United Kingdom

The early years...

History of radio starts in 1899 when Italian Gugliermo Marconi establishes a radio connection between England and France.


After test transmissions from Gugliermo Marconi's company started in 1920 with a daily music programma 2MT (2 Emma Writtle), the official broadcasts commence on 14 February 1920.

On 18 October 1920, The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is founded at a meeting of some 300 shareholders and manufacturers and registered on December 15th 1922 with a capital of £100,000. The BBC did not actually receive a licence though until January 18th 1923 despite already having stations broadcasting in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle reaching 40% of the UK population.

In November 1920 two new stations came on the air, BBC 2LO London, BBC 5IT Birmingham and BBC 2ZY Manchester, followed by BBC 5NO Newcastle-upon-Tyne in December.

On 8 January 1923 the BBC does a broadcast on location for the very first time.
Later that year, several stations started broadcasting: BBC 5WA Cardiff, BBC 5SC Glasgow, BBC 2BD Aberdeen, BBC 6BM Bournemouth, and BBC 6FL Sheffield.

1924 is a year full of changes for the BBC. Not only does it start with religeous programmes, it also adopts Greenwich Mean Time while the Big Ben chimes are used for the first time on the hour. Many new stations come on the air: BBC 5PY Plymouth, BBC 2EH Edinburgh, BBC 6LV Liverpool, BBC 2LS Leeds), 2LS Bradford, BBC 6KH Hull, BBC 2BE Belfast, BBC 5NG Nottingham, BBC 2DE Dundee, BBC 6ST Stoke-on-Trent, and BBC 5SX Swansea.
In the same year the BBC also starts broadcasting on long wave via 5XX Chelmsford on 1600 metres with 15 kW.

More longwave broadcasts are added in 1925 with transmissions on 1600 metres via 5XX Daventry and via Grimeton on the very low frequency of 17.2 kHz.

In 1927, the British Broadcasting Corporation is renamed into the British Broadcasting Company. The station also does its first live football report. In August yet a new station comes on the air: 5GB Daventry.

The Brookmans Park site is inaugurated in 1929 and hosts BBC LO. See also: London's Radio Station Brookmans Park

On 6 September 1934 the Droitwich transmitting station comes on the air using 200 kHz (1500 mtr). The station is officially opened in October.
See a video on the start of Droitwich:


The war years

In September 1939 the BBC merges BBC National and BBC Regional Radio into one single BBC Home Service in order to prevent the enemy from pinpointing the different transmitters. After a 90 minute break BBC Home Service starts at 2015 hours on 668 kHz (449.1 m) and 767 kHz (391.1 m). At 2116 the foreign language service starts on 1492 kHz (201.1 m).

In January 1940 the BBC starts army broadcasts on 877 kHz for the troops in France. For the very first time since its start in 1922, the BBC will broadcast dance music on Sunday.
Foreign language programmes are added: Swedish in February,  Danish and Finnish in March, Norwegian and Dutch in April, Luxembourgian in November, and Icelandic in December.
In February 1940 the illegal station New British Broadcasting starts transmissions.
On 28 July Radio Oranje has its first broadcast via the BBC on 200 kHz (1500 m - 150 kW) and 804 kHz (373 m - 70 kW). The first transmission starts with a speech of queen Wilhelmina.
Meanwhile in August, the BBC introduces a new interval signal. The tones for B, B, C are now transmitted. Before (as of 1930) they used the ticking of a clock.
In September Radio BelgiŽ starts broadcasting via the BBC for 10 minutes per day.
Geluidsfragment Listen to the start of Radio BelgiŽ.   00:37, 16 kbps, 74 kB (MP3)
On 8 February 1943 the BNRO (Belgische Dienst voor Radio-Omroep), the radio station of the Belgian government in exile, transmits for the first time via the European Service of the BBC.
In July American Forces Network starts broadcasting from a basement in the BBC buildings in London.
In September the Aspidistra operation starts on medium wave. The Republikanisch-Faschistischer Rundfunk (Republican Fascist Broadcaster) starts on twe medium wave frequencies as underground station towards Germany. The stations ceases broadcasting one month later.

On 27 February 1944 the BBC starts broadcasting the General Forces Programme via 2 medium wave and many shortwave frequencies. On 30 March the ABSIE (American Broadcasting Station in Europe) starts broadcasting on 1122 kHz (267.4 mtr) and 977 kHz (307.1 mtr) in various languages such as German, English, French, Dutch, Norwegian, and Danish. On 20 May the Voice of the SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force) starts broadcasting, relaying English BBC and ABSIE programmes. There are also programmes in various other languages with texts from the Psychological Warfare Department (PWD SHAEF).
On 7 June the BBC starts broadcasting the Allied Expeditionary Forces Programme, first via medium wave 1050 kHz (285.7 mtr), from September on also on 583 kHz (514.6 mtr) via the French Grenoble. On 16 June the BBC ceases broadcasting in Icelandic, which had started on 1 December 1940.

On 4 July 1945 the American Broadcasting Station in Europe (ABSIE) leaves the British medium frequencies 977 and 1122 kHz, which are returned to the BBC. On 29 July the BBC army long wave service is replaced by a 'Light Service'.

The post-war years

BBC Radio 3 starts broadcasting classical music on 29 September 1946.

On 5 June 1964 Radio Manx starts broadcasting.
On 8 February 1967 Radio City closed down. It broadcast from the Shivering Sands fort in the Thames Estuary. On 15 July of that same year the British House of Commons approves the Marine Offences Act which is directed against the sea pirates. All floating pop stations are required to stop transmitting immediately.

In the late sixties and early seventies, several local BBC stations starts broadcasting: BBC Radio Nottingham in January 1968, BBC Radio Stoke-on-Trent in March 1968, BBC Radio Blackburn in January 1971, BBC Radio Humberside in February 1971.

    QSL BBC Radio Stoke-on-Trent (courtesy of Peter Vaegler)  96kB (jpg)
    QSL from BBC Radio Humberside from 1997  (courtesy of Hugo Matten)  54 kB (jpg
The UK's first licensed commercial station, LBC London Broadcasting Company, starts broadcasting on 8 October 1973. Eight days later commercial Capital Radio starts on 557 kHz in London. The station was found by the well-know presentator Lord Richard Attenborough.

Geluidsfragment Extract from Capital Radio in May 1975 on 1546 kHz (courtesy of Herbert Meixner)   04:45, 32 kbps, 1 MB (MP3)

Scotland's first local radio station, Radio Clyde, starts broadcasting on 1151 kHz on 31 December 1973.

On 22 February 1974 BRMB starts broadcasting in Birmingham on 1151 kHz.

In 1975 Radio Forth (Edinburgh) and Plymouth Sound start broadcasting.

In April 1976 Beacon Radio starts broadcasting on 989 kHz in Wolverhampton.

On 23 November 1978 and due to the Geneva agreement the MW and LW frequencies of the BBC stations change: Radio One goes from 247 to 275 and 285m; Radio 2 leaves 200 kHz and goes to 433 and 330m; Radio 3 takes over the former Radio 4 frequency while Radio 4 goes to long wave 198 kHz.
Geluidsfragment Extract from BBC Radio 2 (1979) on 1341 kHz (courtesy of Herbert Meixner)   00:21, 32 kbps, 83 kB (MP3)

The 80s and 90s

Geluidsfragment Extract from BBC Radio Scotland (1981) on 810 kHz (courtesy of Herbert Meixner)   00:41, 32 kbps, 164 kB (MP3)
On 26 September 1982 the BBC ceases broadcasting on medium wave via Crowborough on 648 and 810 kHz. 648 kHz moves to Orfordness.

In 1984 the first Restricted Service Licences (RSL) are awarded: Festival Radio in June and Green Belt Festival Radio in August.
Geluidsfragment Extract from Festival Radio from Liverpool in June 1984 on 1530 kHz (courtesy of Clive Rooms)   00:30, 16 kbps, 60 kB (MP3)
Geluidsfragment Extract from Green Belt Festival Radio from 27 August 1984 on 1602 kHz (courtesy of Clive Rooms)   00:36, 16 kbps, 72 kB (MP3)
See also: United Kingdom - The First RSLs

In July 1985 an RSL is set up for the Grand Prix at Silverstone.
Geluidsfragment Extract from BBC Radio London (1985) on 1458 kHz (courtesy of Herbert Meixner)   01:14, 32 kbps, 292 kB (MP3)
Geluidsfragment Extract from Radio Essex (1986) on 1359 kHz (courtesy of Herbert Meixner)   00:28, 32 kbps, 114 kB (MP3)
On 28 November 1988 Capital Gold starts broadcasting on medium wave.

On 1 May 1989 the network Classic Gold starts via the medium wave transmitters of Viking FM, Penine Radio and Radio Hallam. On 16 June The Breeze starts broadcasting on 1431 and 1359 kHz for the county Essex, taking over Radio Essex.
    QSL from The Breeze  88 kB (jpg)
Geluidsfragment Extract from Northants Radio (1989) on 1557 kHz (courtesy of Herbert Meixner)   00:33, 32 kbps, 128 kB (MP3)
On 15 August 1990 BBC Radio 2 leaves medium wave (693 & 909 kHz). BBC Radio 3  also leaves medium wave (1197 & 1215 kHz), on 28 February 1992.
In 1993 a lot of stations enter and leave medium wave: On 23 March BBC Five Live starts on 693 & 909 kHz. On 30 April Virgin 1215 starts broadcasting.
Geluidsfragment Extract from Virgin Radio (1993) on 1215 kHz (courtesy of Herbert Meixner)   00:43, 32 kbps, 167 kB (MP3)
On 3 July the BBC ceases its French broadcasts on 648 kHz while Greater London Radio ceases broadcasting on 1458 kHz in October.

On 1 January 1994 Sunrise Radio starts broadcasting on 1458 kHz to the Asian Community in Britain.
Geluidsfragment Announcement of Sunrise Radio on 1458 kHz (courtesy of Herbert Meixner)   01:01, 32 kbps, 237 kB (MP3)
On 24 March BBC Radio Kent switches off the transmitter on 1035 kHz. On 27 March at midnight BBC Radio 5 becomes BBC Radio 5 Live on 693 and 909 kHz. On 1 July BBC Radio 1 leaves medium wave (1053 & 1089 kHz). The last song played was 'Kiss Me' of Stephen Tintin Duffy.

On 14 February 1995 TalkRadio UK starts broadcasting on 1053 and 1089 kHz.
Geluidsfragment Test transmission of TalkRadio UK on 1053 Khz on 10 February 1995 (courtesy of Hugo Matten)   02:34, 16 kbps, 302 kB (MP3)
On 30 April 1996 Manchester based Asian Sound Radio starts 24h test transmissions on the unexpected frequency of 1377 kHz. They will later retune to 963 kHz.

On 31 August 1998 Flemish television station VT4 starts with test broadcasts via 1296 kHz. The transmissions will last until 4 September. On 5 September test transmission start by BFSB Gurkha Radio via Hampshire.

On 2 February 2000 another Flemish station, BOB, the oldies station of Flemish On 20 November Radio Flandria, ceases test transmissions on 1296 kHz. On 20 November BFBS Gurkha Radio starts broadcasting at Shorncliffe (1278 kHz).
On 2 September a British gay/lesbian station, LBH, starts broadcasting on 1386 kHz via Kaliningrad (Russia). Also in September Basildon Hospital Radio (LPAM) starts broadcasting on 1287 kHz.
Geluidsfragment Test transmission of Basildon Hospital Radio on 1287 kHz on 15 September 2000 (courtesy of Hugo Matten)   01:25, 16 kbps, 166 kB (MP3)

The 21st century

As of 26 June 2001 Dutch Radio Nationaal starts testing via 1296 kHz. These broadcasts cease on 1 November 2002.
Geluidsfragment Start of Radio Nationaal (courtesy of Hugo Matten)   02:23, 16 kbps, 282 kB (MP3)
On 20 May 2003 VI Radio 1386 kHz starts broadcasting in a school for your people with little or no sight. On 24 November Radio Hope 1350 kHz starts broadcasting from Hope University College, Liverpool. On 1 December KCC Live 1251, an LPAM station, starts broadcasting at the Knowsley Community College in Liverpool.
On 29 December the new communications regulator, Ofcom, takes effect, inheriting the duties of the five existing radio regulators (Broadcasting Standards Commission, Independent Television Commission, Oftel, Radio Authority, and Radiocommunications Agency).

On 25 January 2004 Radio Wanno, a prisoners' radio station, starts broadcasting on 999 kHz at Wandsworth jail. On 1 May Hospital radio station Apple 1431 kHz starts broadcasting on 1431 kHz in Taunton (Somerset).
On 9 April BBC Essex turns into Pirate BBC Essex (729-765-1530 kHz) in commemoration of the 40th anniversart after the start of Radio Caroline.

On 31 October 2005 Radio Nederland ceases its transmissions via 1296 kHz.

On 6 April 2010 Sunshine Radio on 1530 kHz went off air due to financial problems. The licence was handed back to OFCOM. On 29 November Radio West Suffolk ceased transmitting on 1530 kHz.



Other sound clips and images

Geluidsfragment Listen to an extract of LPAM Anker Radio (a Hospital Radio) on 1386 kHz in July 2006 (courtesy of Hugo Matten)   00:58, 16 kbps, 116 kB (MP3)
Geluidsfragment Listen to an extract of LPAM Red Sands Radio from Red Sands Forten in the North Sea on 1278 kHz in July 2007 (courtesy of Hugo Matten) - N.B. In the background you can hear LPAM BFBS Nepali Service, another low power station.   02:01, 16 kbps, 238 kB (MP3)
Geluidsfragment Extract of BBC Radio Lincolnshire on 1368 kHz (courtesy of Han Hardonk)    00:13, 40 kbps, 62 kB (MP3)
Geluidsfragment Extract of Club Asia on 963 kHz (courtesy of Han Hardonk)    01:35, 40 kbps, 464 kB (MP3)
Geluidsfragment Extract of Sabras Radio on 558 kHz (courtesy of Han Hardonk)    01:13, 32 kbps, 286 kB (MP3)
Geluidsfragment Extract of Radio Caroline on 531 kHz on 4 April 2010 (courtesy of Hugo Matten)    01:34, 32 kbps, 365 kB (MP3)


    QSL from BBC Radio Jersey from 1992  (courtesy of Hugo Matten)  46 kB (jpg)
    QSL from BBC Radio York from 2006  (courtesy of Hugo Matten)  59 kB (jpg)
    QSL from BBC Radio Radio Hereford&Worcester from 1997  (courtesy of Hugo Matten)  98 kB (jpg)
    QSL from BBC Radio Norfolk  (courtesy of Hugo Matten)  42 kB (jpg)
    QSL from BBC Radio Derby from 2001  (courtesy of Hugo Matten)  81 kB (jpg)
    QSL from BBC Radio Devon from 1997  (courtesy of Hugo Matten)  81 kB (jpg)
    QSL from Red Sands Radio on 1278 kHz  (courtesy of Hartmut Wolff)  88 kB (jpg)
    QSL from BBC Radio Scotland  (courtesy of Peter Vaegler)  76 kB (jpg)
    QSL from Moray Firth Radio 2002  (courtesy of Peter Vaegler)  81 kB (jpg)
    QSL from Northsound Radio from 2002  (courtesy of Hugo Matten)  102 kB (jpg)
    QSL from Premier Radio from 2001  (courtesy of Hugo Matten)  44 kB (jpg)