The Radio 4 Blog
This week’s Prime Minister’s Question Time was the most exciting of this Parliament and I had the good fortune to be in the BBC Westminster newsroom on Wednesday while it was going on. I listened eagerly to the immediate political analysis of the Corporation’s keenest political brains as they worked out how to develop the stories that resulted.
It was like watching speed chess. OK I was inside the Westminster bubble but it was immensely impressive. Most of the big broadcasting beasts were there, Andrew Neill, dressed as for an expensive lunch, John Pienaar dressed for radio, and Peter Allan, dressed for the tube.
Peter and I are of a similar age though, sadly, he has rather more hair than I do.
As most of the production staff in the newsroom were either in short trousers or bobby socks or not even born when James Callaghan was Prime Minister, Peter Allan and I reminisced about the unpredictable drama of the 1979 election.
I was running the nightly BBC 1 Tonight series in those days and Callaghan’s government lost a confidence motion while we were on air. An election was called and Mrs Thatcher romped home.
It was a...
I first went to Moscow in 1977, just before the Cold War got even colder.
I was making a film for the BBC about the Soviet military build-up. A few days before, I had been underground in the United States, at the headquarters of Strategic Air Command in Omaha, Nebraska, being shown what the US targets in Russia would be in the event of nuclear war.
In Moscow on May Day, I stood below the Lenin mausoleum, on top of which the geriatric leadership of the Soviet Union was assembled, led by Leonid Brezhnev.
In the four hours it took for the tanks, men and missiles, to go past I kept looking over my shoulder at Brezhnev but never saw his old, grey face move once. It was as if he was carved out of granite.
Afterwards, at a Moscow café, I talked to some Western correspondents about who was really in charge in the Soviet Union. No one knew.
Even the most experienced Kremlinologists admitted they were guessing much of the time.
I was back in Moscow in 1993 and everything had changed. The Berlin...
Commissioning Editor, Radio 4 & 4 Extra
Frankly Speaking was considered 'risky' and 'unkempt' when it originally aired in the 1950s. Now, as Radio 4 Extra rebroadcasts a selection of high profile interviews from the series, Caroline Raphael sheds light on an archive jewel …
Frankly Speaking, which starts on Tuesday 17th March at 6.30pm.
The interview as a genre courses through modern broadcasting. Morning punch ups to late night hectoring, professional interviewers who are household names, interviewees trained to give the answer they want to give not the one we want to hear, evasive and slippery or prepared to share their deepest sorrows. People talking to each other on the radio hoping someone is listening.
It wasn’t ever thus. On Radio 4 Extra we are repeating Frankly Speaking, which to modern ears may sound frankly old fashioned. But, in 1952, when it was launched on the BBC Home Service it was a completely novel and ground breaking series; novel because instead of the traditional pairing of interviewee and...
Mark Billingham on Ludgate Hill, at the top of Fleet Street in London.
It’s such a strange feeling walking down a street that you have known in your imagination all of your life. Fleet Street in London is like that. Somewhere that instantly conjures images of newspaper inked pages, and the sounds of printing presses and typewriters in smoky rooms.
As I walked along with crime writer Mark Billingham, even with all the newspapers now gone, the street’s architecture...
Like many people of my age, I carry the voices of Uncle Tom Forrest and Walter Gabriel in my head. Indeed, some days, when the wind is in the right direction, I think I can hear Dan and Doris Archer in their farm kitchen.
I also had a crush on Carol Tregorran and on Eleanor Bron, so imagine my delight when the two became one....
Professor, Consultant Historian
Editor’s Note: To mark International Women’s Day, we asked Professor Maggie Andrews, consultant historian to Radio 4’s Home Front to explore the changing role of women in WW1. Last week Maggie looked at Women in the Workplace. This week she looks at Women in the public space.
Radio 4’s wartime epic, Home Front, tells fictional stories against the factual background of the Great War.
Maud Burnett played by Carolyn Pickles
Professor, Consultant Historian
Editor's Note: To mark International Women’s Day, we asked Professor Maggie Andrews, consultant historian to Radio 4’s Home Front to explore the changing role of women in WW1. Radio 4’s wartime epic tells fictional stories against the factual background of the Great War.
Women in the workforce
100 years ago on 17 July 1915 Mrs Pankhurst led a women’s march through London to...
It’s been a strange week in broadcasting.
It seemed as though the future of the BBC - and the licence fee - would be left until the other side of the General Election.
The Corporation's Charter runs out in 2017 so something would have to be agreed by then, but first a House of Commons select committee, then the BBC's Director...
Next week’s Face the Facts on Radio 4 will be the last. It will be no more, a dead parrot after over 30 years. It succeeded Roger Cook’s Checkpoint, which always seemed to end with the burly antipodean being beaten up on microphone.
It is not ending because the world has got less wicked but because Radio 4 is having to cut...
Jim Naughtie presents Bookclub on BBC Radio 4
To someone of my generation - and a boy, to boot - it’s not surprising that someone who writes in the spirit of John Buchan and H. Rider Haggard has sold more than 120 million books. I did ask, rhetorically, at our recording with the veteran novelist Wilbur Smith whether there comes a stage when even a...