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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 8 Close Down

Extract

Radio doesn’t close down anymore. No one says Goodnight and means it. But when they did in the days when stations also slept how profound was the instant after, the silence that wasn’t a silence, the hiss before the last sound died opening a door to a deeper-still audio dark. Sean Street, “Close Down”, Radio and Other Poems This chapter will provide a summary of the research findings and link these back to the research questions. The study has looked at BBC Radio News in the period 1966-2008: the chang- es that might have occurred in both the working practices of those who compile the news bulletins and summaries and in the actual output. I spent time observing the writers, often denoted as ‘subs’, in their working environment of the Radio News desks in the BBC News Centre in West London and at BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat and drew on my observations whilst working as one of those ‘subs’ in the Radio Newsroom in Broadcasting House in the 1990s. Most of all this study wanted to talk to the practi- tioners, current and former, and hear them describe in their own words what they do and think as they produce news on BBC national radio around the clock. To what extent, if any, have the views of BBC radio journalists changed over the last forty years with regard to their working environment and profession, how they believe they write news bulletins, which elements they believe their writing should contain, and...

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