In this section we track the history of BBC Radio. On this page we look at Radio 1. On other pages: Radio 2, Radio 3, Radio 4, Radio 5/5 Live, digital radio, local radio and nations radio. We also have old schedules for a number of BBC radio stations, and a look at the history of the Radio 1 Top 40 show.
BBC Radio 1
The BBC's pop music network, Radio 1, was established in the wake of the outlawing of the offshore pirate stations, such as Radio Caroline and Radio London, and was intended to replicate the kind of programming the pirates had provided for young people. Controller Robin Scott used Radio London as the model for Radio 1, and many of the DJ line-up came from the pirate ships, including Tony Blackburn, Kenny Everett, John Peel, Emperor Rosko, Keith Skues and Dave Cash. Others, such as Jimmy Young, Pete Murray and Alan Freeman, were already established BBC names.
The new network, however, was hamstrung in several respects. Lack of funds meant that a good deal of the airtime had to be shared with Radio 2; while Radio 1 had inherited the Light Programme's inferior 247 metres medium wave frequency, which gave variable coverage across the country, particularly after dark. Additionally, Radio 1 had to abide by the Musicians' Union-imposed rules on 'needle time', that is the amount of airtime that could be given over to commercial gramophone records. This in part gave rise to the famous BBC sessions, tracks recorded by the artists of the day in the BBC's own studios.
Despite these shortcomings, and the resentment from some quarters that this new pop channel from the 'establishment' was no replacement for the pirates, Radio 1 quickly grew a huge audience, which it would hold onto for decades to come.
Terry Wogan made his debut as one of the presenters of the joint Radio 1/Radio 2 programme Late Night Extra. Following a stint sitting in for Jimmy Young in 1969, he was offered his own daily afternoon show. Meanwhile, earlier that year, Johnnie Walker, who had been among those to defy the ban on the offshore pirates, finally gave in and joined the establishment at Radio 1.
However Radio 1's DJ line-up was still an all-male affair. That changed at the start of 1970 when Anne Nightingale joined the station. She would later present the long-running popular Sunday evening Request Show, and remains with Radio 1 to this day, having been presenting an overnight dance music show for many years.
In order to bring Radio 1 closer to its audience, in October 1968 the station launched the Radio 1 Club, a daily outside broadcast from venues across the country featuring live performances from the stars of the day, along with requests and competitions. A different DJ hosted each day for two hours from 12-2pm. The Radio 1 Club took a break for a year from 1971; it returned in 1972 in a new teatime slot, due to concerns that club members had been skipping school to attend the show! It closed its doors for good at the start of 1974.
In 1970 the burgeoning progressive music scene was given an outlet in the nightly Sounds of the 70s strand, presented by Bob Harris and John Peel amongst others. Originally heard at teatimes, it moved in 1971 to a late night slot.
Kenny Everett was famously dismissed from Radio 1 in 1970 after making what now seems a relatively innocuous joke following a news bulletin. He was replaced on his Saturday morning show by an up-and-coming young DJ named Noel Edmonds. In 1973 Noel would replace Tony Blackburn on the breakfast show. Kenny, meanwhile, later returned to Radio 1 for a series of recorded shows, and would also be heard on Radio 2 in the early 80s.
There were two innovations in 1973 - the start of the twice daily Newsbeat, and the Radio 1 Roadshow, broadcast live to crowds at seaside resorts across the country, which would continue until the turn of the century.
Economy measures at the start of 1975 saw considerable cutbacks in broadcasting hours across Radios 1 and 2, to the extent that David Hamilton's afternoon show would now be heard across both networks, and evening programmes, including Sounds of the 70s, were severely curtailed. However, later that year John Peel began his long-running ecletic late night show.
The next year Johnnie Walker stood down from his lunchtime show following a disagreement with bosses over the station's daytime music policy. He made two returns to Radio 1, in 1987 and 1991.
Major frequency changes in November 1978 saw Radio 1 at last swap its poor 247 metres frequency for 275 and 285, improving reception for many. However full time VHF broadcasting was still some years away. New evening programmes presented by Andy Peebles and Mike Read should have accompanied the frequency change, however they were delayed a few weeks due to industrial action. Evening shows focusing on new and indie music have remained a part of Radio 1 ever since.
Tony Blackburn, having opened Radio 1 in 1967, was still with the station, but had been gradually moved to less favourable slots. At the start of 1980 he replaced Ed Stewart on Junior Choice - a programme of which he since made no secret of the fact he hated presenting! Junior Choice finished in 1982, and Tony left Radio 1 in 1984.
In 1981 Steve Wright began his long-running afternoon show featuring a cast of crazy characters and sketches. Following its 15th birthday in 1982, Radio 1 at last severed its last remaining links with Radio 2 and broadcast its own output for 18 hours a day, every day. In October 1984 Janice Long became the first female presenter of a weekday show, taking over the evening slot from David Jensen.
For many years, the lunchtime show on Tuesdays was the first place to hear the weekly chart countdown and the unveiling of the new number one. In October 1987 that all changed - thanks to advances in computer technology, the announcement could be brought forward by two days, and the Sunday afternoon chart show which, since the days of Pick of the Pops, had been counting down a chart that was already several days old, would now be the first place to hear the new Top 40. Click here for our section looking over the history of Radio 1's chart show.
October 1987 was a busy month for Radio 1. Having just celebrated its 20th anniversary, it saw the start of its first ever dance music programme, hosted by Jeff Young, who would be succeeded in 1991 by Pete Tong. And the end of the month saw Radio 1 gain its very first dedicated FM frequency, 104.8 in the London area. Up until now, Radio 1 had to be content with sharing Radio 2's VHF/FM network, taking it over on weekday evenings, Saturday afternoons and Sunday evenings - which led to some bizarre programming segues, such as Radio 2's Sing Something Simple being immediately followed on FM by Radio 1's Top 40.
The following year saw the beginning of a full roll-out of FM across the UK, using frequencies between 97 and 99 FM. By the end of the decade, presenters were often referencing the station as 'Radio 1FM', or simply '1FM'. However the station was growing old with its listeners - new evening programmes hosted by the likes of Nicky Campbell, Richard Skinner and Roger Scott launched in October 1988 to accompany the expansion in FM stereo broadcasting, were focused around AOR music, as was the Saturday Sequence. And early the next year Alan Freeman returned to Radio 1 after a decade in commercial radio, to revive Pick of the Pops and his Saturday Rock Show.
In contrast, though, at the same time Radio 1 began to expand its remit when it began broadcasting alternative comedy shows. Over the following years the likes of The Mary Whitehouse Experience and Lee and Herring's Fist of Fun provided a springboard for a new generation of comedy performers, along with shows presented by the likes of Chris Morris, Victor Lewis-Smith and Armando Iannucci.
Upon the outbreak of the Gulf War in January 1991, Bob Harris's late night show was extended to run right through the night to provide music and news updates. The 24 hour service was established on a permanent basis the following May, with Bob the first to whisper through the early hours.
Schedule changes, promoted as the '1FM Remix', in March 1992 saw Jakki Brambles become the first woman to present a regular daytime show each weekday. However much bigger changes were on the horizon - in August 1993, one of the station's longest-serving DJs, Dave Lee Travis, effectively resigned on air, stating that "changes are being made here which go against my principles." Those changes were to be overseen by incoming controller Matthew Bannister, who had been tasked with ridding Radio 1 of its 'Smashie and Nicey' image - and that meant bidding goodbye to several more of the station's older presenters, such as Simon Bates, Adrian Juste and Alan Freeman.
Bannister's initial changes took place in two stages - evenings and weekends in October 1993, which included Danny Baker taking over DLT's mid-morning shows, and weekdays in January 1994, which saw Steve Wright move to the breakfast show, and the appointment of Emma Freud to lunchtimes, promising topical interviews and debates on the big issues of the day. Her show lasted one year, and she was replaced by Lisa I'Anson.
Wrighty's spell on breakfast was also a brief one - he was replaced by Chris Evans in April 1995, at a time that '1FM' was reverting to plain old 'Radio 1'. However his time presenting breakfast ended in controversy - after submitting to his ever-increasing demands, Matthew Bannister refused to give him Fridays off, causing an out-of-control Evans to walk out of the station. There were frequent programme and presenter changes during the Bannister era, and he left behind a station which bore little relation to the one he inherited - and one with several million fewer listeners.
Another DJ named Chris who tends to divide opinion, this time with the surname Moyles, joined Radio 1 in 1997 and by 2004 had worked his way up to the breakfast show, where he overtook Tony Blackburn's record and remained presenting the show until 2012.
The end of an era came in July 2015, when the traditional Sunday afternoon chart show moved to Friday, to coincide with the change in announcement day of the new singles chart.
To celebrate the network's fiftieth anniversary in 2017, a pop-up DAB station Radio 1 Vintage went on air for three days, featuring archive footage from some of the best known DJs (and Des and Mick Online provided one or two of the archive clips!). The shows and DJ interviews continue to be available in podcast form at the BBC Radio 1 Vintage website.
In 2018 Radio 1 declared Friday to be part of the weekend, which came as a surprise to those of us with five-day-a-week jobs! Chris Evans was clearly 20 years too early...
Click here to view the evolution of the Radio 1 schedule in grid form (opens in new window). Note that the dates across the top are not necessarily when the schedule shown came into effect; rather it is a 'snapshot' of the schedule at that time. In the interests of clarity, programmes shorter than 30 minutes, such as Newsbeat, are not shown. It also means that there is some simplification in early schedules, where some programmes would start and end at quarter past or quarter to the hour. To investigate past Radio 1 schedules in greater detail, please visit the BBC Genome project (for years up to 2009) and BBC Schedules (covering 2007 onwards).
From our YouTube channel, two playlists of classic Radio 1 clips - the first comprises various clips recorded between 1989 and 1994, the second focuses on Steve Wright in the Afternoon.