A History of the BBC in 100 Blog Posts: 1977.

For most of us who live in the hinterland outside of London, 1978 was the year of Star Wars, but the year before is generally cited in brackets after the title because it just squeaked its premiere at various cinemas in London on the 27th December 1977.  The effect was immediate in numerous ways on the media landscape with programmes such as Doctor Who suddenly finding themselves with an expansive special effects rival.

But the BBC also had a role in publicising the release of the film, which has always been something of an outlier in its public service remit which continues through to today via various chatshows and across radio.  It's free advertising essentially but with the bonus of actually having programmes that people want to watch and in the period of three channel television it was the only way you'd be able to see or hear anything about a film outside of a trailer, posters and printed media.

The BBC Programme Index has a record of a number of programmes which featured Star Wars although its obviously not going to be comprehensive being a copy of the text from the Radio Times which wouldn't include current affairs shows which don't book their guests far enough in advance so no Blue Peter.  But Arena is listed, the famous episode of Parkinson featuring Alec Guinness and an episode of Screen Test which utilised clips from from the film.  The BBC Archive page has a collection of clips.

The outlier is Horses Galore (presented by Susan King - pictured above on the cover of the accompanying publication), broadcast on the 30th May 1979, in the gap between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back:
"Susan visits two studs, in Norfolk and Sussex, to learn the right way to look after a foal; unravels the mysteries of horse locomotion with the help of horse painter Sarah Ponsonby and some slow-motion film; and meets some familiar faces at the Star Wars Team Cross Country Event at Everdon (Hall)."

 My italics.  Sorry, what?  

Someone called Annie Smith emailed this columnist who has written a history of the hall with an explanation.  As public relations executive at Playboy, she'd arranged for the magazine to sponsor the event the year before and it was featured on an episode of Horses Galore that same year.  Playboy refused to renew the sponsorship the following year unless more television exposure was guaranteed (and perhaps went beyond a children's magazine show which went out before Newsround).  Undaunted:

"As Smith remembers, she rang [producer] Gary Kurtz in Los Angeles and asked him to sponsor that 1978 team event, with some of the proceeds going to Riding for the Disabled.  And that was how movie star Carrie Fisher and others came to spend a memorable afternoon in the countryside in deepest Northamptonshire."

You can read more about the event on the Prop Store auction website, along with photos of Carrie Fisher and horses and a slightly sinister shot of a man in a red suit wearing the storm trooper helmet which was on sale.  Also available was this promotional t-shirt along with a cassette containing music specially prepared for the event.  Rosettes with R2-D2 emblazoned on them were also sold.  All of which is only tangentially connected to the history of the BBC but I was surprised and delighted so here we are.


Half-Forgotten Great
"Often forgotten today, Sir Ian Trethowan’s period of Director Generalship of the BBC was a distinguished one."
Sir Ian was DG from September 1977 to July 1982.

“What Use is This Internet Anyway?”
"Bernard Newnham was a producer in the department for many years and was probably involved in a greater range of television than virtually anyone else at the Corporation via this small but extremely prolific unit. We spoke to him about how they managed to get everyone from Jimi Hendrix to John Kettley though their doors."
[Off The Telly]


Scene Around Six
"Belfast's first Broadcasting House being demolished. The first BBC studio in Northern Ireland began operating on 15 September 1924 and broadcast 2BE."
[BBC Rewind]

Look North: Behind the Scenes
"A behind the scenes film that showcases a typical day at BBC Look North."
[BBC Rewind]

Inside Look North
"South Shields-born animator Sheila Graber takes a humorous look at the frantic daily work schedule of the regional BBC Look North news team in Newcastle upon Tyne, from the copy desk to the producer, filming and editing to airing, building from a slow pace in the early morning to manic speed before the live studio transmission."
[Yorkshire Film Archive]


Festival 77: Sex and Violence on TV
"Are television programmes chiming with viewers? Does Mary Whitehouse have a "disgustingly dirty mind", or is she bravely "speaking out for people"?  Festival 77: Thanks for the Memory hears viewers' opinions on the levels of sex and violence on television - not enough, too much or is it just about right.  Originally broadcast 31 July, 1977."
[BBC Archive]

Look North: The Art of Weather Forecasting
"A look at how meteorologists put together a TV weather forecast for the BBC in the North East and Cumbria."
[BBC Rewind]

Archive on 4: Our Archive Century: The Arts
"In the third and final programme in the series celebrating a hundred years of the BBC through the written, audio and TV archive, Classicist Mary Beard and critic Louisa Buck rummage around in the archival trove to demonstrate why this material is so important to the arts in Britain."
[BBC Sounds]

Archive on 4: Panorama Broke My School
"How a 1977 TV documentary affected one London comprehensive and had a role in creating today's school system."
[BBC Sounds]

Star Trek On The BBC: 1977 to 1982
"(In 1977) for the first time in eight years no live action Star Trek was shown on BBC1. Star Trek: The Animated Series was run for the last time on BBC1 between March and May."
[Space Doubt]

How we made Morph
"Our great fear was that he’d fall over. When I nipped to the loo, I had to prop him up with lots of mugs."
[The Guardian]


BBC Handbook 1978
"The year 1977 was a very significant one in the history of public service broadcasting.  It was the year in which the Annan Committee on the Future of Broadcasting finally reported, and decisively reinforced the unity, strength and independence of the BBC."
[World Radio History]