On this date in TV history.....
1957 – The "Toddlers' Truce", a controversial television close-down between 6.00pm and 7.00pm is abolished in the United Kingdom.
The Toddlers' Truce was a piece of early British television scheduling policy that required transmissions to terminate for an hour each weekday between 6pm and 7pm. This was from the end of Children's TV to the start of the evening schedule, so that young children could be put to bed.
It may have originated when the BBC resumed television after the end of the war in 1946. The policy remained fairly uncontroversial until ITV began transmission in 1955. At that time the Truce was accepted as policy by the Postmaster General, Earl De La Warr, in the interests of smoothing relations between ITV and the fledgling ITA.
The problem became apparent in 1956 when the ITV franchise-holders under the ITA's jurisdiction were struggling to stay in business. As the BBC was (and still is) funded by a TV licence fee, its budget was not related to the number of hours of transmission. Indeed the Truce saved them money. ITV, on the other hand, was funded entirely by advertising and the Truce caused a loss of revenue in the hour's closedown. Supporters of ITV, which had faced strong political opposition, argued that the Truce had little to do with social responsibility and was simply a way to give the BBC an unfair advantage.
The ITA had encouraged the ITV companies (Granada, ABC Television, ATV and Associated-Rediffusion) to seek abolition of the Truce. Action was taken finally in July 1956, probably the result of a lack of effective cooperation between the companies rather than political objection. The Postmaster General, Charles Hill, had disliked the policy as an example of the BBC's paternalism toward its audience:
This restriction seemed to me absurd and I said so. It was the responsibility of parents, not the state, to put their children to bed at the right time... I invited the BBC and the ITA to agree to its abolition[...]
The BBC could not, however, be persuaded to accept the abolition or even to a compromise of reducing the period to 30 minutes. Hill tired of the disagreement and asked Parliament for the abolition which was agreed on 31 October 1956. However, the BBC and ITA could not even agree a date for the abolition to take place. Hill decided on Saturday, 16 February 1957.