BBC2 and world cinema
Authors: Franklin, I.
Journal: Journal of British Cinema and Television
This article examines the origins of BBC2's reputation as a purveyor of films from around the world, exploring the significance and impact of the strand World Cinema (1965-74) and assessing the range and diversity of its offer. Foreign-language titles had been broadcast by the Corporation since before the Second World War, due partly to their ready availability at a time when Hollywood films were 'off limits', given the hostility of American (and British) film companies towards the new rival medium of television. During this early period, however, these continental films were not popular, undoubtedly due to the fact that subtitles were very difficult to read on small, low-definition television screens. BBC2, with its commitment to minority tastes and interests and its use of both the higher-definition 625-line UHF system and colour, was perfectly placed to revive and foster interest in world cinema. For those who urged broadcasters to adopt and maintain an enlightened film policy, World Cinema became exemplary, as a rare exception to the general rules in early television of editing for content or length, block buying (the practice of buying the rights to a mixed package of films in order to acquire certain gems) and haphazard scheduling. For a generation of cinephiles, World Cinema was a formative and educative experience. Particular attention is paid here to the first five years of World Cinema, which saw the strand give attention to a variety of 'New Waves' and relay experiences from behind the Iron Curtain and further afield.