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Defining the Discographic SelfDesert Island Discs in Context$
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Julie Brown, Nicholas Cook, and Stephen Cottrell

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780197266175

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197266175.001.0001

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From Forces’ Choice to Desert Island Discs: The BBC’s promotion of personal choice in wartime

From Forces’ Choice to Desert Island Discs: The BBC’s promotion of personal choice in wartime

(p.51) 3 From Forces’ Choice to Desert Island Discs: The BBC’s promotion of personal choice in wartime
Defining the Discographic Self

Jenny Doctor

, Julie Brown, Nicholas Cook, Stephen Cottrell
British Academy

Up to 1939, the BBC followed a paternalistic music programming policy that sought to educate as well as to entertain, airing a high proportion of art music. When war was declared in 1939, the Corporation’s policies reversed, aiming to unite the nation and maintain morale. Shows focused on popular and light music, and the BBC developed alternative programming approaches, in particular the promotion of personal choice. Series like Forces Music Club, Forces’ Choice, and Forces’ Favourites, continuing after the war as Family Favourites and Two-Way Family Favourites, popularised a formula in which listeners requested gramophone recordings to be aired. Thus, when Roy Plomley’s Desert Island Discs launched in January 1942, it followed in a line of war-time, listener-led gramophone programmes; unusually, only this one featured musical choices of celebrated personalities. Little could anyone predict that DID’s programme formula would long outlast the policies and conditions of the BBC at war.

Keywords:   personal choice formats, gramophone programmes, BBC programming control, listener-led content, ordinary listeners, wartime BBC programming, wartime BBC policies, Forces Music Club, Forces’ Choice, Forces’ Favourites

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