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School Broadcasting in the United Kingdom: An Exploratory History

By David Crook


In the United Kingdom, television for schools is 50 years old in 2007. The anniversary provides a reason to undertake an exploratory history of school broadcasting, an area that has received very little attention from historians of British education. The first part of this article examines the origins of school radio broadcasting, focusing especially upon the pioneering work of Mary Somerville, who served as the BBC’s first Director of School Broadcasting from 1929 to 1947. It is then argued that school broadcasting had a ‘good war’, enhancing its international reputation and sense of public value between 1939 and 1945. Following the conclusion of hostilities, there were high expectations that television for schools would become quickly established, but financial, technical and other practical impediments delayed the launch of services until 1957. By that time, commercial television had emerged as a rival to the BBC and it was an ITV company, Associated-Rediffusion, rather than the BBC, which won the race to broadcast the first television programmes for schools. Some significant technological and marketled changes since the 1980s are noted, but the conclusion states that the reputation of British school broadcasting remains high at the beginning of the twenty-first century

Year: 2007
DOI identifier: 10.1080/00220620701698341
OAI identifier:

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