Setting a Standard: Early BBC Language Policy and the Advisory Committee on Spoken English

Jürg Rainer Schwyter

Abstract


‘Early days are crucial ones in either individual existence or corporate organisation.
I repeat, we had no precedent. Almost everything depended upon the
personality of those to whom, almost by chance, this service had been committed.’
(J.C.W. Reith, Broadcast over Britain, 1924, p. 24)
It will be my aim in this contribution to describe – with the help of linguistic
examples, historical BBC documents and articles from the BBC weekly magazine
Radio Times – the language policy of the early BBC, or more specifically
the BBC Advisory Committee on Spoken English 1926–1939, and also to give
some impressions of the public’s reaction to that policy. I will concentrate on
the early days, as ‘early days are crucial ones’, to quote Reith (1924: 24), but
I hope it will also become clear that the influence of the Advisory Committee
on Spoken English can still be felt today, whatever changes in language policy
the BBC has introduced in more recent years.

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