September 15, 1924: 2BE Belfast begins broadcasting

2BE was the call sign of the first official radio station to broadcast in Northern Ireland. Operated by the British Broadcasting Company (later the British Broadcasting Corporation), it started transmissions from Belfast on September 15, 1924 using a wavelength of 435 m (689 kHz).

On March 20, 1936 the Belfast transmitter was replaced by a new, more powerful transmitter broadcasting from Lisnagarvey on a wavelength of 307 m (977 kHz), the service having been renamed as the Northern Ireland Regional Programme on January 6, 1935.

With the resumption of regional broadcasting after World War II, this station became the Northern Ireland Home Service, and later BBC Radio 4 Northern Ireland. 2BE’s successor station today is BBC Radio Ulster.


May 11, 1922: 2LO London begins broadcasting

2LO was the second radio station to regularly broadcast in the United Kingdom (the first was 2MT). It began broadcasting on May 11, 1922, for one hour a day from the seventh floor of Marconi House in London’s Strand.

On November 14, 1922 the station was transferred to the new British Broadcasting Company which in 1923 took up the nearby Savoy Hill for its broadcasting studios.

On March 9, 1930 2LO was replaced by the BBC Regional Programme and the BBC National Programme.


March 9, 1930: the BBC Regional Programme begins broadcasting

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:

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.


November 15, 1922: 2ZY Manchester begins broadcasting

2ZY was the name of a radio station broadcast by the British Broadcasting Company from Manchester, England, between 1922 and 1927. The station aired its first test transmission on 450 metres on May 17, 1922 and began regular broadcasting on November 15, 1922, just a day after sister station 2LO began daily programmes in London. On the same day, 5IT began in Birmingham and eight other stations opened in subsequent months across Britain. The frequency chosen for 2ZY was then 375 metres medium wave. The programmes were made and broadcast at first from the Metropolitan-Vickers electricity works in Old Trafford. The ornate iron water tower at the works was the site of the transmitter.

After the opening of the BBC National Programme in 1927, the local material put out by 2ZY and the others was known as the BBC Regional Programme and the 2ZY name was dropped. Both the National and Regional services were combined in 1939 to form the Home Service.


November 15, 1922: 5IT Birmingham begins broadcasting

5IT was a BBC radio station which broadcast from Birmingham, England, between 1922 and 1927. It was the BBC’s second station, going live at 17.20 on November 15, 1922, the day after 2LO started daily BBC broadcasting from London and one hour forty minutes before 2ZY launched BBC broadcasting in Manchester. It was replaced from August 21, 1927 by the higher-powered 5GB broadcasting a Midlands regional programme from Daventry.