The Day There Was No News

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

Those words were fashioned by Benjamin Franklin in a 1789 letter to Jean-Baptiste Le Roy, a French physicist.  He was talking about the uncertainty faced by the United States, having just instituted its Constitution yet still in its nascent stages.

But what if, for one day, nothing — other than death and taxes, that is — happened?  That is, what if there was a day where there was no news?

Preposterous, of course.  But on April 18, 1930 — Good Friday — BBC Radio reported exactly that.

The evening prior, the British government wanted to deny some news which had made the rounds, but because the newspapers weren’t printing due to the holiday, they went to the radio.  Within twenty-four hours, these untold issues were no longer news — and, apparently, BBC Radio determined that nothing else was, either.  For their 6:30 broadcast that evening, they simply announced “There is no news” — and filled the remainder of the time with piano music.

While we’re sure a few things happened on that date, two are particularly notable.  (In the BBC’s defense, they had no way of realizing that either had occurred.)

First, in Bangladesh (then still under British control), a group of young revolutionaries in the Chittagong region raided the police armory as part of a larger (albeit overall small) uprising.   A few days later, the revolutionaries and British soldiers came to battle, resulting in the deaths of 80 soldiers and a dozen rebels.  But at the time of the BBC broadcast, it is unlikely that the radio station knew of the uprising.

Second, stage actor Clive Revill was born on that day.  Revill, while known in theatre circles, is a virtual unknown among screen actors.  Perhaps his most notable accomplishment came as a voice actor: In the original version of The Empire Strikes Back, Revill lent hs voice to the holographic version of Emperor Palpatine, above.  In the 2004 DVD re-release of the film, footage of Ian McDiarmid (who plays Palpatine in the other movies) was shot, replacing Revill’s role.    But as we cannot expect the BBC to employ soothsayers, we’ll give them a pass on this one.

Bonus fact:  While Revill provided the voice for holographic Palpatine, he wasn’t the image.  Palpatine’s specter was provided by the wife of a makeup artist who worked on the first Star Wars movie, with one change — a chimpanzee’s eyes were super-imposed over hers.  (She, too, was replaced by McDiarmid in the re-release; see the “new” holographic Palpatine here.)

From the Archives: Thermonuclear War and Taxes: Another issue of Now I Know which starts with the Ben Franklin quote above.

Related: The BBC’s History magazine.  Guaranteed to have something… right?

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