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Now and Then: Huw Wheldon (1968)


Main image of Now and Then: Huw Wheldon (1968)
28 June 1968
16mm, colour, 20 mins
Production CompanyAdanac Productions
ProducersBernard Braden
 Barbara Kelly
PhotographyRichard Bayley

Barbara Kelly interviews the producer turned senior BBC executive.

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Having risen through the ranks of production to become director of BBC Television in 1968, Huw Wheldon was uniquely placed to comment on the past, present and future of television, as he does in this interview.

Filmed shortly after the launch of a regular colour service on BBC2, Wheldon discusses possible technological advances in broadcasting and the impact these may have on the quality and content of programmes. Describing himself as an editor rather than a 'planner', Wheldon positions himself as editor-in-chief of BBC Television, outlining the balance and variety of programming so that one imagines him constructing BBC television output as a whole in much the same way as he edited the celebrated arts series Monitor (BBC, 1958-65).

Covering the extension of broadcasting hours, the future of satellite television, the role of writers in British television and the effect of international news reportage on the public, the interview efficiently gathers the opinions of one of broadcasting's most important figures just as British television was poised for yet further change. Wheldon explores the technical and aesthetic impact of the arrival of colour, and wryly comments that the format of the interview is forcing him to be boastful about the BBC.

He aligns the BBC with the Post Office and Shakespeare, explaining his strong views on public service broadcasting with humour and precision while acknowledging that his speculations about the future of television could prove entirely incorrect. As it stands, Wheldon's theories remain astute and the questions posed to him about public service content and funding are still salient. It is, however, difficult to imagine a contemporary BBC executive announcing, "When I see people in any kind of way being anti-BBC I just think, 'well, what the hell!'"

Lisa Kerrigan

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Video Clips
Complete unedited interview (19:34)
Wheldon, Sir Huw (1916-1986)
Now and Then (1967-68)