Should Broadcasting Be Controlled?
Publication
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 20 Apr 1933, p. 176-183
Description
Speaker
Murray, Major Gladstone, Speaker
Media Type
Text
Item Type
Speeches
Description
A picture of the British Broadcasting Company. A brief history from its founding some 10-1/2 years ago. $13 million dollars collected in 1932 from listeners. Division of those monies to the state and to the corporation, supplemented by $1 million profit from publications. Circulation of "The Radio Times", the weekly radio paper. Details of short wave service. Clear evidence that public service broadcasting based on license revenue from listeners is in no sense a charge of public funds. Essentials of success. Increases in license revenue. The difficult subject of what the public wants. Appreciate, and not depreciate, as a cardinal point of the administration of radio broadcasting. The task of program building. The lesson of 1926 in Great Britain; the role of radio broadcasting during the general strike. The different conditions in Canada with regard to meeting the broadcasting needs of Canadians. Canada's acceptance of the principle of public control and the setting up of a Commission. The suggestion that the broadcasting systems of the United States are antipathetic to the Canadian Broadcasting Company, and the speaker's response to that suggestion. The need for investment to a limited extent. Anxiety expressed by newspapers, similar to that expressed in Great Britain in the early days of broadcasting. The issue of license fees. Imperial and international implications of broadcasting. An illustrative instance of nationally controlled broadcasting. Arranging to distribute a Canadian program to about 300 million listeners throughout the world. Ethical and educational issues. The effect on national consciousness and national stability of controlled broadcasting.
Date of Original
20 Apr 1933
Subject(s)
Language of Item
English
Copyright Statement
The speeches are free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.
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Full Text
SHOULD BROADCASTING BE CONTROLLED?
AN ADDRESS BY MAJOR GLADSTONE MURRAY, M.C.
April 20, 1933.

LIEUT.-COLONEL DREW, the President: Before introducing the speaker, I should like to express the sympathy of the Empire Club to the family of the late William Darby, who, almost from the beginning of the Club, was one of its active members, and who for many years was gone of the faithful members of the executive committee of this club and was one of the most faithful in attendance at all gatherings of the club. His loss is a very serious one to all of us and I know that every one of us will remember him with the deepest affection.

The President then; introduced the speaker.

MAJOR MURRAY: Mr. Chairman and Members of the Empire Club of Toronto: It is a very great privilege for me to he here today. I am sorry to confess that the last time I was in Toronto was in 1911" and, as I was reminded by some friends in Montreal, I was trimmed twice-I was beaten in a mile race with the University of Toronto and I lost a debate. It no doubt had a good effect in keeping me humble-it was good for the soul, but not so good for the glory of the "Red and White". Nevertheless, I am glad to be back, despite the warning I ,had that Toronto would give me a very adverse reception on this particular subject. In fact, I was told that I should take a bodyguard, but on reflection I decided to accept the hospitality of my very good friend, the Warden of Hart House and I have survived the dangers of the situation, though I believe Mr. Ashcroft is here. (Laughter.)

The British service broadcasting is exemplified chiefly by the British Broadcasting Company and I should like to give, briefly, a picture of the British Broadcasting Company and then suggest, with certain essential modifications, that Canada is being well advised in accepting that principle.

The British Broadcasting Company was founded about ten and a half years ago. In the first place it was an association of private national manufacturers of radio apparatus. They were given a limited license by the British Government. They were given a monopoly and it was understood from the beginning that they were to administer broadcasting, not for purposes of gain but as a public service. From the beginning the experiment was successful and I think that the best way I scan explain that is to outline to you some of the principles of British broadcasting.

Last year, in the period of 1932, $13,000,000 was collected from listeners. Of that amount the state received $7,000,000 profit. The corporations received the balance of $6,000,000, supplemented by $1,000000 profit on publications. Five and a quarter million listeners paid their license fee. They represented a listeners' constituency of certainly not less than 30,000,000-probably more.

The Radio Times, the weekly radio paper has a circulation of two and a quarter million. 93,000 hours of program was provided. In addition a broadcasting house was completed at a cost of $3,400,000. The short wave service was instituted at a cost of $200000 and there was a current expenditure of $250,000. a year.

I am giving the figures precisely because I want to make it clear that public service broadcasting, based on license revenue from the listeners is in no sense a charge on public funds. In fact I believe that it is demonstrable that it is the only way to enable broadcasting to be conducted in accordance with the public wish and at a profit to the public treasury.

What are the essentials? What are some of the essentials of its success? Every year the British Broadcasting Company has increased its license revenue. Between January 1932 and January 1933, 990,000 new licenses were registered. And that is the box office. That is the proof, because there is no essential reason why the listeners should subscribe if the service is unsatisfactory.

British broadcasting in 1924 and 1925 had become so important that the state decided to reconsider the conditions. The work of the first company had been completed. It became desirable in the public interest to set up a corporation. This did not mean government management. It meant remote control by the government and business management. The whole of the apparatus and staff were taken over and a Board of Governors set up to exercise remote control but not state management, in the ordinary sense. It was an essential part of that constitution that it should be non-partisan and I need ,only instance this: that Mr. Baldwin, Prime Minister of that day, in selecting the Chairman of the Board of Governors for the King, chose Mrs. Philip Snowden, at that time the wife of his chief political rival.

Apprehensions are current here about the difficult subject of what the public wants. It has been suggested that British broadcasting corporations give the public what it thinks it should have and not what the public wants and that misapprehension is based upon this great fallacy-that if you are going to give the public what it wants you must not appreciate its view; you must depreciate it, and I am sure you will discover in Canada, as we have in Great Britain, that you must skillfully arrange and constantly raise your standard of program. Don't think the public down-appreciate their views. That is the only way in which you can give them what they want. The only way in which it can be done satisfactorily and in accordance with public desire is through public management. Appreciate, and not depreciate, is a cardinal point of the administration of radio broadcasting.

Program building is a difficult task. It requires great skill and a great knowledge. It requires the sense of alternatives. I was asked the other day what was the most popular program in England to the average listener. There is no such thing; there can be no such thing. The average listener requires the average mood to be met. He requires alternatives-on some occasions, good symphony music; on other occasions, instructional talk and ethical guidance. The problem is scientific and it must be analyzed and met accordingly. It can be done only through a controlled system of broadcasting.

The lesson of 1926 in Great Britain has an important bearing on the problem of controlled broadcasting. I happened to be in charge of the relaying of the news bulletins during the general strike, when you recall that all the newspapers were withdrawn. I do not suggest that broadcasting was responsible for averting a revolution but I do know that broadcasting was responsible for killing rumours that might have been very dangerous to the stability of the state. It was the only means of distribution and it replaced effectively those other means of distribution which were withdrawn in the national emergency. That is, in these difficult times, a very important point to remember in connection with the control of broadcasting.

Canada's problem, of course, is quite different from the problem of Great Britain and I would be the last to suggest that there should be any slavish copy of the British system because Canada has a vast area of scattered population and local interests have to be considered. Canada's broadcasting must be developed on unique Canadian lines to meet the exceptional Canadian needs. I do suggest that., as Canada has by statute, accepted the principle of public control and as the Commission has been set up, that the first thing is to give the Commission a fair chance and I am not sure that they are getting it. Fair play and opportunity is the first thing.

And the second point is this, and it is another current misapprehension: It has been suggested to me that the broadcasting systems of the United States are antipathetic to the Canadian Broadcasting Company. That is not true. When I was in New York the other day I conferred with Mr. Aylesworth, head of the N.B.C. and with Mr. Paley, head of the Columbia system. They are not antipathetic. They are anxious to see a third great chain of stations on the American Continent.

In the peculiar circumstances of Canada it is not possible, of course, to create a broadcasting system without investment, though I suggest that it would be the ideal. But investment you must have, to a limited extent.

Newspapers are expressing an anxiety which was also expressed in Great Britain in the early days of broadcasting. It was looked upon as a potential rival and a danger but their mood now is completely changed. They have discovered that broadcasting and the printed word can work in co-operation, provided there is a kind of statesmanship on both sides-a recognition of the possibilities of a partnership in public service. The newspapers in Canada need have no anxiety about national broadcasting. The two systems of distribution can be dovetailed" provided always that there is a sense of understanding of their relationship.

With regard to the license fee-we say in England that the license fee is really a form of contract between the listener and the broadcasting organization and I think that applies with equal force here. It is a fallacy to suggest that the money from license fees, devoted to broadcasting, comes from taxes. It is a form of agreement, a contract between the individual and the broadcasting authorities.

And the next point is simply this: There need be no antagonism between existing broadcasting organizations and the Commission. So far as I can discover, the Commission is very well disposed to existing organizations and proposes, not only to work amicably with the newspapers but also with privately owned broadcasting organizations and endeavour not to hinder but help their development and in that way to provide constantly improving programs.

Imperial and international implications of broadcasting hardly need emphasis. I would like to instance this to show one aspect of nationally controlled broadcasting. On July 1st" Dominion Day, we have been planning to receive in Canada, under the auspices of the Commission a national program which we shall distribute throughout Great Britain, the whole of the rest of the Empire and throughout the parts of Europe that desire it. That will be the next great Empire program--the first sequal to the Christmas Day program. If you did not have in existence some system of control, by so representative a body, I doubt very much if you could have received that program.

On Australian Day next year, it is being arranged to take an Australian program and redistribute it throughout the Empire and the world and we hope that it will be acceptable to Canada. This is a very important implication, not only in the sense of international interest, but in consolidating the Empire and developing a better understanding. It is much better, in my view, to arrange programs to give characteristic Imperial and international viewpoints, rather than having a propagandist talking about the danger of international operations and the danger of war.

We, in Great Britain, look forward to the First of July-I hope, I believe that the attitude of the Commission is favourable. We shall arrange to distribute the program to about 300,000,000 listeners throughout the world-across one section. The world is becoming smaller every day. Incidentally, this is an additional argument for enforcing and accepting the idea of controlled broadcasting.

Now, what about the ethical, the educational aspects of this problem? I received today a copy of the current British Broadcasting Company's Syllabus and I should like to run through the subjects: Agriculture, Farming Talks, Art, Designing, Modern Life, The Cinema, Drama, The Stars in their Courses, Theatre Reviews, The Economist in the Witness Box, Pioneers of World Exploration, National Lecture, A Week Abroad, Gardening, Health, Cookery, The International Housewife, Languages-French, Italian" Spanish, Literature, Readings from Classical Literature, General Reading, Reviews of New Books, Novels, Local History, Music, Pilgrim's Progress, God and the World through Christian Eyes, ,the Animal World, Science in the Making, Pioneers of a Humaner World, Slavery, Sport, India, The Week at Westminster. Those are selected from the current syllabus. You could not manage to provide such a wide assemblage of subjects or to appeal to such a diversified public unless you had a system of public service broadcasting.

And now, finally, I should like to revert to the point I made earlier: that is to say, the effect on national consciousness and national stability. That is of the very greatest importance. As I said, when broadcasting from New York, I think the declared intention of Canada to establish public service broadcasting is a normal sign-a symbol of a developing national consciousness. More than, that, it is an admission, a recognition of the necessity in these times for controlling such a means of distribution-for identifying itself with a national consciousness and a guarantee of national stability, a recognition that this is not, or should not be left entirely to the caprice of private enterprise but should be finally under the control of the State, not under the control of any party, but the State, as the State.

And that is the view I should like to leave with you as being the most important element in the case for the control of broadcasting in the public sense-but not government management of broadcasting. (Applause.)

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Should Broadcasting Be Controlled?


A picture of the British Broadcasting Company. A brief history from its founding some 10-1/2 years ago. $13 million dollars collected in 1932 from listeners. Division of those monies to the state and to the corporation, supplemented by $1 million profit from publications. Circulation of "The Radio Times", the weekly radio paper. Details of short wave service. Clear evidence that public service broadcasting based on license revenue from listeners is in no sense a charge of public funds. Essentials of success. Increases in license revenue. The difficult subject of what the public wants. Appreciate, and not depreciate, as a cardinal point of the administration of radio broadcasting. The task of program building. The lesson of 1926 in Great Britain; the role of radio broadcasting during the general strike. The different conditions in Canada with regard to meeting the broadcasting needs of Canadians. Canada's acceptance of the principle of public control and the setting up of a Commission. The suggestion that the broadcasting systems of the United States are antipathetic to the Canadian Broadcasting Company, and the speaker's response to that suggestion. The need for investment to a limited extent. Anxiety expressed by newspapers, similar to that expressed in Great Britain in the early days of broadcasting. The issue of license fees. Imperial and international implications of broadcasting. An illustrative instance of nationally controlled broadcasting. Arranging to distribute a Canadian program to about 300 million listeners throughout the world. Ethical and educational issues. The effect on national consciousness and national stability of controlled broadcasting.