The final months of last year saw some notable media anniversaries. BBC World Service (known earlier and successively as the Empire Service and the General Overseas Service) celebrated its 80th birthday. In its opening broadcast on December the 19th 1932 Lord Reith, the then Director-General, warned with dour Scots honesty that "the programmes will not be very good". And in those early days they weren't, though everything changed with the coming of war and the service played a notable role in those years. Just one tiny example: Elsie Gladman, matron of Sunny Bank, recalled how, during the Occupation, along with those elderly or infirm patients who couldn't leave on a coal boat, she would go to the cellar in the evening and huddle over the wireless to hear crackly news from London, ever fearful of the sound of jackbrutes on the stairs. "It wasn't always good news but those calm voices from the BBC did a lot for our morale." Much to the chagrin of many staffers, World Service moved out of Bush House just before the anniversary and now operates from the newly tarted up Broadcasting House. Both physically and humanly "Bush" always had more atmosphere than "BH" and I always enjoyed my occasional visits there. At lunch in the underground canteen it was still possible to understand how it had inspired Orwell's grim dining halls in 1984.
Another of last year's birthdays was the Oldie's 20th. The title is not on our local news-stands (though it's available for consultation at the English American Library in Nice). Soon after the magazine was launched I interviewed its founder Richard Ingrams on my Open Line radio show. It was intended, he told me, "for men who can't work the video and dislike men with ponytails". This, of course, was not a wholly serious limiting profile of its intended audience. Over the years it has attracted a loyal audience and now sells around 43,000 copies. What's it like? It's a pleasingly literate and highly civilised publication with content well tailored to the likely interests of relatively mature men and women who know something about (even if they don't remember personally) the day before yesterday. Every issue has its surprises but it's especially good on books, films and travel, on medical topics and memorial services... and has excellent cartoons (as good as The New Yorker). My favourite tribute came from Beryl Bainbridge: "a Zimmer frame for the mind".
And a third anniversary: our own. Last year (2012), The Riviera Reporter completed 25 years of continuous publication. Our thanks go to the advertisers and readers who've supported us over a quarter of a century. Two things please us: first thing that we've survived among the killing fields of the anglophone media in France where there's been so high a death rate in recent years (think Blue Coast, Riviera Gazette, Let's go Riviera, French News, French Week, the French Paper, plus a couple of publications in the Var which went belly up almost before we'd noticed they were there). Second, we're glad not to be - like a couple of anglophone media here – only surviving by being on a life support system provided by a corporate or individual benefactor who's ready to fork out to cover their losses. The problem is that at any moment such a benefactor could decide to pull the plug.
Media birthdays including 25 years of the Reporter
- Riviera Reporter