A Landmark Broadcast Revisited: 'Our World'
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
Forty years ago today, a worldwide audience of 400 million people gathered around their TV sets. They were watching a milestone, a live globetrotting TV program designed to show off the new capabilities of satellites.
(Soundbite of TV broadcast)
Unidentified Man #1: Now, all across the Pacific, on from Sunday into Monday, across the International Dateline on our 4,000-mile journey forward into Asia.
BRAND: The hour and a half broadcast was called "Our World." It delivered a landmark musical moment, and it raised questions about how we connect, and about instant global communication, questions we still have.
Here's DAY TO DAY'S senior producer Steve Proffitt.
STEVE PROFFITT: "Our World" was the brainchild of BBC television producer Aubrey Singer, who died just last month. It was an ambitious effort that required the participation of almost 10,000 people, from camera operators to translators.
Unidentified Man #2: This is Tokyo, the capital of Japan. It's 20 minutes past 4:00 a.m. on Monday morning, and it's raining.
PROFFITT: "Our World" touched down in 19 different countries, always live, focusing on ordinary people across the globe, like a pair of Melbourne, Australia tram conductors, Irena and Bill.
Unidentified Man #2: Like Tokyo, most of the city is still fast asleep. But already some of the early workers are out on the street, waiting for Irena and Bill.
PROFFITT: The celebrated media critic Marshall McLuhan considered the broadcast as evidence for his theory that the world was becoming a global village. He also saw it as a revolutionary kind of television.
Mr. MARSHALL MCLUHAN (Media Critic): People will be drawn into it as participants. Whereas they are merely viewing themselves as spectators at the moment.
PROFFITT: Along with introducing that concept of the global village, McLuhan coined the phrase the medium is the message. In an interview that ran as a prelude to "Our World," he talked about how that dominant medium of the day - television - was changing an entire generation and creating a gap between the younger people and their elders.
Mr. McLUHAN: The TV generation of kids have a completely different set of perceptions from their parents. This strange new all-at-once situation in which everybody experiences everything all at once creates this kind of X-ray mosaic of involvement and participation for which people are just not prepared.
PROFFITT: Now remember, this was 40 years ago. McLuhan was already pondering many of the questions about media and technology that we're still fumbling with today, concerns about information saturation, generational rifts, and an increasing divide between the haves and the have-nots.
(Soundbite of "Our World")
Unidentified Man #3: Thank you, John. That's fine. I think that will do for the vocal backing very nicely. We'll get the musicians in now.
PROFFITT: But television, then as now, needed a happy ending. "Our World"'s producers knew just how to engineer that show-stopping final act.
(Soundbite of music)
PROFFITT: A fleet of cameras captured the action at Abbey Road Studios, where the four members of the Beatles accompanied by a small orchestra premiered a song that would go on to become an anthem.
(Soundbite of song, "All You Need is Love")
PROFFITT: It's said that John Lennon only finished the lyrics for this song a few hours before the broadcast. And it would be the last time that the Beatles would appear together on live television.
(Soundbite of song, "All You Need is Love")
Mr. JOPHN LENNON (The Beatles): (Singing) There's nothing you can do that can't be done. Nothing...
PROFFITT: Forty years later, the Beatles performance is pretty much all anyone remembers from the "Our World" show. But as much as anything, the broadcast can now be seen as a turning point, the place where we began to realize that while technology could make the world smaller, that didn't necessarily mean it would be easier to understand.
Steve Proffitt, NPR News.
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