“It’s PM at 5 p.m.” For many years the opening announcement for Radio 4’s daily afternoon news magazine followed by the PM signature tune.
PM is unique amongst the station’s main news programmes (Today, The World at One, PM, The World Tonight) in having had a regular theme tune – a brief experiment on Today notwithstanding.
There’s an interesting article about PM on the Radio 4 website but I thought I’d add some information about the first and second versions of the theme.
PM started in April 1970 as part of the network’s response to Broadcasting in the Seventies – the BBC’s blueprint for change in the wake of the launch of Radios 1 to 4 in 1967 - which required Radio 4 to give more emphasis to news and current affairs. PM replaced a more light-hearted magazine programme called Home this Afternoon, a title it had acquired back on the Home Service in 1965. A typical line-up of features might include Anne Dunys, a 30s cabaret artist talking about her career, a report on people who have retired to Switzerland, a talk by gamekeeper and naturalist Walter Flesher and consideration as to whether corsets cause varicose veins – this particular programme went out in August 1969. So you can see how PM was a contrast to what had gone before, although in the early days it was less ‘newsy’ than it would become.
The original PM theme was composed by John Baker of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and is called Computers in Business. It had already been used to introduce News Time, a 15 minute news programme that went out on both Radios 1 & 2 at 7.30 p.m. each weekday.
News Time had started on the Light Programme in either 1966 or 1967 (I’ve not established the exact date) and regular presenters included Tim Gudgin, the wonderfully-named Corbet Woodall (later a TV news reader who you may recognise if you’ve ever seen the Kitten Kong episode of The Goodies) and Derek Cooper who would go on to co-host PM with William Hardcastle. Regular Radio 4 listeners will know Derek as the long-running and original presenter of The Food Programme and he also provided the voiceovers for the filmed inserts on Tomorrow’s World.
The second PM theme was introduced in 1978, though the BBC website suggests this is from 1984 but I guess this is the date of the clip they use. Again the production team (editor in charge was Jenny Abramsky) went back to the Radiophonic Workshop, this time to commission Paddy Kingsland to compose it for them. Here’s Paddy talking to Gordon Clough about how he came up with the idea and put all the elements together:
This clip from PM in April 1980 is presented by Robert Williams and Janet Cohen: