An Introductory History of British Broadcasting by Andrew Crisell

By Andrew Crisell

This is often an available and concise background of British radio and tv. The publication considers the character and evolution of broadcasting, the expansion of broadcasting associations and the relation of broadcasting to a much wider political and social context.
starting with the genesis of radio on the flip of the century, Crisell discusses key moments in media background from the 1st instant broadcast in 1920 to the current. Key subject matters lined include:
* The institution of the BBC in 1927
* the overall strike, notions of public carrier broadcasting and the cultural values of the BBC
* Broadcasting in wartime
* The heyday of radio within the Nineteen Forties and Fifties and the increase of television
* BBC2, Channel four and minority television
* The altering position of radio in a tv age
* The convergence of broadcasting and different media
* destiny matters for broadcasting

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Many more simply avoided paying any licence fee at all. It has therefore been estimated that in the early years of broadcasting there were five times as many unlicensed as licensed sets in use. The actual audiences were huge. After 1928 no programmes were heard by fewer than a million listeners and some attracted 15 million. In 1923 the Postmaster General appointed a committee under Major General Sir Frederick Sykes to review the company’s finances. Impressed even at this early stage by the quality of its programmes the committee declared that broadcasting was ‘of great national importance as a medium for the performance of a valuable public service’ and rejected advertising as a possible source of revenue on the ground that it would lower standards.

In one’s own home one could not only read about the events of yesterday but be told about the events of the hour: as Asa Briggs (1961) points out, broadcasting had become a major force in the nation’s life, it could no longer be dismissed as a novelty for amateurs and enthusiasts. By the end of 1926 the government had accepted the recommendations of the Crawford Committee and John Reith had received a knighthood. Sources/further reading There are many useful accounts of early wireless technology, of which Williams (1974) focuses on its political and social contexts and Barnouw (1966; 1977) and Armes (1988) deal mainly with its institutional developments.

The latter was forced to back down, and plugging has ever since been a feature of music broadcasting. At first it was not just the publishers and impresarios who felt threatened by radio; so, too, did the record companies – a rich irony in that records now make up virtually the whole of radio’s output. Nevertheless there seemed at the time to be good grounds for their anxiety. Records were a mass medium which had preceded broadcasting in the successful exploitation of popular music, but the ownership of wireless sets was becoming even more widespread than the ownership of gramophones and records.

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