THE ULLSWATER REPORT
A Policy of " No Change"
By WILFRID ROOKE LEY
Some time this month the debate in the House of Commons on the Ullswater Committee's Report will take place, and its recommendations are likely to receive rather more criticism than they have met with in the press. The report has been fortunate in its moment of appearance. There has been a noticeable change in the attitude of the public towards the B.B.C. even in the last twelve months.
Time was when broadcasting had not even news-value; then it acquired a certain nuisance-value; now the stage has been reached when the "no-change" policy recommended by the committee can be accepted with hardly a murmur of dissent.
This would not have been the case if the report had appeared, say, in 1934. There is little doubt that the B.B.C.'s charter will be renewed, though we may expect that certain of the committee's findings will be debated, particularly those that concern the status and privileges of the staff of Broadcasting House and the relations between the governors and their chief officers. Meanwhile, the PostmasterGeneral has still to issue his observations on the report, and these may be expected any day.
The Orchestra on Tour Judging by the criticisms in the continental papers, the B.B.C. Symphony Orchestra has received a warm welcome in the four capitals in which it appeared last week. Last year it played in Brussels only; this year it visited Paris, Zurich, Vienna and Budapest. The idea of taking a British orchestra abroad would have seemed ludicrous not many years ago. We had no orchestra that would have dared to challenge comparison with the Austrian or French combinations.
Is the B.B.C.'s "Women's Parliament," which met at Broadcasting House last week, to be the first of similar attempts to establish direct contact between the B.B.C. and its listeners? It was the idea of Sir Stephen Tallents, the B.B.C. Controller of Public Relations, to organise this large and representative gathering of women in order to find out what it really wanted in regard to the morning talks. One can imagine similar "parliaments" in the future dealing with music, drama, variety, and indeed with every side of broadcasting.
The Craftsmanship of Talk
The trouble about talks is that they can never be repeated. What would we not give to encore G. K. Chesterton on Max Beerbohm? We can always demand the revival of a play or a feature-programme; but not the reiterated appeals of thirty million listeners will ever secure the reappearance of Mr. Beerbohm to repeat those two talks of his, on "London" and on "Speed." I wonder how many listeners reflect on the craftsmanship behind certain of the best talks.
Mr. Chesterton, in particular, is a radio-craftsman; that is to say, he gives us something over and above the wisdom and wit of his utterances. It is a matter of the most careful timing, so that his tempo need never accelerate and the sense of leisure, of impromptu even, may be kept up to the last syllable.
Mr. Beerbohm, who also takes infinite trouble, showed the same attention to his medium, and his talk on "Speed" (surely one of the best things we have had for many weeks) was a triumph of artistry. And to think that we can never hear it again!
On the other hand, there seems little doubt that " London Calling—l600" (another of the recent high-spots of broadcasting) will be heard again. Broadcasting House must be snowed under with letters about it. I have no space to say more about this exquisite and witty and indeed brilliant programme than to urge listeners who missed it to bear it in mind against its inevitable revival.
"Die Meistersinger" The B.B.C. is to be congratulated on having decided to change its mind about relaying only one act of Die Meistersinger on Monday last. Let there be more of these whole-opera broadcasts. They can easily be managed without robbing the non-musical listener of his own delights.
Those who are interested in bell-ringing will welcome a Carillon Concert on May 11. Miss Nora Johnson, who gives it, comes of a family associated for generations with the making of church-bells. She plays on a bell clavier copied from the one at Malines Cathedral belfry which dates back to 1556—about the time when the art of carillon-playing was established in the Netherlands. She is the only Englishwoman to hold the diploma of the Belgian National Carillon College.