Does an art form that consists of sound really need to be seen at all? A strong argument for the case against is that, in most cases, TV is an inferior medium for transmitting noise. Until the advent of massive, amplified home cinema screens, most television speakers were tinny and, even now, most people will be watching the Proms on older sets or laptops or other devices that are engineered more towards a visual than an auditory experience. So, even with the carefully calibrated acoustics of the hall in which the event is recorded, the majority of viewers will hear the music at far below CD quality, which seems rather like putting theatre productions on TV with the curtain half down.
But, though a televised concert will generally involve losses for the ear, the eye makes great gains. As a non-musically trained consumer of classical music, much of my education in appreciating the structure of a piece comes from the cutaways and closeups selected by the director. Just as Britten’s piece separates and highlights the different groups and individuals among the musicians, so a camera script highlights soloists, sections and reveals the architecture of a composition in a way that no mere hearing — or even presence in a concert hall, where our perspective is limited by seat and sight — could.
Even with a solo instrumentalist, where the sound is localised, television brings benefits.