Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Here is The News - It's Out!

In 1939, and throughout World War Two, the wireless was King, radio ruled supreme and a man with a cultured accent saying, “and here is the news”, meant only one thing – the British Broadcasting Corporation – the BBC – London – facts – information – and most importantly it meant…..THE TRUTH.

The Second World War was the only time in history that the radio has been the preeminent source of news. After what was a shaky start in the early months of the war the BBC was soon beating the newspapers to the news; so much so that the Newspaper Owners Association complained to the government. When the war started the BBC’s first broadcast of the day was at 6 p.m. because up until that time news was reserved for the newspapers. The idea of radio news was still very much in its infancy and several times in the 1930s the BBC actually said at 6 p.m. “Here is the news, there is no news”, and promptly ended the bulletin. Against this background it makes their achievements even more remarkable.

Towards the end of the war the BBC, in one of its publications, quoted from the preface to Dryden‘s poem Annus Mirabilis. “To describe the motives, the beginning, the progresses, and successes of a most just and necessary war.” It portrays perfectly what the BBC’s correspondents, editors, newsreaders, commentators, givers of talks and the thousands of dedicated employees who worked for the Corporation achieved.

When the war began the BBC had no more of a clue than anyone else, as to how the war would progress, how long it would last – other than it would probably be long - nor what would be its outcome. They had to adapt to changing circumstances against pressures that ranged from the cultural to the technical, both on a personal level and a global scale. In particular the expansion of the war into far flung corners of the world created enormous demands on the broadcaster, and in particular a growing exigency for correspondents the longer the war went on. Throughout it all the BBC had to face criticism at home, attacks from the newspapers, carping from MPs and sometimes the wrath of its own listeners – but broadly speaking Britain and the World never lost faith with the BBC.

Today the BBC has a reputation that has been built upon their achievements during the Second World War. There have been some who have tried to bring the harsh glare of a revisionist’s spotlight on the work of the Corporation, theirs have been cheap shots and as often as not they have been misinformed. The BBC provided the soundtrack to six of the most turbulent years in Britain’s history, and did so while showing great resilience during the early years of the war under what were very difficult conditions. They did it with great skill, flair, imagination, dedication and tremendous tenacity, and they did it while never losing sight of their own imperative - “To tell the truth – in war as in peace”


r morris said...

I look forward to reading it, Richard. Great job!

Liz said...

I have found it more disturbing to hear tales of the BBC's wrongdoings than to hear about another MP who has had an affair/lied about something/admitted to being gay whatever. Some things we need to be able to trust.

Liz said...

Oh, I've just realised you're the author of the book! Congratulations!

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Congratulations and I will definitely get the book!

Richard Havers said...

Thank You!

r morris said...

Thomas Jefferson once said: "If faced with a choice of a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I would choose the latter". (Or words very close to these, I am quoting from memory)

A free press is our only hope. In the US, the print press is still alive, but the TV networks are a shabby info-tainment mish-mash of propaganda and Paris Hilton stories. The worst of all is FOX News, which is no more than a mouthpiece of the administration. The way they spin the news is often near-criminal. The mainstream TV media often has a left-leaning bias.

It's sad. People need to be able to trust the press.