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Thursday, January 17, 2013

A great day in broadcasting history

Viewers of BBC Breakfast News today will be aware that today marks the 30th anniversary of the birth of breakfast TV in the UK.

That's not the only milestone. This day, 30 years ago, two new local radio stations were born, BBC Radios Devon and Cornwall.  I was hired by Radio Devon as a fresh faced reporter called Gail Tyler, and I was proud to be there on launch day.

When the station launched it came from Broadcasting House in Plymouth. The studio complex in Exeter was still being built, and two Portakabins were being used on the building site.

We all came together a few months before the launch and spent six wonderful weeks in London training. I was the youngest, and the only one with absolutely no radio experience. So there were quite a few memorable faux pas along the way. One of our training projects was to "find" someone interesting and interview them.  My great friend Julie Skentelbery, who was also in London with Radio Cornwall, facilitated a meeting for me with one of her former colleagues on the Sunday Independent:  Alastair Campbell.

He had played the bagpipes as a busker in the underground.

We recorded the interview at Marble Arch underground. Alastair didn't have his bagpipes. I was not in full control of my equipment (a Uher tape recorder) so used the Auto setting, and the sound quality was terrible.  Worse still, I had about 20 minutes of Alastair rambling on and I didn't know how to edit. Fortunately Julie seized the razor blade and saved the day.

The fledgling radio station played host to the Director General, Alasdair Milne, who sadly died last week.  Mr Milne is seated on the right, looking as if he might go for a spin on the turntable. I am "at the controls" in the Plymouth studio. My colleagues in the picture were Mary Saunders; the late and great Reg Henderson Brookes (second right), and the wonderful David Bassett, whose booming voice would announce "Bon bons for all, this day!"  He always came into the office with a great flourish, and if we didn't pay enough attention he would go out and come back in again.

Alasdair Milne was mentioned on the very popular Treasure Hunt quiz show presented by Douglas Mounce.  The question was: "who wrote Winnie the Pooh?" and quick as a flash the listener replied "Alasdair Milne."

Other memories:
  • My first live news bulletin, which went out on a Sunday and was four minutes long.  Mike Gibbons, our Programme Organiser, was on the beach in Weston-super-Mare and managed to pick up the transmission. He called me to say it was very good, but I'd forgotten to say who I was.
  • As a more experienced newsreader, I became adept at editing copy as I read it. During a bulletin Allan Urry rushed in with "news just in," and as he and David Willis were great jokers, I didn't trust the copy and ended up saying "The dead not thought to be seriously hurt."  I came out of the studio with great poise, hoping I had got away with it, but then picked up the phone to a listener who said "tell your newsreader she made my day"  (I had denied being the newsreader).
  •  Evelyn the cleaner had her favourites and fortunately I was one of them; one of my colleagues had to suffer the indignity of Evelyn Hoovering outside the news cubicle as she read the 10 minute bulletin.


Maggie May said...

Wow! I didn't realise that you were famous! That was a very interesting post.
I watched the 30 yr anniversary Breakfast Tv this morning on BBC 1.
Maggie x

Nuts in Mayh

Nick SS said...

Memories of Radio Devon: Note from the Manager: "the words 'Breakfast' and 'Time' are not to be spoken in sequence on this Radio Station".
The stamp with the Breakfast Time Logo on it that was kindly sent to us to use on our mail, unexpectedly found its way into the bin without delay.
Needless to say Breakfast Time TV was far too important to mention that a couple of local radio stations had started up. Oh for the days when Radio could happily put two fingers up to TV and TV pretended that Radio had closed down sometime in the early 60's.


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