This New Noise : The Extraordinary Birth and Troubled Life of the BBC, Paperback

This New Noise : The Extraordinary Birth and Troubled Life of the BBC Paperback

3 out of 5 (1 rating)


Charlotte Higgins, the Guardian's chief culture writer, steps behind the polished doors of Broadcasting House and investigates the BBC.

Based on her hugely popular essay series, this personal journey answers the questions that rage around this vulnerable, maddening and uniquely British institution.

Questions such as, what does the BBC mean to us now?

What are the threats to its continued existence? Is it worth fighting for? Higgins traces its origins, celebrating the early pioneering spirit and unearthing forgotten characters whose imprint can still be seen on the BBC today.

She explores how it forged ideas of Britishness both at home and abroad.

She shows how controversy is in its DNA and brings us right up to date through interviews with grandees and loyalists, embattled press officers and high profile dissenters, and she sheds new light on recent feuds and scandals.

This is a deeply researched, lyrically written, intriguing portrait of an institution at the heart of Britain.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 288 pages, illustrations
  • Publisher: Guardian Faber Publishing
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Radio & television industry
  • ISBN: 9781783350728



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This New Noise – An Interesting History of the BBCCharlotte Higgins is a culture writer at that well known liberal newspaper The Guardian, the ‘in-house’ newspaper of the masses at Broadcasting House, and over a year she had a number of essays published in said national paper of the chattering classes. This New Noise is an anthology of those published essays and brings her full circle in her examination of the BBC, and her broad brush approach taking in the history, present and future of the BBC.There can be no more timely publication for This New Noise as the BBC charter is up for renewal, and the licence fee the funding model is being reviewed. As someone who has attended political conferences where the BBC have sent over 400 staff then had the tapes sent back to London for editing whereas the commercial rivals send about 20 staff do everything onsite and produce similar broadcasts the BBC is not my favourite broadcaster. Like many on the outside I see the BBC as over staffed, with too many middle and senior managers who in turn are overpaid out of the public purse. So can Higgins, from the metro chattering classes, the beating heart of Guardian readers and BBC luvvies change my mind?Taking us on a history of the BBC is always a good reminder of why the BBC does have a special place in the heart of the nation as our national broadcaster on television and radio. Through interviews and various character sketches, this is a story of great men and women, but she is not afraid to point out the leadership from Reith to Lord Hall has been male led but that could change in the future.While this look at the BBC is an objective view of those that have sat in the Director-General’s chair other characters do make an appearance throughout that book. What Higgins does find about her year long look at the BBC that it is akin to a City State, and what she has written is a portrait of the media giant from the tiny acorn to a mighty dominant oak in the British field of broadcasting. She certainly seems to have a lot of love and respect for the institution, not sure it actually deepens the debate about the future.What This New Noise does do is slowly put together an intricate picture of the BBC now and then through some wonderful biographies of the people involved, the politics in the early days. How in the War years the BBC was taken to heart by the British public and it has grown from there. Where the book is lost is in the modern era where a bureaucracy has built more layers than a lasagne and management speak are at the fore. This is the BBC the public is rallying against and I do not believe Higgins, The Guardian or the BBC leadership understands that as we see creativity stunted and people overpaid producing per television and radio.This is an excellent book for the history and the colour of the BBC of old but like the Guardian and BBC for the modern era deeply out of touch with the public and the possible reader outside the chattering classes.

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