London Offic.e IDa Soho Square
THE ·GRA :MOPHONE Incorpo,r;ating VOX, THE RADIO CRITIC and BROADCAST REVIEW
COMPTON MACKENZIE and CHRISTOPHER STONE
Teleohone Gerrard 2136, 2137
Telegrams Parmaxto, Rath, London
I HAD my first experience of television this month, and I cannot say i t is a pleasant experience for the televised, at any rate for the individual speaker who is televised. Sir Adrian Boult told me he was agreeably surprised to find how little i t affected him as a conductor. I suppose the fact that as a conductor he would have to be too busily occupied with the matter in hand would prevent self-consciousness. I am not a self-conscious person, but I came as near as I have ever come to feeling self-conscious when seated at a small table beneath a glare of lamps and faced by a large camera that looked like a gas-mask made for a pantomime giant. I was speaking impromptu, but I find i t very difficult to speak impromptu unless I can use my hands a good deal and move about as much as I want. This, of course, is impossible for those giving a sedate little talk. I may have felt a little nervous when I broadcast back in 1923. In those days one was invited to address an invisible friend sitting in an armchair in front of one, and the studio was full of people. Nowadays not even the announcer remains, unl ess specially requested by some agitated novice at broadcasting. This is ali to the good, because nobody intervenes between the listeners and the broadcaster, who, if he has any imagination, can pack the whole of his audience into the microphone. In the television studio there have to be quite a few people working on the mechanical part of it, and I am so sensitive to an audience as a whole that the awareness of human beings paying no attention to what one is saying has a disconcerting effect. Before I had my own little turn I watched (I believe one should say viewed ) a programme, but I found i t difficult not to fancy all the while I was viewing a toy film. At no moment was there for me such an illusion of reality as could be obtained in the old-fashioned camera-obscura. I t is long since I have seen a camera-obscura, so long that perhaps some of our readers may be wondering what a camera-obscura is. It was a small, circular hut one used to find on the beaches of popular seaside resorts, for admission to which one paid, as I remember, a penny. Round the top as much l ight was admitted as comes from the top of a venetian blind, and the centre of the hut was occupied by a revolving circular table
covered with white canvas. On this was reflected, in colour, aU that was happening on the beach and in the neighbourhood. One pored over this table, entranced to watch one's friends walk past and behold, perhaps, the blue sea breaking white on the edge of the golden sands. The colour was slightly heightened, and as the table was revolved views of different parts of the beach were obtained. Once upon a time the window of my bedroom at Jethou gave me a camera-obscura, performing every morning as I lay in bcd, and I was able to watch on the ceiling everybody and everything outside in camera images. Unfortunately, when the room was altered this window was closed up, and the new window, evidently being wrongly placed for light, did not give me this charming shadow show. Nor have I seen any other window which did.
Now these images did impress one with the fact that one ,vas watching the reflection of actuality, and my ideal of television reproduction would be the perfect camera-obscura. Probably the familiarity of the films has influenced the experts of television to develop their medium on the line of films. Such a development must have been inevitable. Yet I wish the old cameraobscura had been remembered, and that the peculiar charm of i t could have been prese rved for television. No doubt during the next five years we can expect great advances in television, though, I understand, the problem of finance is a serious one. I repeat what I think I have already said, that the Government has no right beyond that of might to tax the income of the B.B.C. Most of the people who have paid for their licences have also paid taxes or rates. Furthermore, a tax is levied on the broadcasters' fees. The deduction of income tax from the B.B.C. is on a par with the misappropriation of the money coming in for car licences. One Chancellor of the Exchequer after another gets up in the House of Commons and announces that he intends to raid the road tax, and the pusillanimous motorists of this country accept his behaviour as meekly as they accept every other piece of petty persecution. I f the Government wants to tax listeners let i t be honest about i t and levy a direct tax of half-a-crown a head on top of the ten-shilling licence. I t is scandalous that the development of