A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


Home Intelligence Special Report No. 29 .

August 27th, 1942 .


with special reference to “Fuel Flashes” and other fuel broadcasts

At the request of Campaigns Division, enquiries have been made of all Regional Intelligence Officers, about public reaction to:-

a. B.B.C. “Fuel Flashes”, broadcast after the six o'clock news.

b. A broadcast on Mondays at 4.50 p.m., on “How to Save Fuel”

Reports received contained a number of points about the Fuel Economy Campaign in general, and these have been incorporated herein.

The Campaign in general

Reports on the Fuel Economy Campaign have been received from twelve Regions. Reports from ten Regions suggest that fuel economy is already being widely practised for the following reasons:-

1) “Most people are economical as they can be because they cannot afford to be anything else.....” “The high price of coal is a strong inducement to economy in itself.” (6 Regions)

2) There is a good deal of interest in the fuel economy campaign generally, as a result of the rationing controversy, and people are already “fuel economy conscious” - though two Regions suggest that “the test has yet to come, particularly if we have another severe winter, with growing food shortage.” (6 Regions)

3) In the North West Region, it is suggested that “because coal is so difficult to obtain there is little waste.”

Broadcasting on Fuel Economy

Reports from six Regions suggest that the campaign is “doing good and that all publicity is useful”. “The useful function of the programmes is in keeping the subject constantly in the public mind...” “..the only way to impress people in this country is to keep nagging at them”.

On the other hand, four Regions report that “very many people do not seem to have heard, or to be aware of the programmes”; reports from three Regions state “that there is no evidence that people are acting on the suggestions given in the broadcasts”. One report mentions that “it always takes a few weeks for special B.B.C. broadcasts to catch on”.

From two Regions, there are suggestions that people have now become “allergic” to all forms of propaganda, and that saturation point has been reached. “The public are being exhorted all along the line, and they are getting sick of the whole thing and switching the wireless off”.

Fuel Flashes

This programme appears to have aroused more interest than the Monday afternoon talks; six Regions report that they are “arousing interest and causing comment”; in one Region they are reported to be specially “well received among the professional and better-off classes”. Strong criticism is reported along the following lines:-

1) Nine Regions criticise the “savings hints” for being (a) “common knowledge that people have been practising for years”, (b) “silly and trivial suggestions not crediting the listener with any commonsense”, (c) “many of the suggestions have been thought ridiculous, such as that table napkins should be dispensed with for the duration”, and the Broadcaster's “serious discovery that bodies remain clean after a week without a bath”; it is asked if the Broadcaster “has any idea how working-class people live?”

2) Six Regions criticise the time of the broadcasts. (a) “People are only getting home from their jobs at that hour”; “mothers are putting the children to bed”, or “preparing, eating, or clearing away” the evening meal. (b) Many people “do not listen right through the 6.0 p.m. news, and switch off after the summary”.

Mr. Grisewood : Reports from two Regions mention that “Grisewood's popularity makes people listen” and that his “short snappy comments” are appreciated; though reports from the London Region suggest that he “gets on the nerves of some people” and in Scotland he is reported to be “not the most popular broadcaster”.

One Region reports that “the broadcasts being given without preliminary announcement is wise; listeners pay special attention to anything which catches their interest by “shock of surprise”, and anyone listening at this time must hear them, and has no chance of switching off, as so many are inclined to do if warned in advance of what they consider ‘propaganda’ in the unpopular sense of the word”.

“How to save fuel”, Monday 4.50 p.m .

Nine Regions report “little” or “no” interest in this programme, because “no one has time to listen in at this particular time”. It is pointed out that

1) War workers are not at home so early.

2) Housewives are generally engaged in “preparing tea or looking after the children who have just returned from school”.

Reports from two Regions however, suggest that those who do listen in to this programme “find it useful and better than the ‘flashes’”.

Suggestions for the Programmes

Suggestions for improving the programmes have been received from six Regions:-

1) The broadcasts should be later in the evening, just after the 9.0 p.m. news, or early in the morning just before the 8.0 a.m. news. One of these Regions suggests that sometime in the morning would be better for the housewife, and that a fuel economy broadcast might be incorporated in the Kitchen Front series. (5 Regions).

2) The programmes should come just before lighting-up time or blackout, or late in the evening when people are using fuel. (3 Regions).

3) The flashes should come in the middle of a variety programme, or be included in news bulletins, “as people switch off directly afterwards”. (2 Regions).

4) The higher income groups are the only ones that can afford to be extravagant over fuel consumption, and “if it is the intention to broadcast for their benefit, it should be done in a straight-forward manner by somebody who can at least speak good English, and whose voice is suitable for broadcasting”. (1 Region).

5) The talks should be divided up into categories dealing with:-

  1. Different kinds of heating apparatus (open fires, kitchen ranges, boilers etc.), and the workings of different types of flues.

  2. Different types of fuel (cokes, anthracite, bituminous fuels) which require different boiler settings, and damper adjustments etc. “Hints of this kind given in terms people understand would be much appreciated”.

  3. The conservation of fuel on open fires.

6) During one broadcast “How to save Fuel”, the lighting of fires with paper was mentioned; “should not the point be stressed that soiled paper should be used?” ... “Firelighters could be made of scraps of greaseproof paper, soiled paper and used matches” (1 Region)

Criticism of the Fuel Economy Campaign

General criticisms of the Fuel Economy campaign have been received from four Regions.

1) “Why stress fuel economy when double summer time has just been cut off”. (2 Regions).

2) “Until economies are seen in such places as shops, offices, public buildings, cafes and restaurants, the public will not be inclined to make real sacrifices”. In this connection the recent “fines on hotels and theatres for fuel wasting, have found favour”. (3 Regions).

3) It is pointed out that windows damaged by blast are in many cases, in poor neighbourhoods, “boarded up or covered with some dark material. This involves the use of electric light during the day” and it is suggested that efforts should be made to have windows reglazed. (1 Region).

4) “Why urge the use of lower consumption electric bulbs when it is so difficult to buy these”. (1 Region).

5) “It is too early to begin a Fuel Economy campaign in view of the summer weather still prevailing”. (1 Region).

6) It is suggested that the Government should release quantities of fuel saving apparatus at cheap prices, i.e. fire bricks of various kinds. (1 Region).

7) “Reports from suburban areas” in the London Region state that the “all-in rate” prevents economy of electricity. “People feel that if they use less they should not have to pay the full charge. If they economise, they do not use the number of units allowed, but the alternative scheme works out so expensively that people do not want to get on to it”. (1 Region)

Suggestions for the Fuel Economy Campaign

The following suggestions have been received from one Region

1) Other Borough Councils should follow the example of the Guildford Borough Council “whose recent Fuel Economy campaign has impressed wasters of fuel more than B.B.C. propaganda”.

2) It is suggested that hot water in cloakrooms should be forbidden.

3) The extension of communal restaurants is suggested, and also the use of bakers' ovens, after the bread is baked, for local wives to do their cooking.

4) It is suggested that bulbs with carbon filaments should be discarded, and that no electric bulb of more than 60 watts should be used.

5) “A wastage of current is caused by faulty switches or connections. If the switch gets warm it is wasting current”.

6) “If there are three elements in the heater put them all on at the start until the room is warm - after which by using the latent heat in the walls, the temperature may be sustained by using only one element”.

Attention has been drawn to the special problem of fuel economy in mining areas. Miners, who receive coal as a part of their wages, are thought not to be at all “economy minded”.

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