Beveridge Committee

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In early 1946 UK Prime Minister Clement Attlee announced that the BBC's charter would be renewed, as it must be every decade, without delay. There would be no public reflection. The government claimed that the issues had been adequately aired and resolved in the 1920s and 1930s. The decision satisfied no one, sparking incredulity from some experts and indignation from the corporation's critics. The most prominent objection among many came in the form of a letter in The Times from Lord Reith's successor as Director General, Sir Frederick Ogilvie. It appeared on the morning of the Commons debate on the charter. Ogilvie decried the "automatic nationalization of the infinitely precious things of the mind," and trumpeted the issue as "not a matter of politics, but of freedom." In the end the Cabinet gave ground, appointing a new investigation. But it was chaired by none other than William Beveridge, the architect of the welfare state, and it duly produced an endorsement of the BBC's privileged position. Parliament renewed its charter with no more fuss.

By the late 1940s. the BBC seemed secure once again. The projected pirate ships had not been heard from, and it could face expanding FM and television services with confidence. That security was about to be shattered.

If the purpose of nominating Beveridge to appraise the BBC had been to garner another unqualified endorsement, it was not entirely met. Beveridge's report contained a hundred recommendations—most of which were quietly ignored—for broadcasting to proceed on less monopolistic lines. And one of the panel's members, the backbench Conservative MP Selwyn Lloyd, insisted on including a short, uncharacteristically incisive statement of his own. Lloyd's dissent proved to be a time bomb in the midst of Beveridge's otherwise staid report. Little noticed at first, it would become the rallying point for a campaign in favor of commercial broadcasting that would break the BBC's quasi-monopoly.[1]


  1. Johns, Adrian (2010). Death of a Pirate: British Radio and the Making of the Information Age. W. W. Norton & Company, pp 95-96.

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