Hugh Purcell argues that the increasing popularity and sophistication of television and radio history makes broadcasting the boom medium for learning about the past.
At the beginning of 1999, the History Channel had the simple idea of inviting viewers to send in family photos of historic value. Over 7,000 responded and the best results were shown both on television and in a national exhibition, in over 150 libraries round the country and in a book. In April the same year the BBC broadcast a series on industrial archaeology, Fred Dibnah’s Industrial Britain. Nearly three million people watched it; 20,000 rang for more information, over 80,000 received leaflets and 450,000 hit the specially created website. Two trickles from what is rapidly becoming a torrent. There is, now, a colossal interest in history and this is being stimulated, aroused in many cases, by an unprecedented quantity and quality of history programmes on television and radio.