Shaping popular culture : radio broadcasting, mass entertainment and the work of the BBC Variety Department, 1933-1967
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This thesis examines the extent to which the BBC was able to shape the output of popular culture on radio in Britain, according to its own system of beliefs, between the years 1933 and 1967. This research will show that from the outset, the BBC was an institution with a mission to inform, educate and entertain the nation. While it was not opposed to entertainment, its focus was didactic and supported a mission to improve its audience both culturally and intellectually. This policy was not always welcomed by the audience but, with the exception of the war years, persisted into mid 1950s. The Variety Department was formed in 1933 to produce all forms of light entertainment and this research will examine how its policies shaped the production of popular culture over the period concerned. This study looks not only at the workings of the Variety Department but also the topics of Americanisation and vulgarity, the two areas in which the BBC had particular sensitivities. It analyses the BBC’s strategies to counteract the American effect on popular music and spoken-word programmes and how it provided its own particularly British form of entertainment in order to produce programmes it considered suitable for British audiences. It also investigates programme censorship imposed by the BBC to mitigate vulgarity in programmes, so as to produce those it considered suitable for its audiences. This thesis will contend that for over 40 years the BBC Variety Department produced popular entertainment programmes on radio which became an integral part of people’s daily lives until, within a few years radio was superseded by television as the nation’s principal provider of domestic entertainment. There has been no discrete study of the BBC Variety Department and it is intended that this research will add to the existing scholarship in BBC history and contribute to the analysis of radio’s place in domestic popular culture in the period examined.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2020-09-19
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Print and electronic copy restricted until 19th September 2020, pending formal approval
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