How Did Radio in the 1960’s Mark the Changing Social Order in the UK and US

The 1960s saw perhaps the greatest social changes in history. For the first time, young people and their parents were divided. They had different cultural ideas and little middle ground to understand each other. The music tastes, social conventions and political beliefs of the older generation had been violently rejected by a disaffected youth which sought to establish a new social order. These were times of change, times of disaffection and times in which a whole new social network was being established. This took the form of underground movements, independent press, and pirate radio.

The radio, before the advent of television, had long been the tool through which news, politics, music, and culture was diffused to the population. The programs were chosen, written, edited and distributed by the institution and reflected, for the most part, the gentile middle classes. They catered for middle-aged tastes and rarely attempted to take on hard-hitting social issues or play rock and roll. The dominant radio station through the late 1950s was the BBC and Radio Luxembourg. The BBC was the bastion of the middle classes. However, radio Luxembourg represented an approach that was more in touch with the younger generation. As Crisell (1986:33) comments Radio Luxembourg [was] much more in touch with popular music than the BBC during the 1950s. The youth of the 1950s, which would become the militant campaigners of the 1960s, therefore had a radio station that reflected their tastes. However, Radio Luxembourg went little beyond this. It was by no means the voice of a generation, but simply a sign of recognition that things were changing and that parents and children could no longer be catered for with the same programming.

Until the late 1950s, the radio had remained a stationary object kept within the home and listened to often intently. However, with the advent of the transistor radio for the masses, all this changed. The heavy box became small and light and so now that the radio was portable, it could be used to accompany any kind of activity.