Intertel is a project for international understanding through television which this year (1965) won a Peabody America’s premier television trophy, for its concept of international communications.
The full title is the International Television Federation. Its members are National Educational Television and the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company America, the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and Rediffusion Television Ltd.
‘Children of Revolution’ has two roots. One leads back to the rather high flown language of the formal Agreement setting up Intertel in 1960; the other to a decision made by the Intertel Council in 1963. The preamble to the Agreement contains the following words:
‘The four parties to this Agreement in a spirit of public service desire to use their facilities for the production, transmission and distribution of high quality television programmes for the common good among the English-speaking peoples of the world and to this end have agreed to form an Association for the purpose of promoting through television a wider knowledge of contemporary world affairs and a better mutual understanding of world problems.’ Since 1960 programmes have been made in North America, Western Europe, Africa, the Near East, the Far East, Latin America, Australasia, the Pacific Islands, even Antarctica, but none in the Communist countries of Eastern Europe or in Russia. Although there were good practical reasons why this was so, it represented nevertheless a major gap in a series specifically dedicated to promoting ‘a wider knowledge of contemporary world affairs and a better mutual understanding of world problems.’
Most societies seek the truth about their young people. Czechoslovakia is no exception. Yet the greatest wish of the two young lovers at the top of this page is simple – to be left alone like other young lovers the world over. As children perhaps they were brought up in an institutional home like the children pictured above so that their mothers could go out to work. But Czechoslovakia is discovering that institutions do not necessarily satisfy a child’s emotional needs. There can be distressing scenes like the one on the right when a child is transferred from one ‘home’ to another, from one sobbing ‘mother’ to a new one.
Thus when in November 1963 the Intertel Council, meeting at the Anglo-American Conference Centre at Ditchley Park, near Oxford, decided a group of programmes should be made in 1964-5 on social themes and allocated to Rediffusion the subject of ‘Growing Up’, it seemed that here was an opportunity to widen the range of Intertel’s reporting.
As a physical process growing up – from childhood through adolescence into maturity – could be observed anywhere. But in developed communities what is significant and deserving of study is the aspirations of young people in relation to the society in which they live and what that society expects of them. For forms of organization in society, or states, differ more widely than the physical and emotional characteristics of human nature. Our eyes therefore turned towards the Communist states of Eastern Europe where the children of the post-war upheavals had been growing up at a time when the states themselves were also changing and evolving.
As the child grows up the state carefully plans its training and education. Traditional methods are changing. The learning of lessons parrot fashion is dying out. Instead children like those below are being encouraged to think for themselves. This has led to a search for direction which has taken them into some unlikely places. Only a few of the young people in the Roman Catholic church on the right would say they had come for religious reasons. Many would say they’d come to listen to the music. Perhaps, however, they want to see if whatever it is they are looking for might not be found in a church after all.
For the first time in fifteen years there was a choice of location in Eastern Europe. Becoming more certain that enduring systems of government had been established, undergoing economic crises of varying gravity and desperately short of foreign exchange, the countries of Eastern Europe, slowly and hesitantly, had begun to look out from the shadow of Moscow towards the rest of the world. International co-operation still remained more of a catchphrase than a description of working relationships with outside observers, but the changes that circumstances had thrust on the regimes suggested at least the possibility of obtaining the facilities necessary for frank reporting.
White gloves and bow ties, left and below, are startling features of a dancing class in a Communist State where some young people still prepare for the social round in the strictest of bourgeois traditions. Today formal lessons in dancing and etiquette, complete with chaperones – background left – are attended by dress-makers, typists, factory apprentices, mechanics and electrical engineers. Since there’s no private enterprise in Czechoslovakia the dancing master, too, is employed by the state.
In choosing Czechoslovakia we selected the westernmost of the Communist states, with close historical and cultural connections with Western Europe, and an industrially advanced society which offered coherent grounds for comparison. ‘Children of Revolution’ does not spell out these comparisons; nor does it set off young people in Czechoslovakia against a parallel observation of young people in the West. But by concentrating on those aspects of a Communist society which relate to the upbringing of its youth we hope ‘Children of Revolution’ has moved Intertel a step forward in its aim of promoting international understanding through television.
Written and narrated by robert kee
Camera: gilbert knight tony mander jan spata
Sound: don alton freddie slade
Programme organiser reginald courtney-browne
Film editor david gill
Executive producer david windlesham
Director randal beattie
Photographs by Vlasta Gronska