100 Years Ago Today: The Founding of the BBC

I really love the image of the periodical above, it reminds me of a joke of my friend Scott Stiffler, whom I first knew as a comedian before he became a Chelsea based local news editor. He had a sketch about the early days of television, in which an announcer expounded on the groundbreaking virtues of the new medium…one of which was to provide lists of your favorite radio programs. We just never know what’s important in the moment, do we? We become so attached to what’s in front of us that we little dream that its obsolescence is just around the corner, at least in this culture. In the age of the internet it is hilarious to think that we once relied on magazines like TV Guide to keep us informed about television — or this newspaper which kept readers up to snuff on radio. And it’s also hard for us post-TV babies to imagine what an institution radio had become when television knocked it off its perch in the late ’40s. Its reign lasted about a quarter-century. In the late ’40s it was possible to be a grown person with children, having listened to radio your entire life.

Today marks 100 years of the BBC — as a corporate entity, at any rate. Over the next few months and years will follow all sorts of centennials having to do with the first “this” or “that”, stations added, broadcasts begun, programming added, etc. Here in America we’ll have our own radio centennials coming up, which I’ll naturally be marking. Late next year, for example, will be the centennial anniversary of The Eveready Hour, America’s first commercially sponsored radio variety program. It will also mark the 75th anniversary of the debuts of two important television variety shows, those of Ed Sullivan and Milton Berle. I’m marking these occasions with a new book about radio and television variety — essentially a sequel to my first book No Applause. What happens when vaudeville comes to radio and TV? Work on the book has already begun, and I must say it’s put a spring in my step.

And to return to today’s benchmark, we’ll certainly include our friends across the puddle in the new tome. After all, I’ve BEEN on BBC radio, for which I’m very thankful. Come to think of it, it was three years ago almost to the day, and the topic was very Halloween related….