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Why the British Couldn’t Watch TV at 6PM

At 6 PM every day televisions in Britain would go blank. The next one hour would be frantic. Parents would scoop their kids off the living room couch, get them to brush their teeth, take a bath, change into pajamas, and get into the bed, just in time for the evening programs to begin at 7 PM. This one-hour break in BBC’s television scheduling was known as “Toddler’s Truce.” The idea was that with nothing on TV, it would be easier for parents to peel their kids from the screen and put them to bed.

But why would a broadcaster care whether moms can drag their children away from the TV? Because the BBC, which was the only broadcaster, prided itself on its social responsibilities. The BBC produced a handful of programs for children, “each designed to aid a child's development within the harmonious environment of the family home.”

Toddler’s Truce began around the same time BBC resumed television broadcast after the end of WW2, in 1946. At first, the policy didn’t cause much issue. Viewers were not used to 24 hours of TV programming. The BBC broadcasted for only a limited number of hours every day, and they didn’t broadcast overnight. So, an extra hour of no TV in the evening was no problem. The BBC’s revenue came from TV license and not from advertising, so the one hour of dead air did not impact their revenues.

But a problem arose in 1955 with the launch of the first commercial television channel in the UK, called ITV. Because ITV was funded through advertising, an hour’s shutdown meant the loss of an hour's worth of ad revenue. Supporters of ITV pressurized the government to lift the Toddlers' Truce.

On Saturday, February 16, 1957, the truce ended with a musical program from 6 to 7 PM. However, it continued to cease broadcasts between 6:15pm and 7:00pm on Sundays at the time of evening church services.

Possible Preaching Angle:

It is difficult to imagine this simpler time: There was no Internet, no 24/7 broadcast TV, no smartphones, no social media, and no streaming services with on-demand programming. This story might be used to encourage parents with young children to establish some sensible media viewing habits, with time out for family togetherness, and a nightly bedtime routine that emphasizes personal interactionat least we can hope.

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