GILBERT HARDING was not only the first TV man, he was the first two-way TV man.
A friend remembers him “watching and arguing with the television.” He would carry on these one-way discussions with whomever it was he happened to be watching and get quite violent about it. I remember him having a set-to like that with Cliff Michelmore and then, when the programme was finished, he phoned up Michelmore and continued the argument in person. People have always talked to television; it is just that television has not always listened.
Following Peter Fiddick’s programme on Two Way Television, Brass Tacks (BBC-2) was something like three-sided television. Brass Tacks is transmitted live. Then all the BBC’s local radio stations run phone-ins – most the same night, some less enthusiastically the next morning. Finally on Monday, Return Call will report the audience reaction in a 10-minute programme just before midnight. To me that suggests a disappointing dwindle with the Brass Tacks bellow tailing away to a whisper.
The urgent desire of the TV audience to discuss what they have seen has been all too obvious in ordinary late night phone-ins when the dialogue tends to go something like this:
“I say, did you see that thing on television tonight about pigs?”
“Well it was fantastic.”
The chap on radio has never seen that thing on television. He has been working on radio all night. The TV critics’ only reason for existing is of someone who has seen that thing on television.
It Shouldn’t Happen to a Pig, the first Brass Tacks programme, was not so much an eye-opener as a stomach turner. It was a blast of the trumpet against the monstrous regimentation of animals.
It was an intense and incensed and rather unbalanced confrontation between the organic farmers, perched somewhat lovably on bales of hay, and the chairman of the Poultry Marketing Association, made as a wet hen in the studio.
It Shouldn’t Happen to a Pig was an electronic emetic. You either phoned up or you threw up.
9 May 1979