Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Reith Lectures: 2009

BBC's Reith Lectures are always both thought-provoking and illuminating. This year Harvard's Michael Sandel examined morality in a variety of venues - first markets, then politics, and, the third coming up, in science with respect to genetics. The first two of Dr Sandel's talks are well worth one's attention, as I am certain the final two will as well.

Needless to say, I am a big fan of the both the format and purpose. They are, at once dense yet approachable - attributes that in an ever-increasing world of complexity is useful for non-specialists to fathom the nuances of the deliberated subject. The BBC describes their history and purpose as follows:
The Reith Lectures were inaugurated in 1948 by the BBC to mark the historic contribution made to public service broadcasting by Sir John (later Lord) Reith, the corporation's first director-general.

John Reith maintained that broadcasting should be a public service which enriches the intellectual and cultural life of the nation. It is in this spirit that the BBC each year invites a leading figure to deliver a series of lectures on radio. The aim is to advance public understanding and debate about significant issues of contemporary interest.

The very first Reith lecturer was the philosopher, Bertrand Russell who spoke on "Authority and the Individual". Among his successors were Arnold Toynbee (The World and the West, 1952), Robert Oppenheimer (Science and the Common Understanding, 1953) and J.K. Galbraith (The New Industrial State, 1966). More recently, the Reith lectures have been delivered by the Chief Rabbi, Dr Jonathan Sacks (The Persistence of Faith, 1990) and Dr Steve Jones (The Language of the Genes, 1991).

While some will argue that the internet and huge range of similar content now-available has made this redundant, but I'd argue that the exponential the Public Interest is still-served by the mediation and editorial policy of a trusted source. Yes one can still argue about who best serves this role, but I am pleased to benefit from the Beeb's filtering on our behalf. Hope you enjoy them...

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I remember as a small boy listening in bed to the Reith lectures on my crystal set. I remember because I was caught by my Dad when I should have been asleep.

Anonymous said...

I checked the archives. That would have been 1958.

Anonymous said...

TED talks, The Edge and nebulous numbers of public lectures abound for the Londoner (esp LSE ones). But I do agree that this an important signal of the Auntie upholding civilised and educating norms and should continue.

Anonymous said...

They are interesting. But useless. But interesting. I guess if you are packing boxes it's better than listening to the wife complain.

alex said...

I took Michael Sandel's "Justice" class my first term as an undergrad at Harvard. It was one of the most memorable experiences of my educational career.

He's a great teacher of political philosophy and I'm sure the lectures are well worth it.

play said...

For those interested in behavioural psychology there was a great piece by Prof Ramachandran of Uni of CA (San Diego) for BBC Reith in 2003.