Thursday, July 22, 2010

Wyn Knowles

The "K" in LKT is Knowles so I was (perhaps inappropriately) excited this morning to see a Knowles in the obits--and a Knowles worthy of the name: Wyn Knowles, "Editor of Woman's Hour who covered the advent of women's liberation and broadcast the first expletive." Excellent!

And here's a wonderfully British sentence for you: "The contraceptive pill and legalised abortion were both introduced on her watch, and the programme covered both subjects on air with considerable vigour."

Neither contraception nor divorce, for example, was supposed to be covered without permission in writing from senior management. But under Wyn Knowles, Woman's Hour simply pressed ahead with these matters on the basis, in her words, that "the men were all at lunch".

Isn't that fabulous? But you want to know about the expletive, don't you? Ah, here we are:

Early in Wyn Knowles's editorship, in 1971, the programme weathered one of its most ferocious storms, when it became the first BBC radio programme to air the "F-word", which was used by an 18-year-old sixth-former in a discussion about the underground press that had flourished in the 1960s. Ironically, the student used the word to illustrate, and denigrate, the kind of language used in those publications – "f---ing this and f–ing that" – but a considerable fuss ensued and, whipped up by outraged press coverage, more than 200 listeners jammed the BBC switchboard with calls.

Here's to a woman who knew how to handle a considerable fuss. And on the feast of Mary Magdalene, too. Press on, Ms. Knowles.

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