Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Ninety years of the BBC

Auntie possibly does not feel much like celebrating her 90th birthday today. Attacked from the left and the right, damned as the protector of paedophiles and the tormentor of the innocent, her integrity doubted and her reputation for trustworthiness undermined, the BBC is certainly going through a tricky period.

There are many who would like it dismantled, who object to being forced to pay £145.50 a year - "the most regressive and ruthlessly collected of all government imposts", according to The Spectator's Charles Moore - but for many more it is fabulously good value, far more so than those other public services we are taxed to fund, and that's not just because they employ my wife.

What a bargain we get: the Today programme, Only Connect, Test Match Special, University Challenge, Doctor Who, repeats of Dad's Army, Rastamouse, In the Night Garden, almost anything on BBC Four, Wimbledon, the Olympics, the Proms, PM, QI, I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue, Carols from King's, The Good Life Christmas special and Susanna Reid looking coquettish on the Breakfast sofa. Yes, even Newsnight.

So happy birthday, BBC, from a fan.

Earlier today the wonderful Rose Wild, custodian of The Times archive, tweeted an extract from the newspaper in 1922 on the founding of what was then the British Broadcasting Company.

"At the beginning," Sir William Noble, chairman of the company, said, "broadcasting will be conducted purely from a social point of view." Lord knows what he would have made of Twitter. News, weather and concerts were its main output. "It may be that later we shall arrange for speeches written by popular people to be broadcast," Noble added.

Within two months, the BBC had given over an entire night's programming to a broadcast of Wagner's Die Walkure, save for a few children's bedtime stories from 5-5.45pm. Those were the days.

Interestingly, having looked at the cutting beyond Rose's extract, it was not envisaged that this new technology should be a threat to newspapers. Noble said that broadcasting should stop at 1am so as not to tread on the toes of morning papers and not begin again before 5pm in order not to take custom away from evening newspapers. If only the internet could be the same...

"We want broadcasting to be an incentive for people to buy more newspapers," he said. "We hope that by giving them a brief synopsis of events, we shall whet their appetite for news and induce them to buy newspapers."

The Times, incidentally, thought that the word broadcasting was "an inelegant term". Guess we're stuck with it now.


Pam Nash said...

Happy Birthday BBC!

For £2.80 per week the BBC is the biggest bargain ever.

The funniest thing about its detractors is that, often, they seek to prove their point by linking to a BBC article or by quoting from a BBC journo's tweet. Without ever seeing the irony.

Ask any ex-pat and they will tell you that living abroad serves to emphasise the quality of the BBC.

BBC - live long and prosper!

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