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The BBC National Programme was a BBC radio station from the 1920s until the outbreak of World War II.

Contents

Foundation

When the BBC first began transmissions on 14 November 1922, the technology for both national coverage and joint programming between transmitters did not exist – transmitter powers were generally in the region of 1 kilowatt (kW).

Marconi began experimenting with higher power transmissions from a site in Chelmsford under the callsign "2MT" in 1924. The experiments were successful, leading to the development of both shortwave international broadcasting and longwave national broadcasting.

In 1925 the Chelmsford transmitter was relocated to Daventry and commissioned as 5XX. This provided a "national service" from London but remained somewhat experimental and was supplementary to the BBC's local services. Initially the national programme was transmitted on 187.5 kHz longwave though this was later changed, with the opening in 1934 of a new high-power longwave transmitter site at Droitwich, to 200 kHz, which was to remain the BBC's longwave frequency until 1989, when it was moved slightly to 198 kHz. Mediumwave transmitters were used to augment coverage

The Regional Scheme

On 21 August 1927, the BBC opened a high power mediumwave transmitter at Daventry, 5GB, to replace the existing local stations in the English Midlands. The BBC began to replace its previous local services with similar high-power regional services in a process called The Regional Scheme.

That allowed 5XX to provide a formal service, programmed from London, for the majority of the population. This came to be called the BBC National Programme.

Each local transmitter was slowly either converted to a regional service relay or closed entirely and replaced by high power regional broadcasts. Most of these transmitters also carried the BBC National Programme on a local frequency to supplement the longwave broadcasts from 5XX, Scotland receiving a modified service known as the Scottish National Programme, programmed from Glasgow.

Closure

Upon the outbreak of World War II, the BBC closed the National Programme and combined it with the Regional Programme to form a single channel known as the BBC Home Service.

The former transmitters of the National Programme continued to broadcast the Home Service until 1940, when the lack of choice and lighter programming for people serving in the Armed Forces was noted. At that point, the BBC Forces Programme was established on some of the former regional frequencies (804 and 877 kHz).

This network itself was replaced when the influx of American soldiers, used to a different style of entertainment programming, had to be catered for. The replacement service was named the BBC General Forces Programme and was also broadcast on shortwave on the frequencies of the BBC Empire Service (itself reborn after the war as the BBC Overseas Service and now known as the BBC World Service).

After VE-Day, the BBC reintroduced the regional service, but kept the title "BBC Home Service". The longwave frequencies of the former National Programme became the BBC Light Programme.

Inheritance

Both the National Programme and the Regional Programme provided a mixed mainstream radio service. Whilst the two services provided different programming, allowing listeners a choice, they were not streamed to appeal to different audiences. Therefore, the pre-war National Programme, whilst using the same frequencies and transmitters as the post-war Light Programme, was not the general entertainment network its successor the Light Programme became (the Light Programme being more of a child of the General Forces Programme). Similarly, the pre-war Regional Programme was not the middlebrow news and drama station that its successor the Home Service became.

References

  • Various authors The BBC Year-book 1933 London: British Broadcasting Corporation 1932
  • Various authors BBC Year Book 1947 London: British Broadcasting Corporation 1947
  • Graham, Russ J A local service Radiomusications from Transdiffusion, undated; accessed 5 February 2006
  • Graham, Russ J A new lease of life Radiomusications from Transdiffusion, undated; accessed 5 February 2006
  • Groves, Paul History of radio transmission part 1: 1922 - 1967 Frequency Finder, undated; accessed 5 February 2006
  • Paulu, Burton Radio and Television Broadcasting on the European Continent Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press 1967

Further reading

  • Briggs, Asa History of Broadcasting in the United Kingdom Oxford:Oxford University Press 1995 ISBN 0-19-212930-9

External links








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