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Forty Years of BBC Radio News

From the Swinging Sixties to the Turbulent Noughties

Anya Luscombe

In this case study of BBC Radio News, that shows how radio journalism has changed since the 1960s, the author paints a picture of the changing nature of the profession and the style of writing. She draws on interviews with practitioners, BBC official documents, style guides and output. Whilst the BBC Radio newsroom itself has changed a great deal between 1966 and 2008, the main aim of informing the public about what has happened has stayed the same. Many of the news writers are concerned about increased workloads and competition from 24-hour news outlets and its impact on the accuracy (of content and language) of BBC radio bulletins. The BBC News Style Guide charts the changes in the language since the 1960s.


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Chapter 6 BBC Radio Journalists, theirAudiences and the future


127 Chapter 6 BBC Radio Journalists, their Audiences and the future We interrupt our programmes...alters things – a line that splits two verbs: to live, to die. We interrupt our programmes...alters things without warning, from a clear blue sky. Sean Street, “News Flash”, Radio and Other Poems 6.1 Know thy audience! The father of Rhetoric, Aristotle, stressed the importance of knowing the audience if an orator wanted to persuade. In his Art of Rhetoric he emphasizes that being aware of the audi- ence’s needs and views will help a speaker decide on which of the three appeals ethos, logos and pathos, will work best. The BBC’s journalists are not aiming to persuade the audience of anything, unless it is that the public should take note of the particular news events which the journalists have selected. They hope as public broadcasters to be as neutral in their re- porting as possible without driving a particular agenda. Howev- er, Aristotle’s three appeals can still apply. Logos will demand that the structure of the news bulletins and the order in which the news is presented is clear and logical, as is the choice of items; burying the news would not make sense or be effective in communicating that news. Pathos can play a role, (as dis- cussed in Chapter 4): emotion and painting pictures can help a radio audience “see”. Ethos is vital too, listeners who do not trust the broadcaster, will not trust the news operation, effec- tively rendering its function of informing...

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