“An . . . Unmarried Mother Sat in a Wing-Backed Chair on TV Last Night . . .”
BBC Television Asks Is This
Your Problem? (1955–1957)

by  Su Holmes (University of East Anglia)

In 1955, Daily Mirror reported, “An unmarried mother hid her face on TV last night. . . .”
The headline referred to the BBC’s Is This Your Problem? (ITYP? 1955–57), in which
members of the public sought the help of an “expert” panel. Based on archival research,
this article situates ITYP? in relation to the historical circumstances of its circulation,
exploring what it can contribute to knowledge of British television’s aesthetic develop-
ment and production of cultural identity and how these were negotiated by the BBC. In
precariously negotiating public service values and popular appeal, ITYP? is interesting
for prefiguring debates about television’s “tabloidization,” and the program’s reception
speaks to the cultural debate that greeted the talk show in the 1990s. While there is
always a danger of fostering an “undue proximity” between past and present, ITYP?
offers a valuation contribution to the genealogy of these debates, particularly in eluci-
dating television’s (re)negotiation of public–private spheres.(download)