Aircheck UK - The Birth of BBC Local Radio

The start of Commercial Radio

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It's a little known fact that the BBC was the first broadcasting company on the planet.  In the early days, broadcasting was about as complex to comprehend as you could get.  So, if it was to start addressing the masses, some hard work, complex technical discussions and plans, and big decisions would be applicable - all this as far back as 1922.  

Even as far back as 1922, the BBC had shareholders - they made their money by selling the receivers - but the income they got had to be large enough  to support one service from many widespread transmitters.  

The first BBC radio services had to look after themselves and put their own programmes together - but the various productions were only allowed to go to air after a review which lasted a substantial amount of days.  In those days, the idea was to reach the largest concentrated audience, and as such, the more rural areas were ignored in favour of urban areas - giving the audience just one local programme.  Nevertheless, the network of stations spread outwards and upwards from the first station in London in 1922.  

Station Name Serving On Air Date More Information
2LO London 14/11/1922
5IT Birmingham 15/11/1922
2ZY Manchester 15/11/1922 See LV,LS,6KH,5NG,6ST
5NO Newcastle-Upon-Tyne 24/12/1922
5WA Cardiff 13/12/1923
SC Glasgow 06/03/1923 See 2EH Edinburgh
2BD Aberdeen 10/10/1923
6BM Bournemouth 17/10/1923
2FL Sheffield 16/11/1923
5PY Plymouth 28/03/1924
2EH Edinburgh 01/05/1924 Relay of SC Glasgow
LV Liverpool 11/06/1924 Relay of 2ZY M'chester
LS Leeds / Bradford 08/07/1924 Relay of 2ZY M'chester
6KH Hull 15/08/1924 Relay of 2ZY M'chester
2BE Belfast 14/09/1924
5NG Nottingham 16/09/1924 Relay of 2ZY M'chester
2DE Dundee 09/11/1924 Relay of 2BD A'deen
6ST Stoke-On-Trent 21/11/1924 Relay of 2ZY M'chester
5SX Swansea 12/12/1924 Relay of 5WA Cardiff

After 5SX opened, the BBC had formulated a new regional scheme.  A Long Wave transmitter was opened in Chelmsford (later re-located to Daventry) called 5XX which was intended to spread the wings of the BBC onto foreign shores.  Top BBC brass quickly realised that a sustained service could be supplied to most of England and Wales.   

The BBC was nationalised in early 1927, but this only assisted with the expansion of the BBC Radio network.  Daventry, the home of 5XX saw the opening of 5GB which supplied a Medium Wave service to the Midlands.  The nearby 5XX started to provide a national programme.  Clearly, a series of split services was being created.  With the advent of landlines by the GPO, a sustainer programme could be channelled to 5GB in Daventry - and a London regional service was provided from Brookman's Park, latterly known as 'The Regional Programme'.    

Having provided the early services, the smaller local stations finished leaving just the National and Regional services.  The experiments were finished - it was clear what was necessary from that point onwards.  As the Second World War began, the BBC had five broadcasting services - National, Regional, Overseas, Empire & Television - and these select groups were to provide the framework for the the company we now know affectionately as 'Auntie' - the BBC.  

These programmes were to provide years of service to the country in important times - and it was not until the 1960s, and the advance of technology, plus a frequency shake up, led the BBC to abandon the existing services to create the BBC local radio stations we have today, from the ashes of the godfathers of broadcasting history - those unusually numbered and lettered services, and a style still replicated by the American stations of today - whilst in the UK, a series of station names, to match their locality or as a matter of importance have become the master plans of the entire radio network that exists today, not only in the UK, but around the globe.

The start of Commercial Radio

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