Programme listings unveil 100-year-old history of BBC broadcasting ‘firsts’

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Listings showing the pioneering programmes in the early days of BBC radio, from the first weather forecast to the first sports commentary, are being published online.

The online BBC Programme Index provides listings dating back to the first day of the company’s broadcasting 100 years ago on November 14, 1922.

The searchable database with the newly assembled listings now includes a comprehensive record of the known programmes that went on air from November 1922 until the publication of the first Radio Times in September 1923.

This includes listings from the BBC’s first radio stations: 2LO in London, 2ZY in Manchester, 5IT from Birmingham, 5NO from Newcastle, 5WA from Cardiff and 5SC from Glasgow.

Until now, complete listings from the first year were largely unavailable to view in one place.

A BBC spokesman said: “The listings include a number of BBC ‘firsts’, including the first weather forecast, the first sports commentary, the first live concert, the first outside broadcast and the first children’s radio programming.

“They also reveal the first election coverage which remarkably fell on day two of broadcasting, the day the country went to the polls to elect a Conservative government led by Bonar Law.”

He added: “In the early days of broadcasting, there were few rules or standards to follow, and the listings show BBC radio pioneers innovating, experimenting and organising their output into what would become the established language of broadcasting.

“One example of this is, in the early days, news bulletins were read twice – once quickly and once slowly – and listeners were asked to write in with their preferences.”

The listings detail the first sports commentary which involved Mr ES King, secretary of the West Ham United Football Club – that year’s English Cup finalists with Bolton Wanderers – giving the first sports talk on, “Our prospects Wembley”, on 20 April 1923.

The first weather report was broadcast on January 14, 1923 from Manchester and the first election coverage was produced on November 15, 1922, when no broadcasting was held before 5pm or after 1am so as not to interfere with newspapers.

Sir William Noble, chairman of the BBCo (British Broadcasting Company) was quoted in a newspaper saying: “We hope that many people will take up broadcasting who otherwise might not take a great interest in the world’s news, and that, by giving them a brief synopsis of events, we shall whet their appetite for news and thus induce them to buy more newspapers.”

Robert Seatter, head of BBC History, said: “As we mark the BBC’s original broadcast one hundred years ago today, we offer for the first time ever a published listing of the earliest radio programmes from 1922 to 1923.

“It paints a vivid picture of the evolution of broadcasting as well as capturing a unique snapshot of the social history context of the UK.”

The listings can be found at:

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