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The BBC or The Clash?

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The words ‘This is London Calling …’ were used by the BBC World Service during WWII as part of its broadcast to occupied countries[1]. The Clash were an English rock band who played punk rock, post-punk, experimental rock, new wave, incorporating elements of reggae, dub, funk, ska and rockability[2].

The Clash released the song London Calling, in 1979. ‘This apocalyptic, politically charged rant features the band's famous combination of reggae basslines and post-punk electric guitar and vocals’[3]. Rolling Stone magazine rated the song as number 15 in its list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time[4].

At the start of a conference call with one of our international clients, and only once everyone had joined the call, I opened with the line ‘This is London Calling...’. It was a little levity to catch the attention of all those on the call. In my mind was the BBC World Service broadcast opener.

A retort from one participant quickly came, ‘So John, you like The Clash!’. Not, of course, what I was thinking about. However in my younger days I did listen to The Clash and knew the song well.

One of those on the call, in their early twenties, replied ‘Who were The Clash?’ A dialogue followed explaining about the history of the term ‘This is London Calling...’ and the BBC, moving on to a discussion about The Clash being a seminal rock band of their era.

In defining our communication strategy we need to consider not just what we wish to communicate and why, but the different age groups, backgrounds, opinions, likes and dislikes of those it is we wish to communicate with. What is obvious to one can be alien to another.

The BBC may be considered a pillar of The Establishment, upholding traditional values and taking the moral high ground by some, but perhaps not by others. Whereas The Clash was considered to have ‘politicised lyrics, experimented musically and have had a rebellious attitude’[5]……and yet, both spoke of ‘London Calling’.

So consider carefully your next communication. Whilst you might think your statement is an innocuous, inoffensive and safe reference to a subject matter, a simple statement of the truth: it might be construed as a coming from someone drawing on an offensive, aggressive or unpleasant reference to an event or situation that in their mind is politically charged and deliberately provocative.

Alternatively the communication may be lost altogether on a different generation who did not understand and do not wish to understand, the point in the first place.

Consider the different ways your message may be interpreted before opening your mouth, and only open your mouth when you are satisfied you have concluded your interpretation.




[4] Ibid




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