30 episodes

Be informed, educated and entertained by the amazing true story of radio's forgotten pioneers. With host Paul Kerensa and rarely-heard clips from broadcasting's golden era.

The British Broadcasting Century with Paul Kerensa Paul Kerensa

    • History
    • 5.0 • 34 Ratings

Be informed, educated and entertained by the amazing true story of radio's forgotten pioneers. With host Paul Kerensa and rarely-heard clips from broadcasting's golden era.

    The First Listings: from Norman Long to Neville Chamberlain

    The First Listings: from Norman Long to Neville Chamberlain

    Yellow highlighters at the ready - the listings have arrived! Except it's weeks 2 + 3 of the BBC, back in Nov/Dec 1922, and the Radio Times is nearly a year away. So how do we know what's on the wireless? And is it called radio yet?


    A few trusty local newspapers printed a few listings - though watch this space, as they'll decide differently in a few episodes time. From The Pall Mall Gazette to The Derby Daily Telegraph, we've cobbled together the first BBC listings, thanks to our newspaper detective Andrew Barker.


    Plus a few memos read by the early BBC staff who received them, an insight into the first Children's Hour, and the debuts of comedian Norman Long and the 2LO Wireless Orchestra.


    There's also the return of the Parliamentary Podcast Players to shine a light on some dodgy dealing in Westminster (Government sleaze? At least that's no longer with us). It's all down to ex-Postmaster General F.G. Kellaway, who negotiated with the Marconi Company and co to help set up the BBC, now becoming a Marconi Company director. Could he have set up his own company for a windfall? We also whizz back to the Marconi Scandal of 1912, when shares were scooped up by government ministers thanks to some alleged insider dealing.


    Our guests are Andrew Barker and Alan Stafford (Alan's books include It's Friday, It's CRACKERJACK).


    Hear rare archive clips from:


    2LO Musical Director Stanton Jefferies

    5IT Chief Engineer A.E. Thompson

    5IT Station Director Percy Edgar

    Comedian Helena Millais

    Percussionist Billy Whitlock

    Comedian Norman Long




     
    And thanks to our Parliamentary Podcast Players:
    Mr Speaker - Wayne Clarke

    Captain Benn - Edi Johnston

    Mr Short - Lynn Robertson Hay

    Mr Hurd - Philip Rowe

    Mr Middleton - Paul Stubbs

    The PM Mr Bonar Law - Daniel Edison

    Mr Neville Chamberlain - Pete Hawkins




     
    SHOWNOTES:


    Our Norman Long excerpt is from AusRadioHistorian - see his Youtube channel for hundreds more old gramophone records.

    We mention singer Topliss Green - you can see and hear him sing, later, in this footage from British Pathe. 

    The British Broadcasting Century Facebook page is here. Do like. I post things there.

    The British Broadcasting Century Facebook group is here. Do join. You post things there.

    The British Broadcasting Century Twitter profile is here. Do follow.

    Paul Kerensa's other podcast of interviews, from Miranda Hart, Sally Phillips and Tim Vine (scroll way back for those) to more recent mid-pandemic catch-ups with comedians and writers, can be found here.

    Paul's mailing list is here - do subscribe to keep up with his (my) goings-on.

    Paul's books are available here or orderable from bookshops.

    The first few chapters of Paul's new historical novel on the BBC origin story - the novelisation of this podcast, pretty much - will be available soon on patreon.com/paulkerensa - and joining there also helps support this podcast... 

    ...or one-off tips of a few quid are most welcome at paypal.me/paulkerensa - it all keeps us (me) in web-hosting and books. The more I can research, the more complete this podcast gets.


     


    We're unconnected to the BBC - we're talking about the BBCompany, not made by or anything to with the BBCorporation.


    I thank you for rating and reviewing this podcast where you found it... or liking/sharing/commenting on what we do online. It all helps bump us up the social medias.


    Email the podcast here. Your comments are always welcome.


    Next time: the first four employees... including the arrival of John Reith.


    Subscribe to get the podcast in your in-tray.


    Thanks for listening! Now stand for the National Anthem.

    • 42 min
    The First BBC Entertainers... and Lee Mack

    The First BBC Entertainers... and Lee Mack

    Season 2 begins! So please welcome to the microphone: entertainment! The very first.


    Journey back to November 16th 1922 - Day 3 of the BBC - to meet Auntie's first entertainers. But history being history, nothing's easy...


    Discover why the BBC's first entertainers weren't the first after all, whether London, Birmingham or Manchester brought us the BBC's first entertainment concert - and why each of them has a claim to it.


    Our fabulous guest is comedian, actor, writer and professional liar Lee Mack, with tales from Not Going Out, Would I Lie To You and his earliest memories of broadcast comedy (who remembers Wait Till Your Father Gets Home?).


    You'll also hear rare clips of the original broadcasters (there are hardly any recordings from 1920s' broadcasts, so these are clips looking back), including Percy Edgar, Peter Eckersley, Hugh Bell, Leonard Hawke, Helena Millais, Ernie Mayne, Tommy Lorne and the Ziegeld Follies.


    Plus BBC Radio Norfolk's Paul Hayes brings us a follow-up from the previous Percy Edgar special, with tales of Barrie Edgar, footballing firsts and archive clips of Jimmy Jewell and Richard Dimbleby.


    From Billy Beer to Bobby Ball, via the first BBC song (Drake Goes West - or was it?), the first song about the BBC (Auntie Aggie of the BBC), the world's first radio song (List'ning on Some Radio) and the earliest live British TV football coverage still available (from 1949), we've compiled everything that kickstarted British broadcast entertainment.


     


    SHOWNOTES:


    Read more of Billy Beer, the BBC's first comedian, written by his descendant Bill Beer.

    Lee Mack joined us as part of a fundraiser for a young woman called Jenny. Read more and donate here.

    Your host Paul contributed a guest episode to The History of England podcast - a summary of our season 1 on half an hour, via some new (old) clips. It sums up the story so far - you can hear that here from summer 2021.

    Paul Hayes' documentary The Lost Voice of Football can be heard here.

    Paul Kerensa's other podcast of interviews, from Miranda Hart, Sally Phillips and Tim Vine (scroll way back for those) to the full Gareth Jones interview, can be found here - do subscribe.

    The British Broadcasting Century Facebook page is here. Do like.

    The British Broadcasting Century Facebook group is here. Do join.

    The British Broadcasting Century Twitter profile is here. Do follow.

    Paul's mailing list is here. Do subscribe.

    Paul's books are available here or orderable from bookshops.


     
    We're a lone operator, unconnected to the BBC - we're talking about the BBCompany, not made by the BBCorporation.


    We're just one person really, who you can help with the podcast via tips at paypal.me/paulkerensa... or via monthly shrapnel in exchange for extra audio/video/writings on patreon.com/paulkerensa... or via rating and reviewing this podcast where you found it... or via liking/sharing/commenting on what we do online - it all helps bump us up the social medias.


    Email the podcast here. Your comments are always welcome.


    Next time: the first listings - nearly a year before the Radio Times.


    Subscribe to make sure you get the podcast in your in-tray.


    Thanks for listening!

    • 36 min
    Season 2 Trailer (aka Season 1 Recap)

    Season 2 Trailer (aka Season 1 Recap)

    Ahead of season 2 (covering the first year and a bit of the BBC, from November 16th 1922 to December 31st 1923), here's a recap of season 1 - told by the people who were there: eleven broadcasting pioneers.


     


    GUGLIELMO MARCONI: Inventor of 'wireless'


    H.J. ROUND: First to send speech west across the Atlantic


    PETER ECKERSLEY: First regular British radio broadcaster


    WINIFRED SAYER: First woman on the radio, first professional radio performer


    DAME NELLIE MELBA: First star broadcaster


    ARTHUR BURROWS: First voice of the BBC


    KENNETH WRIGHT: First director of the BBC in the North


    JOHN REITH: First General Manager then Director General of the BBC


    ERNIE MAYNE: First British novelty record about broadcasting 


    HELENA MILLAIS: First broadcast character comedian 


    A.E. THOMPSON: Second voice of the BBC


    +


    LEE MACK


    DAVID HAMILTON


    ...who are a little more recent in terms of broadcasting.


    Hear them on season 2 of the podcast, as we explore the first entertainers, the first staff, Magnet House, Savoy Hill, Women's Hour, the Radio Times, battles with the press and the government and much more.


     


    As ever, we are nothing to do with the current BBC.


    As ever, we're on Twitter.com/bbcentury and Facebook.com/bbcentury, with a more interactive group at Facebook.com/groups/bbcentury


    As ever, your support at patreon.com/paulkerensa is very much appreciated. Watch the full David Hamilton video interview there, tour Paul's radio history bookshelf, and know you're helping to keep us (me - there's no one else here) making podcasts. 


     


    Stay informed/educated/entertained/subscribed.


     


    Season 2 soon...

    • 3 min
    SPECIAL: Percy Edgar - BBC and the Midlands from Day 2 to 1948

    SPECIAL: Percy Edgar - BBC and the Midlands from Day 2 to 1948

    Percy Edgar was there right at the start of the BBC. One of the first voices, he booked the acts, managed the station, then became Director of the Midland Region. He was the most influential regional director from 1922 to 1948, far outlasting Reith and, well, every other early radio pioneer I can think of.


    His grandson, the playwright David Edgar, has dusted down Percy's memoir and reads it for us on this our final special. Hear all about the foggy first night, the first children's programmes (including Susan the Blue Cat with Yellow Spots), the dancer who wouldn't stop moving, Edgar's encounters with Reith, his double act with A.E. Thompson, and the involvement of Percy's son (David's father) Barrie, who helped inspire the first regular children's programme, then went on to produce Come Dancing, Songs of Praise and Muffin the Mule amongst others.


    Most of this episode has David read his grandfather's words, but now and then we have cameo clips from Percy Edgar and A.E. Thompson too.


    We are indebted to David and the Edgar family for sharing the memoir with us. You can read along in its typewritten/hand-scrawled marvellousness on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BBCentury/posts/197527178633126


    While you're there, join our group facebook.com/groups/bbcentury. We're also on twitter.com/bbcentury - and our host Paul can be followed at facebook.com/paul.kerensa and twitter.com/paulkerensa


    We hasten to add we have no connection to the BBC - we're talking about them not with them. Even then, we're talking about the BBCompany, not the BBCorporation... yet. We'll get to how what happens in about 50 episodes' time.


    Thank you for supporting the podcast, either via tips at paypal.me/paulkerensa or via monthly shrapnel in exchange for extra audio/video/writings on patreon.com/paulkerensa (some are broadcasting-specific, like my video interview with Diddy David Hamilton, some are wider writings and advance articles I write elsewhere). It all helps keep us in web-hosting and books - there's no profiteering here.


    Your ratings/reviews really help spread word of the podcast too - we're a one-man operation. Not that dissimilar from when Percy Edgar ran the show...


    Enjoy the episode! The full works are at bbcentury.podbean.com

    • 41 min
    SPECIAL: Part 2 of 1922's Parliamentary Broadcasting Debates

    SPECIAL: Part 2 of 1922's Parliamentary Broadcasting Debates

    Part 2 of our parliamentary re-enactment is a dense and complex beast - but then so is Parliament. Good luck!


    Following last episode, we're re-enacting every political discussion on broadcasting in 1922: the year the word caught on, and the year the BBC was launched. So this episode is like listening to radio in the 1920s... expect to not get every word, but enjoy trying. You may need to tune your ears to catch what the House of Commons was echoing with a century ago. 


    We're between seasons, with a few specials. Here for the first time, our cast of 20 bring to life the MPs of a century ago. These are the full works, no editing to the highlights - we'll leave that for your brain to do.


    This episode the MPs accuse the Postmaster-General of a power-grab, over-regulation, and stopping greater discussion by scaremongering. The PMG says how awful (and dangerous) the airwaves will be if left to run wild, and defends the so-called monopoly he's put together by assembling this 'B.B.C'. The PMG is determined that only British manufacturers of wireless radios will be permitted for the first two years... but will that prevent foreign innovation?


    Our four debates are:


    July 28th 1922 - Our biggest debate, half an hour on The Wireless Telegraphy Act 1904. It's under this act that the PMG has assumed control of broadcasting, and this act forms the basis of the early licences. But he's being called out - is he seizing too much control? https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/1922-07-28/debates/4d8137d9-017d-494c-8eed-fb52ef2c9e27/Clause3—(CertainActsToBeContinuedTemporarily)?highlight=broadcasting#contribution-08349217-2ba4-41d0-9afd-c7f72b485063

    July 31st - A snappier few questions about the Britishness of this company, concerns over forcing wireless manufacturers to join this 'combine', and whether buyers of radio sets will get a fair price: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/1922-07-31/debates/b501f399-7f6c-42da-a635-64e351276ad8/WirelessBroadcasting?highlight=broadcasting#contribution-09b16f81-a3a1-4d71-bc51-d6cef6723c6e

    Aug 1st - Doubts over The Marconi Company's dominance of this new B.B.C... and what's taking so long in getting this broadcasting malarkey started? https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/1922-08-01/debates/5ac33a1e-790a-4064-ae15-a99e11698bfa/RelessBroadcasting

    Aug 4th - Mr Foot (Michael Foot's father) and Captain Benn (Tony Benn's father) are the main two MPs taking issue with price-fixing, the licence fee and government control of broadcasting. The PMG Mr Kellaway defends his decisions, gives his plans for eight radio stations, and offers a summary of how we've reached this point. Lastly, Captain Benn has a long rant at the PMG's attitude and actions, especially regarding overseas markets: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/1922-08-04/debates/d3ec5956-d274-4b63-b554-f412313385bc/WirelessBroadcasting?highlight=broadcasting#contribution-3a20aee3-3859-4068-9f77-3d62486003be


    The text is all courtesy of Hansard; this episode contains Parliamentary information licensed under the Open Parliament Licence v3.0 (https://www.parliament.uk/site-information/copyright-parliament/open-parliament-licence/).


     


    Our cast this episode:


    Wayne Clarke - The Speaker of the House


    Cameron Potts - Capt Benn


    Philip Rowe - Sir William Lane-Mitchell (his podcast: The History of European Theatre)


    Shaun Jacques - Mr Kiley (his podcast: Tell Me A Bit About Yourself)


    Jack Shaw - Sir Donald Maclean (his podcast: Wrong Term Memory)


    Paul Hayes - Sir Douglas Newton


    Alan Stafford - The Deputy Chairman


    James Maidment-Fullard - Mr Malone


    Philip Corsius - Mr Hailwood and Mr Raffan


    Andrea Smith - Lt Comm Kenworthy


    David Kirkland - Mr Ashley and Mr Percy


    Mike Simmonds - Lt Col Murray


    Daniel Edison - Lt Col Ward


    Paul Savage - Mr Foot


    Lynn Robertson Hay - Lt Col Hall


    Paul Kerensa - The Postmaster-Genera

    • 1 hr 12 min
    SPECIAL: Part 1 of 1922's Parliamentary Broadcasting Debates

    SPECIAL: Part 1 of 1922's Parliamentary Broadcasting Debates

    Westminster, 1922: Parliament learns a new word, 'Broadcasting'. And they LOVE to argue about new words.


    In this special, our cast of 20 brings to life EVERY broadcasting debate from 1922, no matter how big or small. No editing here. On our specials we outstay our welcome and we dig a little deeper. So approach this episode as if you're tuning into the BBC Parliament channel, only it's a century ago and they're deciding if and how there should be a BBC. Some parts may be an easier listen than others. You may need to tune your ears to their 'old-fashioned Parliament' setting.


    But listen closely and your ears will be rewarded with never-before-heard insights into how and why we've ended up with today's broadcasting landscape: how the licence fee, protectionism, public service broadcasting, innovation, French weather reports, and so much more all jostled for attention a hundred years ago. MPs' decisions then affect us now.


    While the engineers and broadcasters were pioneering this new tech, Postmaster-General Frederick Kellaway adopted a strict approach. You'll hear how the chaos of America was to be avoided, but how MPs differed on whether the PMG was taking too firm a line on this fledgeling invention.


    We have eight debates of varying sizes to bring you - too many for one podcast, so part 2 will pick up the tale. We're grateful to our cast; in this episode you'll hear:


    Paul Hayes - Sir Douglas Newton


    Mike Simmonds - Lt Col Murray


    Paul Stubbs - Mr Kennedy


    Wayne Clarke - The Speaker of the House


    James Maidment-Fullard - Mr Malone


    Andrea Smith - Lt Comm Kenworthy


    Adam Hawkins - Capt Guest


    Paul Kerensa - Postmaster-General Mr Kellaway + Sir Henry Norman


    The text is all courtesy of Hansard; this episode contains Parliamentary information licensed under the Open Parliament Licence v3.0 (https://www.parliament.uk/site-information/copyright-parliament/open-parliament-licence/).


    You'll hear the following moments:


    The first written mention of 'broadcasting' in Parliament, April 3rd 1922, ten days after Peter Eckersley seized the mic of 2MT Writtle, starting a broadcasting craze in Britain: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/1922-04-03/debates/5fa46744-068c-45f7-be31-daef38c64cc6/WirelessTelephony?highlight=broadcasting#contribution-54b7ff39-2321-4503-8114-4a0625d01fc4

    May 4th, the first verbal mention of 'broadcasting' in Parliament: https://api.parliament.uk/historic-hansard/commons/1922/may/04/wireless-messages-broadcasting

    May 23rd, a fob-off answer while the 'big six' wireless manufacturers meet to thrash it all out, settling on one British broadcasting company: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/1922-05-23/debates/f6abd513-b5f3-41e3-902a-0a07404868dd/WirelessBroadcasting 

    June 16th, a reading of the Wireless Telegraphy and Signalling Bill is seen by some to be a power-grab by the Postmaster-General, but by others as a necessary part of the development broadcasting, something many MPs in the house, like Sir Douglas Newton, were keenly interested in: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/1922-06-16/debates/4a1e7b29-0c59-4681-b86f-7acdd98a06e1/WirelessTelegraphyAndSignallingBill?highlight=broadcasting#contribution-71376b97-ca94-4d9d-938b-f6b2a727a4d6  

    June 28th, Parliament started looking across the Channel for what radio could do next: Weather Reports... https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/1922-06-28/debates/d34b1736-e64e-4547-8e75-e6bfcb5bf117/WirelessTelephony(WeatherBulletin)?highlight=broadcasting#contribution-2d1571f4-9a60-45e6-b820-c3ef39ce450b

    July 26th, the PMG wants to keep British broadcasting British: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/1922-07-26/debates/14a1dd4a-2a48-4602-87aa-450aeb2c89e1/WirelessBroadcasting?highlight=broadcasting#contribution-f77d3eb0-a4cc-4db4-8c98-2b6cf61a94e8


    Part 2 will pick up the story.


    Elsewhere in this episode we mention the Irish Broadcast

    • 27 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
34 Ratings

34 Ratings

Bewildered Dad ,

Fascinating and funny

Paul has a brilliant way of bringing these stories to life. I’ve worked in radio for decades but didn’t know any of this stuff really. Properly enjoying this tale of how broadcasting began.

David from the Shed ,

Informative, educational, and entertaining

I'm thoroughly enjhoying this; the presentation is energetic and upbeat, the content and clips excellent, and the story - well, reminds me just what an extraordinary invention boraodcast was, and how much it has changed.

cjfjfifkfjf ,

Didn’t know I wanted to know this

It’s great when you find something you knew nothing about and find it so interesting.

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