Female presence at the BBC: uncovering the hidden history of Joan Gilbert (1938-1962).

Charlesworth, Diane (2018) Female presence at the BBC: uncovering the hidden history of Joan Gilbert (1938-1962). In: Doing Women's Film and Television History Conference IV (2018), 23rd-25th May 2018, Southampton.

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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Presentation)
Item Status:Live Archive


The BBC’s treatment of female on-screen and -on air talent has come under scrutiny at various points in the last few years; most recently regarding a gender pay gap, with the publication of talent pay paid at £150,000 and above, as the Corporation responds to criticisms regarding issues of transparency and accountability in a rapidly changing television ecology. However, whilst historical studies have demonstrated how the Corporation across its almost hundred years existence has continually struggled with gender issues in its organisational structures and practices, there have been periods which have been seen as particularly interesting for more liberal attitudes and outcomes (see for example: Murphy; 2016). This particular paper looks at the development of the BBC’s early television service; a moment, it is to be argued, where movement was freer across departmental boundaries, from administration to below-the-line production, to above-the-line and on-screen presentation. Although up until the mid-1950s, television was considered to be the lesser part of the BBC’s mission and output, this enabled a certain experimentation in different departments and also generated a reliance on existing personnel to step in to the breach when required. The focus of the paper is Joan Gilbert, who became known, having worked as it’s editor, later as ‘the face’ of the BBC’s longest running topical show Picture Page (1936-1952) evidenced by articles and publicity in television magazines of the time. Her career is analysed for what it demonstrates about the institution’s changing imperatives in that period, and its negotiation and use of Gilbert’s celebrity that attached to being a recognisable face on the new medium.

Keywords:BBC, television history, celebrity
Subjects:P Mass Communications and Documentation > P301 Television studies
Divisions:College of Arts > Lincoln School of Film & Media > Lincoln School of Film & Media (Film)
ID Code:32218
Deposited On:20 Oct 2018 20:00

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