I can understand why the BBC shied away from answering your question. Buckle in, it's going to be a long and bumpy ride (or just jump to the last paragraph!).
We need to go back more than seventy years to see why broadcast copyright was seen as necessary. Back in the early days of television (the 1940s and early 1950s) most broadcasts were live and because the technology to record them either didn't exist (the early days) or was very expensive (mid 1950s
), very little of the output was recorded. Similarly with radio at that time, it was not thought necessary to record a great deal of the radio output, although of course pre-recorded music, plays and interviews etc were aired on the radio. Since much of what was broadcast on TV, even if it was speech or music, was not fixed in a permanent medium, it was not protected by the copyright law which existed at the time. The 1911 Copyright Act didn't recognise recorded sound or film as something which was subject to copyright. This situation was of great concern to the then monopoly broadcaster in the UK - the BBC - as it had no legal way to prevent its broadcasts from being pirated*. In fact all the major national broadcasters across the world were similarly alarmed by the situation and this led to an UNESCO conference in Paris in 1952 (the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, Paris, 12 November-11 December, 1952) to address the issue. This conference eventually led to the 1961 Rome Convention
for the protection of, among other things, broadcasts. However the UK didn't wait for this international treaty and instead used the 1956 Copyright Act to introduce the new copyright for television and sound (ie radio) broadcasts (section 14
). Even in 1956, video taping was still a rarity due to technical issues and the expense, and most pre-recorded items were on film which had to be projected onto a special form of TV camera called a tele-cine
, in order for it to be broadcast.
But the same 1956 Copyright Act also introduced three other new 'rights' which largely resolved the issue that the broadcast right was intended to address. These were copyright for sound recordings
and something which later became known as performers' rights
. These 3 new rights, together with the existing protection for literary, musical and dramatic works effectively protected 99% of what was actually being broadcast on TV and the radio at the time. The only real exception would be things like live TV sports coverage (although the commentary would qualify as a form of literary work as long as it was being recorded in some medium, eg on tape) and general live outside broadcasts which were not deemed worth recording on video tape (but with the same caveat about any scripted or recorded commentary).
There were several further developments when the 1988 Copyright Designs and Patents Act came along, together with more changes introduced by the EU in the early 2000s, but as these don't really affect the question you asked, I won't go into the details here.
The outcome of all this is that, from 1 June 1957 (ie when the 1956 Copyright Act came into force) most content on TV (and virtually all radio), was protected either as a film (this also included the later technology of video recording) or a sound recording, as well as the more traditional forms of copyright which covered programme content in the form of literary works (ie just about all spoken utterings, provided they were recorded in some manner either on tape or on paper in script form, or news bulletins etc), musical compositions or dramatic works which would almost always have been written down before being performed and so met the fixation criterion. The extra protection for the overall broadcast was thus really just a duplication. The main advantage for the broadcasters was that while they very often didn't own the copyright in some of the literary, musical and dramatic works, along with feature films and pre-recorded programs made by other (usually American) TV companies which they broadcast, they did own the entirety of their broadcast right so it was easier for them to go after any infringers, as they did not need to rely on third party copyright owners to bring actions for infringement. It worth digressing here for a moment to reflect on the irony that the only reason you are able to raise this issue is because recordings of these events were made at the time, meaning that they immediately became subject to copyright as sound recordings which trumps broadcast copyright in terms of duration.
Coming now to your specific examples, you can probably see that the cessation of the broadcast right does not mean that the content has necessarily entered the public domain if it is covered by another, stronger, underlying copyright. John Peel's words may or may not have been scripted (so qualifying as a literary work with a copyright duration of the lifetime of the author plus 70 years after his death), but even assuming they weren't, the fact that his programmes were (pre?) recorded means that they are now** protected
for 70 years from the date the recordings were first broadcast. Much the same would apply to the opening words on Radio One or interviews with prominent people or news items etc. The difference here is that while the copyright in John Peel's words (whether scripted or just recorded at the time of transmission) belongs to the BBC because they employed him (see section 11(2)
of the CDPA), in the case of a musician who was being interviewed, the copyright would belong to the interviewee, not the BBC.
* Whether this was an actual problem or not seems doubtful as the only way to record television programs at that time was by using a cine camera pointed at a TV. This would have led to all sorts of problem over synchronising the scanning of a cathode ray tube receiver to a camera operating at 24fps, and the picture quality would probably have been atrocious.
** The new 20 year extension to the sound recording copyright term applies to any recording which was still in its original 50 year period of protection as at 1 November 2013. (see The Copyright and Duration of Rights in Performances Regulations 2013.)