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Posts Tagged ‘BBC’

I am slightly embarrassed to say that, mainly due to pressure from my wife, I watch Downton Abbey. Whereas it seems to be the highlight of my wife’s viewing week, I find it largely tedious and boring. But, every now and again something in it sparks my interest, and in the episode on Sunday the 5th of October it was the plot-line about the house getting a “wireless” (radio). The head of the house, the crusty Earl of Grantham (played by Hugh Bonneville), is dead against getting a wireless, until he is told that King George V will be making a live broadcast on the radio to open the Wembley Empire Exhibition.

My wife had told me that this current series (series 5) starts in 1924, and I vaguely remembered that sometime in the last few years the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) had celebrated its 90th anniversary, so I decided to read more about the origins of the BBC. For quite a while I have been planning to blog about the origins of radio, as the first ever radio transmission over water occurred just a few miles from Cardiff; but that is a much bigger task and something for which I don’t currently have the time.

It surprised me to read that the BBC was not the first organisation to broadcast radio in the Disunited Kingdom. In June 1920, Lord Northcliffe, the then owner of the Daily Mail newspaper, organised the live radio transmission of a concert from the Marconi factory in Chelmsford. However, the Government quickly moved to ban future such broadcasts, believing that radio should be confined to military and other important government use, and not for entertainment.

However, there was such a public backlash to this decision that, by 1922, the Government had to make a U-turn. It decided to give radio broadcasting rights to one sole operator, namely a newly created company which they decided should be called the “British Broadcasting Company Ltd.” and which would be headed up by a dour Scottish calvinist by the name of John Reith. Its founding principles, as laid down by Reith, were “to inform, educate and entertain”, principles which have guided it to this day.



Reith was the first head of the BBC.

John Reith was the first head of the BBC.



The BBC started daily broadcasts from London on the 14th of November 1922, and it has been broadcasting daily ever since. Initially these broadcasts were made from studios in The Strand, in the west end of London. They then moved their studios to nearby Savoy Hill, but in 1928 construction was begun in Portland Place on what would become known as “Broadcasting House”.



Broadcasting House opened in 1932, and has been the headquarters of the BBC ever since.

Broadcasting House opened in 1932, and has been the headquarters of the BBC ever since.




The first transmissions from Broadcasting House took place on the 15th of March 1932. By this time the British Broadcasting Company Ltd. had changed its name to the “British Broadcasting Corporation”, a change which happened in 1927. Until 1936 the BBC only broadcast radio transmissions, and that on two stations, the BBC National Programme and the BBC Regional Programme. The Regional Programme was created to accommodate local broadcasting, which quickly sprung up after the BBC’s initial broadcasts from London in November of 1922.


The local stations up until 192xx.

The local stations up until 1924.



With the outbreak of World War 2, the BBC decided to change its two stations to the “BBC Light Programme” and the “BBC Home Service”. After the end of the war, these two stations were joined by the “BBC Third Programme”, which broadcast mainly classical music.

By the 1960s both musical tastes and the radio broadcasting landscape had changed considerably, and there was increasing demand for more variety on the BBC. In particular, the BBC broadcast very little “rock ‘n’ roll” music on its Light Programme in the mid 1960s, and so teenagers had to go elsewhere to hear the music of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks etc.

This teenager demand led to a number of so-called “pirate radio stations” exploiting a loop-hole in the broadcasting legislation by broadcasting from ships anchored a few miles off the coast. The most famous of these stations was probably Radio Caroline, and a thoroughly entertaining picture of this pirate station is given in the movie “The Boat that Rocked”, which I really enjoyed when I saw it.

Despite most members of the Government abhorring “popular music” (rock-n-roll), it was clear that the BBC had to make changes. It closed the loophole in the law, leading to the pirate radio stations being forced to close, and in 1967, the BBC re-jigged its TV and radio provisions. To satisfy the desire for rock-n-roll, Radio 1 was created. Radio 2 essentially took over the output of the former BBC Light Programme, with light music of the likes of Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole etc. The BBC Third Programme became Radio 3, and the BBC Home Service became Radio 4.

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Towards the end of October last year, I blogged about the death of Sir Jimmy Savile, TV celebrity and disc jokey. He was someone who seemed to be universally loved and admired. In his life, he had raised over £40 million pounds for charity, and it is for this work that he received his knighthood. He was friends to Royalty, to the Prime Ministers over the last several decades. He moved in very high circle.

Fast forward a year. In a documentary aired on ITV in early October, it was alleged that Jimmy Savile had a darker side to his nature. It was alleged that he had molested a number of women and girls, many of them under the age of sexual consent (16). Since that documentary has aired, the number of fresh allegations coming to light has been hard to keep up with.

Disabled children, including boys, have come forward in adulthood to allege that they too were molested by Jimmy Savile many years ago, but they had never said anything. Or, more disturbingly, they had said something, but their complaints were not believed because Jimmy Savile was held by all to be such a good man.


Jimmy Savile has been labelled a “serial sex abuser of teenage girls” by the Police


The Police have been pursuing over 300 lines of enquiry, and have even gone so far as to state that “Jimmy Savile was was a serial sex abuser of teenage girls“.
Although the number of people who claim to have been abused by Savile in one way or another leaves one in little doubt that there must be truth to the allegations, they are still under investigation by the Police. In addition, two independent investigations initiated by the BBC will look into how his molestations at the BBC never came to light earlier, given that there were apparently numerous rumours of them.

As I am no legal expert, I will refrain from saying too much until more is officially known, in case I get into some legal trouble.

So, instead, I thought I would talk about something about which I know next to nothing, psychology. Talking about things about which I know next to nothing is not new to me, in fact some would say I make a habit of it.

Quite early on in this unfolding drama, it occurred to me that maybe Savile’s commitment to fundraising for charity was done as a means of balancing the wrong he felt he was doing in molesting young girls (and some boys). Maybe I think this because I cannot imagine someone doing that and not feeling they were doing wrong. But, maybe I am deluding myself; maybe for some people who commit such horrendous acts, they feel no guilt as they see nothing wrong in what they are doing.

I wonder how much research has been done on the psychological make-up of people like Savile, who clearly do a lot of good in their lives (raising over £40 million pounds for charity is admirable), but who have a much darker side. Was Savile a slave to his darker side, something he found he was not able to control? Did his charity work come about in a desire to make him feel better about himself as he felt ashamed of his compulsion to molest young girls?

This, to me, is fascinating.

**Breaking News**

An hour or so after posting this blog, it was reported on the news that the 1970s pop star Gary Glitter had been arrested for questioning by the Police on suspicion of sex offences as part of the ongoing investigations into Jimmy Savile. Gary Glitter has a history of sex offences, having being found guilty of having thousands of images of child pornography on his computer in 1999, and in 2006 he was imprisoned in Vietnam for having sex with under-age girls.


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Training day

Today I have some kind of training in work. I really don’t know what to expect, but if it is an disastrous as the training day in this episode of the BBC sitcom “The Office” then it will truly be memorable. However, I am yet to come across anyone quite as bad as David Brent as a boss, so it should be OK.

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Last night the BBC showed a programme on the faster than light neutrino experiment which has made the physics world go into overdrive in the past few weeks. If you haven’t see the programme, it is available on iPlayer here. I don’t see any bits of it on YouTube yet, but keep a look out for it as, I realise, only people within the Disunited Kingdom can watch programmes via the iPlayer.

The programme was presented by the mathematician Marcus du Sautoy, whom I have seen present some excellent programmes on mathematics in the past. As a physicist/astrophysicst, I appreciate the fact that du Sautoy said right up front that he was not a physicist. I am curious why the BBC chose du Sautoy instead of e.g. the darling of the media at the moment Brian Cox, but then again maybe the BBC feel BC is suffering from over exposure.

I put a post on FaceBook alerting people to the programme going out at 9pm last night, and a colleague of mine commented “Gosh. So they can make science tv progs quick when they need to!” (I’ll excuse her poor grammar, this time 🙂 ). Indeed, it is amazing how quickly the BBC have put the programme together. And, considering how quickly it has been put together, I thought it was excellent. Maybe du Sautoy and the film crew were able to send their finished product from 2 years in the future back in time by using faster than light neutrinos to bring the video to October 2011!

I wanted to go into a lot more details about this programme, but I don’t have time today. I will be returning to the topic of relativity in the near future – I am in the process of writing some lectures on the whole historical development of relativity, from Galileo through to Einstein, so will post bits of that story on this blog over the next few weeks.

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