Published on November 16th, 2012 | by Alex Veeneman0
AUDIO: The Flyer’s Media: The BBC Shows Radio Will Survive
Alex Veeneman, Opinions Editor
It was 5:33 and 58 seconds on the afternoon of Nov. 14. At London’s Science Museum, spectators look on as the British radio personality Simon Mayo presses a button which starts a simultaneous transmission on his BBC Radio 2 program and across the BBC’s stations in Britain and around the world. The front man for the band Blur, Damon Albarn, composed a three-minute view into the future, through music, sounds and short reflections from listeners sent to the stations over the last few months.
What began with the chimes of Big Ben and ended with the last of the Greenwich Mean Time Signal, known as the pips, was a sense of awe — the fact that radio still had a voice in the BBC, long after many said radio would not last.
Radio is a unique medium, and the BBC has shown over the course of that afternoon and the last 90 years the importance of radio, even if digital technology continues to influence the media landscape.
The BBC started radio broadcasting at 5:33 p.m. on that November day in 1922 through the transmitter 2LO originating from Marconi House in London, named for Guglielmo Marconi, the Italian designer who created the medium. A decade later, BBC radio’s home, Broadcasting House, would be built and broadcasting to Britain and to the world.
Tim Davie, the BBC’s acting Director General, said in a blog post prior to the event that radio has come a long way.
“Radio has come a long way since those crystal sets, short wave, medium wave, FM, digital and now the Internet, and there’s no telling how it will be broadcast in 2102,” Davie said. “But one thing I am willing to bet is that 90 years from today, someone in the BBC will dig out our 2012 90-year broadcast, and millions of people will still be tuning to radio to hear it once more.”
Radio is a picture for your mind. You can’t see this picture, unlike television, but the picture conveyed resembles one of significance, one that can transport you to places around the world and can entertain you in no way that television can. Radio can keep the brain stimulated throughout the day while other work is complete, in a way with which television could never compete.
Yet because of the rise of television, as the British newspaper The Guardian’s radio critic Elisabeth Mahoney wrote in her review of the events, radio has been sidelined, and this moment in broadcasting history might have been overlooked.
“Too often, radio is sidelined in favor of television for the really big events, and it languishes forlornly in terms of coverage compared to the small screen, so it was cheering to hear radio having its own landmark moment,” Mahoney wrote. “For a medium whose demise has so often been predicted over the decades but which stubbornly continues to flourish, that’s a fitting birthday tribute.”
It might not mean anything to the average consumer in the digital visual age, but what Albarn and the BBC have done, through the transmission and creation of not just this feature, but the transmission and creation of unique and significant culture, news, comedy, drama, travel and music programs, have signified a bond the British have, and a bond the rest of the world has, with radio, and its art form as a medium.
The BBC gave radio a voice in 1922, and it continues to do so today, showcasing to the rest of the world the power and the importance of not just creativity across the United Kingdom, but what can be done with a medium long written off by many.
Happy Birthday, BBC Radio. Long may they broadcast, and show what great medium radio is and can continue to be.
Photo above courtesy of sxc.hu.
Information on the BBC’s Radio Reunited project can be found at www.bbc.co.uk/reunited