The four-fold advantage over a conventional 4 m reflector which naive information theory confers on the 1.2 m UK Schmidt telescope (Dawe and Watson 1982, Watson 1983) is only approachable in practice under certain rather specific conditions. These relate principally to the surface distribution on the sky of the object classes of interest, and the type of detection employed. Clearly, for general survey work with sky-limited photographic detection, the information advantage is high, but it can be demonstrated (Dawe and Watson 1983) that the relatively new technique of multi-object fibre-optics spectroscopy (eg Hill et al. 1980, 1982, Gray 1983, Lund and Enard 1983) with linear detectors offers very high potential in certain regimes of operation. In particular, the UK Schmidt telescope (UKST) equipped with 400 fibre channels has four times the effective light grasp (= number of fibres utilized × aperture) of a 4 m reflector (with a 1 deg field and equipped with any number of fibres) for target objects with surface densities between approximately 1 and 10 per square degree (Dawe and Watson 1983). Objects ranging from galactic variable stars to quasars lie within these limits, but of especial interest are galaxies, whose apparent luminosity function in this range of surface densities runs from magnitudes 15 to 17 (MacGillivray, private communication). Large-scale, medium accuracy (60 km s−1) redshift surveys of galaxies within this magnitude range promise to be extremely fruitful (Davis 1982) and are easily within the reach of the UKST fibre-coupled to a CCD spectrograph (Watson and Dawe 1984).