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Style Guide


As we clean up the data set which was extracted from Radio Times, we thought it would be helpful to explain our approach. The varied typography and layout of Radio Times over the decades has resulted in inconsistent billing styles being imported into BBC Genome, and we are aiming to standardise the format of entries. This style guide will hopefully save all you editors from having to worry about the best format to follow, as well as making the site clearer for everyone to use.

Since the scanned pages of Radio Times are not visible to most users for copyright reasons, we appreciate the difficulty of matching the on screen text with the magazine text, however it's great if you bring an error to our attention even if you can't work out the original text - we can check it.

The basic aim of the project at this stage is to make available the programme information contained in the Radio Times - we are not slavishly copying the layout in every detail.

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Edit and Tell Us More functions

There are two functions available to add to Genome listings, the Edit function and the Tell Us More field.

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.

You can use the Tell Us More form to include additional information about the programme which was not in the original listing - e.g. additional cast and crew, whether the programme was actually transmitted, personal recollections or family connections with the programme, either as a listener, viewer or as participant. Please do not add this information to the listing itself (in either case, we will not discard it, but we will keep it for future use.) If you have a question to ask us, please use genomefeedback@bbc.co.uk, or leave contact details in Tell Us More - without your details we are not able to respond.

Additional factual information, such as extra credits, will not be included in the live Genome site at the moment, as it needs to be checked against other sources, and this will take time. We hope to include a far greater depth of information in the future, but please bear with us as we cannot say just now when this will be.

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

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This should contain all the title elements of the programme - the main title, any subtitle, strand or season title (e.g. Saturday Night at the Movies, Doctor Who Night).

The most important part of this field is the actual title of the show. 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 (Bette Davis in...). Other names can be included at or near the top of the synopsis to show they were stressed by the billing.

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.

We have decided to ignore promotional messages such as "New Series", "RT Choice", so these can be deleted from the entry.

Occasionally some text that should be part of the synopsis has crept into the title field, due to the software having difficulty distinguishing between the two things. This should be removed from the title and restored to the synopsis. Likewise any text that seem to be logically part of the title but has been misplaced in the synopsis can be restored to the title field.

We're taking the basic stylistic position that nothing in any field should normally be in FULL CAPITAL LETTERS, although there are some exceptions. If a title has a word or words which are specifically intended to be in capitals, and it is not just the Radio Times house style at the time, it is acceptable to retain that. Where there is a capital letter in the middle of a word for stylistic reasons (e.g EastEnders, ChuckleVision) that should be kept.

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This is the main text from the Radio Times billing. Certain information such as contributors may be included, in order to show its importance, such as star status, special guest appearances, etc. Credits which are just repeated in the same terms in the contributor list do not need to be included here. Where there is a named author, e.g. billed as "by Fred Smith", this should be the first text in the synopsis, so that it follows on from the title information [see also Contributors section below]. Sometimes there is little or no information given in the synopsis, but at this stage of the project that should be left as is.

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. Until we have the functionality to create separate entries for these, it is acceptable to distinguish these on Genome by leaving a line space between each programme, and putting the main title of each programme in capital letters, preceded by the start time (e.g. 14.00 MIDDLE SCHOOL MATHEMATICS). Otherwise all text should be in normal sentence case.

Technical information shown in Radio Times such as transmitter names, colour or black and white, stereo, subtitles, etc, should be included at the end of the synopsis in brackets. Here are some examples:

  • (Stereo)
  • (Colour)
  • (Repeat)
  • (Welsh transmitters, Sutton Coldfield, Holme Moss, Crystal Palace)

Radio Times listings, especially in recent years, often include contact details such as postal addresses, phone numbers, or email and web addresses. As a matter of policy these should be taken out because they are likely to be out of date, and we don't want users to waste time and money trying to use these details. If you see any such details they should be removed and 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 safer to take it out on this database. Phone numbers should be removed even if they are part of the programme title, e.g. on some phone-in programmes.

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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 credits as 'X Smith' and 'Y Smith' on separate lines.

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

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

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 preferred terms for generic roles:

  • Presenter
  • Speaker
  • Compere
  • Commere
  • Host
  • Guest
  • Special guest
  • Interviewer
  • Interviewee
  • Chairman
  • Chairwoman
  • Subject
  • Expert
  • Star
  • Singer
  • Dancer
  • Musician
  • Comedian
  • Performer
  • Contestant
  • Voice
  • [Actor]

[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, but can be added to Tell Us More]. 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 Star or Guest than Singer for example. However, Star and Guest can be combined with another description/credit, using a slash, as appropriate: e.g. Star/comedian, Guest/singer.

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.

On some programmes the production 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.

Often the scanning process will have taken descriptions such as "Introduced by", "Produced by" from the billing, and these are acceptable, but can be replaced by a straight 'job' title if desired ("introduced by" = "Presenter"). Where there is a more complicated and lengthy job description this can be included if it is felt necessary, but check whether a shorter job title would be more appropriate and carry the same sense.

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, but it is better when an actor plays more than one role to list those separately.

At present we only credit those people who are listed as appearing in Radio Times. You can give details of other people appearing, but this should go in the "Tell Us More" section. Information there is kept for potential future use.

Names of contributors should always be rendered as they are in Radio Times at the time - if someone is known by a different name now or has changed the spelling of their name, that should be ignored (unless you want to mention it in Tell Us More). We want to preserve as much as possible the contemporary billing style as a historical record.

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It is intended that this phase of Genome 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. While it is possible to include other details, this is not the priority at this stage. Once the checking and correcting process has been completed, we can move on to adding more information to further improve the usefulness of the Genome Project.

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.

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Here are some examples of the best format to follow when editing listings:

Example 1: Original version of genome...


BBC One London, 21 March 1970 | 17.15

starring Jon Pertwee with Caroline John and Nicholas Courtney
The Ambassadors of Death by David Whitaker
Part 1: After months of silence, Mars Probe 7 is on its way back to Earth. But the Doctor suspects that something has gone terribly wrong in space...
Title music by RON GRAINER and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop Incidental music
Script editor TERRANCE DICKS

Unknown: Jon Pertwee
Unknown: Caroline John
Unknown: Nicholas Courtney
Unknown: David Whitaker
Music By: Ron Grainer
Music By: Dudley Simpson
Unknown: Peter Day
Unknown: Ian Scoones
Unknown: Costumes Christine Rawlins
Unknown: Marion Richards
Editor: Terrance Dicks
Producer: Barry Letts
Directed By: Michael Ferguson
Taltalian: Robert Cawdron
Van Lyden: Ric Felgate
Ralph Cornish: Ronald Allen
Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart: Nicholas Courtney
John Wakelfield: Michael Wisher
Dr Who: Jon Pertwee
Liz Shaw: Caroline John
Miss Rutherford: Cheryl Molineaux
Carrington: John Abineri
Grey: Ray Armstrong
Collinson: Robert Robertson

Example 1 - Corrected Version...

Dr Who: The Ambassadors of Death: Part 1 [Space inserted in series title; Sub-title and episode number included - and removed from synopsis]

BBC One London, 21 March 1970 | 17.15

by David Whitaker [Author credit moved to follow title, at top of synopsis]
starring Jon Pertwee
with Caroline John and Nicholas Courtney [Sub-title and episode number removed from synopsis]
After months of silence, Mars Probe 7 is on its way back to Earth. But the Doctor suspects that something has gone terribly wrong in space... [Credits removed and listed correctly in contributor list only]

[Duplicated actor credits removed]
Writer: David Whitaker [Job title replaces 'Unknown' - position of name above implies he is writer]
Title music by: Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop [Credit rendered in full]
Incidental music by: Dudley Simpson
Visual Effects: Peter Day [Job title replaces 'unknown']
Visual Effects: Ian Scoones [Two people doing the same job get separate mentions
Costumes: Christine Rawlins [Job title wrongly identififed as part of name]
Make-up: Marion Richards [Job title replaces 'Unknown']
Script Editor: Terrance Dicks [Job title was incomplete]
Designer: David Myerscough-Jones [Credit missed completely]
Producer: Barry Letts
Directed by: Michael Ferguson

Taltalian: Robert Cawdron
Van Lyden: Ric Felgate
Ralph Cornish: Ronald Allen
Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart: Nicholas Courtney
John Wakefield: Michael Wisher
Dr Who: Jon Pertwee
Liz Shaw: Caroline John
Miss Rutherford: Cheryl Molineaux
Carrington: John Abineri
Grey: Ray Armstrong
Collinson: Robert Robertson

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Example 2 - Original version of genome...

Home Truths

BBC Radio 4 FM, 1 January 2000 | 9.00

Enjoy the beginning of the new year with no resolutions, no clever hangoverjokes and no turkey sandwiches. Just John Peel with a bit of Louise Rennison thrown in for good measure. Producer Chris Berthoud. PHONE: [number removed] EMAIL: home.truths@bbc.co.uk

Unknown: Louise Rennison
Producer: Chris Berthoud

Example 2 - Corrected Version...

Home Truths

BBC Radio 4 FM, 1 January 2000 | 9.00

Enjoy the beginning of the new year with no resolutions, no clever hangover jokes [Space added between words] and no turkey sandwiches. Just John Peel with a bit of Louise Rennison thrown in for good measure. Producer Chris Berthoud. PHONE: [number removed]
EMAIL: [email address removed]

Presenter: John Peel [Missing credit added]
Presenter: Louise Rennison [Missing job title added]
Producer: Chris Berthoud

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BBC Genome Style Guide

About this project

This site contains the BBC listings information which the BBC printed in Radio Times between 1923 and 2009. You can search the site for BBC programmes, people, dates and Radio Times editions.

We hope it helps you find information about that long forgotten BBC programme, research a particular person or browse your own involvement with the BBC.

Through the listings, you will also be able to use the Genome search function to find thousands of radio and TV programmes that are already available to view or listen to on the BBC website.

There are more than 5 million programme listings in Genome. This is a historical record of the planned output and the BBC services of any given time. It should be viewed in this context and with the understanding that it reflects the attitudes and standards of its time - not those of today.

To read scans of the Radio Times magazines from the 1920s, 30s, 40s and 50s, you can navigate by issue.

Welcome to BBC Genome

Genome is a digitised version of the Radio Times from 1923 to 2009 and is made available for internal research purposes only. You will need to obtain the relevant third party permissions for any use, including use in programmes, online etc.

This internal version of Genome, which includes all the magazine covers, images and articles as well as the programme listings from the Radio Times, is different to the version of BBC Genome that is available externally/to the public. It is only available inside the BBC network.

Your use of this version of Genome is covered by the BBC Acceptable Use of Information Systems Policy and these terms.

BBC Guidance

This historical record contains material which some might find offensive
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