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Dictating to the MobThe History of the BBC Advisory Committee on Spoken English$
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Jürg R. Schwyter

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198736738

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198736738.001.0001

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In the Beginning

In the Beginning

(p.16) Chapter 2 In the Beginning
Dictating to the Mob

Jürg R. Schwyter

Oxford University Press

The early BBC was meant to entertain and to educate the masses, according to John Reith, its first managing director. This led, in 1926, to the establishment of the Advisory Committee on Spoken English, comprising members of Britain’s social elite (Robert Bridges, Logan Pearsall Smith, G. Bernard Shaw, Daniel Jones, Sir Johnston Forbes-Robertson, and Arthur Lloyd James), with a remit, initially, of advising its broadcasters and, soon after, also the BBC’s audience on ‘correct’ pronunciation, principally via the Radio Times. The Committee established itself as the absolute authority for regulating a uniform pronunciation both for announcers and the audience. Eventually this led to a ‘listening BBC’, which nonetheless vetted and approved the language that was being transmitted; and to the publication of the widely successful booklet series Broadcast English. However, communicating a standard via the medium of radio cannot be successful, because changes in pronunciation require interaction with interlocutors.

Keywords:   BBC, John Reith, social elite, G. Bernard Shaw, Daniel Jones, Arthur Lloyd James, Radio Times, uniform pronunciation, Broadcast English

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