Monday, April 1, 2019

The BBC's 1957 April Fools' Day Joke

Since it's April Fools' Day, it would be appropriate to remember what CNN has described as "the biggest hoax that any reputable news establishment ever pulled."  On April 1, 1957, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) broadcast a 3-minute report on its flagship current affairs show, Panorama, narrated by distinguished broadcaster Richard Dimbleby.  It featured farmers from the canton of Ticino in southern Switzerland as they harvested spaghetti from a "spaghetti tree."  Women were shown picking strands of spaghetti from a tree and laying them in the sun to dry.

In 1957, about 44 per cent of the homes in Britain had televisions.  Many Britons actually believed the "spaghetti tree" story to be true and Richard Dimbleby's participation in the caper served to add credibility to the  hoax.  After all, Dimbleby was a respected journalist.  He was the BBC's first war correspondent at the outbreak of World War II and its leading news commentator.  He was trusted.  Keep in mind also that in the 1950s, spaghetti not really a widely-eaten food in the United Kingdom.  It was considered an exotic delicacy and many were unaware that it was made from wheat flour and water.  That is why so so many Panorama viewers contacted the BBC for advice on growing their own "spaghetti trees."  Some inquired as to where they could purchase their own "spaghetti bush."

Richard Dimbleby of the BBC

Not everyone was amused by the BBC's April Fools' Day prank.  Many criticized the BBC for airing such an item on a factual public affairs show.  According to the BBC's report at the time, the "spaghetti tree" stunt was believed to be "one of the first times the medium of television had been used to stage an April Fools' Day hoax.

Click on the link below to watch  a video of the 1957 BBC April Fools Day hoax.

- Joanne

No comments:

Post a Comment