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As the BBC turns 100, enjoy 100 Years in 100 Minutes! This is just part 1, spanning 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…
 
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…
 
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…
 
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…
 
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 …
 
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…
 
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…
 
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…
 
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 …
 
"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…
 
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…
 
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…
 
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…
 
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…
 
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…
 
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…
 
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…
 
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 …
 
Hullo hullo-ho-ho! Welcome to 2021's Christmas special, unwrapping a dozen Christmas broadcasting presents, from the past, to see what makes a classic BBC Christmas schedule. Our guest Ben Baker is a podcaster and author of festive books including the new Ben Baker's Christmas Box: 40 Years of the Best, Worst and Weirdest Christmas TV Ever (availab…
 
Marconi may have invented wireless, and the wireless, but he didn't see broadcasting coming. A special for episode 38, as we bring to life an interview with Guglielmo Marconi on what he made of broadcasting, two months into the BBC's existence. Our source is Popular Wireless magazine, January 27th 1923 issue. Read along if you like (plus bits from …
 
It's the BBC’s 99th birthday! Well it was on the day this episode landed. So for episode 37, here’s the podcast’s story so far... Between season 2 (covering the BBC in 1922) and season 3 (the BBC in 1923), we’re on a run of specials. So here we summarise EVERYTHING we’ve learned so far. 36 episodes condensed into one. Condensed, yet also extended -…
 
1922 (and season 2 of the podcast) closes with, you guessed it, New Year's Eve. But this one's special. For the first time, Brits don't need to go out to celebrate. They can stay home and listen to the wireless: concerts, dance music, no Big Ben's bongs yet (the only BBC New Year without them)... and a preach from Rev Archibald Fleming. We bring yo…
 
December 29th-30th 1922: General Manager John Reith begins work! The good ship Broadcasting finally gets its captain. On Episode 35 of The British Broadcasting Century, we bring you the complete tale of not only Reith's first day - the liftsman, the lone office, the "Dr Livingstone, I presume" moment - but also his commute to work, from Scotland to…
 
It's Christmas! (Well not now, it's Sept 2021 as I write/record this, but it was Christmas, in 1922.) Time for a 4th BBC station... the first to be constructed from scratch under the BBC banner. Hear the voices and the troubled tale of Newcastle 5NO's shaky start, on the back of a lorry in a stableyard. Plus we'll see what 5IT Birmingham and 2ZY Ma…
 
Our story of early British broadcasting reaches the week before Christmas 1922. The BBC staff of four have found Savoy Hill, made an offer, but for now have one room at GEC's Magnet House lined up for the first few months of 1923. But while Reith goes off on his hols, and Major Anderson the secretary puzzles out the new BBC accounts (see last episo…
 
December 22nd 1922: The Chairman of the Broadcasting Committee writes to the Postmaster General urging him to address the licence fee problem. "Listeners-in" are already dodging the tariffs... and John Reith hasn't even started yet! Here on episode 32, aka season 2 episode 5, we look at the problems facing the pre-Reith BBC with regard to income. G…
 
Season 2 Episode 4 (aka Episode 31 in total) flashes us back to Arthur Burrows' pre-BBC days, and brings us to December 17th-20th 1922, when 4/5 of the BBC workforce (ie. 4 people of the 5) tour central London searching for a building. They can use Magnet House for now, on loan from General Electric, but after that, where? After deciding against a …
 
"I had little idea what broadcasting was." So said John Reith after his job interview to become General Manager of the brand new BBC. On this exciting episode, meet your first General Manager (Reith), Director of Programmes (Arthur Burrows v Cecil Lewis - who'll get the job?), Secretary (Major Anderson beats 245 others to it, but doesn't last six m…
 
Yellow highlighters at the ready - the listings have arrived! Except it's weeks 2 + 3 of the BBC, back in Nov/Dec 1922, and the Radio Times is nearly a year away. So how do we know what's on the wireless? And is it called radio yet? A few trusty local newspapers printed a few listings - though watch this space, as they'll decide differently in a fe…
 
Season 2 begins! So please welcome to the microphone: entertainment! The very first. Journey back to November 16th 1922 - Day 3 of the BBC - to meet Auntie's first entertainers. But history being history, nothing's easy... Discover why the BBC's first entertainers weren't the first after all, whether London, Birmingham or Manchester brought us the …
 
Ahead of season 2 (covering the first year and a bit of the BBC, from November 16th 1922 to December 31st 1923), here's a recap of season 1 - told by the people who were there: eleven broadcasting pioneers. GUGLIELMO MARCONI: Inventor of 'wireless' H.J. ROUND: First to send speech west across the Atlantic PETER ECKERSLEY: First regular British radi…
 
Percy Edgar was there right at the start of the BBC. One of the first voices, he booked the acts, managed the station, then became Director of the Midland Region. He was the most influential regional director from 1922 to 1948, far outlasting Reith and, well, every other early radio pioneer I can think of. His grandson, the playwright David Edgar, …
 
Part 2 of our parliamentary re-enactment is a dense and complex beast - but then so is Parliament. Good luck! Following last episode, we're re-enacting every political discussion on broadcasting in 1922: the year the word caught on, and the year the BBC was launched. So this episode is like listening to radio in the 1920s... expect to not get every…
 
Westminster, 1922: Parliament learns a new word, 'Broadcasting'. And they LOVE to argue about new words. In this special, our cast of 20 brings to life EVERY broadcasting debate from 1922, no matter how big or small. No editing here. On our specials we outstay our welcome and we dig a little deeper. So approach this episode as if you're tuning into…
 
A special minisode championing Gertrude Donisthorpe: one of the world's first female broadcasters and arguably Britain's first DJ. Yet she's hardly to be seen in any of the history books. Google her now, go on. What do you find? Radio silence. We mentioned her a couple of episodes ago but didn't even know her first name. So thanks to a tweet from D…
 
Our first special stars radio pioneer Captain H.J. Round, in a true piece of history. We're on a break between seasons, so here's the first of a few specials... about one of the last of a few, a genius cigar-chomping engineer who shaped the modern world. We've mentioned Captain H.J. Round on season 1 of the podcast, but we've not heard from him til…
 
Ending season 1, here's episode 21 to tie up some loose ends, correct some clarifications and clarify some corrections from our previous 20 episodes on the prehistory of the BBC, radio and life as we know it. There's also an exclusive wide-ranging interview with TV presenter (Get Fresh, How 2), podcaster (Gareth Jones on Speed) and science enthusia…
 
Merry listening! Now, do you hear what I hear? Join our sleigh ride back to Christmas 1922, and delve deep into our pod-sack to discover what the BBC was broadcasting in its first Christmas. Includes: the first religious broadcast from Rev John Mayo, the first play written for radio in The Truth About Father Christmas, the BBC's first celebrity gue…
 
...and the Midlands, as Birmingham and Manchester join the party. We revisit the second day of the BBC: November 15th 1922. Also, how Manchester launched the first BBC children's programmes, how Birmingham had the BBC's first live music, and how London needed to tweak their microphone. All on election day, so just before the first Election Night Sp…
 
"You know, this broadcasting is going to be jolly good fun." ...That adlib ended the very first BBC broadcast, given by Arthur Burrows on November 14th, 1922 - and re-enacted on this special birthday episode. Yes we've made it! After 17 episodes building up to the big launch, the BBC is on air. This episode lands on the Beeb's 98th birthday - and t…
 
We're nearly there! Episode 17 zooms in on the pre-BBC fortnight. You'd have thought everything's in place by now, right? Not quite - just the tiny non-controversial matters of the licence fee and allegations of bias to deal with first. Good job they're all sorted now... We've got archive reminiscences from pioneer Peter Eckersley and the return of…
 
The first drama, the first comedian... Journey with us to October 1922 for the rarely told tale radio's first play (Cyrano de Bergerac, courtesy of Peter Eckersley) and British broadcasting's first comedian. Helena Millais played Cockney character Our Lizzie - and you'll even hear a bit of her act. We'll look at the few before her too - entertainer…
 
For ep 15, our story of broadcasting reaches one John Reith, who spots a job advertisement in the Morning Post. He's never heard of broadcasting. But what led him to that point? Revisiting landmark moments of our story so far, we'll trace Reith's unusual, unorthodox, unexpected life. From son of the manse to voice of the nation, via love, friendshi…
 
We're back, and we're a little muffled. (I'll be hitting my microphone with hammers, promise.) As I struggle with 2020 tech, the Great British public were struggling with theirs, getting to know their first radio sets in Sept/Oct 1922, at the First All-British Wireless Exhibition and Convention (FABWEAC, for short). So this time, hear the sights, s…
 
In episode 13, we're in August/Sept 1922, which means: - Manchester's first broadcast concert - The pre-BBC battles the printed press. Has the BBC got news for us? Erm... Not yet, and not easily. - The Reithian values arrive - 'to inform, educate & entertain' - except somehow they're knocking about before John Reith's even heard of broadcasting. Ou…
 
Part 2 of the pre-BBC's summer of music covers June and July 1922. As The Spice Girls once nearly sang, tonight (this episode) is the night (the episode) when 2 (BBCs) become 1 (BBC). Hear the voices of those who weren't just there - they were pushing the buttons. This episode includes: - How we got the licence fee! - Garden party demonstrations - …
 
Two British Broadcasting Companies! That's the result of the negotiations of summer 1922. Part one of this two-parter brings us two parallel storylines: boardroom debates (a la The Apprentice) and studio sing-songs (a la Top of the Pops). In this exciting episode, hear the voices and reminiscences of John Reith, Peter Eckersley, Arthur Burrows, Lor…
 
In episode 10, we journey through the round window... 2ZY Manchester arrives in mid-May 1922, then children's broadcasting in mid-November: Kiddies Corner, as part of a night of General Election results. Weird. Hear the voices that started children's broadcasting: Kenneth Wright (aka Uncle Humpty Dumpty) and Reginald Jordan (a 10-year-old radio ann…
 
Episode 9 brings us to the famous '2LO': London is calling the world, on our journey towards the BBC's birth. Hear the voices that launched broadcasting in the UK, plus rivalry and pranks, including Arthur Burrows and Peter Eckersley recreating a 1922 moment via clips from 1938 and 1960. (It looks weird written down, but trust me.) This episode's '…
 
Feb 14th, 1922: Britain finally gets a regular broadcast service. Only it's a little dry. Till Peter Eckersley gives his engineers gin and tonics (also dry), runs to the mic, and brings entertainment radio to the masses with jokes, songs, impressions and severe over-running. Hear all about it - including archive clips aplenty - including more from …
 
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