A History of the BBC in 100 Blog Posts: 1974.

We've reached a milestone.  I was born in 1974, so from now on everything in these posts will almost be within my living memory, give or take some years for me to understand the concept of memory and what it's for.  Even though its only been a few weeks, I hope you don't mind another look at the schedules to see what was broadcast on my birthdate, 31st October.  I was born at 6:30 in the morning, so television and most of radio hadn't begun yet, but Radio 2 had Simon Bates and Radio 4 was in the midst of Farming Today (although my parents, especially my Mum, we're a bit too busy to listen).

Much of BBC One's schedule feels incredibly familiar, with many of the formats lasting well into my teenage years and beyond, Play School, Jackanory, Blue Peter (the classic Noakes, Purves, Judd trinity), Newsround, Roobarb, Nationwide, Tomorrow's World, Top of the Pops and Mastermind.  Elsewhere there's an afternoon repeat of 1967's The Forsyte Saga (one of the last major BBC dramas made in black and white), the Sykes episode The Pub and the Leeds - United! episode of Play For Today, recently repeated on BBC Four (and available for a couple of pounds on Amazon Video).

I'm quite tempted to spend a birthday watching through all of the material which is still available.  Over on Two, outside of kids television, the Open University and news, programming doesn't really begin until five to eight with a repeat of The Pallisers: Part 25 from earlier in the year.  This is followed by a documentary about the jewellery trade,  A Girls Best Friend, the "Mr. and Mrs. Brian Norris' Ford Popular" episode of Python, The Complete Victor Borge, a Man Alive about sex therapy and Film Night rounding out the schedule with publicity piece about the likes of Phase 4.  

BBC Radio hasn't changed radically in the years since we last checked but all of the stations have a much clearer idea of their remit.  Radio 1's line-up has now welcomed Noel Edmunds, Ed Stewart and John Peel, although the evening prime time slot between 7 and 10 is a simulcast of Radio 2, with its quiz show about old 78 records, folk concerts and light orchestral music.  Elsewhere, Radio 2 regulars have already been installed: Simon Bates, Terry Wogan and Jimmy Young and there are still comedy and drama slots.  By 1976, Bates will have moved to Radio 1 and he stayed there for sixteen years.

Over on the "serious" channels, Radio 3 has moved even closer to the station we know today with more classical music throughout the day and night although there's an hour of speech between 6:30 and 7:30 in the evening, Study on 3 which offers a mix of talks and a documentary at 10:10, The Talking Machine, about the origins of recorded sound.  Some further stalwart formats have begun on Radio 4: Yesterday in Parliament, From Our Own Correspondent, You and Yours is at midday, Any Answers?, Analysis, The World Tonight and Today in Parliament.

What does any of this tell us?  That for all the changes the BBC went through in the years leading up to my birth and since, plenty more stayed the same and broadcast legacies were already being put in place 48 years ago.  Of all the channels, BBC Two's changed the most with the slightly more elitist fare having moved to BBC Four in the past couple of decades, literally in some cases with old shows given new broadcast all of these years later.  Could the makers of any of the dramas have imagined that people would still be watching them fifty (odd) years later?


"Angela Rippon introduces Ceefax - the BBC's new dial-a-page news and information service. She visits the nascent Ceefax editorial unit in Television Centre, where Ian Morton Smith demonstrates some of the features of the system, and how he creates a Ceefax page.  What is the potential for this technology? Might it one day turn the humble television set into a home computer terminal?  Originally broadcast 15 July, 1975."
Ceefax began in 1974.
[BBC Archive]

"Fyfe Robertson looks at the latest innovation in delivering the daily news, straight to your television - the BBC's Ceefax service."
[BBC Rewind]

"David Seymour and Bob Langley take their first, tentative steps into a wider world, one rich with all manner of exciting possibilities - the wonderful world of modern television.  This clip is from Pebble Mill, originally broadcast 7 January, 1977."
[BBC Sounds]

"This unit generated the clock for broadcast in the BBC’s onscreen text information service CEEFAX. Accurate time information was provided by the MSF receiver, contained in a weatherproof box, which was fed to the rack unit."
[Science Museum Group]


"Timelord Tom Baker recalls introducing jelly babies to the Doctor's diet, how the Daleks were darlings, and why his scarf kept getting longer."
[The Guardian]

"Jenni Mills talks to people who were famous for a short period of time. 5: From 1974 to Barbara Edwards was British television's first weather woman. Neat, sensible, practical, she wore tank tops and talked knowledgeably of isobars, windspeed and barometric pressure. And then she vanished from the screen."
[BBC Clips][BBC Programme Index]

"David Attenborough chats to Jeffrey Preece about his wide-ranging career in television. He recalls his early days as a trainee television producer - working on live broadcast BBC shows like Animal, Vegetable, Mineral - through to his first experience as presenter, when he was forced to replace Jack Lester at short notice on Zoo Quest."
[BBC Archive]

"BBC Two has been on air for over 8-and-a-half years, but has it been a success? Members of the public have their say."
[BBC Archive]


"A day in the life, behind the scenes of BBC Northern Ireland in television and radio."
This is a fifty minute documentary.
[BBC Rewind]


A less than glowing review of the first experiments in quadrophonic broadcasting on the BBC from a contemporary magazine.  With photos of the reviewers setting up the speakers in their home and listening to the show.
[Into The Sound Field]

"For the first time since 1969 Star Trek was used as a between series substitute for Doctor Who. Series 11 of Doctor Who finished on Saturday 8 June and Star Trek repeats resumed the following Monday; 10 June."
[Space Doubt]

"Nicholas Kenyon explores early music at the BBC in the 1970s."
[BBC Sounds]

"Nick Robinson, BBC Political Editor, continues his series on relations between broadcasters and politicians by looking at broadcast coverage of 'The Troubles' in Northern Ireland."
[BBC Sounds]

"In Vision takes a look at the mammoth operation involved in getting Saturday night sports staple Match of the Day to air.  Originally broadcast 2 May, 1974."
[BBC Archive]

"Terry Gilliam shares his cutout animation tips and techniques, under the watchful eye of Bob Godfrey.  This clip is from The Do-It-Yourself Film Animation Show."
[BBC Archive]

"Stop The Week had its origins in a decision by BBC Radio’s Current Affairs Department that it wanted a programme which would act as a bookend to Monday morning’s Start The Week with Richard Baker. This had been running for about four years, and seemed to consist largely of notables coming in to talk about their latest book, play or film. The new programme would run on a Saturday evening, and its brief was to be a weekly magazine of satire, topical guests and music."

"Sandra Kerr and John Faulkner on recording the music for the 1974 series about ‘a saggy old cloth cat’, stress-tested by Ewan McColl and Peggy Seeger – and endorsed by Belle and Sebastian."
[The Guardian]

"John Noakes takes a trip to the old Ealing Film Studios, where an episode of Porridge is being filmed. He speaks to stars Ronnie Barker, Richard Beckinsale and Fulton Mackay, and producer Sydney Lotterby."
[BBC Archive]


"The last year has not been an easy one for Britain, and that inevitably means difficult times for the British Broadcasting Corporation. Because of inflation, and in spite of economies, our financial position has become increasingly gloomy; and in the present year it can be expected to reach crisis proportions, leading to massive cuts in programmes, unless the licence fee is raised."
[World Radio History]