Today is the 95th anniversary of the BBC’s first ever radio broadcast, from Savoy Hill in London. 4 months later, broadcasting starting in Glasgow, and within a year, Stations 2BD and 2EH were broadcasting from Aberdeen and Edinburgh.
It’s funny to think of how new radio actually is, because it feels like one of life’s permanent fixtures. I imagine that if you grew up with radio, like me – you woke up to it every morning. When I was ill in bed or away from home staying with relatives, its reassuring rumble would rise up through the floorboards to soothe my soul. As a child I sang along with Stewpot on a Saturday morning; the Top 40 saw me safely through my teens; and whenever I pulled an all-nighter at university, I had the Shipping Forecast to keep me company.
I think radio can be a bit like travelling through the Highlands by train. As you speed past the landscape, you’re constantly frustrated by half-seeing…a rabbit…? A deer…? We now have i-player and captioning to help us pin down the things we hear on the radio, but I think Thought for the Day is a bit like that train journey. A fleeting impression, a notion; something slightly other, designed to set you thinking… Because of course we don’t know where you are today, or what you’re doing.
But we do know that you love radio, perhaps because radio gives you its undivided attention, so that you can potter about giving it only half an ear while you get on with your day. It’s not as bossy as TV, which demands your full attention and is shameless about trying to get it. Radio’s modesty is deeply alluring, in a world that won’t otherwise let us look away. We’re free to have our own thoughts while we listen, because our eyes can look where they please.
Listening to the radio together, we start the day hearing the same stories. In an age where personalised social media feeds are sending us all off in different directions, there’s something reassuringly grounding about Good Morning Scotland. It’s a touchstone in an often bewildering world of fake news, bad news, and skewed news.
Listening, talking and keeping each other company is part of what helps us build community together. That’s why the BBC feels so much a part of the nation’s life, because it accompanies us through the big national moments, the ups and downs, the sensational and the ordinary.
I have been delivering “Thought For The Day” pieces on BBC Radio Scotland since November 2016. By kind permission these pieces are reproduced in blog posts here on my website. To find my other pieces click here go to my Thought For The Day index page.