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James C. Kincaid

Jenkins in TV-Land

(Summer 1962)

From International Socialism (1st series), No.9, Summer 1962, pp.29-30.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Power Behind the Screen
Clive Jenkins
MacGibbon and Kee. 21s.

This book deals with the interrelation of finance and personnel in the network of companies that operate the commercial TV system in Britain – with the big money in TV, how it is invested, how the profits are made and who gets them. A sinister and fascinating subject, that should have made a powerful socialist book. It is a disappointment to find that Mr. Jenkins has fluffed the apparently unfluffable.

Nearly a third of his pages are given over to lists of other directorships held by directors of companies in the ITV business. If it was thought worth printing all these lists in extenso, they might at least have been tucked away in an appendix. As it is, they are scattered through the book like hedges in a steeplechase.

The rest of the book is mainly a tissue of quotations about ITV, drawn from newspapers and interviews. As presented here, the debate is between, on the one hand, the prim deplorers of low cultural standards on the media, and on the other, the robber barons who claim not only to be virtuously loading their programmes with unprofitable culture and religion, but also to be democratically serving up only the rubbish the public wants. The voice of the viewer is not heard in Mr. Jenkins’s pages.

Mr. Jenkins wants to nationalise the lot, but leaves his lists and quotations to argue for him. Capitalists do not condemn themselves out of their own mouths, for they do not raise the relevant issues. Nor can we rely on Mr. Mayhew to put a socialist case. Mr. Jenkins has not written a book, but published a pre-book. Raw data is no substitute for analysis and reasoned argument.

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