A History of the BBC in 100 Blog Posts: 1971.

No doubt reflecting the Radio Times of the period, the BBC Programme Index offers scant information about the opening broadcast of the Open University on the 3rd January 1971.  At 11am, "Open Forum: introduction", then an interval, followed by at 11:35, "Mathematics: introduction" with the slot ending an hour later at midday.  Although unsurprisingly there's no sign of either programme online (although YouTube has tons of other lectures), there is a recording of the original ident from a late night broadcast from later that year.

The comments underneath most of these bootlegs are from people who grew up with these programmes and indeed were inspired to enter education or at least the field under discussion after watching these programmes as a child often having been plonked in front of them by an inquisitive parent.  Never really being too academic, my own experience was more interested bafflement, of watching the close-up science experiments during school holidays and teacher's strikes (as references in the first series of Look Around You) and enjoying the chemical reactions. 

Looking at some of these lectures for the first time in many years, it's striking how many of them aren't the studio bound lecture in front of a white or black board parodied in the likes of A Bit of Fry & Laurie.  Some are full on presenter led documentaries as we'd recognise them on BBC Four today with hard hatted academics crouching in quarries explaining slate development or historic reconstructions of how Joule collected his temperature readings.   They don't feel as dry as such modern equivalents as The Great Courses.  No wonder other BTLs remark on how these programmes are still aiding them in their studies.

Open University

"Britain's novel "Open University", the headquarters of which are at Milton Keynes, north-west of London, got under way this week."

"This exhibition is a brief journey through the history of the University, using materials held in The Open University Archive to look at some of the main events and developments - from Harold Wilson's initial plans in 1963, the creation of the University in 1969 and developments through to the present day."
[The Open University]

"James Naughtie looks at the energetic and innovative founder of Which?, the Consumers' Association and the Open University. A social reformer bursting with ideas, Young challenged conventional thinking and was one of the leading minds behind the 1945 Labour manifesto which helped shape post-war Britain."
[BBC Sounds]

"Gordon Brown was one of the first tutors for the Open University.  To mark the OU's 50th anniversary in 2019, the former UK Prime Minister, tells the remarkable story from the battle for its birth to the current crisis."
[BBC Sounds]

"It’s not often celebrated, but Adrian Chiles talks to some of the first Open University students to get their degrees in 1973."
[BBC Sounds]

The Old Grey Whistle Test

"“Whispering” Bob Harris became synonymous with the landmark BBC television show, presenting from 1972 until December 1979."
[Bob Harris]

"Captain Beefheart took over the control room, as if he was producing the entire show. Bob Marley and the Wailers were ridiculously good – and totally stoned."
[The Guardian]

"Paul Jackson reveals how the BBC's influential music show devoted to rock albums, The Old Grey Whistle Test, survived on TV for 16 years from 1971 to 1988."
[BBC Sounds]

Yesterday's Men

[Trond Repato]

"Nick Robinson, BBC Political Editor, continues his series on relations between broadcasters and politicians with the row over Yesterday's Men, a BBC film about Labour in 1971."
[BBC Sounds]

"Harold Wilson was British Prime Minister twice, in the years 1964 to 1970, & 1974 to1976. David Dimbleby is the interviewer here for a BBC programme entitled "Yesterday's Men" which was broadcast (with this bit edited out) on 16th June 1971."
The moment when Wilson objected to Dimbleby's question about his book contract.
[The Mill Recording Studio]

"OPENING the peroration of their long statement about the television film “Yesterday’s Men,” the BBC Board of Governors declared: “Politics is a minefield.” There was plenty of cautious side-stepping of explosive issues in the statement; if the BBC never attempts magnificent defiance it always endeavours to be a little more clever at politics than its critics."
[Transdiffusion & The Daily Telegraph]


"A tour of preserved cinema organs around East Anglia."
[East Anglian Film Archive]

The very first episode!

"The grand object of travel," said Dr Johnson 200 years ago, "is to see the shores of the Mediterranean." It's even truer today. Every year five million Britons leave their inhibitions and our damp climate behind, and head for those fabled shores."
[Julian Pettifer OBE]


"The Linda and Andrew Egendorf Masterpiece Theatre Alistair Cooke Collection features programs from the anthology series Masterpiece Theatre presented during Alistair Cooke’s tenure as host (1971-1992)."
Introductions to numerous BBC dramas as they appeared on US television.

A look at the extraordinary life and career of Charlie Williams.
[BBC Clips]

"Comedian Dave Allen is chosen by Adil Ray, creator and star of Citizen Khan. He explains to Matthew Parris how the legendary Irish comic helped shape his own career."
Dave Allen at Large debuted in 1971.
[BBC Sounds]


"BBC Pebble Mill Studios opened by Princess Anne. Also Queen Mother arriving in Northampton to open extensions to Hereward Wake House youth club training centre."
[Media Archive for Central England]

"How a local BBC local radio station looked in the early years."
[BBC Clips][BBC Programme Index]


"School’s television has always been the poor relation of the wider sphere of “cult” broadcasting. While it formed as integral a part of childhood viewing as anything that was broadcast under the banner of “proper” children’s television, it has been sidelined and all but forgotten about in the rush to celebrate the more fondly remembered occupants of the “proper” timeslots."
[Off The Telly]

"Andrew McGibbon talks to saxophonist Duncan Lamont about Sinatra - and writing Mr Benn."
[BBC Sounds]

So here’s the story of a few Blue Peter time capsules and what happened to them…
The first was buried in 1971.
[The Simple Things]

"Maj Gen Ian Cardozo says a mistake made by the BBC during the 1971 war helped his unit take on and defeat a numerically superior Pakistani force."
[Hindustan Times]

"The BBC's made up "series three" continued until 10 February 1971 and was followed by nine weeks of repeats beginning with Where No Man Has Gone Before."
[Space Doubt]

"Christmas Day 2021 marked the 50th Anniversary of the first BBC adaptation of Laurie Lee’s evocative book ‘Cider With Rosie‘, a story that tells of growing up in rural Gloucestershire before the combustion engine destroyed rural life as it had been led for centuries."
Blog post from an actress who appeared in the programme when she was a school girl.
[Sophie Neville]

"BBC North East & Cumbria is not known for its drama productions, yet between 1971 and 1986 at least eleven dramatised documentaries were produced by this regional BBC production centre, two of them in three parts, making 15 half-hour programmes altogether."
[Forgotten Television Drama]

"... did you know that several of their classic sketches were filmed in and around North Dorset? Even today, locals remember the comedy duo with fondness."
[The Blackmore Vale]


"The BBC is glad to be able to open this year’s report with a confident assertion that the policies set out in 1969 in “Broadcasting in the Seventies" and implemented last year have been vindicated. The evidence for that assertion can be found on pages 8—10."

"As this is the last Handbook to include a foreword from me - I shall retire from the Chairmanship of the Governors in the latter part of the year - I may be forgiven for looking back over some past events, long term and short term."
[World Radio History]