Page 10, 29th January 1937

29th January 1937
Page 10
Page 10, 29th January 1937 — CATHOLICS AND THE B.B.C.

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A Constructive Attitude Needed

• 5 e44ch 0-4 ^; I have never concealed my opinion that the attitude of Catholics towards the B.B.C. should be constructive rather than vigilant—or merely vigilant. The watchdog attitude is very well; but it is not enough. It may succeed in registering a protest when something or other is broadcast that is contrary to Catholic truth, or is an incomplete expression of it; and there the thing ends.

The B.B.C. is a very popular institution. For all the carping that goes on, it has the general approval of the nation behind it. It is therefore something of a brick wall, as one finds when one tries to kick it. To put it on the lowest basis, if the Catholic is out to get what he can out of radio, he is far more likely to do so by a little sympathy and understanding with the B.B.C. than by standing aloof and merely complaining.

Giving, Not Taking

Vigilance, I agree, is necessary; but if the mainspring of our vigilance is suspicion and distrust, we shall get nowhere. Besides—and this seems to me to be the real point—the Catholic should be the first to consider how much he can give to radio, not how much he can get out of it. Noblesse oblige.

What I have felt for a long time, speaking as an ordinary Catholic listener, is that Catholics should take a larger part than they do in the general programmes. I mean, of course, the talks; and those in particular dealing with theological, historical, economic, and devotional subjects.

The religious services are all very well, and at any rate they can look after them selves. We get our quota; and indeed there is reason to believe that at the moment we are getting rather more than our quota. It looks as if Catholic attention was focussed mainly on these services, and that so far as the general pro

grammes are concerned it is thought sufficient to keep a suspicious eye over them rather than seek to brace them with contributions of our own. This attitude strikes me as negative, unimaginative, and ungenerous. I have long deplored it.

A Missed Opportunity

An example that comes into mind is a series of talks that was given not very long ago, called, if I remember right, "Youth looks ahead." In it a number of young men; none of them over thirty, came to the microphone and told us how they looked upon life and in the light of what values and convictions they proposed to cope with it. Now, if ever there was a series in which a Catholic should have spoken, it was this. If ever there was a moment when the Catholic had something to give to radio it was then. Did any Catholic youth come forward? Not one.

As a listener, then. I have a right to know what is going on behind the scenes. I have a right to ask our representatives in the building, with great respect, what in the world they are doing. Talks, you know, are planned months ahead. Anyone inside the building can get to know what new series are coming along.

I should have thought a Catholic representative would have said to himself: " Here is an opportunity. Surely it would be of the greatest interest to listeners to know how the average Catholic boy and girl ' looks ahead' when he or she is on the threshhold of life? Such a contribution will he of real value to the new series." And to hunt up some Catholic youth to come to the microphone would have taken hint five minutes.

Now, opportunities of this sort are happening from month to month. And the question of course must be put and answered, What response would the B.B.C. make to such efforts of co-operation? Would they turn them down? Well, in the first place, if you don't try, you'll never know.

lf, for instance, some young Catholic had sent up a script for that series, and it had been refused, then we might begin to talk about prejudice and bigotry. (I remember that while the series was going on a young out-of-work in Yorkshire sent up a talk and he was invited to come up to London and broadcast it.)

Don't Be Distrustful

Secondly, if we start on the assumption that the B.B.C. will not welcome a Catholic voice; if our attitude is inveterately and obstinately one of distrust of the B.B.C., because it is not a Catholic institution; then prejudice is on the other leg. And we shall never get a move on. Never.

If my own observations are of the smallest value—and I am in and out of the building a great deal — the B.B.C. seems to me to have an extraordinary respect for the Catholic Church as well as a real desire for the fullest co-operation by Catholics in its religious activities.

I ant sometimes inclined to wonder whether in an institution of that kind certain Catholic interests — especially where they have anything to do with the Holy Father—are nut safer in the hands of the non-Catholic officials than of the Catholic.

This is a common psychology. The question of sectarianism comes in; or rather the fear of being thought sectarian, which Catholics in authority sometimes feel. Be that as it may.

The B.B.C. and Rome

My own impression has always been that the B.B.C. has a profound and even romantic reverence for the majesty and the sanctity of Rome.. I know, for example, that tlrecent relay of the Papal broadcast was decided as soon as it was known about; it involved an hour's dislocation of the programmes; and it was decided—this is the point—not because it would please Catholics, or not primarily for that reason, but because a Papal broad

cast is a world-important affair. That is the right spirit.

But we are talking about the co-operation of Catholics in the religious activities of the B.B.C.; in particular in the talks in which Catholic principles are involved. Would the B.B.C. welcome it? Well, there again I can only tell you the impression I have personally formed—and I have had not a little opportunity for forming one— and it is that so far as the Religious Advisory Board is concerned, they would welcome our co-operation with open arms.

Their point seems to be that co-operation is a game that requires two players. So far one of them (not the B.B.C.) is not playing at all. Or not putting much heart into the game.

The number of Catholic laymen, for instance, who have something of value to give to radio is probably more considerable at the moment than it ever has been. But you can hardly expect the B.B.C. to have their names and addresses on the tips of their tongues; still less to go hunting the country for them as if they were coy rabbits.

If it can be shown that contributions from such Catholics have been offered and refused, there is a case for the B.B.C. to answer. If not, the onus of proof that the B./3.C. is unresponsive rests upon ourselves.

A Good Watch Dog

There was a letter, by the way, in The. Listener last week from the Secretary to the Westminster Catholic Federation. An

admirable letter. It was a commentary on a recent talk by Mr. Frank Birch (I'm not clear if it was a talk by Mr. Birch c)f an article in The Listener, but it doesn't matter) on "Freedom and the Church."

The letter—a miracle of lucid compression—was a corrective of one or two things Mr. Birch had said and a clear summary of Catholic doctrine in regard to religious freedom. And there it remains, buried in the Correspondence corner of The Listener : a good example of what the watch-dog attitude by itself can achieve.

But while such vigilance is always needed —and all praise to those who impose upon themselves the task—surely we need at the same time something more? A more constructive approach. A less aloof atti tude to broadcasting; and, where it is wanting, a less distrustful. And—if only as an experiment and until the policy is proved to be mistaken—a desire to cooperate with the B.B.C. in such activities as a Catholic can fairly take a hand, notably in the kind of talks 1 mentioned earlier.

The B.B.C. and the Catholic have to try and understand each other better; and cannot avoid the impression that the first move is with the Catholic.

Sincerely yours,

From the January List

Ballet music has now an extensive library. On C 2864-5 we have a recording of The Good Humoured Ladies (Scarlatti-Tommasini). The London Philharmonic Orchestra under Eugene Goossens does justice to this charming and characteristic music.

All Toscanini records are treasures for the collector. This month he conducts his famous orchestra, the New York Philharmonic Symphony in the Variations on a theme. by Haydn (Brahms), DB 3031-2. These are the most satisfying records working up to a fine climax on the fourth side where the theme comes out in all its majesty on the full band.

It was high time for another recording of William Walton's Portsmouth Pent: it is provided by Dr. Boult and the B.B.C. Symphony orchestra. DA 1540. Everyone can enjoy this colourful and original score.

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