BBC Radio

From Academic Kids

BBC Radio is a service of the British Broadcasting Corporation which has operated in the United Kingdom under the terms of a Royal Charter since 1927. For a history of BBC radio prior to 1927 see British Broadcasting Company, Ltd.




The BBC today runs ten national domestic radio stations, five of which are only available in a digital format: via DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting – i.e. Digital Radio), the Internet or the different forms of Digital Television in the UK.

The five main stations are

The new digital-only stations are


The BBC also runs regional radio stations throughout the UK, for example BBC Radio Wales and BBC Radio Devon. These stations focus on regional issues to a greater extent than their national counterparts, organising live phone-in debates about these issues, as well as lighter talk shows with music from different decades of the 20th Century. Compared to many advertising-funded Independent Local Radio (ILR) stations, which often broadcast contemporary popular music, BBC Local Radio stations offer a more "serious" alternative.


BBC Radio services are broadcast on various FM and AM frequencies, and also now on digital radio.

They are also available on Digital Television sets in the UK, and maintains the 'RadioPlayer' service on the internet which allows people to listen to programming from the previous week on-demand. In 2004 it started a trial podcasting Melvyn Bragg's In Our Time Radio 4 programme [1] ( and Radio Five Live's Fighting Talk [2] ( Some of 1Xtra's TX reports are temporarily made available for download [3] (


Among the most famous BBC Radio programmes is the serial The Archers, its comedy series The Goon Show and many original radio dramas.

History of BBC Radio

The BBC radio services began with the British Broadcasting Company, Ltd., which was licensed under pressure to provide a radio service for the British public. It was licensed by the British Government through its General Post Office which had original control of the airwaves because they had been interpreted under law as an extension of the Post Office services. Today radio broadcasting still makes up a large part of the corporation's output and this is still reflected in the title of the BBC's listings magazine called Radio Times.

When the British Broadcasting Corporation gained control of the airwaves under the terms of a Crown Charter, John Reith was had been the founding Managing Director of the commercial company, became the first director and he brought with him draconian ideas that imposed a theocratic viewpoint on the broadcasting service. As a result of Reith's dictatorship which he expressed in his autobiography called Broadcast Over Britain that was published two years after BBC radio first went on the air; commercial competetion opened up.

Competition from 10 stations

The commercial competitors were for the mostly represented by the International Broadcasting Company that bought blocks of airtime on transmitters based in Europe outside of the British Isles. In the period from 1927 to 1939, light entertainment on the British airwaves was for the most part the domain of the 10 part-time English language IBC stations. By 1938 on Sundays upwards of 80% of the British audience turned their dials away from the BBC to these IBC stations which followed an American format of commercial broadcasting. They were eventually silenced by the advent of the German military taking control of their transmitters in France, Luxembourg and other countries during World War II.

American Armed Forces influence

The respite from American influence on British broadcasting was short lived. When the US military flooded Europe with troops during World War II, American-style programming followed and the BBC was forced to transmit these shows. After the war the BBC Forces transmitters that had carried these shows were transformed into a network called the BBC Light Programme.

The original BBC stations which had been linked together to form the BBC National Programme were transfomed into the BBC Home Service. A third part-time service was created under the name of the BBC Third Programme. For the history of these stations see the timeline link below.

Another operation had originally been called the General Overseas Service, but it served a different purpose from the domestic stations. It later became known as the BBC World Service and it was formed at the behest of the British Foreign Office.

American commercial radio influence

WWII silenced all but one of the original IBC stations and Radio Luxembourg continued its nightly tranmsissions to Britain as a commercial radio station featuring American-style entertainment and religion. Beginning in 1964 the first in what became a fleet of 10 offshore pirate radio stations began to ring the British coastline. By 1967 millions were tuning into these commercial operations and the BBC was rapidly losing its radio listening audience.

The British Government reacted by imposing a draconian censorship law which all but wiped out all of the stations by midnight on August 14, 1967. One of the stations called Wonderful Radio London ("Big L") was so successful that the BBC was told to copy it as best they could. The creator of BBC Radio One told the press that his family had been fans of that station. The BBC hired many out-of-work broadcasting staff who had come from the former offshore stations, including Tony Blackburn who presented the very first BBC Radio One morning show. He had previously presented the same morning show on Radio Caroline and Tony Blackburn attempted to duplicate the same sound for BBC Radio One. Among the other djs hired was the late John Peel who had presented the overnight show on "Big L". That station's PAMS jingles were commissioned to be resung in Dallas, Texas so that "Wonderful Radio London" became "Wonderful Radio One on BBC".

New BBC networks

BBC Radio 1 was launched as a part-time pop music station September 30, 1967. The BBC Light Programme was renamed Radio 2 and broadcast easy listening, folk, jazz and light entertainment. The BBC Third Programme was renamed Radio 3 and the BBC Home Service became Radio 4.

BBC Radio 5 was launched on 27 August 1990 as a home for sport and children's programming, and was it later renamed BBC Radio Five Live when it became a dedicated news and sport network.

See also


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