A FETTERED MONOPOLY More Thoughts On The B.B.C.
By WILFRID ROOKE LEY
All of us must be impressed with a sense of waste these days, when we sec radio turned to so little use. 1 suggested last week that the B.B.C. is a mirror of the nation. That is why it passed its examination so triumphantly this year, why even in parliament no one had much to say about the verdict of the Ullswater Cornmission, why with the exception of a little nagging here and there it now basks in the smile of the press, and why it is going to go on its course for another ten years, fitting ever more closely the lines of the national temperament, as a well-made glove fits the hand.
Some people talk about the B.B.C.'s monopoly as though this enabled it to pursue a course of its own. Such is the bogie of the word monopoly. Actually the B.B.C. is more fettered, though by intangible chains, to what may be called the general will of the nation than any degree of control could make it. In matters of general policy, moreover, its monopoly doesn't count. These are, by charter, dictated from Whitehall. And it is in regard to its general policy that we feel at times, and acutely at the present moment, that sense of waste.
What would happen, for instance, if the B.B.C. were to tell the nation the truth about Spain? That is, assuming that it knows it, or even suspects it: a large assumption. Well, it needs no words of mine to paint the scene.
Sympathy by Inflexion
Meanwhile—as even the B.B.C. is human —it is not difficult to tell where its sym pathies lie. There are things the voice cannot conceal. There used to be a word " tendacious "—one of the horrible words coined by broadcasting—which meant putting a certain inflexion into the voice so as .to show whether the announcer personally agreed with what he was saying or not. It -was 'supposed to be forbidden. (The French announcers, by the way, are never " tendacious.") But the effort to brighten everything nowadays, from the Sunday programmes to the 9.30 News, has long since made that a dead letter. Thus, whenever an aeroplane (I beg the B.B.C.'s pardon: air-plane) crash is announced, we know from the first two words what has happened. If they are down in the man's boots, the passengers have perished; if keyed up into the bright and breezy, the passengers are safe.
The news from Spain is announced in the same way. Really, an announcer's voice the other evening. reporting some success of " the rebels," became apocalyptic. It was in the tone hitherto reserved by B.B.C. announcers for the fall of dynasties and the demise of monarchs.
And " the rebels." Why? In this the B.B.C. might learn a little moderation from certain of the newspapers. " Insurgents," for instance, if they are playing for safety, is a safe word. " Rebels," to say the least of it, is " tendacious."
It is sad to think that in this, as in every other. detail of general policy, the B.B.C. is a thermometer, whereon you may read the national temperature. It is sadder to think that the most powerful instrument for the purpose in the modern world is not —cannot be—used in this country to tell the truth.
WILFRID ROOKE LEY.
An effort is going to be made by th B.B.C. to encourage selectivity in th
young. Or to put it in the B.B.C.'s owi words, " to encourage them to approaci the adult programmes in an intelligen frame of mind." They are to be told wha broadcasts to listen to in the evening. " specially selected list of broadcasts cos sidered suitable is to be published in th Radio Times each week," to quote th official circular, and these will be " of ech cational value." A laudable ambition. Bt. selectivity is a moral virtue, and like othe moral virtues depends as much on exampl as on precept. Will the parents play up It is a 'call to self-sacrifice—another mor; virtue—on the part of the elders more tha
a call to selectivity by the young. Wi the father nobly switch off his evening Henry Hall because his infants tell him is time to tune into a talk " of education; value "? I doubt it.
It was pleasant to welcome Gyles Ishat to the microphone last week, as the tuts in a broadcast version of the filt Episode. It was an admirable bit casting, too, and the producer is to b
congratulated. It is not Mr. Isham's fir: broadcast, but very nearly. For ten yeas he has regarded radio with the detachmen let us say, of a country squire towards th
village literary society. An illustrious es president of the O.U.D.S., it has take another ex-president, Felix Felton (wh was responsible for Episode) to persuad him that there may be something in it. A hope that now that he has found his wa to Broadcasting House, as they say, h will drop in again.
The long-promised revolution in prc gramme-planning is to break out ne: month, and we still know very little aboi it. However, we are soon to be enligh ened. Cecil Graves, who is Controller Programmes, will explain the changes ful in two talks on September 24 and Octob, 1. Among the things promised is a drast weeding out of light music combinationscafé and cinema orchestras in particula They say only the best of them arc to I retained. We shall see.
We shall have our eye on two series religious talks that are down for the wi] ter: one, " Christianity and its Critics," t the Rev. Donald Soper (November 29 December 27); the other, " What tl Churches are for," by Howard Marsha The latter will consist of the reports I intersviews which Mr. Marshall will ho with leaders of the Catholic Church, ti Church of England, and the Free Churchs
Here are one or two things for listene to make a note of : for musical listene a concert by the London Mozart-Orchest on Sunday next (September 20), the Deli. 'cello concerto played by Nicolai Grand/ on September 24, and some very got chamber music all the week; for sporth people, a new series of " twenty minut flashes " round the principal Rugl matches during the autumn, in place transmitting the account of a comp& match; for radio-drama fans, a revival Noel Coward's Cavalcade; and for tho who like to sit at the feet of wisdom, national lecture, this time by Mr. W. Yeats. The dates of the two last nam are not yet announced. The Promena, Concerts will continue to yield their vat able and arbitrary selection of items un the closing date.
The B.B.C. has at last issued a catalog of its publications. Several of its boo contain contributions by Catholics—a ts broadcast perhaps as one of a series—a listeners who may be wondering if su talks are available to read will now kric where to look for them, Thus Fr. 1 D'Arcy, S.J., contributes to the series "G. and the World through Christian Eye; and Fr. C. C. Martindale, S.J., to the ser " The Way to God." What a perusal the religious section in the catalog brings home to one is the number of ser to which the Catholic voice should ha been invited and was not.
"In Town To-night " comes back ags on October 10. It will be on the lines the old favourite, but with new featur Thus this winter it will absorb "Saturd Magazine," and the latter title will d appear. The " thriller " will no longer included in the programme — indeed, hardly fits in with the idea of "In To To-night "—but as it has made itself sn popular, it is to become a separate featu Moray McLaren, out of whose feri imagination some of the most entertaini talks-series in the past year have sprui must be congratulated on his latest, t "If " series, which began on August with Igor Vinogradoff's " If Richard had won the Battle of Bosworth." Ths fascinating speculations were continued September 13, when Maurice Healy tt us what would have happened " If French had landed in Ireland in 1786"; a on September 20, when Helen Simps will talk on "If Napoleon II had be Madame Pirmon's son." Mr. McLaren the man who first persuaded Max Beerbol to broadcast; the inventor, too, of " Imaginary Biography series.