A local service
15 Aug 2001 0 comments. tbs.pm/3172
Radio broadcasting was still a very young science in 1922, and the possible strength of transmissions was limited by technology and power consumption rather than frequency allocations as is now the case.
Additionally, the BBC needed to cover the widest population in order to make the service profitable for the Company’s shareholders – who made their money from selling sets rather than charging for programmes. Potential revenues had to be high enough to provide a profit whilst allowing for the lack of Simultaneous Broadcasting – the ability to network one programme from several transmitters.
Thus each BBC service at first had to be self-sustaining. Programmes captured on disc or on sound-only cine could be transmitted, but only after a delay of several days.
The system chosen to allow maximum coverage with low power transmitters resulted in city-wide coverage for most areas but little or no rural coverage, and allowed for just one choice of programme – the locally originated one – and no other.
For all of these problems, BBC services spread very quickly:
|2EH||Edinburgh relay of SC||01-May-1924|
|LV||Liverpool relay of 2ZY||11-Jun-1924|
|LS||Leeds/Bradford relay of 2ZY||08-Jul-1924|
|6KH||Hull relay of 2ZY||15-Aug-1924|
|5NG||Nottingham relay of 2ZY||16-Sep-1924|
|2DE||Dundee relay of 2BD||09-Nov-1924|
|6ST||Stoke-on-Trent relay of 2ZY||21-Nov-1924|
|5SX||Swansea relay of 5WA||12-Dec-1924|
With the opening of 5SX, the end of the first phase of British broadcasting had begun, and a new scheme was being hatched at Savoy Hill.
The BBC opened an experimental Long Wave transmitter at Chelmsford (later relocated to Daventry) called 5XX to broadcast to the continent. It was soon realised that 5XX could provide a sustained national service to most of England and Wales, and the policy known as the ‘Regional Scheme’ began.
On 21-Aug-1927, less then 5 months after the nationalisation of the BBC, 5GB in Daventry opened, providing a high-power service on the medium wave to the whole of the Midlands. Slowly but surely 5XX began to mutate into the National Programme. The development of Post Office landlines between studios meant that a sustaining service from London could be provided to 5GB, and Brookmans Park was opened to provide a London regional service to serve as the national base for what would become known as the ‘Regional Programme’.
With the development of both the National Programme and the Regional Programmes, the smaller local stations slowly died out. And with them went the experimental phase of broadcasting. By the time the Second World War came, the BBC’s five services (National, Regional, Overseas, Empire and Television) formed the nucleus of the greatest broadcasting company the world had ever seen.
As the first true broadcasting company in the world, the BBC had tough decisions to make in the choice of direction for establishing a service.