⬆ Year One: a introduction to Granada
15 Feb 2017 0 comments. tbs.pm/10780
NOTE TO THE READER
WHO would have foreseen, a few years ago, the part which television would come to play in people’s lives? Here, suddenly, is a medium which appears to have cut right across the different levels, prejudices and customs of the country. People who do not take the same newspapers, go to the same cinemas or theatres, or read the same books, have found an unexpected point of contact. Since the introduction of television millions of people discuss the same thing each day: in its own way it has made an unexplosive but profound revolution in the national life.
The coming of Independent Television to England didn’t alter the medium, it merely made it more competitive, unpredictable and exciting. With so new a vehicle of communication the problems facing all its innovators have been much the same; for this reason we thought it might be interesting and enlightening to record the early experiences of one British independent television programme company.
This small book is about the first year of Granada TV Network Limited, which is the Company allotted the job of giving television on weekdays to a large area of the North of England. In terms of the short life-story of television to date, what it records is already ancient history. Granada has since celebrated a second birthday. The reason for the delay in putting it out has been honest doubt. On balance we have decided it may interest or amuse a sufficient number of people, if only as a museum-piece. The material in the Reference Section may also retain some curiosity value in the same sort of way as a superannuated Whitaker.
This is certainly not a history, in the sense of being either comprehensive or conclusive. Really it is no more than a brief, light-hearted description — seen through various pairs of eyes — of the early struggles of a new company with a still adolescent medium. Bear in mind in reading it that most of it was written many months ago, which is why some of what it says may already carry bygone echoes. One day this account may well seem as strange, remote and slightly comical as pictures of the Wright Brothers’ aeroplane seem to us today.
June 1, 1958
By Sir Kenneth Clark, KCB
Sometime Chairman of the Independent Television Authority
Chairman of the Arts Council of Great Britain
WHEN the Independent Television Authority appointed Granada to the Northern Station we had no doubt that they would give us lively and intelligent programmes. But we did not quite foresee how much Granada would develop a character which distinguishes it most markedly from the other programme companies and from the BBC. This character may be described as immediacy. Granada believes in today. It looks at the problems of modern life, to which middle-aged people try to close their eyes; it recognizes that a new world is being born which must speak its mind and if necessary shake its fist at the old one. Lively-minded people want to question the established order at any time; but for us, who are two-thirds the way through a great social revolution, it is a necessity to ‘try all things’. Granada puts ideas and institutions to the test in its discussions and eager questionings, and it forces us to examine our assumptions by its admirable productions of plays by Arthur Miller and other vital dramatists.
In addition to all this it discharges the first function of Television, to entertain us intelligently.
THE FIRST YEAR
INDEPENDENT television in Britain began in a hurry. From the first, it was criticized for its preoccupation — vital, indeed, to its existence — with a mass audience, and for finding in too much ‘light entertainment’ the easiest way of attracting and holding such an audience.
Granada TV Network began to broadcast seven months after the start of independent television. It thus had the advantage of watching, and learning something from, the experience of other programme-companies.
It also had one disadvantage. Because independent television was criticized for excessive ‘lightness’ and so for failing to provide (as the Television Act required) balanced programmes, its spokesmen, including the Chairman of the Independent Television Authority himself, claimed that the balance of the programmes could be judged fairly only when a full national network was in operation and openly looked to Granada, in advance, to provide the balance required.
Therefore, it was assumed by some that the Granada programmes would be predominantly ‘highbrow’ in character — ‘ITV’s Third Programme’, as one critic put it.
This is a fundamental misconception of Granada’s aim and method. Granada is concerned simply to try to ensure that every one of its programmes, whatever its kind, should be good of that kind.
It has indeed broadcast a number of programmes, unlike anything done in British television before, which have been praised by the serious reviews: two examples of this sort of programme are Under Fire and What the Papers Say. But the important difference between such programmes and broadcasts deliberately directed (like some items in the BBC’s Third Programme) to small specialist minorities, is that these programmes, often dealing as they do with serious subjects, have proved their power to interest ordinary non-specialist viewers — the readers of the News Chronicle or the Daily Mirror as well as the readers of the Manchester Guardian.
Such programmes can legitimately be called experimental; and Granada, like television itself, is still very much in its experimental stage. It has certain principles, certain standards of quality; and these are applied at every ‘level’, from a new quiz game to drama.
In short, Granada seeks always to avoid the shoddy and hackneyed, to encourage and explore the fresh and genuine. It has an appetite for new ideas and new talent — and for the best of the old, too: television has shown that millions of people who had hardly heard of Ibsen or Strindberg, and had never been to a living theatre to see a play on some such controversial theme as the colour bar, can be attracted by serious drama as well as by light variety.
It is hardly too pretentious to claim, then, that television at its best can be an educative force, not a social evil; not a mere escape from reality but a release into wider reality and more abundant imaginative life; not an anaesthetic but a stimulant.
How far Granada has succeeded, in its first year, in beginning to realize its aims can hardly be judged by those within the Granada organization: that is why this series consists mainly of the views of others.