BBC Broadcasting and the Political Context

Part of the DUV : Sozialwissenschaft book series (DUVSW)


Ever since the founding of the BBC politics have played a significant role in British broadcasting. The degree to which political influence has been exercised on the British broadcasting system in general and on the BBC in particular has varied over the years. However, it can be said that politics were one of the primary forces or determinants in shaping the look of the British broadcasting landscape. After all, it is politics that determine the framework in which institutions such as the BBC have to operate.1


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  1. 1.
    Changes in the political climate in Britain and their influences on broadcasting, including sociological aspects, are examined in greater detail by Negrine, Ralph (1985): Great Britain: The End of the Public Service Tradition? In: Kuhn, Raymond (ed.) (1985): The Politics of Broadcasting. London: Croom Helm (see in particular pp. 16–25), and Madge (1989), pp. 35–49. See also Smith (1993a). It is in particular in part I of this collection of essays that Smith takes a closer look at the changing political, sociological and ideological framework in which institutions such as the BBC had to operate over the years. Curran and Seaton remark in this context that broadcasting policy cannot easily be divided across party political lines. They distinguish between libertarians and paternalists regarding broadcast content, and further divide contributors to the debate into those who favour the following approaches: the free market approach; the social market approach; the public service approach; and the radical public service approach. See Curran and Seaton (1991), pp. 335–372 and chapter 2.3. The following publications examine aspects of politics and broadcasting in more detail: Smith, Anthony (1973): The Shadow in the Cave. A study of the relationship between the broadcaster, his audience and the state. London: Allen & Unwin; Smith, Anthony (1978): The Politics of Information. Problems of Policy in Modern Media. London: Macmillan; May, Annabelle and Rowan, Kathryn (eds.) (1982): Inside Information. British government and the media. London: Constable; Tunstall, Jeremy (1983): The media in Britain. London: Constable; Negrine (1989); Curran and Seaton (1991); Seymour-Ure, Colin (1991): The British Press and Broadcasting since 1945. Oxford: Blackwell; and O’Malley (1994).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See 1981–1996 Charter, clause 20 (2) and 1981–1996 Licence and Agreement, clause 23 (1). Both are published in BBC (1992c), pp. 51–64. This has not been changed in the new Charter and Agreement. See 1996–2006 Charter, clause 22 and 1996–2006 Agreement, clause 15.1.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    See also chapter 6.10 in which the exercised system as well as possible alternatives are discussed in greater detail.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Even though the latter has not been exercised in recent years — apart from aspects relating to the portrayal of the situation in Northern Ireland, which resulted in the 1988 Broadcasting Ban — it is difficult to justify its continued existence. The fact that the government still exercises pressure on the BBC was demonstrated again in September 1995 when the Home Office demanded that an interview with a man convicted of murder should be edited from a programme concerned with rehabilitation of offenders. The BBC eventually decided to leave out the sequence. See N.N.: Howard calls on BBC to cut TV clip of police killer interview. In: The Guardian, 16.9.1995, p. 7 and Brooks, Richard: BBC agrees to drop Everyman killer clip. In: The Observer, 17.9.1995, p. 21.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Seymour-Ure (1991), p. 160.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    See chapters 1.4 and 2.1.2. The Conservative MP Selwyn Lloyd produced a minority report because he opposed the Beveridge Committee’s rejection of competition for the BBC’s services. See Beveridge Report I (1951), pp. 201–210.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Broadcasting: Memorandum on the Report of the Broadcasting Committee 1949. [In future referred to as 1951 White Paper] Cmd 8291. London: HMSO, 1951.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Broadcasting: Memorandum on the Report of the Broadcasting Committee 1949. [In future referred to as 1952 White Paper] Cmd 8550. London: HMSO, 1952.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    McDonnell (1991), p. 30.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Paulu (1981), p. 10 (author’s own emphasis). See also 1952 White Paper, paras 4–9.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Cain (1992), p. 84.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    See Cain (1992), pp. 84–88 and chapter 1.5. Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Miall, Leonard (1994): Inside the BBC. British Broadcasting Characters. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, p. 108.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    In his publication Live from Number 10 Michael Cockerel argues that Wilson had taken a great deal of interest in the appointment of Charles Hill to become chairman of the Board of Governors, because he wanted someone tough to get rid of the controversial and liberal-minded Greene. See Cockerell, Michael (1988): Live from Number 10: The Inside Story of Prime Ministers and Television. London: Faber and Faber, pp. 134–136.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    BBC (1969): Broadcasting in the Seventies: The BBC’s plan for network radio and non-metropolitan broadcasting. London: BBC. The pamphlet was published in July 1969. It had been written by a combined team of McKinsey consultants and senior BBC executives. Included were issues such as the development of local radio, the threats posed by commercial radio and the possibility of reducing regional broadcasting while, on the other hand, strengthening the non-London centres. Some people even argued that the pamphlet was published to turn the public’s attention towards the BBC in order for the government not to reduce its financing for BBC services. Eventually, the proposals included in the document were modified after some bargaining by Hill (chairman of the Board of Governors at the time) and the government. For a detailed discussion of the pamphlet and reactions to its contents see Briggs (1985), pp. 349–361.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Anthony Benn quoted in Briggs (1985), p. 352.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Cain (1992), p. 98 (my emphasis).Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Cain (1992), p. 114 (author’s own emphasis).Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    The Peacock Committee followed in this tradition because it was asked to investigate only into alternative financing options for the BBC.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    One of the most important dates in the history of political broadcasting was the year 1959. Until then, broadcasters had taken politicians almost entirely at the politicians’ own value and the main exercise of judgement was how much time to allocate to the parties’ own broadcasts. From 1959 onwards, on the initiative of ITV, broadcasters were to make qualitative judgements regarding the representation of politicians and political parties.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    See Stuart, Charles (ed.) (1975): The Reith Diaries. London: Collins, pp. 99–100 and p. 106. The diaries of the BBC’s first Director-General, John Reith, supply the reader with valuable information on the attempts of politicians to exercise influence on the BBC in the early years of the Corporation.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Winston Churchill quoted in Brooks, Richard: Churchill tried to gag the BBC. In: The Observer, 2.4.1995, P. 5. During the Second World War, the BBC’s radio services were used extensively for war broadcasts: on 3 September 1939, Chamberlain and King George VI broadcast on the declaration of war, and on 1 October the same year Winston Churchill’s first wartime broadcast was transmitted.Google Scholar
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    See Madge (1989), p. 35.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Briggs (1985), p. 317. See also pp. 316–318 and Seymour-Ure (1991), pp. 167–168. Eden was furious when the BBC allowed the opposition leader, Hugh Gaitskell, to broadcast Labour’s opposing view on the matter. The consequences for the BBC were painful: the External Services were cut by £ 1 million. See Barnett and Curry (1994), p. 14.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Wilson was Prime Minister from 1964 to 1970 and from 1974 to 1976. According to Michael Cockerell, “There was no greater supporter of the BBC than Harold Wilson in the early sixties, when he became Opposition leader [...]. But when Labour won power, Wilson came to feel that the BBC had changed.” Cockerell, Michael: Whose finger on the mike? In: The Guardian, 27.3.1995, p. 18.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Anthony Smith quoted in Briggs (1979b), p. 221.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Curran and Seaton comment that the rules dealing with reporting on Northern Ireland added to the corpus of Britain’s unwritten constitution. See Curran and Seaton (1991), p. 301.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    At the time, Harold Wilson was leader of the opposition and spokesman on Northern Ireland.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    See Thatcher (1995), pp. 634–638, where Thatcher gives her account of how she viewed and approached broadcasting.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Barnett and Curry (1994), p. 15. Thatcher’s much-quoted comment that ‘there is no such thing as society’ also marks the fundamental shift in principle from community to individual.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    See Thatcher (1995), p. 636. The Peacock Committee rejected advertising partly because the evidence was against it, and because the whole report was driven by a set of ideas which were far more radical in the long term (see also chapter 4.3.2).Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    The idea originated from the Adam Smith Institute’s Omega Report. See Adam Smith Institute (1984): The Omega Report: Communications Policy. London: Adam Smith Institute. (See also chapter 1.9.)Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Douglas Hurd quoted in Barnett and Docherty (no year), taken from the chapter The Millenial [sic] Vision: Peacock and Broadcasting in the UK, p. 2.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    For Thatcher’s own account of why the Civil Service was in need of drastic reform see Thatcher (1995), pp. 45–49.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    As a QUANGO (Quasi Autonomous Non-Governmental Organisation) the BBC is neither under direct government control nor is its income controlled by the Treasury, unlike the Civil Service. However, it was thought possible that some of the reforms introduced at the Civil Service could also be introduced at the BBC. The BBC World Service, on the other hand, because of its direct funding from the Foreign Office, was much more affected by the reforms in the Civil Service and introduced changes earlier than has been the case with the rest of the BBC. The process of reform at the World Service from 1984 to 1994 — which is not included in the present analysis — has been investigated in great detail by Neunert, Birgit (1995): Die Reform des BBC World Service: Eine Fallstudie. Freie wissenschaftliche Hausarbeit zur Erlangung des Grades eines Magister Artium [unpublished M.A. Thesis]. Eingereicht an der Freien Universität Berlin, Fachbereich Kommunikationswissenschaften, Institut fir Publizistik und Kommunikationspolitik, Berlin.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    The reform of the National Health Service (NHS) can be regarded as another ‘role model’ for the BBC.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    For the following see Kavanagh, Dennis (1990): British Politics. Continuities and Change (second edition). Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 251. For the historical development and a discussion of the Civil Service see pp. 237–251.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    All these aspects started playing an increasing role for the BBC from the late 1980s onwards and are still a distinct feature in the Corporation’s strategies of the 1990s (see chapters 5.3.3 and 5.3.5). Aspects of progressive management and the application of new public management methods to public institutions, including the benefits and shortfalls, are treated in more detail by Hood, Christopher (1993): The BBC. An Island of Progressivism in a Sea of New Public Management. In: Shaw, Colin (ed.) (1993): Rethinking Governance and Accountability. London: British Film Institute.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Kavanagh (1990), p. 252. It is striking how many of these aspects introduced to the Civil Service later featured in the BBC’s corporate strategies.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Gray, Andrew and Jenkins, William (1985): Administrative Politics in British Government. London: Wheatsheaf Books, p. 159. See also the contribution byGoogle Scholar
  41. 40a.
    Parston, Greg (1993): Public Service, Public Management and the BBC. In: Mulgan, Geoff and Paterson, Richard (eds.) (1993): Reinventing the Organisation. London: British Film Institute, in which the author argues that the management of public organisations makes it necessary to apply different management practices than in the private sector because of the differing goals to be achieved.Google Scholar
  42. 41.
    See chapter 5.5 in which criticism of the BBC’s more market-orientated culture is canvassed, and chapter 6.5 which looks at possible negative effects of more market pressure regarding creativity and innovation.Google Scholar
  43. 42.
    Gray and Jenkins (1985), p. 160.Google Scholar
  44. 43.
    See Hennessy, Peter (1991): Mrs Thatcher’s Impact upon Whitehall. In: Jones, Bill (ed.) (1991): Politics UK. London: Phillip Allan, pp. 471–472.Google Scholar
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    Kavanagh (1990), p. 252.Google Scholar
  46. 45.
    O’Malley (1994), p. 15.Google Scholar
  47. 46.
    Norman Tebbit launched ferocious public assaults on the BBC, especially in the run-up to the 1987 General Election, when he referred to the Corporation as the “[...] insufferable, smug, sanctimonious, naive, guiltridden, wet, pink, orthodoxy of that sunset home of that third-rate decade, the sixties.” Norman Tebbit quoted in Cockerell, Michael: Whose finger on the mike? In: The Guardian, 27.3.1995, p. 18. In his autobiography Tebbit writes that the BBC better be called the ‘Stateless Persons’ Broadcasting Corporation’ and, commenting on reporting of the Falklands War, that “Among the casualties of the Falklands War was the relationship between the Government and the BBC [...].” Norman Tebbit quoted in Hargreaves, Ian (1989): Impartiality and Truth: Balance, Objectivity, Accuracy and Judgment. In: BBC (1989): Impartiality. Representing Reality. London: BBC, p. 16.Google Scholar
  48. 47.
    O’Malley (1994), p. 79.Google Scholar
  49. 48.
    For more information on DTI and Home Office policies, including their relationship to each other, see O’Malley (1994), pp. 79–87 and pp. 120–126. The fact that there existed different approaches to broadcasting within the government, depending on the interests involved, leads Curran and Seaton to describe the Conservatives’ media policy as contradictory. In their 1991 publication the authors identified some 30 bodies involved in formulating and carrying out media policy. See Curran and Seaton (1991), pp. 315–334. This is supported by Tom O’Malley who acknowledges a “[...] division between those parts of the government that wanted fast, relatively radical changes [among them Margaret Thatcher] and those seeking a more measured, evolutionary development [like the Home Office].” O’Malley (1994), p. 65.Google Scholar
  50. 49.
    Rees-Mogg was editor of The Times for fourteen years and served as vice-chairman on the BBC’s Board of Governors from 1981 to 1986. Rees-Mogg was not liked very much by many at the Corporation because of his approach towards public service broadcasting. According to Barnett and Curry, the BBC had been “[...] saddled with a Vice-Chairman closely associated with Thatcherite thinking who was entirely out of sympathy with what the BBC stood for. His influence was to be profound.” Barnett and Curry (1994), p. 19. More than most vice-chairmen before him, Rees-Mogg was in a better position to influence the Board of Governors because its chairman Stuart Young was suffering from cancer from 1984 until his death in 1986. (Stuart Young, brother of David Young, was an accountant from Thatcher’s North London constituency. He served as chairman from 1983 to 1986.)Google Scholar
  51. 50.
    See for example Adam Smith Institute (1984). Amongst suggestions such as privatising BBC Radios 1 and 2, finance by advertising, and the postulated necessity to move further towards meeting audience demands, in the Omega Report it was argued that the BBC should be improved by devolving many of its constituent parts into separate self-financing units, and that the Corporation should be transformed into an association of independent, separately financed stations.Google Scholar
  52. 51.
    Regarding broadcasting it was in particular the publication by Veljanovski, Cento (ed.) (1989): Freedom in Broadcasting. London: Institute of Economic Affairs, which set the intellectual agenda for the Conservative Party. In the book, a number of contributors canvass their opinions on a more ‘liberal’ approach to broadcasting. Some years earlier, in a publication devoted to promoting a market-driven cable system, the IEA had suggested that the “[...] case for deregulating broadcast TV should also be given serious consideration.” Veljanovski, Cento and Bishop, W. D. (1983): Choice by Cable — The Economics of a New Era in Television (Hobart Paper 96). London: Institute of Economic Affairs, pp. 111–112. Members of the IEA included Peter Jay, William Rees-Mogg and Samuel Brittan.Google Scholar
  53. 52.
    Horrie and Clarke (1994), p. 18 (authors’ own emphasis). It is striking that during the Charter renewal debate proposals from the radical ‘free-market Right’ were almost non-existent. One exception is Bracken, Will and Fowler, Scott (1993): What Price Public Service? The Future of the BBC. London: Adam Smith Institute, in which the authors vehemently attack the BBC in its present form and propose that the Corporation should be financed by advertising and floated on the stock market as a public company in private ownership. Moreover, the authors also support the idea of an Arts Council of the Airwaves which would distribute monies for the production of public service programmes (see in particular pp. 5; 14; 2427; 30–31; and 33–34). Bracken and Fowler’s understanding of broadcasting is best outlined by the following statement: “The BBC produces a product as does the British press, a chocolate factory, or a car manufacturer. [...] Yet the Government continues to impose restrictions which limit the ease of entry to the market, and give an automatic position to the BBC denied to its competitors. The effects of this special position are detrimental to innovation, to variety, to quality, and to choice.” Bracken and Fowler (1993), p. 10.Google Scholar
  54. 53.
    This included in particular D’Arcy MacManus Masius and Saatchi and Saatchi, who had run the Conservatives’ media campaign in the 1979 and 1983 elections. See also O’Malley (1994), pp. 22–29.Google Scholar
  55. 54.
    In his book DG: The Memoirs of a British Broadcaster Alasdair Milne covers the role of the press and its relation to the BBC in greater detail. Interesting to note in this context, but not at all surprising, is the fact that the attacks of the Murdoch-owned press against the BBC were particularly strong around 1985, a time when the BBC was engaged in setting up DBS services. (Had the BBC succeeded, it would have resulted in damaging competition for Murdoch’s satellite activities.) On the contrary, after BSkyB and the BBC had announced a corporate deal in 1992 for the rights to screen Premier League football, the attacks lessened.Google Scholar
  56. 55.
    Arguing his case for a free broadcasting market Murdoch mounted a full-scale attack on the BBC in his 1989 MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh Television Festival. See Murdoch (1989).Google Scholar
  57. 56.
    Horrie and Clarke (1994), p. 14. See also Thatcher (1995), pp. 634–638. While she was still Prime Minister, Thatcher rarely voiced her dislike of the BBC openly. This was primarily done by her party colleagues (one of the most notorious being Norman Tebbit) and others closely associated with the Conservative Party, including her husband Denis.Google Scholar
  58. 57.
    Barnett and Curry (1994), p. 17. Officially, Governors were appointed by the Home Office (now by the Department of National Heritage). However, it is no secret that during the Thatcher era appointments had been vetoed by No. 10 Downing Street. (See also chapters 5.3.6 and 6.9.)Google Scholar
  59. 58.
    Lord Bonham Carter quoted in Paxman, Jeremy (1991): Friends in High Places. Who Runs Britain? London: Penguin, p. 120. It needs to be acknowledged here that, when in charge at the BBC, Stuart Young became very attached to the Corporation and a staunch defender of public service broadcasting. Not only did he become opposed to aspects of Thatcher’s approach towards the BBC, but he also wanted appointments to the Board of Governors be less controversial.Google Scholar
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    Appointed in 1986 as a ‘loyal’ Conservative, Marmaduke Hussey (a friend and former colleague of ReesMogg at The Times) has been the third successive chairman of the Board of Governors appointed by the Thatcher administration. His governance was extended to a second five-year term in 1991. Commentators largely agree that Hussey’s initial task was ‘to sort out the BBC’, in particular its management, after the clashes between Alasdair Milne and the government during the mid-1980s (see chapter 3.4.4).Google Scholar
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    Margaret Thatcher quoted in O’Malley (1994), pp. 76–77.Google Scholar
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    See McDonnell (1991), pp. 83–86. The paper’s conclusion contained some radical suggestions such as breaking up the BBC into a series of franchises which were to be bought by commercial companies. These services would then be financed by advertising, and possibly be supplemented by a share of the licence fee in order to make sure some public service criteria would be met regarding programme production.Google Scholar
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    See Horrie and Clarke (1994), p. 35 and Barnett and Curry (1994), p. 24.Google Scholar
  64. 63.
    O’Malley (1994), p. 9. Peacock’s recommendations are dealt with in greater detail in chapter 4.3.2. Google Scholar
  65. 64.
    Peacock had suggested a quota of 40 per cent, but this was eventually reduced to 25 per cent. Independent production companies were set up as a result of the creation of Channel 4. This led to many former ITV and BBC employees leaving for the independent sector, which many found presented them with greater freedom and opportunities. Financial reasons played a role, too. Since more and more independent production companies were set up in the early Eighties as a result, they fervently welcomed the decision to introduce a 25 per cent quota for both the BBC and ITV because it meant a bigger market for their productions.Google Scholar
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    Barnett and Curry (1994), p. 56.Google Scholar
  67. 66.
    Thatcher (1995), p. 636. See also 1988 White Paper, paras 3.6 and 3.1 1, where the government boasts that it had inflicted a double squeeze on BBC finance by indexing the licence fee to the RPI at a lower level than the BBC had budgeted for. This was intended to force the Corporation to become more efficient. While government furthermore acknowledged that inflation in the broadcasting industry generally runs ahead of the RPI, it nevertheless announced its intention to agree licence fee increases of less than the RPI increase after April 1991. (See also chapter 4.4.1.)Google Scholar
  68. 67.
    Scannell, Paddy and Cardiff, David (1991): A Social History of British Broadcasting, Vol. 1, 1922–1939. Oxford: Blackwell, p. 4.Google Scholar
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    Ian Trethowan quoted indirectly in O’Malley (1994), p. 3.Google Scholar
  70. 69.
    This was highlighted by the Broadcasting Ban of 1988, imposed by Home Secretary Douglas Hurd, which was another indication demonstrating how government can control or influence BBC reporting. The ban forbade direct transmissions of political statements by members of named political organisations. It was lifted after six years in September 1994.Google Scholar
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    Seymour-Ure (1991), p. 187 (author’s own emphasis). One result of the Westland affair was Thatcher losing two of her senior ministers.Google Scholar
  72. 71.
    For the following see Barnett and Curry (1994), pp. 29–35; Horrie and Clarke (1994), pp. 46–49; and Madge (1989), pp. 139–157, who also examines the role the BBC Governors and the Board of Management played in the incident.Google Scholar
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    Barnett and Curry (1994), p. 30. It is also worth noting that at the time of the controversy licence fee negotiations were just under way and the Peacock Committee was about to begin their deliberations.Google Scholar
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    Despite the Governors making their own decision about the programme, it needs to be remembered that it was politicians who had appointed them. Barnett and Curry postulate that “The governors may have been trustees of the public interest, but the ‘public’ they spoke for was a politically defined and deliberately restricted one.” Barnett and Curry (1994), p. 34 (authors’ own emphasis). Alasdair Milne gives his own account of the incident in his memoirs. See Milne (1988), pp. 140–150. Milne points out that there had been real disagreements among the Governors about the programme.Google Scholar
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    For the following see Barnett and Curry (1994), pp. 40–41 and Horrie and Clarke (1994), pp. 55–62.Google Scholar
  76. 75.
    The settlement fell into a period when licence fee negotiations were in progress.Google Scholar
  77. 76.
    See Horrie and Clarke (1994), p. 62.Google Scholar
  78. 77.
    See O’Malley (1994), p. 9 and Anderson, Bruce (1989): Drama: Where is the Balancing Voice? In: BBC (1989): Impartiality. Representing Reality. London: BBC, pp. 31–33.Google Scholar
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    See O’Malley (1994), p. 154.Google Scholar
  80. 79.
    In her memoirs Thatcher signals how much she supported the path on which the BBC was taken by Hussey and the restructured BBC Management under Checkland. See Thatcher (1995), p. 637.Google Scholar
  81. 80.
    Horrie and Clarke (1994), p. 60 (authors’ own emphasis). Milne himself writes in his memoirs: “It is high time a return is made to finding people of the highest standing as Governors of the BBC, not just people who are “one of us”.” Milne (1988), p. 83 (author’s own emphasis).Google Scholar
  82. 81.
    Shortly before Milne’s dismissal, another series of programmes had caused a lot of tension between government and the BBC: the Secret Society affair of 1987. The programmes, commissioned by BBC Scotland for transmission on BBC 2, were to cover various aspects of defence and security, a subject guaranteed to provoke the Prime Minister. It eventually led to the police raiding BBC offices in Glasgow and the banning of one of the six episodes.Google Scholar
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    On 28 April 1988, ITV screened one of the most controversial television programmes of the 1980s, Death On The Rock, a This Week documentary on the shooting of three unarmed suspected IRA terrorists by the SAS (Special Air Service) in Gibraltar. The screening had far-reaching consequences: it became the subject of an inquiry later that year, and was seen by many involved in the broadcasting industry as ‘the final nail in the IBA’s coffin’. Andrew Davidson remarks: “Thatcher was outraged, not just by the programme, but by the IBA’s refusal to bow to pressure from Geoffrey Howe, the Foreign Secretary, to postpone it.” Davidson (1993), p. 12.Google Scholar
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    Seymour-Ure (1991), p. 176 (author’s own emphasis).Google Scholar
  85. 84.
    Madge (1989), p. 43 (author’s own emphasis).Google Scholar
  86. 85.
    See O’Malley (1994), p. 10.Google Scholar
  87. 86.
    This included a White Paper on broadcasting in November 1988 and a Broadcasting Bill in November 1989, which became the Broadcasting Act 1990. Two of Thatcher’s closest allies during this period were David Young at the DTI and Nigel Lawson at the Treasury. Home Secretary Douglas Hurd, however, was rather sceptical of some of the proposals, for example the intended ITV franchise auction. (For more information on the franchising process see chapter 1.9.)Google Scholar
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    See 1988 White Paper, paras 3.3, 3.5, 3.6 and 3.8–3.13.Google Scholar
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    Kuhn, Raymond and Wheeler, Mark (1994): A Rejoinder. The Future of the BBC Revisited. In: The Political Quarterly Vol. 65, No 1, 1994, p. 434 (authors’ own emphasis).Google Scholar
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    Barnett and Curry (1994), p. 116.Google Scholar
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    O’Malley (1994), p. 11. Concerning the Charter renewal debate, the above author and Jo Treharne adopt an even stronger tone: “The [Major] government was unwilling to provide an open, sustained forum for public debate, nor even a semblance of proper Parliamentary scrutiny. In this the Major administration was the true heir of Mrs Thatcher and the inheritor of the secretive, unaccountable, elitist and manipulative mechanisms by which the people in the UK are governed.” O’Malley, Tom and Treharne, Jo (1993): Selling the Beeb? The BBC and the Charter Review Process. London: Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom, p. 23.Google Scholar
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    It is also debatable whether, in the event of a Labour victory in the 1992 General Election, BBC Management would have had to rethink their strategy of running the Corporation, or even been replaced.Google Scholar
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    Horrie and Clarke (1994), p. 170.Google Scholar
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    Milligan, Stephen (1991): What shall we do about the BBC? London: Tory Reform Group. (Milligan is a former BBC employee.)Google Scholar
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    Milligan (1991), p. 15. Apart from suggesting some minor improvements, the paper is full of praise for the BBC as a highly valued institution. For example, Milligan stresses the point that the Conservatives’ main concern should be preserving the independence of the BBC. The author also outlines why privatisation of the BBC would not be for the benefit of viewers and listeners. A less favourable tone is adopted by Damian Green in a publication of the Centre for Policy Studies. See Green, Damian (1991): A better BBC: Public Service Broadcasting in the ’90s. London: Centre for Policy Studies. The author argues that the licence fee will eventually become indefensible, and therefore other funding mechanisms need to be devised. Even though Green vehemently supports the continuation of public service broadcasting, in his opinion this should be organised under a Public Service Broadcasting Council — Green calls it Public Service Broadcasting Authority — which would distribute licence fee monies for the production of programmes that follow public service principles. Moreover, Green supports the idea of slimming down the BBC, which would include privatising Radios 1 and 2.Google Scholar
  96. 95.
    The Department of State for National Heritage took over responsibility for broadcasting from the Home Office in 1992, shortly after the Conservatives had won the 1992 General Election. Since its creation in 1992 until April 1997, the DNH has been headed by four different ministers: David Mellor, Peter Brooke, Stephen Dorrell and Virginia Bottomley. This indicates that there has not been a consistent media policy in personality terms.Google Scholar
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    See also Barnett and Curry (1994), pp. 171–174.Google Scholar
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    Barnett and Curry (1994), p. 150 (my emphasis).Google Scholar
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    Seaton, Jean (1994): Broadcasting in the Age of Market Ideology: is it Possible to Underestimate the Public Taste? In: The Political Quarterly Vol. 65, No 1, 1994, p. 30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Television Licence Fee. A Study for the Home Office. [Conducted by Management Consultants Price Waterhouse] London: HMSO, 1991, p. 13 (my emphasis). Price Waterhouse suggested that it was best to link the licence fee to the RPI, but added that “[...] a new licence fee formula of the RPI–X type is likely to be an effective instrument to ensure that the BBC maximises opportunities to raise revenue and reduce costs.” (p. 2) The final conclusion of the report was to either set licence fee increases at RPI-1 over five years, or to limit the increase to RPI-3 in the first year and revert to RPI increases thereafter. (p. 12) It was the latter option that was finally adopted by the government (see also chapter 4.4.1).Google Scholar
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    Barnett and Curry (1994), p. 171. The Conservative Party did not want to issue a Green Paper before the 1992 General Election because there was no broad agreement within the party.Google Scholar
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    Barnett and Curry (1994), p. 174. Brooke remained Secretary of State for National Heritage until July 1994 when he was replaced by Stephen Dorrell.Google Scholar
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    See 1992 Green Paper, paras 7.14–7.16.Google Scholar
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    One result was the introduction of a controller of editorial policy to whom ‘delicate’ matters are referred to prior to transmission. The BBC’s ‘new’ approach to dealing with sensitive material is clarified by John Birt outlining the Corporation’s editorial policies in Birt, John (1989): Afterword: Impartiality and Practice. In: BBC (1989): Impartiality. Representing Reality. London: BBC, pp. 58–61, and BBC (no year): Producers’ Guidelines. London: BBC. Whatever the reasons or motivations for introducing these measures — be they right or wrong, necessary or unnecessary — it seems certain that they will affect the nature of BBC reporting.Google Scholar
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    Michael Cockerell supports this assumption: “Because governments do things and there is hard evidence of the effect of their decisions on people’s lives that interviewers can use. Oppositions, on the other hand, merely talk.” Cockerell, Michael: Whose finger on the mike? In: The Guardian, 27.3.1995, p. 18 (author’s own emphasis). That is why it should not be concluded that all Tories generally stand for a dismantling of the BBC while Labour or the Liberal Democrats support the way the BBC is run and organised. It was, for example, the Labour MP Joe Ashton who, in 1985, introduced a Bill into the House of Commons proposing that the BBC take advertising.Google Scholar
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    Horrie and Clarke stress that “Membership of the Board [of Governors] had always been a matter of political patronage. But before the arrival of the Thatcher administration no government had stayed in power long enough to see through a virtually complete cycle of appointments. By the spring of 1991 the Government had been able to influence the shape of the Governors to an unprecedented extent.” Horrie and Clarke (1994), p. 197. (See also chapter 6.9.)Google Scholar
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    One of the BBC’s prime duties should be to defend the public interest. That includes challenging the government of the day, particularly in times of crisis: a risky business for an institution which derives its authority to broadcast from government. So it can be said that as a result of the clashes between government and Corporation during the mid-1980s, political programmes were thereafter being checked more meticulously before transmission. This led to delays or even cancellations as well as some stories being ‘watered down’ because of legal doubts — a dangerous consequence where investigative journalism is concerned. The pulling of programmes like Panorama’s Supergun (dealing with arms deliveries to Iraq) or Sliding Into Slump (investigating the irregularities in the Westminster elections) at politically sensitive times for the government could thus be interpreted as the BBC succumbing to political pressure and political expediency.Google Scholar
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    The decisions to ban two European-based pornographic satellite channels (Red Hot Dutch in 1993 and XXXTV in November 1995) clearly demonstrate that the Conservatives do not want to allow everything on British television screens: nevertheless a logical consequence of deregulation. 119 A more fragmented audience will also make it harder for television producers to influence the political agenda, a fact that must certainly play a role in the thinking of many politicians.Google Scholar

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