Television and Radio

  • Martin Harrison


Once again this was hailed as ‘the television election’. So in a sense it was. Ninety per cent of homes now had television compared with 70% in 1959. Long beforehand programmes like Gallery, This Week, World in Action and Panorama had been presenting the leaders and issues around which the campaign was to turn. After the dissolution party broadcasts, discussions, news and features brought the 1964 election more extensively into more homes than any before. But the manifest ubiquity of television did not create a ‘TV election’, if that implies that the medium decisively influenced the final result. In their study of the 1959 election Trenaman and McQuail put into more modest perspective the awesome potency with which it was credited in its earliest years. Television, they demonstrated, may inform or reinforce attitudes, but it rarely converts.1 A genuine television election is unlikely, to say the least. By 1964 many politicians were more knowledgeable about the effects of broadcasting but few felt prepared to trust completely the concordant but restricted findings of research into mass communications (little of it conducted in Britain). Discussions about the terms on which political broadcasting should be organised still hinged on the inhibiting assumption that one unbalanced programme or a single isolated incident could bring disaster — an attitude which shows little confidence in the ordinary voter.


Party Leader News Coverage Major Party Broadcast News Evening Speech 
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  1. 1.
    J. Trenaman and D. McQuail, Television and the Political Image, Methuen, 1961. The Granada Television Research Unit at the University of Leeds is doing similar work on the 1964 election.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© D. E. Butler and Anthony King 1965

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martin Harrison

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