There is no doubt that during the 1960’s there was a significant cultural change in the UK; this could be accounted for in a very large part by the expansion of the BBC and the introduction of commercial TV of 1955 because television began to deal with real issues. This new commercial television used by ITV meant that the BBC had to change in order to gain viewing ratings, a competitive audience. Indeed new programs such as ‘Up the Junction’ were endemic of what were to become ‘kitchen sink drama'(1) which was intended to interest an audience in the public, by dealing with issues they faced on a daily basis such as the homelessness in ‘Cathy come home’ . Confrontation of this thorny new issue prompted the Labour government to legislate policies (2) in order help the homeless, and is a prime example of television creating social change.
However it is also quite conceivable that this new medium was not creating social change but was merely a reflection of it, for instance the change in majority public opinion at the start of the 1960’s is not born out in television but chiefly in the fact of a Labour rather than conservative government being elected in 1964. Further more while the provocative issues were bring handled in television, ‘imitations of high class culture’ (2) were still prevalent even though society would seem to be shifting further to the political left. Even more evidence for this shown in the fact that ITV and the BBC were both managed by people with the same middle class ‘social background’ (2), on the other hand this does not discount them from an understanding of society; these managers continued to attract vast audiences throughout the 60’s and Sir Hugh Greene, the director general of the time, was one of the key figures in the birth of a new genre, ‘political satire’ (1).
This reflection of culture was not to produce a wealth of social change in the 60’s but rather to nationalise social changes that had already ‘taken place’ (2) in earlier decades by putting them on the public screen, after all television couldn’t predict what the public would like but could flesh out recent cultural changes to appeal to a public which had instigated them.
However while television had not created social change ideologically, its mere existence as a family or social activity had changed culture as people would ‘discussed what they had watched the night before’ (2) and ‘domestication’ (Scannel) of television brought debate over old changes and thus help justify them to a national consciousness. Indeed television became part of ‘national and personal identity’.
In conclusion television was creating social change in the 1960’s not by confronting new issues as such, but more by building up a new national reflective culture, looking back at recent social reforms and so producing a culture which would instigate new ones. Television became its own reflective sub-culture only producing social change after it had become part of culture by dealing with recent social changes just as the public had, it epitomised the 60’s but was not chief cause of the decade’s sweeping social changes.