The television policies of the British Labour Party 1951-2000

Freedman, D. 2000. The television policies of the British Labour Party 1951-2000. PhD thesis University of Westminster School of Media, Arts and Design

TitleThe television policies of the British Labour Party 1951-2000
TypePhD thesis
AuthorsFreedman, D.

This thesis provides an extended analysis of the television policies of the British

Labour Party from 1951 up to the present day. It examines the evolution of Labour's

television policy and focuses on the social, political and economic contexts in which

policies were developed, the party forums in which policies were discussed and the

consequenceso f thesep olicies for British television as a whole. It evaluatest he

contrasting contributions to television policy made by the parliamentary leadership,

the Labour left, the trade unions, and intellectuals sympathetic to the party.

Although the Conservatives have been widely acknowledged to be responsible for

the majority of innovations in British television, the thesis refutes the view that this is

due to any lack of interest in television policy inside the Labour Party. Drawing on

extensive archive material and interviews with key participants, it argues that the

Labour Party has intervened in all the main debates concerning British broadcasting

and has produced a wide range of proposals for the reform, modemisation and

consolidation of television structures in the UK.

The thesis examines the party's response to the development of commercial

television in the 1950s and to the Pilkington Report in the early 1960s. It assesses

the impact on television policy of the Labour governments in the 1960s and

highlights the contribution of left-wing demands for television reform in the 1970s.

The thesis then considers the government's response to the Annan Report at the end

of the 1970s and analyses how the party responded to the Conservative government's

reform of television in the following decade. The thesis concludes with an

evaluation of the role of television in the emergence of New Labour and provides a

critique of the current Labour government's record concerning television


The thesis suggests that divisions between rival interests in the Labour Party have

undermined the possibility of a unified television policy. The result of these

divisions has been that the leadership has marginalised innovative proposals for reform in favour of policies that have safeguarded the existing structures of and

power relations in television.

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