Thursday, 11 April 2013

Radio Times

Is it a collection or am I hoarder? In fact I like to think of my Radio Times archive as a valuable research resource.

When packing up to move our worldly possessions from Yorkshire down to France I sold or threw away a whole stack of magazines. But the Radio Times boxes, they remained untouched, save for some extra parcel tape. They were coming with us.

My Radio Times collection dates back from 1976 starting when, aged 14, I kept the family copy rather than let it go into the bin. At the time the magazines were, much to my mum’s annoyance, stored in the bottom of my wardrobe.

The run is patchy during 1976 and only complete from Easter 1977, save for those missing editions due to the 1980s print disputes. That’s about 1,800 copies. Recent eBay purchases have supplemented my archive with older editions. But with the BBC’s Genome project perhaps going public later this year will I be ditching the lot? 

The Genome project scanned all the various editions of the Radio Times back to 1923 to create a fully searchable programme information database, ideal for radio and social historians or just the idly curious alike.  At first the project won’t be making the photos, articles, letters, adverts and that classic artwork available online, although the whole of the magazine will have been scanned. Using optical character recognition the software will build up the programme data to populate a screen similar to the existing schedules pages you see on the BBC radio and tv websites. I think I’ll be hanging onto the actual magazines for the moment.

Here in France fortunately enough two of the main supermarkets in the nearby town of Parthenay – both Leclerc and Hyper U –stock the Radio Times, appearing on the shelves by the Thursday. So I’m still able to get my weekly fix. The online version just doesn’t do it for me. And if, for some reason, the RT doesn’t get delivered then it’s a quick call to a chum back in the UK. Cheers Phil!

There are plenty of other Radio Times collectors out there. The late Wallace Grevatt probably had the largest private collection and some of his copies were used by the BBC for the Genome Project. Tony Currie talked about his personal obsession on Radio 4 back in 1990 and went on to write a book about the magazine’s history.

There's still a few Radio Times issues that are on my wish list. I did eventually manage to acquire the famous 1967 launch of Radio 1 ‘dolly bird’ issue as well as the preceding week for the close of the old Home, Light and Third but I’m on the lookout for:

w/c 29 July 1945 launch of the Light Programme
w/c 29 September 1946 launch of the Third Programme
w/c 26 September 1964 extension of broadcasting hours
w/c 23 October 1965 start of Breakfast Special
The Christmas double issues for 1973 and 1974.

Remember those Radio Times jingles? “It’s out today….the new Radio Times.” Here’s a sample of the jingles produced by JAM Creative Productions for both Radio 1 and Radio 2.

From 1985 this is Mark Page with a Radio 1 promotion as the magazine hits the newsstands.

No jingles in this Radio 2 example from 1980, just a bit of over-acting from announcer Paddy O’Byrne.

And to show that you can perhaps have just too many issues of this esteemed publication this chap in Channel 4’s Get Your Home In Order had 5,000+ with many multiple copies. Whilst the Churchill funeral issue may not be worth much I did spot an old Dad’s Army one (Clive Dunn on the cover) and at the end of the clip the 1970 Codename issue (featuring Anthony Valentine) is significant as it’s the first week of major radio changes following the Broadcasting in the Seventies review. Let’s hope he just didn’t junk those.

More on the Radio Times this November when it celebrates 90 years of publication.

With thanks to Ian Arnold.


Chrissy Brand said...

Wonderful Radio Times though I am happy to recycle mine at the end of each week ;-) . Any idea if they will digitalise BBC WS London Callings? Now THAT I would be very interested in seeing ;-)

Andy Walmsley said...

Not heard anything about London Calling - I'd love to see those too. Some old World Service programmes have been made available online at
It's still in beta and you'll need to ask for access.

Unknown said...

Very nice article. Great magazine, though it has lost its way of late. Since the previous comments were posted The BBC Genome project has come to fruition and what a remarkable resource it is. I would love it, however, if they could put scans from the actual pages online. Obviously to have every issue in that form would take a very long time but if they could perhaps dig out an issue from each year (The 93 Christmas issues would be great!) or even each season (approx 372 issues), it would be fascinating to view the many subtle changes in design and typography (especially on the listings pages) as well as the standards and style of journalism, illustration and photography employed by the magazine over the years.

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