Monday, January 08, 2018

Husband Substitutes on Housewives' Choice

Let us open with a quote from Annie Nightingale, the legendary British pirate radio DJ. This time it was the the Telegraph [SOURCE] but back in 2015 the Guardian published the same quote [SOURCE] with the same headshot in another story.
"Even though I had contributed to Woman's Hour, one of the reasons that I, as a woman, was initially rejected as a potential Radio 1 DJ was that DJs were intended as “husband substitutes”. BBC exact words. I kid you not."
That line has been quoted and re-quoted in recent years, but wasn't the first time I had heard that BBC was quite so patronizing to the ladies. The 2004 text book Media Studies: The Essential Resource by Philip Rayner, Peter Wall and Stephen Kruger quote the same line from Ms. Annie and explain further the mindset of the time.
"...the male DJs functioned as 'husband substitutes' to the identified female listeners. From this idea, both BBC and commercial radio D|s built up a culture where is seemed the art or presentation was to flirt with the female listener who was characterized as 'Doreen' the housewife."
It's hard to picture this today, in a world where the hashtag #metoo is trending. But Housewives' Choice was a BBC radio record request program that broadcast every morning at 9:00 AM from 1946 to 1967 on the BBC Light Programme. (The program was cancelled when the Light Programme was replaced by BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 2 in 1967.) The creator and producer was Pat Osborne. The program even then was a bit culturally tone deaf. But in an era of the BBC broadcasting monopoly, they could afford to be 20 years behind the times.

So when the BBC was husband shopping who did they buy?  They actually changed hosts every week or two so they had to replace their 'husbands' often. Who were those weekly 'Husband Substitutes'? In the end there were over 250 hosts... so it's a mixed bag. You can see a complete list here.  Presenters included:

Neal Arden - Born in London he moved to Southern Rhodesia in 1928 and served in the British South Africa Police. In 1930 he returned to England to pursue an acting career. His screen debut was in the 1934 film version of Princess Charming. In 2005 he published his autobiography, A Man of Many Parts.

Sam Gabriel Costa - He was a popular singer of the British dance band era and a voice actor on the show Much Binding in the Marsh.  His BBC radio career began with appearances on the It's That Man Again (ITMA) program. He also had an excellent mustache.

Kenneth Horne - Unlike most hosts Horne's bread and butter was comedy. He is perhaps best remembered for his work on three BBC Radio series: Much-Binding-in-the-Marsh (1944–54), Beyond Our Ken (1958–64) and Round the Horne (1965–68). Pre-war he was quizmaster on the bi-weekly BBC radio show Ack-Ack, Beer-Beer.

Roy Rich - Well known in the UK as one of Britain's first DJs,

Franklyn Engleman - A BBC radio personality popular in Britain in the 1950s and 1960s, particularly known as the host of Down Your Way and Gardeners' Question Time.

Bryan Michie - A BBC radio announcer and host of Gramophone Omnibus in 1940. He tried his hand at acting in the late 1930s to no avail. More here.

Godfrey Winn - A journalist and columnist for the Daily Mirror and the Sunday Express newspapers. He got into radio as a war correspondent 1939. His book Home From Sea published 1943 recounts his life in the Royal Navy. He frequently hosted the BBC Radio show, with David Jacobs

Bob Danvers Walker - An English radio and newsreel announcer best known as the off-screen voice of Pathe News cinema newsreels during World War II.

Robert MacDermot - Hosted the program in it's first week back in 1946.

George Elrick - Mr. Elrick probably hosted the program more often than any other host. Born in Aberdeen in 1903 he was a drummer and vocalist with one hit single "The Music goes Round and Round" back in 1937. In 1948 he was first invited to host the program. He published an autobiography, Housewives' Choice - The George Elrick Story in 1991.

Eamonn Andrews -  He began as an amateur boxer and became a sports commentator for Ireland's state broadcaster Radio √Čireann. He later hosted the game show What's My Line? He later presented the long-running Sports Report on BBC's Light Programme.

Edmundo Ros - This Trinidadian-Venezuelan musician, vocalist, arranger and bandleader is better known for his tropical night club LPs than his radio career.

Despite the  branding, the program was very popular, receiving a reported 3,000 requests a week according to the 1950 BBC Year Book. Housewive's Choice was succeed by the short-lived show "Family Choice" which was carried on went both Radios 1 and 2. It was cancelled by 1970.  More here. It's worth nothing that four women did host Housewives' Choice. Of them, three were on the BBC staff. They all featured on the program in the late 1940s and all were also associated at one time or another with the show Woman's Hour.

Barbara McFadyean - She first presented a weekly program of "gramophone records of all kinds", in 1943 with announcer Joan Griffiths on the BBC Home Service.

Joan Griffiths - The original host of the Women's Hour was a man, Alan Ivimey.  Listeners complained for the first 3 months so he was fired. Joan was hired on to replace him. New topics included equal pay, menopause and the Lives of Famous Women Novelists.

Jeanne Heal - Before Housewives Choice she hosted Designed for Women. She later hosted her own talk program Meet Jeanne Heal. She went on to do documentaries for the BBC. More here.

Vera Lynn - Hosted the program three times and once for a month in 1963. She is alive today and 100 years old. [SOURCE] A vocalist who sold more than a million records by the age of 22, she performed often for the troops in WWII. In February 2017 she released her latest album, and holds the record for being the oldest living artist to achieve a top 20 UK album.