BBC Light Programme

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BBC Broadcasting House in London.

The Light Programme was a BBC radio station which broadcast chiefly mainstream light entertainment and music from 1945 until 1967, when it was rebranded as BBC Radio 2. It opened on 29 July 1945, taking over the longwave frequency which had earlier been used – prior to the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939 – by the BBC National Programme.

The service was intended as a domestic replacement for the wartime BBC Forces Programme (later, the General Forces Programme) which had proved popular with civilian audiences in Britain as well as members of the armed forces.

The longwave signal on 1500 m. was transmitted from Droitwich in the Midlands (as it still is; now for Radio 4) and gave fairly good coverage of most of the United Kingdom, although some medium-wave frequencies were added later, using low-power transmitters to fill in local blank spots. Over the course of the 1950s and 1960s, the Light Programme (along with the BBC's two other national programmes, the Home Service and the Third Programme) gradually became available on what was known at the time as VHF, as the BBC developed a network of local FM transmitters.

From its first day of broadcasting in 1945 until Monday 2 September 1957, the Light Programme would be on the air from 9.00am until midnight each day, apart from Sundays when it would come on the air at 8.00am. From Monday 2 September 1957, the Light Programme's broadcasting hours would start to increase, with a new early morning start time of 7.00am, later moving to 6.30am from Monday 29 September 1958. In 1964 broadcasting hours were increased even more, with a new morning start time of 5.30am from Monday 31 August 1964. Up until September 1964, the Light Programme would always end its broadcasting day at midnight, however this changed on Sunday 27 September 1964, when the new 2.02am closedown was introduced.[1][2][3][4]

The Light Programme closed at 02:02 on 30 September 1967. At 05:30 on the same day it was replaced by Radio 1 on its mediumwave frequencies, and by Radio 2 (the renamed Light Programme) on its longwave frequency. The FM frequencies were mainly used by Radio 2 but sometimes leased to Radio 1 until that station acquired its own FM frequencies in 1988.

The long-running soap opera The Archers was first heard nationally on the Light Programme, on 1 January 1951,[5] although it had previously been broadcast in the Midlands Home Service in 1950.


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