15 AUGUST 1958, Page 17

Letters to the Editor

Forty-ninth Network Paul Tabori Journalists v. Critics Kenneth Allsop The Middle East Major J. A. Friend The Church of England and Divorce Sir Shane Leslie The Welsh Party Douglas Stuckey Transistors M. G. Scroggie Council Houses John Collinson Taper I. C. Maxwell

Succession at Canterbury Rev. Barry Till

BBC's Middle East Round-up R. B. Thompson

Holiday Questions J. A. B. Hamilton Rex Whistler Laurence Whistler

Waster de la Mare Mrs. Florence Thompson FORTY-NINTH NETWORK

SIR,—We are most grateful for Mr. Peter Forster's fair and clear summary of the case against the pre- dominance of American filmed programmes on the ITA stations. We would like to assure him and your readers that the campaign started by us is quite un- connected with any newspaper or other group. It is simply the result of four years' frustration and chicanery. Having lost the battle of the cinema, we feel that Britain should at least claim a share in the creative fields of television..

American film programmes are bought by 1TA con- tractors not because they are necessarily better than any native product but because, having earned their production cost several times over, they are much cheaper. Even so, their choice often shows an appal- ling lack of judgment and taste..

The British Screen and Television Writers' Associa- tion is waging a campaign against two serious abuses. One is the prevalence of American filmed programmes on our TV screens. This point Mr. Forster has covered admirably. The Other is the ridiculous pretence that American TV films made in this country are British. Every possible device is used to make them appear so—as far as the writers are concerned. Real or imaginary names are put to. scripts imported from America; often writers' names arc not even listed in the TV Times.. British writers are employed at starva- tion wages to `cover up.' There is no British owned, British conceived or executed television film series in this country; and Sir Robert Fraser has lent himself as a front-man to these practices.

Up to now he has not given any answer to our• contention that the Television Act is directly con- travened. Instead he has used the red herring of live TV shows of which a large proportion are being written by British authors. This, however, is no answer at all. In the first place, the recent fracas about Sid Caesar's material being used by another, British, comic has revealed the fact that live scripts are also imported. Secondly, live television, because of its extremely low budgets, hamstring the writer—and, like a mule, it has no posterity. A single performance and a single low fee are all the writer gets out of it; there are very few cases in which a live show is repeated.

Our campaign has been accused of an anti- American bias. This is not true. In fact, we are closely co-operating with our American colleagues who are alarmed at the 'colonialism' of American TV pro- ducers working in Britain and Europe. The American Writers' Guild has won, after a long battle, a fair minimum standard agreement for its members. British writers, forced to become scab-labour. arc under- mining it, completely against their wishes. Joint action is contemplated to end this intolerable situa- tion.

ITA. Sir Robert Fraser and the American producers in this country also contend that British writers are incapable of writing for the American market. This is nonsense. Scores of our members have sold their original material or written scripts directly for Ameri- can networks and production companies and have received the same fees as their American colleagues. It is only in Britain that writers are exploited and the floodgates of cheap and often inferior American TV films have been opened.—Yours faithfully.

PAUL. TABOR! International Secretary British Screen and Television Writers' Association 7 Harley Street, W1