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April 18, 2020

April 18, 1930: BBC Reported There Was No News, Then Played Out With Piano Music

On April 18, 1930, at 8:45 p.m., people all over Britain settled in to catch the BBC News evening bulletin. But when they flipped on their radios, they heard a soothing announcement instead: “Good evening. Today is Good Friday. There is no news.” For the rest of the 15-minute time slot, the station played only piano music.


According to Atlas Obscura, the BBC decided what was worth reporting on, and according to them, it was better to stay silent than to fail to clear this bar. Radio announcers got their stories from Reuters, the Press Association, the Central News, and the Exchange Telegraph Company, “whose ‘tape’ machines disgorge their varied treasure into the News Room all day,” as the outlet’s 1931 Review of the Year explains. They’d then pick and choose from this disgorgement. As the 1930 Review put it, “A very definite standard of quality was aimed at, and … when there was not sufficient news judged worthy of being broadcast, no attempt was made to fill the gap.”

BBC News Director Helen Bowden says it could never happen today: “You’ve got to remember that it was an age of deference... there was an accepted mode of that the public should hear about and on that day that accepted mode and convention meant that there was nothing suitable for the public to hear.”

This was how most people got their news in 1930 – listening to wireless radio; TV broadcasts started six years later. (Photo: BBC)


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