By G R Barnes, Head of the BBC's Third Programme, which opens on Sunday at 6.0 pm. Listeners should tune their receivers to 203.5 or 514.6 metres
The Third Programme offers forty-two hours of broadcasting a week. Its title - 'the Third Programme' - is quite deliberate, since, for the first time, most listeners will have three contrasted programmes from which to choose their evening listening, a choice wider than the listener is offered on his own medium waveband in any European country. In passing, I should like to point out that the Third Programme will not deprive either of the older Services of any of their established programmes, not will its introduction alter their individuality.
Yet, no listener even now can expect to find exactly what he or she wants whenever the wireless set is switched on, but the three BBC programmes will give everyone a greater opportunity than ever before to plan listening. It is certain that everyone will now be able to tune to some programme to his taste every evening on which he is free to listen. This is rather like saying that the BBC is giving listeners everything they wanted ... just look through the programme pages of this issue and see for yourselves.
The Third Programme is for the alert and receptive listener, the listener who is willing to make an effort to select his programme in advance and then meet the performer half-way by giving it his whole attention. The Third Programme is not planned for continuous listening night after night. Every night there will be one principal programme, but there will also be something else for people of different tastes.
The Third Programme intends to set a high standard in its choice of broadcasts of music, drama and speech, and to achieve the highest available level of performance. When the condition of communications in Europe permits, we shall give listeners the chance of hearing what is best abroad, and so assist in the restoring of international standards of performance. And well, above all, experiment.
To carry out these good intentions we need not only the good will but the active participation of all who work for radio. Unless playwrights and poets, critics and writers, composers and performers, and producers can see the opportunity within the scope of this new programme, listeners will not find the stimulus they expect.
No News Bulletins - No Fixed Schedules
We start with two advantages. The first is that we have no fixed news bulletins to broadcast at fixed hours. Plays and operas can be given in full and symphony concerts need not be built to fit into a schedule. The second advantage is that we can give more than one performance of all major works. We shall repeat items from our own and other programmes generously and often.
Music will occupy a third of the programme. The main orchestral concerts of the week will be on Thursday and Saturday; opera, when available, on Friday; chamber concerts on Monday in the Concert Hall of Broadcasting House, for which the public can buy tickets. We hope to broadcast one performance of opera every week, an aim which we will have realised in October with a performance of Don Pasquale from the Cambridge Theatre, the Glyndebourne production of Britten's new opera The Rape of Lucretia, and two complete performances of Tristan and Isolde which Sir Thomas Beecham is to conduct for us. The winter Promenade concerts, which are to be revived, will be heard in part in the Third Programme. The BBC's gramophone library will be drawn upon for those who are interested in comparing the interpretations of the same work played by different artists.
Plans for radio drama provide for a new production of a full-length play every month, The three plays chosen for this autumn are Man and Superman, broadcast in its entirety for the first time; the Agamemnon of Aeschylus; and Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida. Two festivals of drama - each lasting a week or ten days - are in the process of being planned; one, in January, of plays by Bernard Shaw; the other, next summer, of the historical plays of Shakespeare from Richard II to Richard III. 'World Theatre' is remaining in the Home Service, but recordings of the performances will be broadcast in the Third Programme. We shall take the opportunity to repeat past plays in this series. Experiments this autumn will be the adaptation for broadcasting of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and a series of Imaginary Conversations, either written for the occasion or adapted from a published work. Twenty-minute periods of poetry will be broadcast at least three times every week, divided between the contemporary and the classical, between readings with and without comment, and between selections made from a single poet and from many poets. Longer poems, classical and contemporary, will be broadcast once every month.
The Spoken Word
As for talks, we can afford to give time to a speaker to develop his argument at length; we can experiment with impromptu talks; and we can repeat outstanding talks from the past and recent talks in our own and other Services which are worth a second hearing. And every Thursday we intend to devote half an hour to the visual arts - painting, sculpture and architecture have been too long neglected in sound broadcasting. The absence of news bulletins and commentaries on current affairs does not relieve the new programme of responsibility for dealing with such matters. Field-Marshal Smuts talks on world affairs on Sunday at 7.30, and during the four Fridays in October, Professor E H Carr will make an appraisal of British foreign policy.
The pattern of the Third Programme is still, necessarily, incomplete. The place to be taken by light entertainment, for instance, is undecided, though it is probable that satirical revue will be the main contribution. But through the pattern certain consistent principles may be discerned. The Third Programme will be international; it will experiment; and above all, it will be flexible, believing that flexibility is the only framework which will ensure life and vigour to its particular purpose.