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Television and Radio in the United Kingdom

Television and Radio in the United Kingdom

Burton Paulu
Copyright Date: 1981
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 492
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  • Book Info
    Television and Radio in the United Kingdom
    Book Description:

    Television and Radio in the United Kingdom was first published in 1981. Burton Paulu regards British broadcasting as the best in the world, and ascribes controlled competition as the basic reason for its present status. The BBC, the most highly respected of all broadcasting services, benefited from the creation, in 1954, of the commercially-supported Independent Television Authority (now the Independent Broadcasting Authority). Not only did Independent Television provide a second programme source, but it also led to many improvements in the BBC. The two consistently endeavour to outdo the other, but if competition threatens programme standards, the respective governing boards step in to curb excesses. Yet this is done without any loss of editorial freedom. One important result of this regulation is that, despite advertiser pressures the overall programme service of the IBA is much better balanced than that of America’s commercial broadcasters, and advertising interruptions are much better controlled. The book examines British broadcasting’s legal structure, financial basis, personnel policies, and technical facilities with reference to its programme services. Domestic and overseas programmes are described, and the findings of audience research are reviewed.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6398-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    Britons and Americans often discuss each other’s broadcasting—and in the process usually reveal more opinions than understanding. Unfortunately, the purpose of most such exchanges is to prove that one or the other system is ‘better’, rather than to share knowledge on the assumption that broadcasting merits serious discussion. From such debates, neither country learns much about the other’s broadcasting.

    Americans tend to go to extremes in their references to British broadcasting. Admirers of London productions often base their judgements on the exceptional British programmes occasionally carried by American stations, forgetting that these are atypical. (Many Americans, incidentally, credit all...

  5. 2 Constitution of the BBC: Historical Development
    (pp. 5-26)

    The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland includes England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Its total area—94,209 square miles—is approximately that of the American state of Oregon, although its population of 56 million is one-fourth that of the United States.

    Despite the country’s compactness, however, its several sections manifest intense degrees of independence. One would expect Northern Ireland to be affected by the many years of conflict between Ireland and Great Britain, as well as by its own long and bitter internal feuds. But Scotland too insists on its cultural uniqueness and periodically proposes administrative devolution,...

  6. 3 Constitution of the BBC: Operations
    (pp. 27-45)

    The theories underlying the structure of the BBC are important only as they translate into programme services. Above all is the question of whether or not the freedom from government control envisaged by Reith and his successors has been achieved. This chapter deals with the subject in the context of the Corporation’s overall structure; later chapters examine it while reviewing the programmes produced by the organization. Although the BBC is the focal point of the pages that follow, the precedents established by the Corporation before the ITA came on the air now apply to the Authority and its programmes too....

  7. 4 The Development of Televisionin the United Kingdom
    (pp. 46-56)

    The British are proud of their world leadership in television. A Scot working in London was the first person to transmit by radio a picture that moved. Later he was the first man to send a television image across the Atlantic Ocean. But British television’s most distinguished ‘first’ was in the programme field: in 1936 the BBC went on the air with the world’s first regular high-definition television programme service.¹

    Basic experiments in television were conducted in several countries following the discovery of the light-sensitive properties of selenium in 1873.² The most important early British inventor was John Logic Baird—...

  8. 5 The Independent Broadcasting Authority
    (pp. 57-87)

    With the creation of the Independent Television Authority (ITA) in 1954, the BBC faced competition for the first time. The ITA, therefore, was important not only for itself, but also for its influence on the BBC. When set up in 1954, the ITA was authorized to do only television broadcasting, and its programme services,therefore, were known as Independent Television (ITV). When authorized to do radio broadcasting as well , in 1972, its name was changed to the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA).

    Commercial broadcasting came to Britain, not spontaneously in answer to widespread public demand, but because a well-organized pressure group...

  9. 6 The Technical Facilities of British Broadcasting
    (pp. 88-99)

    Engineering is basic to broadcasting. Without transmitters, there can be no broadcasts. Without studios and other originating facilities, there can be no programmes. Unless there is an orderly allocation of radio frequencies and television channels, the best broadcasts would be meaningless jumbles of interfering sounds and pictures. Students of broadcast regulation and programming sometimes mistakenly assume that the electronic problems of broadcasting concern only engineers, whereas, in fact, some knowledge of the technical aspects is essential to an understanding of the social role of radio and television.

    Since broadcast signals do not stop at national boundaries, there must be international...

  10. 7 Finances in British Broadcasting
    (pp. 100-127)

    Independent Television’s programme companies put the facts very succinctly to the Annan Committee in 1975: The ultimate relation between money and programmes is simple: No money, no television service.’¹ More than that,long-range programme policies often are predetermined by the methods of finance employed. Here the United Kingdom provides an interesting case study, since the BBC is supported by annual receiver licence fees, while IBA funds come from advertising.

    The BBC’s current Charter and Licence, repeating essentially the provisions of earlier documents, contain several stipulations about finance.² The Corporation is authorized to receive funds from the government which it then must...

  11. 8 British Broadcasting Personnel
    (pp. 128-152)

    The BBC has many more employees than does Independent Broadcasting. But whereas the Corporation’s entire staff is part of one organization, the people who contribute to IBA productions are divided among the IBA itself, fifteen television programme companies, Independent Television News, a number of radio stations,participating advertising agencies, and the peripheral groups which contribute to the Authority’s output and yet are not a part of it.

    The BBC has more full-time employees than any other broadcasting organization in the world, excepting that of the much larger USSR. As of 31 March 1979, the Corporation had 26,633 employees (17,048 men and...

  12. 9 Programmes: Introduction
    (pp. 153-176)

    The BBC is chartered to ‘provide. . . broadcasting services... for general reception’ because of the ‘great value of such services as means of disseminating information, education and entertainment’.¹ Its Licence requires it to ‘end efficiently programmes in the Home Radio Services, the Television Services, and the External Services’ and specifically to ‘broadcast an impartial account day by day . . . of the proceedings in both Houses of the United Kingdom Parliament’.² This is the extent of the exact programme requirements imposed upon the Corporation by either Charter or Licence, although there are other sections in those documents which...

  13. 10 Programme Standards and Codes
    (pp. 177-188)

    Questions of programme standards are forever encountered in the communicative arts. Such problems faced the Greeks, the Puritans in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the film-makers in the twentieth century, radio broadcasters in the United States since about 1930, and now the world’s telecasters. Well-organized campaigns have been mounted in the United Kingdom and elsewhere charging television with poor taste, bad language, the exploitation of sex and violence, and the undermining of public morality.

    The major theme of this criticism is that the ‘success’ customarily attending aggressive behaviour in mass media fiction (without apparent social disapproval) must surely encourage the...

  14. 11 News Programmes
    (pp. 189-206)

    Programmes involving news and news interpretation, current affairs, controversial issues, and politics are important for their content, and also because they are excellent indications of a country’s attitude towards broadcasting. If any programmes are to be government-controlled, these will be among the first.

    Both the BBC and the IBA assign great importance to news and current affairs.¹ The Corporation gives editorial responsibility for these areas to the Director of News and Current Affairs, since October 1977 a member of the Board of Management, who reports to the Director-General. The Director is responsible for the News Division, which provides radio and...

  15. 12 Current Affairs, Opinions, and Controversy
    (pp. 207-236)

    Programmes of opinion and controversy provide excellent examples of how the scope of British broadcasting has expanded since the days of the British Broadcasting Company in the 1920s. For years the government and the political parties were reluctant to let radio and television deal freely with controversial subjects. There were a number of reasons for this. Fear that the Company—when it was the country’s only broadcasting organization —might be biased was one, although not the major, concern. Some people believed—or at least said they believed —that controversy by radio would be unacceptable in the home.

    The Fourteen-Day Rule...

  16. 13 Talks, Features, and Documentaries
    (pp. 237-249)

    Talks, features, and documentaries are somewhat related types of programmes. As the terms are used by the BBC, a ‘talk’ is a short talk or interview; a ‘feature’ is a programme based on facts which includes some fictional dramatization; and a ‘documentary’ is based entirely on actuality recordings, with no fictional additions of any sort. These three types of programmes are significant parts of British broadcasting.

    Although talks are not as important in British radio today as they were in earlier years, they still are broadcast regularly, especially by Radios 2, 3, and 4. Their subject range is as broad...

  17. 14 Educational Broadcasting
    (pp. 250-273)

    All programmes provide some combination of information and education, although the term ‘educational broadcasting’ is never applied to the total output. The BBC has observed that for ‘many people... broadcasting in one form or another may be the main educative influence in their lives’. It told the Annan Committee that ‘educational’ broadcasting is ‘far richer’ than either ‘instructional’ or ‘educative’ broadcasting the latter including drama, current affairs, documentary programmes and news. The chief aim of ‘educational broadcasting’, stated the Corporation, is to ‘stimulate the listener to further activity and participation’. However this may be, both BBC and IBA apply the...

  18. 15 Religious Broadcasting
    (pp. 274-287)

    In Britain, religious broadcasting is almost as old as radio itself. The British Broadcasting company made its first religious broadcast on Christmas Eve 1922, 6weeks after beginning regular daily operations, and several weeks before receiving its first Licence on 18 January 1923,¹ and a short religious service has been broadcast by the Corporation every day since January 1928. The fact that the first director, John Reith, was the son of a Scottish minister undoubtedly contributed to the emphasis placed first by the Company and then by the Corporation on religion.

    Religious broadcasting—along with other religious activities—continues,despite periodic reiterations...

  19. 16 Drama, Films, and Light Entertainment
    (pp. 288-305)

    One expects—and—gets good drama both from the BBC and the IBA. The basic reason for this far antedates broadcasting: a long tradition of excellent stage and radio drama underlies today’s television drama successes.

    The BBC is instructed by its charter to disseminate not only ‘information’ and ‘education’, but also ‘entertainment’, and drama might fall into any of these categories. The law for the IBA, in almost identical phrasing, states that the Authority is to disseminate ‘information, education and entertainment’, while maintaining ‘a proper balance and wide range in subject-matter’.¹ The Corporation believes it has the

    duty ... to...

  20. 17 Children’s Programmes
    (pp. 306-318)

    The many critics of children’s broadcasts in the United States would heartily endorse the way such programmes are produced in the United Kingdom. Back in 1949, the BBC wrote that its Children’s Hour tried ‘to entertain the children in a stimulating way, guiding their reading, encouraging their various interests and including Christian principles of love of God and of their neighbour’.¹ Although the radio Children’s Hour was discontinued in 1964, when its audience left it for television, the BBC now offers the children responsible and well-produced television programmes. ITV’s performance has wavered at times, but its current record is good....

  21. 18 Outside Broadcasts and Sports
    (pp. 319-327)

    When the British refer to an outside broadcast—usually abbreviated ‘OB’—they mean a programme originating outside a studio. Because the origination point is remote from—or away from a studio, such a programme is called a ‘remote broadcast’ or a ‘remote’ in the United States. Outside broadcasts can be dividedinto two categories: public events and sports.

    BBC radio’s Sport and Outside Broadcasts Department is responsible for all radio sports programmes, as well as for all other outside broadcasts, and the BBC television Outside Broadcasts Group assumes similar responsibilities.¹ These departments also provide technical facilities for outside broadcasts by...

  22. 19 Music
    (pp. 328-340)

    Britain’s broadcasters deserve high marks for their musical programmes. In the that follow, the BBC will be mentioned more frequently than the IBA, the Corporation’s much more extensive radio facilities lend themselves so to music transmissions, and because its having two television networks the televising of more music than did ITV’s single network. But the IBA broadcasts music on both television and radio, for which all due credit should given.*

    In its 1976 handbook the Corporation stated that its music policy

    is based upon the aims of excellence of performance, enterprise in presentation variety of content. The repertoire ranges from...

  23. 20 Audience Research
    (pp. 341-372)

    In April 1975 the British Broadcasting Corporation told the Annan Committee that keep in touch with its public it conducted audience research; analysed programme mail; appointed advisory committees; maintained continuing contacts Parliament and other national bodies; dispersed publicity; arranged public lectures; issued publications like theRadio TimesandThe Listener; and had a Programmes Complaints Commission.¹ Had the IBA submitted a comparable memorandum to the Annan Committee, it probably would have said about the same things.

    Despite various attempts by the broadcasting organizations to keep informed about audience reactions, the Annan Committee began its chapter on ‘Broadcasting and the Public’...

  24. 21 External Broadcasting
    (pp. 373-394)

    The British Broadcasting Corporation’s coat of arms is inscribed: ‘Nation shall Speak Peace unto Nation’. This motto suggests a familiar Biblical quotation. Isaiah 2:4 reads: ‘And he shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plough shares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.’ That phrase was adopted as its motto several years before the Corporation began regular broadcasts for overseas audiences, a decade before World War II brought international broadcasting to a high peak of development, and 20 years before the Cold...

  25. 22 Commentary
    (pp. 395-400)

    British broadcasting is done by and for Britons, and cannot be judged properly except in its own context. Nevertheless, because I believe that the United Kingdom better served by the BBC and the IBA than is the United States by its combined commercial and public systems, I shall conclude this examination of British broadcasting by drawing some comparisons between it and broadcasting in the United States.¹

    Obviously, British broadcasting is not perfect, and American broadcasting has achievements. The latter provides much enjoyable entertainment, good sports coverage, and some excellent news and public affairs. For the most part, major programmes of...

  26. Notes
    (pp. 401-448)
  27. Bibliography
    (pp. 449-465)
  28. Index
    (pp. 466-476)