Viewers into voters

Granada and party conferences

Viewers into voters
30 August 1963


The holidays, sun-drenched or rain-soaked, are ending. It is back to work for miners and fashion models, for stockbrokers and ’busmen; and for politicians. Those who go in for politics most intensively – the 630 MPs, the active minority of the Peers – are still in recess: the Palace of Westminster slumbers, its Gothic dream broken only by the footsteps of an occasional tourist crocodile. But the MPs (and those who hope to supplant them) are already busy up and down the land; for this is the last long break before the next General Election.

For the same reason, there will be exceptional interest, not only among politicians, in the coming series of annual party conferences. It is fashionable to deplore electoral apathy; yet, in 1959, 78.7% of those entitled to vote took the trouble to do so. This time, something like forty-five million men and women will be on the voters’ registers; and several million of these will be young people voting for the first time. They will soon be starting to think not merely whether but which way to vote.

If any voter could attend all the conferences, he might be able to weigh up the parties’ claims objectively. Only political correspondents can do that (and not all newspapers are strictly objective!) The next best thing is to see and hear as much of them as possible on television – both the live transmission of the daytime sessions and edited extracts and interviews in the evenings.

For half-a-century the British people have had some sort of pictorial coverage of these conferences. But newspaper and newsreel pictures have focused mainly on the promenade rather than the conference-hall: statesmen paddling or licking candy-floss, or arm-in-arm in jocund unity, have more ‘still’ news-value than the rostrum and the delegates’ reactions.

It was for television to explore fully the human and social drama of the actual conference proceedings. This was done for the first time last year, when Granada broadcast, live and almost in full, the TUC Conference at Blackpool, the Liberal Party Assembly and Conservative Party Conference at Llandudno and the Labour Party Conference at Brighton.

The experiment was, by general consent, successful. ‘Ordinary’ viewers, as well as the keen minority, found these direct glimpses of politics in the raw unexpectedly fascinating. Nor did speakers show off to the cameras: they were far more conscious of the visible — sometimes turbulent – audience within a few yards of them than of the unseen millions.

Many who have already decided how to vote at the coming Election will want to confirm their judgment by watching as much as they can of this year’s conferences. For the uncommitted – the vitally important ‘floating voters’ – these TV dates are a must.

Granada TV will broadcast live transmissions from:

TUC Conference Brighton Sept 2—6

Liberal Party Assembly Brighton Sept 11—14

Labour Party Conference Scarborough Sept 30—Oct 4

Conservative Party Conference Blackpool Oct 9—12

Televise Parliament? Write Granada TV Manchester 3 for free copy ‘Prelude to Westminster’.

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