Tag: The Week in the West

Of Special Interest

What then goes into regional broadcasting? What is there in it that has any special interest for west-country folk? First of all, there is the reflection of day-to-day life. The London news bulletins tell us what is happening on the national scale, at home and abroad. A treaty signed. A change in coupon values. New wage-scales for railwaymen. Things like that — equally interesting to Scotsman, Englishman, or Welshman. But that is not all the news we want to hear. Events in our own city or island or county — housing plans, local sports results, an industrial exhibition opening, council elections — these are important to those whose lives are connected with them. And so every evening, except Sundays, the West comes on the air with a regional news bulletin.

‘THIS GOES AFTER THE FALMOUTH ITEM’ – Assistant News Editor Stuart Wyton and Senior Announcer Hugh Shirreff make a last-minute change in ‘Tonight’s News from the West Country’.

Throughout the day the Bristol News Room has been receiving reports contributed by some of the 130 correspondents who ‘cover’ the region. An average day will bring in about fifty items, of which anything up to twenty may be used. The news editor selects, condenses, decides which items have the greatest importance or public interest, and drafts the bulletin in its final form. In the studio the news reader runs through it and checks its length for precise timing. A last-minute item is slipped into place hurriedly and, as London signs off with the words ‘That is the end of the General News’, Bristol takes over with the familiar opening words ‘And here is tonight’s news from the West Country’.

The network of correspondents provides the basis of the day’s news. Their reports on what is happening in their home districts build up the general picture of the day’s events. But the modern listener wants something more than a factual bulletin. He wants interviews, eye-witness descriptions, expert commentaries. This means two kinds of supplement to the straightforward bulletin: the prepared talk by someone well informed on a current topic, and the use of recordings made ‘on the spot’.

START POINT – Heard from the Scillies to Dover and far inland – West Region’s main transmitter, on the Devon coast near Start Point.

The prepared talk — the News Talk, in other words — is a regular adjunct to the bulletins, and the speakers include art critics, sports journalists, farming authorities, BBC commentators—men and women of distinction in every field with something to say on a topic that’s in the news. Taken together, the bulletins and news talks give the listener a broad, comprehensive picture of what’s going on in the public life of the West. The world of sport is dealt with similarly in a Saturday review of the day’s events and in an advance talk on Friday evenings.

CITY BY NIGHT – On Plymouth quay, Bill Duncalf records the night scene of a west-country water front.

Recordings are used to give personality, animation, colour, and graphic reality to the studio broadcasts. The BBC’s recording cars — a familiar sight in hundreds of west-country villages and towns — can truly be called ‘the ears of the listener’. Through them he hears the voice of a statesman at a banquet in Southampton, the bustle and excitement of Bampton Pony Fair, the conversation of a Wiltshire shepherd, the roar of a new engine on test in an aircraft factory, the street scenes at Helston during the Furry Dance, sounds which give the feeling of ‘being there’, sounds which tell us what it was really like. These ‘on-the-spot’ recordings are the pictures, the illustrations, of radio. Though used in many programmes outside the news field, they are heard chiefly in The Week in the West and as ‘inserts’ in the daily news.

‘UP IN THE MORNING EARLY’ – Through the night a West Region recording-car drives to Stonehenge to be there in time to greet the dawn – and the Druids.

The Week in the West

AN INFORMAL INTERLUDE IN A ROYAL TOUR – West Regions’ Programme Head, Frank Gillard, with His Majesty on board H.M.S. VANGUARD during the visit to South Africa.

Outside recordings, like films, are cut and edited before they are ready for performance. That is the producer’s job. In the case of a news-magazine like The Week in the West there may be forty or fifty minutes of recordings to be selected and condensed into a quarter of an hour’s broadcast. The first step is to play back the whole batch of recordings and discard those which are unsatisfactory, either on technical grounds or because the material or the speakers are not good enough. From the remainder the producer chooses anything outstanding and begins to plan the general layout of his programme. ‘We’ll lead off with the Sherborne item — it’s a strong one. The launching ceremony must go in for its news value. And as those two are both pretty heavy I’m inclined to tie it off with Johnnie’s bit — it’s light and amusing and good radio’.

Now it’s a case of arithmetic and ‘mark-ing-up’. Fifty seconds of the first disc, starting where the Mayor says ‘Today it gives me great pleasure’, and coming out on applause. The programme engineer marks the grooves of the record at the appropriate spots with a soft yellow pencil. One minute five seconds of disc two. Nineteen seconds of disc three and a quick change-over to the beginning of disc four. And so on, totalling up the minutes and seconds, allowing for Pat Beech’s linking material between the records, allowing too for the opening and closing announcements.

‘COTTAGE ON THE AIR’ – At Bincombe in Dorest Bernard Fishwick takes the microphone to a west-country fireside.

The first rough count will show a surplus — perhaps several minutes too long. The process of cutting now becomes more severe and good material is thinned out to make room for something better. Items are reduced by taking out one speaker whose remarks don’t add very much to what someone else is saying. And then there’s the Mayor — ‘he’s good, but I wish we could get twenty seconds out of him’. The programme engineer plays over the Mayor’s disc again, listening for a chance to come in at a later point. ‘Look, we could skip the opening and come in where he says “This is a milestone”.’

Agreed. That will save eighteen seconds. The engineer makes a fresh mark on the disc and makes a note to ignore the previous one. ‘Disc One. Start at mark two.’

‘TWENTY-THREE SECONDS OVER-RUN’ – ‘The Week in the West’ is still a shade too long. Pat Beech studies the stop-watch while editor Peter Maggs considers what to cut out.

Gradually the chosen excerpts from the week’s recordings are trimmed down to the vital core. Peter Maggs has written the linking sentences which will carry the listener’s attention tidily from one recording to the next. The cue-sheet is prepared, so that the engineer at the ‘gram-bank’ (a series of gramophone turntables) knows the running order and the opening and closing words which should come up when the needle strikes his yellow pencil marks. Because of quick change-overs from one disc to the next he is working on a ‘gram-bank’ with six turntables. Listening to his disc through headphones he can work ahead, setting up each disc in advance with the pick-up needle poised over the precise marked spot. As he hears the cue-line from the studio (‘After the unveiling the Mayor said—’) he brings down the needle, turns the knob which opens the gram ‘channel’ and hears the Mayor take up the story calmly with what was originally his third sentence. ‘It is a milestone. . . .’

The programme is now nearly ready. A final complete run-through checks the overall timing and the smoothness of continuity from one item to the next. Pat Beech keeps glancing anxiously at his stop-watch during that last run and Peter Maggs decides to cut twelve more seconds to be on the safe side. ‘There must be a loose sentence somewhere, and anyway the discs could come in quicker in some places.’ Some slight adjustments of this sort are made, and one more edition of The Week in the West is ready to go out. An illustrated record of some of the week’s events. Fifteen minutes of broadcasting. Behind it many hours of preparation, travelling, recording, rehearsing.

Some regular series in the West of England Home Service


  • Speak your Mind
  • Any Questions
  • Air Space
  • County Commentary
  • Arts Chronicle
  • The Week in the West
  • Window on the West
  • The West at Westminster
  • Sport in the West


  • Smoking Concert
  • The Passing Years
  • At the Piano
  • As Prescribed
  • At the Luscombes
  • Hansom Days
  • What’s your Fancy?
  • Melody for Late Evening



  • The Naturalist
  • Country Questions
  • Bird Song of the Month
  • Village on the Air
  • On the Land
  • For Western Farmers
  • For Western Growers
  • For Western Gardeners


For times of transmission, see the West of England edition of Radio Times and listen to your regional Programme Parade at 8.10 a.m. daily.

Monday to Friday at 6.15 p.m. and on Saturday at 6.25 p.m. West of England News Bulletin.

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