Mullen, Richard, Contemporary Review
Few recent events have been so well covered by all sections of the media as the fiftieth anniversary of D Day in June. Television, which is to say mainly the BBC, gave it lavish coverage and brought many unforgettable moments into our homes. Who can ever forget the sight of the Queen joining in the singing of `We'll Hang Out the Washing on the Siegfried Line' as the veterans marched before her at Arromanches. Nor could one forget the singularly felicitous touch in her moving speech -- perhaps the finest she has ever given -- when she mentioned the presence of the French Minister-in-Attendance on the platform. As a young Jewish girl she had been herded into Auschwitz. It was for her and for people like her, said the Queen, that the Allies fought the war. That rare touch of unrestrained feeling when her voice faltered at the end of her address only added to the emotion of the occasion. Even President Clinton managed to behave with some dignity and speak with sincerity. This is where no other medium can equal television: it can put the viewer in the front row of events as they happen, be they across the street, across the Channel or on the other side of the world.
Yet television rarely excels at serious analysis or historical background. In the case of D Day, BBC Television did present an excellent two-part documentary by Charles Wheeler about the Battle for Normandy. Wheeler is himself a veteran of the campaign. This was an `old-fashioned documentary' where the presenter knew what he was talking about and where he began at the start and ended at the finish. Wheeler was able to talk not only to Allied veterans but to Germans and Frenchmen in their own languages. This type of television documentary grew out of the great tradition of BBC Radio. The excellence of this documentary only emphasised how puerile so much of television has become in the last decade.
For really informed programmes one has had to look to -- or rather, listen to -- radio. For many decades BBC Radio has presented numerous programmes on history and literature. This work has done more than all the universities combined to preserve our heritage and to share it with all who can afford a radio and the time to listen.…
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Publication information: Article title: Radio History. Contributors: Mullen, Richard - Author. Magazine title: Contemporary Review. Volume: 265. Issue: 1543 Publication date: August 1994. Page number: 94+. © 1999 Contemporary Review Company Ltd. COPYRIGHT 1994 Gale Group.
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