The BBC Regional Programme was a UK radio broadcasting service which was on the air from March 9, 1930 – when it replaced a number of earlier BBC local stations – until September 1, 1939, when it was subsumed into the BBC Home Service, two days before the outbreak of World War II.
When the British Broadcasting Company first began transmissions on November 14, 1922 from the station 2LO in the Strand, Westminster, which it had inherited from the Marconi Company (one of the six commercial companies which created the BBC), the technology did not exist either for national coverage or for joint programming between transmitters. 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. The stations that followed the establishment of 2LO in London were therefore 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.
The original local radio stations were:
- 2LO London
- 5IT Birmingham
- 2ZY Manchester
- 5NO Newcastle
- 5WA Cardiff
- 5SC Glasgow
- 2BD Aberdeen
- 6BM Bournemouth
- 2BE Belfast
On August 21, 1927, the BBC opened a high-power medium wave transmitter, 5GB, at its Daventry site, to replace the existing local stations in the English Midlands. That allowed the experimental long wave transmitter 5XX to provide a service – which eventually came to be called the BBC National Programme – programmed from London and available to the majority of the population.
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.
Upon the outbreak of World War II, the BBC closed the Regional and National Programmes and replaced them with a single channel known as the BBC Home Service. The transmitter network was synchronised on 668 and 767 kHz in order to use the other frequencies for propaganda broadcasts in foreign languages. Each transmitter group would be turned off during an air raid to prevent their signals being used as navigational beacons and listeners were required to retune to a low-powered single-frequency network on 1474 kHz.
On July 29, 1945, within 12 weeks of VE Day, the BBC reactivated the Regional Programme, but kept the name “BBC Home Service”. The National Programme was also reopened under a new name as the BBC Light Programme.