BBC Woman's Hour

Authors: Murphy, K.

Publisher: Routledge


This chapter will consider the development of the world’s longest running weekday radio programme for women, Woman’s Hour, first broadcast on the BBC on 7 October 1946. Almost from its inception, the BBC had been aware of this captive daytime audience, launching its first regular programming for women in 1923. Talks aimed at women continued to be a feature of daytime broadcasting in Britain throughout the interwar years, and played an important role during the Second World War. Woman’s Hour built on this tradition. After a rocky start, the programme was relaunched in January 1947 with a remit that made clear it was not just about household advice, but also about “events of topical interest”. An important role would also be played by listeners. With its predominantly female production team, the first few months of 1947 included talks on child birth, equal pay and the menopause. This direct approach brought conflict with BBC managers, anxious about sensitivities, and set a tension that would continue throughout the programme’s history. A symbiotic relationship with its audience was (and still is) at the heart of Woman’s Hour. It was a trailblazer in giving a voice to listeners both through the reading of their letters (now the inclusion of emails and tweets) and through the broadcasting of their personal testimonies often on controversial and painful topics such as divorce, drug addiction and abortion. As well as a focus on the content of the programme and how this has altered to reflect societal change, this chapter will address issues such as the influence of editors on the tone of Woman’s Hour; the way the male listenership has been addressed; the prioritisation of female contributors and its tricky relationship with feminism.

Source: Manual