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



When the BBC first began transmissions on 14 November 1922, the technology for both national coverage and joint programming between transmitters did not exist. Whilst it was possible to combine large numbers of trunk telephone lines to link transmitters for individual programmes, the process was expensive and not encouraged by the General Post Office as it tied up large parts of the telephone network. Therefore, the stations that followed the establishment of 2LO in London were autonomously programmed using local talent and facilities.

By May 1923, simultaneous broadcasting was technically possible, at least between main transmitters and relay stations, but the quality was not felt to be high enough to provide a national service or regular simultaneous broadcasts.

In 1924, it was felt that technical standards had improved enough for London to start to provide the majority of the output, cutting the local stations back to providing items of local interest.

Original local stations

Each of these stations broadcast at approximately 1 kW.

Airdate Station ID City Initial Frequency
14 November 1922 2LO London 822 kHz
15 November 1922 5IT Birmingham 626 kHz
15 November 1922 2ZY Manchester 794 kHz
24 December 1922 5NO Newcastle upon Tyne 743 kHz
13 February 1923 5WA Cardiff 850 kHz
6 March 1923 5SC Glasgow 711 kHz
10 October 1923 2BD Aberdeen 606 kHz
17 October 1923 6BM Bournemouth 777 kHz
16 November 1923 2FL Sheffield 980 kHz
28 March 1924 5PY Plymouth 887 kHz
14 September 1924 2BE Belfast 682 kHz

Relay stations

Each of these stations broadcast at approximately 120 W

Airdate Station ID City Relay of Frequency
1 May 1924 2EH Edinburgh 5SC 914 kHz
11 June 1924 6LV Liverpool 2ZY 906 kHz
8 July 1924 2LS Leeds and Bradford 2ZY 935 kHz
15 August 1924 6KH Kingston-upon-Hull 2ZY 896 kHz
16 September 1924 5NG Nottingham 2ZY 920 kHz
9 November 1924 2DE Dundee 2BD 952 kHz
21 November 1924 6ST Stoke-on-Trent 2ZY 996 kHz
12 December 1924 5SX Swansea 5WA 622 kHz

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

By combining the resources of the local stations into one regional station in each area, with a basic sustaining service from London, the BBC hoped to increase programme quality whilst also centralising the management of the radio service. This was known as The Regional Scheme.

Each local transmitter was slowly either converted to a regional service relay or closed entirely and replaced by high power regional broadcasts. Some local studios were retained to provide for programming from specific areas within each region. Most 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".

Regional transmitters

Airdate Transmitter Region Frequency (1939)
21 August 1927 Daventry (later Droitwich) Midland 1013 kHz
21 October 1929 Brookmans Park Basic Regional Programme (London) 877 kHz
17 May 1931 Moorside Edge North 668 kHz
12 June 1932 Westerglen Scottish 767 kHz
28 May 1933 Washford Wales and the West of England (West Regional until 1935 Welsh Regional thereafter)
1936 Lisnagarvey Northern Ireland (opt-out from North Region) 977 kHz
1937 Stagshaw North East England (opt-out from North region) 1122 kHz
1937 Burghead Scottish (for northern Scotland) 767 kHz
1937 Penmon Welsh (end of joint Wales/West service) 804 kHz
1937 Washford West (end of joint Wales/West service) 1013 kHz

Note: The London region was not generally known by that name. As the sustaining service, it was referred to as "the basic Regional Programme". Brookmans Park supplied programmes for London, South East England and much of East Anglia.


Upon the outbreak of World War II, the BBC closed the Regional Programme and combined it with the National Programme to form a single channel known as the BBC Home Service. The former transmitters of the Regional Programme continued to be used to broadcast this service, but their frequencies were changed and synchronized in order to allow them all to transmit on just two wavelengths (668 and 767 kHz) which, in the event of air raids, could be turned off in sequence to prevent their signals being used as navigational beacons by enemy aircraft.

On 29 July 1945, within 12 weeks of Victory in Europe Day, the BBC reintroduced a regional service, but kept the name "BBC Home Service". The transmitters and frequencies which had been used prewar by the National Programme (the most powerful of which was 200 kHz longwave) were transferred on the same date to a new BBC Light Programme.


Both the Regional Programme and the National 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 Regional Programme, whilst using the same regions, frequencies and transmitters as the post-war Home Service, was not the middlebrow news and drama station its successor became. Similarly. the pre-war National Programme was not the general entertainment network its successor the Light Programme became.


  • Various authors The B.B.C. 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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