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Read this: The BBC: Another 100 years?

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The BBC: Another 100 years?…

BBC sounds music Radio podcasts from BBC Radio 4 if you change your Marconi set correctly on the 14th of November 1922 and live within about 30 miles of Oxford Circus in London those of the words you would have heard as if by magic as the very first official broadcast the brand new British broadcasting company hit the airwaves 100 years later.

We looking back at those earliest days.

Why was the BBC formed what was its purpose and parallels between now and then and join by Mark damazer? Who is an executive at the BBC for more than 30 years including is controller of radio for Jean Seaton professor of Media history of the is Westminster and an official historian of the BBC Paul kerensa broadcaster on BBC Radio Surrey and Radio Sussex and producer of the podcast British Broadcasting century, which tells the story.

BBC from the beginning and Emily bell founding director of the tile centre for digital journalism at Columbia journalism school welcome to you all and Paul as part of your broadcasts you recall that very first BBC broadcast let's hear a collector beginning with.

Hello hello, this is to hello calling calling this evening is broadcast will consist of a weather report followed by a News Bulletin which will be read first of the standard speed it will be repeated at a slower speed it may be the case that I will read too slowly for people to remember the context.

I'm interested in would prefer the bulletin to be read once slowly or one fast and once slowly or even one of the preference is for it to be read fast twice first copyright news from reuters press association exchange and central news in the general election takes place tomorrow the prime minister Mr Bonar Law final election speech in absolutely love what we had there was a result of a huge amount of negotiation between radio manufacturers newspapers and the government.

Where did the idea come from for one public broadcaster it comes out of the government's the taste for the sort of muzzle of lots of broadcaster? Is it partly comes out anxiety about America where people were already done it right have got the hear each other because they will sort of the loop clashing and it comes out and actually a security anxiety that some of the spectrum that was being used for broadcasting was needed for proper purposes for sort of soldiers on armies to communicate not that kind of frivolous to say you wanted to control the range of broadcasting so it comes as it would technologically and commercially out of those impulses the nobody understands that it's going to be significant and indeed the newspapers would have been far more aggressive if they haven't just seen it as a kind of useful prank to advertise them interesting.

At this point when this was setup this British Broadcasting Company how new was radio as a technology will it's been around for a while, but it's been essentially a one-to-one service on time and even Marconi himself couldn't really see well as a way to earn money.

I think from making a one-to-many service and so I think it's a gradual thing it comes sliding the American influence as well, but really this idea for Arthur Burrows who was that first voice to BBC wrote this this picture essentially in 1918 that actually we could use this technology this 1210 service to send concerts and political speeches into not just the press rooms which was the original intention, but then into people's homes if they have the right equipment so it takes time I think the order that Billie Jean in terms of the role of the government in the formation of the BBC I did the government fairly quickly recognise its potential as a propaganda tool.

There was also looking anxiety we just come through the

Very formative actually in the end, but also they've been the boss of it revolution in 1917.

So there was the walls and anxiety about how people might be communicating and was certainly an anxiety somewhere else which was that the first world war have been hugely disruptive all of these people that are working in new BBC2 come from the terminology of the wall.

They flown aeroplanes all they've been damaged by the War in they really don't like but the board it's so it's about putting it in a box and controlling it so that it doesn't get out of hand.

How many women talk about the government I mean how important was it that the government made this choice to create a single public broad because obviously if you fast forward many decades to the internet.

You know clearly the opposite approach looks like it was taken as the internet started to take off.

And design not be like America and America very much went down the left the market decide that any broadcaster attractive largest audience and let's see where it goes it's interesting when you can trust it with the commercial internet which actually started in many ways as a public good.

So when Tim Berners-Lee devised world-wide-web which is really around the internet.

He said the public good should be for everybody and he's telling me about disappointed.

He has been since that there was a moment there where you could theoretically continued with a much more than a public pub public service type internet the actually what happens is it's becoming close by largest commercial entities in the world and nearly all of them are based in America and seen in the way what happens when you have a communication system which

Able able to the Free Market and it's a very different outcome to to be out coming out of the BBC maybe never to lease a Mark BBC executive down the years has been tortured by Chris that they done something that would make John Reith the founder of this Enterprise turning his grave eyes this thing that was something for compliment.

I mean wreath with a monster.

He was an extremely unlikely tempered homophobic racist area of a bloke but he had his one big idea and although I felt flattered to feel that he might be turning in his grave something that shop didn't I also new for that one big idea which is the broadcasting radio would have a public purpose all the rest of the should be in honestly grateful because without that one founding we would be in a very very different Media ecology to the one that was subsequently established in the UK one of the most significant inventions in this early period was the licence fee.

Fiery debate in Parliament here is a clip of Peter eckersley.

One of the BBC's first employees and broadcasters talking about it like that edit active on there.

You go pool.

Just give us some context.

How did the licence fee come into being how did it work? This is actually one of the very last things to come into place before the bee.

because to fund this is the problem my kodi had to give you how do you pay for all of this and once you have these ones manufacturers coming together to form this one company, so they can essentially sell radio sets you then need to somehow fund this broadcasting company to do this instead of royalty paid on all of the sets that are sold, but unfortunately it turns out as most people just make their own and so in the first year or so at least a few years most of the listeners are not able to even buy sell or buy a licence essentially because they are just making their own radios at home and therefore is a bit of funding issue immediately see the licence fee instantly didn't bring in as much as they hoped it would have been a political issue for many many years and it turns out and back to send one of the MPs arguing against at the time was William Ben father of Tony Benn and he has an exchange between him and the postmaster general Frederick Callaway as with nothing Hansard

Outside cats and William Ben's how are you going to prevent evasion and Mr Callaway says if I would you explain how I intend to prevent invasion it would make a version easier Ben argue that it was an unenforceable protectionist system was it but it was and it was so the licence fee suited the stuff.

It's I think we need to remember the post office has a very big organisation much bigger than know her general Post Office was involved in that absolutely and the post office look like the natural person to deal with this new bit of technology because it was already dealing with all sorts of wirelessly things and you could pay a licence at the post office and everywhere there was a Post Office at pay licence fee fitted into a set of bureaucratic habits and possibilities and the post office took a lot of the licence fee someone who knows the BBC inside and out.

System is it a good system story controversy it goes on but the key propulsive force of the BBC is not the licence fee beside Gene was just articulating which is universality that we all own it and we more or less all pay for it and then we always have done and it gives us a unique steak in it week.

It's like it we can hate it.

We can love it.

We can do all of those things at the same time and it's out entitlement because we own it is also therefore the ability to provide a universal service and it had to do enough of value for all the very people millions and millions to pay the licence fee to justify that is true, but one it gives you that sense of ownership.

It doesn't belong to the government.

It's only doesn't long can BBC any given period it belongs to all of us and the second thing that gives you and this goes through the licence fee at least until this point is economies of scale the fact that we all pay for it means that we get much more out of it and

Only there for people who can't afford to put it because you'd end up getting much less value for money in the licence fee as survive fairly precariously 400 years.

Do you think it will survive another hundred even another but it doesn't feel that way because again it is this very contested political football windows at the current government expressed some desire to get rid of licences call fashions of lead work in the age of we keep hearing about Netflix etc, but the point makers at all of those days off lord, and you could make a case that says even though it is a very peculiar and normally and it is awkward.

It's actually more durable than advertising system which we've seen I can be extremely volatile and also it can create monopolies and you want for the visit house with Facebook and Google and you also have problems with direct subscription services because as mark as you know that it cuts off universality and the idea.

The ship and it also means that you get a quality of information which is arguably higher level that going to those people who pay vs.

Those people who can't pay what is very politically contested at the moment.

There are real but I think merits in this idea of common ownership on news has been at the heart of the BBC 400 years we had the first broadcast was a News Bulletin there's a lot of the bit about reading the news on the radio Paul what did the newspapers objective out then there was the battle between the news and the broadcast to the ownership of the news essentially newspapers felt that this was their domain really and even going back to and a half years before the BBC began with the very first test broadcast to I need to read out Rail timetables and things like that.

Just to try and test out the technology and people listening and then people were complaining going well actually these railway timetable very well.

Not realising to test can you read any more interesting so they would read the news.

And even then the press got involved to Ms angel actually, could you read yesterday's newspaper? Could you don't you giving away the news for free essentially so The Legacy of that.

I think comes through into and the BBC 4 how to wrestle this deal.

Whereby the Lonely broadcast the news after 19 and they can't edit the news.

They will just read what they are essentially given from Royton the press agencies like that.

So it's Don sticking with talking about commercial concerns Mark what do you think the relationship is like now between the BBC and it's commercial competitors and obviously when it comes to Talent and number of high-profile perfections sample to LBC and others.

Do you think the BBC is still seen as a threat to others or is it the other way around he is a bubble account organisation if you can't get all the various different places that needs it for all its various different audiences.

There's no point heard so the question you have to ask is whether we reached a tipping point and whether the BBC's relative decline in.

What is over the last few years means it can no longer is Tablet itself and be seen as the Nation's number one telling organisation when I think it's still is but I don't help with all these people are leaving I think so the only thing because they're better paid Elsewhere and I think that there will come a point where tough decisions need to be made in order to pay people to keep them on that will that maybe we both politicians and some people we're not well off to pay the licence fee the BBC must have a huge range of great Talent as well as encouraging young challenge as part of it always done it up to now and it's still in the position to do it, but it's more fragile than it's ever been a bell when you look at the range of competition and you look particularly.

This is not something that just happened to the BBC every single Media organizations individuals now.

I can go out and whether it's through podcasting on newsletters or whatever it is the individual.

Bigger than the media brand all the institution or this that's the feeling all the all the all the way the lock is moving it is definitely the case that we are going to need institutional strength when it comes to use broadcast when it comes to developing Talent and cultural aspects of Robert academic phrase because that's not going to be provided.

I think by the free market we don't like to think of the BBC just as providing a patch for market failure, but this idea that Britain is somehow Britain is creative economy and the BBC's at the heart of that for quite a long time and I do think that it's really important marks the people recognise and then because it's not just a cultural driving away in economic driver for the rest of the creative businesses in Britain let's go back 100 years again day one of the BBC

Election day which was an exciting day to launch on day to get the first broadcast from 50th in Birmingham and 2zy in Manchester around that time you know as it started maybe 22000 licences were out there.

They were listening parties of 50 or more Blackpool what were they broadcasting we've heard about news better weather, but what were they broadcasting and wide those ones in Manchester but I'm not start the same day, London won the Birmingham station was a little slow to start because they should be moving all the equipment from London and got lost in fog.

So they would have started little earlier.

If maybe the weather was more Clement and then it's read A3 I actually properly kicks off November 16th you start have musical concerts the first song of the BBC a proper I suppose it Leonard Hawk with Drake Goes West and it's light opera and comedians essentially 7 until close down at 10:30 or so and Mog earlier mentioned John Reith he's the name that we associate with the early days of the BBC but you argue to other men with their importance in shaping the BBC

Eckersley, and I was already heard from Anne and an offer Burrows who were they will then they go to Marconi company but different wings and I think both are very different ideas of what broadcasting should be so after Burrows have this rather high minded approach and want to poetry and light opera and reading something like this, but whatever are the Barrows was on there in the experimental stages in the summer of 1922 readings in the like Peter eckersley was on a rival station that was just there a head of the London station in Essex to a little and sort the Burrows inaugurates the first time signal is really with the with the Chimes at the start of the bells in the studio and the next night Peter eckersley.

Goes to the scrap metal dealerships and get all the pots and pans and broken glass just bashes them instead of just smocks whatever you're doing London really so I'd like that from that you were to get that sense of the BBC can give you at the grace of the higher things and news and important things but it can also give you a little bit of walking British sense of humour in there as well.

One cannot recall those early days without smiling there was something big even colossal conveyed in the nature of the contract.

We had undertaken nobody good broadcasting would catch on indeed whether it would take on at all.

There was no president no story of experience to be kept no staff with metal in a similar feel it was us and no in 1937 the broadcast programs of the world Attic to 215 million person.

It is almost 2 minutes to contemplate so different from those simple Beginnings 14 years ago.

I mean just wonderful to hear that voice.

Isn't it? But I Mark you were in charge ready for a long time your schedule chilly ones on the hoof and they were in 1922, but what will your main aims when it?

Scheduling and did you still have those what a term does Wrekin values inform educate entertain in your mind and I hope you will forgive me for is the easiest part of the schedule equation for the BBC as a whole it's such an incredible origins and you got tendon peopleplus who have a last.

I mean almost foreknowledge curiosity the wider world and so on the director-general give you 100 million and says these people to give you the best ideas to some and then go off and pick up the awards on their behalf.

I mean it's the best that you could possibly have of course you're conscious of the need even with radio for agents to cater to different sections of it, but I mean it is the most delightful job day.

I'm very envious of the person has got it now.

Yes and he's probably.

Next it is one of those jobs.

Isn't it in on inform educate entertain it's subscribed subscribed John Reith but when did it come in and and what was the significance were those those values actually David sanov was writing them down a few years before even that so I think David sanov American Pioneer and thought they may be that this could be a sense of we use this to inform educate entertain although it took a lot longer.

I think America to actually adopt that that was more of an idea to begin with that then.

I think it took some ownership of and the sense that when he had the joy BBC not really know what broadcast even was and I even saw his diary January 1923 that you finally listen to the radio for the first time you've been posted the BBC for a month and not actually tuned in so I think it's a few weeks.

Just a few weeks at least maybe to realise ok.

This is what we can do with this is the power of this we know have a responsibility to do something amazing with this and as Mark says you.

Queueing up at to be on Radio 4 today.

I love this.

I don't even back then they have sign outside the BBC One

When is a magnet have their signs on BBC come in and anyone could come in and pitch their ideas and people did and from that you get for example the chief engineer of the Royal Opera House saying we got up receiving starting Monday can we broadcast that and they laid a quarter of a mile of cable from Studio to opera house and that was Britain's first outside broadcast from an idea from someone passing by so that was a modest and now it's outside broadcast of plenty Emily do you think the BBC is fulfilling its remit at the moment? Do you think the output is in place? Well? I think that this again like the licence fee is deeply contested you now have this incredible range of available space and video contact audio content the difficulty is against something not unique to BBC is that we going to experience of real generational shift in the Expectations

Because we have an audience coming through that has is not just digital first, but that is social media first and that's really spawned.

I think a completely different behaviours and there's a question from me back.

How well the BBC's content offering can a Dachshund reach that audience and to what extent it can fulfil if you like sort of feel like it's what everybody into the BBC does do that is it really thinks about this and it contemplates it and it's almost like a public debate around which you don't really get anywhere else.

I thinking in global Media I suppose we contend without thinking about the future and what will happen in the future.

Jean do you have a question for you that start with Jean no will the BBC still be around in 100 years will we still be making programs and 100 years? I want to see differently the BBC's always been at it.

When it's been expeditionary and I think Emily described as a technological challenge which I think is huge, but it's also actually and information challenge BBC aultbea The Place which is given enough cash frankly to go off and sought how you produce a democratic information space in the widest that relates to young people it needs to be tasked with the technological and content problems of producing a more reasoned space because we live in a very diseased information space and Amazon will forgive me for a flight of rhetorical fancy.

I mean it's a noble idea of the idea that you can make quality programs which have huge audiences and that you can make programs which have huge and huge audiences, but which are also of high quality.

It's something that.

To every day and of course you can't hit the target every day, but it's an absolutely marvellous organising part of the UK I sincerely in passionately.

Hope that a it survives and political will to make it survive informed by the thing that matters of bubble which is the agencies view of it and the audiences affection for it.

How many vowels survival into the next 100 years what really hope so because I have been here and say that to take me to send America at the moment and you look at what the free market genuinely flea market has Ross in terms of information unusual information.

It's really depressing and championship place where you have a very well-informed elite and then you have a whole mess Of Fame use propaganda advertising new car ready to friendship between it and we do need institutions to stand up to that on the BBC

The very few institutions around the world was interesting to me is how often now BBC is cited as a model in America which is struggling to something about how it retrofits and classic values into this speaker system of information and technologies, so I think it's got this democratic purpose now which actually looks very similar to mine in 1922.

When is also have this new job behavioural of technologies and you also had a great great political are seeing you have fracturing in central Europe you had the rise of fascism.

There are many of those elements that are present in the Mission of the BBC has to be adapted really aggressively that I think the digital age and delved into the BBC's past 100 years for your podcast.

What do you think about survive?

For the next 113 you will I think the things we don't know what media wouldn't like there's a hole in x 100 years left alone at the BBC what it's like, but I think back to me directions to the first chief engineer whose voice you heard anyone talking about the chase in the licence fee and son he actually a picture made in the late 1920s even that one day.

We'll sit and sofas in our homes will look at our walls will have a giant rectangular screens will have a choice and we can push buttons in our sofa side pad and you can select music or concerts or Sport or children's we have the news fabulous and he had a lift in the late 1920s.

I just work out where to find it back then another five six seven decades, so someone right now has the right idea of what it look like in the next 1500 years we just need to find that person and listen to them.

I suppose you have time for today will be looking out for those visionaries.

Thank you to all my guests marked as a team Seaton Emily Bell and Paul kerensa.

Don't forget you can catch up with past editions of the media show via the BBC

But for now in the Spirit of freewheeling 1920s broadcasting will leave you with a bed of music does Paul mention the first bit of music played on the BBC was Drake Goes West so performed by Peter Dawson goodbye.

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