File Name: john russell taylor anger and after .zip
- Anger, and after: A guide to the new British drama
- Anger, and after: A guide to the new British drama
- Anger and After: Guide to the New British Drama (Eyre Methuen Drama Books)
Anger, and after: A guide to the new British drama
This paper offers a critical perspective regarding the British Broadcasting Corporation, briefly touching on the early years, the dominance of radio, and the struggle to obtain recognition and resources for television production.
The management structures, policies and decision making of the BBC will be considered, with reference to consequences for practitioners and for the form and content of programmes broadcast. However, history shows an uneven development in terms of representation of certain groups, both inside and outside the organisation, a development linked also to changes in society.
In this article I shall look at the BBC during the growth period of the s and s, focussing on interlinked issues of class and gender in employment, production processes, and representation.
Experiences and voices from inside broadcasting, including oral history testimonies will provide insights into the policies and practices of the BBC. A significant factor in this was that of - new men on the block - managerial figures making policy decisions which changed the direction of the BBC. The results, prompted partly by survival strategies in the face of competition, included efforts to address a broader section of the population, with fundamental shifts in the representation of class and, to some extent, of women.
The first example touches on employment conditions for women at the BBC, together with a consideration of programmes aimed at women viewers, themed largely by an ideology of domesticity, with few changes in the mode of address. Secondly drama production is examined in some detail, on the grounds that this period marks a significant change of direction for this popular genre, both in terms of the role of practitioners, writers, producers, directors, and the shift towards a discourse of political and social change in the wider framework.
These issues continue to have resonance, both historically and in the contemporary context. Significantly, there have been recent calls from within the BBC regarding key issues of gender and of racial equality. These demands have been partly prompted by the Black Lives Matter movement against racism and the MeToo movement against gender discrimination. A clear indication of continuing discrimination against women employees, is the recent revelation that prominent female presenters in BBC television in the present day, have been paid less than their male colleagues doing the same work.
There have always been women in administrative roles at the BBC — as organisers, or with responsibility for certain programme categories, both in radio and television, but, normally, fewer than men. This meant that during the years - , any woman employed by the BBC who married, either had to resign or be dismissed.
The Corporation has been guided by the belief that only an exceptional woman, with adequate material resources, can perform her duties satisfactorily as a whole time servant of the Corporation while attempting also to fulfil the cares and responsibilities of a young family. Even in wartime, the argument had to be made, prioritising urgent objectives in the programme address, and attempting to overcome continuing prejudice of male executives. There still seems great need on the one hand to present industry to the workers in a way that will somehow fire their imagination and enthusiasm, and…to use every possible means to make factory workers feel that they are appreciated, and that their share in the war effort is fully recognised… Women at War can help on both these.
This was reflected in BBC programming. There were notable women appointed in reorganisation at this time, including Mary Adams, who was first Head of Talks in , and also Mary Somerville, talks controller in the s.
Doctors, clergyman, and Justices of the Peace were presented as experts, giving advice on family problems. The programme was frequently organized around problems sent in by viewers.
On the 11 th August , for example, the programme invited Adrian Digby, keeper of the British Museum, to speak, and featured a section on learning French phrases for holidays.
On the 28 th September , lessons in sketching, and the new designs in Irish linen, were at the centre of the programme. With regard to social class and income group, are the programmes appropriately tuned to the audience? This perspective continued, with a bureaucratic structure , based on a government Civil Service model, enforcing a cultural hegemony under the leadership of William Haley, the Director General, This battle for the legitimacy of television only changed when Ian Jacob was appointed as Director General to replace Sir William Haley in Would not a combination of communal viewing plus home viewing based on a properly balanced public service be healthier, more educative, and more enlightening than a service based on Hollywood….
By , nearly one in three families in UK had television sets. Broadcasting policies, regional development plans and competition for resources depended, nevertheless, on the invisible network of organisers, secretaries, producers, directors, writers, studio managers, costume designers, make- up artists and camera operators, responsible for the continuity of programmes broadcast.
But there was continued differentiation of wages or salary linked to class and gender. In terms of employment possibilities, the BBC dominated the field as the only television organisation in Britain until , when ITV, the commercial channel, was authorised to start.
A significant reference is made by Michael Gorham, Head of Television from , concerning what was probably the first appearance of a black actor in British television drama.
It was the sheer nervousness and he conquered it in the repeat performance two days later. Cultural connotations linked the uniqueness of live television drama to live theatre, particularly at a time when classical literature adaptations were predominant. Michael Barry captures the attitude of BBC hierarchy at the time. Nigel Kneale, the writer was a key mover in the project to encourage new writers for television. The science fiction drama, the Quatermass Experiment written by Nigel Kneale and produced by Rudolph Cartier, broadcast in marked an important innovation towards a British popular culture genre for television.
A serial format was used, which would become an essential strategy for winning and keeping regular viewers. The idea of quality viewing targeting a wider, working class audience was integral to this production. Kneale links the technology of live broadcasting to the creative strategies adopted by writers and producers. The female scientific assistants and researcher depicted in Quatermass and the Pit transmitted at peak viewing time in Dec were mainly upper class and highly educated.
They show, supposedly feminine, intuitive, perceptions concerning the sinister, alien environment, but also demonstrate extensive scientific knowledge. This combination emerges in the narrative as ultimately more useful than what is shown as typically masculine, rational, analysis which draws on the material, science- professor logic, expressed by Quatermass.
A for Andromeda presents a narrative critical of a hegemonic framework of political, military and technological power in Britain exerting pressure on a group of scientists in a highly advanced laboratory. Familiar themes, both then and now, were presented, concerning uses and control of new technology, the role of computers, together with radio telescopes, and directions for future, space based, laboratory developments. Plot and dialogue explored issues concerning science, philosophy and politics, plus a combative discourse on gender, sexuality and social class.
He authorised a programme of restructuring with new team managers and new directions in the cultural discourse of BBC television programmes. Not only was the reputation of the BBC at stake with its perceived potential to change and modernise, but there was the threat to the license fee, the financial source of all BBC activities.
The license fee was demanded from everyone who owned a television set, but the BBC appeared to be catering only for a minority of this audience,. His egalitarian approach is shown in a frank statement, with his views of British television drama.
So I said we would have an original play policy with plays that were going to be about the very people who owned TV sets — which is really a working-class audience. The series was classified as popular, while the single play could encompass cultural representation from the historical to the contemporary. However, given the imperatives of winning and retaining audiences from the competitor, he also encouraged the trend towards production of series and serials. The categories of drama delineated by Newman had already shown new directions, but the trend would become clearer, with fewer stereotypical representations of women and greater authenticity in representation of working- class context, narrative, and personage.
Episodic drama as short bursts of entertainment , was already part of the strategy to reach a wider, working class public.. A police series, Dixon of Dock Green , featuring an avuncular, friendly neighbourhood police constable, started in , also appealing to regular viewers. However, by , a more dynamic and realistic image of the police emerged in the long running series Z Cars.
This was an indicator of the new trend during intensive years of change in form and content even before the arrival of Sydney Newman. Viewing figures for the series showed an increase from 8. According to John Russell Taylor writing soon after,.
Even with the success of certain television playwrights, there was, initially, a shortage of writers. The series dealt with a range of social issues concerning children and adolescents, youth crime and its treatment, industrial relations, women at work, prison conditions and post prison treatment.
Investigative journalism techniques were combined with the work of writers of drama, capturing the authenticity of everyday life. In his view:. I like writing for television because of the audience. Most people have a television set, but few and far between are the people who go to the theatre.
The vast majority of people in this country are working class people. I am of and from that class and they are the people that I write for. A sense of urgency among this first generation of class-conscious, university educated, writers for television, is conveyed by Don Taylor, writer and BBC television director:. I wanted to get onto the screen radical, questioning work, which at that time was likely to be a product of the upsurge of interest in the real life of the working class from playwrights who knew that background.
His first play for television, Incident at Echo Six , produced by Gilchrist Calder, broadcast in , concerned National Servicemen in the Cyprus conflict. In her book, she shows that writers, producers and directors in this output of more than plays, were mainly men. Twelve women writers are listed, but among producers, Shubik was almost unique, and responsible for producing at least 70 of these dramas. They were poorly represented within what became a highly individualised competitive framework leaving the writer vulnerable in terms of contracts and fee scales.
This was in contrast to other, regular, behind the screen workers where technician-based unions shared a common working environment and the scale of organised power to close down the system if necessary. Up the Junction , broadcast in , as a Wednesday Play, was based on the novel by Nell Dunn, who collaborated with Loach on the script presenting a working class community in London, with the emphasis on women working -but also on the question of abortion, which at that time was illegal in Britain.
As part of their strategy to foreground the immediacy of problems in everyday life, and utilising opportunities presented by innovative recording technology to reinforce authenticity, Loach and Garnett moved outside, away from conventional BBC studio- based drama, towards filming and hand-held camera in real locations, combining drama with documentary. This resulted in both negative and positive audience response, but also a retreat by BBC officials, including Sydney Newman, who cancelled the second planned screening of the play due to objections to the focus on abortion.
This provoked widespread public reaction of shock, but also sympathy, particularly for the principal character of the mother. However, in the same year, there was the famous, total ban on the transmission of The War Game , another powerful drama, by Peter Watkins, dealing with possible consequences of nuclear war — this time considered by the authorities as too strong for British viewers. The turning points outlined here include the launch pad of debate regarding the validity of television — the new technology intruder into the struggle for resources at the BBC.
The subsequent change of orientation was significant and extensive, from patriarchal, elitist, high culture institution with government approval for access to the nation, into a broadcaster with voices and images from the community at large —and a wider representation of class in one genre at least, drama, which was central to television programming.
A long term, problematic issue, hidden from history, was the presence of women, initially employed in a multiplicity of roles at the BBC, but thanks to recent research efforts, the invisible presences and past contributions of women at different levels within the BBC are currently coming to light. Programmes directed towards a female audience, however, were disappointingly limited and problematic in terms of stereotyping, with the exception of earlier examples of wartime radio broadcasts.
The substantial swathe of themes and ideas which swept across the schedules in drama output subsequently resulted in a visibility of class, gender and specific communities previously unacknowledged in the discourse of British broadcasting. Nevertheless, even within a relatively benign management framework, the judgement and integrity of production teams was questioned but measured against pressures of prospective competition and threats to established channels of finance..
But whilst this era is renowned for boundary breaking, experimental drama, it was the ingenuity of writers and other practitioners which gave expression to this, together with the creative license of alternative methods of production linked to technological change utilised by production teams.
Empirical sources, contemporary accounts from participants, have provided an essential key to further understanding of the history of the BBC during the s and s. In the genre of drama discussed here, the working -class presence and voice showed expressions of creativity previously unexplored, communicating with a wider, working class audience. Nevertheless, the pressure to achieve greater equality continues, in terms of class, gender and ethnicity, both online and offline, in front of, and behind the BBC cameras.
Fuller, Graham, ed. Nationalising femininity Manchester, Manchester University Press, , pp. Phil dissertation unpublished, University of Kent Purcell, Jennifer J. Letter from R. Cartier to C. Moodie Information Division Air Ministry, Elaine Morgan,
Anger, and after: A guide to the new British drama
Anger and After: Guide to the New British Drama (Eyre Methuen Drama Books)
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