Television and the Cultural Revolution: the BBC under Hugh Carleton Greene

Waymark, Peter Astley Grosvenor (2006). Television and the Cultural Revolution: the BBC under Hugh Carleton Greene. PhD thesis The Open University.



Historians have argued that from the late 1950s Britain underwent a 'cultural revolution', a fundamental and lasting change in attitudes and beliefs which saw a questioning of established authority and institutions and a liberalisation of social controls in areas such as censorship, abortion and homosexuality. Few areas of cultural production were left untouched but while there has been scholarly work on the 'new' drama and 'new wave' cinema, the role of television has been largely ignored in academic writing. This thesis attempts to fill the gap. Although there is an assessment of the degree to which the BBC was responding to changes in society before the 1960s, the focus is on the Director-Generalship of Hugh Carleton Greene (1960-69) which has become associated with encouraging more liberal attitudes within the corporation. The extent of Greene's own contribution is one of the themes. The approach is that of the empiricist historian, starting from evidence rather than theory, and the thesis is largely based on primary material from the BBC's Written Archives, the National Archives and personal papers. Case studies of programmes such as That Was the Week That Was, The War Game, Up the Junction and Till Death Us Do Part highlight the challenges they posed to BBC practice and how these were negotiated. There is an examination of areas resistant to change, such as The Black and White Minstrel Show and the BBC's coverage of the monarchy, and of relations between the BBC and two of its strongest critics, Mary Whitehouse on morality and Harold Wilson on politics. Overall the thesis seeks to show how and to what extent the BBC responded to the cultural revolution and to assess the degree to which the corporation's policies and practices changed in the process.

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