Page 7, 11th September 1964

11th September 1964
Page 7
Page 7, 11th September 1964 — By JAMES GRAHAM

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grANLY northera viewers in IL.-•F what a television company rather arrogantly calls Granada. land, saw the live televising of the TALC. meeting at Blackpool this. week.

As a result of one of those backstairs internecine struggles that Granada occasionally has with her brethren in the Independent Television Companies Association, the T.U.C. had no networked coverage.

Granada has often been the odd man out among the licensed moneyprinters. She seems to have more disputes with the ITA than all the other companies put together and often, it must be said, over the adventurousness of their programmes, an erring in over-enthusiasm ehich must surety be the most attractive failing in the commercial television empire. Alas, their enterprise on this occasion was not rewarded. The T.U.C„ on their best behaviour for election year, made poor viewing, particularly on the first day. But it was still an important venture. And, however uninspired the performance, the other commercial television contractors may well think they scre failing in their duty not to have made the facility available to their viewers.

One of the most important lessons from Blackpool was surely directed at the apostles of the TV Hansard campaign, which if my reading of the political auguries is accurate will be crowned with success in the lifetime of the coming Parliament. TV Hansard is the name given to the proposed live televising of the proceedings of the House of Commons.

There are two schools of doctrine in the lobby. One believes in a cornplete blanket coverage of Parliament put out on a separate channel reserved for the purpose. The advantage of this system. its disciples believe, is that a, viewer can at any time see the legislature in action exactly as it is and not as some subsequent film editor thinks it ought to be.

The others believe in a daily edited version of the affairs of the house. trimmed of extraneous material and put out every evening. The disciples of this school think this would obviate limelight-hogging by arty publicity hungry members as well as reduce the whole thing to manageable proportions.

After all, they say, not many people have the time to sit in front of their sets all day Lk atching Parliament. And those that did have the time might well rather do something else.

Of course when it conies to the crunch a compromise of both sides will probably carry the day. and we will end up with a daily edited version of Parliament plus a complete televising of certain important debates, probably limited to a certain number each year and decided on by an inter-party committee of the House.

But the cause of a separate TV Hansard channel did not advance one millimetre as a result of the T.U.C.'s televised junketing at Blackpool. The speeches sounded really very dull indeed. And even the delegates could hardly muster a round of applause between the lot of them, even when —as sometimes happened— speakers paused after purple passages to encourage the cheers. The pundits told us that this was because Congress was determined not to embarrass the Labour Party by any blood-warming debates on defence or other controversial topic. It may be that the more belligerent atmosphere of Parliament. unhampered by a tradition of one platform speech after another, would offer more meat to the public-minded viewer. If the proceedings of Parliament bored the viewer, as those of the T.U.C. were in danger of doing. then Parliament would suffer a heavy blow in public esteem. Far from increasing public awareness of Government, it might even reduce it, which is not, T understand, the object of the exer ci BBC-2 still under the same general, Mr. Michael Peacock, last week launched its third offensive to capture an audience. The artillery was this time of the more traditional kind. More plays, more musicals, and of course in keeping with the spirit of the times, more old films. Once this second BBC channel has succeeded in winning a sizable and reasonably loyal audience there will certainly be room for the sort of imaginative broadcasting which has always characterised the BBC. Many such programmes were of course seen on BBC-2 during its first two abortive phases, Their failure was not in producing such programmes but in failing to win an audience to show them to. The interesting and unanswered question in BBC-2's new schedule is: Who is going to pay for it? had always assumed that it was the BBC's shortage of money that had influenced Sir Hugh Greene in not allowing this sort of expense before. The new material will cost a good deal more than the old lot did. The Government declined to increase the licence fee — the old canard of election year was once again thought to have been the deciding factor. Yet the BBC' produced a new channel apparently out of reserves and borrowing.

Now they have embarked upon an expensive refit for the new

channel and we might he forgiven for wondering whether the BBC had already come to an agreement with both political parties for a substantial Increase in the licence fee after the election.

Even if the licence fee is to be augmented by the Government from the proceeds of the lucrative ITV tax, it would still be fairer to tell us now rather than sweeping everything under the threadbare election carpet to be faced later.

I hope that BBC radio's enthusiasm — which 1 share — for Britten's War Requiem, broadcast again last week, will be cornmunicated to the television wing. I have not seen a television interpretation of this magnificent work. But 1 believe it would be a notable success.

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