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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.

Darrell M. Newton

This chapter examines how BBC radio and its practices created possibilities for the recognition of African-Caribbean voices, as they discussed life in England years before the arrival of Windrush, and just before television re-emerged as a cultural force. It also examines how programmes created for West Indian audiences changed foci, and began to offer varied, personal perspectives on life for African-Caribbean immigrants. It outlines the influence of radio upon the BBC Television Service, management directives and pre-war programming. Beginning in 1939, the programme Calling the West Indies featured West Indians troops on active service reading letters on air to their families back home in the Islands. The programme later became Caribbean Voices (1943–58) and highlighted West Indian writers who read and discussed literary works on the World Service. These programmes offered rare opportunities for West Indians to discuss their perspectives on life among white Britons and subsequent social issues.

in Paving the empire road
Theatre plays as television drama since 1930
John Wyver

As an introductory overview of the history of stage plays on British television, this chapter locates a wide range of individual broadcasts from 1936 to 2020 within institutional and broader cultural histories. After a brief consideration of these broadcasts as screen adaptations, the chapter first traces the ways in which television presented productions created for the stage prior to any encounter with cameras—as outside broadcasts (OBs) or studio re-workings; it then parallels this with a chronicle of television’s own productions of plays written for the stage. Both strands of the history discuss the extensive output of stage plays from the BBC Television service before the Second World War, including the first broadcasts from theatres in London’s West End. Post-war BBC productions, including those from BBC2 after 1964, are contrasted with the presentations of stage plays by the new ITV companies from 1955 onwards. The decline in stage plays on mainstream television from the late 1960s onwards is outlined, together with their brief revival as theatre recordings in the first years of Channel 4. The chapter also recognises the almost complete absence of stage plays on television in the 1990s and early 2000s, reviewing possible reasons for this, before recognising the modest revival of theatre on television that followed the success of ‘event cinema’ screenings by NT Live and other initiatives in the 2010s. The chapter’s focus throughout is on the reasons why television has sought to adapt and produce both kinds of screen plays, and it concludes with a brief consideration of the value of performance recordings for BBC Television, especially during the pandemic lockdown from March 2020.

in Screen plays
Abstract only
Darrell M. Newton

, and the dominant press continued to highlight immigration from the Caribbean, West Indians were increasingly linked to crime, unemployment, and housing shortages. Despite the liberal attitudes expressed among some BBC managers as discussed in this study, the BBC Television Service and Pathé began to label their arrival as ‘Our Jamaican Problem’ in their segments, despite a reasonably positive report on their arrival (Figure 1).13 As immigration to the UK increased, early architects of the BBC Television Service planned and approved television programmes that

in Paving the empire road
Early modern drama, early British television
Lisa Ward

small-screen drama in Britain, this chapter turns to a period in which television transmissions were as ephemeral as productions on the early modern stage: the live broadcasts made in the first years of the regular BBC Television service between November 1936 and September 1939. During these pre-war years, before the availability of recording technologies, at least three early modern plays by authors

in Screen plays
Debates and developments
Su Holmes

with Radio Luxembourg (Briggs, 1979: 52). Here comes television – a “surfeit of entertainment shows”? Television was to develop within this restructured context. Historians have argued that television was largely a post-war phenomenon, not only in Britain, but in other national contexts. Although the BBC Television Service began broadcasting on 2 November 1936, it was only received within a 40–100 mile radius of Alexandra Palace, and in about 400 households (Crisell, 2001: 77). Available to predominantly affluent viewers, the Television Service did not get a chance

in Entertaining television
Jeffrey Richards

spies who depart, leaving the television equipment behind. So Arthur and Dickie decide on a pirate television broadcast to showcase their talents. They cut into the BBC television service where Jasmine Blight is seen doing her announcements and they basically stage a television version of Band Waggon with ‘Chestnut Corner’, a comic song from Arthur, ‘A pretty little bird am I’, a romantic duet from Murdoch and Pat Kirkwood, ‘The only one who’s difficult is you

in Cinema and radio in Britain and America, 1920–60
Basil Dean and the 1938 BBC outside broadcast of J. B. Priestley’s When We Are Married
Victoria Lowe

, so that we may add one more to the sum of cultural forces of which the world stands in such need today. 1 On the evening of 16 November 1938, the BBC television service aired its first live outside broadcast from a theatre of a full-length play. The production chosen for this pioneering event was J

in Screen plays
Jeffrey Richards

. 30 Author’s interview with David Jacobs, The Radio Adventurers , BBC Radio 4, 30 September 2003. 31 The fledgling BBC television service broadcast a production of the original Orczy-Terry play The Scarlet Pimpernel with Margaretta Scott and James Carney on 5 February 1950.

in Cinema and radio in Britain and America, 1920–60
Richard Hewett

tu di o r eal is m Conclusion 67 T h e cha ng in g s p ac es o f t e l e vis io n  act i ng 68 68 2 The fledgling BBC Television Service had broadcast part of the procession following George VI’s coronation in 1937. 3 Asa Briggs later reported that ‘53 per cent of the population –​over 19 million –​viewed the procession to the Abbey, and 56 per cent –​ over 20 million –​viewed the Coronation Service’ (1979: 466). 4 Until 1948 the repeat performances had been given on Tuesday afternoons; the only time at which the actors working predominantly in the theatre

in The changing spaces of television acting