PDF Independent Television in Britain: Politics and Control 1968–80

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If You Were Me was conceptually linked to the concept of Town Twinning, on which school exchange schemes and pen-friend relationships between children were often built. Twinning had been set up in after the Second World War to foster friendship and understanding between former enemies, and to encourage trade and tourism. It was a high-profile means to create European identity by acknowledging and repudiating national conflicts, featuring twinning between cities devastated by war like Coventry in the UK, Dresden in Germany and Stalingrad in the USSR, for example.

The institutional structure underpinning the programme was the EBU, whose unstated ideology regarding childhood was influenced by West European concepts of public service, supporting programme-making for children and programmes for adults that encouraged pro-social values and developmental goals as well as entertainment.

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But it was only in such contexts affected by this quasi-pedagogical, public service ideology that this approach to childhood prevailed. The British team co-produced one-off, half-hour long films with foreign programme-makers, who shot film abroad and then dubbed it with English voice-over. Children to Children was made in the same way, but with the theme of childhood linking the films. The children studied the town from the perspectives of each curriculum subject, through geography, history, mathematics and poetry, for example. The unusual methods she used were versions of topic-based group work and experiential learning that were not unusual in Montessori education, for example, and were already infusing teaching in British state education.

But the diversity of the films it comprised implicitly undercut its comparative project, despite being politically and aesthetically adventurous. The TV Times highlighted its aesthetic qualities, and the relationship between a supposed childhood unconscious and the material conditions affecting children:. Beautiful photography combined with a penetrating script bring an uncanny reality to the inside minds of children.

If the viewer becomes lulled into a sense of security by what seems pleasant on the face of things, this may be shattered into the reality of modern day living when the subconscious mind of a child is revealed. The film adopts a politics of the unconscious and of childhood reminiscent of the versions of Freudianism adopted around by figures such as R.


Laing, and links this to a political drive for social and political change. The film had no spoken commentary, but original background music instead. Like other film-makers of the Polish School of Documentary, she sought opportunities to break away from observational style, and the adoption of the structural motif of a montage referencing a photograph album seems calculated to oppose the linear narrative expected of socialist realism.

The focus on childhood enabled formal experimentation, and a degree of political resistance made possible because the programme appeared not to confront Polish domestic politics directly. It focused on five students in a suburban New York progressive school, who were shown using recently available home video camera and recorder technology to make personal documentary features about black consciousness-raising, war and peace, drug use and immigration. In this fifth episode of Children to Children , Tosheva gathered ten boys and girls aged between three and seven, who had never met before, and their parents.

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Childhood can be identified, investigated and evaluated by television, but it is not universal and television represents national and local difference in how childhoods can be lived and shown. Because there are differences between kinds of childhood lived both in familiar British contexts and in overseas ones, television representation implicitly recognizes some resistance in childhood to the project of satisfactorily documenting it. Front Matter Pages i-ix. Television and Society in the s. Pages Recession and the Levy. Trouble at London Weekend.


Parliamentary Investigation. The Fruits of Derestriction. The Authority. Commercial television was a disruptive force, generating a protracted debate across both culture and polity. Advertising agencies played a careful game, publicaly distancing themselves from the brasher forms of advertising that characterised American television and working behind the scenes to further their interests. Thus professional bodies such as the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising IPA backed the commercial subsidy of television rather than the system of sponsored television that had been adopted on the other side of the Atlantic; stations were responsible for producing programmes and creating audiences in Britain p.

As Nixon underlines, the IPA eventually negotiated a deal with the Independent Television Contractors Association that allowed its members to effectively monopolise television advertising; agencies conducted 94 per cent of the business by the early s p.

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The popular press was also divided about television advertising; the Daily Express was against, for instance, while the more working-class Daily Mirror was in favour. Consumers had mixed feelings too, liking some aspects and disliking others, such as the way advertisements often interrupted programmes at inappropriate times. Nixon uses surveys and qualitative studies undertaken by advertising agencies, as well as letters from individual consumers, to explore the reception of advertising campaigns, particularly for Oxo cubes.

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The increasing salience of advertising prompted attacks from intellectual and political elites and this controversy prompted government scrutiny by various committees of inquiry headed by Sir Harry Pilkington, J. Molony and Lord Reith. After the Molony Committee reported, the Advertising Standards Authority was established to further strengthen the policing of television advertisements. However, puritans underestimated the emotional and symbolic appeal of goods to consumers, according to Nixon, unlike advertising people who understood these aspects very well indeed, which was why their vision won out.

Sounding a cautionary note in his conclusion, Nixon ruefully observes how mass consumerism has generated contradictions that continue to trouble us today, especially the reduction of the idea of the good life and individual freedom to the acquisition of material goods. However, his treatment of them is somewhat partial and rather slight at times.

The influence of the British documentary tradition is a fascinating suggestion, but is not adequately demonstrated in the text.

The focus on JWT London is understandable but more detailed consideration of the response of other agencies to commercial television would have been useful. Moreover, to properly make sense of them we need to know how they were elicited.