This New Noise: The Extraordinary Birth and Troubled Life of the BBC
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Charlotte Higgins, the Guardian's chief culture writer, steps behind the polished doors of Broadcasting House and investigates the BBC. Based on her hugely popular essay series, this personal journey answers the questions that rage around this vulnerable, maddening and uniquely British institution. Questions such as, what does the BBC mean to us now? What are the threats to its continued existence? Is it worth fighting for?
Higgins traces its origins, celebrating the early pioneering spirit and unearthing forgotten characters whose imprint can still be seen on the BBC today. She explores how it forged ideas of Britishness both at home and abroad. She shows how controversy is in its DNA and brings us right up to date through interviews with grandees and loyalists, embattled press officers and high profile dissenters, and she sheds new light on recent feuds and scandals.
This is a deeply researched, lyrically written, intriguing portrait of an institution at the heart of Britain.
the McAlpine story was that tweets started to appear before the screening of the report, causing speculation to coalesce around McAlpine as the probable public figure whom Messham had identified, mistakenly, as his past abuser. ‘As soon as I saw that first tweet,’ said one Newsnight staffer, ‘I knew I’d lost my job.’ What was clear was that no one involved emerged unaffected. Two years on, there remained bitterness, damaged careers, deep feelings of injustice. Investigative reporters Liz MacKean
building [New Broadcasting House] in a lift which has Radio 1Xtra plumbed into it. I don’t quite understand why the BBC does Radio 1Xtra, I don’t really understand why it does Radio 1. Clearly, you can meet those needs commercially … the BBC has got an unfortunate history of never seeing an area of broadcasting, or increasingly a web presence, without feeling the need to get into it itself. He went on: There’s no argument that the BBC distorts the marketplace in online [news]. Hugely distorts
in a post-imperial age. In its white paper on independence, it had been the Scottish National Party’s policy that in the event of a ‘yes’ vote, BBC Scotland should be severed from the rump of the corporation and a Scottish Broadcasting Service established. Many in Scotland had been sceptical about the notion – skeletal and short on detail as it was. But even among those who believed in retaining the union were many who argued that the BBC should examine afresh how successfully it related to the
might be seen as reflecting a modern sense of Britishness: one that is multicultural; one that is more porously open to world influence; one that looks a little more like what one might actually see in the streets of that world city, London. But there remained many questions. Why should the British citizenry pay for this soft diplomacy through their licence fee? What was in it for them when the BBC supports Hausa or Somali or Kirundi services? The services in turn were placed in a position where
BBC was now tackling the notion of community with fresh vigour, ready to open a channel for direct, unmediated communication with audiences. The BBC had traditionally been something of a fortress; you have been either within it or outside. Hall told me he was determined to change that. The corporation must and would become ‘porous’, he said. Instead of the portcullis being shut the BBC would, in the future, send its audiences out of the castle precincts and towards the work of other