|Headquarters||Broadcasting House, London, United Kingdom|
|Key people||Helen Boaden (Director of Audio and Music)|
|Parent||British Broadcasting Corporation|
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. The service provides national radio stations covering the majority of musical genres, as well as local radio stations covering local news, affairs and interests. Internally, BBC Radio is now organised under the banner of BBC Audio & Music, which also oversees online audio content.
Of the national radio stations, BBC Radio 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 Live are all available through analogue radio (5 Live on AM only) as well as on DAB Digital Radio and internet services through RealMedia, WMA and BBC iPlayer. The remaining stations, BBC Radio 1Xtra, 4 Extra, 5 Live Sports Extra and 6 Music, all broadcast on digital platforms only.
All of the BBC's national radio stations, with the exception of BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra who broadcast from MediaCityUK in Salford, broadcast from bases in London, usually in or near to Broadcasting House. However, radio programmes are also made in the BBC's network production units located in Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow and Manchester.
The BBC radio services began in 1922. 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'.
First charter 
On 31 December 1926 the British Broadcasting Company became the British Broadcasting Corporation and gained control of the airwaves under the terms of a Royal Charter. John Reith, who had been the founding Managing Director of the commercial company, became the first director. He expounded firm principles of centralised, all-encompassing radio broadcasting, stressing programming standards and moral tone. These are set out in his autobiography, Broadcast Over Britain (1924), influencing modern ideas of public service broadcasting in the United Kingdom. To this day, the BBC aims to follow the Reithian directive to "inform, educate and entertain". Critics[who?] of his approach state that he was dictatorial and that he imposed a theocratic viewpoint on the broadcasting service. Reith's ideals were utterly at odds with the model of light entertainment based commercial radio adopted in some other countries (e.g. the USA).
Competition from overseas stations 
Although no other broadcasting organisation was licensed in the UK until 1973, commercial competition soon opened up from overseas. The commercial competitors were for the most part represented by the International Broadcasting Company that bought blocks of airtime from radio stations such as Normandy, Toulouse, Ljubljana, Juan les Pins, Paris, Poste Parisien, Athlone, Barcelona, Madrid and Rome. 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 
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (October 2009)|
The respite from American influence on British broadcasting was short lived. When the US military flooded Europe with troops during World War II, the BBC transmitted American-style programming, first on the BBC Forces Programme and later on the BBC General Forces Programme, both on the former frequencies of the BBC National Programme. 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 Regional Programme were transformed 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 Timeline of the BBC.
Empire and the world 
To provide a different service from the domestic audience the Corporation started BBC Empire Service on Short Wave in 1932 originally in English but it soon provided programmes in other languages. At the start of the Second World War it was renamed The Overseas Service but is now known as the BBC World Service.
Commercial radio influence 
WWII silenced all but one of the original IBC stations, only Radio Luxembourg continued its nightly transmissions 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.
One of the stations called Radio London ("Big L") was so successful that the BBC was told to copy it as best they could. This led to a complete overhaul by Frank Gillard the BBC's Director of Radio of the BBC output creating the four analogue channels that still form the basis of its broadcasting today. The creator of BBC Radio One told the press that his family had been fans of Radio London.
The BBC hired many out-of-work broadcasting staff who had come from the former offshore stations. Tony Blackburn who presented the very first BBC Radio One morning show had previously presented the same morning show on Radio Caroline and later on Big L. He 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", called The Perfumed Garden. Though it only ran for a few months prior to Big L's closure, The Perfumed Garden got more fan mail than the rest of the pop DJ's on Radio London put together, so much that staff wondered what to do with it all. The reason it got so much mail was that it played different music, and was the beginning of the "album rock" genre. Big L's PAMS jingles were commissioned to be resung in Dallas, Texas so that "Wonderful Radio London" became "Wonderful Radio One on BBC".
The BBC's more popular stations have encountered pressure from the commercial sector. John Myers, who had developed commercial brands such as Century Radio and Real Radio, was asked in the first quarter of 2011 to conduct a review into the efficiencies of Radios 1, 2, 1Xtra and 6 Music. His role, according to Andrew Harrison, the chief executive of RadioCentre, was "to identify both areas of best practice and possible savings."
BBC analogue networks 
On 30 September 1967:
- BBC Radio 1 was launched as a pop music station (part-time at first)
- The BBC Light Programme (1945-67) was renamed Radio 2 and broadcast easy listening, folk, jazz and light entertainment.
- The evening BBC Third Programme (1946-) and daytime BBC Music Programme (1965-) were merged under the heading of Radio 3, although the Third Programme kept its separate title until 1970.
- The BBC Home Service (1939-67) became Radio 4.
2002 digital radio networks 
With the increased rollout of Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) between 1995 and 2002, BBC Radio launched several new digital-only stations BBC Radio 1Xtra, BBC Radio 6 Music and BBC 7 in 2002 on 16 August, 11 March and 15 December respectively — the first for "new black British music", the second as a source of performance-based "alternative" music, the latter specialising in archive classic comedy shows, drama and children's programmes. BBC Asian Network joined the national DAB network on 28 October 2002. In 2011, BBC Radio 7 was renamed BBC Radio 4 Extra as the service was brought more into line with BBC Radio 4.
National (UK-wide) 
The BBC today runs eleven national domestic radio stations, six of which are only available in a digital format: via DAB Digital Radio, UK digital television (satellite, cable and Freeview) plus live streams and listen again on the Internet.
- BBC Radio 1: youth oriented, mostly contemporary pop and rock music (including Top 40 singles), plus news, original in-house live music sessions, original live music concerts and music documentaries. Available on 97-99 FM in addition to digital platforms.
- BBC Radio 2: adult oriented entertainment, wide range of music—specially adult contemporary and middle of the road, also talk, comedy, plus news, original in-house live music sessions, original live music concerts and music documentaries. Available on 88-91 FM and on digital platforms.
- BBC Radio 3: arts and high culture, special-interest music (classical, jazz, world music), plus news, original in-house live music sessions, original live music concerts and music documentaries. Available on 90-93 FM and digital platforms.
- BBC Radio 4: news, current affairs, arts, history, original in-house drama, original in-house first-run comedy, science, books and religion. The service closes down and simulcasts the BBC World Service during this time. Available between 92-95 and 103-105 FM, 198 LW, various medium wave frequencies and on digital platforms.
- BBC Radio 5 Live: news, sports and talk programmes available on 909/693 MW and digital frequencies.
- BBC Radio 1Xtra: new urban music, plus news, original in-house live music sessions, original live music concerts and music documentaries
- BBC Radio 4 Extra: classic comedy, drama, books, science fiction, fantasy and children's programmes
- BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra: a companion to Radio 5 Live for additional sports events coverage
- BBC Radio 6 Music: an eclectic mix of alternative genres including rock, funk, punk and reggae, plus news, original in-house live music sessions, original live music concerts and music documentaries
- BBC Asian Network: aimed at the large South Asian community in the UK (primarily a digital radio station, but available in parts of the Midlands on medium wave)
The BBC also runs radio stations for three of the nations of the UK. These stations focus on local issues to a greater extent than their UK 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 nations' radio stations offer a more "serious" alternative.
- BBC Radio Scotland: News, music, sport and talk from Scotland
- BBC Radio nan Gàidheal: Scottish Gaelic language network
- BBC Radio Shetland: News, music, sport and talk from Shetland
- BBC Radio Orkney: News, music, sport and talk from Orkney
- BBC Radio Wales: News, music, sport and talk from Wales
- BBC Radio Cymru: Welsh language network
- BBC Radio Ulster: News, music, sport and talk from Northern Ireland
- BBC Radio Foyle: News, music, sport and talk from north-west of Northern Ireland
Local services 
World Service 
BBC World Service is the world's largest international broadcaster, broadcasting in 27 languages to many parts of the world via analogue and digital shortwave, internet streaming and podcasting, satellite, FM and MW relays. It is politically independent (by mandate of the Agreement providing details of the topics outlined in the BBC Charter), non-profit, and commercial-free. The English language service had always had a UK listenership on LW and therefore DAB Services allowed, by this popular demand, it to be now available 24/7 for this audence in better quality reception.
They are also available on Digital Television sets in the UK, and archived programs are available for 7 days after broadcast on the BBC website; a number of trials of MP3 downloads and podcasting for selected shows are also under way—see BBC Online#Streaming media.
Throughout its history the BBC has produced many radio programmes. Particularly significant, influential, popular or long lasting programmes include:
- Any Questions? (1948–present): Topical debate series.
- The Archers (1950–present): Long running rural soap opera. Currently the most listened to programme on Radio 4 and on the BBC's on-line radio service.
- Children's Hour (1922–1964): Long running slot for children's programmes.
- Desert Island Discs (1942–present): Interview programme in which the guest chooses the eight pieces of music they would take with them to a desert island. The longest running music radio programme in British history.
- Friday Night Is Music Night (1952–present): Long running live music show, covering a wide range of music tastes.
- Gardeners' Question Time (1947–present): Gardening programme in which gardening experts give advice and answer listeners' questions.
- The Goon Show (1951–1960): Highly influential comedy series with elements of surrealism.
- Hancock's Half Hour (1954–1960): Influential comedy series which transferred to television.
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1978–1980 and 2004–2005): Comedy science fiction serial by Douglas Adams.
- I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue (1972–present): Comedy series parodying the radio panel game format.
- It's That Man Again (1939–1949): Comedy series popular during and after World War II.
- Journey Into Space (1953–1958): Science fiction series which was the last UK radio programme to achieve a higher audience than television.
- Just a Minute (1967–present): Long running panel game where the contestants must attempt to speak for one minute without repetition, hesitation or deviation.
- Letter from America (1946–2004): Commentary on American news and events by Alistair Cooke. The longest-running speech radio programme in history.
- The News Quiz (1977–present): Topical comedy show
- The Reith Lectures (1948–present): Annual series of lectures given by leading figures of the day.
- Round the Horne (1965–1968): Comedy series notable for its innuendo and use of the gay slang polari.
- Sports Report (1948–present): Saturday sports round-up including the football results of the day.
- Test Match Special (1957–present): Live cricket coverage.
- Today programme (1957–present): Early morning news and current affairs programme.
- Top Gear / John Peel (1967–2004): Pioneering and influential alternative music programme.
- Woman's Hour (1946–present): Long running magazine programme for women.
- Workers' Playtime (1941–1964): Lunchtime variety show.
For more BBC radio programmes see Category:BBC Radio programmes.
Note: the official title of this post has changed over the years. The most recent was in 2006 when it became "Director of Audio and Music" to reflect the BBC's online audio services.
See also 
- BBC Local Radio about BBC local radio stations.
- BBC Television—a specific article about BBC domestic television services.
- BBC World Service—a specific article about BBC external radio and television broadcasting services.
- British Broadcasting Company, Ltd., for a history of the BBC prior to 1927.
- Timeline of the BBC for an overview of BBC history.
- List of BBC Radio programmes adapted for television
- BBC Radio Labs Blog
- BBC Audio & Music, Retrieved 18 November 2010
- http://frequencyfinder.org.uk/All_txt.pdf[dead link]
- History BBC World Service
- "The Offshore Radio Revolution in Britain 1964–2004". H2G2. 31 August 2004. Retrieved 22 July 2007.
- Imogen Carter (27 September 2007). "The day we woke up to pop music on Radio 1". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 30 September 2007.
- Andrews, Amanda (28 Nov 2010). "BBC enlists commercial sector help to shake up radio". The Telegraph. Retrieved 12 March 2011.
Further reading