The Invisible Institution? Reconstructing the History of BAFTA and the 1958 Merger of the British Film Academy with the Guild of Television Producers and Directors

Emma Jane Pett, Helen Warner

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As a cultural institution of national and global significance, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) is notably absent within existing scholarship on the media industries. More importantly, BAFTA’s role as an independent arts charity set up by the industry to support and develop new talent is often overlooked. Instead, references to BAFTA made by media and film scholars most frequently take the form of footnotes or digressions that detail particular awards or nominations. Drawing on a range of archival sources, including BAFTA’s own records, we address this significant omission within existing scholarship on the British cultural and creative industries (CCIs). In particular, we examine the period from 1947-1968, focusing on the 1958 merger of the British Film Academy with the Guild of Television Producers and Directors to form a new institution, known as the Society of Film and Television Arts (SFTA, later renamed BAFTA). We identify and analyse the conflation of internal and external pressures on both industries which facilitated the relative success of the merger, despite the well-documented tensions existing between the two sectors throughout the period. We argue that a crucial factor driving the merger was the desire to develop quality training schemes across both industries. This, in turn, was party enabled by an egalitarian turn in post-war British society towards the development of greater social equality and mobility. In reconstructing these events, we interrogate and reassess the role played by this key national institution on the CCIs, and thus offer an expansion and revision of scholarship on media histories of post-war Britain.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)449-472
JournalJournal of British Cinema and Television
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020

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