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Episode 31 of 31

The Hunt for BBC Premises, Burrows vs Marconi + Prof Gabriele Balbi

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station description 100 Years of the BBC, Radio and Life as We Know It
The British Broadcasting Century with Paul Kerensa
Duration: 38:24
Season 2 Episode 4 (aka Episode 31 in total) flashes us back to Arthur Burrows' pre-BBC days, and brings us to December 17th-20th 1922, when 4/5 of the BBC workforce (ie. 4 people of the 5) tour central London searching for a building.

They can use Magnet House for now, on loan from General Electri
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Season 2 Episode 4 (aka Episode 31 in total) flashes us back to Arthur Burrows' pre-BBC days, and brings us to December 17th-20th 1922, when 4/5 of the BBC workforce (ie. 4 people of the 5) tour central London searching for a building.

They can use Magnet House for now, on loan from General Electric, but after that, where? After deciding against a gold-flatting mill (now a Gym Box), they discover a nice little premises on Savoy Hill.

But before that, Arthur Burrows shows John Reith the ropes, via a chart, of everything this new BBC will need, from engineers to commissionaires a lady's assistant. Reith is still baffled.

But before THAT - several years before that - Burrows was the lone voice trying to convince the Marconi Company that broadcasting was a Good Thing. The Marconi bosses didn't agree. Our special guest knows all about this: Professor Gabriele Balbi, Associate Professor of Media Studies at USI in Switzerland, has written a paper called 'Wireless’ Critical Flaw: The Marconi Company, Corporation Mentalities and the Broadcasting Option'. He fills in Burrows' back-story, explains how several voices can be heard within a company's culture, and is a lone voice in academia too, suggesting that the Marconi Company still didn't get behind broadcasting even when the Melba concerts showed it was possible. Even then, he argues, the transmissions were just to show home-users that wireless communication was easy.

So perhaps when Burrows was explaining to Reith everything about broadcasting, he was STILL fighting the corner for his vision of what radio was, and could be.

And broadcasting has clearly reached its pinnacle in this podcast, so thank you for supporting it...

We are a one-man band - we're NOTHING to do with the present-day BBC - this podcast is entirely run by Paul Kerensa, who you can email if you want to add something to the show on radio history, offer any correspondence, or send us a short audio clip of your earliest broadcasting memories (not as old as 1922, don't worry) for inclusion on a future episode.

Thank you to all who support us on Patreon - if you'd like to join this growing band of marvellous people, I upload extra things there, about half of which are to do with this podcast and radio history (the latest of which is a reading of Cecil Lewis' Broadcasting From Within, the first book on broadcasting, in 1924), and about half of which are general comedy/writing things more like to the weekly Facebook Live I do. Join us on Patreon, and keep us in books and web hosting. It all helps keep us making episodes - we'd genuinely have stopped by now if no one had! So THANK YOU.

I guest-presented an episode for The History of England podcast. Hear it here! It's essentially the entire first season of this podcast, squidged into half an hour. (If it vanishes from their feed, we'll be posting it as a special episode on this podcast in a few months' time). 30,000 people have heard that episode now - 100 times the listenership of our episodes here! So welcome if you've joined us from there...

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.

My other podcast of interviews, from Rev Richard Coles, Miranda Hart, Milton Jones and more is called A Paul Kerensa Podcast - and I'm adding more interviews all the time. Do listen.

My mailing list is here - do subscribe to keep up with things.

My books are available here or orderable from bookshops.


Memos included in this episode are BBC copyright content, reproduced courtesy of the British Broadcasting Corporation, all rights reserved. Archive clips are either public domain or someone's domain but the mists of time has hidden from us whose they are. Thank you, all rights holders! And we hope this is ok with you...

Do please rate and review this podcast where you found it... and keep liking/sharing/commenting on what we do online. It all helps others find us. 

Next time: The staff grows! We look at Marconi House in late December 1922, as Rex Palmer joins, but experimental licences cause a headache for those hoping for any income from this new 'BBC' experiment.

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