The Envy Of The World

Three documentaries charting the history of the Third Programme and Radio 3.

Episodes

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Broadcast
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01No Fixed Points19970805

Humphrey Carpenter investigates the origins of the Third in the aftermath of World War II.

In an interview from the BBC's own archives, Director General William Haley outlines his vision of a network with no regular programmes, no news bulletins and no fixed points.

Listeners including Peter Maxwell Davies and Harold Pinter remember how the Third changed their lives, Michael Tippett recalls programmes he presented, and former Controller Harman Grisewood reflects on an early complaint.

01No Fixed Points20160925

In 1996 Humphrey Carpenter presented this history of the Third Programme and Radio 3, in which he interviewed all the surviving founders of the network, who recalled in vivid detail the ideals on which it was based, the anxieties of the very first evening on air, and the reactions of the press and public at the time.

Humphrey himself died in 2005, and almost all the contributors are no longer with us, but this is another chance to hear the first part of the history of the Third Programme, launched 70 years ago in the aftermath of the Second World War.

In an interview from the BBC's own archives, Director General William Haley outlines his vision of a network with no regular programmes, no news bulletins and no fixed points. Listeners including Peter Maxwell Davies and Harold Pinter remember how the Third changed their lives, Michael Tippett recalls programmes he presented, and former Controller Harman Grisewood reflects on an early complaint about "vulgarisation" - from EM Forster. And there are tales of coal shortages, atrocious reception, fan mail from Richard Strauss - who heard the Third in Switzerland - and a triumphant visit to London by the whole of the Vienna Opera.

Producer: John Goudie.

02Rudely Truncated19970806

Humphrey Carpenter investigates how the Third captured the intellectual high-ground with talks by the likes of Isaiah Berlin and Bertrand Russell.

The `Hilda Tablet' plays of Henry Reed offered a lighter touch, and the Third broadcast one of the most famous programmes ever - `Under Milk Wood'.

In 1957, cuts to the Third provoked a high-profile protest campaign.

Today's programme includes the first broadcast ever of a speech by T S Eliot as part of the protest.

02Rudely Truncated20160925

In 1996 Humphrey Carpenter presented this history of the Third Programme and Radio 3, talking to all the surviving founders of the network, which was launched in September 1946.

Humphrey himself died in 2005, and many of the contributors are no longer with us. In this, the second programme of the series, Humphrey examines how the Third aimed to capture the intellectual high-ground with talks by the likes of Isaiah Berlin and Bertrand Russell.

Henry Reed offered a lighter touch, with his plays about the imaginary experimental composer Hilda Tablet, and the Third broadcast one of the most famous radio programmes ever, Under Milk Wood, as well as pioneering dramas by Samuel Beckett.

In 1957, cuts to the Third provoked a high-profile protest campaign, with T S Eliot among the leading names voicing their disapproval. Meanwhile, the arrival of William Glock as BBC Controller of Music brought more contemporary European compositions to the network, leading to rumours that some British composers were officially excluded.

Producer John Goudie.

03 LASTCulture's Not For Us?19970807

Humphrey Carpenter investigates the impact of the 1969 announcement that the Third Programme would be abolished, and examines the changing sound of the programmes.

Some of the Third's most famous voices reflect on changing styles behind the microphone.

And former controllers including Harman Grisewood, Stephen Hearst, Ian McIntyre and John Drummond consider two questions which have provoked much debate over the past 50 years: what is the role of a cultural radio network, and who are its listeners?