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4805.  Sun Jan 18, 2004 4:16 pm Reply with quote

On 1 September 1939, the BBC's pre-WWII television service was showing a Mickey Mouse cartoon when the Post-Master General's office phoned the BBC and warned that TV transmitters would make excellent homing beacons for German bombers. The engineers immediately pulled the plug without even consulting BBC management. Mickey Mouse was imitating Greta Garbo at the crucial moment, and so the last words broadcast on British TV were "Ah tink ah go home." Then the screen simply went blank. War was declared on 3 September.

When service resumed in June 1946, the Mickey Mouse cartoon was shown again in full -- there had been some debate over whether to pick up where the pre-war broadcast had left off, halfway through the cartoon, but this suggestion was over-ruled as frivolous. However, the first human face seen on post-war British TV belonged to continuity announcer Leslie Mitchell, and his opening line was "As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted ..."

s: Live from Number 10: The Inside Story of Prime Ministers and Television , Michael Cockerell, Faber and Faber, 1988, ISBN 0 571 14757 7.

4806.  Sun Jan 18, 2004 4:26 pm Reply with quote

The first ever Labour prime minister, Ramsay MacDonald, had a TV set installed in number 10 Downing Street in 1930. This may seem eccentric, given that the BBC did not begin a television service until 1936, but in fact John Logie Baird was experimenting with a closed-circuit channel to demonstrate his invention and was lobbying the government to let him go public. The first few televisions went on sale that year, price 25 guineas.

S: ibid, p1

4807.  Sun Jan 18, 2004 4:29 pm Reply with quote

(One apocryphal story I'd love to verify: Baird turned up at BBC Broadcasting House one day in the 1920s to talk to the engineers about his invention, and a receptionist phoned upstairs with the words "There's a lunatic in reception who says he has a machine for seeing by wireless. Be careful, he may have a razor.")

4822.  Mon Jan 19, 2004 6:18 am Reply with quote

How depressing must this have been?

The show that no one watched

Those who shun television because it destroys the art of conversation obviously would not have been watching a Welsh political show called The Point on Thursday 17 February, but as BBC viewing figures show nor was anyone else.
The programme known as The Point but referred to by some as What's the Point? gave the BBC its lowest-ever viewing figures for an evening show because officially no-one watched.
It rates as a zero on the official audience figures, although the BBC maintains that around 2,000 people did watch the show. But under the TV rating system any programme with fewer than 2,500 viewers is regarded as making no impact because the statistical margin of error is too large.
The political show is aired on BBC2 in Wales on a Thursday night at 11.20pm, after Newsnight.
BBC spokesman Huw Rossiter said yesterday: "This was a blip in our audience rating for the programme.
"Our own figures show that 2,000 people watched the programme that night and that 14,000 watched the programme last Thursday."
The programme, the political flagship of BBC Wales, was previously shown at 7.30pm on Thursdays, pitching it in a head to head battle for viewers with the ever-popular EastEnders.

(The Guardian, 7 March 2000)

All of which leads one to ask: how are UK viewing figures worked out, and how did the BBC come to a different conclusion?

USA figures are, ahem, calculated by "the Nielson 1,200" -- a set of guinea-pig viewers with monitoring equipment in their TV sets, from which national viewing figures are extrapolated (a system, incidentally, which is wide open to abuse, as related in Michael Wheeler's Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics).

4825.  Mon Jan 19, 2004 7:04 am Reply with quote

Now, this is just class:

A pinch and a punch - and a 20,000 fine

It was a dark day at Oxygen 107.9 FM when the Radio Authority came knocking. Someone had complained that the station had breached licence obligations by airing too much fluff and music, so the watchdog wanted to monitor a day's programmes. It demanded the tapes for March 1.

That was a day when pop music filled the bedsits of the station's mostly student listeners, so managers hatched a plan. On March 8, with tapes rolling, announcers repeatedly declared it was a week earlier. "Pinch and punch it's the first day of the month."

Jerry Springer's misogyny was dissected in a debate. Other discussion programmes were trailed. Next day, the authority received the tapes, labelled March 1.

But station managers forgot one thing: the news.

Bulletins were not changed. Sadly for Oxygen, March 8 was a busy day for news. Joe DiMaggio died. Tributes to Stanley Kubrick, who died the day before, were flowing. Gordon Brown's budget was about to be revealed.

Not epochal, but enough for the watchdog to twig. Yesterday, Oxygen was fined 20,000 and its eight-year licence [was] cut by two years.

"Shocking disresepct for its listeners as part of an attempt to deceive its regulator" produced the heaviest penalties ever imposed by the authority said its chairman Sir Peter Gibbings.

The station, which now has new managers, is aimed at young people and students in Oxford. When it started broadcasting in 1997, it pledged to devote 12 to 15 hours a week to discussion, including science and art topics.

By law, stations must keep tapes of their output for 42 days. Intrigued by the discrepancies, the authority asked for more tapes. For March 8.

The station tried to bluff, sending its March 15 output labelled March 8.

The authority then demanded an entire week's tapes.

Doomed but defiant, the station sent 21 tapes. Not one matched the relevant days.

Sir Peter said: "As the first student-targetted station this is an unusual licence, but all licensees must comply with the terms of their licence."

Oxygen is owned by Dawe Media Ltd, which runs three other regional stations.

Oxygen said seior managers were unaware of the breaches: "On this occasion, young staff at a small station clearly made a serious error of judgment."

(The Guardian, 07 September 1999)

4857.  Mon Jan 19, 2004 5:22 pm Reply with quote

Nice little potted history of radio broadcasting here:

Some nuggetoids:

Speed of development is interesting - we go from:

1899 - Marconi achieving ranges of sixty miles. His equipment used for ship to shore communication.


1910 - Arrest of the infamous Dr. Crippen and his mistress following a wireless message from S.S. Montrose to New Scotland Yard.

1912 - Wireless distress calls from the Titanic save 705 lives.

1913 - German wireless station in Nauen transmitted morse 1550 miles.

1914 - Marconi Company start experimental speech transmissions from Marconi House London.

1915 - American Telephone and Telegraph Co. with Western Electric sent speech fron The Naval station in Arlington to The Eiffel Tower.

1918 - The Marconi Co. start experimental speech transmissions from Iceland to North America.

And then repression breaks out:

1919 - The Armed Forces put pressure on the Post Office to ban further broadcasts until the Government could think up ways of regulating it.

1920s - 250,000 amateur radio enthusists in the early 1920s - annual licence fee imposed upon them by the British Government.

1920 - The first advertised public broadcast programme. A song recital by Dame Nellie Melba is broadcast from the Marconi works in Chelmsford.

Local radio gets an early look-in:

1921 - Regular programmes start from The Strand. Other stations set up in Birmingham and Manchester.

1922 - Broadcasts commence from Marconi House in London (2LO) and The British Broadcasting Company (BBC) is formed by Marconi and five other companies.


18 October 1922 - Government decides to let only one company to broadcast - the British Broadcasting Company. In July 1922, one of (the early local) stations broadcast some rather trivial local news of a garden fete. The press were quick to respond, calling it: "unconsidered trifles of the lightest type," so the Conservative Government resumed responsibility for broadcasting and formed the British Broadcasting Company Limited under the directorship of a rather dour Scotsman called John Reith. Sculptor Eric Gill was commissioned to work on a statue of Ariel, now posing above the doorway of Broadcasting House.

1 Nov - Broadcast Receiving Licence started. 10 shillings per year. BBC given monopoly status for public radio transmissions.

However, competition from dastardly foreigners arises - amusingly, the first commercial broadcast was done by a man called Plugge.

1925 Radio Paris. First commercial broadcast from the Eiffel Tower in English by Captain L.F. Plugge.
Before Radio Luxembourg, Captain Plugge toured France with the very first car radio manufactured by Philco and beamed music from Radio Normandy to Britain after midnight. 'Auntie'was not amused. Even less so when she heard the French government was behind the 200 kilowatts of dance music pumping out from Luxembourg to England every night. The Postmaster General wrote to the Head of the BBC saying: "We must use all our influence to stop this." In an internal memo of 7th April 1933, the BBC suggested persuading leading newspapers not to refer to it. It went on to say: "It seems to me that a possible way of combating Luxembourg would be to allot the wavelength to somebody else, not as their only wavelength, but to get someone with a sporting spirit to take it on and try and clear the channel."

Spring 1933 - Radio Luxembourg started transmissions but the BBC organises a censorship campaign, so not many British people know about it. People who worked for Radio Luxembourg were blacklisted by the Beeb.

During the war, Radio Luxembourg was used as a propaganda station by the occupying German fascists. In 1944, a special American task force under the direction of the Psychological Warfare Division liberated the station and silenced Lord Haw-Haw's (alias William Joyce's) infamous voice. He was later hanged for treason.

1950s During the fifties, the 500 or so new records released each week in Britain could only be aired on the BBC Light Programme's 'Mid-day Spin', Sunday's 'Family Favourites'or the daily 'Housewives'Choice.'

In 1960, the Pilkington Committee found "no evidence of public demand" for local radio.

In 1964, several new radio stations set themselves up around the British coast. One of them was Radio Caroline, carrying DJ Kenny Everitt.

Then Postmaster General, Reginald Bevins, declared that Radio Caroline was interfering with British Maritime Services, but a former BBC radio engineer reported back in the Daily Mail that Radio Caroline was broadcasting nowhere near the maritime wavelengths.

The Post Office warned the general public that they could be prosecuted under the Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1949 if they listened to the pirate stations.

British Customs and Excise Officials attempted to board Radio Caroline but retreated after it was pointed out to them that the ship was in international waters; however they retaliated by ruling that passports had to be carried by all persons on board tenders going out to the ships.

Newspapers reported that less than 1% didn't support the stations and that Radio Caroline had a bigger afternoon audience in the areas that it covers than all the BBC programmes put together. By 1967, the National Opinion Polls announced Radio Caroline had the greatest weekly audience of any commercial station in the world.

At one minute past midnight on 15th August 1967 the Marine Offences etc bill became an Act of Parliament and one by one, the offshore free radio stations closed down.

The British Government ordered jamming of the transmissions; something no western nation had ever done since the war. In 1973, Billboard's top selling pop newspaper, Record Mirror, were stunned by the results of their survey which saw BBC Radio One collect less than 5% of votes for best radio station! Radio North Sea International, Radio Caroline and even the Dutch service of Radio Veronica were voted better in the poll.

The rest of the webpage goes into a very long account of the eventual demise of Radio Caroline at the hands of the DTI and the government.

4858.  Mon Jan 19, 2004 5:30 pm Reply with quote

[round of applause for Jenners]

Ah, the Sainted Kenworth of Everett ... thou shouldst be living at this hour ...

[savours madeline crumbs caught in folds of thread]


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