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1968 - Myth or Reality?

1968: Day by Day - How the series was made

1968 image montage Tracking a year in sound for 6 months, day by day, has been a massive undertaking. So many memories, so much archive in so many places: sound, print, film and television. But sadly we found many gaps as well.

By Lucy Dichmont, executive producer

Our main sources for archive have been the BBC sound and TV archives, ITN (which incorporates Reuters and Pathe amongst others) APTN and NARA in Washington DC.

It soon became clear to us that we needed to think carefully about how we would make such a big production vivid, accurate and coherent whilst respecting the authenticity of the material available to us and the known chronology of events.

Inevitably, archive from 1968 is not complete - in places it is patchy. Whole radio news programmes were not kept daily by the BBC in those days ( not in fact until 1982 ,only the pre-recorded inserts. The studio presentation was often live and few recordings exist. Only selected episodes or extracts from radio series were archived as magnetic tape was often recycled. The BBC archive policy put a heavy premium on selection rather than comprehensiveness. The television archive is more comprehensive but a lot of the pictures shot on film are mute.

An added challenge for us in making this series has been that in 1968 it could take a while (12 hours at least) to get images on air in the UK. Satellites were in their infancy. Dates and timelines added to this delay. As a result, a lot of the television archive was recorded on the day an event happened (particularly in the case of international archive), but not broadcast until the following day.

After some discussion, we decided that to create a true timeline that makes sense to Radio Four listeners, we needed to include actuality on the date on which the event was recorded, not the date it was broadcast in the UK.

Weekly reflective pieces - like Woman's Hour interviews or Letter from America have been positioned where they make editorial sense in the week in which they were broadcast.

We have done the same with non date specific feature pieces that add so much colour and context or provide illustration but are not tied to any one news event. Examples include: "The postal service in today's Wales" and "The life of a Bunny Girl waitress in London in 1968 - which was an "Easter Special" themed feature on The World at One!

Sound effects

Sound effects have been used sparingly to add colour, movement and illustrative texture where appropriate. They have NOT been used to amend, dramatise or enhance archive.

To ensure that there is no confusion for listeners, we have also maintained a separation in the mix between sound effects and archive (e.g. Vietnam helicopters used to indicate a transition to a story about Vietnam, and the subsequent 1968 archive actuality which has less military activity in the background).

Where we have had to re-voice archive text from articles or written material (particularly announcers' scripts for news bulletins where only the words survive) it will be made clear that these are re-voiced readings, not news-reader recordings from 1968.

Sir John Tusa's scripts will on occasion quote from such text archive.


The music we have used was current and relevant in 1968. Most is from the charts, film soundtracks or live performances of the time. It had all been released by, or recorded in, 1968. So the Beatles White Album may be used (recorded June 1968) as well as the Blue Danube waltz from the Soundtrack from 2001: a Space Odyssesy

Track listings of music used are available from the Radio 4 website.

The Production Team

Presenter: Sir John Tusa
Producers Lucy Dichmont, Barney Rowntree and Sam Bryant
Series Editor: Lucy Dichmont
(Robert Abel from June 2008)
Historical Researcher : Simon Arnold
Archive Researcher: Peter Law
Historical Consultant: Dominic Sandbrook

A Somethin' Else production for BBC Radio 4

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