This thesis provides an extended analysis and review of the television policies of the
UK Conservative administrations of Margaret Thatcher and John Major from 1979 to
1997 and examines the causes, coherence and consequences of those policies.
In particular, it identifies the potential forces for change in UK television policy from
the late seventies: notably, international changes in the economic, social and cultural,
and technological environment of the industry; and the political changes in the UK
introduced by the new Conservative administrations, generally known as
The thesis analyses the specific strengths of the UK television system established by
the 1970s, and reviews the criticisms made of that system in the years before 1979. It
then assesses the major developments in television policy instituted by the
Thatcher and Major administrations: the establishment of Channel 4; their policies on
the new technologies of satellite and broadband cable; the impact of the Committee
chaired by Alan Peacock on the Financing of the BBC; the reform of ITV; their
policies for the renewal of the BBC charter in the 1990s; and their policies on
digitalisation and multimedia.
Particular attention is paid to the changes that these policies produced in the UK
television industry, and the lack of overall coherence of the policies. The thesis
argues that the changes were significant but that they were only partial, and that,
while pursuing a general goal of marketisation, the policies were incoherent in many
of their specifics. This incoherence stemmed partly from resistance by established institutions within the industry, and partly from internal contradictions within the
Tories' overall free-market project.
The thesis concludes with an examination of the light that Tory television policy
during this period sheds on the wider political debate on `Thatcherism' and the
international context of UK television policy during the same period.