From the war to Westminster Abbey
The BBC and the empire, 1939–53
in The BBC and national identity in Britain, 1922–53
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This chapter highlights the fact that the BBC's representation of empire during the Second World War is both challenging and revealing. Consistent with its policies from the 1930s, the BBC broadcasted a considerable number of empire programmes. But during the war, the empire and Commonwealth had to be constructed with even greater deliberation and precision. The BBC continued to employ the empire as a symbol of British unity and common effort. The themes of the benevolence of British rule and imperial unity, well established in the programmes of the 1930s, continued during the war. Three aspects of the BBC's projection of empire during the period 1939–53 are that, first, empire programmes during and after the war emphasized the full equality of the Commonwealth, second, the BBC promoted an image of empire that could accommodate itself to declared war aims and third, progressive themes such as the Commonwealth ideal of brotherhood and the ‘professional empire’ continued after war, but the mid-1940s also saw a revival, in broadcasting, of rousing and racist juvenile imperial fiction.

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