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The British Broadcasting Century with Paul Kerensa

History Podcasts

100 Years of the BBC, Radio and Life as We Know It. Be informed, educated and entertained by the amazing true story of radio’s forgotten pioneers. With host Paul Kerensa, great guests and rare archive from broadcasting’s golden era. Original music by Will Farmer.


United Kingdom


100 Years of the BBC, Radio and Life as We Know It. Be informed, educated and entertained by the amazing true story of radio’s forgotten pioneers. With host Paul Kerensa, great guests and rare archive from broadcasting’s golden era. Original music by Will Farmer.






Farewell Magnet House, Hello... Laundry Baskets? + Jeffrey Holland

Episode 64 dwells in 1st-16th March 1923: the last days of the first BBC HQ of Magnet House. So this packed show takes a walk from Magnet House to the studios at Marconi House, just as the early broadcasters would have done. We take a look at the early broadcasting philosophy of first staff - "the upper side of taste" (no grizzly murders or divorce cases). We revisit broadcasts from the Daily Mail Ideal Home Exhibition and head on tour with a laundry basket packed with sheet music (just...


Glasgow 5SC: The BBC Launches in Scotland

On episode 63, we've reached 6th March 1923: Glasgow 5SC launches - the BBC's first station in Scotland. It's not Scotland's first radio station (see episode 48 for the tale of how Daimler, Glasgow Motor Show and a couple of electrical shop owners made a couple of pre-BBC pop-up stations). But this sixth BBC station mattered to John Reith more than any other. He'd grown up in Glasgow. His mum came to visit the radio station. He opened the station himself - apart from the bagpipes playing...


Radio’s First Political Debate... and Reeta Chakrabarti

On 22 February 1923, the BBC tried something new: the first broadcast political debate. What could possibly go wrong? Let's find out! And we chat to Reeta Chakrabarti - a mainstay of BBC news for over 30 years. She's anchored news from the studio, broadcast from Ukraine, and recently voiced radio pioneer Hilda Matheson on the BBC100 Prom. We talk about her career highlights and the place of BBC journalism in the world today. Back in 1923, we're telling the origin story of British...


The BBC’s Listings Ban... and Gareth Gwynn’s Ministry of Happiness

Welcome to Season 5! Centenary specials behind us, we deep-dive back into mid-Feb 1923, in our moment-by-moment story of British broadcasting's birth. On episode 61, we hear from: The Ministry of Happiness (catch it on BBC Sounds)the full section in David's recording on Youtube And some of the landmark moments we cover include: Subscribe, share, rate, review, tell your friends, join us on Facebook, Twitter and Patreon - and thanks if you support us there. ...There on Patreon you can...


A History of Religious Broadcasting: 100 Years of God on the Beeb

In the beginning... religious broadcasts were there ever since Marconi said, "Let there be sound!" (He never said that.) Whether you're a faithful or heathen, you're very welcome here and I think you'll enjoy this whizz through a century of British broadcasting blessings (and some early US ones too) - including some very rare clips and new discoveries of old things/names/juicy geeky details. From Reginald Fessenden's violin to Justin Welby's sermon to half the planet, via Dr Boon, Revs...


100 Years in 100 Minutes, part 3 (1988-2022)

Episode 59 is the final part of our trilogy of info-dashes through the first British Broadcasting Century. Here we span 1988-2022: the digital years. Enjoy hearing from experts, those who were there and contributions from you marvellous podcast listeners. (Part 1 was more archive-heavy - but rights issues get trickier as we get more recent - oh and do go back and listen to part 1 (1922-54) and part 2 (1955-87)). Some excerpts are from longer interviews that you'll hear on the podcast soon...


100 Years in 100 Minutes, part 2 (1955-87)

Part 2 of our mad dash through the British Broadcasting Century, spanning 1955-87 - the competition years. Part 1 contained more archive; this contains more guests, as we creep nearer the present-day and rights issues become more prevalent. YOU HAVE BEEN LISTENING TO: 1950s: John Reith, Fanny Cradock, Paul Hayes, Justin Webb, Dr Amy Holdsworth, my daughter, Alan Stafford, David Hamilton 1960s: Michael Wakelin, Simon Dunn, Charles Huff, Gareth Jones, Johnny Beerling, Roger Moffat, David...


100 Years in 100 Minutes, part 1 (1922-54)

As the BBC turns 100, enjoy 100 Years in 100 Minutes! This is just part 1, 1922-54 - from the company years of Magnet House then Savoy Hill, to the corporation years up to the eve of commercial competition, the last time the BBC was the sole official broadcaster. For the early years, enjoy the archive clips, some very rare - from the first presenters, John Reith and early performers. As time goes on, extracts give way to insights: from experts, podcast listeners and those who were...


BBC100, Poetry Please?... and Roger Bolton

Episode 56 has BBC100 recommendations (on iPlayer and BBC Sounds for a limited time), 3 poems about the early BBC/radio, and from the Beeb Watch podcast, ex-Radio 4 presenter Roger Bolton. Past, present and future, all mixed in here as Auntie Beeb turns 100 around us. But our celebrations are a little muted due to some of the changes at Beeb towers - like the cuts to local radio, BBC News and the World Service... But our guest is keeping a watchful eye from afar. Roger Bolton has just left...


The First Shakespeare on the BBC (pt 1) + Happy BBCentenary! (also pt1)

Landing on centenary day (well, 100 years aince the BBCompany was formed), episode 55 is the tale of the first Bard on the Beeb. Dr Andrea Smith joins us to talk us through the first broadcast Shakespeare - but it's only part 1, as on Feb 16th 1923, it's just excerpts: scenes from Julius Caesar and Othello. Andrea will return for the first full-length play, when we reach May 1923 in our podcast timeline. Plus as the BBC finally turns 100, we consider some BBC100 celebration programming,...


The First Welsh Broadcast... and The Exhibitionists!

Let Season 4 begin! We pick up our timeline of the BBC origin story in February 1923 - and the launch of Cardiff 5WA, the first Welsh broadcast station. Plus back in 2022: places you can go, museums, exhibitions and the like - from Bradford's National Science and Media Museum (and their Switched On exhibition) to St Bride's in London (and their A Kingdom of Cardboard exhibition). We chat to Lewis Pollard, curator of broadcasting at the first, and Bob Richardson, ex of BBC Presentation and...


SPECIAL: Radio as Propaganda in WW2... plus Peter Eckersley & Hilda Matheson

Tying up our 'summer' specials (now autumn), part 4 of 3 (whoops) is this special on radio as propaganda in World War 2. The non-BBC story. Sefton Delmer sent black propaganda from near Bletchley Park into Germany, as Lord Haw-Haw did the opposite, sending radio propaganda from Germany back into Britain. Meanwhile Hilda Matheson (remember her from two episodes ago?) was sending transmissions from the JBC - the Joint Broadcasting Committee - in Woburn Abbey, also near Bletchley Park. And...


SPECIAL: Auntie’s War - with Edward Stourton

The BBC in WW2 is our focus for the third of our summer specials - longer-form chats with brilliant authors and their take on a century of British broadcasting. This time meet Auntie's War author and BBC presenter (Today, Sunday, The World at One, and plenty more), Edward Stourton. We can only ever scratch the surface in half an hour (what, no John Snagge?) - but it's a helicopter view of the key moments, from Munich to victory marches in Italy. Discover why reporting from Dunkirk to D-Day...


SPECIAL: Early Black British Broadcasters - with Stephen Bourne

How many pre-WW2 black British broadcasters can you name? We’ll let's change that after this episode: summer special no.2 from The British Broadcasting Century... EARLY BLACK BRITISH BROADCASTERS - WITH STEPHEN BOURNE Author and social historian Stephen Bourne specialises in black heritage, and joins us to inform, educate and entertain us about people of colour on air between the wars. I first encountered Stephen’s work when I spotted Evelyn Dove’s scrapbook in the BBC100 ‘Objects of the...


SPECIAL: Hilda Matheson and the Radio Girls of Savoy Hill - with Sarah-Jane Stratford

Summer special time! The first of three episodes outside of our era, our regular timeline we're telling of the early BBC. Instead we leap from 1923 to 1926 and then some, to meet: HILDA MATHESON AND THE RADIO GIRLS OF SAVOY HILL ...Your guide is Sarah-Jane Stratford - novelist behind Radio Girls. It's a wonderfully evocative book, and a great summer read. Get your copy now! We talk about Hilda Matheson's legacy, from first Director of Talks, to her relationship with Vita Sackville-West,...


It’s That Man Again! Peter Eckersley - 1st BBC Chief Engineer

Episode 49 and that old favourite Peter Eckersley returns - he's started regular British broadcasting, helped spark a boom in radio sets, mocked the BBC, been inspired by the first OB to join Auntie Beeb... and now this episode, he's hired. In this bumper episode, we hear from Eckersley expert Tim Wander, and PPE himself, as well as Noel Ashbridge and Rolls Wynn. Plus our special guest: Professor David Hendy, author of The BBC: A People's History, on the pioneer years. This is the last of...


Daimler, 5MG and 2BP: The In-Car Radios of 1923

"There's not a lot written about 2BP," says our guest Tony Currie, radio historian, author and presenter. And yet for episode 48, we've wrung a whole 40mins out of it! In January 1923, the BBC had sole right to broadcast in Britain, and yet a couple of experimental radio stations existed in Glasgow. 5MG had been on the air since October, operated by shop-owners Frank Milligan and George Garscadden, just to sell some wireless sets. And Daimler wanted to sell something too - in-car radios. So...


”Hark, The Engine’s Failing”: The Closedown of 2MT Writtle

January 17th 1923: 2MT Writtle, Britain's first regular broadcasting station, closes down for the last time. Its chief voice, director of programmes, Lord of Misrule Peter Pendleton Eckersley toasts its listeners with a glass of water, upgraded to champagne via the use of a pop gun - innovating to the last with one of radio's first ever sound effects. Then Eckersley, the first BBC-basher, switched sides and promptly joined the BBC, as its first Chief Engineer. On episode 47, we've reached...


Justin Webb on Leonard Crocombe... and January 1923

For episode 46 we're joined by one of today's (and Today's) top broadcasters: Justin Webb. Justin's new book 'The Gift of a Radio: My Childhood and Other Train Wrecks' chronicles his lifelong partnership with radio, from an unusual childhood improved by the arrival of an ITT Tiny Super radio, to anchoring the Radio 4's Today programme. But he's just the latest of 3 generations of broadcaster in his family. Justin's grandfather Leonard Crocombe was not only the first Radio Times editor, but...


2ZY Manchester and 5IT Birmingham Calling... with Jude Montague

Episode 45 sees us still in January 1923, but on the move... First BBC Director of Programmes Arthur Burrows visits 5IT Birmingham and 2ZY Manchester to see the 2nd and 3rd BBC stations in action - so here's a podcast snapshot of what broadcasting was like in their makeshift studios in British broadcasting's earliest days. Our guest is Jude Montague, whose grandfather Sydney Wright was an early on-air musician in the 2ZY Wireless Trio. And you'll hear the voices of those who were there:...