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 Daily transmissions began by the British Broadcasting Company (later superseded by the British Broadcasting Corporation) on 14 November 1922, with dance bands being introduced six weeks later, beamed from the Savoy Hotel.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

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment
Relocation, relocation: Zawe Ashton travels the pathway to Northampton
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

TV
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Arts and Entertainment
The audience aimed thousands of Apple’s product units at Taylor Swift throughout the show
musicReview: On stage her manner is natural, her command of space masterful
Arts and Entertainment
Channel 4 is reviving its Chris Evans-hosted Nineties hit TFI Friday

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford plays Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade (1989)

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
A Glastonbury reveller hides under an umbrella at the festival last year

Glastonbury
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miles Morales is to replace Peter Parker as the new Spider-Man

comics
Arts and Entertainment
The sequel to 1993's Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, has stormed into the global record books to score the highest worldwide opening weekend in history.

film
Arts and Entertainment
Odi (Will Tudor)
tvReview: Humans, episode 2
Arts and Entertainment
Can't cope with a Port-A-loo? We've got the solution for you

FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets

Arts and Entertainment
Some zookeepers have been braver than others in the #jurassiczoo trend

Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant

Arts and Entertainment
An original Miffy illustration
art
Arts and Entertainment
Man of mystery: Ian McKellen as an ageing Sherlock Holmes
film review
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.

    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
    UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

    39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

    There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
    Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

    Computerised cooking is coming

    From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
    Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

    Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

    The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
    Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

    Education: Football Beyond Borders

    Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
    10 best barbecue books

    Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

    We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
    Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most