chapter  6
26 Pages

United Kingdom: a declining role for Auntie

Before World War II the British television broadcasting industry enjoyed an early forced start because of state-provided financial support. Viewers paid for licences which were used to support the publicly owned British Broadcasting Corporation. At that time, in the 1930s, the American television industry looked upon the British approach with envy because it guaranteed adequate finance. Fifty years later, after much discussion and several government reports, Britain was on the brink of going over to a market system similar to that of the Americans.1 This was despite British television's reputation worldwide amongst many critics of the industry for quality programming. Yet the truth was that with many competing demands for public finance the state was unable to afford the cost of supporting all the new media technologies. In any case the Conservative government of Mrs Thatcher was philosophically opposed to doing so. The British government decided that finance for cable and satellites, in addition to a majority of broadcasting, had to come from the private sector.