Wednesday 27 September 2023

100 Years of Radio Times (Part 2)


This week the UK’s oldest listings magazine celebrates its centenary. The Radio Times –‘the official organ of the BBC’ – hit the newsstands on 28 September 1923 listing the programmes for the radio stations in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Cardiff, Newcastle and Glasgow. 

The centenary issue – which now carries listings for 86 TV channels and 63 radio stations -  includes an article looking at significant events or personalities in the last century linked to some of the more memorable Radio Times covers. Here are Melvyn Bragg on the birth of television, Dan Snow on WWII, Jonathan Dimbleby on the Coronation, David Hepworth on The Beatles, Professor Brain Cox on moon landings, Angela Rippon on Eric & Ernie, Tony Jordan on the shared experience of watching TV, David Dimbleby on the 97 General Election, Mike Gunton on The Blue Planet, Seb Coe on the 2012 Olympics and Simon Schama on the Covid pandemic.   

Following the disagreement with the Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of the printing of radio schedules (see previous post) Reith and the BBC were determined to take matters into their own hands. In May 2023 the Board of the BBC minuted that “it was resolved that the General Manager make the appointment of an individual to deal with propaganda publicity and the production of a magazine. ”

John Reith sought a deal with a publisher on the basis of a share of profits and a minimum annual sum guaranteed to the BBC. That deal was with George Newnes Ltd who already published Tit-Bits and it was that magazine’s editor, Leonard Croscombe, who became the first editor of the Radio Times. More accurately he was the first joint editor as an article recently added to the Radio Times Archive website notes the BBC also made their own internal appointment for editor in the person of Herbert Parker.   

Croscombe’s grandson, journalist and broadcaster Justin Webb, writes about him There’s also a nod to the magazine’s colourful third editor, “songwriter, spy, Hollywood screenwriter and more” Eric Maschwitz in an article by Paul Hayes (aka Radio Norfolk’s Questmaster).

Finally Caroline Frost recounts how the Radio Times stills proves indispensible to the National Grid, the police and continuity announcers.   

Saturday 23 September 2023

100 Years of Radio Times (Part 1)

The Radio Times was “launched in a fit of pique”. So says Joe Moran writing for the listing magazine’s 90th anniversary edition. This week the Radio Times celebrates a full century on the nation’s newsstands. In this post I am dipping into the magazine’s history to look how it marked its 90th.

In his article Moran continues: “In January 1923, the Newspaper Proprietors’ Association announced that it would be charging the three-month old British Broadcasting Company the standard advertising rates for publishing its radio listings in newspapers. Although the newspapers capitulated the following month, realising that not including broadcasting schedules would affect their circulations, the BBC’s general manager, John Reith, was irritated by their attitude and it gave him an idea.  On 10 September he wrote in his diary: ‘Everything is now in shape for a BBC magazine, and from various alternatives I chose Radio Times for the title.’”

From the 28 September 2013 edition here’s a look at some classic Radio Times covers over the decades.

I’ve written about the Radio Times before back in 2013 considering my own archive of back issues and looking at the first issue in The Bradshaw of Broadcasting.

In the next post a look at some of the pages of the centenary edition. 

Tuesday 5 September 2023



Fifty years ago the UK had joined the EEC, the IRA was bombing London, a Cod War with raging with Iceland and mortgage rates were running at 10%. In the midst of this, on 10 September 1973, BBC Radio 1 launched its extended news programme, Newsbeat.   

Newsbeat was, according to network controller Douglas Muggeridge "something I wanted to bring in for some time. We shall not flinch from covering any sort of news story." A cynic will also spot that the BBC’s timing may have also been influenced by other events, the start of independent local radio just a month later.

Airing for 15 minutes twice a day on weekdays at 12.30 pm, during Johnnie Walker’s show, and at 5.30 pm during Radio 1 Club (Rosko’s Round Table on Fridays) Newsbeat extended Radio 1’s news coverage beyond the existing 1 or 2 minute bulletins on the half-hour.      

Mike Chaney, who’d been with the Corporation for 14 years, was drafted in as the programme’s first editor. (1)  He told the press that Newsbeat “will be a new sound on Radio 1 - and, we hope, a fresh approach to radio journalism. Newsbeat will be direct, outspoken, un-solemn and always ready for a laugh!" Mike’s deputy was Colin Adams who’d been at Radio Sheffield and then news editor at Radio Humberside. Both would go onto work on Radio 4’s Today programme, Mike as editor and Colin as deputy editor. (2)  

’s first presenters were Ed Stewart and Laurie Mayer (ex. Radio London) with Ed initially doing four days a week and Laurie one day. Although Ed didn’t have a journalism background he was chosen to make the programme seem part of the network and less of an intrusion.  

Drafted in as news producers were Karolyn Shindler and Roger Gale. Gale had also been at Radio London with Laurie Mayer and had spent some time in the mid sixties bobbing up and down in the Irish Sea working for Radio Caroline North and then Radio Scotland. Was it coincidence that Radio Caroline had also billed its news bulletins as ‘Caroline Newsbeat’?    

Ed continued on Newsbeat until January 1974 by which time Richard Skinner had joined from Radio Solent. Together with John Walmsley (from Radio Brighton) who joined in February 1974, Laurie and Richard presented Newsbeat for the most of the remainder of the decade.

The Newsbeat format remained unchanged for six years by still using Radio 2 announcer/newsreaders to do a straight read of the headlines. That ended in November 1978 just before the wavelength changes and a planned extension to Radio 1’s hours. (3) In the event, due to industrial action, the schedule didn’t change until late January 1979 when an extra 10 minute Newsbeat was added at 9.50 pm. (4) By this time, though still mostly reliant on Radio 2 newsreaders, Newsbeat was providing some Radio 1 bulletins throughout the day and the early evening. (5)  It wasn’t until September 1980 that Radio 1 had totally separate news bulletins read by the Newsbeat team on weekdays. (6) They still shared on weekends until 1984 (anyone have an idea of the exact date?).  

Other voices you’ll have heard presenting Newsbeat or reading bulletins during its first decade include Peter Mayne (from 1978), Stephen Cape (1979),Neil Bennett (1979), John Andrew (1980), Bill Bingham (1980), Andrew Turner (1980),Ian Parkinson (1981), Janet Trewin (1981) and Frank Partridge (1981).

So back to the start on 10 September 1973. The first edition came during Johnnie Walker’s lunchtime show so he, for one, wasn’t happy with having to stop the music for 15 minutes. “Just as I got the rhythm and atmosphere going, it would all stop”. The schedule at that time had Johnnie start at 12 noon, then Newsbeat at 12. 30 followed by another hour and fifteen minutes of Johnnie. At 2 pm it was over to David Hamilton. The BBC seemingly didn’t retain the first edition in their archives. Fortunately the teatime edition on day two, during Radio 1 Club with Alan Freeman did make it into Sound Archives.   

This edition shows the light and shade, the mix of serious and lighter items, that the team was aiming for. So we get the financial pressures on mortgages, the aftermath of the Pisces mini submarine rescue mixed with a lad who got into trouble for having a David Bowie haircut and a champion butty maker. The reporters include Steve Bradshaw (another ex-Radio London recruit), Nick Ross (at the time also reporting for The World at One) and Mike McKay. Newsbeat also relied on reports from BBC local stations so there are contributions by Tony Cartledge (Newcastle), Ernie Brown (Cleveland) and Dennis McCarthy (Nottingham). The newsreader is Peter Latham.

From Radio 1 Vintage here the story of Newsbeat

(1) BBC publicity of the time of his appointment to Newsbeat seemed obsessed with Mike Chaney’s offspring stating “he is married with 12 children whose ages range between 20 and 4”. Similarly when he joined Today in 1976 the press release read: “Mike Chaney is married and lives in Dulwich. They have 12 children, 3 from his previous marriage, four by his wife and another 5 by his wife’s previous marriage”.

(2) Another Radio Humberside staff member, Paul Heiney, would also move down to join Newsbeat as a reporter. He too moved onto Today when Mike Chaney left.  

(3) Sheila Tracy was the last Radio 2 newsreader to read the headlines on Newsbeat on Friday 10 November 1978.

(4) The first 9.50 pm edition was Monday 29 January 1979 read by Peter Mayne.

(5) The Newsbeat bulletins at 11.30 am and 4.30 pm allowed whoever was presenting that day to plug the main programme the following hour.

(6) The first separate news bulletin was at 7.30 am on Monday 1 September 1980 read by Andrew Turner. 

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