Features

16 February 1957: The ‘Toddlers’ Truce’ comes to an end

On Saturday, 16 February, 1957, the Toddlers’ Truce – a programme-free hour on TV between 6pm and 7pm – was finally broken.

15-2-12-kid-634
The need for advertising on ITV finally did away with the Toddlers' Truce

It's 6pm on the dot. The telly goes blank, and in comes mum to sweep the rugrats off the carpet. So went the logic behind the Toddlers' Truce'. It provided parents in the post-war years with 60 distraction-free minutes to unstick the kids from the TV and put them to bed.

In those days, the BBC, which was the only broadcaster, prided itself on its social responsibilities. The programmes it produced for children were designed to aid a child's development within the harmonious environment of the family home.

If that meant suspending transmission so mum and dad could tear themselves away from the sofa to look after the children, then so be it. Conveniently, it also saved the corporation a few bob.

Then barbarians invaded the televisual landscape. In September 1955, ITV made its inaugural broadcast. The Postmaster General dictated broadcasting policy, so the newcomers had to abide by the Toddler's Truce as well.

ITV thought that was grossly unfair. Unlike the BBC, it didn't have a TV licence to fund its programming it had to rely on advertising. So, for them, the Toddlers' Truce was a lost hour of income.

The BBC said that exposing young children to advertising would warp their fragile little minds a concept lost on the Americans, where children were not only fair game, but viewed as a critically important consumer group.

But it soon became apparent that the BBC's concerns were a lost cause. London School of Economics psychologist, Hilde Himmelweit, and social scientist' Mark Abrams were separately investigating the viewing habits of children.

They found that even younger children were watching adult programmes, with violent' westerns and police drama Fabian of the Yard proving special favourites. And given the choice, they preferred to tune in to ITV rather than Auntie Beeb.

On Saturday, 16 February, 1957, the Toddlers' Truce was finally broken. Perhaps sensing change in the air, the BBC decided to broadcast a rock n' roll programme Six-Five Special in its place.

Recommended

How long can the good times roll?
Economy

How long can the good times roll?

Despite all the doom and gloom that has dominated our headlines for most of 2019, Britain and most of the rest of the developing world is currently en…
19 Dec 2019
Quiz of the week, 8-14 August 2020
Economy

Quiz of the week, 8-14 August 2020

Test your recollection of the events of the last seven days with MoneyWeek's quiz of the week.
14 Aug 2020
Inflation spiked in the US last month – is this the shape of things to come?
US Economy

Inflation spiked in the US last month – is this the shape of things to come?

Prices in the US rose much more dramatically than expected in July. Can we expect more of the same, and what does that mean for your money? John Stepe…
14 Aug 2020
Brazil drowns in its own debt
Emerging markets

Brazil drowns in its own debt

With public-sector debt ballooning towards 100% of GDP, the state cannot afford generous fiscal support measures for much longer.
14 Aug 2020

Most Popular

No, the UK did not “plunge” into recession yesterday
UK Economy

No, the UK did not “plunge” into recession yesterday

That the economy took a massive hit due to Covid-19 should be news to no one, says John Stepek. The real question is what happens now.
13 Aug 2020
Inflation spiked in the US last month – is this the shape of things to come?
US Economy

Inflation spiked in the US last month – is this the shape of things to come?

Prices in the US rose much more dramatically than expected in July. Can we expect more of the same, and what does that mean for your money? John Stepe…
14 Aug 2020
The MoneyWeek Podcast: house prices, staycations, and the death of cash
House prices

The MoneyWeek Podcast: house prices, staycations, and the death of cash

John and Merryn talk about the rise in UK house prices and the fact that everybody is holidaying in the UK, plus gold's new highs, the death of cash, …
12 Aug 2020