3 JANUARY 1931, Page 19


[To the Editor of the SPECTATOR.]

SIR, I observe letters from Mr. Leonard Woolf and Mr. St. John Ervine on the difficult and supremely important question of B.B.C. controversy. They refer in particular to India and -Russia. I happen to have some interest in the matter, since I was asked by the educational side of the B.B.C. to help to assemble a series of talks upon Africa. They were delivered this autumn. The work and trouble they caused have gone far to convince me that as a vehicle for real argument the B.B.C. is already dead.

In fact, the B.B.C. is a State organization. Speakers may

say this or may say that. The all-important selection of speakers has been made by the B.B.C. That is to say, by the State. That is to say, by the Government. I found myself embroiled over the African series with certain authorities of the Left. It was useless saying that u pamphlet, for instance, had been written by me, was signed by me, and expressed, not even my policy, but the facts so far as I understood them. The critics very truly replied that the pamphlet was being disseminated through State machinery, which is to say at their expense, and that they proposed to protest as loudly as they possibly could. They objected to the bibliography annexed. I pointed out that it had been compiled by the learned African societies ; they replied that the learned African societies were then at fault. Finally, the list of speakers, they said, was biased. I said it represented an outsider's view of a dozen men and women who would make an interesting group to overhear about Africa. Whereupon they drew up and sent to the Press a letter of protest signed by numerous persons for whom I have much respect.

I have no complaint to make of any kind concerning either the attitude or the action of the signatories. The B.B.C. is a State organization, and is the responsibility of each and every citizen. I have, however, no doubt at all that the long strain of controversy which preceded the final letter to the Press had much to do with subsequent caution on the part of the B.B.C. in the case of India. But the evil is only beginning. The B.B.C. and those who work for it have been plainly warned (and warned by the Left, which is the tragedy of the matter) that a line which does not satisfy everyone will be the occasion of vehement protest on the ground of the responsibility of the State in promulgating certain views. What does this mean ? It means sterility, mediocrity, the dead level. I have seen too many things gutted by public control to have any illusions about the matter. It is, in fact, the reason why we are not Socialists.

—I am, Sir, &c., WALTER ELLIOT. Harwood House, Bonchester Bridge.