Friday, December 15, 2006

Strong women and the history of the BBC 

Last night in the Drama Connections slot, a programme about the cult TV series Tenko which emphasised how male dominated BBC TV was at least until the 1980’s. This story of women in a WW2 Japanese internment camp was practically the first on British TV offering a woman-dominated story with strong un-stereotyped characters.

This highlighted for me the great BBC lost opportunity of the late 1940’s.

Some years ago a friend of mine who worked in the BBC just after WW2 told me that during the war women took on high powered positions backstage in the BBC including programming responsibilities and running departments. So as the peacetime world emerged and the Television service started to find its feet, how did the BBC make use of this considerable talent pool? Answer, it made it a condition of employment that any woman in the BBC had to report to a male manager. This 'made room' for men coming home from the war.

The talented women in the BBC left in disgust or were squeezed out, except for one departmental head, who was able to continue in post – managing the lost property service.

We can wonder perhaps how British TV could have evolved if women had been in positions of influence right from the start. Maybe we would not have had to wait 30 years and more for at least a few dramas and news investigations showing real lives of real women. As for the way certain kinds of news stories are reported...

Wonder if the BBC could do a programme about this episode?

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