Tell me where is Fancy bred
Or in the heart or in the head?
It is engendered in the eyes,
With gazing fed…
Merchant of Venice, Act 3, Scene II.
This website has been produced by Rediffusion Television Ltd to mark the 10th anniversary of television broadcasts for schools in Great Britain. It was on May 13, 1957 that the company pioneered the regular transmission of programmes for schools. The articles in this website tell the story of the first decade of schools television, the organisation behind the programmes and the philosophies of the people running them.
by Paul Adorian, managing director, Rediffusion Television
The photographs were specially taken by Morris Newcombe and acknowledgements are due to the headmistress and staff of New End Primary School, Hampstead, and the headmasters and staffs of Sedgehill Mixed Comprehensive School, Bellingham, and Wandsworth Boys’ Comprehensive School for their co-operation.
Since Rediffusion Television started the weekday independent television service for London it was always the intention to provide a programme service which should contain not only entertainment but also information and education.
Less and less is it remembered that the early days of this operation were full of difficulties. The conversion of the television reception facilities of millions of households from a single programme to multi-programme, with the attendant economic and technical problems was not exactly easy. In addition the general public, used to television programmes studded with long gaps of potters’ wheels and watermills, had to learn to accept television programmes with advertisements in natural breaks. Finally it was difficult to convince some people that television advertising was really worthwhile.
These were some of the initial difficulties which caused heavy financial losses and, indeed, some of the pioneers did not have the faith or patience to keep with it. It was under such difficult conditions that in 1956 Rediffusion Television (then Associated-Rediffusion) decided to introduce school television programmes so as to complete its range of entertainment, information and education.
Naturally such a step was received by many with some scepticism. It took a lot to convince people that Rediffusion did not intend to use the schoolroom as a place for subliminal or even direct advertising. The fact that the school television service was proposed right from the beginning without advertising and in close collaboration with the educational authorities was referred to by at least one educationalist as “too good to be true”. There were also others with a direct interest in teaching who were worried that school television might result in a form of direct teaching, replacing school teachers and also reducing the standard of teaching. There was correspondence about this in newspapers by well-meaning people with either too little or too much imagination but, as mostly happens in the educational world, commonsense eventually prevailed. Now more and more educationalists see the value of television as a great audiovisual aid to teaching if properly co-ordinated with the thinking of those primarily responsible for teaching.
As far as it is possible to express in financial terms the value of teaching services, there is little doubt that the sum of £5,000,000 or so that has been spent over the last 10 years by the BBC (out of licence revenue) and independent companies (out of their advertising revenue) has given greater educational value than the same money could have produced if it had been spent on any other form of educational service.
After a disappointing start, we have now reached the stage where over half the schools in the country use school television services. This means that some millions of children now benefit from up-to-date audiovisual aids. It is believed that it will not be many years now before educational television enters nearly every school in Britain.
Those of us who have been connected with the school television service since the planning days over 10 years ago think we are extremely fortunate to have this great experience. We intend to continue our efforts in the school television field in future and to continue to seek advice and guidance from teachers. Our aim is to raise the standard and acceptability of the programmes to an even higher point than they attain to-day.
On behalf of Rediffusion Television Limited I wish to thank everybody who has given us so much help in the planning and application of school television programmes, and in particular, the members of our Educational Advisory Council. I wish to thank, too, all those working in the Independent Television Authority and in the other independent television companies for their collaboration. My appreciation also goes to the BBC for what they are doing in school television and especially for help in co-ordination so that the schools can get the best results out of both school television services. In addition special thanks are due to the thousands of teachers in schools throughout the country who are the final and most important link between the school television service and the pupils. Many of them are of great help to us with their constructive criticism. Last and mostly I wish to thank all those in Rediffusion Television who have first as pioneers, and now as veterans of school television, done so very much to make it a success.
When Rediffusion Television began to pioneer in school television it set up an advisory council. The first chairman was Sir John Wolfenden. He was succeeded by Sir Sydney Caine. I am the third holder of the office but I am confident that my two distinguished predecessors would agree that the principles on which our work has been conducted have remained consistently the same. The wary have a suspicion of advisory committees, fearful that they are merely a mode of window dressing. This certainly has not been true of the Rediffusion council. In the first place, the members are not chosen in some haphazard way as individuals, because some people happen to know other people; they are all representatives of educational bodies, mainly national bodies, and they report back to them. Attendance has been exemplary. We have also had consistent and valued assistance from representatives of the Department of Education and Science and of the Inner London Education Authority.
My major impression is the care which the council has taken over programmes. First, these are discussed in detail at committee meetings which last from two to three hours. Secondly, the council has never assumed an omniscient attitude at these meetings. It has relied on the judgement of teachers in the schools, whose reports have been collated and studied and on whose views action has been taken. Thirdly, I would affirm that on all educational matters the company has deferred to the views of the council. There are fortunately in the higher echelons of the company two or three people genuinely interested in education. They are proud that they were the pioneers in school television. Now there are further fields to conquer and one hopes that Rediffusion Television will continue with a forward-looking spirit.