Sunday, 6 October 2013

Broadcasting House

I was on Loose Ends on Radio 4 yesterday evening. If anyone fancies a listen it is here:

Loose Ends comes from Broadcasting House in Portland Place. The old bit of the building looks a bit like an ocean liner on the point of setting sail, like the Chartered Accountancy building at the start of Monty Python’s Meaning of Life. How I have wished, on the three occasions I have been there, that it would sail away down Upper Regent Street and save me from the torture of having to be interviewed on the radio.

As you are taken into the studio, you wonder fleetingly whether this might be the same room in which a BBC announcer told the nation in hushed tones that ‘the King’s life is moving peacefully towards its close’, or perhaps where General de Gaulle, just before his famous broadcast of 18 June 1940, was asked by the engineer to say something to check the sound level, and responded in a booming voice, ‘La France!’. Of course, it is just as likely to be the place where Dave Lee Travis patented his famous ‘quack quack oops’ sound effect.

After the broadcast, you are taken downstairs and have time to glance at the Eric Gill statue, ‘The Sower’, in the Art Deco reception. The metaphor adheres to the literal sense of the word ‘broadcast’, which radio borrowed from the farmer’s term for scattering seeds over a wide surface. As the sower casts seed, so does broadcasting cast its carrier waves over the land to anyone who wants to hear them. And so, as you are decanted on to a busy and unbothered London street, you wonder if anyone in the wide world was listening.

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