Hang The DJ! The Musicians’ Union and the early days of Radio 1

The End of the Pirates

The Marine & Broadcasting Offences Act of 1967 outlawed the pirate radio stations the Musicians’ Union had opposed since their inception, but it forced the Union into a series of protracted negotiations with the BBC, where some of their adversaries from the past showed no inclination to keep a low profile. Martin Cloonan explains:

When the Marine & Broadcasting Offences Act was passed in August 1967, it signaled the end of an era of offshore pirate radio stations as the Act made it illegal to supply the pirate ships, which had been broadcasting a diet of unlicensed ‘non-stop’ pop music to parts of the UK to the considerable irritation of both the Union and the BBC since the launch of Radio Caroline in 1964. While Caroline and some other stations defied the ban and carried on for a number of years, most of the pirates gave up. Six weeks later the BBC introduced its alternative to the pirates – Radio 1 – which went live on 30 September 1967.

A mixed blessing

For the Musicians’ Union the advent of Radio 1 was something of a mixed blessing more helpful hints. On the one hand, it was welcomed as part of the moves to curtail the pirates whose presence the Union had opposed on both practical and ideological grounds.

From the former perspective, the pirates were playing an unlimited number of records, which the MU still viewed as depriving live musicians of work. Prior to the pirates, only the BBC (which held a monopoly) was broadcasting records and the quantity was restricted by a series of “needletime” agreements.

These were a result of agreements reached between the record companies (represented by Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL)) and both the Union and the BBC in 1946 and 1947. Under these, the BBC agreed to limit its usage of records to certain periods and to pay the PPL an annual for their usage. Some of this PPL income was passed on to the MU which then used it for its Keep Music Live campaign which included providing grants for musical events and thus for work for musicians. The pirates generally ignored or were rebuffed by the PPL and so no money flowed in to either it or, by extension, the Union. The pirates also largely relied on records and did not provide opportunities for live work. In contrast, Radio 1 was committed to using live musicians on some of its shows and this, combined with the closing of the non-PPL pirates, meant that the introduction of Radio 1 was at least partially good news for the MU.

The MU also opposed the pirates on ideological grounds. They represented commercial radio, whereas the union held that all broadcasting should remain part of the public sector. It had opposed the introduction of commercial television in 1955 and would go on to oppose the introduction of Independent local radio in 1973. While the MU had certainly had disputes with the BBC, it remained convinced that the Corporation remained the safe custodian of broadcasting in the UK. From the BBC’s early days in the 1920s, the Corporation’s commitment to live music and its status as the largest employer of British musicians made it an important ally. The BBC was opposed to be pirates and the Union positioned itself alongside the Corporation. Meanwhile as the government became convinced of the need to close the pirates down questions remained as to what, if anything, should replace them.

In the years prior to 1967 political opposition to the pirates had grown but they were able to offer the listening public forms of popular music radio which the BBC could not. So as the prospect of outlawing the pirates became stronger, the BBC began to covertly plan its pop stations. The pirates drew a great deal of strength from the fact that at the height of the swinging 60s they could apparently offer a diet of “non-stop pop”. Thus whilst the BBC was constrained by needletime and sometimes felt out of touch, the pirates could play pop 24/7. It is important to note here that the reality of the pirates was often less glamorous than some romantic accounts might suggest. Few of them could be heard across the UK, and many were subject to forms of payola with the station’s owners insisting that only records released by their own labels be played. Living conditions were cramped, and sometimes dangerous.1

Nevertheless they offered something that the BBC could not and one key reason why it could not was needletime.

Needletime

Within the UK authorisation for the use of any records in public, including broadcasting, had to be obtained from Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) the company which distributed royalties due to performers for the use of their recordings. The record companies set up PPL in 1934 following a High Court ruling in 1933 when a café owner (Carwardine’s in Bristol) was successfully sued in a test case by the Gramophone Company for a royalty for playing records. It was rapidly constituted to collect fees for such public performances of records on behalf of its members, who decided to make some form of payment to the musicians who played on the records. In 1934, the amount agreed with the various performers’ Unions was 20% of the company’s net income.

This was a voluntary / ex-gratia payment by the record companies which was initially paid directly to the musicians, although how rigorously applied or effectively policed this arrangement is difficult to ascertain. It was not until 1946 that a more extensive and formal agreement between the MU and PPL was implemented, which resulted in PPL agreeing to pay 20% of its net income (via the record companies) to featured performers and a further 12.5% for the non-featured performers (session musicians), which was paid directly to the MU.

Importantly the PPL’s remit included broadcasting where it issued licences on the understanding that the use of recorded music would be limited under what became known as needletime. These were a series of agreements under which the BBC undertook to pay the PPL for the use of recorded music and to limit such use. However the PPL went in to negotiations with the BBC on the understanding that any agreement would not upset the Musicians’ Union which had always believed that any greater use of recorded music would lead to less employment opportunities for live musicians. During the war the BBC and PPL had reached an agreement that as fewer live musicians were available as they were serving in the forces, the BBC would be allowed to use more recorded music. The first formal needletime agreement (between the BBC and PPL) came in 1947 and was renewed and adjusted periodically. As the era of Radio 1 approached, the MU was keen to remind the BBC of the commitments it had made to needletime.

The agreements underpinning the system often saw protracted negotiations between the BBC and the PPL, with the Union directly intervening as it saw fit. A key aspect of this tripartite arrangement was that the PPL was (and is) owned by the major record companies. In order to make records, these companies employed large number of MU members, either as contracted artists and/or as session players. At a time of great profitability for UK record companies, the PPL knew that any threat to the record making process was to be avoided and it is clear from BBC records that it generally toed the MU line in negotiations with the BBC.

What follows is an account of some of the tensions this caused and how they came to a head following the formation of Radio 1 follows, drawn from BBC documents housed at its Written Archives Centre in Caversham.

In December 1965 the Union contacted the BBC to reminding it that the needletime agreement was due for renewal in June 1966 and suggesting that it begin negotiations in early spring. The previous agreement had been signed in June 1964 and was subject to a two-year review. The BBC pleaded for more time on the grounds that it had not been able to implement the new system until March 1965 and suggested a review for June 1967.

Needletime and the start of Radio 1

It was also keen to see an increase in the amount of recorded music it could use, something the union instinctively opposed because of its long held view that the playing of records denied work to musicians. As plans were drawn up for a new station, initially called 247, it became clear to the BBC that if it wanted to replace the pirates and fulfill its goal of broadcasting continuous popular music from early in the morning until the early evening, it needed some movement from the Union and PPL on needletime.

These negotiations dragged on through 1966 and 67 before agreement was reached that the new station, now known as Radio 1, would get 2 hours a day above the previously agreed amount of needle time2. While this was not entirely to the union’s liking, it had at least secured continued restraint. In fact at this point the BBC, MU and PPL were generally united in support for the principle of needletime, the BBC because it was committed to live music, the PPL because it was a valuable source of income and the MU for both those reasons. Any bones of contention centred on how much the BBC should pay and how many hours of recorded music should be allowed on the BBC’s radio networks. Needletime was to last until a 1988 Monopolies and Mergers Commission (MMC) report on collecting licensing found that the practice was a restraint of trade and sounded its death knell.

Meanwhile, back in 1967, few within the BBC seriously opposed the principle of needletime, at least not in public. While some may have had reservations, these sentiments rarely surfaced in the public domain. This was to change with the arrival of Radio 1 and of a new cohort of DJs, many of whom were former pirates used to working on stations which played non-stop popular music around the clock without any concerns about the amount of record music being used. For them, joining the BBC and encountering needletime was something of a cultural shock. For the BBC the cultural shock was that of having a new breed of DJs unused to BBC norms who were, according to ex Radio 1 Controller Johnny Beerling’s memoirs, also the first people to be allowed to broadcast without scripts as the BBC moved from using largely anonymous announcers to using DJs who were (or aspired to be) personalities in their own right. Henceforth the role was not simply to announce, but to entertain.

Spats

Spats between the MU and the BBC over Radio 1 were not slow to develop. In common with the pirates, Radio 1 used jingles in its programmes. Here the union was incensed to find Radio 1’s jingles were imported from the USA thus, in its view, denying British musicians work in the making of jingles. In fact the BBC had had to move quickly to get the jingles done and was concerned that making them in the UK would lead to protracted negotiations with the Union and delayed their use within a new stations dedicated to promoting a more modern image.

With the issue of jingles simmering in the background, needletime soon came to the fore. The catalyst here was a lunch time speech given by Robin Scott, Controller Radio 1 and Radio 2, soon after the formation of the stations in which he suggested that the needletime agreement needed to be changed in order to allow the stations to play more music. This drew an MU complaint and response, Frank Gillard, the BBC’s Director of Radio, wrote to the Union explaining that:

‘We believe that broadcast programmes should comprise a substantial proportion of specially made material. We believe that broadcasting should do its utmost to promote the good health of those professions on which it heavily depends. We believe that excessive use of commercial gramophone records in broadcasting is a trend which is injurious to the music profession and must be resisted. All this we have said many times over, both to you in private and to the word at large in public. We have been heavily criticised for having this attitude but we have remained steadfast.’3

However, he continued to explain that Scott was describing the restrictions he was operating under in his attempts to provide a replacement for the pirates and that:

‘… we are in no doubt that both Radio 1 and Radio 2 need more needletime if they are to measure up to public expectations. We hope that in due course the Union will be ready to reopen negotiations on this matter. Meanwhile I hope you will set Mr. Scott’s statement alongside everything we have said in the past on this matter. We uphold the principle on which the Union bases its policy. Mr. Scott’s words were a call for some further modification of the practice in his particular area, and this is something for which we feel there is a real need.’4

Kenny Everett & Grotty Musicians

The following month the Union objected when Kenny Everett referred to “grotty musicians” who were behind the needletime agreement (BBC Board of Management minute 13 November 1967). The BBC responded by telling its producers that they should inform all their DJs that (rather than being an MU initiative) needletime was derived from the legal rights granted to PPL under the 1956 Copyright Act (note from Gillard 13 November 1967). But these skirmishes were merely harbingers of things to come and when voices on Radio 1 began to criticise both needletime and MU policy more broadly, relations between the BBC and the union took a turn for the worse.

In April 1968 the Musicians’ Union General Secretary, Hardie Ratcliffe wrote to the BBC complaining that radio 1 DJs, especially Kenny Everett, were making disparaging remarks about needletime. He was clearly exasperated, writing that:

‘I hope that we shall never reach a point where we can no longer talk to each other; but circumstances are driving us close to it….Perhaps this is my fault. I become so infuriated with much that happens in broadcasting that I am seldom in a sufficiently calm mood to engage in the polite for of correspondence that has been characteristic of our relations with the BBC for many years. I doubt whether I am any longer capable of tolerating the frustration I experience, especially with the Union’s limited resources, in dealing with the volume of complaints from our members about broadcasting practices.’5

Ratcliffe was upset by Radio 1 using “cut price” foreign musicians for making their jingles. But he was more concerned that needletime was being attacked. He said that he had assumed that, even if the BBC did not agree with the union on how much needletime was needed, they at least understood the union’s case.

‘However, I must have been wrong – for Mr. Kenny Everett’s exuberant vaporises so strongly imply this. It if was right, I should have thought you would by now have educated those that are allowed to provide material for publication in the press.’6

Ratcliffe’s, letter contained the source of his anger. This was an interview given by Everett to Robin Alp which appeared in The Londoner magazine under the heading: “Kenny Everett: the fresh air the BBC can’t keep out”. In the article Everett bemoaned the bureaucracy he found at the BBC, the poor equipment he had to use, the fact that the stations banned records and a general lack of freedom for disc jockeys when compared to the pirates. Part of the article read:

‘He blames the Musicians’ Union for restricting needletime to 50 hours a week. Although they appear to be cutting their own throats by this rule, they insist on sticking to it, though their reasons fro doing so are clear to nobody but themselves. They have restricted recordings to such an extent that the Radio One “jingles” even had to be taped in America.’7

Ratcliffe was clearly very upset by this, referring to various BBC employees he had dealt with, wrote:

‘Just how does Mr. Everett get away with it? I recall many months ago drawing Mr. Gillard’s attention to an interview give by Mr. Everett to a magazine, in which, while actually sitting in Broadcasting House, he said “the pirates were the biggest boot in the arse the BBC ever had”. But he is still around. He is no doubt regarded by the public as of much greater importance than your Governors or Director-General. You have created a position for him in which, with more time on his hands than we have, he can attack the Union with impunity. This is simply not good enough. Unless an end can be brought to the nonsense, it would perhaps be more profitable for me to meet Mr. Everett – perhaps smoke some “pot” with him – and try to talk him round, rather than correspond with Mr. Turnell (the BBC’s Head of Programme Contracts). I have at the moment a fair number of letters from Mr. Turnell on subjects that involve our making what we regard as concessions. I cannot risk making any. I may not even reply.’8

Ratcliffe’s reference to “pot” here was an allusion to the fact that in the article Everett had expressed a preference to marijuana over alcohol. His complaint may now seem somewhat over the top, but at the time it obviously caused some discomfort. Within the BBC and various memos in its Archives refer to needing to rein Everett in. This included a discussion at the Corporation’s Board of Management on 8 April 1968 which noted that Ratcliffe had also written to the Evening Standard claiming that musicians were getting tired of hearing evermore demands for more needletime and that Radio 1 should use more live music and less records.

However, one problem for the Corporation was that while Everett had been warned before, he, in common with many of the DJs, was not actually a BBC employee. At this point DJs were often just contracted to provide services rather than being employees. In Everett’s case he was providing a radio show. There also appears to have been some division on how best to deal with the issue and the minutes notes that:

‘As Everett had also written despairingly about the BBC, which he compared unfavourably with the former Radio London, D.A. (the Director of Administration) wondered whether something should not be done to restrain him from public utterances of this kind. It would be a great pity if the good relations with the M.U., which the BBC had worked so hard to create, and which brought real benefits, were undermined by this sort of sniping. D.R. (Director of Radio) said that Everett could be told he had stepped out of line – not for the first time, incidentally – but as he was employed as an artist the BBC had really no power to control him, and the ultimate sanction, dismissal, would only tend to make a martyr out of him. In any case, it was for consideration whether the BBC could or should maintain its policy of “appeasement” of the M.U. for very much longer. The prospect of a showdown with the Union was perhaps something which ought to be faced sooner rather than later. D.G. (Director General) said he was inclined to agree with D.R., but for the moment it would perhaps suffice to remind Mr. Ratcliffe that the BBC too had been a target for Mr. Everett’s arrows. D.A. said that he and D.R. would be meeting Mr. Ratcliffe for lunch later in the week and would try to soothe him.’9

A meeting two weeks later noted that the lunch with Ratcliffe had taken place and that he had chosen not to pursue his complaints any further. (BBC Board of Management minute 24 April 1968). At this point the BBC seemed determined to placate the union.

On 20 June 1968, the BBC’s legal adviser, E.C.Robbins, wrote to Ratcliffe assuring him that Everett had given an undertaking not to talk about BBC matters again and that Stuart Henry (a fellow Radio 1 DJ) had been warned about his future conduct. He also noted that the BBC was also planning to write an explanatory article about needletime for the Radio Times.

The same month the Head of Programme Contracts, G.M.Turnell, wrote to the Light Entertainment Manager on the matter on DJs, saying that they will need to sign an undertaking not to make comments about the BBC. He stipulated that individual DJs would need to come in to the office and sign, as it had been difficult to get Everett to sign. He wrote that: ‘This is an indication of the way in which other disc jockeys may well behave and in view of the trouble that we have had with the Musicians’ Union it is something we must avoid.’10

Division in the BBC

But it is also clear that the BBC was divided on its attitude towards the new DJs and the Union. As plans were made to get the freelance DJs to sign an undertaking not to criticise the BBC, Robin Scott, Controller Radio 1 and 2, issued a memo saying that the BBC was over-reacting that that ‘Surely it is not so much derogatory remarks about the BBC which have made it necessary to think of new undertakings but the deterioration of our relationship with the Musicians’ Union brought about by their over-sensitive reaction to comments about their attitude to the use of gramophone records’11. The Director of Administration, J.H.Arkell, wrote back in response saying that it would be wrong to allow DJs licence when BBC employees were under some restraint:

‘I can quite see how the Musicians’ Union’s restrictions appear to you and I suppose I am aware more than most people of the M.U.’s difficult attitude on a number of occasions over the years but we have pursued a consistent policy which has resulted in enormous benefit to the BBC in a number of ways. Maybe the time has come for a showdown now – but I am not sure yet. But on needletime, we have done an honest deal with them and through them with PPL and in the process have recognised publicly that unlimited needletime might be damaging to the musical profession. Do you not think that we have some obligation not to appear to be flouting the spirit of the agreement which we have reached through what is said over the air? Have we no obligation to the other part to the agreement?’12

Arkell’s memo noted that the questions were rhetorical and that he did not expect a reply. However Scott did reply and made his frustrations clear: ‘I hardly think that the grudging release of one hour’s extra needle-time per day to set up a new network “to replace the Pirates” can be described as “an honest deal” or as a significant part of “the enormous benefits” which a “consistent policy” has gained for the BBC. ‘The benefits in fact belong very much to the Musicians’ Union – ranging from unwanted BBC House Orchestras to restrictive needle-time and the refusals to honour nationally undertakings which have been made internationally’13. Here it is clear that many in the BBC had reservations about the ways in which the MU worked and it was the issue of DJs which was bringing it to the fore.

Meanwhile Ratcliffe had written to the BBC’s Legal Advisor, E.C.Robbins, thanking him for an advanced copy of the planned article for the Radio Times explaining needletime. The article, entitled “Radio Restraint”, appeared in the edition of 18 July 1968 and explained the existing needletime arrangements in ways in which the union obviously found helpful.

However Ratcliffe noted that these problems were not over as another DJ, Mark Roman, had recently told readers of Disc that if the BBC got a good team of negotiators together it could get the MU to agree more needletime. Ratcliffe opined that: ‘It must be very embarrassing to have your own broadcasters sniping at you, as well as us and there are times when I feel we should sympathise with you. However, if Commercial radio comes, you will lose these lads, and then, at least, they will not be “biting the hand…”14

John Peel riles the Union

Matters then died down for a while. However the truce between the Union and the BBC was not to last long and by March 1969 Ratcliffe was again writing to complain. This time subject of his ire was someone who would go on to be on of the BBC’s most respected broadcasters, John Peel. On 14 March 1969 Ratcliffe wrote to Frank Gillard, Director of Sound Broadcasting, and reminded him of the “spirited” correspondence of the previous year on the matter of DJs. Ratcliffe wrote that ‘on that occasion I expressed myself rather roughly, because our members, and in particular our Executive Committee, were, and still are, infuriated by the drip that some of these upstarts put in to print.’15

Ratcliffe’s letter contained a copy of Peel’s column for the Petticoat magazine where he wrote:

‘I see that the Musicians’ Union are trying to stop foreign pop groups from appearing on English television. I quote from an official statement: “Pop guitarists strumming a few chords on a guitar can earn a fortune, especially when accompanied by frenzied contortions and sexually suggestive movements…This is absolute rubbish. the Musicians’ Union has to be the largest single retarding force to pop music in the world today.’16

Ratcliffe clearly felt that the BBC bore some responsibility for such criticisms and wrote:

‘It is impossible to disassociate John Peel the journalist, if that is the right word, from John Peel the disc-jockey; for it is only because he is a BBC disc jockey, helping you to use up needletime, that any paper will publish his rubbish.

It is partly this nonsense that causes our members to criticise us for tolerating the Broadcasting of gramophone records at all, and if Peel and other rapscallions are allowed to continue making a parasites living out of the needletime arrangements, we shall be compelled to demand an ever greater reduction of the permitted time than our members already think should be made’17

Ratcliffe’s latest letter again caused some consternation within the BBC which at this point was concerned that it was employing too many disc jockeys from pirate radio stations and that the freelance nature of some DJs’ employment contracts were leaving them exempt from normal BBC protocols. This led to Robin Scott, circulating a memo informing staff that while DJs were given a great deal of latitude in being able to comment:

‘In general terms gratuitous comments on controversial subject is quite unjustified – whether it is Vietnam, hare coursing, the Prime Minister or the Musicians’ Union. Furthermore, it is quite unnecessary to “knock” what some disc-jockeys (wishing to retain or build a teenage image) may consider old-fashioned or “square”. There is enough of an absurd gap “between the ages” without Radio 1disc-jockeys needing to contribute to it.’18.

Matters of Employment

A flurry of memos followed. It was soon noted that, like Everett, Peel was a part-time freelance worker and not a BBC employee. One memo said that:

‘It is true that if a permanent member of staff stated publicly that the M.U. is the largest single retarding force to pop music today we should have something to say about it – not because this may not be true but because we are in a certain relationship on these matters with the M.U..’19

Once again, this shows that there was some antipathy towards the Union within the BBC. For others, the problem was the DJs. In April 1969 the Managing Director of Radio, Frank Gillard, wrote to Ratcliffe that:

‘. we do make it plain to such people that they do not endear themselves to us when they exercise their right of free speech in this offensive way, and although I know your patience has been much tried to certain individuals, I believe myself that on the whole, considering the sort of people we are dealing with and their very considerable numbers, our efforts have had some success’20.

The reference to ‘the sort of people we are dealing with’ is perhaps evidence of continuing unease within some parts of the BBC at the presence of former pirates within their midst. Peel’s agent, Clive Selwood, accepted the conditions on his behalf and that of another one of his clients, Johnny Walker, but noted that they appeared to be in an invidious position whereby one mistake could lead to the termination of their contracts.21

Sign Here

The statement that the DJs had to sign read as follows:

‘The engagement described in the enclosed contract relating to…. Is offered on condition that you undertake for so long as you remain associated with the BBC in any way to refrain from making any public statements or comments to the Press or from writing articles or making any remarks on the air of any sort which the BBC has asked or may ask you to avoid as being in the BBC’s opinion damaging to the BBC or its relations without outside bodies or organisations. It is a further condition of the offer that if you fail to observe the undertaking the BBC shall be entitled to cancel any contract which the BBC may have with you.

Acceptance of the enclosed contract will be treated as acceptance by you of the two conditions in this letter.’22

It appears that Henry, Everett, Walker and Peel all signed the undertaking but that later the practice was quietly dropped. The memos suggest that the BBC was using this as a matter of expediency for the duration of its difficulties with the union. Everett was sacked in 1970 for suggesting that the wife of the then Transport Minister had paid a bribe to pass her driving test. He would later return to the BBC and died in 1995. Peel went on to work on Radio 1 until his death in 2004.

Meanwhile the ways in which the BBC dealt with the MU’s complaints reveal that a number of factors were at play. Elements within the BBC were clearly anxious about the nature of Radio 1 and the freedom which its DJs enjoyed. Ironically, BBC Board of Management minutes reveal that in the early days of Radio 1 complaints that the DJs were talking too much were countered by the argument that this was a direct result of the needletime agreement. The DJs spoke in part because they could not play records. Notwithstanding the fact that what caused Ratcliffe’s concern was how the DJs behaved in the press rather than on air, the presence of needletime undoubtedly contributed to the way they behaved on air.

Some within the BBC clearly wanted to do more to get rid of needletime. A memo of 8 August 1969 from the Controller of Programme Organisation said that:

‘It has always seemed to me a bit odd and arbitrary that we should undertake to the M.U. to limit in this way the use of material made freely available to us by the owners of rights who themselves would like to encourage our use of it and I sympathise with the resentment which publishers have for a long time felt about this.

I think it would be worth looking up the relevant correspondence and deciding in the light of it whether we can now quietly treat the undertaking as lapsed or whether we want to disengage from it, as I think we do, we should tell the Union so when the moment feels right.’23.

Overall the memos also show that the BBC was internally divided about how to deal with both the DJs and the Union. There was concern that Radio 1’s ability to truly replace the “non-stop pop” of the pirates was compromised by needletime restrictions. However, there was an equal concern not to upset the Union by pushing for more needletime. The Union could draw strength from its relationship with PPL, which, being owned by the record companies was anxious about the Union’s potential to disrupt the recording processes upon which its members depended. It also had many members in BBC orchestras and thus retained the power to make life very difficult for the BBC. At this point the Union’s potential to disrupt both broadcasting and recording at a time when both were becoming increasingly intertwined meant that it had a great deal of institutional power. Thus seeking compromises with the Union made some sense.

For all the apparent pompousness of Ratcliffe’s complaints, it is clear that for the BBC placating him and pulling to “rapscallions” in to line was the path of least resistance. Hanging the DJs out to dry, if only temporarily, was perhaps a small price to pay for minimising disruption to the fledgling Radio 1. This was to entail the sorts of navigational skills of which any pirate would be proud.

References

Beerling, J. 2008. Radio 1: The Inside Scene. Oxford: Trafford.
Briggs, A. 1995. The History of Broadcasting in the United Kingdom, vol. 5: Competition. Oxford: OUP.
Chapman, R. 1992. Selling The Sixties. London: Routledge.
McLaughlin, J. 2012. Pirate Jock: The Confessions of a Sixties’ DJ. London: Kennedy and Boyd.

Quotes from BBC Written Archive are copyright BBC, all rights reserved.


  1. see Chapman 1992 and McLaughlin 2012 for first hand accounts of all this 

  2. Briggs 1995: 572 

  3. taken from material in BBC Written Archive; copyright BBC, all rights reserved 

  4. letter from Gillard to Tom Antsey, MU Assistant General Secretary, 30 October 1967, taken from material in BBC Written Archive; copyright BBC, all rights reserved 

  5. letter from Hardie Ratcliffe to Frank Gillard, April 1968 

  6. letter from Hardie Ratcliffe to Frank Gillard, April 1968 

  7. The Londoner, 23rd March 1968 

  8. all Ratcliffe quotes from a letter to the BBC, 4 April 1968 

  9. taken from BBC Board of Management minute, on 8 April 1968, BBC Written Archives, copyright / all rights reserved, BBC 

  10. memo from Turnell, 21 June 1968, BBC Written Archives, copyright/ right reserved, BBC 

  11. memo from Scott, 4 July 1968, BBC Written Archives, copyright/ right reserved, BBC 

  12. memo from Arkell, 8 July 1968, BBC Written Archives, copyright/ right reserved, BBC 

  13. memo from Scott 1 August 1968, BBC Written Archives, copyright/ right reserved, BBC 

  14. Letter from Ratcliffe, to the BBC’s legal adviser, E.C.Robbins, 16 July 1968 

  15. correspondence from Ratcliffe to Frank Gillard, BBC, 14th March 1969 

  16. Petticoat magazine 

  17. letter from Ratclife to Frank Gillard, 14 March 1969 

  18. memo from Scott, 14 March 1968,BBC Written Archives, copyright/ right reserved, BBC 

  19. memo from Director of Administration to Managing Director of Radio, 26 March 1969, BBC Written Archives, copyright/ right reserved, BBC 

  20. letter from Gillard to Ratcliffe, 2 April 1969, BBC Written Archives, copyright/ right reserved, BBC 

  21. letter from Clive Selwood of Selwood Management to Assistant Head of Programme Contracts, J.D.L. Hill, 15 April 1969, BBC Written Archives, copyright/ right reserved, BBC 

  22. Undated copy, BBC Written Archives, copyright/ right reserved, BBC 

  23. memo from Controller, Programme Organisation (Radio), 8 August 1969, BBC Written Archives, copyright/ right reserved, BBC 

One Comment

  1. A truly fascinating review of the vexatious Needletime issue, to which I would add one comment: had BBC Radio the money to purchase up-to-date (1960s) microphones, multi-channel mixers and the like , then duly trained their highly talented Studio Managers, the problem could have been mitigated considerably. Why: because half the problem was the ‘sound’ of live broadcasts of popular music which was far removed from commercial releases on disc? With equipment being largely 1930/40s design this was an inevitable by-product..
    The proof of this exists today where live popular music from BBC studios can often sound even better than commercial recordings, and all because the BBC is ‘properly’ equipped. Also, the tapes from European radio stations, imported by the Foreign Recordings department, and used in programmes for many years, and accompanying the tv Test Card transmissions reinforce this point. Thus Needletime restrictions were not the sole significant problem of that UK broadcasting era.

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