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The expansion of television in the 1950's and 1960's: institutions, society and culture.

By Robert Francis Turnock


This thesis explores the expansion of British television in the 1950s and 1960s and its relationship to social and cultural change. During this period, television developed into an industry and mass medium and this coincided with a cultural shift from a seemingly consensual society of post-war austerity to a society characterised by fragmentation, individualism and consumerism. By combining a re-examination of existing histories of British television with a discussion of television programmes and sociological theory, this thesis explores the complex relationship between the expansion of television and that social and cultural change. The thesis shows how television represented these changes, and how it presented competing discourses about consumer culture in a range of programmes including action adventure series, pop music and women's programmes. It also demonstrates how television promoted class and cultural conflict in its individual programmes\ud such as situation comedies and dramas, and through juxtaposition of high and low cultural vales, themes and forms in its mixed programme schedule. By looking at issues such as intimacy, performance, authenticity and sociability, the thesis argues that television promoted its own status as an increasingly centralised cultural form.\ud It proposes that television established social categories which became embedded and naturalised over time, and this created the potential to define social experience. The thesis therefore concludes that the examination of the expansion of television in the 1950s and 1960s is of importance for understanding the operation of media power today

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