NZBCs down-to earth chief is 'no glamour man'

A frank portrait by Tony Reid, (May 10th 1965, NZ Sunday Times)

Charles A. McFarlaneFlushed and obviously embarrassed the new chairman of the New Zealand Broadcasting - Corporation averted his eyes and shuffled his feet nervously.

Frankly, it all upsets me a little, he said.

To tell the truth I don't want to be regarded as a glamour our man at all. I just regard myself as an ordinary solid citizen doing a- Job for other citizens.

It wouldn't do to be too much of an enthusiast over my own ideas. I'm there to weigh up the opinions of other people.

Mr. Charles A. McFarlane succeeded Dr. F. J. Llewellyn as chairman of the NZBC in April.

At home I found him modest, carefully moderate in his views, honest and self-effacing. He dislikes egotism, non-conformists and people who talk at length about their own ideas and accomplishments.

He is practical, cautious, and far more concerned with results than opinions.

In the exact sense of the term-without any of its more sinister meaning -- he regards himself as a public servant.

He told me he had been appointed by representatives of the public; he was working to serve the public need and was determined not to allow his prejudices and Opinions to affect his judgement.

Didn't Want The Job

At present, Mr McFarlane, a former Director-General of the Post and Telegraph Department, is working hard at five jobs apart from his glamour post.

He is on the board of directors of two companies, chairman of the Savings Committee, a member of the Whangarei Harbour Board and a prominent administrator in the Port Employers' Association.

Why, then, had he applied for the NZBC post?

Apply? he said. I didn't want the job at all.

Nobody was more surprised than me when I was asked to take it on. Although I suppose I had proved myself reasonably I repeat, reasonably-competent in an administrative job involving communication- tions. And that's why I didn't mind taking it.

Significance of TV

After all, communications is almost the reason why human beings have been more successful than other creatures. And television is the most comprehensive and magnificent form of communications Yet discovered

The power of speech had meant people could communicate and knowledge could be passed on to said. Even more importing, it had become the key to organised society.

But the invention of television had given communications a new meaning. Now not only the human voice. but human experience was made directly available to other people

A Different Problem

So I suppose that in a way I've graduated from the Post-Office he said. Communication of experience is quite a different matter.

Mr McFarlane said the job called for decent standards in broadcasting and sufficient administrative ability to see the public was well served.

I spent several years working in public companies, he said. This job isn't much different really - still have to look after the shareholder's interests.

But it does require rather different sort of qualification. fact, no particular qualification - just very broad interests.

Did feel he had this broad spectrum of interests, specially in relation to the arts?

Well, I'm interested in reflection in the arts - particularly painting and writing. Painting and writing, specially about the Maori . . . what other arts would there be, now?

Yes . . . actually I'm more interested in historical writings than anything else. When I was young, economic studies were of interest. But lately, though there hasn't been much time, I've been rereading Churchill and the Scriptures.

McFarlane said he did not carry these interests, into the job. At present television was definitely an industry and there was little scope for artistic programmes.

Still, I suppose by artists, you mean people who create a fictional thing - expertise at creating dramatic effects, he said.

We certainly have a lot of people who can do that.

Better programmes-perhaps more artistic - will develop as the medium evolves. By artistic I mean more expertly made programmes; a more specialised approach.

Mr McFarlane said a deficiency in New Zealand television which prevented minority groups voicing their opinions was the lack of alternative channels.

These were a most desirable end it the corporation was to achieve a balance in programmes. But for some time alternative channels would remain an ambition rather than a practical proposition. The NZBC had not yet given the public proper coverage in the channels available.

The broadcasting position was intended to be a part-time job. He supposed that after he settled into the routine of the work it would take up less of his time.

But to date I've been down there every day and I just don't get a chance to keep my own house in order, he said.

Wandering By A Stream

You know, It's a funny thing. Though I'm working in so many jobs there is nothing I like more than occasionally going off on my own

I can think of nothing more wonderful than wandering up a nice little stream, hearing the birds singing, water dripping - that sort of thing.

That probably sounds incredibly stupid, but I'm not very good at putting this sort of thing into words.

During tours of inspection up north I often used to stop and camp for a few days on the shores of Lake Taupo, just for the fun of it and so I could reflect a little.

He turned and contemplated his living room. It was small, sparsely furnished and dominated by a television set at one end of the room and a radiogram at the other.

He waved his arm at the sets.

They're a bit redundant at the moment. I'm just too busy to watch TV very often.

Mr. McFarlane said he had always been a selective viewer. But since his broadcasting appointment he had become an almost clinical viewer,

I don't watch programmes so much to see what kind of message they portray, but rather how well they get the message across, he said. For that reason I'm interested in bad programmes, too. You might say television is a professional interest.

During leisure hours spent away from the TV set Mr. McFarlane prefers to read or go to the club. He belongs to the Wellington Club, the United Services- Club and the Civil Service Club. He explained that through that selection he met Servicemen, professional gentlemen from up the hill and a mixed bunch of Government workers.

Would he regard himself as an intelligent person? Mr. McFarlane cocked his head on one side and looked at me hard out the corner of his eye.

If you mean intellectual --no, I'm not. I find that a revolting word and anyway I don't know what it means. If you mean intelligent - that's for other people to decide. If you mean interested in thinking-yes . . .

Better Basis For Decisions

No, he didn't patronise any of the clubs in preference to others. In his activities he liked to meet as many people from as many walks of life as possible They gave him a broad outlook and a better basis for intelligent decision.

Well, that's about all you will need, isn't it?

Mr. McFarlane sprang to his feet, obviously glad to be released from the strain of answering questions.

Don't, well, make me look too important, will you? he said. After all, the less apparent the leader the more effective perform- ance of the team.

My mistakes prove I'm just an ordinary person. And it I keep on regarding myself as such any kind of public notoriety will have its funny side.

He ushered me toward the door and leaned forward confidentially.

After all, that's the best attitude to have, you know If I started to convince myself I was perfect I would be clamouring for promotion to run the show up above.

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