• Merrick Wells

No News Day : When the news stood still

Updated: Dec 29, 2019


April 18th 1930 was a strangely unique day in history, BBC Radio announced there was no news worth reporting and instead of a news bulletin, they played a piano concerto instead.

This curious announcement on Good Friday 1930 could never happen today. In a world with relentless information overflow and astonishing speed of world shaping events there is always something to report, but on that day, the BBC reported there was nothing to report.

During this early period in the BBC’s life, news reporting was dominated by the press agencies such as Reuters and although the BBC was making editorial decisions about which stories to report the bulletins were mostly dominated by government advisory stories, official announcements such as reminders to post early for Christmas.

There is more to this than meets the eye though. It is believed the Home Office was concerned about accounts of a newspaper interview with the Home Secretary. Due to the Easter weekend holiday there would be no newspapers printed and so the BBC was contacted to ensure a denial was included in the evening news. Whether a denial would stand out like a sore thumb without any other events to report around it or if this is an early example of “no news is good news”.

A cursory internet based research effort suggests that the BBC might have had a point. Only one event really creates any headline potential, with a failed uprising on a Chittagong armoury in Bengali British India (Modern day Bangladesh). Some websites list another point of interest, in the birth of actor Clive Revill whose most notable achievement was the original voice role of Emperor Palpatine in The Empire Strikes Back before the rerelease saw Iain McDiarmid shot scenes for the role he carried out in the rest of the franchise. We can probably give the BBC a pass on not reporting that momentous event on the day itself and it is unlikely that news of the Chittagong clashes would have reached London prior to broadcast of the early evening news. Other events of note happened, a typhoon hit the Philippines, The Soviet Union tested two military planes, a petition about Segregation was submitted to the American Government, a wooden church burnt down in rural Romania killing 118 people, mostly school pupils.

It is churlish to say nothing happened, it would also be unfair to hold 1930’s information collection to today’s standards, but the fact remains, April 18 1930 stands like a solitary, fascinating beacon in a world of dark noise and chaos, a day where the sun rose and set and life went on, in an unreported and unremarkable way. If ever there was a date to be nominated as the least likely destination for time travelers, I suspect this may be the one. Although, when people long for a simpler time, a past to retreat to, perhaps a day when your news fix was substituted for some gentle piano music, this day could serve as a more powerful message to us all. In an age where the happenings across the globe are at our fingertips without hesitation, a day without news feels like an unobtainable Nirvana. Perhaps we should take the BBC lead and make the effort to stay away from the fear porn that passes for news reporting these days. Maybe April 18 should be a day without news, a chance to reconnect with those around us, rather than indulge in the artificial connection of relentless digital information. Now if only we could find a way to spread this information to the world with rapid efficiency….

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