This is a dreadful thing for a journalist to admit, but I often wish that there was no news and that events would take a day off.
Not that I want to shirk. I could spend the time researching a story or writing a book or catching up on the admin I never have time for. But as a consumer of 24-hour news, I would love it all to stop, just for one day. To switch on the television and find that nothing is happening; to go on to Twitter and see that the most recent post was from yesterday; to find only music on the radio. This is what happened 83 years ago today at the start of the BBC’s 6.30pm radio bulletin.
“Good evening,” a newsreader said, doubtless wearing a dinner jacket. “Today is Good Friday. There is no news.”
With no thought of padding out this uneventful bulletin by asking a celebrity for their view on the weather or manufacturing some political controversy to fill time, the airwaves were then given over instead to piano music. It sounds lovely.
Looking at The Times for April 19, 1930, it seems the BBC could have found some news if they had looked hard enough, although that would have involved turning to page 4, since the first three pages were adverts.
In the late debates in Parliament on Thursday (there was no Times on Good Friday) there had been discussion of the death penalty, the withdrawal of grant for cadet corps, the introduction of a 48-hour week and concerns about growing unrest in India. All worth a snippet on the news? No, said the BBC.
A child in Yorkshire was killed by a collapsed wall, two people died within half an hour of each other in separate car crashes in London and a man appeared in court on a charge of homicide after 70 children died in a fire in his Paisley cinema.
Up north, there was news of a threat to Hadrian’s Wall after planning permission was granted for a quarry near by, the National Union of Teachers had things to say about raising the school leaving age to 15, while the sports pages looked ahead to the final match in the Five Nations rugby, with France needing to beat Wales to win their first ever title (they lost 11-0).
In foreign news, the Kuomintang, the Chinese nationalists, were banned in Singapore, while in Germany the sole minister representing the Nazi Party (one Herr Frick) had proposed a series of racist measures in the state of Thuringia, including a ban on jazz bands “and music made with clashing instruments”. He was also keen to limit school lessons about the Old Testament “because of its essentially Jewish character”.
The Times noted that this new Nazi Party “may take an increasing part in German politics for a year or two”...
None of this, however, was of much interest to the BBC. No news today was the decision and no news there was. After the saturation coverage of the Thatcher funeral and the unending slog of gloom about austerity measures, Syria/Iraq/Korea and the weather, wouldn’t it be nice if we could again be given another day without news?