When the British Broadcasting Company (later to be nationalised as the British Broadcasting Corporation) began transmissions on November 14, 1922, the technology for both national coverage and joint programming between transmitters did not exist and sometime required the use of a relay station to repeat signals and reach further afield.
From July 9 1924, however, the company began experimenting with higher power longwave transmissions from the Marconi company’s site near Chelmsford in Essex, using the call sign 5XX. The experiments proved successful and on July 27, 1925 the Chelmsford longwave transmitter was relocated to a more central site at Borough Hill near Daventry in Northamptonshire. This provided a “national service” of programmes originating in London, although it remained somewhat experimental and was supplementary to the BBC’s locally based services, including its main London station, 2LO.
On August 21, 1927, the BBC opened a high power mediumwave transmitter at the Daventry 5GB site, to replace the existing local stations in the English Midlands. That allowed the experimental longwave transmitter 5XX to provide a service programmed from London for the majority of the population. This came to be called the BBC National Programme, which began broadcasting on March 9, 1930 at 10.30am.
By combining the resources of the local stations into one regional station in each area, with a basic sustaining service from London, the BBC hoped to increase programme quality whilst also centralising the management of the radio service. This was known as The Regional Scheme, and eventually resulted in the gradual extension throughout the 1930s of a separate BBC Regional Programme.
Upon the outbreak of World War II, the BBC closed the Regional and National Programmes and replaced them with a single channel known as the BBC Home Service. On July 29 1945, the BBC reactivated the Regional Programme, but retained the name “BBC Home Service“. On the same date, the BBC Light Programme was launched, taking over the style and much of the function, as an entertainment channel, of the BBC Forces Programme.
Programme Highlights on The BBC National Programme
- March 9, 1930 at 3.45pm – For the Children, which had originally begun on 2ZY in 1925, is transmitted nationally for the first time.
- March 9, 1930 at 8.45pm – The Week’s Good Cause, which had originally begun in 1926, is transmitted nationally for the first time.
- October 22, 1930 at 8.00pm – The first broadcast by the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
- July 27, 1931 at 8.00pm – The first broadcast by the BBC Theatre Orchestra.
- November 18, 1933 at 7.30pm – In Town Tonight.
- November 29, 1934 at 10.45am – The BBC National and Regional Programmes cover the first Royal Wedding, the Duke of Kent to Princess Marina.
- January 12, 1938 at 7.15pm – The Band Waggon. However, the programme debuted the previous week on the BBC Regional Programme and seemed to alternate between the two stations.
July 2, 1939 at 9.05pm – Letter from America, presented by Alexander Woollcott. Alistair Cooke, who had been presenting programmes about America since 1935, would go on to present American Letter on the BBC Home Service between 1945 and 1949 began to use the title “Letter from America” from September 1949.
- July 12, 1939 at 8.15pm – ITMA (It’s That Man Again) is first transmitted.
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