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The New Noise

The Extraordinary Birth and Troubled Life of the BBC

Charlotte Higgins

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Trying to understand the BBC is like trying to understand a city-state. It has its court, its grandees and aristocrats, its artists and creators, its put-upon working class, its cliques and dissidents and rebels, its hangers on, the corrupt and the criminal.

Marconi founded his teelgraph company in Britain bc he assumed that shipping communication wd be the main use of tech, and Britain was the great mercantile nation.

The idea of 'one signal to many receivers' came not from companies or govts, it came from a community of enthusiasts working in backyard sheds. In 1920 the Daily Mail organized Dame Nellie Melba to the marconi HQ, and broadcast half an hour of her singing. Her voice was clearly heard across Europe, and the event was widely reported.

But the problem was that wavelengths were being commandeered when the military or aviation wanted them. So the Post Office set up a new British Broadcasting Company, financed by a licence fee, and having a monopoly on broadcasting.

John Reith,the founding DG, left in 1936, absolutely convinced that televison would go nowhwere.

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