Segments in this Video

Summit of a Journey (02:04)


V-E Day occurred on May 8, 1945, when the Allies declared the war in Europe was over. In the German capital of Berlin, a ceremony marked the raising of the Union Jack by British soldiers, who began to symbolically occupy the city. Jonathan Dimbleby begins to detail the story of BBC emerging through the age of Nazism to become a national institution and a global force.

A British Solution (02:02)

At the beginning of World War II, it was unclear what role the BBC would play. In the end, it remained an independent organization, provided it followed rules structured by the British government. At its founding, the father of BBC defined its mission simply to inform, educate, and entertain.

At War With Germany (02:16)

Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain made a broadcast on September 3, 1939, stating that the British government delivered a note to the German government, requiring that it withdraw troops from Poland or face war with Britain. This was the first time that the prime minister used radio, BBC to be exact, to make a declaration of war to the people in Britain. On that day, King George VI also broadcast a speech.

Orgy of Organ Music (02:28)

Initially, BBC responded to the outbreak of war by cancelling all programs aside from government announcements, music, and a news bulletin. Public places of entertainment were also immediately closed down in order to prevent mass attacks.

War of Words (01:53)

Soon after the first shots of World War II were fired, the monopoly that the press had over the news began to fall apart, and the BBC was soon to broadcast the news. Already in Germany, politician Joseph Goebbels was exploiting wireless radio as a means over propaganda and control. Goebbels was certain to keep radios cheap enough for all families to afford in order to communicate Nazi propaganda to as many listeners as possible.

Effect of Doublespeak (03:08)

The British liner Athenia was sunk by a German U-Boat on its way towards Montreal, killing 117 men, women, and children, including 28 U.S. citizens. The rules of engagement at sea expressly forbid attacks on passenger ship so this event caused Adolf Hitler to fear that the U.S. would step into the war against the Third Reich. He ordered his propaganda ministry to deny responsibility— Goebbels was the man for the job.

Stifled by Censors (03:09)

The British Army was dispatched to France to help the French protect their border at the beginning of the war. Dimbleby's father, Richard, was sent by the BBC to Northern France to communicate the happenings. An official letter was sent with the BBC, detailing that they should be allowed to pass through all security.

Prestige of the Nation (02:31)

Despite regulations, Richard was able to describe and explore the Maginot Line. The press demanded that the BBC not be able to transmit reports from the front until after the information was presented in newspapers, but the BBC refuted and continued. Some listeners were offended by the BBC and did not understand why reporting from the front was important, considering it vulgar and dangerous.

First Casualty of War (02:52)

The BBC weather forecast was discontinued at the start of the war, because it allowed not only the British, but the German too to know the weather in Britain. A German U-boat sank the Royal Oak, killing 833 members of the crew in 1939. BBC spared listeners the details of how it was allowed to happen.

Undermining Public Morale (02:03)

After the attacks at Scapa Flow, the Royal Navy's esteem was dashed, so the information regarding the air raid was not shared with the Broadcasting House. It was instead broadcast on Berlin Radio with a much different tone. BBC later was attacked for broadcasting too much about the seamen, creating low morale and making it difficult to find new seamen.

Dust in the Eyes (02:39)

Across the North Sea, attacks were being delivered onto Norway's points, and British troops were evacuating. The actual events were concealed from the BBC, so it continued broadcasting an optimistic view until the truth finally came out. BBC's credibility was compromised

Sinister and Seductive (02:56)

William Joyce, better known as Lord Haw-Haw, was a well-known fascist wanted by police who made his way into the safety of Germany with his wife while on the run. He was recruited by Goebbels to become a successful and popular international broadcaster at the home of Berlin Radio at Haus des Rundfunks. J.B. Priestley, author and playwright, was chosen by the BBC to go up against Lord Haw-Haw, who was at that time commanding millions of British listeners.

Fairer and More Equal (04:20)

Priestley succeeded at conveying the news of British troops retreating in a way that allowed listeners to still view them as gallant. Priestley was becoming a star in his own right, but his political views led to conservative power, Duff Cooper, ordering him to be taken off the air.

Master of Rhetoric (03:10)

Newly minted prime minister Winston Churchill gave a famous broadcast on May 19, 1940. Churchill knew the British could not succeed without the support of the United States and decided that the BBC could help procure it via an American reporter, Edward R. Murrow, whose broadcasts were aired both in England and in the United States.

Hard, Stony Sound (02:49)

Murrow's report "London After Dark" was the first time listeners could hear something that connected them directly to war. Murrow wanted to record more actual war sounds, but military censors initially prevented this, presumably to avoid providing any information about the bombings to the German. Murrow persevered until he was given permission and eventually made a powerful impact.

Broadcaster's Dilemma (03:16)

The alliance between Stalin and Hitler was over when Hitler invaded Russia, which prompted Churchill to go on air with another broadcast. He focused on the Russian people fighting for their lives rather than on the Soviet regime, strategically commanding the British people to think about the people's plight for survival rather than the political system of the Soviet Union, which Churchill abhorred.

"The Internationale" (03:45)

On October 6, 1941, BBC announced the signing of an agreement between Britain and the Soviet Union. The agreement stated joint action between the governments in the war against Germany.

Military Disaster (04:44)

BBC was becoming a global service, translated into more languages and targeting the people of occupied Europe especially. Churchill spoke directly to the French people via the BBC, with a producer as translator. In August, 1942, 6,000 Allied troops led by Canadians assaulted the French coast, with Frank Gillard representing the BBC. More than 3,000 casualties on the Allied side were lost, but Gillard's report did not communicate the humiliation he witnessed.

Credits: The War of Words: Episode 1—BBC At War (00:44)

Credits: The War of Words: Episode 1—BBC At War

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The War of Words: Episode 1—BBC At War

Part of the Series : The BBC At War
DVD (Chaptered) Price: $300.00
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $450.00
3-Year Streaming Price: $300.00



In the first installment of the series, BBC presenter Jonathan Dimbleby hones in on the effects of World War II on the then infant broadcasting corporation of BBC. World War II was the first broadcast war, which BBC was entirely unprepared for, so pioneers in broadcasting including Dimbleby's own father Richard Dimbleby broke through barriers and restrictions in order to communicate the truth, and renditions of the truth, to the British public and other global listeners. From author and playwright J.B. Priestley to United States correspondent Edward R. Murrow to Britain's very own Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the broadcasting medium took a new purpose through the course of the WWII conflict. Opponents to the BBC and Britain including Adolf Hitler himself and propaganda specialist Joseph Goebbels also utilized public broadcasting in new, advantageous ways, as Dimbleby chronicles.

Length: 54 minutes

Item#: BVL124872

ISBN: 978-1-64023-017-0

Copyright date: ©2015

Closed Captioned

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