This week marks a very special birthday for a very special magazine. The 100th birthday of Radio Times is an occasion to celebrate.
RT today is a premium product – and priced accordingly. It is the only TV listings magazine aimed at selective viewers and the only one which regularly covers serious programmes and issues about broadcasting itself.
But during its years as the BBC’s own listings magazine, it’s character closely reflected that of BBC TV and radio.
The covers represented the whole range of BBC output – one week it might be a celebrity or returning favourite, the next a children’s programme or Radio 3 play.
As late as 1988, children’s programmes made the cover three times – Going Live!, Blue Peter and The Chronicles of Narnia all featured.
Its character in the 70s and 80s stood in stark contrast to that of TV Times – always more of a woman’s magazine than a TV guide and, in the late-80s, notably vulgar and badly designed too.
But of course RT in the old days had links to Presentation and even occasionally covered Pres.
The “adverts” for the magazine up until around 1990 were made by the BBC Promotions team within Pres and were often more like trailers for the programmes themselves.
Pres fans of a certain vintage remember the programme menu advising there were “full details in Radio Times” and announcers describing late changes as a “change to the programme billed in Radio Times”.
Programme slides sometimes featured pictures taken for the magazine and announcers grabbed their copy to cover unplanned gaps.
Sometimes the pages of RT even tell us about changes to Pres.
In October 1960, when Pres was overhauled, RT introduced the new announcers (including Michael Aspel and Judith Chalmers) and even explained the new format for timechecks.
February 1985 saw a relaunch of BBC One. While EastEnders made the cover, on page three readers were greeted by a large picture of the new COW globe.
In 1991, the new channel idents were revealed on the listings pages – just as RT was preparing to become an all-channel guide.
And how many other TV guides would put a BBC Two ident on the cover? Well it happened in 2004.
RT has not been a BBC publication for more than a decade and has covered all major channels for 32 years.
But it is truly a part of the story of television and radio in Britain and not merely a listings magazine.
Other listings magazines may be available. But only one is unique.
PICTURED: 4 versions of the 100 Years Radio Times front cover. COPYRIGHT: Radio Times.