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Bongs and Birds

Peter Rippon | 11:26 UK time, Monday, 12 June 2006

For many, the loss of the bongs was a shattering blow. One of the unique intimacies of radio is the way it can regulate your day. So when we were told Big Ben and its sidekicks were being silenced for repairs for a few weeks, we knew we had a problem. 'The Bongs' at the end of PM and the beginning of the Six O'Clock News are one of the key anchors in a Radio Four listener's day.

The PM programme logoDogs would go unfed. Children unbathed. One listener worried he'd miss his turn on to the A303 from the A34.

So what were we to do to fill those precious 15 seconds (roughly) each day? We decided to ask the listeners and subscribers to our daily newsletter for their thoughts. Predictably lots wanted the return of the UK Theme, other wags suggested a new News Briefing item. But in the end they came up with an inspired idea...... Birdsong. Until the Bongs return we are playing the song of a different bird up to the pips. The response has been overwhelming. Listeners are sending in their own recordings.

At first we feared a Roland Rat moment, but the bongs will be back soon.

On reflection there is a lot we in the business of trying to communicate by sound alone can learn from the birds. Birdsong is one of the purest, most poetic and intensely beautiful audio experiences nature produces. Something for all who work in radio to think about.


  • 1.
  • At 02:24 PM on 12 Jun 2006,
  • Steve wrote:

Sorry to be so stupid - but what exactly is a Roland Rat moment?

This is all very well until the birds realise that they're missing out on performance fees, residuals, and the moral rights in their own unique musical works.

Until then, look: free birdsong at the Free Sound Project.

  • 3.
  • At 10:31 AM on 14 Jun 2006,
  • Redd wrote:

I find this quite funny/sad that people are so worried about 15 seconds of radio.You lot at the BBC must have a recordings of the famous "bongs" hiding away somewhere Aye?

  • 4.
  • At 02:16 PM on 03 Jul 2006,
  • Cathy Harrison wrote:

Keep the birdsong and ditch the bongs, say I!

  • 5.
  • At 02:18 PM on 03 Jul 2006,
  • Tim Ashton wrote:

Birdsong may be "intensely beautiful", but I assure it isn't at 4.10 am, six feet away from your open bed-room window day in day out.

  • 6.
  • At 03:19 PM on 06 Jul 2006,
  • john french wrote:

"one of the purest,most poetic and intensely beautiful audio experiences nature produces" What a lovely way to achieve a BBC balance to the violence, bluster and lies that fill the rest of the programme!

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