BROADCASTING HOUSE We Have Forbidden It To Think
By WILFRID ROOKE LEY
DEAR LISTENER, The little storm that blew up last week about a harmless play called The Sailors of Cattaro is a new illustration of what I have been saying lately in regard to the position of broadcasting in this country.
The play is by Friedrich Wolf, and deals with an incident that occurred in 1918 when some sailors on an Austrian battleship mutinied. They -were tired of the war and wanted better treatment.
So sensitive are the nerves of certain listeners nowadays that it was enough for them to hear the word mutiny-and in a navy-to send them flying to their desks, whence a bag-full of protesting letters descended on the B.B.C. The play was propaganda. The B.B.C. was once again showing its sympathy with the Left. And so on.
It was NOT Red Propaganda Now, the fact alone that the play was chosen for broadcasting is sufficient to show that it could not be propaganda for anything. That is the whole point of what 1 have been saying, with tiresome iteration I fear, these last weeks. (Actually, the play was no more " red " than the red flag of a signalman.) But a number of people having got it into their heads that the B.B.C. is what they call "Socialist," are ready to detect a sympathy with the Left in anything. 1 have beard many people say that its silence about Spain is a clear sign of where its sympathies lie.
The answer the B.B.C. would make to any complaint about its Spanish news is "We are in a great difficulty."
That word difficulty defines the situation. It was what 1 meant by saying that the B.B.C. has not a will of its own. it is between the devil and the deep sea all the time. Well, we have put it there, and we can't complain.
Purely for Amusement We have, rightly.or wrongly, decreed that broadcasting shall never take sides in anything, and remain for all intents and purposes an entertainment machine. The reason why the B.B.C. passed its examination last year with flying colours and why it is going on merrily for another ten years is that it has so perfectly done what we have told it to do. It is important. So that if ever the myriad misunderstandings under which the public labours at the momentthe massacres of priests and nuns is oneare ever to be removed, it will not be by radio.
small mall thing was done very gracefully the other day, and that was an observer's account of the scene in the Queen's Hall on the last night of the Proms. I refer to it, however, not only because it was a charming and vivid description of what we listeners could not see, but because of the invitation it threw out to musical listeners to write up to the B.B.C. and say what they think of the idea of only broadcasting a portion of the Proms.
Write to the B.B.C.
Musical listeners arc probably the least assertive and most long-suffering portion of the community. They are the least given to writing letters, whether " fan " or abusive. But I hope they will all take up their pens now and see what can be done by massed attack to restore the old way of broadcasting the Proms., which gave us all a right of choice.
I wish the B.B.C. would decide the mattes on its merits and not wait for a vote. It is a matter of equity to the musical listener as well as of respect to music itself. But there-once again the B.B.C. will tell us " We are in a great difficulty."
Sincerely yours, WILFRID HOOKE LEY.
How G.K.C. Might Have Described " Night Shift."
The working-life of the nation when most of us have gone to bed inspired a series of programmes called " Night Shift," of which listeners may remember a talk by a journalist and the description of a scene in a lambing-pen at night. Another of these is to be given on November 26, when the Outside Broadcasting Department will go to Tower Bridge, set up a number of microphones, and give us a sound picture of an outward-bound steamer passing down the river.
Mr. Chesterton once described this sort of broadcast as being about as satisfactory as "shutting your eyes and smelling all the oil paints at the Royal Academy." Yet it is extraordinary how many listeners enjoy it.
Variety is renewing itself in many ways
this autumn. Listeners who so minded should keep their eyes on (1) " The Music Shop," and (2) " Intermission," two of the new features. In the former, which will be fortnightly, they will be able to hear the ten best-sellers of the week specially orchestrated, played by a large orchestra, and generally dolled up to the best advantage. If it is a magnificent advertisement for the publishers it is also just what thei public like, who want to know the ver latest light music. In the other, th B.B.C. Variety Orchestra and Charlc Shadwell (of Coventry Hippodrome ram will present a programme arranged to sho, off that orchestra at its best. Few listenei are aware that all its members except thre have been leaders of famous orchestra including Covent Garden and the Londo Philharmonic.
Two outstanding events in the fortt coming musical programmes are the appea ance of Mengelberg and of Jose Iturbi, th former on November 4, the latter on Oct(
her 21 and 25. Mengelberg will conduc the B.B.C. Symphony Orchestra for ft
first time. He is almost the only survive of the great conductors of pre-radio year For more than a generation he has col ducted the famous Concertgebouw Amsterdam. lturbi is both a pianist ar a conductor. He will play the Moma Piano Concerto in D Minor on the 21 and conduct the Sunday Studio Concert c the 25th.
" Taffrail," the well-known writer c naval matters, has devised a programme fi November 1 dealing with the Coronet at Falkland Islands battle in 1914. It will 1 in the form of a narrative with scenes dramatic form interspersed.