A local service 

15 August 2001 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.

Early BBC regions; based upon the 1933 BBC Yearbook supplied by Mark Bromsgrove to Photomusications

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:

Station City Air date
2LO London 14-Nov-1922
5IT Birmingham 15-Nov-1922
2ZY Manchester 15-Nov-1922
5NO Newcastle-upon-Tyne 24-Dec-1922
5WA Cardiff 13-Feb-1923
SC Glasgow 06-Mar-1923
2BD Aberdeen 10-Oct-1923
6BM Bournemouth 17-Oct-1923
2FL Sheffield 16-Nov1923
5PY Plymouth 28-Mar-1924
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
2BE Belfast 14-Sep-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.

You Say

1 response to this article

Bernard JUBY 15 May 2017 at 5:40 pm

My late mother-in-law had a lapel button-hole badge of 51T showing the arms of the City of Birmingham. She then lived in the Acocks Green area.

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