Thursday, 15 November 2012

Oh no it didn't!

BBC Radio has reached the grand old age of 90 years old this week. That's older than the oldest person I know, and more than twice my own age. At about 5.33pm on 14th November 1922 the first broadcast was made from the 2LO transmitter at Marconi House, London, initially just to the London area, but rapidly spreading coverage across the country as more and more transmitters were turned on. Now there are 56 BBC Radio stations across the UK - 10 National, 6 "National Regions" and 40 more local radio stations.

There was quite a party on Radio 2's Drivetime show last night, as well as the special arty-composition put together by Blur's Damon Albarn, there was also a rather splendid compilation entitled "90 Years in 90 seconds" put together by the Drivetime team themselves, which, for my money at least, was rather better than the official offering. You can listen to it from iPlayer via THIS LINK. Jumping directly from classic comedy which had me chuckling, to the terrible chillingly sombre address to the nation on the outbreak of war in 1939, and the panicked, frenetic broadcast from the scene of the awful 9/11 attacks in 2001 "If you go over there you can see them jumping out the windows oh my god they're jumping out the windows!" - this combination really should not have worked, but did, stopping any form of complacency in its tracks and forcing you to actually stop and listen for just a minute and a half.

Robbie Vincent - picture from
Radio has played a big part in my life - from Mum listening to Radio London when I was a child....the Robbie Vincent Phone-in at lunchtime was a favourite and when we did our family fundraising for Guide Dogs for The Blind for a few years we were able to get the Radio London team involved and Dad and I were fortunate enough to be invited to the station to meet them all. My autograph book still bears Tony Blackburn's autograph as proof of this! One of my most treasured possessions as a child was my little battery powered Transistor radio - brilliant for illicit late-night listening to Capital Radio, but I used to spend a fortune on batteries as I invariably fell asleep without turning it off! As soon as I got my own car the radio became all important - always in use far more than the tape deck, or later, CD player, although I confess that the 10-CD changer system I bought for a later car usurped the wonders of the broadcast medium for a while. From Capital, through Heart, Magic and Virgin, on to now alternating between Radio 2 (weekday mornings and early evening) Absolute (weekday afternoons) and Classic (the rest of the time). Back in the mid 90's we went through a patch of going to lots of radio recordings too, from the Masterson Inheritance (A rather splendid improvised comedy drama with the likes of Paul Merton, Caroline Quentin and Josie Lawrence) to Just a Minute - classic Radio 4 comedy. Back in those days recordings were held in the rather fabulous  "Paris Studio"  in London's Lower Regent Street - a fabulous building, it was as exciting knowing you were going to that building as the recording itself ever was! Sadly in 1995 it opened its doors for the final time, and while the purpose built "Radio Theatre" within Broadcasting House is lovely, but not a patch on its grand old predecessor.

Masterson Inheritance - picture from
Back in the late 70's there was much speculation that the age of video would spell the end for radio - and indeed for a while there did appear to be a waning in interest in the audio, in favour of the visual. Over time though things settled down again, and the next major impact on the popularity of radio was with the introduction of Internet radio and Digital Broadcasting - several of the BBC's stations are now internet/DAB only - that is, not available on the standard FM/AM wavelengths. In fact since these innovations radio is probably at its most popular since Wartime when families had a regular date with the "Wireless" as their main link with news on the conflict.

Video killed the Radio Star? Oh no it didn't!


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