The BBC had for decades helped to define Britain, yet by the late 80s, the Corporation was all too often the story, vulnerable to new commercial and political models, its capacity to exercise political balance tested by three Conservative election victories. Old sentimental certainties fell. Traditional restraints on the power of the British government appeared no longer to work.
Because state papers, previously closed, have now become available, it is possible to see the BBC in this era in a clearer light – its triumphs, its mistakes, the political assaults made on it and how it survived them. The Corporation inevitably got things wrong. It did not always question its own ideas or the conventions of the moment enough. It became defensive and arrogant. But when it blundered, the British people could demand that it try harder – which was part of its glory, because it was “ours”.