Printing: Radio Plays

This page lists radio plays where printing is central to the plot.

A couple of examples:

The Wapping dispute of 1986, where the newspaper print unions opposed the introduction of computer technology and favoured the retention of the 'closed shop'. Since that dispute, the newspaper industry in this country has undergone enormous changes.

The struggle by the Church to keep the Bible in Latin, so that its clergy were the only people qualified to talk about the word of God.

You'll find other interesting things, too ...

By Jonathan Holloway (Saturday Play, 2 Oct 2010, R4). This was set in the run-up to the 1941 Oscars.The young Orson Welles is pushing his film 'Citizen Kane', in spite of vigorous negative lobbying by FBI chief J Edgar Hoover and the newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. Hearst was very unhappy with the way his thinly disguised 'alter ego' was portrayed in the film, and Hoover and Hearst were determined to strangle the production; they almost succeeded.

The writer based the play on documentary evidence, and is an interesting listen for anyone who has seen 'Citizen Kane'. This was Welles' first and most famous venture as a Hollywood director but seems to have done little for his future career.

Jeff Harding was Orson Welles, Toby Jones was Hoover, and John Guerrasio was Herman Mankiewicz; the producer was Sara Davies. .....ND, Diversity website review, Dec 2010

Greed All About It....2010
By Ian Hislop & Nick Newman. Friday Play. 14 May 2010. Satire about the Wapping dispute from 1986.

    Bill Bryson: "When the Australian media magnate, Rupert Murdoch, acquired the Sun, News of the World, Times and Sunday Times through his News International organisation he became the most powerful newspaper baron of his generation."

    The British newspaper industry at that time was using hot-metal technology which was a century old and extremely expensive relative to the new computer technology. The Unions opposed the introduction of computerization.

    On 24 Jan1986, 6000 employees went on strike after months of fruitless negotiation with News International and Times Group Newspapers. The company management had ostensibly been seeking a legally binding agreement at their new plant in Wapping which incorporated computerization, flexible working, a no-strike clause and the end of the closed shop, but it was fairly clear that they were provoking a strike.

    When the strike was announced, dismissal notices were served on all those taking part. As part of a plan which had been secretly developed over many months, the company replaced the workforce with members of the EETPU. Its four main papers (the Times, Sunday Times, Sun and the News of the World) were transferred to Wapping. And so began the Wapping Dispute.

      Notes from the BBC messageboard by a person who knows the industry, summarised and edited for clarity by ND....

      ...I was a little disappointed because having experienced a bitter dispute and a total defeat at Wapping, I was hoping for some scathing satire which would reveal the full truth of what had really happened. The play was far too gentle.

      The writers decided to rely on the mainstream media version of the causes of the strike. Itís true that many Fleet St workers had two jobs, indeed some of my colleagues regularly edited on two or more newspapers. I had a second, more demanding job as a union official and many executives and non-exec directors shared their expertise with more than one company. Mr Murdoch had umpteen jobs, positions and roles. Unfortunately, the writers only chose the obvious targets on both sides of the argument.

      Mr Murdoch happily paid top prices to a willing and relatively small staff to get four million plus copies of his red-topped cash cow onto peopleís breakfast tables. It worked for a while, until the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom came along with its Right of Reply Campaign. All the print unions, including the National Union of Journalists, signed up to it but with very few notable exceptions, only the printers pursued the issue. This resulted in lost editions of the Sun, prolonged stoppages and accusations by Murdoch management of interference with the freedom of the press Ė real satire that!

      Mr. Murdoch could have got much of what he wanted at Wapping from the unions, but he resented the effects of the Right of Reply campaign on the Sun. The company confirmed this both during the dispute and after it finished, by which time, any vestige of a free and fair press in the UK had disappeared.

R.K.Naryan's allegory, adapted by Ronald Frame. It's told in the style of a fable about an old tiger; trapped, apparently doomed, but ultimately liberated.

ND adds ... I think this is the same tale which was dramatised by Bill Ash in 1991, as "The Man-Eater of Malgudi". R.K.Naryan's greatest novel, it tells the story of Nataraj, owner of a small printing press, and his house guest Vasu, who moves into Nataraj's attic with a menagerie of dead animals.

Not a drama...but worth including here: Are We As Offensive As We Might Be? (R4, 1145, 14 Nov 04) was a programme presented by Ian Hislop about the Wipers Times, a satirical magazine written against all the odds in the trenches in the First World War.

I found a reprinted, bound copy of this in a bookshop in Uppingham a little while back, and it's an amazing story - a party of English soldiers looking through the ruins of Ypres in 1916 (pronounced "Wipers" by the Tommies) found a printing press. One of the men was a printer, so they decided not to use it for scrap but to produce a humorous magazine.

The first edition, produced under heavy shelling, was an unexpected success with the troops. It mixes witty editorials, spoof adverts, fake readers' letters and replies, and it pokes fun at the higher-ups who were running the war with such ruthless incompetence. Captain Roberts, in the bleak days of 1917, says "Of course, it's quite likely that this war business may interfere with our plans". But the war never stopped the flow of humour; this remarkable magazine was printed until 1918.

In 2004, information flows more freely, and there is endless debate by the media and ordinary people about military decisions. The hidden mistakes of the First World War seems an age away.

The House That Hearst Built....1999
(15-07-99, rpt. 11-06-2001) Not sure who wrote this; it was probably compiled by the producer, John Gardie. It is not a normal drama; more a partially-dramatized documentary feature. Hearst's house began as a `little' something on a Californian ranch and ended up as `Hearst Castle', one of the most extravagant homes in the world, fruit of a thirty year collaboration between publisher William Randolph Hearst and architect Julia Morgan. This compilation draws on their correspondence, charting the growth of the house and its problems. With William Hootkins, Gayle Hunnicut, Buffy Davis, Kerry Shale.

LOBBY LUD....1997
Lobby Lud by Douglas Livingstone (R4 1430 28 June) was the true story of how a National newspaper improved its flagging circulation. "You are Lobby Lud and I claim the Gazette prize of £50" - in 1927, this phrase was on everybody's lips. Lobby Lud was the pseudonym of a Gazette reporter who was paid to be pursued and identified by the public and he had a number of entertaining scrapes which made the headlines. The cast included Jestyn Jones, Malcolm Storry (from the TV series "The Knock") & Stephen Thorne. (ND, VRPCC Review, 1997)

The Rundle Gibbet....1981, r.1991
By Peter Terson, 4 Apr 81, R4.A self-opinionated individual starts up his own scandal sheet in an effort to make his voice heard and to cleanse the town where he lives. He stirs up more than he bargained for....with Haydn Jones, June Barrie, Christian Rodska, Brian Hayden, John Apineri, Rex Holdsworth, Rosalind Adams, Julia Hills, Geoffrey Matthews, Bruce Stewart (Barratt and Cooper), Willian Fox, Andrew Hilton, Daphne Herd, Jack Watson. Directed by Shaun McLoughlan.


R4, Saturday Night Theatre, 10 Jan 81. William Tyndale, who was fluent in at least 7 languages, translated much of the Bible into English from the original Greek and Hebrew sources. In doing so he gave the English language many of its best known phrases. Much of his work appears unchanged but unacknowledged in the 'Authorized' (or 'King James') version of the Bible.

Tyndale translated and printed the first New Testament in English in 1525 and a revised edition in 1535. The 1525 New Testament caused wrath from Cardinal Wolsey who suppressed the New Testament as "seditious," commanding that it be collected and burned. Eventually, he was betrayed in 1535 to the authorities while residing in Antwerp, Belgium, where he was captured and taken to Vilvorde Castle near Brussels. He was tried as a heretic for translating the Bible and was sentenced to death. His last words were: "Lord, open the King of England's eyes." before he was strangled and his dead body was burnt on 6th October 1536.

Cast: Charles Kay [William Tyndale], Clifford Rose [Thomas Poyntz], Hugh Dickson [Sir Thomas More], Sheila Grant [Mistress Margaret Van Emmerson], Cyril Shaps [William Roye, an Augustinian Friar], Stephen Garlick [Ned], John Church [Humphrey Monmouth, Alderman of London], Anthony Hyde [John Frith], John Bott [Cuthbert Tunstall, The Bishop of London], Gordon Reid [William Hebilthwait, the Bishop's Secretary / Steven Vaughn], Sion Probert [Miles Coverdale], and Sean Arnold [Peter Quentell, a printer in Cologne / Henry Phillips]. Other parts played by members of the cast. Producer Cherry Cookson, 90m.

Nigel Deacon / Diversity website

Above recordings known to exist in VRPCC collections

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