Last weekend BBC radio celebrated the 40th anniversary of its four main stations. In tribute to the former BBC Light Programme, BBC4 broadcast a half-hour TV documentary called "Whatever happened to Radio 2?".
At time of writing, the station's homepage drops several "modern" names (Arcade Fire, Russell Brand) and recent TV adverts have understandably made much of its current status as the most listened to station in the UK, but a number of long-running programmes with less widespread appeal continue to appear in the schedules. This documentary features several of these, interviewing some of the presenters and listeners involved.
These programmes seem to fall into two camps. Some are purveyors of genuine easy-listening music from a more innocent pre-"lounge" era. One such is the Desmond Carrington programme (his most recent playlist features Lena Horne, Henry Mancini and "Anchors Aweigh" by the Dutch Royal Marines/Swing College Band). Another is Friday Night Is Music Night which features the BBC Concert Orchestra performing golden oldies like "Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines" and "The Dambusters".
There are also genre-specific programmes: Nigel Ogden's recitals on cinema, theatre and church organs on the Organist Entertains, 86-year-old Humphrey Lyttleton's Best of Jazz), brass band music on Listen to the Band, Mike Harding's Wednesday evening folk music programme. All these are featured on tonight's documentary.
Only goes to prove that there's still a whole Middle England subculture which exists way off the radar of the usual bland daytime radio programming and credit to the station for standing by these niche programmes in the face of pressure to "broaden the station's appeal". There are some commercial stations who have caved in in this regard.
Other articles on BBC radio's 40th anniversary celebrations:
- msn.uk report
- Miranda Sawyer in the Observer.