On this day in history….5th July 1954

On this day in history : 5th July 1954 – The BBC broadcasts its first television news programme…. The twenty minute bullet-in is introduced by Richard Baker….

Richard Baker – Fair use

We are all very familiar with the format of today’s TV news programmes; the presenters, news stories from around the world and closer to home – and the film footage that almost always accompanies them…. But how different things were back then…. Richard Baker narrated the news story whilst a supporting relevant still photograph was broadcast for viewers to look at…. It was really like an illustrated summary of the news…. A customary news reel would be shown, usually with recorded commentary from John Snagge or occasionally Andrew Timothy….

John Snagge reading the news in 1944 – Public domain

The BBC’s new news programme certainly wasn’t popular with all…. Some described it as ‘absolutely ghastly!’ and ‘as visually impressive as the fat stock prices’…. BBC Radio 4 were also doubtful about this newfangled way of delivering news to the nation and insisted on keeping control over the editorial of the headlines and the programme content….

The very first programme to be broadcast included a story on French troop movements in Tunisia and covered the truce talks being held near to Hanoi…. The service was intended to be more up to date, as the previous ‘Television Newsreel’ programme often contained news stories several days old….

In 1955 other news readers were introduced, such as Kenneth Kendall – who was the first news presenter to be visually seen – and Robert Dougall…. Television news time also doubled during this period…. Shortly after this expansion by the BBC, on the 21st of September 1955, ITN launched their news programme….

On this day in history….13th June 1910

On this day in history : 13th June 1910 – The birth of Mary Whitehouse, the educator, conservative activist and co-founder of the ‘Clean-Up TV’ campaign….

Mary Whitehouse, 1981 – Fair use

Whitehouse was born Constance Mary Hutchison in Nuneaton, Warwickshire and after finishing school she trained to become a teacher…. At the same time she became involved with evangelical Christian groups, such as the Student Christian Movement…. She qualified as a teacher in 1932….

It was at a meeting of the Oxford Group – a Christian organisation later to become known as Moral Re-Armament – that she met Ernest Raymond Whitehouse…. They married in 1940 and were to have five sons (two of whom died in infancy)….

In 1960 Whitehouse was working as a teacher in a school in Madely, Shropshire and was given the responsibility of sex education…. She was to be totally shocked by the lack of morals amongst many of her students…. It was at a time when sex scandals seemed to dominate the news headlines – particularly the exploits of Christine Keebler and Mandy Rice-Davies…. Whitehouse blamed the media, especially the BBC for exposing the nation to ‘such filth’….

In 1963 she wrote to the BBC asking for a meeting with the then Director-General, Hugh Greene…. But she had to make do with his deputy, Harman Grisewood – who she felt was sympathetic because he had good Catholic values…. However, she was to remain dissatisfied with the content she saw on television, so in 1964 she teamed up with vicar’s wife Norah Buckland and they launched the ‘Clean-Up TV’ campaign…. Appealing to the women of Britain they held their first public meeting on the 5th of May at Birmingham Town Hall…. Around 2,000 turned up, including several coach loads….

Whitehouse was to become a thorn in the side of Sir Hugh Greene…. According to her, he was ‘the devil incarnate’ and responsible for the moral collapse of the country – with its promiscuity, infidelity, indecency, violence, blasphemy, bad language and drinking…. She made some 300 speeches across the country each year – and the BBC, Downing Street and Buckingham Palace all received a bombardment of correspondence from her….

Hugh Green, 1968 – Fair use

She became General Secretary of the National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association in 1965, an association with over 400,000 supporters including many professionals such as senior police officers and bishops….

Just about every programme shown on British television came under her scrutiny…. One of her absolute pet hates was sitcom ‘Til Death Us Do Part’ – and particularly Alf Garnett’s love of the word “bloody”…. Another one she had it in for was Benny Hill…. Comedian Dave Allen fared little better, who she described as ‘offensive, indecent and embarrassing’…. However, comedy writers began to turn the tables, seeing her as potential material for their humour…. The Goodies devoted a whole episode – ‘Gender Education’ – in 1971, purely with the intention of irritating her….

She even turned her attention to popular music…. She unsuccessfully tried to get the BBC to ban Chuck Berry’s ‘My Ding-a-Ling’ – but had a better result when she managed to stop Alice Cooper’s ‘School’s Out’ from being aired…. He responded by sending her flowers – as he was convinced it was this that helped his record reach the No.1 spot in the British charts….

Even family favourite ‘Dr Who’ attracted her wrath – which she referred to as ‘teatime brutality for tots’…. She objected to its violence! And within a week of Channel 4 launching in November 1982 she was having a go at the soap ‘Brookside’ for the amount of swear words in it….

Whitehouse retired in 1994….but even from her nursing home she still had plenty to say…. In her book, ‘Whatever Happened To Sex’, she explained, that as a happy family woman, she had nothing against sex itself – but was against its exploitation in the media…. To some Mary Whitehouse was a champion of Christian family values – indeed in 1980 she was awarded a CBE…. To others she was just an interfering busy body…. She died on the 23rd of November 2001 at the age of 91….

On this day in history….25th May 1913

On this day in history : 25th May 1913 – The birth of Richard Dimbleby, pioneering journalist and broadcaster and the BBC’s first war correspondent – before becoming its main news presenter….

Richard Dimbleby – Fair use

Frederick Richard Dimbleby was born in Richmond, Surrey to Gwendoline and Frederick J.G. Dimbleby, who was a journalist…. After leaving school in 1931 he began working on the family newspaper, which had been acquired by his grandfather in 1894…. The Richmond and Twickenham Times remained in the family until 2002….

Richard worked on other papers, including the Southern Evening Echo in Southampton, before joining the BBC in 1936…. It was in 1937 that he married Dilys Thomas and they were to go on and have four children….two of whom became major broadcasters in their own right – David and Jonathan….

The BBC sent Richard to Spain to cover the Civil War…. At the time there was no official foreign correspondent and it was at the outbreak of World War 2 that the title ‘War Correspondent’ was created…. During the War Richard was to accompany the British Expeditionary Force to France, making broadcasts from the Normandy beaches during the D-Day landings….and from the Battle of El Alamein, North Africa…. He flew on some 20 raids with the RAF as an observer and in April 1945 he made one of the first reports during the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp….He was a groundbreaking broadcaster, reporting from 14 countries during WW2…. He was among the first into Berlin and was to broadcast from the ruins of Hitler’s bunker….

Liberation of Bergen-Belsen, May 1945…. A crowd watches the destruction of the last camp hut – Image : Bert Hardy No.5 Army Film & Photographic Unit – Public domain

In 1946 Richard was awarded an OBE and then later in 1959 a CBE…. He was to become one of the most familiar and trusted faces on British television…. He was to lead the coverage for the majority of major state and political affairs, including Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation, the Victory Parade of 1946 and the funerals of Sir Winston Churchill, King George VI and John Kennedy…. He was to be the anchorman on the coverage of the General Elections of 1955, 1959 and 1964…. He was also to become the presenter of ‘Panorama’ – the BBC’s flagship current affairs programme….

Of course there were lighter moments in his broadcasting career…. He took part in radio broadcasts on the panel of ‘Twenty Questions’ and hosted ‘Down Your Way’…. He was also involved in the now famous April Fools Day prank of 1957 when he provided the narration for the Spaghetti Tree Hoax….

In December 1965 Richard presented a documentary on the link between smoking and lung cancer…. It was at this time he revealed that he too was suffering from cancer – a subject that was still little talked about…. By talking about his own condition he helped raise public awareness and break the taboo…. Richard had been diagnosed five years earlier with testicular cancer….he was to die just two weeks after the documentary on the 22nd of December 1965 in St. Thomas’ Hospital, London…. He was just 52 years of age….

With funds from public donations the family set up the Richard Dimbleby Cancer Fund – which relaunched in 2008 as Dimbleby Cancer Care…. In 1972 the Richard Dimbleby Lecture, an annual televised lecture, was founded in his memory…. Every year it is delivered by an influential, respected person and over the years has included Prince Philip, Prince Charles, Lord Hailsham, Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Sir Terry Pratchett and of course many, many others….

2018 BBC Richard Dimbleby Lecture – speaker Jeanette Winterson on the theme of women’s equality – Image: ukhouseoflords via Flickr

On this day in history….18th April 1930

On this day in history : 18th April 1930 – During the evening’s regular scheduled news bulletin the BBC announces “There is no news!”….

Image : Pinterest

It seems ridiculous, doesn’t it? How could there be no news? But it appears the BBC had decided that there was nothing worth reporting on that day…. At 8.45pm, as families all over Britain settled down and tuned in their radios to hear the evening news, they were greeted with….

“Good evening. Today is Good Friday. There is no news….”

National Science and Media Museum via Flickr

Instead the fifteen minute programme was filled with Wagner’s opera Parsifal, performed on piano from the Queen’s Hall, London….

It is impossible to imagine that happening today….

On this day in history….18th October 1922

On this day in history : 18th October 1922 – A group of leading wireless manufacturers, which includes Marconi, form the British Broadcasting Company….

The first live public broadcast had taken place in June 1920 at the Marconi factory in Chelmsford…. It had featured Dame Nellie Melba, the famous Australian Soprano – and the British public loved it…. However, military and government organisations were concerned that such broadcasts would interfere with the airwaves and disrupt important military and civil communications…. The General Post office was responsible for issuing broadcasting licences – and bowing to pressure from the authorities they banned any more broadcasts from the Chelmsford factory….

But by 1922 the GPO had received almost 100 applications for broadcasting licences…. To keep control it decided to issue one single license – to one company, formed by a consortium of leading wireless receiver manufacturers, among them Marconi….

Daily broadcasting began on the 14th of November 1922 at Marconi’s London studio, ‘2LO’, in The Strand…. John Reith was appointed General Manager of the BBC on the 14th of December 1922; having no rules or guidelines to adhere to he effectively began to ‘write the rule book’….

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Sir John Reith – Photo courtesy : Howard Coster – Public domain

September 1923 saw the first edition of The Radio Times and in February 1924 the Greenwich Time Signal – or the ‘Pips’ – was introduced, marking the precise start of every new hour on BBC radio….

It was in January 1927 that the BBC became known as the British Broadcasting Corporation and is established by Royal Charter…. Sir John Reith becomes the very first Director-General….

John Logie Baird began to experiment with the first television broadcasts using BBC frequencies in November 1929…. Seven years later, in the November of 1936 the BBC Television Service began – (Black and white of course, colour didn’t become readily available until the ’60s) – bringing a mixture of programmes to include sport, drama, news and cartoons….

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John Logie Baird (photographed in 1917) – Public domain

In May 1932 the purpose designed and built Broadcasting House opens….and in December of the same year King George V makes the first radio broadcast by a British monarch….

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King George V giving the annual Royal Christmas message in 1934 – Andy Dingley (scanner) – Public domain

The BBC may no longer have the monopoly over broadcasting – we now have a vast choice for our listening and viewing options (some may say too many) – but what a long way things have come….

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Broadcasting House (with the modern extension to the side) – Photo courtesy : Stephen Craven CC BY-SA 2.0