American Television on British Screens: A Story of Cultural by Paul Rixon

By Paul Rixon

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While I have made these analytical divisions using accepted notions of change in British broadcasting, see for example Ellis (2002), it must be noted that, in reality, the way American programmes have been used, the way British broadcasting has developed and the debates which have arisen over time tend to spill out of such divisions. 3 Historical re-evaluation In this overview, I will be exploring the developing relationship between the American and the British television systems, the debates about American television and American programmes and their differing uses on British television.

While at this time lTV might be viewed as storing up financial problems for another time, of having high wages and being generally overmanned, in many ways the seventies was a time when its reputation as a producer of good quality, serious programmes was established; indeed, for some, it seemed as if 'the BBC imported American soap operas to bolster its ratings while ITV took the lead in news and current affairs coverage' (Potter, 1989: 3). The contractors were spurred on to invest money in these rather expensive programmes because of a government levy, introduced in the 1960s due to the exceptional profits being made at that time.

Many were up in arms about the report. Maurice Wiggins, in an article entitled 'Going the Whole Hoggart' suggested that the attempt to 'make the ITA into another BBC [was] the hopeless last resort of men who fundamentally fear the operation of a free society' (The Observer, 1962). While the government took on some aspects of the report, for example the allocation of the third channel to the BBC, the drastic restructuring of lTV did not occur (Briggs, 1995: 303-8). However, not all the references to American television and its relationship with British television are negative.

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