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.

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

The after effects of the gas-price shock
Economy

The after effects of the gas-price shock

In the wake of the recent spike in the natural gas price, we can expect slower growth, an industrial recession – and a newly assertive Russia, says Ma…
17 Oct 2021
The charts that matter: bond yields slip while bitcoin tops $60,000
Economy

The charts that matter: bond yields slip while bitcoin tops $60,000

Cryptocurrency bitcoin soared to over $60,000 this week, while government bond yields fell back. Here’s how that has affected the charts that matter m…
16 Oct 2021
Whistleblower allegations – where now for Facebook?
Tech stocks

Whistleblower allegations – where now for Facebook?

The social-media giant has come in for some fierce criticism following revelations from a former employee. Just how much damage has been done?
16 Oct 2021
Inflation, energy crisis, strikes – have we gone back to the 1970s?
Investment strategy

Inflation, energy crisis, strikes – have we gone back to the 1970s?

Merryn and John talk about rising prices, productivity and the state of the labour market, plus are bond investors really the adults in the room, and …
15 Oct 2021

Most Popular

Why the world’s most important economic data release has unnerved markets
US Economy

Why the world’s most important economic data release has unnerved markets

The US added only 194,000 jobs in September, far shorter than the 500,000 that were expected. John Stepek explains why markets didn't react as they no…
11 Oct 2021
How to invest in SMRs – the future of green energy
Energy

How to invest in SMRs – the future of green energy

The UK’s electricity supply needs to be more robust for days when the wind doesn’t blow. We need nuclear power, says Dominic Frisby. And the future of…
6 Oct 2021
Inflation is still one of the biggest threats to your personal finances
Investment strategy

Inflation is still one of the biggest threats to your personal finances

Central bankers and economists insist inflation will be gone by next year. We're not so sure, says Merryn Somerset Webb. So if you haven’t started to …
1 Oct 2021