40 years of The World Tonight
At the beginning of April 1970, Nasa was preparing the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission for launch and the BBC was preparing to launch The World Tonight.
I was a starry-eyed 10-year-old collecting Apollo transfers to stick on the end of my bed and obsessed with space exploration, but at the BBC the bosses were thinking of other things - they wanted a late-evening news programme for Radio 4 listeners, starting to air on 6 April, which would cover international news and take a more analytical approach to the day's events .
Forty years on, The World Tonight is still doing just that. The daily task we set ourselves is to try to make sense of what's happening in Britain and the world for our audience who - our listener numbers suggest - want to know what's going on in the world and why.
We set out to go behind the headlines and explore issues in depth.
We also aim to spot emerging trends in global events, so when they do become headlines, our audience are, we hope, better placed to make sense of them.
I remember, after the war between Georgia and Russia broke out in August 2008, a senior BBC manager came by the programme desk and said "at least your listeners will know where South Ossetia is". That's because we had been reporting on the rising tension in the region which followed the decision of major Western powers to recognise the independence of Kosovo early in the year.
The world we report has changed out of recognition following the end of the Cold War 20 years ago.
In April 1970, Richard Nixon was President of the United States. His country was locked in a hot war in Vietnam and a cold war with the Soviet Union.
The Americans were sending men to the moon
China was pretty much closed off to the world and still ruled by Chairman Mao.
But in other ways, things have not changed so much.
We've pulled together some classic clips from the big stories of the last 40 years. Take a look and you'll see that some of the issues the programme covered in the first few years are still with us today - the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians; the division of Cyprus; how to govern Northern Ireland fairly. Interestingly, all can be seen as ethno-religious disputes over territory.
And in the past 20 years since the end of the Cold War, such conflicts have become a major driver of the events we've covered.
Whole countries have disappeared from the map - think USSR and Yugoslavia - while other states still exist on the map but have either failed or are in state of extreme fragility - think Somalia, Afghanistan and Pakistan - and again ethno-religious conflict is central to their problems.
Why is this of interest in a media landscape where much coverage has become more local in focus and the news agenda has broadened to include coverage of the lives and loves of celebrities?
The number of our listeners suggests it is of interest. The way radio audiences are measured has changed dramatically over the years, so direct comparisons with 40 years ago aren't possible, but in the past decade we have seen the audience rise to hit a record last year of 1.8 million a week, which tells me there is an appetite for serious coverage of global affairs.
We continue to take seriously parts of the world not much covered elsewhere. Over the past year, our presenters have reported on the drugs war from Mexico, the end of one party domination from Japan, what's holding back development from India, and most recently, from the emerging power of Brazil.
Some key moments stand out.
Given the time of transmission, The World Tonight was well placed to cover the Watergate crisis and established its reputation early on covering the historic demise of the Nixon presidency.
Our presenter Robin Lustig was in Moscow when the USSR bit the dust; in Hong Kong when it was returned to China and in Washington when Barack Obama became the first black American to be elected president.
It's not been all plain sailing. As a live news programme, we've had our fair share of bloopers - a special programme from Nigeria on the first democratic election following the fall of the military junta in 1999 lasted just a few seconds before the line to Abuja went down, not to return.
Then there was the time we put a French union leader live on air without checking if he could speak English - one of the shortest interviews in the programme's history.
Though the programme has remained true to its original agenda, in another way things have changed radically.
The first edition of the programme was broadcast live on the radio and if you missed it, you missed it.
Today we are on the radio and the internet. If you miss it at 10pm on Radio 4, you can catch up for a week on the iPlayer.
Presenters Robin Lustig and Ritula Shah also communicate directly with the audience through the blog and Facebook, and Robin sends a weekly e-mail newsletter to listeners who subscribe.
As for the next 40 years, well I hope I'll still be listening, however the programme is broadcast, just as our launch presenter, Douglas Stuart is still listening today, 40 years after he first said "This is The World Tonight...".
On Monday 5 April, we're doing a special edition of the programme. We'll be looking back at the stories we covered in the first days of The World Tonight and look at how they have moved on - among the stories we'll be looking at are Northern Ireland, the rise and fall of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and we'll also have an interview with the first presenter of the programme, Douglas Stuart.
Alistair Burnett is the editor of The World Tonight.