Reforming Radio: BBC Radio’s music policy 1957-1967


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This article examines attempts by the centralised policy makers of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) to overcome a crisis at their radio service in reaction to the launch of commercial television in 1955. It looks in particular at the work – the successes, failures and frustrations – of an assistant director, a bureaucrat, who planned to regenerate music policy, especially in terms of pop and light music, which led to the formation of the numbered station system still in use today: Radios 1 - 4. Using primary sources from the BBC’s written archives, the article will identify the oppositions he faced from external forces (the Sound Broadcasting Society, the Musicians’ Union) and the internal forces (music department operatives, presenters). It will attempt to explain, through the prism of Michel Crozier’s study The Bureaucratic Phenomenon (1964), how the assistant director overcame these hurdles across the ten years of time that it took to pummel policy into practice.
Original languageEnglish
Article number7717
Number of pages14
JournalLa Revue Francaise de Civilisation Britannique
Issue number1
Early online date5 Dec 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Dec 2020


  • BBC
  • radio studies
  • music policy
  • popular music
  • pirate radio


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