The effects of 'antiestablishment' BBC comedy on politicians, the public and broadcasting values c.1939-1973
There are three parts to this thesis, which explores how politicians, the public and broadcasters were affected by ‘antiestablishment’ BBC comedy between 1939 and 1973. ‘The Establishment’ is understood not just as the holders and loci of power, but something with social dimensions, too. Part one explores the immanent anarchy of humour by looking at controversies stirred by radio comedy before 1960. Key studies are ITMA and The Goon Show, two programmes at times concealing ‘antiestablishment’ attitudes. The chapter also discusses a BBC file, ‘Jokes Against Government’, which shows that listeners were detecting satirical intent and so-called political bias in variety as early as 1932. The implication is: if relatively innocuous comedy can disturb, those programmes which intentionally attack politicians may have quite some power. Such programmes are the focus of part two, which dedicates a chapter each to That Was The Week That Was; Not So Much a Programme, More a Way of Life and BBC-3. These were televised revue shows with much satirical, topical content. All three were produced by Ned Sherrin and all three, it is argued, had sustained political impact. The archival material presented suggests a worry by many politicians, both Labour and Conservative, about television’s role in political culture. This theme continues in part three. What were the Sherrin trilogy’s long-term effects? The contention is that the irreverence towards politics that marked out these shows was subsumed into some more ‘serious-minded’ BBC programming. One example offered is the 1971 documentary Yesterday’s Men, which examined the fortunes of the Labour Cabinet defeated in the 1970 general election. The presentational techniques of Yesterday’s Men, sometimes described as ‘satirical’, led to a row between the BBC and some of the documentary’s interviewees, analysis of which leads to some conclusions about the value of archival research into satire.
- Theses