Within a contemporary society we know little aboutbroadcasting as a vague heading but more so the history of television duringthe 1950’s. the rise of television began in the early 1950’s and became a massmedium for Britain. It weighed heavily on capturing key moments of history oneof which was Queen Victoria’s coronation which was televised in 1953, by doingso it signified and reinforced the importance of television becoming auniversal component within the media industry in Great Britain. It was a monumentalstep into a different era of entertainment and everyone was fascinated by therapid change.
Even though the focal point of the popularity of television in Britaindidn’t become prominent until the 1950’s, it became an escape system for thepopulation after recovering from World War 2 in 1946 and was said to shapedBritain by creating an all-around wartime experience (J. Curran and J. Seaton 2010).It is unattainable to discuss whether ITV shaped British television withoutreinforcing the introduction of commercial television and how it contributedimprovements of TV during the 1950’s and identifying the war between the BBCand ITV and its fight for audience.
Commercial television also known as ‘private broadcasting’is defined as the broadcasting of television programmes and radio, encoding bysecretly owned company media. Commercial broadcasting is mainly based on thepractice of ‘discussion’. This contrasts with public broadcasting, whichreceives government grants and avoids most or all paid advertising for example theBBC.
The independent television authority (ITA) was launched on September 22nd,1955, during the 1950’s television and technology was well established, majorityof the population were able to afford sets. The number of households with TVsets rapidly up from 14% in 1952, to 21% in 1953 and 31% in 1954. ITV wasdefined as the ‘winning battle of the audience’ as it introduced a change ofmood and tone by solely focusing on the audience and how they would receivecontent. It was claimed that it would bring competition into broadcasting andmake the service more responsive to popular demands and it did just that bytaking on the role and acting as both controller and regulator of a regionalstructure of franchises. When considering theimpact of ITV and how it shaped the way television was received it may beargued that the importance of audience was a prominent element. Although arough estimate of 14 million homes had TV sets and initially coverage was onlyin London, which was quickly followed by the Midlands and the industrial North.
it is also crucial to delve not only into the effect of audience as a componentwhich elevated the rise of ITV but highlighting certain demographics within Britishsociety. Fundamental elements such as social class weighed heavily on thevalues and choices of an individual meaning it densely reinforced a division throughtelevision which went against its purpose trigger imagination, raise curiosityand gather millions around common interests. The working class were attracted to entertainment whichdepicted their own form of ‘reality’ this was said to be reflected through theintroduction of Coronation Street in which first aired December 9th,1960 it is still one of Britain’s favourite shows 45 years later. ITV’s content was invigorating and state-of-the-artwhich meant the channels had well known celebrities thus allowing viewers to familiarisethemselves with the action, it reflected their lives and almost became part oftheir cultural identity much like in contemporary society. From a sociologist perspectivewe as individuals tend to find resonance with things that remind us of our ownidentity. This is much like television as the less we have in common with theprogrammes and what they are depicting the less likely we are to take the timeout of our day and become active consumers. This acts a counter point to the typeof programmes ITV’s rival had, the BBC.
The BBC’s television service had beenrunning steady and prominent for almost two decades and was fast gainingpopularity. But without any rivals or competition it was looked down upon as a presumptuousand elitist even former BBC supporters had defined the once go-to entertainmentsource as ‘dull’. The corporation rested on its public service principles whichmeant they had a distant relationship with the mass audience and wasovershadowed by the rise of viewers ITV gained which had won over 72% that surprisinglyshared with the BBC thus triggering the nature of the corporation to change asthey accepted that they had to branch out to the whole community rather than focuson engaging a specific demographic to remain sustainable.
The BBC challenged thefight for audience and came up with several soaps, but ratings and views werestill not as high for a few years. While many believed ITV was not on top form,the battle for ratings and relevance was more ruthless than ever – meaningchannels needed to work even harder to keep viewers glued to their sets. ITVwas later criticised for its largely populist fare, such as variety specials suchas Double your money 1955- 1968 Sometimes, however, ITV outstripped the BBC for quality andinnovation.Despite the negative opinions it’s dramas, particularlyadventure series like The Adventures ofRobin Hood 1955-59, used film to great effect rather than the staid studiobound Corporation style. This differed from the BBC as they were heavily being influencedand emphasised on news, current affairs, history and political appearances examplesof this consist of Panorama firstbroadcasted in 1953, War in time 1954and In the News 1971. By 1957, ITVdominated Britain’s homes with an 80% share of the potential audience. Thesignificance and effect that the ITV had on its audience was heavily shownthrough money brought in from advertisers, making most of the companies veryrich indeed. Success led to political pressures, however, and in the early1960s the power of ITV was questioned and attacked.
BBC were still gaining viewersdue to the genre as they still had loyal and active consumers however drama wasnot the only think that drove ITV to the top the Independent Television News (ITN)established in 1954 after the Television Act was identified as the provider of newsto ITV although it was less appreciated by viewers unlike the devotion they hadtowards the BBC. ITV challenged what BBC laid its foundation on and had now twodifferent ways of bringing in viewers there was now a clear balance ofentertainment and education. People argue that both ITN and ITV did a reasonablygood job of televising material to inform their audience nonetheless ITV wasmore equipped to ask the difficult questions and prepared to counteract theestablishment view. The ’60s and ’70swere the peak of the duopoly what was now recognised as the nation’s mainleisure activity, source of information, and form of popular culture wascontrolled by just two organisations.To conclude I believe it is clear to say that the role ofITV successfully improved British television. It crossed boundaries and challengedideas that were posed as the norm in society.
The corporation was a force to bereckoned with and due to this they were able to end the BBC’s monopoly and giveviewers a different outlook on life thus creating a consensus and snapshot ofreality. The stress on its primary task to entertain and inspire the populationin becoming active consumers of television acted as a catalyst to improve thecontent of the BBC. It is not to be debated that the significance of the BBCstill stands today as much of us know, for their mission to enrich people’slives with programmes and services that inform, educate and entertain andvision to be the most creative organisation in the world is clearly highlightedin their material. Many may argue that as much as ITV shaped television fromthe 1950’s there are several elements that suggest they have risen and fallenin their popularity but despite this their eagerness to produce quality for thepure satisfaction of the viewers are represented and recognisable withincontemporary society.