Friday, December 21, 2007

London Calling: BBC World Service completes 75 years

The British Broadcasting Corporation is arguably the best mass news media organisation in the world. What is most remarkable is that it has kept pace with time, without losing its traditional core values: it hasn't changed, even though it has adapted to modern technology. Not many media organisations can claim that.

Some of the other channels that were quite popular in India were the Voice of America, Radio Australia, Radio Netherlands, Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation, Radio Deutsche Welle etc. I said were because today it's extremely difficult to receive these stations even on a good shortwave radio because of the crowding of the airwaves by other signals like that of mobile phones.

Up to a good 15 years back reception in the morning and evening was so clear, it was a pleasant experience listening to these international radio stations, some of which also have broadcasts in Indian languages like Hindi, Tamil, Gujarati, Punjabi etc. These vernacular language broadcasts are very popular in smaller towns and villages. I guess the airwaves there aren't as crowded as in cities like Bangalore, so probably reception there must still be good.

Though in cities we don't get good radio reception, those of us who have good broadband connectivity can go to the websites of these radio stations, and listen to podcasts. So to some extent the loss has been compensated, but it'sn't the same as listening to the transistor radio.

I first began listening to the BBC news in 1980, mainly because of the Iran-Iraq war launched by Saddam Hussein. That was the first proper war I could understand, so I kept tuning into the BBC to understand and follow it. Soon, I began to listen to many other programmes -- music, current affairs, documentaries, radio plays etc. Though I also listened to other radio stations, I was spending more time listening to the BBC.
  • From Marconi to MP3; the History of the BBC. Spend some time reading it... There are some radio clips dating back all the way to 1940s... Amazing... Click here.
This month, BBC World Service radio completes 75 years. It began as Empire Service. On Christmas Day King George V gave the first royal broadcast to the empire. It was scripted by author Rudyard Kipling.

The BBC World (television) has lined up a three-part series London Calling on December 22. "....To coincide with the occasion, independent film-maker Neil Cameron has been given carte blanche to film the BBC World Service’s journalists and managers in London and in bureaux, studios and front line reporting locations around the world...." says the promo announcement.

Click here for the programme timings. The programme timings in India are: (to get GMT subtract 5h 30 min):

Part I Winners And Losers
Saturday 22nd December at 1340
Repeated: Saturday 22nd December at 1940; Sunday 23rd December at 0140; Sunday 23rd December at 0640; Sunday 23rd December at 1340 & Monday 24th December at 0140.

Part II The Battle For Truth
Saturday 22nd December at 1540
Repeated: Saturday 22nd December at 2140; Sunday 23rd December at 0740 & Sunday 23rd December at 1740

Part III Changing Faces
Saturday 22nd December at 1740
Repeated: Sunday 23rd December at 1540; Sunday 23rd December at 2240 & Monday 24th December at 0740.


  1. Hi Pradeep, I remember the BBC being the most trusted news station when I was a kid, my parents always said "if it was on BBC, it must be true". Time flies...75 years is a long time, but BBC still stands steady as ever.

    Interesting appendixes... will go through them in leisure. Thanks for another good post.

  2. I appreciate your loyalty to listen to BBC inspite of the explosion in mass media.

    radio programmes are always more soothing than other visuals. radios help improve your attention and ocncentration, whereas, the visual media can increase distraction.