TONIGHT (Friday, May 8) on the Home Service, Mr. Robin Day, a prototype television inquisitor, asks Mr. Patrick Gordon Walker, M.P., and Mr. David Wood, of The Times: "How. far should an interviewer go'?"
It will he interesting to see what answers he gets. The people who have answered so far—like Mr. John Freeman— have been the very people whose interviewing methods are under examination.
As the election draws nearer— indeed will it ever be over?—the power exercised by these interviewers will increase in proportion to the awe in which they are held by even the most formidable of politicians, To criticism that interviewers exceed their brief, are rude, unfair and pompous, responses have so far been mere apologias by the interviewers themselves.
The excuse goes roughly like this.
The interviewer has a duty, they say, to strip the politicians or public figure of his outer wrapping and expose him for what he is, the inner man rather than the public persona.
This is commendable in theory but embarrassing in practice. Personally I would object less if its execution were limited to able and experienced men like Mr. Freeman or Mr. Kenneth Harris. But unfortunately every tyro who gets in front of the camera has a go at it, Occasionally these inept poseurs are cut down to size. But not often. Many men in public life. and particularly men in the Church, carry their reticence and good manners on to the screen. They are shy to expose the stupidity of their interrogators.
And the viewers, who usually get only an impression of what is going on anyway, are left with a quite erroneous view of the character of the interviewee and of his grasp of his subject,
It is one thing to press a man hard. to search out and probe inconsistencies in his explanations, but quite another to get him into an argument. Not enough interviewers seem to appreciate that their chief role is to glean the maximum information for the viewers in the minimum time.
The Cup Final on BBC I and ITV last Saturday brought the football season to a close in an appropriately energetic 90 minutes, For viewers of course it was the only live Saturday afternoon foot
ball they had seen all season. Occasionally an evening game is televised. But so far the Football Association has prevented television cameras from showing games as they happen for fear of reducing gates at other matches.
They are the only big sports promoters I know of who adopt this attitude. Racing, athletics, tennis, cricket admit cameras even to the most important matches in the hope of promoting further interest in the game. Rugby Union clubs do complain that televising of international matches affects the gates of their own matches. But the governing body of that sport apparently thinks it is worth it in the long run.
But not the Football Association.
Perhaps they are waiting for coin-in-the-slot television whose • programmes are now being planned for the test areas allotted by the Postmaster-General.
The future—particularly the financial future of this form of television is limitless, save for limitations imposed by law by the Government.
Given an unbridled licence it would of course take all the best outside broadcast events and most of the best plays. The very fact that it has a box office like a cinema's must make it the winner in any auction with either the BBC or ITV.
Presumably the PostmasterGeneral plans to protect viewers who arc accustomed to getting their television either by indirect payment as with TTV or by cheap licence as with the BBC.
But as the promoters of coinin-slot television are about to spend considerable sums of money in their test areas, it might be fairer to them and to the public to say what form that protection is going to take,