Paving the empire road

BBC television and Black Britons

This book provides an institutional case study of the BBC Television Service, as it undertook the responsibility of creating programmes that addressed the impact of black Britons, their attempts to establish citizenship within England and subsequent issues of race relations and colour prejudice. Beginning in the 1930s and into the post millennium, the book provides a historical analysis of policies invoked, and practices undertaken, as the Service attempted to assist white Britons in understanding the impact of African-Caribbeans on their lives, and their assimilation into constructs of Britishness. Management soon approved talks and scientific studies as a means of examining racial tensions, as ITV challenged the discourses of British broadcasting. Soon after, BBC 2 began broadcasting, and more issues of race appeared on the TV screens, each reflecting sometimes comedic, somewhat dystopic, often problematic circumstances of integration. In the years that followed, however, social tensions, such as those demonstrated by the Nottingham and Notting Hill riots, led to transmissions that included a series of news specials on Britain's Colour Bar, and docudramas, such as A Man From the Sun, which attempted to frame the immigrant experience for British television audiences, but from the African-Caribbean point of view. Subsequent chapters include an extensive analysis of television programming, along with personal interviews. Topics include current representations of race, the future of British television, and its impact upon multiethnic audiences. Also detailed are the efforts of Black Britons working within the British media as employees of the BBC, writers, producers and actors.

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‘A rich and vastly informative volume.'
Alejandra Bronfman, University of British Columbia
Journal of British Studies

‘A key contribution to the field has now been made by Darrell M. Newton with his book Paving the Empire Road... Newton has dug deep and uncovered some excellent material.'
Simon J. Potter, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
Media History
September 2012

‘Newton draws together a wealth of information from the rich records of the BBC's Written Archives, material that will prove invaluable to researchers exploring television as such, as well as those primarily interested in the experiences of black people in it. Newton's book also provides a forum for prominent media professionals (many of whom he interviewed) to express their views about how black Britons can best ensure a more balanced presence in British television in the future.'
Ann Spry Rush, University of Maryland
American Historical Review

‘Newton's Paving the Empire Road is best read as a series of discoveries about the BBC's communication with various ethnic associations and black activists through a series of experimental services, conferences and programming. Newton assembles a vast array of programming notes, transcripts of meetings and documented discussions that reveal that the BBC irregularly but consistently elicited the advice and suggestions of West Indian and South Asian community leaders. These findings are, simply put, archival gems.'
Brett Bebber, Old Dominion University
Journal of British Cinema and Television 13.1
May 2016

‘Newton's substantial scholarship deserves a wide audience.'
Vahni Capildeo
January 2013

‘Newton's substantial scholarship deserves a wide audience. Paving the Empire Road ends provocatively, citing an unspecified report on the challenges the BBC faces regarding "a positive acceptance of cultural diversity" and offering an unanswered question: is this a problem of a few months, or a few decades, ago? The conclusion invokes "meaningful changes", while seeming sceptical of the gradual evolution it has explored: from the BBC's "somewhat noble" public encouragement of addimilation and tolerance, to investigation of its own diversity issues. "Before, we would just moan at the television", the actor Treva Etienne says, remarking on the evolving black consciousness of the power to transform media images. Faced with the complexity of the BBC's workings, no reader of Darrell Newton's study dare "just moan" about the slowness or the inevitability of change.'
Vahni Capildeo
January 2013

‘Paving the Empire Road assembles Newton's considerable researchat the BBC Written Archive Centre and his consultation of written documents includingmemoranda, letters and corresponding policy decisions, along with programmetranscripts and synopses. Newton contributes a nuanced approach that foregrounds internaldevelopments and issues at the BBC and links texts with context - an endeavourthat is at its richest when mapping the early post-war years that coincided with postcolonialimmigration.'
Sarita Malik, Brunel University
Critical Studies in Television 9/1
April 2016

‘This academic study is an important contribution towards the mapping and understanding of the history of black participation within British television.'
Carla Mereu, University of Reading
Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television

‘This academic study is an important contribution towards themapping and understanding of the history of black participation within Britishtelevision...His factual description manages to highlight how broadcasting choices with relation to race in the UK-not only BBC 1 and 2 but also ITV, Channel 4 and other networks-have generally reflected the problematic issues of assimilation and multiculturalism,which underlay British post-colonial society.'
Carla Mereu, University of Reading
Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television
January 2012

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