'Running a brothel from inside a monastery': drama co-productions at the BBC and the trade relationship with America from the 1970s to the 1990s

Das Neves, Sheron Helena Martins (2013) 'Running a brothel from inside a monastery': drama co-productions at the BBC and the trade relationship with America from the 1970s to the 1990s. MPhil thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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Abstract

From the late 1970s on, as competition intensified, British broadcasters searched for new ways to cover the escalating budgets for top-end drama. A common industry practice, overseas co-productions seems the fitting answer for most broadcasters; for the BBC, however, creating programmes that appeal to both national and international markets could mean being in conflict with its public service ethos. Paradoxes will always be at the heart of an institution that, while pressured to be profitable, also carries a deep-rooted disapproval of commercialism. A situation rather well illustrated by the analogy of a monastery trying to run a brothel, voiced by Ruppert Gavin when appointed Head of BBC Worldwide. While the selling of finished programmes and formats has been more visible in public discourse as well as in academic research, the issue of transnational drama co-productions (especially those backed by American parties) and their impact on the BBC has lacked the appropriate scholarly attention it deserves. Similarly, although the history of the BBC and its organisational culture has received substantial attention, the extent to which drama coproductions have facilitated programming since the 1970s and the resulting internal conflicts they generated at the BBC have not been exanimated in depth in existing literature. This thesis is concerned with the BBC’s journey as an international co-producer across three decades, and the process through which it has evolved from a hesitant to a proficient partner for American organisations – despite downplaying this the eyes of the British public. In order to demonstrate the anxieties prompted by its relationship with PBS and Time-Life during the 1970s and 1980s, the case of Masterpiece Theatre (the strand of British drama sponsored by Mobil Oil) is examined; meanwhile, the case of Pride And Prejudice (the classic serial co-produced with A&E) is used to illustrate the period between the late 1980s and the 1990s, when the growth of cable services in America provided a new outlet for British television fare – as well as a new type of partner. Drawing on primary sources such as interviews with key British broadcasting executives and documents from the BBC Written Archives, as well as secondary sources such as media texts and up-to-date literature, this thesis offers a unique contribution to the field of broadcasting history and transnational television culture, adding original and relevant insights into the existing scholarly debate.

Item Type: Thesis (MPhil)
Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
School/Department: School of Arts > History of Art & Screen Media
Depositing User: ORBIT Editor
Date Deposited: 02 Sep 2014 15:40
Last Modified: 02 Dec 2016 12:46
URI: http://bbktheses.da.ulcc.ac.uk/id/eprint/56

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