Masthead of the 1923 first issue of Radio Times (RT Archive)
Richard has emailed me trying to track down copies of the Radio Times from the 1970s. Here’s his query:
Hello Tony, I’m hoping you can help me as I’m desperately trying to get hold of the copies of Radio Times for 10th – 22nd March 1974. I believe one of them contains the programme details and an article about the Play for Today episode ‘Penda’s Fen‘ that was broadcast on 21st March 1974. The listing should be in the issues I’m looking for. However, the article, which is what I’m really after, I’m not sure.
As I say, I am struggling to find it anywhere and maybe you know of someone or an outlet that I am not aware of (I’ve looked at eBay, general internet search). Fingers-crossed. Thank you for your time.
My first thought is to do an eBay search for:
“Radio Times” 1974. The quote marks find Radio Times as a phrase rather than separate words.
This turns up 74 results. One problem is that some sellers only put up the year, so you have to open up each lot to find the March issues. You can search within a page using Ctrl+F for the month, but use ‘Mar’ rather than ‘March’, because some listing only use the abbreviation. One of the lots that comes up is for the Radio Times of 23-29 March 1974, with Arthur Askey on the cover. The seller, sprocketflange40, not only puts the date in the listing headline but also lists the main articles – really useful for tracking things down. Richard can then contact the seller to see if this is the correct issue.
As Richard mentions, he’s not totally sure which issue he wants, so narrowing things down is really useful. A trick here is to look at completed listings:
“Radio Times” 1974 – completed listings .
This shows me pictures of the issues carrying the schedules for the weeks of Saturday, 2 March and 30 March. I can save the images so I know what the target issues look like. All of these listings are by Sprocketflange30, so he is definitely worth emailing. Go to my Collecting Magazines page if you’re not familiar with building eBay searches.
Once you know each cover, it makes going through listings much quicker.
If you’re lucky, you might just find a digitised image of the listings page you’re after on Flicker. This is mainly because fans of Dr Who put the issues online.
The next stage is to look for specialised magazine sellers. I list these on my Collecting Magazines page. For this post, I started on Tilleys and my search produced 20 results, including a copy of the Arthur Askey issue.
If going to the specialists turns up nothing, you can do a picture search on “Radio Times” 1974 on Duckduckgo, Google and Yahoo and immediately see if there are more around on collectors’ websites or other retailers. Notice how different the results are for the various search engines.
All these techniques can be applied to any magazine. But the Radio Times is one of the biggest titles in the history of periodicals and there are many dedicated resources online to help Richard out. Three in particular stand out:
The BBC’s Genome project
The BBC’s Genome project has digitised all the listings text from the Radio Times for 1923-2009 and put it up free online. It is not a scan of the pages, however, so there are no illustrations; and the articles are not included. But Richard can use this to confirm he has the right issue. If you just need the text of the listing, it is there (a boon for those Dr Who fans!). Some of the programmes can be watched or listened to.
A search on Penda’s Fen produces three results:
- a discussion with David Rudkin, the author, that was broadcast after the play’s airing.
- the play’s first broadcast (21 Mar 1974). Clicking on the title takes you through to the details of the actors, etc.
- the repeat broadcast on 13 February 1975.
It’s worth noting a line at the bottom of the web page under ‘Tell us more’: ‘Do you know whether this programme was actually broadcast as scheduled?’ It is possible that a scheduled programme was not actually broadcast – remember that the Radio Times goes to press a fortnight before it appears in the shops and a lot can happen in that time!
Radio Times Back Numbers
Lynda Kelly of RadioTimesBackNumbers.com is one of the experts on radio and television literature of all kinds. Her site sells back issues and has menus that are easy to drill down through (title/decade/year) as well as a general search. Again, there’s a copy of the Arthur Askey issue, but note the technical detail in the listing:
RT 2628 – 21 Mar 1974 (23-29 Mar) (England).
This tells you:
– the issue number (2628)
– the date of publication (21 Mar)
– the week covered (23-29 Mar)
– which of the regions is covered (England). Some programmes would not be shown in all the regional editions, which include North, England, National and London.
Furthermore, Kellybooks.com publishes several books about the Radio Times.
The Radio Times archive
The Radio Times Archive carries articles about what’s happening now as well as the magazine’s history. It has pages of mastheads, and facts and figures as well as links to resources such as a PDF of the first Radio Times from 1923. The archive is ‘produced with the permission and support of The Radio Times and financial support from the Shiers Trust’ but I don’t know who actually runs it (the author is always just ‘I’). The archive credits several collectors:
Ralph Montagu, Head of Heritage at The Radio Times, a host of private collectors including Roger Bickerton (who set up the Vintage Radio Programme Collectors’ Circle in 1996, now the Radio Circle), Penny Fabb (The Complete Guide to Science Fiction on British Radio), and Ken Clark, and the staff at the BBC Written Archive Centre near Reading.
A large part of the work would not have been possible without the help of Lynda Kelly.
Hopefully, this page will be a help to you in your searches.
To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design