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Bernard Shaw and the BBC

Bernard Shaw and the BBC

Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 256
  • Book Info
    Bernard Shaw and the BBC
    Book Description:

    Drawing on extensive archival materials held in England, the United States, and Canada,Bernard Shaw and the BBCpresents a vivid portrait of many contentious issues negotiated between Shaw and the public broadcaster.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8743-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  6. A Chronology of Bernard Shaw and the BBC
    (pp. xix-xxii)
  7. Abbreviations
    (pp. xxiii-2)
  8. 1 In the Beginning, 1923–1928
    (pp. 3-37)

    It is unclear precisely when the BBC first approached Shaw to broadcast, but a letter of 12 May 1923 from Shaw to Herbert Thring, secretary of the Society of Authors, shows that Shaw was by then involved in discussions with the BBC about what to do for them and how much to charge (CL3:825). He wasn’t quite sure what the amount should be (‘Hang me if I know,’ he said to Thring), but Shaw’s assumption from the beginning of the BBC was that the broadcasting of plays constituted performance under the terms of the 1911 Copyright Act. No plays...

  9. 2 Saint Joan, 1929
    (pp. 38-49)

    By early 1929 the prospects for what would be the BBC’s highest-profile drama production yet, and what for Shaw would be by far the largest audience one of his plays had ever reached, looked promising. With a potential audience of some ten million listeners,¹ the proposed production ofSaint Joanthat Roger Eckersely had discussed with Shaw in December 1928 (see above, p.36) would be a landmark occasion for both Shaw and the BBC, but pulling it off wasn’t going to be easy.

    The goodwill that seemed to have developed between Eckersley and Shaw was crucial to the negotiations that...

  10. 3 ‘Saying Nice Things Is Not My Business’: Shaw Talks, 1929–1937
    (pp. 50-73)

    On the morning of Sunday 3 September 1939 Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain addressed the British people on radio to inform them that Britain was at war with Germany. The broadcast reached practically all areas of Great Britain, the installation of regional transmitters throughout the 1930s having greatly extended the BBC’s reach. The British public responded to the BBC’s expansion initiatives by buying licences and receivers in record numbers. In 1930 more than 1000 new licences a day were issued (over 400,000 for the year), ‘unanswerable proof,’ observed the BBC, ‘of the rapidity with which Broadcasting has sloughed the skins of...

  11. 4 ‘Radiogenic Shaw’: Broadcast Plays, 1929–1939
    (pp. 74-88)

    By the time of the landmark broadcast ofSaint Joanin April 1929 (see chapter 2), drama was a regular feature of BBC programming. Two years afterSaint Joan, the BBC had accumulated a ‘Play Library’ of 3000 scripts, was receiving about 2000 new plays a year for consideration for broadcasting, had about 600 actors in its files, and was producing at least one play a week (RT, 3 April 1931). Drama, however, was by no means a universally admired feature of BBC programming. ‘I cannot understand,’ wrote one listener in 1931, ‘why the BBC persists in broadcasting plays. I...

  12. 5 ‘GBS Has Been Very Kindly Disposed’: Pre-War Television
    (pp. 89-98)

    When, in 1925, responding to a question about the impact of broadcasting on the theatre, Shaw said, ‘If I could see and hear a play from my fireside I would never enter a theatre again,’¹ he was still (like everyone in Great Britain) coming to terms with the introduction of radio into British homes. The use of the verbseein his response had no immediate application, but it was, perhaps, an unconsciously prescient insight into a situation that was soon to become reality. John Logie Baird had started experiments with television as early as 1923, and advances were such...

  13. 6 ‘I Won’t Have That Man on the Air’: The War Years
    (pp. 99-128)

    The 1930s have been described as the BBC’s ‘golden age,’ a decade during which the BBC established itself as ‘a source of authority over the language, an arbiter of cultural taste, a national impresario and a reinvigorator of national drama and song’ (Smith 62). The authoritarian and unashamedly élitist leadership of John Reith had not prevented the BBC from building a massive popular audience. By the time Reith announced his retirement in June 1938 (to become chairman of Imperial Airways, precursor of British Overseas Airways Corporation and, ultimately, British Airways) there were over thirty million listeners in Great Britain. Reith...

  14. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  15. 7 Television Returns, 1946–1950
    (pp. 129-137)

    Plans for the reintroduction of television broadcasting in Britain – suspended on the outbreak of war in 1939 (see above, p. 97) – began well before the end of the war with the establishment in September 1943 of a government committee (chaired by Lord Hankey) mandated to ‘prepare plans for the reinstatement and development of the television service after the war’ (Paulu 52). Even though the Allies had begun several important military offensives by the autumn of 1943 (including the invasion of Italy), the government decision to pay attention to the future of television when the outcome of the war was by...

  16. 8 Radio Finale, 1945–1950
    (pp. 138-159)

    Between a broadcast on 19 June 1944 ofThe Adventures of the Black Girl in Her Search for Godand a schools broadcast of excerpts fromCaesar and Cleopatraon 6 July 1945 there was a profound Shavian silence on BBC radio – no plays of his, no talks by him, and no talks about him. There had never been such a Shawless period in the whole history of the BBC. And then there was another hiatus of almost six months before the next Shaw broadcast on 16 December 1945 – a sound excerpt from the film version ofCaesar and Cleopatra.¹...

  17. Epilogue
    (pp. 160-170)

    Shaw died just before 5:00 am on Thursday 2 November 1950. BBC news broadcasts carried the announcement of his death at the earliest opportunity – 7:00 am on the Home Service, 9:00 am on the Light. (The Third Programme did not begin transmissions until 6:00 pm, and did not, in any case, broadcast news bulletins.) Obituaries and tributes were broadcast later in the day on the Home Service (by Peter Bingham) after the 9:00 pm news, followed immediately by a tribute by St John Ervine. On the Light Programme a tribute was given by Hesketh Pearson in the daily ‘News and...

  18. Appendix 1 Shaw’s Broadcast Plays and Talks, 1923–1950
    (pp. 171-175)
  19. Appendix 2 Texts of Selected Shaw Broadcasts
    (pp. 176-210)
  20. Appendix 3 German Wartime Propaganda Broadcasts about Shaw, 1940
    (pp. 211-213)
  21. Appendix 4 BBC Obituaries of Shaw
    (pp. 214-240)
  22. Notes
    (pp. 241-272)
  23. Bibliography
    (pp. 273-276)
  24. Index
    (pp. 277-292)