Snoopers on TV? Not on your life!
Express 1 March 1955
Express article

Snoopers on TV? Not on your life!


Cyril Aynsley’s LIFE news backs a ban on too-public lives


Mr Ronnie Waldman, head of BBC television light entertainment, does not believe that viewers in this country will willingly watch the parading of personal emotions on the screen.


He cannot, for instance, see a place in Britain for the popular American programme called “This Is Your Life”.


Briefly, this programme sets a person unexpectedly in front of the cameras and proceeds to fling at him all sorts of intimate details from the past.


The promoters spend vast sums in research and bring people who at one time figured in the “victims” life from all parts of the world.


This revival of forgotten memories can have a dramatic effect and produce terrifying reactions. A colleague of mine saw Bebe Daniels subjected to this refinement of torture in New York last year. He says that she was still trembling hours afterwards.


Ronnie Waldman, on a visit to the States, saw the reunion of some members of a Jewish family who had believed one another to be dead or missing through the European purges.


The cameraman had orders not to miss a single detail of emotion registered in expression or gesture. Mr Waldman was revolted. He flushed indignantly when I suggested that the Pickles programme every other Friday was based on the American one. “You can scotch that rumour once and for all,” he retorted.


I scotch it willingly.


At the same time I pointed out to him that there have been occasions when the Pickles programme walked, as it were, into the bedrooms of people’s lives.


A few weeks ago a wife unexpectedly met the husband whom she believed to be 10,000 miles away in Malaya.


Of this particular incident Mr Waldman said: “We took every precaution. Her own doctor gave us an assurance. And if there had been any distress visible the cameras would have switched away.”


Yet, in the latest Pickles programme, millions of viewers saw a young woman biting her lips to hold back the tears as she met her mother for the first time in two years.


It was a happy occasion. On the screen it was emotionally stark. I would have preferred not to have seen it.


This, of course, is a million miles removed from “This Is Your Life”. But I see it as a dangerous trend. A public addicted to this sort of thing may ask for more.