On this day in 1927, the BBC tried something new for their broadcast of a rugby match between England and Wales: they partnered with Radio Times magazine to publish a diagram of a rugby pitch to help the audience follow the action. Plus: on National Hat Day, where better to be than the one and only National Hat Museum?
Squaring Up for Radio Commentary (On This Day)
January 15th is a pretty interesting anniversary for those of us in radio and broadcasting, and a big part of broadcasting history is connected to sports.
What precisely was the first sports broadcast depends on how you define sports broadcast, but in 1921, KDKA in Pittsburgh, which had famously broadcast the returns of the 1920 presidential election, also began adding baseball, football and boxing to its on-air lineup.
The announcers of the time were inventing play-by-play broadcasting, but they didn’t yet have the standard style that announcers today try to use.
So they would try different ways to help listeners see in their minds what the announcers were describing.
On this day in 1927, the BBC tried something new for their broadcast of a rugby match between England and Wales.
The broadcaster partnered with Radio Times magazine to publish a diagram of a rugby pitch that had been divided into sections, like a numbered grid.
As play by play announcer Teddy Wakelam described what was happening in the match, his colleague, C.A. Lewis, would call out the numbers on the grid, so listeners could know where on the field the action was taking place.
There were eight sections on the Radio Times grid, and while it’s sometimes said the commentary based around the diagram led to the phrase “back to square one,” that doesn’t seem quite right looking at the diagram.
It only has a single square one, so the team trying to move the ball in the opposite direction would have had to go back to square eight, and I sure don’t hear that phrase getting used much.
Nonetheless, the grid was an early way to make broadcasting more interactive for the audience.
And we should also note that the one rule posted in the commentary box for Wakelam and Lewis was just two words long: Don’t swear.
Today is National Hat Day, and where better to be than the one and only National Hat Museum?
That’s in Portland, Oregon, and displays more than 2,300 hats, some of them dating back hundreds of years.
Tours are by appointment only, and the museum’s website warns the hats are so impressive that quote “people have been known to swoon!”