Social and Cultural change (Wilson 1964-70)


The expansion of the mass media

In the 1960s mass media grew in size and type. TV became available everywhere, which started to create a uniformity of culture and ended the isolation of distant communities. By 1961, 75% of the population had a TV in their home, and by 1971 it was 91%. When Hugh Green became director-general of the BBC in 1960, he set out to transform it. Money was diverted from the radio to TV, guidelines on nudity and swearing were revised, a new style of news presentation and more popular programmes were commissioned. The launch of ITV in 1955 had allowed advertising to expand. Advertisers could get straight into the family living room and tempt customers with attractive models that reinforce the brand name of goods. BBC2 was launched in April 1964 allowing BBC1 to grow more populist (appeal to ordinary people), and in July 1967 BBC2 became the first channel to broadcast regular colour programmes. Radio survived, helped by the development of the cheap portable transitor and the spread of car radios. These, together with the long-life battery and earphones, meant that radios could be taken out or listened to in the privacy of the bedroom. Teenagers no longer had to listen to what their parents wanted and personal radios meant that programmes could be targetted at different audiences. At the beginning of the 1960s there were just 3 BBC radio stations. Commercial enterprised siezed on the gap in the market. Young people who could obtain the signal started to listen to nightly broadcasts of pop music from Radio Luxembourg and from 1964 the 'pirate stations'. After the pirate stations were banned, a BBC pop music station, Radio One, started. Those newspapers and magazines that survived grew stronger. The Sun, launched in 1964, replaced the serious W/C paper the Daily Herald. In 1969, the Sun was bought by a wealthy business man Rupert Murdoch. He associated it with more permissive attitudes of the age and its popularity grew enormously.

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Growth in Leisure Activities

By the 1960s leisure time expanded as fewer people were expected to work on Saturday mornings and weekends could be given to leisure activities. TV was seen as a home leisure activity and by 1969, TV accounted for 23% of leisure time. DIY and gardening became popular hobbies. Cookery, needlework and knitting still had a place in the 1960s home, and were encouraged by both new gadgetry and the ease that tasks such as knitting and watching TV could be combined. Live theatre, on the other hand, shrunk rapidly. Live football matches also suffered. 

Car ownership accellerated rapidly in the 1960s. Passenger bus, coach and train travel declined as the use of car grew to account for 77% of journeys by 1974. Technological improvements meant that cars became more affordable. Cars permitted travel to alternative leisure activities such as shopping centres, sport, etc. For the providers of equiptment and facilities, leisure had became a profitable business. Shopping became a leisure activity in its own right as mass production grew, fuelled by advertising. 

The 1960s also saw leisure travel turn into mass tourism as the number of holidays increased. Britannia Airways was founded in 1964 to serve holidaymakers wishing to fly to Spain, the canary islands, Malta, Bulgaria and North Africa. However, the costs of air travel meant that holidays abroad were mostly for the M/C. Package holidays were still developing by the end of the 1960s.

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Impact of Scientific Developments

The 1960s were a great time of scientific and technological development. In 1961 the first person went to space and by 1969 the US had landed on the moon. The Labour governments main aim was scientific development. Despite economic problems and financial restraints, there was progress. The anglo-French partnership continued the development of Concorde. The Post Office Tower, then the tallest building in Britian, opened in 1965 to improve telecommunications. 

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Reduction in Censorship 1968

Playwrights began experimenting with new styles of plays, often addressing social issues with an honesty that led to clashes with the office of the Lord Chamberlain (it had power to prevent plays being performed or order changes to be made to them). New plays had to gain a licence from the Lord Chamberlain Office before they were allowed to be performed. Theatre owners could be prosecuted if a play did not have approval. The Royal Court Theatre in London was at the centre of innovation. After Edward Bond's controversial play 'Early Morning' was banned in 1967, the backbencher George Strauss introduced a bill to abolish theatrical censorship. With Roy Jenkins' support, the law was passed in 1968.

Films remained subject to strict categorisation by the British Board of Film Censors. Nevertheless, the 60s saw a gradual broadening of what was considered acceptable. Films of the mid-60s grew more daring, with examples such as Darling (1965), Alfie (1966) and Here we go round the Mulberry Bush (1967). By the end of the decade, screen violence and sex had become more acceptable.

TV was affected by, and helped to develop, more liberal attitudes. As the 60s progressed, issues of sex, violence, politics and religion, which had previously been banned were tackled. 

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Progress towards Female equality

The belief that the duty of women was to be a good wife and mother, keeping a clean home and feeding children and husband, remained strong in the 60s, particularly among the W/C. Few women made it to the top professions. Women accounted for only 28% of students in higher education in 1970 and only 5% of women only ever reached managerial posts. Girls' education still carried a domestic slant and girls frequently left school at the minimum age and married young. There was no shortage of jobs for women, as they could be payed less than men, but many of these were in the clerical and service sector. Women who wanted to work but had children were portrayed as unnatural and selfish by the media. Childminers were rare and private nurseries were only available for the wealthy. The NHS (family planning) Act of 1967 allowed local authorities to provide contraceptives and contraceptive advice for the first time. However, changing attitudes meant that the number of illegitimate births rose from 5.8% in 1960 to 8.2% in 1970, and the number of marriages ending in divorce also rose. A number of 'Women's Lib' groups sprang up around the UK to campaign for social and economic equality for women. A rally in Britain in 1969 led to the establishment of the Womens National Co-ordination Committee, which brought the various strands of the feminist movement together. At the first National Women's Liberation Conference held in Oxford, February 1970, 4 demands were put forward:

  • equal pay
  • free contraception and abortion on request
  • equal educational and job opportunities
  • free 24-hour childcare
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Progress towards Female equality

Some progress was made: the 1970 Equal Pay act established the principle of equal pay for equal work, although it didn't come into force for 5 years. However, the feminist movement did not really make much headway until the 70s. Despite some breakthroughs, by the end of the 60s, inequalities and discrimination still existed and the traditional stereotyping of roles remained strong. The 1960s was a time of evolution, not revolution, for women.

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Changes in Moral attitudes and the 'Permissive Soc

The Catholic Church was hostile to the contraceptive pill. Not all important Catholics agreed and the Catholic MP Norman St John-Stevas wrote a critical essay entitled 'The Pope, the Pill and the People' in 1968. Permissive ideas were spread by the media, from 'teen' magazines through to a growing number of uncensored novels. Previous taboo subjects (forbidden) were discussed in books, on the radio and TV. By the end of the decade, rates of STI's were on the rise, especially among the young. 

The moral campaigner Mary Whitehouse (Birmingham housewife. She bagan her own 'Moral crusade' which was directed at the director-general of the BBC, Sir Hugh Greene. She gained a lot of public support when she launched her 'Clean up TV' campaign in 1964. In 1965 she founded the 'National Viewers' and Listeners' Association. Her campaign continued until the 1980s) The publicity and support she recieved led to the setting up of the National Viewers' and Listeners' Association in 1965, this soon had 10,000 members. However, she failed to have any impact on the programmes shown.

The permissive society was also seen in the spread of the drug culture. Cocaine and Heroin addiction became 10X more widespread (prevalent) in the 1st half of the 1960s and the use of soft drugs was more commonplace by the end of the decade. The 'Hippy lifestlye', with its emphasis on 'free love' and 'flower power', promoted the drug culture and even the Beatles turned to LSD. The Dangerous Drug Act 1967 made it illegal to possess drugs such as cannabis and cocaine. The Wootten Report of 1968 suggested legalising soft drugs like cannabis, but this was rejected by Home Secretary James Callaghan, who wanted to 'call a hault to the rising tide of permissiveness'. In 1970 the maximum sentence for supplying drugs was increased to 14 years' imprisonment. 

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Youth Culture

The coincidence of increased living standards, the spread of education and the growth of leisure time helped to create a youth generation that was more inclined to question the norms and more ready to assert its right to choose. 

Young people clashed with parents over fashion, music tastes and moral standards. Such behaviour caused a great deal of consern among the older generation. Alcohol, tobacco and caffine were used more than illegal drugs, and according to a survey in 1969, young people spent more time listening to music in their bedrooms than at youth clubs and rock festivals.

Youth culture was largely defined by fashion and music. Traditional rules were abandoned. It became acceptable to wear the same outfit to work and for the evening. Women wore trousers, and men started to wear velvets, satins and brightly coloured fabrics. These trends became more extreme as the decade progressed. 

Young people listened to popular music by tuning into pirate stations or, from 1967, BBC Radio One. Different youth cultures emerged. By the end of the 1960s, skinheads, characterised by their shaven heads, braces and Dr Marten boots, had evolved from the mods. 

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Anti-Vietnam War riots

In the summer of 1965, there were teachings on Vietnam at Oxford University and the London School of Economics (LSE). The Vietnam Solidarity Campaign or VCS was set up in 1966 gaining large support from students. 

On 17 March 1968, there were violent scenes at an anti-Vietnam War demonstration in London, near the American Embassy in Grosvenor Square. On March 28 a still more violent protest known as the Battle of Grosvenor Square took place, ending with over 200 people being arrested. The final demonstration in October 1968 in which 30,000 people took part was relitively peaceful. 

The year 1968 saw a number of other anti-vietnam protests, often combined with demands for more student power.

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Issues of Immigration and Race

A survey in North London in 1965 showed how 1 in 5 objected working with black, or Asian people, half said they would refuse to live next door to a black person and 9/10 dissaproved of mixed marriages. In 1965, Labour passed the first Race Relations Act. This forbade discrimination in public places. However, discrimination in housing and employment were excluded. Complaints were to be reffered to the Race Relations Board whose job was to pacify between the 2 sides. Although it handled 982 complaints in the first year, 734 were dismissed through lack of evidence.

In February 1968, alarm over the sudden influx of Kenyan Asians prompted the government to pass a new Commonwealth Immigration Act, limiting the right to return for non-white Commonwealth citizens. The arrival of the immigrants prompted Enoch Powell to make his notorious 'Rivers of Blood' speech in April 1968.

Powell was condemned (punished) by the liberal Establishment. Heath sacked him and never spoke to him again. The reaction from the public was very different. Strikes by dockers and meat porters occured in London and a protest march to Downing Street in response to his sacking. A poll found that 75% of the population supported what Powell had said. 

A further Race Relations Act was introduced in 1968. This act banned racial discrimination in housing, employment, insurance and other services. The Race Relations Board was given stronger powers. However, there were still loopholes. The Race Relations Board only upheld 10% of the 1241 complaints. 

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Issues of Immigration and Race

However, there were positive aspects to immigration and evidence of communities living together without problems. The Nottinghill Carnival became an annual event from 1964. The appearance of Asian corner shops and Chinese takeaways introduced new foods. Youth culture also drew from ethnic communities in fashion, music and street life. Hippies of the late 1960s wore Indian and African cottons, kaftans, Arabian pants, Indian scarves and ethnic beads.  

Nottinghill Carnival:

was set up by the West Indian immigrants of the area to try and improve community relations and encourage people to mix socially. The carnival features bright costumes, imaginative floats and dancing on the streets. It is accompanied by stalls serving typical Caribbean food.

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