Genome genius 

16 October 2014

Oh, my darling BBC. When you’re good, you’re very very good. And thanks to the unique way the BBC is funded, we’ve been gifted this piece of wonderfulness: the Genome project.


A searchable database of every Radio Times during the lifetime of the BBC’s ownership of the venerable listings magazine is a wonderful tool for every television and radio historian. And it’s free, which is wonderful for every poor television and radio historian (that’s most of us, believe me).

A lot of thought has gone into the various search options, and for once BBC Online has remember its heritage correctly and not resorted to thinking that the Light Programme was a programme. You can search by date or by channel, going back to the original British Broadcasting Company low-power radio stations of the 1920s, as well as a (slightly creaky) advanced programme search option. Perfect!

BBCGenome2Of course, such a thing is only as good as the data in the Radio Times – a magazine produced over a week in advance listing what the BBC planned to put out, rather than what it managed to broadcast – as seen from the listings for the last day of the Television Service before World War II knocked it off air.

Also, there are anomalies beyond even the expected drift between publication and broadcast. For instance, there’s a week at the end of November 1945 with a list of Television Service programmes. A transcription error? Something the BBC hoped to do but didn’t manage? Something the BBC did do but history has completely forgotten? It certainly calls for further research.

Meanwhile, the BBC are accepting moderated edits to the listings. This is mostly correcting the OCR, which is never wonderful despite the march of technology, but they’re also trying to marry up the plans with the actual output, as with the closure of the Television Service in 1939.

If you’ve not already had a play with the site, go and do it now. Stop working and start playing. Honestly, you’ll thank me. The servers at the BBC are struggling under the weight at the moment, but it’s worth you hovering over the ‘refresh’ button.

You Say

4 responses to this article

Owen Stephens 17 October 2014 at 3:13 pm

That 25th November 1945 listing is identical to the listing on 23rd June 1946

This book states 23rd June 1946 was the first TV production of the Bernard Shaw play St Joan – so seems likely the 1945 entry is in error

Gary Sanders 31 October 2014 at 12:01 pm

I put a couple of paragraphs about this on my own blog – nowhere near as extensive an analysis…

Ben Grabham 19 November 2014 at 12:50 pm

It’s a thing of beauty – just had my first play with it, and discovered a programme that had thought I made up – turns out I hadn’t (Jackanory – Discovery of the Source of the M1 featuring Instant Sunshine, t/x28 July 1982) !

Russ J Graham 19 November 2014 at 12:54 pm

Gosh, I remember that one too, Ben!

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