Page 7, 26th June 1964

26th June 1964
Page 7
Page 7, 26th June 1964 — Fair play—but not for us

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Fair play—but not for us

THE fashionable doctrine in television at thc

moment is the doctrine of balance, in a business which professes violent opposition to dogma of any colour, it is surprising to find it accepted with doe-like obedience. not only in the nervous chambers of "Panorama" but even in the jazzy corridors of "World in Action".

Briefly the doctrine says this: in current affairs programmes both sides of any argument shall be given; anyone attacked shall have the right of reply; and programmes shall report the facts Of a dispute and not take editorial slants.

It sounds unexceptional at a first hearing.

But in practice it has some limitations. For instance no • politician can ever appear on any subject that could remotely be described as party. political without another politician from anothei party appearing with him at the same time and on the same topic. If one side refuses to be represented then neither can be represented, This could plainly be an infringement of the public's right to information,

Similarly if a television company thought of doing a controversial documentary and one of the principal parties to the controversy declined to appear, then the subject could not be aired at all,

except in reportage, Many subjects which are of justifiable and reasonable public interest could be kept off the screen.

Obviously there has to be balance. All viewers expect a television service to be fair. But it might be better if this balance were maintained over a period of time, rather than cramming every possible contingency, every subtle nuance of opinion into every possible programme.

Of course there are dangers. Rules have to be made to protect individuals from irresponsible producers. But equally the public does have the right to information on questions of current interest.

Somehow these two conflicting rights must be equated. But a man's refusal to appear on television should not—as it can at present— prevent the subject even being raised at all.

THE ATV Sunday night drama series Drama 64 is having an unhappy career.

Sonic of the better directors in television arc associated with it from time to time—most directors in drama are now freelance and the more celebrated ones might well work for the BBC and for all the big four commercial companies during the same year. Presumably, too, "Drama 64" has access to top writers and actors and can command good budgets. But it never gets off the ground.

Last Sunday's play A Menace to Decent People was an example.

Mr. Philip Guard wrote it and Mr. John Nelson Burton directed it. Good actors like Mr. Michael Gwynne acted in it. But it was so dull. Predictable characters in stock situations reacted in predictable ways to stock crises.

A. short time ago ATV injected the series with occasional bumper offerings. coyly titled Studio 64 to distinguish them from the others. Unfortunately with one exception these, too, were pedestrian.

The formula for good television drama seems elusive. Sydney Newman had it at ABC Television but has not yet succeeded in taking it to the BBC with him. But on Saturday Mr. Newman is repeating the ingredients that made for his shattering success at ABC a few years ago —a play written by Alun Owen and directed by William Kotcheff.

It is called The Strain. Students of television drama will not want to moo it.

THERE are very few great television moments. Occasions that live in the memory after the trivia has come and gone.

But I found such a moment in Dateline on Monday night, a programme that is usually seen only by London viewers.

In it Alastair Burnet was talking to the Diplomatic representative for Malaysia and the Charge d'Afraires for Indonesia about the jungle war which had been resumed between them that morning in north Borneo. Five men had already been killed since the end of the cease-fire.

The usual diplomatic bumble was droning on when some question of dates of a treaty arose.

Mr. Burnet quietly interrupted ,vith this question: "Gentlemen, we arc arguing about dates on a calendar. Is it really worth men dying in the jungle for that?"

The pause after it was brief before the two diplomats recovered their composure and talked on. But the pause was long enough to be devastating.

The programme was not particularly memorable in any other respect, but I shall remember the spirit of that question for a long time.

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