The BBC loves an anniversary. Whether it’s 400 years since Shakespeare put down his quill or 50 years of the continental quilt, there is nothing that the corporation is not prepared to celebrate with a series/season/Mary Berry pie recipe.
In that fine tradition, I’d like to draw your attention to the fact that ten years ago this year, iPM began. It’s a BBC anniversary! Hooray! Let’s have cake!
As your eyes begin to droop, let me try to hold your interest with a startling confession. We’re not sure what the “i” stands for. I’m not joking.
Since PMbegan in 1970, listeners have always been notably involved (note to self: make sure my successor has plans to celebrate its 50th birthday in 2020). The reading out of listeners’ letters (then in addition, emails, tweets and tea-leaf analysis) has been part of the broadcast for as long as anyone can remember.
Our audience is smart, sophisticated and immune to flattery. More importantly, our listeners know stuff. We wondered whether we could make a programme in which their knowledge and experience could be the start of the editorial process, rather than the end of it. Instead of simply reacting to what we chose to broadcast, maybe individual listeners could – for want of a better cliché – set the agenda.
A lot has changed in our time. The programme’s blog has gone the way of many blogs. Twitter is, for the moment, as popular a contact method as email.
But one feature has endured the technological change. It’s called “Your News”. Listeners send us a single sentence about their week and we compile it into a bulletin – and we ask various well-known voices to read it for us.
It was all the idea of Paddy O’Connell from Radio 4’s Broadcasting House. I asked him the other day how he came up with it and he said it was over dinner with me. I have no recollection of this and put it down to being over-medicated at the time, probably by Dr Jim Beam.
The Your News bulletin provides a unique snapshot of our listeners’ lives. Sometimes the sentences describe apparently humdrum events but they’re anything but. Here are some actual quotes...
“I completed 366 uninterrupted recordings of the local weather.”
“I went to see my dad in the care home and saw him wearing a bib for the first time.”
“Six years after my husband’s death I’ve taken his dressing gown off the back of the door and given it to a charity shop.”
It’s a sublime minute or two. We never broadcast people’s names – just their news. You can be part of Your News anytime you like, by emailing a sentence about you: iPM@bbc.co.uk.
Perhaps the i stands for individual or interactive. It doesn’t really matter. iPM is all about our listeners. They are front and centre. But they’re not getting any cake.