Endurance of radio programmes

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Brock
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Endurance of radio programmes

Post by Brock »

Just pulled up short by a trail on Radio 4 for Friday Night is Music Night on Radio 2. I'd forgotten it was still going - started in 1952 and according to the BBC website is "the world's longest-running orchestral live music programme on radio". I may have listened to it once or twice in its history.

Why do programmes seem to endure much longer on radio than on television? I've just been listening to The News Quiz, which started in 1977 and still seems as fresh as ever - yet it's a relative youngster compared with other established fixtures like Desert Island Discs or The Archers. The number of similarly long-running television programmes is tiny by comparison.

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Simon Coward
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Re: Endurance of radio programmes

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One thing that must help is that there have effectively been three radio networks controlled by the same company for more than 60 years - they may have changed their names and split at different times in that period, but that must help give them additional continuity of output.

On TV anything really long running, say more than 45 years, would really have to have been made by the BBC or Granada - and for much of that period you'd be looking at the output of a single channel for the BBC and only a partial channel for Granada - and this during periods where the television day was much shorter than the radio day.

Also, particularly for speech radio, there still isn't a huge amount of opposition, particularly on a national basis, that can be received across the air and thus act as a rival.

But are there really that many more on radio?

On TV, Panorama's been going for more than 60 years; The Sky at Night, Songs of Praise and Coronation Street have done more than 50; A Question of Sport and Emmerdale (Farm) more than 40 years.
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Re: Endurance of radio programmes

Post by Brock »

But are there really that many more on radio?
Completely off the top of my head, here's a list of programmes still running that I first heard in the 1970s (and several are a lot older):
From Radio 4: Start the Week, Midweek, Woman's Hour, Any Questions?, Any Answers?, Gardeners' Question Time, Just A Minute, I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue, The News Quiz, Desert Island Discs, The Archers, Today, The World At One, PM, The World Tonight, The World This Weekend, From Our Own Correspondent, The Week in Westminster, Brain of Britain, Round Britain Quiz, Quote...Unquote, You and Yours, Feedback, A Book at Bedtime, Today in Parliament, Yesterday in Parliament, Farming Today, Profile, File on 4, Analysis, In Touch, The Daily Service, Pick of the Week, Money Box, The Food Programme, The Reith Lectures, Prayer for the Day (originally part of Today), Bells on Sunday (about which there was an item on this week's Feedback - no one's quite sure when it started!). I'm sure I've missed some.

Not so many on the other networks but you've got things like Sports Report, which has run on various networks since 1948, and Radio 3's Jazz Record Requests. Radio 3 also has Choral Evensong, previously on Radio 4. A quick scan of the Radio 2 schedules reveals that The Organist Entertains and Listen to the Band are still running.

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Simon Coward
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Re: Endurance of radio programmes

Post by Simon Coward »

That really is quite an impressive list.

A separately billed programme, Bells on Sunday seems to date back to 1985.

Listen to the Band has been on for donkey's years - but not without breaks, it has had gaps in its long run, as has Round Britain Quiz though I think both have run continuously since for more than 30 years even so.

I hadn't thought of sports programmes, so you could add Final Score and Match of the Day to the long-running list of programmes and possibly even something like The Horse of the Year Show.
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Re: Endurance of radio programmes

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It would appear that the first billing for Bells On Sunday was 25th March 1973, but that doesn't mean there were not bells on a Sunday before that incorporated into something else that was billed, or simply played out unbilled at a regular and expected time. Someone with easy access to the PasBs would be able to check.

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Re: Endurance of radio programmes

Post by Simon Coward »

stearn wrote:It would appear that the first billing for Bells On Sunday was 25th March 1973, but that doesn't mean there were not bells on a Sunday before that incorporated into something else that was billed, or simply played out unbilled at a regular and expected time. Someone with easy access to the PasBs would be able to check.
You might be right, although that's Bells on a Sunday, isn't it, rather than Bells on Sunday?
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Re: Endurance of radio programmes

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Simon Coward wrote:That really is quite an impressive list.

A separately billed programme, Bells on Sunday seems to date back to 1985.
It's older than that, although for a while the billing in the Radio Times was simply "Bells". According to Feedback, the programme "Bells on Sunday" first appears in the RT Digital Archive in January 1975, but their own research found a mention of "Bells" on Sunday 25 March 1973. However some listeners remember hearing them in the 60s, and maybe even as long ago as the 40s as an interlude between programmes. The item starts at 21:37 if you're interested:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03kvd4z
Listen to the Band has been on for donkey's years - but not without breaks, it has had gaps in its long run, as has Round Britain Quiz though I think both have run continuously since for more than 30 years even so.
RBQ was cancelled by Radio 4 controller Michael Green in the mid-90s, but reinstated as part of James Boyle's new schedule in 1998 - one of the few good decisions he made in my opinion. If it hadn't been for Boyle's "reforms" it's quite likely that my list above would include such well-regarded programmes as Kaleidoscope, Sport on 4, Breakaway, Science Now, Medicine Now and Week Ending.

I'm surprised that no one appears to have compiled a list of the longest-running radio programmes - at least I can't readily find one.

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stearn
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Re: Endurance of radio programmes

Post by stearn »

I was looking for 'Bells' on Sunday's rather than a title of 'Bells on...'. I'll have to be careful where I leave capital letters.

7.15 am
Apna Hi Ghar Samajhiye
Make Yourself at Home
Programme for Asian listeners
7.45 Bells
followed by programme news
7.50 Sunday Reading
The Death of Ivan llych
by Leo Tolstoy
Read by Paul Scofield (3)
7.55 Weather, programme news

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Re: Endurance of radio programmes

Post by Brock »

Yes, that's the same programme. It was quite often billed differently in the Radio Times from the way it was announced on air. As I recall, the announcers usually called it "Church Bells on Sunday".

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Re: Endurance of radio programmes

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Simon Coward wrote:On TV, Panorama's been going for more than 60 years; The Sky at Night, Songs of Praise and Coronation Street have done more than 50; A Question of Sport and Emmerdale (Farm) more than 40 years.
and Blue Peter of course.

Of course there are some long running shows that had a hiatus: (Strictly) Come Dancing, University Challenge, Mastermind and Dr Who
I hadn't thought of sports programmes, so you could add Final Score and Match of the Day to the long-running list of programmes and possibly even something like The Horse of the Year Show.
Final Score is a fairly recent invention, it was only spun off as a seperate entity in the last few years of Grandstand

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Re: Endurance of radio programmes

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Brock wrote:Not so many on the other networks but you've got things like Sports Report, which has run on various networks since 1948, and Radio 3's Jazz Record Requests. Radio 3 also has Choral Evensong, previously on Radio 4. A quick scan of the Radio 2 schedules reveals that The Organist Entertains and Listen to the Band are still running.
Would the Radio 1 Chart Show count?

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Post by Brock »

Scary wrote: Of course there are some long running shows that had a hiatus: (Strictly) Come Dancing, University Challenge, Mastermind
Mastermind ran on Radio 4, presented by Peter Snow, from 1998 to 2000. If you include the Discovery Channel version then it's never really stopped at all.

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Scary wrote:
Brock wrote:Not so many on the other networks but you've got things like Sports Report, which has run on various networks since 1948, and Radio 3's Jazz Record Requests. Radio 3 also has Choral Evensong, previously on Radio 4. A quick scan of the Radio 2 schedules reveals that The Organist Entertains and Listen to the Band are still running.
Would the Radio 1 Chart Show count?
Yeah, I'd say so. It's changed its length, title, format and presenter on numerous occasions, but it's always played that week's "official" number 1 just before 7pm on a Sunday, ever since Radio 1 launched in 1967.

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Re: Endurance of radio programmes

Post by Simon Coward »

Scary wrote:Final Score is a fairly recent invention, it was only spun off as a seperate entity in the last few years of Grandstand
It's only exclusively been a separate entity in the last few years, I agree, but it's had life outside of Grandstand periodically since at least the tail end of 1971 so it's not remotely a recent invention - although its format today bears little relationship to its format forty-odd years ago.

In fact around this time in 1971, Grandstand regularly stopped at about 15:50, then we had an episode of the Western series Lancer for fifty minutes, and then Final Score started at 16:40.
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Re: Endurance of radio programmes

Post by Brock »

A few additions to my earlier list: Poetry Please! (started 1979), With Great Pleasure (started 1970 or earlier), Sunday (the religious affairs programme - not sure of start date), On Your Farm. I suppose one might add Thought for the Day though it's never been a stand-alone programme.

Profile seems to have had a pretty long gap - I think it was cancelled some time in the 80s and reinstated in the 1998 schedule changes.

Cheekily, I might add What the Papers Say, which has been running since 1956. Of course, it was on television for most of its life and didn't get picked up by radio until 2010.

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Post by Brock »

And still they come: The Living World. Tucked away early on Sunday mornings and alternating with On Your Farm, but it's there.

I think there's something in the nature of the Radio 4 audience that makes controllers terrified of getting rid of established programmes. The only one in my lifetime to carry out a thoroughgoing cull was the aforementioned James Boyle, and he must be the most unpopular controller in its history. If he hadn't changed The Week's Good Cause into The Radio 4 Appeal, it would be the longest-running radio programme of all, starting in 1926.

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Re: Endurance of radio programmes

Post by Nigel Stapley »

I think part of it is that voices don't age in the same obvious way as faces do, so the 'look' (as it were) of the programme becomes stale less quickly. That - and the innate conservatism which Brock notes - tend to combine to ensure longevity.

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Post by Brock »

Nigel Stapley wrote:I think part of it is that voices don't age in the same obvious way as faces do, so the 'look' (as it were) of the programme becomes stale less quickly.
That's an interesting theory, but nearly all the programmes I mentioned have had several changes of personnel during their run. (Although Nigel Rees is still presenting Quote...Unquote, three of the ISIHAC panellists are still going, and - at the incredible age of 90 - Nicholas Parsons is still presenting Just A Minute.) Also several of the programmes have had substantial changes in format: for example Any Answers? started as a letters programme and is now a phone-in. I don't think there are many programmes that have survived completely unchanged; even From Our Own Correspondent (one of the simplest formats imaginable) brought in Kate Adie as regular presenter rather than using continuity announcers. Radio seems much more capable than television of refreshing old formats to keep up with the times.

Incidentally, one television programme that has done this (and hasn't been mentioned yet) is Film 71. (Obviously with annual title changes!)

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Re: Endurance of radio programmes

Post by wittoner »

Top Gear is another long running tv show that has evolved over the years to the point of being
unrecognisable from it's original incarnation.

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wittoner wrote:Top Gear is another long running tv show that has evolved over the years to the point of being
unrecognisable from it's original incarnation.
More of a one off change, made when the original version was cancelled and a new concept was commissioned in 2002.

Didn't Radio 4 do the same with 'Breakaway' at about the same time, but much less successfully? Or was that another show?

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Post by JezR »

The first big 'shift' was from Midlands monthly regional programme with the likes of Tom Coyne to the network show. The rest was more of a gradual evolution as some presenters spanned more than one producer's view of the show and others departed at the same time; eg Angela Rippon survived into the national show; William Woolard overlapped with Jeremy Clarkson into the 90s etc. The amount of location vs studio material also waxed and waned over the years.

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David Boothroyd wrote: Didn't Radio 4 do the same with 'Breakaway' at about the same time, but much less successfully? Or was that another show?
There was a change in format with Breakaway, when it went from being a 45-minute programme covering "holidays, travel and leisure" (including things like TV reviews) to a 30-minute programme concentrating on holidays alone. It coincided with the introduction (mid-80s) of a Saturday edition of Today, which meant that more programmes had to be squeezed into the space after 9am (Sport on 4 had to be shrunk as well). The new version survived until the Boyle "reforms" of 1998, so I think it's fair to say that it was reasonably successful.

The one bewildering change was Going Places. This was a programme about transport, traditionally broadcast on Fridays at 6.30pm. Then one year it was replaced by an "out-an-about" programme, in some ways similar to the old version of Breakaway, with the same title and in the same time slot but otherwise with no connection to the original programme. I remember a listener to Feedback making the tongue-in-cheek suggestion that Does He Take Sugar?, the programme covering disability issues, could be replaced by a food and drink programme called Does He Take Sugar?.

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Post by Brock »

Brock wrote:Radio seems much more capable than television of refreshing old formats to keep up with the times.

Incidentally, one television programme that has done this (and hasn't been mentioned yet) is Film 71. (Obviously with annual title changes!)
Apropos of this, I'm currently listening to Barry Norman chairing the pilot episode of The News Quiz, recorded in 1977 but not broadcast until R4 Extra picked it up in 2011. The panellists are Richard Ingrams, Nigel Dempster, Russell Davies (who for some reason was known as "Dai Davies" then) and Alan Coren (who either pronounced his name differently in those days, or Barry Norman mispronounced it all the way through the programme) - none of the professional comedians who now usually make up the entire panel. More of a straight question-and-answer format, although there are still plenty of laughs, and there's a "mystery guest" round (which I don't think made it into the actual programme). And none of the newsreader-read cuttings that feature so strongly in the programme nowadays, although the panellists do read their own out at the end. Quite a curiosity.

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Brock wrote:... A quick scan of the Radio 2 schedules reveals that The Organist Entertains and Listen to the Band are still running.
I've known them so long and 'The organist Entertains' often had some interesting information, that I'm quite sad to see that tonight's programmes are the last of these very long running radio shows.
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Private Frazer wrote:
Brock wrote:... A quick scan of the Radio 2 schedules reveals that The Organist Entertains and Listen to the Band are still running.
I've known them so long and 'The organist Entertains' often had some interesting information, that I'm quite sad to see that tonight's programmes are the last of these very long running radio shows.
Indeed they are. The official line is that they're being "rested", but it's pretty clear that they're being retired. There's a big shake-up of the Radio 2 evening schedules starting next Monday, with several new shows, some existing shows being rescheduled, and a few being dropped:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/latest ... g-schedule

I'm quite looking forward to the changes (I was never a fan of Jo Whiley's 8-10pm show). Sad to see a couple of old favourites going though.

EDIT: Checking my earlier list of Radio 4's long-runners, I'm sad to say that Midweek ended in March 2017. Everything else still seems to be going strong, with one exception:
Cheekily, I might add What the Papers Say, which has been running since 1956. Of course, it was on television for most of its life and didn't get picked up by radio until 2010.
... and was killed off in 2016. Evidence of the declining influence of the press?

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"...I've known them so long and 'The organist Entertains' often had some interesting information, that I'm quite sad to see that tonight's programmes are the last of these very long running radio shows."

My only surprise is that they kept them on so long.
They are dinosaurs from the days when people 'listened-in', and hardy fit today's radio remit of 'uniform and consistent background noise'.

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brigham wrote:today's radio remit of 'uniform and consistent background noise'.
That might apply to some of Radio 2's daytime output, but I don't think the evening schedules can be described that way. They're keeping the specialist blues, jazz, folk and country programmes (although moving them an hour later), and Friday Night Is Music Night will continue to feature the BBC Concert Orchestra as it has since 1953. I've started listening a lot more in the last couple of years, especially to things like Clare Teal's Sunday night swing and big band programme, which I think is excellent (a great live show from the Cheltenham Jazz Festival last week).

There was some controversy over the decision to replace Paul Jones with Cerys Matthews as presenter of the Monday night blues show after 32 years. I don't know how far it was his decision and how far the network's - he's 76 now. (Although Radio 2 still has several presenters in their seventies - Bob Harris, Tony Blackburn and Johnnie Walker. Paul Gambaccini's not far off.)

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