The Word on the Box

Editor: David Porter

I’ve a lot of books on the shelf I’ve referred to but not read (and too many I’ve barely opened). This is one I bought with about a dozen others, bargains, possibly remainders and maybe in some cases, judging by the biro underlining on one page towards the end of this book, second hand.

The Word on the Box is the text of the 1995 London Lectures in Contemporary Christianity, five lectures in all, delivered by experienced broadcasters speaking from a Christian perspective. Robert McLeish was Head of Corporate Management Training in the BBC before he left to become an international management consultant. As far as I’m concerned he’s the author of the definitive radio training book Radio Production; I’ve both the 2nd edition and the 6th (which I used for reference for the sound units I was involved in writing on the current Media HND). Justin Phillips was a BBC radio news veteran having working in the World Service and serving as deputy editor of The World Tonight. He died five years after delivering this lecture just before his fiftieth birthday and just after completing the manuscript of his book C.S. Lewis: In a Time of War about the BBC talks delivered during WWII which made C.S Lewis’s name. Graham Mytton was head of BBC Audience Research at the World Service at the time of this lecture becoming it’s Controller a year later. Alan Rogers had just left the BBC after an illustrious 25 year career including Head of Current Affairs, Magazine Programmes, Head of BBC Schools then BBC Education. At the time of his lecture Alan was a driving force behind ARK2 a cable Christian TV station due to launch imminently. Tim Dean was a senior manager in the World Service rising to Commissioning Editor before leaving in 2002 to become an Anglican Priest.

As it turned out 1995 was an interesting year for the lectures. They are very much of their time and fascinating to read with hindsight. This was a time when technology was making remarkable strides though yet immature enough for the speakers to predict (fairly accurately as it turned out) the impact on broadcasting. This was the time of CDROMs and the Internet was only just beginning to gain traction.

Alan Rogers gave the fourth lecture as Programme Director of ARK2 which would run out of money and fail to launch the following year despite raising £2 million. Other lectures were given in the context of the newly launched Premier Radio which would subsequently have to go “Christian only” to sustain its funding. The fifth speaker, Tim Dean, raised a number of potential problems with what he called “confessional” broadcasters. Funding (and specifically funders “calling the tune”) was one. Indeed Tim’s lecture was remarkably insightful.

Track this book down and consider five remarkable speakers whose broadcasting credentials were matched by their Christian commitment. 25 years later there is much to be learned from these lectures.

Into radio and books, even better when they come together in BBC radio drama adaptations. Mostly thrillers and crime drama from Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie to Kathy Reichs and many others.

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Posted in Christian, Christian radio

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