chapter  13
8 Pages

The BBC—From Maiden Aunt to Sexy Upstart

WithAsa Briggs

The BBC's public pronouncements on the subject of radio were stirring, and they remain relevant (although no one could have called them "sexy"). Radio, as Gillard noted, was "relatively cheap and simple," while television was "costly and cumbrous". There were signs, nonetheless, of a "maiden aunt" mentality. There were then three BBC radio channels and one television channel and it was radio that was catering to minorities. Traditional BBC fare, promoted originally under the commanding influence of John Reith, the first BBC director-general, had maneuvered listeners, in Gillard's phrase, "by subtle and cunning planning devices" to listen to things "which they would normally never dream of switching on". BBC radio did survive and flourish, maintaining a distinct set of identities and serving, in the words of Charles Curran, the BBC's director-general of the late 1960s, as the "medium of choice".