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

The Call-Up

The Daily Express reports that “The BBC last night put on its greatest effort in the battle for the Sunday evening viewing audience. Against Norman Wisdom in an hour’s commercial TV show, the BBC crammed £100,000 worth of stars into a 90-minute variety programme. On future Sunday nights it will have big attractions like the Show Band Show – a star feature from the sound radio.”

The Times reviewer seems to have enjoyed the “boisterous, innocent fun” of a BBC programme which celebrated the sixty-sixth anniversary of the foundation of the Grand Order of Water Rats. Among the older acts appearing were Mr Albert Whelan siffleur and singer, Mr G. H. Elliot (aka The Chocolate-Coloured Coon) who sang “Hello Susie Green” and Mr Fred Russell “his voice vibrant and endearing at the unbelievable age of 93.” The programme also included a film, flown over from the United States, featuring Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. Younger Rats on display included Ted Ray, Jimmy Wheeler, Max Bygraves and Ben Warris. ‘King Rat’ Tommy Trinder introduced them all.

Robert Cannell, in the Express, enjoyed it too, though noted the irony that much was made of “the Father of Variety” Fred Russell, who just happens to be the father of Val Parnell, the producer of the commercial television show which featured Norman Wisdom.

The Daily Mirror reports on ITV’s Free Speech programme which yesterday featured A. J. P. Taylor, Sir Robert Boothby, Michael Foot and W. J. Brown. Alan Taylor had this to say on the ‘call-up’: “National service is a fraud. The whole thing is a swindle from beginning to end. If it came to a war none of these wretched chaps in Germany would be any use at all.” The team were discussing the Prime Minister’s recent decision not to cut the length of National Service, but the raise the calling-up age to 19.

Yesterday, according to The Times and Daily Express, the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party Mr Herbert Morrison, mentioned that he had been invited to appear on commercial television. He said, “I took my stand on the bill and I have declined to become associated with it I think there is a point of principle involved and I have therefore declined.”

Also saying “No” were the Football League management committee who decided last night to refuse what the Daily Express called “very substantial offers” from the BBC and ITV for the rights to screen matches. The committee secretary, Fred Howarth, said: “The offers were very substantial, almost tempting. We finally decided we would proceed warily. We do not want people to sit at home in their armchairs and watch football while matches are being played before small crowds.”

Sir Ian Jacob, the Director General of the BBC, addressed a conference of the Institute of Personnel Management in Harrogate, and this is reported by The Times and The Guardian. Sir Ian referred to “a run of tempting offers” to the corporation’s staff to work in commercial television and pointed out that these were tempting in two says: “There was obviously going to be higher money and the idea that it would be a good thing to get in on the ground floor of a new venture.” He added, “[The BBC] either had to lose the cream of their television staff, or take special measures to retain them.” These special measures included “additional payments or giving up the right to resign and go elsewhere” for 200 or 300 of the operational, engineering and production staff. “It is not going to end here,” Sir Ian continued, “There are going to be more programme contractors for some years to come, and we shall have to recruit and train more people than we require until the expansion is complete.”

Stats from The Guardian: the number of television and radio sets produced in July – 105,700 and 111,000 respectively, compared to 146,500 and 173,000 in June.

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