The BBC Sound Archive

The BBC Sound Archive

An interview with Simon Rooks, BBC Sound Archivist

Simon Rooks, BBC Sound Archivist, explains why recording programmes was originally frowned on and what happened to make attitudes change.


Why aren't there many recordings from the early days of radio?

The BBC started in 1922 but very few recordings were ever made. A good illustration of that is that when Broadcasting House was opened in 1932 they wanted to make a programme about the first 10 years of the BBC, but there were no recordings to illustrate the first 10 years of the BBC at all. So what they did was actually get in lots of the people that had made broadcasts in the first 10 years to re-read some of the things that they had done. Recording was just not generally done. The machinery was quite rare. When Broadcasting House opened there was only one recording machine. It was cumbersome, difficult to use. And there was also some kind of prejudice against recordings being broadcast, as not being quite 'real'. Some people did feel that it was somehow cheating if people were sitting at home, listening to their radio and what they were hearing wasn't actually happening at that moment. That it was somehow 'false'. And if a programme was recorded it would actually state that in the 'Radio Times'.

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