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Speaking of science: BBC science broadcasting and its critics, 1923–64

Jones, A.C.; (2010) Speaking of science: BBC science broadcasting and its critics, 1923–64. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Several times in the BBC’s history, from the 1920s to the 1960s, scientific organisations (mainly the British Association) and numerous eminent scientists attempted to influence the management of science broadcasting. These attempts usually consisted of visits by scientific deputations to the BBC to argue for the reorganisation of science broadcasting. The historical part of the thesis narrates the so-far unpublished story of these interventions at the BBC, drawing on archival primary sources. The thesis sets these interventions in their historical context, and also in the context of BBC science production. The historical context of science production at the BBC, described here, is another little researched and largely unknown topic. The interventions are shown to have been strikingly consistent over several decades. Scientists argued that the public should be better informed about science, and that the BBC had a duty to promote the public understanding of science. To facilitate this, scientists argued that science production should be centralised, and that scientists should be given significant control over science programme planning. The responses of BBC managers to these interventions are shown also to have been strikingly consistent. Managers reiterated the professionalism and competence of production staff, and presented evidence of the BBC’s commitment to science programming. The thesis draws on several bodies of scholarship in concert to gain theoretical insight into these interventions. Specifically, theoretical ideas relating to science communication, boundary work, and the construction of scientific authority give analytical purchase on the conduct of the scientists. Similarly, theoretical ideas on the nature of professionalism, public-service broadcasting, and the relationship of organisational structure to behaviour give insight into the conduct of BBC managers, and into the conduct of the scientists. This theoretical background shows how the resolution of the issue in 1964 served a strategic function for the BBC.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Speaking of science: BBC science broadcasting and its critics, 1923–64
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Dept of Science and Technology Studies
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/19988
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