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Cover Story: Radio Times At 90

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by Bryony Harrison (subscribe)
Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from goo.gl/Ta4oAX.
Event: -
Pose With a Dalek
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Cover Story


Most people these days probably rely on the internet to find out what's on the television schedule, but ever loyal and traditional, I still subscribe to the good old Radio Times. The weekly magazine provides detailed coverage of most radio and television programmes, and also includes behind the scenes interviews, guest columnists, and film reviews. I enjoy tackling their crosswords, finding out what Sarah Millican has been doing on her couch each week, and planning what I'm going to watch.

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The first edition of the 'Radio Times'.


The Radio Times was founded by the BBC after Fleet Street newspapers refused to list their radio programmes for free. Instead the BBC created their own official magazine, which was first published on the 28th September 1923.

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'Radio Times' Front Covers


The black and white front cover was pretty boring and, did nothing to encourage buyers, but it did not take long for colourful illustrated prints to make an appearance.

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'Radio Times' in the sixties.


It was not until 1962, however, that coloured photography came in, which allowed for even greater publicity.

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'Radio Times' award winning 'Doctor Who' cover from 2006.


Ninety years on since its first publication, The Radio Times has transformed, becoming bigger, better, and full of vivid poster worthy front covers. To celebrate its birthday, the Museum of London is holding an exhibition in its honour. Cover Story spans ninety years of iconic cover, historic broadcasts, and footage from the BBC archives. There is also the chance to pose in front of The Radio Times's award winning Doctor Who cover from 2006.

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Daleks invade London.


Doctor Who is a prominent feature in the exhibit, but it is ironic that in 1963, a cover featuring the first Doctor, William Hartnell, was rejected because the BBC were afraid he would not prove popular enough. While preparing for Cover Story, the BBC actually found the original, but never published the cover in their archives. How wrong they were. And how times have changed. Now, barely a week goes by without some mention of the show. The Radio Times is Doctor Who crazy.

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Wireless Radio


The BBC funded the Radio Times with the royalties they earned from wireless radios. There were two types of wireless; the first was called a valve, and too expensive for most households. The cheaper alternative was a crystal set which could be bought either ready made or as part of an assembly kit.

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When war broke out, the BBC declared 'Broadcasting carries on'. They used the Radio Times as a propaganda tool, but also as a way to keep up spirits. They scheduled special programmes for the armed forces, which were published in a separate issue.

In 1955 the BBC found themselves with competition. ITV was launched and they created the TV Times. It was a penny more expensive than the Radio Times, but had a fancier design. Competition grew again with the arrival of Sky in 1989. In order to stay in business, the BBC started listing programmes broadcast by other companies.

Cover Story is free to see, and runs until the 3rd November. Although it is a small exhibit, it is very detailed, and will have you looking round for a good while.
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Why? Informative and fun
When: Until 3rd Nov
Phone: 020 7001 9844
Where: Museum of London
Cost: Free
Your Comment
Great article Bryony. Love the sense of history and tradition :)
by Katy Holliday (score: 3|1129) 1832 days ago
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