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Mr Thomas A Edison recently came into our office, placed a little machine on our desk, turned a crank, and the machine inquired as to our health, asked how we liked the phonograph, informed us that it was very well, and bid us a cordial good night. These remarks were not only perfectly audible to ourselves, but to a dozen or more persons gathered around. Scientific American, 22 December 1877
Those companies who fail to take advantage of every opportunity of pushing the legitimate side of their business, relying only on the profits derived from the 'coin-in-the-slot', will find too late that they have made a fatal mistake. The 'coin-in-the-slot' device is calculated to injure the phonograph in the opinion of those seeing it only in that form, as it has the appearance of being nothing more than a mere toy, and no one would comprehend its value or appreciate its utility as an aid to businessmen and others for dictation purposes when seeing it only in that form. The Phonogram, first issue, January 1891
The pictures offer two clear advantages... First, they are cheap, and, next, they do not ask for any effort. ... The pictures threaten all kinds of interests. They menace the churches and friendly societies, certain theatres and goose clubs, with unheeding impartiality. They intercept the 'saving' pennies of school children with the same frigid indifference as they steal away the aptitude for school tasks. They attack even the hitherto impregnable entrenchments of the public-house...  Stand opposite our Picture-house on a Monday afternoon, a quarter of an hour before the orgy begins. You will see a crowd of women, frowsy, unkempt, unwashed. You see tattered skirts, with the gathered filth of years upon them, blouses innocent of half the buttons that decency requires, wizened babies bundled into shawls that know not the wash-tub. Within these doors is Paradise, to be purchased with the price of wifely and motherly duty, and not only to-day but as often as the twopences are forthcoming and the duty may be neglected with impunity. ...
    Nothing promises to bite so deep into our civilization as this newest diversion. Not drink nor even gambling is so potent an instrument for the undoing of a people. For the habit of 'the pictures' makes its almost irresistible appeal to man in the making, to children, to the unformed and immature. ... It divorces recreation from activity of mind and body more completely than any pastime which the wit of man has invented.
'Rosalie Street and 'The Pictures', Manchester Guardian, 26 February 1913
A girl who was sent to a reformatory for three years for committing a burglary at Blaenau Festiniog, blamed cinematograph pictures for her crime. She said she had seen pictures of housebreaking and thefts, and they had such an influence on her as to prompt her to commit burglary herself. The Cinema News and Property Gazette, March 1912.
These are good actresses and expert operators of the camera, but they cannot impersonate men and so the great French movie industry is at a standstill. Lima Daily News, 4 September 1914. Lima is a town in Ohio.
I am the serial. I am the black sheep of the picture family and the reviled of critics. I am the soulless one with no moral, no character, no uplift. I am ashamed. ... Ah me, if I could only be respectable. If only the hair of the great critic would not rise whenever I pass by and if only he would not cry, ‘Shame! Child of commerce! Bastard of art!’ ‘The Serial Speaks’ in New York Dramatic Mirror, 19 August 1916
Two boys may visit a picture house together and see a drama which will inspire one to petty larceny and land him in a penitentiary, while the other may thereby the induced to become a Boy Scout and qualify for the Victoria Cross. The Bioscope, 14 November 1916
The bald truth is that the present screen play is based on the silent drama technique; it tells the story by action and suggestion rather than by dialogue, now given in the form of titles. It has a wonderful appeal to its audience—an appeal almost entirely distinct from that of the spoken play. It is in no wise an imitation of the spoken play; it is a thing by itself. Why, therefore, replace it with a more or less realistic imitation? Our belief is that the talking picture has great possibilities in many directions, but as a factor in the motion picture field it must not be taken too seriously. Scientific American, January 1923
If the United States abolished its diplomatic and consular services, kept its ships in harbor and its tourists at home, and retired from the world’s markets, its citizens, its problems, its towns and countryside, its roads, motor cars, counting houses and saloons would still be familiar in the uttermost corners of the world. ... The film is to America what the flag was once to Britain. By its means Uncle Sam may hope some day, if he is not checked in time, to Americanize the world. New York Morning Post, 1923
The appointment of a Director of Education [at the BBC] does not by any means imply a systematic attempt to elevate and improve the listener against his will. The listener is, and will remain, master of the situation. He is safe from boredom. He need not even make a scene by walking out. He has only to switch off or remove the head-phones, and in the last resort dismantle his apparatus and cease to take out his licence. ‘A Broadcasting University’, The Radio Times, 13 June 1924
Important as is the commercial aspect of this problem [American domination of British cinema], high national and patriotic interests are involved. No-one who has followed the development of this new form of popular entertainment can be in any doubt as to the immense importance of films as subtle means of propaganda, none the less powerful because it is indirect. Films have an atmosphere of their own. The bulk of films shown in this country have, to say the least of it, a non-British atmosphere. These films are shown in our Dominions, Colonies and Dependencies, and in all the countries of the world outside the British Commonwealth of Nations. Many of them are inferior productions, neither healthy nor patriotic in tone, while the psychological influences which they convey may have far-reaching consequences. Letter in The Daily Telegraph signed by Robert Bridges (Poet Laureate), Edward Elgar and Thomas Hardy et al, reported in Kine Weekly, 25 June 1925
Supposing 95 per cent of our school books were written and published for us in the United States of America, Germany and France. What would be the nature of the outcry raised? And yet the position is not dissimilar. Editorial about the American domination of British cinema, Kine Weekly, 9 July 1925
There is no excuse for the existence of a [radio] station which serves only a special and limited interest—to the exclusion of general educational and entertainment services. Radio Broadcast, USA, July 1927
If the indicated compromise is reached between French and American motion picture producers, to forestall the quota arrangement proposed by the Herriot Commission, it is possible that the citizens of this country may begin to appreciate what is animating Europe in its determination that American films shall not dominate its theatres. For on the basis of that compromise Hollywood, in order to obtain more representation in European theatres, will be obliged to distribute more German, French and British pictures. And then shall we hear the cry from patriotic societies ... that European propaganda is seeping into the pure spring of our national life? If we do, and it is probable, we may have more sympathy for the same cry that is now filling Europe, where films portraying American life have been the chief entertainment of the foreign audiences. ... [European producers] have been held out so far on the ground, and generally a true one, that American audiences do not especially favor foreign films. They feel they have not been given a fair trial, and they now propose by the use of certain clubs familiar to all nations engaged in international tariff matters, to force that trial. 'Our films against the world', New York Times editorial, 28 December 1927
French screen quotas
The talkie is an unsuitable marriage of two dramatic forms. ... We cannot believe that it will endure. The Times; editorial, 14 August 1929, following the premiere of Hitchcock’s Blackmail
Wall Street lays an egg. headline in Variety, 30 October 1929, above a story about the stock market crash; probably written by editor-publisher Sime Silverman (1973-1933)
Hicks Nix Hick PixSticks Nix Hick Pix. headline in Variety, 17 July 1935, above a story that rural dwellers did not appreciate movies about their unsophisticated way of life; possibly written by editor Abel Green
[Charlie Chaplin] was asked the other day to give his views on the question of television, and in reply stated that this great science will do no damage to films. He sees people enjoying 'moving pictures' in their own homes, but this will not upset the standard of cinemas for man is a gregarious animal, and likes to take his pleasures in the company of others. Summarised, he just looked upon television as another form of distributing entertainment. Practical and Amateur Wireless, 28 March 1936
Sir Thomas Beecham says he believes that television can do much to improve the musical taste of the nation. The Times, 1 September 1936
Although we have information of a quite considerable number of orders having been placed for television receivers, the point needs no stressing that the number that will be in the hands of the public for some time to come will by no means warrant the vast expenditure that is being made for the new service. Editorial, Television and Short Wave World, October 1936—the month before the start of the regular 'high definition' BBC Television Service; unsigned but probably written by the editor, Bernard E Jones
The British Broadcasting Corporation has formulated sensational plans to be put into operation in the event of war. It has been provisionally decided, W.P.N. learns, on any outbreak of hostilities involving this country, to discontinue normal programmes and instead to broadcast regular news bulletins at 15-minute intervals throughout the whole 24 hours of each day. World's Press News, 22 September 1938
This practice was not introduced until more than 60 years later.
Estimates place the cost of a television show at 10 times that of a radio show or about $2,000 an hour, exclusive of talent costs. Because advertisers will not get their money back until they reach an audience of several hundred thousand people, the telecasting companies are going to have to make and pay for their own programs for some time to come. Life, 20 February 1939
The average American family hasn't time for television. People must sit and keep their eyes glued on a screen. New York Times, 1939
Promoters obviously see a big royalty prospect in the cinema field. UK trade paper The Cinema, March 1939, commenting on experiments to show boxing on large television screens
Except for a return to something like normal conditions almost anything is possible in the British Film World. Kinematograph Weekly, 26 October 1939
The British Government is now making a more widespread use of the film than has ever been attempted by any other public body in the world. Documentary News Letter, January 1942
At the outset of the war all concerned with the moulding of opinion expected that the film would play a part of ever increasing importance. That expectation has been realised. The screen has served as a medium of propaganda; it has also helped to build up between the allies that understanding which is the only true source of sympathy and confidence. The Times, leading article, 28 August 1942
In America the cinema is a part of everybody’s life from the Executive downwards. ... Whereas here, certainly the governing classes (and this includes Labour, Liberal and Conservative politicians and civil servants) regard the films as something vaguely not quite nice—the ‘flicks’. Documentary News Letter, August 1942
The British want a united front powerful enough to challenge the near-monopoly of her own film markets by Hollywood pictures. The U.S. film companies' annual gross in Britain now runs to around $50,000,000—less than 10% of their gross at home, but perhaps 20 times what British films have ever made in a year in the U.S. Besides that, British earnings in the U.S. are taxed much more heavily than the U.S. companies' gross in Britain. ... The U.S. giants still righteously maintain that the only thing that keeps them from showing more British pictures is that there are not enough worth showing. 'Cinemonopoly' in Time, 20 December 1943
It must be remembered that one of the main reasons why European films are not shown more widely here is the determination of the US-influenced section of the Trade that they shall not be shown. Had it been possible to encourage the entry of European films while taxing the entry of US films the general audience in this country—after a period of resistance no doubt—would have benefited a great deal. Documentary News Letter, October 1947
The American household is on the threshold of a revolution. The wife scarcely knows where the kitchen is, let alone her place in it. Junior scorns the late-afternoon sunlight for the glamour of the darkened living room. Father’s briefcase lies unopened in the foyer. The reason is television. New York Times television critic, 1948 [0048]
See also Go to Randy Newman Randy Newman 3
Although television tends to keep you at home, it is also a talisman for friendship. Put an H-aerial up over your house and you will be astonished to find out how many friends you have in the street. Evening Chronicle (Manchester), 23 June 1949
Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons. Popular Mechanics, 1949
It may be no exaggeration to say that man's progress in peace, and security in war, depend more on fruitful applications of information theory than on physical demonstrations, either in bombs or in power plants, that Einstein's famous equation works. Fortune, 1953
Until last Sunday's broadcast it could be said that the impact of Nineteen Eighty-Four on the British public had been only marginal. That is no longer the case. Despite their use hundreds of times in newspapers, in broadcasts and in other ways, such phrases as 'totalitarianism', 'brain-washing' and 'dangerous thoughts' and the Communist practice of making words stand on their heads have for millions of people suddenly taken on a new meaning. The BBC is to be congratulated on its coverage. [0047] Editorial about the BBC Television production in The Times, 16 December 1954. Note the news event-oriented word 'coverage' rather than 'production'.
Last Sunday's television version of Nineteen Eighty-Four drew the intended squeals of horror at George Orwell's picture of what life might be like just thirty years on. Yet when the BBC this weekend reports on the nightmare deliberations of the Nato Council in Paris, the British public will remain placid and unmoved. The reason for the contrast is obvious. Of course the real war preparations of the present are far more horrific and demented than the fictions of George Orwell's invalid imagination. But this fact must be carefully concealed from the British public. So the BBC diverts our emotions with ictional fears. We are to be shocked by Orwellian fantasy of what life might be like under Big Brother into believing that reliance on the H-bomb and the A-bomb is a sensible way of keeping Big Brother at a distance.
    If only we had the capacity to give the Nato deliberations in Paris the kind of actuality with which the BBC producers endowed their play last Sunday! [0047]
Editorial in New Statesman, 18 December 1954
Since there is obviously nothing to be gained by discussing Mr Hughie Green's programme Double Your Money, which Associated-Rediffusion presented for the first time last night, it may perhaps be a useful exercise to look at the advertising we have seen so far and see whether any threads can be drawn together to weave some kind of conclusion. Is any general pattern discernible, and, if so, should we be disturbed by it? My immediate reaction, goaded into incivility by several days of the most idiotic verse imaginable—and in many cases unimaginable—is to answer with an emphatic affirmative to both questions. ...
        From what I have seen so far, Kleenex seems likely to do itself least good, at least if it continues to repeat the same film of a young lady sneezing into one of its paper handkerchiefs. There is nothing wrong with the film, still less the young lady, but unless the company produces some new ones, it is going to become as soporific as that notorious potter and his everlasting wheel on the rival service.
Manchester Guardian television critic, 27 September 1955; ITV had started on 22 September. BBC Television had used a film of a potter's hands fashioning a pot on his wheel as an 'interlude' filler for several years. The best 'interlude' was, of course, London to Brighton in four minutes, a speeded up film shot at around 2 frames per second from the front of a locomotive.
Commercial programmes are kept in some shape by the advertisement 'spots' which have proved so surprisingly agreeable. At worst they are harmless—though the 'natural break' often startles—and is soon over. At best they are the dignified series from the big motor spirit firms. The dreaded 'jingles' prove preferable to the phoney domestic dramas of harassed housewives with headache cures or their pet detergents; while Friday's 'Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe' has induced in me such boundless goodwill for the shoe store which sponsors it that I am not surprised to find it animated by Halas and Batchelor of 'Animal Farm'. The Tatler, 23 November 1955. Among early successful jingles were Bing Crosby singing 'Keep Going Well on Shell' (for a 'motor spirit firm') and Murraymints, 'the too good to hurry mints', for which Halas & Batchelor produced a cartoon of marching soldiers.
See also 1954.
Every beard and duffel coat in London seemed to converge on the National Film Theatre on the South Bank last night. Queues of cinema enthusiasts, longer even than during the Festival of Britain, stood in the drizzle for hours in the hope of seeing three short films. Evening News, London, 6 February 1956 on the first screening of a programme of Free Cinema films.
Video [ie, television] dropped into the middle of a new social revolution: the mass exodus to the suburbs, new realms of leisure, rising incomes, and a tremendous demand both for things and for entertainment that had been pent up by war and depression. US magazine Business Week, 1956; this had been anticipated in 1941 by Go to David Sarnoff David Sarnoff 4
The only major English writer to accept television as part of his world, not just part of his cook’s. of Go to J B Priestley J B Priestley; Contrast (BFI), vol 1,1; autumn 1961
Almost from the moment the horror [JFK assassination] occurred, television changed. It was no longer a small box containing entertainment, news and sports; suddenly it was a window opening onto violently unpredictable life in Washington and Dallas, where a president had been assassinated. Newsweek magazine, 1963
TV is not an art form or a cultural channel; it is an advertising medium. ... It seems a bit churlish and un-american of people who watch television to complain that their shows are lousy. They are not supposed to be any good. They are supposed to make money. New York Times magazine, 1966
Some futurists, notably Alvin Toffler, ... argue that TV cassettes will quicken the already bewildering pace of change in American life, carrying the US farther away from standardization in the arts, educaiton and cultural tastes. 'Video Cartridges: a promise of future shock' Time magazine, 10 August 1970
New markets for 'software' are already opening up in video recorders, big-screen home-TV systems, and pay television—perhaps permitting a shift to lower budget movies. Newsweek, 1978
Millions drew up before the international hearth of television. editorial: 'With Our Own Eyes', New York Times 24 February 1991, about the media coverage o the Allied deadline for Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait
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Page updated 30 November 2013
Compilation and notes David Fisher