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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 7 Radio Output – Digging in theArchives


141 Chapter 7 Radio Output – Digging in the Archives It’s time’s edge turned to tone, a statement, a hard fact beyond doubt, the unarguable wall between rooms. Sean Street, “Greenwich Time Signal”, Radio and Other Poems As well as informing, educating and entertaining the British (and often overseas) population, the BBC is afforded by many the role of maintaining standards of English. The Corporation appears very aware of the responsibility thrust upon it and throughout its history has debated issues of style and tone of its programmes. Moreover, it has on a regular basis since the late 1960s produced Style Guides and Programming guidelines which offer advice, some might say edicts on appropriate lexis, grammar and forms of address to be used in broadcasts. The Radio News Style Guides are particularly aimed at the corpora- tion’s journalists who produce many hours of bulletins and summaries each day on an increasing number of networks. Much of what is written in the guidelines remains the same – if not in exact the same wording, then certainly in tenor, with these guides voicing both implicitly and explicitly that the writ- ers have a duty towards their public: In writing news for radio...we follow as far as possible natural con- versational speech, but we need to temper it with the discipline of order and precision... 142 We do not write for pedants; neither do we write for those who think journalese – especially American journalese – is English. (BBC Radio Newsroom News Guide 1967) Our use, or...

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