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.
Subsequent use of the time
The BBC filled the hour with a music programme, Six-Five Special, from the first Saturday and with the Tonight news magazine from Monday to Friday. The BBC however continued to close from 6.15-7.00pm on Sundays, the time of evening church services, until Songs of Praise was launched on 1 October 1961. Until 1992 this time on Sundays was used for religious programmes on BBC1 and ITV. The 6-7pm slot has since then been devoted to news, especially regional news, in the weekday schedules of both BBC1 and ITV, though Crossroads was also shown in this period in most ITV regions.
- Sendall, Bernard Independent Television in Britain: Volume 1 - Origin and Foundation 1946-62 London: The Macmillan Press Ltd 1982 ISBN 0-333-30941-3, Chapter 30ii: "The End of the Toddlers' Truce"