A scientific impresario: Archie Clow, science communication and BBC Radio, 1945–1970

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Title: A scientific impresario: Archie Clow, science communication and BBC Radio, 1945–1970
Authors: Keller, Jared Robert
Item Type: Thesis or dissertation
Abstract: From the end of the Second World War to the close of the 1960s, the BBC’s approach to spoken-word science programming changed considerably. Whereas the BBC of the late 1940s saw itself as a platform from which scientists could deliver authoritative talks on science directly to the British public, the BBC of the late 1960s saw its role as the examination and interrogation of science through journalistic programmes presented by professional broadcasters or science journalists. Utilizing a wide range of archival and primary sources, this thesis details the tensions and deliberations which brought about this transition within BBC radio. In particular it focuses on the career of Archie Clow, a science producer at the BBC from 1945 to 1970 who was instrumental in both defining and implementing the BBC’s approach to science broadcasting during this period. His career serves as a lens through which the BBC’s changing conception of the value and purpose of science programming can be examined. In the early post-war period Clow fancied himself a ‘scientific impresario’ charged with the identification and recruitment of eminent scientists, yet by the end of the 1960s many of his colleagues considered themselves journalists rather than impresarios. Archival records show that this had much to do with a transition within the wider BBC toward a more journalistic, news-style approach to spoken-word programming. The thesis argues that by the end of this period the BBC saw itself as a communicator of science in its own right. It further argues that as the BBC moved to mediate science and scientists on behalf of the British public, scientists increasingly lost control over the framing and delivery of science programming, eventually finding themselves largely reliant upon and beholden to professional broadcasters.
Content Version: Open Access
Issue Date: Oct-2017
Date Awarded: Feb-2018
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10044/1/57504
Supervisor: Mellor, Felicity
Sternberg, Robert
Sponsor/Funder: Hans Rausing Trust
Department: Science Communication Unit
Publisher: Imperial College London
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Qualification Name: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Appears in Collections:School of Professional Development PhD theses

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