Broadcasting and the NHS in the Thatcherite 1980s: The Challenge to Public Service

Image of Margaret Thatcher giving a speech

Patricia Holland, with Hugh Chignell and Sherryl Wilson

A study of the ways in which the changes to the public services, and the shifts in the concept of ‘the public’ under Margaret Thatcher’s three Conservative governments were mediated by radio and television in the 1980s.



The very idea of ‘public service’ came under fierce attack in the Thatcherite 1980s. In a notorious interview in 1987 Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher declared ‘There’s no such thing as society’. That statement, which has echoed down the decades, became the starting point for this study.

The research project There’s no such thing as society? and the book, Broadcasting and the NHS in the Thatcherite 1980s focus on this challenge to public service. They trace the roots of the present crisis in broadcasting and the NHS through the heated debates and political pressures, which led, in 1990, to two pivotal Acts of Parliament.

The changing attitudes are captured through the broadcast programming of the 1980s. From popular drama and comedy to documentaries and investigative journalism, programmes reflected the politics of the decade. In this project we follow the NHS from the Winter of Discontent to the Aids crisis; and the transformations in the broadcasting landscape, from the coming of Channel Four to the restructuring of the BBC.

The 1980s were a seminal decade in UK history

They planted roots of the present crisis of public service

There’s no such thing as society? a study of broadcasting and the public services under the three Thatcher governments 1979-1990 was conducted at Bournemouth University. More reports on the following pages

Broadcasting and the NHS in the Thatcherite 1980s: The Challenge to Public Service is based on that research published by Palgrave Macmillan Summer 2013