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Bandwidth lost: family planners and post-war television

Jessica Borge (Département d'Histoire des sciences de la Vie et de la Santé, University of Strasbourg, Strasbourg, France) (School of Advanced Study, University of London, London, UK)

Corporate Communications: An International Journal

ISSN: 1356-3289

Article publication date: 22 July 2020

Issue publication date: 25 August 2020




The purpose of this paper is to show how early planned PR efforts at the British Family Planning Association [FPA] resulted in an epoch-making television appearance in November 1955, tessellating with current methodological debates in the history of PR.


This paper uses a qualitative, micro-history approach and original archival document research conducted at Wellcome Collection, London and the BBC Written Archives Centre, Caversham, to reconstruct early PR activity at the FPA. It intercedes in debates on historiography, the diversification of the history of PR and the concepts of mediatization and advocacy in historical contexts.


Attaining broadcast coverage for birth control issues was historically difficult and was made more so by Marie Stopes. The subject was commonly packaged into the less problematic issues of population and infertility. The FPA achieved explicit television coverage in 1955 after establishing a focussed PR plan to stage and exploit a silver jubilee event. This vindicated the FPA's mission, validated service users and created broadcast opportunities.

Research limitations/implications

Research is limited by temporal scope (1870s–1950s), and reliance on document sources, footage of television programmes being unavailable. This paper has implications for the history of PR, contributing to the diversification of the field by suggesting an original approach to the intersection of public relations and social change.


This paper surfaces overlooked primary sources and is the first account of how birth control appeared as a topic on early British broadcast media.



Early research for this article was undertaken under a block grant partnership from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, UK Arts and Humanities Research Council via Birkbeck College, University of London. Additional research was supported by the ERC BodyCapital project, which receives funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.


Borge, J. (2020), "Bandwidth lost: family planners and post-war television", Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Vol. 25 No. 4, pp. 655-668.



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