BBC Genome Blog

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  • A Radio Times cover reflecting Newsroom's move to colour a few weeks after the event

    On 5 February 1968, BBC Two's Newsroom became the first British news programme to be broadcast in colour. A former staff member who worked in the News Stills Library at the time recalls the event. 

    Launched in April 1964, Newsroom was a 25-minute “survey” of the day’s events. It aimed to put the news in perspective, providing added context and using reporters and specialists as regular contributors. Its home was on BBC Two, which put it at the forefront of Sir David Attenborough’s plans to introduce colour TV to the network in the late 1960s.

    Former staff member Roger Wilson worked in the BBC TV's News Stills Library at the time. He recalls the work his team did with Newsroom and the preparations they made for the advent of colour. 

    Roger Wilson began as a junior clerk in 1964 in the News Information Service at Alexandra Palace, where the BBC's national television news services were based until late 1969. 

    His unit was principally a press-cuttings...

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  • BBC Genome

    This month we profile three character actresses who make frequent appearances in the BBC Genome listings.

    They didn't always play lead parts, but they made unique contributions to some of the nation's favourite shows, in programmes that emerged during the "golden age" of British sitcom. 

    ANGELA THORNE

    Angela Thorne with Penelope Keith in the first episode of the third series of To the Manor Born

    Angela Thorne was born in Karachi in 1939, and celebrates her 80th birthday on 25 January 2019. She began her long career in repertory theatre, and her first BBC credit was appropriately in the 1965 radio series Repertory in Britain, which showcased the work of “rep” companies, in her case the Sheffield Playhouse.

    Angela’s television debut was in an early episode of ITV spy series The Avengers. She first appeared on BBC TV in the 1966 musical Take a Sapphire, by Caryl Brahms and Ned Sherrin. In 1969 she was chosen to be the top-billed character, Nancy Chuff, in N.F. Simpson’s bizarre news spoof World in Ferment, alongside John Bird, Dinsdale Landen, Eleanor Bron and Irene...

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  • BBC Genome

    Radio Times marked the extension of broadcasting hours on the Forces Programme in February 1940 with this artwork cover

    Following the release of the 1920s and 1930s Radio Times magazines, BBC Genome is now pleased to be able to share the pages of the Radio Times from the 1940s with its readers.

    It was a traumatic decade, with World War Two spanning the first half and the start of the Cold War dominating the rest. While Radio Times reflects some aspects of these events, it is of course as ever a record of scheduled BBC radio and television programmes. There are fewer pages to release this time compared with other decades, as wartime rationing and post-war austerity saw Radio Times, like other newspapers and magazines, reduced to a fraction of its previous page count. There was also a reduction in the amount of broadcast content, with all domestic radio services combined into the Home Service at the outbreak of war, and television closing down for the duration – although a new radio service, the Forces Programme, began in January 1940.

    Despite the privations and perils of wartime, the first half of...

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  • The young cast of Choirboys Unite! exchange words with the vicar (played by Derek Francis). Michael Coffman (front row, middle) played the lead - Harry.

    BBC Genome revisits a live Christmas TV programme with an unusual cast, with the help of one of those involved.

    Calling Michael Coffman, Reginald Smith, Trevor Bottrell, Derek Williams, John Haywood, Geoffrey Wali, John Bright, Patrick McLoughlin… David K Smith wants to know what happened to you - and so do we at Genome!

    Schoolboys in the early 1960s, these lads were completely untrained...

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  • BBC Genome

    William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee in a publicity still for The Three Doctors (1972/3)

    On Sunday 7 October 2018, television history is made with the full debut of Jodie Whittaker as the first woman to play the lead in Doctor Who. Leaving aside doubles, stand-ins, spoofs, and John Hurt in 2013’s The Day of the Doctor, 13 actors will now have played the Doctor on television since the series began in 1963.

    William Hartnell was the first of these. He had a long career in films,...

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  • The billing from Radio Times that brought back fond memories for Jeanne King

    On 21 July 1955, BBC outside broadcast cameras went to visit a lively water spectacle in Bournemouth. The BBC Genome billing for the programme, The Bournemouth Aquashow, sparked a memory for one reader.

    Jeanne King was 20 years old when she spotted an advertisement in her local paper for a new type of water show. Experienced swimmers were invited to apply and attend a test at the Bournemouth...

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  • Professor of Media History

    Giles Cooper photographed in 1946. Image courtesy of the Giles Cooper estate.

    Guest blogger Professor Hugh Chignell, director of the Centre for Media History at Bournemouth University, looks back at the work of the prolific playwright Giles Cooper.

    One of the things BBC Genome does so well is to remind us about people who made major contributions to broadcasting in the past but have now been forgotten. A good example of this neglect is the playwright, Giles Cooper,...

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  • BBC Genome

    The cast of Dad's Army, pictured in 1973 - back row l-r Arnold Ridley, James Beck, John Laurie, Ian Lavender; front row l-r Clive Dunn, Arthur Lowe and John Le Mesurier

    The first episode of Dad's Army was shown 50 years ago, on Wednesday 31 July 1968. The Radio Times billing for the new series said:  "It’s back to the 1940 days of gas masks, sandbags, and tin hats for this new comedy series about the Home Guard. The cast includes Arthur Lowe and John Le Mesurier." The series was also given a full page article detailing its concept, and the background on its...

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  • BBC Genome

    Angela Down (left) as Sylvia Pankhurst and Sian Phillips (right) as Emmeline Pankhurst in 1974 costume drama Shoulder to Shoulder

    There are now more than 7,000 links in BBC Genome to the World Service archive. Here is a selection of some of our favourites, profiling important figures from history.

    As we have continued to sift through the thousands of programmes in the World Service Archive to identify more recordings that can be linked to listings in BBC Genome, the range of programmes continues to amaze. As cataloguers,...

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  • BBC Genome

    Kenneth Wolstenholme presenting coverage of West Ham United v Sheffield United in 1966

    More than 20 million UK viewers tuned in to watch the final of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. In stark contrast there is barely a trace of the early World Cups in BBC Genome's television and radio listings.

    The first football World Cup was held in 1930. It was a humble affair, which didn’t get an outing on radio or TV in the UK. Scotland and England were invited but did not accept; a Radio...

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