The BBC finally admits that MI5 secretly vetted its employees, an open secret for generations

My wife -- whose father is a TV director who'd worked for the BBC -- learned as a little girl that the British spy agency MI5 secretly vetted people who applied for work at the BBC and denoted possible subversives by putting a doodle of a Christmas tree on their personnel files; people who were thus blacklisted were discriminated against within the Beeb. Read the rest

A new podcast hopes to solve an infamous unsolved death in Norway's Isdalen Valley

In November, 1970, just outside the Norwegian town of Bergen, two kids found the partially burnt remains of a woman's body. Surrounding the woman's remains were a number of objects: some bottles of water, a rubber boot and a burnt newspaper. All of the labels had been removed from the woman's clothing. Why the woman – known in Norway as the Isdal Woman, named for the remote valley that she was found in – died or who she was has been a mystery for close to 50 years.

Norwegian journalist Marit Higraff and BBC documentary maker Neil McCarthy are working to shed light on the Isdal Woman's very, very cold case. Working together, they've produced a new podcast called Death in Ice Valley. The first episode is available to download or stream, right now.

During the course of the podcast, Higraff and McCarthy will talk to those that investigated the crime back in the day, as well as forensic experts and anyone else they feel might propel them towards the answer of who the Isdal Woman was and why she died. But they're not stopping there. Listeners of the podcast are invited to talk to one another and the podcast's producers about the case on social media, in the hope that a breakthrough for the case could be crowdsourced.

I listened to the first episode yesterday. It starts slow, as many BBC radio productions often do. But the questions that the pair of journalists raise surrounding the Isdal Woman's death and what they uncovered, even in the first episode, has compelled me to continue with the series to see how things turn out. Read the rest

BBC sound effect archive posted online

The BBC posted an online archive of many of its sound effects. The nature scenes and peculiar things of historical interests are wonderful, though the broad focus seems to be components for radio plays and the like: footsteps, actions, incidental moments.

The BBC license isn't free and has odd stipulations, but the point of the project and its accompanying rules is remarkable: "RemArc, or Reminiscence Archive, is designed to help trigger memories in people with dementia using BBC Archive material as stimulation. " Read the rest

Print of "lost" britcom discovered in Nigerian basement and restored with X-rays and laser-cutters

In the early days of TV, it was routine to tape over the recording medium after the initial air-date, which means that no video record exists of many of the pioneering moments in television. Read the rest

Doctor Who theme creator Delia Derbyshire awarded posthumous Ph.D.

Working from a traditional score by Ron Grainer, Delia Derbyshire created one of television and electronica's most distinctive works of music: the theme tune to Doctor Who. For her pioneering work with synthesizers, often in crudely sexist and exclusionary workspaces, she is being posthumously awarded a degree by Coventry University.

Due to BBC policies at the time, Grainer – unwillingly – is still officially credited as the sole writer.

Derbyshire stayed at the workshop for 10 years, recording sound for Inventions for Radio and Cyprian Queen – all in the days before modern synthesisers and machines. She was later approached by Paul McCartney to work on a backing track for the Beatles hit Yesterday.

But despite her talent and credit from her peers, Delia failed to gain widespread recognition during her lifetime, eventually becoming disillusioned with the industry and finding work as a radio operator in Cumbria.

Photo: BBC Read the rest

The BBC has a pidgin service

The BBC's pidgin service is aimed at West African audiences; it is a pure delight. Read the rest

What is the right punishment for blasphemy?

BBC Asian Network raised a few eyebrows after tweeting "What is the right punishment for blasphemy?" While it's clear from watching the video all the way through that BBC's Shazia Awan is not taking a side, BBC Asia later apologized. Read the rest

Planet Earth 2 but the animals have human screams

Simple brilliance from Matt Amys. Read the rest

Watch BBC's Planet Earth II trailer

Ten years after the original series, BBC's widely-acclaimed Planet Earth returns to television in the UK in November and in the US in January 2017.

The first episode, Islands, looks at how animals can become very large or very small in those conditions. This adorable swimming sloth looks worth watching the series all the way through:

Bonus video: extended trailer:

Planet Earth II website Read the rest

HyperNormalisation takes a deep dive into our post-truth world

Adam Curtis' latest mind-blowing project just dropped a trailer, and it's a doozy. HyperNormalisation uses a tale of two cities (New York City and Damascus) to trace how we got to Trump, among other post-truths. He goes in on everybody, with a special focus on bankers. Read the rest

These are radio drama staircases

These unusual "radio drama staircases" are inside the BBC's sound studios. When an actor is recorded walking up or down the stairs, the different surfaces (wood, carpet, cement) give the acoustic impression of unique locations for the radio drama. Samuel West shot the image above at BBC's Maida Vale Studios. Apparently, they are actually functioning staircases that lead somewhere in the building.

(via Neatorama) Read the rest

BBC picks greatest films of the 21st century

"We believe that the new classics on this list are destined to become old classics," writes the BBC. "Whether or not that happens is ultimately up to you, the moviegoers. But one thing is certain: cinema isn’t dying, it’s evolving." Read the rest

BBC will use surveillance powers to sniff Britons' wifi and find license-cheats

If you live in the UK and watch live TV or use the Iplayer video-on-demand service, you have to pay a "license fee" that directly supports public media in the UK (in other countries, public media is funded out of the tax-coffers, but in the UK, it's a direct transfer from viewers to the media, which is meant to make the BBC independent of the whims of government and thus more able to hold it to account). Read the rest

Watch this osprey catch a trout in super slo-mo

From the BBC series The Highlands, narrated by Ewan McGregor. From their site: Read the rest

Debullshitifying the Brexit numbers

On the BBC's More or Less podcast (previously), Tim Harford and his team carefully unpick the numerical claims made by both sides in the UK/EU referendum debate. Read the rest

The time the BBC News reported that "there is no news"

I suppose no news was good news on April 18, 1930. At 6:30pm during the regularly scheduled news bulletin slot, the BBC News announcer turned on the mic and said:

"Good evening. Today is Good Friday. There is no news."

Piano music followed.

(BBC News History via r/todayilearned) Read the rest

Four days in, and the BBC hasn't even mentioned the biggest bribery scandal in history

On Wednesday, Fairfax and Huffington Post broke the Unaoil story, revealing that they had been leaked a trove of email from an obscure Monaco family business that had acted as a global fixer in bribery and bid-rigging that looted the treasuries and oil-fields of some of the world's poorest countries, from Iraq to Yemen, acting on behalf of blue-chip companies like Rolls-Royce and Halliburton. Read the rest

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