What was on TV at the moment you were born? With BBC Genome, launched today, anyone can search through every copy of Radio Times between 1923-2009, filled with fascinating programme information.
Did you know that this day in 1958 saw the very first broadcast of Blue Peter? The children’s favourite was described as “a new weekly programme for Younger Viewers with Christopher Trace and Leila Williams” featuring “toys, model railways games, stories, cartoons.” And what long running programme was summed up as “an adventure in space and time”? Guess Who.
Many Radio Times readers collect back issues, often in attractive pleather folders, but this project scanned 4,469 separate editions. That’s 350,622 pages covering 4,423,653 individual programmes.
The project is still in the beta and despite Radio Times’s strenuous efforts over the years the information is not perfect: it’s a record of what the BBC intended to broadcast, but that’s not always what ends up on screen. Last minute schedule changes due to sports or breaking news stories are obviously not reflected. The new website invites users to contribute their own notes and corrections to the information, which will be added after they are verified.
Hilary Bishop, editor in the BBC’s archive development department, explained:
“This is one of the first times that the BBC has ever done sort of crowdsourcing at this scale. I can imagine that the community is going to clean up the Doctor Who entries in no time at all!”
In order to build a more extensive archive, BBC Genome also welcomes anecdote from people who worked on the shows, or even personal memories from the audience. As Bishop puts it: “anything people want to tell us!” These memories will be included in a future update, along with more regional variations and local programmes.
Ben Preston, editor of Radio Times said: “To flick through these new digital pages of Radio Times over the last 90 years is to watch a popular history of Britain, television, radio and every family unfold,” said “Royal weddings, moments of history, stars being born and even shows that everyone has now forgotten – they are all here. If you want to find out what was on the television or radio on the day of your birth, this treasure house of an archive”