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Consumer programme pioneer: You & Yours forty years ago

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A&M CSD | 16:21 PM, Monday, 18 October 2010

Elizabeth Smith

Elizabeth Smith

As one of the original producers, I am impressed with how You and Yours has developed, while still keeping the original spirit of always being on the side of the people, and giving them a voice.

We pioneered new ways of public participation such as phone-ins, and used letters and vox pops, and did many more interviews with members of the public than most other programming. This gave it all depth, and a fresh and interesting appeal. We also pioneered consumer programming, particularly through one consumer edition a week on You and Yours and the marvellous investigative sister programme Checkpoint. The programme was sometimes sneered at by the grandees of Broadcasting House, who preferred a narrower agenda, covering diplomacy and politics.

The technicalities of delivering radio have changed in 40 years - though not as much as you might think. The BH hierarchy was initially very sniffy about us interviewing people on the telephone, claiming the quality was too poor to use. Well, sometimes it was poor, so we did not use the interview, but sometimes it was fine. Face to face interviewing is best, but for immediacy and for accessing people who cannot get to the studio eg in remote locations, stuck up a tree, or whatever, there is nothing to beat the mobile phone.

Ministers were often interviewed in the early editions, and they would generally come to the studio. And there were fewer PR people in those days, getting between the interviewee and interviewer, so it was easier to speak to the real person. So in some ways the content has got better and in other ways it is worse!

But we felt there was more to life than politicians and we plunged into everything, from bringing up babies to exposing maladministration by - in particular - what was then the Gas Board and other monopoly suppliers such as BT. Crooked lawyers also came near the top of the complaints list. We would have loved to have had e-mail and blogs and websites, but they have now come into their own, and make radio into a truly participative experience. Keep up the good work!

Elizabeth Smith was one of the original producers on You and Yours on BBC Radio 4

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