SOME SECOND THOUGHTS
By EVE MeADAM
NOW that the unholy glee at the discomfiture of ITA and ITV has subsided, people are having second thoughts about Sir Harry Pilkington's report.
The factor to emerge from it, however, is: Here is an Honest Man. The craggy, uncompromising honesty of this report renews the faith of all partisans of TV, frustrated producer, critic and viewer alike. That anyone dared to come out, as Sir Harry did, and say what he felt, what most people felt, and to act as the voice of the collective unconscious, this is staggering, and we may never see his like again.
Reaction is now setting in, as it always does against the undiplomatic, and it seems now that by its Very forthrightness the Pilkington Report may damage its cause.
NO CANES CLEARLY, heads of ITA like Sir Robert Fraser and Sir Ivone Kirkpatrick could have discharged their duties—that of acting SS arbiters and guardians of taste— had their duties been made plain. But no one really knew what their duties would involve. It was like appointing a couple of head masters to a new institution that everyone assumed would be a well-behaved place, a Cheltenham Ladies' College, but which, in fact, turned out more on the lines of a Borstal. Had Fraser and Kirkpatrick been properly briefed, handed canes and told to use them, commercial television would not have degenerated.
What the Pilkington Committee suggests is a reorganization so total that it looks uncommonly like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Agree as most do with the report, word for word, comma for comma, a gargantuan upheaval seems scarcely necessary.
THE HEART 'TINE heart of this report lies in 1 the paragraph which has been quoted with joy by everyone and reprinted everywhere. Let's have it here, too: "NO ONE CAN SAY HE IS GIVING THE PUBLIC WHAT IT WANTS UNLESS THE PUBLIC KNOWS THE WHOLE RANGE OF POSSIBILITIES WHICH TV CAN OFFER, AND FROM THIS RANGE CHOOSE WHAT HE WANTS . . . THE SUBJECT' MATTER OF TV IS TO BE FOUND IN THE WHOLE SCOPE AND VARIETY OF HUMAN AWARENESS AND EXPERIENCE . . WHAT THE PUBLIC WANTS AND WHAT 1T HAS THE RIGHT TO GET IS THE FREEDOM TO CHOOSE FROM THE WIDEST POSSIBLE RANGE OF PROGRAMME mArrER. ANYTHING LESS THAN THAT IS DEPRIVATION."
But lest we all grow smug, let's face it: the viewing public is not the injured innocent that this report makes out. Let me quote our Catholic Adviser to the BBC, Fr. Agnellus Andrew (speaking to the Salford Look-Listen Group. CH., May 25 1962): "TV and radio exist simply and solely for you, the viewers and listeners. It is in your power to influence decisions. TV is a family decision and you cannot escape the responsibility for what you let into your homes. You get the TV you deserve, and nobody is to blame but you".
But why, you may well ask, should I be responsible in TV, and not in the theatre or films? The theatre and film critic can hurt the producer of trash in the only place where it hurts—the pocket. These critics preview plays and films and can warn the public about the silly and the unsavoury.
But in TV the critic hasn't the same influence. In live TV he sees the piece at the same time as the audience and what he says, therefore, cannot influence viewing figures.
When Eve MacA first started writing about TV, she trotted along, somewhat ingenuously in her best hat to one of the heads of ABC Television, and asked if she could be present at a run-through of a certain taped play. "What!" said the Head, laughing heartily, "Let a critic in and rock the boat? Not likely!"
ARTICULATING AND so TV has never had to bother its pretty heads about the critics. Unless this is changed (the Pilkington Report missed this point completely) it looks as if the
viewer must learn, gradually, how to do his own barking. The only effective way the public can get the programmes it wants, and boot out the ones it doesn't, is by becoming articulate. Until the critic is given the chance to be effective — bringing down and sending up ratings — it looks as if viewers will have to get into the habit of writing in—writing in to Heads of Programmes, M.P.s, Editors, critics. Catholics can write to the Catholic Religious advisers.
GOOD WEEK ON the whole, a good viewing week with plays of quality and good performances: the "Sunday Break" at its best, "Meeting Point" discovering a new TV personality, and Home's "Way of Life" ahead, as usual, with an outstanding report from Dec Abbey.
"The Sunday Break" mounted a fine ding-dong on the Twist between Larry Adler and Philip Nathan. Adler ignited the discussion by ticking off ABC for allowing him to meet Nathan at lunch before the set-to. I also liked the way he stared at the camera, at OS, and admonished us with "Think for yourself. Question everything. I've brought up three children to examine everything I say. The result? They don't believe anything I say now".
In "Meeting Point" the BBC producer, Barrie Edgar achieved two things: he discovered and put over a wonderful personality, Arthur Foster, who is "little uncle" to thousands of refugees, and he went to the trouble of breaking up with film and and still picture, the flat, conventional interview.
My only criticism of "The Way of Life's" programme, "Rite and Symbol" (Home, Sunday evening) is that Colin James its producer, might have been altruistic and handed over his idea to TV where visual reporting from beautiful old Bee Abbey in Normandy was clearly indicated.
The speakers included the eminent Dominican, Fr Dalmais. the Oratorian priest Fr Bouycr, and Fr Crichton, the Editor of "Liturgy". Among the English speakers, the Rev Basil Minchin, the Anglican priest, described how new insights of the Liturgical Movement were helping to remove many controversial issues between Catholics and Protestants.
OPERA has never been smoothly assimilated in cinema. But Paul Czinner's version of Richard Strauss's Rosenkavaller (Royal Festival I "U") is not an attempt to fin new form. It is an aimost lit recording, and, within the limits, it does very well. The is familiar and more than re able. The marvel to me is that production ever recovers to down its opening. After a laborious synopsis von Hoffmanstahl's libretto, curtains of the Salzburg Fest Theatre part to reveal, in the c glare of 'Technicolor, a close-u; the gigantic bed where Marschallin and her only clearly female cavalier are d: ing, reminding one of whale: porpoises on a shore. The con lion of having the hero sung a woman is difficult enough reconcile to film realism, be was never intended to face sty monstrous enlargement.
I longed for some of the deo of Covent Garden dark in w this scene is normally pla Nevertheless. after Mad Jurinac buttons on her g redingote, or even the white of the "rose" scene, she is handicapped in the masque and is in fact very fine. Mad Schwarzkopf is not my idea of Marschallin, and never moved but she is a highly efficient al Otto Edelmann is the first si I ever remember to reconcile with the boorish Baron Ochs.
Whether something went z with Dr. Czinner's Method or sound engineering just as the trio was being manoeuvred position, I don t know; the ret the ravishing score, conductcc Karajan, was a joy to hear.