From the New Zealand TV Weekly. December 23, 1968
Do viewers want to be entertained or educated? And, if the former, has a TV service any real responsibility to provide material with cultural value but little viewing appeal? I have run into answers on both sides of the Tasman this week. In Sydney, a spokesman for the commercial channels pointed out that they had 28 of the 30 top-rated shows among viewers, and that the ABC obviously felt cultural programmes were of limited appeal as comparatively little use was made of such facilities as the symphony orchestras. Well-produced programmes on painting and sculpture had drawn only two percent of the late-night audience. Returning to Auckland, I found producer Michael Devine had defended somewhat similar criticism of children's shows. As the man behind the popular Button On Button Off! series, he said:
My prime purpose was to entertain children, not to educate them , . . . It is not our job to influence children, and the programme was not to any degree supposed to be an educational one. There had, he said, been intensive preliminary research into the requirements of young children and it was inevitable that education should be an incidental part of the shows as children like to be shown how things were done, while facts and language had to be beyond criticism. Very true, too-why should the do-gooders try to foist education on to people who pay to be entertained? . . . . One local viewer is glad that The Rolf Harris Show is over for the time being. His 4-year-old, inspired by the Harris paintings, sloshed his own scene all over the wall of his bedroom. Cost a packet to repaper and clean the carpet . . . . Interesting to see the medical profession coming around to a less restricted view of its longstanding fetish for anonymity in the form of the Town and Around special on a heart operation. Producer Maurice Smyth tied the presentation up nicely, with the aid of reporter Rhys Jones and a strong stomached camera crew . . . . Top orchestra man, Russ Garcia, left an interesting souvenir of his visit in the shape of the half-hour jazz special devised by Brian Ashbridge. Jazz buffs suggest that local TV might also take a lengthy look at some of the concerts which have been organised to promote greater local interest in jazz. There are some mighty fine musicians around the city these days. '
The second Compass programme on the Broadcasting Authority Act must have been one of the most expensive yet mounted in this series. Some Aucklanders who were flown by specially chartered aircraft to be in the invited group of questioners worked out that their four questions must have cost in the region of $165. Yet if the programme was frustrating for most of the participants in that they did not get time to follow up their first questions, it was an interesting exercise in that it could encourage the corporation to be bolder in its questioning of Cabinet Ministers and Government policies. The Minister of Broadcasting, the Hon Adams-Schneider, obviously enjoyed his experiences in the Compass programmes, and his example could lead to other politicians offering themselves as subjects to be
grilled. Mr Adams-Schneider already has a number of names under study for the membership of the new authority, and it is possible he will be able to announce the appointments before the end of the year . . . . Gerry Symmans, who has made an excellent job of the 13-programme Column Comment just completed, is unlikely to be seen next year on Television. He completes his assignment as publicity director of the National Development Conference in May and is then expected to return to full-time daily newspaper journalism. His thoughtful and easy-to-listen-to programmes have shown the value of using a practising and experienced journalist to provide informed comment. They have also demonstrated that New Zealand has the talent for this kind of critical programme, if only the talent is searched out. The corporation has in its own ranks a growing number of skilled personnel who could be used more often for commentaries on Television . . . . George Andrews showed what can be done with up-to-the-minute comment with his interview of Professor John Roberts about the currency crisis in Europe . . . . Although Town and Around has been struggling to find fresh items as the year draws to a close, and has reverted to subjects occasionally that have been treated before, it is worth recording a congratulatory note to the Wellington team which has managed to sustain a high standard for so long. One can sympathise with Peter Read, who was reported in a Wellington newspaper as becoming fed up with the number of cranky letters being sent to him. Suggestions, yes, cranky ideas-no thanks!
Christchurch will be well represented in Christopher Bourn's New Year's Eve spectacular. Sharing top billing with Golden Disc award winner, Allison Durbin, will be the young local Country and Western singer, Brendan Dugan. Other CHTV3 bright lights in on Bourn's What a Way to Go will include Town and Around front- man, Patrick Smyth and On Camera's Julie Cunningham . . . . At last some one has had the courage to come out and say what a lot-of people have realised for a long time about religious programmes-their purpose is to entertain! And who said it? Why Fendalton parish's the Rev. Bob Lowe, of course. Quoted recently as saying just that, the outspoken clergyman-who is a TV personality in his own right-added that a sense of humour was a sense of proportion-a national growing up. Then, just to add a little more fuel to the fire of controversy, he added:
Without doubt our sports officers do a pretty good job in covering the many sporting events which take place throughout the country, but the repeated focus on certain sports at the expense of others seems to indicate a lack of imagination somewhere. Some sports -such as harrier meetings and cycle races benefit from the editing they receive before screening; while others, for example, softball and cricket, both good to watch on the field, become as dead as a dodo when shown on the small screen. Yet all of these sports are covered ad nauseam at the expense of other more interesting and more popular events. In particular, motor-racing is sadly neglected, and when the few races which are filmed are shown on the screen, it is usually some considerable time after the event. Motor-racing has shown a tremendous up-surge in popularity over the past few years, and attracts far larger crowds, even at local events, than most athletic meetings and cricket matches-certainly hundreds more than attend a harrier meeting and cycle races, but coverage of the events is left in the main to daily papers, motoring magazines (there is enough interest in the sport to maintain a paying circulation for two national publications-although only one of these gives a strictly up-to-the-minute record of events) and the odd brief film clip on TV. Dissenters will claim that it is boring to watch the tiny cars zipping around the screen. If they watch purely on the off-chance of seeing a pile-up, they certainly will be bored-they deserve to be. The other reason for boredom could be bad camera techniques-the film Grand Prix showed just what could be done in this field, but while we wouldn't suggest risking valuable equipment or photographers on this scale, we would recommend that NZBC jump on the bland-wagon for once and make a greater effort to show more of this increasingly popular sport.