Sight And Sound, Daily Racing Form, 1959-05-08


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"wwi"i«mim SIGHT AND SOUND * £* msm™, NEW YORK, May 7.— "Right, Wrong-Just So Youre Alive." Thats the tile of a discourse delivered the other day by Stockton Helffrich, officially known as the director of the con- tinuity acceptance department of NBC, and unofficially functioning as that networks built-in, do-it-yourself censor of all things that go out on the NBC air. Mr. Helffrich was speaking at a convocation of American Women in Radio and Television on the duties and responsibilities of his office, and how lit tle his work is appreciated by those most concerned — the people who put on the programs. AAA "A fairly recent joke," said Mr. Helffrich, "sums up things the best. There was a man with his back to a wall, facing a firing squad. The guns of the squad were leveled at him, the order to fire was imminent. At that point the victim thumbed his nose at his executioners. The squad captain withheld the firing order — ordered the rifles lowered, in fact — and went up to this character. You trying to get into MORE trouble?" he asked. AAA Damned if he does, and damned if he doesnt, Mr. Helffrich walks a knifedge line of decision in his daily toil. If he does something, or refrains from doing something, thats called "editorial responsibility" in some quarters. If, by the same token, there are people displeased by either his action or lack of action, thats termed "meddling censorship." AAA "We admit," said Mr. Helffrich, "to assorted faults, bad judgments, sporadic -mistakes and all that sort of thing. We do not, however, admit to guilt in regard to some of the challenges brought our way. When it is charged that television is invading the classroom as well as the home, a lot of us are inclined to observe, So? Thats bad? Its for free, and it has some wonderful stuff on it . . . Other brickbats lately include the charge that the hold-up of a commuter bus in New Jersey must be laid squarely at the feet of the television Westerns, as must juenvile delinquency generally, violence anywhere, worldwide human captiousness and stupidity and so on and so on and so on. AAA "Now really — critics of that ilk ought to come oft it. William S. Hart had his troubles with the hold-up set long before the New Jersey police. The inspiration to get something for nothing, at the expense of somebody else, considerably pre-dates television. Just as it pre-dated radio, just as it pre-dated silent and then sound film, literature, cave writing and other lively arts." AAA Whereupon Mr. Helffrich cited some of the obstacles he and his colleagues are up against. Let somebody on the air say, "Please omit flowers," and theres a protest from an organization of florists. Mention the term "coffee break," and theres a squawk from bottlers of carbonated beverages. The other night, H. Allen Smith, on the David Susskind progam on WNTA-TV, was reminded of a strong protest against the word "plastered" when referring to somebody who had imbibed a bit too much. Plasterers working on construction projects deemed the word opprobious. AAA "How does all this table relate to all of us rather than just to anything broadcast censors may or may not be doing?" asked Mr. Helffrich rhetorically. "Simply this: broadcasting radio or television is irretrievably interlaced throughout the lives of all of us. Radio and television are terribly important to all of us. No matter what we in the business do, we are bound to please and / or displease, and unevenly at that. Being human t is fairly logical we broadcasters will do our best to please, with regard both to popular demand and to a standard, or ideal, arbitrarily set up to guide us. AAA I "We who specifically are censors, seem pretty much to have come to the view that the audacities of a Steve Allen or a George Gobel, or a Mort Sahl or an Ed Murrow, are refreshing and desirable because of a basic appeal to our common sense. The fact that they do not touch Continued on Page Forty-Four I SIGHT AND SOUND I By LEO MISHKIN Continued from Page Two upon the common sense of every one, and do bring criticism, hardly suggests that the industry should quail before criticism and revert to mere duplication of that which is safe. There is a place for the staples, the safe and the reliable; there is also a place for the calcuated risks, for living dangerously for giving evidence that being grown up generally is not reprehensible . . . A closing word. One of our editors has tacked on her desk a little card that says, Life aint all that you want, but its all that you can have. So stick a geranium in your at and be appy."

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