Postwar, the previous stability of the BBC belied its adaptations and responses to national and global cultural changes. The 1950s quiet Reithian conservatism did not last very long, as the BBC reacted to the cultural shifts of the early 1960s. Under Director-General Hugh Greene, the BBC engaged much more fully with the spirit of the time, with programmes like That Was The Week That Was, Cathy Come Home, Till Death Do Us Part, and Greene’s parting shot to the BBC, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, all of which received criticism and cause offence to both left-wing and right-wing commentators. Selfappointed ‘moral’ watchdogs such as Mary Whitehouse saw him and the BBC as dragging Britain into an amoral, anti-Christian, violent, crudely sexual mess. Such attacks have dogged the BBC ever since, with the Conservatives in the 1980s regularly accusing the BBC of left-wing bias and of not upholding ‘British’ standards, a confused phrase implying a lack of patriotism, particularly during the Falklands conflict in 1982.
   The BBC long personified decency and stability since its inception in 1922, but the 1990s saw a painful and often controversial process of change. While much of the history of the BBC from 1945 was calm and unchanging, the 1990s saw uncharted waters of internal strife, job cuts, constant controversy and low morale as Thatcherite economics were brought to bear upon it. During John Birt’s term as Director-General the BBC’s structure was thoroughly overhauled; the creation of an internal market forced producers to buy in expertise rather than co-opting other departments. Birt claimed that this was more efficient in an age of tight public spending, but opponents have argued that the move simply claimed jobs, destroyed morale and generated an administrative paper mountain. It also meant the loss of expertise; one result was the closing of the world famous Costume Department in 1996. Possibly the most damaging episode was the threat to the World Service in 1996, when BBC management seemed to fundamentally misunderstand the importance of the Service and were less than open about their plans for it. But while the reforms were controversial, the BBC was at least thankful that the licence fee remained in place. The Broadcasting Bill of 1996 saw heated debates about the role of the BBC, and whether the fee should stay. The BBC won the battle, but the licence fee was deliberately kept below inflation for much of the 1990s, with the government claiming that there was scope for efficiency savings.
   See also: Radio 1; Radio 2; Radio 3; Radio 4; Radio 5
   Further reading
    MacCabe, C. and Stewart, O. (eds) (1986) The BBC and Public Service Broadcasting Editors, Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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