The television policies of the UK administrations of Margaret Thatcher and John Major 1979-1997
This thesis provides an extended analysis and review of the television policies of the UK Conservative administrations of Margaret Thatcher and John Major from 1979 to 1997 and examines the causes, coherence and consequences of those policies. In particular, it identifies the potential forces for change in UK television policy from the late seventies: notably, international changes in the economic, social and cultural, and technological environment of the industry; and the political changes in the UK introduced by the new Conservative administrations, generally known as `Thatcherism'. The thesis analyses the specific strengths of the UK television system established by the 1970s, and reviews the criticisms made of that system in the years before 1979. It then assesses the major developments in television policy instituted by the Thatcher and Major administrations: the establishment of Channel 4; their policies on the new technologies of satellite and broadband cable; the impact of the Committee chaired by Alan Peacock on the Financing of the BBC; the reform of ITV; their policies for the renewal of the BBC charter in the 1990s; and their policies on digitalisation and multimedia. Particular attention is paid to the changes that these policies produced in the UK television industry, and the lack of overall coherence of the policies. The thesis argues that the changes were significant but that they were only partial, and that, while pursuing a general goal of marketisation, the policies were incoherent in many of their specifics. This incoherence stemmed partly from resistance by established institutions within the industry, and partly from internal contradictions within the Tories' overall free-market project. The thesis concludes with an examination of the light that Tory television policy during this period sheds on the wider political debate on `Thatcherism' and the international context of UK television policy during the same period.