Thursday, 17 September 2015

From Our Own Correspondent

"This is the BBC Home Service. From Our Own Correspondent. We are broadcasting now the first of a new series of programmes in which BBC correspondents will deal with current affairs as seen from their own posts in various parts of the world ..."

So began the introduction, sixty years ago on 25 September 1955, to what would become a radio institution. From Our Own Correspondent provides "correspondents with an opportunity to say a little more: to provide some of the context to the stories they're covering, to describe some of the characters involved and some of the sights they see as they watch events unfold". (1) 

In 1955 FOOC offered a rare opportunity for longer more reflective and more personal talks on world events outside of the usual reports for the Radio Newsreel programmes - at the time most other news bulletins were just a straight read-through by the newsreader. 

The programme's approach was summed up by journalist Misha Glenny: "radio correspondents often feel as though their wings are clipped. A piece for the six o'clock news lasts between forty-five seconds and one minute fifteen (the latter if you are on a ver big story) which means that you may say nothing but the bare minimum. If you are producing a feature, your own sentiments are invariably, and correctly, drowned by sounds effects and other voices. It is only through FOOC that the BBC correspondents are able to communicate directly and personally with their audience". (2)

To mark the programmes sixtieth anniversary the Radio 4 today broadcasts a discussion on Foreign Reporting: Past,Present and Future presented by Owen Bennett-Jones. This will also go out on the World Service. In addition Kate Adie presents an additional eight editions of FOOC, the first airs today. 

But for this blog post I'm going back to the thirtieth anniversary in 1985 with this special edition presented by the BBC's former diplomatic editor Angus McDermid. In From Our Own Correspondent-The World 30 Years On you'll hear:
  • ·       Ian McDougall on the U-2 incident (1960)  
  • ·       Robert Elphick on Czechoslovakia (1968)
  • ·       Tim Sebastian from Gdansk, Poland (1980)
  • ·       Clive Small reviews East-West relations
  • ·       Philip Short in Syria (1973)
  • ·       Gerald Butt surveys the Middle East
  • ·       Martin Bell on the Biafran War
  • ·       Mike Wooldridge on Africa
  • ·       Anthony Lawrence in Vietnam (1970)
  • ·       Philip Short on the trial of The Gang of Four in China (1980)
  • ·       Mark Braine surveys China today
  • ·       Christopher Serpell on the Common Market (1969)
  • ·       Stephen Jessel reviews EEC history
  • ·       Martin Bell in El Salvador (1981)
  • ·       Robert Tyrer on Latin America
  • ·       David Willey from Naples
  • ·       Ian Mitchell in Bonn (1976)
  • ·       Michael Elkins in Jerusalem (1978)
This programme was broadcast on Radio 4 on Wednesday 25 September 1985.

(1) FOOC producer Tony Grant in his foreword to Kidnapped and Other Dispatches by Alan Johnston (Profile Books 2007)
(2) From Our Own Correspondent: The First Forty Years edited by Tony Grant (Pan 1995)

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