The Advocacy Coalitions in British Film Policy
: The British Board of Film Censors, the British Film Institute, and the Children’s Film Foundation, 1912-1952

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This research explores the interactions and cooperation between public-sector, business-sector, and civil-society stakeholders in developing British film policy for educational and cultural purposes. In particular, it elucidates why and how governmental authorities, film-industry organisations, and educationalists collaborated to establish three key institutions: the British Board of Film Censors (BBFC) in the 1910s and the 1920s, the British Film Institute (BFI) in the 1920s and the 1930s, and the Children’s Film Foundation (CFF) in the 1940s and 1950s. By doing so, this thesis explores and theorises a new model of British film policy characterised by the state- market-civic partnerships, which is a topic that has been underexamined in the existing literature.

To analyse the interactions between these stakeholders, I employ the Advocacy Coalition Framework (ACF), which offers an analytical approach to explain the creation of public policy by examining coalitions of individuals and organisations with shared beliefs. To examine coalition- making processes and the impacts of these coalitions, I collected and consulted relevant historical resources published by the aforementioned stakeholders, including unpublished archival materials regarding the governing boards and the advisory councils of the BBFC, the BFI, and the CFF.

The process of building advocacy coalitions began with initiatives by film-industry organisations and educationalists as policy entrepreneurs. Following these initiatives, policy brokers facilitated cooperation between these diverse actors by reconciling their initial tensions and helping them to create a consensus. The advocacy coalitions expanded further by involving public authorities, including the Home Office, the Board of Trade, and the Board of Education, who offered public aid and committed to these institutions’ governance. These advocacy coalitions brought about coherent national film censorship, greater support for educational and cultural films, and the increased production of and wider circulation for children’s films.

This thesis also identifies and articulates emerging themes in the history of British film policy. First, the balanced involvement of stakeholders was pivotal in forming effective advocacy coalitions and the development of key institutions. Such partnerships of public, business, and civic sector actors underpin the British style of cultural policy, conceptualised as the arm’s-length model. Second, from the 1910s to the 1950s, common beliefs about children and the cinema changed significantly, so the children’s films were conceptualised as a culturally significant category to promote. Finally, the thesis elucidates the contributions of private business to the development of film policy for educational and cultural purposes in Britain, including funding, consultancy, and active negotiation with public authorities and civic sector associations.
Date of Award1 Feb 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorHye-Kyung Lee (Supervisor) & Paul McDonald (Supervisor)

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