The Day That Had No News: April 18, 1930
In our nightmare world of doom-scrolling and 24-hour news cycles, the idea of a slow news day feels like unrealistic bliss. For BBC radio news listeners on April 18, 1930, though, there was, in fact, no news. Seriously, the news announcer just said there was nothing to report on.
The lack of news happened during the 8:45 p.m. broadcast (or 20:45, since we’re dealing with the British). This was intended to be a 15-minute news broadcast before the start of an airing of Richard Wagner’s opera Parsifal at 9:00. When the presenter began, he simply stated, “There is no news,” and that was it. Piano music played for the remainder of the news program.
To our modern minds, this can seem impossible. On even the slowest of days, there is some sort of news. And there certainly was news happening that BBC could have reported on. Instead of news, though, there was just the piano.
Even by the standards of the time, the broadcast on April 18, 1930, was an anomaly, so why was there “no news?” This can largely be traced back to the philosophy of the BBC’s first Director-General, John Reith. His focus was on the quality of news rather than simply having news for the sake of it. Plus, BBC was not supported by advertisers, so Reith had no one to please but his audience.
While the high standard the BBC had at the time was admirable, it was also indicative of an elitism that Reith displayed. News announcers wore dinner jackets while reading the news, which seems unnecessary considering absolutely no listener would notice. They aired things like opera to expose the public to more “high-class” entertainment. If someone wanted sleazy news, they could find it in the papers. It would not be present on the radio.
Regardless of why there was no news on April 18, 1930, it marks a relic of something we simply wouldn’t see today. At 8:45 p.m., BBC listeners were not given anything new to worry or get otherwise worked up about. They could just stop and enjoy the music.