BAFTA (the British Academy of Film and Television Arts) was formed in 1959 by the amalgamation of the Guild of Television Producers and Directors, dating from 1954, and the British Film Academy. The latter had been set up in 1946 by leading figures in British cinema as a non-profitmaking organization with the object of improving standards and enhancing the status of British cinema and also to campaign for increased government recognition and financial support. It was a natural development to embrace the cognate arts of television; by the end of the 1950s television audiences had grown while cinema admissions were falling (though they have since picked up), and the overlap in personnel in the two media, which was already considerable, was to become even more marked as time passed. BAFTA, which has a preview theatre at its London premises at 195 Piccadilly, awards fellowships to distinguished practitioners in cinema and television. The concept of the Academy, along with its somewhat pretentious appellation, plainly owes something to the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, founded by Louis B. Mayer in 1929. Like its US counterpart, BAFTA is best known for annual awards that are presented at quite glittering occasions. Though sought after and respected, these have not as yet acquired anything like the same prestige—or box office clout—as the ‘Oscars’. As well as giving awards for such categories as Best Film, Best Single Television Drama and Best Television Children’s Programme (Factual), BAFTA, keen to promote the particular crafts within the wider sphere of film and television production, also singles out excellence in narrower fields such as Best Graphic Design, Best Television Make-Up and even Best (Film) Make-Up Hair. The important contribution of stalwarts to British film and television is commemorated by BAFTA in awards named after, for instance, Anthony Asquith, Alexander Korda, Michael Balcon and Richard Dimbleby.
   BAFTA should not be confused with the BFI (British Film Institute) which was founded in 1933 and also seeks to promote interest in the moving image in cinema and on television, but does so by maintaining the National Film Archive, the National Film Theatre and the Museum of the Moving Image, and by publishing the Monthly Film Bulletin and the quarterly Sight and Sound.
   See also: BFI; film awards
   Further reading
    Lee, Veronica (1997) ‘The Curse of the Award Ceremonies Too Numerous to Mention’, Guardian, 21 March (an informative, if rather jaundiced article).

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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