The files contain correspondence and contractual papers relating to the engagement of speakers, performers, and others to contribute to BBC radio programmes before 1963.
They cover the whole range of broadcasting with a variety of contributors represented: actors, composers, comedians, musicians, politicians, writers, and authoritative speakers drawn from the full spectrum of the arts and sciences. The papers cover contributions to both the BBC’s domestic and overseas programmes, but not, generally, the regions. Papers relating to copyright cover both radio and television broadcasts.
A typical file contains correspondence between the contributor or the contributor’s agents and the BBC, internal correspondence between BBC members of staff regarding the contributor (covering their suitability for a broadcast and any audition process) and then a booking form and/or contract for their contribution. The papers within the files vary both in quantity and quality, with much depending on the contributor’s propensity to correspond with BBC staff. Some files contain purely business documents, with exchanges limited to the relevant booking departments of the BBC. Many, however, contain detailed correspondence with producers about the subject’s broadcasting work. When these are supplemented with the internal BBC memos they can provide a full record of the programme-making process from conception to broadcast and beyond.
The files in this section concern broadcasters external to the BBC. Salaried members of BBC staff, and those on long-term contracts, do not have files of this sort, unless they made contributions to programmes outside their normal duties. Similarly, the BBC’s house orchestras are not represented here (see ‘Related Units of Description’).
It is noticeable that, as this series of files comes to an end in the early 1960s, the telephone is starting to replace the letter or memo as the principal means of communication, and the files tend to become progressively less rich in detail.
A few files contain material that dates from beyond the end of 1962 (some up to and including 1981), where there is not a subsequent file for the contributor. These can be identified by the date range given on the individual file entry.
Researchers should be aware that even if a particular name does not appear in RCONT1 , there may still be papers for that person in any of the concurrent ‘Miscellaneous’ sequences RCONT2 - 11 .