Programme Index

Discover 10,922,011 listings and 280,189 playable programmes from the BBC

Radio Times Style Guide


The BBC Programme Index is a record of the radio and television programmes of the BBC, from its beginnings in the 1920s to the present day. It has been compiled from two main sources – the pages of Radio Times up to the end of 2009 (the former Genome Project), and BBC iPlayer and BBC Sounds data from 2007 onwards (where there is an overlap, both data sets will show up).

While the iPlayer and Sounds data are fixed data sources and cannot be edited, the information from Radio Times was acquired by scanning the magazines, and editing helps with two main issues resulting from this method of acquisition: correcting OCR errors and standardising the style of entries.

OCR (Optical Character Recognition) errors in the Radio Times-derived listings were caused by the imperfections in the source copies of Radio Times, and the difficulty software has in interpreting this text accurately. Words can be joined together or split in two, and letters can be mistaken for other similar ones, resulting in garbled text.

The Style Guide is an attempt to deal with the fact that Radio Times employed numerous different layouts, typefaces and sizes in the magazines we scanned, from its earliest issues in 1923. The purpose of this Style Guide is to help solve the latter problem. We are not slavishly copying the layout in every detail, as we do not have the range of type sizes and fonts that were available in the magazines, but we want to make the style of the Programme Index entries as consistent as possible.

Since the Genome Project began our editors have helped enormously in cleaning up the data. We have received nearly a million edits, of which we have accepted more than 90%. Although we remain open to suggestions on style and layout, at this stage we want to emphasise the correction of OCR errors. Correcting errors is essential in helping people to search the data more effectively. Accordingly, we have updated our Style Guide. You can read our previous Style Guide here. (/styleguide)

To help editors with listings from 1923 to 1959, the original pages of Radio Times are available on the Programme Index database. For later entries, you can bring an error to our attention by making an approximate correction, as we check all edits before accepting them, or by emailing us a note of the problem.

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The edit function

The Edit function is used to correct any errors introduced by the Optical Character Recognition software, and this is the main function of this phase of the project - in a word, proofreading.

We are not at this stage looking to include additional information which was not in Radio Times - e.g. additional cast and crew, whether the programme was actually transmitted, personal recollections of the programme. Please do not add this information to the listing as we will not be able to retain it.

If you have a question that is specific to the data and listings in The Programme Index, please use the email address

For general enquiries and for any queries about actual broadcasts, use the BBC’s general contact form.

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The Style Guide

The Genome information for each programme listing is divided into three fields: Title, Synopsis and Contributors.

The information for each programme listing is divided into three fields: Title, Synopsis and Contributors.


This should contain all the title elements of the programme - the main title, and any subtitle/episode title, strand or season title, but only if they are included in the specific Radio Times billing being edited.

The title field should not contain the names of any artists appearing in the programme unless that is the whole or part of the name of the programme (e.g. The Morecambe and Wise Show, Film 88 with Barry Norman) or they are named in a season or strand (Wayne in Action, Bette Davis Festival). Other names can be included at or near the top of the synopsis to show they were stressed by the billing, preceded by [Starring] to show that they were intended to be given prominence. Any technical information, such as a waveband or the names of transmitters that a programme is being broadcast on, should not be included in the title, even if that is how it appears in Radio Times/Genome at the moment, but put as a note in brackets at the end of the synopsis.

Promotional messages such as "New Series", "RT Choice" can be deleted, but reference to content on other pages such as articles should be retained. Nothing in any field should normally be in FULL CAPITAL LETTERS, unless a title has a word or words which are specifically intended to be in capitals, not just because it is the Radio Times house style at the time. Where there is a capital letter in the middle of a word (‘Camel Case’ - e.g EastEnders, ChuckleVision) that should be kept.


This is the main text of the Radio Times billing. Certain contributor information may be included, where it shows the importance of a performer, if appropriate. Credits which are just repeated in the same terms in the contributor list can usually be left out. Most production credits should only be included in the Contributor section, unless they are prominently featured and it would distort the intention of the synopsis to remove them. We do use a certain fluidity in how this rule is interpreted, however.

Because of the Radio Times layout and how the data capture worked, there are many instances where multiple programmes (e.g. Schools programmes, Children's Hour, DEF II) are logged as if they were one programme, although they have separate start times. At the moment we do not have the functionality to separate these into discrete listings, but they need to have a line space between them to show they are a different programme.

Technical information such as transmitter names, colour/black and white (where stated), stereo, subtitles, etc, should be included at the end of the synopsis in curved brackets. Sometimes a symbol is used in Radio Times in place of such words, which can be replaced by the correct word in square brackets (e.g. [Repeat]) to ensure the information is clear. Any details about scheduled repeats, previous showings, where additional details can be found, should also be enclosed in curved brackets: these are often in small type in the magazine and brackets are our way of showing that this is ‘lesser’ information.

Listings which include postal addresses, phone numbers, or email and web addresses, should have these removed, as they are likely to be out of date, and we don't want users to waste time and money as a result of including them. They should be replaced with a note in square brackets e.g. [address removed], [number removed], [web address removed]. Even if a web address is currently live, it may not be in future, so it is better to take it out. Phone numbers should be removed even if they are part of the programme title, e.g. on phone-in programmes.

Please note that for technical reasons music details and other information for some programmes was not transferred from the scans of Radio Times to the database. This is one of a number of technical issues which we hope to resolve in the future, and you should not add these details manually.


Each person credited should have a separate entry, except where they are billed jointly by the name of an act or group/ensemble. When two or more people collaborate on a script, musical work or other craft role, they should be credited separately with the appropriate job title for each. Where two people share a surname because of family connection and are billed as 'X and Y Smith' they should be credited as 'X Smith' and 'Y Smith' on separate lines. Please do not alter the name people are credited by, if they have since changed it – we need to preserve the historical record from the time of publication.

For technical reasons the contributors must be listed in this form:

Name or Job: Name of Person (note the colon, and single space following it)

Where the scanning process has not identified the role or job of the contributor, it is listed as 'Unknown'. You should try to work this out from the available information - this means how they are literally described in the billing, or failing that, what is inferred - but try to keep terms as straightforward as possible. If in doubt, leave it as 'unknown' and we will research it later.

Here is a short (but not exhaustive) list of the preferred terms for generic roles:

Presenter (if they are solely the presenter of a named item within a programme, they should be credited as ‘Presenter (Name of item)'
Speaker (usually used for one-person programmes especially where a talk is given with little or no additional material; used more for radio than television)
Guest (often used for chat shows or more informal programmes)
Panellist (usually used for game shows and panel shows, as well as serious discussion programmes)
Subject (NB this is used where a person is the subject of a documentary programme or item and appears in newly created material, not where they only appear in archive footage or sound recordings. I.e. they will not get this description if they were dead at the time the programme was made.) Expert
Musician (or the specific word for a player of an instrument, e.g. violinist, pianist)
Performer (can be used where a person’s act content is unknown)
Actor should be used where a contributor in a drama, comedy etc. is an actor but the name of the role they are playing is not given (if it's not in Radio Times, it should not be added at present to the contributor list). If an actor is appearing in a factual context, e.g. talking about their profession in a documentary, it is acceptable to describe them as Actor etc., without the square brackets.

Be careful with artists appearing in programmes where they are not primarily in their usual role or profession - they may be better described as Guest than Singer for example.

Some programmes have special credits for those appearing, by tradition – e.g Mastermind calls its contestants ‘Contenders’ and the guest on Desert Island Discs is known as the ‘Castaway’.

The above list is distinct from normal credits such as Producer, Director, Writer, where there should be little scope for ambiguity. Credits with multiple words such as Executive Producer should be put in full. Where a writer is billed as "[Name of Play] by Joan Smith" the contributor list credit should be Writer: Joan Smith. Our convention for writers of works not originally created for broadcasting is to call them ‘Author’, and there will often be a credit for ‘Adapted by’ or ‘Dramatised by’ next to this, depending how the billing shows this. Sometimes the billing will call the adapter ‘Writer’, and say the programme is ‘Based on the novel by’ or similar, and this form of words can be used.

On some programmes the production/direction credit is rendered as "presented by"; this should be treated carefully as there is scope for confusion with the presenter of the programme, if any. This credit should not be changed to "Presenter" as that is a different role. Any ambiguity can be cleared up by the Programme Index team. Often descriptions such as "Introduced by", "Produced by" are seen in the billing, but these should be replaced by a straight 'job' title ("introduced by" = "Presenter"). If someone is listed as ‘Host’ in the synopsis this too should become ‘Presenter’ in the Contributor list. Generally the descriptions in the Contributor field should be kept as simple as possible, even if this means keeping the original form of the credit in the synopsis as well.

People appearing in front of the camera on television or heard in a radio programme should be kept separate from behind-the-scenes credits. Where someone contributes in both fields they should be credited separately for each, unless there is a pressing reason not to do so (e.g. the Monty Python team are always credited as "Conceived, written and performed by" and it would be a shame to lose that iconic description). If someone has multiple technical roles, e.g. "Director/Producer" that can be retained.

Where a Programme Index billing includes several separate programmes, the crew credits should have the name of the programme in curved brackets after them. Any actors in such circumstances do not have the name of the programme after the character name, but should be grouped to follow the crew credits for the show. In due course we hope to be able to have separate entries for each programme, and will be able to remove these titles.

Finally, some entries have the first part listed as “Unknown”. This is not a comment on the contributor, this is inserted by the software that assembled the data when it could not identify their role in the programme. It may be obvious to a human being, either from the listing or from personal knowledge or research.

Feel free to add this information (but briefly, and only in relation to their contribution to the programme) – this is the only area where we welcome additional information. However, please not add the name of a character played by an actor, where this is not given in the specific billing being edited, or add a cast list from another broadcast of the programme, as this would give the impression that Radio Times had a full cast list. This information may be added in future, but in a form yet to be decided.

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It is intended that this phase of the project should reproduce the content of the Radio Times, in a consistent format. This resource is a database of BBC programmes and contributors, so it is the information that is important, not the exact way it was laid out when originally published. This style guide is meant to evolve as we come across new challenges, so we welcome your feedback on this. Contact us with your suggestions. Refer to the previous version of the Style guide [here]. (

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