The Week In Radio: It's the BBC's 90th birthday... but where's the party?

 

In another universe, this would have been the mother of all office parties. Senior editors would have been caught on smart-phones dancing Gangnam style on their desks, a bottle of bubbly in one hand and a hunk of birthday cake in the other. Arses would have been hoisted on to photocopiers, with the choicest images used to add a layer of soundproofing to the Loose Ends studio. Chris Patten and George Entwistle would have popped by, all smiles and laughter, for a spot of karaoke. And we, the licence-fee payers, would have tipped our hats and said: "Nice job, chaps. Have a drink on us."

Given that this week is the 90th anniversary of the BBC's first ever radio broadcast, staff should, by rights, be celebrating. But as the corporation endures the biggest meltdown in its history, one can only surmise that the moment passed with some poor sap feeding party invitations into a shredder while their colleagues wept quietly on their keyboards.

There have, of course, been documentaries, though the sound of popping champagne corks was conspicuous by its absence on Archive on 4 in which Roger Bolton examined the life of John Reith, the corporation's first Director-General whose surname has become a byword for the BBC's – ahem – superior practices and values.

Only it turns out that Reith was a colossal pain in the backside, an egotist and a tyrant who believed he was ordained by God to preside over the new broadcasting world, and who paused before accepting a knighthood since he felt he had earned something grander. Reith made the lives of professional underlings and his family a misery. If the Beeb wants to turn things around, it might want to stop banging on about "Reithean principles" and come up with a set of values dreamt up by someone who wasn't a pathological bully.

In Music in the Air: a History of Music Radio on Radio 2, Paul Gambaccini told the tale of Reginald Fessenden, who successfully transmitted a recording of Handel's Largo from the coast of Massachusetts on Christmas Eve, 1906, for the benefit of homesick sailors. It was the first piece of music ever played on radio. Daily transmissions began by the British Broadcasting Company (later superseded by the British Broadcasting Corporation) on 14 November 1922, with dance bands being introduced six weeks later, beamed from the Savoy Hotel.

There have been further programmes to mark this milestone in BBC radio including last night's Radio Reunited, a momentous three-minute simulcast from all 60 BBC radio stations – perhaps the closest they're going to get to a cross-channel knees-up.

Should we really begrudge the BBC a chance to celebrate? If you were one of the millions who tuned in to hear Entwistle being mauled by John Humphrys on Today, you may well have decided that a glass of warm Liebfraumilch is too good for 'em. But in what is depressingly being termed the "post-Savile" era, moments of levity are few and far between.

Misguided and sloppy as the BBC has been, isn't it also worth remembering what minor miracles it pulls off on a daily basis? Should you need convincing, I would refer you to The Listening Project, which on Friday featured an extraordinary, blub-inducing discussion about friendship and forgiveness between Thea, a Jewish German who escaped to Britain at the outbreak of the Second World War and whose father was killed in a concentration camp, and Brigitte, whose father served in the German army. BBC broadcasting is full of moments like these – I could fill this whole paper with examples from the last week alone. Amid the turmoil of recent weeks, they should be cherished more than ever.

twitter.com/FionaSturges

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer, Lord Alan Sugar, Karren Brady are returning for The Apprentice series 10

TV
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Angelina Jolie and Winona Ryder star in 'Girl, Interrupted'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Ed Stoppard as Brian Epstein, Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Elliott Cowan as George Martin in 'Cilla'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Thomas Pynchon in 1955, left, and Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix in Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of his novel, Inherent Vice

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Nicole Scherzinger will join the cast of Cats

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Fans were left surprised by the death on Sunday night's season 26 premiere

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lady Mary goes hunting with suitor Lord Gillingham

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Dunne, played by Ben Affleck, finds himself at the centre of a media storm when his wife is reported missing and assumed dead

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lindsay Lohan made her West End debut earlier this week in 'Speed-the-Plow'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Artist Nathan Sawaya stands with his sculpture 'Yellow' at the Art of Brick Exhibition

art
Arts and Entertainment
'Strictly Come Dancing' attracted 6.53 million viewers on Friday
tv
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant plays Detective Emmett Carver in the US version on Broadchurch

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor goes undercover at Coal Hill School in 'The Caretaker'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ni , Rock of Rah, Vanuatu: The Ni live on one of the smallest islands of Vanuatu; Nelson flew five hours from Sydney to capture the 'isolation forged by their remoteness'
photographyJimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style
Arts and Entertainment
David Byrne
musicDavid Byrne describes how the notorious First Lady's high life dazzled him out of a career low
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

    Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

    A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
    An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

    An app for the amorous

    Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

    Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
    She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

    She's having a laugh

    Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

    Let there be light

    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
    Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

    Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

    Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
    Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

    A look to the future

    It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
    The 10 best bedspreads

    The 10 best bedspreads

    Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
    Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

    Arsenal vs Galatasaray

    Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
    Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
    The magic of roundabouts

    Lords of the rings

    Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?