doing our work, and if we could get a habit of doing our work because it is a duty and take pleasure out of doing it properly, then there would be a better era dawning. If our main object is tor earn money to spend it, then there is no virtue or value in it. It is not worth while.” Mr Justice Wallington is 80.

Under the heading Interchange of Programmes, The Times reports on the potential for an increase in the amount of material exchanged between Britain and Canada as a result of new agreements between Equity, the actors’ union and the BBC and independent television companies. A similar agreement has been made with the Musicians’ Union, in that instance covering the whole of the Commonwealth and not just Canada.

Mr Maurice Webb of Pinner Hill is concerned and has written to The Editor of The Times. His letter begins “What has come over the BBC? Why is it slowly eroding its most priceless asset – its probity and good name?”

Mr Webb notes that the challenge from Independent Television “has certainly evoked a most welcome technical improvement” but feels that along with this “there is creeping in an almost adolescent indulgence in shock tactics, cheap tricks and practises much below the long-established standards of integrity which gave the BBC its unmatched authority”.

Mr Webb particular disliked Richard Dimbleby’s claim, last Monday week “that this week’s [Panorama] would be worth £100,000.” In the event, the whole thing was, “laughed away as a joke about the diamonds being shown” but at the time the remark could be “variously construed” and “obviously intended to appeal, for the sake of mass listening figures (sic), to those viewers with an itch to strike a rich financial reward” and as a result “the offence remains”.

The death of Grace Archer may or may not have been “good policy” but it was ” a nose-dive into a form of sensationalism from which, hitherto, the policy makers of the corporation have been free.”

Lastly there is the problem of “the gradual intrusion of various forms of salacity” in particular “the double entendre [which] may go down well with the audience at some fourth-rate seaside concert party. But over the air in any form it can do no more than make discriminating people look elsewhere.”

Will anyone use the letters’ page to respond? Watch this space.

The Guardian’s Radio Critic (RC) finds “The second number of Is This Your Problem? was as distasteful as the first.”

So what’s wrong? Well, “The worst thing about it is the presentation. There really is no need to have an actress introducing the problems and their owners with such an intense and agonised expression. Miss Edana Romney is such a contrast to the panel members, who do at least try to give sensible advice in an embarrassing situation, that one feels that if the programme is to go on Edgar Lustgarten should handle all the preliminaries himself. He acts as the middle man extracting the gist of the situation and tossing it to the panel with a tolerable mixture of sympathy and dignity.”

RC believes although “One must admit that all these people need help… most of them could get it without this procedure.”

The dynamic duo of Cyril Aynsley (BBC) and Robert Cannell (ITV) write in the Daily Express. Aysley is affronted that “Typical BBC jargon” was used to introduce a programme called Strike! last night. The offending words? “The controversial problems of strike action are examined in a documentary drama at 7.30 this evening.”

Cannell on the other hand was watching Jack Hylton’s first programme for ITV. He points out that the programme might easily have come from Lime Grove as Welsh comedian Ossie Morris and singer David Hughes have “broadcast many times for the BBC”. Not only that, but “We have seen ‘Monsewer’ Eddie Gray on TV before” (Indeed, back in about 1950 I think, and so far too long a gap. Ed.) and “the skating act was in the Vic Oliver show only the night before”. However, one act did meet with Mr Cannell’s approval, though it’s hard to see why, given the forgoing. He says, “But Mr Hylton was able to present a revival of that famous act by Flanagan and Allan” and Cannell could “watch them recapture the magic of the flawless timing just once again.

Lastly, Clifford Davis follows up yesterday’s Daily Mirror leader and explains why he thinks the new service is a success. He starts off by saying the “the new independent programmes are of a higher standard than anyone expected – myself included.” “Television deals in personalities,” he writes, “and the newcomers are much more aware of this than the BBC. ITV offers more head-and-shoulder close-ups, and a more intimate link between performers and viewers.”

Independent Television is “more topical and forthright” in “news and discussion programmes,” he continues, and uses, as an example, the “no holds-barred verbal free-for-all” on the topic of Burgess and Maclean which took place on ITV’s Free Speech compared to the “mealy-mouthed academic discussion” of the topic during The Brains Trust. In addition, Davis finds the new variety programmes to be “slicker” and drama and documentaries “on the same high level as the BBC’s”.

But this is not to suggest that all is rosy. In particular:

  • “The lighting in some of the TV films is atrocious”
  • “The sound track of most of the American canned programmes is a distorted blare”
  • “All the quiz shows should be televised live”
  • “The same people are being seen too often” – and cites Alexander Gauge in The Adventures of Robin Hood and The Adventures of the Scarlet Pimpernel as well as Michael Gough
  • “Actors appearing on TV advertisements shouldn’t be seen in programmes as well”
  • “Adverts popping up quite unannounced and unexpectedly” – and here he cites the Turgenev play

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