A History of the BBC in 100 Blog Posts: 1970.

It's been a while since we looked at the raw BBC schedules, so lets see how each of the channels shaped up for this day in 1970.  As ever its important to note that this is just one day out of thousands, but it's impossible not to notice enviously the diversity of programming especially on the two television channels.  BBC Two in particular is an embarrassment of riches, especially the film selection which wasn't really seen outside of film festivals at the time and wouldn't receive anything like proper distribution until the BFI released a shiny-disc in their Flipside label forty years later.  

BBC One opens at 12:55 with Bric-a-Brac which is described as a "quiz about antique odds and ends" - fifty years later and BBC One has returned to something similar.  After a five minute interval (?) and amid a closedown, the rest of the afternoon offers children's programmes: Chigley, Play School, Peter's Adventures (animation from Hungary), the cartoon Egbert's Sleepless Night, Score with the Scaffold (a quiz show featuring pop band The Scaffold, presented by Wendy Padbury just over a year since leaving Doctor Who), The Wacky Races and Junior Points of View.

After a ten minute news bulleting, prime time kicks off with the Canadian import Entertaining With Kerr (a food programme presented by Graham Kerr, better known as The Galloping Gourmet), Champion's Quiz Ball, US import The Virginian, the sketch show Don't Ask Us (with amongst others Russell Davies, Maureen Lipman and Richard Stilgoe), Me Mammy (a pre-cursor to Sorry but with heavy religious undertones), It's a Knock-Out!, 24 Hours (the main news programme) and the day ends with a half hour play, Roly Poly, based on a story from Stanislaw Lem and starring John Alderton.  Produced by Innes Lloyd.  Music by Dudley Simpson.

Although BBC Two opens at 11am with Play School, it swiftly closes down again twenty minutes later and doesn't re-open until 7:30 in the evening with a half hour news bulletin.  Then at 8pm, A City - a Day - A Generation, a half hour documentary about "a man approaching old age and a city rejuvenating himself".  The schedule continues with a repeat showing of Sentimental Education (Hugh Leonard's adaptation of the Flaubert novel, directed by David Maloney and starring Robert Powell and Stephanie Beacham), a half hour music programme starring Julie Felix (pictured) and the night ends with Don Levy's experimental film Herostratus on its single BBC broadcast.  How times change.

Over on the wireless, the transition into numbered stations is still in progress.  On Radio One this is still the era of Johnnie Walker, Tony Blackburn, Richard Park, Tony Brandon, Dave Cash and Tommy Vance.  Radio Two is still trying to find its identity after transitioning from the Light Programme, with a mix of easy listening presented by the likes of David Hamilton and Ray Moore, some drama, Woman's Hour, sport bulletins and cricket commentaries.  Radio 3 on the other hand is entirely recognisable with much of the day filled with pre-recorded music, a live proms concert in the evening and some arts related discussions.

Similarly over on Radio 4, many of the mainstays of the 2020s schedule are already in place.  A version of the Today programme begins at 7am, You and Your Money (a forerunner of You and Yours and Money Box) at 9:35 in the morning, the Daily Service, Pick of the Week, The World at One, The Archers, the Afternoon Drama, PM, Analysis, The World Tonight and Book at Bedtime are in there with the broadcasting day ending on the "Coastal Forecast".  The gaps between haven't changed much even if the timeslots aren't what we're used to.  There's drama for a longer period in the morning, a tendency towards "talks" of up to half and hour rather than audio documentaries and quizzes.

Play For Today

"Alison Steadman celebrates 50 year since Play for Today was launched on BBC television."
[BBC Sounds][BBC Programme Index]

"This mini-section on Play for Today starts with an episode guide: use the drop-down menu associated with the heading “Play for Today section” (above) to navigate menus for each year between 1970 and 1984. Click on underlined plays, writers or directors for essays on them."
BTD has an extensive section about Play For Today with an episode guide and numerous essays about each of the installments.
[British Television Drama]

The making of a documentary broadcast in 2020 about the strand from the writer/director John Wyver.


"A 1970 edition of Late Night Line Up following Gene Vincent on a four-day UK tour which started on 5 November 1969."
[BBC Clips]

"Selma James explores the beginnings of the women's liberation movement in Britain of 1970. For the last half-century she has continued leading its search for equality and justice."
[Global Women's Strike]

"An appreciation by Lord Annan, Christopher Isherwood, Frank Kermode, George Steiner, Richard Marquand.  E. M. Forster - novelist, essayist and biographer who died last month - was, in spite of his relatively small output, one of the most influential writers of the century.  Introduced by James Mossman."


"Spike Milligan approach Michael Mills, Head of Light Entertainment at the BBC, with the idea of special programmes shot at Wilton's that would aid in its restoration. The Handsomest Hall in Town, starring Milligan and others was broadcast by the BBC on Boxing Day 1970."
[Wilton's Music Hall]

Joan Bakewell interviews Sir Kenneth Clarke during the broadcast of his Civilisation series, the first major colour presenter-led documentary.
[BBC Clips]

"Barbara Edwards started giving the weather forecast on BBC Radio in 1970, moving into continuity announcing on BBC Radio 4 in 1972. It was back to weather forecasting in 1974, but this time for television, a first for UK broadcasting. Here she recalls the obstacles of being a woman in a male dominated environment, and recalls comments from viewers, mainly concerned with what she wore, rather than what she said."
[BBC Sounds]


"Top-level delegates from 22 Commonwealth Broadcasting companies, paid a visit to the BBC Television Centre in London on Monday (August 3)."

"Prime Minister and the Cabinet arrive at Broadcasting House for a showing of the Nationwide IRA film."
[BBC Rewind]

"With the planned move to Manchester of many London based staff, an increased commitment of the BBC to national programme making at regional centres is in the news again. David Brockman looks back at the seventies and the then-massive BBC commitment to Network Production Centres outside London."
Article originally published in 2006.


"A BBC Look East news report on preparations for upcoming TV game show heats."
[East Anglian Film Archive]

"Delia Derbyshire shows the Guardian around the BBC’s groundbreaking studio for electronic music."
[The Guardian]

"“A 20th century Robin Hood with a pinch of Merlin and a dash of Houdini”. This was how Tarot, hero of Thames Television’s new children’s adventure series was colourfully described at the series’ inception in 1970."
[Off The Telly]

"Star Trek returned to BBC1 on 6 April 1970, one week after the Easter Bank Holiday Monday, and ran weekly until 24 August. In an odd scheduling move the series then took a one week break for the August Bank Holiday on 31 August, returned for one more episode on 7 September, and then took another four week break before returning again on 7 October."
[Space Doubt]

"When Auntie BBC put on a kaftan and beads and entered the pop age" murmurs the solemn opening commentary of this 1970 'Man Alive' TV analysis of UK pop radio.  Posh voices in sepia suits submerged in cigarette smoke poke earnestly at this strange new radio thing growing with alarming speed its petri dish."

"John Noakes demonstrates some of the mind-boggling visual effects that have been made possible using the Colour-Separation Overlay (CSO) technique. Marvel as Peter Purves loses his head and bounces John Noakes' noggin like a basketball - all while Patch the Blue Peter dog does his best to spoil the illusion."
[BBC Archive]


"All the countries of Europe, without exception are watching with the deepest apprehension the way in which the simple fact of the commercial potential of the United Sates television market is forcing up the level of payments for rights to show the Olympic Games."

"Sue MacGregor reunites both on- and off-stage participants from the controversial beauty contest, shown live by BBC TV."
[BBC Clips][BBC Programme Index]

"It’s the 8th April 1970 at 9pm, and BBC1, BBC2 and ITV are all transmitting the same thing. It is, of course, a Party Political Broadcast: this one by the Labour Party, titled “What’s at Stake?”. It seemed pretty normal, on the face of it. I mean, the promise of MP trio George Brown, Anthony Crosland, and Robert Mellish might sound a bit too exciting, but I’m sure the country could keep itself under control.  The very next day, the papers were in uproar."
[Dirty Feed]

"The year‘s work reviewed in this report opened up important new perspectives for broadcasting in the decade ahead and left the BBC reasonably confident of being able to make the most of them. concerned though it continued to be about the uncertainties of the financial outlook."

"The BBC is in the business of being creative."
[World Radio History]