Thursday, 14 February 2013

OUGD505 // What is good // History of BBC Radio

1922 - 1939

This is 2L0 Calling... The London Station of the BBC Calling...

The BBC was formed 18th October 1922 with John Reith as General Manager. His vision for radio in Britain was that it should an independent broadcaster able to educate, inform and entertain. The first official BBC radio broadcast was the evening news transmitted by London station 2L0 from Marconi House studios on the Strand, Central London. The date was November 14th 1922 and the voice was that of the Programme Director Arthur Burrows. Programmes were initially broadcast for just an hour each day with a break every seven minutes.  '2LO' was the reference of the radio broadcasting license issued by the Post Office. The 1.5kW medium wave transmitter was built by the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company and situated at the top of Marconi House. At the time just 30,000 radio licences were held.

By the end of 1924 eight other medium wave stations had opened in cities around the UK. Each of these broadcast locally produced programmes. A new relay station was opened each month to allow reception in surrounding areas. In 1925 the London masts were moved to a new more powerful transmitter at Selfridges, Oxford Street where they remained until 1929.

Morning BBC programmes during the later 1920's included The Daily Service at 10.15 AM, followed by Gramophone Records. Afternoon shows consisted of the BBC Dance Orchestra, 'A Light Classical Concert', Children's Hour at 5.15 PM (a show which was to remain for 40 years), and a short documentary about the Royal Horticultural Society. In a typical evening one could hear the BBC Dance Orchestra , a documentary about dressing the waxwork models at Madame Tussaud's, a half-hour variety show with folk songs and a BBC Promenade concert. Time signals (pips) could be heard on the half-hour and no morning news bulletins were heard at all.  By 1926 over 2 million radio licences were in use, the same year John Reith ordered all announcers to wear evening dress to match BBC performing artists.

National and Regional Programme
The Geneva Frequency Plan of 1926 halved the number of medium wave frequencies available to countries in Europe, so between 1927 and 1937 the BBC replaced the original lower power local transmitters and relays with six high power 'regional' medium wave transmitters; one to serve Wales, four serving England and Northern Ireland plus one for Scotland, each offering local opt - outs from the new National Programme. To help fill in areas of poor reception an experimental long wave transmitter was set up at Daventry, Northamptonshire in 1925 enabling the BBC in 1930 to broadcast the new National Programme to the majority of the population. These transmissions were moved to Droitwich, Worcestershire in 1934, (now used to broadcast Radio 4).

During the 1930's short plays, organ music, seaside songs and the news at 6.00pm were introduced on the National Programme. The daily Children's Hour remained at 5.15. The long running Saturday night show In Town Tonight began in 1933. Hundreds of interesting personalities were interviewed in London during the shows 27 year run including actors, stunt men, magicians, detectives, traders and even Princes!

he decade saw commercial competition from overseas broadcasters such as Radio Normandie and Radio Luxembourg. These were especially popular on Sundays when the BBC's output consisted of Bible Readings, Religious Talks, the Epilogue, and a Daily Service.

In 1939 with World War II looming, the BBC laid emergency plans to continue a service of broadcasting during this critical time.

1939 - 1945

The Home Service

When WWII was declared in 1939, the BBC immediately replaced all regional medium wave programmes with a simultaneous channel called the Home Service. This action was taken to prevent German aircraft using localised transmissions for direction finding.

Early wartime programming was criticised as being old fashioned, staid and boring; with a seemingly endless cycle of light records, gramophone records, variety on gramophone records, Sandy Macpherson on the BBC organ, and first aid instructions. Indeed it
was so dull that it was blamed by the Government for driving audiences to Lord Haw-Haw on Radio Hamburg! The wartime BBC
found themselves with a completely new task: to keep its listeners, and to keep them happy. The BBC therefore, as a matter of new policy, began to pay more attention its audience.

For The Forces

So, from January 1940, in response to the criticism, existing Home Service output was supplemented by special programmes titled in Radio Times as being “For the Forces” which were broadcast on various existing medium wavelengths, initially by evening but soon taking up much of the daytime schedule. Extra comedy and popular music programmes were aired, now presented in a more informal almost American style. Wartime populist shows included;

ITMA - It's That Man Again (1939) a comedy show based on a pirate radio ship starring Tommy Handley;
The twice daily show Music While You Work (1940-1967) with a non-stop medley of popular tunes was aimed at motivating factory workers (theme tune by Eric Coates).

Ack-Ack Beer-Beer (1940) featuring Kenneth Horne was an entertainment programme for Anti-Aircraft and Barrage Balloon workers. Over 700 episodes were aired.
Workers’ Playtime (1941-1964) a live lunchtime touring comedy and variety show. The show ran for 23 years.
Vera Lynn’s programme Sincerely Yours (1941) Introducing each programme with the signature tune "Wishing", she was a musical link between the girls "back home" and their men overseas at war, reading out personal messages and singing sentimental favourites such as "Yours", "We’ll Meet Again" and "The White Cliffs Of Dover"

More comedy with Hi, Gang! starring Ben Lyon (1941)
The Radio Doctor (1942) Dr. Charles Hill advised listeners on how to stay healthy during wartime,
Desert Island Discs (1942) which is still going strong today.
A favourite irreverent comedy show, Band Waggon starring Arthur Askey ("hello playmates") continued throughout the war. The Old Town Hall variety show with Clay Keyes (Haver from Haver and Lee comedy duo)

Monday Night At Seven a variety show hosted by singer Judy Shirley with the BBC Variety Orchestra; a medley of songs, sketches, jokes and a detective story to solve.JB Priestley found many new fans by reading from his Novel "Let the People Sing" on the Home Service.
Whitehall 1212 a police drama based on wartime murders.
News Before the war, the BBC radio had broadcast no news before 7pm. This practice was the result of an early agreement with the newspaper industry. However, from 25th August 1939, with war looming, the BBC began broadcasting daily morning and lunchtime news bulletins.
News readers were named on-air for the first time with
Alvar Liddell, Bruce Belfrage, Stuart Hibberd, Frank Phillips and John Snagge becoming household names. There was much disquiet when Wilfred Pickles was allowed to read the news as the Yorkshire accent was not previously heard on the BBC.

The evening War Report at the end of News bulletins included correspondents Richard Dimbleby, Frank Gillard and Wynford Vaughan-Thomas.

Although primarily aimed at the armed forces based around Britain, the BBC Forces Programme soon became the light entertainment station of choice for the entire civilian population during the war.  In February 1944 the broadcasts were renamed the General Forces Programme to coincide with the invasion of Europe.

European Service

On long wave, the National Programme ceased for ever in 1939, with no BBC long wave transmissions heard again until September 1941 when Droitwich radiated the BBC European Service, with news broadcasts in French, German, Italian and even in Morse Code. The Government did not encourage the British public to listen in, since propaganda and coded messages to help the war effort in Europe were included in the programmes; "the moon will be blue tonight". In fact UK radio sets were manufactured without the long wave band during the war. The European Service continued until July 1945.

With the war finally over, the BBC launched a new plan to entertain and inform the British public. Onward to the Light programme.

1945 - 1967

Light Programme

Following the end of the war, the BBC reintroduced the six pre-war regional services, on the same transmitters and frequencies as before, retaining the wartime name BBC Home Service. So for example the Welsh regional station on medium wave became the Welsh Home Service.

The WWII domestic BBC output had been the Home and Forces programmes. Towards end of the war the Corporation announced that it would introduce improved services for listeners at home within 90 days of the end of hostilities. An internal memorandum issued in December 1944 stated that the new service then called 'Programme B' would be "a popular but not rubbishy programme for the masses designed to be effective in competition with neighbouring sponsored stations." The long and medium wave frequencies of the pre-war National Programme were to become the BBC Light Programme.

The then Director General of the BBC, W.J. Haley, introduced the new station on the front cover of the Radio Times, 27 July 1945; "There is to be available a new alternative to the Home Service; the BBC Light Programme. It will have national coverage and will be heard generally on long wave and in certain areas on medium wave. It will be built for the civilian listener. Developing its own special character it will, we hope, be one of the most successful ventures the BBC has undertaken. " At 8.55 AM on Sunday 29 July 1945, Forces Favourites presenter Marjorie Anderson announced the closing of the Allied Expeditionary Forces Programme. The station theme tune was then played.

Oranges and Lemons (played by the BBC Concert Orchestra) was the opening theme as for the Forces Programme. The Chief assistant of the new programme, Tom Chalmers then inaugerated the station.

There can be no doubt that the war had changed the sound of BBC radio dramatically; the Light Programme style being very much based on the informal American approach of the Allied Expeditionary Forces Programme. This new station offered general entertainment with a plethora of shows unheard of before the war in contrast to the staid National Programme and Home Service. The Light broadcast those shows popular with the forces together with serious content and classical music. Comedy and music was the order of the day providing a welcome light relief to its listeners during difficult post war years.

Launch day programmes included Sandy Macphearson at the theatre organ and an afternoon performance by the Torquay Municipal Orchestra. The following years would go on to produce a firmament of stars including Ted Ray, Donald Peers, Tony Hancock, Frankie Howerd, Max Bygraves, Archie Andrews, Peter Brough and the Goons.

Light Programmes
Comedy - Drama - Music - Quiz & Other - Demise - Themes


It was established in London on 30th September 1967 following the Marine Offences Act 1967 which outlawed the unregulated pirate ship and fort radio stations broadcasting to Britain from the sea such as  Radio London, Caroline, Swinging Radio England, Scotland, 270, 390, 355, BBMS, and land based Radio Jackie. These had been broadcasting pop music with jingles and commercials in an American style to highly populated coastal areas of the UK since 1964. The first pirate ship was Radio Caroline, which opened March 28th 1964.  There was strong public pressure, including public demonstrations, to keep them 'on the air', however these stations were unregulated and did not pay any fees to the music artistes.
The BBC and Government were embarrassed by the large listening figures gained by these and continental station Radio Luxembourg. Although Britain's pop industry was selling records worldwide, following the banning of the pirate stations there was little airtime provided to these acts because at this time, the BBC only had three national radio stations;
- Light Programme - easy listening / comedy / pop
- Home Service - News / discussions / plays
- Third Programme - classical music

The BBC Light programme broadcasted mainly instrumental 'sweet' music, chart hits were often re-sung by other artistes or an instrumental version was played, instead of the original single. This was due in part to the restrictions of needle-time (until 1967 the Phonographic Performance Ltd. only allowed the BBC 5 hours per day of commercial gramophone records playing on air). Dedicated pop music programmes were limited. Although an increasing number of popular records were aired on the channel from 1965, chart fans relied on the occasional chart disc played by disc jockeys such as Pete Murray, and the weekly Sunday 'Top Twenty' (Pick of the Pops) Alan Freeman (6.00-7.00pm).  The BBC lacked a dedicated popular music station.

The Birth of Radio One

The Government prepared a plan for replacing the pirates when the Bill outlawing them came into force. The Postmaster General, Edward Short, asked the BBC to create a 'Popular Music Service' on 247m during the hours outside peak-viewing of television. The BBC reported in August 1966 that they were finalising plans for a 24-hour radio music station to replace the condemned pirate "pop" ships. It was originally to be called Radio 247, (name favoured by Controller Robin Scott) aimed to attract the millions then listening to pirate broadcasts. It would use all the present music programmes broadcast by the Light Programme, including Housewifes' Choice and Double Spin. But when the Light broadcast talks or drama, such as Radio Newsreel or The Dales, Radio 247 would put in music and leave the main service to the Light Programme 1,500-metre waveband. But, the BBC stated, Radio 247 would not be all "pop." It would carry news headlines and 'occasional classical music'.

Edward Short announced in Parliament on June 30th 1967 the BBC would open their new 'pop channel' on September 30th. The station would broadcast continuous pop music from 7AM to 7.30 PM followed by light music and entertainment until 2AM. On July 27th 1967, the BBC Director of Radio, Frank Gillard, announced plans to 'kill off' the Light Programme, Home Service and Third Programme. In future it would be 'Radio by Numbers'.

The BBC Light Programme controller Robin Scott said 'hundreds' of D.J.'s would be interviewed for Radio 1, primarily pirate presenters because of their experience. On September 4th 1967, the D.J.'s and their shows were announced. Contracts were for 8 weeks, as opposed to the normal 13 weeks. Scott also pointed out that they had more D.J.'s than required, so there would eventually be a 'shake down' where only the best presenters would survive.

In 1967 after further BBC deliberation, and a mammoth amount of media publicity, new names were given to the above stations and 'Radio 1' was born, using the 16 existing medium-wave relay transmitters of the Light Programme on 247m 1214Khz. The Light Programme was renamed Radio 2 using the long wave and FM frequencies. The 'Third Programme' was renamed Radio 3 and the 'Home Service' became Radio 4.

The First Day
Radio One first went on the air at 7am, September 30th 1967. However, many parts of the UK could not gain satisfactory reception, especially North Devon, Scotland, Mid/West Wales and North Cornwall. AM reception problems were increased during darkness.

At Broadcasting House, London, announcer Paul Hollingdale opened the BBC Light Programme for the final time at 5.30AM on 30th September with 'Breakfast Special'. Continuity  studios A and B were packed with pressmen, staff and well wishers. Controller Robin Scott moved to studio 'A' to prepare for the takeover from Paul Hollingdale. The new especially written Radio 1 theme tune, 'Theme One' (by the George Martin Orchestra) was played. A few seconds before 7AM he announced "Ten seconds to go before Radio 1....stand by for switching......five, four, three, Radio 2, Radio 1, GO!

The first DJ was Tony Blackburn presenting the new show 'Daily Disc Delivery', and the first record played was 'Flowers In The Rain' by The Move. The signature tune for the show was called 'Beefeaters' by Johnnie Dankworth. The first live group were the Bee Gees, appearing on Saturday Club at 10AM.

The first day only 5½ hrs consisted of programmes being broadcast on Radio 1 alone, and there was a  dissatisfaction from young listeners who had lost the offshore pirate radio stations (which, operating outside the law, did not have to observe the Phonographic Performance Ltd. 'needle time' regulations of 37½ max hrs per week). Broadcasting on both networks was the Jimmy Young show (until 1973), The Sunday 'Top Twenty'  and Late Night Extra. The BBC were only allowed to play 'commercial gramophone records' for 7 hours per day over both networks. Some 'dual station' broadcasts continued until 1979, when Radio 2 became the first UK national 24 hour radio station.

Unfortunately, Radio 1 was the only of the four networks not to have a Stereo FM frequency allocated, and this  was the case for 21 years. The official reason for this omission was that there was insufficient space on the FM dial, although there were no licensed Independent commercial stations at the time. Radio One was, however, allocated FM instead of Radio Two on Saturday Afternoons, Sunday Evenings (1 Hour), Weekday evenings (10pm to Midnight) and UK Bank Holidays, until when, in 1988 a frequency range of 97-99Mhz was allocated as the UK Police relay transmitters were moved from the 100mHz FM Frequency.

Despite these setbacks, Radio 1 hit the ground running and doubled the Light Programme audience within the first month of launch.

Through the Years

From its inception and throughout the 1970's and 1980's BBC Radio 1 was hugely successful, commanding weekly audiences of up to 24 million listeners. The now famous 'Radio 1 Roadshow' (launched 1973) toured Britain's holiday resorts through the Summer. The Roadshows were broadcast live on-air.  Disc-jockeys such as Noel Edmonds and Dave Lee Travis became famous in the UK.

The daytime music format of the station was one of chart pop music, whilst evening programmes reflected up-and coming bands, rock and new-wave music. The Station Controller, Johnnie Beerling, had helped to make the station well - loved by its listeners by appealing to all age groups. The network established transmissions from 6 am - 12 midnight every day in January 1979 when the station became totally separated from Radio 2. The 'Live Aid' concert, the decade's major rock event, was broadcast in full on Radio One July 1985. The station began a 24hr service in May 1991. Radio 1 was re-named '1FM' from August 1992 until mid-1995.

Although Radio 1 was Britain's most listened to radio station, following much speculation, it was determined in 1993 by  BBC Director General John Birt that the station was not sufficiently different and distinctive from the commercial opposition. That year, the target audience was changed from 13-40 to 13-25. A new Station Controller, Matthew Bannister, was appointed who was to carry out the changes to make Radio One more elitist. Many of the popular DJ's were sacked or resigned because of the policy change. These included Simon Bates, Dave Lee Travis and Gary Davies. Fifteen were to leave in total. The listening figures dropped from 16.5 million per week (15 years or over) in February 1993 to only 11 million in the last quarter of 1994.

Radio 1 lost its AM 1053/1089KHz (275/285m) frequencies at 9AM on the 1st July 1994 listen in! due to a Government Bill to encourage commercial radio competition on AM. In many areas of the country car radio reception is poor on FM.

The new Disc Jockey's were compelled to stick to a rigid playlist which tended towards 'Britpop' rock oriented and less 'Top 40'. The station's music policy in 1994 became mainly bands such as Oasis. Blur, Happy Mondays; Status Quo and The Beatles were banned and in fact no records older than 5 years were allowed.

Since 1996 the station has given a significant amount of airtime to dance music (DJ's Tong, Trevor Nelson, Judge Jules - and also daytime playlist) and with the 'One Big Sunday' dance Roadshows. Jungle and rap is broadcast by night at weekends, leaving those listeners not part of the dance/clubbing culture feeling uncatered for. April 1997 saw Radio 1 launching their first website. The station newer daytime DJ's e.g. Moyles, Cox, Mark and 'Lard' (and formerly Chris Evans) discuss subjects on-air not always suitable for a younger audience and have been criticised for promoting 'laddish' behaviour.

Unfortunately, following the loss of the popular format, Radio 1 is no longer 'Britain's Favourite Radio'. This accolade has, since May 2001, belonged to BBC Radio 2, with a target audience of 45 years +.

The breakdown of radio 2's history is in much more detail and encompasses all DJ's that worked throughout each year from the 60's - 90's. The link below follows to this page with all the history of Radio 2.

Radio 2 has now overtaken radio 1 and is the most listened to BBC radio station with around 14millions listeners a week compared to BBC 1 with 11.2 million.
Both Radio 1 and 2 and the top two listened to radio stations with BBC Radio 4 close behind with 10.4 million listeners.

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