The Great War and British broadcasting: emotional life in the creation of the BBC

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Summer 2014
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This essay attempts to re-assess the early history of British broadcasting by drawing attention to the role of mood in shaping the lives and attitudes of the founding figures of the BBC in the interwar period. It argues that their direct experience of World War One triggered a pervasive ‘sonic-mindedness’, which involved not just a heightened sensitivity to noise but the cultivation of a more critical approach to listening. Other moods and emotions, such as a post-war veneration of home and a desire for social and personal stability, also reinforced the appeal of radio and so helped give a sense of purpose to those who helped found the BBC. The essay concludes that the BBC of the 1920s and 1930s might be thought of as a cultural institution shaped by ‘systems of feeling’ as much as by rational planning and coherent policy.

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NF 82 Mood Work