Scotland on the Air (book)

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Scotland on the Air was the first book to document the work of the BBC in Scotland. It was published on 25 July 1938 by Edinburgh-based Moray Press. Although not an 'official' BBC publication, it was compiled and edited by the BBC's public relations officer in Scotland, George Burnett. Each chapter was written by a different BBC official and covered the aspect of broadcasting they were responsible for, except for the final chapter which mainly reprinted information from the BBC Handbook, 1938. Illustrated with photographs throughout, it sold for 3s 6d at the time.


The BBC's director-general, John Reith, wrote the foreword, which began:

This book has nothing to do with me. I have, that is to say, neither written nor inspired it. The first I heard of the project was when I was instructed by Mr Dinwiddie to write a preface. I am always glad to do what he wants.


  1. Now we are Fifteen, by George Burnett.
  2. Broadcasting a Nation, by Melville Dinwiddie, Scottish Regional Director.
  3. As a Secretary Sees It, by Betty M. Ferguson.
  4. On the Engineering Side, by L. Hotine.
  5. The Business End, by J.M.A. Cameron.
  6. Directing the Scottish Programme, by Andrew Stewart.
  7. The Programme Board, by George Burnett.
  8. Religion and the Nation, by Melville Dinwiddie.
  9. Music, by Ian Whyte.
  10. Talk, Talk, Talk!, by James Fergusson.
  11. Producing a Play, by Gordon Gildard.
  12. Those Noises You Hear, by Peter Thomson.
  13. School on the Air, by A.D. Adam.
  14. A Spot of Variety?, by Robin Russell.
  15. Now, Children!, by Christine Orr.
  16. Natural History of a Feature Germ, by John Gough.
  17. "Bu Mhath Leam a Radh", by Hugh Macphee.
  18. Outside Broadcasts, by P. I. Keith Murray.
  19. Scotland to the Empire, by J.C.S. Macgregor.
  20. Announcer's Log, by Aidan Thomson.
  21. P.R.O. Explains, by George Burnett.
  22. A Commissionaire Looks Back, by Charles Gordon.
  23. General Knowledge for Listeners


The Scotsman said:

It is successful in its descriptive aim, and the prevailing note of complacency is partly offset by evidence here and there of a concern for improved standards in Scottish broadcasting."[1]

The Glasgow Herald said:

There are few criticisms to be made of Scotland on the Air. But the method of compilation — a series of disconnected articles — cannot but result in certain names receiving undue prominence and others not enough. Since a retrospective section has been attempted, one feels it might with advantage have been made more exhaustive. There are personalities among both past members of the BBC's staff and present members whose work is no longer done north of the Tweed that have had an important influence on the development of Scottish broadcasting, but receive very little attention in this book.

The newspaper concluded:

On the whole he [George Burnett] is to be congratulated upon a very readable little book, and perhaps the fact that Sir John Reith has "neither written nor inspired" it may account in some degree for the vein of light-heartedness running through [it].[2]


  1. 'Scotland on the Air: behind the scenes at the BBC', Scotsman, 25 July 1938.
  2. 'A Radio Commentary: the BBC in Scotland', Glasgow Herald, 25 July 1938.