[dropcap]T[/dropcap]here’s nothing quite like a good old-fashioned ding-dong over the licence fee to divide the British public, but now the BBC plans to ensure that we are getting at least some value for money with its latest venture: a landmark, four-year project marking the centenary of World War I.
In keeping with the timescale of this most affecting of conflicts, the whole show will run from 2014 right up until 2018, making this nothing short of a revolution. It is thought that, by the end, there will have been some 2500 hours of programming across 130 separate broadcasts.
A whole host of familiar faces will be on hand to cover proceedings, one of which is Jeremy Paxman. The University Challenge host, who will present the documentary series Britain’s Great War, said: “A century on, we should perhaps remember and respect that sacrifice. And realise that more than any other, this was the one that made modern Britain.”
But it doesn’t stop there, because if you thought that something as groundbreaking as this would be all about TV docs, you’d be very much mistaken! BBC One will be showing two brand-new dramas, set during the war, namely The Ark and The Passing Bell. Children will also be able to join in, as the ever-popular Horrible Histories prepares for a special run.
Neither is all of this exclusive to television. Radio 4 is set to play host to two dramas of its own, Homefront and Tommies, as well as news programme 1914 – Day By Day. Radio 2 will be offering Real Time World War One, presented by Jeremy Vine, through which listeners will be able to enjoy ‘breaking news’ from the war. Let’s not forget the internet either (how could we), as there will be an online forum which the BBC call the ‘digital cenotaph’, inviting people to search for their ancestor’s service records and upload any material connected to the war.
There will also be a focus on the emotional side of things, with the very first showing of previously unseen footage. A handful of war veterans were interviewed in 1964 for the series The Great War, but these accounts were ultimately shelved due to preferences for a purely historical perspective. The Beeb bigwigs have since come to the conclusion that a modern audience would be more receptive to the interviewees’ feelings.
It will be a commemoration like no other and, over the next four years, will take the world of broadcasting to new heights. But perhaps more importantly, it will give us a fresh look at this monumental, yet tragic event, the ultimate tribute to those who gave their lives.