The BBC Written Archives

The BBC Written Archives

An interview with Jacquie Kavanagh, BBC Written Archivist

Explore the history of broadcasting and uncover the story behind the programmes with this exclusive tour from Jacquie Kavanagh, the BBC's written archivist.


The Archers

Archives provide evidence, usually for lawyers to fight with, but they also provide evidence for historians. This is the programme file for The Archers in 1955 and here we have evidence of the BBC plotting to do down the opening of ITV. They had already decided that the young Phil Archer, who is still a major character, of course, was going to get married and only a few months later his wife was going to die in some kind of tragic accident. His wife was Grace. And we have the memo which obviously proves that the BBC decided to put two things together and kill off Grace Archer as a kind of spoiler on the opening night of ITV. This is a memo from H Rooney Pelletier, who was the controller of the network on which The Archers went out, and it's marked strictly confidential. "The more I think about it, the more I believe that a death of a violent kind in The Archers, timed, if possible, to diminish interest in the opening of commercial television in London, is a good idea. It's one that I will almost certainly have to refer for policy guidance to higher quarters."

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