BY ADDING dancing to her TV appearances, singer Eve Boswell cornered her own bit of the 1954 TV limelight. In fact the dancing was not new to
Eve. As a young girl going round the European circuses with her parentsa circus act-she pirouetted and hand -balanced as though born to it. As
indeed she had been. But her voice took on a more dominant role in her grown-up careeruntil the summer before last, when the dancing feet appealed for attention
again. She was in a summer show at Blackpool, and at rehearsal one day was watching the show’s corps de ballet practising. The tune and the movement
took her feet into a number of spins and movements, as she waited in the wings. Seeing this, the ballet master challenged Eve to do the same high
jinks with the corps de ballet. Doing so, Eve found herself feeling very much at home. So she took a refresher course in dancing.
Hungary is Eve Boswell’s native land, though she was discovered in South Africa, largely as a radio singer. She worked there for some years,
and married there at the age of eighteen. Before the war, her parents appeared in their comedy -instrumentalist circus act on TV at Alexandra
Palace. Eve, even smaller than now, was with them and passed all but unnoticed. Circus work took her right across South Africa in circus trains and in a
caravan home. When her caravan was parked for the night in a railway siding, a sudden storm struck down some overhead electric cables, which
fell on the circus train and set it on fire. Lions and tigers escaped, and one tiger looked in on Eve as he passed by her caravan door. A great deal was
lost in the fire, but Eve and her home on wheels escaped. Now she lives in London, in a flat behind the BBC, and goes down to the country to see her young son at his prep school.
There is established a girdle of sight around Europe, so that men all the way from Scotland to Rome, and from Rome to Berlin, and from Berlin to Copenhagen, ma now look at each other And those musicians that shall play to you Hang in the air a thousand leagues from hence;
And straight they shall be here. THOSE are Shakespeare’s words. In 1954 British television viewers saw pigeons dipping over their native roofs in Rome on a sunny Sunday evening-about 1,300 leagues away! (The Celtic measure, a league, is computed at about three miles.) Carnival -time musicians in Montreux and
Brussels and Siena, Danish country music from Copenhagen, and martial bands in Paris-all Were heard and the players seen. So was the Pope.
speaking from the Vatican. What His Holiness had to say, to eight viewing nations, provided a challenging and serious note. Like an inspiring, questing theme, it underlay the merry strains and gaiety of the other programmes seen. For it voiced the hope and the need of men, that some contribution to the peaceful
union of the nations might in time be made by television.The original motto of the British Broadcasting Corporation was “Nation shall speak peace unto nation.” But in 1938, when fortifications and not TV -links were the preoccupation of Europe, that motto was shelved. In its place appeared “Quaecunque,” to which some gave the
innocuous meaning “What you will.” But the BBC maintained that it stood for the first word in the famous phrase “Whatsoever things are holy,
whatsoever things are good . . .” Today nation can look at nation-at any rate throughout Europe, and whatever the political situation, and however cold or hot this or that confined war. There is much to be done, and a long way to go before sight between nations can help to condition men’s minds towards political action which is more peace -making than war -fearing. But the beginning has been made. Certain men in eight countries, though they be specialized TV men, have in their action committed themselves to international TV. Millions of viewers, seeing the result, are witnesses of one small hope in a
world of dashed hopes. It may well be true that the TV link through Europe began as no more than a technical ambition pursued by engineers only keen to make the
technical possibility come true. It may well be true that the TV programme – makers who became involved were also mainly ambitious to produce attractive and amusing pictures. It may well be true that viewers everywhere watched them only to seek a bit of novel excitement. But better this beginning than one made for hard political or idealogical purposes. Caxton did not print on paper in order to flood the people’s homes with newspaper leading articles and election manifestoes. He printed because he found the way to print. Marconi, so far as we know, burned not with international idealism, but with scientific urge, when he “wirelessed”
across the Atlantic. Baird televised a wooden dummy’s head not out of love for his fellow men, but out of love for his scientific knowledge. The fact that, in the main, international TV began by putting pretty pictures and amusement on the screens in no way reduces its potency now that it is in men’s hands. He would be foolish who passed himself off as wise enough to say it will never do more, and nobody can say how much it will do for good or evil. But we cannot deny that the more it is operated, and the more it is looked at, the more important it will become. This truth already stirs among those working in it, however mundane their day-to-day ambitions for it. A German TV technician working on
the first link -up told a BBC man working with him that, in the war, he was stationed in France at a blockhouse today used as one of the transmission
centres for European TV. “Then it was a radar post, for trapping your flyers,” he said. “This that we do now is better, yes?”It was “better” technically, and in its implications socially, when TV technicians first found the way to televise an event twenty-five miles away from the Alexandra Palace transmitter. The occasion was Ascot Races. A flippant occasion, in the view of some people; but it led to TV outside broadcasts from all over Britain as we know them today. The European
link -up can be said to have started then. For the seed of the technical operation needed to take TV across a continent was planted between that
English racecourse and Alexandra Palace. It was the technical means of carrying TV over hills and high obstacles.Television can see far so long as its carrying waves are not obstructed. Heights interrupting the TV lines of sight have to be hopped over by means of midget relay transmitters sited on the higher points along the vision route. It was for Ascot Races that this technique was first crudely laid down. It was then developed considerably by the use of micro -wave links -series of midget transmitters, whose parasol -like “dishes” have now become the sign of TV operations right across Europe.
Eighty of these relay points had to be installed, from Rome through Switzerland and France; and from France through Holland and Belgium
to Germany and Denmark. They joined up forty-four European TV stations, permanent units of each TV system in eight countries. The network operated on two million pounds’ worth of British electronic equipment. It crossed the Alps, where relay transmitters stood on the peaks. Up 12,000 feet on the Jungfrau, the Swiss TV men installed a transmitter in the ice, and left it to operate itself automatically and even to keep it self warm! The cross -Channel lap in the link -up, which joined Britain to the Continent, used and improved on the experience gained in two previous BBC -France operations, in 1950 and 1952, when programmes were
brought to Britain from Calais and Paris. The link -up was reversible; it could bring to Britain, and it could take
from Britain. The Continental countries watched Queen Elizabeth reviewing naval volunteers in London; saw athletics in Glasgow; horse -jumping
at Richmond; and toured London by night. It was estimated that in Europe about a million and a quarter viewers watched the programmes.France and Italy are most advanced in TV, and provided between them about a million viewers. Western Germany, with half a dozen TV stations,added perhaps 200,000. The other probable audiences were: Holland 125,000; Switzerland 30,000; Belgium 15,000 and Denmark 10,000.These audiences are in direct proportion to the development of TV in
the countries concerned. Indeed, the carnival televised from Montreux was only the third outside broadcast in the history of Swiss TV. Holland, Belgium and Denmark were also contributing to the link-up as “beginner’.nations in TV operation. A great part of the link -up was installed on a temporary basis in order
to find out experimentally what were the potentialities of a permanent link through Europe. After the eighteen programmes which made up the experiment, each TV authority taking part expressed its desire to establish the link -up on a permanent basis as soon as possible. The most cautious estimate of engineers and programme men selects the winter of 1956 as the time when exchange of TV programmes throughout the European countries will be a normal part of TV broadcasting in general.
Technical achievements apart, this result will call for a great deal of ingenuity, tolerance and broad-mindedness among the interested parties.
The interested parties are not only the different national TV authorities. Every nation’s government will become more and more interested as
aspects of the life it orders can be watched by other nations. The promoters of sports events will begin to wonder about the monetary advantage-or might it be disadvantage ?-of showing their promotions so far beyond the boundaries of their arenas.
The variety and theatre performers have already formulated the principle of bigger fees for showing their work by
international TV.The future of TV in the smaller European countries depends a great deal on the exchange of be “live” or on film. For outside Paris and Berlin there are no great centres of performing talent for Europe’s TV authorities to draw on. Those two cities have not the very full resources of London. Some TV prophets see London becoming a kind of TV Hollywood to Europe. In London would be made TV films for European countries, and later, perhaps, live TV programmes in
the required languages. Finding the financial resources for doing this; devising equitable fees for those doing it; and settling problems of distribution, and even of Customs duty on TV equipment, will call for international agreements in no way easy to come by. But the first step towards world -encircling TV has been taken. To the east the Iron Curtain bars the way; to the west, the expanse of the Atlantic, still technically unspanable by TV. No one can predict in which direction
TV will take its second roaming step-or whether, indeed, the sally will be made by America towards us. Futuristic talk of aircraft hovering over the Atlantic, whilst being used as TV -link stations, is discounted in knowledgeable quarters. The only serious thought being given to transatlantic
TV in the United States centres on a theoretical route via Newfoundland, Greenland and Iceland, which it would seem requires a vast cable installation
of immense cost.
Two business men, by chance encounters in their daily work, turned a suburban housewife into a top -line singing star. The housewife was Joan
Regan, and the first man to change her life was her bank manager. She told him she loved singing and was really a bit stage-struck.
Among the bank manager’s clients was a theatrical impresario. An introduction was arranged, and Joan went to the impresario’s office and
sang. He was impressed enough to have a record made. Now on to the scene comes the second business man. He was Bernard
Delfont, agent and manager of many top variety stars. In the course of business one day, he walked into that impresario’s office.
A record was being played, and a young woman, her back towards him, was listening to it. It was Joan Regan’s one recorded song. Bernard Delfont said: “I like that-who is it ?” The impresario said: “Meet the owner of the voice,” and the young woman turned round, and Joan Regan was introduced to Mr. Delfont. As a result, her record was sent to a recording company and Joan was given a contract. She recorded “Till I Waltz with You, Again” and “Sad, Sad Day.”
For months the recording studio was the only studio she knew. But Jack Jackson started playing her records on the radio. They became
popular-so popular that Joan became a recording star, a radio broadcaster, and was asked for in America. There she built up a great following, her record of “Till They’ve All Gone Home” becoming a best-seller. When Richard Afton first asked Joan Regan to sing in the Quite Contrary series, she was too far away from town on tour. She entered the series in the second programme. This was her first -ever TV appearance.Joan Regan is Irish, and twenty-five years of age. She has two growing
boys, Danny and Russell.
“THE people themselves will decide the future of television. Behind all theshouting of big business, show -business, public corporations and governments,
the viewer’s voice will prevail. . . .”This is Charles Chaplin speaking. On one of his visits to London I
asked him what he was thinking about TV. The great film star, the astutepicture business man, went right back to the likes and dislikes of the people
“THE people themselves will decide the future of television. Behind all theshouting of big business, show -business, public corporations and governments,
the viewer’s voice will prevail. . . .”This is Charles Chaplin speaking. On one of his visits to London I asked him what he was thinking about TV. The great film star, the astutepicture business man, went right back to the likes and dislikes of the people
in Every Street.
He said: “No artistic medium has yet lived which has not played to the convenience of the public and to the public’s emotional needs. The people
want to see the riches TV can bring to their homes, including films. They will also want to go on seeing films, and plays, and music -hall, and
circuses from the auditorium seats.” Is it so simple? I asked Charlie: “Are there not one or two snags? For instance, the critics of commercial TV-many of them very learned mensay the public will get only what it suits the advertisers to give them.” “Advertising is death to TV,” came Chaplin’s retort. “Advertisers bind
the artist. There is no artistic freedom in promoting business. You can say show -business is hard commercial business; but it is the talent of the artist,
given full rein, that has always made show -business money. There are men who think people will watch TV to see quiz shows offering cash prizes.
They will. And fine for the cinema industry. For they will tire, and creative drama will win them back.” But whether TV is commercial or non-commercial, Chaplin seemed convinced that it is no threat to cinema or theatre. In the long run, he felt, people would never surrender the herd instinct which takes them out in the
fellowship of shared entertainment. roused among them.”Television,” he went on, “will gear itself to the other entertainment
forms. That is another way of saying it will do what the public wants from it. Sometimes people want to see TV. Other times they want to go to a film
or sports event. It is only a matter of time before the business men in show – business will accept this truth.”My view is that they will find the deciding factor in the cost and distribution of TV; and I say the only answer is in shilling -in -the -slot TV. “Show -business balance sheets are only sound when they keep in step
with the public’s instinct. A man instinctively values that for which he pays on the nail. Instinctively, he is slowly rendered hopeless by getting TV
virtually free for three hours each night. In the end he will give up the search for value that way. And, in the end, he will give up the search for value in a TV service which is really trying to make him buy liver pills.” We can perhaps forgive Charles Spencer Chaplin his remote and rather god -like view of TV. To him TV must still seem a toy, being played with by little men, who have still to put away the childish worries and jealousiesh has roused among them.
But meanwhile we have to live with the adolescence of TV.
Certainly some of us find the viewing of it just about as irritating as having an unpredictable
teen-ager ever at the elbow! So far as Britain is concerned, TV is the BBC-though another brand is round the corner. And what has been started the BBC way can hardly be changed, at any future date, into a pay -as -you -view system of TV. It also seems unlikely that the new commercial system, now legislated for,
can ever adapt itself to the coin -in -the -slot method.Charles Chaplin seemed to me to be speaking most significantly when
he stressed the importance of people’s convenience. This strikes right at the heart of the TV matter. For TV demands adjustments in the time -table
and pattern of family life. It seems likely that large numbers of people in Britain today are letting cinemas, theatre and sports events go by default
simply because the TV is on and something good may turn up for them. This does not mean that they prefer TV, or are even actively choosing it
instead of other pursuits. It is simply more convenient for them to sit around and wait while the bran -tub of Lime Grove disgorges itself.
At present, ease and convenience are the real powers of TV, greater than “the visual impact” about which theorists talk, and greater than the Lime Grove programmes having the highest “viewer appreciation” marks. The ease of viewing cancels out a great deal of the care taken by the BBC in planning a mixed bag of programmes each night, on the assumption that viewers will switch on only to the item they really want. It is more convenient to leave the thing switched on all the time, or at any
rate most of every evening.In the end this convenience may be less valued as what is watched palls more and more. But that is only a supposition. I cannot see that the BBC-or any other TV corporation-can do anything about it. Chaplin is probably correct in saying the viewer himself will in time decide that TV
all the time, every night, is a mug’s game.In specific TV activities, however, the viewer’s convenience could well be more actively met by the BBC. A ninety -minute play at least once a week, and sometimes twice, does not conveniently fit the leisure time of many households. The plays get high audience figures because-pity us!
-we have no alternative. But few can ever be worth a solid ninety minutes of sitting. A poor appreciation figure received at the BBC for a play is often
explained away by denigrating the author’s “dramatic sense,” his plot, his lack of pace, or lack of characterization. It would often be more realistic to admit that all these were poor because they were spread too thinly over too long a time. It would be more convenient to the viewer for plays to be
fewer and frequently shorter; and it would be less strain on some of the playwrights. There is a notion at the BBC that the viewing audience needs “cushioning,”
between the more serious items on the screen, in the relaxation of light entertainment. It would, however, be more to our convenience if the
light entertainment for which we stay indoors and stop doing something else were more often worth our sacrifice. Filling the “cushions” for the
sake of having “cushions” in the theoretical plan is not a realistic way to produce light entertainment. Empty cushions are flat and let you down. In this book Henry Hall gives facts which-to say the least-question the BBC’s cry that this country lacks light -entertainment talent. Moreover, the people who have not got TV, and rely on sound radio, will today find a great deal of talent working there weekly. It would be both convenient and worth while to the viewer if TV could bring him a half-hour relay from the Palladium; and if it could bring him the Askeys, the Terry -Thomases, and the Jimmy Edwardses who are so busy on sound radio.
Television cannot go to the Palladium because theatre managements and performers’ unions fear that even the occasional televising of live theatre shows will lessen audiences at the theatres. The stars busy in sound radio cannot appear in TV because they are mostly occupied at night in the live theatre. They are on the radio only because they can record their shows in the daytime. But the same performers’ unions will not agree with
the BBC over terms for film recording for TV. The public, which has been inconvenienced by this deadlock for several years, has never once been given the full facts from which it could judge for itself whether the BBC terms are inequitable, or whether the unions’ objections are nothing more than obstructionist policy born of
fear. If the latter is the case, why does the BBC refuse to rally public goodwill to its side by stating the terms it is offering?
In its attitude to the public the BBC is an odd mixture of school-marm and slavey. With superior haughtiness it considers that the policies at the
heart of its services must never be ventilated. It feels so self-sufficient that it sees no reason why it should share its problems with the people paying
its keep. By telling us exactly what terms it is offering to the entertainment unions and sports promoters for rights essential to TV’s progress, the
BBC could rally public goodwill to its side. Lacking this, we are inevitably inclined towards the assumption that its terms are shabby ones, rightly
scorned by the unions and promoters. In that event the BBC cannot escape the indictment that it values the proper development of TV too little, and
the convenience of its paying public hardly at all. On the other hand, like a timid slavey running at her master’s bidding, the BBC now plans its TV programmes according to what it thinks are the wishes of the great majority TV audience. In TV, programme planners are
no longer indifferent to the “popular mass.” Popping in a few “minority interest” programmes of information, music, ballet and opera, does not
change the general urge in TV planning, which is, today, to continue winning the big audience figures given to endless quiz programmes,
unsuitable variety, and plays mostly indifferent and nearly all untailored to fit TV.The standard of taste in TV programme planning has been pegged
down by the planners. The test is to compare the number of serious plays and Shakespearean productions televised every year in the three or four
years following the war, with their all but total absence in the past year. The TV planners are every bit as mesmerized by the audience -research
viewing and appreciation figures as any commercial sponsor will ever be mesmerized by the sales figures won for his product by TV plugs. The production of minority -interest programmes, a legitimate service, and mostly finely achieved, can no longer be allowed to hide the sheepish following of the highest viewing figures in the variety and drama departments. The quiz which scored high is kept on ad nauseam, with the same personalities; and then it is copied ad nauseum by other quizzes under different titles. The variety pattern which scored high is repeated again and again; and then with different artists when the first ones tire.
According to the audience -research figures, mass audiences watch plays and variety. But since they have no TV alternative this counts for
little. A national Sunday newspaper, using exactly the same “scientific opinion poll” as the BBC uses in its audience research, found that, over
four to six years of viewing, plays and variety were appreciated less and less until they reached a minus figure; indeed, the only category of TV
programmes this survey showed to have an increasing appreciation index was the documentary category. In documentary programmes TV as a medium is still being developed with ambition and initiative. In informative programmes (the “Talks Department”) the courage to admit controversy, new presentation ideas
and polish are pushing the use of TV into exciting fields. But on the drama and variety fronts production has become a sausage machine.
The same kind of plays and the same kind of light entertainment pass endlessly across the screen.Justly, to the majority audience is due the major TV output of popular entertainment in drama and variety. But because of a slavish following of safety -first viewing figures, the potentialities of TV are being only half –
used to provide popular fare. Experiment in technique and presentation does not automatically de -popularize a programme-as Lime Grove now seems to assume. The first TV quiz was an experiment. It was not, however, the final experiment in TV. The stage play, though useful in maintaining the TV output, is neither convenient in its timing to the viewing family, nor suitable in its construction for TV. It should be disappearing from TV while television’s very own form of dramatic story -telling increases. The past year has seen neither any disappearance nor any increase.Television is muddled, nervous, impetuous, afraid, because it is arrogantly
self-conscious. It lives too much to itself. It has got to break the barriers around it-some self-erected-not least of which is the one so foolishly separating it from sound radio. In these pages Sir George Barnes claims that TV must meet every demand of the BBC’s Charter, whether or not the doing of this provides the programmes best suited to TV.
There would appear to be an assumption here that the Charter is TV’s, and not the BBC’s; a forgetting of the fact that the BBC is TV and radio together,
and that the Charter’s full demands are to be met by both services working together. Sir George hopes TV can serve serious music just as sound radio
has done. Yet it would seem obvious that this duty is best left to radio.He casts aside the idea that licence -payers’ money would go farther if some radio programmes were adapted to go on TV at the same time.With certain kinds of radio programme this could be done, without loss to the listener. To deny the possibility before it has been tried is defeatism, or fear.But no. TV has as little as possible connexion with the radio house next door. Yet, administratively, the BBC looks to TV to absorb its radio staff as and when promotions are made, or whenever radio may have to adjust its output in face of TV. The personnel can be shared, but not the artistic resources! Here is muddled thinking, arising from those strange domestic inhibitions which have grown up as the BBC has watched the
Cinderella TV rise in its midst.And now competition comes hovering over the BBC horizon. Who cansay what mistakes it will make, and what falls it will take, in its first steps..? Facing up to it, the BBC is in many ways strong, and in some ways impervious. But where the BBC rule of TV is muddled and weak there will
assuredly rise a fever of new thinking. This, we can but hope, will be to the BBC viewer’s benefit, whatever alternative attractions lure his eyes.