There are few people today who have lived in a time without television, so it might be of interest to recall the time when “wireless” was supreme and had the field to itself.
In 1922 the BBC set out on a new venture of public broadcasting, with no precedent to fall back on, and having to develop its own style and content.
At first it identified its transmissions with call-signs such as 2LO (London), 5PY (Plymouth) and 5WA (Cardiff). Later on, these were changed to “National” and “Regional”, followed later by “Home Service” and “Light Programme” which have all now become “Radio 1, 2, 3 or 4.”
Early programmes were very formal and strictly controlled under the chairmanship of John Reith, (later Sir, and then Lord.) a devout and strict son of the Scottish Kirk. They excluded bad language, smut, irreverence or advertising, and were financed by a wireless licence fee.
This was the first-time people could enjoy public entertainment without leaving their home, and it gradually meant the demise of the Music Hall, with only a few performers being able to make the transition from stage to studio, and a new breed of artiste was learning its trade.
By the time of World War 2 radio had come of age, and played a significant part in the nation’s life. Every news bulletin was eagerly followed, especially when it included despatches from intrepid reporters who flew on bombing operations or served with front-line troops Many of these became household names, such as Richard Dimbleby, who threatened to resign when a timid editor baulked at broadcasting his graphic report of entering the Belsen death camp, fearing his reporter had gone “over the top” with an exaggerated story.
Just before the war a new fledgling invention appeared – Television. At first available only in London, with sets having a small green glass screen on which one saw flickering black and white images in a swirl of snowflakes. When war came the service was discontinued for fear the signal could aid German aircraft to beam a route to London, and it was not until 1946 that television went on air again.
At first the BBC had the monopoly, broadcasting on one channel only, with programmes interspersed with restful interludes of spinning wheels, windmills and potters’ wheels. Later, with rapid advances in technology we got colour and high definition, and the arrival of ITV with its intrusive advertising interrupting every programme, giving rise to the term “soap opera”.
With the availability of both radio and TV one noticed that radio was by far the more satisfying of the two media: TV pictures left nothing to the imagination, it just washed over you, whereas radio involved the listener who, hearing sound only, created his own mental image, succinctly expressed in the quotation at the heading of this piece.
With the proliferation of channels and continuous 24 hours programming the quality of material was bound to suffer. Alongside many good intelligent and artistic subjects there is a deluge of trivial quiz and games shows with hopeful contestants seeking money prizes, stand-up comedians (a new breed) who rely on sexual innuendo and the repetitive use of four- letters swear words that once were rarely heard in polite society. A more recent newcomer is the large amount of persistent and aggressive advertising of gambling sites.
Perhaps it is time we made a stand against this flood of doubtful rubbish that comes into our homes every night. Although they never encountered modern media, the writers of the Bible offer us appropriate words………….
“I will walk in my house with a blameless heart, I will set before my eyes no vile thing.” Psalm 101.
“Whatever is pure… ……. If anything is excellent…….. think about such things.”
Philippians 4 : 8
“Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are good, your whole body also is full of light. See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness.”
Luke 11 : 34
Someone has said that “radio is the theatre of the mind; television the theatre of the mindless.” – perhaps a sweeping generalisation, but with a grain of truth contained in it.
Do we have to put up with this flood of unwholesome material into our living rooms ?