‘In touch with the infinite’
The BBC and the Empire, 1923–53
in Imperialism and Popular Culture
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This chapter proposes to test the BBC's proposition with regard to the British Empire and imperialism. The period selected embraces fifteen years of John Reith's command of the BBC to 1938 and fifteen years after his departure. Early in its history, the BBC developed a tradition of what might be described as flagship programmes. Although there is little audience research until 1936, and it is even then only fragmentary until the fifties, these programmes were often described as being extremely popular, and all attempts by BBC programme planners to kill them off were thwarted. They frequently caused embarrassment within the Corporation, but they seemed to provide it with an admiring national audience, a good press, and social and political respectability. The activities of the BBC cast a very curious light on the notion that popular imperialism was killed by the First World War.


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