Do you agree with the view that television from the 1960s reflected changes in British attitudes and values of British society and thus contributed to the ‘dumbing down’ of society

During the 1960s, the ideas, perspectives, attitudes and images of the age, known as pop culture, became widely broadcast on British television. At this time, the demand for comedy and drama outweighed that for educational or academic discussion shows; suggesting that by reflecting the wants of the public, that television was in turn ‘dumbing down’ society.This point is supported by source 17, which implies that television became a moulder of opinion and fashion and consequently caused changes in the way society viewed culture. Source 16 also supports this argument to some extent, because it suggests that broadcasting organisation should acknowledge the power they hold and use it in a beneficial way. However, it could be argued that television merely reflected the changes in tastes; source 16 suggests this, by implying that the public have a duty to take account of the negative changes rather that blaming television for the faults occurring within society.Source 17 and, to some extent, source 16 support the argument by suggesting that television reflected changes in British attitudes and therefore contributed to the ‘dumbing down’ of society; however, they do this in different ways. Source 17 argues this point more strongly by stating that difficult or challenging themes were marginalised. On the other hand, source 16 suggests that television executives had a power to introduce new topics and should use this influence to the advantage of society. This view is reinforced by many of the changes that were occurring during the time. For example, during the 1950s, the BBC was a monopoly run as a public service that was overseen by governors.However, under the Conservative government elected in 1951, proposals surfaced to introduce a new model; a second television service funded by advertising. This meant that television would not longer simply promote the values of those who controlled public service broadcasting. The introduction of competition within this market meant that instead of having a mixture of what some considered to be culturally enriching programmes (academic, discussions etc) would be replaced by more popular alternatives, such as comedies and dramas. Therefore, it could be argued that television, in its less regulated and more competitive, consumer driven form did in fact contribute to the ‘dumbing down of society.’The idea that television caused society to ‘dumb down’ is also suggested in other events of the time. For example, during the 1950s, regulations set for programmes decreased or became less stringent. This meant that the public became more exposed to more liberal themes and in comparison, more educational or academic programmes appeared less entertaining. This suggests that as television pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable and in doing so, caused a shift in the type of programmes demanded by the public; more thrilling, high energy shows, that could be considered as less educational and more ‘dumbed down.’Despite this, the provenance of sources 16 and 17 could be brought into question. Firstly, source 16 was written by Hugh Carleton-Greene, the Director-General of the BBC at the time. This suggests that his opinion may be biased and, considering that his only real attack at British television was to suggest that broadcasting organisations should cultivate more young writers, it seems clear that this extract is likely to be subjective. This means that source 16 has a limited reliability, however, it is useful is illustrating the limited opinion of a person working within the media at the time. The reliability of 17 could be considered as marginally stronger than source 16 for a few reasons. Most notably, this is because it was published as an academic book, meaning that the information that the extract is based on is likely to be well researched and considered. In addition, the author of source 17 is less likely to have been influenced by personal opinion or any affiliation; however, some may argue that this reduces his real understanding of the time. Therefore, source 17 is partially reliable and useful in giving an overall view of the relationship between the public and television.Source 16, and to some extent, source 17 contradict the argument, suggesting that television should not be blamed for changes in society and that it was more of a mirror than a moulder of change; however, they do this in differing ways. Source 16 implies that the public have a duty to take account of the changes in society and rather that supply the public with ‘dumbed’ down material, culturally shocking work should be shown. Source 17 suggests this to a lesser extent, but still implies that television set out to offer some challenges and deliver pop culture to the public. There are several points that suggest a similar argument. For example, during the 1960s, as more channels were introduced and television became a more competitive market, it responded by producing shows demanded by the public. Therefore it could be argued that rather than the television moulding public opinion and ‘dumbing down’ society, it was simply mirroring the changes in tastes of the public.As stated previously, the provenance of sources 16 and 17 can be brought into question; source 16 can be considered as biased and subjective, due to the author of the piece and is therefore less reliable, while source 17 is more reliable as it is from a academic, historical text. Both sources also have evident uses; source 16 gives the limited opinion of a person working within the media and source 17 gives a general, reliable overview of the time in question.In conclusion, as source 17 most strongly supports the idea that television reflected the changes in society and helped to contribute to the overall ‘dumbing down’ of society, it carries the greatest weight. This suggests that the sources partially support this idea (more that they contradict it).

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