History of BBC Radio (1920-1930)

History of BBC Radio (1930-1969)

Britain begins broadcasting

  • June 15, 1920: Britain’s first live public broadcast was from Marconi’s factory in Chelmsford, Essex, and featured the famous Australian soprano Dame Nellie Melba. It caught the people’s imagination and marked a turning point in the British public’s attitude to radio.
  • February 14, 19222MT, the first British radio station to make regular entertainment broadcasts begins transmissions from an ex-army hut next to the Marconi laboratories in Essex. 2MT led to the creation of its sister station 2LO, and subsequently the BBC. 2MT did not itself become part of the BBC and closed down on January 17, 1923. Find out more at Wikipedia*.
  • May 11, 1922 – The second regularly broadcasting station, 2LO, begins broadcasting from Marconi House. 2LO would be the first of 20 experimental stations launching around the UK up to the end of 1924.

October 18, 1922 – The British Broadcasting Company (BBC) is formed.

The British Broadcasting Company Ltd (BBC) was a British commercial company formed by British and American electrical companies doing business in the United Kingdom and licensed by the British General Post Office. Find out more at Wikipedia*.

  • November 1, 1922 – First broadcast receiving licence introduced for the price of 10 shillings.
  • November 14, 1922 – 2LO, broadcasting from Marconi House, London, is transferred to the BBC. 2LO would be the first of 20 experimental stations launching around the UK up to the end of 1924. Find out more at Wikipedia*.
Station Call SignLocationLaunch Date
2LOLondonNovember 14, 1922
5ITBirminghamNovember 15, 1922
2ZYManchesterNovember 15, 1922
5NONewcastle upon TyneDecember 24, 1922
5WACardiffFebruary 13, 1923
5SCGlasgowMarch 6, 1923
2BDAberdeenOctober 10, 1923
6BMBournemouthOctober 17, 1923
2FL (relay)SheffieldNovember 16, 1923
5PY (relay)PlymouthMarch 28, 1924
2EH (relay)EdinburghMay 1, 1924
6LV (relay)LiverpoolJune 11, 1924
2LS (relay)Leeds and BradfordJuly 8, 1924
5XXChelmsfordJuly 21, 1924
6KH (relay)Kingston upon Hull (Hull)August 15, 1924
2BEBelfastSeptember 15, 1924
5NG (relay)NottinghamSeptember 16, 1924
6ST (relay)Stoke on TrentOctober 21, 1924
2DE (relay)DundeeNovember 12, 1924
5SX (relay)SwanseaDecember 12, 1924
5XXDaventry (moved from Chelmsford)July 27, 1925
John Reith (1889-1971)

December 14, 1922 – John Reith is appointed General Manager of the BBC

  • January 18, 1923 – Postmaster-General grants BBC licence to broadcast.
  • May 1, 1923 – The BBC moves to new studios at 2 Savoy Hill, London.

BBC Firsts

First edition of The Radio Times
  • December 25, 1922– First religious broadcast, of an address given by the Rev J Mayo on Christmas Eve.
  • January 8, 1923 – First outside broadcast.
  • March 26, 1923 – First daily weather broadcast.
  • September 28, 1923 Radio Times first published, with a price of 2d.
  • October 1, 1923 – First edition of Women’s Hour.
  • October 15, 1923 – First edition of The Children’s Hour, previously “Children’s Stories”.
  • November 26, 1923 – First experimental broadcast to America.
  • December 30, 1923 – First continental programme relayed by landline.
  • January 6, 1924, 6.30pm – First religious service broadcast, from St Maitin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, London. Other religious broadcasts, made by various priests, were broadcast at different times during the evening on each of the experimental stations.
  • February 5, 1924 – First Greenwich time signal broadcast.
  • February 17, 1924 – Big Ben time signals inaugurated.
  • April 4, 1924, 6pm on 5NO – First national broadcast to schools, “Scholars’ Half-Hour”. Some of the other stations broadcast different versions featuring different presenters at differing times that evening.
  • April 23, 1924, 11.30am – First broadcast by King George V (opening the British Empire Exhibition in Wembley, London). The programme began at 10.30am and was broadcast on all stations.
  • November 9, 1924, 2.30pm – First live running commentary from an Outside Broadcast (from the Lord Mayor’s Show), bradcast on 2LO, 5IT, 6BM and 5WA as “The Passing of the Lord Mayor’s Show”.
  • November 26, 1924 – First relay from America.
  • January 24, 1926 at 8.55pm – First edition of “This Week’s Good Cause”, promoting a different charity each week. The programme is renamed “The Week’s Good Cause” a week later and, in 1998, becomes “Radio 4 Appeal”.
  • January 15, 1927, 7.25pm on 2LO – First running commentary on a sports event was a Rugby International match between England and Wales at Twickenham.
  • August 13, 1927, 8pm on 2LO – First BBC Prom from the Queen’s Hall.
  • November 11, 1927 – Experimental broadcasts to the Empire begins from Chelmsford.
  • December 25, 1927 at 7.55pm on 2LO and 5XX – First BBC Christmas Fund for Children (later Children In Need). Broadcast as an edition of “The Week’s Good Cause”.
  • March 12, 1928, 12.30pm – First broadcast by the BBC Dance orchestra, led by Jack Payne.
  • January 16, 1929 – First edition of The Listener published.
First edition of The Listener
  • July 19, 1929 at 5.15pm – First Toytown children’s play broadcast as part of “The Children’s Hour”.
  • November 6, 1929 at 10.45am – First edition of The Week in Parliament, a series of talks by women MPs. It would become “The Week in Westminster” in February 1930.

December 31, 1926 – British Broadcasting Company dissolved

January 1, 1927 – The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is formed

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is a British public service broadcaster. It is the world’s oldest national broadcasting organisation and the largest broadcaster in the world by number of employees.

The BBC is established under a Royal Charter and operates under its Agreement with the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. Its work is funded principally by an annual television licence fee which is charged to all British households, companies, and organisations using any type of equipment to receive or record live television broadcasts and iPlayer catch-up. The fee is used to fund the BBC’s radio, TV, and online services covering the nations and regions of the UK.

From its inception, through the Second World War (where its broadcasts helped to unite the nation), to the 21st century, the BBC has played a prominent role in British culture. It has also been known as “The Beeb”, and “Auntie”.  Find out more at Wikipedia*.

  • March, 1927 – The BBC adopts its coat of arms.
  • March 9, 1930 – Most existing BBC stations are replaced by the BBC Regional and National Programmes.
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