How Do You Assess the Impact of Commercial Television Upon the British Broadcasting System from the 1950’s Until the Present Day?

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How do you assess the impact of commercial television upon the British Broadcasting System from the 1950’s until the present day?

To help answer this question, it would be beneficial to begin by summarising the history of Broadcasting from the 1920’s up to the 1950’s. This will help generate an understanding and make more clear, whether there was a change in the British Broadcasting System after the launch of the first commercial television channel in Britain. This history will contain, in short, the basics of the launch of radio, the development of the British Broadcasting Company and the British Broadcasting Corporation and a summary of the aims and values each of these mediums. There will also be references to the new technology and channels brought into effect during the 80’s and onwards, namely Rupert Murdoch and his involvement in Sky TV’s developments.

As for the main arguments which will be embodied in this text, they will try to bring an awareness as to whether commercial television has lowered the standards of TV, forcing the BBC to lower its own standards of programming to move with the fast pace of British culture.

A strong case for determining whether or not commercial television has had an impact on the British Broadcasting System is as follows; The Peacock Report. This report was commissioned in 1986 to help determine whether the BBC could move towards a more commercial stance on broadcasting. Even the slightest mention of the BBC shifting away from their ‘Public Service Broadcasting’ standards must imply that there has been some impact on the British Broadcasting System. How much or how little is up for assessment within this text.

In the late 1920’s a Marconi employee from the USA named David Sarnoff devised a concept of using Radio to broadcast to the public. By 1920 it became a reality and proved very popular. This paved the way for broadcasting as we know it in the UK.

The British Broadcasting Company (not the modern BBC) which was run by the government took this idea of radio and decided to use it to broadcast to the British public. Formed in 1922 as a government funded monopoly they had the leeway of broadcasting free from the worries of commercial gain and competitors. The Director General of this BBC, Lord John Reith devised principles that the broadcasting should abide by. This helped sow the seeds of the ‘public service broadcasting’ morals and values, which we now know today. The principles helped develop the understanding that broadcasting should provide ‘the best of everything’ and not for profit, broadcasting should serve everyone with political impartiality and that broadcasters shouldn’t be tempted to lower the quality of their program content in an attempt to attract listeners, high quality programming should be of the utmost importance. As the BBC held a complete monopoly over all British broadcasting, the shows would not be inclined to go ‘down market’ in order to attract listeners.

In 1926 the Crawford Committee recommended to the government that a charter should be introduced in the interest of the nation to help regulate the content and quality of the broadcasting. This is where public service broadcasting and the British Broadcasting Corporation (the modern BBC) were provisionally born. They decided that the charter would help to enforce the values of the BBC and aim to ‘educate’, ‘inform’, and ‘entertain’ the viewer. This trinity was and still is (to a degree) the backbone of the British Broadcasting Corporation.

The charter also brought about the idea of mixed programming that wasn’t considered in the early broadcasting days. This was probably because the BBC realised that they had an obligation to the British public, as a service provider, to uphold the trinity and to give the public a choice in their viewing and to ‘entertain’ them. After all, the British public are paying their licensing fees, surely they should get something more than a one-dimensional...
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