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Vote The British Broadcasting Century! Episode 89 is our Election Night Special special, covering Britain's 28 general election results broadcasts over 102 years. Broadcasting in both USA and UK have both launched were pretty much launched with election results. On 2 November 1920, KDKA Pittsburgh launched regular commercial broadcasting with the p…
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On episode 88, it's May 1923, and the six-month-old BBC is settling into its new home at Savoy Hill. But it's not all plain sailing. This time, 2-24 May 1923 is retold via press cuttings (thanks to our Newspaper Detective Andrew Barker), showing us that: Some corners of the press were mounting an anti-BBC campaign, complaining it was offering "poor…
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100 years ago the weekend of this podcast, the Cello and the Nightingale became one of the most cherished broadcasts in radio history. It first took place on 19 May 1924, live from the Surrey garden of cellist Beatrice Harrison. In this centenary special, we celebrate the musician, the muse and the microphone that made this incredible feat possible…
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On the previous episode we explored the only 1920s BBC recording (that we know of), recorded off-air by Mr Jones of Croydon. This time on episode 86, we encounter the only other off-air radio recordings of the interwar years (that I know of): the 1932 recordings by Mr F.O. Brown of Greenbank. His grandson Alex cleared out the family attic as recent…
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On 23 April 1924, a landmark broadcast took place - the biggest so far. And on day of podcast release, it's the centenary! 100 years ago at time of writing, King George V opened the Empire Exhibition at Wembley, becoming the first monarch to broadcast. It also stands as the oldest surviving recording of a BBC broadcast - and the only excerpt of the…
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When Dr Kate Murphy became a BBC's Woman's Hour producer in 1993, the received wisdom was that women's programming began in 1946, when Woman's Hour launched. Kate did some digging in the archives, and discovered the long lost tale of the early BBC's Women's Hour (rather than Woman's Hour), which ran from 1923-24. Why so brief? What impact did it ma…
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Welcome to the Savoy Hill era of the BBC! Episode 83 opens the doors to the first permanent home of Auntie Beeb, with a grand launch night on 1 May 1923. I think it's one of the most crucial - and funniest - 24 hours in the BBC's history. So we recreate as much as we can of that one day: A last-minute dress code sees senior management in far-too-bi…
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Welcome to season 6 of The British Broadcasting Century Podcast - and our 82nd episode. Back in our podcast timeline, telling the moment-by-moment origin story of British broadcasting, we reach a bittersweet moment: the BBC moves out of its first studios, the temporary studio on the top floor of Marconi House. We pay tribute with a look at the Beeb…
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Pip pip pip pip pip piiiiiiiiip! Is that the time? It must be 100 years (to the day, as I release this episode) since six baby pips were born onto the airwaves. As the Greenwich Time Signal - aka The Pips - turns 100, we look back at their origin story, thanks to horologist Frank Hope-Jones and also his overlooked contribution to broadcasting itsel…
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Welcome to 2023's Christmas special/2024's Epiphany special. (Come on, what podcast doesn't have an Epiphany special?) It's all just a chance to turn episode 80 into a re-enactment of this remarkable untold tale of Britain's first religious broadcast. Contrary to what some records say, it wasn't the BBC who began religious broadcasting in Britain -…
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Episode 79 is our second special of three authors - whose books you may wish to put on your Christmas wish list - especially if you're fans of Doctor Who, religion on radio, and/or ye olde Radio 1. Last time we had three doctors; this time our first guest is definitely someone who's seen The Three Doctors... PAUL HAYES' book is Pull to Open: 1962-1…
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You need more books in your life. So here are three authors to shout about theirs and enthuse about their research. This time we have three academics. (Next time we'll have three presenters/producers, covering music radio, Radio 4’s Sunday and Doctor Who...) But this is a different episode of The Three Doctors. And they are… DR CAROLYN BIRDSALL, As…
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Episode 77 is a surprise pop-up episode, with nuggets spanning 1920, 1922 and 1980, from the mid-Atlantic to Glasgow, and from music to horse-racing. We had a few too many tales to tell, so couldn't wait. We're meant to be on a break. Whoops. Like our previous 'Loose Ends' episode, we've a few threads to pull on: The tale of Arthur Burrows on SS Vi…
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Episode 76: On RT centenary day itself, part 2 of our back-story of back issues, as Radio Times turns 100. Catch part 1 if you haven't already: https://pod.fo/e/1f20d1 - there we journeyed from 1923 to 1991, when the monopoly was ended and the British government opened up the TV listings market. In part 2, we're joined again by today's Radio Times …
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Happy 100th to (The) Radio Times! (The 'the' vanished in 1937) Britain's favourite magazine is a century old this very week, at time of recording. So it's a bumper edition - not dissimilar to the fat two-weeker that lands on your doorstep or falls off supermarket shelves due to weight and gravity every festive season. This is a two-parter, paying t…
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The genesis of music on the BBC for episode 74... On 30 April 1923, celebrated conductor Percy Pitt joins the BBC as Musical Advisor/Director/Controller (his job keeps changing), bringing new scope and scale to the nation's favourite music provider. Symphonies! Dance bands! A violinist who's refused a taxi cos the driver doesn't like what he's hear…
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Episode 73: Comedy tonight! And comedy back then, particularly 26 April 1923... It's a royal wedding so the BBC celebrate in style, with a gala concert, sponsored by Harrods (yes, sponsorship on the BBC!), given by The Co-Optimists, the legendary interwar comedy troupe. The cast includes Stanley Holloway (later of My Fair Lady) and, weirdly, the ex…
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Britain's first writer for radio was Phyllis M Twigg. An unusual name, and yet... she seemed to pretty much vanish after her debut broadcast play, 'The Truth About Father Christmas' on 24th December 1922. So much so, that the official record - in history books, on various BBC sites, in broadcasting legend - wrongly credits Richard Hughes' A Comedy …
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Sometimes we get nerdy. Sometimes we get very nerdy. This episode is one of those where media meets politics meets history - and we're giving you all the nit-picking details, because if we don't, who will?! We only pass this way once... ...And by 'this way', I mean April 16th-24th 1923. On our previous episode, the five-month-old BBC was almost on …
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Episode 70 is a biggie. In April 1923, the five-month-old BBC faced a two-pronged attack. The Daily Express ran an anti-BBC campaign, with front page stories questioning its existence, and even offering to take over broadcasting themselves. Over the course of one week, the Express applied to the government for a broadcast licence (and were turned d…
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Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin... Episode 69 of our deep dive into British broadcasting's back-story brings us to 5th April 1923, and the hiring of Ella Fitzgerald (not that one), to organise and centralise Children's Hour. That leads us to a packed episode with both academic insight and tales from those who were there, whether liste…
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Episode 68 and STILL in March 1923 - March 26th to be precise, as Major Arthur Corbett-Smith is hired to be the 5th Cardiff station director in about as many weeks. It's not going well there... ...Corbett-Smith to the rescue? Trouble is, he's a little divisive. Some say he's the greatest gift to broadcasting (well, he does - he wrote his memoir in …
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Episode 67 is a special: A Brief History of Coronation Broadcasts (or Broadcast Coronations) How the BBC has brought two such ceremonies to the air, as they (and others) now tackle a third, for King Charles III. We'll tell you all about the two previous on-air crownings, of George VI and Elizabeth II, both on radio and TV - but first we'll go back …
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Here is the news. And the weather. And the SOS messages... Our timeline continues into late March 1923 - which means that as well as news, we now have daily weather forecasts on the early BBC. It's just in time for the end of the Ideal Home Exhibition - selling radio to the masses, and oh look how useful it is. Also that month, SOS messages began i…
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Episode 65 welcomes the BBC's only ever Sound Archivist (the title changed a few times), Simon Rooks. For 33 years he was lost in the archives and now he's found his way out, he's here to tell us the way. This episode is more interview than usual, including a whizzthrough 100 years of the BBC Sound Archive - from no recordings to the first recordin…
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Episode 64 dwells in 1st-16th March 1923: the last days of the first BBC HQ of Magnet House. So this packed show takes a walk from Magnet House to the studios at Marconi House, just as the early broadcasters would have done. We take a look at the early broadcasting philosophy of first staff - "the upper side of taste" (no grizzly murders or divorce…
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On episode 63, we've reached 6th March 1923: Glasgow 5SC launches - the BBC's first station in Scotland. It's not Scotland's first radio station (see episode 48 for the tale of how Daimler, Glasgow Motor Show and a couple of electrical shop owners made a couple of pre-BBC pop-up stations). But this sixth BBC station mattered to John Reith more than…
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On 22 February 1923, the BBC tried something new: the first broadcast political debate. What could possibly go wrong? Let's find out! And we chat to Reeta Chakrabarti - a mainstay of BBC news for over 30 years. She's anchored news from the studio, broadcast from Ukraine, and recently voiced radio pioneer Hilda Matheson on the BBC100 Prom. We talk a…
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Welcome to Season 5! Centenary specials behind us, we deep-dive back into mid-Feb 1923, in our moment-by-moment story of British broadcasting's birth. On episode 61, we hear from: GARETH GWYNN on his new sitcom on the launch of broadcasting in Wales, The Ministry of Happiness (catch it on BBC Sounds)... ANDREW BARKER on the BBC listings ban... and …
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In the beginning... religious broadcasts were there ever since Marconi said, "Let there be sound!" (He never said that.) Whether you're a faithful or heathen, you're very welcome here and I think you'll enjoy this whizz through a century of British broadcasting blessings (and some early US ones too) - including some very rare clips and new discover…
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Episode 59 is the final part of our trilogy of info-dashes through the first British Broadcasting Century. Here we span 1988-2022: the digital years. Enjoy hearing from experts, those who were there and contributions from you marvellous podcast listeners. (Part 1 was more archive-heavy - but rights issues get trickier as we get more recent - oh and…
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Part 2 of our mad dash through the British Broadcasting Century, spanning 1955-87 - the competition years. Part 1 contained more archive; this contains more guests, as we creep nearer the present-day and rights issues become more prevalent. YOU HAVE BEEN LISTENING TO: 1950s:John Reith, Fanny Cradock, Paul Hayes, Justin Webb, Dr Amy Holdsworth, my d…
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As the BBC turns 100, enjoy 100 Years in 100 Minutes! This is just part 1, 1922-54 - from the company years of Magnet House then Savoy Hill, to the corporation years up to the eve of commercial competition, the last time the BBC was the sole official broadcaster. For the early years, enjoy the archive clips, some very rare - from the first presente…
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Episode 56 has BBC100 recommendations (on iPlayer and BBC Sounds for a limited time), 3 poems about the early BBC/radio, and from the Beeb Watch podcast, ex-Radio 4 presenter Roger Bolton. Past, present and future, all mixed in here as Auntie Beeb turns 100 around us. But our celebrations are a little muted due to some of the changes at Beeb towers…
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Landing on centenary day (well, 100 years aince the BBCompany was formed), episode 55 is the tale of the first Bard on the Beeb. Dr Andrea Smith joins us to talk us through the first broadcast Shakespeare - but it's only part 1, as on Feb 16th 1923, it's just excerpts: scenes from Julius Caesar and Othello. Andrea will return for the first full-len…
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Let Season 4 begin! We pick up our timeline of the BBC origin story in February 1923 - and the launch of Cardiff 5WA, the first Welsh broadcast station. Plus back in 2022: places you can go, museums, exhibitions and the like - from Bradford's National Science and Media Museum (and their Switched On exhibition) to St Bride's in London (and their A K…
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Tying up our 'summer' specials (now autumn), part 4 of 3 (whoops) is this special on radio as propaganda in World War 2. The non-BBC story. Sefton Delmer sent black propaganda from near Bletchley Park into Germany, as Lord Haw-Haw did the opposite, sending radio propaganda from Germany back into Britain. Meanwhile Hilda Matheson (remember her from …
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The BBC in WW2 is our focus for the third of our summer specials - longer-form chats with brilliant authors and their take on a century of British broadcasting. This time meet Auntie's War author and BBC presenter (Today, Sunday, The World at One, and plenty more), Edward Stourton. We can only ever scratch the surface in half an hour (what, no John…
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How many pre-WW2 black British broadcasters can you name? We’ll let's change that after this episode: summer special no.2 from The British Broadcasting Century... EARLY BLACK BRITISH BROADCASTERS - WITH STEPHEN BOURNE Author and social historian Stephen Bourne specialises in black heritage, and joins us to inform, educate and entertain us about peo…
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Summer special time! The first of three episodes outside of our era, our regular timeline we're telling of the early BBC. Instead we leap from 1923 to 1926 and then some, to meet: HILDA MATHESON AND THE RADIO GIRLS OF SAVOY HILL ...Your guide is Sarah-Jane Stratford - novelist behind Radio Girls. It's a wonderfully evocative book, and a great summe…
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Episode 49 and that old favourite Peter Eckersley returns - he's started regular British broadcasting, helped spark a boom in radio sets, mocked the BBC, been inspired by the first OB to join Auntie Beeb... and now this episode, he's hired. In this bumper episode, we hear from Eckersley expert Tim Wander, and PPE himself, as well as Noel Ashbridge …
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"There's not a lot written about 2BP," says our guest Tony Currie, radio historian, author and presenter. And yet for episode 48, we've wrung a whole 40mins out of it! In January 1923, the BBC had sole right to broadcast in Britain, and yet a couple of experimental radio stations existed in Glasgow. 5MG had been on the air since October, operated b…
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January 17th 1923: 2MT Writtle, Britain's first regular broadcasting station, closes down for the last time. Its chief voice, director of programmes, Lord of Misrule Peter Pendleton Eckersley toasts its listeners with a glass of water, upgraded to champagne via the use of a pop gun - innovating to the last with one of radio's first ever sound effec…
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For episode 46 we're joined by one of today's (and Today's) top broadcasters: Justin Webb. Justin's new book 'The Gift of a Radio: My Childhood and Other Train Wrecks' chronicles his lifelong partnership with radio, from an unusual childhood improved by the arrival of an ITT Tiny Super radio, to anchoring the Radio 4's Today programme. But he's jus…
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Episode 45 sees us still in January 1923, but on the move... First BBC Director of Programmes Arthur Burrows visits 5IT Birmingham and 2ZY Manchester to see the 2nd and 3rd BBC stations in action - so here's a podcast snapshot of what broadcasting was like in their makeshift studios in British broadcasting's earliest days. Our guest is Jude Montagu…
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For episode 44, we go to Holland and go back a few years, to hear of radio pioneer Hanso Idzerda and his Dutch concerts. It's not British broadcasting, but it's British listening - our ancestors could hear his regular broadcasts from 1919 to 1924 - at least if they had a radio set of quality. Gordon Bathgate is a radio history fan and author of Rad…
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On January 8th 1923, British broadcasting left the studio for the first time. William Crampton had the idea, Arthur Burrows seized on it, John Reith approved it, Cecil Lewis kept interrupting it with stage directions and synopses... Hear all about it here on episode 43, with the voices of Peter Eckersley, Harold Bishop, Arthur Burrows, A.E. Thompso…
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Episode 42 is the answer to life, the universe and everything, which in this case is: microphones. Or more specifically, the new microphones the BBC brought in, of Captain Round's design, in January 1923. In this episode, new mics, old callsigns, ambitious plans, the lack of an on-air interval: it all adds up to the start of professional broadcasti…
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Episode 41 (aka Season 3 episode 2): On January 2nd 1923, John Reith interviewed Miss Frances Isobel Shields for a job at the BBC, to be his secretary. At the time the BBC had four or five male staff members. Miss Shields started work on January 8th, instantly making the BBC a 20% female organisation. It's been greater than that ever since. This ep…
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Happy New Year, 1923! And Happy New Season: 3, that is, as we tell the story of the BBC's 3rd-6th months. Formative times at Auntie Beeb, as the staff grows from 4 in one room to a new premises at Savoy Hill. Season 3 begins with this, episode 40 overall, on New Year's Day 1923. John Reith, Arthur Burrows, Cecil Lewis and Major Anderson begin work …
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