Revisiting Play School: A historical case study of the BBC’s address to the pre-school audience

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Although clearly recognised in broader institutional histories of British children’s television as a significant moment in the BBC’s address toward the pre-school child, Play School (BBC 1964-88) has not been the focus of sustained archival analysis. This arguably reflects the fact that a good deal of work on children’s television in Britain adopts either an institutional or an audience focus, and the study of programmes cultures is often more neglected. This article seeks to revisit Play School using available historical documentation – including memos, scripts and press cuttings - from the BBC Written Archive Centre, as well as early surviving episodes (principally from 1964). In doing so, it seeks to explore how it fitted into BBC’s historical address to the pre-school child, how it intersected with discourses on pre-school education, and the range of institutional and social contexts surrounding its emergence.

Key Words: Play School * Pre-school television * BBC * Child audience
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-47
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Popular Television
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2016


  • Play School
  • Pre-school television
  • BBC
  • Child audience

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