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The voices of Europe Milton mair American author and lecturer broadcaster and professor in the Institute of Social Research from Frankfurt University today interviews in London Mr. Robert Sylvie director of audience research for the British Broadcasting Corporation Mr Silvey. I come to you as a parent as an American parent. Our television much like our radio is loaded up pretty well with blood and thunder soap opera of a plunging neckline and the like. And those of us who work through parent teachers organizations and church and civic groups are considerably worried about the development not only with reference to its effect on us but because we don't want our children to grow up to be morons. If we can help it. We've been fighting this fight
with reference to radio for the past quarter of a century and I'm not sure that we can say that. The level of radio is in the states is as high as we'd like to see it and our experience with trying to make a real change in American radio leaves is a little dubious about what we can do with television. One of the alternatives that occurs to us is your system here with your b b c on the other hand when we do think of your system which is of course a monopoly we worry a little bit about having a government or a government related institution get its hands on so vital a means of communication as television or radio are
afraid of. Of winding up if we adopt your system with having the government doing our thinking for us. Well I'd like to pounce on this word government in connection with broadcasting in Britain because there's a great deal of misunderstanding about it. I know a great many of my American friends imagine that the BBC is a department of government. You know that just couldn't be more on. You see we have no we are no part of the government of this country in the sense that we would be if we were a government department with a minister in the cabinet. What happens here is that Parliament grants us a charter. It's it's called a royal charter in which our task is laid down for us. Now that charter has a usually 10 years.
And once we've been granted granted our charter we operate independently during that period the government has nothing to do with our operations. And. A number of occasions when the government has wanted us to do something we've turned round and said no this cannot and will not be done. But Mr. Softee How are you and your. Fellow hirelings at BBC supported in luxury isn't it through some form of taxation which in the end means government anyway. I'm not so sure about luxury but the way our finances work is this Every list not every of you is supposed to take out a license when he has his radio set or his television set. The radio said the license is a pound a year. That's two dollars eighty cents. Yeah I'm afraid there's over the years
the television it's twice as much. Now that money is collected by the post office remitted to the Treasury and the Treasury is under an obligation to remit that to us 85 percent of all it collects. And once that revenue is in our hands it's for us to spend it whatever way we think fit in order to carry out the obligations that are laid down for us in the charter and those obligations are very broadly conceived. They are to provide a service of information entertainment and education by means of radio. But then Mr. selfie if I may attempt to arouse the bely who the BBC is a commercial venture really at bottom you have to sell your product to the people and if they don't like what you are offering they don't buy licenses for radio and television sets
and you go out of business in effect. I would say that you were you were a bit worse off than we are in the States and that we have only one in Manchester and that is the public and you have to you have on the one hand the public which can put you out of business. If it doesn't like your affair and on the other hand you have a parliament which can grant charters and which can also take charters away I wonder if if this parliamentary charter business doesn't exert some sort of shall we say sub conscious influence on the conduct of the BBC. Yes but you know you're drawing a distinction which I may say is highly improper never doubt between Parliament and the people. Parliament should be and by and large it is the people gathered together in a representative assembly and I have no
quarrel about parliament acting as the voice of the people. R M I understand then that what you claim that you have is I don't like to use this phrase too seriously. A people's radio you know we always have in the totalitarian countries a people's radio. Would you like me to say that BBC is nothing but a socialist outfit. I do particular quote with the word socialist. As a matter of fact the BBC were brought into existence by a Conservative government so I'm not sure how pleased they would be if you use the term. I'd prefer to refer to it not as a people's radios so much as a Democratic Radio. Now let me take you back a bit and explain how our setup works. It's perfectly true that we have a public to cater for and if that's what you mean by commercial Well then we're commercial. I've always thought as a matter of fact that commercial meant having to provide profits for a bunch of shows as well that we don't have to do. Now what we do have to do
is to provide a service. Now as we see it. You have to face the fact that there isn't at any time any such thing as via listening public. There are dozens of listening publics and there's never a moment when you can say that everybody wants the same thing right. Well now the obvious thing to do in those circumstances is to provide a range of alternatives like stuff at the same time as more serious stuff and song which will mean that any given person will at all times have a choice. Now it seems to me to be a democratic setup. Yes but as I understand it Mr. Silva you have three radio programs on BBC a so-called home program and a light program. And then the third program which is an elite sort of affair with a relatively small audience now and I
assume that this is the pattern that you will apply ultimately to television or in the States. If I want a Forth program or a fifth or a sext or I can't I simply do what you Englishman would call twiddle the dials and there I am. Yeah well that's fine. But you know I think you're rather forgetting the fact of geography. You see Britain after all is only a little island anchored of the mainland of Europe. That means doozy that we have to share the same ethos with the rest of Europe. So there has to be some sort of amicable arrangement with the broadcasting all authorities on the continent of Europe to shut out the existing wailings Otherwise it'd be hopeless confusion. Now our share is three of them and it's a fair share. It isn't as many as we should like. We should welcome though much wider range of alternatives.
Mr Sylvia in the summer of 1952 in your capacity as director of BBC's audience research you made a survey of the use of television in England today. What did you discover. Well the survey you referred to was just part of the research work we've been doing on television since the war. So I don't restrict my answers just of that. Here's the present picture. About one British family in every town has television now. The proportion will be much higher by the way to work for E.ON. Now in the early days television was restricted to the better off some of us. But that's long since ceased to be true. I'd say that by now you are almost as likely to find a television set in a working class home as in the homes of the well-to-do. Now once a family has got a television set they certainly do use it. It's not unusual for an evening programme to be seen by
80 percent of the television public. And so far there's very little evidence that viewing diminishes as the novelty wears off. The average viewer spends about eight hours a week in view even television. You may ask how you find the time. Well we found that though television does keep people at home to some extent. For instance it does cut the movie going its principal effect is to change the way people use the time which they spend at home anyway. Now the biggest casualties are undoubtedly listening to radio radio listening is cut by something like three quarters when television comes into the home. You know there's room for a lot more research on the effects of television and I think it ought to be looked at from two opposing points of view the positive and the negative. And by the positive effect of television I mean the effects on people's
attitudes tastes and opinions which result from them seeing television programs and by the negative effects I mean the things which are driven out by television the things which people stop doing in order to find time to view. For one thing certain you know television gone straight today beyond 24 hours. What are the negative effect you found. Well I have a feeling that it is very easy to exaggerate them. Such evidence as we have suggests that if a man is keenly interested in some leisure activity such as say gardening or carpentry it takes more than television to Weeden away from it. I doubt very much whether the chap who read serious books gives this up when he gets a television set. The man who is reading is confined to skimming over a newspaper or magazine may very well spend less time on the solar reading. But would this be so very disastrous for society.
I'm not sure but there is another point here Mr Silvey the distinguished English periodical The New Statesman and nation. In reviewing your survey quoted a man on the street as saying that television is a wonderful thing especially for the entertainment of one's friends and the evening he was quoted as saying. All you have to do is sit them down in front of the SAT give them a few chocolates and they'll keep perfectly quiet until it's time to go home. I wonder if television is there's any danger that you've discovered of television's driving out conversation and such other historic processes such as meditation and prayer. Well as to conversation well to drive conversation out is a good thing or a bad thing rather Pendle a conversation to driving out.
And I supposed to it would depend on what you were meditating on and what you were praying for. It would still be the state of your view you know what. What are the positive effects that you're surveying on Covered yourself well I think it early to say much about the positive effect of television you know. But we have been able to establish one and one very important thing very clearly and that is that television does result in people be brought into contact with things which would otherwise pass them by. You see the viewer's appetite for hearing is so insatiable that he watches not only the programs which he knows he'll enjoy but also programs which on the face of it don't appeal to him at all. Now that's something that radio can rarely do. Most people will switch off rather than dismiss something which doesn't appeal to them. But with television it's different. There's something compelling about pictures. They hold
an audience in spite of itself. Now You See What This can mean. You put a serious discussion on some contemporary problem on the radio and for the most part you're preaching to the converted. Put it on television and it is seen by hundreds or thousands of people who have never before given the problem of thought. You were a Shakespeare play on the radio and most people twiddle the knobs they find something like that. Put it on television and it will be seen by countless people to tell it to Shakespeare were just a name of all the new people at BBC do want Shakespeare to be more than just a name to your audience you. You do want to give your audience not what it wants but what you think it needs. The first part of that question got a easy answer I'm not in the least a shame. I want to be able to know something more Shakespearean his name. As for the second part Miles is
really this. I'm not arguing for ramming culture down the throats of people who don't want it. I'm simply saying that television gives us a chance of providing people with opportunities for the enrichment of their experience if they can take them. And we in the BBC feel that we should be betraying our trust. We didn't seize that chance. Thank you very much Mr Selvey in London there is among other things the headquarters of an institution beloved of every American mystery reader. And that is just about every American. The institution is Scotland Yard today Milton Mayer interviews RETIRED DETECTIVE SUPERINTENDENT Robert Fabian. Superintendent Fabian retired in 1909 after twenty eight years of service 25 of them spent as an ununiformed man at the yard when he retired he held among other indications of his capacity what is known in England as the police b c that is the police Victoria Cross comparable to our
Congressional Medal of Honor the king's police medal for gallantry heroes Milton Mayer superintendent Fabian. What is that toughest case you've ever had. I suppose the one who's most notorious anyway cause the tough ones really don't have no interest to the listener. But the most notorious one and a very difficult one was all the pats on the back for I suppose was the murder of a man called ALEC the antiquities. This was a job where three young men took it into their head to try at least to hold up with the jewel of the shop in Charlotte Street just off of Tottenham Court Road and the jewel is an elderly man was the manager and he didn't believe in this hold up business and there's a rough house and the three men had to run out. Having fired indiscriminately in the shop missed everybody fortunately but arriving outside in the street
according to the car which had stopped him. And tried to drive away but the driver was panicking. Couldn't get the thing to go. And they got out of the car and made away with brandishing their weapons and a man a medic the anti-Bush very bravely indeed saw what was going on he was riding a motorcycle and tried to cut them off by driving across their path and a man named Geraghty caught point blank when in sixteenths range right into this man's head and he dropped dead. Now at this point superintendent you didn't know that the man who fired the shot was named Cherokee or anything else. No we didn't know we had 29 people who said they were eyewitnesses of the affair and we had 29 different descriptions. Going from almost from Chinaman to cut of people young to old Some almost quaint top hats of overalls and they're wearing raincoat some light suits
some dark suits and so it went on and on. We had no idea. We just did everything to the Record Office. We had experts from the fingerprint photographic people scientists and we were getting nowhere and I believe in the little strain of luck in the sort of things you know. Well in this little bit of luck that came another cab driver came forward and some days after and said he thought nothing to do with the murder but about the time that the murder happened he was driving his cabin on Tottenham Court Road and a young man got on it and he told him to get off because he already had a fare and then unconsciously followed the man when he got off and saw him go into a block of offices. When I sent my team over there and although I got about a credit in this job I always say that I was fortunate in being the captain of a good team. Well it's funny I went into this office and them I mean I went
days afterwards so an office boy and he said he remembered two men coming in and they must work there he said because he remembered them coming in wearing raincoats. And when they went out they head. Neither had a coat but my office is searched and at the top disused office in the building they found tucked behind a chest of drawers an old raincoat kept their gloves and a. Piece of glass wouldn't mean used as a mask. When. We inspected the raincoat the maker's name a been taken off. There were a few stitches left where Tina's temp had been the bed being removed and it was one of the ordinary raincoats you see thousands in every multiple tailors and shop. When I toyed with it as one does but you're supposed to keep something you hope to use it as an exhibit in the form you find it because counsel have a very awkward way of arguing the point about it if you alter it in any way. But I took it to pieces and underneath the armpit we found that it was a
strain of luck again. The major step we got in touch with the head office of the makers and of course it was one of those things again where the person who sent it out to the branch had forgotten to put on the tab or she should have down the branch number so the head office were able to tell a system of this size and date of manufacture that a number went up to three branches in London and we went to two branches and we traced every purchase of a raincoat of this description from the time they were delivered until we were left with one who had sold it to a person who. It was called himself Thomas Wells but. I so happened that they put down Thomas as his name. Anyway then of course we don't actually know over here we take things very quietly. We don't care and
sorrow and I don't mean that wrongly but we don't of course superintendent. If I may do a little crime detection here myself. You had no reason whatever to suppose that the person who bought the raincoat had anything whatever to do with the crime itself. Not really but there was an indication that he's Ranger got something to do with it and whether he'd sold it with it being stolen from him we don't know that at the time we didn't know about that. So where and what we did we found out a lot about the purchase of the raincoat. We found that his friends and where he worked he made inquiries quietly where he worked and where he had a raincoat and he would workmates remember him having a raincoat but not since the date of the murder and then we found that he had it was to go out on a Sunday about 12 o'clock for a drink. So at 12 o'clock we had women. We had women and also in the yard and they kept observation on the flat. When
he went out I went in with a raincoat and saw the man's wife and said well at the police officer we found your husband's raincoat and she said oh yes thank you. And I said What would you sign for it and she was about to sign it or wait a minute and where did you lose it. So this woman said after hesitation Oh he lost it at the pictures. I said well when he comes in will you send him into the police station in charge of himself. All my people were following the man and we had a wireless car and a modest motorcycle and I sent a message out for this man to be brought in before he returned home. So did to check the story of course because it seemed to me that they hadn't had a prearranged story ready which is in our favor that little luck again and he was picked up and brought in and I said to him Well this is your raincoat. And he said Oh yes I said put it on your shore if you want he said yes I know it's mine because of the amount on the front of it. I said Where did you lose it.
Hesitation and he said I lost it in a pub near Tottenham Court Road. So we said well your wife said you lost the pictures. That was true. And that's how the story began to break. He then opened out a little bit by being coaxed because sometimes you know you got to. Make your mind up as to it when interrogating people as you all know I suppose you've got to find some you can threaten some you can promise so you can keep to stroke him on the back or never we never use volatile we rely on a battle of wits and a battle of trapping by conversation trickery may say sometimes but we are paid to put people where they belong. For this fellow he dribbled and deviled about and finally said whether it is wife or told him it in fact that she had lent it to her brother her brother was a convicted men violent men. His brother was doing 8 years already for. You know how
to murder by running a man down with a cart as Mission guy and we knew then that we were in the middle of a very violent dream so we then found the associates of this man. One was a young fellow of not quite eighteen so a little fed of mine when one wants to get the truth out of anybody is to interrogate them about 2:00 in the morning because I found out I believed my own idea was that. That's when the resistance at its lowest. That's when people die you know if you jab your wife or husband in the region early in the morning and ask him where he was last night he'd tell you Well this I then had a go at this young fellow. He opened out about another one and we interviewed him and finally he opened up and said that he was the man who fired the shot but it was an accident. Well when we'd checked up and turn the pages over we found firearms of every description even to the
American one much a method of sawing off a sporting gun to within about 12 months of the barrel. And we were told that they had a real right reception committee for us if we'd have gone down mob handed and that they were prepared to fight it at as maybe a book fashion or dare I say to cultivation. But I don't know we don't we quietly move around nice to everybody as far as we can be tucked them away where they belong. And so this they've done many things on this raincoat story. Part of the blue lamp of good film in London. And they've done it on the radio and looked up the code that's all but it all comes back to a little bit of luck with this raincoat had this not been found. I don't say we wouldn't call the people but it would take us a great deal longer. What would your recipe be for crime prevention crime control and crime cure.
Well I think over here at least that as far as a juvenile is of concern the pendulum has swung too far the other way they're too lenient with the way they deal with the juveniles I think the biggest confidence trick that's being worked on a lot of people for years is a psychiatrist he says over here we're not even supposed to take fingerprints of a lady who might have stabbed his mother or cut the title of the cat because the psychiatrist whoever he is so that it might upset the lead. I think I'm old fashioned enough to believe that. You know spare the rod and spoil the child still holds good. And also I'd like to add to this little bit that the sooner they make the punishment fit the crime the better. And yet superintendent with this what perhaps we might call tough view of yours. You're a man who for twenty eight years belonged to a police force and became a
superintendent at Scotland Yard where in a country where if I you find correctly informed policemen and detectives do not even carry guns I've never came out to be nothing. There's a there available I must be honest about it and there are occasions when they have been carried on to that thought. It's in the. I might go off a bit of a nuisance. Is there something about the British character that distinguishes it from some of the others of us are policeman do carry guns. I think over here I think my interview is that if the policeman carries one of the cops going to jail with there's going to be a competition. Thank you very much Superintendent Fabian. In this recorded program Milton Mayer has been interviewing Mr. Robert Sylvie of the BBC and Detective Superintendent Robert Fabian of Scotland Yard this programme was made possible under a grant from the fund for adult education an independent
organization established by the Ford Foundation. These programs are prepared and distributed by the National Association of educational broadcasters. This program was introduced by Norman McKee and this is the end E.B. tape network.
Voices of Europe
Robert Silvey and Robert Fabian
Producing Organization
National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
Interviews with Robert Silvey of the British Broadcasting Corporation and Superintendent Robert Fabian, a former detective at Scotland Yard.
Series Description
Interviews with noted Europeans on a variety of subjects, conducted by Milton Mayer, American author and broadcaster, lecturer and professor in the Institute of Social Research at Frankfurt University.
Broadcast Date
Global Affairs
Crime and criminals--Great Britain.
Media type
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Interviewee: Silvey, Robert
Interviewee: Fabian, Robert, 1901-1978
Interviewer: Mayer, Milton, 1908-1986
Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 52-37-47 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:17
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Chicago: “Voices of Europe; Robert Silvey and Robert Fabian,” 1953-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 13, 2024,
MLA: “Voices of Europe; Robert Silvey and Robert Fabian.” 1953-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 13, 2024. <>.
APA: Voices of Europe; Robert Silvey and Robert Fabian. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from