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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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Actuality: audio clip of interviewee (e.g. expert or eyewit- ness). Also sometimes used to refer to a voiced report by re- porter, or to sound effects. Ass-Ed (Assistant Editor): Senior-level sub editor; one level under that of Editor. BJ (Broadcast Journalist): entry level in BBC Journalism. Bulletin: Generic term to denote newscast. At BBC Radio News used to refer to major newscast produced by the ‘Bulletins Desk’ (as opposed to the ‘Summaries Desk’), for BBC Radios 3 and 4. Copy story: a short story, usually 2-5 lines, without audio. Cue: An introduction to actuality or voiced piece. In a summary this cue might be 2-3 lines, in a Radio 4 Bulletin, these might be much longer. Correspondent: Senior reporter with responsibility for particu- lar field of expertise or part of the country, e.g. Foreign, De- fence, Education, Health, Technology, Northern-Ireland, etc. Editor: Most senior Journalist in newsroom (or programme). ENPS: Electronic News Production System (see photo 3, Chap- ter 5). Computer system that allows BBC Journalists to write their stories, access news wires, see output from other BBC TV and Radio News programmes. GNS: General News Service. The news service for BBC local ra- dio stations. Actuality and a summary (known as the ‘Rip ‘n Read’) is sent to all stations by the Radio Newsroom every hour. Prospects (diary): Newsgathering diary. List of all possible stories on a particular day to help news and current affairs out- lets plan their output, availability of correspondents, outside broadcasting facilities, etc. Unexpected news...

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