Family Planning Association, Public Relations and Mass Media in early-mid 20thC Britain

Jessica Borge's picture

***with apologies for cross posting***

Dear H-Histsex List Members,

RE: British Family Planning Association, PR and TV: 1950s

Members may be interested in a new paper on the British Family Planning Association's first foray into broadcast television as part of a planned Public Relations drive in the mid-1950s:

Borge, Jessica. “Bandwidth lost: family planners and post-war television” Corporate Communications. Special issues on PR history 25(4) 2020, 655-68.


PURPOSE: The purpose of this paper is to show how early planned PR efforts at the British Family Planning Association [FPA] resulted in an epoch-making television appearance in November 1955, tessellating with current methodological debates in the History of PR.

DESIGN/METHODOLOGY/APPROACH: This paper uses a qualitative, micro-history approach, and original archival document research conducted at Wellcome Collection, London, and the BBC Written Archives Centre, Caversham, to reconstruct early PR activity at the FPA. It intercedes in debates on historiography, the diversification of the History of PR, and the concepts of mediatization and advocacy in historical contexts.

FINDINGS: Attaining broadcast coverage for birth control issues was historically difficult, and the subject was commonly packaged into the less problematic issues of population and infertility. The FPA desired – and achieved – televisual mediatization of its organisation after establishing a focused PR plan to stage and exploit a silver jubilee event. This vindicated the FPA’s mission, validated service users and created future broadcast opportunities.

RESEARCH LIMITATIONS/IMPLICATIONS: Research is limited by temporal scope (1870s-1950s), and reliance on document sources, footage of television programmes being unavailable. This paper has implications for the History of PR, contributing to the diversification of the field by suggesting an original approach to the intersection of public relations and social change.

ORIGINALITY/VALUE: This paper surfaces overlooked primary sources, and is the first account of how birth control appeared as a topic on early British broadcast media.

Any list members who would like to see a pre-pub version of this paper may contact the author directly at


Many thanks!