Toll TV In Canada, Success or Failure?

NEW YORK – Phil Harling, chairman of the Theatre Owners of America Anti Toll TV Committee, reported at a press conference following a trip to the Toronto suburb of Etobicoke to observe the Telemeter experiment in action, that he and his committee will continue to oppose the invasion of the rights of the public with every means at their disposal. Not only will opposition be voiced to the Telemeter operation, but to any system of toll TV.

Exhibitors everywhere will be urged to get out and seek support of the Harris Bill, which is in committee in Congress, and would stringently regulate all forms of pay TV in the public interest. It will safeguard free TV.

Regarding the Telemeter test, he opined that it was what the public is getting today so why should they have to pay for it? It’s too early to judge whether pay TV will be successful, but he thought that in view of Skiatron and Zenith having indicated a possibility of selling advertising during their presentation, he wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Telemeter also include advertising in a possible search for extra revenue.

Harling said that he spoke to ordinary citizens in Toronto who didn’t know either the experiment was good or not, but most say that it was too expensive and they wouldn’t take it on.

He compared the Toronto experiment to the one in Bartlesville, Okla., which was a failure. He thought that this one would go by the boards as well.

He conferred with theatre organization representatives in Canada. They were very anxious to adopt a pattern of similar opposition there except that they don’t have a regulatory agency on the order of the FCC. If they had better regulation there, things such as the Telemeter experiment would not have come to pass. A possible appeal to public groups may yet see some sort of regulation coming into the picture to help free TV, Harling said.

He didn’t know how the film companies felt about the project despite their providing film for the test. He didn’t think that they were ready to abandon their theatre runs of toll TV at present. The film that was provided so far was not a true test of pay TV versus the theatre because practically all the films had already played theatres in the area. Harling felt that if the Telemeter experiment gets underway in the borough of Queens in New York City, it is expected that pressure will be brought to seek enforcement of covering city regulations. He knows that the film companies are out to make money, but there’s still two and a half billions in vested in theatres. This deserves some protection, he said.

The Other Side of the Coin – Novins

Louis Novins, president Telemeter, reported that requests for new installations are still coming in large numbers, with the total already in operation at over 3,000.The only thing holding up further installations at a more rapid rate was a shortage of time and trained personnel, not units, which are in adequate supply. He estimated that come fall, 40,000 units should be in operation.

He expected the Queens operation to get underway within a year.

Novins discounted the reaction of Harling to the Canadian operation stating that he was not exactly unprejudiced in his appraisal. He preferred the competent opinions of qualified reporters, who have termed the operational as successful.

Regarding the rallying of exhibitors, Novins stated that it was about time that exhibitors stopped made into suckers by TV interests which are giving away the product for nothing. Instead, they should look ahead and extend their theatres electronically to include Telemeter’s entertainment at home.

As regards to use of advertising on Telemeter, Novins stated that there is a clause in every agreement covering franchise operations which specifically prohibits the use of advertising.

Regarding the Harling comparison with Bartlesville, Novins opined that if he’s so certain that Telemeter operation will be as unsuccessfully, the why doesn’t he conserve his money and energy for his theatre operations. They two systems, Bartlesville and Toronto, are as different as are motion pictures and television, Novins stated.