Radio 4 Doc: Learning to Listen

Atwater-Kent-DialLooking back through my notes this morning, I re-discovered this excellent documentary on the early days of radio listening; how radio changed the way we interacted with music and how we interacted with our radios.

(Source: BBC Radio 4)

As broadcasting took the world by storm in the 1920s, the radio quickly became the hub of many households. Entire families would huddle around their receiver, each person individually connected with their own headset.

But for this first generation of radio listeners, the flexible styles of listening that we habitually employ today were by no means innate – many sat silent and fully attentive, listening just as they would in a concert hall.

Historian Dominic Sandbrook charts how a new, more informal style of listening gradually evolved through the 1920s and 30s, by delving into the diaries of the Austrian musician Heinrich Schenker.

Schenker began to record what he heard on the radio within days of the inaugural broadcast from Austria’s first official station, Radio Wien. This rare and fascinating record, which spans just over a decade, offers tangible evidence of how new approaches to listening emerged over these formative years. We’ll follow Schenker’s journey as the radio shifts from being something that demanded his rapt attention, to eventually becoming an integrated part of his domestic life.

Click here to listen to the full documentary on Radio 4.

BBC Radio 4 doc about the life and trial of William Joyce

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William Joyce (a.k.a. “Lord Haw Haw”)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Jonathan Marks, who shares this brilliant radio documentary from BBC Radio 4 about the trial of the infamous Lord Haw Haw.

(Source: Radio 4)

Clive Anderson looks at a variety of famous or infamous cases and retells the story that the case brought into the public eye.

In this programme he explores the 1945 trial of William Joyce – Lord Haw-Haw – for High Treason.

Featuring Professor Colin Holmes, Geoffrey Robertson QC and Professor Jean Seaton.

Click here to listen to the full episode via Radio 4.

As a side note, if you’re interested in WWII propaganda, I would highly recommend the book, Hitler’s Radio War by Roger Tidy.

Click here to read my review of Hitler’s Radio War.

BBC Radio 4 Extra: The First Pirate

RadioNormandy

The First Pirate is the title of a Radio 4 Extra–an interview with Les Woodland who tells the story of Captain Plugge, founder of Radio Normandy, the first station to take on the BBC.

(Source: Southgate ARC)

Capt Leonard Plugge was the driving force behind Radio Normandy in the early 1930s. He created the International Broadcasting Company in 1931 as a commercial rival to the British Broadcasting Corporation by buying airtime from radio stations such as Normandy, Toulouse, Ljubljana, Juan les Pins, Paris, Poste Parisien, Athlone, Barcelona, Madrid and Rome. IBC worked indirectly with Radio Luxembourg until 1936. World War II silenced most of Plugge’s stations between 1939 and 1945.

Click here to listen to The First Pirate which will be broadcast on Thursday, August 21st 2014 at 05:30, 12:30, and 19:30 UTC and Friday August 22 at 1:30 UTC. 

BBC broadcasts original D-Day news scripts

Photo: Chief Photographer's Mate (CPHoM) Robert F. Sargent

Today is the 70th anniversary of D-Day: the WWII Normandy invasion.

In honor, the BBC has been broadcasting the original radio news scripts throughout the day, at the same time of day they would have been originally broadcast. The news scripts are being read by Benedict Cumberbatch, Patrick Stewart and Toby Jones; the complete set of recordings is available online. You can follow along by reading scans of the original scripts.

Click here to view the list of recordings. It appears that they are available to anyone, regardless of geographic location. There doesn’t appear to be a time limit.

Today: Choppy seas for the Shipping Forecast

Peeters_Sea_storm

Since the dawn of time, there is, there was, and there always has been…the Shipping Forecast. We set our clocks by it. Despite the complexities of our planet–war, famine, daytime television–the Shipping Forecast has been there for us.  Our steady friend amid the choppy seas of life. Our rock of Gibraltar…our security blanket.

Regardless of our diverse beliefs (or unbeliefs), it seems we all believe in the Forecast. We somehow find ourselves regularly returning to its altar, taking comfort in its soothing ministry. And why should we not? It’s been there, without fail, for ninety years.

That is…until this morning.

This morning, BBC Radio 4, who produces the Shipping Forecast experienced some technical difficulties. These, alas, led to a failure to broadcast the Forecast for the first time in, yes, ninety years.  Andy Sennit shares this article from The Guardian:

It was early-morning chaos and warnings of impending armageddon when BBC Radio 4 failed to broadcast the Shipping Forecast for the first time in more than 90 years.

The BBC radio service is something of an institution, metronomically broadcasting four forecasts a day since 1924, a routine which failed for the first time at 5.20am on Friday.

A technical glitch meant the BBC’s World Service was played in its place, a gaffe that prompted listeners to take to Twitter to voice their bewilderment.

Kirsty Connell said: “Eep. The shipping forecast didn’t get broadcast on @BBCRadio4 this morning. Isn’t that the sign of impending nuclear armageddon?”

Jordan Rowland added: “No shipping forecast? If UK submarines don’t get shipping forecast, don’t they launch nuclear attack?”

The BBC was only able to resolve the issue at 5.40am when it cut back to the Radio 4 programme. Friday morning’s Shipping Forecast eventually aired 6.40am.

[Continue reading…]

If this news has greatly unhinged you (as it has me) rest assured:  the world continues. Thus the Forecast will await us at its regularly scheduled time tomorrow morning.

(Readers, thanks for letting me wax poetic.)

Confused? If you’re wondering what the Shipping Forecast is, check out this previous post.

And now, the Shipping Forecast…

shipping-forecast-locations

When I lived in the UK, I would often fall asleep and/or wake up to the Shipping Forecast: a BBC Radio broadcast of weather reports and forecasts for the seas around the coasts of the British Isles.

Though I had, of course, no real need of the Forecast, on many occasions it lured me like the voice of a hypnotic siren (especially, I must admit, when read by a woman). When I moved back to the US in 2003, I missed hearing the Forecast on the radio, but thankfully one can listen to it at Radio 4 online. Although the online stream lacks the delectable sonic texture of long wave radio, the Forecast still has the power can still reel in its listeners.

Last December, I followed a brilliant series on NPR which highlighted the BBC Shipping Forecast.  I intended to publish it here on the SWLing Post at the time, but somehow lost it in the shuffle of a busy travel season. Fortunately, NPR has archived audio from the series online. I love their introduction:

“It is a bizarre nightly ritual that is deeply embedded in the British way of life.

You switch off the TV, lock up the house, slip into bed, turn on your radio, and begin to listen to a mantra, delivered by a soothing, soporific voice.

“Viking, North Utsire, South Utsire, Forties, Cromarty, Forth, Tyne, Dogger ….” says the voice.

You are aware — vaguely — that these delicious words are names, and that those names refer to big blocks of sea around your island nation, stretching all the way up to Iceland and down to North Africa.

The BBC’s beloved Shipping Forecast bulletin covers 31 sea areas, the names of which have inspired poets, artists and singers and become embedded into the national psyche.

Your mind begins to swoop across the landscape, sleepily checking the shorelines, from the gray waters of the English Channel to the steely turbulence of the Atlantic.

Somewhere, deep in your memory, stir echoes of British history — of invasions from across the sea by Vikings, Romans and Normans; of battles with Napoleon’s galleons and Hitler’s U-boats.

Finally, as the BBC’s Shipping Forecast bulletin draws to a close, you nod off, complacent in the knowledge that whatever storms are blasting away on the oceans out there, you’re in your pajamas, sensibly tucked up at home”

You can listen to the series on NPR, or via the embedded player below:

Click here to listen to the Shipping Forecast on the BBC Radio 4 website. Also, check out the history of the Shipping Forecast on Wikipedia and from this excellent article by Peter Jefferson in Prospero (PDF, page 10).

“Tuning In” Radio 4 documentary on the history of early radio in Britain

Tuning In, a history of early radio in Britain, will be broadcast November 3rd on BBC Radio 4. If you don’t live in the UK, you can listen live on the Radio 4 website where they will also post an archive of the show. (Note that some archived shows are only available for a limited time.)

(Source: Radio 4)

The press fulminated, the enthusiasts were frustrated, and the radio manufacturers fumed. Despite the fact that Marconi had invented radio before Queen Victoria had celebrated her Diamond Jubilee in 1897, radio in Britain took another 25 years to begin an official service to listeners. But when, on November 14th 1922 the British Broadcasting Company’s station at Marconi House radiated to an awaiting nation “This is 2LO calling” for the first time under the company’s name, it marked the start of the first and most distinguished public-service radio station in the world.

As part of the celebrations to mark nine decades of the BBC, historian Dominic Sandbrook explores the long and involved pre-BBC history of radio in Britain, how Britain’s broadcaster got going and developed into an institution dedicated to entertainment, education and information, discovers why Australian diva Dame Nellie Melba was involved, and how the improbably-named Captain Plugge made his first British commercial broadcast from the roof of Selfridges department store in London. From Marconi to Savoy Hill via an old army hut in Essex, the story of the early radio in Britain.