27 JANUARY 1956, Page 8

A Spectator's Notebook

`I WONDER, SIR, if you would not agree that we might profitably advance from violent generalisations about the Independent Television Authority programmes to the civi- lised business of taking a quiet look at the facts.' How smoothly persuasive was Sir Robert Fraser's preface to his defence of the 1TA in The Times! The truth is, his facts were quite irrelevant. His method was to try to prove that commercial television is devoting as much time as the BBC to serious matters, for example in news, politics, other current affairs, and classical music. But nobody has denied the superiority of the Independent Television News. Our own criticism was simply that having established this admirable service, the ITA has been prepared to let it slide. Hence Mr. Aidan Crawley's resig- nation. To consider the programme Free Speech as a serious contribution to politics is perhaps just permissible, but Sir Robert neglected to mention that ATV is longing to take it off. The Scientist Replies, the one solitary example of 'other current affairs' programmes that Sir Robert can find, actually is being taken off. But in any case, his comparisons were foolish— putting the Hanes weekly pot-pourri, for example, in the same class as the BBC's Concert Hour. The only 'reasonable answer to criticisms which the ITA has produced so far is that the new service has only just started. If it had started badly, and was now slowly improving, this would be reason- able. But in fact it started fairly well, and has gone downhill. I wonder how Sir Robert Fraser would conduct the civilised business of taking a quiet look at that incontrovertible fact.