2ZY was the name of a radio station broadcast by the British Broadcasting Company from Manchester, England, between 1922 and 1927. The station aired its first test transmission on 450 metres on 17 May 1922 and began regular broadcasting on 15 November 1922, just a day after sister station 2LO began daily programmes in London. On the same day, 5IT began in Birmingham and eight other station opened in subsequent months across Britain. The frequency chosen for 2ZY was then 375 metres medium wave. The programmes were made and broadcast at first from the Metropolitan-Vickers electricity works in Old Trafford. The ornate iron water tower at the works was the site of the transmitter.
From 1922 to 1924 all the programmes broadcast by these early stations were made locally as networking was not technically possible, but when quality improved the majority of output was provided by London. The idea of re-transmitting a service in a neighbouring area was tried in May 1924 when the Glasgow service called "5SC" was picked up and rebroadcast on a transmitter in Edinburgh. 2ZY became the first English station to do this when its signal was "relayed" to a transmitter covering Liverpool from 11 June 1924 (the service was called "2LV") and the Leeds/Bradford area on 8 July 1924 (service named "2LS"). Hull was next (service named 6KH on 15 August 1924 and Nottingham followed (service named "5NG") on 16 September 1924. The last of that period was a relay to the Stoke-on-Trent area ("6ST") which began on 21 November 1924. All of these services carried the main output of 2ZY; the most relayed of all the early core BBC radio services; a useful practical experiment for BBC engineers of the day.
In July 1925 the BBC opened a much higher powered transmitter at Daventry which broadcast on 1562 metres longwave and was receivable across most of Britain. The station was called 5XX and it conducted its first experimental stereo broadcast from a concert in Manchester. (The 5XX longwave transmitter beamed the right hand channel and all the local BBC medium wave transmitters including 2ZY broadcast the left hand channel). A central Control Room was opened in Piccadilly Gardens in 1929 from where many network radio programmes were produced or broadcast. Radio plays and concerts were staged in an old converted repertory theatre hall in Hulme which was renamed 'The Radio Playhouse'.
In order to fill the hours of airtime, Dan Godfrey Junior, 2ZY station manager, decided to create an orchestra of twelve players (the 2ZY Orchestra) specifically to perform for the station. He also instigated a chorus and an opera company for it. This enabled 2ZY to start a variety of regular live music broadcasts and this meant that a number of works by British composers, were given their first radio airing by the 2ZY Orchestra, including Elgar's Enigma Variations, Holst's The Planets and Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius. The 2ZY Orchestra was renamed the Northern Wireless Orchestra in 1926 which went on to play an important role in the formation of the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra.
After the opening of the BBC National Programme in 1927, the local material put out by 2ZY and the others was known as the BBC Regional Programme and the 2ZY name was dropped. Both the National and Regional services were combined in 1939 to form the Home Service.
Inspired by 2ZY
- The G3NGD Amateur Radio Website:The Metro-Vick Radio Transmitter 2ZY, John Beaumont, retrieved 21 July 2009
- Old Radio Broadcasting Equipment and Memories: Manchester Control Room, Tony Nutall, retrieved 21 July 2009[dead link]
- Old Radio Broadcasting Equipment and Memories: The Playhouse Theatre, Manchester, Tony Nutall, retrieved 21 July 2009[dead link]
- History of the BBC Philharmonic, BBC, retrieved 21 July 2009
- Graham, Russ J (2001), A local service, Radiomusications, Transdiffusion Broadcasting System, retrieved 21 July 2009
- John Ryan launches new radio indie, How-do, retrieved 15 June 2012
- 2ZY Independent Radio Production Company, 2ZY Limited, retrieved 15 June 2012