Acclaimed BBC publication goes online – Gale launches The Listener Historical Archive 1929-1991

 Andover, Hampshire UK (31 March 2011) - Sixty two years of the most influential cultural, political and media commentary to emerge in the 20th century is now available in an easy-to-use, convenient digital format. Gale, part of Cengage Learning, working in collaboration with BBC Worldwide, is launching The Listener Historical Archive, 1929-1991, offering students, historians and researchers online access to the complete run of this unique publication, from its first issue in 1929 to its last in 1991.

The Listener was a weekly periodical established by the BBC in 1929 under its Director-General Lord Reith, revealing what the public thought about the news they were hearing. At the heart of The Listener was the BBC’s cultural mission to inform, educate and entertain the general public, acting as the intellectual counterpart to the BBC listings magazine, Radio Times.

“The only thing you signed up to when you bought The Listener was informed scepticism and wit. The online archive is a seam of pure gold for researchers of politics, writing, theatre and social observation, but it offers many delights for browsers as well,” comments Jean Seaton, Professor of Media History, The University of Westminster, and Official Historian of the BBC.

Developed as the medium for reproducing broadcast talks, initially on radio and in later years television too, The Listener archive enables users to search across 125,000 pages of the publication, all newly digitised from originals in full colour. It provides present-day researchers with one of the few means of accessing the transcripts of many early BBC broadcast recordings, as well as the rich commentary that surrounded them.

For the first time, researchers can easily trace the journey of publishing and broadcasting in the 20th century and assess the profound impact it had on shaping events and society. The Listener includes contributions from the major writers, artists, social commentators and thinkers of the time, from George Orwell, E.M. Forster and T.S Eliot, to later writers such as Salman Rushdie, Tom Wolfe, and William Boyd, providing valuable primary source material that is crucial to understanding a writer’s work and life. Among the most distinctive works include ‘Craftsmanship’ – an article taken from a radio broadcast that is the only surviving record of Virginia Woolf’s voice, as well Philip Larkin’s poem ‘Ultimatum’ – which The Listener was the first national weekly to publish when the poet was just 18 years-old. Regular columns by Stephen Fry, Ian Hislop and Lynne Truss can also be found.

The Listener provided a balanced overview of social/political issues and events, allowing today’s researchers to explore an issue from multiple perspectives. Acting as an eyewitness to the major issues of the day, it gives researchers an account of the 20th century as it happened; from Anthony Burgess writing on the assassination of President Kennedy in November 1963 and the historian Geoffrey Elton writing on the decline of British Universities in the 1960s, to the transcript of King George VI’s speech at the outbreak of WWII – as featured in the 2011 Oscar-winning film ‘The King’s Speech.’ Coverage of royal weddings such as those of Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret resonate powerfully with this year’s royal wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton. The magazine’s reach was global with detailed coverage of revolutions in the Middle East, including Egypt (1952), Libya (1967) and Iran (1979), enabling researchers to compare past coverage with commentary on today’s political unrest.

Professor Seaton continues: “The Listener was where the British did their thinking. Literate and engaged, it had the mild irony of all the best of British culture. Unlike most magazines, it combined reflections on politics and what was in the news with the arts: but not from any partisan clique.”

Seth Cayley, Publisher for Media History at Cengage Learning EMEA, adds: “The Listener Historical Archive, 1929-1991, will allow students and researchers to access a rich array of historic content for a variety of projects, covering subjects as diverse as everyday life during WWII, 20th century poetry, the last days of the British Empire and the development of science broadcasting. The Listener was at the heart of British cultural and intellectual life in the 20th century, and the release of the archive will remind people of the unique role it played in shaping the debates, discussions and opinions of the time.”

The Listener Historical Archive, 1929-1991 addresses the need for a digital archive in 20th century studies – especially post-1945 studies – opening up a vast area of research in Media and Journalism, Communication and Cultural Studies, and more broadly 20th century History, Literature, Politics and Arts. As one of the main records of publishing and broadcasting in the 20th century – including transcripts of programmes – The Listener Historical Archive, 1929-1991 is an indispensable research and teaching tool.

The Listener was previously available in libraries only in its print form or as microfilm. The full online archive is now available by subscription or purchase to institutions ranging from public libraries and academic institutions to museums, galleries and media companies.

Kathy Day, Publishing Director of Radio Times, concludes: “The Listener archive is the most fascinating catalogue of 20th century intelligent debate. It provides an invaluable insight into a broad spectrum of the cultural, political and artistic perspectives of the time. This digital iteration of the archive will be an indispensable research tool for anyone wanting to get under the skin of this period of our history.”

For more information about The Listener Historical Archive, 1929-1991 or to request your free trial, please call 01264 332831, email emea.marketing@cengage.com, or visit www.gale.cengage.co.uk/thelistener.

Notes to editors:

1.     Images must reference the appropriate citations due to copyright:

Confronting Terrorism: Paul Wilkinson discusses the dilemmas facing government over a very real threat, 8 January 1987- The Listener Historical Archive, 1929-1991


1.     For press enquiries and to receive a range of high resolution images, please contact Jennifer Jackson, Livewire Public Relations, on 020 8339 7440 or email: jennifer.jackson@livewirepr.com.

2.     About Cengage Learning and Gale
Cengage Learning is a leading provider of innovative teaching, learning and research solutions for the academic, professional and library markets worldwide. Gale, part of Cengage Learning, serves the world’s information and education needs through its vast and dynamic content pools, which are used by students and consumers in their libraries, schools and on the Internet. It is best known for its accuracy, breadth and convenience of its data, addressing all types of information needs – from homework help to health questions to business profiles – in a variety of formats. For more information please visit www.cengage.co.uk or gale.cengage.co.uk.

3.     About BBC Worldwide
Radio Times and The Listener are part of BBC Magazines, the magazine publishing division of BBC Worldwide. BBC Worldwide Limited is the main commercial arm and a wholly owned subsidiary of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). The company exists to maximise the value of the BBC’s assets for the benefit of the licence fee payer and invest in public service programming in return for rights. The company has six core businesses: Channels, Content & Production, Sales & Distribution, BBC Magazines, Home Entertainment (including DVD publisher 2 entertain) and Global Brands, with digital ventures incorporated into each business area. In 2009/10, BBC Worldwide generated profits of £145 million (operating profit before specific items) on sales of £1074 million (including Group revenue and the Group’s share of joint-ventures’ revenue). BBC Worldwide was awarded with the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in April 2009. This prestigious award for International Trade recognised the company’s substantial growth in overseas earnings and its commercial success at outstanding levels, based on 3 years’ trading results, which benefit the UK creative industries and ultimately the licence fee payer. For more information please visit www.bbcworldwide.com or follow us at twitter.com/bbcwpress.