The BBC is now one hundred years, and one day old. It really is something to celebrate.
I can only thank my lucky stars that there have been moments in which I have been included either as a “punter” or participant. My earliest recollection is being interviewed at the London Earls Court motor show at the age of eleven. I think I was eleven. It was around 1971. My voice certainly hadn’t broken which was probably the reason for my 10’ interview being cut down to five seconds when broadcast on what was then local BBC Radio London.
My next encounter was in 1982 as a job seeker. The only accessible route I knew of to becoming a BBC insider was to join the trainee studio manager scheme. A path well trodden by some of you reading this. Thing is, I quaked in my boots under interrogation by the BBC’s interview board, becoming completely confused by the different uses of dynamic, condenser and ribbon microphones – and how to position them. Ah well, I really didn’t know everything!
Fast forward to circa 1990 with some announcing and presenting experience under my belt from elsewhere, I took over presenting duties on Behind the Screen, broadcast during daytime on BBC1. The programme provided “a look ahead” to what was coming up on the BBC that week and gave some great opportunities to meet and talk to people actually making the big hitting programmes including Eastenders, Gardener’s World, Top Gear and Children in Need. Durability is a BBC trait!
Good Morning with Anne and Nick took to the air in 1992 to rival ITV’s highly successful This Morning and through Clark Television, an independent providing strand content, I originated and presented interior design programme Room with a Viewer, in which computer graphics were used for the first time to show what a room could “become”. A sort of “See before you spend”.
Around this time also, I began continuity announcing for BBC World Service Television (Asia) from a small room off one of the circular corridors in BBC Television Centre. I would arrive at something like 8 o’clock at night and leave at 6 in the morning, working with a single transmission controller – I think that’s what they were called prior to becoming play-out directors. Television Centre was a curious place to be out of hours. Next to no-one else there. Going to the café you would see occasional solitary figures grabbing a cuppa or a bite – the weatherman – Rob McElwee, the news anchor Rizwan Khan and others. We would exchange brief hellos and move on.
And so to the present day – eleven years of providing freelance continuity to BBC Two and Four in a fast changing BBC environment where everyone is looking to to the future and hoping that the BBC will be a place of continuing creativity and opportunity. While I have offered up just a glimpse into my own very small involvement with the corporation, there are and have been thousands of very talented people making their own contribution. Long may they continue.
And the big thing about the BBC? It has touched all of our lives. Those who work there and the many millions of viewers and listeners.
So Happy Birthday BBC for the one hundred years just gone. As for the next one hundred.
This is day one.