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Life On Air

A History of Radio Four

Life On Air
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US$ 22.99
Radio Four has been described as 'the greatest broadcasting channel in the world', 'the heartbeat of the BBC', and a cultural icon of Britishness. In this first major behind-the-scenes account of the station's history, David Hendy draws on the BBC's vast archives and interviews with key personnel to tell the compelling inside stories behind its best-loved programmes like Today, The Archers, Gardeners' Question Time, and the Shipping Forecast. From its birth in 1967, Hendy

explores the station's struggle to justify itself in a television age amid passionate disputes with its fiercely loyal listeners. A kaleidoscopic view of the changing nature of the BBC, this book provides a gripping insight into the very nature of British life and culture in the last decades of the twentieth

century. - ;Radio Four has been described as 'the greatest broadcasting channel in the world', the 'heartbeat of the BBC', a cultural icon of Britishness, and the voice of Middle England. Defined by its rich mix, encompassing everything from journalism and drama to comedy, quizzes, and short-stories, its programmes - such as Today,The Archers, Woman's Hour, The Hitchhiker's Guide To the Galaxy, Gardeners' Question Time, and The Shipping Forecast - have been part

of British life for decades. Others, less successful, have caused offence and prompted derision. Born as it was in the Swinging Sixties, Radio Four's central challenge has been to change with the times, while trying not to lose faith with those who see it as a standard-bearer for quality, authoritativeness, or simply

'old-fashioned' BBC values.

In this first major behind-the-scenes account of the station's history, David Hendy - a former producer for Radio Four - draws on privileged access to the BBC's own archives and new interviews with key personnel to illuminate the arguments and controversies behind the creation of some of its most popular programmes. He reveals the station's struggle to justify itself in a television age, favouring clear branding and tightly-targeted audiences, with bitter disputes between the BBC and its

fiercely loyal listeners. The story of these struggles is about more than the survival of one radio network: Radio Four has been a lightning rod for all sorts of wider social anxieties over the past forty years. A kaleidoscopic view of the changing nature of the BBC, the book provides a gripping insight

into the very nature of British life and culture in the last decades of the twentieth century. - ;...meticulously documented... a magnificent chronicle. - Laurie Taylor, THES;An unalloyed treat... If Radio 4 is a great four-funnelled liner, radiating serene intelligence and self-control, this is the ship's secret logbook. Life on Air is a gem. - Libby Purves, The Times;Filled with riveting detail and anecdote, constantly illuminating ... endlessly engrossing. - Stefan Collini, Guardian Review;Hendy has explored those relating to Radio 4 in its first two decades very thoroughly indeed. - Stefan Collini, Guardian Review;Hendy's book will certainly sort the sheep from the goats among listeners - Kate Chisholm, Daily Telegraph;Hendy charts in masterly detail the improbable evolution of a network. - John Tusa, Times Literary Supplement;Hendy examines a many-faceted national treasure with the cool eye of a jeweller and the ardour of a proper fan. - Libby Purves, The Tablet;Revelatory. - Advance praise from Ned Sherrin, broadcaster;Eminently readable, utterly reliable, on occasions painfully frank, it is a joy to read. - Advance praise from Gillian Reynolds, Radio Critic of the Daily Telegraph;A tremendous read: impeccable research used with wit and insight about a national treasure. - Advance praise from Jean Seaton, Official Historian of the BBC;This is the reverse of sexed up. - Valerie Grove, Literary Review;[An] academically rigorous, but eminently readable book that rightly sub-titles itself A History of Radio 4 - Jenni Murray, Daily Mail;engrossing and highly entertaining reading...this is a rich book about a rich subject - Camden New Journal;[A] fine, meticulous history - Financial Times;There is a nugget of surprising and entertaining fact on every page. - Lisa Mullen, Time Out

Oxford University Press, UK; September 2007
544 pages; ISBN 9780191580208
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