A Russian looks at ITV
9 Jan 2017 2 comments. tbs.pm/10264
From the TVTimes for 13-19 August 1961
Thanks to Independent Television programmes, millions of our Russian people have now been able to see how you British live.
The transmission from Earls Court, based on our exhibition, was excellent both technically and in its content, and I am told, by telephone from Moscow, that it was widely enjoyed by our people.
At the same time we are very happy about the ITV programme on Moscow, which greatly helped to show you how we live.
We would like many more exchange programmes of this sort. We would welcome ITV teams to whom we would offer every facility. The Soviet people have nothing to hide – we are proud of our achievements and glad that you should know of them.
We should like, too, to show our people more of your life — at home and in the office or the pub.
This now depends largely on private enterprise. Your Government sent a delegation to Moscow in January this year to negotiate a new agreement on “Relations in the Scientific, Technological, Educational, and Cultural Fields 1961-63.”
Unfortunately the enormously important field of television was dismissed briefly in these words in your official report: “Both parties reaffirm their desire to achieve further improvement of relations in the field of broadcasting and television.”
These are empty words reflecting a lack of constructive thinking towards a goal of mutual understanding, and this we cannot understand.
Television is the most vital factor in bringing people closer together. Words are often twisted. They depend on a third person interpreting what he sees.
The TV camera shows what is there. This is good. I am concerned because you are less informed about us than we are about you.
I have helped entertain many British people in Moscow and I have met many of your leaders in England —journalists, Members of Parliament, even Cabinet Ministers. I have been shocked and horrified at the naive questions they have sometimes asked me.
I assure you that Russian people have legs but not two heads. We are people, just like you. But strangely enough I find it difficult to explain this, and be believed.
We would like you to know us as we are. This is not propaganda. You cannot fool a TV camera. We want people to see for themselves and make up their own minds, not to take the secondhand opinions of others.
Of course there are black spots in England – slums and dirt and disease. There are the same in every country; no nation has a monopoly on misery. We would like to see the best and the worst, but chiefly the great in-between, in London, Manchester. Birmingham, and in the country.
Here I think Independent Television can be valuable. Reading English newspapers before I came here I got the impression that it was a very bad thing. But I have watched it as often as I can and have been impressed by its standards.
Admittedly, I do not like a commercial in the middle of a programme, but the programmes seem technically excellent. And your pretty girls are pretty in any language.
If I were to take any programmes back with me they would be the news and documentary features, which are excellently done.
When I say that we want more exchange programmes you may argue that we are jamming your radio broadcasts. This is true. We are. And we shall continue to do so.
But only about five per cent of the programmes are jammed, and those are ones which might damage relations between us. We do not want to let you yourselves spoil our people’s opinion of your people. So we jam stupid propaganda: but never anything which might help towards greater understanding.
Let me repeat: we are not trying to make propaganda. We are content that you should see us as we are, simply and honestly, as we should like to see you.
Here, Independent Television can make its greatest contribution to the peace and sanity of the world — and make interesting programmes for viewers at the same time.
Valentine Mikhailov is a leading Russian journalist of the British section of a new Soviet Press agency Novosty (“News'”) in Moscow and an expert on British affairs He was chosen to be Press Officer of the Soviet Exhibition at Earls Court. During his five weeks in Britain he has made a special study of TV, and in this exclusive article he gives his views on the vital part television can play in improving relations between our countries