Genome project makes 1950s Radio Times available to the public

It was the decade that saw TV expand across the nation. From today, it will be possible to access scans of listings magazine Radio Times from the 1950s, documentating the arrival of many iconic shows.

The original scans include listings for landmark BBC programmes such as Panorama, The Sky at Night and The Archers. The magazines include details of the Queen’s first televised Christmas message, as well as listings and features on the first episodes of many long-running BBC programmes including Blue Peter

It's part of The Genome Project, which has already made the magazine scans from the 20s, 30s and 40s available to the public, proving to be a goldmine for researchers of UK broadcasting history.

Copies of the Radio Times magazine include features on Zoo Quest, the first wildlife documentaries presented by a young David Attenborough, who continues to audiences 65 years on.

The magazines also portray the growing popularity of children’s television at the time, with the start of Watch with Mother, a series that ran from 1953 until 1978 and included much-loved characters Andy Pandy and Bill and Ben, The Flowerpot Men. This was followed by the start of Blue Peter, billed as ‘toys, model railways, games, stories, cartoons’, in 1958.

Advances in technology during the decade meant that it marked some major milestones in TV history, including the first televised general election in 1950, the launch of daily TV news in 1954 and the Queen’s first televised Christmas message, which took place in 1957 on the twenty fifth anniversary of the first royal broadcast.

Jean Seaton, BBC Historian, says:
Radio Times in the 1950s reflects an era of TV ‘firsts’, with the BBC bringing the nation together in front of the small screen for the first time for events like the Coronation. Against the background of Cold War anxiety the magazine also captures the post-war, fun seeking energy of the decade perfectly with ballroom dancing, cooking, holiday and children's programmes taking their place in the schedules.

The Radio Times was published by the commercial arm of the BBC until 2011, when it and other former BBC magazines were sold to Immediate Media.