Julian Petley

Richard Hoggart and Pilkington: Populism and public service broadcasting

In 1962 the Pilkington Committee, of which Richard Hoggart was a highly influential member, produced a report which was highly critical of ITV and its regulator the Independent Television Authority. It recommended that the third television channel be allocated to the BBC, and that the authority, once armed with greater seriousness of purpose, should both plan the ITV schedules and sell advertising time, thus greatly reducing the power of the advertisers over the programme makers and schedulers within the companies. The government baulked at the proposals for ITV but, nonetheless, the ensuing 1964 Television Act strengthened the powers of the ITA and allotted the third channel to the BBC. The report was bitterly attacked by most national newspapers, several of which had substantial holdings in ITV companies, and which saw the report's strictures on populism in television programming as an implicit critique of their own journalistic standards and as a threat to press freedom. This paper examines the press critique of the Pilkington Report, and suggests that it prefigures later press interventions in the broadcasting sphere, as well as press reactions to the Leveson Inquiry.

Keywords: Richard Hoggart, Pilkington, populism, ITV, ITA


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Note on the contributor

Julian Petley is Professor of Screen Media at Brunel University. He is a member of the advisory board of Index on Censorship, of the national council of the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom, and of the editorial board of the British Journalism Review. He is also principal editor of the Journal of British Cinema and Television. His most recent book is the edited collection Media and Public Shaming (I. B. Tauris, 2013). He gave written and oral evidence to the Leveson Inquiry.